Friday, 27 December 2013

Ron Mueck

I came across an article on the Daily mail website which shows some amaaazing pictures taken of sculptures made by an Australian London-based hyperrealist sculptor Ron Mueck. He's been doing this since 1996 and although his work is laden with modern day widely produced materials - like fiberglass - I can't help but be reminded of wholly traditional methods. He molds the figures in clay and then covers them in a plaster cast and then fills the cast in the materials of his choice. Although the article does not elaborate any further I imagine the only way to successfully do what was described is via the methodology perfected by the likes of Renaissance masters.

In Autumn last year I did a course in Florence called 'Making and Remaking Renaissance art' which was taught by a man called Alan Pascuzzi who is an extremely talented artist. His workshop was full of his own sculptures and paintings. He taught us from the basics of forgery (and told us he thinks that a significant amount of the works in the Uffizi are forgeries!) to making clay models, using the egg-tempera painting technique and how to apply Gold-leaf. He also spoke to us briefly about sculpture and I'd be interested to know whether the technique that Michelangelo used for his David was the same method that Ron Mueck uses. We're in an age where we've landed on the moon yet we're potentially still taking tips from people who were living 500 years ago?! amazing.

Here are some of his sculptures. So scarily life-like. Because they're so life-like you'd assume they're life size too - and some of them are, but not all. So surreal.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Paul Klee Exhibition at Tate Modern

The Paul Klee exhibition is running up until March 2014 at the Tate Modern.
I got the chance to go for free through my university but usually the prices are about £15 for an adult and only slightly less for concessions. My advice is to ask for the 2 for 1 booklet from any train station in or around the London area - you can then get 2 for 1 which makes it a bit more reasonable.

The exhibition consists of 17 rooms which in my eyes is brilliant value for money if you are to consider that for the same(ish) price at Tate Britain their current exhibition only has about 7 rooms. There is a lot of content and if you are a fan of Paul Klee i'm fairly sure all of the pieces you may want to see will be there!

Paul Klee was a big name in 20th century art because although in his work there is obvious influence from the Cubists, the Constructivists, the German Expressionists and Abstractionists etc, he drew on their influence and put his own twist on it. What came from that? a 'very personal use of line', according to the Curator Matthew Gale.

The exhibition is laid out chronologically and each of the 17 rooms while being arranged chronologically have also been grouped under a common theme be it composition, colour, an event, etc.. Each room also has an explanation written on the wall in a clear, large typeface to give you a concise idea of the particular works that came from that period. The pamphlet that they give you on your way in is also ordered in a chronological manner instead of room by room. The placards that accompany the paintings do not on every ocassion have information on the particular work that it may refer to. However, it is clear to see that where appropriate, and where an image may have more significance than the others, the placard offers an insight into the image.

The first room offers a timeline to the viewer, and covers from his birth to his death and everything in between. The middle of the room if I remember correctly has a small display of his diary.

Klee was born in 1879. As a child he studied music and thus he began his career as a musician. It wasn't until he was 19 that he moves to Germany to study painting. After an affair and a deceased young child he spent a while in Italy and there felt 'humiliated' by the works of the past. Therefore, when he returns to Bern he takes on a course in anatomical drawing. He married Lily Stumpf in 1906 and by 1907 he has his first child with her. Over the next 5 years he takes part in some of his first exhibitions, including one with the 'Blue Rider' group. Among his new Blue Rider friends were Kandinsky, Macke and Marc. After the outbreak of WW1 his friends disbanded as they were now enemies of the German State, One of these, Macke, was actually killed in war.

His art begins to respond to the war and thus was the increase in abstract forms in an effort to escape the war torn reality. He himself was meant to join the army but a new policy was set that said artists were to receive preferential treatment because so many of them had already died at war.

By 1920 he was considered a significant artist and had his first large scale solo exhibition before joining the Bauhaus School in 1921 as a teacher.

A year later a Russian art exhibition is held in Berlin and signposted the first monumental shift from German Expressionism to geometrical and abstract art. Klee was clearly influenced by this too. However, just as this art surfaced a horrific case of hyper-inflation and a national sense of anti-communism surfaced. An art collector called Scheyer formulated the idea that Klee and 3 other artists should form a group called the 'Blue Four' that would jointly exhibit work in the US. Because of economic troubles the cheeky bastard also had the 'Klee society' established for him, whereby people would pay him a regular income! with the promise that they can buy his works at a special rate.

