Archive for the ‘Artists’ category

Before, during and after (pt3): Unveiled – Saatchi Gallery

April 17, 2009

This post is a continuation of the previous two parts:
Before, during and after – Part one
Before, during and after – Part two

After After much contemplation I wonder if ‘Unveiled’ was a deliberate choice of name intended to provoke feelings of negativity? The use of the word ‘unveiled’ means that something is usually bought to everyone’s attention – something that might have been hidden behind the veil? Posters using images from Shadi Ghadrian’s ‘Like Everyday Series’ seem to give the impression that the content of the exhibition is largely related to a Muslim’s way of life and therefore a truth is being uncovered.

As it is Muslim women that wear the veil, this is a direct link of association. However, unknown to the general public, not all women wearing a veil did so just because they were made to, or, as everyone is led to believe, because they are oppressed. The women in this country are a great example – they have no social, local or political pressure to do so. If anything, it is going against the social norm to do so and they are facing up to society’s criticism. So when someone then sees that poster of a large hijab (scarf) and only an iron, pan or knife in the middle where the face should be, what are they likely to think? That a Muslim woman has no identity and is only distinguished by her domesticity?

As a young Muslim living in this country I think it is so important to educate others and give them the opportunity to discover new things. There were a few items in this show that were great to see. Others I personally would have left out. If I could question one thing about the exhibition it would be if there was any thought about how the public would be educated about the cultures and roots of the artists and if that was done fairly? Art is a great form of communication and if we could use that to spread some understanding and not ridicule or scrutiny then it would be very useful to forming an open-minded society.

I wonder at the motivations of the artists I’ve discussed above and Andy suggested I try and contact them. This is not going to be an easy task but I think I’ll give it a shot. You never know – the stuff in the brochure might just have been written to provoke reactions and encourage visits to the exhibition?

I’ll keep you posted of any replies I get.

This whole exhibition has provoked many thoughts with me, and because of the many contradictory aspects of individual works, it has led me to question my own agenda in being an artist and my own reasoning behind what I produce. Does my work have to be Islamic? If I am Islamic, will my work not automatically be Islamic too?

Below are further images from the exhibition:

Before, during and after (pt2): Unveiled – Saatchi Gallery

April 15, 2009

This post is a continuation from the previous: Before, during and after (pt1): Unveiled – Saatchi Gallery

During my walk around the exhibition I was quite surprised by the vast amount of space and the room given to the work. There was also a very mixed collection of mediums – the first one I encountered was the large rubber map of Beirut on the ground floor. In a way this kind of sets the background to the rest of the exhibition – location and geography is a big issue and you can’t get more focussed on that than with this map. This subject is something that connects all the artists that were featured – their roots. They all seemed to have something to say about their origin and the cultures that came with them.

Beirut Caoutchouc by Marwan Rechmaoui

Beirut Caoutchouc by Marwan Rechmaoui

I liked the larger pieces and am always pleasantly amazed at how artists manage to produce work at such large scales, for example the towers by Diana Al-Hadid. These are not exactly pleasing to the eye and you need to look closer to see what they are made up of. ‘All the Stops’ was made with piano keys and tubes and various other musical references, structured like an organ and made from random bits of paper, card, styrofoam and painted to look almost like a grotesque organic form. According to the brochure this intentional appearance contributes to highlight the destruction of globalisation.

An 'Impossible structure' by Diana Al-Hadid

An 'Impossible structure' by Diana Al-Hadid

There were three such towers – “impossible architecture” – all similar but completely different in structure and parts. ‘The Tower of Infinite Problems’ lying on its side in two parts, was the one I preferred due to the way you had to walk around the whole thing in order to see it properly and to see how the two parts made a whole. Walking right to the far end of the room and viewing it from that side gave a completely different view. From this end it looked like a tube that gets narrower and made up of layers of hexagons getting infinitely smaller and smaller. There were also beehive like patterns on the outer layers which are quite obscurely cut and arranged in no particular way other than the need to create the basic structure. This produced quite a contrast to the inner layers, the outer looking a bit destructive but the inner with straight edges and hexagons forming neat and regular lines.

The Tower of Infinite Problems

The Tower of Infinite Problems

I have to say I dwelled more on the ones that held instant appeal for me. But gave enough time to the ones that didn’t in order to ‘give them a chance’ to ‘set an impression’. For example I would look closely at the work, suss out the techniques used and the message being conveyed if I could. It was definitely a good thing that I chose to buy the ‘brochure’ as I don’t think I read art at all the same way that others do. I guess i’m more of a literalist – in the common/contemporary sense of the word.

It was definitely a good thing that I chose to buy the ‘brochure’ in the end as I don’t think I read art at all the same way that others do. I guess I’m more of a literalist – in the common/contemporary sense of the word.

This post is already getting very long and in order to prevent this taking another month or so I cannot comment on all the pieces I saw, many of them were impressive, maybe only because of the sheer size of them, use of colours, shapes, forms and sometimes subject. I cannot claim to understand all the pieces I saw but there are a select few I must mention.

