Art & Design
'Breakfast in fur' Meret Oppenheim
Oppenheim (artist, sculptor and poet) was born in Berlin in 1913, but grew up in Switzerland and at age 18 moved to Paris. She was part of the Surrealist art movement as both muse and artist, (black and white art photographs and prints by Man Ray featured her as a young model) and is mainly know for her iconic and clever art objects. 'Breakfast in fur' is arguably the most recognized of her objects and has recently been displayed at MoMA.
The cup, spoon and saucer, lined with the fur of a Chinese gazelle, have been described as the 'ultimate' surreal art piece by contemporaries. According to some sources, it was inspired by a breakfast get-together with a small group of artists, including Pablo Picasso, at which it was reportedly remarked that you could cover anything in fur.
The popularity of her art in her early twenties brought continuous bouts of depression, she struggled to live up to the initial success and fame. Only a part of her art pieces survives, as she destroyed much of her own work during that period of identity crisis.
"My Nurse" Meret Oppenheim
My personal favorite is another one of her early objects: 'My Nurse'. It is a pair of high-heeled shoes, tied together and presented on a platter like a roasted bird, the heels angled apart like a woman lying on her back with legs spread.
Oppenheim's art has been seen as a criticism of women's exploitation by the opposite sex, and although I can not be certain it was intended by the artist, to me, it clearly hints at the tradition of bound feet for young girls (the title also points to the pressures, cliches and conditioning of youth upbringing).
Untitled - Oscar Dominguez(1936)
'Decalcomania' was a technique popular with Surrealist painters like Oscar Dominguez, Max Ernst and others. The word is derrived from French 'decalquer' (to transfer or to copy by tracing) and was first used to transfer prints or engravings at the end of the 18th century.
In painting, a non-absorbent surface (such as glass, metal or coated paper) is partially covered with ink, gouache or other paint. Then the paper (or canvas) is pressed against the surface, which creates intricate, lacy patterns.
The Surrealist painters picked up the technique and used it in a similarly way to the "Rohrschach" inkblot tests as painting "with no preconceived object" in mind, as Dominguez put it.
Fascinated by everything subconscious and spontaneous (Freud, Jung, were being absorbed into the mainstream culture), they used the patterns created by the printed decal as ispiration from free visual association.
Europe after the Rain - Max Ernst
I started to research background and techniques of Surrealism in more detail over the last couple of months - and it seems like a good approach to some difficulties I have come across lately: It is a great way to overcome the 'fear of the blank canvas' if used as a starting point to get going. And for anybody suffering from inspirational doldrums, it might also be good technique to make a fresh start. You can always add to, cover and change the pattern as much as you like. Once I get going with a painting, it does in a way seem to paint itself!
"No Eye in Team" Cornelia Jolitz
So, this is my first try with this technique. I was feeling ambitious and tried to combine 4 colors in the same decal, but I think next time I'll stick to a more subtle hue and start with only one or two colors. The lack of contrast left me with not much to go on to make visual associations.
I added the black lacing and eyes with black permanent marker and paintend some background over with white.
He Loves Me Not...
The third painting in the heart / Emotion series is finished! It does strike me how much this series is inspired by Tschaikowsky's "Le sacre du print temps" and Orff's "Carmina Burana". It is about the circles of life, love, emotion, and the transitory state of all things....
"He Loves Me Not..." for me is a blurred vision of a wild flower patch growing in between late July wheat fields; the reds of solitary poppies, the distinct cornflower blue, golden strands of ripe wheat stalks amid tall dry grasses ...
It is the end of Summer, the wild days of care-free vacations and summer flings are coming to a close. Loose commitments made in the spur of the moment don't always hold up to the scrutiny of the every-day life when we return at the beginning of Autumn. Hearts are broken, but survive all the stronger for the experience by going deep under ground.
What IS going on in art these days? Nothing much has changed over the last half century. It seems the exhibits are stuck in 'content-free', abstract dogma - I invented my own term for it: "Austerity Sensationalism".
