Review

Suji Park | oo0O0oo0O0oo0O0oo

Hi there!

It has been quite some time since I’ve seen the work of Suji Park, and since I’ve last written, but the end half of 2016?  Yeah… Anyway, I was very excited to catch her latest exhibition at Ivan Anthony Gallery with its fantastically onomatopoeic title, oo0O0oo0O0oo0O0oo, which continues with her foray into experimentation, process and material.

With tactile, textured surfaces that have been decorated, studded, doodled, moulded, Park’s sculptures are the subjects of her playful inquisitiveness; an inquisitiveness that is conferred upon her creations.  Many have small, curious faces that beckon you to lean in and look closer.  Some of which you genuinely have to, as they are displayed low on the wall below hip height.  Works such as Saii (2016, oil, acrylic and crystals on fired clay) and Ori (2016, oil, tempera and gold on fired clay) resemble unearthed idols or relics: intricately and lovingly detailed, and made semi-precious with the inclusion of crystals and gold.  I was quite intrigued by Saii, who bears a passing resemblance to the Grinch, and there is something familiar about a few of the figures (perhaps from Miyazaki?).

Park has utilised a gamut of materials in this exhibition: oil, graphite, clay, feathers, watercolour, tempera, synthetic hair, garnet, quartz, the list goes on.  These are best seen on the trestle table, a cornucopia of curiosities, with smatterings laid out amongst her sculptures.  Though seemingly displayed at random, they are not as arbitrary as initially thought.  The feathers, black crystals, small iridescent discs and so on, are presented just so, possibly implying that the works are unfinished and we are only seeing them mid-process.  There is an abundance of detail to submerse yourself in as you weave through the four rooms of the gallery, down to the red fingernails of Aah (2016, oil, tempera, watercolour, graphite, gold and pigment on fired clay) and a single braid of synthetic hair.

This melding and mixing of materials in her work is fascinating.  Park has brought together finished and unfinished substances such as fired and unfired clay, and painted in tempera, a traditional medium made from colour pigments and egg, used for religious icons since the early centuries AD.  Her process of experimenting investigates the processes themselves, as she breaks the materials down and sees what else they can become.  There are a liberating number of potentialities and forms that her work can take on; they have chimeric qualities, and this adds an element of the unknown and the unexplored.  You do wonder as you glimpse upon them at this moment, what they will look like over time – will some of the elements fracture, break, sprout or disintegrate?

There is a lot to captivate with Park’s exhibition, and I recommend taking in the splendour with a bit of sun gleaming in through the windows.  That way you can enjoy the glint and grooves of the materials that make up her sculptures, in particular Dol Vii (2016, fired clay, non-firing clay, unfired clay, epoxy, garnet, mica, plastic, glass, acrylic, watercolour, tempera, quartz, chipped foam and plaster) as there is a lot going on there 😛

For images of the works, please see the gallery website:

http://www.ivananthony.com/suji-park-oo0o0oo0o0oo0o0oo-1

oo0O0oo0O0oo0O0oo by Suji Park is on at the Ivan Anthony Gallery, near the corner of East St and K’Rd until Thursday 23rd February 2017.  Park has also released a publication, Original Unknown with images of her work thus far, and essays by Charlotte Huddleston, Emma Bugden and Karl Chitham.  It is available from the Ivan Anthony Gallery.

Thanks for reading!

M.

Advertisements
Standard
Review

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera: From the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection

Sydney is beautiful.  I spent a whirlwind 48 hours there, and left wondering why I don’t visit more.  As usual, I managed to squeeze in some art; though I had to book this one in advance as the exhibition has been very popular!  The date and time of your visit had to be specified, and the closing date has been extended by two weeks.  And it is very easy to see why 🙂

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) is an enduring icon.  You cannot mention Mexico without thinking of her, and along with her husband, painter Diego Rivera (1886-1957) they were pivotal figures in 20th Century Mexican art.  Both of their styles were heavily symbolic incorporating aspects of indigenous Mexican culture, but whilst Rivera painted large murals that expressed his political views and social activism, Kahlo painted deeply personal and autobiographical works, most of which were self-portraits. Kahlo has said, ‘I am my own muse, I am the subject I know best.  The subject I want to know better.’  Their tumultuous marriage, described as being between an elephant and a dove, and their fervent forging of a Mexican identity is explored in this exhibition, albeit the focus is more personal in scope, a reflection of the collectors’ own interests.

