Category Archives: Critics

Making space accessible. Structures pt.2

What is reality? You could say reality is constructed and that we are a part of those structures, but what makes these structures tangible, how do we sense reality, how do we perceive reality? – This is where Olufar Elliasson comes in. Elliasson is Danish artist who’s well known for it’s large installations and sculptures where he tends to make the natural elements and experiences that it produces more tangible.

“Art is not only about decorating the world and making it look even better or even worse (subjective notion of art), it’s also about taking responsibility.” – Let’s start with this notion of art, and as we go further I’ll try to explain it to you, what it means and most of all, how powerful it’s content is.

What’s the difference between thinking and doing?

What does it mean when I’m in a space, does it make any difference? 

waterfall1New York City Waterfalls – A large-scale installation project by Eliasson which ran from July 2008 till October 2008 in which he tries to make “space” more experienceable, more tangible. To accomplish this he uses the speed of water as an indicator, as a measurement of how big a structure is. He uses it as an indicator of time and therefore also of distance. “How long does it take till the water reaches the surface, how fast is the water falling when watching from a distance”: one could ask himself. This way he attempts to make the space and dimensions of the (enormous) city more tangible. Because New York is after all a city that tends to play around with the sense of space. – It’s enormous, large-scaled, somewhat surreal.

So these waterfalls are not only an act of bringing nature back to the city but also about giving them a sense of dimension. Eliasson beliefs that it makes a big difference whether you have a body which feels a part of space, rather than having a body who’s just in front of a picture. Because when someone has a sense of time and space it makes the space accessible. It makes the space changeable. Again you could relate this with community, to come back to what I talked about yesterday. It could relate to collectivity and the sense of being together. (See last post; “chaos reinvented & how life gave birth to itself” ) Therefore they might feel a part of that space, of society.

But how do we create public space that is both tolerant towards individuality and also to collectivity whithout polerising the two into opposites? Let’s say that experiencing art and space is about taking part into the world,  about sharing responsibility. So what’s the difference between thinking and doing and what’s in between? Experiencing something is what connects both opposites. But what’s experiencing something? Having an experience is taking part in the world, is sharing something,  it’s about sharing responsibility. That’s why art really makes a relevance in this world. Therefore Art and culture has proven that one can create a space which is both sensitive to collectivity and individuality.

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He did not belong amongst them.

 

Ben Shahn – WWII

 

Another day, another birthday (what are the odds but it’s definitely worth trying: happy birthday to you if it’s yours as well). – Happy birthday Ben Shahn, you would have been 114 years old (if you do the math correctly you should find out he was born in 1898, unless I made a mistake). You probably can not see this, nor hear this but non the less here’s your gift (Yes I know, it’s a review).

Ben Shahn is most likely not well-known among you (at least not like you know Rothko, Klee..) but I do believe, although controversial, he made a big difference. You should know that his major works are to be situated in the first half of the 20th century. Which means; the era of the avant-garde (Dada, Surrealism, ..) and later on Abstract Expressionism (WWII) when the  major ‘artscape’ moved from Europe to America (because of the harsh regimes in Europe which suppressed all kinds of (artistic) freedom and therefore creativity). This is the time when a lot of painters, musicians, scientist, etc. had to move or rather flee to America or other non occupied regions. So did Ben Shahn.

“He identified himself as a communicative artist and employed pictorial realities instead of Abstract forms “to discover new truths about man and to reaffirm that his life is significant“. “

As my header might already have suggested, his themes and way of representing them were nothing like those used by the avant-garde, Abstract Expressionists. Whose paintings mostly were highly esoteric, abstract figures were used or/and color won over figure. So you won’t be surprised if I told you he challenged these ‘esoteric pretensions’ of art, which he believed disconnect artist’s and their work from the people, their public.

