Monday 30 January 2012

Definitions of Modernism: The New Objectivity

I have been meaning to thank Nick Lambrianou from the 'Shock of the New' course at Birkbeck College for some time. I went into that course in 2009 with a rather closed mind and during the class introduction, I laid out the challenge he faced: 'I'm a Renaissance girl. Modern art? Convince me!'.

Then I started doing research into what modernism was and the resultant effect stunned me; all this modern stuff in some ways felt more real and relevant to my life. So I set out before you (and to refresh myself) what I initially found and presented to class.

After reading and discarding many dictionary and encyclopaedia entries of the term modernism, I want to simply define it as an ethos which dominated Western 19th- and 20th-century culture – a celebration or reflection of the possibilities – or impossibilities of the present. It is impossible to define because:

Saturday 28 January 2012

Michelangelo's The Dream: A closer look at melancholy

As my interest is predominantly early modern/Renaissance, I thought a brief excursion into the sixteenth century was in order. I wrote this a few years ago but it's still interesting so thought I'd share it.

London's admittedly wide and varied collections of art cannot compete with the palaces, churches, museums and art galleries of Rome when it comes to treasures from the high renaissance (a 'fluffy' term but usually accepted as around 1500). However at London's National Gallery, British Museum and other places, the works of art freely and publicly available are masterpieces of their type. One of the best small galleries in London, the Courtauld Gallery is in possession of an excellent collection of over 7000 drawings and includes one of these masterpieces.

Michelangelo's drawing Il Sogno (The Dream) (1533-4) formed the centre piece of an exhibition where specialists brought together the artist's poetry, correspondence and drawing by other artists such as Raphael and Durer. As The Dream is rarely on display due to conservation issues, it not only provided an opportunity to see it in the flesh but also to see it in its historical, social, artistic and romantic context. On a quick point of access, it is possible to make an appointment with the prints department and see anything in the collection.

Thursday 26 January 2012


There is a clock that says;
'The world and all its desires pass away'.
Never more so than in these vast landscapes
Where our tiny mindscapes founder
Contemplating a fabulous mutability.

The skyscape feathers by far above,
Black clouds threaded with lichen light
At once threatening forceful engulfment
But careless elemental nature disregards,
Passing over and through leaving us breathless

Simply dropping soft water on exposed dark earth
Black crows scattered over the silent soil,
Plumage shining like hanging droplets.
Reflected greenish hue subsumed by ancient desire
The world remains, not passed away, merely changed.

Wiener Library: Information is Powerful

Having promised the utterances of a renaissance woman here are some musings on something a little more serious.

I am currently doing a course on Investigating the Archive at Birkbeck College which is taking us to the photo collections variously of the V&A, Magnum Agency, Royal Anthropology Institute, London Metropolitan Archives and RIBA. So far it's been incredible and each individual archivist providing a fascinating insight into their topics. However the archive that has moved me to write this was different.

The Wiener Library: 'For the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide' probably contains some of the most shocking images of modern times. We know those photographs well and they rightly form part of our collective consciousness. So our visit was to ask questions such as; how do you store them? How did they get in this collection? How do you ensure they are used correctly? How does such an archive survive and remain actively relevant? Not to mention funding...

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Art Erotica 2012: 'It's all a bit wanky'

Sex has been very much on my mind recently. One way or another I've been confronted with a lot of sexual imagery. What with art (Johnathan Yeo), film (Shame) and a lot of people kissing around the City of London (I blame the time of year), I wondered if I'd reached sensory overload when I contemplated visiting the ArtEroticaExhibition2012 in Cork Street, W1.

Turns out I'm insatiable and there were a number of pieces with which I'd quite like to have another encounter.

This open exhibition has two aims; to showcase new talent and raise money for charity. This year was their first themed show and they wanted 'to explore the erotic in a wide variety of ways, to be a showcase for contemporary work in the genre, and to make a meaningful contribution to the genre'. With these thoughts in mind let's turn to the art.

Monday 23 January 2012


Worn with love
This delicate piece;
Gently radiating colour
Silver warmed by pale skin

Created through love,
Glowing invisible violet;
Vinous strata of pale statue still.
Jealousy thwarted and colour imbue.

Designed by love
Enhancing my mysterious eyes.
An eternal meditation
On iridescent memories.

London Art Fair - decoding Mark King

It is difficult to be unaware of the ubiquitous QR codes which are popping like some kind of technological graffiti. And without a reader they are meaningless which is what makes this piece of art so intriguing. Having resisted the need to download one, today I paid a visit to the app store. All in the name of art.

At first glance the piece is a simple clean back and white A1 print hung and stretched by unassuming bulldog clips; a clear nod to the artist's graphic design background. A design of old fashioned computer game space invaders line up mid game. One on the bottom line is missing and a shot is being fired downwards.

Look closer and suddenly these little aliens take on a new dimension. Away from the 1980s nostalgia, they are made up of any number of modern QR codes representing the block pixels of old.

So far computers are unable to 'read' pictures; so far we remain unique in this ability to decode symbols and context in art to enrich our experience of it. However to interpret what this picture is saying we require a computer to instantly read and interpret. Our human intelligence perhaps merely suggests fond emotional remembrance of these retro space invaders.

So what is the picture saying? Without scanning every single code we don't know. A random selection linked to tweets:

Environment; 'there is no real excuse for choosing to be an ignorant polluting society without respect for the ecosystems we exploit. Believe that :-)'
Friendship; 'hey I torture my friends but they deserve it'. Another came up with roughly, 'every terrorist owns a Casio watch'.
Media; 'Mainstream media - Better name is US Government Department of Propaganda and Misinformation'
Media; 'Maybe us white folks lean to be PERFECT like black hear the propaganda machine (media), the only bad people are whites'
Media; 'it's a sad DAY in America when reasonably intelligent people are called ignorant & propaganda is treated like manna from heaven'

The last three being from one invader.

A few others inevitably are broken links. This interpreting immediately adds a whole new view of the space invaders; fascinating fragments of random humanity hidden by code.

 For further information go to his blog and website

Sunday 22 January 2012

La Musica

Vibrating deep within the hall
With the thrilling stirring
Swirling notes
The musician sits in our centre;
Circles of light rippling outwards
Ribbons of melody
Colours of chords
Intense building of sound
To a vital crescendo
Leaving us breathless
Only to echo away
Leaving us illuminated, minds throbbing
Musical memories

Inspired by La Musica (1911) by Luigi Russolo

Saturday 21 January 2012

Jonathan Yeo - Addendum in full

This is the addendum blog post in full - a shorter version appeared on the Aesthetic Diary Blog.

Jonathan Yeo's latest exhibition paintings hadn't lost their impact on a second viewing despite being prepared for the shocking surgical markings this time. The skin tones glow with life, enhanced by the rough surface under the paint causing minute imperfections in the flesh.