Meet the Medium: Watercolour

Hello all, Rosie here! As we mentioned in this weeks episode about ‘Watercolour at War’ currently exhibiting at the Laing, I am a practising artist who primarily uses watercolour and ink.  To celebrate the Laing’s watercolour gallery I thought it would be nice to introduce you to my materials and how I got to know them.

There is no right or wrong way to use watercolours (or any other medium for that matter), what’s important is that you find a system that works for you and makes it easy and enjoyable for you to express yourself through creativity.

If you are not a painter but are interested in learning how, starting a new 2019 hobby perhaps, watercolours could be a fabulous choice. As we discussed in the episode, watercolours are quick drying, easy to set up and pack away, portable and above all fun! There are so many different techniques to learn and play with that you will be able to find the style that feels right for you! Watercolour allows for a wide range of artistic expression, which is one of the reasons ‘Watercolour at War’ was such a varied exhibition.

As I am a big believer in learning through play, I would recommend just having a go! Because it is activated by water you can continue to use your pallet once the paint has dried meaning you can pick up your painting at any point and you are less likely to waste any of your paint or ruin any of your brushes if you forget to wash them (which is always a bonus for a forgetful artist like myself).

As a child, I was given watercolour paints as my first paints as they are water soluble meaning they would not stain my clothes or make an irreversible mess. I started out with tins of very affordable ‘beginners’ paints, a couple of which have survived to this day. These were a fantastic starting point and would keep me entertained for hours. As I was young, I would usually need to be supervised when using liquid paints such as poster paint or acrylic, however as watercolour was solid I could play with these as often as I wanted. Playing with pallets such as these gave me a good understanding of mixing colours, an understanding of how to implement the correct amount of water to activate the paints and achieve the look I needed and, arguable most importantly, how to not cross contaminate colours and waste paint having to clean it up. Too many times in my childhood was my white paint pink. These were all important lessons in the fundamentals of painting that can be applied to many other mediums.

As I got older and was trusted not to destroy all my clothes and my house, I was given a Winsor and Newton pallet and a Van Gogh pallet. These originally came with little brushes (which are now lost to the ages) and would serve me well for many years. The colour was richer, much more pigmented. The paint mixed with the water with more ease than my earlier pallets which were dusty in comparison. Unlike my last pallets, each colour was in a self contained tray they could be replaced when empty. This also gave me the luxury of rearranging the colours to my liking and giving the pallet a deep clean in between projects. As I had no money I quickly discovered that you could refill the trays with paint from a tube and maintain a fully functioning pallet for a reduced cost. The Van Gogh pallet was a gift from my grandad and has always been a favourite.

flash forward to 2016. I have graduated and have now been using watercolour as a serious hobby for 3 years. With new found freedom from the constraints of my university fine art practice, I take the time to dabble in watercolour more seriously and decide to use my tubes of paint to create my own pallet. I pick up this repetitively cheap plastic pallet and add all of the colours I feel I am likely to use in an order that makes sense to me.

Although my pallet may look messy there is method to the madness! The mixing trays feature some of the colours I have mixed for ongoing projects that I can activate again simply by adding water. once I have completed my project I can give the trays a wipe down with a cloth to restore order and start all over again! This is unlike most other mediums, which would be unusable once they have dried. For this reason one could perhaps argue that watercolours are less wasteful than other paints, such as acrylic which cannot be used once dry, as they do not demand that you asses exactly how much paint you will need for a painting session. Watercolour allows you to revisit the exact same pallet weeks after you mixed it, which can be quite useful if you have a busy schedule!

Because this is my first pallet, I can admit that I got a couple of details wrong which I can alter next time. For example I put the black and browns in the slots with no mixing tray which in retrospect I now know is not smart (I use this colours WAY more that I thought!) and I could probably do with one less blue. The beauty of this is that when my paints become scarce I can re do it!

Brushes:
Watercolours require soft brushes that can hold the water (and paint) as you use them. This inst a rule so feel free to use the brushes available to you or the ones that you prefer, but a soft brush is usually standard practice. My watercolour game was forever changed when I discovered these water brushes that can be filled with liquid and squeezed to distribute its contents into the bristles of the brush. I always have one of these in my pencil case ready to go as it allows me to start a quick painting wherever I am, even if water is limited! I have found you still need to clean them and use a container of water as you go, but I find this so so useful when using water soluble materials.

I would also like to try filling my water brushes with ink and having a play.

If you are interested in purchasing some watercolours but aren’t sure where to start you could pop into Details, the art supply shop in Newcastle Art Centre, which is a independent and family run store. The staff are super knowledgeable and will be more than happy to help and inform you about the watercolours available on the market. I also pick up a lot of my materials from Amazon, which is always good for a bargain!

If you know of any good art supply shops please let me know! I am always on the hunt for additions to my supplies and I am keen to support local businesses and independent shops!

Remember, you do not have to spend a lot of money on art materials! Work with what you have and what you can afford. You can still develop your skills and your craft with a £10 as you could a £100 pallet – its all about putting the time in. Practice makes perfect.

I hope you enjoyed meeting my medium! If you want to see what I do with these materials you can follow my practice on my Instagram! I sketchbook work, completed pieces and process videos in watercolour, ink and drawing so go check it out if you fancy it
@rosie.the.artist

Thanks for taking some time to meet my medium and happy art-ing my friends!

-Rosie

Art Daze: A Place to Recharge during an Art Day (Part 1)

Avoiding art fatigue is an important part of any art enthusiasts’ life! No matter what you call it (‘museum overload’ and ‘museum feet’ to give a few examples) the struggle is real. Art fatigue is a phrase that we have created to describe the feeling of exhaustion unique to a day traipsing round museums and art institutions. Everyone has their limits. After absorbing so much art, supporting documents and forming opinions and ideas surrounding these sources, it is easy to feel drained.

