Tag Archives: art

It’s Warhol actually, as in holes, Andy Warhol.

If you want to get under the silver wig of Andy Warhol this festive break down, you can do so at the exhibition currently on display in Liverpool Tate Gallery. In his twenties in NYC, Andy aspired to be just like Truman Capote and his fixation with celebrity and the fame machine was a theme that permeated his work. He desperately wanted to stand out, at one stage in his early career if he couldn’t make tie ends match up, he’d just cut them off.

In his book ‘The Life and Death of Andy Warhol’, Victor Bockris relates how Muriel Laton, an interior designer who was struggling to support her own gallery, planted the seed that in turn helped Warhol to become an art sensation. He was too late to paint the cartoon style that had made the careers of the likes of Roy Lichtenstein.

Laton asked Warhol, ‘What do you like most in the whole world?’
To which the Pop artist replied, ‘I don’t know, what do I like most in the whole world?’
‘Money!’ she replied. ‘You should paint pictures of money.’
‘Oh gee,’ Andy gasped, ‘that really is a great idea.’
She continued, ‘You should paint something that everybody sees every day, that everybody recognizes….like a can of soup.’

The money, the cans of soup and the Marilyn Monroes, the work that helped to make him and put the popular in Pop art, are all on display in this exhibition.

andy-warhol-9-dollar-black-blue-diptych

The standout image for me was the Silver Elvis, a faded black screen-print of the King, a life-size figure slashed with silver paint, drowning the image, giving it a ghostly appearance, like a giant silver screen that is losing power, fading away but still radiating.

Halcyon Gallery

It is a metaphor for the demise of cinema today. Films now are competing with the need for instant gratification. They can be viewed on iPads, phones or laptops and seen anywhere. The cinema has resorted to gimmickry to try to sell movies; practically everything is being offered in 3D. Thankfully, 2014 has seen films like  ‘Lilting’ and ‘Ida’ prove how powerful a film can be when seen on the big screen, or the ‘forgetting chamber’, as Quentin Crisp called it.

There is a room that replicates a NYC happening and tries to convey what the atmosphere of the Factory must have been like. At first it’s exciting but the repetition of loud and explicit S & M video montages soon becomes mundane, again I guess what the Factory must have been like, a type of candy floss techno hell.

What is striking in this Liverpool show is the vast quantity of commercial output on display. A wall of Interview front covers harks back to a period when celebrity was something to aspire to and not the infectious social disease it has become. Warhol cited, ‘everybody will be famous for fifteen minutes’, but the reality now is ‘everybody will be famous for fifteen seconds on the internet.’

I think my favourite Warhol work is his preliminary sketches for window design, his commercial art-work. A period when works were hand sketched, drawn and painted. A whole school of craftsmanship.

CommercialWarhol1

If you feel like finding out more about the artist, I recommend the film ‘Basquiat’ about the underground graffiti artist which sees the Thin White Duke, Mr David Bowie, stick on a silver mop and camp it up as Andy. The excellent ‘I Shot Andy Warhol’ takes you into the curious mind of Valerie Solanas, who did just that, as well as writing an infamous missive called The SCUM Manifesto – nothing to do with The Sun newspaper – but the Society for Cutting Up Men, her one woman party.

You may wish to see some of the films that Warhol directed himself, like Empire, BlowJob or Chelsea Girls. ‘My Hustler’ is a dirty rude little flick that mixes desperation with sleaze and is quite bitterly funny.

There is also the fabulous track by David Bowie, Andy Warhol, which failed to impress the artist. With lyrics, like

Andy Warhol looks a scream, hang him on my wall,

I wonder why?

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Whistler at The Bluecoat

The Bluecoat’s offering for this year’s Biennial is an exhibition celebrating one of the most influential figures in the arts of the 19th century, James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903). A crammed collection of paintings, sketches, letters and notes. It’s like entering the head space of this outspoken, argumentative and maverick creator.