Ghost by Kader Attia. This one took up a whole room and as can be seen it looked like a room full of women kneeling in mid prayer. These women look to be covered in shawls made from tinfoil. But you walk further along and realise that the women are hollow shells, the foil being the only thing to convey their shape. The technique is very cool. In trying to guess how the realistic forms were produced you’d imagine that the artist got someone to sit in the position required and wrapped them in the foil and then pressed it down to make it compact and tight and then somehow got them to come out of the binding without tearing the whole thing apart. Obviously there must have been a more efficient method but it highly interesting to contemplate it. Especially as each ‘woman’ looks unique and individual with a slightly different pose.

Ghost by Kader Attia

Ghost by Kader Attia


Ghost by Kader Attia

Ghost by Kader Attia

Now in this brochure it says the figures “synthesise the abject and divine” possibly because when in prayer a person is in their most humble state before God. The divine is not represented in this piece but the belief in it is. So where it goes on to say that this work questions “modern ideologies – from religion to nationalism and consumerism – in relation to individual identity, social perception, devotion and exclusion” it’s almost like the person who is writing this is trying to tick as many boxes as they can. I don’t know if this is what the artist supplied but until I do know I agree that issues of identity and social perception are the key elements communicated through this. Religion is the big one. How the women represent devotion to the Divine is clear to see and something I can relate to as a Muslim. This is something that poses many questions for me too as an artist – something I will be discussing in future posts.

I would also like to mention that I find it intriguing that in this work Attia decided to leave the faces invisible. I would be interested to know if this decision was in any way related to the idea that some Muslims believe it is not correct to portray living beings in Islam (unless completely necessary – e.g photos for ID cards etc) and especially when it comes to distinguishing facial features within art work.

Moving on I would like to mention – ‘Men of Allah’ by Ramin Haerizadeh. This is one that stood out for me – and not for the usual reasons. The images were an array of colourful, digitally manipulated body parts, small patterns and ‘tattoos’ entwining on a very dark background – therefore clear and focussed. I read the title of the work ‘Men of Allah’ and what struck me first was the amount of flesh being displayed in the work. Now the average person may not know why this is significant. But I shall explain this in just a minute.

Looking back in my ‘handy’ brochure there are several paragraphs about this collection of these images. They are based on Taaziye theatre, “a historic genre” in which very often only men are allowed to act in telling the stories of the life of the Prophet Muhammad (May peace and blessings of God be upon him). “In these photos Haerizadeh draws upon this religious ritual to stage scenes with the surreal dynamics of computer animation…” I could appreciate this work for just the medium and techniques used but that would be impossible. The method of producing as well that the intention for producing, the communication it involves and its impact are what makes a work of art what it is.

‘Allah’ is the Arabic word for God. It is used in the Qur’an as the word for God and therefore is used by Muslims. ‘Men of Allah’ therefore translates to ‘Men of God’. In the usual sense what does this mean? Perhaps someone who devotes themselves to God, the belief in Him and everything involved in the worship of Him. So far no problem right? Well let’s carry on.

Back to the brochure: “Haerizadeh’s men evolve as bacchant gods, conveying a literary mysticism in their carnal revelry…Haerizadeh reworks the codes of gender, body and sexuality. Intimately grouped and provocatively posed… in a perverse harem…epicurean and exotic”. So for anyone wondering if I was being over the top, there’s the proof from the brochure itself.

Now with this religious context in view and the use of the selected title a person who knows about this is going to wonder why the actual work holds no respect to the teachings to which it is connected.
Ok finally to the point I’m trying to make. If you’re going to even consider doing work that has any connection with the divine, spiritual, and sacred it is only right to do so with the utmost respect. I know artists who work with words/letters/poetry, producing the most beautiful artwork and even though they do not use the human form in any way they do not even go near the religious side of things. Hearizadeh clearly chose to convey an aspect of Iranian religious culture (as performing arts is not traditionally endorsed by Islamic belief) through a not so sensitive approach and as a result I find this offensive and would not be surprised if others did too.

Another collection of work in the exhibition which I can safely term as ‘controversial’ would be the ‘Tehran Prostitutes’ by Shirin Fakhim. There are a number of these life-sized puppets scattered about the room. They are made up of an array of household items and fabrics, for example knitting needles, yarns of wool and bits of lace. The body parts look to be made from sacks of cloth stuffed with more fabric, very scarecrow like. They are very scantily dressed in women’s underwear and some have abayas (long black covering worn by Muslim women) draped over the shoulders in a dishevelled manner with the revealing and vulgar and ill-fitted lingerie on full display. The impression of ‘ladies of the night’ is definitely achieved using a stark ‘in your face’ approach. I didn’t want to look at these for longer than I needed to. I know it’s a reality of life – women around the world are involved in this illicit behaviour but I was slightly confused by the artist’s choice of addressing the issue?

I guess exhibiting this kind of work in a Muslim country would have been very risky for the artist. Therefore this kind of exhibition offers them a level stage where there will not be as much judgement and scorn towards their work.

Flesh on display is taboo enough let alone an underworld of prostitution which the average and common public tend to ignore. Then there are the additional signs of other illegal and black market activity:
“Issues such as female genital mutilation, transgender orientation, homosexuality and cross-dressing are all awkwardly broached through her vulgar approximations of stitched crotches and mismatched private-bits, confusing the brutal, illicit, forbidden and desirous.” There is something of a shock-value here, right?
There is an underworld of prostitution even in Muslim countries where fornication and adultery are against Islamic law let alone this array of activity. But it still thrives because there are women – and according to the above even men – out there who need money and as long as there is demand there will be supply.

