A False Dawn by Ursula Burke : A Review

closed

“The sound as an augury of death”

This title is a starting point. I’ve chosen it as it speaks of the anticipation of looking at the new exhibition by Ursula Burke, ‘A False Dawn’. The word anticipation is our expectation ahead of time.
On 31 May 2020 plans were to close the exhibition here in limbo. While we consider time and second waves there is alteration in our vision and it is not only the wounded concerning us but those who have tragically lost their lives in the outbreak of Covid 19. Despite our experiences in the face of a plague it is human nature to consider the methods we employ to understand it and the wider dangers everyday life has in store. By no means a reflection but a catalyst for thought this exhibition currently hidden away from us speaks of many things.

The introductory title photograph I took and titled to head this essay is obviously showing the Lockdown confinement of the exterior that hides (in March/April/May 2020) the exhibition lying behind the 5th floor Upper Gallery wall.

Inside, on the other side, the drip painting lies behind. The wall suddenly becomes a current edition of the angry it leaps from. This present protection the enclosure provides, shields the new work, creating an extraordinary sense of the present as its original conceptual form centuries ago is reinterpreted somewhere we cannot experience in the intended installation. The prescience is un-calculated but if anything, maybe in the mould of prophethising is shockingly realised and the prophet being here, Ursula Burke.

On the 5th level of the Ulster Museum, traditionally the Art being the highest entry to the confines of ours and the museums strata of telling discovery. Augury is a word Ursula Burke fastens onto and it’s emblematic place in the sculpture sends us in several directions. The repurposed fresco with birds is resonant of several contexts across a longer period of time.

In the Artist statement this is said – “Often, I take a Northern Irish context as a critical point of departure from which to generalise my approach outwards to international concerns.”

This work takes in some pieces from previous exhibitions that lend their heft to this particular ascribed process. The following text from those earlier exhibitions, in part description, shows the process of thought employed by Ursula Burke.

“A large proportion of my work at present is made using Parian porcelain, a hard paste porcelain that is famed for emulating Parian marble, the substance used for carving many of the Greek and Roman sculptures from antiquity. Even though Parian is extremely hard after firing, the nature of the material exudes a kind of softness and elasticity, (almost fleshy) which at the same time formally emulates the characteristics of marble. In content, the reference to the classical period that the work allows enables me to make a conceptual bridge between idealised versions of society much in debate during the classical period and the necessity for continually suspended versions of the ideal within a post-conflict society. Northern Ireland as a region is consistently working towards peace; persistently speaking and striving to move towards an indeterminate point in the future where real, meaningful and lasting peace between tribal communities has been realized. The schism between idealized forms of civil society and consistently suspended versions of the ideal in post conflict society is at the heart of this work.” From the troublesarchive.com Art of the Troubles, The Ulster Museum Belfast, 2014; Arafudo Art Annual, Fukushima, Japan 2014; March & June Mostra, British School at Rome, 2014; Spazi Aperti, Romanian Academy, Rome, 2014; Hope for a Better Past, The MAC, Belfast, 2013 & Instances of Agreement, Kao Yuan Art Centre, Taiwan, 2011. They resonate again here.

textile
sculpture

The vision here
It summons up a thought process on life as seen though the past as a vision of the future. Called ‘A False Dawn’ it supposes also a negative position maybe where we are at, but it covers a lot of ground. The past is seen in the referencing spatial sense of the original fresco and it in part a reconstruction of. It also is a gathering of violence against the person, posing in an array of mediums the entry to the debating chamber, meeting places to discuss differences and forge policies of unity an opposite prevails into the present day and beyond.

The work seems to presuppose the history of humans default to former patterns that negatives will ensue. Far from obvious are the immemorial themes point to the wasteful oblique way we see the environs and world we live in and all its inhabitants. These only appear with scrutiny of the ‘fresco’ with images contained within it. Some local and as I alluded to the wall takes on more genus loci with the wall having in the view hidden our ‘Parliment’ a few miles out the other side having, and it’s very probable Ursula Burke had that symbolic an immovable part of our reckoning or at least a fixture of it.

Further on here I will refer to other works that seek to use art as the countenance for or own debates.

There is a reaction to repression of every kind here in the work and at its core is the politically ardent will that caught out post war worlds. Reconciliation is never over. After these ancient inherent human abstract relations pattern in nature survives beyond us. Made as each are in that miracle of combinations that under the microscope only retain pattern and forms of symmetry our abstract world is incurable evident.

The Italian fresco is a beginning but the core is the restlessness borne of dreadful pain mirrored in the apathy with which fine art beguilingly transports us towards as some judgement or acceptance of the absurd.

Fight with flight
The birds are the only animals seen in the exhibition and they figure in the settled full wall perch of the blue diagraphic take on enterprise. The glory of a fresco is simulated in the form of a testing pseudo deterioration by strands of dripped bud paint, speckled distempered plaster. The appearance is less fecund than any original fresco but holds an arresting scale in the soft light of the Gallery. It is based on the Villa of Livia which has been restored at the Palazzo Massimo in Rome which is, in this iteration, a bit like the https://www.atelier-lumieres.com/en/home Van Gogh simulator without the colour intensity.

The villa was abandoned in the 5th century AD, and subsequently pillaged and looted for antiquities. In 1863, the famous statue of Augustus of Prima Porta was discovered on the site, as well as the birds and trees frescoes in an underground dining area. These were moved to museums in the city to conserve them.

The deterioration as depicted here is arrested and an arresting state of compromise for our satiated souls. Reclaiming it with this mural effect is taking the visitor into a world that is outside the former and is evoking through the use of the flightless birds sorrowful dripping tears of paint and the abundance of natural things an anotherness we cannot see. It goes beyond us. To this Ursula Burke brings a presence of mankind’s intervention and confinement. In today’s compromised world it has wild connections. Nowhere will there be a more relevant juxtaposition in Art installation. The terracotta wilderness is the only comparable example of these themes as this has advanced new infinite interpretations.

The terracotta wilderness of the former is obliterated by the intensity of a blue landscape with grid mesh patterns and inserts of hand held lenses capturing a circle of place, Carson’s Statue or The Stormont Mile.
We are pulled into the wilderness of our transmuted political lives.

The allegories may be there but the tonal qualities of the former fresco as a vehicle are explored as an effect less intensely or otherworldly here as Ursula Burke realises her ‘Augury of the Birds.’ The Villa of Livia is the original title and this alternative is extending the reach of the original due to its pastiche allegory of a beautiful location, even garden of Eden. … “La Villa di Livia a Prima Porta da praedium suburbanum a villa Caesarum”.

The place here, it’s genus loci, is compared to this former mythical imagining which itself is captured in its frozen fall from perpetuity and is a relic of another view of the world. The meaning is placed in either location to be one where we aspire to flourish beyond expectations held across the fence in the fresco. “Livia had a fresco painted on the walls which reproduced the nature outside. In fact there are several types of trees, and there are also 69 different types of birds, like those found in the woods around the villa,” said Biondi.

Other Portraits
That illusion is not far from in both the former and Ursula Burke’s own latest interpretation here, one perceived by the Artist know as the old man of Modern Literature, one James Joyce, whose eyesight, with another ironic twist of fate in this context, was about a tenth of normal sight and therefore he was unable to invest in the visual much other than an observant contempt-or, while being in the opposite a master of the language lingual he contritely put a verse to this connection –

Buy a book in brown paper
From Faber and Faber
To see Annie Liffey trip, tumble and caper.
Sevensinns in her singthings,
Plurabelle on her prose
Seashell ebb music wayriver she flows.

His book was of the two shores of the Liffey, on the harbour of people, the brown paper bag the admission it was censored and contained connections with Finnegans Wake..

Not the enigma poetry expected but a blunt instrument of a sales pitch. This is itself a play with words as you are invited to enter a tributary of life where the rawness and morality is cast in metaphors of the rivers proximity to us. The river is carrying away our thoughts. The changes in the tidal flow are stilled only by the momentary galina.

What he was doing was leaving a literary ghost mark for a world that was unprepared for it. Anna is both woman and river and “her fluvial maids of honour”, from all corners of the world, constitute 350 river names.’ Edna O’Brien.

This is the same wilderness an author felt able to enter and express while H.G.Wells, Nabokov, DH Lawrence, thought the less of it, TS Eliot was along with Samuel Beckett no stranger to its strangeness as ‘Anna Livia Plurabelle’ became a morality tale of the river as the conscious being, once entered you cannot return to join in the same place again. The essay by Edna O’Brien is simply a testament to that works genius.
bit.ly.2uuHOrI

2 planes

Bleakness lies before the precious and it is not recreational, recreation is a simile after all and it is an escape while being present. What appears is the thought Ursula Burke is in contest with the world as seen. That she attests to other consciousnesses and parts and gives here a very formative tale to investigate. Along with Joyce she is a companion to the diversity and is gathering in throwing porcelain of her own concepts in bruised and battered allegories which for a long time have proven solid and robust conquests of authorative voice.

The wonderful new book by Colm McCann ‘Apeirogon’ which he snatches a story of combatants he met as lives witnessed in the Middle East to convey the union of ordinary people through the common loss of a child, is illustrated in physical existing metaphors wherein the entry points A,B,C, in the occupied areas are under surveillance of drones cameras and watchtowers the lines of movement that must be adhered to. Gate A is to a Palestinian area, it is illegal for Israelis to enter it. There reasons might be collaboration and assistance? Gate B is to an Israeli held area which Palestinians can enter with adherence to the areas rules as they provide services to the area. Gate C is a settlement occupied only by Israelis. Only Israelis are allowed in. This is the real manifestation of a global human malaise. To take it to another level is the containment of the rooms, a truth, an encounter then a reflection. The broad scope is a problematic one in this confined space. Later I suggest reasons for this opinion.

Just as another fine line of connection there is a review in Los Angeles of the novel being also about birds. ‘Also About Birds: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict’ in Colum McCann’s “Apeirogon” by Ben Libman

Beyond malaise is the witnessing of such division and conflict and Ursula Burke has produced in the area of the 5th floor something akin to the separate rooms, at least for my purposes of analysing what I’d seen within its pictorial walls that similar guise. Akin is the name VSO call their volunteer magazine which centres on the junctions of family and repair. This is also a part within the scope of Ursula Burke’s vision here. The many pieces of sculptured heads themselves are displayed on trestles and Dias as types of singular grief and fortitude.

The typed imprint sometimes seen in Ursulas work, of tattoos and messages is again used but less dominantly. The tattoos are in fact the bruises and broken defaced, literally heads full of self image and identity harmed but unbowed. Each forms a art of the same collective. The ‘rooms’ – Gates I eluded to – are usefully given mapping in the accompanying exhibition booklet.

The collective is known as ‘The Wounding’. In the same room, the point of entry are two smaller pieces, Blue – The Sphinx greeting you as you enter and the foremost image identifying what the exhibition is taking you toward. Due to the limitations of space there is only a small explation of the aims and it is immeasurable how much can be taken away or witnessed in calculations of meaning and the exploration of the work.

piece

It is brutally beautiful from the onset. Delivering a coruscating abundance of tales in principle using humans at its core. Natures supremacy is also our configuration. The birds are in an evolutionary state, as we happen to have common migratory processes instilled within us. The flight as opposed to flightlessness is adjudicated in poetry, Seamus Heaney’s works are peppered with birds. As local artist Jefferey Morgan has often in his paintings, his fellow Artist in words, Michael Longley has himself a fascination with birds and their flight. Even in this same space (RUA 2019) birds were appropriated in Jeremy Morgan’s painting of Wiggenstien, as a perch for birds, his trusted companions placing context to philosophy in the edges of Connemara.

Jeffrey Morgan’s Wiggenstien

The Sphinx is an art subject since it’s earliest embrace. In essence power is anthropomorphic with this creature a heraldic peaceful force showing control, the complete opposite of ourselves of its innate image of pure evolution. This is no Tutankhamen (another tomb is believed to exist beyond the famous Egyptian find) but it is emblematic of faith, virtue, spirit and soul all equated with blue and light blue is associated with the Throat Chakra in eastern mysticism. The element of ether belongs with this and the bruise signals I am here, a human, both the yellow and red absent from blue transition to the physical take it to a stage statues do not have.

It is hard to speak of the delicate forms the world takes without seeing the contrasts presented. They are a dialogue of themselves. The hanging head ‘Augury’ in the third room is a synthesis of a beam, a pressure treated, well selected, worn railway sleeper of a crossbeam, a bodyof woolen torso. Who am I? – it seeks an answer to. Both of itself and the visitor under its presence. The stainless steel grille of the sixties ventilation above and behind it is brought into it in my view, with its rational place occupying the space also and filtering away the august air of the solemn interior in which we invent time and thought.

solitary insular war

Inherited. A congress of anger.
In ‘Augury of the Birds’ is a context which is as I recently reminded a commentator having a pop at a geographer in a political context, of the animal having a locale and no borders – pinemartins. One of the Irish animals that possess enough guile as to be from even further away. These common carnivores are found in Scotland and the species mustelid have been around a long time. They are not confined by fences while birds are even less confined. They find a way to cross boundaries.

Here there is a joy alongside a trying contest with hope in this display and conceptual world. By creating, and arches sanctity of place, light and stillness take the visitor to a similar room or series of spaces as the La Villa di Livia a Prima Porta. No longer a place of restful pastoral solitude here there are cast relics or people. The heads and bruised elegance given to the new born is cast with its brethren’s burden. The baby is a clear embodiment of this veil of sorrows already inhabited by the person. James Joyce spent years developing a new dialogue and who is Finnegan? Who is the wanderer? The point from one place to another is taken by allowing seeing places symbolising your existence. A habitat or vantage point like the Martello Tower.

space

The man-made is like a Seán Hillen postcard montage/collage sustained with images taken in combinations and gathered. Like a rickshaw on the canal towpath incongruous and accepted. The allegory of Birds is one which goes beyond our eight mile, for most experiences of that scale, vision unlike the birds whose flight allows them elevation and survey. Often looking at horizons it is observed or intuition tells us, why would you look for meaning in it, what is meaning and why would it have to have meaning.

