Saturday, July 24, 2010

Ann Van Hoey in four dimensions

Ann van Hoey; Ceramic Bowl (photograph Eugene Hon)
Living at the tip of the African continent has it's advantages, especially when your country was the flavour of the month; hosts of the successful soccer football world-cup. We have arguably one of the best climates in the world (sunny-blue skies), lots of space, the game farms (big five) and the famous Table mountain. But if there is one thing that is a huge disadvantage, it's our isolation from the international art, craft and  design community. Exposure is not necessarily a problem for us (thanks to the Internet), but seeing it in the flesh, is out of reach for most South Africans. Our galleries and museums don't have the resources to purchase contemporary art and crafts. Ceramics in particular has a problem, this is due to it's tactile qualities and the nature of the surface quality; that can never be fully appreciated, unless it is tangible. Only when you handle the work up close, do you get to see it's true value; the master craftsmanship. This is demonstrated in a number of ways, in the construction skills, the form, shape and more importantly the development of the surface; that I refer to here as the fourth dimension.
Ann van Hoey; Ceramic Bowl (photograph Eugene Hon)

A case in point was when Ann van Hoey visited South Africa during the football world cup. She did a workshop for the local ceramic's community; especially the members of Ceramics SA. She happened to bring a few of her works to the workshop, for members to appreciate in the flesh - experience up close. Scale is always an issue when artifacts can only be viewed through the media. Believe me when I say, that to handle one of Van Hoey's bowls and teacups in the flesh is just incredible. To own one  is even more valuable. I have a very particular taste and I am proud to say that her work, images posted here, rates as one of my most prized possessions.  For an appraisal of her work, written by the author of this blog, follow the link provided here - Ann Van Hoey’s ceramic bowls are imbued with the quintessential of life itself. Or the label below.
Ann van Hoey. Ceramic Bowl. Collection Eugene Hon
Photograph Eugene.

Ann van Hoey; Ceramic Bowl (photograph Eugene Hon)
Ann Van Hoey. Ceramic Bowl.
Collection and Photograph - Eugene Hon.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Homage to Lee Alexander McQueen.

Inez van Lamsweerde/Art+ commerce / H&K
As cited in L'Officiel  Hors-Serie McQueen.

One of the most influential designers in my creative development has been Lee Alexander McQueen (follow link to his website). He passed away recently and I therefore thought it necessary to pay homage to this provocative genius - a truly remarkable fashion designer. This quote by the artist in 2002 provides the necessary connection between our creative  thinking.
"I use things that people want to hide in their heads. War, religion, sex: things we all think about but don't bring to the forefront. But I do and I force them to watch it" text and image cited in Fashion Now, edited by Terry Jones and Avril Mair (2002:324).
ESHU Fall-Winter 2000 2001

Portrait by Corinne Day
cited in FASHION NOW (page 32)
He was born in London on March 17 in 1969. He left school at 16 and followed an apprenticeship as a tailor specializing in men's suits under Anderson & Sheppard and then Gieves & Hawkes. He completed his classical training at costumiers' Angles and Berman. He followed up his training working for Japanese Designer Koji Tatsuno and then assisted Romeo Gigli as a stylist. He finally graduated with a master in fashion design - his show was very spectacular; an enormous success ( the entire collection was purchased by Isabella Blow). It was this show, with the theme "Highland Rape" that inspired me greatly. Some of the hair styling was shaped like barbered wire, whilst the dresses were slit in rape-victim like fashion. The complimentary makeup was bloodied and bruised; at the time an integrated provocative approach to expressive couture. Visuals of this show is incredibly difficult to come by. The overall gestalt of the fashion statement is best described in the following quote by Matthew Callahan in his article titled "The ghosts that haunt us" follow link below.
"Disheveled hair, fake battle wounds, battered makeup effects, and ripped kilts all reflected the psychological processing and haunting of McQueen’s own ancestral past. Highland Rape furthermore acted as a way for McQueen to mimic and therefore expose structural inequality through a form of aesthetic resistance". Extract from an artcile written by Matthew Callahan, As cited at Zimbio.
Scanners Fall-Winter 2003-2004
What follows is a series of tributes and testimonies of fellow designers, celebrities and models as quoted in a special issue L'Officiel [De La Couture ET De La Mode De PARIS] titled Alexander McQueen 1969-2010. The quotes and testimonies are interspersed with my selection of images as cited in the above mentioned special issue. Obviously I have chosen images that best expresses his sculptural fashion statements. 