James McNeill Whistler

Whistler dressed in his black patent shoes and with a white plume of hair coiffured against black waves, cultivated a charismatic public persona who challenged the art community and elicited the mocking attention of the popular press. He had famous spats with Oscar Wilde and his one-time friend and benefactor F.R. Leyland.

His work was hung well-spaced out – on the line – marking a radical change from conventional salon style, which saw pictures cover the walls. He described his works as symphonies, arrangements, harmonies, nocturnes. The deathly marks of industrialisation are captured in his watercolour paintings Nocturne in Grey and Gold, Piccadilly (1881-83). The thick fog – or pea soupers, as they were known – seeps off the canvas.

nocturne

His Venice etchings were presented in 1883 at an exhibition at the Society of British Artists, titled Arrangement in White and Yellow. Whistler wanted the event to be more than just an exhibition; he wanted to give his guests an experience. The walls were decorated in different shades of white with the skirting boards, yellow. The attendants wore yellow clothes to match. A final detail for favoured guests, he designed yellow butterflies to wear at the launch. The press cruelly labelled the spectacle, The Poached Egg. One critic commented on the etchings The Piazetta, The Palaces and The Two Doorways,

He has been content to show us what his eyes can see, and not what his hand can do.

Etchings on paper, fabulous depictions of Speke Hall in Number 1 (1870) and the billiard room indicate his connection to Liverpool. A notable piece in this exhibition is his caricature of F.R. Leyland, The Gold Scab: Eruption in Filthy Lucre (The Creditor) (1879), crafted at the time of his bankruptcy.

The Gold Scab

It is one of three paintings intended as a prank for his creditors to discover when they arrived to make an inventory of his possessions. It depicts Leyland as a rich peacock wearing a favourite frilled shirt sitting on a piano stool that is the White House (the artist’s Chelsea home) which was on the verge of repossession.

It is interesting to see the evolution of his Butterfly trademark. Proof of Six Butterflies is printed on proof paper (1890), loosely based on the initials JW, a butterfly signature often had a sting in its tail, the point directed at his enemies.

Whistler’s involvement with the Aesthetic movement is illustrated throughout this expansive collection. The movement consisted of Rossetti, William Morris and Wilde, a bohemian group of artists, writers and designers who favoured beauty and form over sociopolitical content: art for art’s sake.

The press (like that of today with celebrity culture) were fascinated by the group’s ostentatious style, dress and lavish lifestyles. This exhibition is one of the highlights of the Biennial and I feel that the setting (the historical Bluecoat) really adds to the whole essence of the experience. Whistler would indeed approve!

Recently, the Merseyside Civic Society celebrated the fact that the Heaps Rice Mill, in the Baltic Triangle, has been categorised as a Grade II listed building by the government following an inspection by English Heritage.
Not to be developed into yet another series of apartment blocks to remain empty, owned by an off shore property conglomerate in the Seychelles! We need to see the old buildings re-claimed and used for the people of Liverpool by the people of Liverpool. Projects like Opera for Chinatown by THE SOUND AGENTS and the recent use of the Old Blind School as part of this year’s Biennial are exemplary. Let’s pimp up the old architecture lying barren in this city with similar innovative offerings!

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Alejandro Monge, ‘Spanish Pavilion’ at Fallout Factory

alejandro

Fallout Factory, 1 June – 31 July | Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 5pm

Alejandro Monge has achieved a brilliant career in a very short time, creating a handful of images that define it: powerful and disturbing faces, inscribed on a black background. The work suggests baroque influences and approaches a hyper-realism that does not exclude the gloomy.
Specially commissioned as part of the International Festival for Business, Fallout Factory is currently playing host to ‘Spanish Pavilion’, a new and exciting collaboration between Fallout Factory and overseas Spanish galleries. ten minutes hate caught up with the maverick Spanish artist on the eve of his Liverpool exhibition.

10mh: Alejandro, what inspires you?

Inspiration comes day by day, but I have better inspirations the bad days than the good ones, makes me feel more, I can go deeper in my creativity.

10mh:  Which artists have influenced you?

