patternsthatconnect

abstract art, a systems view

Posts Tagged ‘photography

Models and modelling: Thomas Demand at Nottingham Contemporary

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Walking towards Model Studies the Thomas Demand exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary, and having forgotten whose work was on show, I felt sure that I was walking towards an exhibition of abstract paintings.

In fact, they are large photographs of small architectural models. The scale tends to flatten out the space and to produce large areas of lightly modulated colour, hence the resemblance to American abstract paintings of the 50s and 60s. When you get a bit closer the space in the photos becomes more apparent, it reminds me of the space in a cubist paintings now. I can imagine the artist bending a craning to get into the tiny models attempting to experience it for himself, in a way similar to the cubist modelling of space, as experienced in time.

Demand is known for his photographs of life-size models, made by him, of architectural interiors like the Oval Office, paper models which are destroyed after being photographed. In these new works the models he photographed were made by the architect John Lautner (1911 – 1994), and discovered by Demand in the archives of the Getty Research Institute when he was artist-in residence there.

In this short video clip he talks to Alex Farquharson, the Director of Nottingham Contemporary, about how he found these models and about his interest in the status of the model: far from being a diminution of reality modelling is our way of perceiving the world and communicating our experience of it to others. (In NLP we think of models and modelling in a similar way. We make models of how people do what they do well so that we can teach it to others.) It occurred to me that these photographs, themselves 2 dimensional models, document the process of modelling. They show us something of how in modelling we alter scale, freeze time, distort space in order to ‘understand’.

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Written by Andy Parkinson

March 7, 2012 at 8:45 am

Two Picasso Shows

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I read two blogs recently about Picasso exhibitions and the system conditions in which the paintings were being viewed. Forest Knolls, blog is about a show at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. I was interested in the comment about making do with a photo of the exhibition poster because photography inside the gallery was prohibited, hence the picture of the giant poster of the small painting (an image of an image of an image).

My own photo above, a few years old, shows people looking at (and photographing?) a Picasso painting of a girl looking at her own image in a mirror (an image of an image of an image). This was at the Picasso Museum in Paris. I believe that cameras were allowed. (On the subject of photography in gallery spaces there’s a brilliant blog here by Rhetoricalpens)

The other blog, at The Painting Space is about the first time a Picasso has ever been shown in Palestine. Buste de Femme, 1943, is at the International Academy of Art. Two years in the making, this exhibition is an “exciting opportunity to build a new international cultural dialogue in the occupied territory of Ramallah”. The conditions in which the painting will be viewed are very different to the two examples above. As well as the big system condition of occupation, there is also the sub-system that only three people at a time will be able to see the painting, in a purpose-built viewing room, so the picture does not get damaged by the humidity.

The blog includes a short film of Slavoj Zizek in conversation with the organisers. He has some really interesting things to say and he tells some great stories. I am not always sure I can connect them to the subject of the exhibition (one of the many things I love about his work).

Role of the Critic, Updated (via Slow Painting)

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I  saw this two-years-old-blog-post recently, I had been re-reading Peter Fuller’s Beyond the Crisis in Art and blogging about it. (Slow Painting continues to be a good blog by the way. It reads like a press digest of what’s going on in art). What a good photo of Fuller this is!

Role of the Critic, Updated Savage… the art critic Peter Fuller by Jane Bown, 1988 Photograph: Jane Bown/Observer Do art critics have a point any more? Can they contribute anything to the development of art? For a long time I’ve ducked this question. If you’d asked me any time over the past few years, I’d have replied that criticism does not seriously influence art. It has its own justification, however, as literature. If literature seems a pompous word, let’s say enterta … Read More

via Slow Painting

Then, a year after the blog post, there’s a comment by Wallydevilliers that suggests that the role of the critic is to find what’s really good and bring it to our attention. Good point. However, Fuller’s refusal of so much that was going on when he was writing was not really bad publicity (I recognise that the comment was actually about Robert Hughes in relation to Damien Hirst) the publicity had already been had. He was interpreting the meaning of the art works and establishing a position within a Marxist framework. So, reading Fuller was also a way of learning about Marx and socialism (he was just as critical of the positions taken by the Left as he was of the art) and I think he was a good teacher.

He also showed us how to criticise. I don’t always agree with his judgement, but I do find his approach, and his commitment to imagining a world different to the present one, to use an old-fashioned word – edifying.

It is that committed position that I think exemplified his approach and that informed his understanding of the role of the critic: not to entertain but to imagine.

Written by Andy Parkinson

July 3, 2011 at 7:44 am

Ikon Gallery (via The Cultural Bible Blog)

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I noticed someone else blogging about Ikon Gallery and it reminded me of the John Salt show

Ikon Gallery The Ikon is small but the exhibits it homes are something different, and it was definetly a huge contrast from the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Although we weren’t welcomed on arrival we were greeted by a girl in the Robert Orchardson exhibit “Endless façade”. This was an odd exhibit – very contemporary, but quite exciting to see. The way the space was utilised was interesting and was worth seeing. The other exhibition that was on was by Ma … Read More

via The Cultural Bible Blog

I visited wanting to see abstract art yet knowing I would be seeing photrealist paintings of cars, so I really wasn’t expecting to like what I saw. In an earlier blog I commented on this painting.