Fakhim, however, has chosen to treat this serious subject with humour and uses the situations of the ‘characters’ and the lives they portray as one big joke – ok maybe that is a bit harsh but it’s certainly not sensitive; “Fakhim ironically stages this menagerie as a source of ridicule, provocatively placing items such as alms baskets and air fresheners to illustrate public scorn and social stigma.” So in the end the purpose of this work is simply to highlight the situation and how it is placed within a strict culture but as the majority of people will agree it is something unwanted in general society – is there not a better message that can be conveyed? If we were made to feel sorry for these people and be led to think of how they could be helped instead of laughing at them – perhaps that would be more effective? Utopia doesn’t exist but there’s nothing wrong in trying to make this a better world.

Before, during and after (pt1): Unveiled – Saatchi Gallery

April 14, 2009

I’ve spent so long writing this post and procrastinating over it too – it’s been in my draft posts section for almost a month and for some reason it has conjured a lot of questions in my mind. At the same time I’ve been discussing these in the last two tutorials with John and in informal and brief chats with Andy and even a couple of my peers. The visit to the Saatchi gallery basically coincided with my personal exploration of what Islamic Art is. I think this is one topic I’ll be addressing continuously throughout my MA.

This has led me to question whether I need to make sure I just stick to what I know to be Islamic Art? But then seeing what other artists out there call Islamic Art is necessary – after all this is where I will be placing my own work, amongst today’s Islamic artists.

There have been many other issues related to all this and my personal beliefs that have kept me from being able to complete this post in the usual hour or so that I would take. I think it’s mainly due to the array of work in this exhibition but I will try and explain how seeing the work triggered certain thoughts for me.
Btw – Due to how lengthy this text has become I will divide it in to three separate posts to make it easier to digest.

Before I went to this exhibition I thought I’d read up on it first. I don’t usually like having my first impressions influenced by reviews and other people’s opinions but this time I wanted to know more about the work and the artists in order to determine if it was worth going to – for some reason I had doubts. This could be because recently work from the Middle East has been more ‘out there’ and of a European/Western influence rather than something connected to its own roots as is evident in more traditional Middle Eastern art. I think there is something special about the traditional styles that have dispersed in more contemporary work. But this is just my opinion as is everything I say in this blog of course (except where I’ve quoted). I would like to take this opportunity to remind my readers that many of my posts are heavily opinionated and are no reflection of any other individuals or groups.

Having seen a couple images and articles about the exhibition I almost disregarded it. I thought ‘well none of this looks Islamic so how is it relevant?’ Well yeh that sounds really narrow minded because although it might not fit my definition of ‘Islamic Art’ it doesn’t mean it isn’t – right? And even then it isn’t being labelled as Islamic art so why should I object to the content. The cultural background could be relevant as they come from Islamic countries.

Then I found this article and it convinced me to take a look: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/reviews/unveiled-new-art-from-the-middle-east-saatchi-gallery-london-1522227.html

Unveiled is an exhibition of contemporary Middle Eastern art, Rahbar being Iranian. Or rather, like her flag, not quite. Born in Tehran in 1976, she has been in exile in Britain and America for most of her life, which means she is both a victim of Western domination and complicit in it. She is not alone in this. Only eight of the 19 artists in this show actually live in the Middle East, and only two of the seven women. (For them, presumably, “unveiled” has a more specific meaning.) The rest – notionally Algerian, Lebanese, Iraqi or Palestinian – make their art in Paris or Berlin or New York.

Some very relevant points were made in this article – touching on issues I’ve considered myself. I wonder if, like these artists I am greatly influenced by the pulls of two different cultures. My parents are Pakistani but I was born and bought up her and have lived here in London my whole life. And yet I don’t see those things as being what defines me. I don’t feel that I need to belong to any of those places – as long as I’m not rejected from either 😐 And more importantly I don’t think anyone has the right to say one way or the other.

Hidden Geometry

January 28, 2009

I attended my second class of Arabic Calligraphy using Naskh Script yesterday. I signed up for these evening classes many months ago and have been looking forward to this opportunity for well over a year. The class is run by Mustafa Jafar, author of Arabic Calligraphy: Naskh style for beginners (Paperback):

Image taken from http://www.amazon.co.uk

Mustafa is himself an artist and examples of his work can be seen at http://arabigraphy.com

'Light upon Light' by Mustafa Jafar

'Light upon Light' by Mustafa Jafar

Anyway so in yesterday’s class we learnt to draw the first half of the Arabic letters using a traditional reed pen (looks a bit like bamboo but cut to a sharp nib on one end) and ink.

This interest in Arabic calligraphy was a personal one as well as a relevant one in terms of my project.

I will post a more detailed entry when I have gathered more informative details about the history and development of Arabic calligraphy. However in brief  I have these notes:

From its simple and primitive early examples of the 5th and 6th century A.D., the Arabic alphabet developed rapidly after the rise of Islam in the 7th century into a beautiful form of art.
http://www.sakkal.com/ArtArabicCalligraphy.html

– Arabic as a written language was used by few.

– Those who did use it were professional scribes and usually worked to produce important documents for legal and state offices.

– When the Qur’an was revealed and after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him ) to whom it was revealed, it became necessary to record the revelations. These were written and illuminated (decorated with intricate borders etc) to emphasise the beauty of the word of God.

