SPORADIC NOVEMBER SUNSHINE IN A WINTER CITY – A WALK THROUGH NEW YORK – Noel Kelly

November in New York, Thanksgiving just around the corner and the promise of the commercial excesses of Christmas on the horizon usually gives a boundless energy, but 2004 was different. The shadow of the Republican candidates success in the Presidential election loomed greatly, and became a deep black hole that most were debating as to their next step – into the vortex or escape to some, as yet unidentified, periphery. However, amidst this quiet confusion and general lacklustre there were some experiences that stood out and are worth mentioning.

The conversation on the street throughout New York in November centred around the opening of the newly revamped MOMA. Over the days there, the ticketed opening of MOMA gave rise to much joking and for some it provided a serious identification as to where they were on the pecking order, through which of the many openings that they were invited to. Gladly I avoided this and instead concentrated on the rest of the circus that is the New York art scene.

Overall there is a distinct sameness about New York galleries at the moment. There were few highlights, and indeed it soon became apparent that those artists that did stand out were the younger generation of artists from Europe.

The first of these was Lars Arrhenius at Feigen Contemporary. Imagine if you will the modern version of Japanese landscape designer Tassa Eidas path of life style gardening. In Arrhenius we see the same cast of players and symbols of the vicissitudes of mans life from the cradle to the grave. Arrhenius draws greatly upon Debords city of potential events. He blankly utilises the basic situationist practices of dérive. His pictographic figures both simplify the human being and through serial stylised diagramatic representation he brings the viewer through a narrative of cause and effect. The playfulness of these naratives engages the viewer and also, in a non-pedagogic manner, provides a thought provoking simplified view of love, anger, money, grief, hatred, greed, selflessness, honesty and all that modern life throws at us.

Jesper Just at Perry Rubenstein Gallery is another of this younger generation who provide an almost voyeuristic point of access to what is at once a familiar and disturbing view of the human psyche. Indeed, we the audience are made to feel uncomfortable by the lack of resolve to Justs video pieces. The initial points of entry are always both accessible and familiar in their normality and yet at the end we sit/stand/loll wondering as to how our senses have been assaulted/raped. A youth walking in fields of corn watching a truck go by, gentlemen sitting in a club silent in their thoughts, and not so subtle references to the objectivisation of the youthful male in popular culture. Justs videos are held together with sentimental song lyrics, familiar and yet delivered in a manner that provides them with a new awkward meaning. Just, in my opinion, is one to watch out for. His work shows evidence of greatness to come as long as he doesnt implode into early sucesses of his career.

On a similar note, Thordis Adalsteinsdottir at Stefan Stux Gallery traumatises the audience. In her clear references to Classicism and classical figurative motifs, Adalsteinsdottirs world is that of a fairly tale that has gone awry, fallen apart, and has no clear path for the figures contained therein to survive their nightmare. These flattened images provide no solution. Instead they representationalise the essence of interior psychological spaces. With pared down colouring, each image is whole and yet unsatifisfied. There is the need for many years of psychological therapy in each of them.

This leads easily to American artist Chloe Piene at Klemens Gasser Tanja Grunert Inc. One of the noisiest exhibitions in town, Piene polarises the essesence of the human form, and approaches male/female in a reductive manner. Her video pieces are pure explorations of the beasitiality of human existence. And yet, Pienes destruction of her subjects in this exhibition comes from the act of creation. In large charcoal drawings we see an almost human form being pieced together. We are asked to question when the actual sex and gender of the subject becomes apparent. It is left to the viewer to provide that moment when they realise the delicacy and beauty of the object that is being created in the great unrest of this work.

Lousie Bourgeois at Cheim Reid is a further documentation of Bourgeoiss withdrawal into solitary existence. The intensified awareness of sensations and the overpowering hold of memory is all present in this exhibition. This is a truely powerful successor to Bourgeoiss Insomnia Drawings of 1994 – 95. And yet, walking through Cheim Reid, Bourgeoiss work developed a new resonance for me. During the visit a coterie of grand dames was being lead through accompanied by the quintessential expert. Stopping to eavesdrop on the presentation of the works, I have rarely felt so cold to the drawings. Instead of the intense humanity of each one I was guided to look at them as representations that could only be understood if the full history of the artist was unlocked to me. I fled! I could not stop and listen more and have my fragile grip of my reality of Louise Bourgeois broken by definitions that flourished in mediocrity of explanation.

