Saturday, February 28, 2015

Change is the Only Constant


“The distinction between the past, present and future 
is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”
Albert Einstein

One of the major preoccupations in the Arts is the preservation of the holdings entrusted to its care. From museums restricting exhibition times for light sensitive works to the digital imaging industry’s ongoing research for archival inks that can last centuries rather than decades. Longevity is the name of the game.

But one artist bucking this trend is the American abstract painter Cornelia White Swann. With a long held interest in what she calls the “poetics of time and space” White Swann explores the relationships between the built environment and the people who inhabit the created spaces along with nature’s interaction with the same terrain. As she says “I’m interested in the dialogues that can occur when two disparate forms exist in the same environment. This curiosity evolved with my observations of the urban landscape; the strong architectural lines of a building existing with the organic forms of clouds passing behind it or the desire paths left by pedestrians seeking the route of least resistance.”

Until recently White Swann had been using synthetic acrylics as used by the advertising and sign printing industries on synthetic paper to record her observations whilst using her studio floor as an easel. As she explained “The fluid paints blend into each other creating new colors, leaving behind meandering striations over time. Desire paths emerge on the paper, responding to the uneven surface of my studio floor. The outcome of mixing these processes is a unique conversation between the two forms.”

Her latest works have seen her abandon the long lasting acrylics in favor of pigments derived from the natural world of flowers, fruits, vegetables, herbs and other plants with their subjective reaction to light. As White Swann expounds in her artist’s statement about these works “Depending on the amount of exposure to light, the color derived from plants evolves over time. The vivid colors of purple and magenta hues of blueberries and pomegranates slowly turn to ambers and greys.

The life cycle of these works will be recorded photographically with the works being displayed again in a year’s time. Like the changes that inspire her work the works will impose their own changes upon themselves. The persistent illusion of permanence will be erased by the imperative of living in the moment.

The first of White Swann’s exhibitions Fugitive Color 1 is currently on show at San Antonio’s French & Michigan gallery until the 25th of April. The second exhibition is scheduled for the spring of 2016.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Observing the World

“to my solitude I go
from my solitude I come”
Luis de Gongora

The British painter Edward Burra was to all intents and purposes was a cripple and whilst not confined to a wheel chair he was chair bound. From childhood he suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and a blood disorder that induces anemia. Due to these afflictions he could only observe a world in which he couldn’t fully participate and observe that world he did.

Painting with watercolor, he was physically unable to meet the demands of painting in oils and forced to paint sitting at a table, Burra’s paintings are vibrant reflections of the world that swirled around him. From his Paris and New York paintings with their sexual illusions and celebration of Jazz and B grade movies of his youth to the English landscapes of his latter years with their environmental concerns, Burra’s watercolors are mostly drenched with a strong use of color.

Between these two bodies of work Burra painted dark and foreboding, almost at times surreal, depictions of a world ravaged by war. As a child he experienced WWI, was in Spain at the start of their civil war and lived in the coastal town of Rye, the front line in the Battle of Britain, during WWII.

Blessed with an almost photogenic memory, Burra never made sketches from life. He would return to the family home after his travels to recuperate and create his pictures. Burra’s love of the cinema and theatre in all its forms (opera, ballet, drama and comedy) saw him also design stage settings and costumes that were, even for him, reproduced on a massive scale.

Described by the Jerwood Gallery as “one of the most enigmatic and intriguing British artists working during the 20th Century,” Burra’s reluctance to talk about his work helped to maintain the mystery. In a rare interview, said to be the only one, with the BBC, Burra did say “I never tell anybody anything – so they just make stuff up – I don’t see that it matters.”

An exhibition of Burra’s work A Rye View is currently on show at the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings Old Town until the 7th of June.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Of Tabloid Art & Selfies


“I take headlines and turn them into art, that art then turns back into headlines. 
It’s taking a tabloid journalism style approach to art. 
It’s taking all my art shows online and out of galleries, which have always kind of bored me.
Jesse Willesee

The Australian Government created more outraged headlines than usual when they announced in their 2014 budget in which Australians would have to pay more to visit their doctor and under 30’s unemployment welfare would be cut. The Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, created a flurry of more headlines with his “wink that sparked a thousand tweets on talk back radio. Abbott was filmed winking to the programs host as he took a call from a 67 year old phone sex worker with medical problems.

