Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Art versus HeArt by giselle

I would like to share with you the work, thoughts, inspirations, and approaches of two world class modern day artists. Both artists express social commentary, personal sentiments and passions through their work, the one employing shock tactics that in some instances border on the grotesque and in others a degree of tongue in cheek humour, the other artist employing grace, romance and a lot of soul, honesty and beauty to achieve similar objectives.

No contemporary artist is more celebrated, contested or controversial than Damien Hirst, his work has dominated galleries, newspapers and auction houses. In addition to being a creative visionary Hirst has proved to be a savvy businessman, he has combined his fame and notoriety into an art empire becoming one of the wealthiest living artists today. He is the most prominent member of the group known as the Young british Artist's who dominated the art scene in Britain in the 1990's and are known for their unusual materials and for challenging art concepts.
As a teenager Hirst liked to look at illustrated pathology books, fascinated by the images of disease and injury.Through his art he explores human experiences such as love, life, death, loyalty and betrayal through a variety of media, including painting ( Spot paintings and Spin paintings ), medicine cabinet sculptures, glass tank installations and drawings.

The central, though not exclusive theme of Hirst's work has been an exploration of mortality, a traditional subject that Hirst has updated and extended with wit, verve, originality and force. He is best known for a series of works ( The Natural History Series ) in which dead animals are presented as a Memento mori ( Latin for - " Remember you will die" ) in forms ironically appropriated from the museum of natural history rather than of art. ( )
With Damien Hirst's art there is the pervasive sense of a joke being played on the crowd, a sense that has developed ever since the young Hirst said he wanted to get to the point where he could get away with bad art. But glance into that crowd and it suddenly seems unreasonable to damn Hirst too quickly. All around you may find people looking, really looking at objects in new ways albeit shockingly- an important aim for an artist.

Although Hirst participated physically in the making of early works, he has always needed assistants and now the volume of work produced neccessitates a 'factory' set-up, this has led to questions about authenticity. He describes in an interview one painting assistant who was leaving and asked for one of his Spot paintings ( which have become an icon of his work ) Hirst told her to " make one of your own " and she said " No, I want one of yours " Hirst replied "But the only difference, between one painted by you and one of my own is money.

Hirst sees the real creative act as being the conceptor, not the execution, and that, as the progenitor of the idea, he is therefore the artist - Wikipedia ( )
Damien Hirst with one of his paintings made up of thousands of butterfly wings
entitled - I am Become Death, Shatterer of Worlds
 ( 5.1 x 2.13metres )
One of the themes that has consistently pervaded Damien Hirst's career and the one that I find the most disturbing has been the use of butterflies dead and alive in his art. In 1991 Damien Hirst held a solo exhibition occupying two floors of a disused shop in London entitled IN and Out of Love. Upstairs pupae attached to white paintings hatched out into the gallery. Downstairs dead  butterflies were stuck to coloured canvasses. Hirst followed this up by creating dazzling stained glass-esque arrangements of the unfortunate late insect's wings.

Hirst is a genius at commodyfying his art - he has introduced a line of skateboards and covered a racing bike (commissioned by Bono) that was riden by Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France finale with butterfly wings. For this Hirst's assistants removed the wings of several species of butterflies- believed to include the Blue Morpho and the yellow-and-black Buttercup and glued them to the bike.
The artist's company would not say where the insects came from but commented that he had them specially bred for previous projects-including a stained-glass-style window made up also of butterfly wings. According to Hirst " I wanted to use real butterfly wings and not just pictures of butterflies, because I wanted it to shimmer when the light catches it like only real butterflies do, and we were trying not to add any extra weight to the bike.

