Thursday, July 22, 2010

Juan vs Georges. Emotion vs Rule.

Georges Braque, Woman with a Guitar, 1913, Centre Georges Pompidou, source [here]
Juan Gris; Harlequin with guitar, 1919, Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris, source [here]
Lyon, July 2010

I went to the Musee des Beaux Arts in Lyon about a week or so ago and found an amazing temporary Modernist exhibition entitled "The Emotion and the Rule."

It was somewhat based around the thoughts of two Modernist artists; Juan Gris and Georges Braques.

It was Georges that started it, musing; "J'aime l'emotion qui corrige la regle" (I love the emotion that corrects the rule). To which Juan replied with "C'est la regle qui doit corriger l'emotion" (It's the rule which must correct the emotion)

And, well, let's just say this exhibition came around in the right moment in my life. I'm totally on team Georges. I believe that it's the emotion that's always more important; in art, in literature and in life.

However, aesthetically speaking (and I know that Georges is the father of Cubism), it's Juan that I prefer, even though the philosphy behind his work is something I'm not that fond of.
Funny, isn't it?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Part 2: White // Blanc // Biały

OK, so this is a bit overdue, but I've been crazed lately and havent had time to post.

Kieslowski's White is definately my favourite of the trilogy. I don't know why. Perhaps its the nostalgia I feel when I see the Polish setting. The film was made in 1993, and still very little has changed in the country. Perhaps it's the fact that I identify with the Karol, the main character, a immigrant who has trouble making a life in France due to the language barrier. There are many other 'perhaps'es that I could mention. In short, I love this film.

Julie Delpy is my idol
The score is magical (like in the other films)
And, well, just check out the cinematography, the use of light and the repetition of 'white'...

"Mikolaj, wszyscy cierpia."
"Tak, ale ja chcialem mniej"

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Part 1: Blue // Bleu // Niebieski

A friend of mine recently inspired me to re-watch Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colours Trilogy.

I haven't seen the films for years.

I always found them fascinating, the way he connects the ideals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity (Blue, White and Red, respectively), always seen as a social and political concept, to a personal human experience.

And it's still such a pleasant shock to hear Polish being spoken in a French film.

In Blue, it is the personal liberation of Julie through the grief of loosing her husband and daughter. But not to say that liberty is always a good thing, she is free, after the accident that kills her family, she lives alone and doesn't keep in touch with anyone from her former life. The film has a constant beautiful melancholy about it. And the re-appearing colour, blue, in the lighting, the cinematography... its just magical. And, the gorgeous score composed by Zbigniew Preisner.

Plus, Juliette Binoche is pretty magical in her own right...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Female Gaze and the Gaze at the Female: Between Manet and Coubet (Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France)

One of the {many} things that set my brain ticking while I was visiting the Musee d'Orsay one cold, rainy Parisian day was the way women were portrayed in art in the 19th Century... before modernism, before feminism, before women's sufferage.

I was particularly surprised by the differences in how women were portrayed in the work of Edouard Manet and GustaveCoubet. They were each others contemporaries, but the views on women portrayed in their work couldn't be more different.

Manet was a rare breed of man; a feminist. Although he can, in our world, be criticised for his portrayals of the female nude (done, quite obviously, through the male perspective), he did something no other painter had done till then. His women are not objects, but people. Quite simply, he gave them the gift of the gaze, which has, and still remains, largely the property of men. His controversial Olympia of 1863 stares back at the viewer, questioning and confronting the male gaze. In his Le dejeuner sur l'herbe (also 1863), the nude woman stares out at the viewer, her gaze also confronting men's assumed right to treat her as a visual object.

[Edouard Manet, Olympia, 1863, Oil on Canvas, source: here]

[Edouard Manet, Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe, 1863, Oil on Canvas, source: here]

Gustave Courbet's L'Origine du Monde of 1866 was even more controversial than Manet's Olympia but for very different reasons. The painting was criticised as pornographic (which, arguably, it is). However, the painting is perhaps the most clear example of the objectification of women in fine art. The model has no voice, she is, and this painting is, only and excusively to be looked at, to satisfy the male gaze.

[Gustave Courbet, L'Origine du Monde, 1866, Oil on Canvas. Source: here]

But this is an extreme example. The same objectification of the female nude can be seen in Courbet's 1854-55 L'atelier du peintre. The nude female is only a prop in the artist's studio. She looks on admiring his work, and is on view for the whole studio. It is clear she is the focus of the painting.

[Gustave Courbet, L'Atelier du Peintre, 1854-55, Oil on Canvas. Source: here]

However, it is not fair to single out Courbet. Perhaps the objectification of women in his work is far more surprising in comparison to his rural scenes which 'gave new dignity to the peasants'. Each and every artist of the era portrayed his women in the same light as Courbet.... the nudes of Degas and Maurice Denis and the call-girls and can-can dancers of Toulouse-Lautrec do not confront the viewer but accept their gaze. Courbet was just following the conventions of his oevre. But this leaves a few questions;

Does that excuse the objectification of women in art?

Does objectifying women for the purposes of art excuse the artist?

And what would the world have to say if these works were painted by women?

But that will all have to wait.

A symphony of Line - Joan Miro Foundation, Barcelona

In January of this year, by chance and pure luck, I found myself in Barcelona at the same time as Frantisek Kupka. A retrospective of the painter's works was held at the Joan Miro Foundation, atop Montjuic, the highest natural point in Barcelona. The gallery itself is a wonderful architectural space that looks out on the whole of Barcelona, and I could sit there for hours, even if there was no art, just looking out at the city below. The grounds are dotted with Miro and Calder sculpture.

However, more stunning than all of this was the interplay of the works of the 3 artists exhibited; Frantisek Kupka, Alexander Calder and, of course, Joan Miro. The one thing that struck me was the interesting use of line each of these artists has made his own.

[Frantisek Kupka, Vertical and Diagonal Planes, c 1914-15, Oil on Canvas. Source: here]

The retrospective of Kupka shows the evolution of his art, his amazing work as a colourist and his use of both geometric and organic line. Kupka is a complex artist, hard to define or classify into a certain movement within the 20th Century. Perhaps that is because the artist "never felt comfortable with the limits imposed by specific movements". His body of work contains de Stijl style; basic geometric forms with basic colours as well as abstractions showing an acute understanding of tone and hue in concentric circles and organic forms. His work, although referencing the world, is totally formalist, concerned only with the painting - the colour and the form, and devoid of narrative and allegory;

"Imitative painting belongs to the past, to the era where there were still witches, mystics and alchemists" - F. Kupka

[Joan Miro, Morning Star, 1940, Guache, oil and pastel on paper, 38x46cm, source: here]

Miro, on the other hand, is classically expressive. He has worked in various mediums (all of which are exhibited in his foundation), but his paintings in particular display an automatism associated with the unconscious mind and surrealism. Even his sculptures contain a sense of surrealism, with recognisable and juxtaposed references to the natural world, coupled with a naive or primitive aesthetic, I can't decide which I would use to more aptly describe Miro. his use of line is in the expressive qualities of art-making. He does not use line as meticulously and conscously as Kupka. However, the two artists complement each other.

