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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Art

Friday April 24 2015

I’d been meaning to check out that big Shiny Thing outside in the courtyard of the Royal Academy in Piccadilly, ever since Mick Hartley gave it a mention at his blog, with a photo, way back on April 8th.  Earlier this week I finally got around to doing this, and I took lots of the usual photographs that you would expect me to have taken, of which these are two:

imageimage

Click on the left, and that shows what this Shiny Thing is like, in its present context.  I loved the Shiny Thing itself, as my picture on the right illustrates.  In there I see things like Darth Vader.  And, rather smaller, I think I also see a naked woman there.  Also, there is something vaguely feline about this shape, with its pointing ear-like attachments.  Endless photographic fun, especially with the evening light warming up the colours of the surrounding courtyard buildings.

But, I found the rest of this agglomeration rather less interesting.  If the idea was to create some interesting reflections, then blander shapes next to the Shiny Thing would have worked better.  As it is, the wooden pointy thing, in itself nice enough, is by comparison rather mundane and the black frame that the wooden pointy thing and the Shiny Thing are held up by is ungainly, obtrusive and, to me, when I actually saw it, downright ugly.  I mean, did the creator of the equally shiny Chicago Bean feel the need to stick a lot of other crap right next to it to be reflected in it, given that there was already a city there?  No he did not.

But I guess if you are Frank Stella Hon RA, one of the most important living American artists, you feel the need to do something arbitrary.  Mere Platonic symmetry doesn’t do it.  A merely beautiful Shiny Thing won’t serve your purpose.  It would dilute your brand.  Anyone could have done that.  There had to be something there which would get people saying: Why did he do that?  Come to that, who the hell is he?  So that they can be told that it was done by Frank Stella Hon RA, one of the most important living American artists, and so that Frank Stella Hon RA, one of the most important living American artists, can supply an answer about what he thought he was doing when he, Frank Stella Hon RA, one of the most important living American artists, did what he did, like this:

The contrasting materials employed in the sculpture, the natural wood against the highly finished metal, the differing treatments of space in the line-drawn star and the round curves of the solid star, create a tension and sense of the works being both repelled and attracted to each other at a fixed distance by an invisible force field.

Maybe if I go back and take some more snaps of this Shiny Thing, I will decide that I find the other crap next to it not so crappy after all.  The other crap certainly looks better in the shots at the other end of the link above than it did to me, on the spot. And, if it was necessary for Frank Stella Hon RA to ponder the contrasts between a wooden thing and a shiny thing and black metal stuff to get Frank Stella Hon RA, one of the most important living American artists, to have made a very entertaining Shiny Thing, then fine. Whatever it took.

Tuesday April 21 2015

Yesterday, while walking along the sharp right kink at the top end of Horseferry Road, which I do a lot, I looked up into the bright blue sky and beheld things of colourful beauty.  What do you suppose it is?:

image

Does this make it any clearer?:

image

Clear for those to whom it is now clear, but still not very clear for most, is my guess.

Try this:

image

Yes, it’s a Big 4.  And if you still don’t know what it is, apart from it being a Big 4, it is the Big 4 outside the fantastically over-the-top front door of Channel 4 TV HQ.

This Big 4 has changed a lot over the years.  (You can see a few of those changes in among all this google-search-imagery.) Different artists and designers have taken it in turns to adorn its metal skeleton in a succession of different colours and costumes.  The above is merely the latest iteration of this process.  And definitely one of the better ones, I think.

I like how the colours all vanish once you get straight in front of the 4, and all you get is a relatively bland white 4.  The effect is calculated to resemble the fleeting glimpse of the 4 that you get in the various intros you see just before Channel 4 shows on the telly.  Note also how the sun at that particular later afternoon time of day picked out the white bits of the Big 4, while leaving the stuff behind it in relative darkness.  I still don’t really understand how this happened, but I definitely like it.

The bad news, however, is that to get that particular Big 4 picture from the exact right place, you need to be standing in the middle of the road that turns south off Horseferry Road, past the left hand side of C4HQ, as we look at it, and at exactly the spot where the pavement would have been, right next to Horseferry Road itself.

So, finally, what we now see is the exact moment when a car came up right behind me and honked loudly, anxious to get past me and out of Horseferry Road instead of being stuck right in it, and honked at in its turn by angry cars behind it. 

image

I immediately jumped out of the car’s way, and it politely waved thankyou as soon as it had made its slightly relieved way past me.

