Art & Painting

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Art & Painting

Hostry Festival’s 2016 Norfolk Arts Awards – EDP People’s Choice Award

Norfolk EDP People’s Choice Awards

Today, Tuesday 23 August, is the last day to “nominate your stars of Norfolk‘s arts scene” for a special EDP People’s Choice Arts Award. The deadline for submission is midnight to put forward your favourite community or corporate arts organisation, artist, or event.

Nominate EDP People’s Choice Norfolk Arts Awards NOW

2015’s Norfolk Arts Awards saw 6,000 votes and winners included artist Matt Reeve, Norwich Arts Centre and GoGoDragons!

Over the last year have you loved an art exhibition at St Margaret’s Church of Art – e.g., Pride Without Prejudice, or Asylum at the Undercroft Gallery, or the Sainsbury’s Centre? Did you enjoy Paint Out‘s artists roaming the streets of Norwich and Wells-next-the-Sea? What about the 2015/16 programme of plays at the Maddermarket Theatre? Nominate your favourite Norfolk arts event.

Hostry Festival Innovation

The Norfolk Arts Awards is the Hostry Festival‘s red carpet gala event celebrating the arts. It’s really an opportunity to celebrate people who make a difference. The EDP People’s Choice Awards is a chance for people to have their say and nominate their own stars for the award. The top 10 in each category will be revealed and then there will be an online vote to find three winners. Winners will be announced at the Norfolk Arts Awards ceremony at Norwich Cathedral’s Hostry on Friday 21st October.

Norfolk Arts Awards 2016

Hostry Festival Norfolk Arts Awards EDP 2016
Hostry Festival Norfolk Arts Awards EDP 2016

The Arts Awards consist of 15 awards, with 30 nominations and celebrate the rich and diverse world of arts and culture in Norfolk. The EDP People’s Choice Award features 3 categories and nominating arts groups or individuals for the public vote closes Tuesday 23rd August – it is your chance to have your say by recommending an arts project, organiser or artist for their creative work in Norfolk.

Check out the interview with the event’s co-founder, Stash Kirkbride, on BBC Radio Norfolk (from 3h34m).

“Nominations have already been flooding in for this year’s awards, and people have until Tuesday, August 23 to send in their entries. Once again there are three EDP People’s Choice Awards categories – individual, small organisation and large organisation.” – Emma Knights, EDP

This year the awards are returning to the Hostry building at Norwich Cathedral, held on Friday October 21st 2016, 7-9.30pm with after show canapes and champagne reception.

Nominate EDP People’s Choice Norfolk Arts Awards NOW

Full List of 2015 Arts Awards Nominees

Individual Artists who went through to the public vote:

Small Venue, Organisation, Festival who made the public vote:

Large Venue, Organisation, Festival reaching a large number of people who went to the public vote:

Art & Painting

Marisol, the enigmatic Latin Garbo, Warhol muse, Artist-Sculptor, Obituary

Last Supper for Artist Marisol

Marisol Escobar for Time Magazine, 1957
Marisol Escobar for Time Magazine, 1957

A belated obituary of Marisol, who died 2 weeks ago. She was a Bohemian enigma, speaking rarely; described as the Latin Garbo. As a muse of Warhol, she appeared in two Andy Warhol movies – The Kiss and 13 Most Beautiful Girls, “the first girl artist with glamour”. But it was as an artist and sculptor in her own right, that she was the disputed “undisputed queen of pop art”, including by herself and Grace Glueck (New York Times, 1965) – not whether she was queen, but whether it was even Pop Art she was creating.

Marisol abandoned her father’s family name Escobar to make a name in her own right, to “stand out from the crowd”. A Venezuelan, born in Paris, made famous in New York, who was inspired by pre-Colombian art, she was international in her influences. Whilst she started out in painting, in the 1950s she shifted to sculpture, becoming well known only in the 1960s after 5 years travel abroad, despite a well-received first exhibition in 1958.

“Marisol’s sophisticated aesthetic immediately linked her to the new Pop Art movement, but her work remained in a category of its own, displaying a myriad of influences from sources as diverse as Pre-Colombian art and Surrealist imagery. Even today, Marisol’s art resists any linear curatorial reading.” – Review of Sotheby’s Lot by Carter B. Horsley, (2005)

Indeed, her influences and output combined Americas heritage folk art, Pop Art, Dadaism, Abstract Expressionism – “a hodgepodge of influences that make up a person’s identity.”

