Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Gilbert and George

Gilbert and George form a famous pair of British contemporary artists, working and living together. They are famous for their Singing Sculpture and their Jack Freak Pictures.

Their duo is composed of Gilbert Proesch and George Passmore. Gilbert Proesch was born in 1943 in San Martin in Italy. He studied art in Austria before moving to the United Kingdom. George Passmore was born in 1943 in Plymouth. He studied art at Oxford. The two met in 1967 at St Martins School of Art where they studied sculpture. They began a relationship and are now married. They have a formal appearance which is very distinctive: they always wear suits when appearing publicly.

Even though they started with sculpture, they now produce more pictures art works. Their work is mainly inspired by life in London, more particularly in the East End, where they live. They are considered as Modernists, and their art is concerned with social subjects. Their motto is ‘Art for All’.

While they were still students, they created The Singing Sculpture, with which they revolutionized the concept of visual art by making themselves the art work: they coloured their heads and their hands with different powders and stood on a table to sing the Flanagan and Allen song “Underneath the arches”.

Another important work is called the Jack Freak Pictures, which is a collection of pictures combining the Union Jack theme with themselves in various disguises. The pictures include a lot of elements of the modern world, such as medals, flags, street-signs, or graffiti. It raises questions about current matters such as religion, identity, politics, economics, sexuality and death.

One of their most famous work of art is The Pictures. It consists in large scale photographs black and white at first and then hand-coloured in red and yellow. They often appeared on these pictures. Other features are flowers, young people, friends, Christian symbolism. However, their work has been criticized in the eighties because of its obscenity. Indeed, some pictures showed nudity, explicit sex or bodily fluids. In 2007, a book was published under the name of “The Complete Pictures”, collecting more than a thousand examples of their work.

After forty years of collaboration Gilbert and George have proved that they are an important element of contemporary art. Their work is recognized worldwide and they have won a lot of awards. In their mid sixties they still have much to show and their career is not over yet.

David Hockney

David Hockney was born in Bradford on the 9th July 1937. This English painter lives in Bridlington, Yorkshire. As a multi-talented artist, he is a draughtsman, printmaker, stage designer and photographer. He is also well-known for his important contribution to the Pop art movement which took place in the 60’s, characterized by its critical view on mass industrial consumption. Still being a young student, he took part in an exhibition called Young Contemporaries, alongside other artists contributing to the pre-Pop art movement. At this time he was considered as an expressionist, which means he wanted to highlight people’s feelings in his works. Later, in 1963, he met Andy Warhol in New York, who influenced him to become an icon of British Pop Art. As a footnote, he was born with synesthesia, which basically means he had difficulties to distinguish colours.

One of his biggest paintings is called bigger trees near water (40 feet wide by 15 feet). It represents a symbolic English landscape by using the technique of open air painting first used by the Impressionist Painters of the nineteenth century. To do so he painted during six consecutive weeks and had to finish it the arrival of spring which would have changed the landscape he wanted to draw. The result is a typical grey-looking landscape from his region: Yorkshire. He was inspired by a photographical technique he had used in his earlier works: the so-called “photo-joiner”. This term stands for various pictures taken from different angles in order to achieve a 360-degree representation of a single image. To represent things at their real-life dimension he painted to different parts apart before joining them together. The painting has been donated recently by Hockney to the York Art Gallery.

Hockney’s use of rich colours such as greens and blues is strongly shown in another famous painting: pearblossom Highway #2. This photo-collage uses juxtaposed pictures taken from different perspectives in order to achieve an unreal effect. This shows very well the effect of cubism which is strongly characterized by broken up objects re-assembled in an abstracted form. It is also a perfect example of Pop-Art work because it features elements of nature on one hand and elements of industrial culture (or mass consumption) on the other. The trees stand for nature while the filthy road symbolizes the drawbacks of culture. Objects such as the coke can shows this very well. In pearblossom Highway the artist made an interesting use of perspective: the stop signs mark the limit in distance of the perspective. Even though there is a second stop sign, the road continues.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Rowan Gillespie

Rowan Gillespie is an Irish sculptor famous for his contemporary works, using the lost wax (or bronze casting) process. He works totally unassisted and his exhibitions, particularly his site specific works, are now well-known in the world.

Born in Dublin in 1953, he lived in Cyprus about ten years during his childhood. He entered the York School of Arts at the age of 16 and then studied arts in Oslo during three years. Rowan Gillespie’s works are exhibited in big cities all around the world since 1977: we find them in York, Dublin but also London, Los Angeles and Stockholm. He started exhibitions in groups and festivals in 1982. After 1997, Gillespie decided to concentrate on his personal works, site specific art and public sculptures. In 2011, the famous sculptor was elected on the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Arts after having been awarded honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts some years before.

His most famous works are Yeats, James Joyce, Famine and Proclamation.

Famine (1997) is the name of a bronze sculpture found in Dublin along the Liffey River. It recalls people the Irish Potato Famine which devastated Ireland in the 19th century, killing about a million people. A quart of the population died or emigrated from the country and this event profoundly marked the Irish community. This is an important theme found in many works of the artist. Famine is a commemoration of the suffering and starvation of this people. Rowan Gillespie tries to portray the human emotions in most of his works and Famine is one of the most famous sculptures because of the intensity of the statues’ expressions. Six horrified faces, six people, men and women trying to escape from this dreadful death perhaps on their way to a ship.

Less realistic and more recent, Proclamation (2007) is another well-known work of Gillespie found in Dublin. Inspired by John Lennon’s Imagine and by J. Creed Meredith’s Rainbow in the Valley, the sculpture recalls the Irish emancipation and independence. Fourteen martyrs are put in circle and a copy of the Declaration of Independence is placed at the centre. Bullet holes in the statues represent the execution of people trying to fight for their vision of a better future. “Imagination is the beginning of creation”, the creation of what you desire to happen. There are no different faces, sign of unity, and the multi-faceted surfaces reflect the light in different ways, giving the colors of the rainbow. Proclamation is a fabulous metaphor of imagination and a monument to martyrs who gave their lives for what they thought to be right.