Blog of an Art Student

Miguel Endara – Stippling portrait

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The story behind the subject of this piece is really quite extraordinary, and to fully appreciate the poignancy of this piece of work, I think it is important to give it some context. This story is taken from the “Who is Benjamin Kyle?” website:

In 2004, Benjaman Kyle woke up outside of a Burger King in Georgia without any clothes, any ID, or any memories. Benjaman was diagnosed with Retrograde Amnesia, also known as the “Hollywood Amnesia”. Benjaman couldn’t remember who he was, and with no ID, couldn’t find out. The trouble was, authorities couldn’t identify him either. Local and state police tried their hardest, but Benjaman remained a mystery.

In 2007, the FBI became involved, but could not identify him: making him the only US citizen in History listed as missing despite his whereabouts being known. Benjaman can’t remember who he is, and not even the US government can tell him: leaving him without an identity, and without a social security number.

The story alone fascinates me to no end, and so when I saw this remarkable piece of work by Endara, I was stunned by both it’s complexity and surprising intimacy.  The approximated time it took to complete this study was roughly 138 hours, which is mind blowing in itself. 2.1 MILLION DOTS. What really strikes me is how the artist has chosen to take a close up view of Kyle’s face, which is so personal and is something I would like to experiment with in my own work (perhaps photographically rather than painstaking using pointillism). I also love how Endara has used his talent to raise awareness and funds for such a worthwhile cause, by selling prints of this piece, he is not only getting the word out about Kyle’s predicament, but also donating half of all profits to support a petition to get him a new social security number.

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I really appreciate Endara’s choice to make this piece monochrome, as it emphasises the amazing tonal variations on the face to perfection. His use of shadow and light are impressive and make for a really realistic depiction of Kyle. What I hope to take from this is that the simplest image can be loaded with meaning and can communicate such an amazing story with ease. Image

Brandon Stanton – Humans of New York

Stanton is an amateur photographer who started his immensely popular photo blog ‘Humans of New York’ in 2010. His initial goal was to take portraits of the people of New York and organize them geographically so that anyone visiting his blog could click on any area of New York and see the people who live in that district. Soon, though, the blog started to evolve as Stanton started including interesting snippets of conversations that he had with those people along with the pictures. You can see how he is able to connect with the subject, and that he makes them feel comfortable enough to share some really interesting stories. And through photographing of the people of New York, you really start to get an idea of the feeling and vibes of the places that he is shooting in, which is something I really love (and hope to achieve in my project). Since beginning this project, Stanton has managed to take and publish over 5000 portraits and produced a best selling book. Either check out HONY on facebook, or the HONY blog (follow the links).

 “With nearly four million followers on social media, HONY now provides a worldwide audience with daily glimpses into the lives of strangers in New York City.”

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Reflection:

What I can take form this is that I need to work on my approach to people, because at the moment I am very hesitant and feel as though I am bothering the person. I need to have the confidence to just go up to someone and ask to take their picture, in a similar way to Brandon Stanton. Although my project is somewhat different, (I am not only looking at the people but also the buildings and history of the town), I really think I can take a lot from looking at ‘Humans of New York’. The essence of what Stanton is doing and what I hope to do is to highlight the beauty of normality, the things that most people will just walk past and not really take in, if I manage to do this, I will feel like I have succeeded.

 

Mark Jenkins

I recently came across the humorous work of New York based surrealist street artist, Mark Jenkins, and love what he is doing. He uses realistic mannequins as part of his street installations in order to play with the public, and fool them into thinking that these actions are being carried out by real people. One of the most remarkable things about this work is that Jenkins has devised a way of creating these figures out of clear packing tape, meaning that he can create any shape/form to suit the environment and surroundings of the place in which he is planning on installing the object. I love the range and style of his work, and how he plays of the public’s reaction to these pieces. I am really interested in finding ways to draw viewers in and make them interact with the artwork, and it is really inspiring how Jenkins has managed to do this in such a fun way.

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I feel as though what I can take from this work is the idea of being bold and brave in my practice- daring the viewer to challenge the work or make them think about what they are seeing. Jenkins has been creating these packing tape shock-tactic street-art installations for the last 11 years, and in that time, Jenkins has had numerous run-ins with the law and even in one instance, had his work destroyed by a bomb squad.

 In 2005, Jenkins said in an invterview “I think my point is that visual outliers are what’s needed to keep the environment stimulating, but unfortunately the only visual content that’s updated with any real frequency are commercial advertising spaces. This is why the ephemeral nature of street art is so essential—because it creates a visual heartbeat in the city by people who are living in it, rather than just marketing to it. But what does the city do with these works? They remove them as quickly as possible and threaten to put the people who make them in jail.”