This can be particularly true when visiting open studios: So much to see and do! But also a lot of ground to cover! While reflecting on the Gateshead Open Studios featured in this weeks episode and with the Ouseburn Open Studios fast approaching, we felt it was important to make a public service announcement addressing this.

Time can fly in an art gallery, particularly the larger institutions such as the BALTIC or the Hancock Museum. Many times on their travels the ‘Hey Art, What’s Good?’ gang have lost track of time in the V&A, The British Museum or the Tate and have been struck down with art fatigue, wishing only for a helpful guide to lead them to a nice, affordable place to go for a brake. We do not wish anyone to feel this way in our very own Tyneside and so we have given this issue some thought…

The best medicine, we have found, is a sit down and a beverage. Like a fine wine to a meal, we have paired up gallery spaces to different bars and cafes which could provide you with a moment of refuge. Heading to a bar or café can provide an opportunity to have a think about the art you have just seen and let your reactions clarify. You can do this solo, perhaps perusing the free literature you picked up in the gallery over a brew and perfecting your Instagram post about your cultural experience, or among friends discussing the bits you enjoyed and the bits you didn’t. We have tried to choose pleasant and affordable establishments that are within walking distance of the art galleries we have included, so that if you need to take an emergency brake you need not fear. We enjoy cafes and bars which have a creative feel, so that they do not detract from your art day. No Wetherspoons will be found on this list!

We want to support the arts and creativity in Tyneside and feel that small, local and independent businesses fall under that. It is important that we give these places our support as they are helping sustain our local economy, are more environmentally sound and are bringing some diversity to Newcastle and Gateshead. These businesses are what makes Tyneside what it is. The bars and cafes we have chosen are by Geordies for Geordies. The businesses we have included in this list are places we actually go to and enjoy spending time! Let us know what you think and if you know of any good local bars and cafes near some art institutions please let us know! You can leave us a comment or reach out to us on:
Twitter and Instagram: @heyartwhatsgood
Gmail: heyartwhatsgood@gmail.com

 

Baltic and Sage

The Baltic and the Sage are two of the most important art institutions in the North East and represent a large part of the Northern arts scene. We expect that you may have been to both but if not we would strongly recommend!

         Block and Bottle   –

After spending time in the large and impressive art institutions along the river you may benefit from scaling down and enjoying the services of a small indie business. Rather than taking out a bank loan to afford a couple of pints at the Sage or Baltic bars (or even the rather pricey shipping container village) head on over to the Block and Bottle! Block and Bottle is a bottle shop and butchers combo which offers fridges packed with interesting cans and bottles that you don’t come across in your average shop. B&B also have a couple of taps so if that’s more your style don’t despair. Although at first it can be a bit strange to sit at the singular table among the meat counter, the place has good vibes, friendly staff and an impressive selection of drinks.

This is a foodies dream as you can grab a can and talk to the folks behind the counter about their produce, which Ellie almost always takes the opportunity to do!

We are also big fans of the art that can be found on beer cans! We have all been guilty of choosing a beer based on the art it features, but what can we say – we are slaves to the aesthetics! We recommend keeping the cans and upcycling them into plant pots or pencil holders. Just use a can opener to take off the top, give it a sand to avoid any sharp edges and give it a clean.
Distance from gallery: 13 minutes, 0.6 miles
14 Wellington St
Gateshead
NE8 2AJ

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         Station East      –

If you fancy a more traditional bar, Station east could be the place for you. With many nooks and crannies, this pub is perfect to settle down for a moment, rest your aching feet and enjoy a local brew. There are pies and pastries available behind the bar and this pub offers a loyalty card so that you can earn point for your beer (truly the perfect system!). Friendly staff are always happy to give a beer recommendation and feel free to ask for a taster so that you know which pint will pair correctly with your day of culture.
Distance from gallery: 12 minuets, 0.5 miles
Hills St
Gateshead
NE8 2AN

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          Grumpy Panda

Grumpy Pander may be one of the best kept secrets in Tyneside. Hidden just off the Gateshead high streets it offers an impressive selection of vegan cuisine. None of us here at ‘Hey Art, What’s Good?’ are vegan, but the food is so good it doesn’t matter! The diner offers hot and cold drinks and a fairly extensive menu of delicious food stuffs both sweet and savoury.
Distance from gallery: 21 minutes’ walk, 0.9 miles
14 Regent Terrace
Gateshead
NE8 1LU

 

System

System Gallery aims to provide a space for local up and coming contemporary artists to exhibit their work. This white gallery space usually has quite a fast turnover so it’s likely that you will see a different show each time to visit. The work is quite varied and so part of the excitement is not quite knowing what you’re going to get, but that is will probably be new and interesting!

         Bar Loco   –

Bar Loco is the obvious choice, seeing as you have to walk through the establishment to get to the gallery. However just like System, Bar Loco provides a space for the creatives of Newcastle to meet and showcase their ideas. Many a time have the girls of ‘Hey Art, What’s Good?’ wandered into a free gig, an open mic night and once a double bass practice. The bar is a space where political and activist groups meet and the space is oozing with art in its aesthetic.

