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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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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Beyond the Beyonds : A John Kingerlee Exhibition Art Review

a fortuitous photo image

Life’s circles

On entering the rooms where John Kingerlee’s work is on exhibition light streams in from the first floor south facing windows of the former Victoria College at the reclaimed Crescent Arts Centre Belfast illuminating Beyond the Beyonds. A phrase comes to mind from Marshall McLuhan whose mastery of conjunction plagued scholarly thought with its soundbite philosophical stance on media. It is Inscrutable Condition. Well it’s not. Like McLuhan fought with the circumstances of time we see in John Kingerlee’s work an infusible power still restless in encounter. There is a possible connection I make with the former involvement of Kingerlee in writing with the similar approach of a grammar, rhetoric and logic, the trivium engaged in while considering along with Heaney whose strength lay in the fragility of words each transformed, transform their sphere of interest. One the painter another the convict. Convinced by words and paint of the beyond and asking questions of us and themselves through our at times nightmarish lack of mutual learning. A real breath of scoping out materiality in a venture undertaken is strongly held in reading the work here on display.

Kingerlee also moved his place of residence. From Birmingham eventually arriving in Ireland. McLuhan a Canadian outlier of the USA full on embrace of modernity and contemporary tools, he found himself in Cambridge able to distill in ‘soundbites’ while eschewing its tyranny, our multiple means of communication. In the latest outstanding work of Leontia Flynn The Radio her poetry if McLuhan affected by the rewarding swaying of words in our times fielded in a tyranny of locked in media forms. Her poem on Heaney is particularly deep while is fresh in these perceptions. These words and her italics, Seamus Heaney : August 30th 2013. “The way we’re living will have been our life.” which is a reaction, a eulogy or to use a less provocative word, homage to the poet who has left through the only available door.

Another internal gallery image.

Boundaries

Boundaries mattered to Seamus Heaney whose words for the title of this unique exhibition. It is beautifully hung in three relatively small linked rooms with a scale of human persuasion connecting the visitor to the work intimately. Exhibitor, Curator Larry Powell has combined a literary and long understanding of the works evolution to curate and present a homage of many years work brought together in a quite extraordinary full on breathtaking encounter with not just this artist work but the meaning of art itself. Often it is said and local art Professor Mike Cattos words in the catalogue follow this train of thought, the work is on the edge of experience with paint and image. Two themes dominate, Heads and Grid or Pattern. though landscape and collage sit alongside. Materials are impasto oil or giclee paint, acrylic occasionally on board, canvas, aluminum, Indian paper in multiple overlays of expression. Each is a piece in continuation of a symphonic approach elegantly placing accompaniment of the central outworking of a inner thought process which is absent from ego and therefore is internally hippocampus controlled, switched off which is where artists will tell you they are in the clearing space. The space where they are free to communicate through paint or media.

Two pieces in a grid of 12 aluminum panels completing a frame of 305 x 305 cm majestically create scale and presence. Neighbours Grid, Cullen’s Grid respectively. It is especially clear this is where John Kingerlee is distinguishing himself in placing his work out there for us to enjoy and embrace. The process is a completion which he has ventured to place Heads, Landscape, figuratively and semi abstracted – position. No one is aware of how the mind fully computes these encounters. Not yet anyway. Sometimes you feel like you are in a place where the oxygen has been drawn from you like being on top of a glacier, a mountain high altitude sickness, then the next moment a warm immersion of imbibing gratitude of finding a place to unify similar reactions as coalescence of almost primordial inner self. Few realise colour as Kingerlee.

For immediate entry only occasionally are little seemingly inconsequential figurative forms included. Postage stamps are a collage tool employed to symbolic effect placing a small token narrative to juxtapose our everyday literal interpretation. It’s as if it’s not about that asking you to go on into the several dynamic ranges of colour graduations. Simply to explore by being invited in. A device which familiarity is often employed by abstract artists to deflect critical abstention. I call it savvy. Collage is a favourite tool of another Irish Artist. Another native of immense significance as an astute conveyor of ourselves and our perceptions and times. Sean Hillen. Here the range is non political but rooted in good old fashioned wisdom. Politicai wisdom but wisdom isn’t politics as they might have you believe.

So John Kingerlee chooses a different path. Another artist practicing in Ireland Dermot Seymour does narrative painting with a political edge which is itself contradiction, eschewing the normal projections believed to be perceived. Being a native of Birmingham and John Kingerlee has as a background a literal background, wishing at first to be a writer and following through a confronting imagination telling him stories visually of earthen subjects eventually leading to what we see today in his early eighties (b. 1936) a fulmination, oration of his essence. It does not make sense for him to try political expressiveness as those mentioned above, the line instead is of discovery found historically except by a – and this is an outsiders objectivity – the genus loci of the islands evocations in the landscape works.

