May 24 2012

cinema (that’s hopefully) worth seeing: 5 (recent-ish/unrealeased) films i haven’t seen, but want to.

1. Coriolanus

I love modern Shakespearean adaptations that use the original language. Well, not all of them, obviously. Many are rubbish. But when a director gets the feel right…well, it’s not like they have any lousy writing to maneuver around, is it? (Ok, that’s a bit of a lie too – not everything Shakespeare wrote was gold. But you’ve got to admit, most of it’s pretty good.) Coriolanus is an intense story, and this film looks just as full-on. I wish I’d managed to see it at the cinema, but I’m looking forward to getting hold of it either way.

2. Melancholia

This one I really regret not seeing on a big screen because it looks…incredible. I mean, whatever else you want to say about Lars von Trier, there’s no way you can deny this film is visually stunning. Of course, whether it has a plot that makes it worth seeing the film instead of just running a really comprehensive image search (a la Sucker Punch)…I guess I’ll have to figure out as I go. But I’m determined to see it anyway. I’m just hanging out for a re-screening at some indy theater.

3. The Dark Knight

Anyone who’s spoken to me in the last 3 months will know that I am stupidly excited about this. I have (as I mention briefly below) an intense history with the Tim Burton Batman films, and despite the shame and shambles that came after (Joel Schumacher, I’m looking at you), I still want every new incarnation to be amazing. I wasn’t convinced by Batman Begins, butThe Dark Knight – and Christopher Nolan’s independent contributions – have won me over. Add Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy (not to mention Bane, who, you’ve got to admit, is pretty unusual and interesting as super-villains go) and I’m counting days. Though that could also have something to do with the fact that I’ll be in Europe when it comes out.

4. Shame

Again – and always – I am sucked in by visuals irrevocably and first. I love the chilly, empty feel of the stills I’ve seen of this film, the pallet of artificial golds and pre-dawn grey-greens. It’s an aesthetic I adore and am always drawn to, perhaps because I never quite want to recreate it myself. It seems clean and void at the same time, beautifully sparse, and for the same reasons, terribly bereft. Again, the question is whether the film reflects the cinematography (that’s always my problem), but sources I trust have promised good things.

5. Pina

So I know this one got a lot of hype – and because of its content, I really should have seen it while it was at Imax or whatever – but sometimes everybody loves something because it’s good, not (just) because it’s cool, and I think it’s quite a solid bet that this is both. I have a pretty dirty soft-spot for modern dance films, but it really is because I think beautiful choreography (and, obviously, execution) is more than a bit wonderous. I’m not cool enough to tell you I always fast-forward the trashy teen storylines to get to the good stuff, but I’m pretty excited about a film that doesn’t force me to make that choice.

…and that’s just the English-speaking audience list.

Ps: Other films that have potential.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen – because it looks ridiculous, and as though it quite enjoys that. Romantic comedies aren’t really my thing, but this looks so charmingly aware of its own silliness, and I like Emily Blunt and Ewan McGreggor, because they too are charming and can be delightfully silly.

Looper – because it involves Rian Johnson writing and directing Joseph Gordon-Levitt again, and Brick was pretty great. I’m not sold on the Bruce Willis and scifi elements, but I’m hoping to be swayed.

Dark Shadows – so stupid it could be brilliant. And what can I say, Tim Burton is one of my habits. Half his films involve puppets. That says good things.

The Great Gatsby – along with Tim Burton’s Batman series, Baz Lurhman’s Moulin Rouge and Romeo+Juliet were the films that made me notice films, and gave me the niggling sense that this was a medium that had the potential to actually realize the insanity that goes on inside a human skull. So, you know, while I had no interest at all in seeing Australia (for reasons which should be obvious), I’m looking forward to this.

April 5 2012

Fairytales: the work of Ryan Andrews and a little hint of personal obsession.

The other day I stumbled across Sarah and the Seed, ostensibly a web-comic. I’d say it’s less a comic, as such, and more a picture book in comic form. I suppose the vogue term is graphic novel, which I’m into in some contexts, but honestly, can’t we also embrace the humble picture storybook? I love storybooks. Stories! And pictures! They’re wonderful.

 

This one, in addition to being beautifully rendered, is a retelling of a traditional Japanese fairytale; the story of Little Peach, or Momotaro, a baby boy found in the hollow stone of, well, you guess which fruit. One of my favourite books as a child (Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, by Rumer Godden) involved another re-imagining of this story.