I think that Caravaggio is my favourite.

10mh: Describe your work in five words?

Very, very, very, very dark.

10mh: What do you want the viewer to feel about your work?

I’d like that people feel my works as something real, in three dimensions.

10mh: Do you have a favourite piece?

Always it is the last one. Because in there are my last feelings.

10mh: What advice would you give young artists?

Work, work and more work, because the more you work the better paintings you get. But at the same time you have to train your mind as well, because the ability of art is in your mind not in your hand. The good inspiration will come after 999 bad ideas.

Exceptional pieces of art take the everyday, the mundane and forces you to look at it again. It lifts the subject to another plain. We all look at each other, daily in cafés, bars, even at home with reality rubbish on the TV. Alejandro’s canvases make you really appreciate the subtle beauty of the human being. Blonde beard, shadow silhouettes of facial features, always with a warmth and deep affection for the sitter.

alejandro monge
The collection has a distinctive style in the way you can immediately identify it as his work, like Lucien Freud, Tamara De Lempicka and Francis Bacon. When you see the work you know it is the artists’ distinctive style.

I’ve seen quite a few exhibitions in my 36 years, I’ve encountered self-proclaimed artists who do not follow the Stanislavski dictum which is essential for any creative,

One must love art and not the concept of oneself in art.

Alejandro clearly loves his work, passion and authenticity splash right off his canvas.

alejandro euro

I have always loved Spain and her cultural exports, Pedro Almodóvar and tapas. Now I have another thing to admire about this great country. I am exceptionally excited about this artist’s future creative projects, please watch this space, one day Alejandro Monge is going to paint his way into the history sketch book of contemporary art.

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Viva Frida!

I like to read and write in bed. A comfortable mattress can at times be equally as productive as a sturdy desk. A pad perched up on my knees, drafting, crafting. My mantra has always been: graft equals craft.

One of my idols, Frida Kahlo, used her bedroom – sometimes out of necessity. There she would sketch and paint images that came out of her dreamscape. A cocktail of her fear and inner thoughts. Breton famously  described the work of Frida as

a ribbon around a bomb.

She was used to suffering from early age when she contracted polio and then at 18 was injured in a horrific bus accident, where she sustained injuries that affected her throughout her lifetime. Her personal life was turbulent and her relationship with soul mate Diego Riveria was a tempestuous one. The creative couple was known as ‘the elephant and the dove’, a Beauty and the Beast-like pairing.

Her entire catalogue of work is a testament to my personal belief that art has a transformative element; turning negativity into something positive. Be it a writing pad, a canvas, a block of wood or clay, an artist’s role is to take experience, push it, question it and put it out there. Her self-portraiture is painted with a pallet of wit, raw honesty, brutality, pain, cruelty, passion and empowerment. Or as she simply put it,

I paint my reality.

This inspiring lady had a resilience that pumped through her blood.

Five months after her accident she posed in a family photograph, wearing a grey suit, a practical element to disguise her injuries. A controversial, provocative dandy, taking centre stage in the composition captured by her photographer father, Guillerno. Almost like the son he never had.

The artist used her own body as a canvas, painting the massive plaster cast that bound her torso during her recovery from the accident. She later took on the Mexican dress of long skirts, heavy jewellery, fringed shawls and a crown.

fulang chang and I

FULANG, CHANG and I (1937), illustrates Kahlo at the height of her beauty, an image from the sensual world.

Kalho Frida - A few small nips passionately in love - 1935

A FEW LITTLE PRICKS (1935), inspired by a morbid newspaper report, she used this story to distance herself from the real life trauma of the recent betrayal of Diego sleeping with her sister Cristina. The victim in the composition has her sister’s features and the man with the knife resembles Diego, while Frida herself imagined that she herself had commits the murder.

little girl with a death mask

LITTLE GIRL WITH A DEATH MASK (1938), inspired by the native style of popular Mexican art.  A person clad in a traditional white death mask, holds a sunflower (tagete) traditionally used during the day of the dead, celebrated on the second of November. The flower is meant to light the path for the souls of the dead as they make their way back to their ancestors. On the floor there is a jaguar mask in papier mache, another ritual accompaniment at this annual festival.

the-wounded-deer-1946

THE WOUNDED DEER (THE LITTLE DEER) 1946, in this image Kahlo places her own visage on the animal and it conveys an expression of nobility, an air of dignity, in the crown of antlers. The deer has been pierced with nine arrows, a slow kill to symbolise the emotional pain of Diego’s repeated infidelity.

