In defence of the Arts!

When we come across people at University, one of the frequently asked questions that crop up in conversation is “what are you studying? “. When I answer “History of Art” I’ve often received responses like “oh… right” or “must be an easy ride for you” – words which indicate that such a degree has little, if any, relevance. 

Continue reading In defence of the Arts!

Flash Forward

All photography is, in some ways, a form of nostalgia: an image captured is a moment passed, not lost but forever retained in a visual form. And maybe it is this almost supernatural ability to capture a fleeting moment that has caused the international obsession with photography, spawning online sites such as Instagram and Tumblr. However, many have come to question the merit of modern day photography; can a picture taken with an iPhone really be considered a form of art? This, in addition to the ability to delete and modify these images until they are unrecognisable from the original ‘moment’ of capture, could be considered as detracting from photography’s romanticism. This romanticism being the ability to freeze time, to develop, print, and frame a fleeting instant on your wall. Continue reading Flash Forward

A Brief History of Kissing

Artwork featuring kissing couples is almost endless – whether in fan art or Renaissance frescos, manifesta-tions of love are present. Art history is filled with this subject matter and often the background stories of the paintings can be even more enticing than the scenes they display.

William Dyce, Francesca da Rimini, 1837
The painting depicts lovers Francesca and Paolo from Dante’s epic poem, The Inferno, sharing an innocently tender moment in the moonlight. In the poem, Francesca is to be married off to the old and deformed Gianciotto, but she falls in love with his younger brother, Paolo. The picture includes some ominous elements to suggest the tragic fate of the lovers – for example, Gianciotto’s disembodied hand is still included in the edge of the canvas, although the figure himself has been trimmed off due to damage to the canvas. The kiss, in all its gentleness, cannot fend off the sinister atmosphere of the painting, which reflects the doomed love of the unfortunate couple.

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Francesco Hayez, The Kiss, 1859

The medieval setting and the passionate embrace of the figures in Francesco Hayez’s painting evoke the feeling of that epic, grand love familiar to us from fairytales. There are certain things in the painting that sug-gest the scene to be a farewell – like the man wearing his hat; a foot already on the stair; and his lover gripping onto his shoulder, unwilling to let go. These elements add to the picture a slightly wistful atmosphere – yet at the same time they also enhance the depiction of a great, tragic love.

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Jean-Leon Gerome, Pygmalion and Galatea, 1890
This painting draws its inspiration from the myth of Pygmalion and Galatea. According to the story, Pygmalion, the king of Cyprus, sculpted in his studio the perfect female figure and fell in love with her. His lovesickness for the sculpted woman was pitied by Aphrodite, who turned the ideal figure, Galatea, into a living being and presided over their marriage. The kiss is a representation of the desire to attain what seems to be bitter-sweetly beyond reach, and it can also be seen to convey the message of the irrationality and uncontrollable nature of love.

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Marc Chagall, The Birthday, 1915
In this painting, the artist pictures himself giving a kiss to his wife on her birthday. The figures are free from the constraints of gravity, and the way Chagall turns to his wife to kiss her, his body twisted to the other direction and floating mid-air, conveys a feeling of surprise and spontaneity. The modernist streak in the style serves to emphasize the sentiment further and the experimental visual language translates to the playfulness of the portrayed scene.

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Rene Magritte, The Lovers, 1928
One of Rene Magritte’s most iconic works, this picture portrays two lovers kissing, with their faces covered. The shrouded faces have been interpreted in a multitude of ways in art history — the cloth can be seen as a barrier forever separating the lovers and rendering their intimacy to isolation, or it can be read as a symbolic description of the distance that always exists between people. The shrouding of the figures’ faces certainly has an effect on the mood of the image. It is a mysterious, slightly sad and even a little terrifying depiction of what is usually thought to be the ultimate act of romance.

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By Emmi Joensuu

Art Screen from the BBC

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ART SCREEN – Celebrating Arts Documentaries

 

The BBC is proud to announce the details for a brand new arts documentary festival – Art Screen.  Taking place as part of the Glasgow International Festival, Art Screen will showcase some of the world’s best arts documentary films and include highlights from the BBC archive.

 

Accessibility for students is a central to the aims of the festival, and full-time students will be able to access substantial discounts on ticket prices, as well as several free events.

 

The diverse four-day festival will take place in two of Glasgow’s renowned art spaces, the Glasgow Film Theatre and the Centre for Contemporary Arts from the 10th-13th April 2014. The programme will include screenings of documentaries on visual arts, architecture, music and photography alongside accompanying events and discussions featuring major international artists, filmmakers, and critics. Kirsty Wark and Tim Marlow will chair interviews and participate in panel discussions offering conversational sessions across the festival.

