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Friday 28 January 2011

Last Weekend of the January Sale - Know Your Aesthetica

If you read this blog, then your probably already know about Aesthetica Magazine, but just to recap Aesthetica is a British-based international arts and culture publication that was founded in 2002. Aesthetica engages with the arts both in the UK and internationally, combining dynamic content with compelling critical debate and pushing boundaries while exploring the best in contemporary arts and culture.

The January, we’ve been offering you the chance to take up a year’s subscription for £15.

This is the last weekend, where you will be able to save 50% off the annual subscription. With Aesthetica, you get more than just any old magazine – you receive the latest news, reviews, ideas and debate from the art world. Beautifully designed, the publication makes an excellent edition yo your collection. You’ll want to keep them or at least past them on to good friends and loved ones.

Keep up-to-date with the engaging editorial and fantastic content – here’s an example of what we’ve covered over the past 12 months:

Art & Design

  • Bani Abidi Identity Formation & Social History

  • British Fashion Photographers The New Generation

  • Jannica Honey Stylised Realism & Coaxing Emotion

  • Jerwood Contemporary Makers Inverting Preconceptions of Ideas & Craft

  • Jonathan Wateridge Reality, Fiction & Illusion

  • Manifestations of the Design Art Movement Art & Wallpaper

  • Marina Abramović Art Beyond the White Walls

  • Non-Conformist Soviet Art from the 1980s Glasnost

  • Peter Kardia Alternative Pedagogy

  • Photography & the Pervasive Influence CONTACT

  • Rafael Lozano-Hemmer Digital Art & the Platforms for Participation

  • Sculpture’s Narrative Altered by Photography Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today

  • Sean Raggett A New Identity: Decoding Portraiture

  • Stuart Brisley Politics & the Performance Artist

  • Stuart Semple Popular Culture & the Aesthetic Discourse

  • Voyeurism, Surveillance & the Camera tackles subjects both iconic and taboo


  • Artists' Films Take on Mainstream Cinema A Guerrilla Approach

  • Beautiful Kate A Forbidden Love Story in the Australian Outback

  • Dogtooth Subverted Dark Narratives

  • How to Animate: Part 1 Ideas & Inspiration

  • How to Animate: Part 2 Making & Shaping

  • Magical Realism on Screen Undertow

  • Secret Cinema Rewriting the Cinematic Rulebook

  • The New Frontier of Cinema & Digital Culture Abandon Normal Devices Festival

  • Winter in Wartime Martin Koolhoven's emotive film about deception

Literature & Theatre

So, now’s your chance to take advantage of this fantastic deal – if you subscribe before the end of the month, you’ll also receive the Aesthetica Shorts 2011 DVD FREE of charge – discover new and emerging filmmakers.

CLICK HERE to subscribe today for £15.

Thursday 27 January 2011

Gareth Cadwallader's Tangible Reality

Review by Paul Hardman

Window Paintings: Gareth Cadwallader

The new Gareth Cadwallader exhibition at the Hannah Barry Gallery, Peckham gathers much of its resonance not only from its content but also from its context in this location. The stark contrast between the environs of the gallery, the gallery itself and the idyllic scenes depicted in Cadwallader's large scale photographs cannot help but have an effect on how the work is experienced.

To visit the show it is necessary to make your way along Rye Lane, past yam stalls, halal butchers, and through the multicultural crowds that give this part of London the nickname 'Little Lagos'. I mention this because the photographs Cadwallader has chosen to exhibit in this space depict a world that couldn't be more different from the urbanity of South London, floor to ceiling on the walls of the gallery are three idealised, peaceful, rural, and classically European scenes. However Cadwallader has not been plucked from a traditional and conservative bubble and placed unknowingly in South London, he is very much a part of the cultural continuity of Peckham, and has previously both curated and shown in group exhibitions in the warehouses and squats of Peckham with the !WOWOW! collective. Presumably then, the juxtaposition of this collection of work with its location should be read as deliberate. The gallery itself, with it’s distinctly grunge aesthetic of exposed beams, peeling paint work, and location in a crumbling industrial estate forms is seemingly incompatible with the milieu in Cadwallader’s scenes.

