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Thursday, 10 June 2010

Arthouse French film, Father of My Children, out on DVD later this month

Father of My Children (Le Pere De Mes Enfants), written and directed by Mia Hanson-Love, communicates an outstanding portrayal of family drama based on the life story of troubled film producer Humbert Balsan, who committed suicide in 2005. Set in Paris, the film follows Gregoire Canvel (played by Louis-Do de Lencquesaing), who seems to have it all; he is a successful film producer, with a loving wife and three precious children.

However, it transpires that what seems to be so picture-perfect is, in reality, far from perfect. Gregoire’s film company is spiralling into debt due to too many projects and too many risks. In a tragic twist, in an act of utter despair, Gregoire commits suicide, leaving his family behind with the company that led him to his demise, along with many unanswered questions. In an attempt to retain the hopes and aspirations of her husband, Gregoire’s wife, Sylvia (played by Chiara Caselli) tries to secure funds to see out the unfinished projects of her husband. However, after relentless efforts, she is forced to admit defeat when the company goes into liquidation. The family decide to leave Paris, a place that has left them with loss and solemn memories.

The title, Father of My Children, focuses the message of the film, namely, that the family is of the utmost importance while careers and professional success are trivial by comparison. It appears at the outset that Gregoire, who seems so self-assured and rational, would be able to perceive this. But apparently not, it is brought to our attention that men view their careers as essential to their identity, as something which validates them. Hanson-Love therefore creates the possibility that Canvel is selfish by nature and motivated by money and success, not what is actually central to life; family. However, Gregoire’s thoughts are left ambiguous and, as viewers, we can only speculate his true intentions.

The film will be released on DVD on the 21st June 2010. Having won the Un Certain Regard Prize at Cannes Film Festival and being described by Time Out as “honest, heartbreaking, astonishingly assured”, Father of My Children is one to watch. Distriobuted by Artificial Eye.

Reviewed by Samantha Choma

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Art Reviews: New Books for Your Coffee Table

We receive some fantastic art books through our doors at Aesthetica and we thought we'd share our views on some of the recent publications that have passed our way.

We Are Congo

Rankin (b. 1966) is one of Aesthetica’s favourite photographers and so we were delighted to receive his new book, We Are Congo, made in collaboration with Oxfam. Rankin is famous for his omnipresent work in the fashion world but this collection of work pursues a different theme and gives a new insight into a photographer most renowned for his iconic images of celebrities such as Kate Moss and Madonna. We’ve covered other ways in which Rankin has subverted the fashion photography world in Aesthetica before and you can read about his other projects by clicking here.

The photographs presented in We Are Congo are all inspired by, and taken during Rankin’s recent Oxfam trips to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The book is divided into four sections. The first is a collection of images each accompanied by a touching love story. Amongst these is 51 year old Charles, a retired dancer who describes how the violence and disruption in the Congo has affected the life he had hoped to live with his beloved wife. The stories are both heart wrenching and hopeful. In the accompanying photographs the personalities of the subjects shine through in their expressions. They evoke the feeling of warmth, love and hope; things that even war cannot seize from humanity.

The second section is made up of images taken by the people of Sange themselves. Whilst in the Congo, Rankin held photographic workshops to teach the local community about photography. In this set of photographs the Congolese people take on the role of both photographer and subject. Their images of teenagers playing football, mothers feeding their babies and grinning school boys create an intimate depiction of lives lived with love, in spite of difficulty and anguish.

Set against a white background, the subjects of the photographs in the third section depict those people who fled conflict to find refuge in Mugunga Camp. Similarly to the 32 page panoramic portrait in the final section of We Are Congo, Rankin captures snap shots of the Congolese people displaying their bravery and determination in their search for peace.

In We Are Congo the photographs displayed do not depict victims of war and horror but rather people who are full of dreams and hopes. Rankin’s photographs capture the extraordinary lives of ordinary people. Filled with photographs expressing deep love and determination, the pages of We Are Congo let us know that there is the chance of a better future for the Congolese people.

All proceeds from sales of the book will be spent on Oxfam’s emergency work in the DRC.

Ruth Sweeney

For Love and Money: New Illustration
Liz Farrelly and Olivia Triggs
Laurence King Publishing

Today visual stimulation takes on many forms and in today’s society illustration can be seen in all mediums, most noticeably for commercial, environmental and political use. Illustration has come a long way from simple drawings and has developed to cover every aspect of our lives, from 2D to 3D, from glossy magazines to advertising campaigns, from fashion to the blockbuster cinema and even to our mobile phones. The ever-growing interest in illustration by all areas of the media demonstrates the power it has in influencing our present society.

