In: Artist

Nikolas Antoniou was born in Larnaca, Cyprus where he resides and works. He is a graduate of the Department of Fine and Applied Arts of the University of Western Macedonia, Greece (2012) with professors Harris Kondosphyris and Manolis Polymeri.

His paintings do not stem from a specific idea or theme. He consciously avoids focusing on specific questions or particular answers but instead, creates new pictures that generate unknown questions. He paints vague spaces, objects which appear to be misplaced both through time and dimension, next to items disjoint with figures lost in an intense painterly environment, but in the end coexist and interact, giving meaning to their existence, tell a story and express a sentiment.

As of 2010 through to today Nikolas Antoniou has succeeded in portraying his paintings in a number of solo and group exhibitions. Most momentous of which took place in 2010 at the Aianis Archaeological Museum in Kozani entitled “Time – Memory – Oblivion”. In the following year he participated in the “Sixth Student Biennale of Fine Arts”, which took place in the exhibition hall of the Athens Metro at Syntagma Station. He also took part in the group exhibition “Eumorfos Anthropos” in Technohoros Gallery, Athens. In 2012 the same exhibition journeyed to two cities of Northern Greece. In the months of February to March the exhibition was hosted at Gallery 512 in Ptolemaida and two months later at the Museum of Contemporary Arts of Florina. Both exhibitons were held under the supervision of Harris Kondosphyris. During the months of June and July Nikolas’ works reappeared in the Technohoros Gallery under the heading “Maps 1987 – Travel 2012” and in late July-early August he takes part in another exhibition titled “IR E MO” showcased at Gallery Lola Nikolaou in Thessaloniki. In 2013 he returns to Cyprus permanently and is involved in several group exhibitions around the island and colaborates with a number of galleries. In May 2013 he presents his first solo exhibition entitled “Sanitizing Logic” at Polychoros Warehouses in Larnaca, while a few months later the same trail of work is exhibited again in his second solo exhibition “Sanitating Logic 2” in Gallery Technohoros in Athens, Greece. In 2014, his work is hosted by Gallery Myro in collaboration with Gallery Lola Nikolaou in Thessaloniki, Greece.

Solo – May 2015 – Technohoros Gallery – Athens
Group – Oct. 2015 – the Collection Gallery – Embody – Nicosia
Group – Dec. 2015 – Lola Nikolaou Gallery – Thessaloniki

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1. What do you think contemporary art really is?
Contemporary art is the natural order of things that led art history up to this point. The evolution of time and the alteration of how we do things have played a significant role. In a sense, art and specifically painters used to be craftsmen in the past but now developed as modern day artists that can freely decide the concept of their art. In the same way -as we have today – contemporary artists that begun their practise with different foundations, this will be the case in 20 years time too and another term might possibly develop in art history. Artists will evolve with different foundations due to the evolution of time. Artists cannot have the same starting and ending point. Contemporary art today follows the general principle that an artist has the freedom of expression and is able to deal with any concept. But, the problem with contemporary art today is that it is difficult for people to understand especially when you have no interest in it and it is thus challenging to engage with something you can not understand.

2. So do you believe there is an apathetic stance from people to understand contemporary art?
Well, not really apathy. Art is just something that needs further consideration and examination. You need to go deeper and people don’t do that. People choose not to see art to its core but rather stay on the surface – that is the way they tackle everything they see. That’s a problem (laughter). The artist should not compromise his or her expression based on what the rest of the world understands. People who create (whether it is food, art or any service) do it the best way they can and develop along with it and thus consciously the result develops within them. Thus, people who will try and engage with an artist’ work must put the same or more effort into comprehending what it is shown on a plain canvas.

3. Have you ever come across in any misunderstanding with people that have brought you into a difficult position? Let’s say such as not understanding the way you express?
It happens everywhere, even if you go to a place with people not related to art, you might find people who understand what you do. Regardless if they are involved with art or not, they have the mood and eagerness to understand, ask and learn my own perception exposed in my artwork. There are people that just don’t want to understand. Personally, I have never came across a difficult position but you know it just happens.

4.Does it bother if a contemporary art piece in a gallery has an explanation written next to it? Does it bother you that the artist needs to go in the process to explain when he is displaying his work?
No, I don’t mind at all, because they way I see it – this is part of art as well. Why shouldn’t there be a panel next to it? An artist worked on that text and he or she is thus narrating his/her work. Art needs to find a way to draw more people in. What bothers me is when the text on the label is meaningless, or the artwork is pointless along with the text. Since you are using another medium along, it should be two times stronger.

5.Why does most of your work include the human body? How do you tackle any project series or art piece when it comes in creating something related to what you do? Do you do any specific research?

That’s what I like in art. The human body attracted me as an audience. So it gave me the interest to explore it and create artworks around it. The human body is the most interesting part of a human. A figure is a figure. Even a bottle can be perceived as a figure but the human body can change its position: the gaze, the size and that it creates emotion. Observing human body figures as part of an audience made me feel as if I was seeing myself. The eyes and the glance can capture you and draw you into an emotional process. I have worked into exploring the human body for so long that I became extremely interested on how the figure changes from one painting to the other. The smallest change in position can alter the whole atmosphere of the painting. I don’t do any specific research. I research and work all the time and gather my thoughts when it comes to create something. Most of my pieces are not related, some are, and some are not. When I exhibit my work I group my pieces and then present them. I do not start something based on specific research. The only research I do and the only way I tackle my projects happens when I gather all of my artwork and try to group them to make sense to the audience. I like putting myself into complicated tasks and then represent my art pieces in that way.

