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Posts Tagged ‘art’

Chris Burden.

In Art, Performance on May 11, 2015 at 6:56 am
‘Trans-fixed’, Venice, CA, 1974 Photograph © Chris Burden

‘Trans-fixed’, Venice, CA, 1974 Photograph © Chris Burden

Chris Burden is an art school staple. As you warily begin to ingratiate yourself into the world of modern and contemporary art, you soon realise that Burden is one of the world’s preliminary performers, perhaps because he’s done well to make sure you never, ever forget him. Whether you perceive his performances to be a destructive waste of time or whether you consider him a courageous genius, that’s up to you. Many people know him as ‘that bloke who kind of shot himself in the arm.’

Burden was born in Massachusetts in 1946. His early college works were sculptural, but early on he noted the potential for human interaction with the artworks. In reference to his untitled outdoor tunnel sculptures constructed out of plastic and steel, the artist claimed to have “realised that what I had made was not a piece of sculpture but something that had to be activated” (Horvitz 1976). It was the act of running through the 100 foot long tunnels that drew Burden towards processes more associated with physical activity than minimalist sculpture. And so a performance artist was born.

‘Shoot’, F Space, Santa Ana, California 1971

‘Shoot’, F Space, Santa Ana, California 1971

From then on Burden’s artistic explorations began to consist of sculptures that required physical triggers, thereby causing the viewer/performer (you essentially became both) to become an inherent aspect of the artwork. Then he went one step further with Five Day Locker Piece, where he confined himself to a 2’ x 2’ x 3’ studio locker for five consecutive days, apparently for reasons more to do with curiosity than anything else.

Burden’s work continued to embody these themes of tense and often claustrophobic anxiety, although in some cases he actually came to enjoy the isolation and deprivation. In Bed Piece (1972) he inhabited the corner of a room with only a bed and a portable toilet for him to spend 22 days of his time on. His visibility to the audience, however, prompted Burden to rethink his approach. He came up with White Light/White Heat (1975), in which he spent three weeks lying hidden on a raised platform in the Ronald Feldman Gallery in New York. When discussing the piece with Robert Horvitz, Burden elucidated:

I have this fantasy, which may or may not be realised, that someone will come in off the street, not knowing my name, just doing a gallery tour, come in and see the platform and be able to feel that something’s amiss. There’d be something that would nag at them and they could maybe feel my presence…” (1975)

Not all of Burdens work was so contemplative and quiet. In what are perhaps his most famous performances, entitled Shoot (1971) and Trans-fixed (1974), we are offered much more abrupt and violent artworks. In the case of Shoot, the statement goes: “at 7:45 p.m. I was shot in the left arm by a friend. The bullet was a copper jacket .22 long rifle. My friend was standing about fifteen feet from me.” Ouch. This overtly aggressive performance impelled journalists and the public alike to consider him as either a crazed man or as an artist presenting a commentary on modern-day gun use and warfare. Whichever stance was taken, it certainly got people talking about him.

Burden following ‘Shoot’ 1971

Burden following ‘Shoot’ 1971

In Trans-fixed (pictured in the title image) Burden was literally nailed onto a Volkswagen in the manner of a crucifixion. Whilst his palms were pinned to the car, the vehicle was displayed for a matter of minutes before it was placed out of sight and Burden removed. Whilst this performance and Shoot did not appear to outwardly resemble his subtler, durational pieces, references to religious themes such as voluntary seclusion and trial by ordeal were consistent throughout his entire practice (Horvitz 1975).

Other performances by Burden involved the artist electrocuting himself, not to mention all of the cutting, drowning, disappearing, (yet more) shooting and fasting that went on. On later returning to a literal sculptural approach he created artworks such as Medusa’s Head (1990), the monstrousness of which renders it almost irresistible to look at.

‘Medusa’s Head’ 1990.  Plywood, steel, cement, rock, model railroad trains and tracks, 14’ in diameter.

‘Medusa’s Head’ 1990.
Plywood, steel, cement, rock, model railroad trains and tracks, 14’ in diameter.