This book aims to display illustration artwork at its very best and highlight the diversity of which the genre can achieve. Never before has one genre covered such a range, from its combinations of drawings, painting and collage, to computer manipulation with digital software, photography and text, thus demonstrating there are no boundaries when it comes to this area of art. The book showcases 89 different innovative young individual’s portfolios, referencing spectacular images alongside mini question and answer features with the artist. It offers a small preview into the work of each artist, taking you on a journey into his or her created world. However, this only lasts for a few pages before you’re being thrown towards the next artist.

An aesthetically pleasing journey with beautiful images, which give you an insight into the mind of the creator, it is a wonderful reference book for any established or aspiring illustrator and is also able to capture the imagination of enthusiasts.

For Love and Money: New Illustration is an astounding collection of bright colours, bold prints, quirky photography, intricate patterns and some of the most amazing visual images I have seen in a while. It is truly inspiring and a must-have for anyone with any interest in illustration.

Lisa-Marie Ryan

Bridget Riley – Retrospective: Musée d’Art moderne de la vile de Paris

Bridget Riley (b.1931) is a well known for her paintings of optical illusions created from geometric shapes, and bold colours. She is widely recognised in Britain and the USA today but her influence in France is less established. Yet, it is from the Bridget Riley – Retrospective at Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris in 2008 that this latest catalogue of her work is derived. Between 12 June and 14 September 2008, the gallery was given the opportunity to take a fresh look at the artist and her work, and to display a collection of paintings and preparatory studies not yet seen together by the public.

This heavy volume contains a foreword by the curator, Fabrice Hergott, and several commentaries upon the artist by different writers, which are written in French and English. The book makes a fascinating reading experience, as many of the accounts explore Riley’s artistic progress and her place in the art world today. Her first paintings portray influences from the Impressionist Seurat, and her later development towards the style of Matisse. An interview with the artist by Lynne Cooke reveals interesting details about her working processes and the concepts behind her paintings. A catalogue of the Riley’s paintings is reproduced in high quality colour, and includes images of her preparatory studies which reveal the evolution from her initial ideas to the finished work.

Whether you’re interested in looking at the mind bending optical illusions of the paintings, or want a more detailed retrospective on the artist herself, this catalogue from Ridinghouse allows you to dip into different ideas and opinions on this great modern artist.

Rachael Boon

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Recently, we’ve been chatting with The Works Art & Design Festival, and I wanted to update you with what they’ve planned for this year. If you haven’t come across the Festival before, it’s based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and over the past 25 years, every June they have been spreading art through the streets, office towers, malls, banks, restaurants, hotels, essentially making every location in the city part of the Festival. This guerrilla approach captivates a city and explores its inner dynamics. Begging the question, what can we learn from the place in which we live?

Bringing art into the public realm for 13 days, the Festival turns everyday people into artists, critics, and patrons. With 30+ exhibition sites, The Works brings Edmonton and its visitors a range of artistic experiences—from exhibits for viewing, to workshops for making and creating. Earth is the theme for 2010 and a definitive sign that summer has arrived is when The Works’ tents and Giant Gateways go up - transforming Sir Winston Churchill Square into an epicenter of public creativity and festival fun. How does The Works do this? An eclectic array of artisans, international food vendors, LIVE music and artist demonstrations, workshops and lectures that reflect the exciting changes and arising issues in art and design. It is truly a city-wide art extravaganza. Entering The Works’ 25th year of bringing visual arts spectacle to the streets, Festival organizers are getting ready to celebrate.

Since 2008, Festival Directors, Amber Rooke and Dawn Saunders Dahl, have been working up to the 25th anniversary with a core series of themed exhibitions. Staying current with concerns of the time, the overarching topic for three years has been Sustainability and Environmentalism. Sustainability isn’t only about recycling and being green, though this is one of The Festival’s values. Sustainability extends from ecological issues through to societal issues. Sustainable design, through to designing a sustainable future. In terms of the visual arts, each year’s theme has been an element that relates to both art and sustainability: Water in 2008, Heat in 2009, and Earth in 2010.

The Works Canadian Aboriginal Artist Program, with support from the Canada Council for the Arts, brings Aboriginal Artists, Curators and Collaborators to exhibit, demonstrate art making processes, and to discuss issues of Aboriginal Art in Canada. Featured inside The Works Big Tent for Festival 2010 will be artists Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, Olivia Kachman, Leah Doiron and Maureen Enns exhibiting works that touch on sustainability and connections to the land, as well as the challenges that artists with Aboriginal heritage face whose work is ‘contemporary’ versus ‘traditional’. These important discussions will continue in upcoming festivals, as the program is slotted to continue through to 2011.