[Alexander Calder, Untitled, 1942, Sheet Metal and Wire. Source: here]

Alexander Calder has yet another approach to the use of line. His works, and his mobiles in particular, are concerned with lines in space- how a line becomes and object and interacts with the space in which it is found. The lines in his mobiles and sculptures juxtapose with the solid shapes. They begin as static - but by becoming incorporated into his pieces, they become dynamic.
[For more info: Joan Miro Foundation]

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I love you Frank Lloyd Wright

First post of the year.

I have a couple I'm working on. One from B'lona and one from Paris. Keeping up with 5 blogs is difficult.

For now, just this:

"The truth is more important than the facts" FLW

Frank, you're amazing:

Image source: me. Guggenheim Museum, NYC, NY, USA. I love>

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Eastern Excursion

David Lynch at the opening of his exhibition in Katowice. [source:,35061,7296159.html?i=14]

I haven’t written for a while, I’ve been busy adjusting to the time, climate and cultural differences between North America and Europe. I’m currently residing, however briefly, in the Upper Silesia region of southern Poland, where I was born, partially raised and where most of my family still lives. Today and yesterday I had the distinct privilege to go ‘gallery-hopping’ as it were, with my uncle who is very involved in the artistic scene here as a renowned photographer [marek beblot]. It was amazing to see a gem of culture in this dirty and poor pocket of the world, full of deserted industrial spaces and crumbling antique buildings (which would be beautiful if they had been kept from destitution and the polluted surroundings). I am amazed and astounded by the level of artistic production in an area which seems frozen in time, and not in the best sense of the phrase. The production, in my eyes, is one of raw artistic expression which is perhaps a bit passé in the west nowadays. However, I think the works and the creations of the artists cannot be read in the contexts of the Anglo-centric western cannon, one must understand that the idea of free expression is relatively new in this area of the world, and the idea of the artist as we (westerners) see him, as a lone genius, is new and still being adapted to a culture where the people have, for almost a century, been told to serve the ‘greater good’ of the proletariat in every area of life.

Yesterday, we went to the Sielecki castle in Sosnowiec. It’s a wonderful place, a beautifully restored castle from the middle ages now used as an exhibition space. A very apt place for the exhibition which it housed (until the 17th January 2010) called “Pocztówki Sosnowca” (Postcards of Sosnowiec). It’s the resulting exhibition of a photographic competition for amateurs and professionals alike, where the only guidelines were that the photos must be of the greater Sosnowiec area, a poor and dilapidated city, but one where beauty can still be found. The photos ranged from a portrayal of rare pockets of brilliance in old castles and sleek new architecture to an expression of the desperation of this area – in shots of crumbling factories and mining complexes to peeling paint on the doors of fragmenting residential places. The whole exhibition was amazing, and kudos must be paid to the curator. Instead of a catalogue, the exhibition was recorded in a series of postcards given out to visitors, a very innovative and apt idea linking in the title of the exhibition itself into a physical object. As an aside, the lovely lady who received us at the reception was so kind, giving us amazing printed matter not only about the exhibition, but about the art and architecture of the region, both contemporary and historical.

Today we headed to Nikiszowiec, an outer suburb of Katowice (a town close to my heart, as it is where I was born). It seems to have changed little in the last century, an area full of old red-brick buildings in medieval styles, with windows painted red (in the Silesian custom). A very photogenic area. However, we didn’t stay long. We headed closer to the centre of Katowice to the Galeria Szyb Wilson (Any translation has me puzzled). The exhibition space is HUGE as the building used to be part of the mining complex which the area was famous for, before the reserves of coal were exhausted. The entrance hall was really stunning, and a portrait of Lenin in a Santa hat greeted visitors, as well as a statue of a jazz pianist chained to grand piano, topped with a somewhat disturbing dismembered mannequin, amongst mixed-media and found-object works. The first (somewhat smaller hall) was lined with contemporary paintings on both the lower and mezzanine levels. In the middle was an amazing wooden statue which I think exemplifies contemporary work in Poland – the struggle of self-expression coupled with the expression of weighty, interesting, long and tragic national history – a lot of which contemporary artists remember and have experienced firsthand (most people, even of my generation, remember the end of communism, the inflation and the food-shortages).

The second (main) hall was lined with painting and photographic work while large-scale canvases were suspended over the immense interior of the space. The lighting of the area is perfect with huge windows, almost floor-to-ceiling, at one end of the space. All around the hall are smaller spaces for site-specific installations. One was painted a candy-purple and a reflection of contemporary consumer culture clashing with religion and traditional spiritual values, another was a red and gold communist indoctrination chamber while another still contained medical instruments and technology wrapped in saran-wrap creating the illusion of a massive, glossy spider web. Others were simply a continuation of the work in the main hall. The works struck me as very raw, expressive and loaded with cultural and personal histories, a trend in postmodernism world-wide. However, my personal connection with the culture and interest in the history of Eastern Europe made these works all the more enthralling and remarkable.
Last on the docket for the day was a trip to the Rondo Sztuki (Square of Fine Art – own translation) at the very heart of Katowice. Having studied and watched some of the films of David Lynch before (and being quite a fan), I was beside myself that I was lucky enough to be there for an exhibition of David Lynch’s prints and photography. The prints and his video installation had the same grittiness that I noticed in the works I’d seen earlier, and of course loaded with surrealist symbolism and references to psychoanalysis, violence and sexuality. However, it is his photography that stood out most to me. The series ‘Distorted Nude’ was by far my favourite, although quite disconcerting, as it showed nude bodies with strange objects in various orifices, not to mention orifices which are not present on the human body (holes in torsos and the like). What was perhaps the most disturbing were the images of floating biomorphic forms in a wall-papered room – very clearly echoing the work of past surrealists from the first half of the 20th century.