We also believe that Bar Loco serves the best nachos in town, so grab a beer, order a sharing portion of nachos and talk about some art!
Distance from gallery: 0 minutes’ walk, 0.0 miles
22 Leazes Park Rd
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE1 4PG

         Tea Sutra   –

Just down the street from System Gallery is Tea Sutra Teahouse, a tea lover’s haven above the joke and costume show Magicbox on Percy Street. This café provides a space to meet with friends and family or simply have some time to yourself! The environment is cosy and the tea menu is extensive. Tea Sutra is a café which encourages you to enjoy a moment a stillness. Patrons can relax as they wait for the tea to brew and become cool enough to drink. If you ask nicely the employees also give out free refills in the form of a flask of boiling water that you can pour into your teapot to make the most of your tea leaves.

There is a small food menu which offers vegetarian and vegan curries, soups and wraps. It is also well worth trying the chi-of-the-day. There is a ritual to drinking tea this was that nurtures meditation. If your art day has you a bit flustered we recommend you pay Tea Sutra a visit.
Distance from gallery: 1 minute walk, 348 ft
1st Floor
2 Leazes Park Road
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE1 4PF

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The Great North Museum: The Hancock

 

         The Hancock (Pub)

With the very same name as the museum, it would be hard to avoid talking about the Hancock pub. Best known for its deals on alcohol and its student clientele, this bar is better catered to those on an art adventure with friends. The bar has pool, a decent smoking area and very reasonable prices on both the food and drink menu.
Distance from gallery: 5 minutes’ walk, 0.3 miles
2A Hancock St
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE2 4PU

         Quilliam Brothers’ Teahouse

Quilliams could be described as a creative space in its own right and so makes a wonderful addition to any art day. This family business (actually set up and run by three brothers) offers a vast selection of tea and coffee as well as a great food menu and a mouth-watering selection of sweet treats.

Kitted out with its own small cinema and frequently exhibiting artwork you can take this opportunity to have a break from one art day and browse through the Crack and Quilliams filers to see if there are any film screenings coming up that take your fancy.
Distance from gallery: 4 minutes’ walk, 0.2 miles
Claremont Buildings
1 Eldon Place
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE1 7RD

IMG_20181122_151013Photograph: Dylan McKee (@djmckee)

WOMEN IN ART: where to find out more…

For this week’s episode the HAWG? gang went to see the exhibition ‘WORTH’ by the wonderful Lady Kitt at Praxis Gallery (link to episode here!). The exhibition addressed the representation of women in the everyday. This got us thinking: like art, the fight for equality should be inclusive rather than exclusive. The point of equality is that it is for the benefit of everyone! But just like art, so many times we see feminist (and various other social movements fighting for equality) divided into the ‘right’ way to fight for equality and the ‘wrong’ way. Sometimes this can bog down the fight, making it unapproachable for those on the outskirts of the battlefield, wanting to join in but not knowing how and worried they might take a wrong step.

Our attitude to this, just like with art, is to start a dialogue. We are here to educate and debate. We know we do not have all the answers, but through conversation and debate we are eager to learn and grow. We’re all entitled to our own opinions, not everyone has to agree with them but we do have to respect them.

We have collected a few different resources with regards to feminism within the context of art. The links provided have information on feminism, activism, the male gaze vs. the female gaze and female artists generally doing cool things. We wanted to make sure that you have some materials to help maintain your arsenal of knowledge, or give you a starting point if you are interested but don’t know where to begin! To make sure there is something for everyone we have provided a variety of different formats so that you can choose to have a casual browse or a full-on deep dive.

And as always, please feel free to get in touch if you would like to continue the conversation!

 

To Read:

The male glance how we fail to take women’s stories seriously // Long read

www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/06/the-male-glance-how-we-fail-to-take-womens-stories-seriously

 

From Trump to Brexit: how bad graphics triumphed over slick design // Medium Read

Political art is on the street, in public space, made by the every-man and in plain sight. And in today’s political climate we have been seeing more and more of it. I am of course referring to the banners and placards used in marches. This article by Oliver Wainwright for the guardian explores how the art of the people resonates more than that of sleek and expensive political campaigns.

This article is not specific to women, but it addresses how our art and our images can be used to empower our fellow human and communicate a message of justice and equality…

www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/mar/28/posters-protest-artworks-hope-to-nope-pink-pussyhat

 

In today’s art auctions, the ‘male gaze’ is going out of fashion // Short Read

Is the problematic male gaze finally becoming unpopular in the art market?

www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/art-auctions-male-gaze-national-gallery-artemisia-gentileschi-me-too-a8469716.html

 

This art project shows men what it’s like to be harassed on the street // Short Read

www.indy100.com/article/art-project-shows-men-what-its-like-to-be-harassed-on-the-street-8284051

A classic role reversal – art that puts men in the position of women who are cat called and harassed on the street. It’s not a complement

 

To Watch:

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict // Film

Saw this in university with my fellow artist (then fellow art student) Sinead Whelan and it honestly changed the flames artist I wanted to become. If you want to know about a fucking cool art bitch, Peggy Guggenheim might be the OG

www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/reviews/peggy-guggenheim-art-addict-film-review-an-unlikely-sexual-allure-an-amateur-collector-and-gallerist-a6768336.html

 

To See:

Dial Down The Feminism // Meme

Memes are wonderful beautiful things. We are big fans. Rosie might use a Curation Corner to argue that they are fragments of a larger post-modernist movement within a digital framework, but until that day, there is this: You may have seen the ‘dial down the feminism’ meme, and here is a small piece on its origin. Feminism is too problematic? Hmmm, maybe it is you that is too problematic.

www.indy100.com/article/dial-down-the-feminism-artwork-viral-alex-bertulis-fernandes-modern-photo-criticism-metoo-times-up-8204126

 