The artworks come from the collection of Jacques and Natasha Gelman.  Both were born in Europe (he was from Russia, she was from Bohemia), before meeting in Mexico in 1939.  Jacques had moved to Mexico in 1938 on the eve of World War II and decided to remain, going on to become a partner in a leading Mexican film house, Posa Films.  They married in 1941 and became Mexican citizens soon after.  The Gelmans were avid collectors of modern Mexican art – commissioning portraits and new works.  This exhibition includes portraits of Natasha Gelman painted by Rivera and Kahlo in markedly different lights: Rivera portrays her in a rather seductive pose wearing a white dress with a slit that resembles the calla lilies behind her; whilst Kahlo also picks up on her elegance, her painting focuses on her face and Gelman’s expression is more sullen.  There was no animosity between Gelman and Kahlo as they became close friends.

I was fascinated by Rivera’s painting, Last Hour (1915, oil on canvas, 92 x 73 cm) as I am more familiar with his mural work.  Painted in a Cubist style, with a play of various textures on the surface area and including the text ‘ULTIMA HORA’, there is an interesting anecdote that accompanies this period in Rivera’s life.  According to artist and Rivera’s lover at the time Marevna, Picasso used to come to Rivera’s studio and poke around his works, to which Rivera commented ‘I’m sick of Picasso: if he pinches something from me, people will rave about Picasso, Picasso.  As for me, they’ll say I copied him.  One of these days I’ll chuck him out or I’ll shove off to Mexico.’[1]

What are of utter captivation are Kahlo’s self-portraits.  Diego on my mind (Self-portrait as Tehuana) (1943, oil on masonite, 76 x 61 cm) is hung against a gorgeous burnt orange wall, and just transfixes the viewer.  Kahlo wears a lace huipil, which is traditionally worn on Sundays by Tehuana women.[2]  The delicate threads from her garment disperse outward from her mind towards the edges of the painting, like a spider’s web or veins and arteries.  Painted in the middle of her forehead is a portrait of Rivera, literally what the title states – he is on her mind all the time, inhabiting her thoughts and being.  Another portrait titled Self-portrait with braid (1941, oil in canvas, 51 x 38.5 cm), shows her covered by a grapevine, a symbol associated with Bacchus the Roman god of wine, and used by Kahlo to represent everlasting love; this work was painted soon after her remarriage to Rivera.  The impressive pretzel-like braid atop her head is shaped like the infinity symbol, and is a reference to the way that women from Oaxaca wore their hair.  What is noticeable in almost all of Kahlo’s portraits is the inclusion of distinctly Mexican elements such as clothing, hairstyles and plants, which contribute to her expression of a Mexican identity and pride in her culture.

Alongside these paintings were a number of black and white photographs and a few shot in colour.  The colour photographs by Nickolas Muray (1892-1965), Kahlo’s on-off lover for a decade, simply just pop, and are also the most well-known images of her.  Kahlo’s father Guillermo was a photographer, and there is a staged quality to many of the photographs taken of Kahlo, indicating that she was well aware of the power of photography in the creation of her image as an artist.  A black and white photograph by Bernard Silberstein, Frida Kahlo in her bedroom (1940, 34.3 x 27.9 cm) shows her seated by her bed, but my eyes were drawn up to her full body cast that was atop her four poster bed, highlighting the chronic health issues that stemmed from a railcar accident when she was 18.

Lastly, there are three short videos at the end of the exhibition.  The first of Rivera painting a large mural; the second of Leon Trotsky and his wife Natalia Sedova’s fateful arrival in Mexico in 1936; and finally one of Kahlo and Rivera playing around in the garden.  You are left with the lasting image of Rivera bringing Kahlo flowers to put in her hair and their sharing of sweet kisses.

The exhibition also includes an informative timeline, facsimiles of some of their letters, lithographs and sketches.  Well worth it, the Art Gallery of New South Wales is also a stunner of a building 😀  Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera: From the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection is on until Sunday 23 October 2016.  If there is anything on Grab a Seat, add this to your ‘To Visit’ list!  Also on that list should definitely be Black Star Pastry, there is one in Newtown and one inside the Kinokuniya in The Galeries.

