It’s probably necessary to let you in on my state of being before describing my reaction to the current display at The Photographers Gallery in London. Prior to my visit, I had donated my tenth pint of blood, my deca-donation if you like. This is no mean feat when you’ve spent most of your life putting a blanket ban on films that contain gore and violence and feeling faint at the mere mention of blood. On this occasion I had decided that it was finally time to look at the needle and blood bag. Unsurprisingly, this left me cold, clammy and white as a sheet with the nurses huddled around me trying to keep me from fainting. I’m sure you can then imagine my wobbly disposition when entering the The Photographers gallery shortly after.
Noémie Goudal’s top floor presence contains a collage of realities. The vast photographs, hung low to fill ones gaze, are inspired by the ‘human fascination with the sky.’ Goudal presents landscapes, interrupted by printed digital imagery, each photo contains another photo, and the execution is such that at first the placement of one image inside the other appears seamless. Upon closer inspection, the construction of the images becomes much more obvious. Goudal positions the somewhat crudely cut out photographs in front of the lens, creating a simple extra layer on top of the background landscape. She allows you to see how the image has been constructed by including the brackets and wires holding it in place, making allusions to a theatre-like stage where the intention isn’t to fein realism but to evoke a willingness to understand a new idea or narrative. Her influences described in the accompanying text are communicated in simple visual language and avoid the art world faux pas of merely illustrating a concept. This floor is an absolute treat.
Walking down to the subsequent level, my mood had been settled. Goudal’s works have a subtle, therapeutic effect and allowed my somewhat giddy mood to mellow. This next floor contained what I later found out to be the second part of Burden of Proof, an exhibition demonstrating the historical lineage of the introduction of photography and moving image into criminal investigations.
The exhibition is extensive so I’m just going to pick out a few pieces that struck chords with me. The first piece I came across was a film demonstrating how video footage can be analysed to understand, in impressive detail, the impact of a drone attack. In the case shown, forensics rely on footage filmed by a citizen in a neighbouring building to determine where the building was situated, where the drone came from and whether there were fatalities. The process is disturbingly fascinating.
Richard Helmers ‘face-skull superimpositions’, on the same floor, were realised by placing stock footage of Josef Mengele’s face over the top of images of a skeleton found in the suburbs of São Paulo. This process allowed the researchers to determine that the skeleton in question was in fact Mengele – the ‘executioner of Auschwitz.’ The images themselves reveal a disturbing dichotomy between life and death – ‘face wrapped over skull, subject over object, an image of life over an image of death.’
The star piece of the show is a short documentary film that describes the first moment moving image was used in a court room and the case in hand happened to be one of the infamous Nuremberg trials. The narrator details the build up and context of the case and demonstrates how the courtroom underwent a structural make-over in order to display the film. It then moves on to show parts of the moving image used in the trial. The footage is nothing short of harrowing and unlike most gallery housed films, where the viewers come and go, no one left the room until the credits ran. I felt glued to my seat. It is one thing to see still images from the second world war, it is quite another to see the victims of this regime walking around like living skeletons with the guards standing in stark contrast next to them.
The atrocities displayed in this exhibition feel as though they should belong in some well crafted dystopian timeline, not one that represents the true historical lineage of the relationship between image and criminal behaviour. I would highly recommend visiting, but please do so with all the blood in your body.
October 18, 2015
Scale can make all the difference in a serious collection of figurative portraits or studies, a scale that mimics life size gives figures a type of solid monumentality that invites them into the viewer’s space. For centuries this life size figurative scale was reserved for portraits of kings, gods and mythic personages, here at Sargent’s Daughters on 179 East Broadway in New York, Jordan Casteel uses it as a tactic for humanization. In her exhibition of large scale oil paintings, most around 5 by 6 feet, titled Brothers, Casteel brings before the viewer the faces and forms of African American men, inhabiting the unique environments, really interior spaces, to which they belong. Walking through the gallery, you could see that the diverse crowd present at the opening, faced each painting as if it was an encounter with a familiar friend or new acquaintance. The textured application of paint in works like Crockett Brothers and Ashamole Brothers, renders the surfaces and interiors with an impasto that makes them tangible and felt. Within Three Lions this becomes evident as intimate scene links with figural interrelation, expression and gesture.
