Saturday 22 January 2011

Bernd and Hilla Becher photography

Let’s move away from painting and sculpture for a while, and have a look at some photography.
The German artists Bernd (1931 - 2007) and Hilla Becher (1934 -) who began working together in 1959 and married in 1961, are best known for their ‘typologies’ - grids of black and white photographs with variant examples of a single type of industrial structure.

Bernd Becher studied painting at the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart from 1953 to 1956, then typography under Karl Rössing at the Düsseldorfer Kunstakademie from 1959 to 1961. Prior to Hilla Becher's time studying photography at the Düsseldorfer Kunstakademie from 1958 to 1961, she had completed an apprenticeship as a photographer in her native Potsdam.

The Bechers first collaborated on photographing and documenting the disappearing German industrial architecture in 1959, and had their first gallery exhibition in 1963 at the Galerie Ruth Nohl in Siegen. They were fascinated by the similar shapes in which certain buildings were designed. In addition, they were intrigued by the fact that so many of these industrial buildings seemed to have been built with a great deal of attention toward design. Together, the Bechers went out with a large format camera and photographed these buildings from a number of different angles, but always with a straightforward “objective” point of view. The images of structures with similar functions were then displayed side by side to invite viewers to compare their forms and designs. These structures included barns, water towers, storage silos and warehouses.

The formal frontality of the individual images gives them the simplicity of diagrams, while their density of detail offers encyclopaedic richness. At each site the Bechers also created overall landscape views of the entire plant, which set the structures in their context and show how they relate to each other. The typologies emulate the clarity of an engineer's drawing, while the landscapes evoke the experience of a particular place.

They were the 2004 winners of the Hasselblad Award. Quote: “Bernd and Hilla Becher are among the most influential artists of our time. For more than forty years they have been recording the heritage of an industrial past. Their systematic photography of functionalist architecture, often organizing their pictures in grids, brought them recognition as conceptual artists as well as photographers. As the founders of what has come to be known as the ‘Becher school’ they have brought their influence in a unique way to bear on generations of documentary photographers and artists.”

 Spherical Gas Tanks

 Gas Tank

 Plant for Styrofoam production

 Gas Tanks

 Water Towers

 Gravel Plants

 Winding Towers

 Winding Tower

 Grain Elevators

 Blast Head Furnaces

 Lime Kilns

 Concrete Cooling Towers

 Water Towers

 Water Tower

 Winding Towers

Water Tower 

 Winding Towers

 Water Towers

Thursday 20 January 2011

David Hockney digital portraits

A master with the pencil and paintbrush, David Hockney has never been content to leave his skills at that - he has always been irresistibly drawn to experiment with new technologies – there were the Polaroid montages, the photocopier and the fax machine artworks that enjoyed great success.

When the iPhone came along and introduced it’s ‘Brushes’ app, Hockney was amongst the first to create artworks on it. This is a quote from the BBC website two years ago after the ‘Imagine’ arts programme featured Hockney:

To coincide with Imagine's Premiere of David Hockney - A Bigger Picture on BBC1 Tuesday 30 June at 10.35PM, the artist is giving away as downloads three of his recent original iPhone art images available for 48 hours only. You can put these digital images onto your phone or computer.
I downloaded mine and one of them is shown here:

Hockney went on to use both the iPad and big screen iMacs with a Graphics Tablet. He composed his latest series of portraits and landscapes on screen before printing them out. They have the brushstrokes and subtle shadings that he was previously able to create only using traditional techniques.

Personally I much preferred the large scale portraits to the landscapes when they were shown at Annely Juda Gallery in London. This is what Hockney had to say about the work:
“The computer is a useful tool. Photoshop is a computer tool for picture making. It in effect allows you to draw directly in a printing machine, one of its many uses. One draws with the colours the printing machine has, and the printing machine is one anyone can have. They are now superior to any other kind of printing, but because it’s very slow, of limited commercial appeal.

I used to think the computer was too slow for a draughtsman. You had finished a line, and the computer was 15 seconds later, an absurd position for someone drawing, but things have improved, and it now enables one to draw very freely and fast with colour.