There is no comparison to be made with artists such as Dada practitioners, portrait non-conformists (Bacon, Braque) or media savvy practitioners such as Kooning and Pollack but to go beyond that. Beyond the Beyonds. Seamus Heaney was subtle in his ways and more grateful were we for his illuminating narrative. In such a phrase he is I think acknowledging his own encounter of art through a lifetime. Greek Gods, Apollo came to mind. That his visual vocabulary was as large as his language constructs. He would have absorbed all that is visually inspiring and tragic alongside the means to collect it mentally. Therefore it is possible to say he was expressing the thought given by the work here and other elements seen – the art witnessed is outside of us still and is working within us or on us to accommodate, the unimagined yet to be gathered in, poles we are within. I looked for the mythological creatures, sea horses Heaney may have imagined observing in his classical theorist mind, such was the odyssey of looking.

Earth is both Heaney and Kingerlee’s tale. The human is either seeing the world go round them or they go round the world. Neither pathway is a wrong one but singularity is a difficulty, or challenge, as humans we are each separate and this essence is something Seamus Heaney has seen somehow in the work. Each of us separate from the person next to us. Vantage points are imitating expectations. Curation is at once a function causing juxtaposition which is a failsafe in exhibitors eyes of staging contest of will and endurance in spectacle. World museums frequently alter their game changing efforts to create gravitas, to enlighten, to mound or reach perceptions otherwise unvisited. Barriers are reduced often and it is narrative which – this discourse is only a single opinion brought from encounter- then unveils more thoughts. The glacial or the warmth of self connection to the work is where many take the time to achieve some knowledge-filled own time.

Depth beyond words

John Berger was one of the first like Marshall McLuhan to use contemporary rule breaking formation of words to allow an expedient entry to understanding learnt through allowing new media – detested by McLuhan but giving him a comfortable living – to provide alternative and therefore contestable views. Art history is changing everyday. To see paintings is primary. In visiting this exhibition then looking at a very well produced catalogue, full of indication and reproduction, itself a valid record and entry point, it is evident immediately their is absolutely no comparison or equality of experience to be had except by having nothing between you and the canvas, work. Most people visiting galleries know this and they ‘set aside’ prejudice of previous experiences – of galleries, of the work supposed, of opinions received, of visual comparisons.

There are few mediums of art more direct than paint on a basic flat surface. So what is it we are seeing and what is it John Kingerlee has achieved which makes this work distinctive and unique? It’s meaning is in the continuation of evolving our own thought experiences appreciating layers of context and going beyond it through to new ideas of empirical sense of humanity and self. We are in search through our examinations of things, objects and daily ephemera, notions which change and alter realism. Some things are un-salvageable until alternative messages come our way. Choices are complex as these paintings are capable of billions of alternative meanings once seen. I came away with one word which is a word to sum up our quest towards higher meaning for ourselves and mankind which this exhibition realises in a way. It is not a closing of a journey. It is a quest towards salvation. Salvation.

John Graham

21 January 2018

Belfast

Beyond the Beyonds – Work by John Kingerlee is on at The Crescent Gallery – Crescent Arts Centre – http://www.crescentarts.org University Road Belfast. http://www.kingerlee.com Larry Powell Art Consultant tel. +44 (0) 7765 406139 and at larrymatthewpowell@icloud.com

11 – 31 January 2018

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Architecture : Art in Architecture

Kengo Kuma cites Seurat’s influence.

I used Kengo Kuma’s books (little) on Small Architecture and Natural Architecture as jumping off points for a discussion on the equation with art in its many forms which is to me fascinating. <strong>Kengo Kuma</strong> (隈 研吾 <em>Kuma Kengo</em>, born 1954) is a Japanese and professor at the Graduate School of Architecture at Tokyo.  Kuma is also noted for his prolific writings. I tale heed when an Architect talks about ‘caulking widths!’ and the other day I spoke to a tiler about the ‘Equipe’ (Spanish) tiles he was using and they were perfectly utilised and the caulking was a light grey instead of a white or dark grey with the tiling – external and white polished ceramic – little modulations on a modest retail facade. The detail imbued by Kuma is similarly drawn.

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Graham Sutherland work

With painting, a subject and other visual Art forms, techniques line up tougher to provide solutions and knowledge we otherwise take for granted or fail to see the connections between. The challenge here is to express the randomness in the regularity of nature’s life and movement through time which is a perpetual engagement.

Natural Architecture is calling us to think of Buildings as clothing says Kuma.  In the characteristics of the body the Heritage Museum of Kuma (Hiroshige Museum) is in three layers. An overcoat of 3cm x 6cm cedar slats, at 12cm intervals, inside his a jacket of <em>washi</em> paper wrapped cedar louvred. Finally on the inside is a layer of <em>washi</em> paper illuminated from within. The structure and elements of walling, flooring are at multiples of 12cm.  The studs of the light walls are at 24cms intervals. The walls are like Japanese inn <em>shoji</em> screens. As this form of construction would be in a public building a layer of plasticised paper was applied to the inner layer to thwart children or damage from visitors.