The first of the enormous photographs, Picnic, depicts three young women wearing straw hats, sat on a beach among hamper and food while three middle aged musicians play a violin, cello and guitar. The light is fading as if around 9pm on a summers evening. The clothes of the figures indicate warm weather, there is still food to be eaten, and all are smiling and contented. Pond depicts a lily filled lake surrounded by woodland where two young women are enjoying a trip in a rowing boat. In Cyclist, a cyclist reaches down to grab an apple from a pile as he passes by, again in a rural setting unmarked by any signs of development. These are arranged on three of the walls, and are separated by two abstract paintings of radically different sizes. One, seven metres tall is shaped like a giant surfboard stood upright in the sand, the other, only 40cms high, is more like a small window, or a panel in a medieval religious painting.

The paintings share a seamless fade from near white at the base up to a mid blue at the tip in a manner reminiscent of a clear but pale sky. Cadwallader is known for his expertly executed oil paintings, and usually these are figurative, but here he has used all his skill in perfecting this subtle gradient. Sven Münder's text that accompanies the exhibition describes the paintings as 'macho, sexualised objects', but the extremely mild, pale blended surface of these, diffuses any aggressive effect, and instead they provide a kind of complementary dream space, or additional sky, should any of the scenes require it. The combination of the photographic with the abstract does provide a dimension of uncertainty to the exhibition, and demand that the photographs should not be taken at face value. The scale of both the photographs and the large paintings has the effect of submerging the viewer into each scene. The positioning of Picnic in particular provokes an uncanny sensation, as the sea in the background seems to relate to a large damp area on the concrete floor that spans the width of the picture and reaches out towards the centre of the gallery. It is as though Cadwallader is using these photographs to bring a near perfect world, one that owes its conception to the tradition of painting, particularly impressionism, into the more ambiguous and fallible realm of reality.

Ultimately, Cadwallader has set up an exhibition that has the sense of a riddle about it. As if by examining the details in the photographs, and contemplating their relation to the featureless surface of the paintings a message could be found. In fact, he has provided one element that stands out as if it were a clue, the jersey of the cyclist reads 'Look Mum, no hands', a detail that suggests something childish. Would Cadwallader have us believe his art is there simply for him to show off? Perhaps he is making a comment on contemporary art in general, that it may often be childish, and fails to connect with everyday real life. After stepping briefly into this mild world, the reality outside the gallery felt all the more tangible.

The show continues until 3 March. www.hannahbarry.com

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Review: Gerard Byrne at MK Gallery

Review by Nicola Mann

Case Study: Loch Ness (Some possibilities and problems),

Gerard Byrne grew up in Dublin in the 1970s. It was a time and place where socio-political realities were filtered through the hazy gauze of influence installed by the Roman Catholic doctrine. The chasm between historical facts and fictions, and their distance in time and space from the present, informs Byrne’s artistic repertoire. In his video and photo installation 1984 and Beyond (2005-2007), Byrne re-staged a 1963 Playboy interview series with science-fiction luminaries of the time. The way Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke et al foresee the millennium veers wildly between the far-fetched and accurate, and yet it is the self-consciously constructed nature of the contemporary re-enactment—borne out in bad acting and mistimed interview techniques, which illustrates the simple fact that the past can be even harder to envisage than the future. The artist builds upon his interest in representational critique and the temporal collision of past, present, and future in his first major solo exhibition in a UK public space, Case Study: Loch Ness (Some possibilities and problems), 2001-2011. The culmination of 10 years of research around Loch Ness, the exhibition employs film, photography, installation, and original “eyewitness” accounts of “Nessie” to explore the dissemination of the most elusive of all myths. Byrne’s clinical trove of archival relics asks: How can a “monster” survive for so long in the visual imagination and yet remain so resolutely invisible?

