Tag Archives: arts

Inspiration from Anselm Kiefer

20 Aug

Anselm Kiefer (b.1945) is a German painter and sculptor who is known for his confrontational art.  He has lived and worked in France since 1992.  Much of Kiefer’s artwork is inspired by Paul Celan (b.1920 d.1970) who was a Romanian Poet originally born Paul Antschel to a Jewish family.  He was a major German language poet from the post WWII era.  His parents died in Nazi labor camps and he spent 18 months in one before escaping.

Reading the book “Anselm Kiefer/Paul Celan: Myth, Mourning & Memory” by Andrea Lauterwein (Publisher Thames & Hudson) I learned how Paul Celan’s poetry is so incredibly influential in Anselm Kiefer’s work.  Sometimes Kiefer will use a word or fragment or theme from Celan’s poetry as his title. Other times Kiefer will write the text itself on his canvas.  Often, Kiefer translates the concepts using straw, ashes, sand and hair on his canvases.

Anselm Kiefer’s works feel like a visual memory – a shimmery unsettling poetic image.  Prior to 1980’s Kiefer’s work was concerned with German origins – the history of the Jews, consequences of Nazism, using German codes of identification and the viewpoint of the generation of executions.  Kiefer undertook the difficult task of decoding different ideas.  His art often references German national iconography which has been poisoned by historical events.

After the 1980s Kiefer’s work turned to focus more on Paul Celan’s poetry, moving from political to poetical – yet the poems he references in his work are still full of historical context.

Paul Celan’s  poetry allowed Anselm Kiefer to escape the cycle of fascination and disgust of the Third Reich – moving to confront memories of Holocaust, Kabbalah and traditions.  Kiefer’s art examines the myths of German identity and Jewish Identity putting them in opposition yet pointing out their interdependence and reciprocity.

Kiefer’s art takes the position of confronting the German viewer with their own history during a time when many wanted to forget.  The art world in Germany after the war had substituted Western art for German art but Kiefer denounced contemporary artistic trends.  He felt that importing formal art design was reformulating German history whereas cultural individuality was vital.  He didn’t want art to purge every hint of tragedy but to allow complexity and restoration through his compositions.

“My thought is vertical and one of its planes was fascism. But I see all its layers.  In my paintings I tell stories in order to show what lies behind history.  I make a hole and I go through.”  Kiefer explains.

Your Ashen Hair Shulamith, 1981, Watercolor, gouache & charcoal on paper 18″x22″ Anselm Kiefer

Anselm Kiefer’s conviction was that German maimed itself and its civilization by destroying its Jewish members.  He doesn’t regularly include the human figure in his works – only occasionally.  Some of his pieces that include figures are symbolic of those who died in the concentration camps with the painting showing properties of destruction.  There are also clear elements of these pieces that represent a hope that is part of the soul.

Kiefer creates spontaneously and uses all kinds of unusual materials in his art which has created issues with stability – a concern that is shared by collectors, dealers and curators.  He acknowledges the issue but explains that change, transformation and deterioration is part of the process and the art pieces essence will stay the same.  He likes the properties of lead and metals, heating and melting them in his process.  He also is fond of oxidation of white on lead and tries to create artificial oxidation using acid.  He has used straw in his work and explains that the color gives off energy, heat and warmth when it’s burned.

Nuremberg 1982 Acrylic emulsion & straw on canvas. 110 1/2″x149 5/8″ Anselm Kiefer

It’s recorded that Christie’s auction house set a worldwide record in 2011 of $3.6 million for Kiefer’s piece “To the Unknown Painter” to a private American collector.

If you’d like to read more about Anselm Kiefer and view some of his art at the MET: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/kief/hd_kief.htm

His art is in many more museums and galleries. Links:

 Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit; the Tate Modern, London; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; the Tel Aviv Museum of Art; and the Albertina, Vienna. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York owns 20 of the artist’s rare watercolors. Notable private collectors include Eli Broad and Andrew J. Hall.[53]

“Anselm Kiefer/Paul Celan: Myth, Mourning & Memory” by Andrea Lauterwein

Poet Paul Celan

Kandinsky Abstraction

14 Jul
colorful abstract art
My Version of Kandinsky’s Improvisation 26, Watercolor & Watercolor crayon by Katie Turner

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) a Russian painter and art theorist was one of the first artists to move into non-objective painting.  He based his content on emotions and used his materials to trigger like-minded response from those viewing it.

