Monday, August 29, 2022

BEAUTY: Painting--Jonathan Wateridge

Here is some art to celebrate the waning days of summer. Jonathan Wateridge was born in Zambia but now resides in England and his memories of his childhood home with a pool forms his narratives around the ideas of affluence and leisure. Most fascinating is the fact that he built a life-size model of the backyard and pool in his studio in order to capture images to paint.

He told FAD Magazine:
"My process for each project has been pretty similar for a number of years now. After a period of research and reflection on what it is that I’m trying to address with the work, I choose the location in which to set the paintings. That site is then constructed as a large scale set inside my studio. Actors are cast, costumes sourced and a film shoot is organised so that I can stage the performers or improvise with them in order to build up a body of reference imagery, from which the paintings are then developed.

Two main factors contributed to the origins of this current exhibition, Enclave. The first grew out of a previous body of work called Monument, which was exhibited at Wilkinson Gallery in London in late 2014. The show was a response to a few months I spent in Los Angeles and included a number of paintings of what I viewed as ‘symbolic surfaces’, such as driveways; gates; or a security lit suburban lawn. These paintings alluded to issues of exclusion and access; and also the public and the private.

I subsequently realised that some of my fascination with these parts of LA was because they reminded me so much of areas of the city I grew up in – Lusaka, Zambia. I’ve never been particularly interested in addressing my own biography but I found myself thinking more and more about this connection. The other factor was the growing tragedy of the migrant crisis over the last couple of years, and more specifically the sense of collective amnesia in the UK as to how these issues had reached this point. I realised that depicting elements of my own past could become a way of tangentially dealing with a wider set of issues concerning the west’s relationship to the post-colonial world. The environment seen in the paintings is a set based on my childhood garden in Zambia. It had an open breeze block perimeter wall, a style which was very common at the time. It soon occurred to me this could be a subtle but resonant motif to run throughout the paintings and that the garden itself could act as a metaphorical site."

Top to bottom: His Long Day In The Sun; Late Swim; Leviathan; Patio; Petrol Blue; Red Suit; Reflecting Pool; Swim; Swimmer; View

Friday, August 26, 2022

BEAUTY: Painting--Polly Shindler

The subject of a painting can be as varied (and numerous) as painters themselves. And the subjects of paintings have been at the center of debates in the art world for some time: what subject is or isn't "worthy" of being painted, which is connected to the wider debate of what constitutes art at all.

So the scenes painted by Polly Shindler could fall into such a debate...are her scenes of unremarkable interior life "worthy" of being captured and presented as art? Of course I say yes, and I offer a funny anecdote in support. In the 90s, I plastered my refrigerator with all the refrigerator magnets du jour, the kind everyone had: it was the magnetic David by Michelangelo paper doll cut out with all the various clothes in which to dress him, a few sets of magnetic poetry kits, a large colorful plastic set of children's alphabet magnets, and lots of fun and funky post cards held by magnets of various shapes and colors. The refrigerator itself was a work of art. I was aware that we were living in a rental home, and that one day I would no longer live in that space with that fun refrigerator covered with so much color, form, humor, irreverence, and whimsy so I took a picture of it. Now keep in mind that this was before cellphones with cameras, so to actually take a photo with a 35mm camera required commitment. But committed I was to capturing this moment of my life. I had some friends who thought it was a little odd that I took a picture of my refrigerator without anyone or anything else in it...just the fridge. But I am so glad I did because it froze a little part of my life, just for that moment, and when I look at the picture, I am taken back to the sounds, smells, and sights of that younger, lighter part of my life.

Polly Shindler's sweetly naïve images have that sense about them. These seemingly mundane spots in a home--a bathroom with a black tile floor with white grout, a well-organized closet, a cleverly built-in spice rack in a kitchen, a laundry room with stacks of satisfyingly folded clothing, and a telephone gossip chair and a Staffordshire dog lamp inherited from a beloved grandmother--are the fibers that make up memories of where we call home. The core of Shindler's work is about a sense of place and love and safety. And that is beyond worthy of being recorded and captured for posterity.