As an alternative Shahn tried to accomplish an intimate and mutually beneficial relationship between artist and public. He identified himself as a communicative artist and employed pictorial realities instead of Abstract forms “to discover new truths about man and to reaffirm that his life is significant“. But this didn’t mean he was a painter of the proletariat. As you can see on the painting below he did not only paint ‘social problems’ and ‘war-based iconography’. The painting ‘Still Music’ kind of reminds me of Miro, the playfulness of the lines and the rather ‘monotone background’. Whilst the second one -Farewell Luck Dragon- reminds of some landscapes Egon Schiele made or even a bit of Paul Klee.

Ben Shahn – Still Music

Jean Miro – Nocturne

Ben Shahn – Farewell Lucky Dragon

Egon Schiele – Landscape at Krumau

Non the less he also made some stark, dark and ‘bloody-shocking’ pictures:

Ben Shahn – Hunger

Or this one, which depicts on a harsh and bloody way the desolation and loneliness of war by showing a lonely, (most likely) dead soldier.

Ben Shahn – Death on the Beach

And my favorite:

Ben Shahn – Fourth of July

I could go on like this for pages, talking about the wonderful photographs, illustrations and murals he made. Narrating his life and so on. Although I believe that I made my point already telling you this painter had a statement of its own and did not follow any major group or stream as most artists in NYC did that time. He kept his own values and expressed humanity in a pictorial and ‘human’ way, although he wasn’t afraid of the color red, in contrary. It is worth saying that his art could be described as being introspective but non the less he often captured his figures engrossed in their own world.

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The day the world was once more united.

Michael Arad and Peter Walker – 9/11 Memorial

We shall never forget the day the world stood still. We shall never forget those who gave their lives that day. We shall never forget the days after, we shall not ever forget. Many artists around the world contributed to the same cause by building fountains, sculptures even by rebuilding, to make sure we never forget what happened that day. To remind us how fragile our world can be, how only a few can take away the lives of many. How people all over the world united in greave.

Well, I didn’t want to have the reminder sort of in the sky, so that people would forever look at it. I wanted to have – really to create a city from the bottom up. From that foundation, which held, from the democratic power of what the site really is – Daniel Libeskind

Daniel Libeskind, an architect, artist and set designer, who was selected to oversee the rebuilding of the World Trade Centers He titled his concept for the site Memory Foundations, is one of those who made sure we wouldn’t forget by not only building a memorial monument but also by ‘rebuilding’ the site. It is very important to emphasize the fact that Libeskind did not see this project as being an urban one, he saw his master plan as being that which was a place of the spirit, the place were people perished. Therefor it was not a piece of real estate any longer. You could not simply put a building there. Instead he kept the space (where the the towers stood) open and used the site itself as the memorial.

Well, I think one doesn’t really have to invent this memorial space, because it is already there. And it is speaking with a voice and, you know, 4 million of us came to see the site. – Daniel Libeskind

Michael Arad and Peter Walker, whom have built the ‘fountains’. I really do believe that i could not be done better, as Libeskind quoted above, it is not about ‘building’ a memorial, because it is already there. So what they did really emphasizes this thought. They ‘built’ 2 fountains where the towers use to stand (around the fountains all the names of those who lost their lives that day are carved in stone). What made it even more wonderful is the way how they used trees to recreate the shadow the towers would have cast upon the city.

Daniel Libeskind’s Drawing of World Trade Center Site with Memorial Voids

9/11 Memorial – Michael Arad and Peter Walker.

Also artists like Jeff Koons, the most controversial artist alive, made their contribution. He created his tribute sculpture in 2010 and it stands facing the construction of the new site. The work resembles a red flower (which could be free for interpretation). The piece itself is surrounded by an active fountain and raised concrete ring that you could sit on to enjoy and observe the work.

Jeff Koons – Red Balloon animal.

People all around the world made art on this topic. I do not have the means to review and show them all, therefor i’d like to mention them and encourage the world to continue doing so, not only on this topic, but in general. Art bounds, it connects one another. It unites the world.

