Saturday, January 14, 2012

Divine Style Intervention - In Style & In Vogue.

The FALL, a film directed by Tarsem Singh - released 2008.
Photographs by Stephen Berkman.

I have mentioned on a previous blog entry that I love Vanity Fair magazine. The latest issue with Lady Gaga on the cover has a very relevant and thought-provoking article on Style. In the article titled, You say you want a devolution? written by Kurt Andersen, he states that you must ‘hold it right there. From the fedora to the Afro, styles have changed with the times. Unless you’re living in the 21st century’. 

He dares to say that for most of the last century, 'America’s cultural landscape – its fashion, art, music, design, entertainment - changed dramatically every 20 years. But these days, even as technological and scientific leaps have continued to revolutionize life, popular style has been stuck on repeat, consuming the past instead of creating the new’ (Kurt Anderson, Vanity Fair, Issue 617. 2012 page 74).
Reading the article and viewing the independently produced film titled, The Fall - a dvd that jumped into my hands with the words, watch me tonight (a divine style intervention), sparked the idea for this particular post. The DVD was rented from my favourite video shop in the Killarney Shopping Mall - in walking distance from my flat.  An untimely storm cut off my DSTV satellite connection to watching pleasure. However it was a blessing in disguise – nothing beats viewing a fabulous, beautifully styled film (images captured here).

The film The Fall – is stylish in every way, even the plot is endearing. If you are fascinated by the images of the film showcased here, and you want to know more about the film, its narrative etc? Follow the link provided to a site that not only explains the plot of the film, but also showcases a pre-release promotional 80-page book that measured a whopping 35.6 X 43 cm. 

Designed by Stefan G Bucher, it was produced from 7000 on-set photographs, mostly taken by the photographer Stephen Berkman, some of which is showcased here. Beautifully styled to wet the appetite of the potential distributers. The choice of locations are equally phenomenal - follow the provided link to a blog titled The Fall: Film Locations, showcasing a large number of the above mentioned photographer's images taken at the various sights. It might just evoke your next holiday destination. 
The bridge scenes (Piketberg) and the chosen location for the hospital scenes (Valkenberg Hospital in Cape Town) are all very local – proudly South African. The director Tarsem Singh has mainly created advertisements and music videos  - a reflection of the design style of the film.

Gaga and Madonna are a generation apart, but largely indistinguishable in look and sound (Anderson, Vanity Fair, Issue 617, 2012 page 78).
I can’t agree more with Kurt Anderson’s findings in the article mentioned in the opening paragraph. In numerous discussions with colleagues, I have also drawn parallels between the performances and styles of Madonna and Lady Gaga - even though they are a generation apart. Could the lack of radical style changes be attributed to our present obsession with all things green - a direct response to climate change and many other contributing factors? Consumers in the present economic decline are investing in products that are contributing to a value adding experience (for instance, a clean, green and healthy lifestyle). Bauman states,  ‘that the postmodern era is seen in the literature as a time of individualism and changing values, manifested in freedom of choice, changes of lifestyles (consumption and leisure time) or new social movements, such as environmentally conscious consumer groups’ ( Zygmunt Bauman 1996). The buzzwords are therefore green and authentic – in direct response to constantly changing fashion trends and styles of the past, that were synonymous with mass production and consumption – advocating a Disposable culture.

Are we therefore expected to wear t-shirts and jeans and loose all sense of style? Quite the contrary, being stylish is often attributed to someone having good taste. Perceived though the five senses, including smell, touch, hearing, sight and taste. He or she, who has a passion for beautiful things and admires quality in everything life has to offer, is often prepared to wait for the bespoke product and or the desired experience (go the extra mile to get it).

Michel Guerard,
French of course
It must also be said that wining and dining at your choice restaurant and or enjoying your own fovourite homemade meal (recipe), can be equally satisfying - contributing to that feel good experience. Here there has been a radical shift. Food and products are presently photographed and styled very differently than in the past. The image on the left and below on the left are from 1988, a book  titled Master Chefs of Europe. Photographed by Michael Boys. 
Close-up shots (above and below) seduce the consumer, enticing ones senses - you can almost smell and taste the latest styled and closely photographed food dishes. Focusing food up close reveals and almost releases the flavours and textures of the ingredients (from memory), especially the herbs and spices. To wet your appetite, I have included one of my quick meal recipe images, styled and photographed in the latest trends (above and below). The complete recipe will feature soon on my blog (step by step).
Silver spoon and found object (pipe handle spoon).
Marchand van Tonder. Contemporary Jewellery Designer.
South Africa.
In conclusion, contemporary designer makers are therefore more concerned with timeless and classical design, products that can stand the test of time, and is enjoyed for generations to come. 21st century products have to be truly useful, useable and desirable – a collectable item to be handed down from one generation to the next – recognized as products of inheritance. Consumers are seen to be placing far greater emphasis on products and experiences, which Haanpaa refers to as status symbols of their lifestyles and values (as cited in the article, Consumers’ green commitment; indication of a postmodern lifestyle? By Leena Haanpaa. 2007). View this incredible site INSTYLE – you can trace your choice product from Farm to Fabric – your Life Sustainable Textiles through every stage of production.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A welcome break 2011/12; an escape of ‘paradise’ proportions.