 

Art Screen will also include Arts in the Archive, a strand dedicated to the many hours of extraordinary arts footage in the BBC’s own archive. Arts in the Archive, screening at the CCA, will provide access to many hours of rarely seen footage, from throughout the BBC’s history.

 

Highlights of the festival include two world premieres which will be screening in the GFTOur Glasgow and Facing up to Mackintosh.

 

More details about the festival, including the programme, can be found on Art Screen’s website

Review -Sarah Lucas at Tramway

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Sex, Death, and Sarah Lucas:
a short review of an exhibition’s preview.

 

Among the words most commonly used to describe Sarah Lucas’s practice is, probably, ‘shock’. Indeed, on attending the opening of the artist’s retrospective at the Tramway last week, shock was my initial reaction too – the problem is, I wasn’t really shocked for the expected reasons.

Lucas (b. 1962) is an artist who, emerging as one of the key figures of the Young British Artists group, gained significance in the 1990s and is now well known for critiquing many of the stereotypes around gender and sexuality through her provocative representations of the body. Yet, surrounded as my friends and I were by phallic representations, I did not once think of sex, of “masculine clichés,” or of the issue of cultural stereotyping. What was it then that shocked me? It was precisely the inability to be shocked, my very lack of feeling.

 

One way to explain this response would be to acknowledge that we are today experiencing a cultural moment very different from that of Lucas’s emergence, so sexual images cannot be as shocking. However, it seems to me that to argue this would be to enter the limitless conversation on whether problems such as sexism are indeed now resolved, of whether women and men are now treated as equals, and the list goes on. What is more, it was not that those who attended the opening (including myself) did not appear touched by the artist’s themes that I thought was problematic, but that we were actually enjoying ourselves. In light of this, Lucas’s gigantic masturbating hand (the first thing to catch your eye as you enter the gallery), endlessly moving up and down as it was, appeared to me to speak not about sex or masculinity, but of the situation of contemporary art; rather than a comment on wanking, it struck me as itself an artwank.

 

As Robert Heinlein noted in his Stranger in a Strange Land, more like love than like masturbation, art is an experience which prescribes two positions, the artist and the perceiver, and it is through the communication of the two that artworks have a life. In much of today’s art-viewing, however, engaging is of secondary importance; simply by being close to the art of some “known” artist, us visitors get to feel significant, complicated, intellectual – and nowhere is this self-pleasuring more apparent, than when a group of ‘artsy’ people stand drinking wine next to Lucas’s very blunt and very mastrurbating hand. So, although one could say that I am, here, focusing on the ‘sex’ part of the exhibition – for there was also a ‘death’ part, the two themes being separated by a diagonal wall in the middle of the gallery space – the way I see it, the two are not in juxtaposition. In point of fact, take away the pleasure and masturbation becomes all about death; it is no longer (pro)creative, it hints at nothingness.

 

To conclude, what I am trying to say is not that Lucas’s art is not about what it depicts but rather that, in her cynical approach, the artist can be seen at Tramway to also speak of the art world’s own exhaustion, and of its inability to give back what it takes from art.

 

Sarah Lucas’ retrospective is running at Tramway until 16 March 2014

Event – Stand Tall, Get Snapped

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Stand Tall, Get Snapped

 

In Association with the University of Glasgow and the Virginia Gallery, the SRC has helped produce Stand Tall, Get Snapped, a photo-documentary about living with HIV. The photos, the work of London based Edo Zola, are currently on display in the atrium of the Wolfson Medical Building:

 

The GUSRC, in association with the Virginia Gallery and the University of Glasgow, produce Stand Tall, Get Snapped by Edo Zollo.
A photo-documentary of 30 people living with HIV, it intends to challenge preconceptions of the disease.
It is as much thought provoking and touching as it is inspiring and uplifting.
Hosted in the Atrium of the Wolfson Medical Building until December 3rd
Produced by Liam King
Curated by Drew Bigglestone
Artist Edo Zollo
Supported by the University of Glasgow

Art: Mark Lyken: Silent Auction

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Mark Lyken is a visual and sound artist based in Glasgow and the current online silent auction of his work allows you to explore his original artworks at your fingertips. Lyken’s paintings take a playful look at time and scale seeming scientific through their geometric elements but highly emotive through the charged use of colour. The acrylic, spray paint and ink pieces create anticipation for his new collaborative project with documentary filmmaker Emma Dove, MIRROR LANDS.

