Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bohm hits Manchester Gallery

@mcrartgallery It reads like a WWII headline but the Bohm in question is Dorothy Bohm.  In the days of the war in 1942 she exploded onto the photography scene in Manchester having graduated from the College of Technology, working in a leading studio of the time and ultimately opening her own 'Studio Alexandria' a few years later.
Currently on show in Manchester Art Gallery, Dorothy's work is displayed from her early days through to her latest pieces, spanning an incredible 60 years.  The scope and scale of the exhibition gives us a glimpse of a fascinating and talented individual as we are given the opportunity to travel with them through their professional career whilst giving us a fresh perspective of cultural change across more than half a century.
 Written across the walls of the exhibition are Dorothy's words, capturing the beating heart of her craft. This is highlighted most profoundly in a quote reflecting her deep psychological and emotional connection to her work and a desire to understand and capture the transience of beauty.
"The photograph fulfils my deep need to stop things from disappearing. It makes transience less painful and retains some of the special magic, which I have looked for and found. I have tried to create order out of chaos, to find stability in flux and beauty in the most unlikely places."
Perhaps in her most recent colour works this statement rings most true, where the feeling has shifted from tonally beautiful representations of people and places through to a more abstract, subjective beauty from the arrangements of colours, shapes and textures of scenes where it seemed least obvious.  Leaving the prints untouched of any enhancements adds to this innate beauty she strives to capture.
Throughout much of her career she focused on black and white, with little attention to colour, moving away from portraiture to open air 'street' photography which she nurtured in Switzerland.  Interestingly, despite this transition she still maintained the 'human presence' as the main focus of her work.

For us today, viewing her work gives us glimpses into a changing world, both at home and abroad, with it's changing people and places.   This is emphasised further by her own transition from black and white to colour, which she finally adopted in the 80's after visiting the colour-soaked continent of Asia, sparking a new era in her illustrious career.

The exhibition is on at Manchester City Art Gallery @mcrartgallery until 30th August.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Window to the soul

Most of us buy a fair bit online these days, so why do we even bother heading to the high-street at all when etailers are usually offering us the same stuff for less?
It sounds stupid, but it's the 'realness' of being in the shopping environment, the tangible, your shopping senses tingling like crazy that appeals to us. If we buy clothes, or anything else, do we not want to be immersed in a brand's image, feel part of that image, touch and try on that image and ultimately buy into it?  To me, it's where successful brands thrive. The in-store environment is critical to successful living as a brand.  Abercrombie & Fitch's notorious frat house/night club/country manor on Savile row is the epitome of this, managing aspects from music levels, pin-up staff, to own brand fragrance sprayed religiously throughout the day. And since first impressions are all important, where better to start than the shop window.
There's loads of brilliant examples of great brands using those transparent, visual gateways to create a spectacle. To create that 'other-world' we all want to step into.  Think of it as a Hollywood movie, where you can take home part of the set. You might pay an 'entry fee' compared to the online equivalent but you got an experience. You got something far more absorbing, sensual and immersive. An experience far more satisfying while you handed over your cash, than you ever could on a soulless website.

So, some great window displays:  French Connection are getting a few heads turning (literally), using the 2 layer, reflective panels and weaving in their latest marketing icon 'The Man' manikin heads with this style.

Kate Moss, on the launch of her new range, famously modelled in the windows of TopShop, Oxford Street.

All Saints of Spitalfields, Manchester Store has huge windows full of old Singer sewing machines emphasising their hand-tailored, industrial image.

Diesel is famous for it's in-store design, and pushed it further by branching out to develop its own range of industrial-edged homewares.  It's recent 'Be Stupid' campaign posterized their window displays with large, extremely bold print and was backed up by some cool marketing materials.  In particular was a brochure, showing various ways people were being stupid, including smoking with a welders mask on. Genius. But then we know Diesel has a penchant for art.

Selfridges too, are famed for their elaborate window excellence. Here's a few examples spanning from a funky-biker santa, modern gothic/grunge to bizzare burlesque crossed with the tudors:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Herzog & de Meuron

I've mentioned these guys before, but having recently visited the Allianz Arena, home of Bayern München, and TSV 1860 München, I was blown away by the architecture and design of this stadium. Finished in 2005, the stadium is sublime in its originality and style; the ETFE-foil air panels create an incredible visual impact.  Inflated with dry air they are both matte and translucent depending on how close you are to them, and change colour depending on which team is playing.  Beyond the beautiful symmetry of the stadium itself, even the seats have the 'bubble' style of the exterior.  So impressive is it that the Meadowlands Stadium, the (soon to open) home of the New York Jets and Giants, is using the same light technology.  
Closer to home, the architecture firm is also responsible for the transformation of the Bankside Powerstation into our favourite gallery, The Tate Modern, London, whilst even further afield, the incredible 110,000 tonnes of steel, meshed and fused together, created Beijing's Bird's Nest stadium and is an another example of their genius.  Notably, the idea for this 'nest-scheme' evolved from Chinese ceramics, truly grounding the design in its surroundings.
From the Prada building in Tokyo, to 1111 Lincoln Road car park in Miami, Herzog & de Meuron have come up with some breathtaking architectural masterpieces.
Ada Louise Huxtable commented on the approach of the firm as refining "the traditions of modernism to elemental simplicity, while transforming materials and surfaces through the exploration of new treatments and techniques." Jacques Herzog himself bluntly points out the power of this approach, "A building is a building. It cannot be read like a book; it doesn't have any credits, subtitles or labels like picture in a gallery. In that sense, we are absolutely anti-representational. The strength of our buildings is the immediate, visceral impact they have on a visitor."  
Based on my visit to the Allianz Arena, I'd say they were bang on the mark for 'immediate, visceral impact.'

