Monday, 17 October 2011

Apocalypse Now

Thinking more about your dissertation, Sylwia, you actually cover quite a large field, by naming art, photography, film and fashion. Is it important that you address all of these? Fashion, for example, seems a little tangential, unless you are working in the mode of a fashion photographer in your negotiated project. You don't have a huge number of words to play with in a dissertation, even though it may seem enormous at the moment, so you need to keep a tight focus, otherwise you will just scrape the surface and write a superficial survey rather than produce analytical depth. It occured to me in your theme, that there is a link to what is currently going on around the world, in terms of riots in London and the Middle East. Are there reportage or fine art photographers out there who have re-interpreted paintings of the apocalypse? I'll just add a few images to get you thinking including natural apocalypses such as famine and tsunami, as well as human acts of destruction, such as the riots.

Riots in Egypt

Carra: Death of an Anarchist

Cars in Japan after the Tsunami

Tom Hunter: For Batter or Worse. Fight after a wedding based on.....

Piero di Cosimo: Fight between the Lapiths and Centaurs 1500 - 1515

The battling horses here look like a Uccello, such as the Battle of San Romano

The two images above are by Sabastiao Selgado, the top of a refugee camp, and the lower image taken in Equador
The Cartoon Riots in Syria

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Apocalyptic visions

Hi Sylwia
You sent in a query about further lines of enquiry for your dissertation on theapocalyptic vision in art, fashion, film and photography.  You have already covered a lot of the key artists from the Renaissance, eg, Durer, Bosch and Memling through to the more recent visualisers of Hell, such as the Chapman Brothers. Have you looked at John Martin, with paintings such as The Great Day of his Wrath (1853), and Sodom and Gomorrah. There is currently an exhibition at Tate Britain, called John Martin: Apocalypse. It also shows his influence on artists who followed. They've also made a film trailer for the show. Watch the trailer!

John Martin: The Great Day of his Wrath 1853
Other artists from the past who have covered the theme, include William Blake, Gustave Dore, and various medieval illuminators. The best book that I have come across is The Apocalypse: The Shape of Things to Come edited by Frances Carey. The Apocalyse - link to Amazon  This covers a wide range of imagery and films, with essays by a variety of specialists. Some of the stills from the films provide interesting visual stimuli. Another thought, is Alfred Kubin, who wrote a weird novel called The Other Side. It was really about fears of the first world war and the sexual politics of Vienna, but quite apocalyptic.

Alfred Kubin

The fashion designers you have looked at, particularly Mitanovksi, are stunning.


There are similarities to Alexander McQueen and Gareth Pugh.
You could look at cyberpunk fashion, although you'd have to be very selective, as it can get too close to comics/graphic art. You don't mention the Terminator series of films, but this kind of fashion links to this. Blade Runner, and other films with dystopian themes also come to mind.

Gareth Pugh

For the cyberpunk designers, look at Sandra Buckland, Scherer Gonzales, and Iris Van Herpen.

Iris Van Herpen

Sandra Backlund

Scherer Gonzales

In photography, have you also looked at Arthur Tress, and further back, Atget?

Eugene Atget

Arthur Tress
Arthur Tress

Or Angus McBean?

Friday, 14 October 2011

Family, fabric and stitch

Hi Leah,

Your query regarded work that focused on family cultures, with an interest in stitch. The ideas I’m going to put here look at the two strands. I’m also going to look at fabric as a container of memory, as I think family memories are often embedded in specific fabrics. If you think I’ve gone off on a tangent, don’t worry – take what is meaningful to you, and hopefully some of these artists might spark off further ideas for your own work. Firstly, Ewa Kuryluk, who’s an interesting multi-media artist, who has written a book called The Fabric of Memory. She says that her "work is about images which memory projects onto fabric and which the fabric's folding transforms."
Ewa Kuryluk
Similarly, Rachel Dickson, a graduate from the RCA, and lecturer at Ulster, describes her work as being “concerned withe ideas of memory and circumstance: how we carry our experiences with us, wearing mnoments in time, stained by involvement, sewn into the fabric of our lives' intimate garments, marked and stained, secrets, memories, exposed patterns and construction becoming integral to the recollection, garments too fragile to wear..."

Rachel Dickson
Betty Pepper, a jewellery designer, has produced many pieces that are constructed from fragments of memory, such as The Necklace that Smelled of Yesterday.

The Tate in Liverpool did a relatively small exhibition called Fabric of memory that was concerned with how personal histories can be captured by objects. The curator got locals to lend handmade textiles such as items of clothing, made by, and received from a family member during childhood, with a commentary on its history. (this has been taken from the Tate website) The Fabric of Memory (Tate)
Clothes are inseparable from memory and family events – this is summed up in
Justine Picardie’s : My Mother’s Wedding Dress: The Life and Afterlife of Clothes My Mother's Wedding Dress

Jane McKeating made an embroidered book after her husband left her after decades of living together: How to Sleep in Half a Bed.

A sad use of fabric is the way that mother’s struggling in poverty in the 19thC used to cut a couple of strips of fabric from their baby’s blanket or theirs or their baby’s garment, and place one piece in the record book when they were forced to hand their baby over to a Foundling hospital, and keep the other. If or when they managed to get on their feet, they would return to the hospital, and their piece of fabric would be matched to their child, so that they could be reclaimed. Most of them never were.