On the upper level of the Rondo Sztuki, there was an exhibition called Hotel Landszaft, which was pretty stunning. A collection of 7 ‘hotel’ rooms, filled with site-specific installations by 7 contemporary artists, inspired by the works of David Lynch. It was pretty fantastic to see how differently the work of one artist can be interpreted by other artists. Plus, I really enjoy the total immersion of the spectator in site-specific works and big installations. They allow for a more direct communication between the artist and the audience. Plus, it frees the artist from the limits of a ‘canvas’ and allows more freedom to play with space and image as interacting and intersecting principles.

Having always seen possibly the worst parts of the region, it was a relief and it instilled some hope in me to see some progressive contemporary culture and artistic development. I can’t help but wonder why I see this developing with such fervour in this corner of the globe, more so than in all my other travels. Perhaps I have seen things that are really current and not yet established or institutionalised, through the help of my uncle as my guide for the day. Perhaps it is because there is much to express, as the country, culture and society are in a strange and terrifying threshold, which could give way to a new golden age or yet another era of hardship. Perhaps, having seen more drastic change than most westerners, the people have more to express. Perhaps they enjoy the freedom of expression and use it to its full potential, while we, in the west, take it for granted and assume it as a natural right, rather than a privilege of location. I’m sure there are many different explanations that could and will be put forward by anthropologists, historians, theorists, sociologists and psychologists. All I know is that these galleries have filled me with hope and pride and that I can say, with total conviction, that this is an area of the globe to be watched and it would be a great loss if this mass of artistic production was overlooked by the Anglophonic world.

Yours truly enjoying the work of David Lynch [photo by Marek Beblot]

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Irving Penn. Other Ideas of Fashion and Beauty

Today, I was looking around for vintage fashion photography and stumbled upon the work of Irving Penn.

Flicking through his portfolio on, I was amazed by his work not only in the realm of high fashion, but in capturing people from other cultures, countries. Firstly, they conjoured up, in my mind, the work of the anthropological photographers from the colonial eras, who documented 'disappearing cultures' and whose work always strikes me as a shocking exponent of colonialism and the subjugation of native peoples.

However, when examined closed, I found that, when seen in juxtaposition with his work in the world of high fashion, it can be read that his work is the recognition of other ideas of fashion and beauty. Who is to say that the body art of african tribes is not comperable to the strong lines of a chanel suit. When examined with a post-modern eye, the world of other 'beauties' can be seen parallel to the world of 'other histories' which were forgotten and not written in the generally accepted canon, or other forms of 'high art' which were seen not as art, but as artefacts.

Some Images from Irving Penn (a new favourite):

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Amazing Discovery = Marx + Greenberg

Marx once made a point about social change, which I will condense to what I undestand it to be:

Then, the always-controversial Clement Greenberg translated this idea to art:

Which is so true! Its the role of the artist to keep thinking ahead, and not pander to the conventions of social tastes and norms, but instead be true to him/her-self. The artist is the Nietzchean (sp?) superhero, looking to be recognised for romantic genius. How can one be recognised (in the long run) if they stuck to the norm? All the great artists that time remembered, and we still remember today, did something new, something extraordinary.

This is the progression of art. It begins with the conflict between the traditional and the avant-garde. Eventually, the avant-garde becomes the contemporary and develops into the traditional. It's just natural. I'm sure it's explained in psychology far more eloquently than in my little diagrams. But I thought to write about it because, to me, Greenberg outlined something that seems to resemble a universal truth that resounds in all areas of human achievement - art, politics, literature, etc. Could he have defined the human condition in relation to art history?

I'm not sure what my views on Greenberg are. It's very popular to dislike the man for his staunch formalism in a post-modern world. I think he had some good ideas, and I admire his passion and dedication to the world of art and to art theory and criticism, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to sign on for 'Camp Greenberg' just yet. Well, Marx had some good ideas and I can admire his dedication to the workers, but that doesn't make me a communist.

It's interesting to think what the world would be like with no Marx (and Engles) or Greenberg.

Two very influential and interesting people, especially in the visual arts. (the influence of communism in modernism is amazing!)

(Image source: unknown. Just thought I'd put it in because it illustrates the inspiration I got from this little thought --- lots of lighbulbs flicking on in my brain!)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

'Repatriation' or 'Am I a Hypocrite?'

It's no secret that I am a museum junkie... I could spend days wandering around museum halls and galleries, discovering new and wonderful things from countries far, far away; exotically different cultures and times long gone. I love to go to a museum and flit from place to place, from Egypt to Messopotamia to Ancient Athens, as easily as going from room to room. I love to be able to discover the art of African tribes, or Mayan ceramics while in reality, I am still in Montreal (or wherever I happen to be at the time). I do not take for granted the cultural richness ready for me to devour and absorb while others may easily let it collect dust. I've long been all for the cultural richness and diversity available at the museum, until a lecture today got me thinking...

I'm taking an class on The Art of Native America at Concordia, which I love. Today, finishing up our class on art of the North-West, the issue of repatriation was raised, with good reason. I strongly feel that the repatriation of important material culture is a must for positive relationships between cultural groups and to show respect. Yet I love that I can float around in a museum and see material culture from other countries without the need for extensive travel. Does this make me a hypocrite? I have, through my travels in North America, gone to museums and exhibitions to learn about the Native cultures through their art, yet have never, until now, considered the ramifications of ill-gotten collections, shifty traders, broken cultural taboos, reluctant museum officials and the cultural ramifications of taking art, especially that of religious significance, out of context and how this could be insulting to the nations from which the art comes.

When forced to consider this issue from the other side, I began to question my perceptions of art and how it is used in contemporary western culture. I questioned the role of the museum, perhaps in the future it could be used to foster good inter-cultural relations through dialogues and discussions instead of imposing a set of cultural values. I began to question my entire position on this issue, and when discussion of the British Museum Collection began, I felt my skin crawl. To return anything, the Museum would set precedent, even 'insignificant' (for lack of a better term) items from storage, regardless if keeping these items provides a source of insult and ill-feeling between people. The reason being that the British Museum would loose a lot of its collection if there was a precedent for repatriation (the Elgin Marbles, for example, may finally make their way back to Greece!), and the results would not be good for the museum, economically. But it leads to the question, why should a group benefit from theft, semi-legal transactions or colonialisation? All the while possibly breaking taboos of other cultures?

And yet, what would happen to inter-cultural understanding when these objects are repatriated. Would there be another way for people, such as myself, to learn about the aesthetic traditions of other cultures? Where does repatriation stop? Could it lead to the collapse of the museum institution all together?