The exhibition pivots off of the gallery’s central room which the artist lines with small, framed photographic “sightings” of the monster. A dog’s head peaking out of the water’s surface, a gnarled piece of twisted rope, crocodile-like wooden stumps, and ripples in the water, seem to quietly substantiate the obvious: what we think we see, is not always what’s there. Instead, the perennially camera-shy beast resides in the psycho-geographic topography of our visual imaginations, fed by lashings of popular culture conjecture, Daily Mail headlines and wishful thinking. By employing an analogue as opposed to digital printing technique, Byrne emphasises the connection to individual touch and interpretation, tying site, myth and the viewer into a web of temporal, tactile identification. The presence of a monumental tree stump in the centre of the room — cut through to reveal growth rings dotted with pins — anchors the exhibition, emphasising not only the visceral physical, but also historical connections with which the artist is engaged. Led by a trail of bark shed petulantly onto the gallery floor, the tree stump’s horizontal visual timeline refracts vertically, like a rash on the architecture’s skin, onto a wispy graphite wall drawing, upon which Byrne plasters a frenzied chronology of sightings of the monster. Glossy black and red transcriptions dating back to 1527 liken the beast to a “submarine submerging,” with a “head was like a terriers,” and a “long neck of swan-like appearance,” illustrating the unwieldy historical progression of the myth, as well as the viewers’ relationship to this transmission. Combined with the faint hum of audio recordings of the quotes emanating from the next gallery, Byrne bombards the viewer with a triptych of narrative modes —photographic, audio, and printed — a technique that serves to highlight the role of the viewer as consumer of and conduit for the dissemination of all modern-day myth.

Byrne expands this idea with photographs of bound volumes of The Inverness Courier from 1933. Vivid headlines describe the monster as “Like a black horse” (8 August) or a “Black object with two humps” (October 31st). In tracing the first flurry of monster sightings, the artist suggests a correlation between the myth and the increased use of mass production printing techniques during this time. In this sense, Byrne invokes Brecht’s “alienation” technique, demonstrating, again, the distance between the original “event” and ravenously consumed gossip. With psychic portent, a headline from 12 September 1933 states simply, “Loch Ness Monster – Again,” hinting at an almost resigned acceptance of the legend’s impeding legacy — a longevity that fails to prevent each sighting from evanescing into tomorrow’s chip paper again, again, and again. It matters not that the text in Byrne’s newspaper reproduction is too small to read: much like a large chunk of our present tabloid journalism – it’s all about the headline.

In the exhibition’s final room, Byrne laces the gallery walls with an epic display of photographs taken around the Loch over the past 10 years. Large-scale, black and white images of dead deer, hardy swimmers, and the tree stump from the next room, weave together, building the exhibition to a crescendo of whimsical confusion. Despite the fact that the photographs could well have been shot just the week before, the salt and pepper flecks of heroic monochrome landscape photography transport the viewer back to the 1930s, ravishing them into a dreamlike meditation on historical distance and aura. Black and white is an aesthetic of the authentic, lending the Loch Ness myth the authority of time or what historian Paul Grainge defines as “visual historicism.” Yet, the unmistakable physical presence of Byrne’s wooden photographic subject in the MK Gallery, just feet from its theatricalised alter-ego, complicates this historicization (another Brechtian invocation), thereby blurring the lines between past and present, fiction and documentary, and leaving us suspended between times.

Don’t come to the show at MK Gallery expecting to be titillated by lake-dwelling critters and flights of aquatic fancy: the works are deadpan to the point of frustration, as stark as the dark wooden frames in which he mounts his photographs, and without a slippery saurian in sight. Nevertheless, if you are willing to enter into an intellectual debate about the politics of appropriation and play a starring role as mediator in this discussion, then this is the exhibition for you. For Byrne, the entire world is a stage one way or another.

The show continues until 3 April. www.mkgallery.org

Image: Gerard Byrne: Towards a Gestalt - Loch Ness & Fact. Research ongoing since 2000 AD. Image courtesy the artist.

