Posts Tagged ‘venice biennale

18
Jun
14

Exhibition and videos: ‘Richard Mosse: The Enclave’ – winner of Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2014 at The Photographers’ Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 11th April – 22nd June 2014

 

Men are bastards. War is bastardry.

Bastardry: the unpleasant behaviour of a bastard (objectionable person).

 

 

“Beauty is effective, the sharpest tool in the box. If you can seduce the viewer and you can make them feel aesthetic pleasure regarding a landscape in which human rights violations happen all the time, then you can put them into a very problematic place for themselves – they feel ethically compromised and they feel angry with themselves and the photographer for making them feel that. That moment of self awareness is a very powerful thing.”

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Richard Mosse

 

 

 

Richard Mosse, winner of the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2014 for his exhibition The Enclave at the Venice Biennale Irish Pavillion.

 

 

Mosse documents a haunting landscape touched by appalling human tragedy in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where 5.4 million people have died of war related causes since 1998. Shot on discontinued military surveillance film, the resulting imagery registers an invisible spectrum of infrared light, and renders the jungle warzone in disorienting psychedelic hues. At the project’s heart are the points of failure of documentary photography, and its inability to adequately communicate this complex and horrific cycle of violence, “through six monumental double-sided screens ‘forcing’ the viewer to interact from an array of different viewpoints.”

 

 

 

“This desperate situation echoes the barbarity of the Belgian occupation of the Congo that provided the backdrop for Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899)… Mosse had Conrad’s allusiveness in mind when he chose to employ a type of infrared film called Aerochrome, developed during the Cold War by Kodak in consultation with the United States government…

Mosse renders the viewer’s point-of-view identical with that of the camera, immersing us in these scenes, while Frost’s score leaves a buzzing, ringing sound in our ears. Occasionally we stumble across a body lying on the ground in a village, or by the side of a road like a dead animal. It would be gruesome, perhaps unbearable, if it weren’t for the views of the tropical landscape and the ubiquitous pink that gives the action such an unearthly touch.

Even as we feel the looming violence of this place the pink backdrop transforms each segment into a stage set, in a deliberate refusal of the ‘realism’ claimed by conventional photojournalism. Instead of the black-and-white certainties of a world in which good and evil are easily identified, we are plunged into a bright pink nightmare, our every move fraught with danger.

Mosse is seeking to engage the senses, not simply the intellect, but that flood of pink sends mixed messages. It’s an ingratiating colour – a colour that tries too hard, lapsing into camp and kitsch. Such impressions are difficult to reconcile with the subject matter of this installation but Mosse makes no attempt to ease our disorientation. The work is his response to a bewildering, intractable conflict that doesn’t recognise anybody’s rules.”

Extract from Richard Mosse & William Kentridge” by John McDonald.

 

 

Jonh Kelly meet Richard Mosse, an artist whose beautiful, provocative film installations and photographs are challenging the accepted norms of war photography.

 

 

Richard Mosse. 'Man-size, North Kivu, eastern Congo' 2012

 

Richard Mosse
Man-size, North Kivu, eastern Congo
2012
Digital C print
72 x 90 inches

 

Richard Mosse. 'Safe From Harm, North Kivu, Eastern Congo' 2012

 

Richard Mosse
Safe From Harm, North Kivu, Eastern Congo
2012
Digital C print
48 x 60 inches

 

 

“The uniqueness of the military film stock is its register of an invisible spectrum of infrared light, turning green landscape into an array of glaring colours… The result is that Mosse’s landscapes appear cancerous, we notice that life is extinct, that something deadly has swept through an otherwise idyllic world…

The Congolese National Army, rebel militia, and warring tribes fight over ownership of the land, their violence extending to rape of women, murdering civilian populations, all in the interests of staking a claim to the land. A struggle that is never actually seen in Mosse’s photographs is nevertheless made undeniable by the aesthetic struggle of unnatural colours in what might otherwise be an untouched world. These hills are blanketed in violence and corruption…

Mosse’s images visually penetrate and make manifest the insidious spread of disease, war and violence, all of which is begun by greed.”

