Sunday, 27 March 2011

Goodbye Liz

Whilst in Australia I have heard the sad news of Elizabeth Taylor's passing. She was the one true star left from the golden era of film, with a life that shone as brightly as her talent on screen. With eight marriages and seven husbands, she was a formidable woman. Known for her immense beauty, violet eyes, strong brows (which are all the rage this season I'm told) and distinctive voice that could cut through glass, I have admired her for many years. The first film I saw her in was 'Giant' closely followed by 'Butterfield 8' and of course 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof'. It was said that James Dean so nervous to be acting with her on the set of Giant, unzipped his fly and took a leak in front of her before going on set, the idea being that if he could pee in front of Liz Taylor, he could act with her.

Watching Butterfield 8 now I just heard the classic line, 'Mama face it I was the slut of all time!' before getting a slap from her mama. A camp classic is born. Needless to say, she is mesmerizing in every scene. My dress in my portrait was cut to mimic her deep v necklines and Neeta called me Liz throughout the entire shoot. My eye makeup was also based on Taylor's with blue eyeshadow and black eyeliner and of course the eyebrows!Not being a great beauty it was nice to pretend for just a day or two though.

The enduring love affair with Welsh heart throb Richard Burton kept the papers busy, but also inspired the public who watched in hope that their relationship would work out. Taylor's search for love but more importantly belief that true love was attainable endeared her to millions the world over. This was possibly the most beautiful thing about her. Looking at her wonderful bone structure, deep emotive eyes and perfect pout, the phrase 'they don't make 'em like they used to' springs to mind. Maybe one day, photographers will capture this kind of magic again, let's hope so... 

Monday, 21 March 2011

Melbourne's public art Scene

Having returned from Melbourne exploring all that it has to offer I thought the least I could do was to report on my findings. The arts scene here is vey vibrant and exiting and I suggest that if you get the chance to visit you could do well to try out a few of these places:

ACCA(Australian Centre for Contemporary Art) : This wonderful space is currently showing new11 which is curated by Hannah Matthews, whom I had the pleasure to meet. Her enthusiasm for the arts & talent for selecting great emerging art makes this exhibition a joy. It is not so much a show to see, but a show to experience. With works like Mark Hilton's deeply disturbing carved bones & lead-like wall sculpture with hanging stereotypes, to the fabulous Automated Colour Field 2011 by Rebecca Baumann. This work moves as the colours flip randomly like the numbers on a flip calendar or clock. The wall of colour is mesmerising & very calming, relishing every subtle tone.I could have stood watching it all day...
(Oh & the cake in the cafe next door is to die for!)

CCP (Centre for Contemporary Photography): Sarah Ryan's lenticular images were on display. They resembled graphite drawings at first glance. The highlight for me though was Lyndal Walker's images of women dressing in La Toilette D'une Femme. Her work takes on a traditionally male gaze & turns it back in on itself to reveal the reality, not the fantasy of the woman in her private quarters (let's keep this old fashioned) getting ready to go out. This ritualistic event is familiar to women everywhere, but often given more titillating connotations by male artists, painters especially. I have written about this series in more depth, so keep your eyes peeled for it.

NGV (National Gallery of Victoria): May sound like a stuffy place but far from it. The building itself is majestic with a cascade of water running down its huge arched window & the variety of works on display means that there is something for everyone. I enjoyed the place so much I went three times to see it all. On my second visit I met up with Susan van Wyk who has just curated the beautiful exhibition Deep Water. This wonderful exhibition curated from the NGV's collection is a wonderful example of how to put a themed collection together & worth a look. One of my favourite photography books, Waterproof: Water in Photography since 1852 does just the same thing on a greater scale. It combines all images water related into a huge volume of exquisite works. In Deep Water the show is split into 2 sections, 'Fresh Water' & 'Salt Water'. A beautiful separation to hinge the 2 together seamlessly. The catalogue is wonderful also. It is the kind of exhibition to set the mind to pursue other notions of photography, with such varied works on display all linked through a simple yet moving theme. Well worth seeing if you happen to be in Melbourne.

