Thursday, April 26, 2018

Ship of Fools by Kehinde Wiley on show at Queens House in Greenwich

Ship of Fools (2017) 
© Kehinde Wiley
2724mm x 2225mm oil on canvas
Courtesy of Kehinde Wiley and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London
The first work by the American artist Kehinde Wiley  to be acquired by a public collection in the UK went on show today at the Queen’s House in Greenwich, London.

The painting 'Ship of Fools' (2017) has been acquired by the Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG) with the help of the Art Fund
Ship of Fools is a large oil painting that depicts a group of four migrants in a rickety boat with a tree trunk growing where the mast would be. Like many of the artist’s other works, Ship of Fools responds to an old master painting: in this case, Hieronymus Bosch’s panel of the same name in the collection of the Louvre.

Ship of Fools makes visible not only the problems that confront contemporary migrants, but also the invisible legacies that informed maritime history and indeed the genre of marine painting.
In the  painting, Wiley’s contemporary subjects are displaced, nameless sea-faring migrants in search of a better life who represent the perilous journey millions make today in an age of increasingly closed borders.
Wiley draws direct inspiration from Hieronymus Bosch’s own mysterious and influential scene of the same title which was created in the late 15th or early 16th century and which critiques the misbehaviour of then-contemporary clergy. Whilst Bosch’s painting depicts gluttony and desire and follows the traditional allegory of the ‘Ship of Fools’ - a ship struggling to keep its course due to a dysfunctional crew - Wiley instead gives his subjects a more heroic demeanour, suggesting that ‘foolishness’ comes from their willingness to risk everything in the search for a better life in the context of a world that typically ignores their desperation. Viewers of the painting are thus placed in the uncomfortable position of examining their own feelings and actions about migration and the migration crisis today.
Kehinde Wiley (b.1977) was recently in the news for his official portrait of President Barack Obama (see The response to the Obama Portraits) .  He was also listed in 2018’s TIME Magazine ‘100 most influential people’ list and hence can properly be regarded as one of the most significant contemporary American artists.

He's best known for majestic large scale paintings that feature people of African heritage. His works explore themes of race, identity and power that challenge the absence of people of colour from traditional art histories.

The painting was created for Wiley’s recent exhibition, In Search of the Miraculous, at the Stephen Friedman Gallery in London

'Ship of Fools' is a traditional theme which a number of painters have reflected by prior to Wiley.  
  • The ship of fools is an allegory, originating from Book VI of Plato's Republic, about a ship with a dysfunctional crew
  • The concept makes up the framework of the 15th-century book Ship of Fools (1494) by Sebastian Brant
  • This as the inspiration for Hieronymus Bosch's painting, Ship of Fools: a ship—an entire fleet at first—sets off from Basel, bound for the Paradise of Fools.
  • The tree in Wiley's painting reflects  the version painted by Hieronymus Bosch as part of a triptych. The Ship of Fools was painted on one of the wings of the altarpiece, and is about two thirds of its original length - and is now in the Louvre.
Ship of Fools by Hieronymus Bosch
58 cm × 33 cm (22.8 in × 13.0 in)
The contemporary allegory of Wiley’s Ship of Fools helps to bridge the gap between the old master paintings in the Museum’s collection and current political and social issues.

This acquisition will enable the Museum to explore its important holdings related to slavery, migration, and colonialism, and help shed new light on the Museum’s world renowned collection of marine paintings.

Exhibition information for visitors:


  • Venue: Queen’s House, Greenwich
  • Dates: From 1pm, 26 April 2018
  • Opening times: every day, 10.00 – 17.00
  • Visitor enquiries: 020 8858 4422
  • Admission: Free
  • Website: www.rmg.co.uk/Kehinde-Wiley

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Sculpting with light and shadow and drawing with pins and credit cards

The other day a reader suggested I take a look at an online article about  called Kumi Yamashita - a Japanese artist based in New York who creates
  • animated shadows and perspective distortion as artwork installations
  • portraits by rubbing and by using pins and thread and warp and weft
A constant theme of her work is the use of everyday materials to create art.

I investigated further and would now HIGHLY RECOMMEND you also take a look.

