Finding Vivian Maier

Finding Vivian Maier is a documentary film created by amateur John Maloof that is based upon the somewhat obscure and mysterious career of Nanny Vivian Maier. It was unknown that Maier had a cache of over 100,000 photographs in her collection. This has led to her posthumous reputation as one of America’s best and The New York Times regarded her as “one of America’s most insightful street photographers”. The documentary itself has won a variety of prestigious awards and been chosen as part of the official selection of Berlin and Palm Springs International film festival 2014.

 

vivian maier

Vivian Maier was born in the U.S and spent most of her childhood in France. She was a self-taught photographer and was meticulously private. She shot mostly urban life in Chicago and New York. Maier had a talent for catching the most striking monochromatic street photographs and examples of her work are shown continuously throughout the film. Themes that are popular with street photographers such as the down and out, crying children (or children with ice-cream), crime scenes and the interesting old man with a hat and a cigar is prominent within the Photographer’s work. Nonetheless, Maier’s photographs are beautiful. I absolutely adore how she captures truth and strong emotion from her subjects. Maier has a sense of humour documented within some of her photographs that include cheeky shots of women’s skirt’s flying up, dogs that provide comedy value and various other random shots. Within the situations Maier has been able to make her subjects feel at ease and capture close and personal shots that is highly commendable.

Of the various interviews throughout the film from the children she had cared for, none of them knew much about her. Truthfully, they all appeared as rather odd individuals that described Maier’s imagination, her stern demeanour and her political views. They all stated that Maier was never without her Rolleiflex Camera and guarded her possessions zealously.

 

vivian maier

John Maloof encountered Maier’s negatives at a thrift store in Chicago’s West side that led to his decision to reveal the photographer’s work to the world. This raises the question of the artist’s rights and if Maloof had the right to promote and curate Maier’s work. It was widely advertised throughout the film that Vivian was very private and showed her work to no one. Maloof questions himself continuously throughout the film and debates if he should continue to promote Maier’s work without her permission. To begin with, the photographer’s work was not even accepted or recognised by major galleries. The film documents Maloof’s struggle of raising awareness in regards to Maier’s photographs. Currently, Maloof has catalogued over 90% of Vivian’s work and is in the process of receiving recognition from major galleries across the USA.

Vivian Maier documented American street life from the 1950’s and continued for the next five decades. Maloof relates her to Henri Cartier-Bresson, which is a rather strong statement although her photographs are striking and each one is stronger than the last. The film is mediocre and does what it says on the tin (describing the life of Vivian Maier). The most important part of prying into this photographer’s life was being able to see the magic of her work on film. It is inspiring and is a must see for an aspiring photographer.

 

 

A whale o a whale o a time…

The McManus Galleries in Dundee offers a dreadfully cliché experience that promises a whale of a time with Nick Evans latest exhibition entitled The White Whale. Evans has created a sculptural installation in conjunction with the GENERATION PROJECT that celebrates 25 years of the development of Scottish Art. The project culminates in a generation of ideas, experiences and of prestigious art that the country has to offer. Nick Evans latest solo exhibition is inspired by the Gothic architecture and décor of the McManus building. The exhibition title ‘The White Whale” has deliberate mythical connotations. It relates to the Narwhal, which was hunted by Dundee whalers in the nineteenth century. The Narwhal’s long pointed ‘tusk ‘ was believed to belong to the magical unicorn.

 

Evans was influenced by “The Geometry of fears”- a group of sculptors that consisted of Lynn Chadwick, Eduardo Paolozzi and William Turnbull. They created twisted and spiked forms of the human figure post Second World War. Evans’ plastered humanoid forms lend to this distinctive style and are originally drawn from ethnographic sources. The sculptures appear as if floating in a fantasyland. They exist in their own distinctive environment scattered across the monochrome printed floor (that was replicated from a textile within the McManus’ collection). I am a very tactile person and I admire the artist’s limited use of material. The simplicity of the monochrome floor in conjunction with the white plaster sculptures and hints of wood throughout the gallery complement one another magically. It adds to this idea of being lost in a dream.

 

There are a few sculptures that stand out to me. “ Petrosphere” suggests a strange molecular structure whereas ‘Hunger’ that can be viewed from different angles insinuates two bodies bending over one another… highlighting the wanderings of a strange hallucinatory mind. My favourite sculpture is “Children of the sun’ where a light appears to sit on top of a human figure. The light was like a beacon calling out to the pursuers of the white whale. The story of Moby Dick represents a universe trapped by its protagonist’s subjectivities instead Evans’ exhibition is a refusal of the subjective. Evans argues that the development of each sculpture is a re-arrangement of form instead of focus on interpretative and symbolic value.

