18 July 2014 § Leave a comment
Adrian Ghenie is one of the chief figures of The Romanian ‘Cluj School’ – comprising artists like Victor Man, Mircea Cantor and Ciprian Muresan – a painter who’s star has been rising exponentially since his relatively recent arrival on the art scene. His latest exhibition, Golems at Pace London, provides ample evidence of why he is so highly regarded.
The golem is an animated anthropomorphic creature from Jewish folklore, created entirely from inanimate material; a doer of terrible deeds. Ghenie’s reference here is the creation of a radical idea in society – in this case Darwin’s – let loose to change the socio-cultural environment. Darwin’s personal story holds a special fascination for Ghenie; the skin condition and vomiting that afflicted him, his luxuriant beard and Victorian attire all afford a rich source of textural possibilities that reveal themselves in this series of portraits.
The exhibition consists of a collection of new figurative works of Charles Darwin shown alongside the ‘Darwin Room’, an installation that consists of an assemblage of meticulously sourced 19th century furniture, wooden floor boards and wall panels. Taking the room’s composition from Rembrandt’s Philosopher in Meditation Ghenie has created a three-dimensional environment that perhaps at first glance resembles a two-dimensional painting. Led in by an assistant with torch one reaches a dark and gloomy and life-sized room that evokes an intriguing physiological atmosphere of anxiety and comfort. The only light is that of the ‘light of reason’ which shines brightly through a small, solitary window – the room therefore a prototypical site for visionary thought within European history.
The installation itself devoid of figures. These are supplied by the impressive artworks in the adjacent room. Portraits of 20th century figures whose actions indelibly changed the course of history are a recurring theme in Ghenie’s work and to him the publication of The Origin of Species represents such an inflection point – his ideas stolen by despots and dictators and misappropriated.
Ghenie presents himself in Self portrait as Charles Darwin, 2014 and he himself becomes the arbiter of scientific change, the cliché of the tortured intellectual, and the anamorphic threat of the Golem; the idea let loose to reek havoc. All of these elements are present in Ghenie’s Bacon-esque brush strokes. He highlights an era that questioned man’s significance, the existence of God, and the question of Creationism —through a use of paint that suggests the anamorphic nature of identity through the evolution of scientific understanding.
These works however are not just introverted intellectual exercise or conceptual navel-gazing, they are visually stunning and beautifully executed. The merging of impressive technique with rigorous artistic thought process provides the viewer with a rich and stimulating experience that will enhance Ghenie’s reputation not only critically but in the auction houses of the future.
Adrian Ghenie – Golems is at Pace London until 25 July 2014
16 June 2014 § Leave a comment
Keith Coventry seems destined to be one of the ‘nearly men’ of British art. Despite being championed by Saatchi and featuring in the Sensation exhibition that helped make the names of many of the YBA’s Coventry has remained stubbornly on the sidelines.
Perhaps his work is either not showy enough or too dry to catch on to popular taste. Nevertheless he has plenty of followers for his intelligent and interesting work.
He is most well known perhaps for his Estate Paintings. Here Coventry famously used the diagrammatic representations of the buildings themselves that, when denuded of the surrounding information, strangely recall the formal aesthetic language of Suprematism – that aimed at the creation of a new, pure, abstract visual language freed from the dull constraints of representation.
As art writer Matthew Collings said “These paintings capture the moment when modernist Utopian dreams — the well-meant belief that peoples’ lives would be bettered by living in clean, modern, high rise buildings, with lifts, way up above the street with plenty of fresh air—evaporated.”
Vigo is showing here his Ontological Pictures (1996 – 2004) – the first show dedicated to this important series – where Coventry has taken the arrow and location symbols that accompany the legend YOU ARE HERE frequently found on those same estate maps, and turning them into wooden models which are then scattered randomly onto the canvas to create the content of the paintings.
In both series the process of isolating and re-contextualizing these specific visual elements has allowed Coventry to, with an extreme economy of expression animated by a subtle, dry wit, throw the ideological and theoretical meanings within those symbols into stark relief. He mocks the utopian social hopes of certain strands of Modernism that conceived high-density urban housing as a solution to a raft of social ills of modern life.
Keith Coventry solo shows don’t come around too often – this is an excellent opportunity to see one the other YBA’s for a change.
13 June 2014 § Leave a comment
‘It’s a simple idea, and it’s perfect for the genre. The newspaper, that man-made butterfly that ends its brief but glorious day-long life in the bin, the gutter, or floating piecemeal through a Tube tunnel, is offered up for the kind of sober contemplation that it rarely, if ever, enjoys.’ Kate Quill (The Times)
Hugh Mendes has been painting images of newspaper clippings for about ten years now. Most recently he has been working on an ongoing, and never ending, series of obituaries where a life is condensed into a few column inches. Locating a hidden melancholy in our society awash with imagery the relentless stream of stories from the press is halted and everyday death is revealed beneath a grand narrative.