Marisol – The Party

The Cocktail Party - Marisol Escobar, 1965-66
The Cocktail Party – Marisol Escobar, 1965-66

One such art work, which might be described as a mixed media sculpture or installation was the ‘The (Cocktail) Party’, consisting of 15 freestanding figures and ‘accessories’ carved, cast, collaged, photographed and printed. Created during 1965-1966, it sold 40 years later for nearly a million dollars, double its estimate, at Sotheby’s, New York.

The work, like many of hers, bore her face on each figure. Curious for someone whose background personal angst, since her mother’s suicide when she was aged 11, led to a lot of self-analysis and self-enforced silence. Her creations instead were her voice, her image, her projection into, and of, the world, giving it depth, “form and weight”.

“I began to make self-portraits because working at night I had no other model. I used myself over and over again. At time making these self-portraits, I would learn about myself” – Marisol (1968)

Art as Rebellion & Humour

Among her art teachers was abstract expressionist Hans Hofmann, but she broke away from Hofmann’s adherence to the “flatness of the canvas” emerging instead as a sculptor, in which she was mainly self-taught, and embarked upon as:

“a kind of rebellion. Everything was so serious – I started to do something funny so that I would become happier – and it worked.” – Marisol (1965)

She regularly used humour and “social satire” in her work poking satirical fun at the possessions and personalities of her subjects, or the strict parameters of the art world’s curators and critics.

“What endures in Marisol’s work is the universality of the impulses she captures. Truly a sculptor of modern life, she evokes the venality of social climbers, the integrity of great artists, the contradictions of the powerful and the quiet dignity of the dispossessed. She feels both their absurdity and their pain and encourages us to do the same” – Eleanor Heartney (2001)

Portraits and Self-Portraiture

Marisol Escobar, Portrait of Willem de Kooning, 1980
Marisol Escobar, Portrait of Willem de Kooning, 1980

Her subjects included migrants and street children, but also those she admired. Willem de Kooning became a friend, brief lover, and ended up in an oak and ash wooden sculpted ‘portrait‘ himself.

Other artists and personalities also ended up as portraits – Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keefe, Hugh Heffner, John Wayne, the Kennedys, and others. It is her own face, nonetheless, that so often appears in works, even in an homage to Leonardo da Vinci, in an installation that includes herself viewing a three-dimensional carved Last Supper.

“Whatever the artist makes is always a kind of self-portrait.” – Marisol

Self-Portrait Looking at The Last Supper - Marisol Escobar, 1984
Self-Portrait Looking at The Last Supper – Marisol Escobar, 1984
Art & Painting

World Bipolar Day, Bipolar Mood Scale, Vincent van Gogh & Manic Creativity

World Bipolar Day

Today and everyday is bipolar day for 2-3% of the population who have a Mood Affective Disorder including Cyclothymia and Bipolar I & II. A day to recognise the issues, struggles, and occasional joys and spurts of creativity – sometimes manic, experienced by people with bipolar, was created to coincide with Vincent van Gogh’s birthday, 30 March, since he was posthumously believed to have had a bipolar type condition. World Bipolar Day aims to:

“bring world awareness to bipolar disorders and eliminate social stigma.” – International Society for Bipolar Disorders

Bipolar Incidence & Prevalence

Whilst 1-in-100 or 2.6% are commonly cited figures, some studies have shown wide variations, ranging from 2.6 to 20.0 per 100,000 per year, in the incidence of bipolar affective disorder (Lloyd & Jones, 2002). These variations have been e.g., regional, SE London is twice that of Nottingham and Bristol, or by ethnicity, by socio-economic class, by childhood intelligence – especially high verbal IQ, or by hormones and gender – some studies show a much higher incidence in the female population.

“estrogen fluctuations may be an important factor in the etiology of bipolar disorder and it is obvious that more research on this topic is needed to clarify the role of estrogen in women with bipolar disorder…Why is it that rapid cycling occurs more often in women?” – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23510130

It also alleged that among artistic and creative types there is a higher incidence of bipolar mood disorders, that may be genetic. Indeed, as many as 40x the national incidence, among a group of 30 American authors, studied over 15 years:

“43 per cent of them had bipolar disorder compared to only 10 per cent of the control group and 1 per cent of the general population.” – Bipolar Disorder and Creativity

A further survey of 47 British authors and visual artists from the British Royal Academy found that 38% had been treated for a mood disorder.