Food for thought.  

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Gehard Demetz

I am becoming more and more intrigued by the idea of sculpture, and creating my own sculptures, and so I have been keeping a look out for an artist that really catches my eye. I am always interested in humans- their thoughts, their appearance and their complexity, and so when I see a figurative sculptor carrying out their work impeccably, I take note.

And this is where Gehard Demetz comes in, I came across his work earlier this week and I can’t help but be in awe of it. Demetz is an Italian artist who lives and works in Selva di Val Gardena (In the North of Italy), a region in which wood carving is a very traditional form of artwork. He has adopted this traditional method of making and made it his own, by depicting subject matters that widely appeal to a more contemporary audience and finding his own unique way of carving. On the artists website, it claims “one of the most startling technical features is the construction using small woodblocks and juxtaposing finely polished parts to very rough and sketchy surfaces. This particular construction and treatment render his sculptures absolutely unique in the domain of contemporary wood sculpture”.

Although stunningly beautiful aesthetically, the sculptures that he creates are somewhat disturbing in their subject matter; children are depicted in an almost perturbing manner – in compromising positions and with inappropriate props. It has been said that “His sculptures of children are at the same time attractive and disquieting and rendered with an amazing

perfection that is by no means rhetorical or classical.” and I think that this is partly due to the fact that his subjects’ faces are startlingly realistic despite being carved out of wood. Anyway, I will let you take a look for yourself and make your own judgement on Demetz’s work:

The Eden Project

Living in Cornwall, I have the privilege of being surrounded by some truly amazing natural wonders. We have recently been reminded of the strength of nature, with floods and storms ravaging our coast. And so it seems fitting and paradoxical at the same time that nestled into our rugged coastline, is a place where tropical plants are able to thrive, protected from the elements in a paradisiacal utopia known as the (aptly named) Eden Project.

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I found the Eden Project to be an interesting experience, although whether it will affect my work is undecided. I was able to appreciate the complex architecture, the organic forms that it mimics and it’s practical uses. I was able to see how cohesive each of the design aspects were, and how they came together to create the entire project. I was able to see how an ethos or company mantra can be carried through the whole experience, from fool hall to tropical Biome.  I could recognise just how incredibly remarkable the life forms that surrounded me were, both aesthetically and for their practical uses as food items and healing devices.

I think what I can take most from this experience is the vast array of colours and forms that one could observe whilst visiting the Eden project. I feel as though my work has somehow lost some of it’s spirit, and has become a sort of monotonous monochrome mish mash of different ideas (try saying that quickly!), and so by injecting some colour into my future work, I hope to escape from this unvaried path that I have been following. And thinking about it, the incredible shapes and forms of the many plants and flowers on show are really inspiring as well, and make me think of how I could perhaps make my work more fluid and more organic – find a natural balance within my work.

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Also worth a good look at is Peter Randall-Page’s breathtaking granite sculpture, ‘Seed’. This gem can be found in the Core educational centre, just a short walk from the Biomes, and it’s really something special. Whilst you are in the centre, you can watch a number of videos about the making of this amazing piece. From the picture, you probably will not be able to fully comprehend the sheer size of the piece, which is a real shame, because in person, the sheer enormity of the sculpture coupled with it’s tranquil environment emits an almost spiritual feeling.

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Sandra Dieckmann: Freelance Illustrator

Today I came across an amazing freelance illustrator called Sandra Dieckmann who lives and works in London, producing these extraordinary pieces. From what I can see, animals and nature feature heavily in all of her work, and the results are just beautiful. I love the style of her drawings, there is something very naive and slightly otherworldly about them, and her use of colour is simply divine. Another thing that I can’t get over, is that you can buy (prints of) her work from her etsy shop for such a good price; the only problem for me is that I have fallen in love with her A3 Giclee Print ‘GHOSTS’ and that is probably the most expensive piece on there. Anyway, take a look for yourself, I’m pretty sure you won’t be disappointed:

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^ I want this so much. Unfortunately, on an art student’s budget, that is not going to happen. Sigh.

I love how she manages to work in so much depth and texture into her work through mark-making and the inclusion of subtle patterns. I feel as though Dieckmann is doing something really special here, and is an illustrator to look out for in the future; she has dabbled in all sorts of commercial pots- clothing, cards, skateboards, (even tattoo design).

Loving it.

