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Chrisholm, Lauren. Freedom, Sanctuary, Solitude 1.

Chrisholm, Lauren. Freedom, Sanctuary, Solitude 1.

Finally, there is cultural initiative to bring art to Royal Holloway. The utter lack of art and related events on campus is a shame, despite the fact that the College’s founder, Thomas Holloway, paid more than £80,000 (more than £6 million in today’s money) for the 77 paintings that make up the Picture Gallery because he believed that ‘art provided an essential element for the fulfilment of a first-rate educational establishment.’ However, it is appalling how the College positions the collection:

About 60 paintings went on a tour of America between 2010 and 2011, while other paintings are currently on loan abroad, proving their international renown.

Our Collection has also been the subject of media attention, such as the Fine Art Connoisseur magazine, which featured  Tim Barringer’s ‘A Victorian Entrepreneur’s Extraordinary Collecting Project’ and Dr Mary Cowling’s ‘Pictures that Still Matter’,

The BBC also featured the Collection as part of ‘Your Paintings’. All this goes to show that the works are still relevant today and mean a lot to our students, local community and visitors.

If the College were truly serious about the collection, it would actually open the Gallery more often and make the collection an actual accessible part of the College. Furthermore, instead of general talks about the collection, the college should run actual workshops on art history so students could better know their university’s history. Lastly, if the College chose to follow Mr Holloway’s belief that art helps provide a first-rate education, and actually meant that the collection has serious value to our community, then it would invest in actual art and try to grow the collection for the benefit of the whole Royal Holloway community. The fact that we don’t have a History of Art or Fine Art degree programme, yet still have an art society and still have popular modules in various departments that would be offered in an Art History degree course, shows that this need is being ignored.

Thankfully, the student-run Art Society decided enough is enough, and on their own initiative, organised an exhibition to showcase the art of non-art students. This, being their first ever exhibition, had a few annoying quirks. For instance, Lauren Chrisholm’s ‘Freedom, Sanctuary, Solitude’ is a set of 2 history sized Romanticist-influenced paintings that were placed on two sides of a very long corridor. Although it is a problem of the space used, ladders to place paintings in high positions to keep them together could have alleviated this situation. This aside, this is our first on-campus exhibition of this sort (at least since my two years here), and this can be corrected next time, however, the various artists (16 in total) with their myriad of styles betrayed the lack of direction or common unifying theme. Furthermore, this being a student exhibition, it is of no surprise that some works betrayed their makers’ full-time student status, yet some artists stuck out for their sheer quality. It is this, in this rather unconventional space, with non-art students organising an student art exhibition, that makes attending the exhibition worthwhile. The four artists (in alphabetical order) who caught my attention are listed below:

1. Hannah Close

Close, Hannah. Fjord.

Close, Hannah. Fjord.

Close, Hannah. Founders.

Close, Hannah. Founders.

There is something magical about Hannah Close’s work. In ‘Founders’, for instance, what looks like a normal view of Founder’s red bricks is contracted with an ocean-like blue, with ripples of water (the ripples are probably exhaust fumes from the passing by aeroplanes leaving nearby Heathrow). In ‘Fjord’, there is something dreamlike to the sparkling water. This dream-state is enchanting, and somehow makes the viewer want to jump into the water.

2. Rachel Harding

Harding, Rachel. Reverie.

Harding, Rachel. Reverie.

Harding, Rachel. Why Them?

Harding, Rachel. Why Them?

Rachel Harding clearly has talent–ever the more surprising because she is entirely self-taught. ‘Why Them?’, which by the title reads as a piece of social criticism, is in a way, ironic. The bodies of the row of children are disproportional, and in a way, their forms are already becoming abstracted. The second boy from the right’s body, for instance, doesn’t even appear human, with his shoulder looking dislocated and his head too large for his frame. Furthermore, the way his head is propped into the body and its exact positioning looks like a tribal mask and hearkens back to the primitivism of Picasso–which, for me, is odd, because like our Gaugin with his Western obsession of sexualised women, Harding, it seems too, is limiting the discussion of non-western peoples to that of hungry and starving who need to be saved by us. Surprisingly, her other drawing, ‘Reverie’, draws upon tradition, that of the nude woman, which Gaugin was also known for (side note: why is it that every image for ‘reverie painting’ in Google Images are all of women?). Is Harding actually then reinterpreting previous western motifs of art for a contemporary audience?

