Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Car crash, crashed cars: art works revisited

A couple of months back I posted about car crash as a subject and object in some artists's works, and surprisingly people seem to be fascinated by car crash, death and chaos (keyword searches on Google told me). Well here is some more, gruesome and graphic images by New York-based Danish photographer Peter Funch and one of the latest photo series from German artist Ricarda Roggan, who's better known for her still-life arrangements and installation of furniture piles.

By moving the spotlight from the human physical beings to the wrecked cars, both artists make these objects represent a human failing or a human emotion, as if they are dying victims rather than just vehicles. In Roggan's photographs a falling-off bumper looks like a frowning mouth, while smashed headlamps suggest downcast eyes. The spectre of abandonment, isolation and death is present – not only because there has been an accident, but because these cars are obviously not bound for the repair shop: they will remain permanently obsolete.

Funch however, approaches the scene with a very different perspective. He captures the moment of clashing forces, the fragility of human bodies and the crash's aftermath perfectly with his journalistic and forensic style, with great precision and careful observation. His latest project Babel Tales is far less bloody and worth a look too.

Ricarda Roggan, Garage (2008)

Peter Funch CRASH (2009)
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Friday, 15 October 2010

He Sen: the lost generation

Beijing-based artist He Sen has been painting girls smoking, drinking and dazing for a good 10 years now. He has quietly become a powerful force among contemporary Chinese painters. His ultra-realisitc and photographic oil paintings of women, often in seductive underwear and poses, are sharp and blurry at the same time, with starkly contrasting colours, greyed-out background and vivid details which paint a bleak and pessimistic picture of the youth culture in China. 

Without contextualising the images it's easy to dismiss He's work as simply the "objetification" of women, possibly border-line "erotic". But the message here is more complicated than that. These women are beautiful, yet their bodies are deadly grey, their faces often blank and lacking intensity compared to their clothing and pose, shadows often dance into the background and the only one or two details that stand out are the lips, the drinks and the cigarette smoke.  After much fame and fortune, He has moved on in recent years to ink and pen and re-invented classic Chinese paintings of flowers and trees, but to the Western world these nearly naked sad girls still look far more interesting.  

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Thursday, 14 October 2010

Monkey King in contemporary Chinese Art

Ever heard of the Chinese legend Monkey King? Think of Spider Man, but way cooler. Monkey King Sun Wukong can ride clouds, clone himself with his monkey hair, spot demons and witches with his Fiery Golden Eyes, even when they dress up as innocent pretty girls ready to seduce. He's also a shapeshifter, able to transform into 72 objects and animals. He hates the authority and was put under a big rock and spell by the gods for sabotaging the Heavenly Kingdom, until the Journey to the West novel made him a bodyguard of Buddhist monk Tripitaka, who was commissioned, in real life, in the 7th Century to trek to India to retrieve Buddihist sultras. Alone with the Monkey King, there was Pigsy, Sandy and the monk's white horse, whom later revealed himself to be a dragon prince.

The traditional realisation of Monkey King is often in the form of opera, film and staged play, but contemporary Chinese artists have found new ways to re-interpret the classic Monkey - in a space suit with a big six-pack.

Check out the carefully handcafted toy figures by Cacooca, an enterprise based in Beijing that creates funky designs of Pandas in print and figures.

Contemporary Chinese Artist Wang Mian (not the one from the 14th century) has also produced a series of mini-sculptures featuring the Monkey King and his fellow disciples. All in somewhat a futuristic and sci-fi fiction inspired style. Wang's work has been exhibited in China and Switzerland.
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Monday, 11 October 2010

Lissy Elle: beauty in Wonderland

There are plenty of fashion shoots, magazine covers of girls mixed with leaves, water, flowers, trees, whatever you like, to create a dreamy and romantic atmosphere, that sort of photos you'd associate with teenage girly fantasies. And amongst the best of this kind, Lissy Elle, the Canadian photographer, people's Flickr princess has produced some stunning looking work in recent months, following her much praised series of floating bodies in the air called "Get Back In Your Book"

Check out her Facebook page for the latest rejects that didn't make it on Flickr, and her Tumblr for Qs & As
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Friday, 8 October 2010

Timothy Archbald: Man and Machine

Men have this natural psychological horror when it comes to machines, from Isaac Asimov to the Terminator, we fantasise and terrorise ourselves with robot baddies. This series of photographs by Timothy Archbald seeks to disintegrate the myth around the robotic and showcase the quirky workspace in the home of the founder of Hanson Robotics, Evan Hanson in Richardson, Texas. Enjoy more of Archbald's works here