There are advantages and disadvantages to anything new in mediums for artists, but the speed allowed here with colour is something new, swapping brushes in the hand with oil or watercolour takes time.

These prints are made by drawing and collage, they exist either in the computer or on a piece of paper, they were made for printing, and so will be printed. They are not photographic reproductions."

 David Hockney: Matelot Kevin Druez 1 2009

 David Hockney: Francis Russell 2009

 David Hockney: Jamie McHale II 2008

 David Hockney: John Fitz-Herbert 2008

 David Hockney: Dominic Elliot 2008

 David Hockney: Matelot Kevin Druez II 2009

 David Hockney: Elizabeth Barton 2008

 David Hockney: Maurice Payne 2008

 David Hockney: Paul Hockney 2009

 David Hockney: Margaret Hockney 2008

 David Hockney: Jamie McHale 2008

 David Hockney: Jean-Pierre Goncalves de Lima 2008

 David Hockney: Peter Goulds 2009

Sunday 16 January 2011

Gauguin in Polynesia

In the second of my posts this weekend to mark the big Paul Gauguin exhibition at Tate Modern, London, which ended today, I am looking at his most famous works from his time in Polynesia.

Inspired by the writings of Pierre Loti, and after his brief artistic venture with Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin arrived in Tahiti in 1891 on an official mission for the French Government.
His first two-year stay (1891 to 1893) was dedicated to the search that made it possible for him to later develope a new style of painting based on Tahiti's daily life and Polynesian mythology. He lived in Mataiea with a Polynesian woman named Teha’amana.

On his return to Paris his work generated a lot of interest amongst young painters because of its originality, the decorative character and the bright colours of the compositions, chosen to render feelings rather than reality. Among his former friends, Degas liked the new painting, others like Monet and Renoir disagreed. As to Pissarro, he thought it was improper for a civilized man to plunder the myths of Oceania, which he considered uncivilised.

In 1895 Gauguin returned to Tahiti. He settled in Punaauia, with Pau’ura, a 14 year old girl, but did not find again the happiness of his Mataiea days. Ill and hospitalised in Vaiami, he considered suicide, but it it was around this time that his paintings were the most filled with serenity - regarding his painting Nave Nave Mahana (Delightful Days 1896) he wrote: "It is indeed life outdoors, but however in the forest, forgotten streams, women whispering in an immense palace decorated by nature itself, with all the wealth hidden in Tahiti. Hence all the fabulous colours, the blazing but filtered and silent atmosphere".

 Nave Nave Mahana 1896

In 1897, he painted his painting Nevermore, a complex composition according to Françoise Cachin who wrote: " With Nevermore Gauguin created a classical nude which included his Tahitian model in the line of the works he admired so much: Ingres' great Odalisks or Manet's Olympia"

 Nevermore 1897

From 1901 until his death on May 8 1903, he lived in the Marquesas, in Atuona on the South coast of Hiva Oa, where he lived with a young female companion named Marie-Rose, and built his house on stilts "la maison du jouir” (the house of pleasure). There, he painted some twenty paintings where the colours were overwhelming. In the Marquesas, his demeanor deteriorated - he incited the locals not to pay taxes and not to send their children to a school that only taught them evil. He was sent to court and sentenced, but nothing changed.

Gauguin died on 8 May 1903 and is buried in Calvary Cemetery (Cimetière Calvaire), Atuona, Hiva ‘Oa, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia.

 Tahitienne 1891

 Vahine no te tiare 1891

 Rue de Tahiti 1891

 La Orana Maria 1891

 Arearea 1891

 Parau api 1892

 Manao tupapau 1892

 Fatata te Miti 1892

 Pastorales Tahitiennes 1892

 Nafea faa ipoipo 1892

 Nave Nave Moe 1894

 Mahana no atua 1894

 Te tamari no atua 1896

 No te aha oe riri? 1896

 Te arii vahine 1896

 Te avae no Maria 1899

 Two Tahitian Women 1899