Saturday, October 25, 2014

Iris Troiana - Read Peep and Reap.

My Conceptual thinking / reference material / ideas and creative output.

My investigation into the Iris Troiana would not be complete without reference to botanical studies of local Iris specimens. This was necessary from a creative patternmaking experience, or rather from an applied arts perspective. Creative ideas were developed extensively over the past few weeks, as I had to make decisions on suitable creative outputs. 

I have had input from various colleagues  round ‘feminism’ associated with the flower as outlined in the previous Iris blog post.  Their suggestions contributed to the consolidation of a number of concepts and ideas and more importantly the viewer’s possible interpretation of the intended artist’s underlining statements.

A whole host of ideas are now possible as I sought to focus on the most significant option in terms of a scheduled exhibition. I was approached to exhibit at Art on Paper at Stanley 44, and this particular blog entry sheds some light on the work to be displayed at the exhibition.
First I had to focus on an artist book to be exhibited next to the framed ballpoint pen drawing of the Iris Troiana; homage to Albrecht Durer - follow the provided link for the historical significance and relevance to this particular creative output. Reference material is always essential in the conceptual phase, and in the back of mind has been the notion of acknowledging the work of botanical artists in the formulation of my initial concepts and ideas for this creative endeavour.
Featured here are botanical studies of irises by Barbara Jeppe (image on the left) – one of her many publications on local flora. Inge Hyson one of my colleagues delivered the publication to my office a few weeks ago. Inge Hyson is an artist in her own right, flora at the centre of her creative endeavours. Jeppe is a talented illustrator and amateur scientist in the study of local flora; her passion has no boundaries, and is perfect reference material for this work of mine. It demonstrates her commitment and determination as a hobbyist to fulfil various roles and expertise, both as an artist and scientist. She did so intuitively and her passion for the subject gained her international recognition in terms of exhibitions, locally and abroad, specifically in England and America.  She was involved with the publication of eight books on the subject of local flora and for her contribution received a number of awards from professional bodies, including the Botanical Society of South Africa and the South African Association of Nurserymen - to mention a few.

As a specialist in scientific illustration and a fine artist, Barbara is one of the most efficient I have known in my more than three decade involvement with the production of botanical art books. Barbara’s organisation of design on the paper is always well conceived; minute details are so intelligently portrayed that they do no destroy the artistic conception of the whole; they are drawn with the ultimate care and observation in order to analyse the complexity of structure and so reveal to the viewer the beauty of the plants in their living manifestation.  (Bales: November 1998)

Referencing botanical studies of the Iris is critical in the research and development phase of the artwork and supports the broad range or series of works of art that is to follow. An extensive and broad investigation is required to provide a firm foundation on which to pin ideas and concepts and or visualise and realise art works.  Albrecht Durer’s drawing of Iris Troiana was in many ways the forerunner of botanical studies of flora and fauna – his study of the rabbit a perfect example.

It was my intention to render the Iris in a format synonymous with botanical studies – hence the fact that it replicates the Durer work in form and shape (almost an exact copy). There are however significant intentional creative shifts. The iris was rendered in ballpoint pen inks – luminosity and colour intensity is achieved like no other drawing method. 
Although the drawing had to be beautifully and masterfully rendered; a feast for the eye, both as a flower and a fine specimen of the iconic Iris, there had to be a significant shift away from the stereotypical rendition of the flower. This was necessary to render the work innovative and cutting edge from a contemporary art perspective. The work had to transcend the obvious illustrative constraints and transport the captivated viewer to another level.

The most significant departure was therefore the fact that the Iris had to be rendered in rich reds, blues and pinks, as well as luminous greens and yellows (the stem). The illustrated flower was drawn in colours of the flesh, with obvious sexual connotations, but ultimately the focus was on rendering bruised skin – related to pain and suffering as a result of abuse.  
The colours added an emotional touch to the visual experience, seen from the viewer’s perspective –to unleash and or amplify the any emotions evoked in the viewer.  The pain and suffering works on a number of levels - one is personal the other addresses the changes in art practice and appreciation.

Therein lies the ambiguity of the illustrated art work. With the advent of post modernism the barriers between art, design, craft and architecture came down.   Visual culture is studied, valued and appreciated in the broadest terms. The gap between what could be termed high and low art does not exist anymore. 
Far greater value is placed on the artist’s intent, concepts and the viewer’s response to the art statement..  The use of the readymade, advances in digital technology, new materials and exhibitions like Agents of the 3D Revolution continues to have a serious impact on the value we place in the making of art – rendering the skill and craft of art making irrelevant or rather insignificant.

It is within this context that I explored pattern-making options using digital technology etc. I in particular explored the symmetrical and asymmetrical versions of the rendered Iris, in an attempt to celebrate the handmade – thinking through craft in making art statements, whilst acknowledging the role that new technology brings to the creative experience (for the maker and viewer). The crafts for centuries were associated with tasks for woman and relegated as hobbies.  Pottery, weaving and embroidery were classified as des Arts décoratifs. The decorative arts or crafts were often concerned with the design and manufacture of beautiful objects that had a utilitarian, ritualistic and or decorative function.

