Matthieu Bourel is a collage artist that makes powerful combinations of similar images to create high depth pictures. Bourel credits his parents’ vast collection of vintage postcards as being an early source of inspiration for his exploration into collage.
In particular I like his portrait collages, in which he combines multiple images of facial features, I really like this idea of creating new from the old, even if it does have a slightly eerie undertone. There is something quite anatomical about Bourel’s portrait collages. As the viewer you soon become aware of how powerful the combination of a few disparate elements can be in Bourel’s work. For Bourel, creating a collage is like assembling a “fictional puzzle that doesn’t exist, but which might have a solution.”
As I said before, I really like this idea of creating new from the old, and how Bourel creates collages that are almost realistic. Looking into Bourel and having a discussion with Chris and Helen about my individual work, I think I will adopt some of Bourel’s techniques into my own work. I want to combine images of architecture from home with moroccan architectural decoration to create new buildings with a bit more excitement within them.
I want to focus my work this year on my responses to the places I have visited and will visit. My chosen artwork to base all of my ideas off of is Teresa Lanceta’s ‘Rosas Blancas’, which ties in well with my focus. Lanceta draws inspiration from her textile discoveries in Morocco. Her tapestries use different patterns combined together and analyse repeating motifs. The concept of repeat patterns is incredibly interesting to me in design as well as what using patterns can achieve. I plan on working with repeat patterns and colours closely, using a range of materials.
I decided to go down this route of patterns as I have always struggled with moving away from accuracy. As much as I like my photo-accurate work, I don’t find it challenging or stimulating; once I complete a painting I see no room for development. Consequently, focusing on repeating motifs I am able to think about what effect a place has really had on me and challenges me to create new ways to represent it.
I have already begun by working with a pattern I created from window architecture from Venice buildings, and laying it over the top of materials I gathered from Venice. Although it is personal to me and shows no obvious links with Venice (beside the collage), I think there is huge room for development. For example, the colours I have used aren’t personal to me, they are pre-mixed colours directly from a tube.
I want to further develop the patterns and colours and move into working with a variety of techniques including screen printing and ceramics. In a couple of weeks I begin my first Field project titled Home Truths. This project focuses on ceramic surface decoration. I am really excited to start this projects as I think it is really going to help me develop my practice and experiment with different ways of conveying across my experiences and thoughts on places I visit.
Duty: as members of society we have a duty towards other members and the wider environment. But what can art do to help improve social conditions and the environment?
Ability to respond: many of the structures of contemporary society tend to numb or dull our response to the world in which we live. For example, if we see to many images of starving children we become unresponsive to it. Our ability to respond is our ability to respond to the world in which we find ourself. It raises the question of what role art (the aesthetic) can play in overcoming the anaesthetic. How can we release art (the aesthetic) from its narrow market-driven confines and return it to the life of society.
We are used to thinking of contemplation as the natural, or even the only, way of engaging with works of art. Joseph Beuys suggests there is an alternative. Beuys thinks that we need an active, not passive relationship with art. Activity and participation were/are thought to challenge the art world status quo.
Contemplation and activity are not the only ways of engaging with art however.
Bidding in an auction for art, competing for sole ownership is a form of engagement with art.
Someone kissing the feet of a statue for religious purposes is a form of engagement with art.
Koki Tanaka’s ‘Painting to the Public (Open Air)’ and Helen Bur’s ‘The Walking Gallery’ promote a new form of engagement and activity with art. Typically, art is made in the privacy of a studio and is then transferred to the seclusion of the gallery. Challenging this, Tanaka and Bur both came up with the same idea of artists parading their work through public spaces, creating a “walking gallery”. The art therefore becomes about getting people involved, and brings the art to the people. The performance was met with positive attitudes. I really like this idea of removing art from its social structure and releasing it from the strict gallery settings.
The form of art in any given society is linked to the forms of production operating in that society or inherited from earlier times. In the West we tend to think of art as either:
Craft-based (handmade): for example, Cezanne creating an intricate painting.
Industrial: for example, Anish Kapoor’s ‘Cloud Gate’ required a multitude of people other than the artist, with specialist skills, working on the art.