6. Would you classify yourself as a contemporary artist? 

Not really. A contemporary artist is an artist who observes what is going on in the world now. I honestly do not think that I understand what is going on in the world today. I am contemporary in my own perspective; I don’t think others would perceive me as a contemporary artist.

7. Sometimes when I observe your artwork I can see a sense of rebellion in the way you paint. But then, this is my own personal take. Do you have any particular themes you want to elaborate through your work?
Not necessarily. I don’t work on purpose, I let my thoughts emerge and I like it that way. Sometimes I feel that themes might keep an artist restrained, but since I don’t work that way I let my paintings be personal. I don’t feel my art should be something particular. I do have some obsessions with certain concepts, which they help me elaborate on my work when it comes to my own technique, but this is as far as I take it. I want to expose particular themes. I am pleased when people perceive my art and create bonds, which works as food for thought for them. One of my teachers used to say that art is the space between the viewer and the painting. So, this is where my art lies. This is the way art should be anyway.

8. I feel that this could be interpreted as a theme by itself. Some artists might do some pieces and then for the sake of being accepted in the art world, they come up with some sort of concept they never thought about just to fit in a box. So, please share with us then what made you become an artist?
To be honest, I wanted to become an architect as my cousin influenced me. But then I realised I was terrible in maths. Going into an art school was almost an accident. I travelled all the way to Hungary for my studies but I couldn’t learn the language so during my stay there, I was having private art lessons and then realised that I wanted to do Fine Arts. When I was in my third year of art school I realised that this was my dream. I always liked art and people were telling me that I was good at it but I couldn’t really understand that myself. I entered art school ranking last and I then worked really hard and I could not abandon it. I always painted as kid, but that was as much as I can remember.

9. Then who is your favourite artist and what is your source of inspiration?
I don’t have anyone specific. I examine and observe several artists all the time and I like specific pieces not specific artists. Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon had a massive impact in my work. I realised that after many years of practicing. When I was researching Bacon and Freud I didn’t realise that they were the main catalysts influencing my development as an artist. My source of inspiration? I just want to sit back and paint. I don’t have anything specific that inspires me. My brain is always working, as I am observing my surroundings. I told you already that the human body is my main interest. Mostly women, but that’s completely without a reason. Therefore, I enter my studio and simply work. This is my way of living; this is my main source of inspiration.

10. Is there a specific life-event that stigmatised you as an artist? Something specific that worked as turning point in the way you are tackling your pieces?
Yes, a teacher that used to teach me back when I was in art school, Manolis Polymeris. It was the first time I have ever seen an artist in my life working and the fact that he was working so obsessively and neurotically to create an artwork stigmatised me. It was at that specific moment that I realised how art should be created. Most people see the end result in a painting, not the procedure. But studio practise is what art really is. Art is studio practise, not the result of a painting. So yes, Manolis Polymeris was the only person that made me realise what art really is.

11. Then what do you think is the purpose of art in the world? Should it have a purpose?
There is a tendency around the world where people think that things have a purpose only if they relate to everyone. If this is the case, then art will never be able to have a purpose. BUT, since some people sacrifice their entire lives working for art, developing both as humans and as artists around it, motivating other human beings, then art has entirely its own purpose. Not everyone will get its purpose and that is perfectly fine. It is enough if art goes back in motivating people to create more in any field they choose to be involved with.

12. How do you see yourself in the future?
In a studio, working and creating. If this thought will provide me with money to make living, that is another story. I don’t think I will be staying in Cyprus for the rest of my life but I am not leaving now. For the time being, I am happy here. I don’t have any personal ambitions; I just want to work in my studio.

13. And finally, since you are relatively young in age, what are the messages you want to deliver to the younger generation and especially those that aspire to be part of the art world?
The world today is structured in a way that it is easy for us to lose the substance and the meaning of life. Even if you are very ambitious, you have to understand what the substance of life is. That’s the only thing that will make you successful. Everything else does not really matter. There is a tendency for young artists to start their career from the ‘ending point’ – this is how I call it – because they focus more on the economic aspect of their career and not their own personal development. But this will not take you anywhere. This was not the main reason a person choses to become an artist. If you are interested in becoming famous, practising art is not the place to become one.

Last week I had the privilege to interview Gerry Judah in his studio in London.

Gerry Judah’s background has roots from Baghdad. Born in Calcutta and raised – until the age of ten – in West Bengal. At the age of ten his family and siblings moved to London. What affected his artistic development was the dramatic landscapes of India, the theatrical rituals of the synagogues and the deeply historic architecture of its temples. Having experienced post-war Britain and austere London led him to the need in finding inner peace by conjuring imaginary landscapes and architectural pieces along with futuristic unconventional cars and thus explored himself into art schools. He is a graduate of Goldsmiths College, University of London and Slade School of Fine art, UCL. Judah was not satisfied with conventional galleries when it came to exhibit his own work. Working in innovative design – film, television, theatre and museums as a set designer, installation artist, sculptor and painter his knowledge is very broad. Interestingly he created sculptures for Ferrari, Porsche, Audi, and Jaguar, etc at the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed. He even designed bridges in London, Cambridge and Sheffield. Judah was asked by the Imperial War Museum to create something about the Holocaust Exhibition and it was then when he began t make art born of his reflections on historical events. He created large three-dimensional paintings exploring the devastation of war and the ravages man has made upon the environment.