Frances Guerin “Richard Moss, The Enclave,” on the Fx Reflects blog

 

Richard Mosse. 'Platon, North Kivu, Eastern Congo' 2012

 

Richard Mosse
Platon, North Kivu, Eastern Congo
2012
Digital C print

 

Richard Mosse. 'Men of Good Fortune, North Kivu, Eastern Congo' 2011

 

Richard Mosse
Men of Good Fortune, North Kivu, Eastern Congo
2011
Digital C print

 

Richard Mosse. 'Nowhere To Run, South Kivu, Eastern Congo' 2010

 

Richard Mosse
Nowhere To Run, South Kivu, Eastern Congo
2010
Digital C print

 

 

“The photograph I was initially drawn to in the exhibition, Men of Good Fortune (2011), is a picturesque composition of gentle grassy slopes, pastoral figures and trees that might have been artfully placed by a Capability Brown. These hills were originally inhabited by Congolese tribes who grew crops and hunted for bush meat, until they were driven out by pastoralists who cut down the forest for grazing. Richard Mosse’s camera renders this landscape’s history of intimidation and human rights abuses in shocking pink, like superficially healthy teeth subjected to a plaque disclosing tablet. Nowhere to Run (2010) shows another vista of unearthly pink hills, which seem to have undergone the kind of transformation J. G. Ballard described in The Crystal World. This rose quartz-coloured terrain is, according to the caption, ‘rich in rare earth minerals like gold, cassiterite and coltan, which are extracted by artisanal miners who must pay taxes to the rebels.’

Of course one question these photographs raise is whether the aesthetic pleasure they provide is a distraction from what is really happening in The Enclave.”

Andrew Ray “The Enclave” on the Some Landscapes blog

 

Richard Mosse. 'Ruby Tuesday, North Kivu, Eastern Congo' 2011

 

Richard Mosse
Ruby Tuesday, North Kivu, Eastern Congo
2011
Digital C print

 

Richard Mosse. 'Of Lillies and Remains' 2012

 

Richard Mosse
Of Lillies and Remains
2012
Digital C print

 

Richard Mosse. 'Suspicious Minds' 2012

 

Richard Mosse
Suspicious Minds
2012
Digital C print

 

Richard Mosse. 'A Dream That Can Last' 2012

 

Richard Mosse
A Dream That Can Last
2012
Digital C print

 

Richard Mosse. 'We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful, North Kivu, Eastern Congo' 2010

 

Richard Mosse
We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful, North Kivu, Eastern Congo
2010
Digital C print

 

Richard Mosse. 'Even Better Than The Real Thing, North Kivu, Eastern Congo' 2011

 

Richard Mosse
Even Better Than The Real Thing, North Kivu, Eastern Congo
2011
Digital C print

 

Richard Mosse. 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart' 2012

 

Richard Mosse
Only Love Can Break Your Heart
2012
Digital C print

 

Richard Mosse. 'Madonna and Child, North Kivu, Eastern Congo' 2012

 

Richard Mosse
Madonna and Child, North Kivu, Eastern Congo
2012
Digital C print
35 x 28 inches

 

 

The Photographers’ Gallery
16-18 Ramillies Street,
London W1F 7Lw

Opening hours:
Monday – Saturday 10.00 – 18.00
Thursday 10.00 – 20.00
Sunday 11.30 – 18.00

The Photographers’ Gallery website

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02
Sep
13

Exhibition: ‘Max Ernst’ at Fondation Beyeler, Riehen, Switzerland

Exhibition dates: 26th May – 8th September 2013

 

Many thankx to the Fondation Beyeler for allowing me to publish the images in the posting. Please click on the images for a larger version of the art.

 

 

Max Ernst. The Entire City La ville entière 1935/36

 

Max Ernst
The Entire City
La ville entière
1935/36
Oil on canvas
60 cm x 81 cm
Kunsthaus Zurich
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: Kunsthaus Zurich

 

Max Ernst. Nature at Dawn (Evensong) La nature à l’aurore (Chant du soir) 1938

 

Max Ernst
Nature at Dawn (Evensong)
La nature à l’aurore (Chant du soir)

1938
Oil on canvas
81 cm x 100 cm
Private collection
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich

 

Max Ernst. 'Painting for Young People' 1943

 

Max Ernst
Painting for Young People
1943
Oil on canvas
60.5 cm x 76.5 cm
The Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch Collection, Berlin
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: Jochen Littkemann, Berlin

 

Max Ernst. Woman, Old Man, and Flower Weib, Greis und Blume 1924

 

Max Ernst
Woman, Old Man, and Flower
Weib, Greis und Blume
1924
Oil on canvas
97 cm x 130 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: © 2013, Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York / Scala, Florence

 

Max Ernst. 'Oedipus Rex' 1922

 

Max Ernst
Oedipus Rex
1922
Oil on canvas
93 cm x 102 cm
Private collection
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich

 

 

This work is innately Freudian just in name, let alone in content. The Oedipus complex is one of the most well recognized components of Freudian theory and it is seen in this work names after it in many ways. The first is through the process of condensation. This can be seen as the bird headed man, which shows up in many of Ernst’s images: the association in this image between the man and the bird is the desire of man to be free from the inhibitions imposed upon him by society, and despite the fact that these two still retain their separate identities, they are consistent with Freud’s ideas. In the case of this work, the head is removed from the body, showing a detachment from true feeling and true understanding of life. Another Freudian idea is the use of the joke, which is seen in the treatment of several of the objects in this work. Such as the contrast and juxtaposition of the wall, the over-sized fingers, upside down eyes on the birds, and the balloon in the aft of the painted collage. Several other associations relating this work to Freud can be drawn as well.