– It is also important to note that the Qur’an never was and never is illustrated with imagery portraying humans or animals. This is because there are strict rules about the idea of recreating/reproducing the creation of God who is the only One who can create such things. It is also in order to prevent idolatry – which people can easily fall into if they are not careful. The biggest sin in Islam is Shirk which is to obey/worship/sacrifice for anyone or instead of God.

– Arabic as a written form became  standardised some time after the early centuries of Islam’s expansion and dominance.  One form was used for secular writings (the cursive script) and the other for sacred documents such as the Qur’an.

– The style of calligraphy used for the Qur’an also developed but always to a very high standard. It was imperative that the person copying the words got them 100% right and therefore they would train for many yrs under the masters of the pen before starting their own copies. There was no room for error. The Qur’an has remained unchanged since the day it was first recorded.

The significance of calligraphy? As it is used in so many forms of Islamic art and decoration and truly does look beautiful. It plays a large part in my project research. It is significant not only because of the words within the writing (usually excerpts or verses from the Qur’an) but also because of the visual effect they produce. So even if you didn’t know the words or know that it was a verse to be read and understood you could still appreciate the aesthetics of the calligraphy.

The words themselves being the words from God mean that not only do they carry an important message for mankind but they deserve to be elevated.

——————-

In the class today with Mustafa Jafar, we learnt about the proportions of the letters. These proportions govern the size of the letters in accordance to each other and although not apparent to the viewer they produce the accuracy that leads to the perfection of the overall piece of writing. Whilst demonstrating the use of the dots within the alphabet as measurements for the letters, Mustafa used the phrase ‘hidden geometry’. A light bulb turned on in my head. I already knew about the proportions and accuracy required to make the calligraphy what it is, but I never connected it with geometry before. I wonder why? I guess I wasn’t thinking outside the box. It’s not just about lines and shapes the way I know them.

You will see in the image below that the height, width and empty space produced within and around the letters are all in proportion according to the dots. So no matter what size dots you start with you should have a certain number of dots making up the length and a certain number making up the breadth for each one:

This image is taken from: http://www.sakkal.com/ArtArabicCalligraphy.html where you can also find much better explanations about the history and development of Arabic in its written form.

Therefore the use of geometry comes about using this dot as a unit for measurement and it producing a proportionally accurate letter, leading to a proportionally accurate piece of writing.

Mustafa insists that Calligraphy is a form of art, not writing. I very much agree, except where it comes to the Qur’an. In the Qur’an it is both and more.

Zero to Infinity – connections are made

November 24, 2008

I was invited, by a friend, to attend the Zero to Infinity event at the Dana Centre South Kensington (Thursday 20th November 2008).

A quick look at the panellists and the topic for discussion sparked some interest with me. These panellists included:

Paul Prudence, generative artist
Eleanor Robson, historian of mathematics, University of Cambridge
Marcus du Sautoy, mathematician, University of Oxford
Jane Wess, curator, Science Museum
Facilitator: Rachel Thomas, Editor, Plus magazine

Panellists

From this list of names only one stood out to me and that was Marcus du Sautoy. I had recently viewed his documentary “The Story of MathsThe Language of the Universe” on the BBC (thanks for telling me about it Simon) and thought he was great at explaining math related theories in a friendly and an easy to understand way.

The four very different backgrounds of the panellists was great as it provided different views on the same subject. It was clear that different uses of the mathematical theories relating to infinite numbers, the idea of multiple infinities and whether the number zero is something real or abstract can allow for connections in different areas of practice and study.

Midway through the talk we were split into two groups to participate in a short workshop first off with Marcus du Sautoy. This was a brilliant and practical demonstration to help us understand how one infinity could be larger than another. Ok there were many things floating about such as how fractions and decimal numbers could be used to check against whole number and negative numbers and this was delving into scary territory for me – maths not being my forte. So these further explorations into different types of numbers, rational and irrational, and the stark statement from Du Sautoy that there are different types of mathematics just completely lost me. At one point I had to just accept that there are many possibilities out there in the universe numbers and mathematics are perceived and manipulated to prove various theories using various methods.

Even then, Du Sautoy’s enthusiasm made the workshop enjoyable. Even though there were, well lets say, some brains participating too who were determined to prove something by asking questions that could only really lead to a debate that the rest of us wouldn’t be able to keep up with, it was quite funny to see that not everyone had the same views. And I’m pretty sure one man was actually flirting with him and using his mathematical knowledge to impress him!

Anyway so the next workshop was more of a historical look at how the number zero came into existence and its early use by the ancient Babylonians who kept records of how many different types of cattle were collected and received for the king. This part of the workshop was overseen by Eleanor Robson of Cambridge University. She explained that the Babylonians used to make marks representing different numbers on chunks of clay. This allowed for the accounts to be preserved for thousands of years. An empty space basically represented a zero. Of course their idea of the number zero was used merely for counting that something was not there but not in the same way it is now used for example for negative numbers and calculations of the abstract kind.

Twelve German Jetons - The Science Museum

We also looked at some of the shapes included in a mid 17th century wooden learning box – based on the teachings and principles of Euclid’s geometry. These were original items from the Science Museum’s collection and explained to us by curator Jane Wess. The collection included abacuses from China, Japan and the West where the base numbers for counting were all different.

