Monday, 23 December 2013

Artist Profile: Sarah Jane Moon

Artist Profile: Sarah Jane Moon

Although holding degrees in Art History (with English Literature and Japanese, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, 2000-2003) and Visual Arts Theory (University of Western Australia, Perth, 2006-2007), Sarah Jane Moon (born in New Zealand in 1982) only became an artist herself after moving to London in December 2007 and adding a Diploma in Portrait Painting (Heatherley School of Fine Art, 2009-2011) to her list of qualifications. Going on to receive commendations from both the Royal British Society of Sculptors and the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, she was recently awarded the 2013 Bulldog Bursary by the latter.

Working mostly with oils on canvas, albeit with a recent foray into acrylics, Moon believes a portrait should capture something of the essence of the sitter: posture and location have as much import for her as facial expression and visual likeness. Painting, she says, “is fundamentally the manifestation of a relationship between an artist’s senses and the subject’s presence and is always characterised by the dynamic created by the space between these entities.”

To read the rest of this profile, please see the January 2014 issue of DIVA

Review of Photoworks Annual Issue 20

Photoworks: Photography, Art, Visual Culture
Issue 20
Family Politics

Photoworks, the National Portfolio Organisation, supported by the Arts Council England, curates exhibitions, commissions new work, and runs events, including the Brighton Photo Biennial. In addition, for the past 10 years, it has been producing a biannual magazine, showcasing new writing and photographic commissions. This autumn has seen issue 20 expand into the new format of a heftier annual tome: a 256 page catalogue filled to the brim with works by both new and established photographers and insights and discussions presented by writers on the subject. At heart, Photoworks has always been about commissioning new work, says Director and Co-Editor, Celia Davies, and so this larger platform really takes the organisation back to its roots, providing time and space for just this. In addition, the newly adopted thematic approach – this time Family Politics – provides a focus for debate and a central idea to which contributors can respond.

To read the rest of this review, please go to:

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Christina Mitrentse’s Wounded Books Series as a Metaphor for (Re-)Incarnation

Christina Mitrentse’s Wounded Books Series as a Metaphor for (Re-)Incarnation

Christina Mitrentse (born 1977, Greece) began her Wounded Book series as a response to her contribution to the Inventory of Al-Mutanabbi Street project, organised by Beau Beausoleil in 2010, to reflect on the damage to humanity and the loss of material knowledge caused by the car bombing in Baghdad’s booksellers’ street on 5 March 2007. Being an artist who works in series, unsurprisingly this one has continued to grow, and it has since been added to Mitrentse’s own ongoing project initiative, Add To My Library, vol. III.

Selecting from the Penguin Classics library, Mitrentse chooses books which are either literature, whose content she deems to have failed for various reasons, or visual art books, which she has found inspiring. She then takes these books to the Rifle and Pistol Club at Imperial College Union, London, where, under licensed conditions, she shoots them, one by one, with a rifle. The resulting “wounded” book is then displayed, sealed in plastic, with both its front (with a neat site of penetration) and back (with a larger, rippled, raised and ruptured exit site) cover visible.

Mitrentse speaks of her “performative act” (which she describes as “absolutely not vandalism”, rather a “strange kind of homage”) as “explor[ing] the possibilities opened up by conceptualist approaches to writing and performative approaches to reading within contemporary society and the subjection to the advanced capitalism in which it exists.” She further suggests that it is “an intellectual statement on the relationship of Information as Material.” Nevertheless, she also wishes to leave “as much space as possible […] open for interpretation”, since “selecting, destroying and sharing the re-appropriated product, generates new interesting meanings, and in doing so, disrupts the existing order of things, challenging readers’ desire for a single channel of explanation.”[i] Indeed, the series is rich with potential meaning and metaphors, and, in this short essay, I shall explore just one possible reading: seeing the wounds as stigmata and the book as the body of Christ.

Looking at the broken surface, the perforated skin of the books, the tears where they have strained against applied force, these exit wounds could just as easily have been caused by nails, holding the weight of a martyr’s body to a cross. The book, then, might be seen as mortal flesh, suffering and dying at the hands of humankind. And, indeed, it is precisely so, in the burgeoning of the digital age, where printed matter is losing its place of former glory as information technology and the dematerialisation of knowledge takes a hold.

I do not want to assume, however, that the book, as the body of Christ, is necessarily masculine. Throughout medieval times, representations of Christ – and the godhead itself – as feminine were common, particularly in the writings of the 12th century monastics, Bernard of Clairvaux and Hildegard of Bingen, and the 14th century theologian, Julian of Norwich. With an implicit shift in theological emphasis from the model of atonement-resurrection and last judgment to that of creation and incarnation, a feminine representation of Christ was more able to emphasise his humanity.[ii] Indeed, according to medieval physiological theory, itself largely based on Aristotle’s classical medical theories, the body was seen as female (with the mother providing the matter of the foetus) and the spirit was seen as male.[iii] Here, then, the book might be seen as the female mother and bodily flesh, and the bullet, which penetrates, as male, and as the carrier of the spirit or content and ideas.