A lot of cars deliver and collect a lot of people to and from that exact spot, and they must get this a lot.

Wednesday April 15 2015

In an earlier posting I mentioned that I had ordered Marc Morris’s book about The Norman Conquest, and I have now started reading this.  (Although for some reason the version of it that I have seems to be the American one.)

Morris takes the Bayeux Tapestry as his starting point (as already discussed here in this and (because of its elongated shape) in this).

The events depicted in the Tapestry are of course highly dramatic, but as Morris relates, so too was the subsequent history of the Tapestry:

By any law of averages, the Tapestry ought not to exist.  We know that such elaborate wall-hangings, while hardly commonplace in the eleventh century, were popular enough with the elite that could afford them, because we have descriptions in contemporary documents.  What we don’t have are other surviving examples: all that comes down to us in other cases are a few sorry-looking scraps.  That the Tapestry is still with us almost I ,000 years after it was sewn is astonishing, especially when one considers its later history. It first appears in the written record four centuries after its creation, in 1476, when it is described in an inventory of the treasury at Bayeux Cathedral, from which we learn that the clergy were in the habit of hanging it around the nave every year during the first week of July (an annual airing that would have aided its conservation).  Its survival through those four medieval centuries, escaping the major hazards of war, fire and flood, as well as the more mundane menaces of rodents, insects and damp, is wondrous enough; that it successfully avoided destruction during the modern era is nothing short of miraculous.  When the cathedral’s treasury was looted during the French Revolution, the Tapestry came within a hair’s breadth of being cut up and used to cover military wagons.  Carted to Paris for exhibition by Napoleon, it was eventually returned to Bayeux, where for several years during the early nineteenth century it was indifferently stored in the town hall on a giant spindle, so that curious visitors could unroll it (and occasionally cut bits off). During the Second World War it had yet more adventures: taken again to Paris by the Nazis, it narrowly escaped being sent to Berlin, and somehow managed to emerge unscathed from the flames and the bombs.  The Tapestry’s post-medieval history is a book in itself - one which, happily, has already been written.

What next for it, I wonder?

Friday April 10 2015

After photoing the old London Model, which was the original reason (excuse?) I had visited the Building Centre, I took a look around the place to see what else was on view.

Look what I found:

image

Yes, it’s a CATableHere (at Deezen) are some prettier pictures of it, less chaotically lit.

Nut I took another picture of the Building Centre CATable which included a rather cool looking chair.  All I was thinking about when I took it was including the chair.  I liked the chair.  (I also liked how it was lit.) But this snap, quite fortuitously, turned out to make the CATable look particularly like a cat:

image

It looks like it’s got eyes, because of the accidental aignment of two of the holes, and because of the way that there is light behind.  We humans are programmed to find faces where we can, and if they can’t be human faces, maybe they can be cat faces.

The way that the CATable’s legs are done already shows that the cat resemblance is deliberate.

The CATable is not a one-off creation.  They are now being mass produced and you can buy one, if you want to.  A snip at $4,799.

Further evidence of highbrow types climbing aboard the catwagon in this Colossal report on Intimate Portraits of 50 Artists and Their Cats Compiled by Alison Nastasi.  Artists eh?  They’ll do anything to get noticed.

Friday March 27 2015

It started with this picture, which I took at the home of some friends a while back.  I know exactly how you probably feel about this cushion, but on the other hand, I don’t care:

image

I love how the TV remote is there next to it.  I had no idea at the time, or I would have made a point of including all of it.

But now the www-journey begins.  At the bottom right hand corner of the cusion are the words “Susan Herbert”.

I google susan herbert cushion, and enter a world of cushion kitsch.  Mostly it’s more cats on more cushions, as you can see, but one of the pictures is this:

image

Obviously, I click where it says “visit page”, and arrive here.  I scroll down, looking for the picture of Bill Murray and the artistic nude girl.  I don’t ever find the picture of Bill Murray and the artistic nude girl, but I do encounter this, which is a posting about a big blue horse at Denver Airport.  Clicking on “Denver Public Art Program” merely gets me to useless crap about Denver, but googling “luis jimenez mustang” gets me to pictures like this ...:

image

… and to an article in the Wall Street Journal from February 2009, which says things like this about the Blue Denver Horse:

Anatomically correct - eye-poppingly so - the 32-foot-tall fiberglass sculpture makes quite a statement at the gateway to Denver International Airport.

