Sun Therapy

Olafur Eliasson‘s installation in the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern:

The Weather Project, Olafur Eliasson, 2003. Photo by Dan Chung

The Weather Project, Olafur Eliasson, 2003. Photo by Dan Chung

The Weather Project, Olafur Eliasson, 2003.

The Weather Project, Olafur Eliasson, 2003.

“In this installation, The Weather Project, representations of the sun and sky dominate the expanse of the Turbine Hall. A fine mist permeates the space, as if creeping in from the environment outside. Throughout the day, the mist accumulates into faint, cloud-like formations, before dissipating across the space. A glance overhead, to see where the mist might escape, reveals that the ceiling of the Turbine Hall has disappeared, replaced by a reflection of the space below. At the far end of the hall is a giant semi-circular form made up of hundreds of mono-frequency lamps. The arc repeated in the mirror overhead produces a sphere of dazzling radiance linking the real space with the reflection. Generally used in street lighting, mono-frequency lamps emit light at such a narrow frequency that colours other than yellow and black are invisible, thus transforming the visual field around the sun into a vast duotone landscape.”
Text from Tate


The Parakeet and the Mermaid

‘It was like drawing, but with scissors… there was sensuality in the cutting’

Parrot-and-Mermaid
La Perruche et la Sirène (The Parakeet and the Mermaid) is one of the greatest examples of Henri Matisse’s cut-out works. The cut-out is technically related to the collage. Matisse executed this work by snipping forms from paper coloured in one hue. The total work contains cut-out forms in contrasting colours on a white surface. He began this method in 1940, but in his last years this medium dominated all his work. The imagery of this piece consists of leaves, pomegranates and two forms that appear only once. These two forms represent a parakeet on the left and a mermaid on the right side, from which the title of the work derives. The space surrounding the objects is just as important as the objects themselves. Matisse created this monumental cut-out while recuperating from a major operation which prevented him working in his studio. Consequently Matisse referred to this work as ‘a little garden all around me where I can walk’.

Text from The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

  To learn more about Matisse’s cut-outs, visit MoMA’s interactive page


Exploring the Surreal

Need some help getting to grips with Surrealism? The Doctor will see you now.

Peter Capaldi, a former art student, and the latest actor to play Doctor Who, settles down on Freud’s couch to deliver his wry take on the Surrealist movement.

‘Unlock Art’ is Tate’s new short film series, offering a witty inside track on the world of art.  Doctor Who actor Peter Capaldi joins forces with rock duo The Kills, comedian Frank Skinner, Girls star Jemima Kirke and other celebrity art fans to introduce some of the big ideas that have shaped art history. A new film is released each month, with topics ranging from the history of the nude and the nature of the art market, to Pop art.

Thanks to Tate, Unlock Series


Leader and Companion

Dux et Comes I. Edward Wadsworth. 1932.

Dux et Comes I. Edward Wadsworth. 1932.

Wadsworth began introducing more abstract forms into his nautical still lifes towards the end of the 1920s. In the following decade he made a number of abstract paintings, and 1932 became a member of Abstraction-Création, a Paris-based organisation of abstract artists.
This painting belongs to a series called Dux et Comes, a musical term used to describe choral roles in a fugue. It translates from the Latin as ‘leader and companion.’ The leader (soprano) sings in one key, the companion (alto) replies in another. Wadsworth’s series explored human relationships and moods, as indicated by subtitles, in this case Rebuff.
Text from Tate

Landscape at Large

Landscape at Large. Paul Nash. 1936.

Landscape at Large. Paul Nash. 1936.

‘Landscape at Large’ is one of a group of landscape collages made by Paul Nash in 1936-8 in which real objects were used pictorially. The Tate Gallery also has ‘Swanage’ (made from photographs of objects and watercolour) and ‘In the Marshes’ (made from bark and sticks). From the title it is evident that this one was seen by Nash as an abstract landscape, with the shape of the bark suggesting perspective, and the texture and patterns of the materials making the features. The ‘at large’, although not explained by the artist, probably has its usual meaning of either ‘at liberty’ or ‘there in complete detail’, implying that the objects are standing in for themselves.

Text from Tate


A Sudden Gust of Wind

Travellers Caught in a Sudden breeze at Ejiri. Katsushika Hokusai. ca. 1832. Woodprint.

Travellers Caught in a Sudden breeze at Ejiri. Katsushika Hokusai. ca. 1832. Woodcut.

Study for 'A Sudden Gust of Wind (After Hokusai)'. Jeff Wall. 1993.

Study for ‘A Sudden Gust of Wind (After Hokusai)‘. Jeff Wall. 1993.

A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai).  Jeff Wall. 1993. Transparency on Light Box.

A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai). Jeff Wall. 1993. Transparency on Light Box.

A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai) by Jeff Wall is a large colour photograph displayed in a light box. It depicts a flat, open landscape in which four foreground figures are frozen as they respond to a sudden gust of wind. It is based on a woodcut, Travellers Caught in a Sudden breeze at Ejiri(c.1832) from a famous portfolio, The Thirty-six Views of Fuji, by the Japanese painter and printmaker Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849). Wall photographed actors in a landscape located outside his home town, Vancouver, at times when similar weather conditions prevailed over a period of five months. He then collaged elements of the photograph digitally in order to achieve the desired composition. The result is a tableau which appears staged in the manner of a classical painting. As in Hokusai’s original, two men clutch their hats to their heads while a third stares up into the sky, where his trilby is being carried away by the wind. On the left, a woman’s body is halted in a state of shock, her head concealed by her scarf which has been blown around her face. A sheaf of papers in her hand has been dispersed by the gust and their trajectory, over the centre of the image, creates a sense of dynamic movement. Two narrow trees, also in the foreground, bend in the force of the wind, releasing dead leaves which mingle with the floating papers. In Hokusai’s image the landscape is a curving path through a reed-filled area next to a lake, leading towards Mount Fuji in the far distance. In Wall’s version, flat brown fields abut onto a canal. Small shacks, a row of telegraph poles and concrete pillars and piping evoke industrial farming. The unromantic nature of the landscape is reinforced by a small structure made of corrugated iron in the foreground. The pathway on which the figures stand is a dirt track extending along the front of the photograph from one side to the other. There is no sense of connection between the characters, whose position in the landscape appears incongruous. Two wear smart city clothes, adding to the sense of displacement.