Re-tellings and -workings of old, recognisable stories are something I am particularly interested in, and fond of. It’s such a deliberate act of acknowledgement that, in the human brain, few ideas are actually new, and all of them are generated within a cultural and historical context. Even the most radical idea does not occur suddenly and out of nowhere; it is the next link in a(n often traceable) chain of thoughts, melded with a specific temporal context which makes it new and unique, but not without a past. I have a soft-spot for stories in particular that acknowledge this overtly; sometimes I think this awareness even fosters more original work than the more common denial. After all, in science we only advance on the back of knowledge already acquired. I don’t think art is necessarily so different, here.

 

Plus, those stories you find told and re-told are the ones with a kernel which ‘rings true’ – or rather, a central precept which can be easily aligned with mainstream values. This doesn’t just mean these stories are easy to relate to for many people; it means these are the ones we should think about most, examine most critically. They are the stories built around the social values we take for granted, because most old stories were designed to teach social values.

 

When we examine and re-tell and re-work them, it’s an act of imagination with potential real-world consequences. Like a thought-experiment to re-imagine the world we live in. Red Riding Hood kills the wolf, instead of the Huntsman; Hansel and Gretel die and the Witch lives; Sleeping Beauty wakes up and tells the Prince he’s just not her type. Fairytales are a beautifully gentle, insidious way to suggest revolutionary actions, don’t you think? Plus, who wants a little red book full of dense wording when you could have a gorgeous picture book?

All images by Ryan Andrews, www.ryan-a.com.

March 9 2012

beautiful things: visual design and styling by dietlind wolf

This is my new favorite blog. The lighting, composition and eye for colour are stunning enough – but there’s a real creativity and playfulness to the author’s styling that sets it apart from the wealth of attractive but unfortunately similar style and design blogs out there.

The shoot with the lemons? Bright, and fresh in the best sense of the word, and richly gorgeous.

And though I haven’t explored archival depths yet, my favorite photograph thus far is this one. The textures (wood, feathers, flowers, peeling paint) and the colours (I can’t even imagine wearing teal and sugared almond pink, but it’s divine every time) and the composition. I love paired photographs. Photography – particularly now it’s digital, making it essentially an unlimited resource (an erasable memory card as opposed to finite film) – so rarely produces solitary works of art. Because there are no material consequences we can take thousands of shots in the one sitting (the benefits and pitfalls of this are an entirely different discussion), and with a good photographer, creative styling, etc. …well, often we discover, looking the work over afterwards, that some images are stronger in concert than alone.

That kind of display is, I think, one of the things the blog format does exceptionally – uniquely – well. It’s not like seeing a pair of images on a gallery wall. Nestled between blocks of text and the slim margins of a computer screen we focus on pictures differently. Photographs are smaller, more intimate, more snugly fitted together. I love it when artists make use of blogs – and the internet – as an independent medium, and not just a substitute for scarcer physical display spaces.

 

 

March 4 2012

works in progress.

Me, The paper-boned girl (wip), 2012.

The borders of my desk are lined with towers of books I’m reading or about to read or reference regularly, and because I have very little cupboard space I store my sculptures in parts on top of the stacks. It’s all a little unfortunately precarious – fine for the unbreakable objects like my little ribcage here, but not so great for the porcelain. I think perhaps I need to build some shelves.

February 24 2012

beautiful things: lucien freud (this is actually some kind of love affair)

I love Lucien Freud. I love that you can’t just look at a photograph of his work on a screen and have any idea of its impact in real life. I love that in reality, I can stand in front of a canvas of his for half-an hour and lose myself utterly in the loving detail applied to the crevice of an elbow, or a roughly sunburned shoulder. I love the ruddy knees and the folded flesh.

Lucien Freud, Leigh on a green sofa, 1993.

I love the way Freud paid attention to that which we have been taught to perceive as ugly, and so his paintings render it worthy of notice, and thereby of aesthetic value. I love that his work is in every big name collection, and so when someone says ‘fuck that’s ugly’ they have to stop and think about why it’s still worth looking at; I love art that worries at the idea that easily recognisable beauty is the only marker of aesthetic value.

Lucien Freud, Bella and Esther, 1988.

