In the first of two exclusive video interviews with Christo, the artist explains how the giant London Mastaba installation on the Serpentine lake is the culmination of over 60 years of working with stacked barrels.
The temporary London project, which is 20 metres high and consists of 7,506 barrels, was unveiled last month. But the artwork has its genesis in experiments made by Christo, 83, and his late partner Jeanne-Claude in the fifties and sixties.
“I was born in Bulgaria and I escaped from the communist country to the west on 10 January 1957,” Christo explains in the movie, which Dezeen filmed in London. “I met Jeanne-Claude in November 1958 and we together fell in love.”
“We lived in Paris in between 58 and 64,” he continues. “I was so poor, I had no studio and I was living in one room. I started working with little cans, tin cans of industrial paint. From the cans of the smaller size, I moved to the smaller sized barrels. I rented a garage outside of Paris when I started working with real barrels.”
In 1962 he blocked a Paris street with stacked barrels in a reference to the Berlin Wall that was erected the previous year.
“I was worried the third world war would start,” Christo says. “The Soviets took over Budapest during the revolution [in 1956] but I escaped and there was a big turmoil. I remember I was very scared that they would run over West Germany and come back to Paris and I proposed to do my artistic Iron Curtain in the smallest street, in the Rue Visconti, of the left bank of Paris.”
Since March of 2019, Hyperallergic has offered this monthly resource for artists and creatives to share their work and find new opportunities. The arts and culture sector has since been severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, making grants and paid opportunities for independent artists and cultural organizations more important than ever.
Featured image: Louis Lang, “Women’s Art Class” (ca. 1868) (courtesy the Metropolitan Museum/Open Access)
Matthew Burrows is an East Sussex based abstract painter. However, if you regularly post your artwork to an Instagram account you may recognise his name as the founder of the Artist Support Pledge. When the Covid-19 pandemic started to affect the UK in the first half of March, Matthew Burrows had the idea to start posting works for sale for £200. When he had sold £1k worth of artwork he pledged to buy some artwork himself for £200 and encouraged other artists to do the same. 95,000 posts later the #artistsupportpledge is playing a vital role in keeping the visual arts industry alive, as well as helping to build a community and promote generosity. In this interview, I wanted to find out more about the man who has inspired thousands of artists to buy and sell contemporary art, and take a closer look at his paintings, and find out exactly how he’s managing through Covid-19 lockdown.
Matthew Burrows’ Studio
To read the full interview, please go to the following link:
The pen is mightier than the sword, they say, but sometimes it’s the cartoonist’s pencil that stings the most. Around the world, caricaturists of all political stripes have long used their illustrations to lampoon the rich and powerful. Sometimes, their humour is focused on the foibles and follies of celebrities. This can take a dark turn when jokes are based on racist, misogynistic, homophobic or other tropes (consider the controversy over a cartoon of Serena Williams in 2019). But, such illustrations can also be a lighthearted means of exposing the mundane and endearing flaws of those whom we admire. Roasting the actions and decisions of the political élite, on the other hand, can bring about wrath unmatched by that of sports or entertainment stars, even when the images’ stated purpose was the betterment of society and progress in politics. The lands of the former Ottoman Empire are certainly no stranger to such dynamics. In 2017, our colleague Daniel Lowe curated an exhibition of the Arabic comic tradition that contained a considerable representation of satirical cartoons. For this year’s World Press Freedom Day, I’m going to share a few examples of the Ottoman Turkish satirical press from the British Library’s collections, and highlight some of the special connections between the United Kingdom and this vibrant part of Turkish culture.
As one perhaps knows, Monarchy is not an Islamic institution. By the time the Mughals established there hold in India, the Muslim world had reconciled itself with the concept of monarchy. And the monarchy within the within the Islamic framework was being justified by the Muslim jurists by an extended interpretation of the Tradition of […]
For a sector where 53% of business have recently closed their doors, this is catastrophic. The olive in the dog-wee martini is that when the debt for supporting the country through COVID-19 arrives, cultural workers will be expected to pay it off just the same. Some governments subsidise their cultural sectors, and others do not. Only the Coalition, it seems, has found a way of getting its cultural sector to subsidise them.
Stop telling the arts to do better
The response so far to this right-royal example of policy ineptitude has been a predictably economic one. The Australia Institute has put out a report on the economics of the creative arts and called for the sector to be more “confident” in dealing with government on the basis of that data.
