Tuesday, 6 October 2015

An Artist’s Artist: Mark Dunhill talks about Carl Plackman

An Artist’s Artist: Mark Dunhill talks about Carl Plackman

Carl Plackman: Obscure Territories
Pangolin, London
9 September – 17 October 2015

Often described as an artist’s artist, Carl Plackman (1943-2004) was ambitious and full of ideas. When asked at the end of an interview in 1986 what he would like as his epitaph, he replied: “I just want to make a good piece of sculpture. I still think I haven’t done it. The trouble is trying to say what that could be – it’s very difficult…” Plackman rarely talked about his work and kept his ideas private. He has been hailed as the “godfather of British conceptual art” and Alison Wilding speaks of Plackman’s work as being her first encounter with “installation”.

This solo exhibition at Pangolin includes a range of Plackman’s drawings alongside a number of key sculptures, in particular Bachelor of Arts (1977), which has never been shown before.

As a generous teacher, many of Plackman’s students have gone on to become major names in British contemporary art, including Tony Cragg, Damien Hirst, Liam Gillick and Alison Wilding. Studio International spoke to Mark Dunhill, Dean at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts, London, and an artist in his own right, who was taught by Plackman at the Royal College of Art in the 70s.

Watch this video here

Monday, 5 October 2015

Book review of Understanding Stanley – Looking through Autism by Rosie Barnes

Understanding Stanley – Looking through Autism
By Rosie Barnes
Softback, 112pp
ISBN 978-0-9929521-0-5
Published by Lampshade Books
Retail Price: £15

‘If someone asks you if you know what the time is, do you answer simply “yes”?’

‘Is it important and easy for you to remember the registration numbers of all the taxis you’ve caught in the past year?’

‘Can you imagine your life being like this?’

These questions are just some of those raised in Rosie Barnes’ book, Understanding Stanley – Looking through Autism, a heart-warming – and, at times, -wrenching – insight into life with – and as – her son, Stanley, who was diagnosed with autism aged three and a half. As a photographer, Barnes realised that, to understand things that are not immediately within your grasp, sometimes words are not where you need to begin. Her motivation for producing this book was to ‘create a new kind of visual language that can really get under the skin of what it might feel like to be autistic with not much effort needed on behalf of the reader’. She is clear that ‘this is not a “what to do” book. It’s a “what it might feel like” book’. How is it possible to make people aware – and accepting – of something so complex and difficult to explain, let alone see?

Read the full review here

See here for more information

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Interview with Anj Smith at Hauser & Wirth London

Anj Smith: Phosphor on the Palms
Hauser & Wirth London, South Gallery
22 September – 21 November 2015

With 21 paintings produced over a three-year period, Anj Smith’s latest exhibition as Hauser & Wirth London is her largest yet. It is also her most psychologically motivated and probing. An artist who seeks to celebrate the medium of painting, Smith sees the figure as a device on which to hang her concerns and her explorations of social mores. Her paintings – deeply layered to create an intense colour and incredible luminosity – deal with issues of liminality, androgyny, language, art history and zoology, amongst many others. Monkeys frolic with shattered Ming vases; a cigarette butt is revered as equal to a Van Cleef jewel; deep, dark eyes stare out from hollow sockets.

Smith’s works collapse the genres of still life, landscape and portraiture, freely referencing those who have gone before her: from 17th-century Dutch vanitas painters to so-called outsider artists, Richard Dadd and Adolf Wölfli. While acknowledging the importance of recognising where she is coming from and taking responsibility for her references, Smith is also at pains to make work that is of our time. The intricate detail, painted with single-hair brushes – stubble on a figure’s cheek, a moth hidden in the stonework, translucent veins beneath the skin – is like a reward system, whereby the viewer benefits from each further minute spent studying the work and experiences a different painting, depending on the perspective from which it is approached. Smith’s work can only be fully appreciated in the flesh and this is a valiant display well worth spending some time with.