I could write a doctoral thesis on this. (Perhaps, one day I will). I feel strongly both ways. I love to wander through museums and satisfy (at least for a while) my thirst for knowledge and exploration of other times and places. Yet I also recognise the cultural significance of repatriation and the negative impact on cultures that museums have had. But, this issues is not always black and white, and there are many shades of grey that lead me to think, that like any other issue this complex, the issues surround the aquisition and repatriation of museum collections need to be examined and decided on a case-by-case basis, with favour to preserving cultural integrity and respecting the significance of objects which may not be so obvious to the western eye.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

France? USA?

Eiffel Tower, Paris, November 2008. Photo by me
Having recently come home from a wonderous trip to the US (NY and NJ in particular) and contemplating my impending trip to France, I dug up (with some nostalgia) yet another paper I wrote ages ago, in my first year at the SASA. It's about the shift of artistic capital from Europe to the US.... namely Paris to NY -

Compare and contrast the approaches to painting in both the United States of America and France in the years between 1900 and 1945 with reference to historical and contemporary politics.

France and America have always had a historical bond, from the days of the American Revolutionary War from 1775 to 1789[1]. To unite the American people against the English, the French monarchy sent military aid to the revolutionaries. Eventually, the revolutionary ideals of democracy, equality, fraternity and, most importantly, freedom, spread to the European continent manifesting in the 1789 French revolution. The two republics were born from the same struggle and with the same idealistic goals. Throughout history, the import and export of ideologies has continued into the twentieth century and has extended to artistic ideals as well. However, politically, the two nations have been at odds since the end of the 19th century. At the beginning of the 20th century, Paris became a Mecca for modern artists, drawing Americans searching for freedom from the realistic tendencies of American art. However, these expatriates were forced home by the economic troubles of the 1930s[2] and the stock market crash of 1929, as well as the Second World War.

At the turn of the 20th Century, the USA was one of the most politically rigid of the capitalist democracies in the world, and lacked a socialist voice, like France.[3] The general consensus in the art world was that industry was as much a threat to human interests and values as fascism.[4]The French capital offered a more socialistic political zeitgeist and a more welcoming and tolerant environment for social outcasts like African Americans and homosexuals. Also, the introduction of alcohol prohibition in America in 1920 pushed more American Bohemians to the European continent, in particular, to Paris. However, not only Americans flocked to Paris. The French capital was filled with foreigners from all over Europe, New Zealand and Australia[5]. Visually, the Paris of the early twentieth century was one of social freedoms and a lack of inhibitions, characterised by the gestural and expressive posters of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec[6] and the work of the Nabis movement, headed by Paul Gauguin who pioneered the use of rich, atmospheric colour, flat shapes and heavy contours.[7] Gauguin’s use of tribal and exotic subjects from his childhood in Peru and later, his life in the French Pacific Islands added to a fascination with the exotic in French Art circles,[8] along with Picasso’s fascination with African masks.

This fascination with ‘the beautiful savage’[9]could also be seen in the work of the Fauves. Although the name, Fauve, or ‘wild beasts’[10]was adopted as a tongue-in-cheek response to art critic Louis Vauxcelles’ derogatory comment regarding the first exhibition of Henri Matisse’s The Dance in 1910. Vauxcelles’ comment was made in regards to the brilliantly coloured images and dynamic, expressive brushwork of the Fauvists, impregnated with a hedonism which contemporary European sensibilities regarded as ‘savage’.[11] Fauvist style was the precursor to other expressionist styles, notably the post-war abstract expressionism that became popular in post-war America. However, American artists, such as Marsden Hartley and Stuart Davis, draw inspiration from the European avant-garde. Hartley travelled to Paris in 1912 under the advice of Alfred Steiglitz[12], the owner of the 291 Gallery in New York. His inspiration from the European avant-garde, particularly the Fauvist and Expressionist use of colour is reflected in his 1940 ‘Madawaska-Arcadian Light-Heavy’. Like the Fauvists, Hartley attempts to convey the full emotive value of colour.[13]

Around the same time that Fauvism was reaching its peak, Cubism was being developed by Spanish-born Pablo Picasso and Frenchman Georges Braque and was the first artistic movement to rival the international reach and influence of impressionism.[14]The central idea of Cubism was in the simultaneity of interpreting an object from many different angles at once. The Cubists were also united in their relative disdain for expressive colour, causing a defining feature of cubist paintings to be in dull and muted tones. Cubism also challenged the renaissance idea of creating an illusion of the third dimension on a flat surface[15]. For example, ‘Composition with Ace of Clubs’ by Braque, who, rather than recreate illusion of the third dimension, created a depth in his image of the card table by showing both the top and side views simultaneously[16]. By 1920, artists such as Stuart Davis, Alexander Calder and Max Weber incorporated cubism into American styles[17]. Polish-born Max Weber became one of Americas leading cubists after he travelled to Paris from his adopted home in New York in 1905. Weber was fascinated by the concept of simultaneity in painting. Works such as his 1917 ‘Two Musicians’ show the adoption of the cubist concept of simultaneity with different sides of the heads of the piano and bass players visible at once, as well as the traditionally cubist muted colours.[18]Eventually Weber broke free of the dull tones of cubism, combining lively colours with the flat-planed cubist style.

Unlike the cubist tendency against bright colour, the breakthrough Orphism movement founded by Robert and Sonya Delaunay focused on the emotional impact of pure colour. The name was conceived by theorist Guillaume Apollinaire to describe the liberation of colour from its representational function[19]. The idea was a development of fauvist ideas, with whom Sonya Delaunay was associated.[20] Although the movement only consisted of the Delaunay couple, its theory and practice reached the United States, in particular the work of Stanton McDonald-Wright and Morgan Russell. Orphism produced the first official non-objective art in the world[21], an abstract art that, through its autonomous nature, did nothing to corrupt society[22].
However, non-objective art did not reach its pinnacle of fame until the American Abstract Expressionist movement in the 1950s. Many European artists, such as the surrealists continued to paint in the Western figurative tradition, employing renaissance techniques such as perspective that had been abandoned by most other art movements[23]. In 1924, writer Andre Breton issued the first literary surrealist manifesto[24]which soon stretched its influence over the visual arts, aimed at “resolving the previously contradictory contradiction of dream and reality”[25]In the visual arts, surrealism involved unnerving and illogical paintings with photographic precision and an absence of painterly presence inspired by the emerging ideas in Sigmund Freud’s work and the practice of psychoanalysis[26]. Politically, the surrealists rejected the bourgeois conception of art by applying ‘bourgeois’ techniques to unconventional, controversial and sometimes shocking imagery. One such image is Hans Bellmer’s ‘A Thousand Girls’ of 1939 just after the artist moved to Paris to become involved in the Surrealist movement[27]. Bellmer was inspired by the vegetable and produce anthropomorphic images of Giuseppe Achimboldo. ‘A thousand Girls’ is an image of a bound woman, her head disappearing in a precarious pile of internal organs. However, not all surrealist work is necessarily grotesquely shocking. The work of Pierre Roy portrays Freudian concepts with a juxtaposition of bizarre objects and an unreal or unintelligible narrative.