Euclid's geometry - wooden box of shapes from 17th century Abacuses

Having reached the last part of the evening we heard from Paul Prudence; a generative artist and Video Jockey (VJ) whose work was displayed on the screen in the room. The display was of moving tesselated digital imagery. These images were based on geometric forms relating to the theories we had been hearing about earlier in the evening and in the workshops.

View a video of his work here: http://www.transphormetic.com/2_talysis2/talysis01.htm>/a>

Fast Fourier Radials - A spectrographic visualisation of sound

http://www.transphormetic.com/12_FFradial/pics/02.jpg
Fast Fourier Radials

I was in awe. He had succeeded in creating digital work based on geometric shapes and from this were produced beautiful patterns. So obviously all of this started ringing bells in my head. I was thinking to myself ‘I need to ask this guy some questions and find out what processes he is involved in, what software, which techiniques, etc etc’. I was very curious. So I waited till most people had started dispersing after the talk and told him about the MA and why his work was of particular interest to me in relation to my project. He gave me some of his business cards and encouraged me to take as many as I wanted, as he had so many and each had a different image on the back (stills from his work). They were really cool so I took six 🙂

Talysis 2

http://www.transphormetic.com/2_talysis2/talysis05.htm
Talysis 2

I found a lot more information about Prudence’s work and recent project history on his website: http://www.transphormetic.com/

And I don’t think I could be any more amazed and slightly jealous. He uses Flash and ActionScript to write programs which then produce the patterns and some of them in real time!!! The use of algorithms and mathematics (written into the ActionScript) means that numbers can be used to produce 3d effects of shapes within certain spaces. These have boundaries in which the pattern might become curved along the outer curve of a sphere or within the inner curve and so producing both a convex and concave look with the shapes getting smaller or larger as they move along, further toward or away from the x axis. Ok I’m not sure if I explained this the right way.

Heres what he’s got in the biography section of his site which pretty much sums up his skills quite impressively:

Artist and real-time visual performer working with computational and visual feedback systems and video. Uses VVVV, Flash & processed Digital Video. Lecturer on visual music and syneasthetic art.

Researcher and writer at Dataisnature.

Freelance Interaction Designer and ActionScript Developer. Authoring chapters in a few books relating to computational design with Actionscript.

http://www.transphormetic.com/bio.htm

I’m glad to see a clear example of how a contemporary approach using the latest in technology and programming skills can be made the most of in order to produce something that connects all the ideas that are bought to light in the subject of geometry, shapes, and space (more specifically numbers and their connection to the theories of science and physics of the universe). I mentioned in an earlier post that it was hard to make the connections between the different subject areas as they could become very diverse and branch off into their own projects all together. But this is a great example to show that it is possible to make those connections apparent in one piece.

I feel inspired and have a positive feeling about achieving something great, as a result of this project. God willing 🙂

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

November 8, 2008


Prepare yourself – this could quite possibly be my longest post so far. I always say to myself that I’ll make them more short and snappy but they never are.

We went on a bit of a school trip last week Wednesday (29th Nov 2008). Ok, I know we’re not in school and we didn’t have to hold hands with partners but still; it just reminded me of school.

Our first stop was at Haunch of Venison near Bond Street to see Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s collection of work. These were spread over three floors and amounted to 7 very different projects. I won’t talk about all of these in detail so here is a brief description:

Microphone (2008) – spotlight on solitary microphone. Speak into it, your voice is recorded and then a previous message recorded maybe a couple hours ago would be played back to you in response. This cycles through so that later in a similar situation your message will be played to someone else.

Alpha Blend Shadow Box 7 (2008) – a framed plasma screen television is divided into four blocks. Each block showing a different video of the same view of yourself. An inbuilt camera enables the viewer to be captured and reflected back to them through the television. The images of previous viewers are blended and layered so that it appears that someone else may be standing next to you when there actually is no one there. As with the microphone the image of you is recorded and kept and then shown to someone else later on. Quite spooky.

Glories of Accounting (2005) – The following is taken from http://www.lozano-hemmer.com/eproyecto.html

“an interactive installation with a surveillance system that detects the position of the public in the exhibition room. When someone walks into the room, large hands appear on the screen automatically. The hands rotate along their forearm axis, following the visitor with the open palms always facing him or her. As more people enter the room, more hands appear and each follows a member of the public. “

Less Than Three (2008) – This took up a very large wall with the accumulation of tube lights from one side to the other. They formed a network of various paths from one end of the wall to the other. An intercom was placed at each end. It took us a few minutes to figure this one out. When you speak into one intercom your message is converted into electric form to create a flashing path through the network of tubes and then finishes at the other end where your message is repeated through the other intercom. The longer the audio the longer the path of flashes is and the longer it takes to get to the other side.

Reporters with Borders (2008) – The following is taken from the Haunch of Venison Press release www.haunchofvenison.com/media/8537/hovl%20-%20rlh%20-%20press%20release.pdf

“A new installation Reporters with Borders dominates the top floor gallery. Infra-red sensors detect the presence of viewers, bringing large composite projections of Mexican and American TV news reporters to life within the viewers’ silhouettes. Arranged according to distinctions such as male/female, Mexican/US, light-skinned/dark-skinned, eyes open/eyes closed, the previously still figures begin to report the news animatedly, their voices rising to a cacophonous chorus.”

