Platform Arts+Engine Room Gallery end of 2019 show

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The Gallery explains

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

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

The View Platform Arts Belfast Members Show

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

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

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

Give a dog a bomb.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Platform and this exhibition 

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

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

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

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More Emery Blagdon works –

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

The Engine Room Gallery

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

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

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

Painted Man

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

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

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

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

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

All views are my own in this essay.

John Graham

11 December 2019

Belfast

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Painting dynamics

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

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

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

Life

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

The painting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Painting & Paint colour

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additions

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

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Some negative aspects relating to the curation.

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

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

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

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

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

John Graham

3 July 2018

Belfast

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My life as a Courgette : A Film Review 

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My life as a Courgette  Duration 1hr 6mins  Rating PG

Directed by Claude Barras, Produced by Armelle Glorennec, Éric Jacquot, Marc Bonny.  Screenplay by Céline Sciamma, Claude Barras, Germano Zullo, Morgan Navarro.  Book. Based on Autobiographie d’une Courgette by Gilles Paris, Music by Sophie Hunger, Edited by Valentin Rotelli, Distributed by Gebeka Films, Duration. 66 minutes. Country. Switzerland, France, Language French with English sub-titles.

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Scenario

Adapted from the Gilles Paris YA novel by France’s youth friendly screenwriter, Celine Sciamma (“Tomboy,” “Girlhood”), Swiss director Claude Barras’ “My Life as a Courgette” shows how life for a young child removed from a family setting, is challenged while he forges his identity as he moves into in a Children’s Carehome home.  His name is a means of ensuring singularity and the writer skillfully deploys this stop animation film as a quasi scoping out of systems of care while making it a benign film suitable and not too troublingbone would hope and so far it’s is borne out, for young children themselves.  There is a dry direct biological sense of humor which goes beyond the nasty smelly forty traits and is partly uses sexual references.  Whether kids not in a French language course get the subtitles they may find it difficult catching up the adults who are skilled at joining visuals and sub-titles up instantly as a by product of seeing good well written art house movies which this is and which delivers its humour with colourful rapid firepower.

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Stop motion identity

Life as an animated Swiss boy is in the hands of many people.  Identity is for others to manipulate and guide.  Courgette has to be flexible and obey the stop motion process to do what is willed.  Tedious as that may seem Courgette manages to escape his mentors and creators to an imagined inner sanctum which hadn’t started too well.  Firstly as a lone child without domestic comforts in an attic we see the colours of Courgette’s world in the sketches and crafts scattered around his loft bedroom. From it is the view of a large town which he explores with his kite.  A Spider-Man character drawn on one side which he submits to his conscious as his lost father.  We hear from below a loud television in the act of transmitting daily dramatic arguments in the form of a dialogue his mother Madame Courgette is transfixed by with the contributing factor of vast quantity of tiniest which are discarded and strewn all over the floor which Courgette observes with a resigned detachment.

Madame Courgette is partially responsible for her own downfall from this point onwards as the scene is set for Courgette moving out and on to a more pleasant stop motion activity involving children of his own age, around 11, and in a pleasing outskirts of town even countrified environment of a detached children’s home.  Before he gets there we meet the paper filling Monsieur Raymond a Gendarme whose function is to oversee the placement into care of this little lost boy.  Monsieur Gendarme becomes attached to the story as an evuncular near retirement policemen which the stop motion life has assigned a slightly disjointed French gendarme type nose, long and typically Gallic-ly thin whose own circumstances relate in a way to Courgettes whose name by the way is of his own invention.  His identity is what is the mast and sailing device needed to navigate the stop motion world and life.  His guide can be his imagination which we see his personality hidden yet emerging as highly coloured under the baggage of this domestic altering life. He comes over as constricted optimistic creative kind with doubts filling many of the junctions he is asked to traverse.  No male guide in the form of a moral compass or initiator open to adventure, no maternal loving parenting or emotional regulator nor any sign of a mind being educated exceptbthrough his own ingenuity.