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Considering each piece, one must step back and meet the gaze of the figures portrayed, take the time to consider them first as individuals then as intricately linked, as family, as brothers, overall part of a community. The figures are portrayed with key objects that represent their passions and interests: the young Crockett brother dexterously grips his saxophone and the Ashamole brothers balance a basketball between them. First by intuition, then by reflection it becomes clear that Casteel is deploying crucial and timely tactics of humanization, we are allowed into these intimate spaces in order to point up a positive type of visibility that complicates black male subjective. For Casteel concerns herself directly with a contemporary post-Ferguson reality, wherein civil rights struggle is back at the fore and black males have become highly visible within media and news, reduced to being antagonists or victims. When social progress comes under fire, it is art’s job to intervene and create a space for reflection: this exhibit, these paintings, are Casteel’s intervention…
A most necessary one.
October 14, 2015
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.
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.
October 4, 2015
For someone with a name that sounds like he’s a character straight out of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Brian Woo (aka Doctor Woo) is a total badass who makes you pine for a tattoo in the worst way.
Dr. Woo has become a sensation in the tattoo and visual art world in the past few years. He’s based in Hollywood, California, working at the Shamrock Social Club. Woo was born in North Hollywood to Chinese immigrant parents and discovered his proclivity toward visual arts doodling in the margins of his notebooks at school. Now, I was a huge doodler and still am, but my doodles would certainly never be translated onto someone’s body.
Woo is trained in what is called the single-needle style which produces such fine, thin black lines that they appear gray. He was offered an apprenticeship at the age of 24 with Mark Mahoney, who’s considered the “founding father” of black and gray art using a single needle, and a living legend who’s tattooed the likes of Lana Del Rey, Johnny Depp, Lady Gaga, and the list goes on and on.
Just look at Woo’s inimitable designs; I don’t think I’ve seen cleaner lines. His tattoos are flawless and precise, going for the strategy of “less is more”, producing fine lines and limited color. Instead, he builds on texture and the outcome looks like a pencil drawing taken right off one of the pages of a sketchbook.
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What I love most about Woo’s tattoos is the simplicity of them all. I think that a lot of times, tattoos aren’t considered amongst the traditional sense of art, when the making of them have 100x more of a consequence then putting paint on canvas or taking a photograph. Tattoo artists are given the task of making a permanent piece of art on someone’s body that’ll be with them for eternity. If that doesn’t make you sweat a little thinking if that was your responsibility, then you have nerves of steel. Woo turns people’s ideas into pieces of art that they proudly display for the world to see.
His Instagram feed is filled with his art, and his family is featured rather often. Woo has 2 beautiful sons; the cutest, droopiest puppy you ever did see; and his gorgeous wife Jayme. And together, they make the hippest family I’ve ever laid my eyes on. Like, I’m 17 older than his eldest son, Lyon, and the kid’s already cooler than I’ll ever be. Just his name screams cool. Lyon.
Are you hooked now? Have you decided that your next tattoo has to be done by Dr. Woo, or for all you first-timers out there, that your first has to be a Dr. Woo??? Well get in line. Dr. Woo has a year long wait list so if you want one, book your appointment and your ticket out to California now and you’ll have plenty of time to come up with the perfect piece for you.
Follow Dr. Woo on Instagram to see a constant feed of his tattoos and his adorable family, plus check out his website for more inspiration. All hail Dr. Woo, maybe I’ll see some of you in the Shamrock Social Club’s waiting room…in a year or so.
October 3, 2015
It is easy to discover some artists and movements that are famous and have had an impact in the field of art with their distinctiveness. Artists like Monet, Turner and Cézanne. People do that all the time. They familiarise themselves with important and acknowledged movements like Romanticism, Realism and Expressionism, but often neglect a momentous sparkle of art behind the great movement of revolutionary art.
By no means am I implying that the known movements have not altered the course of history. Of course they did, but in a different context. Today’s emerging revolutionary art, however, has something else to offer to the international community. Having all these in my subconscious, I accidentally read online about an imperative Syrian artist, Tammam Azzam.