This work has intense sexual undercurrents. The nut represents the female and the crack in the nut is a symbol for the vulva. The cracking of the nut by the hands of a male is a metaphor for sexual intercourse and also gender roles in traditional patriarchal cultures. The idea of the treatment of woman and of her place within society is also visible in another piece by Ernst, The Tottering Woman. In this piece, he addresses the constraints in which woman are held in the world and the patriarchy that she must deal with on a daily basis. It also touches upon the objectification of woman as well. Hoffman also theorizes that the squeezing of the nut has implications of sadomasochistic roles as the nut is being dominated and crushed, the spike is punishing the hand equally and finally, once forced open, the “nut” could always snap back shut, injuring the index finger and thereby is a signifier of neurotic sexual attachment. The bird head in towards the back of the picture plane is tethered by some sort of rope, which could be seen as societal restrictions on deviant sexuality and possibly is a reaction to the taboo associated with incest. Additionally, the arrow as it pierces the shell of the nut could be seen as a phallic signifier or also as a representation for the idea of love and then a refutation of the existence of love within the constraints of sexual desire and sexuality. The imagery in this piece by Ernst is intensely psychosexual in nature and content and can be seen mostly in those terms.

In defense of picking Oedipus Rex to write about in the context of collage, it is true that it is an oil painting, but its imagery was taken from print sources and then was transposed into the work by the act of painting them. The nut squeezing image was taken from an article entitled “Experience sur l’elasticite, faite avec une noix,” from the popular 19th century French Magazine La Nature.

Anon from Ernst: Chance, Collage and the Study of Freud

 

Max Ernst. The Fireside Angel (The Triumph of Surrealism) L’ange du foyer (Le triomphe du surréalisme) 1937

 

Max Ernst
The Fireside Angel (The Triumph of Surrealism)
L’ange du foyer (Le triomphe du surréalisme)
1937
Oil on canvas
114 cm x 146 cm
Private collection
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich

 

 

This is one of the rare pictures by Max Ernst which refer directly to a political incident. He commented on this: “The Fireside Angel is a picture I painted after the defeat of the Republicans in Spain. This is, of course, an ironical title for a kind of clumsy oaf which destroys everything that gets in the way. That was my impression in those days of the things that might happen in the world. And I was right.” The Fireside Angel is depicted as an avenging character from the Bible. Its destructive potential is stressed by its aggressive coloring. In the figure of the angel, blind traumatizing force is expressed, against which mankind is defenseless. Since there is no hope for negotiations with an inhuman force, the blind aggressor seems even more frightening.

 

 

“With the exhibition of over 160 of his works at the Fondation Beyeler in cooperation with the Albertina, Vienna, the “artist of the century” Max Ernst (1891-1976) will be given the first comprehensive retrospective in Switzerland since his death as well as the first held in a German-speaking country since 1999.

Max Ernst is one of Modernism’s most versatile artists. After his beginnings as a rebellious Dadaist in Cologne, he moved to Paris in 1922, where he soon became one of the pioneers of Surrealism. He was interned twice as an enemy alien during the Second World but was released thanks to the intervention of the poet Paul Éluard, who was his friend. In 1941 Max Ernst fled to the USA, where he found new stimuli for his work as well as providing new impulses for the generation of young American artists. A decade later he returned to a Europe that had been devastated by the war and where the once highly esteemed Max Ernst seemed to have been forgotten, only to be rediscovered as one of the 20th century’s most multifaceted artists. In 1958, having renounced his German nationality in 1948 in order to take US citizenship, Max Ernst eventually became a French citizen.

Ernst was indeed one of the “artists of the century” – not only because of the high quality and wide range of his oeuvre but also because of the length of his creative career, which lasted around 60 years from 1915 to 1975. Active at a time of tremendous artistic, social, political and technical upheaval, he knew how to integrate these changes into his oeuvre, which therefore reflects key characteristics of the 20th century. The pleasure Max Ernst took in experimenting with different techniques made him a pioneer of multimedia expression. With no apparent effort, he combined in his work the themes, styles and techniques that were important to successive generations. His ceaseless quest for new forms of expression, questions and subjects is emblematic of modern man. Max Ernst appears to us as the artist who never wanted to find himself, as he once said: “A painter is lost when he finds himself”.