It was manna from heaven for the Australian conceptual artist Jesse Willesee confirming his resolve to push through with his Cam Girl/Cam Boy flash/mob event. An installation of five hotel rooms with models and actors simulating live sex cam workers in each that were streamed to an in-house computer. The audience was free to consume the event how they wished. As Willesee told the Wentworth Courier “You can walk from room to room and photograph, look at or watch or however you want to consume the art is up to you.”

Willesee contends that sex cam work could be an attractive option for unemployed people under 30. “What’s going to be the fastest, easiest job for a 19 or 20 year old girl or boy to get if they lose their job and can’t get the dole? They can hop on a live cam website and start making money the same day. Even to get a job stacking shelves at Woolies you need to go through an interview process,” he said.

Controversial is the most common adjective attached to the name of this artist who grew up in a media savvy and socially aware family. Both his father and his uncle were very well known local journalists and TV presenters who were not immune to controversy. 

Willesee’s latest venture Andy Warhol with Better Features was a reworking of the earlier project Product Placement but with a dig at galleries.

Product Placement was a photographic flash/mob event, a record of which can be seen on his Tumbler page. As he told AUreviewI noticed a trend for people to pose with products in their pictures. And I thought that was interesting. In the past that was product placement - where a company gets you to use your image to help promote themselves. Now it’s kind of happening in reverse. I feel like a lot of people want that iconic imagery that these companies have created.”

Whilst Andy Warhol with Better Features was Willesee’s response to Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art’s banning of the selfie stick. In collaboration with Valentina Penkova he was photographed as he took selfies in front some of the museums artworks using a selfie stick. During the event as Willesee told Art Daily “People were taking photos of Valentina taking photos of me while I was taking photos of myself. No one was looking at the art. Other people’s art is just a prop in your own self made art.

Examples of Willesee’s work can be seen on his website, here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

“That's art, right?”

“The works aren't trying to be paintings or photographs, 
but rather just a combination of things I look at and what I like.
Tamar Halpern

For the New York based mixed media artist Tamar Halpern the free association of ideas motivates her art, both in the way she makes it and the response she wants from her audience. As she told the Interview’s Noor Brara a few days before the opening of her latest exhibition “It's a very malleable process and it goes back and forth. I'm responding to what I'm seeing. There's no fixed initial idea or purpose.

Coming from a photographic background Halpern was frustrated by the mediums limitations. “I used to work for a traditional photographer and I would spend hours in the darkroom building multiple developers, testing paper and things like that, but I don't really fit in with that kind of photography. So I started creating compositions using photographs on the computer,” she said.

As Halpern’s enquires developed so too did her methods expand, from digitally manipulating content Halpern added diverse printing techniques, collage and painting. As she says “I wanted to find my own way. My way of working straddles both photography and painting, and because painting is both an additive and subtractive process, I take it step by step. It's a collage of layers between mediums, yet the images are photographic as (a) whole.

Explaining further Halpern says “The process is usually the same for each work: I'll print a layer, then make a collage over it, then take a photo of it and load the photo on the computer. I can delete part of the image and then layer only a certain portion over the print.

The results are difficult to categorize and have been variously described as “impossible monoprints” (Artforum),  unruly and unhinged (Time Out) and “enigmatic and cinematographic” ( As the press release for her 2013 exhibition Six Minutes of Pleasure stated “Tamar Halpern’s works simultaneously explore, amplify, and disrupt the legacies of modernist abstraction.

Or as Halpern would put it “It’s like the image of the cat in one of my works—it's representational, but it's still abstract. There are traces of meaning and then not. That's art, right?”

Halpern’s current exhibition My Voice at the Pace of Drifting Clouds is on show at New York’s On Stellar Rays  until the 29th of March.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Light Art From Skylines

“I need to connect to the image”
Rosan Sison-Holmes

Necessity, it is said, is the mother of invention and when her sister, boredom, joins the party, together they often become the imperative for a creative ménage a trios.  Such was the case for the Filipino photographer Rosan Sison-Holmes.

