School Assignment.-[Anthony Gormley (2)]

July 27, 2008 at 5:15 pm | Posted in Writings | 1 Comment
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2. Describe one of Antony Gormley’s installations in relation to the concept of land art.

Angel of the North (1998 )

Angel of the North is a sculpture situated at the mound near the A1 motorway at Gateshead, United Kingdom. It is made or corten steel, and is enormous at 20 metres high. The sculpture resembles a human figure, with wings replacing its arms, outstretched in full wingspan to the figure. The wings are 54 metres across, angled 35 degrees forward. The human figure, though realistic in form and shape, lacks distinguishing details. Features are simplified, and details such as the eyes and mouth are omitted. Although the figure is organic in shape, there is a stark contrast in its wings which have replaced its arms. The wings are very geometrical; a long rectangular “arm” divided into smaller rectangles.

This site specific sculpture is located from a mound created out of the destroyed remains of the pithead baths of the Lower Tyne Colliery. Not only is it a large-scale public sculpture, it is considered a land art because of its interactions with the natural environment around it. Its rusting material is an obvious statement of its interaction with the air. It also becomes a representation of human’s interaction with nature, since its origin was derived from ore mines–men harvesting ore from nature.

[Comments: I didn’t include references to other examples of land art, so I will add it in here soon.]

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School Assignment.–[Han Sai Por (1)]

July 25, 2008 at 7:19 pm | Posted in Writings | Leave a comment
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1. Describe one of Han Sai Por’s sculptures.

Object C
1992, 21 x 17 x 79 cm, Medium: Granite

Object C appears as a pod-like shape sculpture, and the sides slightly cave in to form a somewhat canoe-like form. Four round bumps are sculpted out from one side, and resemble seeds in a pod. Three smaller, less obvious bulging curvatures are modelled out from the opposite side. They look more attached and blended in as part of the “pod”. At one end of the sculpture, the two sides meet at a point to become a smooth, pointed end. On the other end of the sculpture, the sides elongate out separately; they do not meet. The side with the larger curvatures ends off somewhat abruptly, with a blunt but smooth end. The other side curves upwards, ending off in a smooth, round end.

The subject matter, though resembling a canoe to some extent, appears abstract. The sculpture is modelled from granite, and although the sculpture has been delicately modelled to be smooth on the surface, the colour is speckled against a sandy beige. Its stoney appearance gives it a solid, dense feel. The shapes appear organic, as though it were a heavily simplified model of a natural object.


[Comments: I really had quite a hard time describing this! There isn’t really much to describe as compared to, say, a painting by Dali. The simpler the artwork, the more difficult to describe! I did as best as I could to write as much as I could see… :p]

ART-Surfing: Damien Hirst

July 18, 2008 at 3:21 pm | Posted in Art Reviews, Writings | 9 Comments
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I’ve been going on a major art-surfing frenzy these few days, checking up on my old favourites from Singapore Biennale 2006: (Singaporean) Donna Ong, Brian Gothong Tan, Amanda Heng and (Worldwide) Takashi Kuribayashi, Jane Alexander and Nuha Asad amongst others. I realised I had dismissed many artworks which, after some art-surfing and reading of background informations, made me rethink their artworks. They include Yayoi Kusama (a very controversial artist), Ho Tzu Nyen’s The Bohemian Rhapsody Project which I now regretfully admit I did not watch especially since I have never heard of the Bohemian Rhapsody until now.

The particularly haunting artworks made me confused on how to interpret them at first, and I realised how little I was exposed to contemporary art all this time. Walk-The-Talk and printed/online notes really gave me a good starting point for me to interpret each artwork.

The newly “discovered” artist I’m featuring today is Damien Hirst, a very controversial and extremely rich artist whose artworks focus primarily on death and mortality. He is very famous for artworks consisting of animals or organs, whole or precisely cut up, preserved in formaldehyde. This artwork, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991) struck a very queer response from me.