I think she's quite remarkable and amply illustrates the notions of
  • artists seeing the world in a different way; and 
  • how an artist can perceive possibilities for making art in a variety of ways from everyday objects in daily world.

An Introduction


Specifically, my reader suggested that I looked at one image of a shadow of a woman sitting on a chair.

It turns out that the woman did not exist and the artwork was created through a wood sculpture lit from a specific angle to create the illusion of the shadow sitting on a chair.

I never like to stop at one article and started looking around - found her website - and was truly impressed by the range of media used and the image /  illusions - or artwork - created as a result.

Artwork Galleries on the website of Kumi Yamashita

I highly recommend you take a look at her website - where you will find galleries relating to:

Light and Shadow


The Light and Shadow gallery is just full of exploration of different ways of creating images of people using light and a formed shape created out of paper or carved wood or whatever. The work Chair was the first to be drawn to my attention.  However I actually find others more interesting

You can see her using the wooden building blocks of a child, a child's wooden letters and numbers, creating origami profiles in coloured paper of a face, which are the repeated in cast resin etc etc.

Here's a video of some of her work



Portraits are also a theme of her work.  These are produced in three different ways
  • rubbing
  • a single unbroken thread
  • weaving

Rubbing


The Rubbing Gallery has a series of portraits. The process is somewhat similar to brass rubbings - except Kumi rubs with graphite on Japanese paper using people's expired credit cards (and moves them around under the paper) to create their portrait. The portrait of Samuel Beckett in his own words was created through rubbing graphite onto Japanese paper over plates which were embossed with passages of text from his handwritten notebooks (feels like maybe 3D printing might have been involved here as well)

Constellation

She creates portraits using a solid white wooden panel, thousands of tiny galvanized nailes and a single unbroken thread which is wound around the nails in patters to create a monochrome face with tonal features.

Warp and Weft

She also creates portraits by taking a fabric made of two different coloured threads and pulled out strands of the lighter thread to create a face - in an enormously effective manner.

Viewing an Exhibition of the work of Kumi Yamashita 


This is a video of somebody visiting an exhibition of her work. He forgets to adjust focus at times but it demonstrates the artworks from different angles



About the Artist


This is from a profile of the artist by a gallery
Kumi Yamashita studied at the Cornish College of the Arts, Seattle, and the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland. She has exhibited extensively worldwide and recently completed several public commissions in Tokyo, Glasgow, and Seattle.
Her work has had a lot of press coverage since 1994

Her practice seems to involve quite a view artist in residency and visiting artist programs.

Her work is in a number of public collections in Japan, the USA, China - and Glasgow!

Three of her pieces are coming soon to a new exhibition of historical and contemporary silhouettes opening in May at the National Portrait Gallery in D.C.

More about Kumi Yamashita


I didn't stop at her website. These are articles about her work and include interviews - and I very much recommend the first one.
Kumi’s methods and materials go beyond the confines of traditional media, transforming one medium into something else. With great attention to detail, Yamashita’s works are exhaustively complex and precise— yet they remain deeply human.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Review: Waterscape - The Big Painting Challenge 2018

This week, Episode 4 of The Big Painting Challenge was the Waterscape Episode.

Seven painters and two mentors face the Big Waterscape Painting Challenge
As it was plein air week, they of course had REALLY BAD WEATHER!  I'm not sure that they were planning to have quite so much water in the air as well as in front of them.

Mariella announced at the beginning of the programme that they were on the banks of Loch Lomond "at the tail end of a hurricane" - which I think this means it was being filmed in the third week of October and they had to go north to still have leaves on the trees! 

Here's a taster of how bad it got.

What was really odd was the variation in clothing - and you could really tell who had previously painted plein air (or was used to being outside in Scotland) and who was more used to painting in nice warm studios i.e.
  • who knew what it was going to be like (Pascal - head to toe in red waterproof oilskin of the type worn by fishermen and Tilly - who had layers on her layers and both had really effective hoods)
  • who didn't (Oliver - rocking a laddish V neck sweater and absolutely no visible waterproof whatsoever!)
Pascal in waterproofs

Pascal had a really bad week. He made Jane cry and then this....


Anyway - back to the normal challenges........

