Musings on Art

Bright Lights, Big City


Whilst flicking through the newspaper the other day, my eyes were caught by the image that accompanied no. 6 of 9 Fun Things to Do This Weekend.  The blazing, bright LED signage was reminiscent of the neon drenched terrain of my beloved Tokyo, so I set out to find a Scotties Boutique to see the work of multimedia artist, Jade Townsend.

Situated on Lorne Street, Scotties stocks high end fashion designers such as Lanvin, Nina Ricci and Comme des Garçons, whom initially commissioned Townsend to create her LED artworks for their I.T Beijing Market store in 2014.  She was the first woman to exhibit at the concept store, and spent three months in Beijing exploring consumerism and retail trends.  Townsend is interested in why we buy new jeans that are made to look old,[1] and the peculiarity and irrationality of aesthetics in fashion.

Titled End – User (2016), Townsend includes some photographs of the recently closed Kirkcaldie and Stains department store in Wellington, but my interest here lies in her work with LEDs.  The artwork takes centre stage in the window display at Scotties, surrounded by almost equally luminous (and desirable) objects such as Bao Bao Issey Miyake bags.  The irradiant glow of these pieces can be seen from across the street, and I wish I had actually seen them at night.  Townsend is fascinated by the push and pull nature of these lit signs; in Beijing their lurid vividness is unmistakable through the haze and smog, seemingly glamorous and alluring, they draw you to places that perhaps aren’t the case.[2]  This disparity can be likened to when we buy things that we don’t necessarily need, such as luxury goods, and the cognitive dissonance that arises after purchase.  Cognitive dissonance is when a person has conflicting attitudes about a product or service, and tends to be greater when there are a number of attractive choices available and/or it requires a higher level of commitment of time or money.  Such dissatisfaction can be a reason why people return certain items.

A reflection of her time there and China’s role as super producers and consumers, Townsend’s two light works each spell out a word in English and in Chinese characters.  The English word is ‘Typical’, and a quick Google indicates that the characters 奢华 read ‘extravagant or luxurious’ (presuming Google Translate is correct).  Townsend states in the accompanying text that the Chinese characters are approximate translations of English concepts.  Hence, there is a play on language as the origins and meaning of words is muddied; China has become more synonymous with luxury brands than anywhere else in the world.  The juxtaposition of these two words is striking – has our desire for luxury goods become typical and commonplace?  Have we, the consumers, become so conditioned to want the items that celebrities tote in magazines and on Instagram, that we don’t stop to ask why we need it?  What is of further fascination is that the word ‘luxury’ is banned from billboard advertising in China, to remove the obviousness of the class divide and wealth gap in the country.[3]  In a way, the characters could soon be as foreign in China as they are here to non-Chinese speakers.

I found the placement of these artworks within a boutique to be greatly engaging, as it lures us in and celebrates our need to consume, whilst equally questioning it.  After a while, you think that we would become desensitised to the allure due to the sheer number of glistening signs, but I suspect their glare and gleam won’t ever quite die down 😀

Both links are about Townsend’s time in Beijing, the first is an interview on Radio New Zealand, and the second is an article from The Wireless:

http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/standing-room-only/audio/20167292/jade-townsend

http://thewireless.co.nz/articles/reflecting-the-bright-lights-of-beijing

And she also recently exhibited at Pataka Art + Museum, Porirua:

http://www.pataka.org.nz/jade-townsend/

Jade Townsend is exhibiting works at both Scotties Boutiques, the one in Auckland CBD is located at 3 Lorne Street, and the other is at 2 Blake Street, Ponsonby.   Her artworks are on until Thursday 23rd June 2016.  Do check them out!

Thanks for stopping by 🙂

M.


[1] Jade Townsend, ‘Standing Room Only: Jade Townsend’, radio interview with Lynn Freeman, Arts on Sunday, broadcast Sunday 15 February 2015, http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/standing-room-only/audio/20167292/jade-townsend

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

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Musings on Art

Seung Yul Oh | SOOM & OnDo

Two, new, fabulous artworks by Seung Yul Oh have recently been installed in Auckland.  I think he does some of the best public art pieces around, as they are always lively, playful works that invite interaction and exchange.

