Sunday, May 31, 2009

Waltham Forest Summer exhibition.

I took my pieces of work down to the Changing Room Gallery for the Waltham Forest Arts group Summer Exhibition. As usual my work is very different from last years. I have been working on some 'wanted' posters, using examples of behaviour that goes against the law in some way, but using birds instead of humans.

This is what I wrote about the work for the exhibition.
In this piece I have explored environmental concerns and social controls through subverting the symbolic "wanted" poster. Though humorous in intent, the work is also a comment on the nature of growing bureaucracy, the freedom of the birds is contrasted with the growing loss of freedom in our own lives. It is also a comment on the human demands for growth and profit that has lead to a decline in some of our most loved birds including the sparrow. We are thus also the "wanted" as declared on the posters.

I mounted the posters on pieces of plywood that have been distressed and look well used.

The exhibition is on from today 1st June till Sunday 7th June at The Changing Room Gallery with a reception/ event on Saturday 6th June.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Gerhard Richter and Francis Alys Fabiola

I just caught the Gerhard Richter
exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, I had been wanting to see his work for some time. In reproduction it has perhaps even more of an ambiguous sense something between photographic reproduction and painting.

In his work from the sixties Gerhard Richter used black and white photographs from magazines for his paintings, which obscure identities and play with the surface of the paint. Later he used photographs of his family friends and associates. There are some paintings of his wife and baby too which seem somehow both touching and disturbing as their faces are obscured and paint is dragged across them.

In the Portrait gallery I spotted another exhibition Francis Alys" Fabiola," which is worth seeing too. The artist Francis Alys has collected 300 odd images of a christian saint known as Fabiola. The image has a Fabiola in profile usually in a crimson veil, and all though at first glance the images seem to be very similar their are infact big differences between them. Francis Alys collected the images from flea markets and antique shops from around the world, and some are of high quality artistically, others are obviously made by amateurs.
There are two rooms full and I was facinated looking round, perhaps something of the saintly qualities of Fabiola are present with such a collection of her image.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Chelsea Flower Show.

Made it to Chelsea Flower show on Saturday early, before all the crowds came for the famous sell off. It was good to see the main show gardens easily and to be able to walk around the marquee without too much effort. As usual the sheer amount of plants and flowers always gives me a sense of restoration and pleasure.

A lot of the gardens this year had a more cottage garden feel, with gorgeous planting schemes. There were a lot of dark purples and soft pinks around and some great uses of water in the gardens.

Inside the displays of roses, iris, clematis and alpines were stunning, and several stands had arranged themselves like gardens. The mix of perfumes was gorgeous around the site, even with a bit of hay fever I appreciated it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Buddhist dances and new photographs.

The V&A recently held a day of rare Buddhist dances, I was able to see some of them and sense some of the power in the forms, particularly the Japanese Theater Noh. This piece was called "Kayoi Komachi" and was based on thestory of a wandering priest who encounters the ghost of a ninth century noblewoman who was one of the "Six Immortal Poets" Ono no Komachi. Because she had been a cruel lover she had been unable to escape the wheel of life and death, the priest

offers prayers for liberation and one of Komachi's lovers appears from hell forbidding her enlightenment unless he too can have justice.
After they have re-lived the experience of their relationship, both find liberation though the prayers of the priest and their own understanding of the nature of impermanence.

The acting is extremely stylized and meditative, and I found myself transported into another dimension by the sounds, music and actors performance. I did a handful of sketches and what I thought was 20 minutes turned out to be over an hour and a half of this play. The aim of the Noh theater is the experience of "hana" or flower, the aesthetic name for the buddhist experience of emptyness. This was the first time it has been performed in the west and the ensamble was lead by Shizuka Mikata who is heir to a heridary line of Buddhist priests who became Noh actors.

The Horse Chestnut trees have come into flower, I love these large clusters of flowers.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The Many faces of Buddhism

We have a festival of Buddhist culture happening at the moment, a film festival at the Barbican is just starting, and I have been to a seminar on contemporary artists influenced by Buddhism. and part of a day of Buddhist dances.
The V&A have been hosting some of the events and opening a new gallery of Buddhist sculpture, sponsored by the Robert H. N. Ho family foundation that broadly supports Chinese arts and culture.
The seminar on Buddhism and contemporary art was introduced by Jacquelynn Baas, who has spent many years researching Buddhism's influence on artists both contemporary and in the past. She has produced two books on the theme Buddha Mind in Contemporary Art and Smile of the Buddha. Jacquelynn Baas writes " The appeal of Buddhism for artists is that, like art, Buddhism challenges thinking as central to knowing. What both the creation and the perception of art share with Buddhist meditation practice is that art allows us to forget ourselves and thus realize our self"
Lin Hwai-min founder and director of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre in Taiwan, spoke about his work and showed films of some of his dancers performing works. His description of their growing understanding and practice of Buddhism expressed through the medium of dance was extremely moving.

Kimsooja born in Korea, and studying and working in the States, talked about her performance art piece,A Needle Woman, that she took to a number of cities world wide and showed video clips from it. She also talked about her Bottari Truck work and using the Cloth bundle as a symbol in her work.

Sanford Biggers, from Los Angles, talked and showed films of his multi-disciplinary art, that included contemporary sand mandalas, dance pieces, and a singing bowl work made in Japan.

Meredith Monk, a composer, singer and creator of music theatre and pioneer of the extended vocal technique, showed work including exerts from Songs of Ascension. She also performed a short piece herself and her vocals sent shivers down my spine.