 

As part of Creative Scotland’s, Imagining Natural Scotland Project, MIRROR LANDS is set to connect nature and culture, challenging ideas of life in the Scottish Highlands. The project will take place around the Cromarty Firth and will use film and multi-channel sound installation, creating a narrative between technology and this seemingly isolated environment. All proceeds of Lyken’s artwork will go toward the post-production costs of the installation.

Auction is live until 9pm Monday www.32auctions.com/marklyken

 

–Robyn Limond

Unlock Art: Bringing Performance Art to Life

 

Scottish actors Alan Cumming and Peter Capaldi have confirmed they are to take part in a new series of online art films which aims to unlock big ideas that have shaped art history.

 

‘Unlock Art’ is a collaboration between Tate and Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts, and offers the culturally curious a stimulating, imaginative and witty introduction to the world of art.

 

In Unlock Art: Bringing performance art to life – the first film in the series writer, comedian, actor and art enthusiast Frank Skinner explores Performance Art and its origins; from DADA and Surrealism through to Yoko Ono and Joseph Beuys. The film also explores how Performance Art has helped to challenge oppressive regimes, and how it makes us question the way we perceive the world around us.

 

This is the first of eight films which will be released on a monthly basis. Viewers will be taken on an engaging journey through various art movements and themes, from the history of the nude and humour in art, to Surrealism and Pop – offering the need-to-know facts, and making the arts more accessible to a wider audience.

 

Unlock Art is part of Le Méridien’s ongoing commitment to provide a new perspective on the hotel experience through a curated approach to culture. Its support of the Outset/Frieze Art Fair Fund to benefit the Tate Collection, which is in its sixth consecutive year, enables Tate to buy work by emerging artists at Frieze

Review: Metamorphosis, Edinburgh International Festival

Having stunned audiences at the 2011 Edinburgh International Festival with a one man performance of King Lear maverick dramatist Wu Hsing-kuo and the Contemporary Legend Theatre returned to the capital this month to perform Franz Kafka’s iconic novella Metamorphosis.  Gregor Samsa the travelling salesman awakens one day in horror as a giant insect and struggles to cope with his feelings of alienation from the rest of the world.

 

As with his portrayal of Lear, writer-actor-director Wu dresses the stage with his own blood, the sheer endurance displayed by the 60 year old during his extremely physical performance belies his deep commitment as an artist and his obsession with the author.

 

Crossing boundaries in all respects; the inclusion of multimedia elements pushes the limits of theatre, while the cross cultural exchange between the 20th century European text and Oriental spirituality alleviates and resolves much of the futility and hopelessness the original narrative evokes. Scripted entirely in Mandarin Wu’s haunting singing is accompanied by translated English subtitles. The simplicity of the spiritual aphorisms of the Mandarin script juxaposed with the complex physicality of Wu’s performance embodies the concept of Saṃsāra, cyclical existence caused by selfishness and the traps of modernity. Only by coming to terms with the absurdity of reality can Gregor escape. As Kafka says “There are only two choices in life. Be yourself or put up with reality.”

 

Kafka’s monstrous carnation of the beastly insect-man represents a conceptual portrait of Western psychodrama. His flickering antennae and scuttling legs are the Frankenstein collage of the 20th century crisis of consciousness, yet Wu’s finds redemption. After waking up cocooned in insect costume convulsing at the thought of himself he emerges enlightened in stripped, white form as his emancipated soul soars over the mountain, exiting the cycle in the mouth of a bird. The transformation is clear on stage, however the narrative seems to lack any outstanding climatic point until the drawn out ending of the performance.

 

The man-insect lives in woeful solitude in the confines of his bedroom while his hateful father and wailing mother and sister intermittently interrupt his melancholy self-searching by rapping loudly on the ominous door center stage. Repulsive to those around him, Gregor’s existence becomes that of a pariah. The stage focuses on the looming ice mountain where Wu writhes and squirms in his new arthropodic body as the astonishing visuals by Ethan Wang drape the deconstructed set with pulsating Rorschach blotches, falling Surrealist apples and a superimposed Kafka. The awesome visual beauty projection of visuals onto the set while Wu dances compellingly in Peking Opera style alongside a haunting  score lulls the viewer into a psychotomimetic trance.

 

The production is 100 minutes long without interlude, the audience feels the crushing weight of Gregor’s condition on their own shoulders and so his eventual death comes as a relief, ending both his struggle against the futility of human existence and the viewer’s own desire for the final curtain to fall. While indeed the production does pose a challenge, Wu’s creation is undoubtedly mesmerising and contains a welcome element of hope and the chance of peace, something Kafka’s original text withholds.

 

-Hailey Maxwell