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Body Dysmorphia in Art

 @gagosian. We're all a bit insecure let's face it.  Some hate those extra few pounds they can now grab around their waist after gorging themselves on kebabs or necking copious amounts of Carling. Others are at war with their skin and some just hate everything about themselves. If you fall into the final category, it might be worth seeking some professional help.
Whatever it is, most of us are obsessed with the way we look. And we could be forgiven for being like this - just look at the airbrushed beauties that we are presented with, day after day, billboard after TV ad,
magazine after shop window.  Models, printed out to god-like proportions, silently screaming 'you want to look like me!', across our cities, through our TV sets and from the glossy sheets. So when we don't quite match up to these airbrushed gods we turn resentful  and play out an endless battle of self loathing and image fueled purchasing of new clothes and beauty products.  Dove's viral ad, 'Onslaught', a few years ago represented this idea beautifully.  And if you were deluding yourself that people actually look like 'that' in real life, the 'Evolution' ad demonstrates how, with a good camera set and Photoshop skills, you can turn plain-Jane into a stunner.

Let's get back to art.  Jenny Saville is fascinated by this idea of self-image and its physical representation. Producing works in the style of Bacon, Freud and Rubens she creates fleshly, larger than life, oil-painted visions of bodies and self-disgust.  Although her focus is the female form she often undermines the sex/gender boundaries in her pieces.  In the early 90's she spent hours observing plastic surgery operations in New York and admits "Bodies fascinate me. I find having the framework of a body essential. Having flesh as a central subject, I can channel a lot of ideas."  Her paintings, while they are grotesque in the bodily representation, superbly capture the grimy reality and extreme of body dysmorphia. The viewer is left repulsed in appreciation of these images that are in stark contrast to those on the advertising billboards around the corner - ironically hinting at exactly the same thing.

Latest Exhibition

Dove 'Onslaught'
Greenpeace 'Onslaught-er'
Dove 'Evolution'

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

On To The Next One

So what happened to all the women with barely any clothes on, prancing about, grinding against their singing 'pimps'?
Jay-Z has broken the mold on this one by bringing in Director Sam Brown.  He's directed a couple of Foo Fighters tracks (The Pretender, Wheels) as well as The Verve's Love is Noise.  This video for Jay-Z's single (Feat Swizz Beatz) 'On to the Next One' from the Blueprint III is a visual treat and surely one of his finest productions to date.  Black and white, sleek and edgy, grungey and gothic, stylized and clean, surreal and oppressive, this video is a piece of art that you'll watch over and over again. The Damien Hirst skulls dripping with paint, the fiery basketballs, the ink in water and visualised beats all hooked up to an awesome track have made this one of the finest and progressive videos I've seen for ages.

Sam Brown: http://www.flynnproductions.com/music/director/sam_brown/bio/

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Phi and the Golden Ratio

It sounds like it might be Roald Dahl's unreleased sequel to James and the Giant Peach, but it's not.
Is it the answer to our aesthetic dreams?  Well maybe, but whatever it is, this number has fascinated mathematicians, architects and artists for millenia now, so it must mean something right?
I don't really get maths but this has something to do with the proportions of two quantities:

"two quantities are in the golden ratio if the ratio of the sum of the quantities to the larger quantity is equal to (=) the ratio of the larger quantity to the smaller one"

Ok, so I don't get it but it's interesting because it's eveywhere.  Not only does it seem to be part of the design of nature, but it's consciously or unconsciously shaped many of the greatest pieces of art and architecture around us.  Some dimensions of the Acropolis, the Pantheon, the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Great Mosque of Kairouan have it, Salvador Dali used it in his  'Sacrament of the Last Supper'.  Da Vinci's illustrations in De Divina Proportione and The Vitruvian man exhibit it, and it is expressed in the structure of branches, the stems of plants and even the veins in their leaves.

So I wonder, is it in the design of your iPod?

Remember it when you're designing your next building, painting your next painting or measuring your next garment...does it look better now?

φ = 1.6180339887...

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It's cold outside...but really?

OK so temperatures have plummeted to about 2oC again but fashion designers Viktor and Rolf have taken it a bit far.  They wrapped their wirey model up in 23 layers for their lastest catwalk show, legs quivering, heels shaking and no doubt ready to collapse under the strain of an oversized fur coat, that  could take one of these models down on it's own.  Added to the fact she may not have eaten for a few days and we should conclude that she deserves a medal for this one.   Nevertheless the 'Glamour Factory' is intriguing and while I'm not big on the whole catwalk thing, it does give a pretty cool spin (literally) to what is typically just a long line of struting noodles in bizzare concotions, all ready to be dummed down for us plebs who can't pull it off.
The pieces themselves are also pretty decent, in my ignorant opinion.  Huge 'shawl-like' coats are transformed into fitted, slinky coats and pencil skirts at the flick of a few zips.  I quite fancy a 'shawl-coat'  for myself now. Some of the look is still quite industrial, grungey, gothic with  the black aviators, caps and metal buttons & zips - I wonder what the men's fashion take would be.  It sends you a bit loopy when you realise all the models look like clones....

After 18 minutes the girl ends up back wrapped up for the new cold front again - poor thing.

Watch Catwalk