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1) We all know that you are an installation artist, painter and sculptor. What do you think conceptual art is? What is the purpose of it in the world?

My original understanding of conceptual art was way back when I was at Goldsmiths College. Artists like Marcel Duchamp and the Dada movement were highly influential, when they focused on the concept of art rather that what it looked like and so we were all attracted to it, during that period. In a sense, conceptual art for me is something which puts across the significance of what we are looking at, in relation to art and the history of art. That for me is how I see the purpose of art. When someone like Damien Hirst breaks into the scene there is a strong connection between what he does and Duchamp in a sense that he is playing with the history of art and those of it which I find particularly interesting.

2) What is the purpose of it then? Is it far from the being part in ‘history of art’?

I don’t think it needs to have a purpose really. I tend to differ my point of view. As an artist I want to address on a wider public realm and when I went to study Fine Art at Goldsmiths and Slade of course there was a strong connection between art history and what we were doing in relation to art history. But when I went to the big wide world on the commercial arena, I found that art was way beyond art history. It was about how you connected with the public, how you entertained the public. I worked in theatre, film, exhibitions and museums and so forth and we were dealing with a much wider audience than art history. So on that level, I don’t feel I owe to the history of art to do what I do. If it makes history, if it doesn’t make history – it doesn’t mean a thing to me. What means to me is what is says in the “now” and to whom I am talking. So I take on issues such as conflict, religion, climate changes, which are present to what, is going on in the world today. I feel as an artist that is where my boundaries lie and I don’t feel I owe it to conceptual art, to the art world and I certainly don’t feel I owe to the history of art. Same thing with film, I love films that entertain me. That speak to me that connect to me about the story they are saying. So I like to tell stories. My paintings are about telling stories. They are related to geopolitics, my history, and my spiritual upbringing that are far more important to me than the history of art. Of course though, I owe to art history on one level because it gives the intellectual facility to be able to be far more critical about what it is that I do and what I see. But that is as far as I take it. To be honest, a lot of artists try very hard to link themselves in that world, but I think they could take themselves a lot further. I often find that connecting art history all the time is a bit boring because it doesn’t go beyond its own limitation. Sorry if I sound dismissive.

3) Not at all. We have seen through your work that you tackle motifs of destruction, the portrayal of war, climate change, religion and so forth. I want to know whether these choices are conditioned by political and historical considerations rather than by artistic ones.

To be honest, they are primarily connected to artistic considerations. I use politics, religion and war as concepts purely to create a structure upon which I can approach how I am developing my language as a painter. My canvases are 3D-canvases and they are connected to people like Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, which were a massive influence on me. Artists like that that took themselves further from the canvas and played with installations and how far you can take a painting. So when I have buildings emerging out of my canvases they are really three-dimensional paintings. When I saw warzones in Beirut, Gaza and Baghdad – which of course I am connected to them because of my historic background- my reflections of them were big white texture canvases. I saw shadows; light and these are things that strike me as a visual artist. So my responses to these issues are more visually artistic responses. Yes, I am trying to work within the regions of history, social history and geopolitics but primarily I connect on the language of the painting. So, going back to what I said previously, I think there is a strong connection to history of art and what I do but not on a conceptual level but more on a level of artistic practise. It is all connected. As human beings we are trying so hard to connect all our histories together, from wherever they are come from because they make us who we are. So my artistic, social and religious backgrounds are intertwined. In this way, I tell my own stories and places. When I did the Holocaust in the Imperial War Museum; that to me was an epic painting. It was flat, a model but it was telling a story of the days of people back then, stories of death and I managed to create a shimmer that draws the audience in it. That shimmers with light, emotion. But when you go more to it is simply a painting.

4) So why do you use white in most of your pieces?

Colours tell you what to see, I use white because I don’t want to tell people what to see. I want to show something people will see for themselves.

5) Is there a life event, something that triggered you to focus on the issues you address through your work?

Yes – I was particularly taken by the wars between Palestinians and Israelis. I am Jewish so seeing the big landscapes covered in dust, remains of towns and streets and they were all leveled by light and shadow. That feeling strikes me in something very powerful. That historical connection as a Jew; I felt that sense of who is the victim who is the perpetrator. History has set me off on a path. So I felt it was time for me as an artist to go back to my current geopolitical considerations – and on what is going on in he world today.

6) While producing a piece do you ever improvise both in the concept and in practice as you go along?

I constantly discover all the time. I know what I want to do – sort of. I am interested in wind, the fragility of wind, destruction and all these are barons of buildings in Baghdad, Lebanon and Gaza. I sort of knew my recurring themes in my work. I know the format I want to work with but so much of my work is peeling away. The pieces I do with buildings are complete structures and I destroy them on the canvas. I take an entire settlement and destroy it. I do that until I get what I want to see in my work. A painting is only finished when you stop looking at it and it looks back at you.

7) Should art be something aesthetically pleasing? Or should it deliver some deeper meanings?

It can do whatever it wants. I don’t care.

8) Okay then, how about your own art?

Art is what you make of it. Its like music, you can’t say music should be like this or like that. It’s a place you go and say what you want to say. Some art is beautiful, some art is challenging, some art is moving. What I don’t like in art especially in galleries, is when you look at a painting and there is a panel next to it telling you what the artist is saying. I’d rather enjoy art for itself. Sometimes is good to get the issues on which the artist was preoccupied with. That I can relate to. But I don’t like telling what I should be looking for.