The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991)

It was a Tiger Shark, preserved and suspended in a glass/steel box containing formaldehyde. Damien Hirst was very particular about the appearance of the shark. When the poor preservation of the shark caused it to decay, the gallery gutted the shark and stretched its skin over a fiberglass mould, but he commented, “It didn’t look as frightening … You could tell it wasn’t real. It had no weight.” It was replaced by another shark.

Surely enough, one can interpret that the artwork embodies the frightening and powerful elements of death that even surpasses and consumes the shark itself. The suspension of the shark, especially with its preserved life-like features still intact, gives an impression of sub-reality. It seems alive, yet is dead. The title would at first give one the impression of a surrealistic or abstract piece, but this is purely realistic, to the extent of using a real carcass as a “ready-made”. It may look like a biological study found in a museum, but seen as an artwork, it suddenly means an entirely different thing.

This, and many other artworks sparked off many criticisms and controversial arguments. Because The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living was sold for nearly £7 million in January 2005, people are starting to question whether it was a money statement or whether it was really art. Another criticism is about the authenticity of the artworks, such as his spot paintings. The paintings were mostly painted by his assistants, but his philosophy was that the progenitor of the idea was the artist since the conception, rather than execution, is what matters to an art.

Away from the Flock (1994)

Many people opposed his series of preserved dead animals. Norman Tebbit commenting on the Sensation exhibition, wrote “Have they gone stark raving mad? The works of the ‘artist’ are lumps of dead animals. There are thousands of young artists who didn’t get a look in, presumably because their work was too attractive to sane people. Modern art experts never learn.”

The works appear gruesome, crazy and sick even, but it could be because of this very radical factor that drew the attentions of art critics and collectors alike. Personally, I feel very mixed about his artworks, especially the more controversial ones. As much as I appreciate the radical concept, I do not really see the reason behind the outrageous price tag. Also, I am slightly biased towards artworks with gothic, dead or morbid subject matters and concepts. I do not feel very comfortable when I start thinking of myself in the animals’ shoes, but do you think this is what Damien Hirst wanted his viewers to respond like?

So, do you think this is Art or Rip-Off? Please do comment. (:

ARTchive Profile: http://www.artchive.com/artchive/H/hirst.html

Pleasantville (1998) Essay

February 19, 2008 at 10:25 pm | Posted in Writings | 1 Comment
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Title: Pleasantville (1998)
Director and Writer: Gary Ross

poster

This film is an obvious satire criticizing the fear of change, and the self oppression of these people in order to prevent this change. Pleasantville would seem like the perfect place to live in. Everything is ideal, when put in other words, everything is right and nothing is wrong. You cannot make any mistakes in Pleasantville, such as the always-perfect goal in basketball, simply because ‘wrong’ does not exist. Everyone in Pleasantville does what they are supposed to do, and only what they are supposed to do. This also means they are very inflexible in their execution, just like Bill Johnson who becomes completely at lost when Bud (David) does not do his job as usual.

When David and Jennifer first get warped into Pleasantville, they immediately realise the switch to monochome colour and the conservative (or so-called “proper look”) dressing and hairstyle. The monochrome colours used readily reflect the townspeople’s mundane and robotic way of life, and also their lack of true and individual personality. They are greeted by their “alternate” mother, Betty Parker, in a very artificial and overly-friendly “Honey, Breakfast’s Ready!”. Massive piles of food fill the whole dining table, and it is obvious that it is far more than necessary to feed the family. Mary Sue (Jennifer) is served a humongous breakfast of bacon, eggs, pancake, steak and sausage. One would notice the high dietary fat content in these foods, and this symbolises the over-abundance of American life in the 1950s. This is even more so portrayed in Betty’s generous pouring of syrup on Mary Sue’s pancakes.

