The Double

The Double

Have you ever had that gut-wrenching feeling of believing you just aren’t good enough? The perfectionist inside you, brainwashing you into thinking ‘what is the point…I’m not as good as her/him anyway…’? Well, if there’s any hope in convincing us insecure and torturously over analytical lot that it’s all just in our heads, then self-deprecating yet extremely talented Richard Ayoade is definitely our man. And what better casting to star in his new film The Double than Jessie Eisenberg; an actor who also proves you don’t need to be an extrovert to be outstandingly successful.
Many of us continually put ourselves down. I know I wouldn’t allow anyone to insult me the way I casually devour myself with negativity. People are their own worst enemies, and Ayoade literally transports the old clichéd saying: ‘the only thing holding you back is you’ onto screen, in a unique and distinctively dark approach.

Although Ayoade sincerely believes his directing skills aren’t that great, his adaption of Dostoyevsky’s The Double renders a visually impressive dystopian future. In this world, compliant Simon James (Jesse Eisenberg) lives a monotonous life. Unnoticed by his work colleagues, and his photocopy girl crush (Mia Wasikowska), he simply exists as just another insignificant face. His obsessive feelings towards his co-worker are the only optimism within his depressing existence. However, his awkward romantic attempts get him nowhere and he feels powerless to change his timid ways. Simon’s mundane routine takes a bizarre turn with the arrival of James Simon (also Eisenberg), who is his exact physical double, but everything Simon is not. The confidently suave alter ego hurls him into a psychological nightmare, while no one else notices the resemblance, and James begins to attain and accomplish everything Simon wishes he could. Ayoade’s previous ties with the innovative effects artists at London’s Framestore invite their smart mirroring techniques to double the protagonist up on screen. Eisenberg does an impressive job in the portrayal of two distinctly contrasting personalities.

 

The Double

 

Shot at nights, in an abandoned business estate and underground for three months, Ayoade crafts a claustrophobic and unidentifiable place and time. The visual effects cleverly depict oppressively endless buildings, although the structures are in reality no taller than four levels high.We feel trapped in a humdrum existence of lonely apartment blocks and narrow office corridors, which magnify the feelings of anguish and frustration. Suicide is a recurring theme yet the film’s black humour shines through just enough to stop things becoming unbearably bleak. Whilst the dialogue is everything you might hope from an Ayoade film, ranging from subtly hilarious to wonderfully strange, the heart of the film lies in the ominous aesthetics. Many amateur film makers wonder why their attempts don’t convey a cinematic feel, and a common answer to that is lighting. The characters are bathed in a dim but sickly yellow light, akin to that of a seedy motel lobby, and as the film’s reality spins further into ambiguity the characters are cast in a post-apocalyptic mist. The soundtrack similarly is haunting and shrill, almost as if the world is creaking and on the brink of falling apart.

Watching The Double is like being plunged into the deepest depths of the human psyche for an hour and a half, face to face with the crippling fears of underachievement and self-doubt. It also illustrates a world so disconnected from real life, that it sucks you in and obliges you to feel equally isolated. However, Ayoade neutralizes the unsettling gloominess with the ideal amount of humour, while Jesse Eisenberg seems more than capable of taking on the British sarcasm the film is drenched in. We may all at times feel inadequate, and wish we could be the complete opposite of who we are. However, Richard Ayoade need not worry about his flaws, as his bold directorial style apparent within The Double is a quiet triumph.

Are we living in a cine-literate society?

Are we living in a cine-literate society?

We live in a society where we have unlimited access to pretty much every movie that has ever been released. From physical media such as Blu-ray and DVD to streaming sites such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and Flixster, we have been given the opportunity to watch what we want, whenever and wherever we want. However, in this age of digital media, do we take full advantage of what is offered to us? Are we living in a society that over-indulges and obsesses over media in any form? Whatever the case, the way in which we watch and understand movies has changed vastly from what it once was.
George Kingsley

A decade ago, we could only watch a film at the cinema or have to wait for months later until it was released on DVD. The concept of watching a film over the internet was still considered to be something of a novelty, a wasted effort for those devoted individuals who were willing to put up with dropping bandwith and sub-standard video quality. Now, back to present day, services like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video offers HD streaming of thousands of titles available to watch on Computer’s, TV’s, Tablets, Kindles and even mobile phones. The online streaming of movies and television has become the norm in contemporary society and a Netflix subscription is as common as a Sky + box. In fact, by August 2013, the video streaming site Netflix had almost 1.5 million subscribers in the UK alone, a figure, which has been attributed to, the growing popularity of critically acclaimed hit American shows like Breaking Bad and House of Cards. The idea of “binge-watching” came directly from these shows; compulsive viewers would marathon countless episodes or entire seasons of shows like Breaking Bad in the comfort of their own homes, often on a weekend or days off, perhaps replacing the event of “Saturday night at the movies”.

Netflix and Amazon Instant Video don’t just offer popular television shows and hit blockbusters; they allow for contributions from world cinema and independent documentaries, films like the controversial Blackfish have found a new level of popularity and acclaim that would never have been achieved by a theatrical or DVD release. Art house cinema, in particular has found a second home on these streaming sites. Viewers at home are able to watch Joss Whedon’s award-winning adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing on Amazon Instant Video or Woody Allen’s seminal Annie Hall on Netflix, without having to track down an obscure Region 1 DVD release or find a independent cinema hundreds of miles away from where they live.

One of the most interesting elements of Netflix and Amazon Instant Video is the access to the various sub-genres. Both services have a growing library of titles in the Gay/Lesbian subgenre, which in my eyes, is a great thing. These online movie-streaming services have increased the diversity in the way that we watch movies in the 21st century.

