Sunday, December 18, 2005

Sweet Victory - Ray Caesar

I'm pretty excited to hear that Ray Caesar has an exhibition, Sweet Victory, coming up in January. There is a little information on the Jonathan LeVine Gallery website. It starts on January the 7th.
If you aren't already familiar with Ray Caesar's work, it is extremely high quality digital art. Though I don't really like to dwell on the digital aspects of it. It is amazing to think that all his work is created in three dimensions on computer, then printed. For all the technical brilliance, it is content that really make his art so compelling. It is always striking, but the complexity of detail, and suggested story in each image is remarkable.
The images on Ray's website are excellent, but even they show relatively little detail. So the opportunity to see his work in the flesh is not to be missed. If you can make it to New York I doubt you'll be dissapointed.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Today I'm wandering off subject a little, not that I've posted anything lately, but hey. Anyway, tonight two things, first off I got mail to say that this blog has been selected by Lewisham Online (our local council website) as one of the top ten Lewisham blogs. I'm quite flattered really, though I notice an older link to my 1994 website Digital Deptford has disappeared. I suppose it was a bit before its time, and how sits unaltered for more than a decade. I'm quietly proud of that, and can hardly complain that links to it are slowly fading.
Anyway, it's very nice to get some local interest. I took a look at the other local blogs and found a link to a site that puts into words and images something that I've been feeling lately. That is, a message of defiance to London terrorism, "YOU WILL FAIL". I say that safe in the knowledge that terrorism will fail in London. I've lost count of the bombings London has seen in the years. I think my earliest bomb memory was the IRA's GPO Tower bomb. I was terribly disappointed, as I had wanted to visit the revolving restaurant some day. That was 1971, I was seven.
There was the Horse Guard's Parade bomb, the Canary Wharf Bomb, the Christmas Bombing campaigns, the Harrods Bomb, the Oxford Street Wimpy Bomb, the Downing Street mortar attack, the Nail Bomber, London Bridge Station bomb, Parliament Car Park bomb. I was within a half mile of a couple of those, thousands of us were. Many many people have died in London bombs.
However, I don't give a damn, and I refuse to change anything I do to avoid potential targets. Partially because I won't be cowed by bombers, partly because the chances of being killed are infinitesimally small. Sure I'll keep my eyes open, I always try to. But I'm not scared and the bombers will fail.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Laughter and art

There is an art to being funny, and making art that is funny is far too easy to get wrong. Few people even try it, though some achieve it by accident. Today I visited the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens and I have never laughed out loud at a gallery before. For that I thank Andreas Slominski.
Andreas Slominski has a fairly simply approach to art, he takes mundane things, then makes then insanely complicated. The simplicity of adding complexity is pure genius, and very funny. Not being familiar with his work until today, much of the fun and the laughs were due to the gradual realisation of the insanely complex processes he uses. The first item in the show is a candle, a simple candle sitting on a plinth. What deep meaning could it have, what special purpose does it serve. Well it wasn't until I had seen more of the gallery and understood better his work that I figured it out. There were some photographs of a ski slope running from the back of a truck right into the gallery, with tons of real snow. A skier was delivering the candle in the most elaborate, pointless yet funny way possible. Another exhibit was called something like indentation made by the nose-cone of a glider. It is a large foam block, with a fairly sizable dent in it. I didn't get it at all, until around the corner there were a couple of pages of a spreadsheet on the wall. It appeared to be a traffic survey for a week outside the gallery. There were columns for cars, vans, cars towing boats, cars towing planes, motorcycles etc. After staring at it for a minute I realized that most days there were no cars with boats or with planes. Then I saw the punchline, there was a day that a car was observed towing a plane. It was the glider that made the dent. Then I realised that some photographs I saw, but didn't understand earlier in the show were of people constructing the glider outside the gallery, and then poking the nose-cone through the window to make the impression. I don't know, the absurdity really tickled my funny bone, I love it.
The theme for much of the show is traps, where Andreas preposterously complex solutions to problems that don't exist. The badger trap, albatross trap and hyena traps were my favorites.
The show is on until the 12th of June and is free. I thoroughly recommend it to everybody who feels comfortable laughing at, and with art.
Image shown is called Cough Syrup Transportation System. Unfortunately it isn't one of the pieces at the show, but a good example of the kind of thing you can expect.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Do it yourself...or not

I've never been much of an artist. I liked art at school, even got an art O Level, but never really excelled at it. It's a good thing that computers were invented, because being left handed I always smudged everything in real life. Working with computers means text and images can be squeaky clean, unlike my real writing or drawing.
If I had really thought about it though, I would have realised that you don't always need the skills of a grand master to make art. Take Andy Warhol, sure he could make prints and paint, but so much of his stuff was churned out by his factory of artists. I wasn't around, but I'm sure this horrified the established art world, but it only gives me hope. It was, after all, his ideas that were coming across, though other people's brushes. At least that's the theory. Warhol was far from alone in his methods though. Jeff Koons has been more of an art director than anything, Damien Hirst has been criticised for his team of artists. Any massive piece of art requires a team. Teams cost money, so it tends to be bigger names that use teams to help them make art.
Anish Kapoor made Marsyas a sculpture that literally filled the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern in London. Of course he designed it on a computer and got a team of experts to actually make it, but I don't think that takes away from the power of the piece.
From my point of view, the opportunity to tell a team of people that I want a 40 foot puppy to be built out of flowers, and then sit back and watch the results would be a dream come true.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Outlive your art