A single image, a scrap of newsprint, becomes a heavy token, a memento, even an icon, when rendered in paint. The act of seeing is frozen in time and the act of painting, and therefore sustained concentration, brings a degree of focus and depth to what otherwise would be a fleeting moment in the ephemeral daily press.
Also shown are a series of works commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Great War. Mendes was actually born on Armistice Day in a British military hospital in Germany: his mother a nurse and his father a British Intelligence code breaker. Using the same approach as with his Obituaries series ephemeral newspaper cuttings are elevated to poignant memorials for those who served and died.
A journey in to the Cotswolds is always enjoyable, and this is as good an excuse as any to drop in to High House Gallery – one of the few outposts where you can find real contemporary art outside London.
Hugh Mendes Obituaries & Other Works is at High House until 29 June 2014
6 June 2014 § 1 Comment
“If its covered in fabric it is part of the show” it was cheerily explained by the gallery attendant. I was arriving at the Manchester Art Gallery to view the latest offering by Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos and had asked where I could find the works.
One would usually find an exhibition relatively easily but this exhibition however does not just occupy its own space but is rather more of an artistic ‘intervention’ that infiltrates the entire building. Furthermore within the rather eclectic collection of the Manchester Art Gallery actually comprises almost anything from fine art to costume and contemporary design I wondered how I would spot all the pieces.
I need not have worried after all. Familiar with Vasconcelos’ extravagance and bright-colours and armed with an annotated floor plan, the works were – mostly -easy to spot. This major new show features over twenty of the Portuguese artist’s most significant sculptures, which fill the main exhibition spaces, adorn the outside of the building and permeate the whole gallery.
A monumental new textile work Britannia 2014 comprises richly coloured textile forms that cascade down three floors of the Gallery’s central atrium. The explosion of suspended, swelling forms, textures and colours contrast dramatically with the cold metal, glass and rigid order of the architecture.
The organic forms are composed of many fabric elements including knitting and crochet, fine silks, velvet, recycled clothes and industrially produced textiles, embellished with Portuguese tassels, crystals and beads in a dazzling patchwork of patterns, shapes and textures.
Other works enclose the lions of the main staircase, occupy gallery spaces or fill frames hung on the walls. It is an exhibition that is riot of colour, humour and spectacle. Exhuberant and varied this is a show that that is just perfect for the quirky collection and varied spaces of the Manchester Art Gallery and which is one that will cement Vasconcelos’ growing international reputation.
Joana Vasconcelos – Time Machine at The Manchester Art Gallery until 1 June 2014
21 April 2014 § 1 Comment
A duck attacks the lens, a dog snarls at the camera and a toad lies dead in the road. In his own truly unique way Giacomo Brunelli pictures animals unlike any other photographer today. Typical wildlife photography is very much of a kind – candid images taken with long lenses, one imagines the result of hours of patient waiting . It is worthy and pretty but not very, how shall I say, exciting. Brunelli on the other hand records his animal subjects by approaching them provocatively and from unusual angles.
He not only takes his photographs very quickly and almost instinctively but frequently from very close up indeed. We are invited into a different place – where animals are not just neat text book images but as they really are in, what is essentially, a human world. We somehow can empathise more with their experiences, understand their fears and see their problems. Can we perhaps feel their animalistic urban angst?
Often working in the early morning he exploits the low light, shadow and contrast. Locations are backyards, streets, small villages, fields and farms. Hopping on his bicycle he will frequently work in the streets and parks local to his Wimbledon home.
Brunelli entitles this juxtaposition of styles ‘animal focused street photography’. Working entirely in analogue format with an 1960’s Eastern European Miranda Sensomat 35mm camera his practice includes the meticulous hand printing of his photographs as limited editions.
I have been fortunately enough to view the work of Giacomo Brunelli at two exhibitions. He has been commissioned by The Photographers Gallery to create a series entitled Eternal London. Using his distinct film-noir style he created a unique and evocative view of the capital and its famous landmarks. This excellent show finishes very shortly whilst Animals, at the wonderful little Oxfordshire space – High House Gallery – only opens this week.
The artist will be present this Thursday 24 April 2014 for an evening preview event from 6-8pm. The gallery advise me that all are welcome but should first rsvp to firstname.lastname@example.org for an invitation.