A majority of European surrealists, along with other artists, emigrated from Europe to the United States at the time of the Second World War, including Yves Tanguy, who became one of America's leading surrealists, with his wife, Kay Sage. Both Tanguy and Sage, along with the more famous surrealists, de Chirico and Dali, are classed metaphysical surrealists, characterised by their use of long shadows, infinite expanses, smooth surfaces, anthropomorphic imagery and a confusing and disorientating change in natural scale.[28] The confusing imagery challenges the basic childhood development of consciousness, to differentiate between the animate and inanimate, edible and inedible. However, some objects remain doubtful in the eyes of the child and it is these objects that the metaphysical surrealists decide to use as recurring images in their work.[29]Both Tanguy and Sage use forms in their work that have a vague and uncertain interpretation. Tanguy’s 1932 ‘Ribbon of Extremes’ depicts organ-like shapes strung together, which suggest some form of animal or human connection but are ultimately unidentifiable.[30]Similarly, Sage’s 1940 ‘Lost Record’ shows a post-apocalyptic world with unidentifiable objects that have been destroyed by time or some sort of disaster and echoes de Chirico’s work, and that of her husband.

The surrealist movement was, arguably the longest lasting in its original form. Although other European-born movements of the early 20th century may have had more of an impact on modern and post-modern art depending on the point of view and context of the argument, Surrealism lasted in its original form well into the time of the abstract expressionists with the work of the American Surrealists, who emigrated from Europe during the time of war and political instability in Spain, France and other continental European nations and, in turn, inspired a generation of American surrealists who worked after the Second World War, like Kay Sage and Dorothea Tanning, along with the émigrés like Tanguy.

One of the biggest shifts in art within the Twentieth century was the emergence of the Museum, which, in America unlike in Europe, was a private, capitalist institution. The American model of the Museum fulfilled the role that had before been dominated by private patronage.[31] This beginning of revolution in art was aptly taking place in America, where technological progress was not hampered by the traditions of old Europe.[32] While many American artists were gaining inspiration abroad, others were true to an American style. The American artist, Thomas Eakins, was educated n Paris but returned to Philadelphia to encourage his students to absorb the culture around them rather than rely on the formal aesthetic modes from Europe.[33] Artists such as Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia left Europe in a voluntary exile to New York City showing that European artists were also finding a niche in the United States, especially those whose politics centred on the dismantling of the cultural tenants of European bourgeoisie[34]. This political stance within the art world caused American art in the early 20th century to break into two idiosyncrasies, that of the realists and those who brought in the ideas of the European avant-garde.

Following in the artistic culture of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, American artists who did not absorb the European avant-garde created an ethos of realism, often on a grand scale in colossal works like Mount Rushmore by Gutzon Borglum. American Trotskyism began in the early 20th Century and continued until the birth of Abstraction as the painting style of choice for Americans in the 1940s along with the de-marxification of American intelligentsia.[35]As late as 1937, Trotsky wrote an open letter for the Partisan Review describing the “catastrophic position of the American artist who thought he could better himself was stuck in the bourgeois stranglehold of mediocrity”[36]The work of leading American realists, such as Alice Neel, created intimate portraits with a tough starkness to detail the hardships of life and urban living,[37] especially in her portraits of members of the Spanish Harlem community. The theme of urbanism can be found in the work of many American realists like Edward Hopper, Thomas Hart Benton and Charles Sheeler. However, while Hopper had a more humanist point of view, claiming he subconsciously painted the loneliness of a large city[38], while Sheeler focused on the purity and beauty of machines. Sheeler’s ‘Rolling Power’ of 1939 is a precise rendering of mechanic wheels, pistons and rivets of a locomotive which pre-empts the photorealism that followed in the 1960s in his attempt to find a modernist form of classicism.

Thomas Hart Benton is best remembered for his work as the leader of the Missouri regionalists that focused on the concerns of the people in rural America, including their pastimes, entertainment and daily life. However, Benton’s rich-colour realism also extended to portraying the chaotic experience of everyday life, like the themes of Hopper’s work. The 1930 ‘City Activities with Subway’ is definitive of the artist’s time in New York and shares thematic links with the art of the European avant-garde, mainly that of chaos of modern life. The idea of simultaneity was, like the work of the cubists, found in that of Benton’s; however Benton had a very different stylistic approach. Instead of flattening the surface, he kept with the western traditions of realism and perspective, but divided ‘City Activities with Subway’ into smaller sections, each showing a different facet of urban living. Similarly, George Bellows’ bold and broad brush strokes, use of dramatic lighting and a feeling of tension detailed the same period of time in New York City. Bellows’ association with ‘The Eight’ or The Ashcan School[39], a group which advocated the painting of contemporary American society, and rejected the abstraction brought from Europe. The politics of his work was blatantly socialist, and satirized the upper classes while portraying the crudeness and chaos of working-class neighbourhoods. Philip Evergood, who also worked in New York at the time of Bellows, presented a different form of satire. Evergood painted in an exaggerated realist style, his figures and settings recognisable but somewhat skewed. His 1935 “Dance Marathon” shows a distorted dance contest, the likes of which were a craze in poverty-stricken America during the Great Depression, when unemployed people were driven to try their luck and some had to be taken to hospitals, suffering from exhaustion. Evergood’s distortion of his subjects’ features and costumes shows his contempt and pity.[40] Despite his distorting techniques, Evergood’s work is classified as realism, the artist having rejected abstraction in art as protest, joining the likes of Bellows and Benton in the development of American realism.

However, the politics and themes found in American Abstraction were not very different to that in American Realism. Works such as ‘The Enchanted Ones’ (1945) by Adolph Gottleib carried a humanist politic, with a message against the death and destruction during the Second World War. Although Gottleib’s work is abstract and pictographic in style, his influence was not found in the European avant-garde but the primitive and Native American art the painter collected during his lifetime. His work and personal beliefs were mainly shaped by the culture of the Inuit people of Alaska.[41]Similar to artists such as Bellows and Benton during his time in New York, the work of Stuart Davis reflects the confusion of urban living. His 1941 painting ‘New York Under Gaslight’ shows the noise and excitement of New York and evokes the beat of Jazz music. Davis’ work is based on overstatement and a rejection of traditional perspective.[42]However, unlike the realists or Gottleib, Davis was influenced by the French avant-garde movements such as expressionism and cubism.