 

Online streaming sites often suggest linking social media with the service, allowing us to share, recommend and rate the films and television that we watch. To give an example of the impact of social media on Netflix, I was recommended the documentary Catfish by a friend on Facebook. After I watched the documentary, I went onto rate and recommend the film to several friends on my Facebook page, hoping they would enjoy it as much as I did. This may seem like an everyday occurrence, but when you break it down, Netflix has changed the ways in which we watch movies as a collective. Watching a movie has become a social experience and Netflix and Amazon Instant Video have integrated this process and made it much easier to circulate movies within our social circles making it a more cine-literate modern world.

In the age of streaming sites, many have come to believe that physical media is dead, but as a worldwide audience, we are still impatient and demanding. For example, Disney’s Frozen managed to sell 3.2 million units in the first day of its home media release, whilst it was still playing in cinemas all around the world. As a cine-literate society, we want to watch new films not only as fast as possible but also in the best quality, we buy Blu-ray for the best possible audio and visual quality, meaning that most modern film audiences will use a mixture of physical media and streaming services to fully quench their movie thirst.

The internet has played a key role in the rise of cine-literacy and one of the most important online movie resources is the Internet Movie Database (abbreviated as IMDB). Since 1990, IMDB has become one of the most important and integral tools for moviegoers, both for professional and recreational users alike, the website provides full and concise information for almost 3 million movies: detailing the cast, crew, locations, soundtracks and even complex technical information. Anyone with access to IMDB will have the knowledge of an expert film buff at their fingertips: they will be able to wield the power to end the countless “Is that the guy from?” and “What’s that film called?” conversations that plague our everyday lives. IMDB can even be accessed on mobile phones and tablets, allowing for instant access to a whole encyclopaedia of film, and with over 52 million users, IMDB is evidence of a more cine-literate knowledge-hungry generation of film enthusiasts.

The idea of a cine-literate society is a society that is familiar with cinema, one that is obsessed by moving images and their meaning. Online streaming sites and reference tools let us indulge in the world of cinema whenever we please, we want to know everything about cinema and we want the world to know it. We have become an impatient audience who wants to watch everything that we possibly can, at a location or medium of our choice, whether it’d be a packed Cineplex on a Friday night or in the comfort of our beds on a tablet.

Whether the idea of a cine-literate society is a good or bad thing is another argument for another time, but we cannot deny that as an audience, we have changed so rapidly that the entertainment industry has to alter to our own growing demanding needs.

Nina Canell, Near Here

Nina Canell, Near Here

Camden Arts Centre, London/BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK

 

Even though I lived in London for a year when studying for my Foundation Degree, I had never been to Camden Arts Centre before. Looking back, I wish I had known about this gem: not only is it an exciting hub of contemporary art but it is also a perfect excuse for a day out in sunny Hampstead.

After eating the most amazing salad in the world in the downstairs Café (seriously, I could write a whole review on the salad), my boyfriend Joe and I made our way into the gallery space. Although perturbed by the invigilators who monitored every step we took as they followed us through the gallery, we were able to ignore them as we were immediately intrigued by contents of the light-filled room: Nina Canell’s ‘Near Here’.

Swedish artist Canell has, according to the blurb on the wall, made a series of sculptural works which ‘respond to the architectural environment of Camden Arts Centre’. The scientific laboratory aesthetic of fragments of electrical cabling set on concrete plinths or inside glass vitrines are muted by areas of domestic carpet which are the same cream colour as in my boyfriend’s mum’s house.

The long black pieces of cable are covered with water in blue-y glass vitrines. At each cut end, we can see a cross-section of hundreds of tiny copper wires, insulated with different coloured plastics. As we walk across the room, the surface of the water wobbles and ripples as though there is still electricity coursing through the thick cable. These remnants of electrical current are echoed by the process of the floor work, ‘Near Here (One Microsecond)’, where the artist has passed 1,000,000 volts through photocopying toner during one microsecond. The result, a dusty black flash of lightning, recalls the force and power of energy, but seems absorbed by the carpet underneath.

 

NINA CANELL

Photo Credits: Nina Canell

Canell seems to choreograph her audience in the gallery space: I have to stand right up close to see the individual fibres of ‘Blue (Diffused)’, a shredded sock which now resembles a petri-dish of cell culture; but when I look down to see ‘Forgetfulness (Ether)’, an Ethernet cable suspended in water in a small vitrine, close to the floor, it is invisible. I am forced to step back, but carefully so I don’t knock the other work which is clustered together.

This trepidation is fully realised in ‘Amender’. In this work, a hidden magnet holds nails which form a chain dangling down. These nails which hang at eye level are simultaneously threatening and precarious; their vulnerability makes you want to hold your breath so you don’t disturb the invisible force which stills them.

This exhibition makes me think about transmission and electricity and how it has been domesticated in our homes. Plug sockets, light switches and Ethernet ports are a familiar sight in our homes, but their underground arterial network is unknown to us.

‘Near Here’ in Gateshead is a much more sparse, pared-down show than in Camden Arts Centre. Just four works occupy the gallery space of BALTIC, a converted flour mill on the Newcastle/Gateshead Quayside. Stepping out of the blue-y glass lift, you are immediately faced with Canell’s second incarnation of ‘Near Here‘, and in particular, the huge sculpture consisting of hundreds of handmade neon strip lights. These lights are filled with gas which, when ionised by electricity, causes them to emit a fluorescent, off-white light: each glows a slightly different hue, depending on the ratio of different gases in each glass tube.

This work, ‘Overcoming the Current Resistance‘, was originally designed for a derelict powerhouse in Sydney, Australia, where the tower of light illuminated the dark, industrial setting. BALTIC, though once a working mill, is now a clean white cube gallery space; here, the blue-yellow-pink-white light is subtle and subdued, changing according to the light conditions outside the gallery. The overwhelming scale means the electricity running through the sculpture is almost palpable; an invisible buzz seems to surround the work.