She is a corporate high flyer with a photographic hobby, but as she told The Expat in an email interview “once I was past the family get-together shots and the wonderful sunsets, there came the sudden itch . . . to do something different, unique, and untried (at least by me). It wasn’t going to be another macro shot, another portrait nor another landscape shot.”

In Singapore at the behest of her day job, Sison-Holmes found herself in another anonymous hotel room whilst outside the city’s evening skyline twinkled. Drawn by the lights Sison-Holmes took her camera out onto the balcony to better enjoy the view. As she said “I stepped out onto the hotel balcony which directly faced the marvelous Singapore skyline, and for the very first time, I created random images from light that emanated from the structures before me.  If I was a musician making music . . . the music could be described as dissonant but interesting. What started almost as child’s play to pass the time quickly developed into exploring a fine-art photographic pursuit.

As The Philippine Star newspaper wrote about her first solo exhibition Eureka, “Through self-study and continuing experimentation, she has refined what were once raw, unstructured and even chaotic images. She painstakingly works on each shot until she finds “The image within the image.” Rosan’s patience and her exacting nature are a perfect fit to what she does.

Sison-Holmes has broadened her subject matter for the creation of her “Light Art.” She now includes car headlights and taillights, street lamps, neon signs, even the light from kids’ toys and electronic gadgets, and along with the city skylines they all have their place in her repertoire.

Still involved in the corporate world with her own company, Exsellsys, Sison-Holmes regularly flies around Asia to deliver sales training courses and visit skylines that range from Australia to India.

Sison-Holmes “Light Art” can be seen on permanent display at Makati City’s Cattelan Italia showroom.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Painting as Paradox

“How do you want to live your life, and what does that look like?”
Clayton Colvin

Reading is a favored pass time for the Birmingham, Alabama based American abstract artist Clayton Colvin. As he told The Curating Contemporary Blog last year “I just closed a show at the University of Montevallo where I included a lot of the books I had read over the last year to make that [their influence] clear. Art students feel pressure to read theory and art history, and that’s great, but it is a big world. I like fiction. I like writers who open up my thinking more. I read a lot during the summer especially. It is hot here. Being still is advisable.” The writing of Kelly Link is a significant influence, about which Colvin says “Her writing has a way of expanding and contracting that I really respond to, and I saw that plasticity as analogous to the way I think about painting.”

A second interest is sport, with his child’s soccer exploits being of particular concern. It’s an activity which also infiltrates Colvin’s work. “Patterns are really interesting to me. A lot of my visual language comes from my experience with field vision and the game of soccer or football. Players are naturally good or trained to read things in their periphery and anticipate events in space. So, creating space through unlocking patterns and exploiting breaks or lapses is a way I like to think of the technical act of painting,” he explained.

But drawing is the pivotal aspect of Colvin’s multimedia creations. The gallery director of the Eichold Gallery, Wanda Sullivan, said of his work “The paintings actually remind me of giant sketchbook pages. There is‘immediacy’ about them that I particularly admire.”

A sentiment shared with Artforum’s Rowan Ricardo Phillips, who wrote “At times, painting seems to give way to drawing, and at other times, drawing seems to give way to painting. Erasures and additions reveal and conceal other layers, complicating ideas of before and after, original and addition, right side up and upside down. The paintings thrive in paradox: They can seem crowded and full of movement, a sense of unsettled energy populating their spaces; after sustained viewing, however, a calm and measured contemplativeness saturates the canvases. The paintings seem to move when you don’t look at them and stand still when you do - each striving to represent both the noise in which contemporary life finds itself ensnared, and the quiet meditation that can free it.”

Colvin’s current exhibition New Way to Forget is on show at Birmingham’s Beta Pictoris Gallery until the 27 of March.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Here’s a Little Shot I Took

“I like the survival stories. And that’s what it’s like being an artist, it’s surviving and it’s your next body of work. You’re all alone and nobody’s coming to save you.”
Tracy Moffett

In a 1998 interview with Bomb Magazine’s Coco Fusco the Australian artist Tracy Moffett said “Literature often influences my work. I’m thinking of Southern American writers like Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Carson McCullers in particular. Her stories remind me of where I come from. Queensland and the northern part of Australia is a very beautiful place, but also very redneck; a kind of paradise to grow up in, but you can’t wait to get the hell out.” And get out Moffett did.