He took what once had been material subjects for a painting, such as a motif from nature or, as the Impressionists did, painting a perception and moved on to painting the absence of object, subject or representation.  Kandinsky focused primarily on spiritual reality he termed “pure painting”.  His art is non-objective abstract art that conveys universal emotion or ideas.  He felt it his mission to share this ideal with the world for the betterment of society.

As a spiritual, intuitive creator he experimented and investigated all the tools, finally coming to a whole new form of abstract art. 

After reading several books about Kandinsky and learning about his development, I zeroed in on his theoretical writing concerning the spiritual side of art.  In my own simple understanding, he defines three types of painting: impressions, improvisations and compositions.  He compares the spiritual world to a pyramid with the artist having the responsibility to lead others to the top through their art.  The theories are very interesting and go into the physical and spiritual effects of colors which I found fascinating.  Of course there were others who had written about color theory, such as Johann Goethe who wrote “Theory of Colors” in 1810.  I read there also was a possibility that Kandinsky had some form of autism that might have contributed to his artistic abilities.

Although I wasn’t impressed with his personal life choices, I did admire his dedication to his art and his exploration of theories.  An updated version of his book is available if not at your local library, then on www.bookdepository.com.  In fact, they have many different books covering Kandinsky at reasonable prices and they even carry stickers and cards with Kandinsky art.

There are many online resources if you’re interested in reading about Kandinsky here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wassily_Kandinsky

https://www.theartstory.org/artist/kandinsky-wassily/

https://www.wassilykandinsky.net/painting1896-1944.php

https://www.wikiart.org/en/wassily-kandinsky

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/488319

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“Vasily Kandinsky” by Thomas M. Messer, 1997 Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Publishers, NY

“Kandinsky: The Journey to Abstraction”, 2007 Taschen, CA

“Kandinsky: The Path to Abstraction”, 2006 Tate Publishing, London

Free Inspiration with Virtual Tours

6 Aug

Summer Flowers at 1200 with logo

“Summer Flowers” Watercolor on Rice Paper by Katie Turner

The past few months have been challenging for all of us.  Even professionals like writers or artists, who are solitary workers by nature, are finding it difficult.  Of course, being confined to your studio due to a pandemic is different from being there because you actually want to be.

Some of us were able to enjoy a frenzied production time and some of us struggled with the anxiety draining our creativity.  Where ever you are right now, you can always find inspiration by enjoying other artists work.  Viewing art can inspire creativity.  It can give you a new ideas; such as a different color palette or a new idea on how to define a particular shape.  Looking at art can be a great way to refresh yourself.  Here is a list of online resources that are now providing free virtual tours.

Museums:

The Louvre  https://www.louvre.fr/en/visites-en-ligne#tabs

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum  https://www.guggenheim.org/collection-online

The National Gallery of Art  https://www.nga.gov/

The British Museum  https://artsandculture.google.com/partner/the-british-museum

The Metropolitan Museum of Art  https://www.metmuseum.org/art/online-features

The Dali Theatre-Museum https://www.salvador-dali.org/en/museums/dali-theatre-museum-in-figueres/visita-virtual/

NASA  https://www.nasa.gov/glennvirtualtours  https://oh.larc.nasa.gov/oh/

The Vatican Museums  http://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/en/collezioni/musei/tour-virtuali-elenco.html

The National Women’s History Museum  https://www.womenshistory.org/womens-history/online-exhibits

The National Museum of the United States Air Force  https://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Visit/Virtual-Tour/

 

Another resource I came across was Google Arts and Culture.   Google partnered with over 1200 cultural institutions from around the world to document art and provide virtual tours using their famous Google Street View technology.

You can view art at the White House, Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar, Sao Paulo street art in Brazil and more.  (https://artsandculture.google.com/partner)  Google even has unique ways to help you learn about art with art puzzles, art coloring book and crossword puzzles.  It’s called Google Arts & Culture Experiments. Here is the link:  https://artsandculture.google.com/project/games

 

I hope you can take some time to check out some of these free tours and be inspired!