In 2005 Burden revealed his project Ghost Ship, a yacht that is capable of navigating itself on the high seas. Whilst we may not have all been talking about it in our lunch-breaks, it is impressive that Burden had the momentum to keep his art practice up, especially when considering the fact that the prime question on everybody’s lips in 1971 was “will he even make it past 30?” Well, I”m glad he did.

Chris Burden passed away on 10th May 2015.

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Signs That Say What You Want Them To Say: the art of Gillian Wearing.

In Art on May 10, 2015 at 8:51 am
‘I’m desperate’ © Gillian Wearing, courtesy Maureen Paley/ Interim Art, London

‘I’m desperate’ © Gillian Wearing, courtesy Maureen Paley/ Interim Art, London

Let’s say a person you didn’t know propositioned you to write a snippet about anything on a blank piece of paper – kind of like a tweet before any of us really knew what the internet actually was. Now let’s say that person then requested a photograph of you with your piece of worldly wisdom in order to exhibit it to the world. What would you write?

This is exactly what YBA (Young British Artist) and Turner Prize winner Gillian Wearing asked members of the London public to do from 1992-1993. Titled Signs That Say What You Want Them To Say and Not Signs That Say What Someone Else Wants You To Say, the resulting images range from the extremely jovial to the heart-wrenchingly poignant.

‘I have been certified as mildly insane’ © Gillian Wearing, courtesy Maureen Paley/ Interim Art, London

I have been certified as mildly insane’ © Gillian Wearing, courtesy Maureen Paley/ Interim Art, London

I have been certified as mildly insane’ © Gillian Wearing, courtesy Maureen Paley/ Interim Art, London

Wearing made it clear in an interview with Paul Judd that artworks such as Signs… are an attempt to “find out as many facets as possible about people. I’m interested in people more than I am in myself, maybe that’s what it is”.

In fact, almost all of her work involves the documentation of people other than herself. In Drunk (1997-99) she gave some of the more colourful characters from British society free reign in her studio in order to make a three-channel video projection. In 10-16 (1997) we see adult performers lip-syncing perfectly to the confessions of young children and teenagers. In Confessions (1994) we encounter the masked faces of those who responded to her advertisement in Time Out Magazine: “Confess All On Video. Don’t Worry You Will Be in Disguise. Intrigued? Call Gillian”.

‘Help’ © Gillian Wearing, courtesy Maureen Paley/ Interim Art, London

‘Help’ © Gillian Wearing, courtesy Maureen Paley/ Interim Art, London

‘Help’ © Gillian Wearing, courtesy Maureen Paley/ Interim Art, London

In many ways Wearing’s projects almost seem to be verging on therapy for the participants. This is not so surprising considering the subjects that she lists as influencing her practice, with reality television and fly-on-the-wall documentaries being two of her primary fascinations and concerns.

In works such as Signs… and in many of the videos that followed, the participants’ written and spoken revelations are often surprising and moving, be they shocking, disturbing or amusing in content. What is perhaps most enlightening, however, is how readily we seem to welcome the catharsis of releasing our stories and emotions to a stranger. Who knows what we’d find out about people if we just thought to ask?

This post was originally published on Guy.com

signs 4

‘I signed on and they would not give me nothing’ © Gillian Wearing, courtesy Maureen Paley/ Interim Art, London

After the Woods: Ernesto Caivano.

In Archetypes, Art, Drawing, narrative on January 5, 2015 at 9:19 pm
Philapore Tug (Due Tension), 2009 4.25 x 5 Inches. Ink, marker and graphite on paper © Ernesto Caivano

Philapore Tug (Due Tension), 2009
4.25 x 5 Inches. Ink, marker and graphite on paper © Ernesto Caivano

If there’s one thing we all have in common, it’s fondness of a good yarn. Stories are passed down for generations, sometimes over the course of centuries. We read them in magazines and see them performed on television, in the theatre and on the big screen. We read novels and biographies, picture books and comics. We sing them and celebrate them.

