The previous project about place made me think of globalisation. Globalisation is a process. So is the artistic process. It took me a while to figure out how to combine both.
I looked into Fiona Bonnar’s work and found her creative process very unusual For instance, instead of drawing a life model, she transcribed her observations into words, stating she can ‘make a more honest picture this way.’ It strikes me that first of all, men painted nudes and not women and secondly that words inform us on the making as simply on the end artwork. It is also probably more time consuming and reflect the duration of the process. It is pure coincidence that we had a life drawing workshop afterwards. I didn’t transcribe mine into words on paper but I certainly thought harder about what I was looking at and how to put my marks on the paper. Even more so since we had to use a pen and not the traditional charcoal.
I also researched William Kentbridge, who uses charcoal for each drawing, which have an immediacy and a tactile quality. He records every mark he makes or erases in a video. Addition and subtraction are equally recorded. It is an ongoing process of revision not dissimilar to Picasso abstraction of a bull. With both making becomes a conscious process.
I had my own at abstraction:
It is so much harder than it looks. Picasso said it took him a lifetime to learn how to draw like a child. What he meant is how long it took him to understand the essence of living creatures and objects.
One is going to wonder where globalisation is coming into all this. Patience….
I then looked at other contemporary artists such as the Chapman brothers. I didn’t see the exhibition myself but it seemed appropriate to look at their take on McDonald. I thought the wood sculptures that associated a global and modern emblem such as the multinational and the primitive look of wood sculpture very appealing and spoke volume. Whereas the installation of toys Ronald being crucified and there were so many of them probably wanted to shock but sometimes less is more.
Of course McDonalds is an easy target of anti capitalist art as it is the emblem of multinationals and unfortunately the food they sell serves their profit as opposed to our health. But personally I think people can make up their own mind about what they do. My logic stems from the fact that the chains that mushroom all around the world make us lose our identity. In some streets, when you are surrounded by the same clothes shops, coffee shops and fast food chains, it is sometimes impossible to tell where you are.
I therefore gave it my own take using art and text such as Barbara Kruger who never shied away of strong opinions.
However I kept the typeface childlike and playful I did not want the final outcome to be didactic. It took me a long time to think it through. Longer than the making process actually. I then collated all the pictures into a snapshot slideshow like a memory of a holiday. But soon, if it carries on, there may be no point going abroad. Let’s hope not.
Artists have always drawn inspiration from the physical world around them. Since we do not live in a vacuum, we do not create in a vacuum. I have moved to London many many moons ago and it has changed me and defined the person I have become to some extent. It took me a while to find a sense of belonging but as a Parisian I can honestly say I feel fully integrated.
I therefore chose to create an artwork about London. But instead of going through memory lane, I created a narrative that grew organically after sketches of buildings, streets and markets. I couldn’t leave at that and manipulated my drawings: photoshop to pixellate and darken some areas, downsizing and enlarging on the photocopier. The outcome was a bit too clinical still. I wanted it to look more lived in so added texture to evoke the rain and the passage of time.
I love the association of text and image especially when they add to each other, provide clues. One without the other and the work loses something crucial. Overall I am happy with the outcome. I hope it is a box that cries to be opened.
Front of storybox
Back of story box
As for the outside of the box, it is made of used papers such as maps and train tickets. Even the cardboard box itself has had a purpose before and was used to send books. So we are going full circle. The box has acquired a new narrative. But the viewer still needs to work for it. Depending on people’s experiences, the narrative is by no means a closed text and does not offer a linear interpretation.
The typography used helps to enhance its the atmosphere and the chaotic day of the characters. But is not all that easy to read…
According to the dictionary, a zine is an inexpensively produced, self-published, underground publication. This is the first project and the theme is Dialogue.
I called my zine Between Us as I chose to write about my twin sister Fabienne. I am close to her and I thought it would be easy to interview her and develop a zine. How wrong could I be? The more you know somebody, the more difficult it is to remain objective and not put words into their mouth. I had to stop myself from using my former skills as a journalist and from being too directive. I therefore ended up with a plethora of resources to go through and narrow down. Not easy.