Klee was a lot like Picasso in that he dabbled in a lot of different styles and throughout the first half of the 1920's he used automatism (drawing without thinking about it or looking at it - it supposedly exposes your subconscious thoughts) and was involved in a Surrealist exhibition in Paris... and not forgetting his cubist and suprematist inspired works.

He turned 50 in 1929 and had part in the 1930 exhibition by Barr at MoMA. In 1932 he saw Picasso's collection of works for the first time having 'resisted' them for quite some time. After this, his works got a bit bigger in size as if to compete with Picasso. By 1933 Hitler had raided Klee's house seeing as he was a so called 'degenerate' modern artist. Klee then emigrated to Switzerland. His new life was not as swish as his life before and conditions were cramped. In 1934 his first exhibition in England was held and in 1935 Klee made another exhibition in Bern. This was a response to the fact that he was living off of his savings and needed some dollar. Everything that he exhibited was focused on his life in Switzerland and it seemed as if his German past was being put aside.

However, during this time in his life painting became increasingly difficult. He was suffering from a fatal disease, Scleroderma. By 1936 he could only manage to paint 25 paintings as opposed to the 200-500 he was making earlier on in his life. His body was literally seizing up and he soon became unable to swallow.

By 1937 Hitler became comfortable in his position and made a further crack down on the so called degenerate art. He took 16000 pieces of art in total and either sold them off or destroyed them (or in some cases people stole them themselves to either protect or make money on them!). In total there were 150 by Klee that were taken. Hopefully they show up in the recent bundle of art that they found in that random flat! In 1939 Klee had lived in Switzerland long enough to get his citizenship. Unfortunately, he only got to enjoy it for a year because he died in 1940.

That was my attempt at a concise(ish) summary of the history that is used to contextualise the exhibition. I used the 'EY Exhibition, Paul Klee: Making Visible, Tate Modern, 2013' pamphlet to gather my info. But of course, if you want to experience the real thing you'll have to go see it!

It was probably one of the more enjoyable exhibitions I have been to, and the fact that Gale made it so historically rich is definitely something other curators could take note of. There was a lot on display which of course can overload you with information but on the other hand is what you'd want if you're paying £15!

Here are some images that were on display:
The Hotel, 1913

Flowerbed, 1913

Landscape with Flags, 1915

Rememberance Sheet of a Conception, 1918

With the Rainbow, 1917

Redgreen and Violet-Yellow Rhythms, 1920

They're Biting, 1920

Aquarium, 1921

Comedy, 1921

A Yound Lady's Adventure, 1922

Architecture, 1923

Fish Magic, 1925

Ships in the Dark, 1927

In the Current Six Thresholds, 1929

Dispute, 1929

Before the Snow, 1929

Toys, 1931

The Man of the Future, 1933

Forest Witches, 1938

Rich Harbour, 1938

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Damien Hirst's Stolen Artwork

Damien Hirst is literally like the poster boy for modern, controversial art. He rose to fame on the back of the 'Young British Artists' group in the 90's and has been annoying critics ever since.

Whether you love him or hate him though, he's richer than you and pulled in one of (if not) the highest number of visitors to the Tate Modern last year for an exhibition of his work.

In fact, he is the richest artist alive today. The likes of the similarly controversial Saatchi (but for different reasons) supposedly gave him £50,000 to produce something - anything - and the result was a shark in preservative fluid...

So, it's not surprising that someone broke into a gallery on Monday this week and took nothing other than two Damien Hirst pieces. What they took had a value of about £33,000 and was taken from a small and new little Gallery in the North Kensington area. The alarm did not sound and obviously the bloke who runs the gallery is gutted...

The two pieces that was stolen. The top, larger one is called Pyronin Y and the bottom, diddier one is called Oleoylsarcosine.

It is likely that the thief was capitalising on the lack of security measures the gallery had and the fact that they were exhibiting these pieces only temporarily. The fact that only a normal front-door separated the outside from the expensive pieces of art made it easy and quick.

You've got to laugh ain't you - it's going to be so hard to locate them considering they're just dots!