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Modular

While this is a compromise the principles hold true.  The flooring too is 24cm squares. The structural engineers – Shigeru Akol and Satoml Makino – designed slender columns keeping the rhythm.  Using humanised materials – <em>plastics</em> – would seem like abandoning the natural approach or compromise but Kuma correctly maintains there would be no ‘Architecture’ or it would be at a standstill were modern inventions, uses not applied. There is no right way he suggests and things must co-exist.  The form of a Building must be a collection of things based on collectivity, humility and hard work.

When this approach is further stimulated by considering the outer world and the barrier the forms make with it there is a further compromise or idea to be taken in. The modular is Le Corbusier territory famously and he was also conscious of the natural responses. Even in The Modular. The plan of Paris 1937 had its relation to nature. Seurat is another whose senses were inspired as Kuma points out by nature’s rhythms.  He is conscious of achieving rhythm by ‘disrupting’ it through choice. The ‘disruption’ takes the shape of a lover for example shaping into modular form light shading a floor or water. It makes the senses defence the man made and the natural in harmonic resonance.

The way that Seurat found it – expression in painting – and engaging was to devise a technique most resonant with the experience of looking and show the world this manner of seeing.  When he was observing the Normandy headlands of other elements of nature, the way trees sway and people are set into a notion of place, be it as occupants in a man made environment or as constituents of a habitat defined by nature itself, he was at once aware of the <em>En mosse</em> unity of movement and alternating states.  Not many accept that as a way into his work.  Instead some see it as a rejection of the impasto approach of his contemporaries and his sparking pointillist invention as a fractal of spaces with each point belonging in a sense to its neighbour while outwardly there are no similarities between those outer objects and the near object except through the continuum of colour balance throughout.  Each colour being totally different yet at the same time forming this <em>En mosse</em> delight in seeing. Seurat like Kuma and others before him were in essence realising the unity of form through observation of the surreality of paint and line in Human form. They would have it demanded of them to react and the stimuli would be forthcoming with and in ideas and expression.  The Normandy work Le Bec du Hoc, Grandcamp (1885) is one such breakthrough in art.

Predating Picasso, Braque, Van Gogh and the many modern painters to follow his insight was to develop – and it was brought forward by drawing purely in pencil tones of black and white on textured paper this abstraction of thought now realised to be advanced in paint.

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Kuma points to three things that make up our world.  His Japanese senses using folklore and the tale of The Three Pigs.  The outcome is to allow the world as we see it to be viewed in any number of ways and thus Buildings need ‘conform’ to the metaphors of natures delicate balance.  Each ‘string’ of nature interconnecting as today science shows and continuously proves to us. The change is manifested in nature and stubborn as mankind adaptability is necessary and a given. The interaction too is often cited. That interaction between particles in ourselves and in nature and which artists find compelling in subject. As Kuma raises <em>Monadology</em> is the (Leibniz) theory of monad recombination or multiple variations producing single entities themselves compromised by time and interactivity.  Or words to that effect!

More temporal is the artists quest. Seurat was in his work a philosopher painter. With his expression he enabled others to see the vision of combinations in colour and their juxtaposition.

The painting most often cited as his ‘enlightenment moment, for the viewer, was Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte (1884-86), undoubtedly the miraculous societal and beautiful flaneur, promenading, egalitarian viewpoint which took another perspective on the world within it the 57 or so characters. Does the black dog count?

With it came a one man view on which were to be built other abstractions.  Above is a psychological drawing of Seurat himself  (no.3.) as a lone person on La Grande Jette giving a meaning also in singular societal form, as well as seeing the painting itself being a singular reality.  The same can be said of the lone fisher lady next along.  Neither could it be construed, nor would he have sought that idea, as it having a special status, it simply became symbolically of itself.  It was as just one painting and each time Seurat painted he contributed further to the panthéon françaises of the stable of art.  The panthéon françaises is another route into this thinking. By saintly intervention almost the presence of spirit is told in Buildings and this is since Newgrange, Ireland, to this example, a national monument in Paris, France, it was used as a sepulcher for ‘eminancy’.  The Church that follows.

Church states of mind.

The church of Ste. Geneviève formed in 1764 was secularized in 1885 and to many as  monument was known in Seurat’s time Churches held a special imagery.

As nations define themselves through the respectfulness of habitat Architecture expands those implicated values. The shifting changes of the outer world are stilled in a Cathedral as the past is venerated and reflected on.  War and compromise of the human destruction of meditative states are shades of liberty.  The other sense within a Church most connecting with self and affinity to a higher entity is silence. The inner prayer. With this silence the words when the state of inner peace and enlightenment is reached some rejoicing or in the case of a Church worship is given in song and music. The condition of mankind is satiated temporarily as it is with paintings.

