Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Art Criticism?

Some of you might know that I occasional write for arts journals.

The critical writing process is always a challenge. The challenge involves exploring my subjective experience while balancing it with exploring the aims of the artist. In the words of Delacroix, "Beauty must be seen where the artist has chosen to put it."(1854) This means that I must suspend my first reactions so that they may be carefully examined, with the understanding that my immediate preferences might not be suitably prepared to accept something new. If I might quote Eugene Delacroix again, "A Greek and an Englishman are each of them beautiful in their own way, which has nothing in common with the other." (1893)

This examination will always be subjective and any knowledge and research I do will still be a personal interpretation. I feel it is always important to remember that while it might be an informed opinion it is still an opinion, much like that of a doctor of medicine, one doctor's opinion is not the equal of another's simply via the virtue of being a doctor.

The considerations made while considering art needs to be clear. Art can be thought of in both a high and low light. High - it touches the human condition, it feeds the soul, its piquancy embodies a wisdom and mastery of form. Low- it looks good next to my lamp.

There are many things that look good next to lamps. I enjoy them just as much as the next person. But am I only to consider a work's or object's goodness based upon such a limited criteria? Unfortunately, its very difficult to remove this level from consideration completely because it belongs to the gestalt of its time. Because it is impossible to remove entirely means that a review or an essay is always a criticism; that is, it shows some preference even if that preference is signaled merely by the its inclusion in a magazine or journal, it has been chosen over others (perhaps more worthy options).

Responsibility is something that haunts me whenever I'm asked to review an exhibition or write on art. To be responsible for my judgments and words I probe the possibilities the work possesses and try to come to terms with it analytically. I try to encounter the work as clearly as I'm able and to offer that journey to others. But I often shy away from direct criticism partly because these will stem for my preferences, partly because I don't wish to impose my preferences onto the artist, and partly because I'm aware that my preferences are often set at an incredibly high standard and my opinions might be unreasonable harsh, that is, wont allow much room for fluff. These stem from my subjectivity, my ignorance and my pig-headedness, but they equally stem from my passion for art, my belief in its value and my desire to have people do their very best and become unshackled from those restrictions that bind them to lousy conventions and mediocre sentiments.

Lately, I've had to look at my responsibility and consider what kind of critic I wish to be. Do I just want to write in the third person and try to pretend that I'm objective and that I'm writing some kind of faraway truth? Or be merely a reporter, giving the facts and details? Or a writer who follows the popular line and writes about what is considered the trend? Or rather a vocal advocate of a vision of art - that is, write something I feel passionately about, so I can truly and honestly release my feelings within the body of written word.... I have felt stifled by the form of writing about art; as stifled as the early Impressionist painters must have felt stifled by the careful rules of the academy paintings of the day. I prefer writing that actually effects people and exposes them to the potential of art and of artists, instead of trapping them into a pseudo-science that assumes to give art its dignity. If I cannot find a forum in magazines or in traditional outlets then I will by pass them and find my own way, but at least it I will be responsible to my own inner needs rather that selling out my words.

I will continue to wrestle with these thoughts for a long time yet I'm is part of the 'work'. I will search for veritas within myself and within art, trying to find my is all I can do.

**I made the graphite pencil drawing above in 2003, it is a study of the painting, "St Augustine of Hippo" (Catholic Patron Saint of Theology), 1660 by Champaigne, from the Los Angeles County Museum collection.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Fire Quest - Crackle Mountain update

Crackle Mountain, my Asian Folktale blog, has been updated with a new story - The Fire Quest.
A small story about the Firefly Queen, illustrated with some beautiful works of Chinese and Japanese art.

I've recently added a new feature to Crackle Mountain - the Crackle Mountain BookStore, its an Amazon astore that I've built to specially cater for all of our Japanese and Chinese book cravings. Look for the link in Crackle Mountain's sidebar :) But if you'd like to check it out while you're browsing at Windbag and T, click here.