The upcoming Silver Anniversary promises to be as exciting and diverse. The Earth theme will see a holistic approach to the visual arts, considering art creation, spectacle, criticism, and activism. Featured on the main Festival site, Sir Winston Churchill Square, will be a wide and diverse array of artists at work. ‘Evolve’ by Tina Martel is a project that will involve paper casting 5 Smart cars, emphasizing the idea that although environmentally we remain “thin, fine and so easily broken”, we are taking steps to reduce, reuse and recycle. “Auto Park” by Laura St. Pierre is an outdoor performance installation creating a series of portable, partially enclosed growing spaces using the shells of six defunct cars as their main structure. Featured on The Works South Giant Gateway will be Michael Markowsky, an ambitious artist who aspires to be the first to paint on the moon by 2030, will be abstractly painting the earth and space LIVE for 13 days. American artist, Charles Wissinger was commissioned to design the North Gateway. Local artists and Works Festival interns will also be painting this design LIVE on site within the structure of The Works to Work internship program. Featured within The Works Downtown 30 + exhibits will include Kevin Friedrich’s exhibit “Beating Around the Bush” a slightly dark, yet humorous look at the human condition in response to over mechanization and fast obsolescence. As well, Chris Flodberg exhibit “Giardia and Other Recent Paintings” contains large salon style canvases focusing critical and creative lenses on the passiveness and vagaries of human perception.

There are also many opportunities to creatively participate in the Festival. These opportunities run from favourites, such as the Smaller Than a Breadbox Exhibit, in which artists show works smaller than 3x3x6 inches, and the Annual Chalk Art Contest, to special exhibits, such as that honouring the late Edmonton arts reporter, Gilbert Bouchard. For this, artists were invited to make a piece “For Gilbert” that will be exhibited on Sir Winston Churchill Square during the Festival. Perhaps designing and building is what you are interested in, so you can join the M.A.D.E. crowd, transforming scrap wood into furniture right there on-site. There are also opportunities to sign up for a free walking tour and let yourself rediscover the city with critic’s or art lover’s eyes. After your tour, be persuaded to be part of The Works Figure Drawing Workshops and settle into a picnic table to find a piece of charcoal and a drawing board. Or get the whole family involved and bravely tackle the glue and glitter of The Works Family Programs tent. There are no fees and no limits to creation.

With these projects, programs, exhibits, and installations, The Works Art & Design Festival is a forum unlike any other in North America for spectators and participants to experience the visual arts. Don’t miss out-June 25- July 7, 2010. For more information about participating in exhibits, projects, or as a vendor, or to volunteer, see www.theworks.ab.ca


(c) Ford Interior – Laura St. Pierre
(c) Casting tire – Tina Martel

Monday, 7 June 2010

Review: Hermann Obrist at the Henry Moore Institute

Last week a comprehensive exhibition on Hermann Obrist (1862 – 1927) opened at the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds. Hermann Obrist: Art Nouveau Sculptor is the first UK exhibition of Obrist’s work and it showcases the range of his extraordinary output, bringing together two-dimensional drawings, photos, letters, source illustrations, embroidery and sculpture.

Beginning with a display of his inspirations and personal musings, the exhibition takes you on a journey from Obrist’s inner workings to the realisation of his concepts. A postcard depicting a shell is reflected by a sculpture in plasticine, demonstrating Obrist’s process and highlighting the importance of nature in his work. Both the natural and the spiritual worlds inform Obrist’s work: he studied medicine and was affected from an early age by supernatural visions.

The first room contains Obrist’s studies and embroidery, decorated with his notorious ‘whiplash’ curves, and leads through to the next space. Tall and bright, the second room provides the perfect showcase for Obrist’s fantastical sculptures, which twist and spiral in a style reminiscent of Antoni Gaudi, a contemporary of Obrist’s.

The exhibition contains almost every surviving piece from Obrist’s output and offers a compelling insight into the artist’s vision, revealing him as a man of many skills who produced a significant body of work. The Henry Moore Institute is also involved in a collaborative research exercise, designed to bring Obrist back into the public consciousness as an artist of note.

Hermann Obrist: Art Nouveau Sculptor is accompanied by an exhibition on the Mezzanine Gallery of Alina Szapocznikow’s (1926 – 73) work. ‘Out of My Mouth: The Photosculptures of Alina Szapocznikow’ is a collection of equally improbable sculptures, though in this case they are crafted from chewing gum and captured for posterity in black and white photos.

Hermann Obrist: Art Nouveau Sculptor
runs until 29 August at Henry Moore Institute, Leeds. The Institute is open daily and entry is free. For more information visit www.henry-moore.org

Interested in sculpture? Read our current issue or from our archives, Hybrid Sculpture (2008) at the Henry Moore Institute.