Photo Credits:

Narelle AUTIO
Untitled 2000
from The seventh wave series 1999-2000
gelatin silver photograph
90.0 x 134.1 cm (image); 99.2 x 143.9 cm (sheet)
ed. 1/15
Purchased with funds arranged by Loti Smorgon for Contemporary Australian Photography, 2001
© Narelle Autio, 2001

Rebecca Baumann
Automated Colour Field 2011
Courtesy the artist
Photograph:© Andrew Curtis


©Laura Noble
Portrait of Lyndal Walker March 2011

©Lyndal Walker

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Tokyo Appeal

As you may know Emily Allchurch's new series Tokyo Story is currently on display at Diemar/Noble. To help with the tsunami fund both Emily & the gallery are waving their commission on a print from the series, holding a silent auction to raise funds. All proceeds go to the Red Cross. For all the details & info to bid please go to this link and do your bit to help. Many thanks, Laura

Friday, 11 March 2011

I don't count the feathers, I just count the wings. Part 1

I once bought a very expensive Japanese photo book purely because of one image of some geta (traditional wooden Japanese shoes) that were a perfect circle when placed together. I have yet to own a pair, but one day I will. Perhaps what I like about them most is that they are very architectural, you can have a city under your feet! They act like the drawers in Lartigue's wonderful picture he took as a boy. The chest of drawers loom above the toy racing cars like skyscrapers or the sign of life to come, from the happy playful world of childhood to the taller adult world ahead. His carefully hung backdrop sheet reveals the purpose it serves, yet the surround furniture places a scale that dwarfs the toy cars. Linking the 2 ideas together I drew this idea on a post-it note, so now I'm posting it!

It made me think about the crossover between photography & architecture & how those 2 things connect to one another. You could also see the influence our childhood has upon adulthood & vice versa. At the ripe old age of 'thirty something' I seem to be having a regression, no, a need to let myself enjoy childish things in order to open my eyes to the wonder of deeper things. As a child who loved heights (once climbing up a silver birch tree higher than our house to hang out & watch the world, nearly giving my mum a heart attack as she thought I had gone missing) I could see that they would play an important part in my life. The clarity that comes from a different viewpoint of the world & the insight it can help you gain is worth the climb. Looking at art of any kind is like this too. We respond to art on many levels, emotionally, academically & even physically. But to really understand it you have to literally climb into it.

With this in mind, doing this blog has made me look at many things differently, finding new visual connections I would have perhaps never even considered before the internet became part of our everyday life. To my surprise a pair of shoes by designer Andreia Chaves sparked my attention this week. These invisible wonders reflect the world around them to render them invisible. Yet the playful architectural nature of them looks very clever & serious at first until you realise how odd a person would look wearing them, like a levitating footless woman, can't be a good look after all.

Again floating upward I am reminded of the birds, ravens to be exact. I won't say too much about this subject as I may be writing a magazine article about this series quite soon. Needless to say Fukase's 'Solitude of Ravens' is a classic book. (The prints I have seen were posthumous & not editioned so the book is a better bet from a collectors point of view.) Each beady eye on view seems to be a hole right through the raven's head's or to reflect like a cat's eye at the same time. This disturbing duality perhaps comes from Japanese mythology & the Shinto Goddess, Amaterasu, who was said to transform into a raven. The silhouette of the raven seen here has become an icon in the photographic canon. At a dark time for the photographer -whose wife had left him -Fukase obsessively photographed ravens, (traditionally seen as representing disruption, loneliness & restlessness) for 10 years! Sad as this is I'm just glad he did.

Picture credits:
Masahisa Fukase Karasu (Ravens) 1986
Laura Noble Skyscraper Geta March 2011, Biro on Post-it
Jacques-Henri Lartigue, ‘Dans ma chambre, collection de mes autos de course’, 1905, gelatin-silver print

Some of the best things come in small packages...

My fascination with Japan extends far beyond the obvious. Ritual & cleanliness are important. Reading the Japan Pulse blog, which is the blog for Japan Times Online Big (only) in Japan? section I came across 'oshibori' which is the practice of cleaning ones hands & face before a meal with a scented towel. The ones made into birds are featured here, photographed by Daiji Hirata,whose photo of 'Shinjuku in a Glass' is fantastic!

For those of you who don't know I have many obsessions (healthy or not) & my love of 'things that fly' (birds, planes & helicopters especially) & cats are high on the list. Both such loves are shared by Japanese culture. So as you can imagine my favourite image from the Tokyo Story series by Emily Allchurch is 'Tokyo Story 4: Interior (after Hiroshige) 2011' which also includes many other fascinating Japanese things on my 'love it' list. Some of these details are hard to see online, much better full size close up if you get the chance to see them at Diemar/Noble Photography DO! Emily's image here has everything, including birds & an airplane! What more could I wish for....

Included in this image there is a fan, the one here is my own with it's case, a gift from Tokyo from the lovely Brittain Bright. I always put one in my bag from April 1st as the London underground starts to get warmer around this time (seems a long way off but it's not) & get a little smug when I see other less wise commuters stare at it longingly.