"I admired him tremendously. He was a revolutionary. He will not be forgotten and it is an immense loss.(...) Daring, original, stimulating he understood how to be a fabulous ambassador for fashion" John Galliano.
Voss Spring-Summer 2001
Its Only a Game Spring-Summer 200%.
 "I am still in shock over his tragic loss. I am devastated. Lee McQueen was my dear friend" Kate Moss.
It's only a game Spring-Summer 2005
 "He was one of the greatest fashion designers of his generation . Both a visionary and avant-garde. his creations were inspired by tradition and hyper modernity so that they were outside time." Francois Henri Pinault.
Sarabande Spring-Summer 2007
"We are deeply touched by the sudden death of Alexander McQueen, a designer that we have always admired for his creative genius and uncompromising inspiration. He has left an incomparable void in the world of fashion." Dolce and Gabbana.


The Horn of Plenty Fall-Winter 2009 - 2010
"This death makes me very sad. (....) He had talent and was an artist. It makes me very sad." Piere Berge
The Horn of Plenty Fall-Winter 2009 - 2010
The Horn of Plenty Fall-Winter 2009 - 2010

Plato's Atlantis Spring -Summer 2010.

Plato's Atlantis Spring -Summer 2010.
Plato's Atlantis Spring -Summer 2010.

 "McQueen was a master of fashion, a creative genius and an inspiration. Today, the fashion industry has lost someone of true value. An icon for all times. He made everything he touched beautiful and will be despairingly regretted. My heart is really with his family and his friends during this sad moment." Victoria Beckham.
The McQueensberry Rule, Fall-Winter 09 - 10

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The legend of the twin brothers; Ceramic Sculpture. Gallery 1996-98

The spirit of a wounded nation flows away with it's blood.
Collection Johannesburg Art Gallery.
Size: about 300mm height x 150 mm width.
This particular ceramic sculpture was based on an African narrative, myth and or legend, titled The twin brothers. The tale is attributed to the oral tradition of the Republic of Congo. This ceramic statement evokes emotions surrounding issues of deceit; ultimate betrayal that leads to murder - the killing of one's own family and or kind; brother and or sister. Brotherly love speaks of camaraderie of respect and trust; fundamental principals central to the core of any family, a sport's team, a tribe and or finally a nation.

History recalls numerous cases where these principals are put aside /forgotten/turned on it's head; greed, power and lust, blinding even the most trustworthy and honest of men amongst us. It becomes the key motivating factor to conceal the treacherous deed and the haunting shame, associated with the criminal act.

