Category Archives: Arts

Night Vision

image

Night Blur by Whimsylph

P

Night Shapes by Whimsylph

image

Moons on trees and glowing nocturnal bananas by Whimsylph

“When the darkness takes you
With her hand across your face
Don’t give in too quickly
Find the thing she’s erased

Find the line, find the shape
Through the grain
Find the outline, things will
Tell you their name….

I would shelter you
Keep you in light
But I can only teach you
Night vision”

Suzanne Vega

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Arts, contemporary art, imagination, lyrics, Photography, Psychogeography, public art, Suzanne vega

A Found Alley Gallery: Involuntary Abstraction

‘Art’s whatever you choose to frame’ (Fleur Adcock)

In a local alleyway, we find a series of three abstract artworks on the side of an abandoned, boarded-up building. Each appears to be by a different (local?) artist and in a distinct style of abstraction.

Found Alley Gallery

Found Alley Gallery

From left to right in the photo above (see also individual photos below), the first artwork, Involuntary Abstraction by Nicholson Haddock, is rather raw and gestural in its forms, with graffiti layered over parts; the second, Parallel Textures by Anne Dinsky, is more textural and subtle in execution, with muted grey and sandy colours and vertical white parallel lines; the third, The Vertigo of Vision by Joan Biro, is a dense work with a fuzzy, anarchic composition that moves the eye around dizzyingly – this artwork is mainly black and white, but has spots of blue and half-erased words in red.

On the bottom corner of the third artwork (see photo below) appears the Fleur Adcock quote: ‘Art’s whatever you choose to frame’. Does this mean these artworks have been ‘framed’ by adding titles/names, so the public can see them not as abandoned, boarded-up windows but as involuntary or ‘found’ art? A Duchampian or conceptual intervention in a public space?

Involuntary Abstraction Nicholson Haddock, 2015

Involuntary Abstraction
Nicholson Haddock, 2015

image

Parallel Textures Anne Dinsky, 2015

Parallel Textures
Anne Dinsky, 2015

image

The Vertigo of Vision Joe Biro, 2015

The Vertigo of Vision
Joe Biro, 2015

image

image

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Arts, imagination, Psychogeography, public art, Urban

Ana Mendieta’s Siluetas

Silhueta series

The Cuban-American artist Ana Mendieta (1948-85) is known for her performance art, ‘earth-body sculptures’, photographs and video work, much of which centred on her own body. She was born in Havana, but during the political upheaveals of the early 1960s, she and her sister (along with many Cuban children) were sent to the United States under ‘Operation Peter Pan’, ending up in an orphanage. This dramatic exile, separating her (at age thirteen) from family and homeland, had a formative influence on her art.

Mendieta’s haunting ‘Siluetas’ (1973–81) are among her most powerful works, a fusion of performance and earth art. In these untitled sculptures, Mendieta burnt, dug or otherwise shaped her own silhouette into different outdoor sites. Often she filled in the silhouette with ephemeral materials – flowers, twigs, leaves, fire, gunpowder, candles. Sometimes her body itself, covered with flowers or mud, formed the silhouette. Interested in the earth as a site to address feelings of displacement, she recorded the presence of her body – or the imprint it left – within various environments.

Silhueta series

In a 1981 statement about the work, she wrote: “I have been carrying out a dialogue between the landscape and the female body (based on my own silhouette). I believe this has been a direct result of my having been torn from my homeland (Cuba) during my adolescence. I am overwhelmed by the feeling of having been cast from the womb (nature). My art is the way I re-establish the bonds that unite me to the universe … Through my earth-body sculptures I become an extension of nature and nature becomes an extension of my body.”

The Silueta works – about a hundred in total – were performed as she traveled between her home in Iowa and Mexico during the period 1973-81. As the sculptures were transitory, the documenting photographs and films are considered the artworks.

In the photographs, red flowers or red powder glow against sand, soil or stone; flames burn against the earth. Mendieta drew on knowledge about indigenous rituals and beliefs, including the deities (orishas) of the Afro-Cuban religion of Santería. One beach sculpture consists of red bouganvillea blossoms in the shape of the artist’s body with arms raised; another shows incoming waves covering the silhouette on the sand. For those familiar with Santeria, the symbolism is apparent: Chango, a principal orisha, is represented by the colour red; his mistress, Yemaya, is orisha of the ocean – the frothy white waves represent her lacy petticoats.