And so to the Whitney Drawn by the acquisition of Bill Violas Five Angels for the Millennium, the Whitney audience is also presented with Small: The Object in Film, Video, And Slide Installation. This exhibition of seven small-scale installations by John Baldessari, Matthew Higgs, Sol LeWitt, Alan Phelan, Jonathan Monk, Michael Snow, and Rirkrit Tiravanija compares the work of Baldessari, LeWitt, and Snow with four artists of a younger generation. Each work removes the object as the work, and instead places the object firmly within the subject of the work. This simple device provides an interesting platform to view the different view points taken by each artist. But the strength of the exhibition is not only in its works. The strength is also in the scale. We have become over-abused by multiple screen installations that scream at us for attention. In this simple exhibition we are given each work in a space that we, the audience, are the judge and jury of engagement. A definite case of size does not matter! With the juxtaposition of the older and younger generations, it is good to see both holding their ground well. For a group show there are no weak participants in this one.

And so finally to Markus Muntean and Adi Rosenblum at Team. A group show that included Guillaume Pinard, and Banks Violette, this film piece stood out not only for quality, but also personified this particular visit to New York. Billed as a response to the post-Reagan/Thatcher experience, the work spoke more about the many open roads in todays society. Here we see superficial choice as a prison. Wandering through a desolate landscape, Muntean and Rosenblum placed their characters in a Bergmanesque landscrape with a dialogue that spoke of its subject as without time, a wanderlust unfulfilled or without inward meaning or reference. It is too trite to describe this work as post-anything Instead art-speak such a multiple naratives, unresolvedness, and decay are removed and the bare facts of the reality of choice is placed before the audience.

 

RE-BIRTH OF THE RENAISSANCE MAN/WOMAN – Eva Lewarne

You can not solve a problem with the same mind that created it. -Einstein

I wish to work miracles.

The knowledge of all things is possible. -Leonardo Da Vinci

 

The word Renaissance comes from a combination of the French verb renaitre, meaning, to revive and the noun naissance, meaning birth. The revival of the classical ideal of human power and potentiality, the birth of the ideal of the Renaissance man or woman, might be just what is needed in our times. The Renaissance person combines a certain comfort level with both art and science, is computer and mentally literate as well as globally aware.

In A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance, William Manchester claims that pre-renaissance Europe was characterised bya mélange of incessant warfare, corruption, lawlessness…and an almost impenetrable mindlessness. This description can easily encompass our so-called dark age, at present, despite our wonderful inventions of science and technology.

At the point of the birth of the historical Renaissance, personified by men like Leonardo Da Vinci, many inventions, and discoveries were also made. To name but a few; the printing press, which made knowledge available to the masses, allowing for dissemination and exchange of information, encouraging trade and travel and independent thinking. The old authorities (Church and King) could no longer dominate society. Growing consumerism and capitalism fuelled the cultural and intellectual transformations of the Renaissance.

The Industrial Age had begun, bringing with it new authorities and gods. Five hundred years after the Renaissance, the world is experiencing air travel, genetic engineering, space travel, unleashing the atomic bomb, etc. As we reach the Information Overload Age, we have given birth to ever-changing uncertainty and more possible options then we can choose from. A glut of junk, mediocrity, and garbage has become the sine qua non of our times. This leads to cynicism, alienation, and a sense of powerlessness.

In the desperate pursuit of happiness, as defined by this age (money, work, sex, i.e. measurables) have we lost sight of our souls (psyche)? Platos notion of soul was what caused living things (empsucha) to be alive.

