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Wednesday 9 June 2010

Art Reviews: New Books for Your Coffee Table

We receive some fantastic art books through our doors at Aesthetica and we thought we'd share our views on some of the recent publications that have passed our way.

We Are Congo

Rankin (b. 1966) is one of Aesthetica’s favourite photographers and so we were delighted to receive his new book, We Are Congo, made in collaboration with Oxfam. Rankin is famous for his omnipresent work in the fashion world but this collection of work pursues a different theme and gives a new insight into a photographer most renowned for his iconic images of celebrities such as Kate Moss and Madonna. We’ve covered other ways in which Rankin has subverted the fashion photography world in Aesthetica before and you can read about his other projects by clicking here.

The photographs presented in We Are Congo are all inspired by, and taken during Rankin’s recent Oxfam trips to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The book is divided into four sections. The first is a collection of images each accompanied by a touching love story. Amongst these is 51 year old Charles, a retired dancer who describes how the violence and disruption in the Congo has affected the life he had hoped to live with his beloved wife. The stories are both heart wrenching and hopeful. In the accompanying photographs the personalities of the subjects shine through in their expressions. They evoke the feeling of warmth, love and hope; things that even war cannot seize from humanity.

The second section is made up of images taken by the people of Sange themselves. Whilst in the Congo, Rankin held photographic workshops to teach the local community about photography. In this set of photographs the Congolese people take on the role of both photographer and subject. Their images of teenagers playing football, mothers feeding their babies and grinning school boys create an intimate depiction of lives lived with love, in spite of difficulty and anguish.

Set against a white background, the subjects of the photographs in the third section depict those people who fled conflict to find refuge in Mugunga Camp. Similarly to the 32 page panoramic portrait in the final section of We Are Congo, Rankin captures snap shots of the Congolese people displaying their bravery and determination in their search for peace.

In We Are Congo the photographs displayed do not depict victims of war and horror but rather people who are full of dreams and hopes. Rankin’s photographs capture the extraordinary lives of ordinary people. Filled with photographs expressing deep love and determination, the pages of We Are Congo let us know that there is the chance of a better future for the Congolese people.

All proceeds from sales of the book will be spent on Oxfam’s emergency work in the DRC.

Ruth Sweeney

For Love and Money: New Illustration
Liz Farrelly and Olivia Triggs
Laurence King Publishing

Today visual stimulation takes on many forms and in today’s society illustration can be seen in all mediums, most noticeably for commercial, environmental and political use. Illustration has come a long way from simple drawings and has developed to cover every aspect of our lives, from 2D to 3D, from glossy magazines to advertising campaigns, from fashion to the blockbuster cinema and even to our mobile phones. The ever-growing interest in illustration by all areas of the media demonstrates the power it has in influencing our present society.

This book aims to display illustration artwork at its very best and highlight the diversity of which the genre can achieve. Never before has one genre covered such a range, from its combinations of drawings, painting and collage, to computer manipulation with digital software, photography and text, thus demonstrating there are no boundaries when it comes to this area of art. The book showcases 89 different innovative young individual’s portfolios, referencing spectacular images alongside mini question and answer features with the artist. It offers a small preview into the work of each artist, taking you on a journey into his or her created world. However, this only lasts for a few pages before you’re being thrown towards the next artist.

An aesthetically pleasing journey with beautiful images, which give you an insight into the mind of the creator, it is a wonderful reference book for any established or aspiring illustrator and is also able to capture the imagination of enthusiasts.

For Love and Money: New Illustration is an astounding collection of bright colours, bold prints, quirky photography, intricate patterns and some of the most amazing visual images I have seen in a while. It is truly inspiring and a must-have for anyone with any interest in illustration.

Lisa-Marie Ryan

Bridget Riley – Retrospective: Musée d’Art moderne de la vile de Paris

Bridget Riley (b.1931) is a well known for her paintings of optical illusions created from geometric shapes, and bold colours. She is widely recognised in Britain and the USA today but her influence in France is less established. Yet, it is from the Bridget Riley – Retrospective at Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris in 2008 that this latest catalogue of her work is derived. Between 12 June and 14 September 2008, the gallery was given the opportunity to take a fresh look at the artist and her work, and to display a collection of paintings and preparatory studies not yet seen together by the public.

This heavy volume contains a foreword by the curator, Fabrice Hergott, and several commentaries upon the artist by different writers, which are written in French and English. The book makes a fascinating reading experience, as many of the accounts explore Riley’s artistic progress and her place in the art world today. Her first paintings portray influences from the Impressionist Seurat, and her later development towards the style of Matisse. An interview with the artist by Lynne Cooke reveals interesting details about her working processes and the concepts behind her paintings. A catalogue of the Riley’s paintings is reproduced in high quality colour, and includes images of her preparatory studies which reveal the evolution from her initial ideas to the finished work.

Whether you’re interested in looking at the mind bending optical illusions of the paintings, or want a more detailed retrospective on the artist herself, this catalogue from Ridinghouse allows you to dip into different ideas and opinions on this great modern artist.

Rachael Boon

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