Library of Congress
Like Joyces work this Gallery is a ‘book’ of ideas subverting the ordinary scroll of everyday blindness. Joyce’s tenth of normal eyesight comes with the baggage of having to find other ways to create. Recently I have been discovering how common the impairment in sight is found in art. Locally the colour blindness encroaching in degrees and in severity was occurring with Paul Henry and Basil Blackshaw. Ursula Burke is using the head as the all seeing self and its variances are dispersed with degrees of damage and all physical with the awareness there is damage within always.

A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.’ Kafka. In the current ‘Democrat’ debate a commentator pointed out – literally – if Elizabeth Warren had an axe/sword at the discussion Bloomberg was all over the place, he would be ‘shish kebab’. Perhaps those words should be removed from any political context. There is a plethora of subjects in political debate for violence which Ursula Burke has brought to this and it is a wild card I throw into the cannibalism of political discourse. Discursive not constructive. The view being, it is present in chambers of supposed governance.

There is another oblique observation which I throw in as it comes from the family of ‘The Origin of the Species.’ Gwen Raveret, a very quick mind and Artist when a boarder at school in France wrote when returning to the comfort of the Darwin household this.

In all that time there is only one vision that I keep: a flash, seen through the garden hedge, of some sheep in the next field, with the frosty, winter light running along their backs. It seemed like something from another world: the real world, to which I should escape again some day. It kept me alive.’ Gwen Raveret. (A Cambridge Childhood)

In that clear mind the outside vision is seen through nature. People happen to inhabit that world along with the animals she recalls. The words are extraordinary well in keeping with the Darwin insights.

The Wounded
With the tenderness of porcelain Ursula Burke is calling out “the company of self-obsessed fuck-offs who squandered and destroyed the world …..” Gabriel Tallent. Except they continue to preside over the collapse. As in Dresden the mercurial pliability of the material as manipulated in the Dachau Concentration camps is once again primordial in its fragile solidity. These works are combined and brought from each singularity of a human entity, to become the assembly of The Wounded. The scene graceful and stark. Each head has a four cornered timber dias and they rest on the flat top at eye level. The combined display’s each suppose a human scale though they are at times not at the human scale but either or above or below. The child’s head for instance is larger than its normal size as is The Sphinx – Blue. As Colin Davison has in his Lives series and as is his practice the energy of a person is advanced beyond the know parameters thus confronting another aspect, that of an outside deliberate context. Apathy, hurt, fortune, fortitude, resilience, absence, they are all there and more besides. That is the gift art brings, as the lie Picasso referred to. The False Dawn maybe is presaged in the baby at the beginning of life consumed by applied identity.

There is an ever more disturbing connection to be made and it is with regard to that pliability of the Parian Porcelain. In a tragic irony it became a fixation of Himmler as in the Edward de Waal book ‘Figurines in Dachau’, of The extraordinary story of Porzellan Manufaktur Allac as it is further testified, the delicacy was a fine art beloved by Himmler and Hitler. Himmler called porcelain ‘one of the few things that give me pleasure’ and Hitler gave it as gifts. That skill advanced in Dachau a violation of human life.

The Concentration Camps became a crucible, some surviving it is presumed due to their skills and competency with the material, within Dachau. The factory in Allach became too small, and at the end of 1940 it moved to Dachau concentration camp. There were many advantages of having the factory here. There was the immediate gain of using the prisoners. The Allach porcelain company – as with the porcelain manufactory in Meissen – was losing skilled workers to the eastern front, and here they could draw on the talents of inmates. The few prisoners brought in from the camp in 1941 grew to over a hundred by 1943.

threads

Geography and Boundaries
While a heaviness of subject is somewhat eased by the actual area of the exhibition in what is a very large space within the Museum in the three parts of the 5th floor it has a difficulty. This is so large a subject the confinement of it is problematic. The particular and evident use as much is possible of minimal presentation by exhibiting one piece on one wall emerges as a tentative approach. There is little room for reflection.

Embroidery is a dominant presence which it is possible to approach as well as view from afar. This is seen as a hanging of an image created with the softness of thread while being the concord of hate in the image as people assailants each other or defend themselves. Blood is threads dripping in tapestry. The Politicians piece is given largesse and prominence and the wooden star frame is accentuating the methodology. The piece is however crowded in the sense it has companions in the room and they are not linear. If only the pace was larger and it were possible as would happen in a linear Gallery or Circular, Getty type space, lead you through from a piece to another piece. Instead it is a conflict of images and though the earnest use of light and separations is used effectively as much as is possible it seems a narrative is lost.

Despite my ‘eulogy’ on certain aspects and being able to draw interpretations from it on a vast scale at times, it torments by not being a story developing as it could. This is evident in seeing it with others and hearing responses and the quickness of a journey does not help. Would it be better were The Wounded be confined to their own room and reflection be removed from the other works? It is difficult to imagine. Another thing I found was not being able to describe its arc to an artist before they visited and it is not entirely obvious where the story begins and what the nature of the fresco analogy is. Is it important to read the ‘fence/bird’ metaphor as the original had foreseen? Is it suffice to take the fresco for what it is by long objective observation? It was long silent before being revealed.

This is a unique reconstruction and was delivered by work on many levels by a number of people under the artists instruction. It is formed with architectural references also in the entry point and the articulation the Gallery, a modern sixties space with delights of formation and detail familiar and a shift in art presentation in itself. Now sans Pirelli Black Rubber Floor unfortunately.

Embroidery is a method deployed as an invocation of political abuse. Comparisons for me are to be made with the work often carried out by local artist Brendan Jameson. It was not long ago he replicated a war picture with plastic bricks and fired pellets at the pixelated plastic image and it showed the connection of a bombing and burnt presentation in a soft caricature the hardness of violence. Often Brendan Jameson produces work similarly contextualised of hard subjects developed with soft materials, sugar cubes towers, cranes and wool is often employed. It is a demographic pluralised by many in art.
Often troubling images are significantly made impactive by use of colour and texture. All art is a combination of the signatures, symbolic, icon, index. The hardness softness is a vocabulary which will last long and be emotive.

The use of tapestry is often seen as belonging to Power bases but that is long gone as a means of expression except the clothes and dress attire is often still predicated on status and power. By creating this soft expression of the subjects it is a dynamic pushing us to new collections of ideas. There is a thought of the location becoming a debating chamber itself, of the aftermath of debate being scrutinised by us. This is part of the envelope of any art project, to transmit and alter and show a way of seeing which is the converse and opposite of normal perceptions of the same thing or realised in an alternative shocking or engaging way.
Our familiarity of the discourses is of course a point to hold and it is also capable for other universal viewpoints to arrive at much the same thought processes.

Of all art work with a narrative centred on human conflict and Guernica apart, I found the ballet ‘The Green Table’ by performed by The Bathsheva Dance Company of Israel the most powerful I have ever witnessed. As our own ‘troubles’ spiralled and became a proximity of human harm visited on many taking away lives and their future this recoiled as a parallel depiction performed as a ballet, it arrived without warning as acts of violence do. Other forms of art could provide similar responses, it so happened to commit totally to the horror of war and human disagreements being at the core.

If we go back to the original and the notion earlier, ‘this Gallery is a ‘book’ of ideas subverting the ordinary scroll of everyday blindness. Joyce’s tenth of normal eyesight comes with the baggage of having to find other ways to create.’ it presupposes a normality in that the original was designed as a dining area. Imagine what discussions might have fed those at the table. The outside is perceived as harmful while dining is a convivial and discursive learning rewarding essential social norm. While dining there is withdraw to a safe refuge to take in the harvest of all they survey.

The Green Table’ is that place of discourse and it is used not for dining but as a place to reflect and act out positions of difference and the meaning is held all are equal while a temporary lapse in normal hostilities are replaced by conversation. It seldom works as conversation is held among people as they swamp agreements or common purposes while energising other equations as a test among their piers. So the table is a mediator on levelling out. The people are of course ardently different holding outside ideas they must attend to, adhere to and visit so they are not confronted once they’ve left of change. That is also a spiral of centrifugal force. Like a satellite of thoughts much as the reverence held by the construction of Newgrange and other core layline driven spaces. These rooms are a place of discovery in the most part. They reflect on what is. They also offer food as the dining room is destroyed and in limbo while we navigate the pieces while discovering thoughts fresh and recalled.

Paucity in Religion
As the work is attempting to take on a huge subject and our lack of mediation among nations it races toward the singularity of existence seen focused on individual choices and from the sign of the baby holding a flag on entering the world it is apparent this is individuality with context. The onrush of societal norms are that contagion it is difficult to remove ideas away from.

Predicated by the notions and practices instilled since birth it is rare that independent thought perseveres without some identity context. None more so than religion. I can see the argument and that is a toxic word in some places is that our times have always been trapped by war and conflict with Northern Ireland a place known primarily through its troubles near past. So I have found the following story from a pioneer going to another place, taking with them no doubt their own societal convictions, some puritanical and conflicted with the freedoms of others, to be very tangible.

The aspect of faith or belief, in which peace is a foundation sought through religious positions is brought through in the context of the USA sate of Montana a narrative which is brought by necessity into the thinking of a pioneer. I have not seen a clearer statement on the examination of religion as seen through the individual and their own choices and the fundamental need to be observant of their own actions and place it in context of a worlds mission. Progress through peace. The exhibition alarms us and covers this – Religion – Passage – without having the place to display it.

wall fresco

James Fergus – Montana
“I said religion often had something to do with the fate of nations… the Christian religion brought about a long period of ignorance still known to us as the dark ages, during which thought was curbed, common education banished, and conscience given over to a rude, vulgar and ignoranat priesthood.

 "And whatever good Christianity may have done since, much of the degeneracy of mankind during this period must be laid at its door... Christianity alone was left to darken and degrade the masses of Europe with only an occasional flash of independent thought, until the 14th century when we gradually see the flicking lights of a coming dawn. Gallieo, Bacon, Luther. 

James Fergus as many pioneers sought a new dawn to live a life somewhere identity was not fixed but hindsight brought those words spoken above. In a nation never conscious of the Indian belonging to their lands and the desolation of a form of life caused by the migration into their lands it became, evokes another false dawn.

Another analogy I find in the film The Ghost Story by David Lowry which in this context unravels life backwards in a place revealing a past and positioning a future.

….walks over to to one of the pressure treated beams that line the road. She sits down.

This essay has taken many turns and has remained unpublished for a few months as the nature of the exhibition takes on more relevance and meaning. Now published 01 06 2020 I have settled on a degree of understanding and interpretation and as this world shows there is every truth in the individual having their own view in this compellingly complex world.

To finish I have noticed another reality. The Wuhan ‘origin’ of Coronavirus 19 was from dead bats. Bats it is pointed out in another book ‘Quarantine’ by John Grace, hang from caves upside down and their ‘eyes’ having limited vision in the conventional ‘sense’ are fixed as they hang on the ground, not the heavens above. The Bible uses the ‘quarantine’ of forty days in the desert to get across the story of ‘human examination’ where prayer expresses inner most thoughts. The daylight fasting contrasts with the bat and it’s lack of sight, no need for daylight and living a life in darkness without a canopy of exterior wonder as colour, our use of vision, gives us so much apparent contrasts that ultimately are illusions.

John Graham

01 June 2020

Belfast

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Walk don’t Roam

Looking at Buildings and their settings takes on new meaning in these times. Having seen the loss of many functional reusable buildings replaced by mediocre architecture given by the profession at its worst the plain truth reveals itself in the present.

You’ll need a drink after this!

Here are a selection of photos randomly taken of an array of locations many of which will be familiar but not seen lately.

Behind this wall lies the Ursula Burke exhibition which contains the wounded. It depicts and behind this very wall a replication in the artistic interpretation of Ursula Burke the Villa de Livia fresco. That was created in the fifth century to convey the peaceful protection from a world over which birds flew freely and many creatures lay. All not hospitable and therein lay the future which we must enter. To call Ursula Burke’s exhibition profound and seeing the past ages of the fragile relationships we have with the world beyond the horizon, all having different surroundings is a huge understatement.
The Church axis blocked by a darn Bank in the seventies
The original much loved building seen only close up
The view removed
Spot the awful Hamilton Architects tin additions – go to the Park to see more!
A certain Arch practice obliged in providing a set of designs for Buildings along the pavement edge for QUB Estates but thankfully they were dropped. Who on earth thought it was a good idea in the first place? How did the architects not see the Mies relation of a tower set back, which mostly is disregarded, but nevertheless is essential and the reason why the Ashby building sits so well and has added a fine natural corner in a highly used and mixed use area by landscaping relating to both the location and the building. ?
Take home your rubbish or drop in the bin nearby kindly placed by the BCC fgs
The Red Devil’s will return
Oscar Wilde went through this doorway – and came out again – around 1888?
Gods own
Tulips
Tim what were u thinking?
Isolate and educate
Is that corner not inappropriate? asked the dog
Bresson got there and found this
Perspective found this
Spot the roof add ons to the Museum (the tropical ravine was not restored well – it now has 2 roofs and a walkway) did anyone visit the beautiful Kew Gardens version? Staggering here!
Where have all the cars gone?
Barbecue Ribs overdone
Don’t look behind me – there’s a facsimile Library – don’t believe the brochures it’s 20/21at century architecture honest and C.S. Lewis would have been aghast!
A meaningless adoration with space above – is it a bell tower a lighthouse or folly?
Time to return home

All views are my own in this essay.

