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April 9 2009 5 09 /04 /April /2009 16:57

For her inaugural exhibition, the new curator of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Julie Joyce, presents the first solo show in the Western U.S. of Yinka Shonibare, “A Flying Machine for Every Man, Women and Child and Other Astonishing Works”, an experience both political and dream-like.

Yinka Shonibare was born in London in 1962, but raised from the age of 3, in Lagos, Nigeria. In his work, he seeks to denounce the disturbing economical outline in the colonized countries. As a plastic demonstration, no violence, nor repelling content; but a skilful way to elaborate and produce his work. Indeed the materials used for his sculptures, those atypical fabrics, brightly colored and wax-printed cloths, are produced in Europe, but feature authentic African batiks, and were sold to African by Dutch traders in the 19th century. This whole process is necessary to be known in order to understand the aims of the artist, who, through the production, makes a metaphor of the merchandising process between the colonized countries and the occidental one.

The major piece displayed in the exhibition is a group of sculptures representing mannequins, riding a one-wheel bicycle topped by a multicolored propeller, and outfitted in Victorian era dresses made from African batiks. A feeling that those characters are coming from a fairy tale, or a myth. The contrast is both accurate and beautiful: first it reverses the habitual cliché of African people looking exotic: here it gives you more the feeling of some prosperous European who look aliens. Secondly, this group of a perfect family-like, we could imagine it as a high quality Window Dressing, which already has his own History in contemporary art: Rauschenberg, Warhol, and Jaspers John had great success with it. Indeed, all the cloths are the result of a slow and very elaborated work.

One disturbing and yet essential point of this piece, is that the characters are headless…  Shonibare comments, in "Sculpture Magazine" (2006) “…a lot of my work challenges the idea of hierarchy or aristocracy in some way. During the French Revolution, the heads of the aristocrats were chopped off using the guillotine.  Basically it started as a joke, because I take working class fabrics from Africa and dress the aristocracy in those fabrics and then I take their heads off, but there’s no blood or violence.  It’s witty in a knowing sort of way.”

In this exhibition, the first film of the artist is displayed: “Un ballo in Maschera" (a Masked Ball) 2004. It tells the assassination of King Gustav III of Sweeden in 1792 through the medium of dance.  For a first  film, it is very  promising.  About it, Shonibare said, in "Artforum" (2005) “My aim with this film has been….to push the boundaries by finding new ways to interrupt the narrative moment in cinema and by reconsidering costumes and its possibilities.  The costumes embody a paradox: They are made from fabric influenced by Indonesian design, produced by the Dutch, who tried it on the West African market, where it was appropriated as African.  The point for me is that identity itself is an artificial construct.”

An other very interesting piece is one of his recent work : “La Méduse”, a crafted sailing ship on roiling high seas in a wood an glass case. It is a direct reference the emblematic painting of Théodore Géricault, The Raft of the Medusa (1918-1919), which remains this tragic event of the death of nearly 150 French people in a storm, who were going to Senegal to argument with the British to retake the land. The genius of Shonibare is, through a multicolored sails which remains the African batik, replacing the true subject of this tragedy.

Finally his sculptures, photographs, films and installations remains provocative and relevant to describe the huge gap between the African and the European way of thinking and acting. The pieces highlight, with a plastic cleverness, the situation of Africa and its past. Playing with  cultural myths  in colourful materials, the artist shows a great sense of lyrism and fantasy which indeed pervades the whole path. This solo exhibition is an acknowledgment for his combat and his art.

[Visual : Yinko Shonibare : "A Flying Machine for Every Man, Woman and Child," 2008, Credit: Brian Forrest]

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April 7 2009 3 07 /04 /April /2009 15:54

Only 6 works. Nothing more. Even the pieces go through the exhibition silently. Even more, the number of works reduces when you move: 3 by Roman Signer and Ceal Floyer, 1 by Laurent Grasso and Micol Assaël. You have a similar visual reduction, from scattered and intermittent Signer’s objects to Assaël’s worrying emptiness, the body is call upon services to appropriate pieces through new forms. So, definitively, with the running exhibition at Pompidou Center, the vacuum is a current trend of art, roughly answering to surrounding excesses. Who could complain?

We were waiting for a while now an exhibition that enlightens the work of art as a unique and singular object. You can run through the Palais de Tokyo at the speed of the main characters of Bande à Part (Jean-Luc Godard, 1964) or take a salutary time to explore the imposed sensorial penetrations, it’s the same. "Gakona" leaves the spectator free to choose, correct, interpret or quietly reject those oriented proposals. The exhibition is an extreme continuation of the tendencies taken and lost after the inaugural "5 Milliards d’années" (Walherian period) : sharp, precise, opened, reflexive, but not (too much) elitist. But, be cautious : if the exhibition is well designed, it does not mean that the exhibited pieces are all perfect. Here is the proof. 

Obviously, beginning with Roman Signer is not risky. The work of the Swiss artist is absolutely and definitively brilliant, and does not spark off superfluous comments. The absolute economy of means (a table, chairs and an electric mower, umbrellas) only partially hides the colossus means implemented, sometimes technically, always conceptually speaking. He is the proudly representative artist figure, magical and magician, and we can’t, and don’t have to, reveal the tricks.

Ceal Floyer navigates on more tenebrous and blurred oceans. His pseudo-minimalism alternates the very good (the switch slide), the good (line traces and action relic) and the ordinary but not bad (sounds). The coldness of the pieces, their distance, participate of an aesthetical choice that is reflected in the dispositive and the connection created between the works. They can live without us but it’s harder for us to do without them.