Science and technology have become the slaves of their master..the industrial paradigm. Humanities also have had to march to the beat of the drummer, by devaluing the creative mind and spontaneous ways of thinking. Logos rules over Poesies. The creative mind is charged with an ability to produce concrete proof in terms of statistics and numbers in order to be valid. Thus it slowly becomes neglected and shrivelled in our society.

An artists reputation rests on his ability to arouse commercial interest in his works of art, not on some intrinsic criteria of intellectual worth.

As Meister Eckhart, a Christian mystic, said, In the creative moment we are generative as god is. Creativity is the voice of Platos soul, the utterances of the Visionary. The creative act is one of expressing our authentic life, in which the creator and creature long to unite. The creative process in contrast to the scientific process requires one to fill the mind, then empty it, then get out of the way. It is not the sum total of checks and balances on an analysis sheet of information. It is a process of dreaming into reality, new possibilities.

If the creative longing is denied and twisted as it has been in our Industrial Age, the forces of creation turn to destruction. Misplaced or sublimated creativity produce a drive for power in which people use their energies for destructive purposes, in the pursuit of consumerism, as we push to feed and placate the industrial gods. Visionaries are forced to make a living on assembly lines.

Creativity, in visual arts, for example, has to date, only been valued as an aesthetic cosmetic, utilised in beautifying consumable artefact, including, advertising, the interiors of our dwellings, surgical procedures of human bodies and faces, etc. Creativity that speaks to our souls, de facto, not measurable, sellable, or consumable is devalued, except for serving the occasional entertainment purpose.

However, the human soul, although tiny, cannot be extinguished altogether without killing the body and the natural environment. At this crucial point in our existence, when we have suddenly awoken to the fact that we have consumed our way to near extinction, we are beginning to ask the question whether the soul can save us and how can we access it? Religion is one way, and many people are turning towards its traditional and new age forms, sometimes opening themselves to their souls but most times becoming more confused in the process, as the religious organisations have also been influenced by our Industrial Age ethics, having been raised by the same authorities with the same values.

A true meeting place of the sacred and profane can occur during the creative process, be it thinking or doing. A process that can open the imagination, in magical, unexpected ways, a process, at once mysterious and mystical, requiring the exploration of a different part or function of our brain.

It is only natural that the evolution of the brain is an ongoing process outside the dominant control of humans. As Einstein said, You can not solve a problem with the same mind that created it.

Leonardo Da Vinci is a prime example of the Renaissance Man. He was an anatomist, architect, botanist, city planner, costume and stage designer, chef, humorist, engineer, equestrian, inventor, geographer, geologist, mathematician, military scientist, musician, painter, philosopher, and physicist. He was what we would call today a holistic thinker.

Pyotr Anokhin of Moscow University, a student of Ivan Pavlov, published in 1968, a research paper comparing the human brain to a multidimensional musical instrument that could play an infinite number of musical pieces simultaneously. He claimed that each of us has unlimited potential, and no one has explored the capacity of the brain to its fullest, except maybe Leonardo Da Vinci. Of course, other men come to mind, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, William Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Thomas Jefferson, etc.

Our university programs need to be able to give birth to renaissance men and women if our planet is to survive the devastation of the Industrial Age and redirect our lives to a New Age (as yet unspecified). Humans will be required to possess all the attributes of Leonardo Da Vinci and more. Whole-brain thinking, including a recognition of interrelationships, cultivation of creativity and soul, with its uncertainty and unpredictability, emotional maturity, seeing behind phenomena and understanding how the highest aspirations, dreams, values and scientific discoveries can be integrated into our everyday lives.

I wish to work miracles, said Leonardo Da Vinci, and anything less in our times is too little, too late. Renaissance people like Leonardo, with strong curiosity impulses, did not think things were impossible, they had not been conditioned to think that way, so they went out and did the impossible.

What we need now is to teach students, the art of living, otherwise our scientists will continue to theorise based on the information they possess at the time, without seeing the whole picture.

Lobsang Rampa in Chapters of Life makes up a very poignant story of a scientist that studied the behaviour of fleas.