John Graham

2 May 2020

Belfast

image

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Artist Unknown : Known Art PRONI – QSS Belfast

Artist Unknown : Known Art

The Artist remains anonymous leaving conjecture to the fore though the relevance of the art itself is slowly releasing its objective aims. Seeing the work in this very laidback utterance of records waiting inspection is highly immersive. It affords a massive degree of development of anyone’s perspective. Without a creative narrative other than the short circumspect motives of lauding to the place and context no genus loci is foremost. The 22 years of work are seen in a few items, 22 or thereabouts. Counting the past and Colouring the past all recall time.

With an exhibition title the past is somewhere in these pieces. Colour is the apparent manifestation but achieving a connection or correlation is intangible. That is not a downfall but a point at which to travel on to another aspect. These materials are the essence of an experience encountered either through words or the books and documents happened upon. Over a period of 22 years there are perhaps gaps and peaks. There is not reference other than a phrase at each piece that itself is a code of words themselves ambiguous and tertiary. That is itself a form of approaching record and memory as we all know how fragile and open to interpretation that can be.

The words written here are borrowed as well as an appreciation of the leap onto a fixed point taken in time where a sudden phrase or vision is unfolded.

Not displayed. Displayed.
Ideas embraced are kept away from the identity narrative but embrace here 22 objects in materials honed on material. I thought of the art here maybe being made by a machine, and unlike a machine art combines narratives set to provide us with a set of visions and understandings from an initial connectivity.


The scope is left uncertain and aim is intense recalling observation now illuminated and entrusted to cabinets and walls displayed in accordance with expressed wishes so far as can be understood. Pairs. Light. Single eye level sight. Triptych on a line separated by a height on the line of sight each a crest fallen or risen. Stark daylight comes in window filtering shifts outside of time passing. Inside merging with LED and spotlight directed on other things. Room of sides. Some open. Cases repeat use. Different context. Explaining objects. Deciphering others perceptions. Editorial nuance. Collaborations of consent. Elaboration sent.

Time remains constant meaning fluid as metal. Sheets of glass hang as semi-state liquids. Porcelain is stacked along a wall in glass cubes solitary as Meissen mutable bodies violations of humanity stocked for future recall and memory yet discarded invisible broken and rendered gas in a fire. Dacha porcelain melted through malleable corrupted expedient obedience.
Set in a case intact still and caught in hubris and artful connectivity. Light shades it’s luminous transparency. A balance is found. Memory invoked. No story told. Ideas flow. Here are examples of the Porcelain on display and in this place is taken the viewer elsewhere without delving into specific references.

October 24th 1777
A true Genius will always Remember
to Leave a Space – unwritten – to Come in
Contact with the wax or wafer – by which
Means – the Reader Escapes – half an hours
Puzzle to Make out a Sentence – & Ever
while you live – never Omit – no –
not – that – what! – what! – dates! – dates! –
am not I a Grocer? –
pun the 2d –

The daily choices determined your mood and discard elements of the past lurking in the shadows of the day’s past. Those days recall the spaces left empty.

Magic is before you still as the ever-present it looks to you and asks what it means for you to take it in. Thus the art is realised. Somewhere a forgotten energy stored is released and summons you to the garden. It is earth stood on it is a thin veil of crust over a molten melting furnace we inhabit. Those metals surge to meet us and the conglomerate spells of their integrity allow the freedom to explore ourselves.

Here are some titles – they are random like a memory.

No. 7 October 22d 1778
My Dr friend
have you never – beheld – a Bust with
double – no! – not double – but with
two Very diferent profiles – one Crying
& one Laughing – thats just my
Situation at Present – for poor
De Groote – huzza – is Presented to
the Charter house – by – Bless him –
the good Arch XXXX Bishop of Canterbry,
but, by a standing law, he can not be
admitted till a Fresh Quarter begins –
& as he says – he may be dead by that
time – we will hope not – well this is
the Laughing Side. – The Duke of
Queensberry died this morning –
alas – ‘I ne’er shall look upon his like again’

the Clearest Head & Humanest of Hearts
I have – in common with many –
many – a Heavy loss – I loved the
good Duke – & not without Reason –
he is Gone to Reap a Reward – that
St Paul could not Conceive – in the
flesh – & which I will be bold to
say – they both – Perfectly
Enjoy – at this moment. God
of his Mercy Grant – that thee & I,
& all I love – yea & all I know
may Enter Eternity with as promising
hopes – & Realize the Happiness – in store
for such as the Duke of Queensberry

Far from the element of truth is the offer of alternatives equally valid and worth consideration. It is why the pages are filled with narrative in our daily lives and completion for new thoughts materialised as conjunctions in science discovery or rationally deduced revision is found in the capsule of a moment in time and then the dialogue moves on. This art is a message in that context. Colouring the past is cumulative and expansive in its scope. The offer made is to unearth your own archeological logic of existence.

Colouring The Past – 5 Feb to 31 Mar
Exhibition, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI)
in Belfast.

An exhibition by Antico

Influenced by both the colours of ancient manuscripts and the vivid emotions of jazz, this unique exhibition brings together twenty two works which span twenty two years of output from this artist. The music that influenced the artistic practice will play during the opening event.

Antico has studied archives and artefacts across the world and drawn upon this experience to imagine a sense of the past. Our concept of the past offers us the opportunity to reflect upon history on a more personal level. What can this body of work tell us now?

Venue: Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, 2 Titanic Boulevard, Titanic Quarter, Belfast BT3 9HQ

QUEEN STREET STUDIOS BLOOMFIELD AVENUE

Emergence III Is the third iteration/showcase of recent graduates from Belfast School of Art facilitated by QSS
New start
The Graduate degree show put together at QSS Queen Street Studios is located within the new premises acquired over last year and shows also its heft under the fragile spaces artists within a sector very short on resources and is a very good taster of work unfolding. Their; QSS, helping other artists is just a token and sign of the reservoir of good functioning practice within the local art community. ‘Joy for humans lies in human actions; kindness to others, contempt of the senses, the interrogation of appearances, observation of nature and of events in nature.’ Marcus Aurelius. Some of these boxes are already ticked here.

17 artists are on show. Works vary from Silkscreen prints, Acrylics on Canvas, Oil paintings, mixed media including soap, embroidery, some recycling and a small but very thorough working of Sculptural themes which I set about writing first given they gained my interest most.

Sculpture
Fantastical, celebratory, lighthearted and evocative are some of the other boxes ticked. In the centre of the main room is a water closet. It sits in a white container gridded with black lines and it spills as the Trevi fountain or the Peeing cherub the pure aqua normally associated with cleansing, so an opposite act is in is circulated and no overflowing content is uncontained. The overflow is circulated and no overflowing content is uncontained. A paradox of a loo.

Leoni Hill Why is this failing?

There is a section of floor where a carefully curated set of (paper) banana skins. Decorated and plain on the plane of the floor making a forest of little yellow hills. Like an aspect of a terrain visited and a banana republic is happened upon this is a bit of a confounding mystery to some. Asked what the the bananas were about the best instant reaction was, ‘About £2 a kilo.’ Somehow it may cost more in time.

For some unknown reason I happened to think the room was containing objects and a collection of art that were speaking to each other. Not to overdo the sense I was struck by how for example the work was a course of art development and we were looking at the present form of expression and how this generation or group were seeing the volume of, the globe of, nature of art and its ability to convey an interest or view. Very few pieces if any failed in that respect.

The most interesting work and I saw it in the RUA 2019/2020 show was Lens II which is so delicately realised and fine tuned it will adapt to whatever situation it finds itself in. Though it would be wise to keep it away from natural sunlight in case it’s lenses ignite a combustible material it might focus on.

Aimee Nelson Lens Structure 2

The exhibition has more sculpture and it is worth attention. With this work by Paddy McKeown an example of making magic from simple shapes. This time a cone.

The many paintings on display are across a spectrum of approaches with pattern often appearing and the emergence of the stylised Hockney type openness to figurative abstraction immersed in colour. Without the Californian weather. An intelligence of culture and political immobility is captured or occasionally alluded to. The lack of prescriptive dialogue is a sign of carefully avoiding a rhetoric or belonging in a timeframe. The acuteness of single works is evident in many pieces, the accurate vision of natural landscapes as recomposed in singular visions is a frequent art narrative and is continued here.

I liked the work of Anna Horathova who along with her sister are working in fine art photography and other mediums. This photograph is taken in Kiltonga Woods Newtownards. It is a beautiful atmospheric paper print.

Here are some very nice pieces of work proving it is hard to distinguish or correlate a critical view on anything as there is much to be absorbed and much to find in the future from these works.

Something to rest your head on.

All views are merely opinion and hopefully are an insight to the works here shown.

John Graham

14 February 2020

Belfast

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Platform Arts+Engine Room Gallery end of 2019 show

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The Gallery explains

An end of year show is a challenge for artists and attendees alike. The entry point is for the artist confining their conversation to one item or piece. Some find it irresistible to go triptych or expand a theme. Beginning middle and end. Other artists, and I will return to a particular energised and totally consuming piece later, @ERG, distill an immediate point in the journey of creating art by signalling an epic piece they can’t contain or control within a show or gallery devoted to the work they have in the past year or longer. They have created a theme which they are committed to and continue to approach with nuance and exposition of stages or a stage in learning and added towards a very involved and very involving set of conjunctions which are all the better for seeing in the care taken in collating the process.

There are even the individual ease of conscious pieces. The piece that is an expression of the soul at ease and visual visible contentment with the form of making art and communicating across a range of experiences and expectations. In writing this corrective text through up a word close to but not the one you are seeking but the temptation and I do not discard it, is to use it to elucidate on the subject being addressed. There is a common shape to the artists vein and implies that is physical and abundant in its delivery of energy. A compact.

The View Platform Arts Belfast Members Show

Gallerist type paintings appear. The paintings of painting and these are forms of colour which are a difficult ‘oeuvre’ a favourite word Van Gogh used while learning his own use of colour.

There are floor art pieces one being an all seeing robot home floor cleaner and in an attempt to stop sabotage or intended pet surveillance carrying a dash cam which is low strung video no one will ever watch.

The white wall has a screen sometimes awake to show the domestic dust gathering excursions. Belfast City Council will have their eye on this and the leaf gathering and tins, bottles and crisp packets can inform urban and city life. It can become a streaming service and you get to see the poo and street level debris those commuted and conscientious street sweepers deal with on a daily basis is not unreal. One thing it is essential not to do is flatter as sooner or later you will have no critical aim, and it is helpful I think for different views to emerge while bringing more thought and questioning that eventually a higher level of observance and recognition of a work or piece is obtained. So that requires an attitude independent of all others.

Give a dog a bomb.

Seeing sculpture with a beer in your hand can be frightening occasionally. Reading the piece no.14 Gerard Carson – Landarmour 2019 – you alight on the idea of its nearness to primordial warfare. It is a piece so well conceived and directed the balance of this thin animalistic form all bones and little steel junctions animated is pressing ahead, while static, assuming a hatred and visible increasing acerbic intent. In the canine form of a head the delicate touch of a golden bomb is clenched sausage like, a wire leading from behind it to the clenched imposters jaw.

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The strain in a heartbeat – for the work is able to throw instant ideas and assemblages of thought at you – is of knowing this is a simple well balanced object created to imitate a widely held fear and up close and personal unintended closeness. You are witness to imminent fatal savageness. Can you recall the piece seems to ask the walk home or in a crowd on a bridge a stranger appear and you see there is a bomb in its jaw. Then there is the white chain. That sign it is danger freed. The white links tethering it broken and the ideas adding layers of unprotection. Clear and present danger. Is there a phrase to capture it? No justice is here? Why me? The work is on the one hand aimed at disconcerting amusement in the sum of its parts while in the other taking that device and throwing at you an immensity of fear. It may not create distress given the location and knowledge art is its collateral, it nevertheless surprises even mildly shocks that the pieces title leads you towards.

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Alliteration
Painting is a recurring and thankfully continuing form used by current young artists. There is one of those triptych type installations. no.1 Jill Quigley Funhouse 2019 – being first a dibond print painting unhung but propped with the centrepiece a grid of screen prints on paper of pictures of decorators, with separate primary colour paper taped to each other as a gallery of paint in progress. Then the third elect which was 9 stacked acrylic painted abstracts.

They each were fine small boards but became a very enlivened image as it was apparent each board was not connected to the next unlike the taped middle piece but relying on staggered lines of 3 belonging together as a group but none having any connection other than abstraction to any other. The presence of all 3 is placed in a corner this gallery has history in. A Hugh Mulholland piece simple folded sheet I remember perfectly accepting the genus loci of the space – being around the corner.

Stillness
The painting element gained a strong presence in 2 expressionist works of places. One no.16 Jess Gunn Midnight panic 2019 – a large room informally defined overview with a empty loom type chair.

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The closeness to the lightly flat shapes were warming and inviting a story. The geometry an important and strong lever to getting into this scene. The other is a small and square object based view of a place. The industry of high contrast colour of inhabited space deliver a simple form of shapes that informally suggest a garden corner with brickwork, stool, leaning pad and plant pot giving this impression.
It is a confident and lovely work showing a lightness of touch and some gravitas concerning defining or inhabiting a place possibly to obtain enjoyment. The thing I see most is the discover many new artists take of avoiding decoration.

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The absence of fine point pattern, detail, exactness, being a thing of digital images that when joined with painting – Des Edwards is an exponent of that arresting potential – see ERG no.7 Wormhole II – are themselves amazing so this is on the journey that dispels the past and states a local and intimate image that is really the interior mind. That being the imaged observation made by the artist of a place in now or a future seen. Is there a Paula Rego angst waiting to be revealed?

Small room spaces alight
The references are fine transmuting landscapes and figures laden onto a wild physical form. In some you see the trees and building farms with light falling on fields or streams brown on blue. Light coming through as sketched outline and as blurred background. All is calm reflection rather than problematic to look at and the names give some context for the story held. In no.24 Lianna McKinney Riverbank I saw the shapes tell tales of solitude in several rural guises. There are many pieces in the room all worth exploring. no’s. 18 > 25.