Few months back, before the outbreak of the media that focused on the immigration issue of many Syrian refugees (which, by the way, has been a pressing issue for many years now), a picture of a war torn building was all over the media. Tammam Azzam declared his own revolution by enlisting one of the most famous mainstream kisses in Western art as an act of protest against the war in Syria. As a matter of fact, it echoes the Berlin Wall graffiti picture of Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev back in 1979, who were practising the fraternal socialist kiss. Azzam has created rebellious and dissenting art by photoshopping Gustav Klimt’s painting The Kiss on a destroyed savaged Syrian building.
The impact? Exceptional! Azzam made art out of his own reflections of contemporary events by exploring the destructions of war by men. The Kiss delivers a romantic, idealistic image of the purity of love. Inspired by Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, that a kiss is made for the whole world, it explicitly states the universality of two people connecting through a kiss and the strong feeling of love in a simple painting.
Such an image on a Syrian bombed wall delivers mixed feelings to the audience. Certainly, there is a consistent element of critique in Azzam’s approach to Klimt’s masterpiece. As I perceive this, I can extract a dichotomy between Western arts against the non-Western conceptualisation. There is that resilient attitude which is open to interpretation. The existing distinction between the western world and “other”- the alien culture- which is non-westernised has always been around. Yet, the main priority of a contemporary artist is that art should connect and not dichotomize. Azzam’s point, therefore, is well established. Apart from that, there is an important subtext in using a Western masterpiece. In a delicate way, Azzam’s main emphasis focuses on Klimt’s theme of universality and successfully illustrates, in his photoshopped work, the idea that we are all citizens of the same world.
We have seen how empathy restricts its boundaries only to the first world. I cannot help but wonder if the main message of Azzam’s piece is that violence should be dismantled, whoever the perpetrator might be. Some would say that art is there to ease the mind, however revolutionary art seeks something else – to unease the mind in an emblematic way; to make the audience consider who’s in and who’s out.
September 25, 2015
Already follow the Whitney, Artforum and Hyperallergic? Looking for some new art world instagram accounts to add to your following list? Check out these five instagram accounts you may not know about:
1. Brett Gorvy (@brettgorvy)
As the Chairman and International Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art at Christie’s, Gorvy’s instagram is something to drool over… and will make you turn slightly green with envy. His life, and the art he interacts with on a daily basis, is extraordinary. However, Gorvy’s instagram demeanor is down-to-earth. His passion for art leads to long narratives for captions that feature tidbits of information only an insider like Gorvy could know. Beyond giving his followers a first look at some of the most incredible Post-Modern and Contemporary Art locked behind the doors of the world’s richest collectors, Gorvy often shares glimpses of his personal life, such as his fantastic summer home on Tuxedo Lake only 45 minutes from the city.
2. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Photo Studio (@metphotostudio)
Honestly, this account is way better than the Met’s regular @metmuseum instagram. Followers get to see artworks from the Met’s archive that aren’t on view in the galleries, as well as behind-the-scenes photos of the collections, special exhibitions, and how it all comes together.
3. Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz)
This may be the most familiar name on the list, seeing as how Saltz has seemingly dominated the art world and beyond with his in-your-face attitude and sarcastic take on just about everything. When he isn’t making fun of the Far Right, Donald Trump or the art world itself (his posts during Art Basel tagged #BaselSaltz insulted every major person attending the fair and entertained us to no end), Saltz gives his followers small insights into his life as an art critic, always accompanied by a dose of sarcasm. Note—if you are easily offended, you may want to stay away, as Saltz has a habit of posting some NSFW content (think Medieval pornographic works on paper…)
4. Andrea Rosen (@andrearosengal)
The dealer, ever-recognizable with her long bleach white curls, posts a lot from her personal life, which is interesting enough in itself. However, our favorites are her #style posts, in which Rosen snaps (stalker style) pics of unaware pedestrians dressed in crazy get-ups… and this is New York so you know they have to be really pushing the limits here. Sometimes, they aren’t really dressed in anything at all. Rosen even blessed her followers during art fair season this past spring with an #artfairstyle hashtag edition. It was a winner, that’s for sure.