Please see their website for tickets:

http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/exhibitions/frida-kahlo-and-diego-rivera/

There is also this great artboard, where you can check out the timeline, look at photos and even watch the video of Kahlo and Rivera in the garden:

http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/artboards/frida-kahlo-diego-rivera/

See you soon Sydney!

M.


[1] Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera from the Gelman Collection (Istanbul: Pera Müzesi, 2011), p. 171, cited in Nicholas Chambers, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera: From the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection (Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2016), exhibition catalogue, p. 13.

[2] Nicholas Chambers, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera: From the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection (Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2016), exhibition catalogue, p. 16.

Standard
Review

Sam Mitchell – Desires Postponed

I could not contain my excitement when I saw this exhibition advertised at the Melanie Roger Gallery in Herne Bay.  Why?  It brings together some of my favourite things: art and the Classic Hollywood era.

Artist Sam Mitchell often utilises various mediums, and here she applies her unmistakable style to inky blue watercolours on paper displayed in a tight grid, and slick Perspex domes which she has painted on the inside, and thus in reverse.  As the title proffers, Desires Postponed is an exploration of hindered dreams and forgotten endeavours.  Filtered through Mitchell’s prolific knowledge of pop culture and imagery, it features tragic figures from history – some more recent, some only recently rediscovered.

Embodying this theme and providing inspiration is Hedy Lamarr, an Austrian-born Hollywood actress and inventor.  During World War II, Lamarr and composer George Antheil created frequency-hopping spread-spectrum technology, where the signals for radio controlled torpedoes would hop from frequency to frequency, rendering them difficult to jam.  Patented in 1942, it was never implemented and forgotten, until 1962 when the US Navy utilised the design during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Lamarr and Antheil’s invention laid the groundwork for our modern Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and other communication technology.

It is only in the last few decades that Lamarr’s achievements as an inventor have received recognition, and her face (in her own words, a mask she cannot remove, a curse) populates this exhibition.  I could spot at least two of the watercolour portraits that resembled iconic images of her.  In the Perspex dome work Cuban Missile Crisis (2016), Lamarr’s face is central with gilded seigaiha (Japanese wave design) hair and hollow eyes, as she floats almost deity-like.  Along the edge of the dome, runs a row of missiles which appear to be aimed at Lamarr.  This image could well be a commentary on the corruption of intentions and inventions, during the Cold War and in our current global situation.  The threat and consequence of nuclear arms is also evident in Shattered Dreams, where the word ‘Chernobyl’ is blazoned on the left side next to what appears to be a child and a melting ice cream.

Other forlorn figures with unrealised ambitions include Alexander the Great, who created one of the largest empires spanning from Greece to the top of India, and who died at the age of 32 mid campaign.  Another much more contemporary figure is the legendary musician David Bowie on Keep your ‘lectric eye on me babe (2016) in his Ziggy Stardust persona and drawn from the lyrics of the 1971 song ‘Moonage Daydream’.  One of the rare images in this show not to have hollow eyes – his eyes were so distinctive – the galactic setting suggested in the lyrics of ‘Moonage Daydream’ perfuses the illustrations on the dome, and in fact several of the domes.  Boldly Go is coated in sci-fi references from R2-D2 to Alf to the Vulcan Salute.  Moreover, their globular shape contributes to this theme of deep space, and their installation at varying points on the walls has the appearance of planets in orbit.

There are a dizzying number of faces and an epic array of eyewear amongst the watercolours.  They are all young, and their hollow eyes create a sense of weariness and ambivalence.  Their faces and poses feel familiar, almost frustratingly so.  Along with the budgies, flowers, cassette tapes and what looked like a smiling cow cutting parts of its body off, there are layers upon layers of references to pop culture which could take hours or more to dissect.  Riveting and visually rich, the brightness of such imagery alludes to the optimism and flourishing of technology and pop culture during the mid-20th Century, yet lurking beneath are latent dreams and aspirations which Mitchell has bubbled to the surface.