 

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Courage to Create

28 May

What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?  These words of Vincent VanGogh ran through my mind as I read about Zarina Hashmi last week.

Zarina Hashmi was an American artist who went by only her first name, Zarina.  She recently passed away in April from Alzheimers.  Born in India, she used Islamic type decoration as visual elements in her art.  Her geometic style is similar to the minimalist style of the 1970s.

According to Gallery Espace in New Delhi, India, Zarina has a unique “ability to distil emotion down to its most essential and expressive forms.”   To view some of her artwork at Gallery Espace, click here: www.galleryespace.com She has many pieces from a 2007 show that are unique paper cast sculptures.

After doing a lot of travel, she began incorporating maps into her art work.  She expanded her ideas to include topographical details of cities that had been altered by political turmoil, such as India, NY, Baghdad, Kabul, and others.

MoMA has 43 Zarina works online that you can view on their website.  www.moma.org    She has a lot of interesting art but her prints are what interest me the most.  In an interview with editors of the 1970 issue of Vrishchik, she states that she didn’t have a lot of space or money when she first moved to NYC, so she devised her own paper casting mold by drilling holes in plastic.

In 1980 she was invited to co-curate an exhibition and design the catalog for the A.I.R. Gallery in NYC but they didn’t want her to show in it because of her race.  They just wanted her to do the work of curating and making the catalog.  In the end, things worked out and she did end up participating.

Zarina created many woodcut prints as well as her own paper, sculpture, drawing and often paired writing or words printed in Urdu, her native language from India.  She taught in several universities, NY-FAI, NYU and Cornell.  Her work was important to the art world because she explored home, displacement, and memory in a profound way through her prints.

Courtney Stewart with the Met Museum Research Department of Islamic Art questioned Zarina about the role of an artist in society.

“I think we are witnesses to the times we are living in.” stated Zarina.  She went on to explain how she saw Aligarh, her hometown, divided by a politically drawn line separated into India and Pakistan.  1947 was a tragic time where she saw villages burning with the British partition.

When asked “What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?”, she said “Keep on working.  Just keep on working.  You will find a language for yourself.”

She reminisced “Everybody can draw, you know – skills don’t make art.  That is the least important part.  I’ve been a teacher for 25 years in this country, so I can teach the skills.  Ideas make art.  There are lots of people who can’t draw but they can make big art – great art, because it comes from ideas.  You can teach skills but you can’t teach ideas.”

Despite her not attending art school she had a long and successful art career.  The Jeanne Bucher Jaeger Gallery in Paris, writes that Zarina became more and more convinced that a superior force guided her life.  In accepting this light, she began using gold leaf the past few years, as she considered her artistic voyage as more of a universal spiritual destination.

To read Zarina’s biography, go to zarina-hashmi.com or the artist’s official website at www.zarina.work

Video: Zarina YouTube Video by Tate

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Gold Leaf & Spirit Art

13 Mar

Delita Martin, a printmaker from Texas, inspired me with her rich patterns and deep colored paintings.  Martin uses reference photos from models and creates what she calls “spirit women” that are artistic composites in her work.

In a recent article by Lyric Prince (https://bmoreart.com)  she explains that her figures have identities and attitudes that could be anyone’s. “They are us, they are all of us.”, she states.

Martin’s solo exhibition is at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, “Calling down the Spirits”, located in Washington, D.C.  (https://nmwa.org/)  through April 19, 2020.   To read her artist statement or watch a short video interview, click here: https://vimeo.com or obsidianlit project  Her website: blackboxpressstudio.com

Her techniques were very interesting to me, particularly with how she combined gelatin prints, acrylic, fabric and hand stitching heavyweight papers, layering them upon each other.  The pieces have the feel of a quilt and also of a print at the same time.  The dark blues are present throughout several of her pieces which I like very much, along with circular patterns and stitching that helps unify the pieces.  Her use of gold leaf reminds me a little of Gustav Klimt yet it’s not overwhelming and feels just right.

She makes connections of spiritual and social movements from the past and into today’s world with her distinctive art providing a sacred connection.  When I look at the patterns, shapes and figures, I contemplate the influences, attitudes, and thoughts of these people.  I think of the colorful layers to a person’s life, and consider what influences have helped to build the patterns of their life.  Then I ponder what kinds of patterns dominate mine…  Have you thought about patterns in your own life and art?  Please share with me your insight.