I know he’s critically popular. I know it’s not terribly cool to love something that everybody nods their heads at and proclaims brilliant. But every time I go to see my mother, I visit the Freud in her state gallery, and I stand in front of it for quarters of hours or longer at a time, and forget my feet and the person I came with and everything around me, and all I know is the texture of naked stomachs and rough hairy legs and red-burnt cheeks; which sounds, yes, entirely unattractive. But don’t you see, that’s the point. These are the parts of people that we are meant to gloss over and air-brush out – mentally, as well as literally – but here they are. Close enough to touch, every wiry inch brushed in deliberately, to goad us into really looking, and perceiving that beauty is not the black-and-white mathematically smooth construct we are taught to imagine. It can be so, so much more than that. It should be.

Lucien Freud, Night portrait, face down, 1999-2000.

And I love that something stuck on a wall in a high-and-mighty institution can make me forget where I am. If I could see the world like that, always, I think I would forget to do anything but look.

Lucien Freud, Ib and her husband, 1992.

If you’ve never seen one in real life, you should track down a handy gallery. Trust me. Even if you loathe it, it’ll be worth your time.

n.

February 17 2012

why, fancy meeting you here.

What do you say after a long absence? An explanation of sorts is customary, I think.

So, 2011. I spent 6 months with no house, I (unintentionally) internet-detoxed, I found a home, I grew up a little bit, I got a tattoo (oh, the cliché), someone I loved, died (I grew up a whole lot more), I finished my degree, I designed a tattoo for someone important, I threw out half my wardrobe, I started to drag my life into some new kind of order, I did a lot of art, I got the internet again, and…oh, that’s about up to date, I think.

Of course it was more complicated than that. There was bliss and exhaustion; wrenching, unstoppable tears. Glitter-covered nights and gutter star-gazing (stars are always best admired sitting curb-side). Books full of scribbles and drawings and vast ideas; vaster plans. A lot of love and affection. Probably equal parts rage and angst. New skills, old skills. Tearing my hair out writing to deadlines (cutting my hair, dying my hair, deciding to stop cutting it). Tulle and coffee and beautiful books and Lucien Freud and kisses and melancholy and insterstate car trips and rent and heart-stopping boredom and days of painting and giving away shoes and too many cigarettes (and too little dancing, always too little dancing) and you know.

Life happened.

Albeit rather more dramatically than would have made last year, well, nice. It wasn’t nice at all. But it was…stunning, all-encompassed by an awareness of ending. It will always be the year I finished my studies, and the year S. died.

This year…this will be a year of working hard. Of beginnings and the getting done of things. And a lot of art. Mostly art, really. But I guess you wouldn’t be reading this blog if you weren’t into that sort of thing, now, would you?

n.

 (all photographs by me, c. 2012)
May 15 2011

beautiful things: myeongbeom kim’s capsule worlds

myeongbeom kim, edison, branch+goldfish+glass+steel, 15x15x30in.

yes, it’s another ‘look at this artist!’ post. i’m in the middle of an essay on bill henson and robert mapplethorpe, so i sort of have art even more on the brain than usual. i’m writing a number of other articles at the moment, but it’s a careful balancing act about what gets published where first, and i’m afraid my little blog always comes last. in the mean time, artists it is.

myeongbeom kim, untitled (restroom installation).

and i gotta say, myeongbeom kim is a pretty good artist to showcase.

myeongbeom kim, untitled, candle and thread, 5x4x3in.

i love microcosms. worlds-within-worlds, the universe in a fish’s eye, a stick-insect’s whole life lived out in a terrarium big enough to feel like a jungle. snow-globes and dolls houses. greenhouses and roof-gardens and japan’s sea of trees. a hospital room, or the glass gentleman’s apartment in amelie. the world is full of smaller worlds (and, there is always the biblical and narnia-esque hope, maybe bigger ones). not all of myeongbeom kim’s work is like this, but my favorite pieces are (though arguably i think you could say that installation art is almost always a form of microcosm. one is, after all, installing a new reality or idea into an existing space, creating a world that was not there before and will likely cease to be at a later date).

myeongbeom kim, rest, bed+lawn+pillow, 75x98x39in.

i’m hard-pressed to decide which i love best – light-globe fish-tank, or the tree in the candle? an impossible choice. i did acquire a doormat from the side of the road the other week, though (all new apartments need a doormat) and i noticed last time i looked that it had started sprouting babies tears. perhaps i’ll end up with a smaller version of that grassy green bed by accident? i hope so.

sincerely, from the depths of an art-study-bubble,

nyx x

May 10 2011

beautiful things: photography = magic, marc da cunha lopes

mark da cunha lopes, from the ‘vertebrata’ series, title unknown, via trendland.

this photograph by french photomanipulator Marc Da Cunha Lopes just does my head in, in a very pleasant way. i told you bones and pastels were not incompatible!