Top to bottom: The Bar Cart; Bathroom With Matisse Show Poster; Bedroom With Paint Samples; Closet With Robes; Curio Cabinet; Spice Rack; Staffordshire Dog Lamp; Telephone Gossip Table; Three Remotes; Washer and Dryer

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

The Waning Days of Summer 2022

The summer is growing older...days are getting shorter...

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Just watched... extraordinary little film with a big subtext, "About Endlessness" from 2021 by Swedish director Roy Andersson.

Somehow the films of Andersson have passed me by until now. He is the auteur who created "the Living Trilogy" of films: "Songs from the Second Floor" (2000), "You, the Living" (2007), and "A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence" (2014). And now, at 78 years of age, he has created the distillation of his body of work, a film that, at a scant 76 minutes, manages to pack in the meaning of existence in this universe.

I have seen this film described as "plotless" but that is not accurate. It is true that the film consists of 31 different vignettes, none lasting longer than a few minutes, that feature different people in different situations in different locations but there is certainly an overarching idea to Andersson's collection of seemingly unrelated narratives. A few characters recur but for the most part, we hop not only between locations but between time periods as well. Contemporary scenes at, for example, a train station, a food market, a bar, or on a crowded bus flow around scenes of  WWII POWs marching through snow, an aerial view of an embracing couple floating over a bomb-ravaged Cologne (this vignette used for the poster, above, recalls Chagall's gorgeous 1913 painting Over the Town), even a brief view of Hitler's last moments in his bunker. The juxtaposition of daily--even banal--life (a father stops in the rain to tie his young daughter's shoe, a couple sit on a park bench and watch a formation of flying geese, a new grandmother snaps photos of her grandbaby) with the kind of horrors humankind is capable of creates a breathtaking kaleidoscopic perspective of life on this planet, a celebration of each moment big and small and a regard for the singular beauty embedded in our existence. But deftly and subtly intertwined with this profundity is a certain dark humor, a wry sense that finds absurdity in the banality and horror. The paradox of being alive. All in 76 minutes.

The closest the film comes to explaining itself is in a cute scene between two young college students, sitting in a nearly empty flat. While a young woman sits on a bed, a young man reads a text book and relates to her a startling fact he has just learned: that the first law of thermodynamics states all matter and energy can never be destroyed, only transformed. Therefore, he posits, none of us can ever end...all of our "energies" are never-ending. Endless.

The look of "About Endlessness" is a marvel too. A washed out color palette of neutrals, greys, and beiges provides an oppressive sense ("Oh, how daily life is..." Anton Chekov once remarked). His characters often sport white-powdered faces as though they are specters or ghosts in their own lives. But most astonishing is the fact that Andersson creates every single set on a soundstage, even the ones that seem to be outdoor locations like a soccer field. The labor-intensive process of creating these sets takes a month or more. Andersson himself says, "With 'About Endlessness' I want to continue to develop a cinematic language that is pared-down, simplified, refined, distilled, or however you choose to describe it. That’s what I mean by the expression abstraction. I strive to achieve that refinement, that simplification that is characteristic of our memories or our dreams. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to achieve this using a classic 'shooting on location' aesthetic. I have always preferred, and still prefer, to create and shoot all the scenes in a studio. It’s very costly and time consuming, but I feel that it’s worth it." I concur, as it gives "About Endlessness" its own controlled vernacular, almost as though we are watching one of Matthew Barney's art/sculptural films.

Recommend? Absolutely. And if such a film strikes you as "art house pretension," give it a go anyhow...with its short running time, it is enough time to dabble to see if the film resonates with you without investing hours.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

BEAUTY: Photography--Peter Essick

Photographer Peter Essick must fly a drone to capture these marvelous images that read like fascinating abstract paintings full of texture. Hovering over construction sites, stacked shipping containers, or areas of mud, gravel, and snow, he frames and composes his shots so they are disconnected from their surroundings, making them objects of beauty in and of themselves. A statement on his website says, "His goal is to make photographs that move beyond documentation to reveal in careful compositions the human impact of development as well as the enduring power of the land."