With his early Dadaist experience, his key position among the Surrealists and his prelude to action painting, Max Ernst travelled between worlds and cultures, moving to Paris from Cologne and from New York back to France. At a time of political unrest, he maintained his critical, creative gaze, seeking refuge in a country, the USA, which he scarcely knew but to which he nonetheless responded with curiosity and which provided him with important impulses for his late work. With exhibitions in New York, projects in Arizona and Touraine, participation in the Venice Biennale and Documenta, Max Ernst was an early 20th century example of the kind of “cultural and artistic nomad” who only later became a customary figure.

 

Collage

As early as 1919, Max Ernst started working with the technique of collage, which he used to design or simulate new pictorial realities. He created his collages from illustrations taken from various novels, textbook catalogues, natural science journals and 19th century sales catalogues. He excised the fragments from wood engravings, using a scalpel in order to achieve cut edges that were perfectly exact and smooth. In around 1929/30 Max Ernst created his most famous collage novels La femme 100 têtes (Hundred-Headed Woman/ Headless Woman) and Rêve d’une petite fille qui voulut entrer au Carmel (A little Girl dreams of taking the Veil), which are among Surrealism’s most fascinating, enigmatic works.

 

Frottage

In around 1925, Max Ernst began his Natural History series, in which he used the technique of frottage for the first time (the French word frotter means “to rub”) as a semi-automatic procedure. He placed objets trouvés he found outdoors, such as leaves and wood, under a sheet of paper and rubbed over them with a pencil. Then he took the structures that emerged and transformed them into fantastic pictures. In his frottages, Ernst breathes new life into lifeless objects, giving them another, to some extent uncustomary, significance. Max Ernst developed frottage while he was staying in Brittany. In his essay Beyond Painting he describes a kind of visionary revelation that caused him to use the wooden floor and other objects in his guest-house room as objects for his frottages.

 

Grattage

Grattage is an artistic technique used by Max Ernst in painting that he developed in around 1927 as an extension of frottage. In a first phase, he applied several superimposed layers of paint to a canvas. Underneath the painting ground that he prepared in that way, he placed objects such as metal grids, wooden boards and string, the relief of which could be seen through the canvas. In order to transfer those structures to the picture, he scratched away the top layers of paint (gratter is the French word for “to scratch”). In a subsequent phase, he reworked the patterns that had become visible, transforming them into forests, shellflowers, birds and petrified cities.

 

Decalcomania

Decalcomania is a transfer technique in which the damp pigment on a piece of glass or a sheet of paper is pressed against a canvas, leaving behind fine streaks, bubbles or marbled traces of paint when they are removed. In a subsequent phase, the artist reworks the complex surface structure. This artistic technique had already been developed in the 18th century and was used by other Surrealist artists too. Max Ernst adopted the technique in the late 1930s, using it to represent mysterious landscapes peopled by eery faces, figures and animals hiding in the thickets of nature.

 

Oscillation

In around 1942, while an exile in the USA, Max Ernst started developing the technique of oscillation. He let paint drip out of a tin perforated with a number of holes, which he attached to a long string and swung to and fro over the canvas. This largely uncontrollable and, once again, semi-automatic procedure created reticulated compositions of circles, lines and points on the surface that were reminiscent of planets’ orbits. Oscillation was an innovative technique that not only extended the range of Surrealism’s artistic repertoire but also heralded Jackson Pollock’s Drip Painting.”

Press release from the Fondation Beyeler website

 

Max Ernst. At the First Limpid Word Au premier mot limpide 1923

 

Max Ernst
At the First Limpid Word
Au premier mot limpide
1923
Oil on plaster, transferred to canvas
232 cm x 167 cm
Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: Walter Klein, Düsseldorf

 

 

At the First Limpid Word is one such puzzle. A monumental work, it formed part of the decoration of the house that Max Ernst shared with Paul Éluard and his wife Gala (who later became Dalí’s muse). It was only in the 1960s that the wall painting, which had been painted over, was rediscovered. This painting, “an allegory of seduction,” is such a simple composition but is filled with symbolism in color and subject.

 

Max Ernst. 'Ubu Imperator' 1923

 

Max Ernst
Ubu Imperator
1923
Oil on canvas
100 cm x 81 cm
Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Philippe Migeat

 

 

Like many of Ernst’s paintings during his Paris period (1922-1941), Ubu Imperator resembles a collage in painted form. The artist’s knowledge of Freudian theories, familiarity with myth and extreme wit are reflected in this early painting, which is now considered proto-Surrealist due to its strange juxtapositions.