The first work can be found when you go for a wander to the top floor of the Auckland Art Gallery and out onto the Edmiston North Sculpture Terrace.  Titled SOOM (2014) which is Korean for ‘breath’, it consists of mammoth, gauzy bubbles made from PVC, highlighting Oh’s characteristic interest in varying materials.

When I saw this incredible installation, I was honestly reminded of the first 7 seconds of this clip:

Oxygenated to full beach ball buoyancy, you can see the level of attention paid to the way that the surfaces of bubbles become flat when they latch to each other.  Furthermore, there are mirrors on the base of the bubbles that are anchored to the ground, allowing you to see inside and to catch the shifting light.  They wobble slightly in a gentle breeze, and it is easy to imagine these floating into the park or onto the street in stronger winds.  The combination of light and airy movement does make this installation appear as if it is ‘breathing’ with its own life.

As whimsical as Oh’s work is, there is something disconcerting about it: the bubbles seem as if you could easily pop them with sharp nails, yet they are surprisingly sturdy and large enough to ensnare a person.  There is also a fascinating tension between their size and transparency – these bubbles are both visible and invisible, they are seen and seen through.

Supported by the Chartwell Trust and Fabric Structure Systems, SOOM will be on display until Sunday 11th October 2015.

The second work newly appeared in Ballantyne Square, a park on Dominion Road not far from Countdown.  This striking installation is called OnDo (2015) and features gargantuan chopsticks and buckwheat noodles.  Noodles?!  Yes, noodles, and I love, love, love this work.

When I initially saw this, I was reminded of Japan and the plastic food replicas in restaurant windows which give you an indication of what the meals look like.  There are echoes of Pop Artist Claes Oldenburg, and his oversized food sculptures that elevated and monumentalised everyday objects.  The way that the noodles are suspended raises questions, mainly, how did he do it?  There is likely a supportive column in the middle of the noodles, and I suspect they are made from cables that are covered in styrofoam.  Yet I cannot be sure and it is not immediately discernible, thus the illusion and the sense of wonderment are maintained.  This artwork furthermore emphasises Oh’s masterful handling of a myriad of materials.

Oh’s installation is an ode to the vast array of delicious Asian restaurants on Dominion Road.  The orange barriers that encircle the work are part of it, as is the rubble that is intertwined with the noodles, which make reference to the ongoing construction on the road.  Also if you look closely you can see the artist’s name and title on the barriers in English and Korean.  Beautiful.  And if this work makes you hungry, you don’t have to walk too far to get a good feed 🙂  This is a temporary installation, so be sure to see it in person asap!

Thanks for reading 😀

M.

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Musings on Art

Through the Revolving Door

It is that time of the year again: Artweek Auckland!  And, I got on one of the collection tours!  I missed out last year as they book up fast, but I was determined this time around, and had my game face on.  I chose the Chapman Tripp and ANZ Centre tour, as the collection contains a number of impressive artworks by fantastic artists.

The artworks in the ANZ Centre foyer were selected by Paul Baragwanath, director of ARTTFORM, in consultation with architects Warren and Mahoney (WaM), Precinct Properties and ANZ Bank.  Each work was commissioned, and there is an overarching theme of the natural world and drawing the outdoors in.

Working in an anti-clockwise fashion from the main revolving door that opens onto Albert St, is the first of many stunners.  Placed near the escalators on the far right of the building, Birds and Boats (2013) by Neil Dawson features intricate sailboats constructed from painted steel.  The abstracted pattern could also resemble the wings of birds and swelling waves.  The burnished metal catches and throws light, of which this building has an abundance of, and further highlights the complexity and detail of Dawson’s sculpture.  When viewed from the main doors, the eye is drawn to the contrasting geometry of the spherical shape of his work which is framed by the square gap in the inner wall.

Neil Dawson, Birds and Boats (2013). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Neil Dawson, Birds and Boats (2013). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Moving up the escalator from Dawson’s artwork and behind the concierge’s desk, is an inescapable work titled Orangery (2013, vinyl installation on glass, 400 x 1600 m) by Sara Hughes.  This captivating installation consists of pale hued vinyl affixed on both sides of the glass, with slashes of green that look like blades of fresh grass.  Cut into the shape of leaves, the layering of the vinyl is reminiscent of fallen foliage.  Hughes’ work needed to be transparent to allow light into the foyer, and in a way it acts like a curtain to allow the ivy on the wall behind to grow.  I think it generates great interest – it makes you want to find a gap and peer through it, or examine the differing colour combinations created from the vinyl overlapping.  At certain times of the day, the leaves multiply as the vinyl casts shadows on the marble floor.