9) How do you approach your work? Does it require extensive research or do you simply focus on your personal reflections?

All of my projects have something in common – they all commemorate something. The car sculptures I do commemorate the history of those car companies. I suppose the piece on St. Paul’s Cathedral was a particular example of taking commemorating on a different level. When I was asked to put my canvases on the walls of St. Paul’s I thought I should do something particular. They wanted to commemorate the First World War so I thought I’d rather take the main images of the First World War, which was the white cross. So I contemporized the war that still goes on today. Note the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the current conflict of ISIS, Syria, Iraq that are all fought now because of the boundaries of the First World War or its aftermath. So in that sense, the buildings on the white crosses are reflections of Gaza. In a sense they made me make a statement in St. Paul’s Cathedral. So yes, I do research to make all these historic connections. I also saw how the cross has been a symbol of violence. A structure upon people sacrificed their own lives. So expressing this vigorous violence required research. The Bengal pieces from my latest exhibition came out due to my visit in India. I was in India to study some things about climate change and I went to Bengal where I grew up and during the period I was there, it was the Durga Puja Festival. They built these temples all over the country, in villages and towns, which were filled with amazing internal structures and panels and intrigued me to start working. Also, while I was there I was looking at the power stations that were burning coal and they were polluting the environment; more specifically the chimneys that destroyed the environment. So, I took the power stations and translated them into my work. My pieces were preoccupied with these power stations with the internal structure of Puja and the typical rituals of India. Such things are the embodiments of what I like doing, from the visual and iconic perspective to the entire emotion of India. I also did temples out of ashes and dust to indicate pollution, with electric candles, the Jewish ones. I am trying to mix all the cultures I was exposed to. So, there is a personal touch in what I do.

10) I would like to ask you about your presence in Goodwood Festival of Speed. It is something entirely different than what I am looking at here in your studio. How come that you produce sculptures of futuristic unconventional cars?

Well it pays for this (laughter). The problem is that people usually tend to get typecast. The feeling of “how you can do this and yet do that?” One of the things I enjoy when I left art school is that I went out to the big world, worked in theatre, photography film and big museums. An artist should constantly be challenged to do something different. The problem with a lot of artists is that they very much hold into their practice. I like to be completely open. All of my pieces (whether they differ visually) – they are all connected. They are part of me as an artist. My practice is to constantly change what I do. I don’t want to be known as the artist who designed all these futuristic cars but these are the people paying me to do what I do. I am constantly exploring. So these sculptures of cars have more to do with the language of sculpture rather than cars. Cars are embellishes to me, to know what the sculpture is really about.

11) Describe yourself both as an artist and as a person.

I don’t think there is an answer to this question. I love being in my studio, enjoy this one-to-one relationship with my canvas. When I was a child, my father took my everyday to the synagogue because he was a very spiritual man. Everyday I would sit amongst these men and watch them pray. Somehow I felt that that prayer, and the constant facing they did with God was part of the building and that was a very profound and moving to me. But for some reason, I never connected to it on religions terms, but I feel very spiritual about it. These men that were able to pray every day had some sort of connection with God and that in that way I was connected too but not in the same way they were connected. So, I had to find some other way to reach that sense of prayer and expression, and it was then that I wanted to become an artist. I wanted something to transcend me. So, when I come to the studio, I feel as if I am coming into my own temple, in the place I pray in my own way. I relate with my pieces, emotionally and historically – the languages of art, history, politics. I am a very spiritual person therefore and this is where my work lies. This has an intrinsic power to it, which does not rely on art history to guide it. It relies on what I feel, my own sense of prayer. Don’t get my wrong. Not the traditional way of prayer. I didn’t connect with that traditional sense of prayer. I was connected as a kid and as an adult today, with that sense of spirituality, the sense of real devotion. I don’t like that that devotion which tells people what to be devoted to. The word that guides me through everything is devotion. I am devoted to what I do, as I am to my family, to my people, to my friends, to my culture and society. This is another level of devotion.

12) I completely agree with you, history has a dirty background. It requires devotion to be able to translate all your histories as a human being in your pieces. It’s a big thing to do so masterly. So, on this level, I want to ask you, how do you see yourself professionally?

How do you see yourself in the future? Still breathing I hope. I don’t know. I don’t see the future. I cannot answer that. Ambition? I don’t have any ambition. I never had any ambition. I strive for excellence in what I do. That is good enough for me. I leave ambition for others.

13) Finally, what are the messages you want to deliver to the youngest generation, especially those that aspire part of the art world?

Don’t ask me about the art world, I don’t have any relationship with the art world. I like the world. What I would advice young people are: you just need to keep doing it. Get up and be devoted in whatever you do. Don’t be afraid reinventing yourself; don’t be afraid in doing something different. Be fearless in what you do.

Yes, here is another Andy Warhol exhibition. In this busiest month for the Paris art scene, the modern art museum of Paris (Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris) has launched a new exhibition, “Warhol Unlimited”. There are over 200 works, highlighted by the rare showing of Shadows (1978-79), which is being shown in its entirety for the first time in Europe.

