Archive | November, 2011

Gerhard Richter: Panorama,Tate Modern

30 Nov

This exhibition, as the title implies, is a panoramic visual sweep of German artist Gerhard Richter’s work since the early 60s. From his first catalogue piece Table 1962 via grey monotone work and photo-based canvasses through to the later abstractions we are presented with an array of contradictions, technical diversity and twists of approach.

Gerhard Richter, Table, oil on canvass 1962

For me the exhibition is a palette of thought expressed in paint, a sweeping record of a man’s sustained existential reflection on life. There are no answers here, but there are responses aplenty. Responses to his historical past: Richter managed to escape from East Germany across to West Germany in 1961 just before the Berlin Wall was about to be constructed.

Gerhard Richter, Uncle Rudi,1965, oil on canvass

He was one of the first post-war painters to reference the reality of the connection  between families and their nazi past. Uncle Rudi 1965 shows Richter’s Uncle Rudolf Shonfelder in full National Socialist uniform as painted from a photograph that many German families of his generation would have recognised and felt uncomfortable with. Responses to the media, which he was confronted with and fascinated by for the first time in the 60s in the non-communist West. Many of his paintings are taken from adverts in magazines and newspapers (Ferrari 1964; Folding Dryer 1962; Negroes (Nuba) 1964).

But perhaps one of his most important responses is the one to Marcel Duchamp. In an interview with Nicholas Serrota, in reference to Duchamp, Richter says “I remember his Nude Descending a Staircase was thought of as the end of painting”, Serrota replies “So you wanted to show that painting was still possible in spite of Duchamp?”. “Yes”, says Richter, “I wanted what you might call ‘retina art’ – painterly, beautiful, and if needs be, even sentimental.” (1)

Marcel Duchamp, Nude Descending Staircase, No2. 1912

Richter’s portrait of his naked wife Ema, painted from a carefully lit photograph, in my opinion, is certainly not sentimental. If Duchamp’s Nude is a study in movement, perhaps inspired by the photographic analytical works of Edward Muybridge, then Richter’s response is a highly intelligent critique of the former. Looked at side by side, Duchamp’s painting is striking in its bold sense of mechanical movement, a frame by frame shift across the canvass, still paint has gained kinesthetic traction.  And yet Richter’s movement is less literal. Ema is moving in subtle ways: she is moving from photograph to paint (from silver gelatin to oil and linseed); she moves from dark shadow on her right to soft light on her left, with the lines of the staircase showing through her left arm; she moves from dream (her eyes are closed) to waking (she is steadily stepping down the stair); from private (a personal photograph) to public (gallery, but also, is the stairwell a public one?).

Gerhard Richter, Ema (Nude on a Staircase), 1966 oil on canvass 200x300.

Perhaps ‘movement’ is a key word in assessing Richter’s work – freedom of movement. In an interview he once said “all that I am trying to do in each picture is to bring together the most disparate and mutually contradictory elements, alive and viable, in the greatest possible freedom. No paradises.” (2)

Gerhard Richter, Abstract Painting 1992, oil on aluminium, 100x100 cm

This exhibition demonstrates that remarkable expression of possible freedom.

Notes:

(1) Gerhard Richter: Panorama, Tate Publishing 2011

(2) An Interview with Gerhard Richter (1986), Benjamin H.D. Buchloh. In Gerhard Richter October Files 8 MIT Press 2009

Moving into Unit Two

28 Nov

I’m thinking of:

Thread

Cotton

Latex Sheets

Fish-hooks

Cutlery

Collanders

Sieves

Stools

 

And how they might  become sculpture

FILM: Tacita Dean – Turbine Hall, Tate Modern

28 Nov

A defence of analogue film.

An argument for the unique qualities of the celluloid medium.

A flip from the traditional landscape orientation to the vertical.

Sprocketed nostalgia made modern.

Like a page of moving poetry, stanza by stanza of absorbing images.

I sat and watched it through twice, enjoying the sounds and silhouettes of children against the film.

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Tacita Dean

FILM is an 11-minute silent 35mm film projected onto a gigantic white monolith standing 13 metres tall at the end of a darkened Turbine Hall. It is the first work in The Unilever Series devoted to the moving image, and celebrates the masterful techniques of analogue film-making as opposed to digital. The work evokes the monumental mysterious black monolith from the classic science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film feels like a surreal visual poem, including images from the natural world among others, with the epic wall of the Turbine Hall showing through, in a montage of black and white, colour, and hand-tinted film.

The Kaleidoscope Mind: Some Easy Ways to Teach Creativity – The Atlantic

28 Nov

The Kaleidoscope Mind: Some Easy Ways to Teach Creativity – The Atlantic.