Life is temporary nature is permanent.  Edges of materials are often an artists field of exploration as they are in Architecture.  Glass and steel.  Man made and conforming to many attributes in behaviour. Behaviour is obtained as with man and neither is the person is defined by their behaviour but how they are. Conceivably individual and not as in relation to another thing. Force is applied to material to obtain a reaction and it is therefore defined by that reaction.

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Compromises are evident in Japanese thinking however revered it has become. Edo and one hundred views, a compromise numerically there, flipping the horizontal to the vertical, a compromise there. Intrinsic are the compromises of distilling thoughts into the numerical or geometrical whereas the abiding theme is regularly of time as revolving and returning as night and day.

Seurat never finishes a process in his work.  Rather he moves onto the next trial of the idea of seeing. The subject matter is only partially societal in its observation. Whatever is forming a frame or image it is to be subjected to a trial or excursive outworking in art. The medium is the matter. The concepts are conjunctions of the viewers perceptions overlaying the relative ideas of every artist. Be it promenading or working in the fields, or at leisure on a lake or fishing on a river everyone there is a discussion of life involved.

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After Seurat by myself.

Seurat genius’s was to form into his new-impressionist technique that abstraction which would influence other artists.  I believe this went into glass and sculpture. Henry Moore is attributed with ‘inventing’ the hole in sculpture but never alone with his art it can only be seen in relation to other works.  The preceding or later forms tell us what to appreciate of the work.  A value is struck and each one is different. A previous observation I made concerning this is found in an earlier exploration of Game of Thrones https://wp.me/p2R05n-ka in comparison with a place we’re a number of artists collaborated on the reforming of Coventry Cathedral. The artists there to make the point extremely well, just as Seurat made.

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I once had a long conversation with Zaha Hadid when we encountered together maromina plaster at the 9h gallery I think in London. Asking what I was doing and observing my touching a plastered wall with the Venetian plaster technique in understated glory she was at once in agreement concerning the multiple readings of the distressed appearance and randomness it evoked. The control of material was meticulous in its functionality and with little holes, ‘flaws’, perhaps gathering tiny particles of dust in the indents, the presence of the material as a singular statement of collected skill and artefact would be a long subject of materials and their compromised beauty.  Even now long after it, is the vision of the late Zaha Hadid whose work employed those characteristic formations of rationality along with the expression through material the natural value aesthetic she became renowned for.

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John Graham

29 November 2017

Belfast

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Fraught : A photographic interlude


Fraught worlds subside

SARC and the hearing experience

Few places free your mind like SARC.  Open today for a lunchtime performance by Frances-Marie Uitti for a blistering bewildering controlled journey in Cello polyphonics we were treated to this composers playing of a new works, one with accompaniment of Franziska Schroeder of SARC came a wonderful excursion through the places they have explored in experimental music.  On Cello the first piece was a setting of a work by Jonathan Harvey (1982) Curve with Plateau.  It at first sounded delivered straight from the Cello without monitors.  Then it became clear it opened up in binary speakers.  Taking in high straining notes symbolic of a curve it dropped and interweaves as a duet of sound like it was lineage of controlled nature in balance and fraught with counterpoint.  It challenges and transports then coheres as a watery path of sound in this auditorium a special rarely found and simply absorbed warm and breathy work.

Next came what is a piece by FM Uitti, an excerpt from Utopia (2015).  Built on classical lines it is a twisting resurgence of fine percussive beats and primitive rhythms played as Cello in counter sometimes double bowed mellow bass like Cello as another contest of vibes.  This time it’s considered, notes inform, as East : West with no complacency or stopping.  Machine sounds from F M U’s library of sound embrace the stifling proximity of intransigence with overtures to power held and thrust as dictates or trampled on as put down.  It too became a piece of remarkable playing in this auditorium.  I compared it to Drum and Bass with effects at a level taking in primitive basic sounds and echo was only in use as a spatial quality transporting listeners to a desolate and machine dominant sphere.  Samples prove to be a good tool with them in use not as stand alone found audio but as here used in overlayers and undershaping sounds.  The tomes of City etc. as literal devices have little use as these sounds cmbinecas unique and unheard sounds oblivious to our connection with those words.  The simple thing it projects is to a Utopia which we cannot see but might hear.

The final piece was the collaborative piece was reminiscent of when I heard Jan Garberek and The Hilliard Ensemble perform in close proximity.  JB was about a meter away when he began the concert and this time no tenor, counter tenor, or contralto but a fusion of ‘bird’ talk’ between two instruments.  The Cello and Saxaphone.

If more info is wanted follow improvasionalresearch.com and the SARC site where the binary headphone experience is to be mixed and put up for a representation of the above through Sonic Performance spaces 34 speakers.  That will be entirely different form the performance but a huge almost surreal transmission of it.  sarc.qub.ac.uk events will find you in the place.

Next Art from corners

Line and Litho 1

Improper Knot 2

RUA Time-Out (Children’s ante-room is a relief)


Metal object 1


RUA Fun Item 1


Binary World (after RUA work)


RUA 2 Fun is discernable?