Nick Evans

Nick Evans: The White Whale © The Artist; Mary, Mary

 

Within the high ceiling gallery, the sculptures appear like creatures rising up from the abyss. If you listen closely the sounds of a whale reverberates throughout the hall thanks to the thumps of the little children’s feet. This exhibition is definitely worth taking your children along to visit. They provide the best humorous responses when asked about Nick’s strange parallel universe of sculptures. When sitting on the gallery floor drinking in this strange dream, I want to imagine a dark misty night with the possibility of finding Moby Dick in a strange sea of monochrome.

 

The White Whale was a fantastic exhibition that allows your imagination to run wild through a sculptural dreamland. I highly recommend this exhibition and Evans’ work will be available to see until 31st August.

TH4Y

TH4Y – They Had Four Years

TH4Y is an annual exhibition held by GENERATOR that invites graduating artists around Scotland to submit proposals towards the production of new work. The newly commissioned work of 2014 belongs to the Brownlee Brothers, Flo Gordon, Jonny Lyons, Ailsa Mackenzie and Mary-Beth Quigley. The common bond that exists between the artists is that their practise resides in the idea of the conflicting desires of escapism from the expectations of day-to-day life. Alongside these themes there is the obvious shared use of humour and reflections on childhood that throws the viewer into a world of colour.  The colourful works excite the viewer and entice them into an edible world of art.

The Brownlee Brothers are drawn to macabre folklore and urban legends in contrast to the initial colourful playground that belongs to Flo Gordon and Ailsa Mackenzie. The Brownlee Brothers have created a sinister atmosphere that radiates throughout the dim gallery through the use of their suspended bronze sculpture. They attempt to imitate an object such as a censer, associated with Free Masonry and Catholic ceremonies. The sculpture is filled with incense and burned each day. This performance in itself is ritualistic and challenges the dark and unsettling nature of secret societies and religion. The atmosphere that surrounds the object is overwhelming and is uncomfortable for the viewer. For the masses that are unaware of secret societies, they are able to consider the role they play in relation to our daily life.

 

To compliment this dark theme is the work of Jonny Lyons. Lyons work was inspired by St. Minias, the first Christian martyr of Florence. According to legend, Miniato was an Armenian king who became a hermit in a cave on the hill of Mons Fiorentinus. In 250AD he was denounced and persecuted for being a Christian as he refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods. Miniato had undergone various torments, most of which he emerged unscathed and eventually he was beheaded. Lyons creates a film that considers the beliefs of Miniato in conjunction with the ideas of lost boys putting their outlandish ideas into practise. Alongside the screening of the film, Lyons has created a functioning sculpture of a wooden gun that is displayed on the gallery floor. I fail to see how Miniato relates at all to Lyons’ film. The wooden gun is pointed at a man’s head continuously. It appears more suicidal than any kind of respect to Miniato although it could be viewed very loosely as a statement to the saint’s martyrdom.  I appreciate the craftsmanship of Lyons’ work however the tribute to St. Minias appears to be a cock and bull story to complement the gun.

Generator Projects

Courtesy of Generator Projects.

This leads onto the colourful work of Flo Gordon. Gordon is interested in colour combinations and the irregularity of shapes. Sensory perception is a key aspect in the artist’s work with what looks like a giant cake portrait of Frodo from Lord of the Rings. Alongside this, placed on the floor are duvet fried eggs that resemble giant Haribo. Flo is considering the concept of edible colours and contains a humorous approach. I was lingering in the gallery with the hope to reach for a giant Haribo. The garish colours clash with the darker themes of The Brownlee Brother’s and Lyons’ work yet it provides a lighter atmosphere leaving the audience to reminisce of childhood dreams.

The GENERATOR is a great venue in Dundee for emerging artists. It is unfortunate that the city offers a lack of gallery space for upcoming artists and I admire the strength of the GENERATOR projects to aid artists from Duncan of Jordanstone and also from other art schools across the country. As a recent graduating artist myself I understand the difficulties that they all face.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Flo Gordon on life after art school and quizzed her on the very issue as well as her art work and more;

DF: Your work is very playful. What was the initial inspiration behind these works and have you always been interested in these ideas?

FG: I have one rule that I make work by and that is: do what you want. I make a lot of my art without question until it’s finished and then I’ll figure out what compelled me to make it – there’s always a reason. I have lots of different interests but the most prominent in my work to date would be my belief in instinctive humour, the psychological effects of colour, abstract ideas of faith and the way in which modern science threatens our sense of reality in benign ways.

DF: Was Mr Blobby a personal favourite of yours or does he have a deep cryptic meaning?

FG: I actually hardly ever watched Mr Blobby when I was young because he freaked me out. Though every time I saw him, then (and now), I would think of cake. I love ‘edible’ colours and how they speak directly to your sub-conscious urges.

 DF: Life after art school was always going to be hard. How did you find entering reality?