The half Aboriginal Moffett grew up in a white foster family home in the working class suburb of Mt Gravatt East in the Queensland capital city of Brisbane. At the age of 18 Moffett took off to go backpacking round Europe for nine months. Upon her return she enrolled at the Queensland College of Art. Moffett’s next escape, the year following her graduation, was to Sydney where she started to consolidate her reputation as an artist. Fifteen years later Moffett moved out of her comfort zone, relocating to New York. As she told The Saturday Paper’s Rebecca Harkins-Cross “You’re 37 years old and you go back and live like an art student again.

It was a move that paid off. With exhibitions in the Aperto section of the Venice Biennale and at New York’s Dia Foundation in the same year, Moffett’s star became a permanent fixture in the international firmament.  

Moffett describes herself as a “director of photo-narratives” which sees take on the roles of performer, film maker and photographer, sometimes she even wears all three hats simultaneously. Although the photographic influence dominates, as she told Catherine Summerhayes for her book The Moving Images of Tracy Moffett “I am constantly thinking composition in a photographic sense, and framing and photographic textures are very important in my movies.”

 “I’m a socialist who for lives for designer clothes” Moffett says of herself. An attitude reflected in her work as she mixes the political with the personal to make enigmatic staged documentary narratives about which she is exceeding coy. “The reading’s got to come from the viewer. The minute I say what the narrative is, I really believe it’s the end of an art work. I never say what it is,” she states.

Moffett’s latest exhibition Kaleidoscope is the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts’ Festival of Perth contribution. The video Art Calls is on show along with photographs from the Spirit Landscapes series until the 15th of April. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

It Starts With a Dot

"Bindu is the centre of my life."
S H Raza

Bindu is the Sanskrit word for point or dot which carries the metaphysical connotation of being the point at which creation begins. It’s best known visual representation is the decorative devotional dot that Hindu women wear on their forehead.

The Bindu is also the starting point for Indian artist S H (Syed Haider) Raza’s paintings. As he has said “The process is akin to germination. The obscure black space is charged with latent forces asking for fulfillment. Like the universal natural order of the ‘earth-seed’ relationship, the original unit, the ‘bindu’, emerges and unfolds itself in the black space. All inherent forces unite. A vertical line intersects a horizontal line, engendering energy and light. Space is charged. Contours appear: white, yellow, red and blue, and along with the original black, they compose the colour spectrum of the visible world.”

Raza came of age in the same year that India gained her independence whilst studying at the Sir J J School of Art, an institution that followed a British curriculum. Along with K.H. Ara and F.N. Souza, Raza became a founding member of the Progressive Artist Group which was dedicated to replacing European realism with modern art that had an Indian voice. In 1950, on a scholarship from the French government, Raza attended the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris for three years. Complying with a request from his French mother in law not to take her daughter away from her family, Raza remained in France for the next six decades, although he regularly returned to India to refresh his roots.

It was in the late 1970’s, during a period of introspection about his work, that Raza decided to seriously reconnect with his Indian heritage. As he told "I was not happy. I was looking for an Indian concept, a vision in my painting. I was till then a French painter. I did my own research and took what I felt was important. I integrated this ethnography, these icons in my work."

Central to this reconnection was the Bindu which Raza first encounter as a child. As he explained to Two Circles.netOne of my teachers in Mandla had once drawn a sign - a dot on the wall knowing that my mind was wandering. He told me to look at the point while he went for a wash. I did not understand the significance of the 'bindu' then - but it existed in my mind."

A mature examination of the concept and the ideas that underpin it combined with Raza’s French technique and the abstract paintings with their circles, triangles and squares that have made his name was born.

Not one to stand still Raza, now in his 90’s, still moves on, saying "I want to explore 'Roopadhyatmik (abstract beauty)' in my art. It is another spiritual form of abstraction which is beyond the conventional icons of triangles and the 'bindu'. The concept emerges from the dot... And I have to find my own way to reach it."

Raza’s current exhibition Aarambh is on show at New Delhi’s Vadehra Art Gallery until the 18th of March.