I’d like to mention one more; Steve Tobin, the artist who made “Trinity Roots”, tells the uplifting story of the 70-year-old sycamore tree that was felled by the intense impact of the collapsing towers across the street from the World Trade Center.  The tree absorbed the shockwaves, which a physicist has compared to those of a small nuclear bomb, and was laying in such a way as to shield historic St. Paul’s Chapel at Trinity Church and its ancient tombstones from falling debris.  The tree, which even took a hit from an I-beam, seemed the only positive story that came out of the tragic events that day.

“The Trinity Root is the most significant work that I shall ever make,” said Tobin.  “I hope that it gives solace to the millions of people who visit Ground Zero from all over the world, and from the community of Lower Manhattan, particularly on the five year anniversary of the day that changed the world forever.”

Steve Tobin – Trinity Root

Memorial stained glass

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Manifesta 09

So a while ago I went to this awesome exhibition; the  European Biennial of Contemporary Art Manifesta 09, which is situated in a old mine site. The place, the artwork, the history, everything was right. If you do live in Belgium or somewhere near enough I highly recommend you go and visit.

“Manifesta originated in the early 90’s in response to the political, economic and social changes following the end of the Cold War and the subsequent steps towards European integration. Since that time, Manifesta has developed into traveling platform focusing on the dialogue between art and society in Europe. Manifesta has become a flexible and mobile structure, capable of continuously changing and reinventing itself. For each edition of Manifesta a new curator or team of curators is appointed who in turn invite artists from around the world to participate.”

I’m hoping to discuss some of the works on them own as soon as possible.
Till then I hope you enjoy some of the pictures I have taken.

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The reclining nude (or naked?).

Henri Gervex – Rolla – 1878

Nakedness reveals itself. Nudity is placed on display. The nude is condemned to never being naked. Nudity is a form of dress. – John Berger

Based upon a poem by Alfred de Musset (1810-1857), this reclining nude which belongs to the early work of Henri Gervex (1852-1829), who’s birthday it would have been today (160), which(his early works) belonged almost exclusively to the ‘mythological’ genre. Although it is (or should represent) a mythological painting, the lady reclining on the bed is most certainly not a Venus (as told in the poem). Based upon the pile of cloths, the half dressed gentlemen standing at the balcony I could imagine her being a prostitute, reclining and resting after a wild a sensual game of love. The gentlemen still looking upon the beautiful lady laying in (his) bed.

Do you regret the age when, in majestic grace, Fair heaven amid the gods made earth her dwell- ing-place ; When Venus Astarte, child of the mighty sea, Rose from the bitter wave in virgin purity? The time, when drifting nymphs lay on the river’s breast, And with their wanton laughter vexed the lazy rest Of fauns stretched out to sleep upon the reedy shore? When in the pool Narcissus his fair image saw, And when great Hercules eternal justice dealt, Clad in his gory mantle of a lion’s pelt; When mocking satyrs swayed the leafy boughs among, Whistling a jeering echo to the traveler’s song? – Alfred de Musset; Rolla

Although most likely not a Venus, she does have the perfect body, heavenly white skin which could refer to the earlier works of Titian. A voluptuous body of a young lady, reclining on a bed, staring directly at the viewing audience and not in a coy manner, almost as if she invites us to join her.

His work (Gervex) is also clearly influenced by Cabanel (1823 – 1889), which was his teacher. Which can be noticed in the same use of lightly, fresh colors, the white and pure skin, even the breasts are almost exactly the same. Thematically on the other hand there are almost no comparisons possible, except for the ‘venus’ which is shown on both paintings. It should be said that both painting’s mythological theme’s were only an excuse to paint a nude. Therefor there is a difference between a ‘naked‘ and a ‘nude‘. Gervex clearly painted a ‘naked’. Titian a nude. 

