Tag Archives: Arts

Interviews and Reviews

This month, a lovely review of my book Snapshots of the Apocalypse was published in the literary magazine Mslexia. A part of it is below:

My interview with Amanda Earl, Canadian experimentalist, editor, publisher and lover of whimsy, is up at 3am Magazine. My interview with writer Sarah Schofield, author of the excellent short story collection Safely Gathered In (Comma Press) was also published at 3am Magazine.

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Blown Away: the Sculpture of Penny Hardy

Metal is often seen as cold, hard and inert, but one artist has found a way to adapt the material so it appears loose, alive and free. British artist Penny Hardy makes life-sized human sculptures from discarded metal, each one exploring an emotion or experience. These are installed in open-air settings, in fields or gardens or overlooking water.

Hardy originally trained as a scientific illustrator, which taught her to examine the intricacies of natural forms and observational draftsmanship. Throughout her consequent working life alongside architects and designers, she developed a deep interest in three-dimensional forms. These skills informed her later work as a sculptor—and here she is self-taught over the last fifteen years. 

You Blew Me Away


She was drawn to creating human forms out of discarded objects and seems particularly attuned to a sense of movement and energy within material form, capturing these in all her pieces, transforming inert materials into sculptures with a tangible energy. ‘The sense of movement and dynamics within sculpture provides it with its own life and vitality,’ Hardy states.

In the Blown Away series, she chose to use old metal machinery parts because these were made to be resilient and strong, yet were thrown away at the slightest hint of failure. Hardy felt that these imperfect pieces should be recycled to show some of the effects machinery has had on our lives and the environment. She says, ‘By using discarded, man-made metal items—which have been so skillfully made and used to create their own mechanical energy—I hope to extend their life in another form, re-use that energy for a different purpose, and exchange their function to create a new entity.’ You Blew Me Away (159cm x 75cm x 55cm) and Erosion (159cm x 45cm x 45cm) are examples.

Angels in Harlem

Hardy’s dance figures are wonderful affirmations of life and movement. Inspired by the dynamic forms of contemporary dancers, they use a flexible material like aluminium to re-create a visual sense of movement. Angels in Harlem (300cm x 200cm x 750cm), for instance, is a sculpture on stilts designed to gently sway in any breeze, creating a sense of constant movement.

Hardy has exhibited throughout the UK since her first public exhibition of dance sculptures in 2006, including at Doddington Hall, Hill House Dartington and Royal West of England Academy. More about the artist can be found on her website here

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Artwork from Lockdown

During lockdown, I started taking photos of ordinary objects around the flat and using multiples of them – sometimes three, sometimes more – to create artworks. Some photos were of utensils like spoons or forks, others were close ups of glass vases or even soap bottles, chosen for their colour. From the latter I created kind of abstract triptych works. #photography #art

Glass close up
Broken Purple Glass
Spoon
Spoon and Fork
Glasses
Close up of Glass Vase

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Windspirals and hanging pods: the art of Bromwyn Berman

The Australian artist Bromwyn Berman makes public and installation art as well as sculpture, drawings and paintings. Her alluring works relate intimately to, and reflect on, the natural world. The art seeks to ‘encourage a respect for our place in the evolution of landscape as part of the processes of nature.’ Organic signs and symbols recur – spirals, circles, pods, mandalas, honeycomb forms – and she uses a variety of materials, including copper wire, aluminium, stainless steel, stones, mulberry paper, bees wax, tree roots, charcoal, plant remains from rivers. These natural and man-made materials ‘evidence our interface with nature.’

Berman 3

Windspiral 2006

Berman windspiral

Her public artworks and larger sculptural installations focus on landscape and natural systems; they speak to what she calls ‘our inner knowing of the earth body.’ Her studio practice, paper works, drawings and small sculpture explore ‘the simplest and most basic signifiers of natural systems’; they inquire into ‘archetypal forms of geometry as well as themes of the recurring mysteries that form the foundation of our experience.’ She believes in a deep collective consciousness, which art can put humans in touch with. Some might say this puts her within a visionary or spiritual aesthetic tradition, though her work is viscerally grounded, in roots, branches, copper wire, mulberry paper.

The breathtaking ‘Windspiral’ (2006), made of aluminium and stainless steel with timber support (120cm x 300cm x 300cm), was installed at the Sculpture by the Sea exhibition, Sydney, 2006. Berman says, ‘The shape is that of the wind, the colour and texture are the Australian bush where things are silvery and scratchy.’ The inspiration for this work came from living high on a cliff in the Australian bush as well a joyful day spent making artwork with a friend in this special windy place. She has made various other ‘Windspirals’ for different locations.