Foundling Hospital Fabric Swatches
More macabre, in Mexico, there is the family Day of the Dead celebrations where they honour not only family members who have died, but also their pets, with art, flowers and fruit. From a textiles point of view, they make beautiful cut mats, called petate, that they roll the bodies up in before cremation.
Mexican Petate

On family textiles, the thing that brings families and stitch together is the tradition of quilting. This is particularly strong in America where they have quilting bees. If you’ve not seen it, watch the film, How to Make and American Quilt, which uses the putting together of the quilt as a vehicle to explore the lives, losses and loves in the generations of family and friends creating it. The film is better than the book. How to Make an American Quilt 
There is a lot on the web about families who have made quilts, sometimes over several generations, such as this site that starts with the work of five generations, but then goes on to show the work of other families.

Quilt making and textiles can be very therapeutic. Wendy Golden-Levitt uses textiles as a means of helping children through emotional pain. The following link will take you to an article on her approach. It’s a bit ‘alternative’ in the way she talks about her work – hippy dippy – but the spirit behind it is sound and interesting.Textile Therapy
Photo Therapy (see a previous blog entry for full details) often uses family photo albums, and the client talks about the bonded groups within the pictures. Often you will see certain family members ALWAYS with the same child, or perhaps a child always out on a limb on their own. You can tell a lot about family relationships from family photos.

And then, of course, there are the artists and photographers who have used their families as subjects. Family portraits, whether photographic or on canvas, can also be stitched into, or have fabric added applique/collage style to bring meaning and memory.

I’ll simply list these, as I sense this is not the way your work is developing:
Melanie Manchot photographed her mother naked as she aged. Look at you loving me, from 1995-2001

Sally Mann famously shot her children naked and continued to photograph them as they developed into adults.
Sally Mann
Tracy Emin: Her life, family and friends are often worked in stitch in her applique pieces

Victorian artists often depicted families in their narrative paintings, such as Last Day in the Old Home by Martineau
Renoir painted his wife and girls many, many times.
You can find some rather stiff 17thC Dutch paintings of families, such as the van der Dussen family by Hendrick Conelisz Van Vliet.
Munch painted his sister, as he was frightened of being sexually attracted to a model – with insanity and sickness in the family, he didn’t want to continue the suffering by marrying and having children
Schiele painted his sisters, sometimes naked, leading to charges of incest, but he also painted his longed for family – unfortunately he and his wife both died of flu before the baby was born.
Matisse painted his wife
Whistler painted his mother
Boccioni the Futurist did a number of paintings of his mother, starting with a lively fairly realistic one, but evolving into a more abstract and scary image.
Paula Rego: ‘The Family’ (Above)
Picasso did a number of paintings of his children
Lucien Freud
Stanley Spencer

If I think of anything else, I'll add another post.....

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Meya Deren: Dreams and Reality in the moving image

For those interested in dreams and experimenatal cinema, Meya Deren is worth a look, as one of the pioneers. Have a look at Meshes of the Afternoon and Google her to see how her work links Surrealism and film.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Dreams, Psychology and Landscapes

Hi Tom, You asked about artists or photographers who have combined landscape and psychology, or dreams and psychology... This is a little more tricky than with the portraits below, but there are a few. You say you have looked at Jerry Uelsmann - he's certainly a good starting point. For those who don't know his work, here's an example:
Jerry Uelsmann
To a certain extent, Uelsmann draws on the work of Rene Magritte, who played around with truth/reality and illusion under the influence of Surrealism. Some work better than others.

De Chirico, who I mentioned in the last post, used landscape to great effect to create a mood of brooding loneliness, at the end of the day in late summer. The shadows also suggest mysteries known but not seen, such as you sense in dreams.


 Dali created similar moods. There are the obvious paintings such as The Persistance of Memory or The Metamorphosis of Narcissus, and others such as his interpretation of Millais' The Gleaners with the two figures towering over small humans on a beach. Dali's landscapes often feel sad, harking back to his childhood at Cadaques.

Andrew Wyeth: Christina's World
Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World is often used with articles on teenage female angst, because it has that feeling of being lost, as you might feel in a dream. Munch's Summer Night's Dream shows a teenage girl at the point of stepping into adulthood. Giving herself as she leans forward, and yet holding back in the way she holds her arms. It shows the fear of innocent girls in the late nineteenth century, as they faced the challenge of sexual encounters. There are some disconcerting paintings from late nineteenth century Scandinavian painters who show the psychological disturbance caused through the long summer nights. We like to think of an extended day as being desirable, but when it's too long, people become unhinged.

Munch: Summer Night's Dream

Finally, you might look at artists that use the landscape to create projected psychological installations, such as Tony Oursler, and his Influence Machine. I have mentioned him in other posts, as he's a bit of a favourite of mine! He's useful too, as I know you have to explore the moving image on photography courses now, and he has some interesting ideas.
Tony Oursler: The Influence Machine

Tony Oursler: The Station

For textual research, you could look at this Masters thesis, 'Towards a Psychology of Landscape Aesthetics' on It's very academic, but you could pull out a few ideas on landscape and psychology, particularly towards the end of the dissertation, that might prompt further ideas for your work or research. Make sure you reference everything though.