He thought he could correlate the behaviour of fleas psychosomatic patterns with that of blood. After much expenditure and time, he trained a medium-sized flea to jump over a matchbox every time he said, Go. Then when the flea had the idea, the scientist pulled off two of the fleas six legs. Go, he said. The flea jumped again, and was able to repeat the performance although not so successfully as before. The scientist grunted with satisfaction, and pulled off two more of the six legs. Go, said the scientist. Feebly the flea did so, and the scientist nodded his approval. Reaching for the flea he pulled off the poor creatures last two legs. Unfortunately now that the flea no longer had legs the scientist could shout endlessly and the flea would not move. The scientist, after may tries, nodded his wise old head, and wrote in his report, A fleas hearing is in its legs. When it loses two legs it cannot hear so well and so does not jump too high. When it loses all six of its legs it becomes completely deaf.The art of living requires the ability to be and think creatively. Creativity is an unlimited natural resource that we all have. It is the one unlimited natural resource that often is underestimated and under-utilised, except during our childhood. Creative minds are capable of conceiving projects and suggesting innovative solutions in all branches of collective fabric. This concerns all the aspects of our everyday life: from the practical objects of common use to the complex components of our physical and mental habitat. Creativity can lead towards responsible social transformation. Through the integration of different artistic forms like music, visual art, theatre, literature, dance, photography, and design, with humanities, scientific and social disciplines like sociology, economics, philosophy and politics we can contribute towards a new concept of global civil society. The study of visual arts enhances and expands a persons field of perception and awareness. Our scientist above, studying fleas, could have come to a more reasonable conclusion had his field of perception been stimulated to include lateral thinking through delving into visual arts.

Art is the most sensitive and comprehensive expression of human thought. The time has come for the artist to take the responsibility of connecting every other human activity, from economy to politics, from science to religion, from education to behaviour.

Albert Einstein in his famous quote says, The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.

In the true spirit of Renaissance we need to revive holistic thinking, the creative mind, and creativity that speaks to our souls.

The poet Rainer Maria Rilke said, We must give birth to our images. They are the future waiting to be born. A future that includes Poesies not just Logos.

 

Andrew Antoniou ~ Songs of Dedication

Artist: Andrew Antoniou

Content: Mixed media, works on paper, painting

Price Range: Most works from $450 to $6500

Exhibition: Australian Galleries – 50 Smith Street, Collingwood 3066

Dates: February 4 – February 28 2010

Andrew Antoniou “A familiar song” 2008

Songs of Dedication is a show of 50 figurative works that lead the viewer through a circus of imagination, symbolism and narrative.

Worlds of interconnected myth and meaning are created on paper and canvas and Antonious symbolic resonance is matched only by the energy and skill behind the drawings. Exquisite figures, both human and non-human cavort and play, acting out moments of life, memory and thought. Charcoal, graphite, intaglio and paint are all delivered in strong lines and rich shadows that lend the compositions a theatrical presence.

While this presence may give the impression of being light hearted, even playful, closer inspection reveals a solemness within the figures as though each performance signifies some sacred ritual.

Songs of Dedication is a dense and beautiful show that works well within the light and open space of the gallery.

Sophia Szilagyi ~ Darkness Visible

Artist: Sophia Szilagyi

Content: Photography, digital media

Price Range: Most works from $950 to $5900

Exhibition: James Makin Gallery – 67 Cambridge Street, Collingwood 3066

Sophia Szilagyi “Threadless Way”

Darkness Visible is an exhibition of dense and intriguing digital prints in which the layering of objects, light and landscape test the boundaries of perception. The visual convention of landscape is disrupted as the juxtapositions slant horizon lines, dissolve human faces and cut glittering paths of water though primeval forests.

A recurring theme in the show is Nature, presented as a dominant force that eludes any attempt to name and therefore control it. While Szilagyi employs common archetypes of dreams, darkness and woods, she spares the viewer any clichéd fairy tale symbolism. Instead, what Szilagyi brings out of the ever-shifting layers is an intense and beautiful light that strengthens each image and binds the show together.

This is an absorbing body of work that commands the viewers full attention as the true strength of the exhibition lies in its subtle detail.