The twin brothers. 
Foite (Republic of Congo)
A certain woman gave birth to twins, both sons. Each born with a valuable charm. The one son was named Luemba and the other, the first born, Mavungu. He immediately embarked on his travels (fully grown at birth) to pursue a very special and desirable woman, the daughter of Nzambi. He came to hear about her and was determined to marry her. He called upon his charm to help find her. Equipped with a blade of grass changed into a weapon (knife) and another into a gun and a horse, he embarked on his mission. 
After lengthy travels he arrived at Nzambi's town. Her daughter, at the site of Mavungu, instantly recognized her husband to be. Their love was celebrated and in the morning he cast his eyes on numerous covered mirrors, each when laid bare, perfectly reflected every town he knew including his own. However one mirror image embodied the terrible place of no return, it beckoned him to uncover the mystery, and more importantly to use his charm to reverse the fateful fortune that awaited all that embarked thus far. However he too met his fate and disappeared entirely.
Luemba, his younger brother, wondered at the long absence of his elder bother, Mavungu. He too called upon the  magic powers of his charm. With a knife, and a gun and on horseback he went about his search. However when he reached the village of Nzambi, a feast was prepared in celebration of the return of her daughter's husband. Luemba did not know how to react; he was not assured of his twin brother's marital status to the daughter. He used his charm to protect his family honour. In the morning he too was incapsulated by the mirrors; especially the terrible place of no return. Infatuated, and knowing he would find his brother there, he went on his way. 
On arrival at the terrible place of no return, Luemba caught the woman by surprise and killed her (who murdered his brother). He found his brothers bones and that of his horse and restored them to life, including the bones of those found in the area that would become their faithful followers. 
On their return journey to the town of Nzambi, Luemba informed his twin brother of his in-laws mistaken identity for him, and that he had used his charm to save his wife from dishonour. All was well between the two brothers, untill they got caught up in a leadership struggle for the followers, which led to the slaying of the younger twin brother Luemba. His body was dumped there and then and the rest continued on their journey to Mzambi's village. Miraculously Luemba's horse, that had stayed with him, managed to bring him to life, using the magic charm. Luemba mounted his horse and sought his elder twin brother and killed him. The town on his return welcomed him and appeased him of his actions.

Abbreviated version of the narrative as recorded in African Tales compiled by Harold Scheub (2005:64).

Symbolism: The sculpture's symbolic meaning, the design and conceptual development and overall gestalt of the finished statement, is derived from the evocative quality of the literary source; the tale titled the twin brothers (recorded above). Two brothers are depicted side by side in a shoulder embrace, the preparatory drawings above, indicating they both have weapons in their hands (held at their brothers back), ready to stab each other in the back. 

The shape of their entwined bodies is attached at their midriffs with their bloodline flowing freely (manifested as dismembered heads);  a representation of the loss of blood (due to stabbing) - blood being a symbol of their unity, associated with brotherly love (camaraderie explained in the introductory paragraph (see the detail of the sculpture and the drawing above and the headrest serving as reference below) . However the ceramic statement ultimately is a metaphor for a unified nation ravished by violence and crime due to greed, lust and power.
Headrest, wood, pokerwork cited in
Art and Ambiguity: (Till:72)

The weapon is represented in the form and shape of a blade of grass stretching  out  above the sculpture, as an extension of the brothers' necks and heads;  remember it was the blades of grass that were changed into the various weapons, including horses, that aided the brothers on their journey, made possible by the magic charms as mentioned in the  narrative recorded above. 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Origin of Murder; Gallery 1996-98.

Origin of Murder II (Detail) 300mm height X 120 width 1996. Collection Sandton Civic Art Gallery. Press Moulded in terra-cotta clay with hand built extensions, fired to 1120 degrees Celsius.
This particular series of sculptures (origin of murder) are based on African myths, legends and sagas (stories) defining the cause of murder; prevalent in our society today. There was one particular narrative that appealed to me. It had so many aspects to it, from a metaphysical perspective, especially when fused with analogous material drawn from everyday experiences during these difficult times in my life; defecting crime away from our apartment in Yeoville, as explained in the previous post entry. 
Being a victim of crime, a robbery and numerous attempts, including a hijacking, imbued the work with a therapeutic angle. A creative outlet for life-changing inner struggles; dealing with fear, anger, frustration and great uncertainty. The narrative, myth & or legend's title is The child and the eagle. The myth explains the origin of murder. Because of this event; people continue to kill each other . The legend is recorded below.

Origin of Murder III. 1996. (Detail above) 300mm height X 100 width. Press Moulded in terra-cotta clay with hand built extensions, fired to 1120 degrees Celsius.