Hylton Nel Studio, Wesoever Calitzdorp.
Having a good break, an academic recess and or a holiday is essential. Spending time in the mother city, Cape Town and seeing my family, requires a long car journey that takes one through various types of landscapes. Every year my trip includes a stay over at Hylton Nel in Calitzdorp, situated in the Klein Karoo (image of his studio above). 
Coldplay's single Paradise.
Video filmed in the Klein Karoo.
The title above takes its inspiration from the song Paradise by Coldplay, transmitted by various radio stations along the way (the video was partly filmed in the Klein Karoo in South Africa). The journey often includes more than one stopover and a variety of valuable experiences – a much needed escape from JHB. It also grants one the opportunity to read, socialize, wine and dine with friends whilst trying to find the time to review one’s future goals, achievements and aspirations.
Xiaxuan photographed at Hylton Nel's exhibition.
Hylton Nel and his protege Nico Masemolo exhibit at Fine Arts Knysna.
The journey to CT took an unexpected welcome detour to Knysna, situated on the beautiful Garden Route.  As mentioned I normally spend sometime with Hylton Nel in Caltizdorp, a refreshing stopover for the very long journey. He and his protégé, Nico Masemolo had an exhibition opening at gallery Knysna Fine Arts, the very night we planned to stop over. The journey there took 14 hours; road construction caused delays and mainly because half of Joburg decided to embark on their journey on the same day and at the same time. The entire N2 down south to Colesburg was one long trail of cars and trucks. Some towing caravans and trailers, loaded with holiday goods, including Harley-Davidsons, bicycles and braai-equipment - slowing down the traveling speed drastically.
Exhibition by Nico Masemolo. Hylton Nel's protege.

Works by Nico Masemolo.
Hylton Nel's protege
Holiday activities / experiences worth mentioning.
The garden route consists of many splendid places to stay, dine and wine with splendid views of the sea. We stayed at the Rex Hotel in Knysna and had dinner with Hylton, Nico and Bernard at the Island Cafe Restaurant at the Turbine Boutique Hotel and Spa. The next morning we had breakfast at the spectacular Views Boutique Hotel & Spa Restaurant - images shown here.
Recommended Book – a great read during my stay in Cape Town
Freddie Mercury – The Definitive Biography, written by Lesley-Ann Jones.
An informative account of his life as front man to one of the most unique Rock Groups Queen; the unrivalled musical genius that he was and is (The ultimate Rock God), his confused sexuality including encounters and desires, his loneliness and final struggle with aids.
Proud chefs, Myself and Hugo Barnard.
At his home in Sea point 

Numerous meals at friend’s homes and at restaurants in Cape Town, especially Harbour House in Kalkbay harbour, Wakame in Mouille Point and Hemelhuijs in Waterkant street in Cape Town.

Route R62 (Cape Route 62)
The journey back to JHB provided numerous sights and opportunities to capture the incredible landscape. However I was pressed for time and the best views were in the rear view mirror, making it impossible to select the right spot. Here are a few.

Huisrivier Pass into Calitzdorp.

Route R62
The trip back home is via arguably the world’s longest wine route, the R62 (Cape Route 62) for a night or two in Calitzdorp. This scenic drive must rate as one of the most majestic and enjoyable (relaxing). From Worcester the drive goes through Robertson, McGregor, Ladismith and a special mention Barrydale. Here I stopped for lunch and discovered a gem, a very special new restaurant called Wheatless Wonders - the home of gluten and wheat less baking and cooking.

Wheatless Wonders in Barrydale.
The owner Dora du Toit informed me that her products were born out of her own desire and passion for baking and cooking - a direct response to her own problem with wheat and gluten products. Opened two months ago, it is a fabulous alternative to the obvious fast foods on offer on route. I love bread and have a gluten problem. Their products however just taste delicious and are made for those who share my desire for freshly baked breads and pizza.
Hand Weavers at Barrydale
While waiting for my wheat free Pizza, I went for walkabout and discovered another gem, Hand Weavers situated directly opposite the restaurant. Here they weave carpets, table runners, shawls and throws including a wide variety of bespoke woven products, using mainly cotton and recycled materials.  They design and weave all their own products. The project is a creative industries initiative to provide skills to individuals who would otherwise be unemployed. Visit the link and give your support.

Article in Art South Africa.
2011 it has been a good year for me. A successful major work completed and exhibited; a ceramic installation with projected animation, titled and the ship sails on, which took over a year to complete. It secured me an article in the latest issue of Art South Africa page 56-57, published in December. Hopefully the article titled, The Ceramic Surface; a virtual Crossover, will showcase my work nationally and finally reestablish my role as a serious artist.
On route home.
Upcoming exhibition.
Being a full-time academic and making work requires a very balanced approach to life. Solitariness is a key factor in developing creative ideas and realizing them in appropriate and suitable techniques and methods. Thinking through drawing has been my major creative approach in realizing my concepts.  It is therefore time to focus my attention on the drawing books, printing them in limited editions and making them available for sale to art galleries, museums and collectors. A planned one-person exhibition in the first quarter of 2012, exact dates to be announced soon, will pave the way for a new addition to my creative output - the design and development of Artist Books.