Airport Cluster Plot (2001) – Ok to be honest I really didn’t get this one. It was not interactive as the others were and didn’t seem to do anything which was a stark difference as well. This was a graphic representation of the floor plans of 35 international airports all overlaid by a computer programme. According to the leaflet we were given at the reception desk, this piece “suggests the accelerated movement and hyper-activity of the contemporary global condition“.

Pulse Tank (2008) – I was very impressed by the interactive elements of each piece but my favourite was the ‘Pulse Tank’ which uses different elements including water, light, electronically controlled pistons, sensors, and a glass tank all connected together in some form but with no visible wires.

At the head of the tank there was a metal panel with the outline to two palms. This indicated that the viewer is required to place there hands upon this . There would then come the sound of a slow heart beat like rhythm which would begin to speed up after a while. There were also small thin plastic tubes around the tank were other participants were required to place their fingers (indicated by small graphic labels).

A metal piston type thing (really not sure what it was) would then jab/tap the water in the tank at the rate of the person’s pulse as sensed through the placement of the finger into the tube. This would create a ripple effect in the water. With all tubes occupied, ripples would meet in the centre of the tank of water to create a myriad of circles, lines and diagonals from all sides. The sound of all pulses could be heard from the speakers and the light shone onto the tank would be reflected by the water onto the floor as well as the ceiling. The overall effect was quite lovely.

—-

Our second stop was the Barbican to see Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s other installation ‘Frequency and Volume‘ in the Curve Art Gallery. Once again this was a highly interactive project using radio technology to pick up on radio signals at different frequencies.

As you enter the space you see a tower of aerials in the shape of a pylon. I almost dismissed this myself. I somehow knew it was just part of the method for obtaining the signals and so carried on till I came to the curved wall section. The spotlights on the inner wall create giant shadows of you as you move past. These shadows would then be outlined onto the outer wall onto a large black projection. As you move the channels change. You become the tuner of the radio and can choose to switch from BBC Radio 4 to some random pirate station for example. Sometimes the signals were strong and clear and you could hear a loud chart hit. At other times you would hear rushing sounds and distant murmuring.

There were a couple of kids mucking about in the middle – experimenting with the effects of their shadows and playing out a sort of drama for their unexpected audience. They were revelling in the attention they got from us few viewers. This made me laugh but I could see the fun. If I was by myself I would have run from one end to the other to see if the channels would change as fast as I was running and if the transition from one to the other would be smooth or erratic.

This was a cool project. Most of Lozano-Hemmer’s stuff is cool. I don’t use the word lightly. He has done something quite different from other electronic/digital artists and combined it with the activities of humans – engaging their interest through sound and movement and most importantly their participation. Therefore I cannot wait for his new project for Trafalgar Square!

You can read up more about Lozano-Hemmer’s history, background, past and future projects on his site: http://www.lozano-hemmer.com/

More useful links:

http://www.haunchofvenison.com/en/#page=london.current.rafael_lozano-hemmer

http://www.barbican.org.uk/artgallery/event-detail.asp?ID=7879

VITA Islamic Art Show

November 4, 2008

Doing another random search online I found a slideshow with audio discussion of some of the work produced by students at the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts. The video is from the Guardian’s site (www.guardian.co.uk) and can be found via this link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/slideshow/page/0,,2122963,00.html

Note to self: Tried in vain to embed the flash into the post. I’m sure there is a plugin somewhere that will allow this to be done but as I am planning to move my blog to my own server some time soon (so she says) I’ll wait before I try to install anything new.

It’s great to see what other students are doing in this area of art and it will be influential in helping me find the niche in which to fit my own work. I like to be quite different with what I produce so it’s necessary to scope out what everyone else has been or is doing 🙂

Routes @ Waterhouse & Dodd

October 29, 2008

Routes is a collection of contemporary Middle Eastern and Arab art. Two of the artists featured were Nja Mahdaoui and Monir Farmanfarmaian. Both their work was worth going to see. But then I was pretty sure I’d be impressed before I went as you may have seen them recently mentioned on my blog.
Located in Cork Street (just off of Saville Row), the gallery itself was quite small and the work was displayed and split over the ground floor and basement. I had no idea that Cork Street was a sort of hub for galleries. But it seems that 26 Cork St was one of the smaller ones. The problem with this is that a lot of the work on display was quite large, and I don’t think it was set out in the best way possible.

Nja Mahdaoui

Nja Mahdaoui

There were members of staff seated at their computers in various corners of the rooms and at times I had to look over the top of their heads to see a particular painting. I found this off-putting.
In one corner there was a very large mirror mosaic by Monir Farmanfarmaian that I wanted to look at quite closely and also wanted to take pictures of, but it had a collection of very unflattering white rubbish bags in front of it (the type that the dustmen collect from the large bins outside your home). Not to mention the pile of brown torn paper and bubble wrap. Ok I understand that if they were expecting a VIP guest then they probably would have done things differently.

I’d even noticed that in the image shown on the front of the exhibition leaflet the gallery space was very clean, open and spacious with no clutter and no unhanged artworks leaning against the sides of the walls. It looked so different I had to look closer to determine if it was the same gallery! My point is that the staff and owners should attempt to keep the space in a certain way and they should always be prepared for the odd visitor on a weekday afternoon who will expect to see the work in a proper manner.