So what place does the fictional narrative have in Fine Art? While most people’s thoughts will immediately flicker to the rapturous brushstrokes of the Pre-Raphaelites or the classical painters, contemporary artist Ernesto Caivano has striking and enigmatic methods of putting his own epic narrative on paper.

Philapore Tug (Due Tension), 2009 4.25 x 5 Inches. Ink, marker and graphite on paper © Ernesto Caivano

Philapore Tug (Due Tension), 2009
4.25 x 5 Inches. Ink, marker and graphite on paper © Ernesto Caivano

It seems that all Caivano needs is some paper and ink. Give him these materials and the outcome will be a delicate, complex and alluring image, both in technique and concept. Take, for instance, Breathing Through the Code, in which we see one of the protagonists in the artist’s ongoing story After the Woods. Her name is Polygon, and one can assume here that she is communicating with her lover-from-afar – the knight Versus – via what Caivano has titled Philapores (they are the birds that you see in the images).

According to Caivano, Polygon and Versus are lovers who were separated a millennia ago. His drawings depict their attempted reunification in the near future on a cosmic, geometrically ambiguous world. Versus’ powers reside in the growth and evolution of plants, Polygon’s in the capacity and possibilities of technology (she herself is epitomised as a spaceship). Their only communication relies on the Philapores. It is these narratives that Caivano illustrates within the scope of Versus’ and Polygon’s wider universe.

Suspension of Elements (A Kind of Reassembly), 2009 18.25 x 45.25 Inches. Ink and graphite on paper © Ernesto Caivano

Suspension of Elements (A Kind of Reassembly), 2009
18.25 x 45.25 Inches. Ink and graphite on paper © Ernesto Caivano

Innumerable possible interpretations lie within each image, as is the case for the narrative as a whole. Brian Sholis writes in Vitamin D: New Perspectives in Drawing (2005) that “the story can be seen as a metaphor for our attempts to reconcile technological development with non-human life and the natural environment”. Visual allusions to molecular physics and fractal geometry reside alongside more literary medieval references, forming an almost archetypal narrative that brims with nostalgia and trepidation.

And yet despite this apparent complexity Caivano is far less ambiguous than his artwork. As to the fate of his protagonists, of the Philapores and of the beautifully sinister cosmos in After the Woods, he is deliberate about not stipulating direct connotations and meanings. Even he doesn’t know how the narrative will end. I suppose that’s the success behind any good story. We can only look on and wait to see whether or not longing will be transformed into reunification. But whilst After the Woods may resemble fairy tales in some respects, fairy tales by nature are not as delectable as one may first assume. After all, there’s nothing more boring than reading a story and seeing the words ‘happily ever after’ written at the end.

You can find more images of Ernesto Caivano’s artwork at the Richard Heller Gallery website.

This post was originally written for Guy.com’s Daily Slice.

I Like People.

In Art, Drawing, Fine Arts, Life Drawing on November 25, 2012 at 5:54 pm

I really do like people, especially if I’m drawing them.

As I’ve made the decision to start painting again I thought it would be prudent to actually take pencil to paper and see if my approach to drawing has undergone a miraculous transformation in the last six years. It hasn’t, other than the fact that I cannot remember how to draw (properly, that is; the pencil landed on the paper just fine).

I can’t draw hands and feet any more. I can’t make hair shine. I can’t gauge perspective. But one thing that did resurface like a drowning man who just found the hole in the ice was the lines. Lines are great; I could draw the line of a waist or an arm all day. Forget tone; forget chiaroscuro; just the outline.

It’s no wonder that I’m fond of Matisse’s figure drawings and of Schiele’s writhing pencil marks. There are whole archives of renowned and forgotten scribblings that I’ve amassed onto my hard-drive over the last ten years, and yes, lots of them are faces and bodies cast in shadow. But give me a Chillida drawing over a Singer-Sargent study any day.