Conversely to the Politics of art, was the seemingly apolitical work of Georgia O’Keefe, who specialised in banal subjects and almost total, unrecognisable abstraction in which representation became the subject.[43]O’Keefe’s recognisable brand of abstraction was based on cropping the image and distorting the scale, so that a flower bud became larger than life, and ultimately unrecognisable. O’Keefe abandoned a political stance, and her urban landscape scenes of her time in New York, when she moved to the country’s South West. Her work strives to be universally understood, fighting against her seemingly apolitical stance within the politics of aesthetic. Ultimately, her work was to be autonomous of any national artistic tendency, without corrupting society[44]and becomes political in its apolitical nature. O’Keefe assimilated the more radical tendencies of European Art of the early twentieth century. However, upon her return, these European ideas were focused with an American sensibility and her work drew its roots in the vast American landscape in a way that these two seemingly conflicting artistic traditions were not reconciled by any other artist.

Since the birth of modern democracy, the relationship between France and the United States has been blurred and sometimes politically uncomfortable due to difference in national zeitgeist at any one time, and a different approach towards most aspects of nationhood and politics. However, this difference has proved to be a boiling pot for the exchange of artistic ideas. At the beginning of the 20th century, American artists who wanted to escape the socialist realist trends of their home country indulged in a more liberal lifestyle in Europe and became involved in the development of crucial avant-garde movements centred in France and other artistic capitals in Western Europe. Many aspects of fauvism, expressionism, surrealism and cubism as well as the beginnings of Non-Objective Art, found their way into the work of American artists, which were all pre-cursors for the abstract expressionist movement that created a new artistic hub in the United States after the Second World War. Conversely, artists whose poitics rested more with the Marxist intelligentsia in the United States, like Duchamp and Picabia, settled in America as part of a voluntary exile from the bourgeois culture of Western Europe. During the political instabilities in Europe before and during the Second World War, the United States provided an unoccupied and democratic arena for artists to continue their practice and develop their ideas without censorship or war. Through this refuge in America, many art movements that began in Europe, such as surrealism, were adopted into the American consciousness and allowed to be active for longer, when they may have reached an end in war-torn Europe. Politics has always been integral to art and artistic expression, but possibly most strongly in the exchange of ideas and aesthetic rivalry between French and American visual culture.

[1] Gombrich, E H, The Story of Art: Pocket Edition, Phaidon Publishing, London, 2006, p429
[2] Hamilton, G H, Painting and Sculpture in Europe 1880-1940, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1993 p473
[3]Frascina, F and Harris, J (Ed.) Art in Modern Culture, Phaidon Publishing, London, 1999, p34
[4] Ibid, p38
[5] Brettell, R R, Modern Art 1851-1929, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1999, p53
[6] Bocola, S, The Art of Modernism, Prestel, Munich, 1999, p150
[7] Ibid, p138
[8] 20th Century Art Book, Phaidon Publishing, London, 1999, p156
[9] Ibid
[10] Brettell, R R, Modern Art 1851-1929, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1999, p29
[11] Ibid
[12] 20th Century Art Book, Phaidon Publishing, London, 1999, p189
[13] Ibid
[14] Brettell, R R, Modern Art 1851-1929, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1999, p32
[15] Gombrich, E H, The Story of Art: Pocket Edition, Phaidon Publishing, London, 2006, p445
[16] Bocola, S, The Art of Modernism, Prestel, Munich, 1999, p186
[17] Hamilton, G H, Painting and Sculpture in Europe 1880-1940, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1993, p349
[18] 20th Century Art Book, Phaidon Publishing, London, 1999, p487
[19] Brettell, R R, Modern Art 1851-1929, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1999, p36
[20] 20th Century Art Book, Phaidon Publishing, London, 1999, p105
[21] Hamilton, G H, Painting and Sculpture in Europe 1880-1940, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1993, p15-16
[22] Frascina, F and Harris, J (Ed.) Art in Modern Culture, Phaidon Publishing, London, 1999, p38
[23] Bocola, S, The Art of Modernism, Prestel, Munich, 1999, p346
[24] Brettell, R R, Modern Art 1851-1929, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1999, p45
[25] Breton, A in: 20th Century Art Book, Phaidon Publishing, London, 1999, p515
[26] Gombrich, E H, The Story of Art: Pocket Edition, Phaidon Publishing, London, 2006, p457
[27] Bocola, S, The Art of Modernism, Prestel, Munich, 1999, p358
[28] Ibid, p351
[29] Ibid
[30] 20th Century Art Book, Phaidon Publishing, London, 1999, p451
[31] Frascina, F and Harris, J (Ed.) Art in Modern Culture, Phaidon Publishing, London, 1999, p82
[32] Gombrich, E H, The Story of Art: Pocket Edition, Phaidon Publishing, London, 2006, p430
[33] Crouch, C, Modernism in art, design & architecture, Macmillan Press Ltd, New York, 1999, p132
[34] Frascina, F and Harris, J (Ed.) Art in Modern Culture, Phaidon Publishing, London, 1999, p224
[35] Ibid, p241
[36] Trotsky, L, Partisan Review, December 1937 in: Frascina, F and Harris, J (Ed.) Art in Modern Culture, Phaidon Publishing, London, 1999, p241
[37] 20th Century Art Book, Phaidon Publishing, London, 1999, p333
[38] Read, H, The Philosophy of Modern Art, Faber and Faber, London, 1975, p210
[39] Read, H, The Philosophy of Modern Art, Faber and Faber, London, 1975, p39
[40] 20th Century Art Book, Phaidon Publishing, London, 1999, p134
[41] Bocola, S, The Art of Modernism, Prestel, Munich, 1999, p400
[42] 20th Century Art Book, Phaidon Publishing, London, 1999, p102
[43] Brettell, R R, Modern Art 1851-1929, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1999, p190
[44] Frascina, F and Harris, J (Ed.) Art in Modern Culture, Phaidon Publishing, London, 1999, p38

Monday, October 26, 2009

Almost 60 years ago....

I am in love with 1950's fashion. Oh me, oh my, the striking and defined lines of the pencil suits, the full, flowing skirts and the princess-like evening gowns. Rich fabrics and gorgeous hats, as well as long gloves. I wish I was born 50 years earlier, sometimes...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lissitzky and Malevich

I dug up an old paper I wrote, about the Russian avant-garde, back in my first year at the SASA. The Russian avant-garde has been back on my mind for a while now, as I am planning to go back to New York next weekend, and I saw many of these artists at the MoMA when I was there 2 months ago. Enjoy.