Simplicity and ethereal art meditation are immensely enlightening, but after Rothko's chapel signature black-on-black paintings there is not much further to go on that subject. After all, a straight line covers the shortest distance between two points; as much as we would like to revel in the genius of this concept - we should accept that it has been done.
It is a common standby in art history: If you cannot come up with anything new - ornate and add to the old. As happened in architecture after the clean lines of the Renaissance when artist added the odd ornament, pillar, statue and element (hence Rokoko and Barock) so it did with Modernism (to Post-Modernism). As humans we cannot help ourselves but to elaborate.
Art schools, critics and curators seem to be extremely wary of repeating this all-too-human tendency - and have chosen not to change anything at all instead. Motto of the day: If we cannot have anything new, we'll just repeat the tried and true! I found an article in the New Yorker on the 2011 Venice Biennale by Jerry Saltz that was very illuminating, as it seems that more and more art-lovers are lamenting the same empty hollow in the perfection of today's Fine Art.
Escape from the machine
But as an artist, where does one go from here? There have been many new under-the-radar movements over the last decades that I would define as "Escapism". Among those I count Manga, Low Brow art, some Region specific art, Steampunk, etc. (Before anyone jumps to the incensed defense of these various styles I want to point out that, as most other painters that don't strictly define themselves in the 'modern contemporary' strain, I would count my own painting somewhere smack in the schizophrenic middle between Austerity and Escape as well.)
In the information deluge where everybody can start, promote and cultivate art it is difficult to make out a cohesive new contemporary thread in today's art scene. Maybe this IS the new art culture: Fractured network-culture evolving around their respective art focal point. In a world like that, maybe the institutionalized 'Fine Art' movement has lost it's central position as a leader in modern art except as reference material and academic exercise...
As unlikely as the heart/ year in emotion series was for me, it has evolved from the humble doodles to a steady flow of ideas and paintings. All of which fit into a revolving timeline of death and renewal.
"Pushing Daises" represents Mid Spring, when new hopes and plans are just sprouting from fertile soil. Everything seems possible, every goal is attainable, the promise of success is waiting to be fulfilled.
Fallen Dreams of May
The painting "Fallen Dreams of May" is the flip side to the blind optimism of "Daisies".
The inspiration came from childhood memories of a small pond on the other side of the street from my parents house. Come winter, me and my sister could not wait to see it freeze over so we could pull on our ice skates and play. Of course not every winter was cold enough to make the ice strong enough to carry our weight (in fact, most years it wasn't) but that didn't stop my sister and me from hoping and wishing...
This is the first touch of frost, a bitter-sweet reminder that not every promise can be (or is meant to be) fulfilled, that sometimes disappointments are part of life.
The next painting, "He loves me not" will be finished soon!
Starting a new painting is always difficult for me, even if I have a concrete idea and concept in mind. Somehow, the blank page sets loose an overwhelming urge not to mess with it, a fear of destroying the pure concept I have in mind. Over the last month I've realized how much I tend to over-think my art, it gets stuck in the details and technique rather than the subject and the content .
As a way to remedy this, I started a new series purely as a counter-balance to brain control: The heart / "Year in Emotion" series. The concept developed out of a simple doodle in the sketch book - and promptly it multiplied into a mini-series of ideas!
Doodling is such an under-utilized way of starting a concept - letting the hand subconsciously guide you to new ideas really does work. Who knew! Two paintings have already been created out of those spontaneous sketches, the next ones will follow shortly as I find the time for it. I will post the new painting on the Art page soon as well.
After the small successes of the 'doodling experiments' I am starting more research into the Surrealism painting methods, which are heavily invested in the subconscious and chance-driven techniques like decalcomania, frottage, and automated writing. It seems like a good way to overcome a domineering, pushy brain....
"Now Here from Nowhere" Exhibition at Mark's Garage 2/6/2011. My painting "Ideas
- Brainstorming a Roadmap to a Parallel Universe" was on display at Mark's for
about a month, check out the article in the Honolulu Advertiser about the Exhibit!
Art in Hawaii
Living in Hawaii is an inspiring experience, both artistically and spiritually.