Friday, February 20, 2015

It’s All About Color

“The subject itself is of no account; what matters is the way it is presented.”
Raoul Dufy

For the French artist Raoul Dufy that presentation is all about color. Influenced early in his career by impressionists like Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro, Dufy’s discovery of the Fauvist in general and Henri Matisse in particular was, in his words "the imagination introduced into drawing and color."

A handful of years later whilst watching the crowds on the jetty in Trouville, a recurring subject in his work, that Dufy observed “the splashes of color of an object passing quickly in front of the retina remain imprinted on it for longer than the outlines of the object itself.” This dissociation of color and drawing, an encroachment of color on the line, was to preoccupy Dufy for the rest of his life.

Dubbed “the painter of joy” for his depictions of yachting scenes, views of the French Riviera, fashionable parties, and musical soirees along with his exuberant use of color saw Dufy earn this nickname. But it was his inverting of the traditional rules of color perspective handed down from the Renaissance abetted by his ongoing research into color and light that informs his paintings.

Later in life, after overcoming a battle with rheumatoid arthritis in his hands, Dufy pushed his theories to the extreme as in the semi abstract work The Red Violin (see below). In this ‘tonal’ painting that foreshadows the minimalists of the 1960’s, Dufy abandons any attempt at realism. Instead he concentrates upon his interpretation of the imaginary world of color whilst paying homage to the music of Mozart and Bach that pervaded the house of his childhood.

A retrospective exhibition of Dufy’s work is currently on show at Madrid’s Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum until the 17th of May.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Following the Family Tradition

To choose to be an artist was known territory. I didn’t have to fight to make my way, the path was already there, and it was part of our everyday life (which is to say museums, libraries, music etc.)
Phil Hale

For the American born painter and photographer, who lives and works in London, it was almost a given the Phil Hale would become an artist. His family tree is littered with artists including both his mother and grandmother who were painters in their own right. As Hale told Erratic Phenomena’s Amanda Erlanson, sibling rivalry played its part too. “My own drawings could probably be neatly divided into my own work (skulls, hairy pot-bellied monsters, worms) and attempts to do my brother’s drawings better than he could (flowers, seascapes, spiders). And because my mother was an artist, the materials and environment was very conducive – invisibly conducive.”

Apprenticed to the illustrator Rick Berry at the age of 16, the association lasted for five years until Hale moved to London tread his own path. As he has explained “I’ve said this before, so it’s in danger of becoming its own cliché, but I left the country to get away from his influence.” 

Berry believed that that the figure should be created from the imagination whilst Hale wanted to connect with reality. As he says “I wanted the paintings to have a feeling of connection to something outside the frame of the image, just as a documentary photograph does.”

Working on the darker side of illustration Hale was a natural fit to do the illustrations for Steven King’s The Drawing of the Three. It was a very generous gig and afforded Hale the luxury of not having to do any paid work for five years. Of that time Hale has said “I had a lot of fun. I recorded a lot of music and designed and built motorcycles, experiment with photography and much looser painting.”

The arrival of Photoshop in the 1990’s saw Hale incorporate photo-collage into his practice with the artificialness of the construction being explicit. About which he claims “It tells you something about not only how vision works, but about how imagination and narrative works.”

Being awarded an equal second place in the 2001 BP Portrait award followed by a 2008 commission to paint the then British Prime Minister, Tony Blair’s portrait saw Hale’s transition into the world of ‘fine art’ receive a significant boost.

Hale’s current work builds upon his twin interests of painting and photography and how they interact and influence each other. As the University Collage of London’s Michiko Oki statesRather than a collage that expects ‘new’ meaning to emerge out of the juxtaposition of different visual orientations, his paintings aim for the disappearance of one image into another, one narrative into another, one system of seeing into another, and are haunted by the desire to move away from what it originally was”

Hale’s exhibition Life Wants to Live will be on show at New York’s Jonathan LeVine Gallery’s West 20th Street gallery from the 21st of February to the 21st of March.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Brush Rather Than A Baton For This Conductor

“A woman was so moved that she wept in front of my painting.”
Lisa Bradley

The story of the postal worker and the librarian and their art collection is the stuff of legends. Over a 50 year period Herb and Dorothy Vogel amassed an art collection of nearly 5000 works by over 170 artists which they stored and displayed in their one bedroom New York apartment. Local folklore has it that When curators come from Europe they visit the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney and the Vogel’s' apartment."