Image Credits: Nina Canell: Near Here

Photo Credits: Nina Canell

In Camden, the carpets paired with Ethernet cables made me think about the electricity that has been made safe and accessible in our homes; how used to it we are and how we rely on it in our daily routines. In front of this vast work, however, I am faced with something far less familiar and far more powerful: the formidable force of electric potential.

You can see Near Here at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Arts until 20th July. BALTIC has an excellent Café and shop, and brilliant views of Newcastle/Gateshead Quayside. You can access their incredible library resources for free, and their staff are amazingly helpful and always willing to chat to you

245 Reasons to visit DJCAD’S Degree Show…

245 Reasons to visit DJCAD’S Degree Show…

 

The Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design’s academic year culminates with the long anticipated Degree show that provides a platform for the new emerging artists and designers of 2014.

The diversity of the show draws attention to the 245 talented artists that have been housed in Dundee for the previous four years. As a graduating student from DJCAD it has been an honour to study alongside this years creative students.

One particular show that stands out belongs to Lily Morris. Morris explores the nuances of growing up and growing old by abstracting and embellishing her endearing family narratives. Plaster cast mannequin baby doll legs litter the space with dainty ceramic shoes placed on their feet. The mannequins are somewhat disturbing and draw out nostalgic feelings towards my own irrational fear of little girl’s dolls. There is a sculpture of the plaster mannequin doll legs that is placed in the corner dressed in red tights and little girl’s white shoes. The red tights suggest that this baby girl is becoming a woman with the strong vibrant colour of red. Every woman can relate to that idyllic prepubescent stage where one is still pure and innocent and life’s only trial is fighting over who gets the best doll. As you leave Morris’ space the sadness of an era hits you quietly while you secretly thank you no longer have to fight over the best doll. There is a sickly sweet note to Morris’ work yet it was a show I greatly admired.

Kelley davis Art

Image Courtesy Of The Artist Kelley Davis

 The familial theme runs throughout DJCAD’s Degree show. Prominent within Kelley Davis’ work is the portrayal of the early abandonment of her father and the artist focuses on self-healing through the creation of her art. The main piece within the gallery space is the installation of a white communion dress suspended from the ceiling. Fishhooks puncture the dress and are tied with red thread. The red has connotations of blood connecting to the loss of the relationship of Davis’ Father that has detracted from the innocence of a child. The lack of relationship to her Father creates this idea to the viewer that Davis’ has been wounded and seeks a way to rebuild herself. The obvious destruction of Davis’ childhood creates a sense of grief but the viewer is filled with a sense of comfort as the artist recreates a performance of her Mother’s words. Davis’ Mother reconstructs the traumatic events of their lives. The words of the artist’s Mother instils silence within the space and despite describing harrowing events one cannot help but feel the comfort of a Mother’s words and what she will do to protect her children. Having watched Kelley Davis struggle throughout this year dealing with such an important piece of her life, she has executed her ordeal with such grace. Her work is an inspiration and permits those who have experienced something similar to receive some form of acceptance.

The work at DJCAD produced a great show and I recommend members of the public to visit the emerging artists. I am biased as a graduating student but DJCAD has allowed me to meet a bunch of interesting people and some of the most talented people I have ever met.

 

Written By Danielle Fleming

 

Phyllida Barlow: Dock

Phyllida Barlow: Dock

Phyllida Barlow’s current work ‘Dock’ is part of a commission for Tate Britain supported by Sotheby’s.
Having seen Barlow’s ‘RIG’exhibition in Hauser and Wirth in late 2011, I had some incline as to what was to be expected before entering Tate Britain; I certainly wasn’t disappointed. Similarly to ‘RIG’, this show demonstrates Barlow’s successful idiosyncratic style on an even larger scale than previously.

Upon entering the Duveen Galleries (the largest open space in Tate Britain), the viewer is immediately confronted with the scale of the imposing structures; the wooden frames tower overhead as they envelop the surrounding space, occupying the usually vast expanse of the gallery. The protruding struts and lattices provide a path in which to traverse further into the complex, enticing the viewer to explore and investigate the space.

A previous commission by Fiona Banner also demonstrated the way large works occupy the space; Harrier and Jaguar was a work that consisted of two fighter jets, one on it’s back and one hanging from the Duveen Gallery ceiling.

The sheer scale is immediate, as is the presence of the massive hanging objects; the massive tube structure is suspended with industrial cord, tied haphazardly around one of the higher struts, regardless of the apparent casualness of it’s application, the forms are solid and far from being precarious.phyllida barlow

 

The verticality and situation of the work encourages the viewer to observe the space in which the work is situated, and to also traverse the gallery through and around the work.

An affinity with architecture and sculpture is formed through the way the structures swallow the space they fill, and secondly how the protrusions extend the current space; the forming of a new synthetic space allows viewers to investigate the internal and external structure of the objects.

Aside from this affinity, a more stark contrast between the pristine architecture and the invasive harshness of the structures becomes apparent, drawing even more attention to the casualness of the materials in conjunction to the quality of the Galleries. Furthermore, the tactility of the works becomes manifest, the intricacy of the surface detail draws the viewers to near the works and appreciate the surfaces. Ultimately the work bares qualities that draws attention to the minute detail and the sheer scale of it’s form.

On closer inspection, the harshness of the execution and the manipulation of the materials becomes a primary curiosity, a privilege offered through the situation of the objects and the enticing nature of the forms. On occasion the height of the work inhibits further investigation, Barlow’s work is concerned with the human interaction with materials therefore the viewer is forced to interact with the work, one feels compelled to investigate the surface. After this I certainly felt compelled to touch the works.