Geometric Sand Art

I am always looking out for artists that use, not necessarily new mediums of art but, older forms in a new and exciting way. Although sand may not be the most traditional material, it is not unknown for being a substance that artists have used to create some incredible pieces. Living by the sea for the majority of my life, I have tried many a time to create a sand masterpiece, and many a time this has ended in failure (unsurprisingly). So when I came across  the work of New York based sand artist Calvin Seibert, it’s safe to say I was thoroughly impressed by the meticulous geometric forms that he had managed to create whilst in Hawaii. He is known for his modernist sand pieces, and these recent creations do not disappoint. New Geometric Sandcastles from Calvin Seibert sculpture sand geometric

New Geometric Sandcastles from Calvin Seibert sculpture sand geometric

New Geometric Sandcastles from Calvin Seibert sculpture sand geometric

As you can probably gather from these photos, the work is completed to n impeccably high standard, and I cannot even begin to work out how he managed to construct such sharp angles or how he achieved just the right balance for each of the pieces to stay upright. Seibert shares all of his work online via a flikr account, and I would highly recommend that you check it out.

The architectural nature of his body of work is undeniable; one can almost imagine one of these creations to be found in any major city as part of a new ‘urban development program’.

Seibert has said that “Building “sandcastles” is a bit of a test. Nature will always be against you and time is always running out.” and this is what I love about his work, how solid it looks, and yet how devastatingly destructible it really is.

TinType Photography

So I have always loved the look of old photographs, sepia, black and white and colour. There is something so comforting and intriguing about looking at a photo that is (perhaps) older than your grandparents, of unfamiliar people and places- coming up with my own backstories and identities for unknown people from a bygone era. The other day I came across a series of TinType images created by Victoria Will at the Sundance film festival for Esquire magazine. These images were created using a method of photography that dates back to the American Civil war era, and are simply exquisite. In these photographs, many a famous face can be spotted, which is really quite an exciting juxtaposition – a celebrity of the 21st century, captured in a 19th century style. I also love how even though the photos have an  old-worldy air to them, the subjects’ poses are very up to date, giving the images a far more contemporary feel. What this method brings to the images is a sort of haunting appearance, they come across as quite sombre and the look is somewhat ethereal. This idea of atmosphere and mood, coupled with the ‘imperfections’ add a sense of depth to the images that I feel you just don’t see in images produced today. To me, this process is far more organic and instinctive and laborious and frankly, more rewarding than most photography seen today.

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The following video shows really nicely how the TinType process is carried out:

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/34579312″>TinType Photography Process</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/kalamazoovalleymuseum”>Kalamazoo Valley Museum</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Now if I had the resources or funds to give this a go, I definitely would! Unfortunately I’m a broke art student and I’m not going to be able to have a crack at this for a long time.

Berlin

So, it’s been a while since I last published a post and I thought I would take this time to give an overview of some of the art that I saw in Berlin. Berlin itself is somewhat puzzling to me, it seems to be a city full of contradictions and incongruities, its reputation versus what I experienced, for example. Don’t get me wrong, the I had a great time and there is some amazing art to be seen in every one of the many galleries, but I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed. If I’m honest, I think the weather let it down the most, it made all of the buildings appear greyer (if that is possible) and put us all in a rather damp mood. DESPITE THIS, I must say, I was rather impressed by the artwork that I saw, especially in the Berlinische Gallery and the Hamburger Bahnhof.Image

 

The colossal Bahnhof museum for contemporary art is particularly memorable because of its stunning architecture and and incomprehensibly huge exhibition space. The gallery’s name is a reference to the building’s original function as a railway station, and the majority of the station’s original architectural details still exist. In 2004, an annex (Rieckhallen) was added to the back of the existing gallery, comprised of former dispatch warehouses and a linking tunnel, in order to house the Friedrich Christian Flick Collection (a private collection on long-term loan to the gallery). This museum is also the proud displayer of some of the most iconic works by Pop Art legend Andy Warhol, including a portrait of Marilyn Monroe as well as a massive satirical homage to President Mao. The broad range of work on show at the Bahnhof really impressed me, and I would definitely recommend visiting if you are in Berlin.

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In the Berlinische gallery, I loved experiencing the work of Franz Ackermann, which is currently on exhibition in the Main Hall. Huge panels of mixed media paintings/photographs were overlaid on top of a space-specific mural painted by Ackermann, to great effect.  

Whilst in Berlin, we also visited the Bauhaus archives, which I found interesting because we have been taught all about the Bauhaus school and their teachings, so to be able to see these pieces in person was a real experience. Despite this, I was somewhat underwhelmed by some of the spaces, although having said this, the archive did a good job of showing the progression of the Bauhaus and the work produced. For advertising/graphics enthusiasts, there was an interesting exhibition of Herbert Bayer’s work on show, his stunning and revolutionary visuals were a real sight to behold. 

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Finally, I must mention my visit to the Jewish Museum; the stunningly eerie building that reflects the isolation and torment experienced by the persecuted Jews of the Second World War. I was particularly effected by the ‘Holocaust Tower’, the chill that came over me whilst standing in that cold, dark tower is indescribable – deathly would come close, it was a terrible sensation, and I commend architect Daniel Libeskind for being able to evoke those sorts of feelings through architecture. 