Indian women wear cow masks to show they are less safe than cattle // In pictures

Indian women wearing cow masks on the street to address the fact that they are more at risk than sacred cattle. Using powerful religious iconography to prove their point

www.indy100.com/article/cow-masks-india-women-less-safe-sexual-assault-rape-murder-8375596

 

This artist put Donald Trump quotes on sexist 1950s advertising posters // In pictures

This artist puts Donald Trump Quotes on 1950’s posters, highlighting just how ridiculous and outdated his opinion on women really is (as if we didn’t know already! But still very entertaining)

www.indy100.com/article/donald-trump-misogynistic-vintage-posters-art-artist-satire-7643631

 

Celebrating the female gaze: women photographing women // In pictures

A series of photographs of women by women. A dynamic, diverse and thought provoking collection of images that is worth a look!

www.theguardian.com/culture/gallery/2017/jun/28/female-gaze-women-in-pictures

 

‘Girl on Girl’: Photographer Rose Willoughby explores the female gaze in delicate but deliberate portraits // Artist

www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/news/girl-on-girl-photographer-explores-the-female-gaze-in-delicate-but-deliberate-portraits-a7423111.html

( Artist: rosemaisiewilloughby.com)

 

To Hear:

Front Row: ‘Women and Sexism in the Arts’ 

www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b099v302

 

‘She Who Dares: Feminist Artists’

Elif Shafak a Turkish author and feminist activist celebrates female artists and female creativity

www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csvs4q

 

Social Media:

www.indy100.com/article/this-artist-is-turning-all-the-sexist-comments-she-receives-on-instagram-into-art–WkqEwbP5_b

This artist is turning all the sexist comments she receives on Instagram into art.

Instagram Accounts:

https://www.instagram.com/aminder_d/?hl=en

WOMAN WORLD by Aminder Dhaliwal // an ongoing comic about a future world in which women are the only people left on the planet, and the amazing relationships and scenarios therein.

https://www.instagram.com/girlgaze/?hl=en

Girlgaze // a platform to see works and art by women about women. They post great Instagram Stories about some amazing things women are doing and a weekly ‘Not Fake News’ story further exploring some major world events of that week.

Some further thoughts: Tales of Valiant Queens, an Insight into Chila Kumari Singh Burman’s Latest Exhibition

A couple of weeks ago, Alice and I went along to the MIMA in Middlesbrough after receiving an invite to come and check out their new exhibitions. Alice and Rosie had been along before and did a podcast on their initial visit, but this was before their new exhibitions were there.

The three new exhibitions being shown this time were Making, A Life by Peter Hodgson, Living Beyond Limits and Tales of Valiant Queens by Chila Kumari Singh Burman. They were all amazing exhibitions and we spoke about them all in our most recent podcast episode. However, in this blog post I’ll be talking solely about Burman’s exhibition.

While we were there, there were talks by the artists on their exhibitions. We listened to Chila speak for over an hour and a half in what was meant to be a half hour talk, and I only wish she spoke for longer. She told us of how she grew up in a working-class Punjabi family in Liverpool in the 1970s and how the things she grew up with and experienced have influenced her art from then till now.

In the room, her work dominated the walls and took over the senses, printwork in vibrant colours, a video playing with loud music and amazing visuals, and who could forget the beautifully decorated tuk-tuk at the top of the room? Her printworks have been the main focus of her work over the years and each of them tell a different story and showcase different themes.

Some of them are collages that look innocent at first, but upon further inspection they contain some sexual imagery. As Burman explained in her talk, this was her way of expressing her female sexuality in a culture which didn’t allow it. Other prints of hers are much more obvious, including her body print in sugar which was shown in the seminal black feminist exhibition The Thin Black Line (1985). Burman uses her work to fight against stereotypes of Asian femininity and as part of the movement for women to take back control of their own bodies.

Her work also tackles issues of politics and race, with printwork which showcases her feminist and anarchist ideals. Symbols of immigration policies and systematic racism in Britain are highlighted in her works, including a print which shows Margaret Thatcher standing across a barbed-wire Europe and a British passport. It represents issues of colonialism and empire and it  shows the struggle of people coming from Asian countries into Britain and the hardships they faced from the Government.

Her work is incredibly inspirational and frankly very fun to experience in person. Every piece tells a story and I truly believe there’s something for everyone to enjoy in this exhibition. I look forward to seeing more of Burman’s works and after this visit, I’m confident that I’ll be coming back to the MIMA for more amazing works.

If you haven’t already, make sure to check out our most recent episode of Hey Art, What’s Good to hear about more of the exhibitions at the MIMA.

-Amy Smith

The Wonder of Documentary Photography

Last week we all went to check out The Last Ships by Chris Killip, a fantastic series of black and white photographs that present the viewer with a multifaceted insight into the declining ship-building industry on the Tyne in the 1970s. (If you haven’t listened to it check it out here). This was an exhibition that really exemplified the power a photograph has to freeze a time in place, and offer a remarkable point of reference for future generations.

Immediately after seeing this exhibition myself and Amy got the Metro over to Byker to check out the opening of another documentary photography series, titled Byker from the 80s by Tom Ingham, who lived in the area at the time and has recently returned. This too was a black and white series, photographed on film I’m assuming given the decade, and sought to document Byker upon the completion of the Byker wall which was a massive change for the area. During the Great Exhibition of the North the BALTIC had a great exhibition called Idea of the North (which we did an episode about), and as a part of it there were several photographs by documentary photographers of the Amber Collective. One of the series here portraits of residents who lived in the wall in around the same time as the 1980s, and I recall reading some information about the intention of the wall’s construction and what it meant to the residents of the Byker area, who lived as a close-knit community in Victorian-era terraced houses (much like the ones seen in Killip’s photographs). The idea was to offer the current Byker residents a modern and nice place to live and to remain as a community, however after the wall’s and the surrounding estates completion only around 20% of the original residents remained in the area, breaking up the community.