“A recent study carried out at Stanford University by Santosa and colleagues found that people with bipolar disorder and creative discipline controls scored significantly more highly than healthy controls on a measure of creativity called the Barron-Welsh Art Scale. In a related study the same authors sought to identify temperamental traits that people with bipolar disorder and creative people have in common. They found that both shared tendencies for mild elation and depression with gradual shifts from one to the other, openness, irritability, and neuroticism (roughly speaking, a combination of anxiety and perfectionism).” – Bipolar Disorder and Creativity

Vincent van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh The Starry Night Google Art Project
Vincent Van Gogh, “The Starry Night”, 1889, MOMA, NYC via  Google Art Project

The famous Dutch post-Impressionist painter, Vincent van Gogh suffered quite wild swings in his mental health and many paintings were produced from his asylum room. Van Gogh is thought to have shot himself, after struggling with declining mental health in his mid-30s. He had spent most of the last 18-months of his life in an asylum, but two months later was dead as the result of a presumably, though not proven, self-induced shooting incident or suicide attempt.

Ironically, it was a period when he produced many iconic paintings, some en plein air. His famous image titled ‘The Starry Night’ was a pre-sunrise nocturne as seen from his East-facing asylum window, but finished in the asylum studio, as he was only allowed to draw in his room, not paint. Van Gogh’s beautiful and happier ‘Village Street and Steps in Auvers’ was painted just days after release from the asylum:

Vincent van Gogh Village Street and Steps in Auvers
Vincent van Gogh, “Dorfstraße undTreppe in Auvers mit Figuren” – ‘Village Street and Steps in Auvers’, 1890

Barely weeks later, and days before his death, he was painting several large wheat fields canvases and in a letter to his brother Theo, he wrote:

“I have painted three more large canvases. They are vast stretches of corn under troubled skies, and I did not have to go out of my way very much in order to try to express sadness and extreme loneliness….I’m fairly sure that these canvases will tell you what I cannot say in words, that is, how healthy and invigorating I find the countryside.” – Vincent van Gogh, Letter to Theo van Gogh, 10 July 1890

His late paintings demonstrate an artist at the height of his talent, yet also the depths of his troubles, for whom art and the outdoor landscape was creative catharsis and therapy. What would the art world have witnessed had he lived on?

Bipolar Mood Scale Diary

It is typical for a bipolar diagnosis to take a decade and work through several misdiagnoses en route. I was first diagnosed with Cyclothymia over 4 years ago, but subsequently told it was Mood Affective Disorder and then Bipolar II, along with rapid cycling and mixed mode variations. CBT – Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, helped my management, but so did self-knowledge, awareness, and diarying. I enjoy my hypomanic periods, less so the depressions which I’ve fought for 12 years or so. Finding balance when you only exist at the poles is a tricky act to accomplish and may involve staying in when you feel like going out and going out when you feel like staying in!

Risks, when hypomanic, for me include inappropriate conversation, loss of impulse control, manic spending, flirting, obsessional behaviours, risk seeking. Yet, the benefits when high are hyperactive stamina and energy, stream of consciousness ideas flooding, huge reading and writing output, charismatic and entertaining confidence and loquaciousness.

“I managed to rack up £300k of credit, hardly average! I was, and indeed am, very convincing when hypomanic, it made me a good salesperson, deal-maker, innovator, public speaker but terrible at time and money management.”May 2013

Having been in a balanced mood state for nearly 3 months now, a rare occurrence, possibly due to recent endocrine changes, I miss the hyper states. I also realise, however, how destructive they could be to life, economics, and relationships, whilst at the same time being a creative buzz. I don’t miss the lethargic, inactive, hopeless depressive episodes at all, although they were a great way of avoid life and its stresses.

The best advice I was given was to monitor my mood on a daily basis, as I was already doing with my insomnia diary and general personal diary. The catharsis of writing and recording also came with the recognition that moods, highs, lows, sleeplessness all came in phases, that changed – they got better, and they got worse. Unlike, when I suffered with depression for 6-8 years as that felt like nothing would ever get better. The Bipolar Mood Scale diary has helped me to hold out for the good days, and to manage my moods better.

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Being or having bipolar – people’s attitudes to which verb to use varies, should not be romanticised. It is both a blessing and a curse, and for some is very hard to live with. I’ve made friends with mine, though it is still unpredictable. I’ve come to appreciate the moment, mindful that it can change, but I take the rough with the smooth now. Hopefully, I can look back on past suicide attempts as distant memories, and seize the creative periods to be productive and expressive, whilst trying to rein it in when it tips into hypomania.

 

 

 

Art & Painting

Apple iPad Pro Pencil, not the first Tablet or Stylus by a long chalk

Apple iPad Pro Pencil

Apple have invented something revolutionary and yet familiar, or rather they’ve reinvented something that has been around as long as the wheel. It’s the pencil. Well, ok, we’ve only had pencils since 1564 but we’ve had writing implements since 4,000 BC. Rather amazingly the new £79 Apple Pencil has a full 12 hours of battery life – not as long as a real pencil, but you won’t need a sharpener, just a charger, when it runs out.