Some probably more interesting and disgusting things for which Hirst is famous for:

Hirst is probably the babydaddy of giving your artwork unnecessarily stupid names. E.G the two above: 
Isolated Elements Swimming in the Same Direction for the Purpose of Understanding (Left), 1991 and Isolated Elements Swimming in the Same Direction for the Purpose of Understanding (Right), 1991

I reckon, I mean it's got to be, satirical surely?! He's got a thing for dead animals this one.

Love Lost, 1999

Mother and Child (Divided), 1993
Ha ha disgusting. I like the name for this one, albeit stupid aswell, it's just funny that if you were to google 'Mother and Child art' VERY different images would come up. It's a blatant piss take of the old tradition of Mary with the Christchild but also is a bit eerie. The separation of a mother from its child and vice versa is shown in the consequential separation of the cows individually too (quite literally). Do we read too much into it? is Hirst a weirdo? or is he just giving us something to look at which is vile and then laughing at our attempts to decipher it? hmmmmmmmhmhmhmmhmh

For the Love of God, 2007
A human skull, with encrusted diamonds. Errr... I'm sure it's somesort of comment on the materialistic tendencies of most of us. I would not die for diamonds though

The Incredible Journey, 2008

Love's Paradox (Surrender or Autonomy, Separateness as a Precondition for Connection.), 2007
The name of this one actually makes sense to me. I don't know if you've ever heard of Plato's Symposium but for those who haven't it's like an Ancient Greek version of Genesis from the 4th century BC. In the dialogue of the Symposium Plato tells us in the voice of Aristophanes (a play-wright who died a year before it was written) about the origins of the human race. Aristophanes explains to us that once, all humans bore 4 legs, 4 arms, and 2 faces on one head. This early human supposedly also had both female and male sets of genitalia. The Gods became fearful of these early, and very powerful, humans and thus they were presented with the "human problem". They explored many possibilities, and one was to obliterate them: they could have just struck them all down with lightning like they did the Titans. The only problem with that however is that the humans provided offerings for the Gods; and no humans - no offerings. So Zeus decided that to both stop the threat of the humans and to double up the amount of offerings the Gods should split humans into two to punish them for their proud behaviour. At first, the humans were very upset and essentially killing themselves off. Apollo therefore decided to reconfigure a new human form from the half bodies that they were left with from their old form. The new form that came to be had been 'stitched' up the side, had everything centralised, the face made whole and the genitalia split between male and female. Apparently, the only remnant of this form was the belly-button. I think that's a brilliantly inventive way to explain a bellybutton haha - in all fairness as well, they explained Androgyny this way too! Anyway, although the humans felt better, they still spent the rest of their lives looking for their other half: their soulmate. How cute. Think of that story and look back at the title!

The Immaculate Heart – Sacred, 2008

End of an Era, 2009

Togetherness, 2008

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Pop Art

Pop Art was a movement in the 1950's in England and the US. It challenged other styles and movements in painting by using popular culture to form the base of the image.

Robert Rauschenberg,
Retroactive I, 1964
A year after the assasination of JFK Rauschenberg creates a collage of the late president along with images of the Space Race. This here is the modest beginnings of pop art where we begin to see current subject matters made out of a compilation of images taken from numerous sources. It hasn't quite got that artificial feel about it yet that defines pop art: bright and cartoon like colours.

Roy Lichtensein, 
Whaam!, 1962

Oh Jeff, 1964

James Rosenquist,
President Elect, 1960-1
The president is having his cake and eating it.

I Love you with my Ford, 1961
Cars supposedly link to pleasure, and now that everyone could afford them thanks to the product line back in the 20's, they were just like a can of mass produced spaghetti....

Andy Warhol,
Brushtroke, 1964
Poking fun at the fact that the abstract expressionists believed they used an 'expressive brushstroke'. The drips coming from the squiggly line are meant to be a reference to the artist Pollock.

Marilyn - Orange, 1965
He said that he produced these images with the idea of Marilyn as a person without identity, because all she is is a media entity.

Marilyn Diptych, 1962
As if a religious image. Idea of the celebrity as a demi god.

Double Elvis, 1963

Double Disaster: Silver Car Crash, 1963
These were images of a horrific car accident. Considering they didn't have seatbelts the results were pretty disgusting. Here Warhol is easily producing these images with no reference to any thought of feelings that have been provoked by it. He is saying that we'd entered an age where we can look at an image as if it wasn't real even if it is.