Berman 2

Banksia Women

Her series of ‘Banksia Women’ (2011), pods woven from copper with river stones (140cm x 50cm x 50cm), were exhibited in various locations across Australia. The pod, Berman believes, is a deeply ‘known’ form, an ‘encapsulation of life to come, a concentration or distillation of all that is complex in nature, containing seeds of new life or… the promise of transformation to new form.’

Berman - the Portal

The Portal

‘The Portal’ (2013) is a circle of aluminium and stainless steel (120cm x 120cm x 20cm) suspended in woodland. Again, we have an organic form that may elicit a response from an ‘inner knowing’; and a form that suggests a liminal place or doorway with all the associations of transition and transformation. The work was exhibited at Sculpture at Scenic World, 2013.

Her ‘River to River: Interwoven Landscapes’ exhibitions at the Penrith Regional Gallery, Australia (2014), included various wonderfully titled sculptures and artworks: ‘Murmurings’ (215cm x 215cm x 30cm) is a mandala made from fragments of Casurina (River Oak) roots nailed onto paper; ‘There is another alphabet’ (25cm x 22cm x13cm) is made of Japanese mulberry paper, Moulin Delaroc paper and waxed Linen thread, with the paper contact-printed with plants from the Nepean River; and ‘You and I have floated on the stream’ (300cm x 60cm x 50cm) is an animated river of paper contact-printed with plants from the Nepean River and with Casurina roots.

Berman - The Murmurings

The Murmurings 2014

Berman - there is anothe alphabet

There is another alphabet 2014

berman - you and I have floated on the stream 2014

You and I have floated on the stream

 

Berman’s beautiful, enigmatic art changes the viewer, inspires them and engenders reflection; her pieces speak of the natural world and our place within it, using a language rooted in a material alphabet, one of paper, tree branches, thread, wax.

More about the artist can be found on her website (where quotes here were taken from) http://www.bronwynberman.com.au

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The strange, poetic world of Catrin Welz-Stein

catrin Whale-watching

Catrin Welz-Stein creates strange, magical images from combining old photo fragments, paintings and illustrations. She originally trained as a graphic designer and illustrator in Germany and then worked in graphic design. During a break from work to bring up children, she began in 2009 to create images based on digital collaging in Photoshop. She has said she felt compromised by professional graphic design, having to make art that is ‘forced to explain itself from the beginning’. In Photoshop she began to produce images with a dreamlike quality instead, an art that comes from ‘inner feeling which we hide in our daily lives’. The time spent with her children also re-introduced her to fairy tales and the fantasy of children’s literature.

Welz-Stein’s work draws on the many photographs, paintings and illustrations that she stores on her computer. She produces the images by cutting, copying, transforming little pieces of images and blending them with others, sewing all the fragments together to create something new. Motifs recur: keys, moons, birds, flowers, leaves, trees, bird cages, fish, words, houses, butterflies, water, balloons. Each image tends to focus around one figure (sometimes a few figures), predominantly women, though there are men, children and birds, too. Around, and sometimes within, the figure, fabulous and odd things take place: a woman stares at a huge fish floating across the sky with a whale roped to its underbelly; a girl walks across a tightrope high above a city, holding the earth as a balloon; a woman’s long hair protrudes almost horizontally behind her, and from it hangs a moon, a cloud, a bird cage; a man in a top hat stands beneath a streetlight, the light inside which is the crescent moon. The costumes worn by the figures are often extravagant: a woman’s dress is made from flowers or leaves or buildings, a girl wears an Edwardian dress with keys dangling from its rear.

Catrin-Welz-Stein_9600_803Catrin Welz-Stein - German Surrealist Graphic Designer - Tutt'Art@ (53)

The images engender a poetic world reminiscent of fairy tales and surrealism; some are unsettling, others more whimsical. Each picture seems to tell a fragment of a story, one based on an unconscious truth. Welz-Stein cites her contemporary influences as artists and illustrators like Kelly Rae Roberts, Okaf Hajek and Natalie Shou; more historical influences include Botticelli, Otto Dix, Rene Magritte, Frida Kahlo and Gustav Klint . Certainly Magritte’s impact is evident, with his depictions of ordinary objects in a strange context to engender poetic realities; and that of Frida Kahlo too, with her women in odd scenarios, dressed in extravagant costumes, closely linked to the earth, vegetation and animals.

catrin imagecartin welz-stein artistcatrin welz stein

Catrin Welz-Stein’s work became well known through social media. She now has 27K likes on Facebook and over 2000 followers on Instagram. More about her can be found from her website http://catrinwelzstein.blogspot.am/

Catrin Welz-Stein 34catrin man

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Night Vision

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Night Blur by Whimsylph

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Night Shapes by Whimsylph

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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

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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

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Parallel Textures Anne Dinsky, 2015

Parallel Textures
Anne Dinsky, 2015

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The Vertigo of Vision Joe Biro, 2015

The Vertigo of Vision
Joe Biro, 2015

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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

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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.

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