The child and the eagle
A woman was out in the field attending to their crops. She had her young daughter with her, who continued to cry day in and day out. However on a particular day an eagle descended upon the child as she was crying and soothed her with it's outspread wings. The child became silent and the eagle took to the skies. This miraculous event  continued to  amaze the mother and one day in her marveled state, could not resist to tell her husband. He however refused to believe her, as it could never happen.  
When it happened again, the mother went to call her husband. He took his bow and arrow and when he saw the eagle on his child, alarmed he charged his bow with two arrows, that he may pierce the eagle. The eagle dodged the two arrows, which then pierced his child, killing her instantly. 

Origin of Murder I,  1996. 300mm height X 120 mm width. Press-moulded with hand built extension in terra-cotta clay, fired to 1120 degrees Celsius. 

The eagle personified a friendly person that wanted to extend help to the distressed child. Nevertheless, the mistrusting father, took matters into his own hands and due to his reckless actions, the eagle cursed him; kindness amongst men at an end. Because you killed your child, beginning with you and going on to all people, you shall kill each other. To this day people kill each other. 

Origin of Murder I. (1995) (detail) see caption above for more details.
Origin of Murder II (1996), 300mm height X 120 mm width, collection Sandton Civic Art Gallery. Press-moulded with hand built extensions in Terra-cotta clay, fired to 1120 degrees Celsius.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Master Craftsperson; Rebecca Matibe.

Indigenous art has always inspired me right through my career; artifacts had a great impact on the formal development of my sculptural vocabulary. The ceramic department at the Technikon, did numerous excursions into rural areas, as part of the student's cultural development program, exposing staff and students alike, to our diverse cultures and traditions, especially indigenous cultures. We did trips to KwaZulu Natal, Venda and the Eastern Cape. A few weeks ago I found this particular image (above), taken on one of the excursions to Venda. I am in the process of scanning in all these images  to feature on the blog from time to time.
I really enjoy this particular photograph. Firstly, it is of historic significance; it portrays one of South Africa's Master Craftspeople, Rebecca Matibe, preparing clay for a demonstration. The trip to Venda was conducted in the early 90s. Secondly, If you look closely, you will see an image of, I presume her mother (on the left). 
Then cast your eyes on the clay sculpture perched on the wall (seen here on the left). It is situated in the middle of the image elevated above everyone in the photograph, yet it resembles closely the pose of the mother. In the sculpture's right hand is a ball of clay - could it be a symbol of Rebecca's creativity; and therefore a portrait of Rebecca? 

It is interesting to note the final image on the left, as it portrays the significance of the hands of the three figures in the photograph. The hand of the 'mother', the 'sculptural portrait' and the hands of the potter preparing the clay, they are all closely linked in one way or another.  Their respective posses ensures an interesting composition - an empty kitchen chair, right in the middle of the photograph, adding the finishing touch. I  waited in great anticipation to capture this moment. Although the lighting etc is not perfect, there is something very special about this particular image of Rebecca at her homestead. I always like styling images and this one is a rare account of being at the right place at the right time - photographers do this all the time - they have that special gift to spot that special moment particular to their prescribed subject matter.   

Monday, July 5, 2010

Ceramic Sculptures; Dream Machines 1996-98.

Dija Nwana (Night Howler) Hand-built Porcelain Sculpture, Size 220mm height X 175mm width. Black Amaco vitrified.Collection Carl Landsberg.  

Concept. The ceramic sculptures were developed in response to crime and personal relationship issues (during the 1990s). I was living in the crime ridden suburb of Yeoville. I was hijacked and encountered numerous criminal activities on a weekly basis. Major changes also occurred with regard to my sexual preference (coming-out). This was a very trying time for me and the work reflects the inner struggles (political, social and psychological). 