3. Ashley Stephenson

Stephenson_Ashley_5 Stephenson_Ashley_2 Stephenson_Ashley_1

The main part of Stephenson’s work are a collection of images to go with a story. His style is quite interesting, of stencilled forms and what appears to be spray paint. The humorous story, which is about an alcoholic baby. The images, which are not in any specific order, is a child’s game: we are invited to play the game of looking for the right images and matching to the text. I won’t disclose precise details of the story so that you can go visit the exhibition for yourself. 😉

4. Jessica Vogt

Vogt_Jessica_2

Vogt, Jessica. Johnny Cash.

Vogt, Jessica. Johnny Cash.

Jessica Vogt’s images are side-by-side in the front of the exhibition. Unfortunately I had failed to see a link between the two, and this was a problem of the exhibition on a whole. However, her ‘Johnny Cash’ portrait stands out for the capture of character in the face, and the usage of trompe l’oeil. It seems as if the ash from the cigarette could fall right out of the frame and into our real-world space. Furthermore, the hyper-realistic arm is so ‘realistic’ that it isn’t realistic. As with Harding, Vogt is self-taught. This talent, for me, is surprising, because I wonder if the artists realise what art styles they are picking up on. Whatever the case is, these artists clearly have talent and their works should not be missed.

The Royal Holloway Art Society exhibition is running this weekend only. Sunday 23 March’s opening’s time is from 10am – 4pm in the Windsor Building.

Chrisholm, Lauren. Freedom, Sanctuary, Solitude 2.

Chrisholm, Lauren. Freedom, Sanctuary, Solitude 2.

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With more than 100 participating galleries, it is not an understatement that exploring the fair is an exhausting task. However, below are ten of my favourite works shown.

10.

bonnieclyde2

Bonnie and Clyde – Ocean Front Walk, Venice Beach

It should not come as a surprise that a collage of my hometown automatically made it onto this list. Despite my own grievance at the renaming of The Strand to Ocean Front Walk, the collage overall does a wonderful job at recreating the typical LA beach lifestyle, but not the swanky Venice Beach lifestyle. Nonetheless, this gives the image a broader value of representing LA life. Typical LA icons are featured—from the lifeguard houses to non-native palm trees. However the beach tranquility is countered by the stretch of blue just above the strand. Is it a paved area or is it actually a flooded sewer? Are the people wafting there in order to show that Angelenos are actually living in an unnatural and dirty habitat? As one ‘goes deeper’ toward the background, one sees waves—represented by the white. Is this water foam or a tsunami striking, indicating the peril LA could face once the big one hits? The image is quite playful about the nature of LA. Even the beautiful coloured clouds are really just recreating LA’s fantastical polluted sunset.

09.

Matt Magee Rose of Jays 2011 polymer relief print 55 x 37cm

Matt Magee – Rose of Jays

We often take for granted the typefaces used in our printed material. The playfully titled Rose of Jays by Magee (along with the rest of the exhibition Word Works the Eagle Gallery / EMH Arts booth) brings us a reflective sheet of J’s. From a distance it appears simply as lines of colour, but up close one sees the individual J’s (which I mistakenly first took for I’s.) One can only contemplate at this print that is made using traditional letterpress—not for being different, but for reminding us the form of letters in themselves are beautiful. Although these J’s were inspired by a way a friend of Magee signed his emails, what do the typefaces we prefer say about us, and how do they interact with the documents we create. Do you agree that there is inherent beauty in typefaces, and by extension, our written alphabet?

08.

Nicholson_Piquet1933

Ben Nicholson – Piquet, 1933

The St Ives School was quite represented at the fair, and this piece by Ben Nicholson is a wonderful dialogue between Dutch still lives and modern art. The items are being abstracted and reduced to form. This has the effect of making the painting more sombre and humble, not too dissimilar to cheap student lunches.

07.

Maisie Broadhead – Isabella Study I

As with Nicholson’s Picquet, it is the modern dialogue in Broadhead’s Isabella Study I and Vermeer’s Young Woman with a Pearl Necklace. Now, it isn’t that I’m ultra-conservative that I only like work that converses with the past, but with much contemporary art available, it is a nice change to return to more traditional ‘representation’ (inverted commas for a reason). Isabella Study I is humorous, with the woman having her arms in the same pose as Vermeer’s model, and in typical Dutch clothing—however the towel-wrapped hair is a familiar, modern sight, along the modern bottles of product, lamps, etc. Somehow, in spite of the dated outfit, the composition works seamlessly. And, saying much about the nature of women—both desks having objects to help the woman increase her beauty—humorously showing that some things do not change.