Below is my digest/review of what happened in this week's episode. This post follows on from my earlier posts (see end for the first two series and my posts about this series so far)

Sunday, April 22, 2018

A Worldwide Day of Botanical Art

My blog post about the Worldwide Day of Botanical Art Day on 18th May 2018 is my contribution to Earth Day which is today.

Next month 25 Countries on 6 Continents are hosting 
25 Botanical Art Exhibitions portraying Native Plants!

Plus on the 18th May 2018, they are all having activities on one Worldwide Day of Botanical Art to unite our concerns for the preservation and recording of indigenous / native plants around the world - and particularly in the country they come from.

So do please read about what's happening - you never know there may be something near to where you live!

Worldwide Day of Botanical Art

I've found it a fascinating project - it really makes you realise just how far some plants have travelled in the past few hundred years!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Review: Monet and Architecture at the National Gallery

I highly recommend, if you're in London this summer, that you go and see Monet and Architecture at the National Gallery - until 29th July. 

The 75 paintings in the exhibition spans 1860 - 1912 and includes series paintings of Rouen, London and Venice and wonderful paintings of places he knew well in Normandy, Paris, the Netherlands and Italy.

Some 25% of the paintings are ones in private collections - making this probably the only time you will ever see them.

While I'm not 100% behind the curator's analysis of what the exhibition is about, I'm absolutely delighted that there are so many excellent paintings on display - including some of my all time favourites!

The thing is Monet did not paint architecture per se - not like those who simply love architecture. He didn't even paint "things". What he was painting was the light and colour around rather large equivalents of squares and oblongs - as per the famous quotation below.
Try to forget what objects you have before you - a tree, a house, a field, or whatever. Merely think, 'Here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow,' and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact colour and shape, until it gives you your own impression of the scene before you.
Rouen Cathedral series - dawn on the right (east) and sunset on the left (west)
It was an absolute joy to be able to see the Rouen series from a decent distance so you could admire  them all together.

However I doubt if you'll be able to do that once the hordes arrive - unless you make a point of going late in the day and waiting until almost everybody has left!

That's because I'm very sure this is going to be a very popular exhibition. The National Gallery has been able to assemble some world class paintings from public and private collections from all over the world. Some I have never seen before in exhibitions or books.

What follows is an introduction to the exhibition - with images to give you a sense of what it looks like - and a note of how the exhibition works

I must emphasise that no book and certainly no blog post can ever emulate the way these paintings when viewed face to canvas. Some of them are quite extraordinary.

The structure of the exhibition


The exhibition is in the galleries in the basement of the Sainsbury Wing - which always seems to be the favoured location for any exhibitions which have enormously valuable paintings! It's very secure.

There are three sections to the exhibition
  • The Village and the Picturesque (3 rooms)
  • The City and Modern (2 rooms)
  • The Monument and the Mysterious ( 2 rooms)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Call for Entries - Royal Society of Marine Artists 73rd Open Exhibition 2018

Digital Submission for the Royal Society of Marine Artists's (RSMA) 2018 Annual Exhibition in October 2018 is now open. 

Entries from non-members are welcome and you have until 12 noon on Friday 6 July 2018 to get your entry ready and upload it and complete your submission online
The RSMA seeks submissions of paintings, limited edition prints and sculpture that involve the sea and the marine environment, including harbours and shoreline, traditional craft and contemporary shipping, creeks, beaches, wildlife - in short anything that involves tidal water.
The exhibition is the premier event for the exhibition of contemporary marine art.

It's also an OPEN exhibition - which means artwork selected from the open entry will hang alongside artwork by members of the RSMA.

The exhibition will be held at the Mall Galleries on 11-20th October (10am - 5pm).
Last year it was a large exhibition with artwork with nearly 400 artworks in all three galleries with a good mix of artwork by members with that selected from the open entry across the galleries as a whole (i.e. no segregation!)

This exhibition regularly does well as it is also well attended by fans of marine life (i.e. people who own boats!). That said, people who own boats are always very quick to spot errors made by those not familiar with marine life!  I vividly remember standing looking at a painting one year with somebody who knew what he was talking about - and him commenting that the boat would capsize very fast in a swell! Proportions and details are everything for those who love their boats!