Sara Hughes, Orangery (2013). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Sara Hughes, Orangery (2013). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Sara Hughes, Orangery (2013) (Close up). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Sara Hughes, Orangery (2013) (Close up). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

It is pretty hard to ignore Winston Roeth’s work.  In a Silent Way (2012, Kremer pigments with polyurethane dispersion, cellulose and water on aluminium core board panels, 4565 x 4264 mm) comprises of 12 panels, each with a distinct hum.  American artist Roeth created all the colours himself, and they can be difficult to characterise.  At different times of the day and with light streaming from various origins, the oscillations in the colours are fascinating and mercurial.  The gold borders on each are also of slightly differing shades: the gold on the top left orange panel and the far right purple seemed more bronzed, whilst it looked more silvery around the pale blue panel in the top row (at the particular time I was looking at them).  Roeth’s artwork is compelling to observe, and can be seen from many angles around the foyer, thus was designed without a singular focal point.

Winston Roeth, In a Silent Way (2012). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Winston Roeth, In a Silent Way (2012). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Circling around to the back left of the foyer is another Sara Hughes.  I have long been a fan of Hughes’ work and was delighted to find not one, but two of her commissions here.  Placed in a narrow, historic corridor is Wintergarden (2014, LED light and Plexiglas) an exquisite installation inspired by pendulous wisteria and other flora, like those seen in Auckland’s Wintergarden.  Each leaf/blade has an LED light which diffuses down and then along the length of the leaf/blade.  The subtle modulations in colour and light are computer powered, and the leaves/blades vacillate along the colour spectrum through blues, greens, purples, yellows and pinks.  With its low ceiling this work has a graceful, elegant magic, not unlike twinkling stars or a wind rustling through leaves.  As modifications could not be made to the corridor and wary that it would see its fair share of foot traffic, Hughes’ artwork responds to and invigorates the space.

Sara Hughes, Wintergarden (2014). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Sara Hughes, Wintergarden (2014). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Passing through the corridor you encounter Piki Ake_Rise Up by Peata Larkin (2013, acrylic on gauze weave on lightbox, 2400 x 3700 x 90 mm).  Positioned opposite the elevators that lead down to the carpark, her work acts as a welcome; a bright reception for those arriving from the basement.  Larkin’s process is engrossing: the surface of the weave is painted white and then sensational baubles of paint are pushed through the back, before it is mounted on an LED lightbox.  With its ziggurat design, the artwork has a glittery Art Deco vibe.  Larkin draws from her Māori heritage, as the design resembles the poutama (stepped/stairway to heaven) tukutuku panelling pattern.  The use of blue and white makes this work seem heavenly and transcendental, and it is extraordinary to view up close and at a distance, during the day and at night.  You can read more about Peata Larkin in a previous post I wrote.

Peata Larkin, Piki Ake_Rise Up (2013). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Peata Larkin, Piki Ake_Rise Up (2013). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Peata Larkin, Piki Ake_Rise Up (2013) (Close Up). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Peata Larkin, Piki Ake_Rise Up (2013) (Close up). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

This post focussed on the artworks in the ANZ Centre foyer as they are easily accessible, yet if you are ever in the Chapman Tripp offices do take a look at their collection of objects.  All relate to the theme of sustainability and some to look out for are:

  • Sriwhana Sprong’s coke bottles, Givenchy perfume bottles, cow bells and matches, made from lac that will melt if left in the sun. Completely pitch black with a lustrous sheen, each item is delicately rendered and engages with the senses.  Sprong’s work points to the influence of consumerism and the throwaway culture that has arisen.
  • A paint tube made from greywacke by Joe Sheehan. The invention of the paint tube was a catalyst in the practice of painting, allowing the Impressionists to venture outside (en plein air) to capture scenes and changing light in the moment.  The weight of the tube could be likened to its importance in the history of art making, and that it cannot be so easily disposed of, as it is a solid rock that is common to New Zealand.
  • An axe with flowers growing out the handle by Peter Madden. Utilising old National Geographic magazines, Madden cuts up the images and pages to create this work.  There are themes of creation, destruction, rejuvenation and recycling with Madden’s art, and there is an interesting dynamic when you think of how axes are used to fell something yet here they have sprouted life.
  • Each of Janet Green’s ceramic goblets features a skull in relief, to serve as a reminder about mortality – a humorous placement for lawyers’ offices. The goblets have a delightful matte texture, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of the search for the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).  Likely my fave out of the four films, probably due to Sean Connery 🙂

I hope you all got out and about to see some of the amazing things on offer during Artweek!