White on White, Kazimir Malevich, Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photo by me.

Summarise the historical emergence of the ideas of the avant-garde thought in relation to both art and politics. Over the course of the 20th century the political and aesthetic trajectories of avant-garde thought and practice diverged and converged? In the context of this critical interplay of ideologies discuss the work of Kasimir Malevich and El Lissitzky. What ideological tendencies determine their work as avant-garde?

The avant-garde emerged at the beginning of 20th Century Europe as a way to lead society into a world of modernity and progress, as the vanguard in military terms. However, much to the contrary, the beginning of the 20th century saw a political influence, especially in the form of socialism in Russia, that stigmatised the avant-garde as self-indulgent, bourgeois and decadent, but most shockingly, as counter-progressive. The conflict began within the Russian art world at the beginning of the Bolshevik rule, and reached an end in 1924 with the death of Vladimir Illyich Lenin and his succession by Joseph Stalin who declared modern art to be counter-revolutionary. The great irony of Stalin’s views on avant-garde art was that most of Russia’s avant-garde artists were primary members of the Bolshevik party and had strongly supported the 1917 Revolution. Moreover, the roots of the avant-garde were the same as those that fuelled the revolution. However, despite this, avant-garde artists were forced underground, including Kasimir Malevich, El Lissitzky and others of the Suprematist movement, whose work was then only exhibited abroad, clandestinely or after the fall of the USSR in 1991.

Kasimir Malevich penned the Suprematist Manifesto, From Cubism to Suprematism In Art, To the New Realism of Painting, To Absolute Creation, in 1916,[1] a time of unrest in Imperial Russia. At the same time the country was at the brink of revolution spurred by long-term incompetency of the monarchy and the great losses and poor conditions of both soldier and civilian during the First World War acting as a catalyst for the 1917 revolution. Just a few months later, the provisional government would sign a peace accord with Kaiser Wilhelm and the axis powers to avoid even more atrocities in the First World War. Much like the Bolshevik and Menshevik Revolutionaries were propelled to action by the need for a new political, social and economic system, the avant-garde artists were driven by the need for a new art. In the opening clauses of the Suprematist Manifesto, Malevich mentions the need to liberate art from its enslavement by form[2] and denounces all past artists as copiers, legal investigators, police officials, story tellers, psychologists, botanists, zoologists, archaeologists and engineers, but not art creators, and condemns what he calls their obsession with pornography and “sensual, lascivious rubbish”.[3]

Many of the Suprematist artists became members of the revolutionary Bolshevik party and produced highly political and pro-communist art during the years of the revolution and the civil war that followed between the Red Army and the pro-monarchy White Guard from 1917 till 1923. One such blatantly communist work is El Lissitzky’s 1919 Lithograph Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge. In this Lithograph, Lissitzky uses the colours Black, White and Red for many different reasons. Artistically, these colours align him with the Suprematist movement. Malevich himself wrote that Suprematism comes in three stages, all corresponding with his own major works[4]. Firstly there is the Black stage, then the Coloured stage, symbolised by the use of the colour red with political and revolutionary connotations and finally the white stage – the ultimate in creative perfection. Politically, the red wedge shattering the white form, simple as it is, communicates a powerful message about Lissitzky's political alliance to the Bolsheviks and opposition to the White Guard. The use of the wedge was a Suprematist symbol of the new art, change and Modernity while the circle

The same political and social factors of that drove the revolution of 1917 was a main driving force behind the Russian avant-garde movements, one of which was the new industrialisation of Russia. As the Russian way of life was changing to accommodate an industrialised economy, the political and social systems were remaining as they had been for centuries. While the rest of the developed world experienced the Industrial Revolution at the end of the 18th Century, it only came to touch the Russian way of life about a century later, at the time of growing social and political unrest and the emergence of the avant-garde. The shift towards the avant-garde in art was also inspired by the Italian Futurist movement that was officially introduced to Russia in the Futurist Opera Victory over the Sun in 1913 which was performed in Saint Petersburg that December.[5] The influence of the Italian Futurist movement can be seen in the work of early Suprematist artists and in Malevich’s Suprematist manifesto. Malevich wrote of the new artists’ language which encapsulated that essential spirit of the contemporary world of speed and machinery[6] but despite a brief flirtation with the art of the Cubo-futurist movement he wrote “we see in futurist pictures images of smoke, clouds, sky, horses, automobiles and various other objects ... Shame on them!”[7] To the Suprematists, painting should exist for the sake of painting and free itself from all natural imitation while still retaining the “dynamism of movement in the plastic art of painting.”[8] This new avant-garde movement was the culmination of society, politics, industrialisation and aestheticism – art for the sake of art.

To Malevich, the creation of a Suprematist movement was also a way to throw off his own traditional and simple upbringing just as it was a product of the conditions faced by Russian artists in the immediate pre-revolutionary period. Until entering the Moscow College of Painting, Sculpture and Construction in 1904[9] aged 26, Malevich had received minimal training in traditional art work and woodcuts of the Ukrainian peasants. [10]Despite his complete denunciation of tradition and the old order in his writings and in the Suprematist Manifesto, the Suprematists could never be completely free from what they came from, their new art ultimately carried a commentary on the older, increasingly more outdated form of art. The first official Suprematist exhibition was presented in the traditional way of religious iconography displayed in the Russian Orthodox Church and the homes of the devout. Many religious homes in Russia have icons hanging on the wall in the krasny ugol, the "red" or "beautiful" corner[11]. At 0.10: The Last Futurist Exhibition of Painting in December 1915, Malevich displayed his Black Square in the “red” corner[12]. This was definitely seen as a sacrilegious act at the time and is still referenced by art historians and writers as a bold statement against the traditional Orthodoxy, and the Suprematist goal to replace it with the non-imitational pure art.

Following from this sacrilegious display of his controversial Suprematist works, Malevich explained it by stating that Black Square will become the “icon of my time”[13] and should thus be awarded the place reserved for the Orthodox icon. However, Black Square was only part of the first stage of Suprematism. Malevich moved on to produce many works or basic geometric shapes in red and white, the subsequent stages of suprematism[14], culminating in Suprematist Composition: White on White, one of his life’s major works.