Haarp by Laurent Grasso leaves us indifferent. The whole thing is aesthetically well done, sufficiently proportioned to impress, but it’s the paradigm of a strong trend on actual art (notably French art) of the young generation. The recipe is quite simple : you take an interesting event from the little history (preferably from Sciences for the theoretical justification), you interpret it quietly roughly on art field (from identical reproduction to slight changes, details) and, if you can, add a referential dimension to conceptual and/or minimal art. Not too hard, it succeeds each time and you can proudly say : “I (almost) did it”.

Chizhevsky Lessons by Micol Assaël runs on exactly the same principle (so, it’s not typically French). The main difference is that Assaël proposes an experience that is not visual, appealing our body foundations, and surprises us by bringing a dimension wisely innovative. Like Laurent Grasso’s piece, the installation is very beautiful on its formal perfection, but it has the advantage to make us go through new feelings. It’s not so frequent to feel the concrete manifestation of our sensibility passing through our body, so, enjoy!

The happy spectators of Thee Majesty show at the Pompidou Center Saturday night lived a similar corporal experience to Gakona. Vibrations, feelings, exploration of unexplored countries, annoyances, silences and noises were the menu. Finally, on minimalism or on exuberance, to provoke emotions and conceptual power is the main art judgment principle. The only one that allows you to escape even on your own body, material or immaterial : isn’t it right, Genesis?

[Visuals : above, Laurent Grasso, Haarp, 2009. Acier galvanisé, câbles, boîtiers. Dimensions variables. Architecte Pascal Grasso. Réalisation, Atelier Patrick Ferragne. Courtesy Galerie Chez Valentin, Paris © ADAGP, 2009. Vue de l'exposition Gakona. Photographie : André Morin. Below : Roman Signer, Chaises, 2007. 15 chaises, tondeuse à gazon électrique. Dimensions variables. Courtesy de l’artiste et de la galerie Hauser and Wirth, Zürich. Vue de l'exposition Gakona. Photographie : André Morin]

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April 7 2009 3 07 /04 /April /2009 12:01

The Pace Wildenstein Gallery presents, until April 18th, “Berlin 2000”, a group exhibition, which gathers two generation of artists who were producing in Berlin when the Wall collapsed.

The interest of this exhibition is double: first it is the occasion to understand the strength and the freedom of creation of those artists, willing to express themselves about the new world they entered in. Secondly, the Pace Wildenstein Gallery made for the occasion a very special catalogue, bilingual, extremely well documented, and other special product made especially for the occasion.

In 1989, when the Wall collapsed, Berlin became a center for a great evolution of mind. A kind of cultural renaissance happened: the incoming of foreigners people, of images from the liberal world inspired for new ideas, in a radical sense. In fact, socially, politically and economically, Berlin was growing in a fast and furious manner.

As for the art creation, we can see in this exhibition how groups of artists were organizing and displaying together theirs works. A real collaboration was born, with an underground nightlife as a background. Therefore, many artists from abroad, such as Damien Hirst, Tacita Dean, Mark Wallinger, were supporting this movement. Those latter were awarded as DAAD fellowship.

Installation, sculptures, paintings, photographs, a great variety of medias and artists are here displayed : 37 artists, 60 works created around 2000, express their feeling, their opinion about this period of changes, of new freedom. The artists are selected for the quality of their works, for an aesthetic and intellectual experience. To notice : the installation of Anselm Reyle, Believe (2002), the painting of Peter Strauss, the sculpture, Salem (2000) by Gabriel Vormstein, the wall painting of Martin Eder etc...

The bilingual catalogue is a gold mine of elaborated texts and articles about Art,  but also topics as Philosophy and Subjectivity in the 23 These written by the German writer and Philosopher Marcus Steinweg. Also,  Tim Wendland create a multimedia installation as a support of the exhibition, and the artist Daniel Pflumm produced a vinyl record of his music, available at the gallery.

What attracts us in the city of Berlin nowadays, the vast places transformed into studios of artists or DJ’s, the hip urban social scene, and the underground nightlife, all this started at that time. To see this exhibition is both a jump into the past, and a personal consideration on it from each artist, an interesting experience, with high quality works

[Visuals : Above : Anselm Reyle and Katja Strunz, Memorias dos tempos, 2001, mixed media, dimensions variable. Courtesy Pace Wildenstein Gallery. Below : Gabriel Vormstein, Salem, 2000, wood, lacquer, plaster, pineapple, mango, pomegranate, 82-5/8" x 7-7/8" x 15-3/4" (210 cm x 20 cm x 40 cm) Courtesy Pace Wildenstein Gallery]

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April 5 2009 1 05 /04 /April /2009 12:54

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is offering us, from March 20 to June 21, a rare experimentation of the incarnation of time, through three works of the artist Tim Hyde : "Building in Reverse"

There is something very disturbing and attractive in the videos and collaged photographs of this American born artist (1968), where we are losing all our marks… and it might be mainly because he plays with our fundamental bearing of life, time and space. Yet, since the philosopher E. Kant defines time and space as the basic conditions of any knowledge (The Critic of Pure Reason), manipulating them can create a great effect on our sensations. But it is not only about space and time: Tim Hyde, with only three works presented in the museum, bring us much inspiration, and opens up our mind to new perspectives about, for instance, Andy Warhol’s works, the relation between men and architecture, or simply the photographic media. 