Arguments for Australian culture often focus on what it should say to demonstrate its worth. Rarely considered is the government’s capacity to listen, or the extent to which it is able to meaningfully interpret the truckloads of evidence put to it. The sector can present all the data it likes. In the end, the government has to choose which to accept and act on. For this, it needs its own cogent idea of culture.
After Holt was presumed drowned, the contest to replace him lay between Paul Hasluck, a publisher and poet, and John Gorton, founder of the Australian Film School and the Australian Film Development Corporation. If it was Gough Whitlam who brought culture into the Cabinet, it was the Liberal Senator Tony Staley, one of the better arts ministers we have had, who took it to the next level of policy consideration and kept it there.
It is absolutely not true, therefore, that a proper appreciation of arts and culture is to be found only on the Australian political Left. But it begs the question what on earth has happened to create this perception? Why has a deep-rooted and persuasive cultural policy vision by and large vanished from Coalition beliefs and values?
Its absence is good neither for the government, the sector, nor the country. Bipartisan cooperation on matters of national interest – and the fate of Australian culture is surely one of these – is not a matter of pat verbal agreement.
Politics is not a game of ideological Snap. It arises when different parties advance their own interpretations of particular domains, and these are then incorporated into what the sociologist Norbert Elias calls “the social fund of knowledge”. When no such interpretations are advanced, the process of arriving at beneficial policy outcomes breaks down.
It’s not only the hole in the emotional heart of Coalition politicians the cultural sector should be concerned with right now, it is the hole in their corporate memory. However confidently the sector puts forward its numbers to government, the context for turning them into coherent industrial strategy is missing in (in)action.
The way forward for Australian cultural policy lies in the minds of our politicians, not the attitudes of the sector. This does not mean Coalition ministers and their advisers should accept ideas and arguments they do not like or agree with. It means they must come up with ones of their own.
The article was originally published on The Conversation.
Being in isolation might be a great time to try something new. In this series, we get the basics on hobbies and activities to start while you’re spending more time at home.
What can take you somewhere untouched by the clanging outside world? What can help you synthesise your thoughts right now?
Drawing, and our fascination with it, can stimulate your imagination, mindfulness, focus and introspection. Drawing can allow you to enter the flow state: that is, the optimal experience of being so invested in an activity, time passes you by. Drawing can make you feel good.
An act of looking outward and inward simultaneously, drawing can capture thought and insight in a moment.
Since time immemorial, drawing has been a way for humans to process their world – even just a room – and the times they live in (hello COVID-19). It’s our first language.
Renowned artist David Hockney has called for everyone to find something to draw in lockdown: “Question everything and do not think about photography”. Here are your first lessons in learning to draw at home:
1. Stop worrying about mastery
He never finished any of the works he began because, so sublime was his idea of art, he saw faults even in the things that to others seemed miracles.
It’s an activity we can do together. If you remove the fear of the blank white page and the internal voice screaming, “But, I can’t draw!”
Sketch inhibition can be debilitating. But hey, no one has to even see it! Your drawing is yours, unless you post it. Even the most accomplished and beautiful drawings we see today started out with someone doing some rough sketches while they learnt what works.
2. Honour the importance of drawing
Drawing is ancient, yet remains a key 21st century skill, helping to improve visual reasoning, memory, idea generation, lateral thinking and inference. Spontaneous drawing – or doodling – may relieve feelings of stress.
Drawing can be incorporated into education in many ways, including visual mapping, reflective thinking, or presenting ideas. Drawing an effective tool in developing an aesthetic navigation of the world. Remote learning might be a way to explore and enhance visual communication skills.
Now hardly a day passes that I do not make something. As practice makes perfect, I cannot but make progress; each drawing one makes, each study one paints, is a step forward.
You can’t become a good athlete without practice. Nor can I become a good drawer without the 10,000 hours of practice that Malcolm Gladwell notes as critical to performance in his book Outliers: The Story of Success.
Though Gladwell’s 10,000 figure has its critics, there is no doubt learning takes time and practice done without the pressure to make everything look photo-realistic.
4. Observe and allow infinite possibilities
Drawing is the perfect way to challenge yourself at a time where you only have objects and family members around you.
Observation is key. We often overlook the objects we see daily. The power of the familiar means even an old Luxo lamp can become the symbol of PIXAR – originally drawn with pastel on paper as an idea, then used for the opening sequence of Luxo Jr (1986).
There are things you haven’t discovered in your home – or that you could see anew from a different angle or viewpoint.
Imperial graduate Nicole Stjernsward has invented Kaiku, a system that turns plants into powdered paint pigments using vaporisation technology.