Please see the Melanie Roger Gallery website and Artsdiary for images:

http://melanierogergallery.com/exhibitions/new-work-8

http://artsdiary.co.nz/86/2259.html

If you would like to learn more about Hedy Lamarr, I highly recommend this fabulous piece by Anne Helen Petersen.  Petersen did her PhD in celebrity gossip, and writes accessible academic critique on celebrity culture:

https://thehairpin.com/scandals-of-classic-hollywood-the-ecstasy-of-hedy-lamarr-6131a25291d0#.8fc0mq80l

All her pieces are excellent and she’s even got a book!

And you can’t talk about Lamarr without mentioning the TV series Agent Carter (such a great show, why, why couldn’t they give us a season 3) as the character Whitney Frost is based upon her.

Sam Mitchell – Desires Postponed is on at the Melanie Roger Gallery, Herne Bay until Saturday 17th September 2016.  Not to be missed 🙂

M.

Standard
Review

Flight | Rumours

Hi there!

The recent group shows at Franklin Arts Centre have been outstanding and well worth the drive.  Ngaio Rue Blackwood, one of the artists from an exhibition earlier this year Made of Snow, was on view in the Community Gallery, alongside a group show titled Rumours which I was keen to check out 🙂

I managed to just catch Flight, which flitted onto the walls on Saturday 9th July before concluding on Friday 22nd.  And indeed, the ephemerality of nature is explored by Blackwood in this exhibition.  The emblematic bee makes its presence known throughout her works, such as Honey Sky (embroidery on linen, 22.9 x 17.8 cm) a personal fave.

By looking to the sky, weather and our environment, Blackwood examines these in numerous images of the ever-changing clouds to blooming flowers.  There is a sense of play and investigation, most notably seen in 30 paintings in 30 days (watercolour on paper, A7 size) where she paints her quintessential hexagon/honeycomb shape each day for a month.  Every day looks different, influenced by the artist’s state of mind and her external world.  Moreover, Blackwood has incorporated some geographical maps that are embroidered on cotton, which appear to trace the path of bees, and how what happens in one area can influence what happens in another – our environments, like communities, are co-dependent.

Blackwood utilises a multitude of mediums and often embraces alternative modes such as watercolour and embroidery, which are not regularly seen in galleries.  There is a sense of whimsy and delight to her painted and stitched lines, and throughout Flight there is a synergy, as each work inspires and motivates the creation of the next.  With a large body of work created over the past six months, I am curious to see what Blackwood does in the future.  A charming, thoughtful exhibition, I regret not being about to write about it earlier to allow you time to visit, and it was entirely my fault (and maybe a little bit of Pokémon Go’s…).  I am working on getting to them sooner!

Some images of Blackwood’s exhibition are on Franklin Art Centre’s Facebook page and on the artist’s website:

https://www.facebook.com/FranklinArtsCentre/photos/pcb.1144429015577905/1144422662245207/?type=3&theater

http://ngaioblackwood.com/

An interview with the artist and some info on the exhibition is below:

http://blog.monkey101.nz/flight-the-action-or-process-of-flying-through-the-air/

Curated by Kara Wallace, Rumours focusses on contemporary portraiture, and features artists Anne-Sophie Adelys, Henrietta Harris, Gavin Hurley, Sam Mitchell, Séraphine Pick and Wayne Youle.  These six artists investigate identity, memory, visibility and the self, each through their distinct styles; whilst collectively maintaining a fascination with blazing, bold coloration, and the signs and symbols of pop culture.  Also, what a great title!  I need to listen to that album again soon.

The first portrait you encounter is Big Saint Luke (2016) by Gavin Hurley.  A static figure with stylised features, specifically the nose and chin, Luke is placed against a landscape background in a collage-like manner but is actually oil painted on linen.  Mostly adopting middling blue and brown hues, pops of colour escape through his rather sensual lips, the rainbow to the left, and the sand coloured sun or halo (depending on your reading) that appears behind his head.  Saint Luke is the patron saint of artists, and the flatness of this image is evocative of the saints in medieval stained glass windows, but with Clark Gable hair 😛  Indeed, Hurley’s work is reminiscent of many things, such as the personal memory of making faces from felt in primary school art classes.  The palpable vintage vibe adds to that sense of familiarity, yet the passive immobility of his face draws the viewer in to ponder.