Giacomo Brunelli – Animals is at High House Gallery. Exhibition runs from 26 April to 18 May 2014. Open Thursday – Sunday 12am – 6pm
Giacomo Brunelli – Eternal London is on until 27 April 2014 at The Photographers Gallery, 16 – 18 Ramillies St, London W1F 7LW and thereafter by appointment with the sales department.
29 January 2014 § Leave a comment
Nuno Moreira is a talented Portuguese photographer who has recently published ‘State of Mind’ – a photobook reviewed recently in akickupthearts here. We asked him a few questions about his work, influences and Japan, where he is currently based.
Q. I note that you are currently in Tokyo promoting “State Of Mind” and have worked there in the past. Do you have a specific attachment to Japan?
I’m based in Tokyo and happily living here with my Japanese wife. I intend on staying for a little longer and develop more work both with photography and art direction. Since I came here I’ve been trying to gather a circle of fellow artist friends and possibly delve into partnerships that can be enriching for everyone.
Tokyo is a great city to live and work, I made the entire editing of “State of Mind” here during last year. Everything is very functional, stable and tidy. Sometimes it gets way too much but I still have a lot to discover and the traditional aspects of Japanese society and the ancient daily rituals are really the motif that brought me here in the first place.
Q. On the Japanese theme, your work has formal similarities with the great Daido Moriyama’s work – that is high contrast, black & white images, often from unusual viewpoints. Did he influence you in any way?
I should probably say thank you for the compliment, but Moriyama is really not an influence in my work. I appreciate his style, most of the times I find it over repetitive even though I acknowledge his importance in contemporary photography. The formal aspects are similar, we both shoot in black and white and many street scenes but in terms of mood it’s quite different. If I had to characterize my style – which seems like an awful thing to do – I would say it draws more influences from classic cinema, perhaps similar with the Nouvelle Vague movement where everything is more loose and unconventional but still leading somewhere.
Q. Are there other photographers – or artists – who have been particularly influential?
I like the work of Charles Harbutt quite a lot. And the funny thing is that I discovered Harbutt’s work the first time I came to Japan while browsing through an antique shop. I found his 1973 book, “Travelog” totally by accident and thought we had many things in common. Especially the way of overlooking the city and people in a cinematic way. Funny enough, I couldn’t really predict that one year later I would be moving to Japan, editing my own photo book, and that I would have a recommendation from Harbutt himself on the book.
Q. Travelling seems to be an important, or even vital, part of your life. How does this manifest itself in your work?
That’s correct, I’ve come to realize that traveling plays a vital role in my life. I need the sense of dislocation to actually feel more in control of my body and regain consciousness on where I am going and what I intend to do next. I think being stuck in one place doing the same thing is something that really doesn’t work for me and most artists I know. Being in a place for the first time, even if for a short period, opens this gigantic window of possibilities where perception works in a different way. I like these shifts in reality and the challenges that follow change. I also feel there’s many insights and more mental activity deriving from the different inputs in new places therefore I take a lot more pictures and my mind is usually much clearer and faster when traveling. Life is all about movement, don’t you think?
Q. This is a book that was many years in the making. At what point did you realise that there was a photo book that would emerge from these images? Did you have a conscious plan for it from the beginning?
I didn’t have a plan to make this book until I actually started to gather all the photos and seeing them in perspective. In that sense I could say “State of Mind” works as a kind of monograph of what I’ve been shooting and seeing for the last 5 years.
Q. Another Japanese photographic artist who has been prominent recently is Rinko Kawauchi. She is famed as a master of editing, bringing together a series of widely varied images, to create something new and meaningful – a particularly skill relevant to the art form that is the photo book. How important is editing to you? / How did you approach the editing of your own work?
I’m familiar with Rinko Kawauchi’s work and her editing and image sequencing is indeed interesting and sometimes surprising. Unfortunately there’s many other astonishing Japanese photographers who are not so well known and deserve credit, being my personal favorite probably Issei Suda.
The editing of “State of Mind” was perhaps the most difficult part and what took me the most time to accomplish. The process of editing basically consisted of putting images side by side and choosing the best rhythm and flow between them. This was something I had to do physically, with printed images. It’s utterly impossible to work only in digital terms, at least for me. I wanted the book to follow a specific narrative even though there’s different images and some jumps here and there. Sometimes images in a spread form a dialogue, sometimes they need to be isolated and stand alone against a white facing page. To find the right flow or visual path for a photo book is not an easy thing, so I think it really makes sense if the photographer can work with a proper designer and someone who is not so emotionally close with the images. If I would do the book today it would probably look different but I suppose that’s part of the learning curve.