To find his subjects, he traveled in very different places such as Albania, Belarus, Ukraine. The Keeper (2006) is a video that takes place in Kiev, Ukraine where the first interest, the architecture of an ex-KGB building, transformed into a focus on speechless encounter with an old lady. Hyde describes it as an "inverted portrait in which the traditional function of figure and background are reversed." Indeed, it remains as a reversal of Warhol’s Screen Test (1964-1966), in which the artist was featuring famous and glamorous people with almost no movement neither talking.  The architecture, which is an inanimate construction of men and was the first focus, gets hidden by this strange figure who actually seems less vivid than the latter. Our conception of those two elements gets then confused and mixed up.

The second video, Video panorama of New York City during which the camera failed to distinguish the city from a snowstorm,  also remains some of Warhol works; the topic is the city of New York disappearing under mist. It plays with our perception of space and time trough a ingenious mechanism of display: It is 180 degree sweep over a period of seven hours, separated in seven parts, each the record of one our filming. The whole presented on seven screens. Then, there is no possible narration, the viewer confronts himself with a blurred vision of one the most emblematic city in world, where space is perceived and transformed in time. Empire a video of the Empire State Building made by Warhol in 1964 was a first experience to render time spatially tangible.

The last work, Untitled (Monument) is a group of collaged photographs that represents a man holding on his shoulders and showing different kind of reduced symbolic architectures. Yet, they embody in a concrete white form an experience of time and space. A magnificent freedom is here expressed, first with the representation of this Sisyphean figure carrying architectures, and second by extending the power of the photographic media.

In only three works, we get an impressive demonstration of a fine plastic reflection on very sharp concept such as time and space.
"Tim Hyde's attentiveness to the production of images in film and photography is evident in his work, and the ways in which it challenges interpretation and the nature of representation," Assistant Curator Adelina Vlas said. "His thoughtful use of the camera lens engages both the perception and the imagination of the viewer."

Don’t miss the experience…

[Visual : Untitled (Monument), 2008–09, Photo collage installation, Courtesy of the artist and Max Protetch Gallery]

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April 4 2009 7 04 /04 /April /2009 13:21

At Slick Dessin Paris, we noticed a British Gallery -The Cynthia Corbett Gallery- , which came with some very interesting and fresh projects ; Cynthia took some time to explain us the path of those young artists and share with us her passion...

At Slick Dessin, you are the only British gallery in this fair, what did you want to share with the French public?

Well, it is very interesting at Slick Dessin this year because I made the decision to take two very well known British artists. One is Ghislaine Howard, she is a  Anglo-Irish artist best known for public works, and then Andrew Burgess, with his new series of collage and drawings. He is known for seascapes paintings, he has huge collectors all over the world. So I decided to take them and, with the rest of this space, introduce young emerging talent that were very focused on dessin to see how that the public would react  and give them the opportunity to show for the first time their work– or in the case of Drew Walker the second time _ in Paris. And the reaction has been fabulous, because the work is so fresh, so unique and so interesting. Obviously, because they are not well known name, the collectors hesitate to buy them, but the interest is really strong.

The first artist I would like you to talk about is Valerie Joly and her fantastic sculptures-drawing
Yes, she is actually French, Parisien, and she and her family moved to London 15 years ago. I was introduced to her by another French artist who I work with. And I was absolutely blown away because she does sculptures, with anything. She could do sculpture of a drill, a door, or other material elements… In the case of what is presented in Slick here and in the center of Slick Dessin is a vanitas. It is in the nature morte's tradition which really attracted  me because it is part of the old master tradition which I really like. But she has done all her work with tissue paper and graphite pencil and with a special material to hold them together. I can’t tell you more about the technique because I don’t really understand it myself, but it is unbelievably unique. The idea of creating a sculpture with tissue paper, such a common and weightless material is very interesting. She is using sculpture and taking it to another media and this what make it so contemporary. I mean, the fact of using tissue paper as a material for a sculpture is also a form of play. She is playing with history of art, old tradition sculpture and with us. And her interest lies in, again unanimated object, and, as a contrast, vanitas, which turned to inanimate. She also aims to enphazise the contrast between the ephemeral qualities of the tissue paper and the monumentality of the objects she casts. As for the exact technique, i like to keep a mystery about it. They are for me a trace, an vapourous  evocation of the original.

Do you know if she has other projects ?
She is going to continue on sculpture. She won an award, from the Royal British Society of Sculptors in 2008. It was largely for this most recent work that are presented here a Slick. But I pushed her really hard to come up with something. And I think that this door is in the same time her exit for some of the things she has done in the past and her entry into sort of new inspiration and kind of really going for it, experimenting completely what she can find. She actually wants to play with the ambivalence of the inside and the outisde for this door, but also presence and absence, reality and dreams.

Okay, so now let’s go for those baroque cities drawing of Elizabeth Cullen. It represents London or New York and deals about the perception of those cities. What is she seeking for in these works?
I saw her work in a design show. So she is coming from design. I was really drown to her, sort of a physical nature of the drawing; I just found it really unusuall; She calls it geographic psychological maps. The process is this one : she takes a real map with her and then she creates this fantasy world based on whatever she has decided to map out.  She wants to capture the sensations given by her environment. One is on Chinatown, another on Trafalgar Square. They are all done on tracing paper, so it’s a really fine work drawing technique. She has done the same thing for New York. but with varied media, reflecting the very different movement of this city. She is running us to look at the cities in a slightly spiritual and religious way. It alsot akes you back to those famous drawn maps in the old master history. So here is again a link between contemporary art and art history. It is not a copy, but they are derivated, reinterpreted following her own feelings. It's a very intimate and authentic work. And technically she is an incredibly gifted artist.  She also made this little series of lithographs, they are hand colours and hand drawn. She wanted to do some maps but into light boxes, it is her project, but it is very expansive, we have to wait a bit...