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Timber refined
In the quest to find a reason for accumulating things – ‘…of a problem of material insistence’. came in work no.11 Damien Magee

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An infinite curve showing a collaboration of materials that became a uniform assembly of very separate things. On the wall is a transparent manifestation of a grid as a backdrop to a form of order. In front is an artists easel, clasped in its clamps a series of itemised cassette covers ranges in accordance with size. They create a beautiful frontispiece in this summation of collections things and are posited as art in that easel. The frame is beginning to unfold the narrative of material very conversationally. We all are collectors of something or other. Something or other. The leaden words of hoarding. Here the accumulated elements are set as figures in the world of content. Where are the artists and music of these cassette memories. Elsewhere and alongside to complete the picture is a seat that fascinated me through its obscure though entirely reasonable engineering. I love the use of sustainable constructions and this was the winning element to my consc c

What it is, is a seat or bench made with sourced birch or sandalwood, a strong kiln dried wood which has through the economies of cutting created different sizes – around an inch to two inches and lengths then layered as and bonded to a layer below with the purposed random selection assembled to create a strong flat deck. It is separated by a gap, a split in the centre and the frame it sits on is of the same form of construction. The splayed legs are also timber engineered by bonding with the whole being a piece of fine contemporary furniture.

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I once had to recreate a huge Church (hyperbolic paraboloid shaped) roof using the same technology. In that case it was forming the roof edge structures by Glulam beams and rarely used since the popularity of its modernist use in the sixties, 20c. It not only created a lightweight self structuring roof form relatively quickly, it created a large clear floor plan.  There is a new mosque in Cambridge (Cambridge Central Mosque £23m) that has a roof supported by a spread of timber columns radiating that do not work in a sustainable way nor excel as a device to create wide spans but are for effect.

A different timber engineering company (Japanese) has recently bought 40% of Manchester’s Urban Splash and that signals the technology growth and this time sustainably. They use a laminated beam to make good design work as residential forms. It’s highly ingenious and brings many types – they don’t use a hyperbolic paraboloid roof but maybe someday as a large span several storey height complex.

There is a theme here which is seen in a similar way in the work here below.

https://www.jmkac.org/exhibition/2018/unseen-forces/blagdon

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Emery Blagdon was a pioneer of the subjective sculptural and painting combinations that evolved through, in his case a feeling of incapacity to heal himself his ailing mother.  This is not a widely held expression of the reasons behind his work but I see it in this and even the Peter Mooney work you will read about further on in this blog.

The ‘Wiki’ on Emery tells us he was born aged 112!  This could prove to be correct.

……. Description Emery  O. Blagdon was an American artist. Wikipedia
Born: 25 July 1907 (age 112 years), Callaway, Nebraska, United States

‘He added brightly colored paintings with concentric circles and angular lines to serve as generators or reflectors of natural forces, an essential part of The Healing Machine’s overall structure. Blagdon believed the static charges and the emanating aura of these entities exuded curing properties for those experiencing intense physical and emotional suffering.

Blagdon’s artist-built environment makes visible the power of belief and the complexity of human emotion.‘

On Platform and this exhibition 

There is undoubtedly in this form of art elements of ‘Raw Art’ I see in this new work.  While clearly all the pieces are not in this vein and cannot be extrapolated in a general view like this I found there were works that required some further comparisons.  The story is almost always a human reaction to the world and it’s often portrayed in Art History as belonging to the psychotic or disturbing preoccupations of mental illness and often confinement.  This could also be described as confinement art.  Art of the imprisoned mind.  The physical and spiritual fixitude.  Nevertheless it destroys the notion of the wider notions and parallels existing in other art.  Vincent Van Gogh and other explorative painters and sculptors.  Even Pablo Picasso was an enfant terrible in his anxiety of purpose. His furrowed brow told you this.

After WWII, art of the insane gained support from European artists as a reaction against the Nazi condemnation of Degenerate Art in 1937. Dubuffet continued his research and began to look at artworks from prison inmates, psychics, and autodidacts, which had a direct influence on the development of his art. From the 1950s through the 1960s Dubuffet resided in the United States and brought along some artworks from his Art Brut Collection; this lead to the developing American interest in this specific art form.

This is a clear connection of abstraction with in Emery Blagdons case, using materials and forms he called kinetic, from the main body of contemporary work never made connective.  Here is an example.

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More Emery Blagdon works –

The previous Platform Art exhibition – Paul Hallahan and Lee Welch, reviewed in a previous blog, was not inclusive of installation pieces but it was an example of this essential dilution of thought compressed energetically into work will avoiding the figurative realism and representative interpretation of place or volumes.  That is near to the famous work The Healing Machine.  It is as if we are locked into, when viewing art the healing machine accessed by and through art and artists.

The Engine Room Gallery

The chance for Engine Room Members and Artists to once again revisit and introduce new work was skillfully displayed as always.  There is plenty of space to see the work mostly painting hung in the professional way Cliff Brooks as Chief Curator always provides.

This Gallery has had a huge stable year in producing very good shows and opportunities for long established and young artists alike.  The generosity of spirit is a very important conrtributor to the whole of work on these islands and encourages new work to be seen in a democratic setting.

I refered eaelier to a piece which is in touch with the material consumption we are a complicit, some not all authors of.   The medium of Gallery Art Work is a constant litmus test.  Ranging from the eccentricity of Austin Clarke and his controlled anger at the panoply of values stacked and falling in the worlds destructive direction made real. Marmite is just one outlook.

Painted Man

Peter Mooney should never be underestimated indeed his work should often be lauded as it speaks to us in a rich and provocative while gentle ‘ouerve’ always enlightening to look at and think about.  No less this piece.  no.37. Construction.

Other work and I will given more time put up further commentary on is in abundance here.

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There have been many good shows in Northern Ireland this year and I’ve written only about a few with other responses writing about an artists work in direct communication. What I have to raise is one Exhibition made a lasting impression was at Ps2 part performance and part a work conceived and relating to the interior and location it was presented in on Royal Avenue.

A powerful year Ps2
This is life and no a fantasy by Ieva Rojūtė March/April 2019.
The Lithuanian artist brought a connection across inspiring thoughts on the conditions and lives, and not only the transitory fragile harmful journey of East Europeans but sole for all in these times when political as well as the economic migration Ireland has too long been immersed in, it delivered a radiance and hope of human nature. By focusing on the person and through the experience the Gallery put the artist into was a fantastic enlivening and spiritual recognition of human strengths and resilience while tragedy often overcomes the person sometimes on the slightest thing and finally so.
I was very impressed at how Ps2 and Ieva Rojūtė levered into the space these thoughts and the practice of the artist was very well considered and utterly conscious of the world rstate in this minute space.
The art of the familiar shown as a guide bearing witness on multiple diverse journeys.

Ieva Rojūtė has work that expands and explores this widely on many forms and types of media. A cultural exchange is the process but that itself is a consequence of the today media access and it’s as if the person is as the doors of reconciliation in Dublin’s St Patrick’s Cathedral speak through a door and a hand put through the closed to the other side to symbolise a change and reconciliation. It gave rise to the expression chancing your arm which nowadays is less conciliatory but slang removing the original meaning.

All views are my own in this essay.

John Graham

11 December 2019

Belfast

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Catalyst Arts + Platform Art’s – November 2019

Past pleasures

November has come and gone and plans to get a blog out were thawrted and put aside but having started I think it worthwhile to put across what I observed and some reaction to the very good shows is to be put in writing along with some visual elements from the shows.

I take a long external look at the needs of art and how responses are so important to us in this and other times.

First is foremost
Whatever you conceive of as a concept it becomes a philosophy by being first ‘a specifically philosophical groundwork acquired through original self-activity, and therewith that firmness of basis, that genuineness of root which alone makes real philosophy possible.’

It is fascinating the syntax of language in forming the above view is heavily grammatically dependant on instilling adjectives which are themselves from nature. The beginning is based in the reality of known things such as ‘groundwork’, ‘activity’, ‘root’. The core is this use age which enables visualisation and connection to an idea which is never seen until the expression of it. Paint is the same in its development and execution of internal ideas.
The invisible Kantian standpoint of an a priori point of it existing before the present becomes a transcendency.

Patterns are the evolution microbial atom generator and the invisibility is the lock which holds the structure of existence together and in continual metamorphosis. So many artists are pattern seekers and evolve beyond that to contain pattern by dislodging the media to create another element.

With Athenite precision the artist has got hold of an idea which contains two parts. One is the unseen part and fanciful (not at all used in a derogatory way) but the construction manifesting other events. The Second is the fluid substantial existence of a manifest part. The actual physicality and production of the piece. It is experienced in a time portion while altering through its own structures of connections which Thirdly we stand apart from and linearly observe. When we are gone it continues as something other.
So there are in actual fact three not two parts.

Platform First

There is a unique moment of confluence, a meeting of ideas and about the coming together of factors or ideas. With an important harmony in Platform Gallery the works individual and combined of Paul Hallahan and Lee Welch show development is a matter of choice and is able to form from separate choices. How this is effected is not the point but it is neither unimportant this synergy is playing out with the work of different artists.
In a busy remorseless cascading visual feast in all media – print and font are implicit in having us observe an image or product. Here there is refuge from overindulgent and a coat of many colours identity crisis projected in abstract expressionism.

The certitude of form and editorial is harnessed with skill and amplitude by both artists. Seeing these paintings has a zen effect and a kind of primordial response as it seems they convey aim the chosen restrictions on marks and even in Lee Welch’s formative native kind of expression leads you on a journey forward but also and more so in the basic origins of pictorial sensitivity. By not approaching the tropes of restoration and period art they employ a vision of familiar participants in art.

Paul Hallahan has developed a water based approach devoid of rush or sudden instant immersion by using that watery transfer of colour in a fluid orchestral way. He has said he often paints with music as a soundscape. It could be fast in tempo or pastoral and it’s not necessary to know but it indicates the phenomenology of painting in a continuity of deliver of what inspires to what we are responsive to. Time is therefore another aspect and the work has a form in advance but fluctuations as it evolves it would appear.

Paul Henry is a reference point as is Grace Henry who is supposed to have combined the paint palette for the condition of colour blindness that only became publicly known sometime after his passing. The implication is that the essence of colour and the loss of sight by Monet and Matisse made them obtain aspects of their art no less beautifully formed as we appreciate those as well as the untroubled – can they be called ‘sight paintings’? They would have painted the tones of the day, where they were in the light preferred as observed and dusk daylight dawn, were in all parts equal.

Choosing to work in minimal ways the exchange of tones is enlivened beyond colour comprehension and maybe stimuli of full colour is set aside for another more subtle and in some sense moving flowing confluence akin to ‘event’ ‘occurence’ and not derivative of symbolic figurative themes. It is in my fires more a case of taking familiar art history themes and advancing current contemporary messages as visual – that word again I’m afraid! – confluences.

This essence is apparent in both artists with the combined work and its admirable the suspect ego often carried in creative work as a driver is confidently never present in canvases that are again taking colour and absences – Lee Welch has as colour the canvas chosen to be worked and both enjoy the informality and microbial speech patterns of canvas. It is even more enjoyed when you realise this exhibition is in a former line house trade building and flax colour is very provocative with the light poring in from the Antrim Hills beyond Belfast where the bleaching process took place to end up as finished damask in these trading and storage facilities.


When you look at the canvas there is a sense of journey intended or otherwise implied where damask and silver tableware is symbolic as it is tiny in the ‘period’ leanings of art history and patronage seen in several paintings. That is remarkable and what Gerard Carson’s recently passed father Cairan would have seen as that complex thing Happenstance. Really remarkable as the work in the Gallery shows. The work is an essay in show – the word show. The directness and need to or not to analyse the work is the appearance for our pleasure and experience to behold. There is communication on many levels in all the work.

In the small space there is the video installation of Paul Hallahan’s dog who has passed away. She is a pure bred Black Labrador retriever and is seen from beyond the grave. It is a homage to a well known and sadly missed and wonderful artist and person William McKeown who passed so young. His partner arranged the showing of a film in his honour of his ‘howling’ dog at a memorial and today his work is on show at Talbot Rice Gallery Edinburgh. Notable simplicity and connections can be made.

Catalyst Arts November

Hyperobjects Catalyst Arts until 5 December 2019

This exhibition has 10 contributors. 1 of which is the archive of Art Research Matters,and artists define the space as a unit of material examinations very attuned to the wastefulness alongside natural productivity of earth’s compass. It is enthralling and exotically bewildering as the newness of each action is absorbed in time. I will not dwell on too many pieces as the whole is comprehensively covered in a Catalyst Arts well written exhibition note as following on from – as a logical exposition of the joint Arts Research Matters (the meaning is fluid) with among others Platform Arts – the Timothy Morton hyperobject Styrofoam. I loath the word while it represents a hideous amalgam of architectural, construction utility devoured in multiple global buildings and often adored homeware pieces.


In the case of Jez riley French a performance of dissolving music into found objects and tailing his own sonic collection was a great event in it arriving as a soft piece of gentle and intrinsic intricate of how sound exists everywhere. In silent places unvisited using his much loved and Attenborough films and multiple geographies of screen and exhibition spaces. The detail is from his dissolving in acid ancient glacier rock and we hear the release of the trapped air from millions of years ago. It is symbolic of the dissolution of our existence and elsewhere in the Catalyst Arts space the combination of objects is the counter and opposite narrative. By hearing this dissolve in the library of other sounds the ecology of our universe is made real again in art form. Matmos is an artist video with the music developed an relayed through video and the plastic contained in an album sleeve alongside for posterity.