For more info on Artweek Auckland please see:

http://artweekauckland.co.nz/

M.

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Musings on Art

Untitled (Pair) by Rachel Whiteread

Gracing the east terrace of the Auckland Art Gallery is an arresting sculpture by Rachel Whiteread.  I studied her work, albeit briefly, at university and am very excited to see one of her artworks in person!

Hailing from Britain, Whiteread primarily works in sculpture and most of her artworks are casts.  She utilises traditional casting methods and various materials such as bronze, concrete, resin and rubber.  Some of these materials are normally used as moulds in the creation of sculptures, yet Whiteread treats these moulds as completed works.  She explores presence, memory and space, and a number of her artworks represent a space once occupied.  Her art can appear familiar yet strangely unfamiliar at the same time, kind of like Freud’s the Uncanny.  One of her works, Ghost (1990, plaster on steel frame, 269 x 356 x 318 cm, National Gallery of Art Washington DC) illustrates this, as she formed a negative cast of an entire living room of a Victorian townhouse, thus absence is given presence.  When asked about this work, she said she wanted to ‘mummify the air in the room’.[1]  What a quote!

Here is an interesting video (about 8 mins long) where Whiteread discusses Ghost:

http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/audio-video/video/rachel-whiteread.html

This work Untitled (Pair) (1999, cast bronze and cellulose paint, 90 x 77 x 204 cm, Auckland Art Gallery) features two positive casts of a mortuary slab.  They seem nearly identical in shape and size, down to slender lip that runs around the edge, except the convex sculpture is actually a cast of the concave one.  Thus, they fit together when one is stacked on top of the other (like Lego!) intimately intertwined, as if they were made for each other.  I was somewhat reminded of Aristophanes’ speech in Plato’s Symposium, where he explains that humans originally had double bodies before being split by the gods, and they longingly seek out their other half in order to become whole again.

Auckland Art Gallery’s blog Outpost has some great photos of Untitled (Pair) please follow the link below:

http://www.aucklandartgallery.blogspot.co.nz/2013/12/rachel-whiteread_28.html

These companion pieces are minimalistic in their design: they have been painted a pristine, clinical white all over, but are actually crafted from bronze, one of the sturdier materials that Whiteread employs.  The bronze I feel, could represent longevity as if these were tombs in a mausoleum.   Furthermore, white as a colour carries connotations of purity as well as the supernatural, symbolic of life and death.  These sculptures also look like twin beds that couples had in ‘50s films and TV shows; areas that are lived in.  Hence, there is this ambiguity with her works as to whether they deal with existence or loss. 

Whilst mortuary slabs represent death and mortality, she emphasises our relationships with each other by placing this pair devotedly together.  These sculptures can be seen as proxies; they sort of stand in for us, and illustrate our need for closeness both in life and death.  They are like a cute couple, sweet but a bit morbid, especially as you realise that the concave sculpture borrows its sloping surface from the way that a mortuary slab drains bodily fluids…  Yet by drawing attention to the space we inhabit, she ultimately creates new experiences for the viewer.  There is a silence to her works as her subdued style is more evocative and suggestive, rather than overt.  I find them eerily fascinating and filled with complexities that ask ever so softly, to be revisited.

Whiteread also has a captivating artwork called Holocaust Memorial (1995-2000, concrete, 390 x 752 x 1058 cm, Judenplatz, Vienna) in the Judenplatz town square in Vienna, Austria.  Created as a memorial for the 65,000 Austrian Jews that died in the Holocaust, this work is a negative cast of a library with all four walls coated in rows of books.  These books are positively cast with their spines facing inwards and the pages exposed.  The double doors are also inverted; hence this is a library that no one can enter.  Crafted from concrete, there is a weightiness and permanence with this work – this library cannot be removed or forgotten, and nor can the memories of the people who died.  I find this artwork beautiful and interesting, and it is on my Vienna ‘To Visit’ list 🙂

Untitled (Pair) is on a long term loan to the Auckland Art Gallery from Erika and Robin Congreve.  It is on view until Wednesday 30th November 2016, so there’s plenty of time to check it out!