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Thursday, 7 October 2010

Kesley Henderson: Beauty in platonic crush

Portraits normally bore me, but not Henderson's, whose work is a brutally honest study in perception and attraction. Her painting style is traditional, normally using oil on large scale canvases, comprised of seemingly invisible layers which connect to her subjects like skin. Lying at the heart of her work, the emphasis on the skin and body enables the artist to continually exploring the idea of the "Platonic Crush", an immediate attraction to someone, without a primary focus on sexual attraction. They reflect encounters with people that you want to look at for a longer period of time (without being creepy), rather than just brushing past them in the street.  Using a desaturated palette, these excruciatingly pale portraits become almost translucent. The bones, bruises, scars, veins and tendons shine through, not as imperfections, but emblems of beauty. Describing these obsessions, the collection of crushes, Henderson says, “The people I select are neither flawless nor of a conventional charm; rather, their raw and real beauty creates a uniqueness which draws interest to my paintings.”

Kesley's photographic realism paintings can also be related to fashion photography through the subject’s dress, stance and eye contact. Check out the short film below produced by FLY 16x9 fashion and art web channel, New York, who followed Kelsey during her work and documented the creation of oil paintings during a Christian Dior shoot with models Masha and Toni. The direction was carried out by Melissa O'Brien.

Platonic crush from FLY16x9 on Vimeo. Full post...

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Autumn/Winter 2010 Bands to Watch Part 1

Back in June I posted about some bands which went down a storm with zero comments and no views. To follow this tradition I'm highlighting a few more for the approaching autumn/winter. Like fashion shows, twice a year, without actually being ahead of the trend and requires no Vogue editors to sit on my front bench, here's the catwalk. In no particular order...

El Guincho
The one man band consists of Pablo Díaz-Reixa is often mistaken for a group due to the wonderful arrangements of tropical beats and melodies in his works, taking Fool's Gold's Surprise Hotel happy mood to the next level. His new video Bombay is full of surprises including nudity, foot fetish and shooting a Panda toy bear. Directed by the talented Maruxa Alvar, who's a set designer of many Spanish short films and features.
El Guincho takes inspirations from a wide range of genres, for a glimpse of what made his new album Pop Negro so different, check out his Spotify playlist here
Currently touring in the UK, El Guincho would be back in London on the 4th of Nov in Cargo, prepare to break out some serious Latin dance moves.

EL GUINCHO | Bombay from MGdM | Marc Gómez del Moral on Vimeo.

If you thought Hudson Mohawke was wonky, check out his fellow Glasgowegian dub electronic wizard Rustie, who's pioneered a genre invented by the Warp record naughty man whom shall-not-be-named as "aqaucrunk". Before I rant on about this invented sub genre which was embraced quickly even by the Guardian, have a listen of the teaser mix of Rustie's new EP Sunburst, out now. It's dublicious.
Rustie spinned and shined at his EP launch party at the Camp on the 1st of October, his next show is in Brighton on the 22nd this month. Make your way down.

Rustie - Sunburst EP Minimix (out 4/5 October on Warp Records) by Warp Records. Uploaded with Scup

At this precise moment as I type, there are 930 listeners on Last fm for Islet, and over 9000 plays of their not so big library. That means everyone who's lucky enough to stumble across this band (thanks to my music buddy the Owl Post for the tip) on average listens to them for10 times. That must mean something as I rarely follow through on new discoveries.

Not much is known of this experimental group of four from Cardiff, apart from the obvious comparisons to GAGGLE and to my ears, traces of early days HEALTH/Fuck Buttons, with tribal drums and soulful vocals. Islet is probably the only band on earth who's determined to live in the bronze age without the Internet, no MySpace, no Facebook, no PR, no promotion. You'll have to find them on Spotify and have a listen, before catching them in London on the 11th November at Cafe Oto. There'll be drums, and loads of drumming.


This six-piece instrumental hardcore/post rock/maths rock all-in-one started last year with a couple of singles and are releasing their debut album Hollow Realm on the 15th of November (via Big Scary Monsters). Having shared a stage with the likes of 65days and Pulled Apart by Horses, Talons have crafted a distinctive sound that marks them apart from fellow "post-hardcore" bands such as Tubelord (oh Lord) and the likes. Have a little taste here of the rawness and power of two guitars and two violins roaring intermittently like tigers and lions playing in the wild. Pop into Camden Barfly on the 18th of October you'll see Brontide and Talons one after the other, a real treat for any instrumental hardcore fans.

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