“When using iPad Pro, there may be moments when you want even greater precision. So we painstakingly designed Apple Pencil to expand on the versatility of Multi-Touch. And while the technology inside is unlike anything we’ve ever engineered, picking up Apple Pencil for the first time feels instantly familiar. It lets you make any number of effects, right down to a single pixel, giving you more creative freedom than ever before….The precision and versatility of Apple Pencil make it a natural tool for artists”Apple Pencil

Artists may disagree, having used stick brushes for millennia, as far back as 40,000 years. With Chinese writing and calligraphy came the use of more conventional brushes around 300 BC, ultimately reaching Western art many centuries later and first being mentioned Tuscan painter Cennino Cennini in his Il libro dell’arte, written in the early 1400s.

Read the review by Guardian illustrator Chloe Cushman:

“it didn’t feel like drawing with a pencil. It felt a lot like drawing on an iPad, which is sort of like drawing on a sheet of glass with a piece of plastic while having bright light beamed into your eyes. It’s not even the best tool for digital illustration – that’s a Wacom tablet, the gold standard used by professional artists and illustrators.”

Cushman quotes Steve Jobs who in 2010 said: “If you see a stylus, they blew it.” He thought the idea of a digital stylus was an admission of failure to design a graphical interface that worked with mouse or gestures alone. Gestures and flicks were actually patented by GoCorp and their PenPoint OS before Microsoft and Apple, back in 1991. Indeed, IBM brought out the ThinkPad 700T in 1991/2, the first iPad, well Thinkpad, back then:

Pen and Stylus Computing

We’ve had stylus based devices on Windows and Android since 1998 and earlier – Windows for Pen Computing was 1992. The 1998 Palmax touchscreen modeled on a Toshiba Libretto ran a customised touch-screen version of Windows 98, pre-empting Windows XP Tablet edition (2001) and Windows 8. My VHS cassette-sized 6.1″ screen Palmax PD-1000 still works. Compaq iPAQ PDAs running Windows Pocket PC 2000 & 2002 and HP Jornadas from 1998 running Windows CE had stylii, as did the Palm Tungsten and the 1993-98 Apple Newton. Around the same time as the Newton there was also the commercial failure, the Amstrad PenPad. Great innovations all of them – only the Apple iPad has been a real commercial success. One of the best smartphones or phablets is actually the Samsung Note and its stylus pen which is leaps and bounds ahead of innovations over a decade ago.

In 2001, IBM released the ThinkPad TransNote a combination X20 Thinkpad and convertible tablet as well as a real paper and pen notebook with electronic digitiser to convert notes to the laptop!

IBM Thinkpad Transnote
IBM Thinkpad Transnote usage variations

The Transnote didn’t sell well at its $3000 price tag, but it’ll still set you back £300 on the rare vintage market. Pen Computing said this of it in 2002:

“In many ways it is too darn bad that IBM gave up on the TransNote. It is an unusual design that includes a lot of great ideas–the result of many years of research in IBM’s advanced technology labs–and the overall package works surprisingly well.” – Pen Computing Magazine

First hybrid convertible laptop/tablet

IBM Thinkpad X41 Tablet
IBM Thinkpad X41 Tablet configurations

In 2004, Lenovo bought IBM Thinkpad and in 2005 their first touchscreen tablet convertible laptop came out, the Thinkpad X41, with a stylus pen that docked inside. Aside from the abandoned Transnote, this was the first convertible tablet – that wasn’t linked to a notepad. These ran Windows XP Tablet edition but from Windows Vista and 7 onwards tablet features were embedded within the Windows standard operating system.

Pen and Paper

Of course, pen and paper have been around for nearly 2,000 years, since the Chinese invented paper, the same Chinese whose descendants bought IBM and now resell it as Lenovo! The pencil has been around since 1564, the first patented pen in 1888, and the first tablet – neither Apple, IBM, Windows, nor Samsung, but ancient Sumer, around 4,000 BC.

Uruk Cuneiform Clay Tablet, 3000 BC, Beer Allocation
Uruk Cuneiform Clay Tablet, 3000 BC, Beer Allocation!

The original clay tablets came in a choice of colours including “bone white, chocolate and charcoal“. History demonstrates that just because we have great technology does not mean that we will use it for lofty pursuits. Cat videos, adult entertainment, and Kim Kardashian on the Internet, all come to mind. This very early writing tablet is not the Epic of Gilgamesh but an early record of beer rations!