The next three portraits are by Anne-Sophie Adelys.  Each has a figure delineated by a swathe of flat, bold colour and sketchily outlined.  The background is loosely painted and gestural, and curiously the left arm of each figure is more developed and modelled.  The faces are left completely blank creating a sense of anonymity, yet the poses and situations depicted are familiar and intimate.  I almost felt as if I am intruding on a private moment of reflection.  The lack of facial features invites the viewer to project; rather than being a representation, it allows the viewer to embody the work with their own memories, and consider what can be seen in the absence of things.  Moreover, each painting has a witty title which I believe are drawn from quotes, for instance I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess (2016) is a declaration from biologist and feminist, Donna Haraway.

Henrietta Harris’ portraits are painted in an exacting, realistic style, highlighting a level of control and meticulous skill.  This is then interrupted by a gestural flourish; a sweep of thick, soft-hued pink paint that obscures the face in each image.  The portraits are of pensive young adults who seem somewhat uneasy or apprehensive, and who do not meet the viewer’s gaze; not that they can anyway 😀  I was fascinated by the juxtaposition between the imperceptible, immaculate brushwork of the fine strands of hair and the obvious, discernible lines in the brushy strokes.  It seems like an afterthought, though it is clearly not, and the titles Fixed it III – VI (2016) certainly play up that aspect.  It is as if some discord has occurred and there is a sense of frustration, a desire to forget or erase them from memory.  Yet the mind almost automatically attempts to reconcile what it’s seeing, to look beneath the brushstrokes and complete the faces like a jigsaw, emphasising the subject’s refusal to be effaced or ignored.

Garishly bright in lollipop shades with wide grins and hollow eyes, it took a moment to discern the subjects of Wayne Youle’s portraits.  Irreverent, convivial, and often addressing issues of race and identity, these particular images are highly topical.  Bad choices (2016) is an image of Margaret Thatcher, whose legacy polarises to this day, and whom the new British Prime Minister Theresa May is currently being compared with as she negotiates Brexit.  Bad manners (2016) is none other than Kanye West, another incredibly public and divisive figure, who is catching more of the spotlight with the recent Kardashian-West-Swift drama (you can catch up on it here,*sips tea*).  With areas of flat colour that make the figures resemble the icons we see on postage stamps or bank notes, Youle has altered the context we normally see them in.  By doing so, the feelings we have towards them (anger, admiration, disgust, the whole myriad) are suddenly jolted: they are made hilarious and absurd, and to an extent, so is their influence.

Along the left wall, the three images by Séraphine Pick resemble snapshots from a wild party, where comatose male revellers have had their faces doodled on or items balanced on their heads, such as a bottle.  Pick’s portraits have this bewitching haziness which her painterly style contributes to, and the loudness of the doodling is nearly silenced by the subject’s lifeless slumber.  It almost compels you to tiptoe past as to not rouse them.  Each is intimately focussed on their faces, and your imagination runs amok in envisioning what else happened.  Furthermore, you wonder if they will remember what has occurred, or confuse it with a disjointed dream.  These images also invite projection, to look introspectively and consider our own inebriated experiences.  Pick often draws inspiration from magazines and the internet, and there is an element of fantasy to these works which borders on predatory – questioning how we make ourselves, and such moments like these, public and available online.

Lastly, Sam Mitchell’s portraits take the form of two Perspex domes.  With gargantuan eyes and pillowy lips, they resemble balloons that have been decorated and then inflated.  Painted in reverse like much of Mitchell’s Perspex work, they have a deep space inspired background upon which a flurry of pop culture and retro imagery has been superimposed: pansies, the Taj Mahal, an old fashioned telephone, a canary, roses, guns, ‘60s damsels and more.  Wickedly playful, they extend and protrude into the viewer’s space.  There is a planetary feel to these large hemispherical shapes – the size is indicative of the wealth of memories and influences upon one’s sense of self.  What we see is simply the surface, we cannot glimpse behind it, and each symbol represents an arbitrary, or perhaps not so arbitrary, thought that pops into our head.  What is normally an invisible process is suddenly made very visible, and there is no hiding here.