A. Cabanel- The birth of Venus -1863

Reclining nude (photo)- artist unknown

Berlinde de Bruyckere

I’d also like to show the comparison made with the work of a contemporary belgian artist (which I shall be reviewing later on).

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The rise of Modern Iconoclasm.

Search & Destroy – Mekhitar Garabedian

Invading their personal space, tresspassing the natural habitat. Some people feel the urge to destroy or damage certain artworks, sculptures. Simply beacause they don’t belong in their environment. The modern iconoclasm is what they call it. Although I don’t seem to find the name being very appropriate is it’s connotation is much more severe then what is happening now. Especially compared to the destruction of religious artwork and the fear for idolatry (without mentioning the the destruction of the Buddhas in Afghanistan, but i’m not touching that one.

Let’s keep it nearby; In Ghent there’s a contemporary art exhibit in town. It exists of multiple sculptures, installations situated all over town. Therefor it’s not remarkeble that some of these became the victim of ‘modern iconoclasm’. (The same thing happened at Beaufort – see below). As you can see on the picture above, the letter is ‘R’ (Search & Destroy) is missing. The piece has been removed from the installation and thrown into the water. Why they did this, isn’t surely known. One thing is for sure; they took the message a bit too serious.

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In search for the ‘true judge’.

“Who decides whether someone can paint or not? Who decides who’s actually capable of doing this (cf. Hume), should this be a good painter? But then again… “

What is Art?

Last night as i was laying in bed, I wondered to myself; what if everybody could paint? And then suddenly realised that they maybe could. What I mean is; as it’s hard enough to try and recapitulate all the schools of thoughts that are possibly out there right now and it would be a lie if I told you, that everyone sees them all as being art. So it also happens to me that I seem to struggle when facing a new work, figuring out why exactly this is art, or why it should be art.

So where do we draw a borderline, in what is art and what isn’t , where do we say to one another; “you can draw, and you can’t”. Maybe it simply isn’t a right thing to do; the “zeitgeist” we seem to be living in isn’t one of standards and rules. It’s a time of institutions and museums, it are these people or groups that decide whether or not something is art. Whenever something finds it’s way into a museum, it suddenly becomes art.

So you could say they are no rules left; no standards to reach. There are only poeple who judge wether or not a work is appropriate. (makes me remind David Hume’s; “On the standard of the taste”; where he tries to describe and find the “true judges”, what makes a critic a good critic; but i’m wanderings off) . But still I can’t seem to find an answer to this rather simple question; “Who decides whether someone can paint or not? Who decides who’s actually capable of doing this (cf. Hume), should this be a good painter? But then again… “

Dear God, no wonder I can’t seem to sleep at night.

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It’s simply can not be put into words.


I do believe that art is so mysterious and wonderful because it speaks a language of it’s own that is not translateble in common words, you can’t simply describe the feeling of art, it’s only by experience that you can feel/get the true meaning of art, which is to tell and share you it’s story. Each work speaks in a different language, a different tone, a color which is unique to the work itself. Therefore it would be irrational to try and put into words what art is. Words simply lack to describe the enbodyment of it’s soul.

“.. it would be irrational to try and put into words what art is. “

What we experience, define or describe art to be is not universaly seen as ‘art’, cultures differ and so it is right to say that for example a picasso will not be seen as art in all cultures. Only in the way that we describe it to be art. Other cultures like the Navajo use art, for them it has a certain purpose to fulfill (whether ceremonial or festive). These objects that they use get hung in a museum as ‘a piece of art’ (masks etc.), which for it’s creator it isn’t.

This makes me wonder wether it’s such a great idea or not to share this. As I’m trying to describe the indescribable. I created myself a paradox.