In Ubu Imperator (1923), an anthropomorphic top dances in a vast, empty landscape. Such works captured early on the surrealist notion of estrangement and commitment to the subconscious, but also they seem surprisingly contemporary. The red Ubu Imperator marked the entry of Ernst in the articulated stage of surrealism by his use of a literary narrative that was sometimes personal, sometimes political. In this seminal work a spinning top, a red carcass with iron reinforcement, and human hands express an astonishing image of the Ubu Father, a grotesque symbol of authority invented by Alfred Jarry. Other paintings suggest Ernst’s impressions of ancient Buddhist temples (à la Angkor Wat) as inspired from his trip to Asia following the breakup of his famous ménage à trois with Gala and Paul Eluard. This structure and thickly overgrown plants appear in many of his engravings and grattage oil paintings, such as The Entire City (1935-36) and The Petrified City (1935). (Max Ernst: A Retrospective on The Brooklyn Rail website)

 

Max Ernst. Approaching Puberty… (The Pleiades) La puberté proche... (les pléiades) 1921

 

Max Ernst
Approaching Puberty… (The Pleiades)
La puberté proche… (les pléiades)
1921
Collage, gouache, and oil on paper, mounted on cardboard
24.5 cm x 16.5 cm
Private collection
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich

 

 

The Pleiades, companions of Artemis, were the seven daughters of the titan Atlas and the sea-nymph Pleione born on Mount Cyllene. They are the sisters of Calypso, Hyas, the Hyades, and the Hesperides. The Pleiades were nymphs in the train of Artemis, and together with the seven Hyades were called the Atlantides, Dodonides, or Nysiades, nursemaids and teachers to the infant Bacchus. There is some debate as to the origin of the name Pleiades. Previously, it was accepted the name is derived from the name of their mother, Pleione. However, the name Pleiades may derive from πλεῖν(to sail) because of their importance in delimiting the sailing season in the Mediterranean Sea. (Wikipedia)

For Ernst eroticism was another way of entering the unconscious, of escaping from convention, and possibly of tweaking bourgeois taste. But he was aware that adult sexuality had its limits, as is apparent in the exquisite Approaching Puberty… (1921). A photograph of a nude, faceless girl floats in a blue space stratified by horizontal lines, suggesting water or the sky. A few strangely disparate forms surround the girl, and the short text at the bottom ends, “The gravitation of the undulations does not yet exist.” The title, this line, and the fact that the girl floats in space rather than standing on the ground – as most of Ernst’s figures do – suggests that he sees in pubescence a kind of weightless freedom. In a related but nonsexual image, an Untitled c. 1921 collage, four schoolboys peer out of their classroom (from which a wall is missing) at a vast blue sky in which a hot-air balloon floats. A schoolmaster stands alone and ignored at his desk; next to him one of the boys balances a giant pencil on a pointer. What’s learned in school, Ernst seems to say, is far less important than visions of the sky. (“Max Ernst’s Theater of Reveries” by Fred Camper on the Chicago Reader website)

 

Max Ernst. 'Napoleon in the Wilderness' 1941

 

Max Ernst
Napoleon in the Wilderness
1941
Oil on canvas
46.3 cm x 38 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: © 2013, Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York / Scala, Florence

 

 

In Max Ernst’s painting Napoleon in the Wilderness (1941), a strange whimsical trumpet appears in the hand of a female figure that seems to have sprung from the sinister rock and coral formations of a world in ruin. This painting formed part of suite of decalcomania works, in which Carrington’s semi-naked figure haunts a series of eerie landscapes, richly textured and abundant with mythological hybrid forms. Between periods of internment during the war, Ernst had managed to continue painting, producing haunting images of his abandoned lover in works that evoke his own sense of loss and grief in macabre scenes that promise both decay and renewal. (From Surrealism, Feminism, Psychoanalysis by Natalya Lusty)

 

 

“The exhibition is a chronological presentation of all the major creative phases and groups of themes in Max Ernst’s work, opening with Capricorn, his most important sculpture. Max Ernst, who was born on 2 April 1891 in Brühl (Germany), first learnt about painting from his father. He had a conservative, middle-class upbringing, against which he soon rebelled. Starting in 1910, he studied art history as well as psychology, Romance languages and philosophy. Initially influenced by Expressionism and Futurism, he soon came in contact with other artists and art movements.

His early work City with Animals demonstrates this unique combination of different styles, displaying both Cubist and Futurist features. His encounter with Hans Arp (also represented in the Beyeler Collection along with the Surrealists Dalí, Giacometti and Miró) came at a time full of turmoil. Dada is born; the years after the First World War are a time of radical change, protest and experimentation.

Dada brings Max Ernst into contact with Surrealist artists. He ceases to be just a German artist and becomes a leading figure in the Surrealist art movement in Paris. There his works begin to acquire enigmatic qualities, for the unconscious and dreams are important elements of Surrealism, which it took over from psychoanalysis. Max Ernst remains an innovator, experimenting with frottage from the mid-1920s onwards. Hybrid creatures are created from different natural species; his interest in the natural sciences finds expression in his works.