Metal object 2


Portrait (after BP neck stretching exercise)


Metal alchemy 1

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Food corners

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Interior folds out

 

John Graham

12 October 2017

Belfast

 

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September Ends : A Photo Blog

Blogging Diversion

As I have not seen a film to review in the past few weeks I offer an alternative.
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Great Patrick Street
Here are some of the photographs I’ve taken in and around September.  Not necessarily in this year and also revisited and manipulated at times to draw out the hidden art.
The end game as UUsee it.
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The end game as UU see it.       Here is what Rankin said about his photography lately.

My versions of reaching into those places you see as touching you


Culture Night : Step into the dark. Part 1


Culture Night : Step into the dark. Part 2.

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Vanishing                                                     In the afternoon

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A smile from Poland

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Shouting or silence?  Great Patrick Street.  Paddy McCann installation.

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Tamar Walk wrapped.  C.S. Lewis.

Julie                                                      Anon

 

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Clonard

Eileen in disguise

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Friar’s Graveyard Belfast

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All Souls Belfast

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Riddel’s Warehouse Belfast

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Please check all rooms are unoccupied and switch off all appliances and lights removing plugs from sockets and ensuring all doors are closed and locked where appropriate.  Thank you for your attention.

 

John Graham

28 September 2017

Belfast

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Final Portrait : A Film Review

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Final Portrait
Written and directed by Stanley Tucci, Cast : Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer, Clémence Poésy, Tony Shalhoub and Sylvie Testud and is produced by Gail Egan, Nik Bower and Ilann Girard and executive produced by Deepak Nayar, Fred Hogge and Ted Blumberg.

Portrait of the artist by the sitter

The contemporary art world has its many critics and the American art critic James Lord is one who is here shown investigating the ambiguities and parallax views of abstraction and reality, through his invitation by Giacometti in 1964, into his studio to sit for a portrait. It follows James Lord interviewing Alberto Giacometti whose Swiss/Italian is a volatile mix of capitalist and socialist dogmatism. Giacometti sits lachrymose and reflective in the opening scene of their encounter at the Gallery which has as the exhibition title simply – Giacometti. With superb grace and fluid interpretation both Geoffrey Rush and Armie Hammer quickly set forward a relationship based on the repertoire of Giacometti’s work and James Lord as ‘spokesman’ for the outside world accepts the invitation into the world of Giacometti. Lord who is given through his own love of the work and appreciation, an entre nouses to the act of, in this case painting. Rarely will Giacometti have found someone to speak at length about his work while at the same time being the subject of it. The setting is in the Paris studio and its neutrality of colour produces a psychological difference to the other elements of the film which concern the outside life, contrastingly bright and vital with itself providing an unreal Paris of superficial at times Giacometti’s reality.

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Writers and Photographers

While the book on which this is based is itself a work which endures as criticism there were precedents. I have an edition (1996) hardback book by Photographer David Douglas Duncan who in 1957 did a very similar thing. His book is called Picasso paints a Portrait. It to follows the days chronologically as this films tracing out of time passes over. Poetically visual it deftly and precisely charts the process and an empathy emerges as it does with James Lord the inquisitior and the subject art of Alberto Giacometti in the human being. Giacometti seeks to inform how his work evolves yet the contrariness of both artists is evidenced, as well as ego concealed partially – less so in Picasso oeuvre – a gigantic sometimes overwhelming one – one which a note of caution is delivered by Giacometti in a midway mid-day stroll through the sunny graveyard he fondly uses as a basis for remaining ‘grounded!’. At the foot of this piece you will find some illustrations from that book. Two things stand out as key connections to the simple task in hand, their use of the wicker chair as symbol of today’s modernity and the other Egyptian influences. The ancient in tune with this ‘simplicity’ they cannot acquire except in a object of desire.
This film, Final Portrait is based on James Lords book, Giacometti : A Portrait, which many after seeing this will be seeking out to rehearse the insights we have here in a short time witnessed. The film has, like the title, two meanings and hemispheres. Cubism is to Giacometti one success which Cezanne spoke of as geometry speaking in everything. Cubes, Cylinders, Spheres. After all is trivial. This is also a point to collect a thought on Giacometti’s work which is linear and textured could not show the aforementioned but never recognisable instantly as being cubist.

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His early influences

Giacometti was a prolific student of drawing taught by his artist father and academy led with which he acknowledges his work was able to spring from and become the serious insightful presence of interpretation going back through a lineage to Egyptian art, Cycladic art, also work conceived by the African Dan tribe which eschewed literal by making symbolic protrusions, depressions, and which itself had no notion of itself as Artwork, more a record of the interior life’s present and enjoyed. Replicating the partially understood. So far and not beyond. Here in modern society we are blessed and equipped with tools of interpretation and also the comparison of work having gone before because this is the territory opened up by Gaicometti and our brief excursion into understanding it is part of the overwhelming wash of visual mental stimulation 21st century art through instragram, Pinterest, Google has put in front of us. There is no place it seems nowadays for things to be tentative as we know all too well the temporality of everything. Yet we revisit ad memoirium things and objects arrested moments. We love the memoriter.