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And Now For Sculpture…

In my previous post, I gave my own short history of Painting, and I thought I would do the same for sculpture and installation.

Now I have always had a bit of a rocky relationship (excuse the pun) relationship with sculpture and installation, and I think that this can probably be said for a large number of the public. Where I can study a painting or etching for what seems like hours, I often struggle to fully appreciate sculpture. To be honest, I am not sure why this is, maybe because all of my life I have been conditioned to think that painting is the purest form of art (may I add in here, that this does not reflect my personal opinion), and where I am not exactly against sculpture, I generally feel ambivalent towards the art form. Despite this, I do find that there is something exciting about 3D work, how you can walk all the way round something, examine it from all angles. And so, hopefully this look back into the history of sculpture will help me appreciate the form better.

The Lion Man

Ok, so I will start with the earliest form of figurative sculpture discovered to date: The Lion Man. The story of this remarkable piece is thought to have begun over 40,000 years ago, made from mammoth tusk. Fragments of ‘the Lion Man’ were first found in August 1939 in the Swabian Alps (Germany). Archeologists started to piece together this statue in the 70s with around 30% of the fragments missing, and further excavated shards were added in the 80s. However, believing that this restoration is not an accurate portrayal of the original, modern day specialists have begun to redo the reconstruction using computer technology, and believe that the result will be far more correct. I find it mind-blowing that 40,000 years ago, beings were producing works of art such as this:

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To begin with, and up until relatively recently, sculpture was the act of removing excess material to reveal a form from within the starting material. Materials used in sculpture include stone, ice, wood, ivory/bone, ceramics and more recently, metal.  The majority of the surviving works from Ancient civilisations (such as Greece, India and China) were carved from stone. Not only this, but because sculptures were so expensive to produce, statues and the like were normally reserved for religious or political expression.

Heres something I didn’t know: There are two main distinctive groups of sculpture –

1) Sculpture in the round: A 3D sculpture that is unattached to another panel (excluding a base) eg. statues

2) Relief: At least partly attached to a background surface eg. facades of buildings or jewellery

Ancient Egyptian

Of course, when we think of sculpture, the Egyptians often spring to mind; the detailed hieroglyphics that they created and their use of monumental sculpture. A technique frequently employed by the Egyptians was ‘sunk relief’ in response to the bright sunlight. Egyptian pharos were seen as deities, and as a result, were often immortalised in statue form, and most of the larger sculptures that survive today were found in tombs or Egyptian temples.   415px-Tuthankhamun_Egyptian_Museum Statue of Tuthankhamun, 18th Dynasty

The idea of large sculptures being displayed and admired as public art goes back to the Egyptian era, almost 4,500 years ago.

After Egypt

Ancient Greek societies are well known for their sculptures, especially statues that were used to depict the Gods, typically made from marble and bronze.  After the Greeks came the Roman sculpture, then moving on to the Early Medieval and Byzantine eras, one can see a huge development in the production of sculpture. What I have noticed in my research, is that up until fairly recently, the main subjects of sculpture were religious/sacred symbols, in contrast to the more abstract creations of today. This can also be seen in the Gothic period; the sunken reliefs attached to the facades of churches and houses built at this time. Baroque and Rococo sculptures took on a more energetic look, conveying the dynamism of the human form, similar to what we see in sculpture produced today.

Moving towards Modernism

Sculpture produced in the 19th and 20th Centuries were not vastly different to what had come before, but were moving gradually towards modern art. In America, for example, there was a large amount of variation within the world of sculpture; on the one hand, the Native Americans were producing totem poles and canoes and on the other hand, the colonialist Americans were producing monuments and the like such as Mount Rushmore (1927-1941, Gutzon Borglum and Lincoln Borglum).

From this time forward, we have been inundated with a large number of contemporary sculpture that, in some ways, subvert the traditional notion of what a sculpture ‘should be’. Degas’ ‘Little Dancer of Fourteen Years’, for example, although it is essentially a classic depiction of a human form, the stance in which he has chosen to present her is far from from typical. Furthermore, in 1911, Amedeo Modigliani produced his abstract interpretation of a “Female Head”, which is a far cry from a majority of the ancient sculpture mentioned previously. Modern day sculpture legends such as Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth are revered for their incredible manipulation of materials. And even more recently,  artists such as Damien Hirst, Anish Kapoor and Bruce Nauman have started to change the way that we look at sculpture, and what we understand to be sculpture.

I have so much more to say, so many more artists to mention, but alas, I said that this was a short history so I must end here.