The materials battle with their common fragilities through their integration with stronger more stern materials; polystyrene and cement, chord and wood, cardboard and so on are materials unified with solidity and rigidity. Phyllida’s work to me has always given the illusion of weight and mass, yet with enough observation the integrity is revealed to consist of more flexible materials, thus demonstrating her considered interaction with the materials.

Context is important, especially the physical context in which the objects are placed. The contrast of its situ was more overwhelming in ‘RIG’, due to the immediacy of the placement of the work (as it was adjacent to the entrance) and through the way the structures interacted with the unconventional space; ‘Dock’ consists of primarily object based sculptures rather than architectural extensions (although they are still present) or interventions.

Ultimately, ‘Dock’ is an impactful commission that encapsulates Barlow’s achievements and successes, and is certainly worth experiencing.

An Interview With Jeff Luker – In Wilderness

An Interview With Jeff Luker

In Wilderness

“Keep making the art you want to make, that will make you happy”, “do something new or at least true to what you believe in”, and most importantly, “be brave.” This is the advice Jeff Luker offered up to all wannabe practising artists when I interviewed him recently. Making the point that “the world doesn’t need more people making art that is on trend”, Luker played true to the main message and theme of his own work, honesty.

 

Jeff Luker’s photography is the rarely discovered artwork that a viewer would willingly opt to disappear and live within. With a relentless honesty and a sense of artistic integrity that many artists – both current and future – could do with learning a thing or two about, Luker creates photographs that capture fleetingly youthful moments in the split second they occur. “I want my photos to be true, not some fake version of what I think the world could be” Luker responded when I inquired as to whether he ever structures photos and shoots purposely around concepts. “At the end of the day I want to know I was there, and it happened, and it was real.” The idea of an unaltered and honest representation of reality is something that seems so overlooked in the Art World today; it’s not glamour, it’s not an unachievable lie, and there is no trickery to be found within Luker’s work, overall he perfectly achieves what he sets out to work towards with every photo, it’s honest and that’s what makes it so special.

Jeff Luker

As a self confessed “shoot first, ask questions later kind of photographer” it’s really no surprise that Luker’s photographs seem to sing of a fleeting life, with every image representing this attitude of “right time, right place and capturing that moment.” But, this sense of youth and adventure is by no means the only thing Luker wishes to represent within his work. “Now that I am getting into my later 20′s, I am not interested in youth culture in the same way” Luker stated, admitting that like all artists he wants “to keep progressing” and making “work that make sense to [him] and [his] worldview.” Personally I feel as though this sense of self within Luker’s work plays a huge role in how honest the outcome is. Luker’s main intention as an artist is to continue making work for himself – representing his own life, opinions and views – and that is what makes each photograph so true and pure, they’re his photographs.

 

That being said, every artist has to make money somehow, and Luker, like many others, also has many commercially creative projects under his belt. Having worked for companies such as Nike, Levis, and Urban Outfitters I had to enquire as to whether or not Luker ever felt a sense of imbalance between his own creative projects and commissioned work. To this, Luker replied “while they do sort of draw from the same place, personal Vs professional definitely have their differences”, stating “taking photos for [his] own projects is [his] first love” before adding – of course – that he also loves Commercial work as “it is such an exciting and fun process”. Overall, I think it’s more than fair to say that while working on both his own creative projects as well as commissioned work for such impressive names and labels, Luker has definitely “been pretty successful at balancing the two”.

Jeff Luker

Proving to be an artist after my own heart, Luker went on to affirm that he is a “very spontaneous person” announcing – when asked of his future plans for work – that he doesn’t “know what the next five years look like or even the next six months.” Currently working on a book about the American Wilderness Luker is hoping to allow his work to evolve and grow, naturally leading him and his photography to wherever it has to be. “I think it is so hard for people to let their work progress naturally at a pace it should,” he added, before – somewhat bravely stating – that “art and photography are just so fast paced and people are just cranking stuff out. I try to not let all that interfere with my own process.” This rather Zen approach to creating artwork of any kind seems to be something that more artists should attempt to adopt for themselves; after all, art shouldn’t be rushed just as much as it shouldn’t be created purely for the sake of money, we all need to learn to take our time, remembering to concentrate on what’s actually important.

 

So finally, does Jeff Luker believe Art can change the world? “Yes and no. I think art can change how we feel about the world and how we go about our lives and the choices we make. But I think we need to recognize that everything is connected. Making art is essential, spreading ideas, communicating with each other, sharing our emotions, are all so important. But at the end of the day I think what is most important to changing the world is just to be a good, kind, and compassionate person. What was it Gandhi said, ““To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.””

 

Jeff Luker uses his “35mm film – Kodak Portra” most often, but as a camera enthusiast he also owns a collection of other cameras including the “Yashica T4, Nikon FM2, Contax T2, Contax G2” and shoots digitally with a “Canon 5dmk3.”

 

Keep up to date with all of Luker’s work at www.jeffluker.com and be sure to follow him on Instagram http://instagram.com/jeff_luker and Tumblr http://jeffluker.tumblr.com/.

Practice and Pedagogy: the Problem of Knowing or Not Knowing.

Joseph doubtfireEducation’s purpose is to produce knowledge. ‘Art school’, which now seems a slightly archaic term, is supposedly the ‘artistic’ catalyst for such production. The debate as to what ‘artistic knowledge’ is exactly is not absolutely definitive; it therefore comes as no surprise that as debatable are the methods of its production – the ways in which art is ‘taught’. James Elkins’ book Why Art Cannot be Taught, as its title suggests, challenges the notion that art is a teachable subject and draws on several problematic aspects of the pedagogy of art. Elkins illustrates the difficulty that the idea of teaching art poses. Teaching art, he states, which implicates teaching the making of art, is not something learnt in the same way as that of an academic subject and does not pertain to that of conventional knowledge or understanding.