 FG: I had a few great opportunities given to me which have kept me busy for most of the year so I’ve been extremely lucky in that sense. However, the change in working environment was quite hard to adapt to. After University I moved home because it made sense financially. At University they tell you about the problems with money and juggling jobs with your practice but they never tell you about how lonely it can get working on your own. Some people work well in solitude but I was surprised to find that I benefited from a lively environment. I now live away from home and have gotten myself a communal studio space. I half-jokingly explain to people that I am paying for my mental health.

DF: Do you have any advice for the current emerging graduates?

 FG: Apply to everything. There are a lot of opportunities that are for recent graduates only, so lap them up while you can. Even if you don’t think you’re quite right for the application or vice versa, have a pop at it because a lot of these things are pretty flexible.

Brush off the rejection e-mails. With lots of applications, come lots of rejections. If you compiled a list of all your favourite artists and had to choose just one… it’s really hard! Just because you didn’t get it doesn’t mean your crap. Keep the faith and keep working.

Do what you want. Don’t feel confined to the art you made at University. I’ve met ‘established’ artists whose art totally contradicts their personality and I can’t help but wonder if they’ve been pigeon-holed into a type of work for which they are admired but they don’t necessarily like themselves. To me that seems sad like sleeping through your holiday.

Don’t be a pushover but don’t be a dick. This comes from personal experience and interactions with galleries; If you have a vision, don’t feel embarrassed to re-iterate instructions that are important to you. However, be considerate, respectful and generally an all-round lovely person because that helps with everything.

DF: Do you think it is important to encourage emerging artists and do you think that they have a place in society today?

 FG: Absolutely. We are definitely outcast a little and that’s mostly because people are fearful of those they don’t understand but all you have to do is talk about your work in layman’s terms once in a while.

DF: Do you have any plans for the future?

FG: I’ve just come to the end of quite a busy period so I’m just starting to make some new work and properly enjoy my new studio http://thenumbershop.org which coincidently will have a few shows on this summer.

TH4Y

Courtesy of Generator Projects.

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

 

A Silvered Light…

A Silvered Light…

Scottish Art Photography Exhibition located at The Dundee Mcmanus Art Gallery and Museum.

The Silvered Light exhibition emphasises Dundee’s collection of photography since the 1800’s in which it strings together a series of Scottish Artists and Photographers to reiterate the claim that photography is the only art form that the Scots have indeed mastered (of course this is my unbiased view, being an avid lover of Scottish Photography and the fact that I am Scottish).

The combinations of the old and modern photographers have allowed the audience to witness the unsurprising rapid development of camera technology and photographic processes that accentuate the quality of work that the Mcmanus has acquired.

McManus Dundee

Upon walking into the gallery, the first image that is placed strategically within view is Calum Colvin’s Dusk on Loch Duich that was photographed in 1987. Colvin creates “sets” of combined furniture, bric-a-brac, painted elements and lighted backdrops that culminate in a photograph of his construction. Colvin is obviously patriotic and proud of his heritage with kilted plastic figurines and tartan cloth covered tables with the reference to Loch Duich. The quality of the photograph is flawless, however I believe that the idea of Colvin’s work lends itself to an installation piece as the image is cluttered with too many colours and graphics. It is very busy and hard to determine the photograph’s significance.

There are a series of intense, atmospheric photographs by Thomas Joshua Cooper that I was drawn to instantly. Cooper focuses on places where people once lived and worked. His black and white gelatin silver prints contrast beautifully creating the depth of the natural landscape. Cooper searches the wilderness for small details found amongst the trees, glimpses of moss and draws attention to the natural earthy landscapes.

The natural world has always been a great inspirational source for artists and a theme that occurs widely throughout the exhibition. Patricia Macdonald and Aase Goldsmith are similar in the sense that they both shoot somewhat abstract images found with the land. Macdonald’s aerial photography highlights the abstraction of the land and focuses on large areas of ground that has been worked. The relationship between human interaction and the physical environment is vital to Macdonald’s work that highlights present day concerns, especially with environmental issues. This can be interpreted within Macdonald’s Croft House and Fields, Lewis, 1986. From Macdonald’s images you can see the effect farming has on the land. On the other hand, Aase Goldsmiths photographs Foam Shape, Loch Laidon, 1982 and Weathered Polythene, Loch Earn, 1982 highlight the simple beauty found within abstraction. The monochromatic images are focused on the patterns and intricate details of foam found within the water and something that is readily discarded such as polythene. Goldsmith’s photographs are prime examples of how beauty is not where you would expect to find it.

Truthfully, I often overlook the Mcmanus Gallery but on your first visit to Dundee it should be on the to-do list. They really came up trumps with the Silvered Light Exhibition and any keen photographer would be sore to miss the opportunity to view the ample collection of works on offer.

A Silvered Light will be exhibiting throughout 2014 and is free entry. Please visit www.mcmanus.co.uk for more details.

Written By Danielle Fleming