Photos of Rumours can be found on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/FranklinArtsCentre/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1141224669231673

A ruminative, enjoyable exhibition with lots to marvel and chuckle about, check out Rumours on until Saturday 20th August 2016, at the Franklin Art Centre, Pukekohe.

Phew, that was a long one!  Thanks for reading to the end 😀

M.

Standard
Review

Eventual Efflorescence – Kate van der Drift

Hello again,

I hope everyone is wrapped up warm this winter!  But if you are struggling, here is a recipe for Glögg (Swedish Mulled Wine) to help keep snug and toasty 😛  I know I’ve said it before, but I feel like the years are going by faster and faster.  It’s already June, which means that the Auckland Festival of Photography has rolled around!

Gracing Room 2 of Sanderson Contemporary in Newmarket is Eventual Efflorescence, the latest exhibition by photographer Kate van der Drift.  These new works depicts scenes of suburbia: front yards, stormwater drains, brick fences and more, and like previous images in her oeuvre, include vistas of water.  They express van der Drift’s ongoing investigation into place; how our surrounds undergo significant transformation due to human settlement, population growth, and industrial and technological advancements.

Eerily still and somewhat unsettling, her photographs are dichotomous in nature: mundane yet captivating, dreamlike yet real, they are images of nature that are unnaturally beautiful, and I found myself drawn in but equally detached.  The quietness of van der Drift’s works counter the fact that they are images of occupancy – they are about people and how we have modified our landscape to suit our way of living, but are void of a single person.  I found this particularly evident in Stormwater Reserve (2016, Giclée photograph on matte paper, 1350 mm x 915 mm) an elegant suburban panorama beside a mirroring body of water, emptied of people.  Furthermore, in Seychelles Drive (2016, Giclée photograph on matte paper, 850 mm x 850 mm) three perfectly manicured trees sit out front of a residence, an example of our fastidious shaping and control of our surroundings.  I think it is this containment and neatening of nature that lends a sense of artifice to what we are seeing, and makes one wonder what lies beneath.

When initially seeing these photographs, I was at a loss as to where they were taken.  With none of the usual clues (street signs, types of trees, licence plates) it was like a game of GeoGuessr.  The sublime palm in Sorrento Key (2016, Giclée photograph on matte paper, 1110 mm x 1110 mm) suggests somewhere balmy and tropical, like Florida or Vanuatu.  Thus I was surprised upon learning that these were photographs of Papamoa, the largest suburb in Tauranga, with a 16 km stretch of white beach.  It is currently an area of rapid growth and development, the land being irreversibly transformed to keep up with the demand for housing.  There is a universality to van der Drift’s images as they could be photographs of anywhere in the world.  By capturing the banal, she highlights what is missing – how places rich in history and memory are seemingly buried, and make way for new and differing needs and wants.  Her use of water as a motif for metamorphosis is fascinating, and the title of the exhibition points to the inevitability of such flowering and growth.  Though tinged with melancholia, water can also represent renewal and regeneration, and there is hope that the cultures and histories of such places are never really forgotten.

Hauntingly superb, Eventual Efflorescence by Kate van der Drift is at Sanderson Contemporary, Newmarket until 26th June 2016 and is part of the Auckland Festival of Photography.  There are a number of exceptional exhibitions to see, do check them out!

For images of van der Drift’s exhibition, please click on the links below:

http://www.katevanderdrift.com/eventual-efflorescence/

http://www.sanderson.co.nz/Exhibition/412/Kate-van-der-Drift/Eventual-Efflorescence/PageIndex/0/ProductId/11141.aspx

And lastly, my blog stats say that I’ve hit 2,000 views – I just wanted to say a big thank you and acknowledge all the visitors.  When I started this blog about two years ago, I wasn’t sure what to expect but it’s been a fun and exciting journey 😀  Even if some of your visits have been accidental, I appreciate your taking the time to read, and I hope you have enjoyed it!

To more to come,

M.

Standard
Review

Gems and Jewellery of the Medici

Perhaps more aptly titled Tokyo Love : Part II, because I made it back!  I didn’t realise how much I missed Japan until I was in the throes of it – from checking out Star Wars merch in Akiba, seeing the country whizz by from the window of the Shinkansen, to trying to get to the other side of the intersection at Shibuya Crossing.  Speaking of that famous crossing, a fun fact I learned from a Tokyoite friend is apparently the number of people that traverse Shibuya Crossing daily is about equal to the population of Auckland.  Mind blown.