Let’s go to Drew Walker, who draws portraits of famous people, and adds, inside the face, those kind of very instinctive and free lines, which makes vibrate the whole work.
He is the youngest, only 23 years old. He is really gifted, if he could stay on track and focused it would be, to my opinion a very big artist. He has such a gift for drawing and portrait. But actually what you see is graffiti. Everything that he has done is a graffiti image of  famous people. When we you look from 10 feet from the wall we perfectly recognize Warhol, Twiggi, Johnny Deep and my favourite, Obama, but when you go closed to the work, what you find is a entire graphitized narrative, totally unique to that person, and Drew Walker’s feelings about him. That’s his interpretation, and you find it in all the details he adds. There are a lot of text involved, a lot of doodles, and small images, it’s a complete graphitized portrait. Some of them are purely black and white, some other are coloured.
If you ask him, "why is there an airplane coming from Andy Warhol eyes ?", he would probably say, "I don’t know, I liked it"; But I think there is a reason for every line he did and in the mean time it could be just instinctive. This is the mystery I like.

Does he have any other projects apart from drawing ?
Well, I am pushing him to go back to the art college. He just did one year and came back with the incredible work. But now he is studying linguistic in which he is brilliant, speaking now three languages fluently besides English, but I think he should go to get an MA form art college. He could be a very important artist in the future. So let’s see what will happen, what path he will decide...
Between him and Valerie, these are the artists who got the most attention. Slick even used one his picture for the website and the publicity. His work is really special.

The eyes for example, the look from those famous people that he projects on us is so intense and deep…
I think it’s a bit spooky. It shows that he is a very conflicted person, he is actually very insecure about his work. I hope he will get to understand to importance of his creation. That is true his way of framing and the intensity of the eyes conveys a very strong presence of each people.

Fine, so let’s now pass on those fantastic collages of Tracey Eastham

Tracey got her master degree of Fine Art Painting in Wimbledon College of Art and Iactually thought she was really  gifted. But she had a real problem with how to present, protect the work, and insure it wouldn’t be damaged.  Because it is so fragile. So I couldn't show her work for two years. It also has this specificity of being double sided. So we made a glass on both side, and you could just hang it from the ceiling and have a double image. It is now as well protected as a collage could be. As for the topic, again this artist is playing with art history. national english references and, her own passions. So she borrows from all these old fairytales books, novels, and it’s a world that when you look back at it you always think it was so perfect.

Very romantic, sensual and nostalgic?
Like a symphony pastoral, it really reminds me the countryside environment, like those stereotypes landscapes. In the mean time there is a hint of dramatic human presence using references from the 18th century English School of romantic painting.

So the use of the media is very contemporary but the subject is actually in the past.
I think that calls us to our sentimentalist side. Because in a way we are all sentimentalist of a past or the past. It was less complicated, more beautiful and simple before. She really fits that chord. But, if you look really closely, there is a very dark side as well, a lot more actual. I could fit the entire room with this work…

To finish, what are your impression about Slick Dessin ?
Well, the opening was really packed, so it is good. But it need a bit more recognition, publicity. It’s not le Salon du Dessin Contemporain, but the work is so fresh and unique and the place is amazing. Beside the prices are affordable. Maybe you take a risk, but you would definitely enjoy the work you chose. 

Gemma Nelson is also a young artist from The Cynthia Corbett Gallery, the precedent article is entirely dedicated to her, with an exclusive interview. Click here to read it.

For further information, you can contact at info@thecynthiacorbettgallery.com | +44 (0) 7939 085 076

[Visual above : Valerie Joly, This side and beyond I, 2009, tissue paper, pva, water and graphite pencil in Perspex box, 30 x 22 x 4 in free standing. Courtesy The Cynthia Corbett Gallery. Drew WalkerObama, 2009. Graphite on Paper, 23.5 x 31.5 in. Courtesy The Cynthia Corbett Gallery]

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April 3 2009 6 03 /04 /April /2009 15:24

Gemma Nelson is a 24 years old British artist, presented by The Cynthia Corbett Gallery at Slick Dessin Paris. She has just graduated from the Slade School of Fine Art, London. Thanks to some contests she did right after graduating, she connected with prestigious galleries such as  the White Cube Gallery, and the Saatchi Gallery.

Pornographic Imagination, is the major work she presents at the fair, and what is interesting is how deep Gemma’s work is connected to litterature: This work is “based on an essay of the same title written by Susan Sontag, an esteemed philosopher and critic who greatly interested Nelson Sontag argued that pornography was a literary subject and an art form in it’s own right. The essay also talks about how artistic forms such as aesthetics and types of spirituality and relate to modern society. Nelson also read Mary Daly’s text “Gyn/ecology” and how the word glamour came about. She learnt how the word Glamour originated, that is from a spell “witches”(akaeducated women) used to process which castrated men or made them eunuchs”

In the following interview, we will go deeper into her world, her references in anthropology, and other artists as well, a very pleasant encounter...

