Monday, 8 July 2013

Possibilities of the Predatory

I'd been doing all my sculpture blogging here
But I missed catching all the other passing fads and notions ;  and this BLOGGER page stores many of my friends in the linkages down the side. So I return to it....

This summer's topics on my workbench are building up to the centenary of the outbreak of the "Great" War, as my work on WW1 plastic surgery has received some centenary attention, and I am producing a wax group of soldiers and some writings about faces rearranged by artillery and surgery. The rearranged face (or, as the title of a 1960s ICA show puts it "The Wonder and the Horror of the Human Head " ) puts me in mind again of Francis Bacon; the elegant threat and insolent violence he painted. I'm reading a recent  book on an important topic : Francis Bacon and Nazi Propaganda by Martin Hammer, a  study of Bacon's iconographic sources from Tate publishing. Early on Hammer quotes from Sam Hunter's 1952 essay "Francis Bacon, the Anatomy of Horror", and the Hunter passages lash off the page like Bacon's smears by comparison with the exegeses of the contemporary art historian. The vigour of such writing seems lost beyond hope,  impossible today now the language has been professionalised and formulated , mashed up with management jargon and cultural studiousness. Hunter also made public Bacon's use of, and choice of, photographs as awakeners of his imagery, and photographed a selection of his "incunabula".
 A taster, then , from Sam Hunter in 1952: "Needless to say, Bacon's record of contemporary history reads like a lesson in ignominy. His art deals with our most ubiquitous public images and discloses unimagined possibilities of the predatory in the private individual."
Image: Francis Bacon, "Man with Dog" 1953 ( detail)

Friday, 11 November 2011

A monochrome painting by Stieg Persson

It is 1939 in Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles. On Stage 6, Basil Rathbone is rehearsing a fencing duel which will end with his stage death. An electrician’s error drops the set into darkness; the last whipping pass of his sabre whiffs out a candle and leaves a ribbon of light curling across the blackness; he laughs.

It is 450000BCE off the coast of what will be Guam. Thousands of feet below the surface there is no light but a small fish is evolving to phosphoresce. His luminosity would be the envy of his forefathers. He is ugly. His eyeless face is like a melting wax fist.

It is 2007. An artist flies Quantas at night over Australia. She looks down and sees nothing for many hours. She sees a tiny light and wonders who is down there. Otherwise all is darkness. This means she is free to sculpt anything. She has not been to Australia before.

It is 1947 and Robert Motherwell realises “I belong….to a family of “black” painters and earth colour painters in masses, which would include Manet and Goya and Matisse.” Later he thinks his colour world developed as he looked at his mother’s waxed fruitwood furniture.

It is 1952 in Nevada. Harold Edgerton sets up his rapatronic cameras. Soon an atom bomb will explode. It begins. One nanosecond after detonation, the ball of gas hovers in the night sky, pale, smooth, swelling, its surface formed of regular geometric patterns. He is reminded of something he has known. Three nanoseconds later, the gas ball is the size of Manhattan and seven times hotter than the sun.

It is 1972 in Birmingham, England. A six year old girl is sitting in the dark waiting for a film to begin. Some music she does not know fills her with grandiosity and horror. A black monolith swings into view on the screen; dark shafts of light sweep across it. She should not be here but her parents have smuggled her in.

It is 2525. The air is dark and thick with tarry particles , the sun is a waxy glow, and it has been like this for 200 years. It’s not pretty but no one is here to see it. Some moths miss the moon so much they have learned to glow for each other; the only art now is the light ribbons they draw to attract a mate.

It is 1981 in Melbourne. A young painter is giving away his tubes of colour. He feels he will not be needing them; from now on he will say it all with black. His tutors are irritated.

It is 1998 in a hospital in Toronto. An 18 year old man lies in a persistent vegetative state after an unexplained accident four years ago. He can see a confusion of pale lights and hears everything. He is not anxious. His mother is there reading to him a novel , “Tlooth”. He hopes that next she will read him “Notes from Underground” .

Eleanor Crook

re: Stieg Persson's painting "Filling the Void" 1986 Oil on canvas 182.7 x 167.5 cm Collection Monash University, Melbourne

Friday, 9 September 2011

Jordanian funerary artefacts

funeral mask in stone from Nahal Hemar, 7th milennium BC, and a collection of overmodeled skulls with shell eyes and the mandibles removed; sometimes the chin is sculpted, in a compressed way, over the lower teeth. (photo by Jeff Rozwadowski, whose photostream from the Archaeological Museum at Amman, Jordan, is here)

This Siamese twin is from Ain Ghazai, c. 6500bc, and the faces on it somehow resemble the current director of the Jordanian Automobile Museum, below. These physiognomies echo down the years. When I was learning portraiture at Central St Martins, our tutor Monty identified that our Italian fellow student's face - pale, severe, dark melancholy eyes - had its ancestor on a 1st cent. AD encaustic coffin mask from Fayoum.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Island with Zappa on it.

... what Frank Zappa chose for Castaway's Choice in 1989 (the US version of Desert Island Discs, I assume):
• Octandre by Edgard Varese
• The Royal March from L'Histoire du Soldat by Igor Stravinsky
• The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky
• Third Piano Concerto, first movement by Bela Bartok. (FZ: ``I think it is one of the most beautiful melodies ever written.'')
• Stolen Moments by Oliver Nelson
• Three Hours Past Midnight by Johnny Guitar Watson(which FZ would save if only allowed one)
• Can I Come Over Tonight by The Velours
• Bagatelles for String Quartet by Anton Webern
• Symphony, Opus 21 by Anton Webern

Shamelessly stolen from Belgianwaffle's blog so I don't lose it. Thanks Mr Jones.

Monday, 7 March 2011

How to gender a skull

I am often asked how to determine the gender of a skull, and have recently found these instructions.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Facets of the shin

Part-finished crucifix figures, Upper Rhenish, c. 1500. Historisches Museum, Basle.

Which are most instructive for the shaping process, stripped down as they are to facets and an outline.
Technical thoughts:
Few of the facets are directly facing the viewer, which may contribute to the sense of jutting 3d form.

The mannered shins are , especially in the second figure, impossibly attenuated and give full play to the curved blade of the tibia. The tensile strength in the wood can be felt, as a tense, brittle stiffness. There is great discomfort in the toes. In each figure at the stage where the carving was abandoned the leg on our left is more curvaceous and expressive.The leg on our right in each case is cut very straight, perhaps to maximise the straight grain, and being behind, is more load-bearing.

The drapery is surprisingly well finished on the left, and would have been rather vulnerable during the remaining carving.