A fine art education is particularly difficult to comprehend, as although the student leaves with a degree and technically is qualified, what the student has learnt must, must it not, be fairly different to that of any other education, particularly insofar as that which is learnt artistically or on an artistic level; thus a clear dichotomy between two kinds of knowledge is evident. Craftsman-like skill, conceptual understanding, the manifestation of idea into object are all, I suppose, involved in and yet removed from that which artistic-knowledge is. For example, if one were to label artistic-knowledge quite simply as ‘material understanding’, with the artist becoming a craftsman-like figure, then the ‘idea’ or conceptual understanding of the work is rendered unimportant, or rather an unimportant part of that which the artist or student-artist knows. Whereas one cannot possibly separate ‘idea’ from the making of art, without a preconceived idea (or thought) one could not possibly make art if in fact the ability (or knowledge required) to make art is the most definitive label one can bestow upon that of ‘artistic-knowledge’.

Understanding (or not understanding, as the case may be) that which artistically is learnt, which one might describe as artistic-knowledge, results in an ever more challenged notion of art education – if what is known artistically is indescribable (even unknowable), how can it possibly be taught consciously?

In a contemporary art education learning is not limited to that which is known artistically -programs of fine art education involve the theoretical, historical, philosophical and the curatorial. The student is taught several skills often employed by working artists, skills that intentionally are transferable and applicable to other areas of work or study. Such skills exist as part of an art education due not only to their relevance and necessity to work successfully as a practicing contemporary artist, but because an art education was lacking a measurable way of producing knowledge. An art education must serve the purpose of education and as a result, must meet the expectation that the student leaves qualified.

The idea of art as a qualification is challenging in itself, a notion that is further problematised when one considers an art qualification in relation to other (particularly academic) qualifications. It is possibly the implementation of theory and history that bridges the gap between that which is learnt as a result of an academic education and that which is learnt as a result of an artistic education – the uncertainties of what artistic-knowledge (or the ability to make work) is alongside the implementation of art school into the realm of the university and academy (a motion which has drawn an unspoken parallel in the sense of the production of knowledge) created the need for an ability to measure that which is learnt – the student dissertation is an example of that which is measured within either variety of education. The qualified artist quite obviously does not know the same as the qualified scientist, either practitioners breadth of knowledge may overlap, but what it is that either knows can never exist on a parallel level, as either has different skills and abilities (one might go as far as saying that one has the ability to make work and the other does not, although there is without doubt exceptions to this rule). The type of knowledge produced by either academia or art seem incomparable, although theoretically exist on the same plane; a BA (Hons) degree in either fine art or in Science technically have the same academic value.

Joseph doubtfireSeparating that which is learnt artistically from that which is learnt theoretically, philosophically, historically or curatorially is challenging, if not impossible. These are factors that have become wholly engrained within an art education but also the way in which contemporary art is practiced and the way one thinks about practicing art. One might argue that making art is inclusive of simply that – making, and that practicing art and the knowledge one gains from such activity is separate from that of theory, philosophy, history or even the curatorial. But to understand the relationship between these ideas and the making of art, one must imagine the academic and the artistic as two separate entities – what would art be without theory, history or philosophy?

So much a part of the way contemporary art is made is understanding what it is that has been made – the way in which a particular work performs. We not only attempt (and are taught) to understand what it is we have made, but so often that understanding is relative to particular theories and/or histories. The emphasis on knowledge-production, not as opposed to, but in addition to the production of visual art has meant a dramatic shift in the seriousness of an art education. Theoretical, historical, philosophical (and to some extent, curatorial) aspects of studying art, no doubt became a more integral fixture and are parallel to the introduction of art into the syllabus of academic institutions and the translation of many art schools into art universities. Programmes of study such as the Master of Fine Arts and the practice-based PhD are examples of ways in which the pedagogy of art has moved to exist more in accordance with ideals of the academic. Practice-based research, which programs of study such as the Master of Fine Arts and the practice-based PhD are involved with, attempt to produce knowledge (in an artistic sense) which exists in problematic correlation with that of scientific or academic knowledge, although is not in opposition completely.

What artistic knowledge is, is hugely challenging, therefore as challenging is understanding exactly what it is that an art education teaches its students – what the student learns. Artistic knowledge,which we know to understand as knowledge, which allows the artist the ability to make work, exists in a wholly individual sense – the knowledge required by the artist to make work is dependent and interchangeable on that which the artist wants to make/is making. Art education no longer concerns itself with the teaching of traditional craft to an entire class (or year) of students, therefore it’s necessary for the education that is delivered to be as diverse and wide-ranging as its students and the work they produce. Presumably, this need for diversity is where the dialogical and conversational methods of art education have stemmed from – with a personal tutor, group critiques etc, the education is more or less personalised to that of the individual.

Self-motivation and self-driven practice (and by extent, learning by means of one’s self) are the basis of the current pedagogical method, which is employed as a pivotal role in the way the student-artist learns (and is taught). The implementation of student-lead learning, or really, the eradication of lecturer-lead learning challenges the idea that the master knows more than the student. The course if nothing else, teaches its students to problem solve. Dialogue and critique employ the notion that the artist or student-artist knows the most about their work, but benefit from an open dialogue surrounding it. The idea of looking at other art is the method employed to allow the student an understanding of how to position themselves in regards to contemporary art. Although theoretical, historical and curatorial understanding is commonplace within most art education on and above a degree level, the rhetoric of an art course is making, this is easily overlooked. An art education is, at its core, an allegorical, microcosmic view of working as an artist – the idealistic student routine goes something like; wake up, make work, sleep, wake up, make work. Yes, there are lectures and seminars, talks and course meetings; the fluidity of practicing art is made rigid with such activity, not to mention the requirements of the course (such as grading criteria). The student-artist writes and thinks but above all they make-work and they learn to understand how they make work, what it means to make work, and what that knowledge means.