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The first Andy Warhol exhibition I went to was “Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal” in Hong Kong in the end of 2012. It was a touring exhibition started that year – 25 years after Warhol’s death. That retrospective was very comprehensive, exhibiting over 300 works of Andy Warhol – the largest ever collection; including paintings, photographs, screen prints, drawings, installations and sculptures. The   exhibition was very impressive as it showed a great deal of this star artist’s life and art. Quite different from that, the current “Warhol Unlimited” focuses on exploring the serial side and the repetitive nature of Warhol’s art.

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The Flowers series is quite appealing as various sized and coloured prints of flowers are placed at different heights on the wall. They all look like flat and simple decorative paintings. Despite being in different colours and sizes, they look very alike and it may not be easy for you to pick your favourite if you have to. It is said that Flowers indicates Warhol’s utopian dream to make all paintings interchangeable so that “nobody thinks they have a better painting or a worse painting.” It recalls one of Marcel Duchamp’s famous quotes that “it doesn’t matter whether taste is good or bad, because it is always good for some and bad for others. Whatever the quality, it is always taste.” The commonality between both artists lies in their desire to subvert established standards and modes of perception of art throughout their lifetime, which as a result, has reshaped modern art and even art in our time, and how we perceive art nowadays.

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One exhibition room is painted all in silver, replicating Warhol’s studio in New York City, which is often referred to as the Silver Factory. This recalls the nothingness in Warhol’s art as he explained that he chose the silver colour based on its capacity to muffle and dissolve its environment.

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The final part of the exhibition is dedicated to the most anticipated piece, the ensemble of Shadows (1978-79). It consists of 102 silkscreened canvases of 17 different colours, totals over 130 meters in length and stretches across the whole large exhibition room. You cannot view the whole piece all at once but you have to walk around to see all of it. In this way, Warhol aimed at disrupting our spatial and temporal perception of paintings; and thus making his art unlimited, as suggested by the title of the exhibition. While gazing at only one single canvas of Shadows, you might feel its undertones of death and misery. Intriguingly, if you keep walking around and grasp the repetitive image altogether, the feeling fades away and what remains is abstract. As with Warhol’s other series, Shadows’ excessive repetition turns the inherent quality of the subjects into nothingness.

Then, you might have wondered: Why Andy Warhol again? Why is he the “King of Pop Art”? Why is pop art still everywhere almost thirty years after his death? Follow us and wait to check out my next post to see what pop art is and why it is so pop and “unlimited”!

Less than a week after Frieze Art Fair in London, gallerists, collectors and art-lovers in the art world take only a short breath and then gather around another important international contemporary art fair, FIAC, in Paris. Under the natural light coming through the exquisite glass roof of Grand Palais, the 42nd edition of FIAC has gathered 175 exhibitors from 23 countries. Here is a quick guide for some galleries to watch out for!

1. Neugerriemschneider (0.A30)

Directly facing the main entrance, this gallery from Berlin has proudly put up a large piece to match its honourable location. Overdose by Michel Majerus consists of 15 panels and forms a painting as well as an installation. Woody, the easily recognisable cowboy character from <<Toy Story>>, together with other colourful ads and brands, immediately gives visitors a familiar feeling as they set foot in the fair.

2. Galerie Chantal Crousel (0.A32)

The gallery is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year and is showcasing artists including Danh Vō, Haegue Yang and Heimo Zobernig. The spotlight is on Melik Ohanian, the winner of the Marcel Duchamp Prize this year with his Portrait of Duration. Every year the Marcel Duchamp Prize selects a French artist or an artist residing in France in the field of the plastic and visual arts. Don’t forget to check out this prize-winning artwork at the far end of the exhibition hall.

3. Andrea Rosen Gallery (0.A40)

The three sections inside the gallery booth presenting different artists sit well with one another. Among those artists presented, David Altmejd is undoubtedly my favourite and whose solo exhibition was in place in the modern art museum of Paris (Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris) earlier this year. His gestural plaster works have always been his signature while the shattered mirror this time has caught much photographic attention.

4. Luciana Brito Galeria (0.A47)

I was intrigued by the installation work But a Melon for Ecstasy by Héctor Zamora, a Mexican artist who lives and works in São Paulo, Brazil. According to the gallerist, the watermelon on a bike refers to a Brazilian movie from the 1970s about a watermelon fetish. The watermelon denotes a secret sense of desire and loneliness.

5. Galerie Pietro Sparta (0.A50)

 Works by Jean-Luc Mouléne (front) and Mario Merz (back) at Pietro Sparta

The sculpture consisting of shells and plates by French artist, Jean-Luc Mouléne is wisely juxtaposed in front of the installation by Mario Merz. It creates a dialogue between the two artworks, both emphasising the material and metaphorical qualities of natural objects.

6. 303 Gallery (0.B22)

Moot Matter by Alicja Kwade at 303 Gallery

Several conversations engaging various artists are happening in this booth. A silvery installation by Dominique Gonzales-Foerster is placed below a painting by Karen Kilimnik in a smaller confinement while a glass sphere is superimposed in front of blue Breathing Watercolours (Wallpaper) by the same artist, Jeppe Hein. My favourite piece is Moot Matter by Alicja Kwade –sitting on the ground subtly collecting everything from its surrounding onto its reflective surface.

7. Kamel Mennour (0.B32)

The gallery has very diverse displays to offer, mixing rising and established artists, from sculpture by Alicja Kwade to Anish Kapoor, from Michel François to Daniel Buren. The most eye-catching was the sculpture by Huang Yong Ping which resembles a deer divided into two with a bow in the middle.