There is one point in Giacometti’s life, very early on while he was in the tutelage of his teacher, Emile-Antoine Bourdelle, when his first model, and love probably was sitting for him and he realised this – His approach was inspired by one model. In the winter of 1920 he began a sculpture of a friend with whom he was staying and, after six months of her sitting for the work, he suddenly realised a complete fracture between what he saw and what he could make. This crucial turning point became the reference for every artwork he subsequently created; he claimed every portrait after descended from this one piece – the film does place the same into the narrative exactly when James Lord first sits down.

There is an important point of change in his life which is the death of his and Diego’s father in 1933. He altered his work becoming more ‘ruminant’ perhaps is one way of expressing it.

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Plasticity of words and work

The words, not coined by his Catalogue writer, Jean-Paul Sartre, ‘The figures were never for me a compact mass, but rather like a transparent construction.’ This was written in 1929 to Pierre Matisse on the pieces, Homme et Femme and more persuasively Femme Couche qui rêve (1929) which goes back to the African Dan tribe depiction of a woman and birth. It is telling that Giacometti relied on others as well as his tutors to remove the clouds around his art. Jean-Paul Sartre was trusted but he, Giacometti did depend on success or recognition at least to see it’s worth in continuing to work as he did. It was as most artists worth their salt dependant on shedding some insights on the world while their here.  He explodes at the point of a mark misplaced with the F word.  There is an ambiguity I saw in the latent homosexuality of Giacometti withstanding his prolific indulgence with the ‘fallen’ women he cherished.
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Hard discovery

He also took on the burden of thinking, as this film’s period shows the mortality and proximity and control one had over ones life. He disavowed while at the same time contemplated suicide but was in his bi-polarity state only briefly. Instead he devoured life around him and unlike Virginia Wolff was unable to attest to the sovereignty of life by ultimately cashing in her mind for, it is beyond us to see what state of mind took VW beyond the trouble she conceived existed around her. No explanation is offered into the needs and further explorations Giacometti needs to make except by the otherwise obtuse virtue of the title of the film. The Final Portrait.
As it is a test Giacometti put to himself which is voiced in the film I bring the Virginia Wolff discovery of herself unable to resist her choice in this final letter to her sister Vanessa Bell, herself a painter. “Sunday – Dearest, You can’t think how I loved your letter. But I feel I have gone too far this time to come back again. I am certain now that I am going mad again. It is just as it was the first time, I am always hearing voices, and I shan’t get over it now. All I want to say is that Leonard has been so astonishingly good, every day, always; I can’t imagine that anyone could have done more for me than he has. We have been perfectly happy until these last few weeks, when this horror began. Will you assure him of this? I feel he has so much to do that he will go on, better without me, and you will help him. I can hardly think clearly anymore. If I could I would tell you what you and the children have meant to me. I think you know. I have fought against it, but I can’t any longer. Virginia.” This was ever a similar but converse reaction to the ‘final portrait’ Giacometti never gave up on achieving.

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Telling direction

The ‘Final Portrait’ is itself decided by the very accomplished writing and Directing of Stanley Tucci. His grasp of the subject is immense. He is able to take away the familiar work as it is of a different time. He knows he is dealing with the later matured Alberto. He therefore cannot use the familiar pieces or work to ‘familiarise’ us with the extent and immense groundbreaking work he had produced. Only one piece I have seen before – there are sketches and variations of small and human scale pieces which are in the studio – one in the courtyard depicts this drawings final realisation in the courtyard entrance at the beginning of the film. The work of the twenties, thirties, forties is virtually uncatalogued but ideas are plentiful as is reminiscent stories for James to absorb while being painted. It is revelatory in the time capsule. It shows the duality of the scheme of life between the existence and non existence.

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Form and structure.

Stanley Tucci is very astute in the delivery of this story. For its structure is easy to follow being based on a narrated daily journal of the sitting for the portrait. Day 1, Day 2 etc., and we are given a Film of two kinds. One is the easy chronological insight into the contemporary art world of the sixties and the emotional drivers of Giacometti through his loves and acquaintance’s. The story has love, familial compromise, conviviality, depression, joy, angst, joie de vivre, criminality, greed, regarde, consciousness, worldliness, humour, with very little disposition for effect.
The world is on the one hand depicted as a portrait of the artist with bourgeois representation and light touch Parisian gallic charm ruthlessly exploited with the musical pathos the serene views and historical significance of Liberté, égalité, fraternité and the Marseille Frenchness lightly painted for a film audience not to become vexed by the characters seen but warming to them in a symbolic way. The confronted, the confronted, the aesthete, the consort, the domicile, the contented. There are better representations but these token characterisations are employed here to imply the construct is made this way to give an audience its clear idea of being able to believe in the art and artist. The other way, the second, is Stanley Tucci delving into the very words Giacometti said about his work which he shows us is the basis of an insightfulness achievable through this two handed piece of portraitist and the sitter. In it is life explored. The arc of Alberto Giacometti is clearer for the method used.
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His studio

