Posted tagged ‘perfection’

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

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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.

Identifying a line of inquiry – which one?

October 11, 2008

On my way to uni on Wednesday I decided that maybe it would be a good idea to formulate my ideas and project aims and objectives as best I could. I started writing notes most of the journey and, as it had been about a week since I had fully concentrated on summing up my project in such a way, I think it helped to make it more structured in my head. I was able to sum up the links a bit better than before. This is what I came up with in relation to the two key words ‘Shapes’ and ‘Space’ being components of a possible working title:

The first two words are key as they sum up the elements that the areas of research I will be looking at are anchored by. In other words you can always relate the subject areas, I am interested in, back to one of these words if not both.

We usually think of shapes as pre-defined areas of outlined space that have specific names. We’ll grow up knowing that these named shapes have properties that allow the shapes to be classed within certain gropus of shapes too. So a square is made of of 4 right angles at each corner and 4 sides. A triangle with three sides and of various angles and combinations of these.

But can a shape alway be defined? And should it be defined? And how about those shapes which have properties or characteristics that are overlooked? And which characteristics should we look more closely at because they’ve been overlooked in the past?

The second key word is space. My use of the word implies many senses of space including the mathematical and the scientific (these I believe overlap in some sense), as well as the physical, perceptual and conceptual. I cannot restrict my meaning at this point. I have no reason to restrict until I have conducted more research and found a reason to do so.

What about white space? Is it real? Does it mean something to everyone? What is it’s role? Is it intentional? Should it be identified in more places?

An area of study that connects to this idea of space around shapes (and here I wonder – is this space not then a shape too?) is that of Geometry. These shapes are formed from vertices (easier to think of as dots in an invisible grid of any size). These vertices may then be connected with a line from one to another. these lines will be joint in such a way to form a shape. Various shapes are then placed together to form a larger formation. They could arguably be described as a system of shapes. This system could be called a pattern. these patterns can then become quite complex and due to their placement, repetition and possibly the ability to tesselate them – they can be endless and seem to go on for infinity.

One of my biggest aims in my project is to look into the history of Geometry – how it was developed and how it has been used over the centuries (more specifically in art work).

Then there is the branching off of Geometry in nature. I think this is a highly important and interesting subject to delve into. Not only because it entails many mysteries and brings into question the secrets of the Universe. But also because there is a tie with religion and sprirituality which is something that I can relate to on a personal level. Believing in God means that when I see the beauty of nature and proofs of perfection in nature (such as the way the body works and the structures and symmetry in plants and flowers to name a couple) I link it to Divine Creation. This is another aspect I would like to look into further. Especially as belief in this isn’t restricted to just one religion.

Geometry allows for the representation of space in 2d, 3d and even 4d and beyond:

Science.ca - Donald (H. S. M.) Coxeter, Pure and Applied Mathematics

4. Hypercube: If you pull a cube into the fourth dimension you get a hypercube. Eight cubes make a hypercube. The figure you see here cannot exist in the real world, which only has three-dimensional space. It is a projection of a four-dimensional object onto two dimensions, just as the cube before it is a projection from three-dimensional space to the two-dimensional flat surface of the paper.

5. Regular polytope: If you keep pulling the hypercube into higher and higher dimensions you get a polytope. Coxeter is famous for his work on regular polytopes. When they involve coordinates made of complex numbers they are called complex polytopes.

http://www.science.ca/scientists/scientistprofile.php?pID=5&pg=1

These main topics then branch off into other areas but are still anchored by the main theme of shapes, space and I guess now geometry too. By always having my main question along the lines of ‘ the place of geometry in the world around us’ I will have something to refer back to. Is that what I am looking at? Am I any closer to finding the answer? Am I looking into something that is relevant or have a veered off too far down a small cobbled street?

Outcomes for project: My background has been predominantly in expressing some form of communication and his has been mostly interactive. I would like to continue this by producing work that compels the user/viewer to become involved with it. I believe that the most interactively creative works are those that captivate the viewer and involve them within a process. This can be in many forms such as when using sensors to trigger some kind of behaviour or change in the work (lighting, sounds etc). This could be on an abstract level too where triggering thoughts and movements in people and influencing these is enough of a form of interaction. Only that this can be more difficult to measure.

However, my interpretation of an interactive work would be using multimedia as a possible option. My work has always been either viewable of a computer screen (short video clips), graphics, websites. Or viewable on some form of small physical and traditional media such as paper or canvas. I would really like to create some sort of installation to take my experience and work to the next level or beyond for this project. This installation would be my blank slate. Possibly like a box or container that allows a person to fully submerge themselves within it – literally or mentally. The key is for it to be thought provoking. I would want the person to question their surroundings, the purpose of the installation and investigate it too. Possibly manipulate their thoughts by pre-determining the factors the could influence their senses and perceptions related to the space around them.

And that is the end of my notes from my journey to Uni. Yes I am one of those people who can write loads of notes whilst travelling on the tube/bus/camel 🙂

We had a sort of informal feedback session after one of the Critical Framework lecture where we were required to write in one sentence what our project was about. I knew it would be a bit crazy to even attempt this so I decided to use the key words to form almost a sentence. I came up with ‘Shapes and space – the place of these and geometry in the world around us’ using my notes from the journey in. It could be the closest I’ve got to a working title yet so I just let that be discussed in the group.

After some discussion with Andy (course leader) and some feedback and questions from fellow students it would seem that perhaps I should narrow my field of research down a tad bit so that I can concentrate on finding the niche in which my project would excel. Something no one else is questioning, expressing or even addressing. Or maybe they will have but I’ll be doing it from a different angle? a unique p.o.v?

Only time will tell.

It’s not easy making a connection

October 6, 2008

I’ve been trying to anchor my thoughts – they really are flying everywhere. Ok so I said i was going to look into the different types of geometry but then I became sidetracked by one kind – Islamic geometry and it’s possible symbolism. I think there are some very important relationships that can be drawn from the accuracy and detail and near perfection of the patterns that are created in Islamic and even non islamic but similar geometry.

One such relationship is that of the divine creation and the indications of this that are found in nature. It can be argued that the artists of the early Islamic art movement were trying to portray the perfection of God’s creation through the use of geometry and without the use of imagery showing any living beings (reasons for doing this will be discussed in future – or you can nudge me to tell you sooner – any feedback or questions are appreciated). This is a plausible point as symmetry and geometry can be found in nature all around us including our very own bodies.

This then closely relates to the idea of the Golden mean. The ancient Greeks placed much importance on this and here is a quick explanation from wikipedia:

In philosophy, especially that of Aristotle, the golden mean is the desirable middle between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency.

To the Greek mentality, it was an attribute of beauty. Both ancients and moderns realized that “there is a close association in mathematics between beauty and truth.”

The Greeks believed there to be three concomitants of beauty: symmetry, proportion, and harmony. This triad of principles infused their life. They were very much attuned to beauty as an object of love and something that was to be imitated and reproduced in their lives, architecture, Paideia and politics. They judged life by this mentality.”

Ok so now I’ve lost track of where I was going with this. I want to quickly mention the Golden ratio also known as Phi. As seen in the image below:

The golden ratio (phi) represented as a line divided into two segments a and b, such that the entire line is to the longer a segment as the a segment is to the shorter b segment.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_ratio

Ok so back to the point – I am going to concentrate on drawing a connection between the ideas presented in the theory of geometry and symmerty in nature, golden mean and ratio, the divine creation and symbolism that can be found in artistic interpretations of these ideas/theories. Am I taking on too much? well considering that I keep coming up with new topics to look into means that at least my thoughts are developing. Lets just hope they are sinking in and remain relevant to my project.