Then the glass containers the sound was mixed in are sitting still and some osmosis is carrying on. of Slime Dynamics II. Jasmin Märker

The opposite narrative is explored by Jasmin Märker has a derivation which is scientific and natural. It’s described limitingly as bio-art. By the combining of elements, some already composed from other chemicals like those combined to make plaster, fertiliser, there is an exploration of what happens when these elements (the list of others contains foraged mushrooms, oat bran, common house spider along with other ‘objects’). It has the Hyperojects exhibition name, a bit off putting, of Slime Dynamics II. Jasmin Märker is straight to the point. The installation takes the form of preformed tiles and accompanying wall pieces that create a luxurious environment. Much as our own earth is a luxury environment which in no small element remains a luxury.

The installation is in my eyes that ‘platform’ Jasmin creates for the amalgam or organic actions to continue once introduced to each other. It is as a W ord sits alongside another and describes another form. The object be it of our desire or destruction. In conversation with the artist I obtained recommended reading. In pursuit of silence. Film. Timothy Morton Humankind. It is a book on human nature. This recommendation is parallel and touches on the way the forms we see represent in a way the manner creation happens. The impulsive narcotic behaviours compelling us to think and mutate in art form and in our lives. The geography is changed. Here is a small contemplation in an arts space. Returning to the space after a week or two the evolving matter is alive and well. It proclaims the miracle of existence not only of ourselves but the matter that strings us together and connects us with this unexplained existence. The nature is absorbing and trough their piece which I find to be – after the signs floated in the audio of Jez Riley French totally successful in its object. Hyperobject in many layers of meaning and was seen and continues to put forward notions of what that metamorphosis is dong in the present time.

The actual location is being microbiology at work and even the doors are providing defences and barriers to the installation within.

There is insufficient time or space in this critique to cover the other installations but it is safe to say they all collectively made a deep impression and expanded the means of learning objectively.

Sent from my iPad

All views are my own in this essay.

John Graham

3 December 2019

Belfast

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The Milkman : A Review

This is time before.

The Milkman

Things happen in a dislocated way unhinged but always relentlessly moving forward as though it was normal or a normal in need of explanation. Events occur unexplained or unexpectedly such as the punch through at the car spares incident then the disappearance of the maybe boyfriends parents. Who fed them? Were social workers around?

These things of narrative causality happen in waves. They approach and space out time while the core element – the character of the first person is built up with a clinging to books centrally as an escape mechanism. Others have drink terrorism and abuse as their chosen escape.

There are period books making the person appear detached as other novelists frequently do, particularly women writers to detach themselves from the hurtful content within their existence. It is a shameful existence but other people’s shame. Tristam Shandy. Then Ivanhoe as a tumult of adventure and Action is full of consequence so the maybe device is a counterpoint to reality in the readers mind. Why are you not in a fit of rage? why put up with these folk behaving this way? The point is she is acknowledging powerlessness while keeping ownership through her imagination of different results. They do not occur but the device of detachment through books and the maybe non commitment trope becomes even more important.

The descriptions of the other characters fall into the nerve centre of our own recollections of people by the pigeon-holing of divisions. Particularly in memories relevant to those in this place though in a discussion group (local) we discovered the story can transport itself to other world locations in various periods – all continents apply here. It reflects our use of certain devices and influences, religious, familial and political. For external readers it puts a distorted portrait of life through comparison with her analytical forward and the skill is this bombardment and collection of words repetitive, relentlessly conversing, traversing, turned inside and out creating a burden and baggage as relentless narrative and the method used pours out the realism in a literary form untroubled by convention. Is it successful or purposeful? Sometimes it is a strain and not needed for local enlightenment but it ‘maybe’ storytelling of necessity because of the question – how do you explain this idiocy to outsiders.

The waterworks is a good place to start with the runner separating themselves and keeping ahead. We found the author was a prolific runner in her Belfast days and this is a known quantity therefore and useful metaphor and device. The other – the milkman appears – I think of the milkman running with his underling running behind saying in a squeaky voice ‘BillynoBilly slow down tell me what you want me to do’ the hideous violent edifice is held in a pyramid of interlocking pieces – all secterian people need apply – (Anne Burn eschews the – dash – used in previous work and enters into a T.S.Eliot freeform (other non para writers need not apply) ) all feeding of each other’s fears including the milkman’s. It is found his quest is not fulfilled or being according to script or scripture – morality is a sideline.

Tribeca boundaries are disintegration in modern vandalism.
What’s the difference between a Belfast playground and a Belfast Building site? On the building site you have to wear hi- vis vests.

Living on integrity street is a red rag to some. There are some near the knuckle insights into the background of power Demi – Monde figures. Their life being a corrupted one itself. The renouncers are to the forefront neither antagonists nor perpetrators of the nub of the conflicting views but part of its origin. The origin is living in them. They will not let go or relent nor why should they as they carry the converse.

An exercise in not being vigilant and as communal treatise it sends the message, by your insouciance you are as bewildered as the next person only they are loud sometimes and cannot conceal their disgust, like the deflection of nuclear boy seeking a rabbit hole unique to himself. Purely a coping mechanism. Third brother in law was fiendishly caught up rag bag of emotions. Wildness in the park was routinely a road or pathway to keep to those steps and forward, were important in that wilderness.

Then there are the mind games that occupy the novel and the cars, cameras, all dissociative objects put into the flat screen narrative where we look back from into this seventies eighties scenario, in a analogous box in the corner – that huge period tv is now regurgitating the troubles into living rooms while simultaneously existing in the street red or not.

Sunset on Lisburn (referring to the classes and opening new vistas) opens up a whole new horizon. The limitless sky. There is no blue up there all of a sudden only other colours yet the blue is still thee.

This is a whole new meaning in viewing and seeing as observance, only comparison has been the narrative choice so far.

Interestingly the topics of rationality arise and it is as if writer is taking a tough subject and deconstructing it as words and incident – take the ‘feminist issue, France, Joan of Arc’ all interconnected through her sisters and then puts it back on the shelf in a completely reconfigured – on logics basis – neither agreeing or disagreeing but replete with new insights and a polished viewpoint.

When religion is spoken about it is when the gathering of women – “not just from the warring religions here but also a smattering of the lesser known, lesser attended to, indeed completely ignored (dissidents? quakers? evangelicals?) other religions.

Quaker
Dissidents
Evangelist
Jewish
Hindu
Muslim
Buddhist
Baha’i

The centrality of the figure of the Milkman is a contemporary attempt at conquering the male female differences without marking out new territory which feminism and other political tests that are putting out the brutality of a male centric dynamic which is seen tangible through the needs of the women, who try and establish her as one of them, in a flawed reasoning, as writer is gearing in her own mind voices neither of male or female constraints.

The poisoners tale. Laid up and legs do they work today? Then there is the momentous the purse is reached for for in the house when the purse is reached for the clasp opened then something big is happening. It could be something is so fraught a chip dinner is needed there is no time for a dinner to be made. Monumentous.

The death of the milkman after so many state mistakes was followed by an epiphany as the survivors, mostly the edge of proceedings males and the feminists who didn’t know they were feminists, taking a step into the blue yonder and the sky and sunsets were as always thee and always altering in colour and hue. Intensity works only for some for others it’s poisonous and some will over you solutions which are indigestible.

The Snibby McSnib drew backward as the door opened. They went in and we stepped over the trampled hedge and Bolty McBolt laughed.

Precursors – The disused cottage in Wexford (where the English landed) Derek Mahon is cited by some for it’s similar exposition.

Mushrooms looking at the keyhole and the light.

The meaning is squeaky clean and the pages turnable. Necessity is the mother of ruin.

John Graham

Belfast

16 January 2019
 

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More unattended wisdom!
Nietzsche did not accept this
synaesthesia Idea developers enlighten.

The eternal recurrence of the same. Is not the reparative always seeming a negative as it is past tense. Nietzsche declined to bite that apple. Instead the dilemma takes on a whole greater extension of its thinking as a positing of the notion of parallels which undertake change providing constant revision yet are totally different presences of the same outcomes.

The phenomenon of light is itself not seen to contain everything of the world or universe as was the sought meaning – held to bear – but synaesthesia is a characterisation of existence of a foretold truth lying within the science of elementary life.

The turmoil is unchanging as the spectacle is only moderately altering and its transformation is seen as cast but is itself timeless in the body we are within.

The universe as the body. Music is mere mathematical theory in search of harmony in a fixed range of audibility which we have limited access to. To be faithful to your existence you have to embrace failure and disappointment renewal of ones self. Treating the imposters of those emotional experiences as temporary fate.

Greater fate waits as the discovery of the world reveals new stories, the same told though synaethesia as differences of the same. Religion does not disavow human nature as a temporal state outside of divine spirituality as Nietzsche dismisses religions moral authority as being without any spirit. Existence is devoid of spirit and the driver is mastery by and of the individual.

Collective states of weakness he saw as behaviours themselves a mediocrity of shameful non persuasion. Unintentionally he cast or maybe purposely the majority in conformity of charity or good deeds as playing to the lowest stare while ignoring it most certainly was what made his ideas real.

The masses were the foundation stones for greatness to be built on and were themselves mighty realizations of the strength of character which had them rejoice at oneness and an equality that perpetually remained a moral goal and having religion as its guide to express this hitherto unobtainable virtue, he neglects to understand the meaning of science.

Just as he rejected Wagners themes of mathematical expressions embracing as the did temporarily good and evil those poles were transcended by musical composition of a modulation and harmonic derivation which confounded the masters of good and evil within it. He rejected Wagner while seeing a state of hubris in performance that live on Switzerland had made him unprepared to accommodate.

The great Shakespearian depths of despair and the radical inward thinking had people inventing extensions to language to keep averse with the telling of a playwright. A mere writer not of sound bites and moral treatise but the gambit of conflicting harm and joy set in again a synaesthesia.

The authors of the Age of Enlightenment were far more in philosophies terms, a visionary realm of ideas developers. Their riches poured out through literature beyond the unknown but the realisable. The science of seeking answers to atomic and molecular states of being.

So there is no illusion.

Modigliani Female Nude 1916 : UMNI exhibit

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The Ulster Museum is Home to the Courtauld Institute owned Female Nude 1916 by Modigliani for several months and is currently on display on Level 4. until Oct 28 2018.

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In situ

In 1916 Amedeo Modigliani made his mark on the roll call of innovative painters and artists by discovering for himself a means of reaching beyond the normal day to day portrayal of figures and in observing their forms and persona.  His breakthrough was immense and it presided alongside other expressionist painters as signalling their forging of a method of seeing which hitherto had been associated with the primitive art of African or Tribal representation, themselves suggestions of nation or people in the essence of their existence, in the moment to be taken as informative of them and the way they saw themselves.

 

 

There were several parallel ongoing pursuits of these ‘laws of lawless art.’  The extent to which Modigliani was alone in achieving a breakthrough of this magnitude is a debate matching infinity.  Races singled out the line and drew on walls or on pottery, or paper symbols of the most interesting thing around them, themselves. The human shape and deportment became a goal of self realisation and the life force found was firstly lent in these simple lines as a record alongside animals and adornments while they often were seen sans clothes or with few garments.  It became their projection and mirror.

 

 

Beyond the Western ideal and sanctuary of patronage and mostly hierarchal societal record including the religious there was a necessary alteration by the twentieth century, of placing a fresh editorial gaze on the act of seeing humans and how they inhabit a picture throwing new light literally on the viewers perceived recited notions of self and arts role in life.  Some later exponents went beyond this as indeed did the practioners themselves.  Picasso became an obsessive and many would say a misogynist which is see often in his work.

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F. E. McWilliam’s Gallery Banbridge Co. down. Glass cabinet image.

Level 4

The precious object that is Modigliani Female nude 1916 is in a small room of the Ulster Museum for a short period and the high Victorian windows are draped partially with protective white cloth filtering the streams of daylight found illuminating the pictures within.  The filter works and the natural light is subdued. The daylight lamps of the artificial supplementary light is carefully graded in its presence allowing the vivid colour and individuality of this work to convey its communicative self to the viewer.  Many have been and return to see it time and again because there is no solitary promised answer in reading the painting and it is continually rich in its candid figurative depiction.

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You can see a window reflected in the glass protection of the painting top left.

Other paintings such as the O’Brien do not have glass only canvas and paint between it and the viewer.

What is seen is a figure of a female regards but not regarding by returning a look. She is in a pose which neither is common or contrived.  The purpose of line is a first engagement this painter makes with his model figure. She is neither a form meant to reveal a representative body or shape of a female but is a woman whose occupation or purpose is to lead the painter towards the aim of finding a means of conveying more than the body as a form but to imbibe an essence of a human who happens to have the appealing form of a woman in her full force of life.

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Woman’s Head. Artist:Amedeo Modigliani (Italian, Livorno 1884–1920 Paris)
Date:1912. Medium:Limestone
Dimensions:26 7/8 × 6 1/4 × 9 1/2 in. (68.3 × 15.9 × 24.1 cm)
Weight: 75 lb. (34 kg), Classification:Sculpture
Credit Line:The Mr. and Mrs. Klaus G. Perls Collection, 1997

By the time Modigliani has reached this point in his life he has tried his first love, sculpture but like many artists before him it did not lend him its mystery to enable his thoughts to come out in those three dimensions.

 

In 1909, after meeting Constantin Brancusi, Modigliani began to produce sculptures by carving into stone, completing about twenty-five works throughout his short career. The style of these abstracted, elongated heads is echoed in his subsequent figure and portrait paintings. Fittingly, this particular head, with its strong connection to African sculpture, was originally owned by the American artist and African art collector Frank Burty Haviland. Haviland lived in France and Modigliani became familiar with his collection. In addition to African art, Modigliani’s sculptures reflect his knowledge of ancient Cycladic, Sumerian, Egyptian, and Greek art.  Met Museum text.

The Romanian Brancusi was a favourite and revered friend of Modigliani and the connection is not lost in the application of visual effects as one is now finding the essence of his work accessed through the simple device of line on one plane.