In the end I asked the gentleman (who was eating his lunch at his computer desk amongst the paintings in the basement) to remove the trash bags so that I could take a decent photo. I took a photo of the offending bags too just to illustrate my point. I mean you just don’t expect this from a gallery that has such great work within, especially as it is the centre of a thriving area of London.

Anyway back to the work. I’m still really glad I went to see this collection. There were quite a few pieces that I found very inspiring. On close inspection it was also clear that even though the work is very striking on first impression, they are not perfect in the conventional sense of every line and every dot being in its rightful place. Ok there is the chance that the artist did not intend for the work to be perfect in such a way. The surfaces were lumpy in places and the lines were not quite straight or the paint didn’t quite meet the edge of the border, etc. I don’t see these as negative factors at all, but rather like elements that come about through the process of producing the work and making them what they are in the end. So the work is perfect in the end because it becomes what it is made with and from. (Does that make sense?).

To me the imperfections are a sign that humans can only strive for perfection and hope to come close to it but can never achieve it – as only God is perfect and only He can create something which is perfect (personal view based on faith here of course).

Another thing is that these imperfections make me feel a lot better about my own work. For some reason it reassures me that even though my own work isn’t perfect it’s still possible to reach a standard that is very close to perfection? Once again it is something that should be strived for as it brings out the best in what you try to achieve. So I’ll just keep going and try and produce better work every time I do something new.

Ok I have strayed from the pieces on show again – right so there were these ‘Paper Plates’ by Hamra Abbas that were made from little strips of paper with the words ‘please get served’ or ‘get served please’ printed onto them. It was a bit difficult to tell due to the way the strips overlap (zoom in on those images for a good look). Each strip was placed according to a geometric Islamic pattern and so they formed gaps were there were no strips but in the shape of stars, squares, triangles, etc. This looked great.

I think I have figured out how it might have been achieved too. Ok it’s not a very sophisticated method and would be my cheap, a little messy but workable approach. It must have been a bit like papier-mâché. The strips must have been wet with slightly sticky gluey water on one side and were stuck onto real plates with the design already laid out on there. Once all the strips were stuck down in place they must then have been allowed to dry on the plate. Then, once completely dried all the strips would be stuck together as they were overlapped at points and create an interlaced effect. Being all stuck together in the dry state makes it easier to peel the whole thing off leaving a paper plate in the shape of the original plate to which the strips were stuck. Tadaaa!

I have a couple images (all taken with my handy mobile) in the gallery so do take a look. I liked the original way in which patterns were formed here. The artist was thinking outside the box – made something that is simple yet different and with lovely aesthetic effect. I really liked it!

There were also two mirror mosaics by Monir Farmanfarmaian. One was in the shape of a triangle and the other a sort of rhombus? (Please leave a comment if you recognise the shape and let me know if I am wrong). The mirror pieces are all very small and there are whole sections that are made from squares placed together in a way that create a 3d effect. The small squares begin to look like piles of stacked cubes able to catch the light – some parts being shaded and others illuminated. There is then the contrast of the other mirror pieces that are bigger, longer, angular and slightly curved – allowing for spiral effects and shell like formations. This one was also much neater looking for some reason.

I prefer the rhombus shaped one (the one that had the bags in front and near it). Not only does the triangle seem to be at odds with its surroundings in this case but I also don’t like the shade of orangey paint or tint used for the coloured parts (see close up). However, what I think would look really good was if there were two triangle mosaics – one as it is in the picture and the other a few inches away and flipped upside down. I’m not quite sure why in my head it looks better and seems to put the oddness to rightness, but it does.

Mirror mosaic by Monir Farmanfarmaian

There were also a few other works I really liked. I’ve realised I’m really picky about what I like. I can’t help it and although I knew I had a certain taste, it now has emerged that unless it is smart, aesthetically pleasing or emotionally compelling yet still strikes a chord in my brain where the light for positive impressions is turned on, then I will just dismiss it (be it art work, clothes or anything where taste is at question). And even though I think I’m open minded enough to give everything a chance, I’m still a bit snobby about what should and should not be classed as ‘art’. Ok this could potentially turn into a giant can of worms. Hmm I wonder if I should even share that kind of thing with everyone? Well it might provoke someone to leave a comment so – lets leave it in for now.

I think I’ve made this post more than long enough. I might not have covered everything I wanted but I think I got the important stuff in. Have a look at the site for the exhibition for more information on the artists and better quality images of their work: http://www.artroutes.com/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=1

Nja Mahdaoui

October 20, 2008

There is this feeling you get sometimes when you see/hear/watch something astounding and it gives you the shiver-me-timbers, as I like to call it. It’s a positive feeling in most cases and it’s like wow this is so amazing/funny/beautiful…or any other superlative you deem fit for the description.

Anyway so I received this giant book of one artist’s work when I attended the Word into Art Exhibition in Dubai. It was so heavy that the thought of carrying it on to the plane to Pakistan (where I headed on to next), keep it in good condition there and then carry it back to London via Dubai two weeks later, on the way back home was quite daunting. But the one reason I went through all that (and no it wasn’t because it was a well printed free book) was because the work of this artist gave me the shiver-me-timbers. Nja Mahdaoui is the name of the Tunisian born artist whose work I am now on about.

I can’t even attempt to describe the beauty of the work and obviously this is very subjective as it appeals to me in many ways and for various reasons. I will try and list these later but first let me show you the work. And because I like so much of it I am not going to limit the amount in this post – prepare yourselves!