8. Karsten Greve(0.B34)

The gallery has put up several works by well-known French artist, Louise Bourgeois, alongside Claire Morgan, a London-based artist of contemporary sculpture and installation art. Artworks by both artists caught equal attention and are all amazing, especially the light and soft sculpture by Morgan using grains as shown in the picture.

9. Lisson Gallery (0.B40)

There is an installation work of fluorescent light called Paris Sky by Spencer Finch, probably especially chosen to match FIAC’s setting in Paris. Anish Kapoor‘s In-between, a sculptural installation with sexual undertone, retreated at a corner of the booth but still caught a great deal of attention, even with a security guard solely dedicated to it.

10. Galerie Nagel Draxler (0.B53)

The French-Algerian artist, Kader Attia‘s sculpture, Culture, Another Nature Repaired is reflected in another piece, Repaired Broken Mirror #11 by the same artist. “In the mended mirrors, the visitor will see his own face as if scarred by the metal wire,” the artist once said. With the wooden sculpture, Attia has transformed faces of mutilated war victims into a new depiction of human existence under interacting influences of African-Arabian and Western cultures.

11. Hauser & Wirth (0.C33)

The stand paid tribute to the attacks to the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo which happened earlier this year in the city. There are works with themes on freedom of speech and expression, such as Tienanmen (Students) by Fabio Mauri, being displayed around a stack of Charlie Hebdo issues.

12. Galeria Plan B (1.J28)

Let’s then turn to a booth on the first floor with a more playful selection. There is a work by Navid Nuur that requires you to take a flash photo so as to truly see it. On the other side of the booth, clementine skins are displayed as Pattern for a Sphere, accompanied by a kind of recipe that teaches you to make similar artworks, possibly with oranges, mandarins or grapefruits as suggested by the artist, Miklos Onucsan.

If you are in Paris for FIAC, don’t forget to check out the programme “Hors Les Murs” by FIAC — exhibiting outdoor installations scattered at various spots along the Seine, with the beauty of the City of Light as backdrops.

Spotted in the 6th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art. We all know him or will know him in a few. Yanis Varoufakis. Known as the Former Greek Finance Minister, he was one of the key figures to speak in the 6th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art.

Whether one praises Varoufakis or not, is really irrelevant.


His speech had something to offer in the intended audience and beyond: the interpretation of art and music under the umbrella of the political. In my attempt to catch all the important pieces of what he was trying to offer – I had to listen to the speech several times and scrutinise it- I must admit that at first I was shocked. Varoufakis was addressing an audience obviously interested in the arts (they were attending the Moscow Biennale after all). To start off a speech at such an event with the acknowledgement of the minor position of the Ministry of Culture into a Cabinet, especially on issues regarding policy changes, was quite a challenge. After all, Varoufakis has always been like that. Unexpected. As I was moving along, I realised the whole essence of his argument, and the reason of his presence in the Biennale, which at first was unclear.

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Varoufakis is no art critic and we know it. His attempt and process to isolate the aesthetic from the musical has always been outlandish to him. Interestingly, however, he does not undermine and adversely understands completely the essentiality of art within a society, as some political figures have failed miserably in doing (I’d rather not elaborate right now, maybe some other time). Instead, as a young radical, he used – perhaps consciously or subconsciously – the importance of the arts in understanding various political and social conflicts. Most importantly, the message is that art has something important to offer when investigating the culture of one’s country and more specifically events that have stigmatised the domestic and international arena. The Guernica for instance, which provides the essence of the Spanish Civil War. Through the eye of the artist an individual ought to recognize any economic or political difference or even indifference for that matter.

So far so good, I completely agree with him and admire what he is trying to say. Yet, another important bit of his speech appeared to be dubious to some. The Eurozone Crisis. We’ve met him reining a parade against the Eurozone. That’s how people got to know Varoufakis. Yes, indeed, the common currency is outstandingly terribly constructed, and perhaps has failed to deliver the purpose of its existence. But, the ambiguity of his argument came along when he spent a considerable amount of time focusing on how the markets are failing, with little reference to how art and culture is influenced by that, but in the end established his point quite clearly.

I’d rather not comment on the other sections of his speech. I am choosing to reinterpret the importance of politics in the arts. But we ought to think of it outside the box, without any prejudices. The history of the world, whether it is politically or socially related, has a dirty background. Europe is no exception. The world as we know it today encourages individuality, doing things separately, hiding behind our masks. Again, European countries are no different. The effort for integration has failed. The vision for a common currency has disappointed Europeans. The reason is quite clear: European political leaders have not encouraged the European countries to combine the economic with the political, the socioeconomic with the artistic and most importantly the heritage culture of one country with the arts of another country. Instead, this lethal division has caused countries to drive apart.

Hence, the rise of individuality has had a devastating impact in promoting a collective understanding of one’s civilization. Perhaps Varoufakis was trying to address the loss of identity, which is subsequently behind the core value of the common economic currency. Or maybe he was trying to address that art and culture was undermined due to the excessive need of the powerful elite to focus on economics and politics instead of the artistic. I cannot decide.

The last statement though, says it all. I am keeping that. “Artists should be feared by the powerful”. Artists are part of the cultural industry. They are part of the aesthetic in a society. Culture is the only industry that tends to fight capitalistic ideas and go against the system, create new ideas and movements. Artists have the capability to overthrow the status quo. Something the powerful dread.

Well done Varoufakis.