Simple it maybe but it is incalculably intimate in its dynamic.

Painting dynamics

The piece is regarded as having an unorthodoxy in art taking it back to the primordial instinctive throwback beyond the renaissance and challenged th mores of the world of patronage of the arts while taking out the sensuous and sexualised component and objective servile diminished role played elements often seen band depicted previously in the horizontal form that feminine objectivity Picasso had shown ‘the regard as thief of the jewels of womanhood in his Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

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Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Painting by Pablo Picasso and a Photo by David Bailey

That regard in Les Demoiselles d’Avignon being sent back with spades to the viewer looking into the collective as a band of protective women creating a homogeneous foil and asking questions of the one who seeks insight of them/selves.

Life

At the age of 35 Amedeo Modigliani became the victim of Tuberculosis and died following his earlier periods of poor health. With his frailty he was occupied in hiding the illnesses he had succumbed to by the apparent act of concealment through drug abuse and alcoholism.  In order to appear as someone whose outward demeanor may have been taken as a consequence of the behaviours of alcohol and drug consumption among his fellow artists he nevertheless was in a worse state of decline than those afflictions might have has on him.  He was know as a poetic and romantic womanizer with his personality and health possibly driving him to those distractions.

The painting

In the models flesh tones are seen the blue faint covering of the ground where his technique has built up, through modifications and layers, a semi transparency as flesh is seen damaged and slightly coarse having it seems been achieved by hard bristles and Amedeo stabbing and stippling of the bodies fleshy tones.  It is not overly done as the blue tinges are apparent beneath. Also the belly is raised by the luminousity of a white globe of her stomach giving another view and state of fecundity.

White is found in the left arm in the elbow crevice and I took that to signify and it probably is not!, vitiligo as the meaning of her vulnerable working body might be found lacking in minerals and vitamins out of a poor diet. A kind of symbolism entering. Then there are other ‘marks’ and these are widely accepted, as the appear in the lower parts of the painting due to studio carelessness.

They add, do not detract from the vitality and energy coming through the painting. This is itself a derivation of a style which an artist displaying his continued and unsettled enjoyment of his own work is temporarily in a state of transition and wondering where on the next canvas abrushes mark should be made.

The production of his ‘muse’ through this nude figure is strikingly provocative in that it undermines the stasis and unsettles by its uncompromising frankness and the perfect non sexual overtones but the strength of the woman’s body as human strongly over arching the whole of the notion of ourselves as species.

How extraordinarily perceptive and resolved this work has become in complete conflict with its dynamic and continual motion and emotional projection. This surely must have been a component in Amedeo‘s sense of himself as an artist despite his longing to be a sculptor he had reached further than his peers and created a new radicalism in acceptance of flawed beauty in painting.

There is undoubtedly life in this painting after its seemingly resolved completion. It disowns tranquility, it abhors looking as a sexualised object, it resents the act of being regarded, it shows its point of belonging in human form. There seems to be an act disassociated of itself from its locality in the composed space by the organisation of the blue ground which in the higher part is more consistent and less disturbed than the lower segment implying a wall and floor where the red couch is protected in a vague white soiled sheet just visible beneath the buttocks of the model and affording some protection in its placement.

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My sketch pastel begins! A2.  The next stage is at the foot.

The Painting & Paint colour

What if it were a drawing and without ‘colour’?  I imagined it as firstly about the act of line drawing which it has a distinctive attribute. Then I posited the thought that ‘colour’ is only an embellishment. The rendering to produce light and share dynamics. This is a very wrong attitude with which to approach it.

The form of light and shadows is fully realised, in black and white by modern photographers such as one who put this above all other considerations, David Bailey.

The conquest is seeing what the light produces but Bailey’s work is akin to drawing, being in black and white.  Here in this painting the evolution from the line element takes many side moves.  The hair in the left is seen having been taken in, maybe a bulk of hair existed formerly and was painted back; it certainly appears that way, to effect the outlines flow rather than truly represent it and the right hand, possibly present and visible at one point, is kept hidden to achieve the flow of the line.

Then there is the mystery or discarding of a primary light point.  There is only the front universal point of light which negates reasoning as to where shadow is found. The paint itself is the shading element and it’s texture the convenience delivered by brush marks and of a sharp gouging effected in the hair for example giving that plural feeling of it having neither a source but being in sculptural form a third dimension advancing with movement. Under a kind of universal light.

Perfectly flawed it is a hard act to follow and this is as I opined earlier a feature I believe which gave impetus and cause for Amedeo to produce further and more challenging work.

The maturity of the return to painting in a further simplified and reduction of marks is seen in his later work as he is vexed by the ‘treatments’ and beautiful wonderous lines of centuries before and the earlier, the more profound, its own examination rewarded him in discovery.

Additions

A year or so ago I wrote this on the predicament of the model whose anonymity is transparent as she is neither the object of the completed work nor a character assumed from the past. The aloneness and emptiness is striking now when I think of the Modigliani pursuit of his art when consumed by this painting.

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Some negative aspects relating to the curation.

If there are some criticisms of the room and it’s interpretation of the lineage and common approaches to be made, it is the use of very tenuous art held by the Gallery in its own collection as a stark contrasting difference.  The delivery is failing in many places. Using the ‘theme’ of the model is the route taken, not the act of the mark and the line.  The servile component of life modeling is a trope and not what the painting is primarily about.  Ratifying it by using a ‘portrait’ by a local artist even a twentieth century one is laying claim to small connections.  So what if the artist in the glass mosaic is featured herself within the work shown?

Being in the work as model is neither near or revelatory in the nakedness sense giving a threadbare tribute?  To artists, imagined scoping is outside the context and in fact a distraction of quite harmful presence.  There is in the ‘life model’ comparisons, only one showing the contrast between a vertical nude and horizontal nude; the latter being the previous approach taken all through and since the renaissance.  A wandering connection again is made and it is a mighty problematic one, conflicting and not a complementary distraction.

In the O’Brien Life model with a barely visible child, as with the laundry woman, there is no substantive connection whatsoever in setting it alongside, in the room as a ‘relief’ of emphasis or anything else.  An allusion is taken in respect of ‘women in 1918’ which is quite facile and out of kilter with the main work.  This phenomenon goes back centuries and still exists.  It is wholly utilised in this way I find, because of what the UM has in its collection and is clutching at straw metaphors.

The best thing to do is to ignore the room’s additional works and concentrate on the immensity of the work and avoid this distracting padding.  The abstraction of colour and choices made to effect a flow had gone missing in all other work. I found myself sketching one, the face below for example, merely to find the quality of line. I also looked at the effect of a pastel line drawing on blue paper to see the effect of the colours magic within the painting and it is obvious the line and oil is a combination which is spectacularly successful here because of it’s transparency, luminosity, roughness and eveness in parts as handled and dispersed here.

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It ended up as this.  I believe the reason it became so different and colour, which is such an incredible thing to realise in seeing the actual painting with the blue and flesh tones coming out at you from the canvas means it needed something entirly different in approach when using something other than oil paint.  This is pastel on an A3 size pastel textured blue sheet.

John Graham

3 July 2018

Belfast

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The Square : A Film Review

 

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The Square

Directed by Ruben Östlund. Produced by Erik Hemmendorf, Philippe Bober. Written by Ruben Östlund. Cast. Claes Bang as Christian, Elisabeth Moss as Anne, Dominic West as Julian, Terry Notary as Oleg Rogozjin, Elijandro Edouard as Nikki, Christopher Læssø as Michael. Cinematography, Fredrik Wenzel. Edited by, Ruben Östlund, Jacob Secher Schulsinge, Production company, Plattform Produktion, Coproduction Office.
Cert. 15. Sweden/Germany/France/Denmark 2017
Duration 142 mins

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The Object
The Square is a 2017 satirical drama film written and directed by Ruben Östlund and starring Claes Bang, Elisabeth Moss, Dominic West and Terry Notary. The film is about publicity surrounding an art installation, and was partly inspired by an installation Östlund and producer Kalle Boman had made. A co-production of Sweden, Germany, France and Denmark, it was shot in Gothenburg, Stockholm and Berlin.
Christian Juel Neilsen (Claes Bang) is the bilingual Chief Curator of the X Royal Museum in Stockholm. Julian (Dominic West) is the artist. Christian is flanked by a Contemporary Art hierarchy competing with world Museums for different ground breaking art. Where some rely on the old school contemporary artists and reframe their context his object is to project original work and capture the zeitgeist. Unfortunately for him he gathers around him the inauspicious tools of bad observation, repeated times and laboured consciousness. Vital signs are missing and backdrops of tired mendacious perfidious work are cut into the film. Maybe it was an intent. Similarly the centerpiece is a worn concept of conflicting societal battles. The feminist movements in art become like Trojan horses compared to this. Their strength lay in original modernist thought. Here a Carl Andre type warfare is present. The CA whose whole personal resume went up in smoke when the attachment to the death of his partner Cecilia Vicuña having fallen to her death from a 51 floor Hotel window. The erosion of prescriptive art took a new turn of activist art along with the fundamental causal expression of many unknown women artists. The Swedish psyche seems to harbour the checkerboard Soviet pawns of yesterday’s acceptable art. Multiple geometries are persuasive. Place many of the same objects in a Square and you have the crowd acceptance of multiple conventions.

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Psychobabble

The first thing to say about this film is that its the product of a Swedish psyche. Knowing the social contract, not Rousseau’s, that crazy but intelligent neurosis driven Swiss genius reformer who liked to run naked through the streets and be chastised by women for his brazen behaviour, not this form of social contract though parallel idioms exist and contour this film. Sweden became less polemic after the early part of the 20c as is witnessed in the libiterian plays of Johan August Strindberg, as also the films of Carl Theodor Dreyer began the journey now taken over by the modern Swedish film makers. The dynamic is not at all like Ibsen whose use of a Norwegian folklore and trolls ran almost parallel to Strindberg rationalism. In France the Dreyfus affair is part of this liberality I believe. The Jewish man sworn to have committed treason on France amongst its neighbours. All come together on the same page of the Sarajevo precipitation of the First World War. Divisions and idealist principles were conflicts repercussions.

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Boundaries

Idealism is questioned here. It is a random journey though. Having chosen art as the medium of angst head and heart problems our Chief Curator is himself disposed to accept his position as a filter of ideas. The cost is to pander to the associative burden of patronage which uses his skills as a safe haven for their dangerous liaisons with culture. Enrolled under his boss the Peggy Guggenheim type matron with a gold phone a conservative decorous contained anarchy, excited only through her game control of unruly art.

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Pitch Black

There is little by way of a story or structure other than the object of the title and how it comes to seal the deal. In conference over the forthcoming exhibition we see the assembly about him of museum staff, a ragtag rebellious contrarian and sometimes visionary humans but all are flawed scarred mental habitats of survival.

There are the subalterns a Arabic woman Nikki  (Elijandro Edouard) and a African American Michael, (Christopher Læssø) whose place is to obey yet their observations are to contribute the pathos to the absurdity of what goes on in their workplace, the boardroom and Gallery discussion groups. For artistic purposes our director throws out some bones to annoy and have an audience hyperventilate at this kitschy putsch for baggage. An elderly grandpa or late father brings a baby to the office. The future is rocked in a baby cradle. The audacious Black comedy of the meetings is like a claw hammer hitting a fine mahogany desk. In come art babes in the form of two male artist agents who are there to market and pitch their patrons product. Then there is a woman at the table who is the laptop recorder and she is seen to get excited at whatever point of incredulity we are at in any given moment. Whether it is satire or a medley of art protocols spoken as ‘art soundbites’ the meaningless is swaying around like a baby innocently in a cradle until the penny drops and the fallacy of the whole venture is brought to a conclusion, sort of. Nothing is even concluded except in the virtual world. Even the viral caustic outpouring which is the outcome of the first artistic gallery conference.

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Social Contracts

Rousseauism is of its time coming before our revolt of 1798 and France’s own tumultuous wresting of monarchy from power. Swedish psyche is foremost the subject exposing the dilemmas a social contract creates in the creative environment of an Art curators behaviour and installations. Splendidly I can refer to the recent book which sets out the exact period as a breakwater point. Now it seems the whole of Culture is taking a look back and immersing itself in the canons of the past.
Rachel Hewitt’s A Revolution of Feeling: The Decade That Forged the Modern Mind “In the 1790s, Britain underwent what the politician Edmund Burke called ‘the most importamt of all revolutions… a revolution in sentiments’. …

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Is

The Square is the installation. Like the Julie Shapiro The Dining table of 13, 13, 13, dinner plates representing by illustrations of important women by a vaginal image fro each arranged as a triangle the Square is in itself a close, very close companion piece not only playing with geometry but the occupancy of a space in a human scale as object.

The Square is an object. Jean Jaque realised the importance of societal structures well before the reformers of religious freedoms of self organised belief systems routinely disposing eloquent tales of a higher authority. His epoch making breakthrough came on the persuasion of kindness as a tool for life not to be delivered as consigned by adherence to religious privileges.

The Square controls privilege. With a range of 21st century immigrants mainly Romanian, the influx brought with it the relatively new experience of begging to their major cities. Why can’t the state deal with this? Why should I as an individual give to the beggar any money or help? The state of Sweden had and has a social nuanced contract. Plainly the individual giving to another individual will not improve the receiving persons life conditions. It only is s temporary position.

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Comparative art

In Judy Chicago’s piece the women of the world were likewise left to one side neglected as to a lesser degree but still totally underrepresented, with a voice – in that case a visual metaphor of a baby making body and it showed beyond that identity and difference. The Square is a series of contests of the choices and dilemmas in behaviors and oddly enough it’s director has taken up a similar theme unintentionally connected to the piece I mention in having the Art curator seen as a user and commodifying translator who is not the bringer of such moral affronts but is himself an indulgent and messy actor in the reality of present sexual and personal politics. That reasoning should become clear.