Silhueta series

image

Mendieta died in 1985 when she mysteriously fell from a 34-storey building at the age of 36, just as her work was becoming recognised outside the specialised world of feminist art criticism. Her Silueta series in particular remains a powerful body of work, an evocative testament to the effects of displacement and to the importance for this artist of an emotional connection to nature.

image

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Arts, Environmentalism, imagination, Mexico, natural world, Nature, Performance art, Photography, Sculpture, sea, the sea

Taste the Rain: Anna Gillespie’s Sculpture

Taste the Rain, 2007 Bark, mixed media

Taste the Rain, 2007
Bark, mixed media

The British artist Anna Gillespie (1964) makes figurative sculpture based on the human form. The focus of her work is on emotion, simplicity of form and our relationship to and experience of nature. Antony Gormley is a significant influence as is Francis Bacon, whose paintings helped her clarify how emotional injury can be conveyed through figuration. Gillespie’s figures often reflect the fragility and vulnerability of human beings and being human.

Although she works in media like stone, bronze and even duct-tape, an emphasis has been on sculptures made from ephemeral natural materials. Taste the Rain (2007) is a beautiful example. “This is part of an ongoing series of work using material that has fallen from trees: acorns, beechnut casings, leaves, bark, sycamore keys….For this piece, I found the bark in a wood near my home in the south west of England, from a fallen tree.”

“All these works try to express a moment of connection to nature and this particular piece is about trying to draw the viewer into recalling what it feels like to stand out in the rain and engage their senses.”

“Trees have a skin and so do we. Trees stand up tall and so do we. Trees stand in the rain. This piece asks us to reconnect with this experience which we all share, narrowing the gap between the trees experience and our human experience of nature.”

The Gift Acorn cups, mixed media

The Gift
Acorn cups, mixed media

She also places an emphasis on honouring the unconscious processes involved in making artworks. “One of the crucial things about letting the unconscious have its say is that, being a sculptor of the human body, breathing ‘life’ into inert materials is at the heart of my work. I take inert materials, whether it be clay, masking tape, acorns or plaster, and I make something that for a moment people might believe is sentient, has feelings. Whilst actually what is happening is that our own feelings can be projected into an object, just for a minute the reality is different and a magic transformation happens. The object, the figure, contains life.”

Invisible Breeze, 2010 Acorn cups, mixed media

Invisible Breeze, 2010
Acorn cups, mixed media

More information and images can be found on her website http://www.annagillespie.co.uk

Autumn, 2007 Inkjet print

Autumn, 2007
Inkjet print

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Arts, contemporary art, Earth, Environmentalism, Myth, natural world, Nature, poetry

‘We Wanted to Be the Sky’: Tim Etchell’s public neon signs.

From the Thames Festival, London, 2010

From the Thames Festival, London, 2010

The British artist Tim Etchells (b.1962) creates huge neon signs with brief phrases, which are placed in public spaces. The phrases are short and simple yet unfinished and somehow mysterious, inviting the viewer into a fragmented story.

The phrases may make sense on first impression but “there is something in their apparent simplicity that carries an undertow,” he says. They may unsettle or confuse, prompt reflection or self-reflection. Something remains incomplete within them: “the viewer becomes implicated in a situation that is never fully revealed.”

The neon signs, almost like giant text messages, are ‘encountered’ in everyday settings, in the streets, on public buildings, on rooftops, at public events. Many have been made for a specific place or event, such as ‘We Wanted to Be the Sky’, for the Thames Festival, London (2010), and ‘The Things You Can’t Forget’, for the Wintergarden Pavilion in Weston-super-Mare (2010). To give an idea of scale, the former is 15 metres long, 1 metre tall and made from stainless steel and programmable LEDs.

From The Wintergarden Pavilion, Weston-super-Mare

From The Wintergarden Pavilion, Weston-super-Mare

The works are concerned with opening mental space for the viewer, with the emphasis on the person being addressed rather than on the speaking subject implied by the work itself. Maybe they are a formal rendering of the fragments of words we glimpse or overhear daily but don’t really pay attention to, on the train, on the radio, in newspapers, in the street.

etchells 3

2 Comments

Filed under Art, Arts, contemporary art, imagination, installation art, Neon, Psychogeography, public art, Uncategorized

Annual Feb 4th Tribute to Writer Russell Hoban

“What most people take to be reality is a load of old nonsense invented by not very inventive minds.”

"What most people take to be reality is a load of old nonsense invented by not very inventive minds.”

“What most people take to be reality is a load of old nonsense invented by not very inventive minds.”

Every 4th February  – the birth date of Russell Hoban (1925-2011) – fans of this brilliant author write their favourite quotations from his books on sheets of yellow A4 paper and leave them in public places, and/or share them online (this is the Slickman A4 Quotation Event or SA4QE, which began in 2002.)