Interview of Gemma Nelson

So, Could you present us those colorful works we have in front of us ?
Those works are made with Indian ink, enamel, sequins and acrylic on canvas. The work is constitued by a lot of patterns, almost like a tapestry.  But you can notice hidden characters within the works that relate to Freudian aspects such as sexuality, totem, taboo, like fetishes. The sexual aspect is important to me, in some part you could see that those canvas convey an expression of orgasmic explosions The symbolism of totems and tattooing has always interested me. For instance I found some very interesting totems in indigent tribes and also tattooing. I also saw some works at the British Museum, a couple of years ago, where there was a show about a tribe based  in South America, who basically, wrapped their gods and the tribes' leaders with tattoos and in patterns. This tribe conveyed a great symbolic to this ritual :  by wrapping their leaders and gods with patterns and wrappings it allowed them to be grounded; less powerful. However it was quite owymorionic as by labelling the leaders and gods with the patterns it demoted that they had power in the first place. So it conveyed a double side meaning, ambiguous. It inspired me for my work. Also, it is interesting how patterning is related to feminism : First the relationship with the old tradition of women’s duty to make, patterns and stitching... Secondly  in  some tribes, the women are the one who imagine and represent the identity of their house, their family  through the patterns they create. For some tribes in Africa, the patterning on female clothing even expresses their mood. Symbolism is very accurate and profound, and my aim in the work is to explore it.
Originally I wanted to build my works on my flat’s walls and cities and reveal quite abstract relationship with my past as well. I come from the North of England, with an history of dry stone walls, marking out territory and denoting space and confinement. I was always fascinated by it. So basically I started to work on that idea. Also I wanted to make a painting both glamorous  and laborious, that would convey beauty and the intellect. I am interested  in 'outsider art' and art created by people within the constraints of a mental asylum ;  and i imagin them locked in their room, expressing the flow of their thought continuously for many hours. I think  i work a bit like this in my studio, I am constantly working very tightly on the work, for this piece [Pornographic Imagination] I didn’t sleep for three nights, solid. And in some case I’ve done it for an whole week where I have not slept, but then the relation with the painting and the world is becoming strange, the creation and the real sometimes mix up, once i started to see things moving around and hallucinate trough a lack of sleep...
I was introduced a couple of years ago to Len Lye's early works, which really interested me. I made a couple of years ago video pieces and experimentations, which are dealing with a long time base. I see my current painting works as condensed time and patterns even if it is done  in a long period of time, it could be two month for one piece. It's  a very optical work, the patterns move with yours eyes. Some parts are made of extremely tight patterns, millimetres cross. It’s almost like an element of what happen in my day, like the African tribes. So because everyday I also have a different mood, one day I might feel like a flower, but the other like something totally different. So the work expresses concrete elements of my life but also irrealities  and metaphysical possibilities.

How is the process ?
It depend which section I am doing, sometime I draw the patterns and then colour it, sometime I colour, pour then draw...

What lead you to this kind of work, can you tell us your path?
I was in the Slade School of Fine Art in London for four years. I came to London to study fine art straght from school.  It’s amazing because there is such a great history of art there. It was a fantastic place to grow and develop. When I started the Slade School of Fine Art I was using bizarre organic materials human hairs and teeth, and I was very interested in other artists like Helen Chadwick. She made works about repulsion and beauty. I was absolutely obsessed with it when I was 17-18 years old. One  piece of hers really fascinated me : it was made from pig’s intestins  with golden hair wrapped around it and it was absolutely beautiful but disgusting. I was fascinated with how hairs is always very symbolic and ambivalent :  It’s a beauty aspect :  People spend a lot of money on their hair, they colour it, get it curled, and it’s very important in fashion and also very sexual. But as soon as you cut it people just don’t want to touch it; it’s disregarded. It’s very relevant of this relation ship between beauty and repulsion. So I was experimenting different materials that could play with this relation, and they would explode and melt. I was also making time based pieces that would take a couple of days or hours to make and then they would destroy themselves and just disappear. So now I am reversing this process and elongating the time of creation. By replicating patterns, I feel close to Helen Chadwick principles.  

Yes, contemporary art plays a lot with this aesthetic process of attraction – repulsion. But, I perceive your work as very attractive. All those colours are very bright. So where are you dealing with repulsion ?
That is true,  it looks very happy and pretty, and it is full of energy. But, when you come closer, you see that it is drippy, and formed like a cellular structure,  it grows like a spore or a cancer. It could be seen in a positive way, where it’s growing organically, like a plant. But also, I see a dark  formative aspect, quite deranged.  If you are self locked in your room, and constantly working on these tiny patterns, like an obsessive patchwork. I could refer it to one artist I am very interested in: Yayoi Kusama. I saw her work very recently in Liverpool, when I was exhibiting my work at the Bloomberg New Contemporaries.  I thought we had very similar mind set, but then I was quite disturbed to find that she makes work from her room in a mental asylum in Japan ! Anyway her work is based on her hallucinations, and she does beautiful works with flowers ; polka dots and installation. I think in the future I would like to do few more installations myself. I once made a giant pompom made with tying a lot of supermarket plastic bags together. It took about four months to do. I made from it, very similiar to a dress Vivienne Westwood made that year (2005). But unfortunaletely after wearing it, it all fell apart, it was just heartbreaking…

So you are not going to stay in drawing…
I love drawing, I’ve always done it, I love painting. But I also see myself as a performer. II see painting and drawing as a kind of performance. We no longer have to paint to capture something, with a click of a camera we can replicate something natural in seconds. Painting is a made art form, it is so obsolete but yet perfect. It is a mad pratice, literally smearing colour onto a surface. So, I want to drawing, but I also want to continue to explore new ways of creating work as it keeps my painting fresh and inspired. So i don't think I would necessarily continue with drawing as the only media, I would like to draw with video maybe, or draw with sculpture.