The term kaleidoscope is Greek and is loosely interpreted as “an observer of beautiful forms.” So what, then, is a kaleidoscope mind? The Hans family would say it’s “a type of mind that is agile, flexible, self-aware, and informed by a diversity of experiences.” It’s a mind that is “able to perceive any given situation from a multitude of perspectives at will — selecting from a rich repertoire of lenses or frameworks.” They would say that a kaleidoscope mind is playful, and it must be able to “see patterns, connections, and relationships that more rigid minds miss.” And they would say that a kaleidoscope mind can be taught.

As biochemist Szent Gyorgyi once said, “Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.” You’ll find that as you start to see differently, creativity comes easier. And just like a kaleidoscope, any way you turn will produce creative thinking.

 

Susie MacMurray: Sculptural Sensuousness and Play

22 Nov
Blind 2004, Peacock Feather Sphere

Susie MacMurray’s work encompasses drawing, sculpture and architectural installations. A former classical musician, she retrained as an artist, graduating with an MA in Fine Art in 2001. She now has an international exhibition profile and shows regularly in the USA and Europe as well as the UK.

Bristle 2008, Rubber Dairy Hose

An engagement with materials is central to MacMurray’s practice. Her role is one of alchemist: combining material, form and context in deceptively simple ways to stimulate associations within the viewers’ minds and to elicit nuanced meanings.

Oracle 2008 rubber dairy hose, dimensions variable

Working in installation and sculpture she has gained a reputation for site-specific interventions in historic spaces. Her work frequently references the history of a space and seeks to merge the particularities of that history, the specifics of site, and the inherent references attached to materials in an attempt to gain insight into the relationship between place and people.

Stratum 2011 Islington Mill, attic space 80 kg feather down

Drawing is an important part of MacMurray’s practice. In addition to her large scale pen & ink work she extends the possibilities of making drawings using unconventional materials including rubber tubing, hair and wax.

Andreas Gursky: Rhine II

17 Nov

Rhine II by Andreas Gursky, 1999 (350cm x 200cm)

This photograph by the German artist Andreas Gursky (b.1955) recently sold for $4.3m (£2.7m) at Christies New York. This sets a new world record for a photograph.

It is initially bleak and minimal, yet I am captured by the composition, at the same time uncertain as to why I like it so much. Maybe it satisfies my appreciation of abstraction: six clean lines of limited tonal contrast. Green and grey comfortable side by side. Easy on the eye – a textless sweep from left to right. To the eye it is simple, restful, a relief. I resist the cliché ‘meditative’ and yet I do feel I could sit and look at the landscape for hours – absorbed in a nowhere place that heightens the sense of somewhere.

I want a large print. I know it is worth paying for, a lot maybe. But that much? Maybe. The photograph presents itself as priceless and like a clever salesman uses hypnotic charm to convince us of value.

In an interview Gursky states “It says a lot using the most minimal means … for me it is an allegorical picture about the meaning of life and how things are.” (see video below). How are ‘things’? Flowing by, bleak, but with the green grass as an allegory of eternal growth, nature gently pushing up despite the ordered human bands of grey. But life is also an image manipulable reality. We are increasingly digitalised, morphed and modified. This photograph has been cleaned up digitally, dogs and walkers have been erased. Yet there is a feeling that anything (dog, bird, plane or boat) or anyone (jogger, walker, pram-pusher) is likely to enter stage left at any given moment. The ‘already there’ is removed and in a sleight of paradox the possibility of repopulating the frame with our own cast is heightened….or not, if we choose to drift into reverie and a break from the image saturated world we currently navigate.

At the back of my mind is Hirosho Sugimoto’s seascape series ‘Time Exposed’. And maybe his photographs are behind this one of Gursky.

Hiroshi Sugimoto - Norwegian Sea (1990-1999)

Sugimoto is closer to the void, Gursky’s photograph just gives us a little more land – half way between a landless ocean and coastal reassurance. And if Gursky’s photograph is trying to present us with a post-industrial landscape (the Rhine surely being on of the most industrial rivers in Europe) perhaps L S Lowry can be invoked. Lowry, painter of the highly populated British industrial North is less known for his empty seascapes.

L S Lowry, Seascape 1950 (Kelvingrove Art Galley, Glasgow)

For me these three images are worth comparing. Maybe they represent a thread of desire, expressed through art, to withdraw from the populated world, from the imaged overloaded spectacle, from the industrial and technological sprawl. I don’t think any of these images are so simplistic, or nihilistic as to negate the phenomena they remove us from. They all are dependent on the busy context they arise from. Yet they all remind us to drop down under, or away from the relentless forms of change we live with. Perhaps Gursky’s allegory is that we live with a need to remove ourselves, to withdraw in order to re-draw.