I simply refuse to see art as a common object. To me they all have a story to tell, a lesson to be learned. Art isn’t simply something you wander by, you need to give it time, time to let it tell you it’s story and time for you to listen and comprehend. So you could say that art is by no means only an object but it has a certain degree of subjectivity. Alhtough it ‘s not merely the object that embodies the subject. Nor the the subject that gives life to the object; they enforce each other, make one another stronger and can’t merely excist without eachother. Art without a certain degree of subjectivity would be like a forest with no trees; which wouldn’t be a forest at all, would it?

So I would say that it is through the embodiment that it’s ‘soul’ can freely speak. Therefore I can only tell you this; take your time, enjoy art like it should; listen to it, it will speak to you. You’ll notice, it always has something to say, it has a mind of it’s own.

Splashing waves; art & the sea. – Beaufort 04 (2)

Nick Ervinck – “Olnetop” – Bredene (BE)

“All art is but imitation of nature” –  Lucius Annaeus Seneca 

You can see it from miles away; 8 meters high, the sun reflecting on it’s smooth plaster surface, as it arises from behind the dunes. It seems to astonish everyone that passes by, as art should do. It’s almost alien shape refers to splashing waves. To me it resembles a lot more; it seems to reach for the sky, the sun. It’s bathing in the sun, it seems almost divine in a certain way. It’s mysterious, almost sublime (reference to nature and it’s powers enlarged, shown on a massive scale) maybe even dangerous?

In my opinion this is ‘the most astonishing’, ‘impressive’ and ‘beautiful?’ work I saw at Beaufort ’04.

Nick Ervinck is a belgian contemporary artist (Flanders) whose contribution to Beaufort 04 is an 8 meter high (yellow) sculpture/ installation. He searches for the interaction between virtual constructions and hand-made sculptures.

Nick Ervinck – “Olnetop” – Bredene (BE)

Nick Ervinck - Olnetop - Bredene (BE)

Nick Ervinck – Olnetop – Bredene (BE)

Nick Ervinck – Olnetop – Bredene (BE)

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-Enter the ‘Artscape’.

So I decided to continue my journey further into the belgian art scene, to be precise; Flanders. Which brought me to this young artist. Since I first noticed his works a few months ago I was convinced that it was good art to me and therefor according to my criteria what makes art; ‘good’ art.

Again (*) there seems to be a certain vivid and mysterious thought, aspect related to these paintings. When taking a first glance at them, everything seems quite realistic and rather ordinary .. but then…All of a sudden something seems incorrect, objects seem misplaced or certain situations impossible? It appears to me like if these “events” are taking place where reality and a dream seem to cross each other. It’s the vague borderline, the crossing between both which is depicted here.

“Everything seems vague all of a sudden, for one moment the world seemed to have collapsed and reorganized in a non-conventional fashion., what happened here? ” 

Although it’s painted in a very realistic manner, the picture shown isn’t. What happened here? Everything seems vague al of a sudden, the roof became the floor, walls are moving, the world appears to have collapsed, where after it has reorganized itself in a non conventional fashion. These paintings make me remind the surrealistic paintings, freud’s unconsciousness, the dream, but it might as well be a nightmare?

Another aspect that really strikes me concerning these works is the way that he paints them; Although everything seems to be in constant motion, the way it’s painted is rather soothing, which makes it even more confusing and in a certain way: ‘disturbing’ and ‘peaceful’ at the same time. 

I do believe these works are very intriguing and fascinating, they make me wonder of to a certain place where everything, just for a moment, seems clear in simple. I’m anxious to find out what the artist himself has to say about his works and wether they mean something more or not.

What is the artist trying to say, or isn’t he? Is there a certain message hidden in these surreal interiors and landscapes? It makes us think, which art should always do! Is it an indirect reference to certain feelings, is he confused, maybe a different look upon the world? Is it criticism, or simply a mind trick?

“You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?”

 


 * The Residence of art – An “Invisible Beauty”

More  info;

All works belong to;

-Hans Temmerman-

website : www.hanstemmerman.be

Recently his work got selected for an important contemporary art “competition” in Belgium: “De Canvascollectie

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