Okay thank you very much, so we wish you the best for the future, and hope you'll enjoy your stay in Paris

Thank you.

[Visual : Gemma Nelson , Pornographic Imagination, 2008  : Indian ink, enamel, sequins and acrylic on canvas. 150 x 130 cm. Courtesy the Cynthia Corbett Gallery]

For more information about her work, you can contact info@thecynthiacorbettgallery.com | +44 (0) 7939 085 076

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April 2 2009 5 02 /04 /April /2009 14:04

Frank Brunner - Nordine Zidoun Gallery (Paris). By Art-and-You

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April 2 2009 5 02 /04 /April /2009 13:00

The Edlin Gallery at the Salon du Dessin Contemporain chose to expose, with the famous Henry Darger, two other outsider artists. Their works, related to Art Brut, have such an intense authenticity that we considered important to listen to Mr Edlin's explanations...

So let’s talk about Charles Steffen

Here we have two drawings by Charles Steffen, whom I also represent. He passed away in 1995, and when he was a young man, in the middle of his first year in art school, he became ill, schizophrenic. So he spent twelve years in the hospital. When he got out he was unable to work, so he lived with his mother. But he did these drawings every day, on wrapping papers. There are sort of grotesque and beautiful in the same time. And what is also very interesting is these texts he wrote next to the figures represented, he talks so unself-consciously about his life and his art, there is something very compelling and pure about it. You get a sense that he was not doing his work for an audience, but just for himself. And it’s because his way of expression, both in the texts and in the figures, is so genuine and authentic that people like it so much and feel close to it.

He usually did portraits ?

Yes, it was his main interest. He was often drawing nude. And since he spent only half a year in the art school, he would sometime write on his drawings the regretted he was unable to attend classes in the Art Institute of Chicago. He thought they would be better if he would have gone to those nude classes, to have some training. I personally disagree with that, I think that would have made him possibly more like everyone else. Unfortunately, all the works he did before 1989 were destroyed. He was a smoker, and his room was full of the wrapping papers. So his mother and sister got afraid he would burn down the house and they were destroyed. After he died, his nephew save the last 6 years of work, which are still over a 1000 drawings. Today, the quality of his work is highly recognized, museums like the Withney are interested in it.

There is here another outsider artist, George Widener, could you explain to us his work ?
George Widener is an amazing artist , and I believe this is the first time his work has been  seen in Paris. He is a savant, which means that he has a very special facility with dates and numbers. So, these pieces are an elaborated system of communication as a series of numbers linked with dates. The main idea is that possibly a futurstic machine i would be able to read it.
The medium also makes it unique : they are drawn on napkins, that he stains with tea, so ihey look like old parchments. The proper drawing is in ink.

So he is a contemporary artist, living now in America ? 
He is a self taught artist, 47 years old, and he lives in North Carolina. He has emerged  in the Art Brut world a sort of a revelation. His work was for the first time acknowledge about 5 or 6 years ago at the Outsider Art Fair by Henry Boxer, a dealer in London who discovered and sold his creations. Each year he brings the works  to this Art fair and sells them all. Most of it before the show even starts, to his collectors or other dealers. So Henry and I are interested in helping George’s audience to expand internationally. So we have bought this work to fairs, today in this one, and next month in Brussels for Art Brussels, and I am much exited about it.

Does he have other projects ?
Well he continues with drawings, he has other things he works on, like for instance the Titanic. He also creates plan for futuristic cities. I think he is a very important artist, and i am certain the contemporary art world will embrace his work as the Art Brut world did.

What do you think about the works showcased in this fair, in relation to the contemporary drawing world, is it significant?
I think this is a very nice fair, apart from the cold. [I must confess I am freezing, it was really unexpected. I mean I had to buy this morning an electric heater, it's a very original way to welcome art dealers …]
But as a lot of fair, some galleries display more special works than others, but generally there is a lot of interesting works. I particularly like the one of the Gallery Objets Trouvés, my friend Christian Berst. He has been some kind of a pioneers showing really authentic Art Brut in Paris for the last several years. We worked together on several projects; in fact he did a solo exhibition of Charles Stephen that was tremendously successful.

Okay... thank you very much, good luck for the rest of the fair.
Thank you

[Visuals. Above : Charles Steffen
, Seated Nude with Blonde Hair, 49 " x 30 ", colored pencil on brown wrapping paper. Courtesy the Edlin Gallery. George Widener_Megalopolis 2143, Rare Twins, 2008, ink & posterpaint on paper18 x 28 inches. Courtesy the Edlin Gallery]

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April 1 2009 4 01 /04 /April /2009 17:07

At the Salon du Dessin Contemporain in Paris , we noticed these very particular drawings of Henry Darger, presented by the Edlin Gallery, from New York. We went to meet Andrew Edlin and asked him about this outsider artist...

Interview of Andrew Edlin

So, you showcase here some impressive works for the fair, watercolour drawings of Henry Darger, so can you tell us his story, that is exceptional, and tell us why you chose to display those ones ?
Well first of all it is important to know that I represent the estate of Henry Darger, exclusively, so my job is to represent all his works, interact with the museums and coordinate the exhibitions, and all the publishing projects. There iare always new publications, films, and other projects about him. I have been here building an audience in Paris, since the big show in 2006 at La Maison Rouge. This is my second Salon du Dessin, mostly because of that show, people in Paris are more aware of his works. They have been showed previously at Halle Saint Pierre, and at the Musee d’Art Brut in Lausanne.
So, I basically selected some works that I had, not the very large one, because I think I have already the most expensive works in this fair. My goal is really to continue to expose people to his works and to educate them about his life, and his art.