Text from Tate


Democracy Has Bad Taste

Although we live in an era when anything can be art, not everything is art

In the 2013 BBC Reith Lectures, Playing to the Gallery, the Turner Prize-winning cross-dressing potter Grayson Perry speaks about the role of art in today’s global landscape.

grayson perry2

In this first instalment, entitled Democracy Has Bad Taste, Grayson Perry tackles the question of what makes art “good” and who decides it. This question is particularly tricky in this era when preserved sharks and urinals can be found on display in galleries. Beauty is no longer a valid criteria, as Perry explains:

“In the art world sometimes it can feel like to judge something on its beauty, on its aesthetic merits can almost feel like you’re buying into some politically incorrect, into sexism, into racism, colonialism, you know class privilege. It almost feels it’s loaded, this idea of beauty, because it’s a construct because where does our idea of beauty come from?”

Grayson Perry talks about the politics of the art world, describing the rigorous validation process that a work of art goes through before arriving on gallery walls. He discusses various criteria and tools which can help us (people outside the “art world”) to understand and appreciate art.

Click here to listen to the lecture or here to read the transcript.

One of Grayson Perry's exclusive drawings for the 2013 Reith Leactures

One of Grayson Perry’s exclusive drawings for the 2013 Reith Leactures


Meditation

Meditation. William Edward Frost. (Date unknown).

Meditation. William Edward Frost. (Date unknown).


Life Without You

Life Without You. Damien Hirst. 1991.

Life Without You. Damien Hirst. 1991.

Life Without You. Damien Hirst. 1991.

Life Without You. Damien Hirst. 1991.

Life Without You proposes a layout of shells from exotic places as the desolate emptiness of lost love. Hirst has said that he likes shells ‘because they once contained life’; this aspect of them is paramount for him. However, although he is presenting a landscape of dead husks, they have already been transformed, through varnishing, into a range of attractive consumable objects, leading to the suggestion, in Life Without You, that the abandoned subject may find consolation elsewhere. The grid in this work is compromised by its variations and exceptions, perhaps allowing some hope despite the bleakness of the implied end. In comparison to works made by Schwitters using found pebbles, a feather and shell, such as Symphony for a Poet, 1940, its collage of humble objects suggesting melancholy and contemplation, Hirst’s table arrangement appears upbeat, clean and colourful, if a little sterile. The aesthetics and tactics of advertising have become central characteristics of Hirst’s work: Life Without You anticipates his later use of them to reinterpret traditionally poetic subjects (love, loss, life, death) in a new language of contemporary art that fuses minimalism, pop and the cult of the commodity.

text from Tate


Film Still

Untitled Film Still #48. Cindy Sherman. 1979.

Untitled Film Still #48. Cindy Sherman. 1979.

Untitled Film Stills is a series of sixty-nine black-and-white photographs made between 1977 and 1980. In them Sherman appears as fictitious characters in scenarios resembling moments in a film. She used vintage clothing, wigs and makeup to create a range of female personae which she then photographed in apparently solitary, unguarded moments of reflection, undress, or in conversation with somebody off-set and outside of the frame. The ‘stills’ are set in a variety of interior locations as well as outside in urban and rural landscapes. They were begun shortly after Sherman moved to New York city with the artist Robert Longo.

Sherman has commented:

In college I began to collect a lot of discarded accoutrements from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, more for my own personal wardrobe as well as for the sheer fascination with what those garments stood for. It was easy and cheap to collect all kinds of things in those days. I’ve always played with make-up to transform myself, but everything, including the lighting, was self taught. I just learned things as I needed to use them. I absorbed my ideas for the women in these photos from every cultural source that I’ve ever had access to, including film, TV, advertisements, magazines, as well as any adult role models from my youth. The resulting photo shoots were very brief. In those naïve days, I would sometimes take only about six shots for one scene and move on to the next, so that with one roll of film I could have six different set-ups.

(Quoted in Contemporary Art: The Janet Wolfson de Botton Gift, p.99.)

Initially Sherman photographed the Film Stills in the loft apartment where she and Longo lived. She took many of the pictures herself using an extended shutter release; others, particularly those set in outdoor locations, required a second person to take the photograph, such as her boyfriend, friends or family. Sherman’s father took #48, in which she appears as a vulnerable young woman waiting with a suitcase at the side of a darkening country road.

Real film stills are not stills from the actual film but are photographs taken to encapsulate aspects of the film for advertising purposes, to be shown on billboards or in magazines or newspapers. Sherman has explained that she titled this series of images ‘film stills’ ‘mostly because I was thinking of publicity stills like you’d see around 42nd Street, in boxes of hundreds of them for thirty-five cents each’ (quoted in Taylor, p.78). She has said that her intention was that they would ‘seem cheap and trashy … I didn’t want them to look like art’ (quoted in Tomkins, p.78). Like real movie stills Sherman’s images evoke events in possible narratives which the viewer may invent or interpret in different ways, suggesting an original which never in fact existed. Like all of Sherman’s photographic series, they provide a range of fictional portraits, usually of women, in which the artist operates as actress, director, wardrobe assistant, set designer and cameraman.

(From Tate)