Well said!

This new exhibition of JR, “DECADE, Portrait d’une generation” (Portrait of a generation) at Galerie Perrotin in Paris comprises the artist’s work of the past ten years, presenting his videos, ink on wood pieces and recent photographs. “DECADE” in the title does not only signify a period of JR’s artistic practice, but also marks the passing of ten years since the most significant social uprising in contemporary France, which is exactly the subject of the artworks displayed this time.

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The exhibition starts with an installation consisting of video projections on three sides of the room and their reflections on the floor. You are put in the scene of the riots of 2005 in Clichy-Montfermeil in the suburbs of Paris, where JR first ever created large-format works in his career just one year prior to the riots.

For people who might have seen some of JR’s works before, large faces pasted on nice architecture is not something surprising. However, when huge faces are shown on damaged housing blocks which were soon to be demolished, it exemplifies the effect of the image –it feels that both the buildings and the people were yelling with strong emotions, if not painfully.

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The most impressive piece in the exhibition is a video which filmed a ballet dance reiterating the social uprising from the past of the neighborhood in a delicate and aesthetic way, probably contrasting the disturbances and violence of the original event. It provides a visual link to JR’s documentary work in that territory in various stages during the past decade.

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The poetic series of Ballet Diary created with ink on small-format wood panels were displayed in the gallery in a grid composition, echoing photographs of ballet corps posing in containers. As usual, JR’s works are rooted in reality while defeating existing boundaries, and are powerful in linking art and life together. This exhibition firmly stems from the artist’s acute understanding of his generation.

As far as art goes, Eli and Edythe Broad rule LA (by the way, Broad is  pronounced BROH-de like ‘yo bro’). The billionaire-philanthropist couple has been buying up important works of modern and contemporary art since the 1970s, and ever since then they have been generous in lending out those pieces to museums and exhibitions. However, the opening of this museum marks a special occasion as they have decided to showcase their personal collection to the public.

The Broad, located in Downtown Los Angeles, opened its doors to the public on September 20th, 2015. And I, as your resident ride-or-die art enthusiast, was able to score the insider’s look and do the busy work so that you could have the best visit ever. Here is a breakdown of what you need to know about this new museum.

The Tickets 

Oh boy. So, ticketing to this museum is free (thanks Eli and Edythe!) and can be reserved in advance here. However, all online tickets have been reserved through mid-October. BUT! Worry not, because that is not the only way to get into the museum.

If you are ready to work a little bit, you can get to the museum door early in order to pick up a standby ticket (limited numbers available). I did this at 7:45AM on a Sunday morning because suburbia has dulled me and I jumped at the chance to feel alive again I care about you, dear reader, and wanted to make absolute sure that I got a ticket on opening day so that I can tell you all about it.

The tickets are grouped into half-hour time slots. Mine was for the 10:30AM entrance and I would highly suggest you to go no later than 11AM if you want to make the Yayoi Kusama exhibition in good time.

The Building

The Broad Museum. Exterior Shot. A beautiful building by Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

 

The Art

I felt very happy amongst these galleries. Many works were familiar to me since the Broads have a habit of lending them out to other museums. The lighting was exquisite and the space vast. There were quite a few well-known pieces:

Jeff Koons, Blue Balloon Dog. 1994-2000

Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog (Blue), 1994-2000. Mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color coating.

 BasquiatRoomful of Jean-Michel Basquiat. I feel like this could definitely be a Jay Z lyric.
Murakami

Murakami, In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow, 2014. Acrylic on canvas.

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Murakami, In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow, 2014. Acrylic on canvas.This is a huge mural. It runs 25 meters across (80 feet) and it has great detail work. I believe it was commissioned especially for this museum.
One of the aspects that I really appreciated about this exhibition was how it struck a great balance between the popular and the obscure. It is a show that unabashedly displays its roomfuls of Koons, Murakami, and Basquiat while still retaining quieter niche pieces, like these works by Cy Twombly:
Cy Twombly - The Rose

Cy Twombly, The Rose (V), 2008. Acrylic on wood panel.

The most popular work at the Broad is, of course, Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Room. In fact, this is usually the most popular work at any exhibition. This room, back in 2013, inspired a mob outside of David Zwirner on its last day and people waited in the New York cold for up to five hours just to catch a 45-second glimpse of it. Thankfully, the Broad came up with a better management system than a physical queue. You make your reservation to the room with your cellphone number, and within 10 minutes of your reservation, the system texts you. My wait time was about an hour, which gave me the perfect amount of time to roam the two floors of art.

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Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, Yayoi Kusama, 2013. Wood, metal, glass mirrors, plastic, acrylic panel, rubber, LED lighting system, acrylic balls, and water.

This is my second time seeing the Infinity Room, and I must say that the pictures are often more beautiful than the experience itself. 45 seconds is not nearly enough time to enjoy it, and typically you will spend all of it taking photos. I wish that I could’ve spent a few minutes in there.

Overall, the Broad is a solid museum and it is worth a morning of strolling through if you happen to be around the LA area. Additionally, MOCA is offering a free year of membership and a free Lemonade soda if you present your Broad ticket!

Alright, here’s the thing. No matter what you think about art, you should have some idea about it. Why could be a relevant question. If it didn’t pop up in your mind, then, you possibly don’t need to read this. But then,  you probably still should.

