Michael Rakowitz  The invisible enemy should not exist (Northwest palace of Nimrud, Room N)  2018 Middle Eastern Packaging and Newspaper Courtesy of the artist Photo by Robert Chase Heishman

Michael Rakowitz
The invisible enemy should not exist (Northwest palace of Nimrud, Room N) 2018
Middle Eastern Packaging and Newspaper Courtesy of the artist
Photo by Robert Chase Heishman

Recently exhibited at the Whitechapel Gallery was Iraqi-American and internationally celebrated artist Michael Rakowitz. Earlier this year, Rakowitz’s sculpture of Lamassu was chosen to occupy the Fourth Plinth at Trafalgar Square. Made entirely from recycled packaging from Middle Eastern foods, it notably comprises of 10,500 empty Iraqi date syrup cans.

This sculpture is part of an ongoing series started in 2006, ‘The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist’ which attempts to recreate more than 15,000 Iraqi objects and artefacts that are now officially lost due to looting and war crimes. These reconstructions by the artist are intended as “ghosts or apparitions” to echo that which has been lost as opposed to imitating the originals. This is accentuated by their imperfect workmanship to highlight the absence of the real artefacts.

Various more recreations from this project were present in the Whitechapel exhibit, most notably would be the life-size murals made, in the same manner, from recycled trademark Iraqi brands. These reliefs of the murals are homage to of those formerly located in room N at the Northwest Palace of Nimrud and destroyed by ISIS in 2015. Accompanying texts quote various individuals on the loss of this cultural heritage:

“The damage done to Nimrud remains part of the catastrophic and ongoing destruction of Iraq’s cultural heritage. Much of this destruction took place immediately post-2003 when archaeological sites in the south were heavily looted, along with the national museum in Bagdad.” -John Beck

Other memorable projects span the exhibition, including ‘The flesh is yours, the bones are ours’, a Turkish phrase spoken by parents when handing their children over as apprentices to craftsmen. And that is the focus of this body of work, the craft of Armenian artisans who helped shape the Art Nouveau architecture of Turkey. This is presented in conjunction with the realities of their persecution and exile.

Commissioned for the 2015 Istanbul Biennale, this work is an investigative look into Turkish-Armenian relations. Razowitz uses plaster-casts remoulded after original Armenian craftsmanship (made with help of the trainee who inspired the name of the project) and accompanying frottages from Istanbul city completed by students from the Armenian community. The intent is to highlight the extent to which these persecuted peoples have an embedded presence within Turkey.

The rest of the exhibition holds other extensive bodies of work such as ‘Dull Roar’ which opens the show and exemplifies the inevitable failure of utopian architecture. ‘What dust will rise?’ is the artist’s site-specific work for the international dOCUMENTA (13) exhibition which presents the stone carvings of various destroyed books from a workshop he ran in Afghanistan. Up on the second floor is ‘The Breakup’ with focus on the period spanning from 1940 to 1970 when the Beatles breakup coincided with the death of Egyptian President, Gamal Abdel Nasser. Rakowitz matches this two chronologies to highlight the attempts and latter dissolution of Pan-Arabism. Director of the gallery, Iwona Blazwick has said of Rakowitz’s work:

“From the Assyrian winged bull he placed in Trafalgar Square to the stone books he had carved from the ruins of Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Buddhas, sculptor, detective and some time cook Michael Rakowitz turns the disasters of war into beacons of knowledge and hope.” -Iwona Blazwick, Director, Whitechapel Gallery

Michael Rakowitz  The invisible enemy should not exist  2007–ongoing Installation view Photo John Nguyen/PA Wire Courtesy Whitechapel Gallery

Michael Rakowitz
The invisible enemy should not exist
2007–ongoing
Installation view
Photo John Nguyen/PA Wire Courtesy Whitechapel Gallery

Michael Rakowitz  The flesh is yours, the bones are ours (plaster casts)  2015 Installation view Photo John Nguyen/PA Wire Courtesy Whitechapel Gallery

Michael Rakowitz
The flesh is yours, the bones are ours (plaster casts) 2015
Installation view
Photo John Nguyen/PA Wire Courtesy Whitechapel Gallery

Michael Rakowitz  The Breakup  2010-ongoing Installation view Photo John Nguyen/PA Wire Courtesy Whitechapel Gallery

Michael Rakowitz
The Breakup
2010-ongoing
Installation view
Photo John Nguyen/PA Wire Courtesy Whitechapel Gallery

Michael Rakowitz  Dull Roar  2005 Installation view Photo John Nguyen/PA Wire Courtesy Whitechapel Gallery

