In forties and fifties America, Abstract Expressionism ruled. Pop art gave realism a way back in, but even in our own age there is a degree of embarrassment about realism in contemporary art.
The late American realist sculptor Duane Hanson stuck to his guns attempting to re-connect art with everyday life and put the spotlight on a large portion of society that are typically ignored.
During the sixties Hanson’s life-like figures caused widespread controversy shocking viewers with works like Trash (1967); in which a dead baby suffocated with a plastic bag lies within a dustbin amid an umbrella, beer cans and various other outcast items. The latter is the only work displayed from his early period, but is still as shocking as it was nearly half a century ago.
No form of Fine Art, these days, sounds more traditional to us than painting. Visiting a painting show seems to be one of the safe ways to experience art, at least in the popular imagination; if you’re not one of those convinced by the shock factor of a shark in a tank or someone taking their clothes off in front of you, then the conventions of a beautiful oil-on-canvas may seem far more appealing. A beautifully rendered portrait or landscape – even an abstract form – falls within a certain comfort zone for us. Yet, when subverted or altered even slightly, the medium can be one of the most effective ways of unsettling and surprising. It’s within this subtle relationship between tradition and something more unbalanced that the group show Off Kilter: An Age of Oil, previewing at Dadiani Fine Art on Friday, situates itself. Works by William S. Burroughs, Jennifer Binnie, David Courts, Kelly-Anne Davitt, Robert Hawkins and more all use familiar oil techniques, but at the same time have something off about them. In some cases it’s hard to really pin down; Burroughs’ work, for example, is dark not just in colour, but you can’t explain just why the forms he’s used make the hairs on the back of your neck prickle. It’s the place where Abstract Art becomes surreal, not just about that pure form.
Walking around the ‘Christies Curates: Past Perfect / Future Present‘ private view on Thursday evening 11th June, I was astounded by the scope of historical objects and art on view. Each work seemed to command the space in it’s own unique way, drawing my imagination into an amalgamation of times, places, spaces and modes of being. Inspired by it all, I got chatting to Tancredi Massimo, one of the four Christies specialists responsible for this truly unique exhibition, to find out a bit more about what it took to get this show together.
After a truly energising experience at the Slade School of Fine Art Undergraduate Degree show, I was excited, last evening 11th June, to see what the graduate classes had come up with for their exhibition. Unsurprisingly, the show was beautifully put together, and full of fun and unique work, from painting, to video, to installation, even a giant, red, worm-like fabric piece that loops its’ away all around the building, slithering from the basement to the roof, and creeping up on you just when you least expect it.
A particular favourite corner of mine belongs to artist, Noga Shatz, who’s black and white works on paper of upside-down females, I find exceptionally enticing. The photo sadly doesn’t do them much credit, but to give you context, I came back twice to see these and would probably have done so again, had there not been cheeky barbecue waiting for me at home.
Nina Eunhee Hong‘s installation is another standout work. The attention to detail is second to none — from a tiny sculpture of a foot gracefully resting in the middle of the floor, to one lone side of a white box painted bright pink. This work is decidedly feminine, with single breasts scattered throughout the room and a patterned dress attracting the main focus of the piece. There is such thoughtfulness inherent in the work, which definitely made me smile. Continue reading →
Never-before-seen images of my personal favourite cinema siren, Brigitte Bardot, are coming to London thanks to Dadiani Fine Art and photographer Ray Bellisario. ‘Brigitte Bardot: 13 Unseen Photographs’ opens 6th June and features charming, off-the-cuff colour images of the actress taken over the course of a 1968 weekend PR trip to London.
Instead of the usual bikini-clad glamour shots in South of France, witness the French beauty virtually makeup free lounging on the bar of the pub and casually cruising through Selfridges, among other inconspicuous local haunts.
When art aficionado, businesswoman, and philanthropist Feroze Gujral – who is of Indian, Arab, and British origins – visited the Venice Biennale in 2013, she noticed there was neither an Indian nor a Pakistani pavilion. With great experience sustaining large-scale arts projects via the Gujral Art Foundation, she decided to change that, and selected internationally recognised artists, Shilpa Gupta (India) and Rashid Rana (Pakistan), to collaborate on ‘My East is Your West.’ The project isan official Collateral Event of the 56th Venice Biennale, and unites at the Biennale for the first time the historically conflicting nations of India and Pakistan. Rana and Gupta have previously collaborated on the cross-border project ‘Aar Paar’, in which artists from Mumbai and Karachi each created public works in the other’s territories.