I paint self-portraits because I am the person I know best.

She did not solely use the medium of canvas painting; her diaries also contain sketches, reflections, watercolours, lyrics and poems. A candid, reflection on her personal creative process, her childhood, political sensibilities and obsession with Diego. The diary spans from 1944-54 and is a series of random memories and thoughts with no attention to chronology. The manuscript is a turbulent bag of emotions.

Aztec Rebirth

Diego beginning

Diego constructor

Diego my baby

Diego my boyfriend

Diego my painter

Diego my lover

Diego my husband

Diego my friend

Diego my mother

Diego my father

Diego my son

Diego= me=

Diego Universe

Diversity in unity

Why do I call him My

Diego? He never was

Nor ever will be mine

He belongs to himself

The legacy left behind by Frida Kahlo is a collection of paradox, she is both victim and heroine, suffering and successful, but above all human. Essentially painting her own life.

VIVA Frida!

viva frida

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Challenging preconceptions and prejudices

Ever since I arrived in Japan I have held a – some would say irrational – prejudice against Roppongi. Admittedly based on little more than an after-work trawl through the area’s multiple British pubs and a few horror stories heard about the clientele of the ‘all you can drink’ nightclubs, I was content to describe it to a visiting friend as something she could comfortably miss off her itinerary. ‘Like drinking in Leicester Square in London’, I said, ‘fine for idiots who don’t know better and tourists’.

But, as with holders of all other prejudices, close examination proves me to be the idiot for damning the whole neighbourhood based on a couple of dodgy nightspots. Today I was lucky enough to be invited to Roppongi’s Mori Art Museum for the ‘Arab Express: The Latest Art from the Arab World’ exhibition, which runs until 28 October. You would be daft to let a similarly irrational aversion prevent you from seeing it.

The exhibition, the first of its kind to be held in Japan, opens by noting a significant parallel in the way both the Arab and Asian nations are viewed by outsiders. The diverse natures of both regions are often dismissed as offering little more than their stereotypes, be that veiled women for one or geisha for the other. The artists in the Mori’s exhibition play with these stereotypes in various ways, from Halim Al-Karim’s ‘Untitled 1’, with its indistinct red-clad figure to Maha Mustafa’s ‘Black Fountain’. The latter splashing oily droplets all over a white room whose windows look out over the Tokyo landscape, reminding the viewer that while one country’s problems are caused by a lack of natural resources, another’s spring from an abundance of them.

The Arab Express curators are aware that for many people, the first thing they think of when considering the region will be its conflicts. The artist always has a choice about how much reality to include or ignore and many of those represented here wrestle with these concerns. In ‘To Be Continued’, Palestinian artist Sharif Waked confronts our fears with his depiction of a typical suicide bomber’s video which, on closer inspection of its subtitles, has the protagonist reading from One Thousand and One Nights. ‘The Story of a Pyromaniac Photographer’, included in Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige’s ‘Wonder Beirut’, features depictions of the once-popular tourist attractions of the ‘Paris of the East’, the negatives burnt by the photographer after the outbreak of the civil war in an attempt to make the pictures resemble the city he found himself living in.

It is a powerful and thought-provoking collection, yet not without moments of humour, even including a series of works which reference the Japanese trend for purikura. Capturing the diverse cultures which make up the Arab World is no small challenge, yet the range of works on display will ensure you leave feeling at once informed, wrongfooted and entertained.

Confront your own preconceptions at the Mori Art Museum before 28 October.

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