Michael Rakowitz
Dull Roar 2005
Installation view
Photo John Nguyen/PA Wire Courtesy Whitechapel Gallery

Michael Rakowitz  What Dust Will Rise?  2012 Installation view Photo John Nguyen/PA Wire Courtesy Whitechapel Gallery

Michael Rakowitz
What Dust Will Rise? 2012
Installation view
Photo John Nguyen/PA Wire Courtesy Whitechapel Gallery

Michael Rakowitz  The invisible enemy should not exist  2018 Fourth plinth Middle Eastern Packaging and Newspaper

Michael Rakowitz
The invisible enemy should not exist 2018
Fourth plinth
Middle Eastern Packaging and Newspaper

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AuthorNazy Raouf

Van Gogh In Britain 2019 exhibition installation view, Tate Britain (27 March 2019 - 11 August 2019). ©Joe Humphrys, Tate Photography

Van Gogh In Britain 2019 exhibition installation view, Tate Britain (27 March 2019 - 11 August 2019). ©Joe Humphrys, Tate Photography

The EY Exhibition presents Van Gogh and Britain in this retrospective show highlighting the relationship the artist forged with Britain and his resonating influence with British artists that have followed. This is the first exhibition calling on this correlation between the two.

45 Van Gogh paintings spread out over multiple rooms in addition to works by other notable artists who inspired the Dutch artist while he lived in London and, likewise, painters who have since his death taken inspiration from his very particular style and palette. We also see works by his friends around whom he practised his art, highlighting the artist’s sensitivity to modern art.

But what caught our attention most is the two paintings notable to Van Gogh’s last days at Saint-Paul de Mausole asylum in Saint Rémy. Rarely loaned and lesser-known compared to his Sunflowers or Starry Night, these paintings highlight the artists meticulous working process and his fixation on ideas. He would hold onto inspiration for years, knowing he would come back to it to complete at a later time and when he could outlet his views.

Van Gogh In Britain 2019 exhibition installation view, Tate Britain (27 March 2019 - 11 August 2019). ©Joe Humphrys, Tate Photography

Van Gogh In Britain 2019 exhibition installation view, Tate Britain (27 March 2019 - 11 August 2019). ©Joe Humphrys, Tate Photography

He arrived in London in May of 1873, aged 20 and for several years worked as a trainee art dealer until 1876. In these years Van Gogh immersed himself in British culture and several particularly influential works accompany that of the artist’s at the Tate, including works by John Constable and John Everett Millais. We also see his love of British writers from the likes of William Shakespeare to Christina Rossetti, but most notably, Charles Dickens of whom he reflected by having said

‘My whole life is aimed at making the things from everyday life that Dickens describes’.

Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890)    The Prison Courtyard   1890 Oil paint on canvas 800 x 640 mm © The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow

Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890)

The Prison Courtyard

1890
Oil paint on canvas
800 x 640 mm
© The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow

On loan from The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow is Van Gogh’s The Prison Courtyard. Painted in 1890, this exemplifies the impact Dickens had on the artist. Though originally based off a print of Newgate Prison by Gustave Doré (which is displayed alongside his personal copy), we can appreciate that Van Gogh reminisced Dickens‘A Visit to Newgate’ when painting this in the last year of his life.

Filled with connotations of despair and feelings of entrapment, even the orientation of the artwork suggests confinement as it is painted vertically, highlighting the limited space for the numerous figures walking aimlessly in a circle and suggesting repetition of activity and perhaps mental state.

What is most curious about this painting is that amongst the gloomy atmosphere of the prison courtyard is a hint of hope in the form of two butterflies. Painted in his trademark yellow, we can take from this that the artist felt some aspiration in the worst time of his life.

Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890)    Sorrowing old man ('At Eternity's Gate')   1890 Oil paint on canvas 810 x 650 mm Collection Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo

Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890)

Sorrowing old man ('At Eternity's Gate')

1890
Oil paint on canvas
810 x 650 mm
Collection Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo

Also completed that same year and exhibited here is Sorrowing Old Man (‘At Eternity’s Gate’) loaned from the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo. Like many of his paintings done at a later date, this too was based off an earlier lithograph which was also based off another pencil drawing. The original studies a pensioner and war veteran Adrianis Jacobus Zuyderland made in 1882 and the inspiration to this was Hubert von Herkomer's Sunday at the Chelsea Hospital that Van Gogh had seen in 1875.