At the First Limpid Word is one such puzzle. A monumental work, it formed part of the decoration of the house that Max Ernst shared with Paul Éluard and his wife Gala (who later became Dalí’s muse). It was only in the 1960s that the wall painting, which had been painted over, was rediscovered. The Blessed Virgin Chastising the Infant Jesus is an equally spectacular work, a scandal-provoking painting with blasphemous elements that deconstructs the traditional sacred image of the Madonna, representing a radical liberation from Ernst’s middle class roots. One whole room in the exhibition is developed to the theme of the forest, with a number of masterpieces from that series. Considerable importance is also attached to the series of Horde paintings from the late 1920s; the metamorphosed figures convey the theme of transformation. With the Flowers and Cities series (which focus on the antitheses of nature and culture), other important groups of themes are also presented.

Room 11 will contain a number of key works with the jungle paintings from the second half of the 1930s including Nature at Dawn with its dark, sinister character. Different traditions are echoed here, ranging from borrowings from Henri Rousseau to the Romanticism of a painter like Caspar David Friedrich. With The Robing of the Bride there is not only an obvious reference to Renaissance art but also a more differentiated context. The transformation of a woman into an animal and vice versa is an erotic motif that the painting conveys through a number of details. The Fireside Angel, on the other hand, thematises the Spanish Civil War of the late 1930s, with which many artists and intellectuals concerned themselves. With the brightly coloured, mask-like, terrifying dimension of its figure, which seems to fly towards the viewer as an unstoppable whirlwind between aggression and mockery, Max Ernst prefigures the political catastrophe that was to befall Europe.

Ernst’s late work displays thematic caesura – on the one hand, a poetical and sensuous contemplation using over-painting in the refined, technically innovative work The Garden of France and, on the other, Birth of a Galaxy, a splendid late work in which air, water, earth and light all rise into a starry firmament. As a free spirit – ironical, elegant and rebellious – and a man of many different facets, Max Ernst today remains an artist whose work is both accessible and complex. His works speak to us, evoking uncharted depths and hidden mysteries, as well as prompting reflection. Like mercury – which continuously changes shape in a fascinating way, hence being impossible to grasp – Max Ernst is still an exceptional artist almost forty years after his death, exemplary in his artistic independence and possessing an urge for freedom and a bold readiness for innovation in his work and life that preserve his oeuvre from stylistic opportunism and conventionality.

Max Ernst’s creativity in handling sources of imagery and inspiration, the breaks between his many phases and types of subject matter, are still capable of astonishing viewers today. Like a revolutionary of vision, he rearranged images and elements, and as a Surrealist established links between pictures and the viewer’s unconscious mind. What remained a constant was the persistence of Ernst’s rebellion. Like his life, he once said, his work was “not harmonious in the sense of classical composers.” A master of metamorphosis, Ernst was a searcher and discoverer, an honarary doctor of philosophy who increasingly expanded his range of investigation to include astronomy, ethnology, ornithology, mathematics and psychoanalysis, following up his love of the natural sciences and creative chance.”

Press release from the Fondation Beyeler website

 

Max Ernst. The Robing of the Bride L'habillement de l’épousée / de la mariée 1940

 

Max Ernst
The Robing of the Bride
L’habillement de l’épousée / de la mariée
1940
Oil on canvas
129.6 cm x 96.3 cm
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice (Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York)
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice (Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York)

 

The Robing of the Bride (1939-41; Venice, Guggenheim) employs Renaissance perspective devices and Cranach-like figures to represent a pagan marriage.

 

Max Ernst. The Blessed Virgin Chastising the Infant Jesus before Three Witnesses: André Breton, Paul Éluard and the Artist La Vierge corrigeant l’enfant Jésus devant trois témoins: André Breton, Paul Éluard et le peintre 1926

 

Max Ernst
The Blessed Virgin Chastising the Infant Jesus before Three Witnesses: André Breton, Paul Éluard and the Artist
La Vierge corrigeant l’enfant Jésus devant trois témoins: André Breton, Paul Éluard et le peintre
1926
Oil on canvas
196 cm x 130 cm
Museum Ludwig, Cologne
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: Peter Willi / ARTOTHEK

 

Max Ernst. The Immaculate Conception L'immaculée conception 1929

 

Max Ernst
The Immaculate Conception
L’immaculée conception
1929
Master illustration for La femme 100 têtes, chapter 1, plate 12
Collage on paper
14.2 cm x 14.5 cm
Private collection
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich

 

 

Max Ernst La femme 100 têtes (1967) pt1

 

This is a ‘free’ adaptation of Max Ernst’s collage book La femme 100 têtes, originally published in 1929. directed by Eric Duvivier. The book consisted of a surrealist picture per page, with a little legend. But the story depended on the ability of the reader to interpret the collages, and was not relying that much on the legends. The book was about a woman who was living among ghosts and ants, and was an allegory of the immaculate conception.