Also, here is a song I can’t get enough of at the moment, that perhaps inspired my thoughts on these works 😛  ‘I Come Apart’ is by Florence Welch aka Elizabeth Siddal’s doppelgänger (did you know her mother is a professor who has written books on Renaissance art? Too cool) and A$AP Rocky, a Harlem rapper with serious swag, who honours his murdered brother by adopting his French braid hairstyle (and sometimes likes to call himself Lord Flacko).

Enjoy!

M.


[1] Education Division and the Department of Web and New Media Initiatives at the National Gallery of Art, Rachel Whiteread: “Ghost”. Video recording. Washington DC: National Gallery of Art, 2009.

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Musings on Art

I Spy with My Little Eye…

…A spot of public art in Newmarket!  I was walking by the train station with my Bruce Lee Sushi, when I was struck by a stunning Reuben Paterson work 😀  I started thinking about this new addition as well as another colourful installation by Seung Yul Oh, situated on Teed and Osborne Streets.

I apologise in advance for these images, it was hard to photograph this work with all the poles and fences obstructing the view!

Paterson’s artwork is named Ándale, Ándale (2012) which roughly translates to ‘come on, let’s go!’ in Spanish.  This title is fitting considering its placement at the Newmarket station, where people hurriedly come and go.  It consists of fifteen panels constructed of aluminium and fabulously painted in glitter.  A work made from glitter?  Enough said 🙂

Set against a blackened background, this artwork is like an acid induced vortex of colourful flowers and bedazzling light.  Its optical flower power is reminiscent of William Morris of the Arts and Crafts Movement, as well as Op Art.  The creation of movement is twofold in Paterson’s work: through the impression that the artwork is warping; and the grit of the glitter that allows light to sprawl and shimmer on the surface.  It is fascinating the way that the eye attempts to remedy what it sees.

Ándale, Ándale is a departure from Paterson’s previous paintings. They drew influence from his father’s Māori heritage (Ngati Rangitihi and Ngai Tuhoe), and specifically kowhaiwhai patterns.  Instead he turns his focus to his Pakeha mother and the imagery and motifs of his upbringing during the psychedelic ‘70s.  Paterson’s interest in genealogy is ever-present, and he views pattern as human connection – his artworks are storytellers, expressing memories and symbolising ancestry.  This work is just beaming with beauty and bliss, and the patterns are exciting and engrossing.

If you wander a little way down the road, there is another lively and vibrant work that grabs your attention.  Seung Yul Oh’s Globgob (2010) consists of nine gorgeously coloured eggs scattered around the Teed-Osborne Streets juncture.

Oh was born in Korea then moved to New Zealand, where he completed a Masters at Elam School of Fine Arts.  He works in various media, devising playful artworks with a pop aesthetic that create situations to observe how people behave. These sculptures have a slick shiny texture, and like Paterson’s artwork, they capture and reflect the light which imbues them with vitality.  I must confess, I had totally taken photographs perching on these sculptures before realising they were his artworks 😛

But that I think, is part of the point of these works – they are interactive, animated, and activated by your encounters with them.  There isn’t that separation with public art that you get at galleries and museums; you can engage another of your five senses, you can touch these sculptures.  Furthermore, their design lends itself to this interplay with their smooth to touch finish, and their size which elicits participation from adults and children.  It is easy to lose yourself in the fun and curiosity they inspire.  If only they were massive chocolate Easter eggs!

There is a true sense of wonderment with both Paterson’s and Oh’s works.  I find their alluring colour and brilliance readily brings a smile to my face.

Do take the chance to enjoy these artworks!

M.

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Musings on Art

The View from the Tracks

Hello again!

This post is dedicated to a good friend of mine, thanks for coming mural hunting 🙂

I find there is a certain romance to trains.  Perhaps it is because they feature in a number of great tales: Murder on the Orient Express, North by Northwest, Anna Karenina.  That last one was probably not the best example, but if you haven’t read it you must! It is a smidge hefty but worth it, and I found I appreciated it more as I got older.