The notion of Christ as mother is also not new. Feminist scholar, Caroline Bynum, has written much on the subject, bringing forward plentiful examples of medieval religious art to support her arguments.[iv] She sees his bleeding as a form of lactation, providing sustenance for others. Here, I suggest, the bullet holes, rather than being equated with nipples, be equated with the vagina, and thus the whole wounding process becomes a metaphor for birth, or incarnation, with the bullet as both the seed and the offspring. The rifle is the phallus which penetrates the book, which, in turn, gives birth to the bullet, a small capsule representative of the knowledge being transmitted. In a cyclical vision of entropy, knowledge and ideas are never lost. They live on in a continual cycle of transmission, suppression and reincarnation. The body or flesh is insignificant and short-lived; the ideas, which may suffer attack and modification in each “lifetime”, are, on the other hand, eternally passed on.

The books, in Mitrentse’s series, are thus emblems of martyrdom; signifiers of the death of a medium or an incarnate form. Their contents, although damaged, are never lost. The bullet, which penetrates and harms them, attempting to destroy them, necessarily absorbs their content and brings it full circle into a new birth, a reincarnation, in whatever form that might be. The wounds remain – stigmata – a salient reminder of the power of knowledge and our futile attempts to curb its dissemination.

[i] Interview with the artist by Christina Grammatikopoulou, April 2012 [accessed 22 December 2013]

[ii] See Jenny Bledsoe, “Feminine Images of Jesus: Later Medieval Christology and the Devaluation of the Feminine.” Intermountain West Journal of Religious Studies 3, no. 1 (2011). [accessed 22 December 2013]

[iii] Caroline Walker Bynum, “The Body of Christ in the Later Middle Ages: A Reply to Leo Steinberg,” Renaissance Quarterly 39, no. 3 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Autumn 1986) p.421           

[iv] See ibid and also Caroline Walker Bynum, Jesus as Mother: Studies in the Spirituality of the High Middle Ages (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982)


Christina Mitrentse
from the Wounded Books series
© the artist

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Video tour of Bill Woodrow RA at Burlington Gardens, Royal Academy

Bill Woodrow RA
Burlington Gardens, Royal Academy
7 November 2013 - 16 February 2014

Burlington Gardens, the Royal Academy’s new venue for contemporary art, is currently home to over 60 works by the academician Bill Woodrow, which helped to redefine British sculpture through the appropriation, disassembling and resurrection of domestic and urban objects. Bill introduced Studio to some of his favourite pieces.

To watch Bill's video tour of the exhibition, please go to:

Monday, 9 December 2013

Review of Mad, Bad and Sad: Women and the Mind Doctors at the Freud Museum

Mad, Bad and Sad: Women and the Mind Doctors
Freud Museum
10 October 2013 – 2 February 2014

In late-19th-century Paris, after decades of political upheaval and social unrest, and an era of neurasthenia, fainting spells, and “the vapours”, a new psychological illness took to the stage: hysteria (from the Greek hystero, meaning womb) was pronounced “the illness of the age” by the prominent journalist, novelist, and playwright Jules Claretie. Largely considered a female malady, it turned women into the focus for the expression of many millennial fears and anxieties. From the 1870s onwards, stories about hysterical patients filled the newspaper columns. They were transformed into fictional characters by novelists, photographed, sculpted, painted, and drawn to such an extent that Georges Didi-Huberman feels “nearly compelled to consider hysteria, insofar as it was fabricated at the Salpêtrière [hospital] in the last third of the 19th century, as a chapter in the history of art.”

To read the rest of this review, please go to:

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Review of Turner Prize 2013 at Building 80/81, Ebrington, Derry~Londonderry

Turner Prize 2013
Building 80/81, Ebrington, Derry~Londonderry
23 October 2013 – 5 January 2014
The French-born film and installation artist Laure Prouvost (born Croix-Lille, 1978) has won the 29th Turner Prize. That makes it two years in a row that my personal favourite has won. Maybe I should take up gambling? Then again, maybe not, as I wouldn’t in a month of Sundays have placed my money where my heart was. The bookies’ favourite for most of the run-up was Glaswegian jester David Shrigley (born Macclesfield, 1968), while word about town (aka the art world) favoured Germano-British performance artist Tino Sehgal (born London, 1976). Then there was the alternative of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (born London, 1977), the first black woman to be nominated.