The Square has been replaced by another square. The Palm d’or winner was made bigger. It is to spite the film industry Director has made his film longer, much longer in order it does not fit the screening operative times of cinemas which is why he believes some critics said of the original Palme d’or winner it was too long. As a filmmaker he had already made the choice to construct the piece as its original package. In some kind of angst ridden protectionist statement he developed a larger square. Why bother? The new and now released edition he fails to name The Square Largesse. Re-editing is always possible and we get a never intended larger square. For densities sake it must be held as a considerable re-atoned ‘completeness’ he is making. Having been to the confession box the priest has told him his original film was too long so he now atones for that by reconfiguration inventing a new branch of the church of film.

 

Prescriptivist

One famous American female artist was to once say with great anxiety – the sense of limitation that economics makes this malfunction was realised. The limitation of expression. So when a choice is confirmed by this director for another version on the basis of his economic ability to do so is a corruption of the power politic. As a male director he used his largesse to shift the boundary. I think that speaks as much as the film does about the inequality he tries to wrestle with.

The Square is targeting an art house audience in showing the world of 21st art as a facsimile of life in motion. The Guerrilla Girls are familiar in the modern art movements history. Locally at a recent exhibition out of context, a male artist came with his Gorilla mask and pin striped suit to stand alongside what was a joint exhibition to dandy up his own persona. Dating as a contemporary of the Guerrilla girls and dated in his own unthoughtful resonance this film does likewise with the tome.

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The Performance Centrepiece

The Square has as one of its centrepieces a male performance artist, performing – would you believe it! Oleg Rogozjin (Terry Notary) was inspired by a real incident with the artist Oleg Kulik, who performs as a dog and had attacked people at a notorious event in Stockholm. Other artists parodied in the film include Julian Schnabel, Robert Smithson and Carl Hammoud. Much of the art depicted was crafted for the film, with installations influenced by Robert Smithson, an authentic Garry Winogrand image, and another work by Östlund and Kalle Boman.

The setting in this film is a large lavish dining room and carefully laid out decorated tables. This time with a herd of rich businessmen and women invited to the exhibition to witness performance art and they become objects of art themselves. It’s all gone a bit Peter Greenaway or Monty Peyton. (I prefer the Monty Python gorging and the exploding man? – filmed in what was the drained Swimming baths of Seymour Street West London where I often played 5 aside football after work with other soccer mad London based teams) There is announced, over tannoy, a warning and presentation of what to expect and how to behave in relation to what is about to happen. In a bravado scene, full of tension and a mob acceptance, initially, is seen the rich herd mentality explained with the notion of passive response, even staged stasis, group behaviour meaning individual survival. The ape like ‘guerrilla’ performer tries to enact the running man or reactive fear response and is met by group behaviour. The instinct of ‘it won’t be me if I remain the ‘invisible’ within a group. All acting the same way and any seen to react differently become the prey and victim. Dramatic and intense it is overplayed and drawn out with our changing sides and being witness to a moment of absurd violence to the King Kong instincts loosely portrayed.

A behavioural scientist is not needed to see the artifice. I found the actual route of plundering performance art which is the most developed side of multiple themes in art, with particularly the opposite hand of feminism showing themselves ridiculed and abused by male preoccupations with their bodies a conceit in the hands of this director whose shock tactics were unreal. Art world feminist movements acts of brave exposure were sharply real and this is a mediocre particularly Swedish act of analysis given their encounter with the ‘fear’ of their own differences in the ‘economy’ of choices available for immigrants showing their white advantages.

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Outside Borders

Non gender political differences are evident but the theme of acting together was flat. Maybe the proximity to Russia allowed this wavering. Vladimir Putin is a practitioner of the control of a social contract which is abstracted and with ‘Loveless’ being a totally more effective and perturbing drama of social realism and which to my mind was streets ahead of the Oscar winning A Fantastic Woman and this film The Square, I have the luxury of not having to review a film for a public expectation but am only making analysis of my own anger at the direction this film narrows to.

Fashionable, visually startling on occasions, remarkable it is not. The pretention of art being the vehicle becomes tedious. As filmmakers take on the visual arena of art the stratification of the horizontal as a metaphor for levelling the very nature of what is being expresses levitates to here a dining table level with ourselves. The arrogance however of making the Art disown its intention and lapse into indulgence is very apparent unfortunately. It is perhaps due to the proximate psyche lines which are worn.

The appearance of Elizabeth Moss is early in the piece when she comes to interview Christian on his vision for the Gallery.  X Royal Museum. It is one of several outings of ‘interviews’ and press gatherings at which the art soundings are most satirized and pathologically uncomfortable in a skirmish sense as well as satirical faux fear content. Enriched we are not. After one of these soirees Anne bags her man. Then they argue about conception obliquely and also about who conquered who and their matings value.

Fully formed

To give Christian a backstory into the equation come his two young daughters. Around ten and twelve they are beyond his parental skills level needing nurturing and love he only barely makes it possible for them to survive as he exposes them to ridiculous danger actually loosing them at one stage. Alongside this he shows remarkable protective skills telling them through the concept of The Square – that “you regard other adults as potential threats” though as they are barely mid-teen it works only partially. Perhaps an intentional focus in on Christian being totally Gallery centric. He illustrates the power over artists he exerts in framing their work. Elena his boss on the other hand is a font of old school control. Maybe the appeal of the Dining Room passed her by. I noticed from one scene outside it when an elderly couple stood for a photograph the next scene was of the dining room and another elderly gentleman of similar appearance was a wine waiter showing the scale of differing roles existing among white people also. The jungle was about to have a visitor. Calamity ensues.

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Music cadence

Very effective is the score throughout. It weaves counterpoint and places sweetness under violent thoughts, wicked satire and gruesome intent a rich embroidery. The power dynamics are subtle objectified and I found it overegged, ingrained in our host Christian. His intelligence at odds with the role play of work. He for instance uses the premise of the early encounter of being ‘passively’ mugged on the street to catapult ideas into the Gallery. His role is to bring ideas not become the creator himself which is something Gallery Curation is itself another art form but not product.

The director lays claims to the liberation and justice as it counts in society. By seeing the Museum as a mantle piece for a societies well being or otherwise he places the object in its role as such. The Museum is the Square at times. In it tolerance is explored. A Tourette’s incident at a public q&a becomes a contestable space for the gathering. Whose place is it to disrespect and ridicule by pointing out to the individual how disconcerting it is for everyone else having them remain part of the gathering. It only just survives becoming ridicule itself.

Provocative thoughts

When Christian receives a gift which seems to go to his core belief in having power, itself a misnomer in relation to the incident, he is somewhat emboldened and performance is restructured into the medium of the Museums arc. The Square is becoming a composite piece. The plasticity is taken outside into the streets as when he returns to correct an error of judgement. There is a media storm on the ‘enfants terrible’ who make up their story as it unfolds in relation to The Square. A viral YouTube unapproved short hits the internet and causes great disquiet.

For the opening after party (aforementioned soirée) there is venture across a boundary. Behind the Museum lies the Palace. Opulence is genuflected to and decorum is acted out. The ignoble noble ignorance of reality shut out is a dark curtain of relativity. Power is giving to the refugee and receiving being unable to live a basic life. The love interlude is a diversion taken. Following is the scene were they compete with stackable chairs collapsing after a fashion. Christian seems to distill the thought that external forces are what drive him and they are responsible for his emotions. It is an occupancy he lacks control over.

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Conclusion ####4

It gets a four out of five due to it being irritating and contestable as a art form itself. The fact I have derived such acrid dislike for its plundering of the arts and who hasn’t before though declared their inspiration, and no one is original discuss. Forms of cinema are tutorial, instructive, informative in relieving the senses of ingrained already born thought. It nurtures it and bring out in us those lesser known details but they harmonise in a collective sense.  Attribution to another art piece is acceptable and leads to coherence in finding out the culture of the contested places. Development of the film involved intense role play both by Claes Bang (Danish) as Christian, Elisabeth Moss as Anne, Dominic West as Julian. Terry Notary as Oleg Rogozjin auditioned or was found by trawling the internet for man performs ape and the U?S. actor had appeared in Planet of the Apes. So central to the satire was a human instinct as to our vulnerability.

Östlund won the Palme d’Or for The Square, marking the first time a predominantly Swedish production received the honour since The Best Intentions in 1992 and the first time a Swedish director won since Alf Sjöberg for Miss Julie (1951).

John Graham

23 March 2018

Belfast

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Speculative Skins & Amanda Turner Pohan : An Arts Review

The Meditative one

Science is made fiction and the body is altered. In the NI Science Festival a co-operative installation by Rachel Steinberg of SOHO20 Gallery Brooklyn is commissioned by The Naughton Gallery Belfast to produce the exhibition Speculative Skins. Known in the festival under the title Science Fiction and the Body it explores the boundaries of ‘where does a body end and a piece of technology begin’. I found one piece in particular engrossing and integral in the open thought bringing those boundaries which are constantly under revision as our potential futures are explored by art investigations in media, propositions of artists in music word and the visual arts, while along with scientists bring new meanings and alterations to our perceptions. The exhibition is supported by The British Council.

The Subject

It is itself. The artist. From Orgasmic Exhalation Device for Body Spray #11 (2014), Amanda Turner Pohan recorded her CO2 emissions during orgasm and used the data collected to algorithmically compose a formula for scent – a perfume that is wafted into a space periodically through an atomizer. Using the same data she plotted a form to print with a CNC@ router the physical body Orgasmic Exhalation Form #01 (2014).

The form occupies a Gallery space as a body might. Onto the Gallery wall beneath shared text of four lovers conversations found on google are adhered. The wall is grey. For Amanda Turner Pohan this replaces the components of our own stand-ins for the body, self-consciously attempting to synthesize a formula for human empathy, that even the best of our current technology can’t quite master.

 

 

With the distance between the two spaces – the one it resides in, in New York and this Naughton Gallery installation, curator Rachel Steinberg came up with the idea of the projection presented on the Gallery Wall as an active moving image floating over the text and the emitting Orgasmic Exhalation Device for Body Spray #11 (2014) which is not a substitute but a transfiguration of the concept. It when seen in conjunction with the atomizing device creates a distinctive correlation. The atomistic choice with the projection is almost to a transuding state. The tenuous relation is very apposite. A body is acting in the space and this is the figure raised and floating in as a projection in space.  I likened it to a future state where the body is capable of space travel without a protection and the/our ‘speculative skin’ is developed to withstand the elements of space and take the cubist form and then develop the instruments of our dexterity when summoned.

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Atomic signals possess us and this installation is miraculously astute. It has a synthesis of elements composed to bring down, breakdown structures from their complex abstraction as entities to a body which in the true sense of legacy similar to Picasso and masters of the cubist collage and self figurative genre would call pictorial self analysis. Here the artist is present in more ways than one. It is a beautiful piece of art in every sense. The assembly is from an orgasm and height of excitation intense and female. For both male and female it is release. One both giving. There is a reassurance in the act of future spoken. When one happens in the presence of another the conjoining is a unity of purpose over and above the physical spasms of its engagement. The artist expresses like hot milk a olfactory stimulus.

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The work is part of a series delving into the self. From her perspective Amanda Turner Pohan asks many questions of the reality of our lives and the future we patrol and expect through exploring the limits and boundaries and pushing them out in separated forms awaiting their return as something reconfigured. The series is know as The Signals are Caressing us. The accompanying exhibition literature (italicized) explains the body’s complicated relationship to technology is her source material. Other works digital and physical are extensions of the themes.

Using present materials as they are on our and the artists journey of utilization the work is contemporary reality. The simple forms of chemistry are bold and defining. To this synthesis Amanda Turner Pohan seeks to unfold her continued speculative encounter with in creating further work some of which can be seen at the originating gallery.

 

 

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The Encounter

The eyes are sharp and clear. Blue and perceptive. This is an encounter of introspection. You cannot explain the world in metaphors. You can see it though for what it is or is not. The imagination is your strongest ally. From where it came only your atomic composition of phosphate and deoxyribose. The explosive actions inside you of this miraculous helix of dna is what drives each of us and collaborates to creating a being. Amanda Turner Pohan is a practioner of the exploration on the edge of discoveries made known through her incisive clawing into the self awareness which makes u# identify as somehow spirits in transition. Awareness is to regard the self as a simple helix form from which to evaluate all other entities. By taking chemicals and enclosing them in a liquid the container is fed a tube and it exhales and gathers in from its presence as we do. Our presence is engineered by our gathering techniques and by our exhilarations.

The simplest form which profoundly touched me was the image of a body form which had itself been edited back to a point where it remained recognisable as limbed breasted form like a woman in an anthropomorphic state. I live next to a former bakery. It must be nearly eighty years since last made bread but I see and sense it’s past life. The energy of others resides inside and it resting like a process of manufacturing awaiting its recall. The people who made bread have moved on and others take on the task elsewhere. This function is therefore displaced and the building awaits repurposing. It is not empty but vacant. The Bakery in Brooklyn is where Amanda Turner Pohan shows her work and collaborations. Consciousness expels from the rooms of the repurposed Bakery. It’s food is nutrients for all to imbibe. You will not eat it but will consume it. Not in a materialistic fashion but as spiritual nourishment.

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The grey carpet ‘receptor’.

Our society has this duality of materialism. The lotus on the water is separate but recognisable as difference. Combinations are sent to us in the bakery we visit to feed our lives. In this space the artist has found something for us to see and experience. A sightless person can have the surroundings described to them, a deaf person can feel the vibrations and sense the place as we cannot. On the floor of The Bakery is a the white anthropomorphic form I see as cubist reality. It is still but in the transport of the idea to the Naughton Gallery here in Belfast it’s projected as a floating digital image onto a nineteenth century university wall. The wall bounds The Great Hall and beneath is the colonnade which keeps the rain off its visitors for the grand occasions in its calendar. In it Presidents and Queens, Senators and Religious leaders have been. The white spirit of the anthropomorphic shape spirals on the wall oblivious to the past accolades it now surmounts.