Sexuality:

Sexuality in the monochrome Pleasantville, was almost non-existent. Relationships between man and women were purely for the creation of a family, and the duties of the members in a family was clear, precise and strict. The man worked outside, and the wife stayed at home to prepare food and do the housework, while the children went to school. Teenage relationship was pure and innocent, but this was changed throughout the course of the movie. It all started when Mary Sue is obviously unhappy with this mechanical and innocent way of life, and introduces sex to Skip, who was previously shy and did not want to rush their relationship. Thus began the start of the changes in Pleasantville, and the revolution of sex, as symbolised by the rose turning striking red. It also led to Skip telling the other boy on the basketball team about it, thus starting to “infect” the others to lose their innocence. They become unable to score perfectly in basketball, and this marks a break from the “perfect sequence” of Pleasantville.

The people of Pleasantville are very conservative. They are shocked at the sight of visual art (beyond the “normal” festive decorations during Christmas), and even more so of depiction of nude women. They consider it “shameless” when they saw Betty’s nude figure artwork on the glass display at Bill’s Soda Shop.

Race:

Because Pleasantville was transforming from monochrome to multicolour, this led another theme to surface: Racism. Thus began a racial segregation between the “monochromes” and the “coloured” people. The “monochromes” are considered true citizens of Pleasantville, and continue to embrace the moral values of the town. The “coloured” people are those who have undergone change, experienced emotion and explored personal freedom.

When Bud and Bill Johnson are put in court for trial, the scene becomes reminiscent of To Kill A Mockingbird’s Court Episode. The “monochrome” people, like the whites, are seated at the ground level, while the “coloured” people, like the blacks, are located on the second level. This is a clear juxtaposition of the racial discrimination between the two “races”. The unfair treatment can be seen when judge is the mayor, and Bud and Bill Johnson are not offered a lawyer to speak in defence for them.

Personal Freedom:

At the beginning, the people of Pleasantville lacked autonomy and character. They said the same, predictable words and greetings along with artificial, almost-plastic facial expressions. They seemed like robots; without feelings, thought or emotion. They do and say as programmed, in order to achieve that “pleasant, idealistic way of life”. The deliberate use of monochromatic greys makes this even more significant. This reflects of the loss of individualism of Americans in the 1950s, where idealism and “perfect living” meant restrictions on behaviour, expression and thought.

When Betty becomes “coloured”, she tries to hide it with make-up in fear of her husband. But when she realises that she has fallen for Bill Johnson, she accepts her “colours” and even resists covering it up when her husband tells her she. She becomes more daring in pursuing her feelings, and does not completely fulfil all the expected duties of a housewife. She is firm in her own feelings, thoughts and emotions, something all the wives in the town are becoming, and this becomes a threat and worry for the husbands and mayor of Pleasantville. Previously seen as a mechanical housekeeper who will keep the family in order and serve meals and do the chores, they now realise that they can think for themselves and have rights to personal freedom.

The ‘Pleasantville Code of Conduct’ is a manifestation of the political oppression to the most ridiculous degree. Setting rules for the type of music to be played, the colour of paint permissible, or even prohibition to visiting the library are undeniably absurd standards to follow. Bud resists this by playing loud rock music, and together with Bill Johnson, paint a large mural outside the local Police Station expressing their discontent with the restrictions of personal freedom.

(976 words)

Reference: Wikipedia: Pleasantville

Artist’s Statement.Dragon’s Head

January 10, 2008 at 5:08 pm | Posted in Colour Pencil, Coursework, Writings | 10 Comments
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From my Sketchbook:

Dragon's Head“I am deeply fascinated by the human creativity in creating fiction and fantasy. Mythology and Legends are exemplary examples of the human creativity that had outlasted the erosion of time. However, these fantastic creatures and tales are gravely endangered by rapid modernisation and scientific eradication. Humans lose their gift of imagination slowly to maturity as they age, although somehow we are still fascinated by stories of mythical creatures and mysterious beings. There is an undeniable attraction within this conceived world that inspires us and allows us to detach ourselves from reality. I wish to encompass this magic into my artwork . I aim to create this fantasy through visual art, and spark the imaginative child in others.”

-Xin Yan

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