 

 

Guardian Article

Creative Criticism: Notes from an interview with Camelia Elias

14 Nov

Keep it simple.

Write elegantly.

Create correspondences.

If you must write textbooks or introductions to this or that concept –  à la what is most commercially valuable for Oxford and Harvard – then make sure that you won’t be afraid to say ‘fuck’  a few times, provoke the establishment, or show what an idiotic idea the idea the that the democratization of writing means adopting a non-offensive stance is.

Allow yourself to move with ease between beliefs.

Create improbable scenarios, and the sillier the better. We need more laughter.

‘Know thyself.’ Write for yourself and strangers. Don’t write for peers.

Presume nothing. Assume nothing.

Write for the occasion, even if the occasion means that you will be read by no more that 2 people.

Value ‘nothing’, silence, and the usefulness of the useless in creative academic writing.

Think with the heart and the gut.

Fly.

B: EyeCorner emphasizes creative criticism. What is “creative criticism”? Why is it important in the current lit-crit landscape?

CE: The importance of creative criticism is also politically determined and linked to the need to counter the illegitimate act of measuring, quantifying, and weighing academic discourse in the age of ‘open source.’ The whole idea with peer-reviewing and gate-keeping is becoming more and more abhorring, and of course impossible to maintain, especially when we can all agree that, if there is knowledge in the world, we need to let it flow, rather than barricade it behind concrete walls. Sure, the ones against the ‘everything goes’ philosophy will do anything to hang on to the moribund tradition of ‘we must not let errors into the world,’ but the way I see it, that merely emphasizes the general stupidity that informs such endeavors. To give you an example, I like to read esoteric and hermetic texts, and what amazes me the most is that it is almost always the case, than not the case, that what we come to appreciate in them is the ‘creative errors’ connected to their reception. For instance, people believed that the Zohar originated with the mystic rabbi Simeon bar Yohai some 2000 years ago. The Kabbalist texts have been greatly inspired by the Zohar, and a good deal of brilliant writing and wisdom has been produced throughout the following centuries. The fact that the historian Gershom Scholem proved that the Zohar was written around 1100 did little to remove the Kabbalists’ enthusiasm for the now ‘fake’ text. The same goes for other texts. The Emerald Tablet and the Golden DawnOrder, all claiming mysterious origins for their foundations, have not suffered from dismissal either, when it was proved that they based their claims on inauthentic sources. What we still appreciate is the ingenuity associated with their building up systems of thought that were not imagined before. In other words, such texts and contexts can be said to have produced a lot of creative criticism, which means rigorous thinking that is not deterred by factual knowledge.

EyeCorner Press is interested in another kind of potency, namely, that which leads to a form of insightful criticism that leaves us in a state of astonishment, open-hearted, and in awe of open ends. In other words, to answer your question, we use creative criticism in the same way that Raymond Federman used to talk about what he termed ‘critifiction.’ We follow his ideas to legitimize our own condition for being in the world, the world of a myriad of texts published by all sorts. Here’s what he says:

“The term critifiction is used because the discourse that follows is critical as well as fictitious; imagination is used in the sense that it is essential in the formulation of a discourse; plagiarism [read play-giarism] because the writing of a discourse always implies bringing together pieces of other discourses; an unfinished endless discourse because what is presented here is open at both ends, and as such more could be added endlessly.” (Critifiction, 1993: 49, author’s emphasis)

B: Do you perceive any hostility toward post-structuralist writing/methods/philosophy, and, if so, how do such hostilities manifest?

CE: I like this question, though, I have to make an effort not to answer it without disclosing general dismay at all rationalists, literalists, and positivists who are convinced that what makes their academic life worth living is the idea of exactitude and promptitude in relation to all things ‘fuzzy.’ The reason why there is hostility towards post-structuralist writing is because such writing allows itself to be imprecise. Of course, and as a general rule, all those against it, don’t bother to ask or look for the motivation behind such ‘imprecision’. And why, well, because one takes one’s name at face value, for you see, if you are a rationalist, a positivist, and a literalist, then, you, by definition, are exempted from having to really engage with all that which does not bear your name. But then, also by definition, if you are a realist, a positivist, and a literalist, then, you will also be self-righteous, and see it as your duty to denounce that which you don’t understand. And so it goes. People have been burnt for having contrary ideas. I myself prefer it when precision interacts with how it manifests itself in some higher order, higher even than itself, and then I like to see how this precision relates to a dynamic system of thought that is ever changing. And that’s all, but mind you, people have been burnt for even less.

See: Original Interview of Camelia Elias with Biblioklept