Watch the interview here

Marco Cali: Satyrs


Marco Cali: Satyr Paintings 

An introductory text 

Roger Fenton (1819-1869) is a key figure in the history of photography at large, but, in particular, of photography as a form of artistic expression, rather than a means of pure documentation. Founder and first secretary of the Photographic Society (established in 1853 and later to become the Royal Photographic Society), he had initially trained as a painter and thus composed his photographic images with the eye of an artist. In 1854, Fenton spent three and a half months in Balaklava, photographing the Crimean War, producing more than 350 large format negatives, some of which were turned into woodblocks and published in the Illustrated London News.

It is these images, to which Marco Cali finds himself drawn and which he has used as the starting point for his series Satyrs, as well as for some smaller paintings – all oil on paper, with no underdrawing – of isolated standing figures, themselves further inspired by altarpiece fragments. Cali’s work expresses his underlying interest in outline, form and the suggestion of depth and Fenton’s images therefore appeal on numerous levels.

Firstly, there is the enigma of conflicting shadows: those cast naturally by the sun versus those imposed by Fenton’s flash. Then there is the way in which the photographer would often burn the tops of his images to obliterate unwanted elements, emphasise certain figures or create areas of brightness. Both of these aspects add a level of abstraction to the images, something which Cali extrapolates in his experimentation with light and shadow. His breaking down of areas of the composition into geometric patterns and shapes, and his addition of strong outlines in white or black, works to foreground certain facets, manipulating the depth and, in a sense, reversing the flattening of the scene inflicted by the camera. He deliberately opts to retain Fenton’s contradictory shadows, enjoying the ensuing intrigue and implicit artistic and interpretative licence.

Compositionally, Fenton’s works engage Cali for their very deliberate central placing of figures on horse – or, indeed, camel – back. Men are seen seated alone – isolated, displaying power, sexual prowess and legitimacy – and, for Cali, resembling satyrs. Women, however, are always accompanied by a man. The subject matter has further political – and within this also personal – resonances for Cali, who himself hails from Genoa, a city with its own colonial history and once part of Piedmont-Sardinia. During the Crimean War, this kingdom joined with France and Britain to send half its army to fight the Russians. In turn, it was permitted to send representatives to the peace conference at the end of the war, where it was able to campaign for Italian unification (Risorgimento). In a sense then, Cali sees exploring the subject matter of the Crimean War as a way of exploring his roots – and ethnic identity in general. References to this are scattered liberally throughout his work, with images of contemporary coins from all countries concerned; elements of Islamic abstraction; and the addition of gilding – crescents, slivers of light and shadows – relating to medieval Byzantine or Russian icons and book illumination.

The mid 19th century was a period of innovation and change, where the nascent art of photography and the established technique of painting were reciprocally influential. The early 21st century is an equally pivotal moment, with digital photography and the ability to Photoshop images increasingly usurping traditional methods. Cali describes painting as ‘an alchemical process, a kind of magical realism that creates the image in our eyes’. This process necessarily runs in parallel to both the chemical and digital image-making magic of photography and Cali’s work draws on aspects from all three disciplines, merging elements and questioning where abstraction begins. His complex yet playfully experimental paintings work with layers of meaning to create a unique exploration of depth, form and truth; a serious reflection (both literal and metaphorical) with historical resonance.

Please visit Cali's website to see more of his works 


All © the artist

Satyr with Pink and Brown
oil on paper
100 x 80 cm

Simon Says
oil on paper
127 x 100 cm

Crescent Moon
oil on paper
100 x 80 cm

Friday, 2 October 2015

The Union of Fire and Water, commissioned by YARAT, 56th Venice Biennale

The Union of Fire and Water
Commissioned by YARAT 
Collateral Event of the 56th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia 
Palazzo Barbaro, San Marco, 2840 Venice
9 May – 22 November 2015

The Union of Fire and Water presents a historical and cultural superimposition of Baku and Venice as seen through the eyes of two artists, Rashad Alakbarov and Almagul Menlibayeva. Studio International speaks to the artists, alongside the curator Suad Garayeva, to hear more about the intertwined histories of the two cities.