Hermann Obrist
Model for a hill-top church
Plaster cast
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich (Museum of Design Zurich) /
Arts and Crafts Collection / Zurich University of Arts
Photo: Heinrich Helfenstein ©ZHdK

Hermann Obrist
Movement (detail)
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Kunstgewerbesammlung.
Photo: Heinrich Helfenstein © ZHdK

New Symphony: A New Exhibition of Four Leading Sculptors

New Symphony, an exhibition of new works by four leading sculptors opened last week at the Simon Oldfield Gallery in Covent Garden. Artists Tim Ellis, Katie Cuddon, Sam Plagerson and Douglas White are known for their interest in and examination of our contemporary culture and the objects within it, which is a topic that you may have read something about in our April/May issue with the “Popular Culture and the Aesthetic Discourse” feature. So, individually, each artist displays a widely differing perception of the world and their interests and approaches differ enormously, swerving from the nature of fame and its constructions, to the complexities of the human psychological condition. I find it incredibly interesting when a group show deliberately clashes ideologies, concepts and worldviews – it makes the art come alive, ultimately invigorated with debate.

As a group, their work in this exhibition casts a view on humankind’s perception and representation of the self. Having trained in a ‘post-YBA’ environment, these artists do not use shock as a tactic with which to make a point but reference instead a wide web of ideas - both visual and conceptual – with which to tease a response from the viewer. They also frequently make use of appropriation, as a means of taking something from its familiar and accepted circumstances and placing it in a fresh perspective, where it can be considered anew. New Symphony questions notions of authorship, identity (on both a personal and societal level), value and beauty, and as such presents insights into one of the main discussions within British art and society today.

This is a theme running throughout the current issue of Aesthetica, we are interested in unpacking these ideas, looking about identity formation, and appropriated meaning. Cover artist, Sean Raggett explores these same concepts in his works:

Details about each specific artist below:

Tim Ellis examines how mankind chooses to represent himself through the cultural artefacts commonly seen in homes and everyday surroundings. His practice revolves around the idea that a being has a primeval desire to want to belong to something greater than oneself. This ‘wanting to belong’ is manifested in both the production and consumption of cultural artefacts. Whether in isolation or as a collection, artefacts are dependent on a creator, mediator and audience: Ellis explores the meanings behind many of these objects, taking and reestablishing them in a new context that in turn questions both their value and their original purpose. In doing so, and by allowing the relationship between the original and the ‘new’ to be made manifest, he highlights furthermore the tensions between historical fact and fabrication.

Katie Cuddon has worked across a range of media but primarily makes drawings and painted clay sculptures that frequently represent what seems to be a ‘detritus’ of the human body as representative of its psychological conditions, following in the same classical tradition as for instance Hans Josephsohn. Texture and colour jostle with each other, each vying for a role that both describes and conceals her work, as pummeled and kneaded surfaces and semi-recognizable forms are whitewashed over, swathed, and bound-up within themselves. Cuddon’s ‘takings’ of the human body elicit a series of semi-conscious responses in the viewer that are felt far more on an emotional level than one that can immediately be explained. Combined with this seeming serious, shy and corporal approach, the subject matter of her works frequently steps into a realm of dark humour, tempered by the Surrealistic love of game playing that merges (for instance) the public with the private, as in Cock Microphone.

Sam Plagerson is particularly interested in the ideas of Edward Bernays (the ‘father’ of public relations and advertising). His forthcoming body of work to be exhibited at Simon Oldfield Gallery is wholly derived from publicity and fashion imagery. To date, perhaps his best-known work is Elle, a ceramic bust portrait of Jennifer Lopez, painstakingly detailed and perfect in every sense. Plagerson’s practise explores how images control and affect their viewer, aiming to induce a reappraisal of imagery that has become over-familiar and banal. By specifically investigating the magazine crop (by transplanting these highly edited and perfected images into three-dimensional form) Plagerson unpicks the depicted gestures and expressions, allowing the viewer to see and understand the construction and arrangement of the images themselves. By deconstructing - and thus removing - the usual frames around such images, the viewer can focus on information that is not normally registered, such as how the image has been cropped and created for mainstream consumption.

Douglas White works frequently with found objects. Finding beauty and mystery in things most people would ignore, such as an exploded tyre or the root system of an upturned tree. His works are imbued with a poetry that speaks of an alchemical transformation of ‘base’ materials into something new, beautiful and worthwhile, and they pulse with a new energy. Tapping into ideas of renewal and rebirth, White’s sculptures, installations and drawings offer a means of possible salvation from man’s destructive presence upon earth, while his inspirations and subject matter are frequently based on myth, referencing (for instance) the ancient Greek myth of Icarus, poetry, or the native American Indian dream catchers that catch the nightmares and protect sleeping children.

The gallery has also commissioned a soundtrack in response to the art and concept of New Symphony. I am completely enthralled by this interdisciplinary approach.

For further information visit: www.simonoldfield.com

Images (c) the artist at courtesy the gallery

(c) Tim Ellis, Continental Sons (mixed media) 2010
(c) Tim Ellis, External Compass 2010

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