The one exception is conceptualism:
Conceptual art is an exception, as nothing needs to be made in order for it to exist.
Conceptual art is indifferent to production. i.e. Robert Filiou’s ‘Crowd Project’ consists of the artist walking into a crowd of people.
The only issue with conceptual art is that if you want to make a living as an artist, it’s hard to sell ideas. Once the person interested in the work has found out about the idea, they know it without them having to pay you.
Some artist’s media in art is twitter or instagram.
Richard Prince blew instagram posts up to a larger scale, hung them on the wall and presented them as paintings.
Amalia Ulman’s art consists of Instagram performances. She creates a fake persona, creating the question between fiction and reality. I think this speaks on social media and how people are trying to present their best self.
3 Roots for Socially Engaged Art:
1. Joseph Beuys
Joseph Beuys’ ‘7000 Oaks’ consisted of planting 7000 oak trees throughout the city of Kassel, each paired with a Basalt stone. Even if you think that the art is pointless and is not really ‘art’, Beuys still managed to plant 7000 trees in Kassel which is a monumental achievement and ultimately helps the environment.
What is social sculpture? The most modern art discipline – social sculpture/social architecture – we will only reach fruition when every living person becomes a creator, a sculptor or architect of the social organism. EVERY HUMAN BEING IS AN ARTIST. This is a Fluxus idea that everyone is an artist. Loads of people doodle but say they can’t draw, a lot of people use art to fill time, they just don’t realise it.
This creates the idea that artwork becomes artwork because it’s in the gallery setting (i.e. a normal toilet may be placed in the middle of a gallery and be classed as a masterpiece because of its surroundings when in actuality it is just a normal toilet).
Michael Asher’s ‘Installation at Claire Copley Gallery’ consisted of the actual art space being blank. Instead, Asher removed the wall that hid the gallery office away, so the office and workers are the artwork.
Elmgreen and Dragset’s “Dug Down Gallery Powerless Structures’ takes the white cube space, that is ordinarily removed from everyday life, and places it in everyday life. The pristine space is put in the earth in the middle of a field, and although completely pristine to begin with, once the weather changes the white cube will get dirty and lose its mystique.
Elmgreen and Dragset’s ‘Reg(u)adding the Guards’ is a room filled with gallery guards. Normally the guards in a gallery protecting the artwork go unnoticed unless you do anything wrong, i.e. get too close to the art. in Elmgreen and Dragset’s work however the room only consists of guards, too many for the one room. It creates the concept of wasted labour, the guards are paid to do a pointless job as there is nothing to protect. I can imagine as the viewer of the art, this installation is quite an uncomfortable setting to walk into and I wouldn’t want to approach the art.
3. Public Art
Art out in the open air works in a different way to art in a gallery.
Outside The National Museum in Trafalgar Square, Elmgreen and Dragset placed ‘Powerless Structures’ on the fourth podium that is a temporary art exhibition space. ‘Powerless Structures’ is a sculpture of a little boy on a rocking horse. Alone it doesn’t have much meaning but the idea is for the public to make the connect between it and the three other permanent plinths which have noble statues of important figures on horses. When ‘Powerless Structures’ is compared to Francis Chantry’s ‘George IV’ it robs it of its ideological power.
Clare Bishop – text
Bishop argues that instead of thinking about a ‘generalised set of moral precepts’, we should instead focus on ‘the disruptive specificity of a give work’
She argues that ethics alone cannot replace aesthetics where art is concerned. Art’s purpose (for her) isn’t therapeutic, it’s not intended to make us feel better about out lives. Instead the value of art lies in its ability to expose injustices and contradictions that everyday life renders invisible and unthinkable.
Bishop discusses that aesthetic is a dangerous word. Making art that is purely aesthetic loses its meaning as artwork so instead it should be replaced with ethics.
Socially Engaged Art
Artworks that address political issues.
Artworks that perform a function.
Artworks that prompt or enable a (new?) form of sociality: participation.