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Modern Art Pioneer

18 Feb

I was asked about a pioneer who I admire and immediately thought of Edgar Whitney.  I felt he was a modern art pioneer because of how he shared his great talent through teaching.  Many of his students went on to become great painters and teachers, influencing modern watercolor painting in a positive way.

Edgar Whitney was born 1891 and died 1987.  He worked 25 years in Commercial Art, then 5 years as an Art Director before becoming a full time artist and teacher.  The American Watercolor Society lists him as a Master Watercolorist and has an annual award in his honor.  His dedication to American Watercolor greatly influenced our modern day art.

“There are only 2 things that matter in life – your friends and your art.  Everything else is worthless.”  ~ Edgar Whitney

How did I come across Edgar Whitney, my friend asked.  I was interested in finding an artist that painted in a similar way to my mother.  When I came across Whitney’s art, I knew this was it.  His paintings were what I was really looking for – very impressionistic and loose with lots of movement, spontaneity and texture.

Since he was no longer alive, I realized the only way I could learn from him was to learn from his students.  I spent about 10 months researching who his students were and even located some classes from them.  Some of his students were Cheng Khee Chee, Barbara Nechis, Tony Couch, Frank Webb, and of course there are many, many more.

I realized I could learn a lot from his books and for the next five years I dove into studying and practicing his way of painting.  Every class that came up with any of his famous students, I attended.

“No door is closed to a stubborn scholar.” ~ Edgar Whitney

I admire the way he was able to share his style and technique and had some students who went on to become famous painters and teachers.  From what I heard, he had a tendency to push his students and he was quite an interesting character.

“You have chosen to spend your time and money on esthetics.  Others can cheat you, a craft cannot.  It’s the only area in life where you get back what you’ve put in.”  ~Edgar Whitney.

Who do you admire as a pioneer?  What pioneer qualities do you possess or desire?  I’d love to hear some comments.

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On Drawing and Painting

13 Dec

In the wintertime I paint almost exclusively in the studio.  Here I can paint from drawings or pictures I took as reference during the summer months or use my imagination.  Now is the time I can interpret any scenes that interest me while also making note of the words I may have jotted down on the corners of my sketches.  “Stippled sky” or “Mottled grass” give me clues to the scene in my art journals.  Although some items need to be more carefully rendered –  most other times details can be left to the imagination.

I try to think of drawing as exercise and fact-finding while painting for me is more explorative and experimental.  When I develop a picture I prefer to emphasize the abstract and textural qualities of the object.

Truth be told, I am hooked on watercolor with its fluidity and transparency.  I delight in wet-into-wet process but have also found that in order to paint more abstractly, I must experiment.  So I stipple and blot, crinkle and scratch until the surface reveals the look I’m seeking.  There is no sacred part but I always try to keep in mind the initial idea that prompted me to sketch or paint at first.

Wintertime can be a fabulous time of exploration and adventure!

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Expressive Gesture

30 Nov

Wilderness Welcome 72 1200 with logo

“Wilderness Welcome” watercolor by Katie Turner

I’ve had some great conversations with artists about whether or not they like their touch to show in their work.  What do I mean by “artist touch”?

When applying a medium to paper, it will take on a texture.  The way an artist builds the painting with paint strokes, softness, boldness, neatness or spontaneity – all of this works to establish the “artist touch”.

So, should an “artist touch” be visible in the artwork?

I’ve heard two schools of thought on this.  The first argument points out that the viewer’s focus ought to be on the image, not the paint quality.  This perspective views brushwork and gesture as distractions.  These artists want the viewer to have an immediate response to what is being said, not how it’s said.  To these artists, texture and technique should be secondary to the message and it would be even better if texture and technique are completely unnoticeable.

The second position suggests that brushwork and gesture are the artists signature.  These artists believe it’s important to see the artist hand in the work.  With this argument, how the artist says what they say is critical to the message.  The brushwork and gesture enhance the message, emphasizing the content of the painting.