Joseph doubtfire

What’s mine is yours

What’s mine is yours

Discussing the perks of working within a shared studio community

As much as I refuse to acknowledge it, everything is about to change. The life that I have spent the last three years cultivating will very soon be coming to a close and – as well as having to leave a beautiful house in Sheffield and move back in with (deep breath) my parents – I’ll also be geographically separated from the group of creative people I’ve come to know and value (cue the violins). The only consolation is knowing that I am by no means the only fine art graduate that will be walking this road.

Of course, I’m being rather melodramatic and it isn’t the dark ages – I’ve got trusty Facebook and Twitter to help me keep in virtual contact with the people I’ve met across my studies. But that’s not what I really want. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy friendly banter just as much as the next person. But what I know I’ll really be grieving for is the studio.

Art Studio

The space.

The knowing that there’s a specific place I can go to where I can make a mess. Or I can just sit and think. Or I can talk to someone about those very thoughts. And that right there is the crux of it – someone; having a someone to bounce ideas around with. The idea of not having anywhere to gather with like-minded people on an almost daily basis is a daunting thought, especially after being so privileged whilst at University. Speaking as an artist who often makes fairly large, sculptural work, the physical space of the studio has been integral to my making process. However, the emphasis of importance is far less on the architecture and much more on the people it houses.

A truth generally acknowledged on art courses is that students who work in close proximity often begin to produce art that bears some similarity to that of the people they work alongside. In a setting where difference and innovation is the goal, this should seem a strange phenomenon. But because artists are working amongst one another, talking to each other and sharing ideas (probably as well as material resources – it’s really handy when your peers love shiny textiles as much as you do) – there is sure to be some overlapping of interests which then surface in what they produce. Seeing how another artist works enables you to view your own process from the outside and establish why it is that you do things one way and not another. But sometimes what it shows you is that someone else is doing it better. It has often been this realisation that has helped to refine areas within my work that I felt unclear about. Recognising the similarities between art practices also makes it possible to determine the differences – this open balance builds a willingness to enter into collaboration with other artists, as you both explore your making together.

Art Studio

The opportunity to collaborate (particularly within the safety of a learning environment) can be an incredibly rewarding venture. S1 Artspace – a Sheffield based artist studio and gallery – has recently been the backdrop for projects pushing the boundaries of what shared studio spaces can mean. Launched by artist Keith Wilson, the gallery has been providing a place for artists to inhabit a completely unrestricted studio environment and question the format of what an art school should look like. Hester Reeve – a performance artist and lecturer at Sheffield Institute of Arts – utilised this freedom by taking over the space with her art and philosophy class. The 24 Hour Origin of the Work of Art Lecture was – as the title suggests – a 24 hour lock-in, in which Martin Heidegger’s text was given as the main topic of the ‘lecture’. When recounting the experience, Reeve said, ‘It allowed me to feel like I was part of a brethren – we were all committed to the same space and time. It felt like creative exploration.’

In comparison with her more regular teaching schedule, she commented that the intense time period was ‘much more conducive for linking theory to practice than a one hour lecture’ and that she much preferred the relationship she had with her students in that setting.

Art Studio

Live together, talk together, work together. In a lot of ways, this project truly emphasises the strengths of entering into a space dedicated to artists becoming a community. The atmosphere bred within shared spaces of creative work is one not only of friendship but also of development. It seems straightforward to say that where people with common goals congregate, there will be conversation and hopefully encouragement. In my experience of an art studio, it is not just encouragement that occurs but a sharing and expanding of ideas. When I asked Ashley Holmes – an artist who works across video, sound and sculpture and one of four final year students to receive a place on S1 Artspace’s studio bursary programme in 2013 – about his time in the space, he replied:

Working in a shared studio is such a rich experience; that sense of community and simply having people around has been invaluable to me. I’ve been able to be in constant dialogue, bounce ideas off of people and receive feedback, meaning that the things I was thinking about within my practice (as well as things I hadn’t really considered) could be addressed thoroughly.

In terms of the bursary opportunity itself, Ashley said:

It not only provided a studio space in the city but also tutorials with artists and curators from the area which again, gave me some invaluable feedback and things to think about to move my work forwards. First and foremost, everyone is friends and it was generally a real comforting and exciting environment to be in.

With all of this in mind – as I stare at my bedroom, now filled with all the materials that composed my corner of the studio – I’m determined to continue to engage with a space that begins with people and leads to an exploration of new creative territories. This next post-university chapter will see me moving back to East London in order to be involved with a group set on regenerating an abandoned night club for use as an artist studio space. I hope they like sharing shiny materials too.

 

Sarah Botha

 

Even though I’m heading back south, Sheffield has some fantastic spaces that cater especially to new graduates and fresh-faced artists. Here are some points of contact for three of the city’s creative hubs:

S1 Artspace
www.s1artspace.org
@S1Artspace

Bloc Projects
www.blocprojects.co.uk
@blocprojects

Yorkshire Artspace
www.artspace.org.uk
@YArtspace

Crippling the Blacksmith Part Two: The Boundless Museum

As the second installment of his Arts Council England funded project, Jon Lockhart’s Crippling the Blacksmith examines institutional display, artifacts and our relationship with them through unspoken insight. In its broadest sense, the exhibition embraces the suppressed nostalgia within us all, bringing each and every viewer into an immediate and eternal relationship with every object displayed.

