Surrealist Tendencies

This being my tenth blog post on WordPress, I felt that it was a ground breaking moment, and I felt as though I needed to share something quite extraordinary. Searching through the web-app StumbleUpon I came across this artist on another blog. Some beautifully executed paintings. A high degree of technical skill. Vladimir Kush is an artist whose work you often find on image sharing sites, however, there never seems to be any proper accreditation. This time I am glad that his work has been properly acknowledged, though there is not a lot of information on him on the blog linked below. However, I was able to find the artists official site (second link shared below), where there is a great deal more information on the artist along with a larger range of reproductions of his work. The artist obviously takes his cue from Salvador Dali, though he does not simply appropriate the father of surrealism, he uses the surrealist language to create a new pictorial dialogue. His work speaks volumes about the human subconscious and the realm of dreaming, often blurring what is real and what is surreal.

The Power of Art – Rothko

The Power of art series, hosted by Simon Schama (displayed below), are a series of visual arts documentaries on some key artists through the course of history. This particular series focuses on the work and life of the Modernist painter Mark Rothko. The documentary is broken up into four parts on YouTube (listed below), it follows Rothko’s life and work up until his untimely death, and also explores the everlasting impact that the artist and his work have had on artists and the art going public alike. I have watched this particular episode of the series several times and find it to be excellent, it always sparks something in my own creative practice. Hope you enjoy it.

Part one:

Part two:

Part three:

Part four:

Biennale of Sydney 2012 – Art Gallery of NSW and The Museum of Contemporary Art

Following last Friday’s adventure to Cockatoo Island for the 18th Biennale of Sydney, I made the trek back up to Sydney to view what the rest of the major exhibiting venues of the Biennale of Sydney had on offer. Following on from the theme “all our relations” a majority of the works were created in collaboration among artists. The first stop was the Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW), a tour guide was organised to take us around and discuss a series of works. The first stop was a work located in the basement of the gallery, where the Indigenous collection is held, something that is interesting in itself, but will be saved for a future discussion.

After passing some of the initial Indigenous pieces we come across a hole in the ground. A square hole, cut into the concrete floor of the gallery, above it a microphone attached to a cable suspended from the ceiling. At first this work seems a bit random and overly conceptual in it’s initial appearance, however, when you move closer to the work an engulfing sound begins, a didgeridoo begins to play, a humming sound and then voices begin. We are told by the guide that the work was created by and Indigenous arts collective, from North America. Most people would assume that a site-specific work incorporating the sounds of and Indigenous Australian instrument would have been created by a First Australian. However, this work not only explores local discourses on Indigenous people, it addresses the Indigenous discourse in a global context. Becoming a symbol of Indigenous people’s relationship with the land needing to be unearthed, literally carved from the oppressive colonial concrete. The work is titled Do you remember when?, it is a question directed straight at the viewer. We are not simply passive viewers of a unearthed past, but are involved in the work itself. Our own voices are recorded and included in the transmission of sounds being emitted from several speakers around the space. So we are not only looking at the past, but also the present and the future all at once.

Do you remember when? 2009-2012. Image courtesy of The Biennale of Sydney 2012.

Moving on, we were taken to the upper levels of the gallery where we entered what was the main bulk of installed work of the Biennale at the AGNSW. We move through the space, past the work of Judy Watson and into a space where we are confronted with a large wall projection of a human figure walking along frozen ice, in front of a large icebreaker ship. A visually powerful work, it creates a lonely tension. We see the figure walking towards us with the ship following closely behind. Quite melancholic and borderline sad. It references the theme of the Biennale, “all our relations”, quite well. We can all relate to the lonely feeling, when something large is looming over us, commonly referred to as the world being on our shoulders, in this case Guido van der Werve has created a much more literal sensation of something weighing down upon us, by having an icebreaker, a powerful and foreboding presence in the piece. This also creates a anxious tension in the work, we are waiting for the worst to happen, as is human nature, though it never does, and we are left to ponder. As foreboding as the piece may be, there is a sense of elation in the viewer as we begin to understand that we are not the only ones who feel as though the icebreaker of life is bearing down upon us.

Nummer Acht: Everything is going to be alright, 2007. Image courtesy of The Biennale of Sydney 2012.

Though I would like to talk about more of the work on offer at the AGNSW, I will not for now, though I will make a favourable mention about the work of John Wolseley. The artist had pieces of fabriano paper strew throughout the gallery, some were almost invisible among the contemporary and modern art on display, they almost acted like a trail of bread crumbs to the major part of the work. Which was situated opposite the above mentioned Post-commodity work, Do you remember when?. Wolseley’s work and the the site specific work were meant to compliment one another in the context of land and landscape. The mark making and detailed drawing drew me in instantly, and upon learning about the artists treatment of his work, often leaving his   Murray Sunset Refugia with Ventifacts 2008-2009. Displayed below, this was one of my most favourite works of the entire Biennale because of it’s tactile nature and the rawness of its creation.

Murray Sunset Refugia with Ventifacts 2008-2009. Image courtesy of The Biennale of Sydney 2012.