However decoration is no longer considered a crime (less is no longer more) but an opportunity to add meaning and value to our experience across the arts (art, design and architecture). Surface development; textures and patterns are therefore an important ingredient in making meaning and adding value in a variety of creative options. Artists have begun to embrace ‘thinking through crafts’ in creative practice – as a means to personal expression. The utilisation of fauna and flora in the art of patternmaking incorporating symbolism (semiotics) etc. has broaden the creative scope of artist and designers. A far cry from Albrecht Durer’s advice; “ Life in nature makes us recognize the truth of these things, so look at it diligently, follow it, and do not turn away from nature to your own thoughts…. For, verily, art is embedded in nature; whoever can draw her out, has her….” Speis der Malerknaben (Food for Young painters), Salus 1513.

Making meaning from a viewer experience perspective.

Read Peep and Reap – title of the work.

The beauty of the Iris and the skill in the making of the art work (drawing skills) including the pattern making acts as some form of camouflage (disguise) luring the viewer to enjoy the beauty of the flower and the drawings skills. Up close the viewer is transported into an emotional experience – the colour reminiscent of pain and suffering. The use of blues and pinks, greens and yellows (of bruised skin) evokes the reality of the situation – alerting the viewer to the death of the handmade, the extensive use by artists of the readymade  and in direct response to sloppy craftsmanship in ‘the art of not making’. This is further enhanced by the fact that the ballpoint pen drawing will eventually fade way.

The drawing is exhibited framed, behind a blind providing protection from directly sunlight. The viewer therefore has the opportunity to view the work knowing his action of peeping and or drawing the blind  (drag and or pull) will cause pain and suffering to the masterfully crafted ballpoint pen drawing - a metaphor for abuse and the death of crafts – in response to the closing down of ceramic departments and the scaling down of teaching craft skills in the making of art work – due to advances in technology (3d printing etc.)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Come READ, PEEP and REAP Hon's Artists Book Installation at Gallery AOP Stanley 44.

Book arts: artist's books

Walter Battiss  Gail Berman  Christine Dixie  Stephan Erasmus  Alice Goldin  Eugene Hön  Mark Kannemeyer/Lorcan White  Judith Mason  Fiona Pole  Jonah Sack  Steven Sack  Ruth Sacks  and others
Gallery Art on Paper Stanley 44
Opening tomorrow Saturday 25 October at 14:00
25 October – 15 November 2014

The artist’s book has always occupied an invidious position in the pecking order of the arts, because of its interdisciplinary nature, straddling both art and literature. Although a legitimate art form with a long and interesting history, some people still question its autonomy as primary means of artistic expression. The origins of the artist’s book as it is known today can convincingly be traced back to the illuminated manuscript in the Middle Ages. 
Since then it has evolved from a form of illumination, to illustration (especially in the 19th century); from illustration to experimentation (especially in the 20th century); and from experimentation to installation, as is evident from many contemporary book art exhibitions. 
Some theorists consider the artist’s book as the form of modernist artistic expression, pointing out that every major movement in art and literature, and within all the many avant-garde, experimental movements and independent groups whose contributions have defined the shape of modernist artistic activity, has yielded phenomenal artists’ books. These include such artists as Pierre Bonnard, Henri Matisse, Joan Miro, Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso, and many more. They laid the foundation of the conceptual and thematic richness that is nowadays associated with artists’ books.
An artist’s book (or often also referred to as livre d’artiste) is defined as a book, or book-like object in which an artist has had a major input beyond illustration or authorship, where the final appearance of the book owes much to an artist’s interference and/or participation, where the book is the manifestation of the artist’s creativity, where the book is an original work of art in itself. 
The term livre d’artiste, however, is often used to refer to large-sized format, elaborately produced and hand-coloured books, made from rare materials, with virtuoso printing and fine binding, targeting a sophisticated, elite market.
An exhibition of artists’ books at GALLERY AOP questions these notions and definitions of this unusual form of art: What is an original? Does it have to be unique or can the artist also edition the book so that it is essentially a /multiple? Who is the maker of an artist’s book: the artist who has the idea, or those who produce the book? 
What kind of production means can be included in this definition? Is an artist’s book restricted to the codex form (the bound shape, in other words)? What about scrolls? Tablets? Reeds? The clutch of books at GALLERY AOP engages with these questions in an interesting way. Some of the artists’ books, for example those by Judith Mason and Alice Goldin, use unique illustrations to accompany written texts. 
Others, by such artists as Ruth Sacks, alter the words of a well-known text into visual, not only verbal, representations. Yet other books, like those by Gail Berman, Christine Dixie, Mark Kannemeyer / Lorcan White and Jonah Sack are primarily visual, with no verbal reference whatsoever. 
Walter Battiss made book sculptural objects from ordinary books. So does Stephan Erasmus, a contemporary book artist. Steven Sack, in turn, takes the notion of the artist’s book to a new level with his bamboo diaries; the various segments of long pieces of reeds form the basis of a weekly or monthly diary entry consisting of written and painted elements, as well as of found objects. These reeds, horizontally displayed, or ‘installed’, form the chapters of an autobiography. Eugene Hön contributes an interactive artist’s book. Small wonder some critics refer to artists’ books as a form of “intermedia”!