Amongst the artists they collected was the American abstract painter Lisa Bradley. The Boston University’s Professor of Art History, Carl Chiarenza wrote about Bradley when she was in her early 20’s "Lisa Bradley is an exceptional human being. Whatever she encounters she encounters poetically, creatively, and perhaps more importantly with compassion, patience, and understanding. She is a gifted, natural artist ... The paintings are about human existence, the marshaling of forces that are strong and self-sustaining, and yet humble before a larger dominant power..." Prophetic words indeed as Bradley’s career has proved with her work being collected by not only the Vogel’s but by museums across America.

Described as “profound and evocative” Bradley’s paintings, with a palette restricted to white, blue, Black and grey, are a balancing act between motion and stillness with her brushstrokes conducting the performance. About her works the art critic Carter Ratcliff said “seeing merges with every other aspect of being.” Whilst Bradley has said “When I paint, everything be[comes] clear . . . at a certain point one goes beyond emotion – everything fits, each stroke is right, perfect with itself.”

The exhibition Lisa Bradley: The Fullness of Being is currently on show at New York’s Hollis Taggart Galleries until the 28th of February.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Wisdom of the Crowd

“I see the photograph like any other medium; 
one to be manipulated and worked with to communicate an idea
Emily Allchurch

With austerity being the catch phrase of most government’s today artists and arts organization are appealing to the wisdom of the crowd to raise funds for projects. Utilizing the crowdfunding platforms that have proliferated over the last decade they ask their supporters directly for the help they need.

The Manchester Art Gallery recently raised the funds necessary to commission Emily Allchurch to make one of her photographic recreations of an old master painting though “arthappens” the crowdfunding service offered by The Art Fund, England’s national fundraising charity for art.

The commissioned work, will be a 21st Century photographic work based on the painting Albert Square, Manchester, 1910 by French Impressionist Adolphe Valette. It will feature in an upcoming exhibition alongside the Tokyo Story and Tokaido Road series, Allchurch’s homage to the 19th century Japanese printmaker Utagawa Hiroshige.

Drs Xavier Bray and Minna Moore Ede of the National Gallery in London said of her work “Allchurch’s modern vision has been convincingly and seamlessly laid over the old and there is an extraordinary sense of continuity between past and present.”

Taking hundreds if not thousands of photographs in and around the location depicted in the older work Allchurch painstakingly stitches them together on her computer to recreate her modern day depiction of the scene. As she told the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in 2012I see myself as an artist that works with photography, rather than a photographer. If anything I am probably a natural painter and I have come full circle over several years to deal with image manipulation: modulating color, contrast, perspective, focus, highlight, shadow and construction, except that for me the traditional canvas is replaced by a computer screen.

About her current commission Allchurch has said “I’m hoping to create an updated depiction of Valette’s Albert Square, celebrating Manchester as the cosmopolitan, vibrant city it is today, but with resonant echoes of its historic past.

AllChurch’s exhibition In the Footsteps of a Master will be on show at the Manchester Art Gallery from the 13th of March to the 8th of June.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Keep Your Hat On

“I just want some recognition, and I want some understanding.”
Jim Krantz

When John Batterson Stetson invented his “Boss of the Plains” hat in 1865 he created an icon that for ever more would identify the American cowboy. An enduring symbol of the American “can do” ethos equally at home on the head of the working cowboy and the successful businessman. From presidents to kids on a vacant lot the Stetson identifies the “home of the brave” if not always the squeaky clean.

American photographer Jim Krantz has photographed hundreds if not thousands of Stetsons. Best known for his photographs of the Western United States, Krantz earns his bread and butter from his commercial photography for clients that range from Philip Morris to Playboy with the ubiquitous hat playing a significant supporting role.