The remarkable thing with this series of photographs compared to that of The Last Ships is that I recognise the Byker area very well through them, as it hasn’t really changed at all since Ingham’s images were taken. And it is this that makes me marvel at documentary photography, and indeed any kind of photography of people and places: the images we take today are documenting what we do and where we live, and future generations might see them in a variety of contexts, able to compare and contrast them with whatever comes after us. The capacity to entirely freeze a moment or an era in time is something I adore about photography, and it is something I endeavor to do whenever I take my camera out and start shooting.

I really hope you go check out these fab exhibitions, The Last Ships is on at the Laing Art Gallery until 23rd December, and Byker from the 80s is on at Byker Community Centre, but you might have to get in touch with them to find out when you can visit (here’s a link with some more info).

Thanks for reading!

-Alice

Beyond Compare: Art From Africa in the Bode Museum

‘Every visit to a museum prompts viewers to compare and interpret objects, but what does it mean to identify similarities and differences?’

The Bode Museum is a historic art museum located in the centre of Berlin. Like the others around it on Museum Island, such as the Altes Museum and the Pergamonmuseum, it’s old and has an emphasis on traditional pieces of art and specific time periods, and includes pieces typically found in other Berlin museums. The particular focus of this museum is that of Byzantine sculptures, and it is amazing to see such a vast collection of such age and from a range of different countries. What makes it quite notable, however, is the museum’s most recent endeavour.

The latest exhibition of the Bode Museum is one that places European and African artworks side-by-side, grouped by theme, style and history, in such a way that has rarely been seen before in such a space. As is written on the website for the exhibition, “many objects from Africa were defined as ethnological artefacts, while other objects of comparable artistry from European ritual contexts remained in art museums” – why is this the case? Why is one artistic and the other ethnographic?

It was a delight walking through the halls of this historic and ornate museum, being able to see the stark contrasts and unexpected similarities between these geographically and ideologically different pieces of art. One thing I’ve noticed is that art is often divided by era and location, such as the Italian Renaissance or French Modernism, and African works are often also separated, so the opportunity to see them together is usually quite rare. As a result, however, you are able to draw the conclusion that every society has the same ideals being creating these types of art, the same idols to revere, the same lessons to teach, regardless of geography.

Amazingly there’s an app which has images and details of every paired items in this exhibition, with far more information than was available at the actual exhibits (which you can download here if you want to have a look). And it is because of this I can actually show some images of the different pieces (because I’m a fool who forgot to take any pictures myself).

Opposite or Complementary?

The theme of this pairing is balance. The one on the left shows a woman and a skeletal figure back-to-back, serving as something of a memento mori (a reminder that you must die), and the one on the right shows a man and a woman back-to-back, equals in life. These pieces, I would argue, are simultaneously both opposite and complementary. Life and death are opposites, and man and women is often also seen as such, however they complement one and other as without one the other would not be defined as existing.

A stark difference here, however, is that the ideologies are contrasting. On the left, the piece of European descent, serves as a warning that beauty fades, and death is the end for us all, therefore one must live life virtuously. On the right, however, a Luba figure originating from the Congo, we are confronted with a somewhat more heartening comparison, which is that men and women are in balance and two parts of an ideal whole. This would contrast heavily with the traditional European notion of the balance between men and women, where the women are definitely seen as lesser.

There are dozens of other pairings within this museum, and therefore dozens of other ways to make some interesting and previously unknown contrasts and comparisons between some awesome African and European sculptures. Since we can’t all just hop on a plane and head over to Berlin (it’s only been a few weeks and I want to go back already!) I would definitely recommend to download the app and check see them through that – the museum has done a fab job and there’s just so much information about every piece and some insight into their meanings and implications.

That’s all for me for this one, I hope you enjoyed it!

-Alice

Some Further Thoughts: ‘Decompression’ by Sally Golding and Spatial

The Hey Art, What’s Good? gang were kindly invited along to the Tyneside Cinema to check out a film from their Projections programme, which is a new programme of artists moving image. The motivation behind Projections is that these types of project are generally confined only to a gallery space, so with an entire cinema at their disposal why not utilise it to present a wide range of moving image works in a space designed for screening the moving image?

We went to go see an installation called Decompression by Australian/British artist Sally Golding and London-based electronic artist Spatial (aka Matt Spendlove). You’d be hard-pressed to call what we saw a film, but it was most certainly an experience. If you could imagine a hypnotic cross between a club, a light show, and a cinema you’d be mostly right.There was very little onscreen for a majority of the ‘screening’ aside from a sort of visual static, however this shifted part way through (I honestly couldn’t say when because time meant nothing in this space) to show quotes from a book called Expanded Cinema by Gene Youngblood. This book relates very much to Decompression given that it literally explores the concept of expanding what it means to be a cinema. (I managed to find a PDF of the book which you can access here).

A quote that I saw on screen that really stood out to me was “We have a compulsion to be occupied”, and I think this really hits home in the current age of digital and mobile media (if you haven’t read Rosie’s blog post about FEED by Zara Worth then you definitely should). I know I’m guilty of scrolling through Twitter or Instagram for ages simply because I wanted something to look at, and in the space of the cinema this would concern the images we see onscreen. The dramatic car chase, the quick cut action sequence, beautiful landscape and cityscape shots: a lot of the time they’re just visual fillers. And this can of course extend to the entirety of what we go see at the cinema; so many films have little real consequence and simply just aren’t good or engaging, they’re just something to go see. As such, Decompression works as a sort of response to this, a means to experience cinema in an entirely different way and to have the opportunity to see what that means for them. For me, it meant being completely and utterly mesmerised. I was engrossed in the sights and sounds around me, yet at the same time my mind was wandering very far and wide. I loved it.