06.

hockney_david

David Hockney – Matelot Kevin Druez 2

Another artist with Los Angeles connections, David Hockney’s Matelot Kevin Druez 2 is on this list, not because of his LA links, but because the sheer movement in this print and the fact that gingers have a special place in my heart. The chair to begin with, reminds me of van Gogh, as do the line movements going in all various directions. The flattening green background further hearkens to impressionist paintings. Because most of the lines seem to go downward, there is an impression the sitter has just decided to sit, as if haphazardly—with the chair moving forward, ready to pop out the frame. His arm hangs, like he’s ready to take another drag off his cigarette. The smoke, itself, one can almost imagine how it would smell—thick and strong, and his facial expression gives the appearance that we, the viewers, are having a serious discussion with the sailor. There is no doubt about it—Matelot Kevin Druez 2 is utterly beautiful.

05.

susan elliott mosaic

Susan Elliott – title unknown

Susan Elliott’s mosaics are indescribable in one word. She takes the mundane, everyday second-hand objects and turns them into art. Whilst most of her mosaics are based upon the Union Jack, this one is not. It does, however, seem to reference almost just about everything that it is beyond kitsch. Unfortunately I do not know the title—I only managed to get the artists name. Such a shame I didn’t do more asking around.

04.

azocar_icarusii

Enrique Azocar – Icarus II

The detail given to the sheer texture of paint is awesome, in the original sense of the word. When viewed from a distance, the aerial seen is breath taking, but from up close, claustrophobic, as one realises that so much attention has been given to actually making streets discernable from buildings.

03.

brulat_ruben_Odeurs d-origines

Ruben Brulat – Odeaurs d’origines

Brulet’s Odeaurs d’origines captivated my imagination for a good number of minutes, enough so that I practically hogged the viewing space. This photo is from the series, Paths, and all the photos are shot in various remote locations around the world, always with random, willing participants. For Odeaurs, the beauty lies in the stranded figure who I like to imagine as a traveller lost in the wilderness. The landscape, which is located at Kurodake, Japan, appears dangerous and savage, yet our safety is secured by looking from a higher vantage point. Every layer has inexplicable amount of detail, from the graininess of rock to the clear-cut look of the white stone. If Edmund Burke were alive, he would say that this doesn’t depict the beautiful, but rather the sublime.

02.

kuettinger_georg_salinas-del-janubio

Georg Küttinger – Salinas

Salinas – as the title suggests, was shot at Salinas del Janubio. The image, though, reminded me  of the modern, colourful Dutch landscape as seen from the air. However, unlike typical landscape tradition, Küttinger isn’t only depicting what he or his camera captures at one specific instance in space and time, but actually a landscape spanning over whole week, at various times of the day (the image, from left to right, goes from morning to noon to evening), and even different points of view. All of this is combined to create a landscape that, although is based upon the original salt fields in Salinas, now create a new landscape that captures the shifting, moving nature of our world. We then as viewer impress our own knowledge of a landscape onto the image itself. So as I saw my own country’s landscape in the image, perhaps someone else would’ve seen parched plots of desert deep in California’s Death Valley—this, plays with then the notion of time and space, and does force us reflect upon these two grappling philosophical concepts. For a comparison, you can view more documentary style photos of Salinas at Flickr.

01.