Its charm begins with the sheer visual wealth in the exhibition’s most prominent work, The Boundless Museum, made from stainless steel scaffolding which accommodates an abundance of found items – adopted and hoarded by Lockhart as a generous pool of reusable creative objects. Through carefully and systematically displaying the countless amounts of things in a static motion, the items appear as though they are frozen amidst a monumental storm of decades past and present. The vast installation has the ability to swallow up the viewer, yet instead it poses as a delicate shelter during a process of looking and discovery. There are chairs elevated on protruding tubes of scaffolding, piles of vinyl records on the floor, coloured cord snaked around poles and the most insignificant clutter ordered with precision. As the core of the exhibition, this installation engulfs the baffling and normalizes it, providing a continuous narrative from object to object; resulting in a tangible collage.

This obscure fictional journey continues throughout both Fanton Walk and Beat, where both works almost become entirely overlooked. In most exhibitions, this would be a bad quality, however in Lockhart’s case, it draws strong attention to the exhibitions use of accidental placement. Fanton Walk, made from a discarded road sign arranged with abandoned pieces of wood and cardboard, seems to be so strategically placed (near the exhibition entrance) that many viewers overlooked it entirely; unlike camouflage, this work is so obvious that it simply acts as a milestone to continue the visual journey. This exploration lingers also within Beat, where its obvious subtlety – a purposeful oxymoron, in fact reveals an uncanny quality to Lockhart’s practice that is neither purely childish nor purely humorous. Beat intensifies everyday objects such as a calculator, screwdriver and an aerial by arranging them as bizarre objects that are no longer simply novelty retro household items, but formed into a sculpture transforming them from invaluable, non functioning items into milestones of technological history. Even though it is clear that these objects don’t work – there are no visible plugs and are not serviceable in their displayed position; they become a believable contraption that echoes make-and-do decades from the past.

Jon Lockhart

 

 

Breaking up the inquisitive murmurs from visitors is This Love of Mine, installed in an enclosed space; the super 8 projector sequentially turns on, along with Frank Sinatra’s renowned song. It is important to note here that the projector did not in fact project anything except the light without a slide. This work – outside of its romantic associations, became a duet between two elements from the cultural past. As the most cryptic work in the show for me personally, the use of Sinatra’s song combined with the projector (not projecting), only hints towards Lockhart’s love for old technology. I think it is fair so say that the absolute wealth of discarded objects is really encompassed within this work, and also in his other work, Flag; a work drawing attention to the passing of time through amplifying the ticking of a clock through several speakers.

Together, the composition and spacial installments within Crippling the Blacksmith: Part Two, guide the viewer through not just the gallery (where the works exist), but through time. Time is not only key to the experience of the works and the duration of becoming immersed within Lockhart’s loosely orchestrated narrative, but it makes us aware of the history behind the objects themselves, craftsmanship and the immediate elevation of the objects into artifacts.

The key work of Richard Forster

The key work of Richard Forster

I find myself inside the tranquil Ingleby Gallery, located just a short walk from the chaotic road of Edinburgh’s Princes Street, In the much quieter Calton Road.The gallery has been a considerable success within Edinburgh’s contemporary art scene and with its bright open floor space it provides excellent commercial premises for a contemporary artist to exhibit their body of work. Today I’m here to take a look at key works selected from the seven yearlong career of English artist, Richard Forster.

Forster draws his inspiration from photographs of all kinds, including his own snapshots, photographs he finds in magazines and books and images on the Internet. Despite the fact that his paintings often resemble photographs from a bygone time, he chooses himself not to be labeled within the category of photo-realism.

I can’t help but agree with him. His art goes beyond that. Whilst I follow the long white walls inside the sun-dazzled gallery, Forster‘s paintings tell me a story. Like jotted down diary reflections; certain places and people seem to have appealed and inspired the artist, in one way or another, to document them as a sort of memory, through the use of classical instruments such as pencils and watercolor.

Utilizing his eye for detail and exceptionally competent skills, Forster invites us to take part in his detailed paintings. His subjects include buildings, construction workers, rail traffic, everyday actions and visions which draw the spectator into the painting, the glorious mix of different themes and locations make for a fast paced yet peaceful viewing.

Richard Forster

 

From a distance I seem to be able to see each ceiling tile and masonry detailing of the buildings he has carefully created – a reflection in the apartment buildings’ window glass, a shadow from a soaring seagull. The closer I get to the painting the more the details fade away and become blurry tonal combinations in gray scale. Precise and well planned, the paint is deployed in such a way that, at a distance, it forms a detailed image full of expression and life.

Looking at his artwork from the collection from Saltburn-by-the Sea, I’m captured by the feeling these three drawings rouse in me. I can practically feel myself standing on the shore; the magnificent waves roll in over my feet whilst the wind beats against my hair. Residual foam from the waves settles on the outskirts of the sea, a clue pointing towards the composition of something bigger than itself. So too, Forster‘s art in close up helps the spectator understand his gentle technique of image creation.

His art reveals an interest in pattern and rhythm. Many of his images create visual movement or include creative ways of playing with different patterns. In a collection of paintings inspired from a 1926 documentary film of a building site, we take part in just that: The movement is captured like a film still, stuck between moments, investigating the physical force of humans in real life situations.

Forster‘s ability to capture movement and essential details cause his paintings to become vivid, captivating and thought provoking.

I leave Ingleby Gallery with the feeling of fresh air in my lungs, wishing to see more of the talented Richard Forster in the near future. If you have the opportunity to visit this vibrant collection of art, I advise you to do just that.

The Richard Forster exhibition is on from 3 May – 21 of June at the Ingleby Gallery.