In the 1400s, the Venetian ambassador Giosafat Barbaro travelled to and wrote extensively on Azerbaijani cities and the court of Shah Uzun Hassan. By complete coincidence, the Azerbaijani not-for-profit arts organisation YARAT – which means ‘create’ in Azeri – chose to locate their collateral event for the 56th Venice Biennale in Palazzo Barbaro, the ambassador’s former residence. The connections were only uncovered later, with the help of one of the two exhibiting artists, Rashad Alakbarov, and the curator, Suad Garayeva.

The exhibition, which comprises site-specific installations, is set to take visitors on a journey through time and space, bringing to the fore centuries of exchange and conflict between East and West and Baku and Venice. Alakbarov is showing some of his typical architectural and sculptural interventions, where meticulously placed metal structures stand before light sources and cast hidden messages on to the walls and floors nearby. He has also filled one room with a series of bridge-like staircases, which visitors must traverse to reach the remainder of the exhibition.

Kazakhstani-born artist Almagul Menlibayeva’s multi-screen film installations tell the story of Mukhtarov’s Palace, a beautiful Venetian Gothic building in Baku, which was erected by the oil magnate Murtuza Mukhtarov for his beloved wife, Lisa, in 1912. Following the Soviet invasion eight years later, Mukhtarov took his life.

Ironically, the building now houses the main marriage registry office in the city and is informally known as the Palace of Happiness.

As Garayeva explains, the exhibition seeks to present a historical and cultural superimposition of Baku and Venice, with Palazzo Barbaro as the third artist.

Watch the film interview here

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Interview with Anita Glesta at Watershed, Lyttelton Flytower, National Theatre, London

Anita Glesta: Watershed
Lyttelton Flytower, National Theatre, London

22-27 September 2015

As part of the Totally Thames festival, taking place over the month of September and bringing a series of arts and cultural events to London’s riverbanks, the New York artist, Anita Glesta, has brought a mesmerising projection of brightly coloured, circling fish to the National Theatre’s Lyttleton Flytower, visible from across the water, as well as from the popular South Bank and the theatre’s river terrace below. The work has been in development since 2009, when Glesta was asked to make a piece in collaboration with Art_Port and the UN for the COP15 summit on climate change in Copenhagen. In 2013, a previous version of Watershed was projected on the wall of St Patrick’s Basilica in Lower Manhattan during the New Museums Ideas City Festival. This version used carp as its dancers. For the London version, Glesta travelled to Colombia to film the Amazonian pirarucu fish, which is almost on the verge of extinction. She is interested, she says, in using fish for their multipurpose characteristics.

The circling motion is something that appears in a lot of Glesta’s works, often representing women and planets. These metaphorical readings could be carried over to Watershed as well, but the work also functions on a much more literal and didactic level. As Glesta explains: “I would like for this work to be a vehicle of communication, literally like a moving image billboard.” She has carried out a lot of research into climate change and water levels, thinking specifically about the island of Manhattan, floating in the mouth of the ocean. After London, Glesta – a painter by trade, but one who loves this digital medium for its bringing together of painting, sculpture and architecture – is taking the work back to New York, where it will become part of a much larger project. She also hopes to tour it internationally.

Watch the interview here

Monday, 28 September 2015

Editorial: Views of the Art World


Published in issue 18 (autumn 2015) of StateF22

Interview with Wendy Elia

Interview: Wendy Elia

Published in issue 18 (autumn 2015) of StateF22

Feature: The Heatherley School of Fine Art

The Heatherley School of Fine Art

Published in issue 18 (autumn 2015) of StateF22

Interview with Mark Cass

Interview: Mark Cass

Published in issue 18 (autumn 2015) of StateF22