Unfortunately unlike my previous excursion, I wasn’t able to experience as much contemporary art or revisit wonderful galleries such as Misako and Rosen and SCAI The Bathhouse.  A case of too much to see and not enough time!  I have felt like that both times I have been to Japan, as my ‘To Visit’ list long outstrips my ‘Been There’ list 😛

I did, however, catch an exhibition called Gems and Jewellery of the Medici at Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum in Meguro.  The Medici Family made their fortune in banking and commerce, then rose to political power in the 15th Century, where they effectively were the rulers of Florence for about three centuries.  The family produced three Popes (Leo X, Clement VII and Leo XI), two Queen Regents of France (Catherine de’ Medici and Marie de’ Medici) and heavily patronized a number of artists, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Rubens to name a few, during the Renaissance and Baroque periods.

Thus their gems and jewels reflect their immense power and wealth.  Many of the pieces depict classical, mythological or Biblical figures and scenes which were more than likely used for self-promotion, symbolically asserting their political control and near god-like dominance.

This display of about 70 pieces is from the Palazzo Pitti’s Silver Museum a.k.a. the Medici Treasury.  Cameos, earrings, brooches, rings and all kinds of trinkets are interspersed with portraits of Medici family members, such as Lorenzo (‘the Magnificent’) and Isabella de’ Medici.  There are innumerable diamonds, pearls, rubies, emeralds, carnelians; it is both bedazzling and bewildering.

A particular highlight was a diamond engraved with the Medici family coat of arms.  I am not sure how you would go about engraving a diamond as it is the hardest mineral, let alone achieve it without the use of modern technology some 500 odd years ago!  Another was an intricate gold carriage with, what looked like from a distance, a pile of mashed potatoes inside.  In fact, it was a number of pearls sewn together to form a sleeping baby under a blanket, complete with a detailed baby’s face.  Lastly, a fabulous pendant dragon with an elaborate, multi-coloured cloisonné back which harbours a pearl for a belly.  A number of the items astonish from first sight, and then astound when you circle around the glass cases and realise there is more – so much more!  It is a level of wealth that in some ways is hard to comprehend, and to think that it is only a portion of the Medici collection is stupefying.

Click on the link below and scroll to the bottom for images.  The page is in Japanese and can be translated through your browser, as for some reason the images don’t appear on their English page:

http://www.teien-art-museum.ne.jp/exhibition/160422-0705_medici.html

A riveting exhibition which will leave you with stars in your eyes, what was of equal, or greater, fascination was the stunning and sumptuous building that housed it.  The Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum was built in 1933 and was the former residence of Prince and Princess Asaka.  The Prince and Princess had lived for a period in Paris and visited the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriel Modernes (now abbreviated to Art Deco) in 1925.  So influenced by what they saw, they commissioned their residence in Japan to be done in the style.  The rooms were designed by Henri Rapin with decorative contributions from René Lalique, and the project was overseen by Yōkichi Gondō from the Construction Bureau of the Imperial Household Ministry.  After WWII, it became the official residence for prime ministers, and then was a state guesthouse.  In 1983, it was converted into a museum.

As noted in Art Deco in the Former Prince Asaka Residence, the residence ‘represents a rare fusion of Japanese and French design… …but may also reflect the fact that at the time, disparate cultures throughout the world were embracing a similar aesthetic.’  Patterns which are similar to those seen in traditional Japanese design such as the seigaiha (concentric circular wave design) are also visible in many other cultures, and are part of the international Art Deco vocabulary.[1]

There are a boundless number of beautiful things to see in this building, but a distinct favourite was the glass relief doors by René Lalique in the front entrance hall.  They depict female figures with large outstretched wings that curve upwards to resemble haloing suns; a friend noted he was getting serious Wayne Manor vibes off them 😀  Another exquisite marvel by Lalique are the glass relief ceiling lights in the great dining hall, designed to look like pineapples and pomegranates.  Upstairs, the circular roomed study and the adjoining library were both designed by Rapin, and are honestly the rooms of my dreams.  I suspect I was a bit more captivated by the building than the exhibition!