Thus, even if that movie is in french, with no subs, it is possible, and even encouraged, to view it as a collage in motion.

 

'Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst with the cement sculpture Capricorne (Capricorn), Sedona, Arizona' 1948

 

Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst with the cement sculpture Capricorne (Capricorn), Sedona, Arizona
1948
© 
2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: Max Ernst Documentation, Deutsches Forum für Kunstgeschichte, Paris / John Kasnetsis

 

 

Dorothea Margaret Tanning (August 25, 1910 – January 31, 2012) was an American painter, printmaker, sculptor and writer. She created ballet sets and costumes for George Balanchine’s Night Shadow, at the Metropolitan Opera House and others. She also appeared in Hans Richter’s avant-garde films. As an artist she was influenced by Dada and Surrealism and married fellow Surrealist Max Ernst.

As she recounts in her memoirs, Birthday and Between Lives, when Ernst visited her studio in 1942, they played chess, fell in love, and embarked on a life together that soon took them to Sedona, Arizona, and later to France. They met at a party in 1942 and after he would drop by Dorothea’s studio where she painted for a Surrealist movement exhibition of art by women for Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century. In that exhibition, Tanning’s work showed along with the work of Louise Nevelson and Gypsy Rose Lee. Soon after this encounter Ernst moved in with her.

They married in 1946, in a double wedding with Man Ray and Juliet Browner in Hollywood, after Ernst’s divorce from Peggy Guggenheim. They remained married for 30 years until his death. In 1949, Tanning and Ernst moved to France, where they divided their time between Paris, Touraine and later Provence. They would often host guest such as Balanchine, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Marcel Duchamp, Pavel Tchelitchew and Dylan Thomas. In 1957 Tanning and Ernst moved to France again because Max Ernst was denied citizenship as a German during the McCarthy era. When speaking on her relationship with Ernst in an interview, Tanning said: “I was a loner, am a loner, good Lord, it’s the only way I can imagine working. And then when I hooked up with Max Ernst, he was clearly the only person I needed and, I assure you, we never, never talked art. Never.”

After Max Ernst died in 1979 Dorothea Tanning returned to the United States. (Wikipedia)

 

'Max Ernst with rocking horse, Paris' 1938

 

Max Ernst with rocking horse, Paris
1938
2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: Max Ernst Museum Brühl des LVR, Stiftung Max Ernst

 

 

Fondation Beyeler
Beyeler Museum AG
Baselstrasse 77, CH-4125
Riehen, Switzerland

Opening hours:
10 am – 6 pm daily, Wednesdays until 8 pm

Fondation Beyeler website

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06
Apr
12

Video: New Australian Pavilion for the Venice Biennale by architects Denton Corker Marshall

April 2012

 

Australian Pavilion Venice Flythrough from Australia Council for the Arts

 

 

The outside looks vaguely interesting – the aspect of the building within its surroundings and how it fits into the landscape – but really it is just a safe, unthreatening and conformist structure. The inside is the usual white cube. Says it all really that the inside rates about 5 seconds of the whole video!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

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24
Feb
09

Review: ‘Ocean Without A Shore’ video installation by Bill Viola at The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

February 2009

 

Originally installed inside the intimate 15th century Venetian church of San Gallo as part of the 2007 Venice Biennale incorporating its internal architecture into the piece using the three existing stone altars as support for the video screens, the installation has been recreated in a small darkened room at The National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. What an installation it is.

Deprived of the ornate surroundings of the altars of the Venetian chapel – altars of which Viola has said that, “… as per the original development of the origins of Christianity these alters actually are a place where the dead kind of reside and connect with those of us, the living, who are here on earth. And they really are a connection between a cross, between a tomb and an alter – a place to pray,”1 – the viewer is forced to concentrate on the images themselves. This is no bad thing, stripping away as it does a formalised, religious response to mortality.

In the work Viola combines the use of a primitive twenty five year old security black and white analogue video surveillance camera with a high definition colour video camera through the use of a special mirror prism system. This technology allows for the seamless combination of both inputs: the dead appear far off in a dark obscure place as grey ghosts in a sea of pulsating ‘noise’ and gradually walk towards you, crossing the invisible threshold of a transparent water wall that separates the dead from the living, to appear in the space transformed into a detailed colour image. As they do so the sound that accompanies the transformation grows in intensity reminding me of a jet aircraft. You, the viewer, are transfixed watching every detail as the ghosts cross-over into the light, through a water curtain.