This leads me to recall a quote I had to write an essay about at university, by philosopher Theodor Adorno: “Every visit to the cinema leaves me, against all my vigilance, stupider and worse” (Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged Life, p.25). What this can boil down to is that when we go to the cinema to watch a film we essentially stop thinking. Where Hannah Arendt posited her ‘two-in-one’ theory, detailing how thinking to the likes of Socrates would be like two people having a conversation, in the cinema one of these voices would be silenced. There are two distinct ways of combating this ideology, however. One could take it at face value, becoming dumb when faced with imagery on the big screen, or one could look a bit deeper, and come to understand how you have the opportunity to become wholly engrossed by something you otherwise wouldn’t. This is exactly how I was during the screening: engrossed. Being so engrossed actually gave me a lot to think about when it was over, so much so I recorded a podcast and wrote this little essay about it!

I hope you enjoyed this little ramble into academia here, this was such a fantastic piece and it is something I would love to look into further.

-Alice

Don’t forget to check out the next programme of screenings in Projections at Tyneside Cinema.

Further reading:
Expanded Cinema, Gene Youngblood (here)
Minima Moralia: Reflections of a Damaged Life, Theodor Adorno (here)
Stupider and Worse: The Cultural Politics of Stupidity, David Jenemann (here)

The Artist’s Book and the Book as an Art Object

Hey readers, what’s good? Back in university, I was introduced to the artist’s book at the International Artist’s Book Fair, an annual event that takes place in Leeds. Myself and one of my fellow Art and Design students manned the stall for the University of Leeds where we displayed and sold products made by our peers. I exhibited work and even managed to make a sale! But the biggest take away was a newfound love of the artist’s book.

The artist’s book is simply a book that is made or conceived by an artist (not to be confused by an art book which is a book about art). Some artists exclusively make books whilst others use books to exhibit collections of their work. Books provide an opportunity to collaborate with other artists, examine different methods of consuming art and potentially explore themes and ideas that may be difficult to communicate via any other means. Artist’s books are often self-published or published by small independent presses or collectives and the work produces is commonly limited edition or one of a kind.

An artist’s book can take many forms as artists bend the rules and challenge what we understand to be a book. Many contemporary artists’ books take the form of sculptures, others do not use paper, others are simply a stack of loose paper, some are empty and others are (literally) overflowing the page. Forget what you think a book is, art welcomes you to think outside the box!

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I am of the opinion that books, whether they be artist’s books or not, provide us with an intimate and often emotional experience that is unique to the medium. As a dyslexic who has not always had the best time with reading, my upbringing has still nurtured a great respect for the written word and the vessels that we use to consume them. Therefore, I am of the opinion that the artist’s book can provide a totally unique art experience, and not just unique in relation to other art mediums and methods of consuming art, but completely different to each individual viewer. When one consumes the content of a book, that relationship between object and reader is personal and unique to that person, that book and that specific time and place. Books often provide us with emotional landmarks in our life, whether they be a textbook, a book read for pleasure or a diary. The act of reading a book is, more often than not, a solitary act which creates a very personal relationship with the object and its contents. This is not to say that when a reader picks up an artist’s work that each reader will like the book artist’s book, it does not even mean they will have any strong feeling one way or the other. But the way that individual picked up the object, touched the cover and the spine, turned the pages and interacts with its materials, it creates an experience that is not only different to other methods of consuming art, but also one that is unique to that book.

In a previous blog post I have explained how a frame can change the meaning of an image and how it is understood. Books are simply another way of framing an artwork. ‘The Frame’ describes the context in which the art is seen and the value we place upon it. Consider the tacky laminated cover of a high school textbook in contrast to the leather-bound pages of a book of laws. We would treat the object differently depending on its frame, quite literally judging a book by its cover.

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Below I have provided some of my favourite examples of artist’s books to help give you a better idea of the ways different artists have played with the medium:

Barbara Tetenbaum & Julie Chen, “Glimpse” (2011) https://hyperallergic.com/182306/a-portal-to-unite-the-smithsonian-libraries-artists-books-collection/


Noriko Ambe, Cuts on a book of “ED Ruscha” (2008)
http://cargocollective.com/image-type-text/1A-Artists-books-digital-artists-books

Deirdre Kelly. “Coastal Walk”, 2013, edition 3, pencil on paper
http://artistsbook.lt/blog/2016/07/12/artists-book-exhibition-in-ireland-2016/


Angela Orr “The Breakdown Index Artist’s Book”, Watercolour and Acrylic on various papers (2015)
https://angelaorr.co.uk/artists-books/

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FUN FACT

We read in an ‘F’ shape! Studies have shown that we ‘read’ images and information at a glance, so fast we do not necessarily even notice. Firstly we register the information along the left from top to bottom. Then our eyes dash to the top left once more and take note of the information along the top left to right. Finally we go to the middle of the left side and follow a line horizontally across until we reach the centre of the page. This all takes place within milliseconds, before we have the chance to really register what we are looking at!