Form takes precedence over notions of form. The cubist reality was a symbolic stripping back of form striving to distill the watery world we occupy. The fluidity of essences are sought and combined with allegory and space shifting determinism. The form I see floating on the wall is much more than this unsettling presence and is without any external attachment when I view it. The attachments would come later. Instead it is transportive. It has layers in its movement which halt and talk of its otherness. It is a piece which is cubist in every sense. It is an evolving piece also. It allows the medium to give you another dimension through its movement and gentle soliloquy like a ballet in space. The artist of this is conscious of the newness of the relocation by means other than its physical presence. It is after all back in Brooklyn a three dimensional object. There it is similarly venerated and casting out senses of its organised form.

Here it conveys passage and future. Where the spaceships of Star Wars and science fiction remain harnessed to familiar tropes this object speaks of other things. Instead of a protecting shell the body is itself protection as if in a future world travel will be as humans in an anthropomorphic vessel which when required and elegantly, from its cubist shape, evolve the dexterity fingers to touch feel and caress, hold other things. The mind itself within the shell of its form – unlike the pod capsules of Altered Carbon – carries memory and learning and skills forward in a peaceful receptivity. The way the work conspires to throw ideas out is both alarming and satisfying in a way that is beyond the measure o& its parts. That itself is metamorphosis of some kind as art. How can art convey such things time after time. Like an antelope in a cave painting it is meant to be nourishing – for the artist and the viewer.

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Today’s modernity is stated here and it is projecting more than a cave painting as criticism is since Aristotle and probably further back, as art it is subject to diverse opinion and thought.

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Braque and others created the form of cubist art and a local Irish Artist Mainie Jellet -Death of Procis shown here (below), also created in her work interpretations via. very methodical line graphs and preparatory drawings – much the same as the collection of data to form the piece here dealt with.

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Mainie Jellet -Death of Procis

This is a ‘new’ age renaissance kind of work as it puts up our future kind for us as conjecture with meanings and an infinite range of imaginings. I see it as a symbol of the human in the future as a continuing evolving entity capable of reinvention and containing all pasts. The chemical composition of your atomic composition of phosphate and deoxyribose will be taken away an reconfigured as memory which is laden with crossed out errors and the empathetic result is forging frontiers beyond out wildest imaginations. Perhaps even as an earth world no longer in existence except as new stars and elemental dust particles. The richness of art presently is to be seen and appreciated for its presenting us with such imponderables.

This work has much more to convey and is one I have still not reached the apogee of.

Further reading

From The Planet of the Blind by Stephen Kuusisto

I. The Village of St Ovide

”For Sun and Moon supply their conforming masks, but in this hou4 of civil twilight all must wear their own faces.”

-W. H. Auden, “Horae Canonicae”

“ ‘My soul wandered, happy, sad., unending.’ “ (Neruda)

“ ‘The branches are dying of love.’ “ (Lorca)

“ ‘Show me, dear Christ, thy spouse, so bright and clear.’ “ (Donne)

“ ‘Here is the shadow of truth, for only the Shadow is true.” ((Warren)

from chapter 6.

II. Motion.

. . . If we propose

A large-sculptured, platonic person,

free from time,

And imagine for him the speeech he

cannot speak,

A form, then, protected from the battering, May

Mature: A capable being may re-

place

Dark horse and walker walking rap-

idly.

-Wallace Stevens

“The Pure Good of Theory”

Speculative Skins is on at The Naughton Gallery from Thursday 15 February through to Sunday 25 February 2018. May extend. Hours 11am to 4.00pm (closed mondays) and features artists Loney Abrams & Johnny Stanish / Salome Asega & Ayodamola Okunseinde / Brice Dellsperger / Nora Khan & Steven Warwick / Son Kit / Katie Skelly / Naoko Takeuchi / Amanda Turner Pohan / Katie Torn

15.02.18 – 08.04.18

John Graham

22 February 2018

Belfast

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True Colours : An Exhibition Review CCEA Ulster Museum

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Current exhibition on at Ulster Museum

The work of some of Northern Ireland’s most exceptional young artists will be on display at the Ulster Museum during January and February. CCEA’s True Colours is a showcase of the outstanding artwork produced for the summer 2017 GCE & GCSE examinations. The event will be visited by almost 50,000 people over the coming months, with many schools making trips to show other young artists the standard and quality of work produced in Northern Ireland.

Congratulating the students on their work, Justin Edwards, CCEA’s Chief Executive, said:

“This is now our seventh annual True-Colours exhibition at the Ulster Museum. The venue offers a fitting setting for such outstanding work. It is also a pleasure to be able to give the public an opportunity to view the diversity and quality of work being produced by young artists and designers.”

My take on seeing the works

It would be absurd to be over critical of the work produced by students embarking on their art expression given the constraints education put them under. The variations of work attest to the dilemma and prodigious talent in the realm. What on earth becomes of it is pure speculation. What is evident is the quality this minute of each object on display in whatever form it takes.

So that is where to begin. Following a narrative seems part of the octagon of the wonders we see.

Those Dark Materilas onboard in lexicons of abrupted life.

The immersion of young artists seeking out their own interpretative, derivative direction is passionately taken as a journey of self discovery embracing work which creates fictions of realities presume innocent and observing laws of insight. Nothing is further from the truth in seeing other work then completely transcending its thought patterns to create a unique observance. Only by seeing something recognizable can it be truly dismissed. The artist is sent off in another trajectory making their own valid statement no matter how they arrived at it. Each artist here has 1. Chosen a persons work to interpret. 2. Has looked to themselves as affected by the act of making art.

The three images above converge in the piece to form the first image and  is sublime in its execution.

The symmetry of the energised triangulated sculpture throwing away precepts of tradition was one piece which would have been evidently secure in its aloneness, singularity so the added function of development stages is more the academics statement than the artists statement.

This is a scholarly path and important to negotiate while picking up techniques and skills of seeing and illuminating their work. ‘Artist as Thief’ is the name given to a parallel exhibition and the meaning of this one is of a similar formula. In seeing the Ulster Museum CCEA Exhibition work

French horn player (untitled) a coiled bell by Tom McVeigh

I was totally drawn in by the art delivered in one persons almost narrative approach. They pay homage to the skills or an artist of music. The quietude of a study room, with natural light augmented by a photographers tripod lamp is a settling peaceful restful prologue to a homage of a fellow artist. The starting point is the room. The ambience and colour it lends to solitary performance in the domestic room or retreat of a college of music is a concert of nuanced environmental choices. While large windows give an air of radiance of the seasonal changes of the everyday, the light is warmed by the barrier of the glass clear boundary separating sound and the external world. Centrally is the French Horn Player sitting on a stool in a natural balancing posture with the body caressing an instrument at rest. Both are in symmetry as one with the other able to convey in union a voice now silent. The studio is a piece and setting. A drama is unfolding of a woman’s comfortable nurturing of a chosen companion. An intrusion is taken in for the sake of art and cadences are many. Unspoken is the collaboration we see as a work of art.

The way Tom McVeigh has produced around this final painting, his progression toward it is very comprehensive as study goes. It is a work produced to ‘convince’ an examiner of the process being understood. This is quite strange given the academic is neither of any import other than the consignment by compliance with theory or method the actual approach which the ‘examiner’ is without. They are not in the process but mere witness. The tools are encouraged and some direction taken but to produce this extent of analysis is perverse. Such are educational norms.

 

 

 

Superb study work can stand alone

Many of the students have taken the instruction to find an artist and explain why they appeal and how they work. The choices are something of a hit or miss formula. Pinterest Instagram, Art Network, or any familiar Art arena seems to have Ben trawled and then a peculiarity sought is explored. The appeal is not in question. The work forms are varied and experimental ways of working are placed into ‘categories’ printing, installation, sculpture and painting, drawing. In a classroom there is lenient persuasion or implied progression. So as not to derail original thinking the ideas go unchallenged. The effect is often tedious and narrowing. Unlike the primary educational functions undertaken centuries before where a talent is nurtured by studio work on real pieces and learning in conjunction with an artist as assistant the ‘school’ precedes the nurturing of particular insight with work conceived is absent here.

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Psychology and the human mind occupy a lot of the work

Of all types of work seen the idea is key.  Transforming thinking is the outcome sought by the artist and viewer. Where I found work which transcended the ‘method’ it had overcome the running commentary of connective narrative, important in degrees though it was in providing an’analysis’ for the pupil to find encouragement and self awareness from. The outcome is what? It is a piece which out to stand on its own. An example is one which needed no backstory but required going through the art gears to establish its own place. The process is the viewer observing it and making a story or conclusion or even lost in challenging considered thought processes to be completed after the experience of seeing.

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Layered installation & other views

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I often find reflection part of the process and it need not have any signposting.

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Less is more. Picasso was a deceptive artist and seeing all manner of ‘objects’ as you do in the Paris Picasso Museum you see the machinations and the way a print is found or painting is brought forward. These study facilities are career products and are only in the after view are they precious in anyway. The single statement of pieces apart are more relevant as a basis of understanding. The understanding is often not the purpose but a communication of a form, a connection however tenuous is primary to arts place in our world.

 

 

Prophetic visions in diverse materials

What annoyed me was the compression of the work in a space into which the curator, teaching professional, felt no hierarchy was an issue. The work suffers by not being seen properly. One pupil had a particular set of skills and had many more dimensions to it than adjoining work. The adjoining work was a complete very profound and distinctly of another ‘camp’ while equally assured in it. So both were lost companions in need of greater exposition. This clash and compression was and is a feature of exhibition when it is sanctioned as a ‘critique’ of sorts. An end of year show will always look like an end of year show if the curator so requires it to be seen widely or in a step up of a kind endorsing education methods. The Art College in Central Belfast often fails to display work appropriately or in any depth of curation. It avoids the exposure or display of ‘see the process as us teaching/learning’ to create. One thing is certain. The work here is to be valued again and again and new work is the probable outcome while this cannot be discarded as ‘juvenilia’.

 

Outsider art

One artist, a Photographer was bold enough to campaign down the road of observation of their own community.  Never staying which side they were aligned to or not at all they provided one of the most illuminating and sanguine pieces of all.  In a Frankie Quinn rather than Paul Seawright kind of way the observations they made were abrupt sharp and visually coherent full of meaning.

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The image in particular stànding out is of a Twelfth Procession and day two persons, an adult and a child, the former of (possibly) Ulster ethnicity and the child different race, they shared a  palm slap provocative and prescient of racial tension.  The tension of unity bound in apparent opposite pathways.  One is going in one direction and the same human nature is belonging whichever road taken.  It could have been staged or image edited and with added colour.

Some other images by the same pupil are equally observant and challenging.  One has a frame cutting off the front part of a band member and is framed on an onward heading through ,arch with a H&W ubiquitous and defining.  Others are of feet and bands passing some members, a boy recognising the photo taken for instance in a capture of memorial probably not differing much in age.

 

 

Special stages in Art

By way of variance of approach and exercising different ways of producing an image the author has gone down the route of using a drawing medium.

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Assertive pieces

The dark and light of materials possibilities is sharply recorded.  Here are a few other examples and by no means is this a full study.

 

 

Material truths

Dendrite’s and neurons place heuristics in a real world or creative truths on a line of culture. So going on and based on fear protection threat assessing the life course in unreal terms is easy for artists abstracting life. Realities are adjusted and systems of obedience are liked by pupils intially but intelligible constructs can win through the conscious of a teaching environment. Compliance is often a risk which is overridden for the sake of outside. On the inside obeying the rules is a given and it constrains perfectly good thought however perverse or irregular it may be. Local exhibitors Gilbert and George will be visited by several of these artists I suggest, others will not make it to ‘the city’ to see the work. They are masters of conformity. In a altered real they implicitly comply. I saw their work decades ago and it was evident then. They are absurdists with a conservative and compliant existence. For the Brit art era it was a comfort to know they were around to play conformity for all its worth like a paid of John Major twins and grayness which they actual added a might of colour to was a tame avenue of cave weeping aspirations and endurance.

Enduring Dissonance 

I saw the problems 21st Century pupils face in their life emerge and by dint their artwork. Trina Hobson, a local artist, often goes back to the neglect and dropping of identity. It has long been around as a trait. Here the pupils decline identity pigeonholing purposely and suppress the invasion of image. Especially self image. See the photoshop and scratched identities in differing work. It speaks of an age which is harming. The adult lesson prevailing is of the wrongful placing of image as being of importance in the spontaneous exchange of their continued Facebook, Instagram and the media driven wrap is intense and unwanted as here, is seen as being declined as a value system. Scars occur in art to express this emotion purposely and I feel it is not thoroughly enough tasked because it is under the aegis of an educational process. The Course Curriculum. It is as circus performance not educational but seen isolated and apart from other subjects. This is proof of a talent and voice which the adult will not accept for its obvious lesson but will simplify and sell it back to the youth producing it in its sundry forms. The paying of the cost is pupil borne.

Dry material is evident. Not liquid or translucence altering body of altering substance is present. The intention is to allude to permanence. Therefore where is the place of performance and dissolution of spirit observed? Incremental transformation is not allowed or suggested in the work because it’s intangibles are unclassifiable. The closet to this obtuse element was a display of cement like material. It is interesting the future of materials will change apparent limitations of art as digitisation has. The phosphite and graphene tomes of solid state technological choices unseen here are a future conduit of arts material change.

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It goes way beyond many art professional work seen elsewhere and deserves seeing often and in a clearer context.

 

 

On at The Ulster Museum Belfast Rooms Ground floor.

John Graham

30 January 2018

Belfast

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