Firefly - the Japanese woodblock print above is by Ito Shinsui (1898-1972), published 1934. Two other of his prints feature in the new story.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Ekka Birds and Cow Hands - Youtube

This is my first movie, be kind I know it's not great. While we were observing some bizarre bird behaviour The Accordion reminded me that my camera also has a video capture function. This budgerigar must have been a bit homesick because it seemed to be frantically looking for a way out.

I thought this songclip stop-motion animation went well with the Ekka flavour and was an interesting use for old plastic animal toys too. Enjoy!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Brisbane in Focus (BiF) - The Ekka

Its Ekka time in Brisbane. In August the wind swings 'round to the west and the country comes to town for the Royal Queensland Show - known colloquially as The Ekka, short for The Exhibition. Begun in 1876, the Ekka showcases local and state agriculture, pastoral farming and industry and also performed an important social role in bringing together the city folk with their country cousins. The fabulous pineapple trophy pictured above from c1910 is an example of the Ekka glory days. To read more about the history of the Ekka, the Queensland Government has some great articles and historical pictures, here.

Today, there's still plenty of country action: wood chopping, a seemingly endless array of cows, bulls and chickens and plenty of Blundstones and Akubras milling around....

Then there was us: The Wrecker, The Accordion and myself, The Windbag, roaming amongst them with our pink hair and toxic green cardigan (me), funny Austrian style cap and orange ensemble (The Wrecker), and coconut husk hat and geek spectacles (The Accordion). Yep, those cowpokes got their money's worth when we walked by. "WTF was that!" could see it in their eyes. There was definitely some social impacting going on.

But we weren't the only strange people getting about The Ekka. The first display we encountered on entering was a street art troupe. I couldn't work these guys out for the longest time; but the kids seemed to love them, laughing and giggling in the most over the top way. There was no explaining it...but then I remembered all the lollies and dagwood dogs they were munching on and it all began to make sense. I made a mental note for future exploitation that street art is improved with the right consumables.....

Much later, I realised that they were cursors pointing the wonder the kids got it!

Being a country show we saw lots of cows. We even saw them being tickled on their bellies with long sticks while they waited to be paraded in front of the white robed judges. We debated at length as to the function of tickling cows, however, in the end we concluded it must be for soothing them through the anxieties of judging....we hope.

I did take a few photos of cows but I thought this one was the best, particularly as it managed to find itself in such a precarious position!

After seeing the cows and the horses and the pet food displays (hey! I didn't pay bucks to go to the supermarket) and some unfortunate dogs in acrylic capsules. We thought it was time to hit the buzz end. So we went in search of every City Slickers best friend, Expresso. After turning down the instant coffee in Styrofoam cup option we finally stumbled upon a homegrown Queensland barrista, Australian Estate Coffee, serving up their own beans - very nice. We agreed that it had the pleasant taste of Macadamia nut about it (well, after all, it is the Queensland nut!). After hunkering down on the edge of a brick planter facing a wall we downed our coffee and The Accordion's roasted chilly corn and it was off again to find cultural curios of blog worthy attention.

We trawled through the art and craft exhibits and then made our way to the international food area for lunch. The Wrecker and I had crumbed squid and The Accordion found himself some fried bread..yum. There wasn't many options besides fried and so we took up the spirit of the day and tucked into our respective repasts with relish while watching more cow flavour on parade.

Finally, we thought it was time to check out The Alley! - Sideshow Alley, that is. Here's were the camera got a good work out as The Accordion and I compared shots. This suited my budget perfectly, all the fun of the ride but none of the hip pocket pain. I walked away with their souls and nobody thought to ask for payment..hahhahahahhhhaaa.

Here are some of the highlights.