01. Tobias Till – London A-Z Prints - L

01. Tobias Till – London A-Z Prints - D01. 01. Tobias Till – London A-Z Prints - S

Tobias Till – London A-Z Prints

There is nothing wrong with old-fashioned printmaking. However, I don’t normally come across a set of prints that makes me wish I had £4000 for the whole series. This is how Till’s London A-Z Prints made me feel. The series, which is inspired by A-Z maps, are reminiscent of Kirchner’s early 20th century Berlin street scenes. In spite of not being expressionist works, the prints still capture London’s fast paced motion in an oddly restrained British manner. And like the exciting Kirchner scenes which depict the then contemporary Berlin, Till’s also depicts his contemporary time—our everyday London life! The scenes, in themselves, seem simple and the usage of line helps create a sense of movement. Further, the inclusion of a crane in the background and a helicopter in the sky visually bring city noise to life. One is able to imagine the city buzz. As stated earlier, the scene feels restrained when compared to, for example, the full excitement expressed in Kirchner’s Nollendorfplatz, but rather than depicting a new modern era, Till is depicting us, the viewer, in our natural habitat, and thus taking care to depict these small details. For instance, in L, the bankers have distinct facial expressions. In contrast to upheavel, Kirchner doesn’t do the same for his people in Potsdamer Platz. This is because the world isn’t as fast-paced that technological change is overwhelming us—we’ve already adapted and can now relax in the ‘hustle and bustle’ of the city. Not surprisingly, then, is the morning calmness one feels in D­ – DLR. The sun is still rising and it still feels quiet as people are waking up. You can feel the morning and that specific way how public transport feels and smells in the early hours. I wouldn’t be any bit surprised if these images later became collector’s items or placed in history books, such as print S, which depicts the Shard—a building that is only example of London’s new high-rise skyline.

Gallery List:

Enrique Azocar
Gray Modern & Contemporary Art
By appointment.
http://www.graymca.co.uk

Bonnie and Clyde
Liberty Gallery
http://www.liberty-gallery.com

Maisie Broadhead
Sarah Myerscough Fine Art
15-16 Brook’s Mews
London W1K 4DS
http://www.sarahmyerscough.com

Ruben Brulat
LAMB arts
By appointment only
+44 787496 7980 | UK
+55 (11) 941421989 | Brazil
http://www.lamb-arts.com

Susan Elliott
MAUGER MODERN – LONDON
81 Rochester Row, London SW1P 1LJ
http://www.maugermodern.com

David Hockney
Gwen Hughes Fine Art
http://www.gwenhughesart.co.uk

Georg Küttinger
PYTHONGALLERY
Dorfstrasse 2
8703 Erlenbach/Zürich
http://www.pythongallery.ch

Matt Magee
Eagle Gallery / EMH Arts
159 Farringdon Road
London EC1R 3AL
http://www.emmahilleagle.com

Ben Nicholson
The Hepworth Wakefield
Gallery Walk
Wakefield, West Yorkshire
WF1 5AW
http://www.hepworthwakefield.org

Tobias Till
TAG Fine Arts
Unit 129a Business Design Centre
52 Upper Street
London N1 0QH
http://www.tagfinearts.com

Statue of Erasmus in Rotterdam. Flickr: © Hans de Meij

Statue of Erasmus in Rotterdam. Flickr: © Hans de Meij

I once read a few years ago in a local Rotterdam paper that Rotterdam is not a very bookish city. However, this doesn’t prevent residents of being proud a certain famous native—Desiderius Erasmus! Residents are so proud of him that unlike most universities being named after the host city, Rotterdam’s university is known as the Erasmus University Rotterdam, and her iconic bridge is called the Erasmus Bridge, and there’s a statue of him outside the Laurenskerk. It is no surprise then, that the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, one of larger more important museums in The Netherlands, not too mention its drawings collection being amongst the world’s most important, hosted an exhibition of the philosopher. What is interesting is how small and austere the setting is. Perhaps this is a result of the acquirable exhibition materials or to emphasise the humbleness of the philosopher in a no-nonsense city with a large working-class population. Whatever the case, the small room made one feel as if one were in what every enclosed academic setting feels like—a shrine to the past.

Before entering one has to walk a few steps upward, into an elevated room. The enclosed space and the framing of the doorway to the front wall creates the impression of entering sacred space. The image is small, and happens to be the only colour portrait in the room. The positioning of the photo sets the tone—this is a dedicated, yet temporary, memorial to Erasmus.

entrance

This being the only photo portrait elevates its status among the other six portraits along the walls. It is a standard Holbein-style portrait. There Erasmus portraits by Holbein are on display—below is one that is similar, but not the more closely available one (not reproduced here due to licensing; thank you strict and expensive David Owsley Museum of Art, Ball State University.).