After a brief walk through the City, I made my way to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) to meet with the rest of my class. We were in for a brief talk with a University of Wollongong Alumni, Glenn Barkley, who is the current curator of the MCA’s permanent collection. However, before the talk, I took the liberty to wander around the work displayed on level three of the newly built section of the MCA. The first work I came upon was Tyaphaka, 2011, by Nicholas Hlobo, a South African born artist, his work is a mixture of drawing, painting, water colour and textiles. The artist talks about his work being a challenge against preconceived notions of masculinity and gender as well as race and ethnicity. The works on paper in the MCA hark back to Art-Povera, the recycling of materials as well as the use of tea stains and stitching adds to the complexity of the work. Along with changing the viewers perception conceptually, the work strives to create a new visual dialogue through the use of these everyday craft like materials, bridging or even blurring the gap; blurring seems a more apt word, since the work is beautifully framed with a somewhat frosted glass over it, again highlighting the artists concept of challenging preconceived ideas. We can relate to the work beyond it being a purely abstract composition, we can relate to the reality of being misinterpreted by others and how this can have a ripple effect upon our lives.

Tyaphaka, 2011. Image courtesy of The Biennale of Sydney 2012.

An honourable mention should go to the work created by Yeesookyung and Park Young-Sook. Two Korean artists, one of whom, Park Young-Sook, has used a centuries old method of creating what are referred to as “Moon jars”. Having cultural significance to the artist. Though they seem to be perfect and and pristine, they are riddled with flaws, errors in the firing of the kiln, drips in the glazing. We begin to understand that these pieces of porcelain are just as flawed as their creator, and by extension us as human beings. We are flawed in many ways, and like the work we often try to cover them up by putting on some kind of metaphorical, or even in some circumstances quite literal masks or cover-ups, in this case the works have been glazed in this beautiful white, temporarily covering the imperfections. The work created by Yeesookyung, Translated vase – the moon, 2008 is a visually striking piece, displayed below in the installation shot, it commands the attention of the viewer. We are confronted with a mass of what are broken shards of porcelain, the very same jars created by Park Young-Sook, though these are the rejected pieces, the pieces that didn’t make the cut. They have been given a new lease on life, in what is literal translation of the first artists work. Referencing the “moon vases” by creating a porcelain moon of her own, joining the pieces together and covering the imperfections with gold leaf, much like the imperfections of Young-Sook’s work. A related dialogue has been created, the works speaking to one another, across time, bridging the generational gap between the artists and the cultural gap we initially came across.

Installation view, White porcelain moon jars, 2006  and  Translated vase – the moon, 2008.  Image courtesy of The Biennale of Sydney 2012.

As for the curatorial decisions made in the installation and hanging of work in both venues, and the split design of the catalogue, they left something to be desired. The overall theme of all our relations seemed to be lost on the curators. The work in both galleries was disconnected and split, whole sections of Biennale confused with the galleries permanent collections and current exhibitions. As for the catalogue, the essays are in depth and quite a good read, however, the split design again takes away from the overall theme of relations and interconnectedness, and is quite honestly annoying and hard to digest visually. Apart from these small negative elements, the Biennale of Sydney was a success, and hopefully in two years time I shall make my return and see what’s in store for the 19th Biennale of Sydney.


R.I.P Robert Hughes

I have just learned some sad news. Robert Hughes; famed art critic, theorist, man of great knowledge has passed away at 74. Since becoming interested in all things art, Hughes has been a person who has constantly popped up from books and articles to television and youtube documentaries. His philosophies and theories on art and life will be forever missed.



Biennale of Sydney 2012 – Cockatoo Island

The 2012 Biennale of Sydney, like previous years failed to disappoint. After the arduous journey by train and ferry, we landed on Cockatoo island. Upon arrival you are greeted with a seemingly empty space, whose only occupants are the industrial remnants of a by gone era. This emptiness was soon replace by sheer awe and amazement as fellow Biennale goers were attracted to an site-specific piece by Jonathan Jones. A hollow brick cube, gate attached and open, a wave of broken tea cups and oyster shells pour out of the space.  The work is referencing the artists Indigenous heritage (the oyster shells) and how the colonisation of Indigenous Australians by British imperial forces as well as Anglo-Celtic convicts (tea cups). The work shows how the two have impacted upon one another, the violent clash of two different worlds, coming to rest together in an unresolved heap. The work at first seems to be a jumbled mess, however, when reading the artists biographical information you begin to understand the intricacies of his work.


Jonathan Jones, Untitled 2012. Image courtesy of the Biennale of Sydney 2012.

Working my way through the many exhibits on the island I came across the large installation of Li Hongbo. His work Ocean of Flowers 2012  is a work that is visually engaging. The colours of the carefully constructed works entice the senses. The seemingly beautiful work has a set of darker conceptual undertones. The artist is bringing to light the ability we have as humans to destroy ourselves, the artist compares this to the ease of which a human can collect flowers. The work encourages the viewer to come into the space and engage with the it on a purely aesthetic basis at first, then once we become aware of what the work is really about,  just like how the viewing of the work is restricted to ten people at a time, to minimise the chance of damaging it, we now keep the work at arms length, we are now longer simply enticed by the visual beauty, but are now more conscious of the implied meaning.




Li Hongbo, Ocean of Flowers, 2012

Overall the works exhibited on Cockatoo island were interesting, beautiful, powerful and engaging; some more than others, yet they all seemed to work in their own right and related to the Biennales theme which was “all our relations”. Stay tuned for some future writings on work from the other venues involved in the Biennale.