Drawing, like any other skill, requires persistence in order to maintain high standards. I’m not the arty swot I once was as a pre-university adolescent, but it’s still a bit of a shock when you realise that your current self can’t do something with half as much dexterity as your fifteen year old self could. For now, however, the joy is simply in the act of drawing.

With no intention of sounding over-sentimental, sitting and knocking elbows in a badly lit, crowded room and drawing mostly-naked people felt liberating. I almost felt younger, no doubt because I was doing what I did best as a teenager, having for some reason shirked the ‘classic’ artistic skills since adulthood.

The life drawing class that I attended on Tuesday was casual with some experienced artists and some beginners. Drawing advice was given if asked for, and offered competently when desired. Don’t be scared of a nude stranger standing in front of you; give life drawing a chance. If nothing else it will send you home feeling relaxed and, most importantly, with a sense of having done something different, productive and exciting.

While there isn’t a UK-wide website listing the times and whereabouts of local life-drawing classes, try local art schools and colleges or indie bars and cafés – there’ll be something happening close by. For those of you in the US, Art Model Book’s website is an amazing resource for finding your nearest life drawing class.

Bored in a Café.

In Life, storytelling, Thinking on November 19, 2012 at 9:08 am

Not exactly what I’m looking for…
Edward Hopper’s ‘Automat’ 1927.

Peep Show:
Mark: Did you, you know, make your move?
Jeremy: No, no. She was going to Starbucks to read a book. It’s one of her things.

It’s just one of those things: people love to sit in coffee houses, mostly on a Sunday, and create the hell out of something.

I’m not one to make sweeping judgments, so let’s just say for the sake of this blog that I’m actually talking about myself. I remember watching Robert Webb utter those words and feeling an interior swell of shame. Oh God, I panicked, I love going to Starbucks and reading.*

And writing. And pondering. Maybe with some spontaneous life drawing chucked in for good measure. J. K. Rowling famously did it. The Parisian intellectuals were renowned for it. There are legends of political coffee house gatherings debating the Franco-Prussian War, the suppression of coffee-houses by Charles II in an attempt to eradicate the spread of scandalous, Monarchical rumours, and of citizens playing games, telling stories and reciting poetry in the Ottoman empire.

But why does sitting in a café work for me?

Obviously, the people have something to do with it. The sweaty shoppers; the snotty toddlers; the be-fringed teens; the business associates. The elderly couple are my most treasured subjects. And whilst for matters of sanity I’m limited to decaff, the tides of people that ebb in and out of coffee houses play a soundtrack that fits oh-so-perfectly with my Gutless Wonder cappuccino. Unless Shania Twain is yodelling about being ‘sexy in her socks’ over the sound system. Then everything is ruined.

I suppose I still experience that twang of embarrassment at fulfilling the coffee-goer stereotype. But I could look at it another way: if it wasn’t for coffee houses I sure as Shania would never write anything on this blog, and I definitely wouldn’t get any of my assignments done. Although I would be a lot, lot richer.

* Allow me to note that I only specify Starbucks here because they are the ultimate chain to take advantage of: you don’t feel guilty staying for hours and you can stroll onto any street and spy the green mermaid swimming amongst all the other less-definable brands. Easy. But there are plenty of independent coffee houses that are more worth a haunt.

The Problem with Self-Portraits.

In Art, Identity, Painting on November 6, 2012 at 1:33 pm

‘The Painter’s Studio: A Real Allegory of a Seven Year Phase in my Artistic (and Moral) Life’ by Gustave Courbet, 1855.

For this marvellous, stupendous book I’m writing, I have somehow made the scenario ‘paint self-portrait’ imperative to the progression of the narrative. This is terrifying. Below is a list I’ve put together in order to dissuade myself from embarking on such a silly flight of fancy:

  1. You have to look at yourself for ages. This can be very boring, unless you are Gustave Courbet (as evidenced above).
  2. You risk looking like a puffed up narcissist with too much time on their hands. Of course, if you don’t care what people think, you can always make yourself look quite sad and then your self-portrait is not masturbatory, it is deep.
  3. Wanting to paint a self-portrait for non-narcissistic reasons probably means you’re searching for what some people call ‘meaning’ or ‘truth.’ Beware of learning more than you need to know, or of learning nothing at all.