Made up entirely of butterflies

Bringing Forth the Fruits of Righteousness and Darkness
At an exhibition at the Cleveland Museum which documents Hirst’s life work proves that God, or more broadly speaking religion, has been a life-long concern of the artist. The exhibition booklet recalls the four most important things in life according to Damien: science, art, love and religion. This quote was to compliment the content of a room in which science – supposedly the antithesis of religion – is celebrated as the dominant of the four components: glass cabinets of operating tools, and plastic models of the body are presented in front of graph paper walls. Yet, meters away in the next room was the profoundly beautiful butterfly altarpieces – a tribute to nature’s design.
There was a triplet of arched canvases, hung like three stain glass windows in a grand Romanesque cathedral entitled ' Bringing Forth the Fruits of Righteousness and Darkness.' On top of a coat of royal red paint, was stuck brilliant brightly coloured breathless butterflies, so they appear like polychrome glass.
It is believed that butterflies symbolise the resurrection, because they are like a resurrection body – once a larva, then transformed to a pupa before a butterfly.
The theme Memento mori comes through strongly in these beautiful pieces of art as many butterflies had to die to make them.

An African artist who is often included in major world shows El Anatsui strikes a rare combination of stunning beauty, fascinating communal process and deep metaphorical and poetic meaning. He draws on artistic and aesthetic traditions from his birth country of Ghana, his home  Nigeria and various Western art forms. Anatsui’s work is about transformation, he addresses a vast range of social, political and historical concerns through his central themes of the erosion of inherited traditions by powerful external forces and their manner of survival and transmission into the present.
Using found materials such as printing plates, condensed milk tins and aluminum liquor bottle caps allows the artist full freedom to improvise and invent. Anatsui is also captivated by the history of use that such materials retain.

For his metal wall hangings, Anatsui recycles bottle caps from a distillery in his home town, piecing them together to form monumental curtains patterned with rows upon rows of different brands of liquor bottle caps. For the artist, given liquor’s key history in the slave trade, these works reference relationships between Europe, Africa and the United States. Not only does Anatsui’s alchemical transformation of discarded materials raise pressing issues of global consumerism, but it highlights the blurring of geographic identities. ( http;/ )

At once sculpture and painting, Anatsui’s wall hangings drape, ripple and cascade to reflect light and create shadowy pockets. As has been enthusiastically noted in reviews around the world, viewers of Anatsui’s work exult in its overwhelming splendor and in each work’s contradictory combination of weight and lightness. Just as each work is greater than the sum of its thousands of parts, its meaning transcends the particular cultural influences that inform the artist’s practice. Anatsui’s assembled objects embody a universal relatability that strikes a chord in every one of us. ( http;/ )

Anatsui uses young people in Nigeria who have finished high school and are waiting to take their university entrance exams as assistants, " So while waiting for that, they pass away the time helping me in the studio and making a very good living. Most of them are too impatient to be artists, but they enjoy working with the materials. I think the fact that I use several hands lends something. The presence of all these hands - from the assistants, the handlers and myself - I think it adds a charge to the art. I'm beginnning to think that it might be moving in a spiritual. direction" ( )

In my opinion an artwork whether it be a painting, sculpture, drawing or installation, should cause some lasting shift in your equilibrium and leave one with a lingering sense of beauty. I'm not sure as in the case of the majority of Damien Hirst's art that being depressed, appalled or deeply shocked counts.......

Thursday, 24 May 2012

a gem in the desert

  by Adi Cloete

Today’s blog shares a glimpse of my visit to the amazing Islamic Art Museum, in Doha, Qatar. Apart from seeing my friends and spending a night in the desert :) it was one of my highlights. 

Not only does the collection within the walls of this museum fascinate, but the building itself is an architectural landmark of the Middle East.
It was designed by the well-known I.M.Pei, often referred to as a master of modern architecture, and also responsible for the design of the glass pyramid of the Louvre Museum in Paris. Pei was 91 when he was asked to design the Islamic Art Museum for Doha. To gain inspiration he embarked on a cultural journey across the Middle East, India and even China to grasp the essence of Islamic architecture.

He proposed that the museum is built on a stand-alone man-made island in the sea about 60m off Doha’s Corniche, surrounded by a park, to ensure that it would never be encroached by future buildings. The structure of the museum combines modern and traditional Islamic themes and represents a bridge between past and present, East and West. 