Last year's RSMA Annual Exhibition PV in the Threadneedle Space at the Mall Galleries
- home to more contemporary looking artwork
In addition:
  • the RSMA Friends' Evening will be on Tuesday 9th October (Ticket required. 5.30 – 7.30pm)
  • Private View on Wednesday 10th October (Invitation only. 11.00am – 8.00pm) - with 
    • a free guided tour of the exhibition by President Elizabeth Smith PRSMA starting at 11:30am.
    • Opening & awards presentation at 3.30pm with guest of honour.
The very first exhibition of the Society of Marine Artists was prevented from going ahead because of the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.  Its first exhibition was actually held in 1946 at the Guildhall Art Gallery in the City of London.  In 1966, 20 years after the first exhibition, the Society was granted its Royal Charter and became known as the Royal Society of Marine Artists. Exhibitions moved to the Mall Galleries in 1981
The subject matter of our paintings has gradually broadened over the years to encompass not only sea-going vessels, but yachts and dinghies, the coast and sea-shore, harbours, estuaries and tidal rivers – indeed anything that is essentially marine related.
 Last year I commented in my review
This exhibition has a major emphasis on paintings with an overall lean towards the blue/grey/green colour palette! By way of contrast, there is very little sculpture, drawings and fine art prints. The framing tends towards the traditional rather than contemporary. There's a tad too much gilt on show for my liking which I personally don't think suits paintings of boats!

Gilt tends to go with paintings of traditional ships from the past

The small works hung on the mezzanine wall
One thing worth noting last year is that this is an art society that now has a female President and more evidence of female artists not only getting their work selected but of also doing well in the exhibition (see my review post for more evidence of this)

Below you can find
  • a summary of how to enter the next annual exhibition.
  • a list of prizes
  • an archive of posts about past exhibitions - which contains lots of images of the type of artwork that gets selected for exhibition.

Call for Entries

The RSMA seeks submissions of art inspired by the sea and marine environment.
Artists are strongly urged to submit NEW work NOT PREVIOUSLY EXHIBITED.
If you want to get your artwork into an exhibition then it needs to very good and it needs to be NEW.

Three reasons why artwork regularly does not make it into an art exhibition are:
  • seen before - in another exhibition (the equivalent of dissing your host!)
  • not presented well (poor framing can undermine good painting - and it's not very "professional")
  • not dry (need one say more?)

Monday, April 16, 2018

Review: Portraiture - Big Painting Challenge 2018

Portraiture was the third genre to be tackled by The Big Painting Challenge (last night on BBC1 6pm). The setting - in the RAF's Centenary Year - was the RAF Museum at what used to be Hendon Aerodrome and the models were air cadets for the first challenge and RAF and WAAF Veterans for the Big Challenge.

I took a look online and there were a fair few (generally unfavourable) comparisons with the Portrait Artist of the Year programme broadcast by Sky Arts - which I guess is inevitable given the discrepancy in knowledge, experience and skills.
This week's blog post is going to include posts by the general public on Twitter as I detect a sea change in views about this programme which I think the BBC commissioners should pay serious attention to.

Leading up to the final judgement for somebody - at the RAF Museum
You can view the episode on iPlayer in Episode 3 of The Big Painting Challenge - and below is my digest/review of what happened in this week's episode

It follows on from my earlier posts:
These are the participants in their two teams for this week's episode. This year they seem to be switching people between the two mentors on a regular basis - although I don't remember that happening last year. It looks as if they swop one person with each episode. I guess that's to avoid a situation where one team gets left with too few painters.

Diana Ali's Team - Jane. Chris, Susan and Callum
Pascal Anson's Team - Oliver, Anil, Ray and Tilly
There were a fair few tensions within the teams
  • Oliver wanted to make sure he did himself justice as he normally paints portraits
  • Chris was really anxious as he had never ever painted a portrait before - on top of the fact that he has ocular albinism. I looked up the term this week - and now understand much better the problems it presents. (How do you judge somebody who can't see detail very well against those who can?)
  • Callum had also never painted anybody from life - having spent his time to date painting sweetie packets from photos.


The First Challenge


The First Challenge involved that most difficult of portraits - a young person - in this case two young air cadets - with very young faces.

The artists had to all use the same size of support, media of their own choice and they could bring their own art supplies from home.

I found some of the "soundbite" comments from the Mentors to be absolutely farcical.