On view in Venice, Shilpa Gupta’s work, characteristically both poetic and direct in its delivery, reflects on her own experience visiting the borders of Mumbai, Bangladesh and Kashmir, which are partly controlled by India and partly by Pakistan. As a central focus of the work, she stages a performance wherein an actor diligently works away at a crafts table in a dramatically lit red room. Without acknowledging the presence of visitors, the actor traces a shape on carbon paper that rests on a pile of cloth. The cloth itself is significant, measuring the width of a sari and one-thousandth the length of the 3,400km security barrier, the longest in the world, that India is currently building along its’ perimeter with neighbouring Bangladesh. Although open-ended, the piece seemingly alludes to the vast and somewhat arbitrary effort of retaining distance through the gesture of drawing borders.
After a quick Venezia break to bring you a bit of Central Saint Martins inspiration, we are back on our biennale grind, and ready to share some more of our favourite moments with you. As I mentioned previously, the main venues for this international event are the Giardini, (a beautiful garden dotted with various exhibition halls and country pavilions), and the Arsenale (a complex of former shipyards and armories for which construction began as early as 1104). The latter, perhaps due to its’ age and history, has a very majestic feel to it, and witnessing such a multitude of art within its’ antique walls is truly special.
Like the Giardini, the Arsenale houses both specific country pavilions and a general ‘All the World’s Futures‘ exhibition, showcasing multiple international artists and curated by Okwui Enwezor.
I suppose the major difference between the two spaces is that while the Giardini feels light and airy — no doubt because of its’ outdoor setting — the Arsenale gives off a much more severe vibe, leaving less room for dillydallying and daydreaming, and hence producing, in my view, a more focused and intense experience.
The armory itself also feels endless, with art around every dark corner, and even outside rising from the canal (Chinese artist, Xu Bing‘s ‘Phoenix Project‘ and Brazilian Vik Muniz‘ ‘Lampedusa‘ to name a few). Walking through the exhibition feels something like making one’s way through a maze — you tread carefully so as to not miss anything, and yet you deliberately plough forward too, with the pulsing goal to make it out the other side.
As you may have gathered from the multitude of photos circulating on our social media accounts, ArtAttack has been at the 56th Venice Art Biennale enjoying the fruits of 18 months of creative labour by artists and curators across the globe.
Personally, my main takeaway was SO. MUCH. ART.
Throughout the 3-day visit, our team was, all jokes aside, in danger of mutating to HeartAttack during the insanely busy days and BugAttack every night. Nonetheless, the experience, despite the chaos, was undoubtedly worth it, and over the course of the next couple weeks we are excited to provide reviews of some of our favourite moments from this truly inspirational trip.
As the cynic in the ArtAttack team, I’ll admit I tend to turn a blind eye to some of the more esoteric forms of contemporary art. Sound based art leaves me cold, performance art has never quite held my attention and I find video art to be more ‘video meh’.
I’d be lying if I said that Venice isn’t always magical — in the rain, snow, steaming summer sun, even when the canal floods and you’re ankle deep in water just trying to get down the road. But Venice during the biennale is another level of magic altogether. It’s as if the entire island turns into one giant exhibition, a festival of creativity, a canvas for art, culture, emotion and politics. This year marks the 56th edition of this world renowned, international, bi-annual art extravaganza and my and ArtAttack‘s first time attending.
The central event, entitled ‘All the World’s Futures‘ and curated by Okwui Enwezor is a splendour to behold, made up both of spaces personally curated by Enwezor and individual country-sponsored pavilions each showcasing a native artist. Between the two main venues of the exhibition, the Giardini and the Arsenale, 136 artists from 53 countries are represented, with 89 of them showing at the biennale for the first time. There are also 44 official collateral events taking place all across the city, and too-many-to-count independent exhibitions on top of that.