In the old days a cave painting would last millennia, oil paintings would last hundreds of years, sculptures should be virtually indestructible. More recently our throw away culture has tolerated art that is less hardy. Damien Hirst has his “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” piece slowly deteriorating. I guess in 1991 it didn’t occur to him that a shark might not last forever even if it was in formaldehyde. Generally speaking I like Damien Hirst’s work, and it doesn’t bother me that people feel it’s OK to spend millions on buying it. What does concern me is the likelihood of outliving your art.
Of course some art is designed to be fleeting, an installation that exists on the moment. That can be quite exciting in itself. I saw a Sculpture by Banksy the infamous graffiti art guy being unveiled last year. It was really exciting because it was illegal public art, we knew that the local council would cart it off before long. It didn’t make it through the night before people broke bits off it, and the council dragged it off within a week.
Some art though is just too fragile to exist. Take this chandelier made of blown glass, five metres high. It was on display at the Victoria and Albert museum a few years ago, I happened to see it and was amazed by the detail and the fragility. A while later I heard a radio news story that mentioned that a Dale Chihuly piece had been broken by “an outside contractor”. I don’t know for sure it was this piece but it seems likely. I’ve broken the odd wine glass, spilt the occasional pint, even had minor bumps in my car, but wow can you imagine dropping a 15 foot high mass of glass. It gives me shivers just thinking about it.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Ray Caesar opening in New York

If you happen to be in New York next Saturday March 19th you'll be able to catch the latest opening at the Jonathan LeVine Gallery. It is a solo exhibition for Ray Caesar, who does the most amazing work. The show, Ray Caesar: Hidden Doors and Secret Rooms opens its doors 6pm-9pm on Saturday, and runs until April 16th.
As I've mentioned before I'm a huge fan of Ray's work, though I'm here in London. So if anybody happens to be in the neighbourhood and picks up a gallery catelogue I'd love it if they could pick one up for me too!
It looks like Jonathan LeVine has got a great lineup of exhibitions planned for the rest of the year. There will be solo shows form Jeff Soto, Gary Baseman and Daniel Martin Diaz to name just a few. I just wish there was a gallery with a similar focus (whatever that is) in London.

Anamorphism in action

While trying to prove my point about art and mathematics and science are all inextricably linked I went in search of examples of anamorphism. This is a technique of painting pioneered in the 17th century artists, where to see a painting correctly the observer needs to be in exactly the correct place. At that point all the perspective falls into place and the image is seen.
Holbein's famous painting the Ambassadors shows an odd smear across the bottom which when viewed from below is a skull. Other examples of the technique are only viewable when a cylindrical mirror is placed on an image. The method is at its most impressive when used to decorate church ceilings, fooling the eye into ignoring the curved surfaces, or even seeing curves where there are none.
Thankfully this amazing techniques isn't a lost art, and Kurt Wenner, Master Street Artist, uses it on his massive pavement masterpieces to fantastic effect. His work is seen all over the world. The Pope has even seen his work, and even more curiously signed it for him!
But Kurt hasn't always been a world traveling street artist, he spent while as a scientific space illustrator at NASA before upping sticks to Rome to study the great masters. The examples shown here are the tip of the iceberg, Kurt Wenner is very prolific. Take a look at his website and you'll find an amazing array of work.

A matter of scale

Last weekend I was in Dublin for the residential bit of my MBA course. I was at the Gresham in O'Connell Street, where a relatively new piece of public art has been placed. It's officially called the Spire of Dublin, though as with all Dublin public art, there are plenty of nicknames for it. I heard "The Stiletto in the Ghetto" and "The Stiffy near the Liffy" and "The Spire in the Mire".
I'm not convinced that Dubliners really dislike it so much, the €4,000,000 it cost was a hotly debated point. If Dubliners could buy hotly debated points for that kind of money they would consider it well spent. I think they got their moneys worth before it was even erected (three years later than planned.
The size of the spire makes me wonder if it is art or architecture, standing at 120 meters (393 feet) it towers over surrounding buildings. It is stainless steel, which reflects the sky and surroundings and looks quite different at various times of the day and night. The base is 3 meters wide and fills most of the central reservation of O'Connell Street. It's shockingly big, and just plain fun to look at.
It reminded me of another new piece of public art in Liverpool. Tracey Emin, the adorable wonky faced artist whose work I generally love, has produced the Roman Standard. It consists of a sparrow sized bird cast in bronze and perched on a 12 foot pole. Like I said, I love her work, but I found this one a little more challenging than her bed.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Low-tech...or just old-tech?

I set out to make this blog all about technology in art. While lots of people ponder what constitutes art, I found something that made me wonder what constitutes technology. The company is called Pressure Printing, and it uses techniques and technology from the 19th century to reproduce art.
The technology in question is the Albion Handpress (see image), Circa 1854, it is cast iron, it weighs 3,000 pounds and does one print at a time. At work I recently tested a laser printer that does over 30 colour pages a minute, this colossus savors the process a little longer. Pressure Printing specializes in fine art short run prints, and its client list makes impressive reading. Currently on sale is a set of prints by Coop, silver ink on black paper. There are other projects in the works from Mark Ryden, Rockin' Jelly Bean, Marion Peck and Jeff Soto.
I like to think that the original Albion Press machines were as high tech as the mid 1800s could muster. Like the micro-piezo driven inkjet technology of today, the Albion must have been either faster, or cheaper or somehow better than whatever preceded it. It makes me wonder what we will be using for imaging in another 150 years. Will there be artisans like the people running Pressure Printing gently coaxing old Power Mac G5s to print on dusty old Epson printers? If it does work out like that it would be pretty funny, though I can't quite picture it. I doubt the computer would have the lasting power, though I bet there will still be working Albion Handpresses around.