Monday 24 January 2011

Northern Art Prize- It’s not the winning…

Review by Bethany Rex

The Northern Art Prize celebrates and rewards contemporary visual artists based in the North of England. Now in its 4th year, it has established itself as a significant and relevant not only in the North, but nationwide too. A maximum of 24 artists are put forward by 12 nominations from the North East, North West and Yorkshire regions. The lucky four who make the shortlist exhibit their work in a group show at Leeds Art Gallery. We popped over to the Award Ceremony not only to extend our congratulations to Haroon Mirza, this year’s winning artist, but to celebrate the contribution of all those who took part.

The Northern Art Prize is judged by a panel, which this year, included Richard Greer (Collector), Susan Hiller (Artist), Mark Lawson (Journalist, Broadcaster and Author), Tanja Pirsig-Marshall (Curator of Exhibitions, Leeds Art Gallery) and Andrea Rose (Director of Visual Arts, British Council). Unusually, however, there is also an online public vote, which was won by Lubaina Himid. There was no prize for this accolades as such, just the knowledge that those who visited the exhibition (it has been on since 26 November 2010) liked your work the best. This supposed gap between public and professional opinion prompts a host of questions relating to awards in the arts; who are they to decide?

There is definitely something to be said for the conversations that occur when we visit exhibitions and spend time with the work. In the gallery it was more than apparent that the conversations surrounding Himid’s Jelly Mould Pavilions (2009-2010) were the most vibrant- unsurprising given the playful yet thought provoking work on display. The effect of Himid’s work is difficult to describe; featuring beautiful and intricate hand-painting Victorian ceramic jelly moulds and prints, surrounded by miniscule figures going about their daily business (my personal favourite was a Muscle Beach body builder in a string vest), the work manages to be interactive despite the fact that, unfortunately, you can look but not touch. Exploring the historical representations of the people of African Diaspora and highlighting the importance of their cultural contribution to the contemporary landscape, Himid explores the social and political issues surrounding black history and identity. It is important to highlight that despite the aesthetically whimsical work on display, these jelly moulds are a device to encourage debate about enslavement, commerce and the pleasure of dialogue.

The crowd surrounding Mirza’s sculptural assemblages and installations was markedly different. A host of puzzled faces, whispered exchanges and raised eyebrows observed Anthemoessa, a combination of Birds of Pray (2010), SOS (2010) and Adhan (2009). Taken from Greek mythology the title, Anthemoessa, is the island where the Sirens are said to have lived, luring unsuspected sailors to their demise by calling out their beautiful song. Birds of Pray is a portrait of two Sirens in which the song is created through malfunctioning electrical items such as a strip light, radio and turntable. The work installed to include Edward Armitage’s (1812-1902) painting The Siren (1888) that has been removed from the Victorian collection and incorporated into the installation. It spills from the video projection points towards the painting, suggesting the works latent narrative. SOS is a siren in itself. An energy saving light bulb slowly revolving over a transistor radio causing interference that generates a sonic accompaniment to the film, Adhan. Texts accompanying Mirza’s work speak of allusions to the contradictions inherent in the Islamic faith and the exploration between hearing and listening, however, perceiving these meanings was difficult and Mirza’s decision to incorporate Armitage’s work into the installation is perplexing. There is much to be said for comments which question the wider value of Mirza’s artistic practice and I think perhaps, including a piece from a time where concepts of artistic skill were both definable and visible only served to add fuel to the fire?

Wider debate aside, the four shortlisted artists; Alec Finlay, Lubaina Himid, David Jacques and Haroon Mirza reflect the broad practice of artists working across rural and urban locations and the exhibition provides a fascinating glimpse into contemporary art practice which should not be missed.

See the exhibition for yourself at Leeds Art Gallery until 6 February 2011. Let us know what you think?

To read more about Haroon Mirza’s work see the "Beyond the Visual: The New Role of Noise" in the February/March issue of Aesthetica. Out 1 February.

www.northernartprize.org .uk

Image: Haroon Mirza, Northern Art Prize exhibition. Credit Simon Warner

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