All these images are from Mahdaoui’s official site: http://www.nja-mahdaoui.com/index.php

Canvas



Parchments

Airplanes

Yes you read correctly – one way of knowing you’ve made it as an artist is when you’re work is used on a series of airplanes! See this webpage for more images http://www.nja-mahdaoui.com/gb/avion1.php



And now I insist you look around the rest of Mahdaoui’s site to see how his work has been transferred to buildings; stained glass elements of which add a vibrancy to structures that can sometimes be, well, boring. His designs have also been incorporated onto dresses, and by the looks of it, many more mediums which we are promised will be displayed on the site “soon”. These include papyrus, jewellery and tapestries.

Oh yes. Why do I like these works? Here is a quick list which is by no means complete or fully explained:

Colours. Mainly black and white is used (my favourite combination for detailed works of these type). Other colours are from a select palette and mean that the work is consistent and have a sort of organised ruling to them. They also remind me of Piet Mondrian’s choice to use only primary colours in his work (more on him in a day or so).

Block type shapes. These can be especally noted from the contrast to the flowing calligraphy. These shapes are formed not only by the background colours or the flow of the text but also from the way they work as borders to new segments within the layout of the more geometric designs.

Empty space. This is used effectively. Amongst all the detail and condensed text there are some gaps that allow for the design to breath. They emphasise the parts that are filled with the lines of text (thick and thin) and also the different shapes created in the overall composition.

Straight edge and curves. This is great – I love the way the spiralling rose effect is centered within a rotated square in one. Again this is seen where there are circles within squares or overflowing of curves from the calliugraphy spilling onto a backdrop of straight and geometric edges/blocks of smaller concentrated text. Once again I think this contrast just helps to play one off against the other but to highlight the aesthetics of each and not to compete.

Calligraphy. This is a major form of illumination and decoration in Islamic art. An area I am hoping to explore later in my research. But for now I think the above examples really do a great job of showcasing the variety of designs and compositions possible in the art of Arabic Calligraphy which in the Islamic world has become reknowned. It is a fine art in itself and must be practised for years to be mastered.

Feel freel to comment on any aspects you feel should be mentioned that make these works good or perhaps not as good as you think they could be? I’d definately be interested to hear others’ opinions 🙂

Don Relyea – Q&A

October 18, 2008


http://www.donrelyea.com/hilberts_2007/15_03.PNG

Well I emailed Don Relyea as I said I would (https://qunud.wordpress.com/2008/10/11/don-relyea-artist/) and very kindly he responded in detail with some very interesting answers and observations:

I really like your work involving the generation of geometric shapes with programming in interactive applets. What would you say triggered your desire to use these types of shapes in your designs?

Since most of my work is created in some kind of programming language, it is natural to describe shapes and forms with math and both 2d and 3d geometry. I have always enjoyed math. From about 1999-2003 I developed severe sleep apnea, this deprived my brain of oxygen and meaningful sleep. Over that time I began to lose the ability to do math, solve complex problems, and even routine programming exercises became extremely difficult.

I thought I was losing my mind. When I figured out what was wrong and started treatment, it was as though I had just emerged from a thick fog into daylight. I immersed myself in math and exploratory programming with a new found zeal. The recovery and subsequent rediscovery of my love for math was the catalyst for the burst of abstract geometric and space-filling curve works.

Considering how much emphasis has been placed on geometry in the past and the desire to create artwork based on exact measurements of shapes (e.g the use of golden ratio), where do you see geometry fitting in contemporary art?

Geometry will always have a place in the world of contemporary art. Successful artists are successful manipulators. Geometry is a great foil for manipulation. Why is it that people are drawn to compositions with certain proportions? When something is out of proportion, why is it so jarring?

I think that a lot of the answers to these questions lie in neuroscience and the way our brains are wired to recognize patterns and forms. There have been a lot of recent studies that show that we have at a minimum 2 brain functions going on at the same time, the executive mind and the habitual mind. The executive mind is what we engage when we encounter something new or need to solve a problem, the habitual mind is our autopilot. This is not a new concept, ancient Zen masters were aware of this. The habitual mind is programmed through repetition to detect patterns and shapes and it keys in on certain proportions like golden ratios, facial symmetry, etc. As an artist you can play with this feature in your viewers brains to evoke a response.

Mark Mothersbaugh’s current exhibit at LACDA titled “Beautiful Mutants” is great example this manipulative technique in action. http://www.lacda.com/exhibits/mothersbaugh.html
In “Bottom Heavy Pug” Mothersbaugh is challenging both the executive and habitual mind simultaneously, the picture looks enough like the original that your habitual mind immediately identifies it as a dog. Your executive mind also immediately recognizes that there is something proportionally awry with the picture. The internal conflict makes the picture memorable and engaging.

Bottom heavy pug by Mark Mothersbaugh

Along the same line of reasoning, works that are geometrically exact are equally engaging. Geometric perfection is actually quite rare in nature and we can recognize when a form is artificially perfect. In “Bottom Heavy Pug” the vertical symmetry is exact, we recognize that this is uncommon and take note.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Don Relyea for taking the time to answer these questions, and with such detail 🙂

There are loads more interesting projects he is working on, so once again I recommend a look at his site. In particular I’ve just noticed this project based on html layouts and table based html structures which actually form interesting imagery when viewed in a browser: the reductionizer.