This information is used to make marketing more effective as the most important information will be placed along this ‘F’ shape. This means that we can take in an advertisement or understand a product at a glance as the information will be registered in our subconscious. The most successful marketing campaigns can use this to implant an idea with the intention of selling a product. On a less sinister note, artists and curators can use this information to make artwork more artwork easier to read, make a gallery easier to navigate and create a more pleasing composition

– Rosie

 

Resources // Further Reading

V&A Museum

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/books-artists/

Images:

https://angelaorr.co.uk/artists-books/

http://artistsbook.lt/blog/2016/07/12/artists-book-exhibition-in-ireland-2016/

http://cargocollective.com/image-type-text/1A-Artists-books-digital-artists-books

https://hyperallergic.com/182306/a-portal-to-unite-the-smithsonian-libraries-artists-books-collection/

The Tetley Gallery in Leeds hosts the International Artists Book Fair. Keep an eye out for more information on the website: https://thetetley.org/

‘FEED’ by Zara Worth and the Virtual Landscape of Social Media

Here at Hey Art What’s Good? we have taken a few opportunities to express our personal interests in the concept of virtual reality (VR) and how it is used in the context of the arts. We discussed VR technology in relation to 1UP North Gaming Expo, on our Instagram when we stumbled upon Zest Theatre’s street performance ‘Player 1’, and in various other conversations both inside and outside of the recording studio.

In this post I would like to consider how the exhibition ‘FEED’ by Zara Worth, which was shown at Vane Gallery, uses apps and social media to convey some of its ideology. The exhibition is a showcase of work by Worth from the last few years. The artist wishes to use her practice to explore our relationship with hand-held technology, social media and online culture. The show was overflowing with metaphor, so there is a lot to unpack, however I am most interested with the artist’s use of Instagram in her work.

“FEED”, the title of which describes both a social media feed and the cultural phenomenon surrounding food and lifestyle online, span across several rooms of Vane Gallery in the centre of Newcastle. The gallery is a crisp white cube space which added to the somewhat sterile aspects of the show. The work was a mixture of wall baised, 3D and audio visual pieces as this was a collection of various different projects Worth has worked on within the same subject area. This exhibition heavily focused the relationship between the impact social media has on society and culture, and vice versa. The crux of this is examining how ideas and values are shared and spread. A large portion of the work used motifs of food (in particular celery) and emojis. Instagram was featured within this several times, images mounted on the wall, spread on tables and the subject of moving image. Several television sets of varying size, shape and model displayed the same or similar footage of Worth’s instagram feed and videos she had posted on the app. Most of this content involved chopping celery to an obsessive degree, celery being the favourite food of many dieters. Opposite this, there were two rectangular projections, the dimensions of a phone’s touch screen, displaying similar content but to a much larger scale.

At university, I took a module which examined the concepts of landscape within contemporary art. Although I do not doubt that you are familiar with the term ‘Landscape’, these seminars encouraged us to consider the theory that, in the context of contemporary art, landscape is not a physical location but rather a constructed view. This relies heavily on framing, a topic I frequently discuss in Curation Corner. As I have mentioned in previous posts, the act of framing an artwork can completely change how it is read and therefore understood. Framing can take the form of a literal frame but can also include the environment the work inhabits, for example a gallery, a public space, outdoors or indoors, etc.

In the context of ‘Landscape’ and ‘the view’, this theory can be compared to looking through the lens of a camera, looking at the environment through the frame the camera provides. A good photographer knows how to create a successful composition, not by changing their subject but rather by making creative choices that impact how the subject is framed.

A perfect example of the idealised view can be found only 2 ½ hours and 109 miles away from Newcastle in the Lake District. The Lake District is a famous holiday destination in the North West of England. It is known for its lakes, forests and mountains which are so spectacular they have inspired many artists, including poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850), artist John Ruskin (1819-1900) and illustrator and writer Beatrix Potter (1866-1943). This is no coincidence. The land may look natural, but this aesthetic is only maintained through strict conservation that does not permit the land to become wild and restricts the buildings that can be constructed on the land. These rules were put in place to create the perfect Victorian resort. It is no accident that whenever rambling along a lake side or clambering to the top of a peak the surrounding view is phenomenal. This is a result of the Victorians (famous for their love of gardens) curating the landscape to create the perfect view. The environment is therefore synthetic, specifically designed to be framed and seen from specific vantage points to create a specific view. For this reason the land can be described as a landscape.

Think of this in relation to Social Media: the most successful posts are often also the most aesthetic. In this virtual landscape, it does not matter how beautiful or brilliant our physical reality is unless it can be successfully translated into the language of the virtual, framed by the platform. A photograph will only make a successful Instagram post if the subject of the photograph can be translated into a ‘view’ or ‘landscape’. A tweet will only gain traction if it can be framed with the correct grammar, emojis, and hashtags. In addition to this, social media posts must then be framed by the social and political climate of the virtual landscape as a whole, which in turn only exists in direct comparison to our reality.

For this reason, I believe that social media is a virtual reality that exists as a landscape. This is the landscape that Zara Worth’s work inhabits in her exhibition “FEED”. Worth included Instagram posts, QR codes and an app which reveals digital aspects of the work in this exhibition. Many galleries now expect their visitors to take photographs of the artwork upon their visits, however, Worth takes this to the next level by introducing technological elements which encourage the audience to have their phones in hand and engage with the work through the lens of their camera phone. By doing this, Worth was creating an additional framework for her work to inhabit. Here the artist is forcing her audience to participate in a digital, virtual landscape and interact with the concept of a view.