Whatever you choose, to emphasize gesture and brushwork or not, you will definitely establish a texture of some sort and this touch gives an inner life to a piece of art.  Keep in mind that different textures stimulate our senses in different ways.  In the same way that no two people have the same handwriting, no two artists apply their paint in the same way.  I’ve illustrated a few types of texture below.  Although this is not a complete example of all the many hundreds of textures, you can see how each brush style has a different textural feeling.

texture samples

Experimenting with various brushwork and gesture in your art can be a key to discovering which you prefer – expressive gesture or hidden?   Have you thought about how much of the “artist hand” you prefer in your paintings?  Either way, it’s a fabulous tool to have in your creative toolbox.

Thanks for reading.  I’d love for you to share your thoughts.

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See Like an Artist

20 Aug

Confined Watercolor Warm up

“Confined” watercolor on paper by Katie Turner.   The view is from a platform above an enclosed courtyard.

 

After thumbing through one of my old graphic arts books, I was thinking about how artists learn to express themselves visually and learn to see, not just using the sense of sight.  Matisse said that when he ate a tomato he just looked at it, “But,” he said, “When I paint a tomato, I see it differently.”

It’s true that artists see the world differently.  Seeing things differently enable an artist to deliver a message through their art.  Some say artists have heightened awareness.  How is it that an artist can see something different from others?

Some artists learn through life drawing classes.  Sometimes it can be a real struggle but life drawing classes can be a real growth opportunity for an artist.   They look, analyze, translate what they see into marks on paper and along the way acquire visual skills.  Learning how to “see” makes it possible to conceptualize more unique and original designs.

Some art classes don’t teach students to see but give them quick shortcuts to produce life drawings.  Historically, drawing was thought unnecessary and a lot of design students graduated from art school without any drawing at all.  As time continues, the pendulum swings back and forth with what is taught in school.   When representational art is popular, you will see more formal drawing classes available and when it’s not, less formal will rule.

There are many exercises available to hone your drawing skills that will also grow your ability to “see” creatively.

 

Here are my favorites:

  1. Turn things upside down before sketching. By placing an object in an unusual position it forces the mind to look more closely at it.  This forces us out of automatic drawing mode and trains us to draw what we see.

 

  1. Draw the negative spaces only. Concentrating on drawing these abstract shapes forces your mind away from preconceived ideas.

 

  1. Squint or use Red Acetate Film when sketching. Squinting or using this red acetate will quickly simplify any complex subject into simple shapes and values.  Your mind will be less likely to focus on the detail.

 

If you put just a few exercises into your daily practice, you will be “seeing” and drawing better in no time.  When the artist has better visual awareness, the door to creativity is opened.

 

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Art Masks Identity

16 Jul

Nick_cave from wiki

Nick Cave picture by Bowmanga 

Nick Cave is a Chicago based artist (originally from Missouri) who has some very interesting art that combines fabric, sculpture, dance and performance.

I first heard about Nick Cave while reviewing ISEA (International Society of Experimental Artists) 2019 symposium workshops. I found one workshop that involved creating a “Nick Cave” style soundsuit.  What is a soundsuit?  It is part sculpture, part costume and a bit of dance.

Cave has been creating soundsuits since 1992 using many found objects, fabric and other items.  He created these life size suits in response to racial experiences.  The suits usually have sound when worn, due to the sticks and twigs that he adds during the creation but often museums display the suits as static sculptures.  He uses the soundsuits as a way to confront identity.  He has created over 500 of these suits so far.

The soundsuits fully conceal the body and serve as a second skin that obscures race, gender and class.  Cave wants you to wonder, “What am I encountering?”  Viewers can look at these figures without bias towards identity.

“I don’t ever see the Soundsuits as ‘fun,’ they’re really coming from a very dark place.”  Nick Cave states.

Some schools are using the soundsuits idea as projects to teach children about identity.  Check out this video from a Detroit school here.

Here is a really short 2 1/2 minute video about Nick Cave’s Soundsuits click here.

Nick Cave’s Soundsuits video by PBS, click here.

Nick Caves exhibition at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts here.

Nick Caves represented by www.jackshainman.com

For more information on ISEA: https://www.iseaartexhibit.org/

Nick-Cage-Soundsuits1

Some of Nick Cave’s Soundsuits.  Photo from http://www.b4moda.com/nick-cave/.