So can you tell us his story, because I think it is quite particular…
Certainement… So, Darger died in 1973 in Chicago, he was 81 years old. He had lived his whole life in Chicago, he was a janitor in several hospitals. Between the age of 9 and 17 he lived in an orphanage, and at the age of 17 he escaped, and that’s when he started working in hospitals as a janitor, cleaning, rolling bandages. He was a devoted catholic and was going to Mass every day. He led a very isolated life though, living in a two room apartment, and nobody knew what he was doing there, until he died. When he died, Nathan Lerner, who was his landlord, and very fortunately a talented artist and inventor himself, discovered the work. And together with the works, about 300-350 magnificent watercolours drawings and collages, was a 15 000 pages manuscript called "In the Realms of the Unreal", which is the story of the Vivian girls, seven sisters, preadolescent girls, fighting against an evil race of adult men called the Glandelinians who practiced child slavery, so the Vivian girls were trying to save the world’s children from the Glandelinians.

So this story is all fictional ?
Yes, it’s a fantasy, but very well documented, there were countless horrible battles, he would even write all the casualty details. And after he died, Nathan Lerner spent the last twenty five years of his life to put this work to the public’s eye and now, seen in museum like MoMA, Whitney, the American Folk Art Museum, The Hara in Tokyo, KW-Berlin, and the Whitechapel in London. It is shown all over the world. My aim is to continue to present it internationally, expanding the context in which he was first presented, which is what we call Art Brut or Outsider Art. 

How different is it for you ?
Well, for me, Darger fits the classic definition of Art Brut, because he was self-taught, and had no contact with the art world. But I feel he was really a contemporary artist the way he appropriated images from popular culture, I mean, he didn’t have any training, so he traced images from magazines, and children’s colouring books, and he used carbon paper to transfer the images to his paper and then he would do multiple images but change the positions and the colouring of the clothing and he developed a great sense of composition to do the backgrounds of the pieces

And the colours he chose, it’s amazing, for instance this very vivid pink…
Yes, this one is especially vivid. A lot of time you know the colours are less vivid, but it is hard to say why, because they were originally discovered banded into huge books also, so that’s why most of them are double sided.

What attracts you in Darger works and what made you represent his estate, which his a strong dedication for one artist...
Well, what I like about art and what I look for  is something radically individual. Darger expresses a whole universe that he inhabited, this was his life, he really lived inside it and created such an elaborated fantasy world, he was so deeply involved in, that I just find it amazing. His imagery was incredibly original. This is a blengin, a mythological creature within the myth of his story "In the Realms of the Unreal" these creatures were friend of the Vivian girls, and would helped them against the Glandelinians. They were creatures completely created from his own imagination. It’s fantastic… In general I am very much impressed by any artist’s imagination. I think the problem with many contemporary artists is they are using art historical references much of the time and I think, a lot of time it becomes sort of a cloak to their own unconscious. They are so busy absorbing all these outside influences, and studying the techniques, that sometimes it can block what is deep inside. It’s too cerebral. In my opinion the best of any artist is when something is really personal, authentic, genuine, and not sort of tainted by the popular culture of the moment. I like contemporary art also, but when artist have that same radically individual quality. To me, when I see a work of art, what impresses me, whether I necessarily like it or not, it’s when there is only one person who could have made this work of art, that’s a real accomplishment. I find that true with music : I often compare it with Art Brut. For instance Bob Dylan; He never won any award for his vocal training, but when you hear him saying two words, there is no one else it could possibily be. It is the idiosyncratic nature of the art, or when Neil Young plays a guitar solo, he is not a virtuoso, but there no one else it could be. You know it instinctively. In Art I find look for the same kind of feelings...

Will follow tomorow the rest of the interview, where Andrew presents us two other artists also related to Art Brut...

[Visuals : Above : Henry Darger, Untitled (recto)24 " x 37 " watercolor and pencil on paper Image © Kiyoko Lerner. Courtsey Edlin Gallery. Below : Henry Darger, Young Striped Blengen Female, Boy King Islands 19 " x 24 "  watercolor and pencil on paper. Image © Kiyoko Lerner. Courtsey Edlin Gallery]]

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March 31 2009 3 31 /03 /March /2009 12:09

Georg Ritter is one of the two artists creating together huge size drawings who was showcased in the Patrick Ebensperger Gallery, based in Graz,  in the Salon du Dessin Contemporain, Paris. Just arriving at the fair, he took his time to explain us the process of his work, and how it started, twenty years ago. Trough many collaborations, he did also performances, installations, all in the name of art, in relation with the machine.

Interview with Georg Ritter.

So why don’t you start by explaining us this amazing black and white drawing in front of us ?
This is Stutzpunkte, it shows the reconstruction of Stadtwerkstatt in Linz, it’s pastel and paper, 180 x 330 cm.

Which is …
This is a cultural art center which we organized. I do it together with Peter Hauenschild

How long does it take you do create it ? How did you get this idea of working together ? How does it function ?
The main idea is that each one goes on the other one, by superposing layer. It is three to ten layers, so each one we change. The more sophisticated works could take us about two months for instance, two months. « Monitor »
Do you usually you deal with architecture ?
 The topics are different, mainly between architecture and nature. This piece we made last year, 110 m high in the mountains, this is the place where Hebrew were hiding for surviving during the World War 2 in Austria.

So you actually went to this place, took a picture, and then drew it ?
Yes, this is how we work, from photographs.