1. Political Issues/Politics
Michael Landy’s ‘Creeping Buttercup’ initially look like intricate and detailed illustrations of plants and weeds. They are intact this but they also have a deeper political meaning that is not obvious from their surface value. The weeds come to stand for life in a large city that exists but has no place, the underclass. We tend to talk about plants in a way that we would never talk about people. We consider a lot of foreign plants to be invasive and dangerous to our natural species. It is a very nonchalant thing to stay that we need to crush and destroy foreign species in terms of plants and weeds but you would never be able to say this about people without public outrage. Mandy’s illustrations hints at racism and xenophobia.
Richard Moss’ ‘The Enclave’ visually looks like paradise or a wonderland. The pink landscapes look like something from dreams. However as you progress through the exhibition you are presented with videos all shot in the same pink colours. However now the landscapes are filled with young men with guns. Our perception of the work changes. Moss uses extinct infrared military film which turns the natural greens of the landscape pink but camouflage green red. This was a technology used by the military to find hidden soldiers in camouflage. Just learning this about the work completely changes your initial perception of the ‘wonderland’, it creates this happy world and then punctures it.
Richard Moss ‘The Enclave’
Richard Moss ‘The Enclave’
Ai WeiWie’s ‘Straight’ is a piece on the Sichuan earthquake in China. We don’t know how many people were killed in the earthquake as the Chinese government never released the figures. For ‘Straight’ Ai WeiWei tried to find out how many children had died. He took iron rods that were bent from the buildings that had collapsed and straightened them back, returning them to their perfect state. Ai WeiWei doesn’t think ‘Straight’ is either art or not art. The children that dies are more important than the status of the art. ‘Straight’ was the beginning of Ai WeiWei’s bad relationship with the Chinese government.
The Beichuan Earthquake Museum in China that was once a place of death and destruction has become a tourist destination. It’s this exploitation of a disaster that I think Liu Xiaodong plays on in ‘Getting out of Beichuan’. The girls in the foreground of the painting don’t look like they belong to the crumbled city of Beichuan and are very calm and nonchalant. I think Xiaodong is playing on this idea of a tourist destination and everyone wanting a selfie with the disaster.
a) Practical function:
In Dominique Mazeaud’s ‘The Great Cleansing of the Rio Grand’, Mazeaud removes rubbish continually from the site, creating a physical change.
b) Symbolic function:
Ayse Erkmen created ‘Plan B’ which is a water purification machine in Venice which cleans the water from the canal, making it drinkable, and then pumps it back into the canals. There is no real change created by ‘Plan B’ but it makes us think about the environment.
i) invited guests
Lucy and Jorge Orta ’70×7 The Meal Act III’ – people were invited to come and eat leftovers.
Fritz Haeg ‘Edible Estates’ – attack on the American front lawn, turned the grass which takes a lot of upkeep in water into an allotment and relied on volunteers. It plays on the desire of the other, “look the neighbour likes his garden so will we if we change ours too”.
How does socially engaged art function in the gallery space?
Last year the artes mundi at the National Museum of Cardiff held work by the Futurefarmers. I don’t think the work of the Futurefarmers fit the gallery space. Their art is of a global concept, exploring seeds. By putting it in the gallery I think it was reduced to petty symbolism. I found it to be very underwhelming in the gallery setting because of the nature of this work, and without a thorough explanation, didn’t see to make sense.
After the slip casting workshop I had several lightbulbs to create a piece of work out of. I decided to paint my Nan’s portraits onto them and have the background of each progressing closer and closer towards black to signify the loss of mentality in my Nan’s mind. The play by using lightbulbs is that the light is going out.
Although I like the basic idea of using colour to signify the loss in identity and it is something that I will continue to explore within my work, I don’t really like this final piece as I think it is a bit too cliché. The board in which I attached them to was shabby ineffectual for the bulbs, dulling their outcome. Additionally, the portraits look out of place against the lighter backgrounds and I think the lightbulbs could have been displayed in a more effective format. For instance, I think it would have been more compelling to have them hanging from the ceiling, mirroring real lightbulbs.
The first artwork I made for my summer task was a drawing of a collection of 10 vintage objects using graphite pencils. I chose to draw old objects I collected at car boot sales as each would have had a past behind them, creating a history within my drawing.
My second piece of artwork, I made in response to artists Philip Eglin and Joel Penkman, etching old teacups onto handmade mugs to show the contrast between norms from the past and the present.