Many years ago now I learnt how to do the Yang Style Fan Form which is a rarity nowadays. This is an adjunct to Chinese culture, but the love of the fan & it's use as a weapon is common to both. It made my appreciation for the fan as an object grow, which with a flick of the wrist snaps open. By holding one edge between thumb & forefinger you can 'snap' it in a really satisfying way, try it! I had to learn it right handed (I am left handed) so it was very difficult but much more satisfying when I got the hang of it. I cannot find the exact version online (as there a many) but this comes closest to it. Origami paper on the floor also has a geisha upon it. There are many references to geisha here (as the Hiroshige has a geisha figure) giving a more subtle suggestion alluding to a geisha's presence. The kimono (more about those in a later post) & the sign announcing 'Private' indicates the geisha also.

Then there is inrō, beautiful accessories (often attached to ones obi) that contain anything small. The explanation here is perfect! My interest lies in the design & sheer beauty of it as an object. It is hard to find antique inrō, as much now is plastic & not nearly as nice. The British Museum has a lovely collection, the one pictured here is aptly from the Edo period. The full details & more stunning inrō are on the website. The interior itself is enticing yet open as the water beyond leads to the industrial horizon looming in the distance. This hints at the great times of change & upheaval ahead as the Edo period came to an end with the overthrowing of Tokugawa by the Meiji Restoration on 3 May 1868.

I could wax lyrical about this picture all day it is my favourite. On a personal note, the chopsticks also give me a twang of pleasure as I still have my very first pair given to me by my dad when I was 7 years old. The pride I took in using & mastering them was a big deal as a kid. I think this is how my passion for the art of Japanese food was instigated, as eating with knives & forks gets a little dull & the food can be so pretty. If the bird-shaped oshibori is just the beginning of the meal, what adventures the rest of the meal could be...

A message to Japan

I was devastated to hear the terrible news about the earthquake & tsunami Japan. I hope that the world steps up to help & that all the areas in the tsunami's path are cleared in time. There is very little I can say at this point as I stay glued to the tv, radio & internet to stay informed.

The BBC & Channel 4 coverage is ongoing and at present quite chaotic as they scramble to speak to whoever they can on the ground. The film of a massive whirlpool is being played on every channel, yet the plight of the boat caught up & being dragged into it doesn't seem to be covered. I suppose we have to assume the worst.

My condolences go out to all who are affected by this event in any way.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Hiroshige goes again!

Well here we are again, and for those of you who have read my blog or know me you must be aware of my love for all things Japanese! It is with a happy heart that I turn to our forthcoming show, but don't take my word for it. The wonderful blog The Dabbler is excitedly waiting for Emily Allchurch's series Tokyo Story.

To interject money at this point, as it is the last week of BIG BANGS BIG BUCKS I must say that The 1p Book Review is genius. My most recent 1p book from Amazon was by the wonderful Japanese writer Banana Yoshimoto and her debut novel 'Kitchen'. On New Years Day I had the chance to peruse the library of a poet friend of mine who had a whole shelf dedicated to Japanese literature. I seized upon Yoshimoto's work and read the first page (a sure fire way to see if I am going to enjoy it) and ordered it the same day. I have had less luck ordering 'Asleep' from my local library, but will surely mention it when I have. So back to all things Japanese: another expectant voice came from The Sunday Times Magazine who also featured her work in the Spectrum Images section. They have displayed the original Hiroshige woodblock images alongside Emily's contemporary interpretations. Rather than going into the finer points of the series now I ask you to just look closely at her work and respond to it. The finer points of Hiroshige's 'One Hundred Views of Edo' are described in the press release which will be posted on my website later this week. There are so many elements involved in this work that I feel there will be many posts during this show, elaborating on her work as well as Japanese culture and visual aesthetics. The complex imaginings that can come from a simple piece of paper in the case of the fashion designer, Issey Miyake whose recent collection has be a huge hit on the catwalks. I have posted earlier Miyake images here (as the new images are all on Vogue's catwalk section in the Autumn/Winter 2011/12ready to wear) that geometrically and structurally compliment the other photo's selected for this blog. And of course because they are inspired and beautiful.

One last thing... The cherry blossom branches have small pieces of paper (omikuji) tied around them. These are tied after reading; either to make the good fortune come true or to avoid the predicted bad fortune. If you were to tie a bad fortune to a tree so that it would go away what would it be?

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Money's folded too tight to mention...

To bridge the gap between one show and another as the last week of 'BIG BANGS BIG BUCKS' ensues I would like to mention my love of, and indeed ineptitude of creating my own origami. Why origami you ask? Well, the next show is work by the wonderful Emily Allchurch, with her new series, 'TokyoStory'. I recently found images of money folded in magical ways, bridging the folded gap between money and art. To own real money art, look no further than Diemar/Noble More about that in later posts...
In the meantime enjoy the work of nimble-fingers and then relish the beauty of the dress made of paper cranes, that shows that the smallest and largest of things of the most and least importance can fill you with appreciation and wonder. Relish these moments whenever they come along...