This original idea would stay with Van Gogh up to his days at St. Rémy where he recreated it as oil on canvas and, like the ‘The Prison Courtyard’, while filled with melancholy there is hope too. He reflects:

“It seems to me that a painter has a duty to try to put an idea into his work. I was trying to say this in this print — but I can’t say it as beautifully, as strikingly as reality, of which this is only a dim reflection seen in a dark mirror — that it seems to me that one of the strongest pieces of evidence for the existence of 'something on high' in which Millet believed, namely in the existence of a God and an eternity, is the unutterably moving quality that there can be in the expression of an old man like that, without his being aware of it perhaps, as he sits so quietly in the corner of his hearth. At the same time something precious, something noble, that can’t be meant for the worms. ... This is far from all theology — simply the fact that the poorest woodcutter, heath farmer or miner can have moments of emotion and mood that give him a sense of an eternal home that he is close to.”

The exhibition runs from 27th March-11th August 2019 at Tate Britain. More information here.

Posted
AuthorNazy Raouf

‘Tangram Slice I’ by Diane Bresson

‘Tangram Slice I’ by Diane Bresson

Diane Bresson is a London based textile designer specialising in Print. Her art explores how the relationship between craft and technology can create playful and dynamic patterns. Read on to learn more about her practice!

Tell us about your background in textiles


I loved studying textile design. We were really encouraged to experiment and were focusing on the process rather than the final product. Even though I specialised in print, studying knit and weave was also very beneficial, especially to learn about different materials and fibres.

How are your designs made?


I get my inspiration from various fields but I am mainly intrigued by how elemental shapes can be built into more complex compositions. For my series of limited edition prints I took inspiration from the Tangram puzzle which was studied in more depth by Martin Gardner. During 25 years he wrote a column called ‘Mathematical Games’ in the Scientific American that explored the construction of puzzles, patterns and optical illusions: an infinite source of inspiration for me!

How important is colour to your work?


Colour is essential to my work. I first started printing with a few colours and then played around by mixing printed artworks with digital and projection. I recorded new combinations of colours and gradients with photos and videos that I then translated back into screen printing, in order to build shapes and colours together.

What is your working technique?


For my series of prints I first started exploring combinations of shapes in smaller scale but quickly moved on directly to screen printing. I combined lines and dots with solid colours to make them interact with each other. I prefer printing without a precise plan and improvise along the way with stencils and patterns. Many things that I thought were mistakes ended up creating interesting visual effects. The outcome was two ten meters long rolls that were then scanned and divided into separate prints.

Can you elaborate on the digital aspect to your working process?


After the rolls were scanned I touched up a few things on Photoshop. Most of the little defaults that are barely noticeable on a 10 meters roll appear very obvious on a high resolution crop of it. However I made sure not completely erase every imperfection and keep a crafty feel.

Where do you see your work belonging?


I think it is quite versatile and so far it has been for all of the three mentioned above. Exhibition are always a great way to put together a body of work as well as showcasing new and/or bigger pieces. It is as well very gratifying to know people have my prints hung up in their home! I also had to opportunity to have one of my wallpaper panel featured in Elle Decoration Netherlands in which it was beautifully put together with other designers’ pieces for a photoshoot. It was an amazing opportunity to see how my work can interact with its environment, and the result was stunning.

What is the intent behind your distinctive style?


I’ve always liked Op Art and deceptive visuals that makes you look twice at something and makes you wonder how it is constructed, like M.C. Escher’s and Vasarely’s work for instance. The scale is also important, I want people to be able to immerse in the colours, especially in my bigger wallpaper pieces. 

What giclee paper do you think works best with your prints?


For my series of limited editions giclee prints I settled on the Hahnemuhle Photo Rag. I wanted something slightly textured to contrast with the sharp geometric shapes.

Tell us about your life outside of your designing


I have been working part-time in a wallpaper studio since university and it really pushed me to work on a bigger scale. It also allowed me to attend several trade shows and discover many amazing designers and products.

What interests and hobbies which influence or inspire you?


My main interests and hobbies revolve around art, design and print to be honest but when I am not working on some geometric patterns I like painting more traditional portraits as well, mostly friends and family. I like graphic novels and comics as well, recently I was stunned visually by Michael DeForge’s Dressing. 

Do you have any upcoming shows or publications?

I took part in the Cluster Craft group show recently which is now unfortunately over. It gave me the opportunity to work on projections of animated patterns in addition to my prints and wallpaper panels, and it is for sure something I want to continue to develop.

I am also published in the newest issue of Fused Magazine in their column about recent graduates.

Check out Diane’s website or Instagram.