Thursday, January 24, 2013

Fire & Ice

After a fire at a Chicago warehouse, an unreal landscape.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Friday, January 18, 2013

Lost Wax

Last night, I popped into White Cube (Mason's Yard) to see the latest work of Belgian artist Kris Martin. I was met with a purity of form, both material and intellectual, that really struck a chord with me. Downstairs were a series of found prints, playfully altered, along with a sculpture installation consisting of a series of sandstone blocks, tombstone-like in form, arranged like dominos. Chilling, pure, playful, morbid. It's an installation that fires the mind, shifting accepted form into a new space.

For me, however, his Lost Wax series was truly fascinating above all else. Here too, Martin plays with accepted form and recreates it in another incantation. Here, eighteen shelves from an apiary have been cast in bronze using the lost wax technique. Intricate fragile details have been rendered immortal. It is a marvel to witness and has real weight. Considering the reality of the decline of bee population worldwide, both the title of the series as well as the monuments Martin creates strike a poignant note.

Does the work have value? On one hand it can be considered decorative and simple, but I don't believe this is fair, Martin's aesthetic is an exceeding strength, masterfully crafted; there is, additionally, a subtle yet powerful intellectual engagement with form, shifting and re-engineering it in novel ways. A show definitely worth seeing.

Images courtesy of White Cube

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Fernand Khnopff (Belgian, 1858-1921)
oil on panel
18 x 7.3cm (7 1/16 x 2 7/8in).Painted circa 1906

'Magicienne depicts a strong woman invested with unearthly powers, standing alone in the narrow space, a format favoured by the artist. Dressed in rich robes and adorned with heavy jewellery she stands immobile and implacable. Khnopff presents her in a typically elaborate and highly decorative manner, her regal air perhaps explaining her previous misidentification as a Queen. 

The formative influences of Delacroix, Gustave Moreau and the Pre-Raphaelites, particularly Rossetti and Burne-Jones, and the artist's love of Symbolist poetry and Decadent literature are suffused through the depiction of theMagicienne. She represents an ideology of doubling, simultaneously close and far away, blurred and precise, strong and fragile. Further, Khnopff seems to be paying tribute to his personal philosophy On ne a que soi (one only has oneself), making this work both introspective and out of reach. 

In the early 1970s Magicienne was acquired by the Galleria dei Bibliofili in Milan, founded by Piero Fornasetti, one of the most innovative designers of the twentieth century. Along with his friend Gio Ponti, Fornasetti revolutionised interior design and was instrumental in making Italian design famous all over the world. It passed from Bibliofili to Philippe Daverio, a professor and art critic well known in Italy for his original and highly popular TV art programmes. Daverio then gifted the painting to the renowned architect, painter and designer Massimo Scolari.'

Up for auction at Bonham's Impressionist and Modern Art sale on February 5, 2013.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

States of Play

During a recent trip to New York, I crossed paths with some interesting works of art that seemed difficult to conjure from a description of their elements. With ‘Shadow Monsters’ from Philip Worthington and Christian Marclay’s 'The Clock' at MoMA and Ann Hamilton’s ‘The Event of a Thread’ at the Park Avenue Armory, the experience of the artworks far surpassed the initial description. Numerous times throughout the trip people would ask me, is it really worth seeing? Is it really that good? The answer was always yes.

While waiting to view ‘The Clock’, Worthington’s wild shadow play enveloped us.  Standing in front of a bright white screen, the shadows of both the young and the young-at-heart were transformed with the aid of some sort of computer technology, adding shapes and sounds to contours of people in the projections on two walls. The resulting silhouettes on the screens enlivened shadow-play to monstrous proportions – yet in a very sweet and fun way. Both young and old leapt at the opportunity to dance around in front of the screen. A din of laughter and levity filled the room, this is what smiles sound like.

‘The Clock’ hadn’t really been on my radar to be honest. And when I read the description about cinematic snippets of clocks strung together, I was still ho-hum. But the ladies at the information desk had been so enthusiastic, I decided that it was worth a look (and my mother was beyond keen and curious as well!). Inside, the experience was mind-blowing. Yes, snippets of clocks from film over the last hundred years, BUT, coordinated with the actual time and lasting 24-hours! I could have stayed in that theatre for hours, the editing was so well done, bits from movies melded together seamlessly, dialoguing with one another. Truly fascinating and quite topical given our time-obsessed spliced digital world.

And finally, some swings, and a piece of cloth – anything special? The elements of Ann Hamilton’s ‘The Event of a Thread’ didn’t sound like much but when you enter the triumphant space of The Armory, you enter a different world. I was transported by her work. A sparse space filled with a field of swings was the beginning. The childhood activity (where ARE the swings for adults these days?) transports, and a room separated by a large billowing white curtain, moving in response to the swings brings ethereality to another level.  On one end a table with two readers reading endless scrolls surrounded by caged pigeons. On the other end a table with a solitary woman writing, while a circular mirror above her head pivots sporadically. All these players wear felt cloaks like medieval riding coats. There was something fascinating in the construction of this world and my immersion within it. Ethereal and mysterious, thinking of the threads that connect everyone and everything on so many levels. Here too, as in ‘Shadow Monsters’, both young and old wandered about, swung and lay beneath the billowing curtain. 

All the artworks I saw seemed to activate the idea of play, whether reconfiguring filmic details, extrapolating shadow-play, or constructing a fantastical world.  Marvelous to see such a spirit alive in the world of art.

Photos by Ewa Monika Zebrowski