Worth has not created this landscape, but is utilising what already exists, bringing it to the forefront of her creative exploration. This encourages her audience to not only no notice what will normally go unseen, but more importantly encourage them to discuss it. This discussion is important as it is only by identifying this landscape can we use and enhance it. So often we hear about social media using us, the users, for its own gain. Whether it be through exploiting our personal data or the ad revenue we provide them with. I, rather optimistically, believe that if one has a better understanding of the way social media works as a virtual reality and its relationship with our physical reality we may be able to combat the issues surrounding this. Art can be the perfect platform to address these ideas. By placing Instagram in the gallery the app was framed in a different light. As Instagram is my favourite social media, I was shocked to find that in the gallery it came across as cold and manipulative in the context of Worth’s work. The heart-icon ‘Likes’ and the ‘followers’ became much less real and much more disconnected than when I have used the app myself. By changing the frame, my relationship with the app became different.

Perhaps simply becoming more aware of the realities that we inhabit and choose to invest our time into, the social media user can become more attune to the frameworks put in place to curate the virtual experience. Now, in the digital revolution, we exist in a duel reality, partly invested in the virtual whilst grounded in the physical. However, the everyday citizen of the social media landscape may be happily unaware of the ‘view’ that is presented and the impact this has on both realities. It is important to be aware of these elements, gain an understanding of how the social media user may be manipulated and question why this may be. Only through doing this can we utilise the ‘view’ of social media.

Worth’s work is thought provoking and engaging. If you did not have the opportunity to see the exhibition at Vane Gallery, you can access the archive via the link provided. I have also included Zara Worth’s socials:

 

Vane Gallery: vane.org.uk/past-exhibitions/feed

Zara Worth: www.zaraworth.com/about.html

                        Instagram @zara_worth

 

-Rosie Stronach

Some Further Thoughts: ‘Rift’ by Mani Kambo

Art and dreams have walked hand in hand throughout history. Prevalent across the arts from literature such as Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ (1823) which famously came to her in a dream, to cinematic classics like the Hollywood adaptation of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939) which used Technicolor to contrast the drab black and white reality that Dorothy inhabited when back in Kansas, to becoming the key focus of ‘Surrealism’, the 20th-century avant-garde movement concerned with exploring the subconscious. The meaning and existence of dreams has been the subject much scientific, social and artistic study. Whether dreams reveal aspects of our subconscious which we may otherwise be unaware of or if they are simply helping us process our day to day experiences they have been responsible for much creative contribution and no doubt will continue to do so.

Dreams can exist without time, coherence, narrative or form. There exists an idea that to enter a dream is not to create something new but rather a state of being that we are always somewhat a part of and are free to slip in and out of. This idea suggests that there is a stream of abstract consciousness that is constantly taking place that we can enter into a leave at will. This then gives the impression that we each have the capacity to abandon this reality and enter into a new one. We can do this not only through differing our physical state, such as sleeping, but also through the creation and exploration of the arts. ‘Rift’ could be a perfect example of this as through her chosen mediums and motifs Mani Kambo invites her audience to enter into her dreamscape.

This is most prevalent in Kambo’s audio visual piece. Kambo explained to us that she sees herself as mainly a digital artist whose practice is largely concerned with the moving image. The film exhibited in ‘Rift’ is an abstract sequence of film, photography and animation seeped in bold imagery that is coherent with the other elements of exhibition. The film is played on four sheets of fabric that hang an equal distance from each other in the centre of the room. As he projection hits each sheet of netting the images become enlarged and more distorted as the light passes through the fabric. The true beauty of this piece is that the viewer can not only walk around the film, watching as it changes from every perspective in the room, but they can also walk through it, literally entering into the landscape. As the light hits the viewer as they walk between the silk-like hangings one could argue that they then become part of the dream. As the film surrounds the viewer they can allow themself to become completely immersed. By doing this, they are inhabiting both this physical reality and the dream world that Kambo has constructed. This could therefore be a visual representation of slipping from the conscious to the subconscious, this physical landscape to a dreamscape, as seamlessly as drifting in and out of sleep.

One could even argue that all art is a dream, a dream that is becoming realised and grounded in reality as an artist translates the language of dreams into their own visual language with which they can communicate to a wider audience. There seems to be an overlap between. Examining Kambo’s work, one could explore art as a means of attempting to inhabit more than one reality at once. The ‘Rift’ that the title of the exhibition is referring to could be this pace between what is real and what is a dream, the space where one can exist within both.

Dreams are such an evocative subject matter I have left some resources and further reading so that you can delve a little deeper into the world of dreams within art.

– Rosie Stronach

 

Further Reading:

MoMA Learning: Surrealism

If you’re interested in how the practice of surrealism in the 20th century related to the study of dreams the Museum of Modern Art has information online at MoMA Learning. The link provided below offers information writings of psychologist Sigmund Freud inspired this movement as well as offering some activities that you can have a go at to pursue this subject more!

https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/themes/surrealism/tapping-the-subconscious-automatism-and-dreams

 

Front Row on Radio 4: How do dreams become art? (6 September 2018)

This 12 minute discussion examines various different elements of dreams including, what they may be, what they can do, what they have inspired and the future study of dreams. This could be a fantastic starting point if you are interested in the study of dreams or perhaps want to start examining dreams in your own creative ventures…

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06kg9wq

 

BBC Arts: Neon dreamland: Atmospheric photographs of Tokyo after dark (19th September 2018)

The cityscapes that photographer and art director Liam Wong captures exist in the space between landscape and dreamscape. His images of Tokyo resemble fantastical sci-fi backdrops or the setting of a futuristic video game in their dynamic use of colour and composition.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/5Lnn9Lg48jv1RvvvLnKKrJK/neon-dreamland-atmospheric-photographs-of-tokyo-after-dark