Lucas Cranach I. Portrait of Desiderius Erasmus c. 1530-1536

Lucas Cranach I. Portrait of Desiderius Erasmus. c. 1530-1536

Hans Holbein d.j. (workshop?), Portrait of Erasmus of Rotterdam, c. 1530

Hans Holbein d.j. (workshop?), Portrait of Erasmus of Rotterdam, c. 1530

They are quite similar in composition, the main difference being the hands. In the image unavailable, the hands are in the same exact position, the main difference being that Cranach’s Erasmus looks much older than Holbein’s. This Cranach stands out mostly because it is on colour, but there are other treasures to discover that break away from the typical Erasmus portrait. On the right wall there is a reclining scene. It is refreshing to view an interior scene, even if it reminiscent of the Roman funerary scenes.

Edouard Taurel. The Last Days of Erasmus in Basel. c. 1879-1881.

Edouard Taurel. The Last Days of Erasmus in Basel. c. 1879-1881.

Along the left wall of the room are enclosed many (mostly published) materials, which include: ‘Querela Pacis,’ ‘Lucubratiunculae,’ a letter addressed to Nicolaas Everaarts, a ‘Portait of Desiderius Erasmus’ by Balthasar Jenichen, ‘Familarium Colloquiorum Formulae,’ ‘De Civilitate Morum Puerilium Libellus,’ and Moriae Encomium Erasmi Roterodami Declamatio.’ Above these are two last images.

I will not lie—I do not know much about Erasmus, nor have I read any of his word (yet). However, despite my joint degree in classics and philosophy, and that I used to live in Rotterdam, it felt right to dedicate a post to a man that was an important figure within Humanism. After all, although many of the portraits may be similar, this small room is just a dedication to one man who helped shaped our current world in the city where he was born, and one of the images above the enclosed documents depicts Erasmus’ link to Rotterdam—a fitting ending to this blog post. In the view from his study, one sees Rotterdam. Naturally this would have never been possible, and is thus fictional, but it is a lasting reminder of connection Erasmus has to the city. 

Erasmus in Rotterdam is exhibiting until 16 February at Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Museumpark 18 3015 CX Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Frans Huys. Portrait of Desiderius Erasmus. 1555.

Frans Huys. Portrait of Desiderius Erasmus. 1555.

‘Eeewww ginger boys that look like girls,’ was my friend’s reaction to the video (above) of Thomas Knights’ Red Hot exhibition. I was trying to get him to come with me so that I wouldn’t have to go alone for the third time—I obviously never received the ‘do not like gingers’ memo whilst growing up. Ironically, it is this attitude Red Hot wishes to change.

Upon entering, one immediately notices the large portraits of almost nude, faceless men exposing their pubes. Are these images objectifying these men? Not quite—apparently the last question on everyone’s mind about gingers is, ‘Are they ginger everywhere?’ The answer is, no, and these photos are the evidence. For me, the positioning of these images was off putting. But then I forget that this is a project with a social goal—one of which is to dispel myths about gingers. Apparently they all have red pubes, and hence why they are often negatively called fire-crotch. (First time I’ve heard the term—remember, I never got the memo!)

I then begin to observe various portraits. Many of these boys are beautiful. Some faces have either many freckles or are clear, while some are skinny and others are built. But it was their gazes that caught my attention. Not only did their hair vary in various shades, but their eyes did as well. I noted brown, hazel, and blue amongst the colours. I felt this made their eyes stand out as much as their hair and into that much more of very beautiful, colourful humans.

Grey Eyes

Grey Eyes

Blue Eyes

Blue Eyes

Brown Eyes

Brown Eyes

Is he a red hot Thracian?

Is he a red hot Thracian?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As with other forms of portraiture, and in this case, for a project of a social nature, what interests me is the reception 50 years later. Like painted portraits that selectively choose what to convey, these portraits deliberately emphasise the youth, looks, and most importantly, the red hair of the models. They are time-frozen. 50 years later, these very boys will be old and their hair colour may very well have become a different tone. Their sexualised forms will be gone. But will we have moved on from stigmatising redheads? To us non-gingers, it may sound incredulous that these peoples suffer from prejudice, but until one hears the stories of abuse faced by these people, it isn’t apparent that it is a problem. (For an example, see here). This type of behaviour wouldn’t be tolerated if it were directed toward any specific ethnic and racial groups.

Unfortunately the exhibition is now over, only having run for one week from 16-22 December at The Gallery on Redchurch Street (no. 50). The plan is that Red Hot will go on tour to various cities. Further a coffee table book will be released in 2014, which I’ll impatiently be waiting for (see video below)