Archive for August, 2009
I’ve been busy doing other things recently, but this piece of interactive work appealed to me, because it combines two interests of mine – Processing and PostSecret – and somehow creates something considerably bigger than either of them. I think it’s because the large number of mandalas lose their detail and become a roiling mass of mist, representing all those turbulent secrets and emotions.
It’s now several weeks since I went to the lecture in the Royal Scottish Academy by Alexander Stoddart, but it’s taken me this long to ponder, at the back of my head, some of what he said.
He was a polished speaker, interesting and amusing, but what struck me the most was his unapologetic stance. It’s rare to find someone so definite in their views yet able to argue cogently in support of them. This was no rant or bluster, and it certainly wasn’t an attempt to understand other points of view. As far as he’s concerned, neo-classical sculpture is the only way to go, and his hero Thorvaldesn, a Danish sculptor I’d never heard of, is the only person worth emulating. Normally that sort of absolutist stance would have me running for the door, but his eloquence and humour persuaded you to continue listening.
Part of the his technique was to explain how classical sculpture is made – the small clay model, the scaled-up version, the mould and the cast. One of his slides showed the inner metal framework ready to support the weight of the sculpture. I was just thinking to myself that it would make an interesting art work itself when he said, “Some of these modernists would tell you that this is art. Well, that is just bollocks.” So, that’s me told then.
The theme of the talk was Inspiration versus Creativity. I wasn’t really sure what the two terms meant when contrasted like that, but he was specific that inspiration is literally a muse. Yes, literally. He sees his muse clearly and she is a winged female who he has sculpted. He is so enraptured by his muse that he often finishes a day at work to find that he has no idea what he has been doing until he sees it in front of him. It’s the losing oneself in the work, compared to the self-conscious creativity of the modern curriculum, that Stoddart promotes. But he reserves his greatest contempt for the sculptors who haven’t the skill to create anything physical themselves, merely giving instructions to a gang of workers.
Of course, a lot of what he said was debateable, and some just plain inconsistent. He made a big thing about neo-classical sculpture being timeless and unchanging, above and beyond the human scale. But that’s nonsense. The patina of time, the erosion of weather, the stains left by birds – all contribute to change. The Romantics emphasised the very decay of ancient sculpture and architecture to indicate the emphemeral nature of mankind.
Still, it was stimulating talk, and it was good to see his new statue of Maxwell in George Street as we waited for the bus home afterwards.
I had a stimulating discussion with a friend the other day who’s an artist. She’s trying to decide what direction to take her work, and is torn between stylised representational work and work that has an intellectual depth. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, of course, but she’s recently been forced to move away from the purely representational, and while that used to satisfy her, she seems reluctant to return completely.
As an interested observer, I find it a fascinating dilemma. She’s a talented sculptor in clay, metal and paper, and is keen to resume painting, so she has all sorts of options, perhaps too many to make it an easy decision. It’s made more difficult still by the Fine Art course she’s currently on compared to the one she’d like to transfer to.
Some of her recent sculpture includes small human torsos in clay, with rectilinear pieces either moved slightly or removed altogether. The surfaces are marked with abstract patterns reminiscent of a time-worn patina or perhaps underlying muscles, so that the pieces are reminiscent of all sorts of ideas – ancient Greek sculpture, models for medical students, Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical drawings, dolls, Eduardo Paolozzi’s sectioned heads or one of the traps in The Cube. Perhaps the slicings are a physical manifestation of inner turmoil, as though a reflexology chart or a phrenologist’s glazed head has been given a gruesome twist. She experimented with different forms of presentation – pieces in a sectioned box as though they comprise a self-assembly kit gathered by an obsessive collector, and held onto mounting sheets by plastic ties with bondage overtones.
She has sculpted many horses over the years, but her latest are either cast in bronze resin or made from twisted and torn copper sheets, the latter looking like a nightmare – a hollow re-animated corpse, driven by a force so strong that the lack of bone and muscle somehow isn’t an impediment.
I’ve made her work sound unpleasant, but it really isn’t. Some of it is full of energy, while other pieces are calm and steady. She’s going to redevelop her website to show her new work, and when she does, I’ll link to it, since my words can’t possibly describe it adequately.
D’Log posted a Spotify playlist recently, of Kraftwerk tracks covered by 8-bit artists. I’d never heard these before, but really like them. Kraftwerk’s recent re-workings of their old tracks are fascinating, but these cover versions, in some ways, are truer to the spirit of the original versions.
The 8-bit style isn’t always successful (such as the irritating track by the otherwise ingeniously inventive Penguin Cafe Orchestra), but it’s fascinating to see other people interpret Kraftwerk, and I don’t just mean re-mixes. The Balanescue Quartet covered five Kraftwerk tracks on Possessed in their contemporary string quartet approach.
Talking of old fashioned drum machines and synthesisers – Au Revoir Simone played live on the Radcliffe and Marconie Show last Monday on Radio 2, described by Mark Radcliffe as having overtones of Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass and Steve Reich. So that’s why I like them? Fair enough, except that description omits any reference to their vocals, which is surely a huge part of their style. Anyway, their first album is much better than their second (IMHO).