As an occasional train commuter, I have often enjoyed the behind the scenes view, such as the back of shops, expansive gardens, etc.  What I have noticed, and have come to look out for, is the graffiti art and murals.  In particular, I am going to talk about two big and colourful murals here – the Ralph Hotere tribute by Askew, and the Chinese Girl by Owen Dippie and Hipara August.

Askew’s mural rises like a sun when you pull into Kingsland train station.  As it is situated on the side of a building, it is best seen if you are seated forward when heading out West.  Or better yet, hop off and take a longer look:  you can find it on a wall in a small carpark on New North Road.  The mural hums with vibrant orange and teal – this colour combination makes it quite striking from a distance, but at times hard to see as your eyes adjust to the contrasting hues.  It is also funny how at a glance, many people mistake him for Einstein 😛

This mural is based upon a 1978 photograph taken by Marti Friedlander (gelatin silver print toned with gold, 47.8 x 48.2 cm, Auckland Art Gallery) of one of New Zealand’s most influential and significant artists, Ralph Hotere (1931-2013).  His works are poetic and powerful pieces; some respond to political and environmental issues in New Zealand, others contemplate spiritualism and the human condition.  The intensity of his gaze, which I think betrays a quiet but strong soul, is aptly captured by Friedlander.

You will notice that there is some text across Hotere’s body in this mural.  These words are borrowed from one of his works, Godwit/Kuaka (1977, enamel on board, 240 x 1800 cm, Auckland Art Gallery).  The title references the godwit bird (kuaka is the Māori name for the bird) known for its annual migration between New Zealand and Alaska.  This shimmering, elongated work consists of varying vertical lines and panels of stippled colour.  The words are presented in the centre, drawn from an ancient Māori chant about the godwit that Hotere’s father taught him.  Walking the length of this work is like a pilgrimage in itself, and its lacquer-like surface allows the viewer to reflect on themselves and the work.  I think this choice of text is fitting for its rail side placement, as it relates to notions of migration and travel.

The first link is to the Auckland Art Gallery blog, Outpost which provides a translation of the text in Hotere’s Godwit/Kuaka image.  The second is a video of Askew painting the mural:

http://aucklandartgallery.blogspot.co.nz/2013/02/ralph-hotere-onz.html

http://www.3news.co.nz/Kingsland-mural-honours-Ralph-Hotere/tabid/418/articleID/289370/Default.aspx#.Uoh55fmno-U

Owen Dippie and Hipara August’s mural has a definitive wow factor: painted on a wall that looks upon the rails, the train glides past it into Morningside station.  Thus unlike Askew’s, it does not matter which direction you are seated you are likely not to miss it 🙂  She sneaks up on you: you don’t realise she’s there until you are face to face with her.  It can also be seen from Morningside Drive, albeit at a slight angle.  The Chinese Girl bursts with blazing colour: coal black wavy hair, bright poppy red lips, a sunny yellow robe and a face, blue-green like oxidised copper.

There is a great sense of familiarity with this image.  I felt I had seen her before, or at least someone very similar to her.  Perhaps she has been hanging on the living room walls of some of my grandparents’ friends 😛  This mural is Dippie and August’s reimagining of The Chinese Girl (1952-53, oil on canvas) by the ‘King of Kitsch’ Vladimir Tretchikoff (1913-2006).  Just this year, the original painting sold at auction for £982,050 ($1.9 million NZD) to British jeweller, Laurence Graff.  The model was 17 year old Monika Pon-su-san, who was working at her uncle’s laundrette in South Africa when she was asked to pose.

This is an article on the model Monika Pon-su-san, reminiscing about Tretchikoff and the painting:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22344710

When compared with the original painting, Dippie and August have given it a Kiwi twist.  The background of Tretchikoff’s work is essentially bare, and her robe is incomplete as there is visible preliminary sketching.  The artists have cropped her just below the shoulder, and given the background a distinctive and eye catching update.  Hipara August is a wood carver, and the pattern resembles Māori carving designs.  I find it interesting how divisive the original is: it is viewed by some as low brow and kitsch, yet it is one of the world’s bestselling art prints.  I like the background embellishment that Dippie and August have included, and I think it is a splendid addition.  She still wears a slightly mysterious and pensive look, not unlike the Mona Lisa, yet she doesn’t look directly at the viewer.