View from the museum to Doha's Corniche

The main building has a high domed atrium, which is concealed from the outside. At the top of the atrium the light is captured by an oculus and reflected as patterned light within the dome.

The structure of the museum is such that the desert sun transforms the building into a play of light and shadow.

When you finally make it to the various collections exhibited, one is transported into a world of detail, pattern and amazing craftsmanship. 

A few of the treasures to be seen. 
The gem encrusted falcon seen above is from India (c.1640) and is made with gold, enamel, rubies, emeralds, diamonds, sapphires and onyx. 
The little wine cup is also from India(1605- 1627)and carved from emerald!!with gold & enamel. 
The huqqa base (India 1700) was carved from jade (nephrite)with lapis lazuli, ruby and gold inlay.
Basin from Syria (1240-1260). Brass with silver inlay.
Glass bottle from Iran (9th - 10th century) , ceramic tiles and a mirror (back detail) from Iran (16th century) made from steel.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Two new members to the fine ounce team by Frieda


I want to introduce Meagan and Gela as two new facets to fine ounce. 

Their works show great detail although both of them approach their craft in completely unique ways. You can look forward to the next fine ounce exhibition in September.   

Meagan – quirky things carved from wax

I started out with pencils and paint brushes and pursued painting and drawing relentlessly for most of my life, biting the bristle (as I am not the academic sort) to get my Master of Fine Art Degree at Rhodes University in the year of our Lord 1990… My education continued to a far greater degree when setting out from my rural protestant hometown in the Eastern Cape across the seas to what seemed a completely different and fascinating world (which happened to be on the same planet), namely Europe. After submersing myself in every possible cultural and sensual experience I could, I returned home quite a different person. 

I realized at this point that I needed to take on the challenge of career and money as strange as the whole system appeared, and so began my long relationship with jewellery manufacture. After a grueling but productive apprenticeship with David Bolding in Cape Town I chose to pursue a more creative angle to jewellery making and set up my small studio at my home in Muizenberg. 

 Trying to marry business and creativity has been a bit like trying to mix water and oil - a Sisyphean task, and to my dismay for others it seems as easy as riding a bicycle.
The other less arduous challenge I face is that I see the potential for subject matter and creativity everywhere, even amidst the mass-produced, plastic paraphernalia of western culture. This synthetic debris requires only a little tweaking and restructuring, and wonders occur, a bit like plastic surgery on the cheap. Then there is the stupendous beauty of the natural landscape and all it magnificent plants and creatures, real and mythological. Add to this art history and imagination. It is very difficult staying focused on one particular thing when there is so much to explore and experience. Thank goodness for the small dose of Calvinist conditioning I have been subjected too, making me appreciate that everything has it’s place even the seemingly unpleasant or absurd.

The context where I have managed to remain tenacious is in the arena of wax carving. Objects carved are then cast into metal by means of a “lost wax” process. The fascination with detail has held my attention from the very beginning of my rendezvous with jewellery making and for the most part I do what I do for the love of wax.

Angela- and the meticulous craft

I, Angela (Gela) Tölken, am of German descent and was born in 1981, in Windhoek, Namibia.
In 2000 I moved to Stellenbosch, South Africa, to study Creative Jewellery Design and Metal Techniques at the University of Stellenbosch, graduating with my Masters in Arts in March 2006.
I currently live and work in Stellenbosch as a free-lance art jeweller and a part-time staff member of the Division for Creative Jewellery Design and Metal Techniques of the Visual Arts Department, University of Stellenbosch. Throughout my studies I was particularly interested in the creative process as a means of self-expression – a fascination which continues to determine the focus of my creative practice at present. I tend to create my jewellery with all my heart and soul, the pieces inevitably telling stories about me in the end. 