A known misconception is: those who study art history cannot really do anything else, anything more valuable by society. *Gong* You’re wrong! I am not trying to advertise a new faith to you, but rather help you show off your cultural side when a situation arises. And it will.

Now imagine you got invited to a gala ball. The owner of the place decided to show off his art collection (and it is a rather realistic situation). He asks for your opinion. And….

  1. Be always curious. At least seem this way. Speaking from a personal experience here, if I go to a museum with my friend, or a theater, I want to share my thoughts and ideas, my feelings about the piece. So no matter whether you get it or not, show your interest in what the other person is thinking and saying. Best first line: “What do YOU think (feel) about it (art piece, performance, film etc)?” will save you from answering first and you can always form your opinion based on other person’s response.
  2.  

  3. Don’t say that you could draw better. Or your kid could draw better. Or the work reminds you of kids doodles. Seriously, don’t. This is the most common reaction we get towards contemporary art (or mostly any abstraction) and, boy, it is also the most frustrating one! A person hearing that, let’s pretend he likes art, could get offended and reserved. Not that many people would have the character to start explaining the opposite, and, to tell you the truth, insulting the art usually never works. So even if this thought flashes in your mind the next time you see something overwhelming in the art piece, calm yourself down, and ask people for help. “Do you understand this piece? I get an emotional vibe from it, as it is deeply psychological,” — hey, that might work magic!
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  5. Don’t say something is boring. Art and culture aren’t for everyone, right? False! If you find yourself in an opera house and fall asleep (it’s happened to the best of us), don’t complain about how boring and awful the production was. People around you might, first, think you’re way out of their social environment and even start an argument. You can, nonetheless, say: “The melody and the singing of performers reminded me of Alexander Borodin’s Prince Igor! Such long and calming sounds, I even closed my eyes for a minute!”
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  7. Speak the truth, but verbalize it in the right way. Don’t try to look smarter than you are. You might disagree, but it usually never ends up well. You don’t want to just learn names of a few artists and drop them in all conversations here and there to appear all knowledgable and such. Wake up. People love sincerity. Tell them: “I didn’t understand that part, did you?” You will not seem stupid, you will seem interested and eager to learn. (Refer to the point 1 of this list.)
  8.  

  9. Show off what you know while discussing an unknown subject. Connected to previous points, we all are products of our societies, however, there are a few figures everyone knows about. Let’s take Jennifer Lawrence as an example (or any other well-know figure). You know she acted in the Hunger Games, won an Oscar and, well, is a wild one. Now, you go to a museum and see a painting by Barnett Newman – Vir Heroicus Sublimis, 1950-1951. Red dominates the composition. You think: “Red is force, red is rebellion, red is red carpet, red is vulgar, red is sexy, red is…anything.” I am not assuming all that is true, the point is, you can use personal experiences, memories, unrelated knowledge to talk about art. It is that simple! Just say: “This color reminds me of … , because … .” And you’ll show how sharp-minded and witty you are.


This is it!
Professional or not, whether you know it or not, these simple ideas are indeed important. Perhaps, all you need to do is approach the question of understanding and appreciating art from a different perspective.

While attending the Laguna Beach Arts Festival this August, I was introduced to the work of Eric Gerdau. A Rhode Island School of Design alumnus and New Yorker gone rogue, Gerdau is now a Laguna local. He was displaying two paintings at the annual Laguna Beach Arts Festival, held in an outdoor venue that is nuzzled into the bowl of a canyon with the ocean only a short distance away. The large oil paintings stretch vast across the small space allotted. From afar, they appear as simply bands of rich color, fusing with one another at the edges. However, as I approached I saw that they were paintings of the sea. The sky in both works is in the moment of transition from day to night—the water reflecting the horizon’s transformation.

Eric_Gerdau_Sapphire_Sunset

Eric Gerdau, Sapphire Sunset
Courtesy of Eric Gerdau

The two pieces on display, “Late Bloomer” and “Marmalade,” show a calm ocean; the ripples in the foreground catch the last gleams of light. In “Late Bloomer,” the ocean extends into the background, becoming a deep blue that strikes the intensely vibrant magenta of the horizon so that the meeting point of the two seems to vibrate. I was reminded of a Rothko.

“Marmalade” is the same composition, but an entirely different experience. The ocean in the foreground is dark, shadows accentuate the small ripples spanning the length of the piece; burnt orange light licks the peaks. As the eye moves up the painting, the ocean turns from rose to a light apricot hue, and rather than the horizon clashing against the water, they fade into one another seamlessly. The sky at the horizon is pale, for a moment yellowed and then a muted blush, which melts into periwinkle blue by the time you’ve reached the top of the painting.

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Eric Gerdau, Marmalade
Courtesy of Eric Gerdau

At a glance, Gerdau’s paintings may be just simple seascapes. However, odd distinctions arise that diverge from the norm of reality. The scenes portrayed are beautiful, but there is something unsettling about them. In both, it seems as if the light emanating from the sunset comes from the entire expanse of the horizon rather than one point. There is no saturation of color in the sky that indicates the location of the sun; it is equally distributed across the horizon. The sensation of viewing the works is a strange one, the subconscious seems to pick up on this unnatural uniformity in light and color before the mind can catch up. The pictures are too pristine, the chaos induced by the sun’s dipping below the surface has been cleaned up, smoothed out so I almost feel like I’m looking into a scene from The Truman Show. Upon the surface, everything seems just fine, but if you pay attention, you’ll see something is rotten in the state of Denmark.