These are the criteria that go through my head when I toy with the idea of painting another self-portrait. I was a regular mirror-searcher as an adolescent, no doubt due to my friends’ quite appropriate hesitance to sit for me while everyone else actually did useful stuff; I had to make do instead.

Painting a self-portrait is painful. It can be like ripping out a page from your diary and tacking it to the wall. OK, so maybe it won’t specifically say ‘started period today, life is OVER’ or ‘have reached Quarter Life Crisis, life is OVER,’ but something significant will have undoubtedly reached the canvas after repeated dark nights spent with yourself, a mirror and the romantic aroma of turpentine. Sure, the impact is probably reduced somewhat by our over-saturation in everyone’s self-portraits *cough*facebook*cough*, but I can’t be bothered to bitch about social networking.

Poet and Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen describes self-portraits as ‘a lonely exploration’ of the artist. Egotists like Gustave Courbet aside, self-portraits also seem to reek of the age-old desire to outlive our smelly, saggy bodies. Young people take more pictures than the old. At least the ones I know do. And it seems there is no escaping the revelation of your darker depths to those who may only know you from a self-portrait; as journalist Laura Cummings phrases it: ‘No matter how fanciful, flattering or deceitful the image, it will always reveal something deep and incontrovertible.’ Damn.

It’s no wonder people like looking at self-portraits. But painting them…I’m still not so sure. For some people there seems to be an urgent need to imprint themselves all over the place. For others it isn’t as simple as that. When Cummings asked in her book A Face to the World: ‘who is this in the mirror: myself or another, I or he?’ she was asking the question that keeps pattering through my head when I look at old self-portraits: who the hell is that? I don’t know if I’m ready to start finding out.

Science.

In Fine Arts, Identity, Life on June 15, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Finally!

There comes a time in everyone’s life when they realise that they have no idea what they’re doing.

As you may have realised from my previous blog post (and from the prolonged, empty cyber-gap on this site between then and now), I reached that point a few months ago.

It’s been quite a fascinating experience. I haven’t written a single, solitary word. I haven’t bothered with even a page of literature*. The only films I’ve watched have been along the lines of Kung-Pow and Superstar: Dare to Dream! which we all know are not really films; they are things created solely for the purposes of procrastination and despair.

This has to change. Last week, as I was writing a reserve note for a customer at work I spelled the word ‘call’ wrong. And the word ‘please’. Hopefully I gained points for attempting to use pleasantries, but the degeneration of my skills is still pretty impressive.

So now I finally have it: scientific proof that literature and writing improves intelligence. I have to read in order to be able to spell four letter words.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I’ve missed all that stuff. The syntactically complex sentences; the long, meaningful gazes between art-house characters; the questioning of what that painting fucking means. I think it’s time to welcome pretention back into my life once more.

So…I’ve missed you, arty stuff. Welcome back into my life.

*This is a lie. In February I read Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman, but as it’s technically a humour book I’m choosing to consider it invalid; books that make you snort coffee out of your nose don’t count.

Writing about Looking.

In Fine Arts on January 2, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Norman Rockwell's 'Connoisseur,' The Saturday Evening Post, January 13, 1962 (cover). Private collection.

I would like to open this blog entry with a confession:

I have never read any Marcel Proust.

Or is that a disclaimer? I just thought I’d get it out of the way, because what I’ve been mulling over these last few days seems to keep bouncing back to the French author and his À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time/Remembrance of Things Past).

I’ve been thinking about methods of describing emotional responses to art.

This is intertwined with the physical act of looking at an artwork. I recently discovered the horrors of having to attempt this in a short story – the first of the term (and it shows). My protagonist embarks on a journey to discover a portrait of Rubens’ wife, Helene, and on encountering the object becomes enraptured. Sparks fly, emotions soar, tears are shed. You get the idea.