I first became aware of the SA4QE in about 2005 from an article in The Guardian, and have done the event ever since, often leaving quotes on A4 paper around the local village green next to the river. Doing this feels playful and subversive, a fitting tribute to a quixotic writer. I like the quotes to express what I love about Hoban – his mix of poetry, profundity and humour, his ability to veer effortlessly from the sublime to the hilarious.

“It is a strange and frightening thing to be a human being, to partake of the mystery and madness of human consciousness.”

“It is a strange and frightening thing to be a human being, to partake of the mystery and madness of human consciousness.”

I also leave smaller versions of the quotes tucked under baked-bean tins and packets of biscuits in the local village shop. I like the idea, and like to think Hoban would have liked the idea, of someone picking up a can of baked beans and finding underneath a small piece of paper that reads, “What most people take to be reality is a load of old nonsense invented by not very inventive minds.”

As I was finishing up, a woman with a golden Labrador walked past, stopped, read a couple of the quotes and looked at me. “Oh,” she said. “Oh. Oh.”

“Yes, Oh,” I said.

She smiled and walked off. I felt it was a suitably Hobanesque encounter.

'Hear the earth, ponderous with evening, turning to the night.'

‘Hear the earth, ponderous with evening, turning to the night.’

'Rising in the moony ocean night and never, never finding never until now finding the mystery of me so long dreamt of'

‘Rising in the moony ocean night and never, never finding
never until now finding
the mystery of me so long dreamt of’

More information about the event and about Russell Hoban can be found at http://www.russellhoban.org/sa4qe

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Arts, imagination, Photography, poetry, Psychogeography, River, Surrealism, Uncategorized

Strangely Quiet or Quietly Strange: Wim Wenders’ Photography

Backyard, Moscow, 2007

Backyard, Moscow, 2007

There is a fascination in contemporary photography with overlooked objects and places – these are framed anew though the photographic lens and their imaginative or metaphoric possibilities explored. Wim Wenders (b.1945), better known as the Director of films like Paris, Texas (1984) and Wings of Desire (1987), works in this vein, taking photographs of places that have been abandoned or are in a state of deterioration: run-down movie theatres in Arizona, boarded-up cafes in New Mexico, decaying backyards in Moscow. His work carries a sense of fragility and dislocation, the original purpose of the places or things often having been lost.

Ferris Wheel, 2008, Armenia

Ferris Wheel, 2008, Armenia

Ferris wheel (2008) is typical of the desolate isolation in Wenders’ photographs. The artist came across the abandoned Ferris Wheel in the middle of an empty field in Armenia. About how he discovers such places, the artist has said, “Everyone turns right, because that’s where it’s interesting. I turn left, where there is nothing. And sure enough, I soon find myself in front of my sort of place…[one] that is strangely quiet or quietly strange.”

Black Square, 2002

Black Square, 2002

In Black Square (2002, New Mexico), the hues of blue and red contrast with, even highlight more saliently, the decaying wall and tatty old advert, which poignantly includes the words Why Not Now. This photograph shows a deft painterly skill with colour and composition, as does Street Corner in Butte (2003, Montana), with its sharp vertical and horizontal lines and stark contrasts that render the shadows almost black. With the bleak isolation and uncanny feel here, this could be a scene from an Edward Hopper (1924-67) painting; and Wenders’ nod to Hopper is clear in films like The End of Violence (1997), in which one scene recreates the painting Nighthawks (1946).

Street Corner in Butte, 2003

Street Corner in Butte, 2003

Wenders’ photographic sensibility is akin to that in his films, and is similarly a meditation on memory, loss, time, nostalgia and emptiness, although he observes that photographs allow him to focus on something other than people: “I have sharpened my sense of place for things that are out of place”. And yet Wenders’ photographs still ‘speak’ – of “all those (people) who once were there, who lived there, who passed through, and who messed something up”.

Leave a comment

Filed under Arts, Environmentalism, imagination, Photography, Psychogeography, Uncategorized, Urban

Stark, Dark Poetree on the Wintery Road

Open road Poetree

Open road Poetree

“I don’t think I will ever see/ A poem as lovely as a tree,” said Joyce Kilmer, way back in 1913. This quote steers through my head as, on the open winter road, arboreal forms rise up, dark and stark against the burnished* sky, trees like black ideograms, like speaking silhouettes of strength and solitude.

*Okay, so I admit I jiggled with the sky colour in Photoshop. This was the original…

Open Road Poetree

Open Road Poetree

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Arts, Earth, Environmentalism, Nature, Photography, poetry, Psychogeography, Uncategorized