Literary Sources. The literary sources were , The famished road, by Ben Okri and Indaba my children by Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa and numerous books on African mythology, narratives and legends (details at the bottom)  Both these two authors refer to spirits that invade humans and cause evil in the land. Ben Okri describes his main character's encounter with the spirit world as follows and I quote, 

'I went back to the bar and stayed at the door. I listened to the loud sinuous voices, I watched them as they laughed and banged the tables, and then I made an instant discovery. I realised for the first time that many of the customers were not human beings. Their deformations were too staggering and they seemed unaffected by their blindness and their eyelessness, their hunched backs and toothless mouths. There expressions and movements were at odds with their bodies. They seemed a confused assortment of different human parts. It occurred to me that hey were spirits who had borrowed bits of human beings to partake of human reality. They say spirits do that sometime. They do it because they get tired of being just spirits. They want to taste human things, pain drunkenness, laughter, and sex. Sometimes they do it to spread mischief and sometimes to seduce grown-ups or abduct children into their realm. The moment I saw them as spirits, drinking palm-wine without getting drunk, confused about the natural configuration of the human body, everything made sense'(Okri 1991:136).
Credo Mutwa on the other hand described these creatures, and or terrible beasts, which no story teller should describe, simply as Dija-Nwana or Night -Howlers and I quote, 'These terrible demons loved to raid human villages during their mating season in the first moon of summer, and they would carry away men, woman and children and devour these in their dark dens on the shores of the mighty lake of the Falling star - known as Nyanza' (Mutwa 1987:9). as to their existence today he states and I quote,

'But let us not delude ourselves into thinking that these horrible creatures no longer exist; they do. They take human shapes and cause evil in the lands of men. They disguise themselves as human beings and cause mighty wars in the lands of the tribes before vanishing once more into the "land-that-is-and-is-not". They leave thousands of foolish human beings to kill each other. They can take over the bodies of people whom we know and commit vile crimes as them. These Evil Ones are with us yet' (Mutwa 1987:9).
Forms shapes and their meaning / significance.

The forms and shapes of the sculptures are based on African headrests (selection on the left) also referred to as dream machines (Nettleton 1990:151). They are wooden crafted cultural objects, their significance goes far beyond their utilitarian function to support elaborate hairstyles whilst sleeping. These headrest became much more personalized and were often buried with the individual - as Sieber states they '"...are imbued with a physiological excuviae as well as with the mystical quintessence of his individuality" creating a "powerful psychic bond between owner and object"' (Becker 1991: 74). Headrest could also have been preserved and kept as mhamba -  'any object or act or even person which is used to establish a bond between the gods and worshippers' (Junod 1927:420).

These headrest inspired and adapted forms and shapes served as a support frame, very much like the casting sprigs for plastic model airplanes (example above). Culturally significant and or personalized signs and symbols are attached, depending on the subject matter and or concept explored for each particular piece. These objects take the shape of gloves, hearts and heads including divination pots and a wave, a symbol of cleansing, rejuvenation and or regeneration. The meaning of the sculpture is constructed and or derived at from an interpretation of the combined attached signs and symbols.
Literary Sources; as mentioned above.
The Famished Road written by Ben Okri is one of the most amazing books I have read. A master of his craft, the book deservedly was awarded the 1991 Booker Prize. For the purpose of this blog post, I insert a quote, that serves a dual purpose; it expounds the meaning of the creatures and their actions, referred to as night howlers, as best he could and provides insight into his creative writing skills par excellence.  
'In great numbers the thugs and ordinary familiar people alike poured over the road of our vulnerability, wounding the night with axes, rampaging our sleep, rousing the earth, attacking the compounds, tearing down doors, destroying rooftops. In the wound of our cries we did not know who our enemies were. From the darkness figures with flaming faces attacked us, descended on us with sticks, stones, whips and wires. It was some time before we realised that we were in the grip of an act of vengeance, a night reprisal, with the darkness as our antagonist. One by one the lamps were extinguished. (Okri:178)'