But that begs the question: What kind of statement, exactly?

“It looks like it’s possessed,” says Denver resident Samantha Horoschak. “I have a huge fear of flying anyway, and to be greeted at the airport by a demon horse - it’s not a soothing experience.”

Many people here agree, calling the muscular steed a terrifying welcome to the Mile High City.

Samantha Horoschak was not wrong.  Because, it gets better:

Mr. Jimenez was killed working on the sculpture. In 2006, while he was hoisting pieces of the mustang for final assembly in his New Mexico studio, the horse’s massive torso swung out of control and crushed the 65-year-old artist.

Ah, that magic moment in the creative process when a work of art escapes from the control of its creator and carves out a life of its own, independent of its creator.  And kills him.

Is it still there?  How many more victims has it claimed?  Has it caused any crashes?

I love the internet.  And not just because I am quickly able to look up the proper spelling of such words as “posthumous” (which was in the original version of the title of this) and “kitsch”.  It’s the mad journeys it takes you on.  Who needs stupid holidays when you can go on a crazy trip like this without getting out of your kitchen chair?

Monday February 09 2015

Me having written here about Anish Kapoor, he of the Big Olympic Thing, someone today emailed me about an art website which includes him.  None of the pictures of Kapoors at that place strike me as very interesting.  Certainly not nearly as interesting as the Big Olympic Thing, or as interesting as The Bean.  So instead I googled for other Kapoor imagery, and found this rather excellent Kapoor photograph, of him posing in front of one of his creations, outside the Royal Academy, in London, in 2009:

image

Click on that photo to get a bigger version, which I recommend doing.

What I (of course) like is that you can see the little clutch of photographers, including (of course) the photographer who took this photograph, in the photograph.

Thursday January 15 2015

Here’s a nice coincidence.  There I was writing about how I went from being, in my teens, a bad pen-and-ink picture-maker to, from around 2000 onwards, a far happier digital-photographic picture maker.  And here is a picture that captures that kind of metamorphosis perfectly:

image

It’s one of these pictures by Christoph Niemann.  Niemann’s pictures bring to mind that phrase used by one of the alter egos of Barry Humphries, Barry McKenzie, who described paintings as “hand done photos”.  These pictures really do only work as photos.  Until they are photoed, the job is not done.  But the hand-done bit is essential to what they are.

One thing about these pictures that I particularly like, apart from the basic fact that I like them, is their very favourable effort-to-impact ratio.  For my taste, too much of the picture-making displayed at Colossal consists of stuff that is quite nice to look at, but which took an absurdly huge amount of time and effort to contrive.  Also, there is often no logical or even meaningful connection between how the pictures are contrived and how they end up looking.  So, you’ve made a table cloth out of seeds.  Clever you.  But, why?  Niemann’s pictures answer this question perfectly.

But then again, the internet being the internet, if your elaborately pointless pictures catch people’s fancy and thousands glance at them, then I guess that, if you put in a lot of time and effort, you may well reckon than all the time and effort was worth it, especially if you had fun spending it and doing it.  And of course it is digital photography that transforms a laboriously produced one-off item of visual art that took far too much time and effort to do, into a mass experience that it made sense to spend a lot of time and effort doing.  But, most of these intricate sculptures and pictures at Colossal are just sculptures and pictures that were then photographed.  Niemann’s pictures are real Hand Done Photos.

As for me, between being a bad pen-and-ink picture maker and an okay-to-good digital photographer, I endured a big interval during which I made hardly any pictures of any kind.  My pictorial enthusiasm expressed itself in the design of pamphlets, and graphic design generally.  Basically I became a desktop publisher.  (I even earned money doing this.) First I just did publishing, on a desktop, paper-scissors-glue-photocopier.  Then computers arrived, and I was an early adopter of “desktop publishing”.  Then the internet arrived, and drew a big line under all that stuff.  I shovelled all my pamphlets onto the internet, and became a blogger.  And, I bought my first digital camera.  At first, blogging and digital photography did not mix very well.  Now, they mix very well indeed.

Tuesday January 13 2015

From time to time I go looking for pictures of bridges, preferably new ones, but seldom find anything I don’t know about.  And then, quite by chance, while clicking through these old photos, I chance upon this:

image

It’s the Golden Gate, being built, in 1937.