What is your aim behind those drawing ?
This is documentary work in the one hand, and in the other hand it is representing works which are under construction, we always want to show the changing of things, and nature also is always evolving, that’s why it is interesting.

In the mean time it is very dark, very special enlighten, for instance, it is artificial light ?
Yes, when we work on closed places,like this is where we use to do tv performance and tv show, so we enlighten the scenery of the workshop,and it renders like immaterial work

For how long did you work together, how did you met Peter Hauenschild ?
We met in this organization, there we started to collaborate together, in Sadtwerkstatt.

Do you also make work alone?

It must be sometime difficult? Passing so many hours together, creating together, it must create a very strange relation ship?
Truth, but you must understand that when you draw you don’t talk. You are communicating trough the pencil and the pastel.

Do you have any influence, artists that inspired you ?
I like for example Graf, presented also in the gallery. I like a lot of works, but i need when it is some kind of meditation, when it takes a lot of time.

Could you tell us about details that you had ?
Some spots we leave open, and while we work some things, passing through our mind, introduce by itself. Very often we have a timer, a clock, that shows usually 6 o clock.

Why a clock ?
Because it is linked  to a group of artist connected in Europe, so we gave them a dedication.

So it is twenty years that you are working on drawings, how do you consider the evolution of contemporary drawing today?
I think it is very open minded, you can experience very different areas, I appreciate the fact that today, everyone can express himself.

Do you have any future projects?
We have a lot of projects, hidden in the boxes, waiting for us… We are dedicating us to drawing, but before we made a lot of different projects, I can show you trough this book, Stadtwerkstatt, in arbeit 1979-1995,  if you want.

Yes with pleasure, so that you could tell us a bit more about Stadtwerkstatt.
It started in 1980, in Linz, it’s an old building that we organized as an art centre.

Did you also live there ?

Yes, sometimes. But this building was supposed to be destroyed, so all our combat was to fight against it. And all we did inside was art related.

There was no political aim ?
No, but there was left organizations. It was very open minded, a bit anarchist free place. We were doing performances, recorded. We organized also concerts. And we also had a room like a parliament, were we were taking decision for the art projects and concerts. And we did also that sgraffito in the wall, outside of the building, covering all of it. This sgraffito was using very different techniques, like avant garde content. On this photograph, you can see a caterpillar destroying the building, and the art on it. But we got it rebuilt. We went to the mayor of Linz, asking him to rebuild it. So we were using art for politic.This is for me on of the main question in of art : Can art stop the machine? And here is the answer, they finally did as planed. And then we did also many public performances, and installations. Like “the whether building”, in 1988, it is a building out of whether. Meaning that it exists out of the whether. There was fire, snow machines, steam, and the people could walk into this installation and get an impression of heavy whether. It was related to the destruction of Stadtwerstatt.Here are photographs of an exhibition Peter and me did: on very large glasses, like window glasses, we engraved all the plans of the quarter of Stadtwerkstatt. A light in the inside of the glasses made it visible. We also displayed all the discussions we had about the quarter. Here is a photograph representing a drawing we made on a building. It is the portrait of an artist who was competing for election in 1992. And the building was where we had all the meetings for the campaign.

Did he win ?
There was a very famous scientist who also enters in the campaign, so the artist step back. It was a important election because an ex SS from WW2 was also competing. It was a big issue :  after the WW2 Austria was considered as a victim of war, so all the nazi, after the war, didn’t have trial and continued to work inside the society. For us it was necessary to do this. This other photograph shows a concert for the celebration of 500 years of the city of Linz. We did a concert in a very big place with construction, machines. We used those machines to make noise for the symphony. In our tradition, breaking glass brings luck we through a tone of glass down the ground.

It was indeed a lot of luck for Linz...
We also did the opening for the festival of electronic art in Linz. Inside the city hall, we made fireworks, pyrotechnics, so that from the outside it would look like the building is on fire.

And what are those big digital numbers on the other building?
The festival was called intelligent ambience, and it was supposed to be able to count the people in the place. So there were about 10323 people; if it functioned. And there was a fence featuring steam.

So you actually did a lot of works differents from drawings...
Yes, performances, videos, sculptures, concerts, installations. We were very interested in the question of the power of machine. We also did TV live show. For instance, we were on TV during three days on 3 sat, two hours show. For the festival of electronic art in Linz in 1991 : “Nobody is safe from himself”. One the strongest moment was : we were displaying a dog on TV, and people had to vote if they wanted or not the dog to die. 

And ?
People decided death. So we blew it. But it was a trick. After we blew it many people called so we had to show that he didn’t actually died.

How crazy, they actually voted to make the dog die ? It’s kind of mad and sad...
I guess it was a provocation. An other example of provocation is when we blew up a tree. It was called “the execution of a tree”.

What did you want to show ?
Well, anyway many people blow up tree. So we showed it, but in a very direct way.

The title “execution” is usually used for men, so it makes the action even more direct, or violent if I can say..
Yes, so this was this performance. There is a lot of other stories, twenty years of Stadtwerkstatt…But want to insist that this art was only in the name of art, not politic.

Okay, thank you very much for sharing this with us

We follow a two part interview of the Edlin Gallery, New York, who presented works of Art Brut, and among it, acquarelles of Henry Darger.

[Visuals: above : Peter Hauenschild and Georg Riiter : Stutzpunkte, 1992, pastel/paper, 180 x 330 cm. Below : Peter Hauenschild and Georg Riiter, On-TV, 1989, pastel/paper, 180 x 330 cm. Courtesy gallery Ebensperger]]

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