Except sparks didn’t really fly. Emotions did not soar. It had never occurred to me before: I have no idea how you write about art on an emotional level. I’m not talking about art as an object ripe for description, but instead about the personal, emotive affect that it has on an individual. I fell prey to this struggle more recently with my post about British Art Show 7, for which I intended a follow-up entry regarding the artworks that particularly enamoured me and my friends. Listing them was instinctive enough, but trying to type their significance wasn’t just problematic…it was embarrassing.

And this leads me back to Proust. Edmund de Waal, in his recent and wonderful book The Hare with Amber Eyes, describes Proust’s mega-prose as being “suffused not just with references to Giotto and…Renoir, but, by the act of looking at paintings, by the act of collecting and remembering what it was to see something, with a memory of the moment of apprehension” (p106).

The “moment of apprehension” is an ideal way to describe one aspect of experiencing an artwork. Perhaps, as de Waal goes on to consider, it is also about learning to “stand back and then move forward,” both in front of an artwork and in your subsequent recollections of it. How well this will translate into writing, or to other people, I can’t say, as it doesn’t just depend on the artwork but on the writer, too. And that’s what terrifies me.

The British Art Show 7: In the Days of the Comet.

In Exhibition, Fine Arts on December 6, 2011 at 2:24 pm

It looks like I’m not the only one who’s had thoughts of time on the brain recently. The British Art Show 7 (BAS7) also seemed to be concerned with the ticking clock. In this instance, however, the artists and curators were not just observing the linear passage of time but were considering it from all angles. Hence why they borrowed H. G. Wells’ title In the Days of the Comet for the show’s subtitle, as one of the two curators, Lisa Le Feuvre, explains in her essay Present Tense:

“BAS7 uses the motif of the comet to locate artists’ responses to our own uncertain and inconclusive times. Due to their looping, recurrent nature, comets are simultaneously of the past, present and future.”*

So in the BAS7 we are faced with art that addresses the future and the past whilst simultaneously confronting and existing in the present. Yikes.

Mick Peter, 'Moldenke Fiddles On' 2008-2009 © Mick Peter, Courtesy the Artist and Galerie Crèvecoeur

BAS7 is the most enjoyable and thought-provoking exhibition that I’ve seen in a good while. I caught it on its final day in Plymouth, where it was pleasantly spread between five venues: The Slaughterhouse, Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, Plymouth Arts Centre, the Peninsula Arts Gallery and Plymouth College of Art. Consisting of 39 artists and artist groups, it has been held every five years since the first BAS in 1979, with each exhibition touring to various cities throughout the UK. The artists were all British or based in Britain, and the variety of work on display was vast; it consisted of sculpture, painting, film and video, sound, installation, performance and drawing, plus all the bits in-between.

Sarah Lucas, 'NUDS' © Sarah Lucas, Courtesy the artist and Sadie Coles

There was a smattering of familiar names in BAS7. Charles Avery, Roger Hiorns, Sarah Lucas, Nathaniel Mellors and Wolfgang Tillmans to name but a few. I was unfamiliar with many of the artists (guilty as charged) but was particularly impressed by many of them. Elizabeth Price’s comically philosophical video overlaid with Ah-Ha’s Take On Me, Varda Caivano’s abstract paintings, David Nooman’s astonishing tapestry, Alasdair Gray’s bold drawings and Maaike Schoorel’s ghostly portaits; I could go on, and this isn’t even naming the artworks that really drew me in. I’m still contemplating those.

Alasdair Gray, 'Andrew Gray aged 7 and Inge's Patchwork Quilt' 2009 © Alasdair Gray, Courtesy the artist and Sorcha Dallas

BAS7 was certainly a lot to take in. I suppose that’s where the success of an exhibition such as this lies: in its variety. A show of this magnitude is going to contain art that causes you to recoil in horror, disgust or even worse, boredom and indifference. But there’ll also be work that entices and excites you, that hooks and reels you in. If you got the chance to experience the British Art Show 7, I hope it did both of these things. It’s way more fun if you see both sides of the coin.