I recall doing a pen-an-ink type sketch (as opposed to something theatrical like a comedy sketch – odd double meaning that), when in my teens, of the Severn Road Bridge, when it only had a chunk of road in the middle, suspended in glorious isolation, going nowhere in either direction (like in the photo here).  This photo reminds me of those times.

I never actually drew any decent pictures, but I did spend a lot of time thinking about composition, by which I mean that I chose quite good pictures to do, but actually did them very badly.  Now I take good pictures, rather less badly.  How I wish there had been digital cameras when I was a teenager.  My cycling expeditions around France, and then Scandinavia, and then Iceland, would have been far more fun, and now far easier to remember.  The old cameras, with “film” in them, were ridiculous.  You had to “develop” all the damn pictures, very expensively, just to find out that about three of them weren’t total crap.  But you tell young people this nowadays they think you’re mad.  And if you did all this, guess what, you were mad.

I have never shared the contempt that most people show - or pretend to show - for Adolf Hitler’s paintings.  Okay, so they aren’t Rembrandts, but even so, I would have loved to have been as good hand-done picture-making as he was.  Could it be that people just can’t bear to accept that he ever did anything well or anything good?  Just a wild guess.

Golden Gate being built – Severn Road Bridge ditto – C20 photography – Hitler’s paintings
Hirst’s Hymn outside the Tate Gallery
Non-faceless architecture in Rome
How the internet is cheering up Art
As found not-art
The Poppies (2): The crowds
The Poppies (1): What they look like
Shard shots
Why I am a point-and-shoot photographer rather than a Real Photographer
The illustrations for Christian Michel’s talk this Friday (plus some thoughts from me)
Photographers in Tate Ancient
Tate cat
Out and about in the sunshine
Cats … on scaffolding … with shadows …
Umbrellas!
Colossal fun
I see cats
Homer Simpson on Thames
Lego bridge in Germany
Finally working out what I liked about those Gormley Men
Art has its uses – but where did it have its uses this time – and what is it?
Temporary art made of brightly dressed people
Good question
Popography
Sandcastles that will live for ever
Digital photography as telepathy
David Byrne on the constraints of artistic form
Smaller is more legible – big is more fun
Owl at Canning Town railway station
Edwin is a bad person
Stairs Thing outside St Paul’s
Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
Rothko Toast
So painters also used to “take” pictures
Hong Kong housing that looks like abstract art
A mannequin in Tachbrook Street sheds light on the nature of perception
Lunch at Gessler at Daquise
Wandering about afterwards
Art without Artists
Cheap hippos are hard to find
An afternoon in Croydon
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom internet headline of the day
Flat cat
Photographers at Eros and Art in the tube
A happy British Summer Time to all my readers
Hockey Stick art
A pill that turns sweat into perfume
Release Ai Weiwei
Gormley’s South Bank Men
Blue Men on a boring building in Borough High Street
Quota photo by someone else
Tiny Cardboard Box People Appear All Over Singapore
Everyone?
Spray can girl in Leake Street
A good bit about the future of art galleries and how to rescue good bits
Biker shadow
Scaffolding ball
Large areas the same colour on the first first day of spring
The right to photograph
Abstract satellite expressionism
The Min-Kyu Choi folding three point plug
Structural decoration
Cat blogging and Gormley blogging
The Wheel through some Art
“Dying is a fulltime business. You haven’t time to do a lap of honour.”
More random links
A little drunk blogging
“… the idea is to remain ignorant of how dumb you look …”
Is the contemporary art bubble bursting?
Cat Car
P. J. O’Rourke confuses the average with the significant
If it’s not Art it can be rather fun
An abstract view of Kings Place
Lump art and dinner in sky
It only takes One Rich Lunatic
John Carey on Shakespeare and the high-art/ popular-art distinction
Keith Windschuttle on history - truth - Robert Hughes
Official bias
Two adverts in the tube
French cats
3D!
Photos are better
Art is always a value judgement
Classic car thinness
Sounding like a different country
Girls these days flashing their cleavages it’s disgusting don’t know what the world’s coming to …
There’s a crack in the cracks at Tate Modern
Three proper photos … and three Billion Monkeys!!!
Photography is not dead
Underground art
Flashdrawing
Deceiving the eyes of Paris
It only takes two idiots
Man may not sit on Art bed and be photoed by Billion Monkey lady friend!
Venus undistorted
Venus by the river
Tate Modern Extension
Genius
Wichita line (and colour) man
Skill and Post-Skill
The Million Dollar Homepage
Date art