Over the past seven years Krantz has been expanding his photographic work into the fine art market. The impetus for this expansion came about when fellow artist Richard Prince appropriated Krantz’s photograph from a Marlboro advertisement.  Krantz came across it when he attended Prince’s retrospective exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. There outside the museum was a poster for the exhibition displaying Prince’s reworking of his photograph.

In both photographs a Stetson is the focal point. In Krantz’s version the product (a cigarette) is linked to the icon, in Prince’s version the icon is the work. Krantz told the New York Times “When I left, I didn’t know if I should be proud, or if I looked like an idiot.” And there was not a lot he could do about it.

As is usual with advertising photography the advertiser claims the copyright for the advertisement and its content and in this instance Krantz had relinquished his photograph’s copyright to Marlboro’s parent company Philip Morris. The ensuing uproar over Prince’s appropriation habits, which he justifies, saying “I never associated advertisements with having an author,” saw Krantz being offered   gallery representation.

That representation has borne fruit and Krantz has a self titled solo exhibition at New York’s Danziger Gallery on show until the 21st of March. And, yes, there are lots of Stetson’s included.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Indulgence of Self

“That’s one of the benefits of being an artist. 
I can be incredibly self-indulgent and just say, it’s my job!” 

Antony Micallef 

Apart from being an affluent suburb of London, Notting Hill is the title of the Julia Roberts, Hugh Grant romantic comedy about which film critic Robin Clifford wrote “Hollywood has reached a new level of movie star indulgence.” Notting Hill is also where British artist Antony Micallef calls home.

The balcony of his flat, just off the Portobello Road, is his favored place to give interviews to journalists after their Cook’s tour of his exceeding messy studio. It is almost a parody of his works about the vacuous nature of our modern consumer lifestyle that consolidated Micaffef’s fame after gaining second prize in the 2000 BP Portrait Award.

But as he told the Telegraph newspaper’s Andrew Perry in the lead up to his 2011 exhibition Happy Deep Inside My Heart “I’m sucked in by it just like everyone else. I’m guilty of all the things I paint about. I’m part of the problem. This show is about me realizing that I’ve become the sludge, the slush. I have to be honest in my painting.”

As his journey as an artist continues Micallef’s search for honesty has seen his style change from the graphic illustrative aspect of his earlier works to the painterly involvement of the contemporary expressionist. As he says “I want to say it all with the actual medium this time without illustrating it. I wanted the luscious density of the paint itself to describe the feeling without narrating it.”

The freedom that having ‘A’ list collects such as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie enables Micallef to concentrate on his work without the need for a day job. A necessity considering a painting may take up to 10 hours of sustained effort in one session. As he told Notting Hill & Holland Park Magazine’s Hannah Lemon “I hate using the word trance, it’s such a cliché but you are definitely in a state where you don’t feel the cold; you’re playing an album and you don’t hear the music. You are just really engaged.”

This doesn't mean Micallef has given up on his indulgences. He recently purchased a 1910 chandelier that once graced the stately halls of a Lake Como villa for his flat; a treat for himself after his last show. As he explained to the Telegraph’s lifestyle section’s My Space “In my work, I like mixing in classical things with contemporary imagery, and I do it at home too. Contrast is what makes things interesting.

Micallef’s exhibition Self, a series of self portraits, is currently on show at London’s Lazarides Rathbone until the 19th of March. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Painting with an Eye on the Past

“The holes are cut - they're not damage.
Merlin James

In a discussion with John Hyde the British artist Merlin James stated “They [Merlin’s Paintings] do often go through long process in the studio. Often I can't specify a starting date for a work and more, because it's gone through so many changes. But then occasional ones are quite quick also - some are just thin paint, with drawn elements, that have worked immediately and needed no revision. And often even when they appear old and distressed, it's not necessarily that they've been around a long time - it's just a look they have.

Coming of age along with YBA’s like Damien Hirst and Tracy Emin, James rejected the conceptional ethos and refused to accept that painting was dead. A respected writer about art in general and painting in particular who has been published in Art in America and the Times Literary Supplement, James knowledge of his subjects history is undisputed and as such affects his painting in equal measure.

Known for his inclusion of collage elements that range from tufts of hair to little model houses and at times included the stretcher bars as a pictorial element, the negative collage holes are a formal device for his expression not unlike the negative space in a Henry Moore sculpture. Coming to the viewer “already damaged” relates the painting to its historical traditions whilst the abstracted subject matter with its nods to minimalism and color field painting roots it firmly in the present.