Visit the British Art Show 7 website for more information and artist links.

*Page 21, British Art Show 7 Exhibition Catalogue, Hayward Publishing 2011

Objects in Time.

In Fine Arts on October 10, 2011 at 10:40 am

'Inhale (Yellow', 2002, Michael Craig-Martin

I think very well in lectures. That isn’t meant to be insulting to the speakers, because I genuinely try my best to listen attentively. Maybe it’s just the concentrated atmosphere of listening and thinking from the general audience. Today, for instance, I went to see a talk given by artist Michael Craig-Martin. One of the perks of being a student again is access to events such as this, and I felt a calming rush of excitement (contradictory, I know, but that’s what it was) as people thronged in and settled in their chairs. Once the infectious buzz abruptly receded with the first introductory taps of the microphone, I almost felt at home again. It didn’t matter that I was in a new town, with new people. Art is home.

That sounds hopelessly tacky, but I’m all for being honest and that’s how I felt. Comfort wasn’t my immediate reaction, however; whilst the audience had been buzzing, two women were talking across me about various goings on in the art world surrounding us here in this little town, prompting an initial rush of displeasure. This didn’t stem from the two women, who were pleasant and enthusiastic; it stemmed from my sudden awareness that I am completely out of the loop. Clueless. I’m having to start all over again.

When London-based curator David Sturgess began his interview with Craig-Martin I started to pay attention. And a focused mind for me is a productive mind; strangely, I can’t concentrate on one thing without concentrating on another.

Michael Craig-Martin’s work is not to my taste, although I can greatly appreciate his talent and boundless dedication. I can see the value in what he does. Whether or not I like looking at it seems irrelevant. You don’t have to like a person’s work to like them and their philosophies.

And so I started thinking about images. That sounds broad – bear with me.

I was thinking about images through time, and how certain objects (for the sake of argument I’m including living beings in this definition of ‘objects’) have appeared continuously through time, and how their representation has changed. It sounds so obvious it almost appears a worthless topic to mention, let alone write about. But I can’t shake the idea of an object existing hundreds of years ago and existing now (I’m not talking about literally the same object, but the same type of object) and it being represented in completely varying ways over time.

This thought may sound broad and slightly objective, as I could refer to variants in social trends and cultural ideologies when I talk about the re-representation of an object, but I am also considering it from a smaller, more subjective standpoint. This was prompted by Craig-Martin’s discussion of his own representation of images. He draws an object, a table for instance, depicting only its most common features, its edges and surfaces. He uses line to create a universally recognised image of that object and when he needs a picture of that object once more, he reuses it. Perhaps its proportions will change in relation to other items surrounding it, but it is essentially the exact same image. So throughout his painting repertoire we are presented with reproduced images again and again.

'The Ambassadors', 1533, Hans Holbein the Younger

It was the globe in Craig-Martin’s Reading With Globe (1980) that sparked questions about representation through time. When I saw it I immediately thought of Hans Holbein’s Ambassadors (1533). It is one of my favourite paintings and I spent many an hour studying reproductions of it when I was young. I used to suffer a sense of awe and wonderment when I looked at it, an experience magnified a thousand-fold when I visited it in the flesh.

And here was Craig-Martin’s globe, simplified and reproduced. It didn’t tantalise me in the same way that Holbein’s did, but the contrast between each artists’ portrayal of this object fascinated me for new reasons.

Reading with Globe, 1980, Michael Craig-Martin

An image of a globe in one painting symbolises power and omniscience, in another it represents normality and mass production. One object, two images and various interpretations and meanings.

As of yet I haven’t quantified whether I’m trying to come to some conclusion about artists or about objects. It may be that I care about neither and instead am interested in social and cultural trends in representation. Umberto Eco records these developments magnificently in his book On Beauty (Maclehose Press, 2004), in which he charts our depictions of Madonna and Christ throughout history. The array of contrasts and transformations are intriguing.