Tree 2001

Tree 2001, Casin on linen, 109 x 166 cm, Tellenbach Collection, Switzerland, Image courtesy of Ikon gallery

There are 18 paintings on view, shown more or less in chronological order, the first room with earlier work, paintings with images taken from catalogues, close-up cars, monochromes in red like Bride 1969, or grey like Sports Wagon 1969, the open door or window creating a frame through which to view the interior, and then the car wrecks of the early 70s: Falcon (Patchwork Surface) 1971, Desert Wreck, 1972; Pontiac with Tree Trunk, 1973. The second room has the more recent works, from the eighties to the present day, vehicles now more abandoned than wrecked, and shown in landscapes, usually a car or caravan, in its immediate surroundings.

At first I was frustrated at being unable to find much evidence of paint being worked or the artist’s touch. I thought I had found actual brush-strokes in Falcon (Patchwork Surface). Did I have the impression here that the artist actually enjoyed painting the surface? Then, I realised that the the surface being worked was the car body, with spray-painted graffiti. Those painted gestures looked like they had been enjoyed! And then photographed and then painted, or rather airbrushed. I attempted to inspect the canvas edges for evidence of painterliness, only to be thwarted by the aluminium frames, tight to the stretcher.

Then, once I  had resolved to stop messing about looking far what wasn’t there and to enjoy the work for what it was, the first thing I noticed was the calm. Galleries are not noisy places, but these works seemed to elicit a quietness that was more than gallery quiet alone. I think it was my emotional state, rather than the physical environment. The paintings are still, still lives in a way, yet they are also memento mori, or as Dieter Roelstraete says in the gallery booklet “that type of still life that is much more eloquently rendered as nature morte“. The Car not as status symbol,shiny and triumphant, but as wrecked, decaying, lonely or abandoned.

Although, according to the booklet, Salt claims not to be offering any social comment I agree with Roelstraete that it is difficult not to find here a comment on capitalism and its future. What I don’t find is anything about imagined alternatives. I think I read somewhere in Zizek the criticism that we find it easier to imagine the destruction of the planet than we do to imagine a future alternative to global capitalism.

(John Salt, curated by Jonathan Watkins and Diana Stevenson, is showing at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK, until 17 July 2011)

Icons and Salt at Ikon Birmingham

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The photo-realist paintings of John Salt have something approaching the miraculous about them. Could they really be paintings? Pictures of photographs of cars, made with airbrush, they look untouched by human hands.

Tree 2001

Tree 2001, Casin on linen, 109 x 166 cm, Tellenbach Collection, Switzerland, Image courtesy of Ikon gallery

In the Greek Orthodox tradition isn’t acheiropoieta the name given to icons not made by human hands? They were allegedly painted by saints, or they appeared miraculously like Veronica’s Veil or the Turin shroud. Maybe the images were made of the salt from Jesus’ sweat.

But these are no icons, though my eye was conned from time to time into thinking that I was looking at very large photographs rather than paintings. In some senses they are not even images, the matter of fact way in which they are produced and presented, renders them artless, real, objects, to be viewed but not worshipped. And in that they are also images, they are images of images, the subject matter of which is artless, found, material as opposed to image in the sense of advertisement, shiny gleaming mirror. Other photo-realists seem more interested in images of this kind.

Ikon Gallery Birmingham is showing work by John Salt until 17 July 2011. I wandered through the two rooms of paintings, 18 in all, spanning 42 years of Salt’s artistic output. Not wishing to be impressed (my mission, you may remember, is to view abstract paintings outside of London), I found myself confronted by a body of work that I was hugely impressed by.

I lingered longest on the 2001 painting Tree, a solitary vehicle, parked outside a disused store, next to a weedy self-seeded tree, the long shadows suggesting evening or morning.

Tree 2001

Tree 2001, Casin on linen, 109 x 166 cm, Tellenbach Collection, Switzerland, Image courtesy of Ikon gallery

I feel it should be evening symbolically, but seeing how the windscreen is condensed it looks like it may be morning. The shadows emphasise the whereabouts of the cables running up the side of the building and bring attention to the puny tree, projecting  a larger than life image of it onto the façade of the building, rather like the projected image of a photograph onto a large canvas, the standard technique for drawing in photo-realist art. The car and the store are a similar colour, terracotta, or rust. Knowing even a little about this kind of work I think it highly unlikely that Salt is interested in the symbolic or metaphoric elements in the piece, and maybe these also are projections, but I find it difficult not to see in the terracotta, a symbol of rust and decay, also hinted at in the parked or abandoned car.  And I find it difficult not to see in the tree at least a gesture of hope, however futile. I feel sure that this is not the content of the picture as far as the artist is concerned. However, I think the NLP mantra ‘the meaning of a communication is the response you receive rather than the intention you had for it’ applies here.

I found I could also interpret the painting in abstract ‘colour-field‘ terms, enjoying the large expanse of orange, framed above by the light blue band of sky, and below by the darker blue/grey of the tarmac. Then becoming aware of the lemon yellow rectangle on the right hand edge, echoed by the adjacent dark grey or black rectangle of the door, within which is a cut-out of white. At the opposite side, there are similar rectangles in almost complementary colours of blue and lilac. In this reading of the painting the car plays almost no role at all. I realise that here I may have been compensating for the abstract paintings I did not find!

Another reading might concentrate more on the signs. I have already mentioned the index sign of the rust colour and the long shadows: signs of decay and death, the icon sign: the painting of the photograph, and there are also the symbol signs represented in the photograph itself: “No Parking Any Time” and “Store for Rent”.

Well, I had parked myself in front of it for long enough and there were other paintings to see, and work to do.  So I left, hoping I would get chance for another viewing before 17 July.