Avocados, pomegranates, beetroots, lemons and onions are just some of the fruits and vegetables that can be placed into Kaiku and turned into the raw material for paints, inks and dyes.
Skins and peels are boiled in water to produce a dye, which is transferred to a reservoir in the Kaiku system. Along with hot, pressurised air, this dye is forced through an atomising nozzle into a glass vacuum cleaner.
The fine mist produced is hot enough that it vaporises almost instantly, and the dry particles are pulled through the chamber and into the collection reservoir.
Stjernsward designed Kaiku to offer a natural alternative to using artificial pigments that can often be toxic.
“By transitioning to natural based pigments, it will be easier for us to recycle products and make them more circular,” Stjernsward, who studied at Imperial College London, told Dezeen.
“Since many synthetic pigments today are toxic or made of ambiguous materials, colour is typically considered a ‘contamination’ in the Circular Economy principles,” she added. “I hope to change this paradigm.”
These methods have fallen out of fashion with industrialisation and the introduction of cheaper pigments derived from petrochemicals. But the effect on people and the environment can be disastrous.
Paints can release petrochemicals into the air long after they have dried, causing respiratory problems and harming the ozone layer. Industrial effluent containing synthetic dyes leaches into the water system, poisoning aquatic life and posing a major health hazard to humans.
Elusive Spanish artist Pejac (previously) travels the world creating street interventions, often integrating natural elements into man-made structures through a combination of stenciling and trompe l’oeil painting. His most recent projects have brought him to New York City for the first time, where he has created two arboreal artworks in Bushwick and Chinatown.
Pejac formed Fossil, in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood, using a brick-sized stencil to spray paint carefully placed shadows on a brick wall. This illusion of bricks sinking back and surging forward creates a pixelated tree. Chinatown’s Inner Strength is fully hand-painted, depicting a cherry blossom branch growing out of a security gate and surrounding by flying swallows. Pejac, who often addresses humanity’s fraught relationship to the natural world, describes his newest artworks to Colossal: Taking a sturdy structure and familiar urban element as a base, Fossil is proposing a hypothetical fatal future in which the only memory of nature is the fossilized appearance of a tree on a brick wall. Opposing the first work, Inner Strength is an empowering piece portraying another hypothetical future in which nature breaks the barriers imposed by the hand of man, recovering the lost ground along the way.
In addition to his outdoor work, Pejac occasionally creates editioned prints using a variety of techniques ranging from lithography to screenprinting. You can follow the artist’s travels on Instagram and Facebook. For those in New York, Fossil is located at 27 Scott Avenue in Brooklyn, and Inner Strength can be found at 2 Henry Street in Manhattan.
The Persian writer and poet Musliḥ al-Dīn Saʻdī of Shiraz (ca.1210-1291 or 1292) are without a doubt one of the best-known and most skilful writers of classical Persian literature. With an established reputation even during his lifetime, his works have been select reading for royal princes and ʻset textsʼ for more humble students of Persian the world over. It is hardly surprising then that a corresponding number of deluxe copies survive of his works. A previous post (What were the Mughals’ favourite books?) described some copies of his best known works, the Būstān (ʻFragrant Gardenʼ or ʻOrchardʼ) and the Gulistān (ʻRose Gardenʼ), in the Library’s collection. Another sumptuous manuscript, which has also been digitised, is an early 17th century copy of his Kullīyāt (ʻCollected Worksʼ), IO Islamic 843 which was completed in 1034 (1624/25) by Maḥmūd, a scribe of Shiraz (al-kātib al-Shīrāzī), during the reign of Shah ʻAbbas (r. 1588-1629).
Very little is known about the poet’s life. Born in Shiraz, Saʻdī left his hometown to study in Baghdad. After a period of study at the Nizamiyah Madrasah, Baghdad, he set off on travels that lasted over thirty years. His experiences and adventures found their way into his writings, including being a prisoner of the Crusaders in Syria, visiting Kashgar, and killing a temple priest at Somnath in India. Many of these tales, however, have been proved to be anecdotal rather than biographical. Saʻdī returned to Shiraz in 1257, already a widely recognised poet and completed his two most famous works: the Būstān in 1257 and the Gulistān in 1258. These two works of poetry and prose respectively, contain anecdotes from the life of the author, moral teachings, and advice for rulers. Many stories communicate elements of Sufi teachings through their dervish protagonists. Other works reflect the changing political situation in Shiraz. Several of his poems are dedicated to the Salghurid dynasty, which ruled in Fars from 1148 to 1282, while later works are addressed to their successors the Mongols and their administrators.