The studio is a back street 46 rue Hippolyte Maindron and it is what he tells his wife Annette – played beautifully, constrained and wild in equal measure and a devotee, by Sylvie Testud – as home. It is literally like a void only filled by the work and the presence of people. It has not affectation. A word he delights in using. Then there is the Café life, the Café Adrien which is more a fully developed restaurant. The outdoors comprises a few streets and occasional boulevard but mostly is the graveyard with its Mausoleum’s and Standing Gravestones. As well as this we meet in the studio the visiting lover and consort under no pretence of it being otherwise his favoured muse and adulteress Caroline played with coy affected joyfulness by Clémence Poésy. In one scene it is a place he visits disconsolate and adrift in search of the lost Caroline in which there are sheltered under the hood of deaths doorway heavily metaphorically the mistresses of petit morte.

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So his world is captured in a few locations and this allows the words to be expressed between James and Alberto. Ever watchful is Diego played by a very balanced Tony Shalhoiub his talented brother, talented in measurement, of the presentation and value of work who exercises influence whenever he can to see things do not get out of control. He also produces small pieces and lets them alone to exist as material objects not having apportioned value. Diego had a child which Alberto represented, un-childlike but as metaphor, in a famous sculpture which recognised love. Over the days their conversations become more complex and both become at ease. These illuminate the story as Stanley Tucci uses these periods to delve into the place of the primary issue being scoped out. That perhaps being the artists battle with the void in art which is seen in every sculpture and painting, sketch he produces. This emptiness has the force to be greater than its minimal presence. In the studio there is a collection which he either consoles himself with or as stimuli to create better versions of his works. It is a very sparse but cluttered space.

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James Lord is able to follow the painting process while continually, at his partners unamused confusion, postponing his departure and is able to extend for weeks, his insight observing and getting to know Giacometti. He is able to eventually discern which brush Alberto picks up and which stage of the process he’s at. Infuriatingly he also gets to understand the method of working is just working. That A Final Portrait can never be. He is conscious the work in a split second can be over done and then Alberto lifts another brush to put it to negative effect subtracting what he has worked.
The Working of this film has a duality is as I noted earlier. There are very persuasive actions, mostly achieved through the characters, of Tucci finding opportunities to place empathically the core person behind the career which is famously and at times misconstrued.  The tyranny of his loves, the tyranny of money, his oblique but absorbing view of the small habitué of his studio and district, the machinations of dealers some of whom he is very friendly with and grateful to as they recognise largely the work and they facilitate it reaching a wider audience than either his brother or he could contemplate spending time pursuing.

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Conclusion ####4

This is a fascinating film on a fascinating and visionary, special artist whose work as a Sculptor informed us and many other artists of the extremities and location of limits in the pursuit of a depiction of his reality which overlaps and underscores each and everyone of us capable of sight and observation.  The extent of his drawing is seen in the fact the film comprises in the main act of portraiture advancing.  There are two sides to it also – the futile and ordinary everyday particles comprising life which are oversaturated in light touch direction by this first main feature length film by the appreciative Stanley Tucci – then the intense part – the art and its delivery which is in negative tonal black and white colouration mainly.  It exceeds expectations and is much more than a depiction on film of a book by the highly astute observer, James Lord played brilliantly by Armie Hammer.  To act alongside Geoffrey Rush whose interpretation seems flawless, is itself a task well met.  Geoffrey Rush even gauges the walk, including at this time his limp from a car accident and short practices of working a clay or poster mix (the pieces are complex but textural) and his eye shows the sight and detail the work entails.  Also the framing is Giacometti like in its plainness and directness. Detail is examined and good touches of – what might have been difficult within a studios confined, cluttered space – is done with accomplished smooth ease.  It is a work of loving appreciation and as much accuracy and truthfulness such a journey takes or needs.  Beautifully crafted this will be seen as a highly effective insight to the master at work at leat in the window of the narrow time frame.  The exploration it seems it compels into the other work – Diego sat each day apparently for seven years and was his first and last subject – implies his figure is the everyman.  It is quite a unique piece of work in every sense.

John Graham

16 August 2017

Belfast.

FINAL PORTRAIT will screen at QFT Belfast from 18th August 2017 until 24th August 2017

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Influences

 

Annette and Caroline

 

Picasso

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Maudie: A Film Review

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Director. Aisling Walsh. Produced by Bob Cooper. Mary Young Leckie. Mary Sexton. Susan Mullen. Written by Sherry White.