Described as a post-avant-garde painter, James’ subject matter is as diverse as it is unpredictable ranging from landscapes to interior still life’s, via figures, buildings, doorways and sexually explicit scenes; he effectively avoids the dictates of both the institutional and commercial market places.

As the Brooklyn Rail’s John Yau observed “He [James] has more in common with Groucho Marx, who didn’t want to belong to any club that would have him, than to Karl Marx, whose followers fuss mightily over the credentials one needs to gain admittance to the inner circle.”

Hi exhibition, Merlin James: Genre Paintings is currently on show at New York’s Sikkema Jenkins & Co. until the 7th of March.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Will Travel For Art

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
 Saint Augustine

Anders Kjellesvik likes to travel, in his 35 years he has read more pages of the world than most us will do in a life time. Born on the Norwegian island of Stord, with a Viking heritage and influenced by the boat builders and fishermen of today it is little wonder that wanderlust is coded into his DNA. 

But unlike his forebears, who returned from their voyages with slaves and bling, Kjellesvik returns from his journeys with images that become the subject matter for his paintings, prints and sculptures. The works that Kjellesvik creates are the echoes of his impressions and memories that teeter between realism and abstraction. As the Nordic Artists’ Centre’s Marie Nurland wrote for the 2012 Bristol biennale “They are artworks that seem sparse, but at the same time saturated with beauty and a complex layering of possible meanings. The works inspire a desire to play with the indefinable.”

Kjellesvik is also one half of the social art project aiPotu (“utopia” spelled backwards). With the other half of the duo, the Norwegian artist Andreas Siqueland, they have travel from Australia to Iceland as part of their ongoing Island Tour, and from Paris to Helsinki for the earlier Tour of Europe. At each stop they created a site specific work that explored the relationships between art and utopia within the local context.

Kjellesvik’s current exhibition of paintings brings together excerpts from his travels, his encounters with people, and their associated visual impressions. Über Ende und Anfang (About the end and the beginning) is on show at Berlin’s Galerie Michael Janssen until the 14th of March.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Poet & The Sculptor

“The path traced by my pencil on the sheet of paper is, to some extent, 
analogous to the gesture of a man groping his way in the darkness.”

Alberto Giacometti

In 1623 the English poet John Donne penned the opening line to his Meditation XVII “No man is an island entire of itself.” A conformation of his Catholic faith it underscores Donne’s belief in the interconnectedness of humanity.  Three hundred years later the Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti questioned the validity of this assumption with his disconnected, inward looking figures unable to communicate with their fellows despite their desire to reach out.

Best know as a sculptor, although painting and drawing played their part in Giacometti’s oeuvre, the Second World War was a pivotal point in his career. Prior to it he worked predominantly within the surrealist movement and has been credited with producing some of the best sculptures in the genre. His preoccupation with the depiction of head in general and the gaze in particular along with a growing weariness with dreams saw him excommunicated from the movement in 1935. After the war, Giacometti developed and refined a unique language that could represent the figure in real space keeping alive an interest in figurative works during the onslaught of abstract expressionism.

It was his fierce individualism, a ready willingness to pursue his own vision that saw Giacometti embrace the existentialist ideas of the emptiness of modern life, its lack of meaning, espoused by his friends Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. As he has said "All the sculptures of today, like those of the past, will end one day in pieces...So it is important to fashion ones work carefully in its smallest recess and charge every particle of matter with life."

And meticulous he was, Giacometti often reworked his models, and whilst he destroyed some, others he put aside side to be worked upon years later. About which he said “In every work of art the subject is primordial, whether the artist knows it or not. The measure of the formal qualities is only a sign of the measure of the artist's obsession with his subject; the form is always in proportion to the obsession.

Donne ended his Meditation XVII with the immortal lines “And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” Whilst for Giacometti his summation was “It was always disappointing to see that what I could really master in terms of form boiled down to so little.

A retrospective exhibition of Giacometti’s work is currently on show at Istanbul’s Pera Museum until the 26th of April.