Friday, 30 September 2011

Sensual Material

Sensual Material

In my studio I am motivated by attraction to materials and the pleasure I take in handling them. I make objects that confront my body and the body of my viewer with sensuous humor and some provocation. I am interested in the unrecognizable, the repressed. What is beyond our immediate reality? What is the mystery of our associative, psychological state in regards to our perception of what is underneath our skin? Often there are details of clothing in my work, zippers, piping, button holes, referring to the fashion we cover ourselves with, our facade. My work is an exaggerated reference to the body. It reflects the paradox of intelligence opposing bestiality, the body couture. Our facade is an obsession. The materiality, sensuality, and labor invested in my work are expressions of the body.

Fabric is malleable. I can push it together, or stretch it, it “grows”. The urge toward the visceral is a desire for vitality expressed through the handling of my materials. The diligence of needlework brings materials alive, stitch by stitch.The way materials attract me, (again the Eros principle), is very important. Texture, sheen, sense of hand and color are all key. I want to touch them.These are materials that are easily available and possible for me to work in my studio. I learned to sew when I was 9 and this skill is integrated into my life. Ina time when artists send their work out to artisans, I am still attached to making my own work. Many viewers who begin by appreciating only my craft, will find it to be their entrance into the work.

Karla Black

‘a material experience that has been prioritized over language'


Mona Hatoum

"Keffieh," human hair on cotton, 1993-1999,
collection Peter Norton, Santa Monica

The Body 'Van Gogh’s Back'
1995, photograph on paper, 600 x 403 mm

Ana Mario Hernando

'La Montana' (installation), 2009, MCA Denver

Random acts of kindness
Ana Maria Hernando's textiles investigate the transparent acts of humanity that hold our lives and communities together
'I find transparent acts everywhere. My most pressing image would be that of women embroidering tablecloths, washing, ironing. Later these embroidered beauties are stained, and covered with food. Hours of work have become the background. these acts of transparent love that makes no sense, and have no place in accounting books, inspire me.'
- Jessica Hemmings
Taken from Embroidery January/February 2010 issue

Halifax Harbour by Night

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Phyllida Barlow

Phyllida Barlow
untitled: broken shelf 2

Yee Sookyung

Barb Hunt

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Head to Head

Kelly Mark, The Kiss (Light Box), 2009

Micah Lexier, Two Ways To Make 2, 2000

Micah Lexier & Kelly Mark: Head-to-Head

27 August - 9 October 2011

Saint Marys University Art Gallery

Micah Lexier and Kelly Mark both live in Toronto and spent formative years at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD University). These friends often work with similar procedures or materials, but manifesting distinct sensibilities. Counting and text figure frequently in the work of both artists: both make pieces that record and quantify the passage of time. Both have designed tattoos, or worked with their own "signatures" as written by other people. In a spirit at once collaborative and playfully competitive, the artists present pairs of work from their respective practices, illustrating their differences of approach as much as their similarities.

Jamelie Hassan

Monday, 12 September 2011

Glen Ligon

Glenn Ligon belongs to a generation of artists who came to prominence at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s for paintings and photo-texts which explore aesthetic questions related to society, linguistics, racial and gender politics and sexuality. Ligon’s work employs various artistic forms including painting, printmaking, sculpture, installation and video - each chosen for its special aptitude to treat complex subjects that defy normal categorisation. Integrating diverse sources such as texts by James Baldwin, found and subverted imagery and sketches by the comedian Richard Pryor. His work is an informed meditation on quotation and the invading presence of the past as well as the representation of the self in relation to culture and history.

Aids campaign


KISSING DOESN'T KILL: GREED AND INDIFFERENCE DO was a political art action manipulating advertising and media strategies to reach a broad audience with information about AIDS and the issues surrounding it. The project took place in two parts. The first was a large mailing of a postcard image of three kissing couples of mixed race and sex with the words "Kissing Doesn't Kill: Greed and Indifference Do." The back of the card read "Corporate Greed, Government Inaction and Public Indifference Make AIDS a Political Crisis." The image was designed to look much like a well known clothing industry ad campaign. The second part of the project was the production of the image and rejoinder as a 12 x 3 foot full color poster mounted on dozens of New York City buses. The poster was also prominently featured in the Whitney Museum exhibition "Media World". The poster has also been seen on buses in San Francisco and Chicago, as part of Art Against AIDS: On the Road.