The way we communicated was not always straight forward. Apart from face to face, we emailed and called each other. She sent me all the resources I needed. I wanted the zine to communicate the different means of communication and the fact that through emails I got more out of her than I did face to face when we just chatted about this and that sipping wine. I pixellated a few images to reflect this. I think because she loves words and writing, typing away made it easier. She had time to reflect and give me a true but never glorified version.
I used charcoal and acrylics, Photoshop, collage and monoprinting. I love mixed media as it enables to express various things in the medium that is most suitable for it. I also love exploring and learning all the time. I found monoprinting fun but messy and I ended up using just one image out of the exploration. Not a great result. But I loved it even so.
The practitioners that inspired me for the zine are Barbara Kruger for the strong and don’t-argue-with-me message. I used it when Fabienne talked about individuality and how important it is to remain to true to yourself.
What we discussed is the emphasis she puts on individuality and the need to be yourself even if you don’t fit
I also chose to carry on with the black and red colour theme throughout the zine. Kruger uses primarily two fonts Futura and Helvetica. For the zine, I experimented with many but also decided to limit myself to two: Futura and Handwriting Dakota but using the lightbox to give it a more handmade look.
As I said words and speaking well are essential to her. She took part to amateur acting and I used all the part of the interview to express it in her own words. She is a shy and reserved person never speaking out of turn and never offensive. Acting was a way of combatting this trait and to also discover a brand new world without masks. She was very successful at it. Here I used my own imagery and also looked into Lichtentein’s for a Wow or a Pow factor! The quotes on the page are the ones she chose and they are in english and french to highlight bilingualism. The words in red on the right hand page are her key words.
The following page is my favourite. It is a contrast to the others. It is almost bare. I liked the art of Jean Cocteau, Guillaume Apollinaire and Sara Fanelli and succeeded in amalgamating them to say something simple with a one liner slogan.
The image is printed on acetate. When you turn it to the other page, the text that forms the hair and face cannot be read and I feel it gives a mysterious feel to the person. Fabienne can be secretive and I think this page is the best summary. I loved playing with the font that decreases and slows down through the double spread.
Finally the end double spread says life is a journey in four different languages that Fabienne speaks. The imagery suggests it is ongoing and invites to go along with it.
Oliver Jeffers, an extremely successful and acclaimed author/illustrator who has proven that a label is just that and that the artificial divide between fine art and illustration can be blurred.
In his monograph of his figurative oil paintings and installation in the book Neither here nor there, he displays a different side of his character and talent. Although he had exhibited in New York, Dublin, Sydney, some of his paintings previously, it is the first time that most of his work is shown to the public. Jeffers is intrigued by the world around him and has a great sense of humour.
The same applies in his picture books. His style differs. Besides I don’t think it is an artist who would like to be classified. He likes to think of himself as somebody ‘who makes art.’ In picture books, his style is minimalist. His characters are never described in words and their facial expressions are almost non existent apart for a prominent nose for the boy who appears in the series of fantastical quests in How to catch a star, Lost and Found, The way back home and Up and down. Another characteristic is his footless legs and most importantly his body language and the way he is placed in a gigantic landscape to show his emotions, his loneliness and his quest of a friend. They are universal themes but still Jeffers never preaches. He thinks ‘children are smarter than we give them credit for’ and ‘I totally avoid forced content, thinly veiled morals, anything preachy or funny for the sake of it.’
I particularly admire the layout and the use of negative space, that helps putting emphasis on the hero’s emotions. In his picture books, less is definitely more but it takes a real gift to know which best moment to depict to capture the tension at a certain point of a story. Being an author and an illustrator probably gives an advantage that you can choose to draw instead of saying it or vice versa. The key is to get it right.
I also love the fact that the characters; actions are anchored in reality: they stop to have lunch or have a bath. Any child will relate to this and it will make the characters even more loveable and the quest even more possible.
His books are magical even for an adult. I can’t wait to see what comes next out of this multimedia artist.
The Brief: Following from the postcard experimentation, the main project is to represent our personal interpretation of ‘place.’
I started by brainstorming what place meant to me. The obvious was location. I travelled all over the world and I thought of all the wonderful places I have been to. I went through my collection of photos and started sketching away.