what this photograph has, indupitably, is the element of surprise; but it’s more than the ‘wait, what‘ moments scattered throughout the rest of the series (‘vertebrata,’ which has just finished showing at rabouan-moussion gallery in paris). there’s something viscerally alarming about this one – of course there is, it’s a huge disembodied head, floating around some ordinary suburban home like it belongs there – or perhaps (more chillingly) is on the prowl. more than that, it’s clearly a parrot, and i’m pretty sure i’m not the only one who wouldn’t want to run into a beak like that in a dark ally.

maybe i just have an over-tactile imagination, but this image actually fills me with a bit of genuine horror. it brings to mind legendary creatures like the nukekubi, a japanese and chinese capable myth capable of detaching its head from its body so the former can float off into the night to devour victims with a mouthfull of shark-like teeth, before returning to its neck in the morning to create a deceptively human whole. in similar fashion the image above instills in me a spine-groping sort of dread, in part because it looks too real to be anything other than terrifying.

mark da cunha lopes, from the ‘vertebrata’ series, title unknown, via trendland.

of course, since parrots aren’t really carniverous one has to wonder whether what looks like a saber toothed-something skeleton might in fact be more lethal. on the other hand, if you’ve ever had interractions with a parrot, you’ll know they do like to…chew things. or chew everything. in something that size you’ve got to admit that’s a little intimidating.

yours, with snappish affection,

nyx.

May 6 2011

design/delights: stylecookies from the netherlands

the stylecookie blog/e-zine may be the sweetest thing in the world. of course you’re supposed to buy the things on the site as well as look at the pictures, but i’m less interested in that.

if you’ve followed my blog for any length of time you’ve probably clued on by now to the fact that my aesthetic…oscillates. on some days i like bird bones, blacks and greys, on others it’s all sugared almonds and ellen von unwerth. i like to think that these two ends of the aesthetic spectrum aren’t so much incompatible as complimentary, like a colourwheel, whereby you choose which hues to put together according to how far apart they’re spaced. often the best match is a diametric opposite.

anyway. i found this on a sugared almond day. apparently their current theme is ‘paper’, and if i were the sort of person who took my breakfast eggs seriously (or ate eggs for that matter) i would definitely want one of those heart-shaped fried-egg molds. i’d probably never use it, but i’d really, really want to. i’m also considering making flights of threaded envelopes for my new apartment (!) – or maybe lanterns, or aeroplanes?i would also like (and use) a lightglobe-in-a-box, as per example here:

between stylecookie and anna-wili highfield this has been a week devoted to the art-ish possibilities of paper. next week will be about birthdays, apartments, and being fashionably disabled. oh yes it will be.

yours in mutual appreciation of cello-tape and crêpe paper (just look how happy it makes this woman),

nyx.

~.~

ps: all images via stylecookie

May 4 2011

beautiful things: anna-wili highfield’s paper menagerie

anna-wili highfield, robin, 2010.

‘sculpture’ is a fragile sort of word; it defines such a breadth of artistic endeavors that it’s sort of more useful to use in the negative than the positive. anna-wili highfield‘s work is paper-based and so fragile-looking it seems almost more like textile art than sculpture. the pieces seem tennuously held together, their edges rough and flyaway.

anna-wili highfield, race horse, 2010.

despite the obvious presence of structure beneath the delicate surfaces, they appear almost organic, like a fluke composite of dried leaves, animal shapes occurring naturally in the frail detritus of human lives so pretty appropriate for this blog, really. plus. they’re very, very beautiful. don’t you think?

anna-wili highfield, horse in a timber box, 2010.

it’s probably not surprising, then, that i think her pegasus works are most successful. horses – particularly those of greek myth – are powerful, full of tail and rippling of muscle. very masculine, very strong. to cast them in torn papers and wire, then, is a curious breaking down and rebuilding of a classic symbol of virility into something that blurs lines between fierce and insubstantial – a state i, obviously, find eternally fascinating. plus, the movement really works to the advantage of these pieces.

anna-wili highfield, pegasus bust for hermes, 2011.

with the exception of a few of her particularly exquisite small birds, i find the bunched paper tendons and the torn-edge impression of passing wind or speed much more compelling than the scientific stillness of others in highfield’s menagerie.  it’s rare for me to be more interested in wild depictions than scientific ones, but here it works. or maybe i’ve just always been a bit romantic when it comes to flying horses.

yours in delicate solidarity,

nyx

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