The performances of the actors (for that is what they are) are slow and poignant. As Viola has observed, “I spent time with each person individually talking with them and you know when you speak with people, you realise then that everybody has experienced some kind of loss in their life, great and small. So you speak with them, you work with them, you spend time and that comes to the surface while we were working on this project together, you know? I didn’t want to over-direct them because I knew that the water would have this kind of visual effect and so they were able to, I think, use this piece on their own and a lot of them had their own stories of coming back and visiting a relative perhaps, who had died.”1

The resurrected are pensive, some wringing the hands, some staring into the light. One offers their hands to the viewer in supplication before the tips of the fingers touch the wall of water – the ends turning bright white as they push through the penumbrae of the interface. As they move forward the hands take on a stricken anguish, stretched out in rigour. Slowly the resurrected turn and return to the other side. We watch them as we watch our own mortality, life slipping away one day after another. Here is not the distraction of a commodified society, here is the fact of every human life: that we all pass.

The effect on the viewer is both sad but paradoxically uplifting. I cried.

A friend who I went with said that the images reminded her not of the dead temporarily coming back to life, but the birth of a new life – the breaking of water at the birth of a child. The performers seemed to her to behave like children brought anew into the world. One of my favourite moments was when the three screens were filled with just noise and a figure then appears out of the beyond, a dim and distant outline creating a transcendental moment. Unfortunately there are no images of these grainy figures. As noted below Viola uses a variety of different ethnic groups and cultures for his performers but the one very small criticism I have is they have no real individuality as people – there are no bikers with tattoos, no cross dressers, no punks because these do not serve his purpose. There is the black woman, the old woman, the middle aged man, the younger 30s man in black t-shirt: these are generic archetypes of humanity moulded to Viola’s artistic vision.

Viola has commented, “I think I have designed a piece that’s open ended enough, where the people and the range of people, the kind of people we chose are from various ethnic groups and cultures. And I think that the feeling of more this is a piece about humanity and it’s about the fragility of life, like the borderline between life and death is actually not a hard wall, it’s not to be opened with a lock and key, its actually very fragile, very tenuous.

You can cross it like that in an instant and I think religions, you know institutions aside, I think just the nature of our awareness of death is one of the things that in any culture makes human beings have that profound feeling of what we call the human condition and that’s really something I am really interested in. I think this piece really has a lot to do with, you know, our own mortality and all that that means.”1

These series of encounters at the intersection of life and death are worthy of the best work of this brilliant artist. He continues to astound with his prescience, addressing what is undeniable in the human condition. Long may he continue.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

 

  1. TateShots. Venice Biennale: Bill Viola. 30 June 2007 [Online] Cited 23/09/2009 (no longer available)

 

 

 

 

Ocean Without a Shore is about the presence of the dead in our lives. The three stone altars in the church of San Gallo become portals for the passage of the dead to and from our world. Presented as a series of encounters at the intersection between life and death, the video sequence documents a succession of individuals slowly approaching out of darkness and moving into the light. Each person must then break through an invisible threshold of water and light in order to pass into the physical world. Once incarnate however, all beings realise that their presence is finite and so they must eventually turn away from material existence to return from where they came. The cycle repeats without end.”

Bill Viola
25 May 2007
Text © Bill Viola 2007

 

The work was inspired by a poem by the twentieth century Senegalese poet and storyteller Birago Diop:

Hearing things more than beings,
listening to the voice of fire,
the voice of water.
Hearing in wind the weeping bushes,
sighs of our forefathers.

The dead are never gone:
they are in the shadows.
The dead are not in earth:
they’re in the rustling tree,
the groaning wood,
water that runs,
water that sleeps;
they’re in the hut, in the crowd,
the dead are not dead.

The dead are never gone,
they’re in the breast of a woman,
they’re in the crying of a child,
in the flaming torch.

The dead are not in the earth:
they’re in the dying fire,
the weeping grasses,
whimpering rocks,
they’re in the forest, they’re in the house,
the dead are not dead.

.
Text from the Ocean Without A Shore website [Online] Cited 23/09/2009 (no longer available)

 

 

Bill Viola. 'Ocean Without A Shore' 2007 video still

Bill Viola. 'Ocean Without A Shore' 2007 video still

Bill Viola. 'Ocean Without A Shore' 2007 video insatllation

Bill Viola. 'Ocean Without A Shore' 2007 video insatllation

 

Installation photographs of Ocean Without A Shore at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Bill Viola. 'Ocean Without A Shore' 2007 original video installation at church of San Gallo

 

Bill Viola
Ocean Without A Shore
2007
Original installation at church of San Gallo

 

 

NGV International
180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne

Open daily 10am-5pm

National Gallery of Victoria International website

Bill Viola website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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