Q. “State of Mind” features many single people isolated in urban environments – looking, thinking, passing by. There is often an evident sadness and loneliness, but also hope. What are the feelings that you want the reader to see in this collection of work?
I’ve been listening to what people think of this book and the series and it’s very interesting because it really works as a mirror to whatever you’re feeling at the moment you see them. It’s the projective power of images. I guess I like lonely people in general and that’ what attracts me to shoot them in the first place, the reason might be because my parents only had me and I was raised in an environment where I would play all by myself. Having said this, the images in the book have a lot of me in it even though that’s not clearly obvious.
There’s really no specific message to the reader. I just want the viewer to be engaged in the scenes and get into the poetic quality of the people they’re looking at. If I can capture the attention and make you imagine situations like frames from a movie, if that’s sufficient to trigger the imagination, I’m very satisfied.
Q. This is a book ideally suited to the atmosphere generated by BW imagery. Do you also work in colour?
Very rarely do I shoot with color film. Sometimes when I want to try something different I do it, but I find better results almost always by shooting black and white. I believe the reason being that it’s easier for me to see the world and what would work better in black and white. It’s more neutral and the different shades of grey also interest me. Besides, I believe when we’re looking at a black and white image our eye is less distracted and we can enjoy better to look at the lines, composition, structure, light, shadows, textures and overall atmosphere.
Q. An obvious question. Whats next?
Next is promoting this book and doing exhibitions and distribution. I’ve put a lot of myself into this project and being a self-published book means I have to do all the work and communication by myself. It’s not a bad thing, but it demands a lot of time I could be shooting or thinking of more work.
If all goes according with plan, I estimate to have a new book ready in one or two years. It will continue from where this one started but something perhaps more conceptual and hopefully a step further.
State of Mind by Nuno Moreira
- 287 x 200mm
- 112 pages with 79 photographs
- Limited to 500 copies
- ISBN 978-989-20-4151-3
- 35 Euro
Copies may be purchased directly from the artist at www.nmphotos.org or email email@example.com
21 December 2013 § 1 Comment
Photobooks are a strange art form unto themselves. Some photographers see individual images as the ultimate expression of their craft whilst for others the photo book is the essential form. The sum of many parts, they comprise individual photographic works, not necessarily of high individual quality, but when edited together they make a greater whole.
Something unique is created not only from the images and their editing but also from the feel and texture of the paper as well as the design, typography, size and layout and, often compared to plays or film, they may well also have a dramatic narrative. (Anyone with any further interest in the art of the photobook should certainly make efforts to see the definitive work: The Photobook – A History by Parr & Badger.)
The Portuguese photographer, Nuno Moreira has, with State of Mind, created a perfect example of such an artwork. This is a photobook comprising works from his personal archive constructed and captured over a period of several years of travelling covering such diverse locations as Japan, Portugal, Hungary, Malaysia, Spain, South Korea, Ukraine, Romania, Russia and Taiwan.
What is perhaps initially surprising however is that the images do not indicate the diversity of these locations, but rather the opposite. The book brings them together under a unifying umbrella where continents, countries and cities melt into a statement on the humanity of their populations.
The people here are shown as a series of individuals or small groups. Sometimes we just glimpse their shadows, backs or reflections, sometimes just traces of their existence. A foot steps in to a railway carriage, shadows pass each other on a busy (we assume) pavement, a woman struggles with an umbrella in a sea of snowy tyre tracks or passengers gaze blankly from train windows.
There is a lot of travelling going on. People walking the streets, in stations, cafes and trains. There are roads, pavements, walkways and waiting areas. Through constant change and movement Moreira has found a unity in these divergent peoples. Perhaps through his own experiences of travelling these represent stills within a continuous journey. We do however see the diversity of the individuals, each with their own thoughts and in these silent moments.
The title State of Mind could ultimately then refer to not only the individuals pictured, but also be an observation of the collective whole or indeed an ongoing picture of the mental state of Moreira himself during his travels. It is a photobook of the highest quality where the individual images are actually often compelling works of art in themselves but it is however as a photobook they indeed work best.
- State of Mind
- 287 x 200mm
- 112 pages with 79 photographs
- Limited to 500 copies
- ISBN 978-989-20-4151-3
- 35 Euro
Copies may be purchased directly from the artist at www.nmphotos.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org
A Q & A with the artist will follow soon in another blog.
- Interesting Photobooks for 2013 (thephotobook.wordpress.com)
- Mother Jones’ Photographers Pick the Best Photobooks of 2013 (motherjones.com)
- TIME Picks the Best Photobooks of 2013 (lightbox.time.com)