I also looked at the dichotomy between the spiritual aspect of Thailand and the riots that take place now and all the uncertainty they always bring. I was fortunate to travel to Thailand on many occasions but never at troubled times so I felt that my vision of the country and culture was looked at through tinted glasses. The reality must be totally different and I felt ill equipped to deal with it.
It led me to explore the theme of belonging. A place is meaningful to one individual but not another because of the sense of self it does bring. For me going back to my native city of Paris, I feel home as soon as I get off the Eurostar and set foot on the narrow pavement and smell the aroma of the boulangerie. Without fail, I buy a meringue called Le Merveilleux and a cake called Paris-Brest, which I cannot find here and go to sit in the Jardins du Luxembourg to savour them. Walking through a street market is a joy that can not be described with words alone. All my senses are awaken and bring childhood memories. These treasured pleasures are simple but resonate with me in a way that may be totally different to somebody else. They do not make me feel nostalgic. I see it as a phase in my life from which I moved on and love revisiting as an adult. I made a collage of what Paris was for me and I enjoyed experimenting with texture and juxtapositions of colours. In the end the result was pleasing to me but not meaningful enough. I moved from place to place and although I said I was not nostalgic, it didn’t represent the person I was today. Again I have a tinted vision of Paris. I go there often but I am on holiday. Shall I say it? I have become a tourist who does not see the daily reality of the city.
I therefore dug deeper. Place….and turned it on its head. Placelessness. Because when I go home, I am stunned to see so many McDonalds, Starbucks. When I go to Asia I see the same. It struck me that you could travel all around the world without having a true experience of the country you visit. Narrowing it down, you could be in your own country and living the same thing through fast food, shopping malls. Christmas highlights how shallow and materialistic our world has become. As I am wrapping the presents and filling my kids’ stockings, I can’t help but wonder: is this happiness? When my husband asks me what I would like for Christmas, I ponder. I want or I desire nothing. I am lucky to do what I want and juggle family life to fit as many things as possible. Things. Well, I want my friends and family around a roaring fire and ideally not a turkey but a tastier meal…a bit more french perhaps. For me, people make a place. I moved so much and lived in different countries to know that even in the most fabulous setting or the most buzzing surroundings, if you don’t have the people you love around you, you feel lonely. A sense of place is a sense of togetherness.
Prior to the beginning of stage 2, I went to London to break away from books and sketchbooks and see art in the flesh. I went to Tate Modern and looked at the work of Mira Schendel (1919-1988) , whose work I had never heard of even though she was a prolific post-war artist from South America. Tate Modern has organizedthe first ever international full scale retrospective of her work and it was huge. It had about 250 works.
She was a painter, a poet, and a sculptor. A Jewish refugee from fascist Italy and born in Switzerland, she emigrated to Sao Paulo in the 1949. Her work is very diverse which makes it difficult to pigeonhole her. It also makes it more fascinating. Schendel contributed to the development of Concrete and Neo-concrete art in Brazil during the 1960s, but she remained detached enough to develop a distinct and unique body of work.
Her paintings are energetic. Their abstract nature and texture make them quite informal. The paintings in the first rooms reminded me of Paul Klee (for whom I will post an entry later as his work is also exhibited at the Tate Modern) for the colours and the geometric shapes.
As we pursue our journey through the galleries, the work becomes more fragile. She sculpted with rice paper and drew on transparent paper where words are written in different languages. Sometimes they are philosophical quotes. Others just letters that seem floating in time and space. The effect is emphasised by the fact that the see-through sheets hang from the ceiling and twirl in front of you, giving the work an ever changing meaning. Schendel wrote : “The back of transparency lies in front of you and the ‘other world’ turns out to be this one.” Reading about it, I then found out that phenomenology was at the source of her art – in the idea of being and nothingness but I didn’t feel I needed to know this at the time to appreciate it. Her work is multi layered.
Even weeks after, I can’t stop thinking about Schendel’s work. So powerful. so deep in meaning. The layout of letters puzzled me. What was intentional and what was totally spontaneous? Does it matter even? How can we really know what an artist intends at all times. Her work is far reaching. For instance, by investigating the chasm between certainty and faith (she was brought up as a catholic although born Jewish). I sensed an artist in search of her identity having been caught between religions, countries and cultures. I can relate to some of that. If I have time, I will definitely go back and ponder in the galleries some more.