5. Scott Indrisek (@uniandchloe)
Executive Editor for Louise Blouin Media, Indrisek’s name is all over Blouin’s many publications such as ArtInfo and Modern Painters. While you would think his instagram would be art and more art, Indrisek entertains followers with his on-going #mattressesofnewyork series, lots of cat photos and dry sense of humor. He also doesn’t hesitate to throw in a selfie every now and then. Oh, and some art.
September 22, 2015
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
September 18, 2015
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….
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!”
- 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.)
- 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.
September 16, 2015
WARNING: this is a total fan-girl post. Furry Little Peach is one of my ABSOLUTE favorite Instagram accounts, top 10 hands down. But don’t worry–you’ll love her too.
I stumbled upon Sha’an d’Anthes aka Furry Little Peach during one of my late-night insta-creeping sessions and was immediately captured by her vibrant use of color and fun representations of flora and fauna motifs. Her feed is filled with unique sketches and watercolors of forest critters, cacti, sea creatures, portraits, and tons more.
The 22 year old Sydney based designer, illustrator and storyteller’s work speaks to a whimsical aesthetic that evokes pure childhood imagination. D’Anthes incorporates natural and space-inspired elements, such as forests, trees, constellations, nautical imagery, and much more. Like a true artist and instagrammer, she shows us her full creative process. Her feed is filled with her merchandise, sketches, cluttered work space, and the only other thing important to Instagram: food. Every now and then she’ll gives us a #onthetable snap of the yummy meal she’s having.
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D’Anthes always keeps me entertained and scrolling with her variety of images and documented dedication to her craft. Instead of only posting finished works she almost always includes a sketched version or multiple variations of her design. This lends a closer look into various elements of her image–a detail shot of an intricate drawing, what kind of materials she’s using, how many sketches she’s done before finally deciding on a style, etc. It’s refreshing to see the creative process behind her beautiful works. Not only does it make me like and appreciate her art even more but I feel that I am getting to know her on a more personal level.
She gives us even more clues to who she is with posts from her everyday life adventures. When she isn’t drawing and painting she travels around Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand and Japan, posting stunning nature and landscape shots. And of course, making us all jealous and hate our day jobs even more.
Who would’ve thought that a cactus could look so cute and cuddly?!?
With succulents being all the rage these days, they’re popping up all over different creative mediums. D’Anthes gives her own take on these prickly plants with her most recent project, Prickly, from this past July. Presented at Goodspace gallery in Sydney, Prickly is her second successfully exhibited solo show.
Unlike d’Anthes previous bodies of work, this show is formed around a plant oriented subject matter. Bringing fun and freshness to this nature-inspired aesthetic, she remains true to her signature watercolor medium. Goodspace describes her approach to this exhibit as “focusing solely on the audience’s reactions to colour, texture and visual devices…The artist’s new collection evokes the feeling of nostalgia, stimulates the imagination, and upholds her use of ‘childhood’ as a theme.”
Her cacti are truly inspirational…as weird as that sounds. They’re simple in form yet d’Anthes creates them with a subtle complexity that is simply mesmerizing. After all, a cactus is a very strange looking plant. Actually, they’re completely un-aesthetically pleasing. They’re also sharp and can physically hurt you. But d’Anthes paints them as charming, playful and even delicate. In some works they are crowded together like one happy cuddly cactus family and in others they stand alone, as proud representatives of their oddball plant species.
Perhaps Prickly lends the message to embrace what is unconventional and that everything can be beautiful, all preconceptions and stigmas put aside. Or maybe d’Anthes just really like cacti and thinks they’re fun. Either way the exhibit is unique, vibrant and happy–an emotion that is at times underrepresented in galleries.
One of my favorites from the show is a three-part timelapse series where d’Anthes depicts Dawn, Noon, and Dusk with canvases crowded with cacti in three different hues: purple-pink, green-blue, and red-orange.
When d’Anthes is not producing art in her studio and working on Prickly, she works for Cypha, a self-described “boutique Creative Technology studio” as a designer.
Here are my personal favorites: foxes, whale-constellations, and bears.
September 14, 2015
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.
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.
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.