I want to end with Berty Beetle, Ekka icon, because Berty Beetle is the cheapest showbag at The Ekka, starting at just $2, he sums up my day - sometimes the most fun is when you make your own:D (Viva la Blog!)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Puppet Ningyo - unfinished work

This weekend I had the privilege to see many of the puppet stop animation work of Kihachiro Kawamoto as a part of the Brisbane International Film Festival. The highlight for me was undoubtedly his recent master piece "The Book of the Dead" based on the story by the noted Japanese folklorist Shinobu Orikuchi (1887-1953) set in the Nara period around the 8th century Japan. Midnight Eye has a good interview with him about the film, click here.

Kawamoto was present for both screening sessions and gave extended Q&A at the end of both. Listening to him reminded me of my earlier ambitions of creating a puppet production based upon the classical Japanese poetry/literature of the Tale of Ise. While this project remains a castle in the clouds, my love of Asian literature, folklore and mythology remain - see my other blog Crackle Mountain. Pictured here is the first marionette puppet I began. She has arms and feet made of air drying clay. Her body is of knit fabric and her luxuriously long black hair (in Heian style) is made of Perl embroidery thread. The under kimono she wears is made as a true kimono would be. You can see she still has pins to keep the kimono in place while she waits for further work.

She waits very patiently indeed.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Night Games - shadow figures (Japan)

Here are few shadow figures for you to try - you might like to use them as your next party piece. This is a mid 19th century print of a set of 16 shadow figures by Hiroshige II. I can make out what each figure is except the last one in the lower right hand corner.

Any suggestions?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Lilli&Tom at the hairdressers - update

Lilli&Tom has been updated. I've handed over control of the blog to them so from now on they will be talking to the world directly. It seems they have some big plans in mind. They have allowed me to continue to comment from time to time. Their latest adventure is at the Hairdressers. Why not click through and see what they've been up to.

On further update news Crackle Mountain has been updated with a Chinese fable called Shooting the Tiger.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Sandgate Folk - EIN BUM PIN

Last Sunday, in my village Sandgate, was the annual EIN BUM PIN festival. Ein Bum Pin comes from the local aboriginal word for lagoon. Sandgate is located around two lagoons just back from the edge of Moreton Bay. The smaller of the two is in the centre of the village. The lagoon brings the village together. Everyone that lives here is proud of our help each other attitude. You'll often here the phrase, "I like to keep it in the village." In other words, to do business with locals.

Its the village spirit that fills our Ein Bum Pin festival too. The weather had the touch of spring, people where relaxed and smiling - I had a great day and I thought I'd share it with you.

There were colourful stalls selling homemade sweets; fairies on stilts to blow bubbles in the air; families with strollers; lovers holding hands. The people slowly winding around the lagoon to see and share under the shade of the gum trees, with the screech of the Cockatoos in the air.

The traditional mullet throwing competition is a must see. The crowds camp up the landing end to see whose mullet gets closest to the centre between the witches hat. Mullet is a great fish, its high in omega 3 and every part is useful - the Japanese highly value the roe, fisherman use the heads and skeletons for crab pots, so it ends up being a very affordable choice at the fish markets. But don't worry, when it comes to mullet tossing we only use handmade mullet. Pretty aren't they - not the least like the real thing but who cares, I like these better.

There was even some carnival games like the impossible Clown game and this Rubber Ducky game. Look at all those tempting toys....

Speaking of toys, here are some on offer at the stalls (bit of a pun there;)

The teddies were made by some of the crafters from the Sandgate Branch of the Senior Citizens Club. That funny long one in the middle I found out is called a Hugger Mugger a comforter for sleeping. The pink teddy came home with me. I called her Henry, she now lives on the floor under the TV and she freaks out my cat Baby when we move her as a puppet. I also bought a great hand knitted Banana in Pajamas, but I'll post him later when I continue my "Toyz in da House" series.

After all the excitement of the festival it was time to walk down to the bay, pass the picnickers and the overflowing cafes and restaurants and quietly stroll along the waters edge and sit in the sun for a while.

A perfect day.