Both of these murals are on Auckland’s Western train line, if you get the chance to ride the rails, look out for them!

Also whilst researching the Chinese Girl mural, I found out that Dippie has recently decorated Tauranga’s CBD!  I would love to check out Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring mural, looks like a trip is in order 😀

You can check out the article below, as well as a great blog about the Tauranga CBD murals:

http://www.3news.co.nz/Street-artist-does-up-Tauranga-CBD/tabid/418/articleID/309478/Default.aspx#.UpPf6sSno-V

http://tikitouringnz.blogspot.co.nz/2013/10/girl-with-pearl-earring.html

M.

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Musings on Art

Welcome, and hands together: Goldie meets Kihara

Welcome to my blog!

This is essentially a space to just write about art: artworks I am fascinated by, and local exhibitions (currently around Auckland, New Zealand) that have caught my interest.  I hope to entertain and inform, and generate a love of art within you.  So thank you for visiting, and for reading my first post ever 🙂

I have recently become addicted to the Arctic Monkeys’ AM; an absolutely brilliant album and a definite change in sound when compared to their debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.  Their first track ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ is particularly addictive and eargasmic (the truth: I am listening to it right now).

A lovely friend mentioned an article on Buzzfeed that described how the intro to the above song was created with digitally enhanced clapping hands and slapping knees (This post will relate back to art, I swear).  This fun fact fascinated me, and I started thinking about the various hands I had seen in art, and two artists who immediately came to mind, were Charles F. Goldie and Shigeyuki Kihara.

You can read the Buzzfeed article here:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/danmartin/19-reasons-the-arctic-monkeys-album-will-blow-your-mind

Reflecting on hands, I immediately thought of  Goldie’s painting, Memories, Ena Te Papatahi, a Chieftainess of the Ngāpuhi Tribe (1906, oil on canvas, 127 x 101.6 cm, Auckland Art Gallery).  Possibly New Zealand’s most famous portraitist, Charles F. Goldie (1870-1947) was renowned for his paintings of Māori figures.  His works are exceptional in their attention to detail and intense realism, yet simultaneously intriguing in that they are greatly staged, questioning their verisimilitude.

The wonderful hands in Memories are front and centre when you stand before this painting, capturing your attention.  Beautifully rendered, Ena’s hands are static but expressive, nearly with a life of their own.  I often wonder what kind of person Ena was, and what stories could be told from such hands.  There is a perpetual awareness that Goldie staged such scenes, particularly in the wistful, contemplative looks evident in many of his portraits, and his belief that he was capturing a dying and noble race.  Nevertheless, Goldie’s style is utterly meticulous, with the veins and muscles of the hands minutely lined, conveying the passage of time and filled with the memories of a life lived.

If you would like to see Ena, follow this link:

http://www.aucklandartgallery.com/the-collection/browse-artwork/1907/memories-ena-te-papatahi,-a-chieftainess-of-the-ngapuhi-tribe

Hands play an expressive and dynamic role in the work, Siva in motion (2012, digital performance video, 8 min. 44 sec.) by Shigeyuki Kihara.  Wearing a black Victorian mourning dress, Kihara evokes the motions of the tsunami that devastated American Samoa, Samoa and Tonga in September of 2009.  Her silent performance is inspired by taualuga, a Samoan dance, and has been filmed in an overlapping stop motion manner that creates a spectral shadowing effect for each gesture.

I found this trailing trace of hands to be exquisite and hypnotising, reminiscent of an ocean’s rolling waves.  Some of her gestures are repetitive, and there is a rhythm of ascension and decline, similar to the surges of the sea.  Kihara also makes references to Victorian era chronophotographers, Étienne-Jules Marey and Eadweard Muybridge with her stop motion effects, as well as the sprawling colonialism of that period, by donning a Victorian dress.  This richly layered work conveys the crossing of time and cultures, all in the entrancing and delicate motions of the hands.

Siva in motion was exhibited in the Home Akl exhibition in 2012, yet a video of the making can be found below:

http://vimeo.com/channels/shigeyuki/50271507

I hope you enjoyed this quick survey of just a few of the great hands portrayed in art – from the painterly to the dynamic.

Thanks for visiting!

M.

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