Cast. Sally Hawkins. as Maud Lewis. Ethan Hawke. as Everett Lewis. Kari Matchett. as Sandra. Gabrielle Rose. as Aunt Ida. Zachary Bennett. as Charles Dowley. Lawrence Barry. as Mr. Davis (Shopkeeper) Greg Malone. as Mr. Hill. Billy MacLellan. as Frank. Music by Michael Timmins. Cinematography Guy Godfree. Edited by Stephen O’Connell. Production companies, Rink Rat Productions, Screen Door, Parallel Films. Distributed by Mongrel Media. Duration. 1hr 46mins. Rated PG. Country , Ireland, Canada

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Maudie

In Canadian/Irish production the biographical story of Maud Lewis, Maudie, is told loosely dramatising what must have been a devilishly difficult life. Maudie became a folk artist heroine of great standing by observing Canada and its nature in simple naive art. Her art was picturesque ethereal and colourful. Working everyday she painted every season creating a world few imagined existed anymore. It was a form of magical realism without the realm of fantasy.

Maud Lewis is a determined individual as this story shows. With challenges of firstly chronic arthritis and spinal curvature which meant she struggled to move efficiently, also she was very small and accordingly was seen by her family as lacking the ability to look after herself so ended up being looked after by Aunt Ida in Digby, Nova Scotia. Itself a fishing town on the outskirts of a vast continent it was nevertheless a settlement which suited her outdoor nature loving heart I would suggest. The trouble was the arrangement brought about by a financial arrangement with her brother Charles lacked love which she seemed to crave and be absent from. There is one incident which ‘defines’ the notion, she couldn’t look after herself which is where the arrangement presumably came about.
We see Maudie from mid adulthood and nothing is suggested of her life before then or where her artistic skills we nurtured or became mature. The film’s arc is her adult life. Born in 1903 she lived until 1970.  Little is made of her early life and instead of taking a wider arc it puts aside any melodrama, and events which would have affected her enormously.  Nothing of her parents or struggles to survive the severe rheumatoid arthritis but enter the story when she is being cared for by Aunt Ida or early ventures if any into art.

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The town becomes a character as it provides the inspiration for Maud’s painting. In the local general store she overhears Everett Lewis played by Ethan Hawk, whose Hollywood haircut certainly looks out of place.  There are issues to be found throughout with the time passing element hardly depicting the 35 odd years Everett and Maud had time together.  When he puts out a requests for a housekeeper he  barely expects Maud to be the one putting it up to him as a woman who would do his chores when he is away on his wayfarer fish seeking and junk retrieval business.  He lives in a house about 8 metered square with a sleeping room in the apex of the roof.  It is very unkept but it is also a bit of a home.

Maud after an argument with Aunt Ida goes and takes the job and gets into a routine when Everett takes her onboard.  Everett has been brought up at an orphanage which he still calls into from time to time to get any useful junk they are throwing out.  He even sits down at a meal when it’s on offer with the children who are there.  This makes him very flawed when dealing with people an he has a temper which comes out as abuse with Maud.   Maud who has a number of ailments none of which would hardly be clear of pain.  Both characters are therefore set in an internalised world already with little notion or need foe wider ambitions.  So it is disapponting to see these two actors who are a neat fit spoil the exploration of the characters because ther are no scenes of deep recall or of their backstory.  Surely a major failing in gaining leverage.  Sarah Hawkinsat times seems affected which is far from what I would imagine her character to be.  The first instance of this jarring acting was early on when her brother Charlie is ‘negotiating’ the care of Maud.  She swings and swivels and then having caught this as a note twists her hair and this is often parlayed out later on.  Ethan Hawke places his ‘notes’ in picking up a piece f timber or a tool and chucking it behind him.  I got into a game of will he won’t he ‘discard this item’, it may work and maybe I’m over critical but small things matter as do the cars, the scenery and the seemingly implausibly long walks Maud especially takes to get around.

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The compressed into a series of chapters separated or punctuated by the seasons marching on. We see lots of beautiful wide scope sunsets, serenity of snow filled peaks and spreading landscape along with the tableau of wild flowers seasons arrival is announced by. Just this week the story of the flower received a ‘scientific’ attribution. All flowers it seems derive from one of around 130 million years ago. The first one it is believed was a white water-lily.

Artwork

Undoubtedly the film brings a broader perspective to the work produced by Maud.

Out of the small room comprising the living cooking dining and washing duties from the dark green distance of the walls would come shades of light green emerging into the daylight falling on objects.
As Liz (Dame) Smith once remarked about her loosing her mother when she was two, her mother only twenty three – it is an animal trait that if there is no one standing beside you, others can push you around without fear of confrontation.

 

Conclusion ###3

There has been a routinely good response to this film but I found it asking more questions than it answered.  The ‘family’ situation was totally out of the ordinary and the people in what is basically a two handed do not talk about their lives.  They jointly discover intimacy and it is left aside with moments of abuse entering into it.

I have to say it left me totally underwhelmed.

Go see you will most probably learn from it.

John Graham

4 August 2017

Belfast.On at Queens Film Theatre from Friday 4 August through to and including Thursday 17 August 2017

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