Gran Fury is a collective of AIDS activists retaliating against government and social institutions that make those living with AIDS invisible. Through visual address, they seek to inform a broad public and provoke direct action to end the AIDS crisis. Gran Fury manipulates sophisticated advertising strategies to render complex issues understandable, and to reach an audience not often addressed by governmental and media information.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Keiskamma Altarpiece

The Keiskamma Altarpiece forms part of the NOT ALONE exhibition at the Iziko Good Hope Gallery. It is a part of the international project Make Art/ Stop Aids and runs until 31 January 2010.

Robert Sloon once pointed out to me a similarity between being an artist and a preacher: both require a lot of faith. The role of artist or preacher is often to inspire belief in something whose outcomes or effects are not always visible. The artist however might not always be so successful: plagued by questions about the potential of artmaking to be truly meaningful. It is indeed difficult to justify to oneself the privilege of making art in the difficult social, political and economic situation in South Africa.

For this reason, viewing the Keiskamma Altarpiece at the Slave Lodge was a profound experience. The altarpiece was made by women in Hamburg in the Eastern Cape as a part a community initiative: an embroidery project that sets out to empower people with the skills to produce art and craftwork, a forum to generate income and is a project interwoven with healthcare and education around HIV/Aids. The project forms part of the Keiskamma Trust, initiated by Dr (and artist) Carol Hofmeyr in 2002. Part of the Trust is a health initiative that provides ARVS to the many HIV sufferers in the community.

The presence of the Altarpiece on the Make Art/ Stop Aids exhibition is an apt one. The exhibition intends to draw attention to “capacity for international solidarity to lessen the impact of the AIDS epidemic and to the importance of access to effective treatment”. The narrative of the Keiskamma Altarpiece becomes a starting point to incite discourse on the subject of HIV / Aids and in particular the need for education and treatment in the rural areas in this country. It also acts as a powerful testament to the possibilities of art making, education and communication. The workshops where work on the altarpiece took place became a safe space for discussions around HIV / Aids.

The Altarpiece was inspired by Matthias Grünewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece of the 15th Century. The Isenheim altarpiece was painted for a hospice where the patients were dying of ergot poisoning, caused by a simple grain fungus. At the time, the causes of this inflection, then known as St. Anthony’s fire, were unknown, similar to the plight of those in Hamburg who were unaware of the Aids epidemic prior to the education provided as a result of the Keiskamma Trust.

It is interesting that religious allegory is used as a metaphor for the plight of the everyday. It allows those involved to transcend the harsh realities of the physical in the belief that something higher might sustain them.

In the Keiskamma Altarpiece, a woman, widowed by Aids replaces Grünewald’s Christ on the Cross. Unlike Mary Magdalene and St John who look on to the death of Christ, the orphaned children in the Keiskamma piece surround this figure. The Keiskamma replaces the Saints and martyrs with ordinary people who are left to face the indictment of Aids. However, unlike the darkness and despair of Grunewald, the Keiskamma piece seems to radiate bright colour and hope.

The Keiskamma project reminds of the teaching centres in South Africa that were established during the Apartheid years. Such centres sought to find a space for art to incite social change and provide opportunity for people of the community. A fitting example was the Rorke’s Drift Centre, established in 1962 in rural KwaZulu Natal: also a space that intersected art, religion and illness. It began as Evangelist Lutheran Church Art and Craft Centre in 1962 whose program was to prepare women students as art and craft advisors to work with patients in hospitals. The Swedish missionaries, Peder and Ulla Gowenuis who began the centre stressed the importance of a creative outlet. As Gowenius put it: "The possibility of expressing oneself in art is like giving language to the speechless. A first step towards freedom. Without language we are powerless."

The reason that I make this comparison is that the Keiskamma project seems to have adopted a successful model established by such centres in creating a space where art education has the potential to inspire faith and incite change. The Keiskamma altarpiece reveals an interesting and powerful space in art making where the artwork becomes a symbol of hope, rather than a place of doubt.

felix gonzalez-torres