My work reveals my fascination with texture, pattern, rhythm, movement, contrasts, systems and nature. My personal style inevitably includes the use of strong, clear and simple lines, fine detail, colour, contrast and repetition. Labour-intensive processes usually constitute the bulk of my visual vocabulary and the structure of my creative practice is meticulous, deliberate (if not choreographed) and incremental to the point of "coralline accretion"(Nic Dawes in Edmunds, P. Aggregate. Paul Edmunds & Joao Ferreira Gallery. 2008.)
Being involved in the entire process of designing, conceptualizing, testing and then making a piece is a highly fulfilling, albeit at times distressing, experience. I design and produce my pieces myself and only create a piece once. All works are manufactured entirely by hand, usually over a period of several days or even weeks. My pieces, if not the work processes themselves, definitively reveal my obsessiveness as well as my firm belief in immaculate craftsmanship. 

I find enormous joy in closely observing fine details - marvelling at textures, compositions and patterns. Usually I feel compelled to touch them, trying to take them in with all of my senses. These instances of noting the inherent beauty in something always constitute moments of wonder and surprise, moments I consider to be ‘soul food’.

For me there is nothing more nurturing than being in nature, especially in remote places. Wide, apparently empty and silent expanses with nobody there (except perhaps for a few very close and special people) quite literally provide my soul with the space it needs to fully be, and to take flight.
Hiking the un-trodden slopes of the Cederberg or the Brandberg, experiencing the magic of Namibia’s arid south, its deserts and the Damaraland, taking in light changes of magnificent sunsets and sleeping under stars are priceless for me.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Gemstones and gibberish...

By: Adeline Jubi
Gemstones have always been a passion of mine, can’t resist them, like tools. I usually start planning a jewellery piece by finding the gemstone first.

Amethyst ring, Pink Tourmaline Ring, Diamond ring; Brandy Quartz ring; Garnet red gold ring.

I do apologize in advance because I might step on a few toes here, but I’m not a great believer in the metaphysical properties of gemstones.  I am, however a great believer in the placebo effect. If you want something to have a certain effect or function and you really believe in it, it might actually work. It’s like religion, it has the power to mobilise people or make them feel slightly better about themselves and their circumstances. It’s the way our psyche was designed to work; we need to believe in something bigger than us to justify the banality and unfairness we see around us.  How else does a beggar with leprosy in India, keep going. He believes that he is going to be reincarnated as a rich man in his next life.

Tanzanite & diamond earrings; Pearl earrings; Landscape Agate and Smokey Quartz earrings.

 Coming back to my point about gemstones and their metaphysical properties. One thing that you see everywhere and intelligent people are falling for it, are Baltic amber beads or some fake amber coloured resin beads, that loads of people put around their baby’s necks... supposed to help with teething. It reminds me of people in earlier times that hung garlic around their necks to ward off evil spirits or vampires. Are they not more scared that the poor child is going to strangle instead of easing or breezing through teething? I for one would have been even crankier if I had to deal with an irritating orange collar on top of molars half the size of my head coming through my delicate gums. There is no scientific proof that amber beads work for pain control during teething. I know the resin is supposed to be absorbed through the skin and Amber is supposedly a good antiseptic, but I can’t help to feel that someone is making lots of money by selling stuff to desperate and sleep deprived parents. You get a few believers to tell their friends that it really works and they tell a few more and voila! You have a roaring business. Some mommies just think that it looks really cool around their baby’s necks and if it helps for teething, it’s a bonus...  Anything for babies is BEEG Business. In my opinion, the only thing that really works for teething pain is medication. It’s probably rather un PC to say that I medicate my children (when needed), but what do you do if you have a headache? Do you take a pill or do you hang beads around your neck. It has been scientifically proven over many, many years that pain medication works for pain. Yes, I agree that there might be a small margin for the placebo effect, just like the beads, but it just comes to show that it all depends on you perspective and what you believe in. Just look at the mess we’re in because of some people’s totally ungrounded belief that Rhino horn is an aphrodisiac.
A cool trick, if you want to test if your baby’s amber teething beads or your grannies Amber brooch is real Amber. Take a needle and heat it up in a candle, now touch the amber somewhere inconspicuous, not  in the middle on top where a burn mark is going to ruin the piece, maybe inside a drill hole in case of a bead. Now touch the amber and smell...
If you smell pine needles, you have the real deal, if you smell Barbie doll, well you’ve been taken for a ride.