Gems and Jewellery of the Medici is on until Tuesday 5th July 2016 at Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum.  If you wear pearls (artificial is ok) you can take ¥100 off your ticket price 🙂  And if you are a fan of Art Deco, I highly recommend checking this place out – the grounds are also delightful.  It is only about a 5 minute walk from Meguro Station East exit.

Thanks for visiting!

M.


[1] Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture/Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, Art Deco in the Former Prince Asaka Residence (Tokyo: Koeisha Co., Ltd, 2014), p. 9.

Standard
Review

Liberal Application: Claudia Jowitt

I was very excited to see that Claudia Jowitt was exhibiting this month.  Her latest (and only second solo) exhibition Liberal Application is at Bath Street Gallery; tucked down one of the meandering streets of Parnell and dangerously close to Vaniye, a French patisserie.

A substantial show with 26 impressive new works, Jowitt explores notions of potentiality and becoming in the painting process.  Jowitt has described how painting is an arena where each action can potentially bring about entire change, that there is life within the marks on canvas which turn it into a palpable story of its own creation.[1]  Essentially what we are shown are artworks that contain the vestiges of paint at play, an account of all the possible directions that emerge in their genesis.

Skilfully employing both acrylic and oil paints in subdued shades of white and other muted hues, it can be easy to glimpse past her work, especially when displayed against white walls.  However Jowitt’s paintings require being looked at; in fact, I found their unassuming monochromatic palette actually demanding attention.  The subtle modulations along the pastel coloured spectrum skirmish for recognition and regard.

Jowitt has applied paint with liberal generosity, and the paint itself has dispersed liberally across the canvas.  The vacillating brushwork made up of intensely thick, toothpaste-like impasto that squiggles and squirms, contrasts areas where an airy brush has scantily licked the surface.  She has applied paint past the edge of the canvas, all around the sides, giving the impression that these works extend and connect beyond the canvas or paper.  This is evident in a number of her paintings for instance, Legato I – II (both 2016, acrylic and oil on linen, 500 x 550 mm).

As you pause before the tactility of Jowitt’s art, expanses reveal and hide, tantalising the eye.  Ridges emerge casting penumbral veils over painted plains when the works are viewed at a distance.  On some of the artworks, such as Sway (2016, acrylic and oil on linen, 350 x 300 mm) the exposed linen canvas adds to the eye’s attempt to decipher, as it disrupts the daubs of white.  The longer you look at her paintings, the more your initial thoughts and interpretations shift.  In a way, the gratification received from Jowitt’s work is slow releasing.  I think if I were to visit this show again (which I likely will) I would see something different and new that I may have missed before.

An astounding exhibition with loads to see, Liberal Application is on at Bath Street Gallery, Parnell until Saturday 2nd April 2016.  As part of White Night, the gallery will be open from 5:30 – 10pm on Saturday 12th March with DJ Johnny Elbo from Yam Jams playing a live vinyl set 🙂

Jowitt was recently named the 2016 Tautai Pacific Artist in Residence at the Dunedin School of Art at Otago Polytechnic.  I can’t wait to see what she does next!

For info on the exhibition, please see Bath Street Gallery’s website:

http://www.bathstreetgallery.com/exhibition/113/

Quite a good interview with Jowitt from 2014 can be found below:

http://artistsallianceblog.com/2014/08/29/claudia/

Enjoy!  And don’t forget White Night is coming up very soon 😀

M.

˟Update 08.03.16: Artsdiary have posted some photos of the opening, check them out here http://artsdiary.co.nz/79/2088.html

˟Update 02.08.16: A great catalogue accompanied this exhibition, featuring the artist’s conversations with Amber Wilson, Kara Wallace and Lisa Rayner.  The section with Wilson, Feminine Painting/Painting Feminine, has been made accessible through the Melanie Roger Gallery website and Pantograph Punch http://melanierogergallery.com/media/media/files/2016_05/panotgraphpunch_april2016_pdf.pdf


[1] ‘Claudia Jowitt Dunedin Air,’ Tautai Pacific Arts Trust, accessed March 6, 2016, http://www.tautai.org/detailsnews/news-claudia-jowitt-2016-dunedin-air/

Standard