Art & Painting

Franz Marc, German artist, painter of not just cats & abstract blue horses

German Artist, Franz Marc, 1880-1916

The Tower of Blue Horses, Franz Marc, 1913
Franz Marc, “The Tower of Blue Horses”, 1913, (missing since 1945)

Bavarian artist Franz Marc died 100 years ago today on 4 March 1916 at the Battle of Verdun, despite an order to withdraw him as a prominent artist. With his love of horses, he appropriately signed-up as a cavalryman and also developed artist-inspired Pointillist painted camouflage for German artillery.

It was a First World War that he oddly believed in despite his art being proscribed as an entarteter Künstler, or “degenerate artist“, during the Nazi era, a quarter of a century after his death. That led to the removal of some 130 paintings from German museums in the late 1930s, some of which were only rediscovered in 2011 in the Cornelius Gurlitt art horde.

Franz Marc, 1910
Franz Marc, 1910

“Serious art has been the work of individual artists whose art has had nothing to do with style because they were not in the least connected with the style or the needs of the masses. Their work arose rather in defiance of their times.” – Franz Marc

Marc painted and drew well over 500 oil paintings, drawings and watercolours, as well as being a woodcut and lithographic printmaker, and whose works now appear on postcards everywhere. Whilst his father Wilhelm Marc was a professional landscape painter he was influenced by studies in Munich and Paris, and inspired by Vincent van Gogh and Expressionism.

Friendship with Wassily Kandinsky

The Last Judgement, Kandinsky, 1912
Kandinsky, “The Last Judgement”, 1912

He counted Russian-born artist Wassily Kandinsky as a friend and co-founder of the art collective Der Blaue Reiter, 1911-14.

The Blue Rider” comprised artists formed out of tensions with NKVM, also founded by Kandinsky in 1909, and the rejection of Kandinsky’s “Last Judgement” painting. Although “The Blue Rider” was a 1903 painting by Kandinsky he later suggested the movement’s name was derived from his love of riders and Marc’s enthusiasm for horses, and their shared love of the colour blue. The group folded with the deaths of  Marc and fellow artist August Macke in World War I and the return of Russian-born members to their home country.

The First Abstract Art Painting

Hilma af Klint, Chaos, 1906
Hilma af Klint: A Pioneer of Abstraction V – “Primordial Chaos”, painted 1906-07. From an exhibition at Moderna Museet, Stockholm

Although Kandinsky is often credited with creating the first abstract artwork in 1910, Tate‘s 2013 retrospective and The Serpentine Gallery‘s current exhibition (3 March-15 May) of Swedish artist Hilma af Klint (1862–1944) would suggest otherwise.

She, yes – a female artist for Sweden was ahead of other nations in allowing women to study art and paint alongside men, was producing abstract paintings from 1906. Curator, Iris Müller-Westermann, describes Af Klint as an “outsider”, a “disturbing artist” who could “rewrite art history”.

Art, Nature, Spirituality & Cats!

Hilma Af Klint’s love of animals, plants, and their science, forged a bond between her art and the the natural world, and an evolution from traditional landscape to abstract art. Her non-traditional ‘occult’ spirituality also inspired her work.

“Today we are searching for things in nature that are hidden behind the veil of appearance… We look for and paint this inner, spiritual side of nature.” – Franz Marc

Franz Marc was also engaged by animals and wild colours that reflected inner emotion and spirituality not the natural world as seen on the surface. Thus his trademark blue horses, a red horse, yellow cow or even a purple hare, might be represented, though many of his earlier painted cats bore more naturalistic colours:

 Increasingly abstract cats in the art of Franz Marc, 1909-1913
Increasingly abstract cats in the art of Franz Marc, 1909-1913

Whilst not as obsessed and pursued by colour as perhaps Monet, nonetheless he imbued his use of colour with meaning and metaphor:

“Blue is the male principle, stern and spiritual. Yellow the female principle, gentle, cheerful and sensual. Red is matter, brutal and heavy and always the colour which must be fought and vanquished by the other two.” – Franz Marc

He was looking for the “inner truth of things” and it was a quest that took him back to nature:

“Marc found this nature-oriented quest for spiritual redemption inspiring. His vision of nature was pantheistic; he believed that animals possessed a certain godliness that men had long since lost. “People with their lack of piety, especially men, never touched my true feelings,” he wrote in 1915. “But animals with their virginal sense of life awakened all that was good in me.” By 1907 he devoted himself almost exclusively to the representation of animals in nature.” – Guggenheim

Marc had planned to train as a theologian but instead went into art and married artists, twice. His artistic depictions of the beauty and innocence of animals were painted against a contrasting backdrop of the years leading up to the First World War, a war that cut short his life and art career at just 36 years old.

Selection of Franz Marc paintings
Selection of Franz Marc paintings (click for more)