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Parental Breakdown

Cleverly the circumstances of domestic life are thrown up in the air (literally in a way) and this begins a new adventure which Monsieur Gendarme take him into past the high rise estates, the motorway connections onto open country along the rolling quieter rural idyll which even enables Monsieur Gendarme to relax into his self adopted role. Sturdy an assured in purpose they arrive at a large attractive detached house to be greeted by two staff members and at various windows inquisitive children.  The matronly Madame Principle (have to continue with this means of naming them as it is not in the directors mind to ‘label’ them Raymond excepted, and I presume it must derive from his upbringing as say being know to his friends as Bean or such like.  Then he became a runner for a film crew etc.  for which the this film listing has about 15!) has a large topped hair tower and round Corbusier glasses which apply her short sightedness over onto a Courgette in a Breton black matronly way.  She is formidablé though confident enough in her complexity not to be overbearing and with Rose, a name escapes beneath the allusion, is a young teacher and nurse, cleaner, cook, gardener, general ‘factotum’ whose task it is to do as Nadame asks and without fuss or even being visible.  This is a stop motion circumstance the flexibility of Courgette is well able to handle as his assertive side comes out particularly concerning his name.  Odd as it is it is not to be found elsewhere except the variations across languages give it another more exotic calling as nom de plume, Plum, people have been named even Pip.

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Play time

The new surroundings are populated by a rag-tag of children placed there through no fault of their own from backgrounds of immigration, child abuse, orphaned, drug addition with a company of teachers, attendants whose care is essential to their settlement.  The narrative is one not normally travelled and it is what gives the film a pvery strong story.  Courgette is in a strange environment and shares his dormitory with the other boys and the assertive Simon who is the self appointed leader guide and spokesman being a well developed foil and thought provoking element.  Simon is troubled himself and reacts by being defensive and assertive.  Form early on we see the different personalities around the meal times and playtimes.  The young male teacher with the job of educating them is a lively active kind with an amourous relationship with Rose and together they arrange a trip to the Alps and a ski- resort.  Being a fashionable retreat the kids onl have initially sleighs and the odd set of skis to play with and there is a contrast of class in some interactions.

Another clever detail.  Every Ski-resort has its Apres ski and here Courgette and his pals have a good time in the multi-coloured disco ball atmosphere of the cabin.  Earlier this week while listening to the Radio Ulster duo of – cruel as it happens but I’ll label them! – Smashy and Nicey – Stuart and Rigsy revel in the new radio studio all bells and whistles with 21st century controls.  So when a track starts in the semi gloom the lights dim further and Rigsy can barely control his excitement as a green blob spiralls and decorates all the walls of the space age domain.  Child like frenzy is happening man especially we’re music and disco lights are concerned.  It is one of many delightful carefully segued scenes and the story takes on more characters including Courgettes close love interest, the shy Camille.  Camille is a helper and observes others traits and vulnerabilities while not attending to her own.  Her Aunt arrives on the scene commando style Camille seeks assistance in trying to avoid being taken away from this place of comfort and refugee.

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All the kids have found a place of safety and enjoy the way things open up to them.  Things aalways change and the writer makes concessions to this by placing favourable developments to counter the other less savoury elements, not that they are overplayed in either event.  The world has set them numerous problems and this story is a neat compact telling of the formative years while dealing the smarts on rearing children without harming their future.  They have at the same time to loose the baggage other children do not have which not to bear.  It is a very intelligent and sympathetic film touching in its confronting difficult issues, seldom tacked in film and animated to a level which is infectiously enjoyable.  You may know what a Courgette looks like. Look out for the other oddity veggies, L’Artichoke, L’Aubergine.   The attention to detail is fun and plentiful.

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Conclusion ####4

Running for only 66mins this is nevertheless a fully formed piece not lacking in pace, message, interesting characters, sympathetic and emotional moments dealt with a carefully script.  There is a mad American overdubbed edition which while it helps children keep up with the jokes and continual wordplay, at times involving sexual references in Gallic flavored morsels.  It is essentially a universal story but it Gods up extremely well in the Foreign/Native language version subtitled in the U.K.  Be careful which one you arrange to see as both versions are being screened by Quens Film Theatre and on General release there will also be choices.  Children are very adaptable to cartoon driven and adopt favourites depending on their own personality.  The Ghilbi Animations are pure gold and carry lots of layers often found compelling to adputs in their literacy also.  This is not a vexing or very deep message but is full of good outcomes and peppered with lots of vibrant beautifully visual content which will see the hour and a bit pass without you know it and oddly thinking that it was longervsuch is its immersive connective joy.

John Graham

2 June 2017

Belfast

on at Queens Film Theatre Belfast from 2 June 2017 through to and including 8 June 2017 and on general release.