Written By Freja Malmstedt

Stabbing And Stitching

‘Multiple Points In This Vague Landscape’

Jonathan Baldock and Florence Peake At Primary, Nottingham

Jonathan Baldock does uncanny things with fabric, creating absurd tableaus from semi-abstract shapes and disembodied heads. The sheer meticulousness of his craft suggests a serious and focused attention to making which can transform the most innocuous objects into taut, tactile and slightly unreal versions of their original forms. Since working with choreographer Henrietta Hale at Wysing Arts last year, he has been turning his eye for the uncanny towards performance. For his ongoing exhibition at Primary, he worked on a one-night-only performance choreographed by artist/dancer Florence Peake.

Although the Pembroke born artist is best known for his soft-sculpture installations, he has a background in painting which he shares with Peake. Peake’s work has often involved objects, and shows a very fluid relationship between object and performer, sculptor and sculpture. With just 2 days of rehearsals before the performance, they’re both learning about the possibilities of each other’s discipline. I went along to see the one-off performance at Primary, where the installation will be on show until the 7th of June.

Jonathan Baldock Photo Credit: James E Smith

The installation where the performance plays out is dominated by a gigantic yellow face. The entire head, standing well over 8 ft tall, has been arduously hand stitched. Its eyes have been removed, leaving two gaping holes and red-rimmed sockets. Piles of fluffy wodding are strewn around the stage like innards. Other objects occupy the floor before the monumental head: a huge cushioned red lump, swathes of grey fabric and a circle of sherbet-yellow sand. A collection of ceramic sticks laid out neatly on pieces of brightly coloured fabric of varying size and shape suggest a kit for picnic as much as they recall a surgeons tools. The smell of incense and a low soft humming begins to fill the room. Despite the unsettling connotations of this scene, the world which Baldock has created for the performers, full of kooky outsized shapes and cheerful colours appears soft, silly, even comical and almost, *almost*, harmless.

The performers costumes cover them almost completely from head-to-toe. At times they move so slowly that they could be part of the set they inhabit. It’s the uneven shifting of weight, as well as the exposed hands and feet, that give away the fact there is a person underneath. For much of Act 1, the two sit peacefully holding balls of wadding while using hooked, semi-circular needles to slowly draw out thin strands of wadding. At the first, these characters seem quite benevolent with their silly ‘emoticon’ faces, and their absurd ceremonies. *At first*.

In Act 2, the tone shifts. While one character continues to sit and stitch, the other holds two long poles as he performs a series of rapid but controlled gestures that look like a martial arts performance. As he moves, the poles draw scrape lines through the sand he stands on. The poles could be drawing tools, or weapons, or simply extensions of the characters arms. What the function poles serve is unclear, but the intent is deadly serious.

In Act 2 there is no ambient background noise. They prove that they are also capable of sudden aggression, as the pair set to work attacking one of the sculptures with violent curiosity: repeatedly stabbing and jabbing at the object with ceramic implements. Every stab that penetrates the surface emits an ear-splitting squeak which sets your teeth on edge. The fact that Baldock hand stitches his sculptures, and that his performers use knitting needles as their weapons can hardly be coincidental. As they hack away at the harmless, inanimate object, it’s as though they are distorting and parodying the process of making. Sewing – associated fixing and mending, is suddenly coupled with piercing and stabbing and tearing apart, so that making and destroying become the same sort of action.
Primary Nottingham

Photo Credit: James E Smith

Through the 3 Acts they gradually undress one another – but this only reveals robes beneath robes and masks beneath masks. Gradually exposing more skin, the performers become more human and less like animated sculptures. In the final Act, they stare out at the audience from behind the gigantic yellow head – acknowledging the audience directly for the first time. Up until this point, they have been oblivious to us, wrapped up in a world of their own. Now that we’ve been noticed, the atmosphere shifts again. At first the prolonged staring elicits a few nervous laughs from the audience. As they continue to stare, it goes beyond a joke. Gradually, people realize that this is the end of the performance. There are not going to be any further theatrics. They are not about to enact final climatic ceremony. This is simply the end.

Although the final scene feels like the most intimate moment of the performance, we are kept at a distance by the many layers of disguise. It ends with two pairs of eyes looking out from behind two masks. Two masks, which belong to two performers, which are staring out from the holes in a gigantic yellow mask. The gigantic yellow face, in a vaulted hall surrounded by soft props and implausible tools that serve no real purpose.

Written By Hannah Roast

Lyndsay Martin – Featured Artist June 2014


This months ‘Featured Artist’ is Lyndsay Martin, a London based artist working in the realms of photography, collage, found objects and digital media. Having exhibited Lyndsay last year in our open show in London, it is clear that her work continues to develop and transform. We take a look at her recent series ‘Notions Of A Home’ that has an undeniable delicate and personal quality to it. Having exhibited worldwide, this is an artist who will continue to go from strength to strength as her practice grows.

Lyndsay Martin FMG

Artist Statement

I am a London based artist. My work explores the physical and emotional consequences of human relationships, employing a mixture of photography, collage, found objects and digital media. The mixed media pieces often portray frayed and faceless figures as they collide with idyllic tableaux, patterns and textures in order to articulate their intimate narratives of loss and abandonment.

I look within myself and at my own family history, observing (at times negative, though always human) behaviour of loved ones and the consequences of their actions. Juxtaposing antique objects and environments that have an existing history with the emotions lying latent within these situations is a fascination of mine.

Artists that inspire my own practice include David Lynch, Sarah Lucas, Jenny Saville, Jon Stezaker, Polly Morgan and the sculptures of Berlinde De Bruykere.

 

Lyndsay Martin FMG

 

 

Lyndsay Martin FMG