The concept of the Tabula Rasa[15], or blank state was another driving force of the Suprematist movement. The artistic blank state compared to the other Suprematist works which were complex compositions made up of varied colour, scale and an irregular geometric aesthetic. Along with the tri-colour stages of suprematism, one can understand the pre-revolutionary politic in the work of the Suprematists like Malevich and Lissitzky. The blank, flat canvases of Malevich’s earlier work crave a new beginning, a tabula rasa of culture in which there is no history or pre-conceived ideas but most importantly, there is no aesthetic based on the imitation of life, that art could exist independent of the world. In fact, Malevich had begun introducing the theory of aestheticism into artistic practice. However the more complex works of Malevich and the Suprematists conjure up a more alogical concept. Similarly to the Dadaist theory of chaotic art produced by artists in the confines of a chaotic world, the Suprematists were producing art in an environment of chaos and social and political turmoil and uncertainty. The idea of alogical painting and art was inspired by the Russian avant-garde poets Velemir Khlebnikov and Aleksei Kruchenykh as zaum[16], which they used in literary terms by rejecting any conventional meaning of words and sentences creating a trans-sensical and irrational work. This was applied by the Suprematists in the field of visual arts with a completely abstract and irrational visual narrative.

Lissitzky’s work tends to focus more on the political and social chaos from which his art emerged. Most of his compositions involve a more complex visual motif rather than recreating the flatness of Malevich’s most celebrated works. This can be credited to the fact that Lissitzky was younger than Malevich and his work can be seen more as a continuation of the original manifesto than that of a direct contemporary of Malevich. It could be argued that the original Russian avant-garde, artists such as Kandinsky and Malevich could only, in their careers, anticipate rather than fulfil the demands of the avant-garde artists’ politics[17] and the work of younger artists, like Lissitzky, can be seen as their extension. But also, no one artist, or even a group could fulfil what suprematism had set out to achieve, especially since the end of the avant-garde was approaching as soon as the revolution became a civil war in 1918. Despite their support of the revolution and the establishment of the communist state, their art was deemed unconstructive, unnecessary and contrary to the values of the system they fought to create.

For a revolution that claimed to advocate modernity and progress in economics, society and politics, the Soviet philosophy neglected the same aspects within art, leaving its revolutionary artists as pariahs, exiled abroad and underground. Malevich died of cancer in the recently renamed city of Leningrad in 1935. He died in poverty and obscurity within the new Russian art world with his Black Square above his deathbed, a motif that has become and icon the life and work of Malevich and the avant-garde experiment within Russian art. Lissitzky managed to establish himself in the new Russia and adapt to the socialist realist style, working, in his later years, on propaganda posters after his application for an extended Swiss visa was denied in 1924. Privately, he translated many of Malevich’s texts into German and sent them abroad for publication. The avant-garde may be defined mainly within the context of the Russian society in which Malevich and Lissitzky lived and worked, what they believed the role of the artist was within that society and, conversely, how that society viewed these artists. However, there is also another aspect poignant to the definition of the Russian avant-garde and that is within their tragic end. The society which they so tirelessly worked to build cast them away and it was not until the end of communism in 1991, almost a century later, that their revolutionary and conceptual work could be appreciated. The genius of their art, created for the revolution, was only discovered and understood within Russia long after the dream of that revolutionary freedom had died, replaced by dictatorship, repression and corruption.

[1] Malevich, K From Cubism to Suprematism in Art in Douglas, C, Swans of Other Worlds: Kazimir Malevich and the Origins of Abstraction in Russia, UMI Research Press, Michigan, 1980 pg 105
[2] Ibid, pg 106
[3] Ibid
[4] Malevich, K, Suprematism: 34 Drawings, Editions de Massons, Lausanne, 1974, pg 42
[5] Gray, C, The Russian Experiment in Art: 1863-1922, Abrams Inc., New York, 1971, pg 185
[6] Lodder, C, Russian Painting of the Avant-Garde, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1993, pg 18
[7] Malevich, K From Cubism to Suprematism in Art in Douglas, C, Swans of Other Worlds: Kazimir Malevich and the Origins of Abstraction in Russia, UMI Research Press, Michigan, 1980 pg 108
[8] Ibid
[9] Zhadova, L A, Malevich: Suprematism and Revolution in Russian Art 1910-1930, Thames and Hudson Ltd, London, 1982, pg 11
[10] Ibid
[11] Gray, C, The Russian Experiment in Art: 1863-1922, Abrams Inc., New York, 1971,pg 206
[12] Ibid
[13] Lodder, C, Russian Painting of the Avant-Garde, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1993, pg 18
[14] Malevich, K, Suprematism: 34 Drawings, Editions de Massons, Lausanne, 1974, pg 42
[15] Lodder, C, Russian Painting of the Avant-Garde, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1993, pg 17
[16] Lodder, C, Russian Painting of the Avant-Garde, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1993, pg 18
[17]Galerie Gmurzynska, The Isms of Russian Art 1907-1930, Galerie Gmurzynska, Cologne, 1977, pg 5

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cracked Leather

Today, I found this great shot by Camilla Engman [camilla engman]
It is so beautiful - it has such a sense of comfort and it's so aesthetically interesting, with the cracks in the leather making such intricate organic lines and shapes contrasted with the regimented stitching. It's quite abstract, really, even though we can easily tell what it is.

I love this aspect of an image, and through my time at art school, I've learned to look at something familiar in a different way, to break down the quotidien into a collection of abstract forms and colours - a necessity for analysing an image. Whether it be a constructivist sculpture, a renaissance painting or Engman's lovely photo; art is never just an image but a conglomerate of shapes, forms, lines and colours that need to be recognised and appreciated in the abstract but also in the harmony they have in composition.

To appreciate a piece, one needs to analyse it, so that the individual components can be seen for their beauty, autonomously from the work as a whole, and from the viewers own preconceived ideas, biases and aesthetic preferences.

To like a piece, to feel inspired by it, to feel some sort of visual pleasure or to experience the sublimity of a work, the individual components need to be seen coexisting with each other harmoniously.

There's a big difference between these two experiences, although they are so dependent on each other and interlocking but yet need to be separated and then considered in context of each other.
...aye, there's the rub.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Architectural Love

On my daily blog-surfing, I discovered this amazing building on []

I love the deep multi-level projected cornice, beautiful iron balconies, art nouveau detailing, the pilasters, the columns, projected side bay, somewhat asymmetrical composition, and the unusual windows, not to mention the colour and the all-round atmosphere of the photo. Also, I love the context: that this unusual building is right next to what looks like a modern, somewhat anonymous, tall building.

Unfortunately, I couldnt find the name of the architect, or even the location.