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.”
It’s often said that we are a product of those closest to us. Growing up on the outskirts of Johannesburg in the Tsakane township, it was three women who shaped the man Tshepo Mohala would become.
Denim designer Tshepo Mohala grew up watching his mother grind to give him the opportunity of a good education, he listened to his pastor grandmother’s stories of hope that transported him back to 1945, and he admired his cool aunty who dressed for the red carpet. “I don’t know if you remember Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake’s Canadian tuxedo moment at the 2001 American Music Awards?” Tshepo says with a smirk. “She rocked that look.”
This exposure to hard work, community and bold style would lay the foundations for Tshepo’s character and inform his namesake denim and ready-to-wear label, Tshepo the Jean Maker. In five years, the brand has grown from a Facebook page to a fan base that includes Meghan Markle and a team of 15. Its success can be chalked up to the designer’s positive outlook on life. Seldom without a smile, his energy is infectious. “If you’re willing to put yourself out there if you’re courageous, and if you really love what you do and want to leave a mark on this world then it can happen,” Tshepo tells me. It is an attitude he has learned from the powerful women around him. “I was raised by my grandmother who was a public servant in her duties as a pastor,” Tshepo says. “I watched her treat everyone in the neighbourhood with the same respect regardless of who they were. The biggest thing for me is serving the public.”
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.
Let’s start with “calligraffiti.” There are quite a few artists who do it now. Did you coin the term?
No, to be honest with you, this is a term that has been used the first time in New York for a show, I think in ’84. A show created by Jeffrey Deitch for some calligraphy artists and some graffiti artists from New York. He had this vision 30 years ago that calligraphy and graffiti would merge together. To be honest with you, me today, I don’t even use this word to define myself. I’m just using calligraphy in my artwork. I do sculpture, I do canvases, I do art installations. I’m trying to get out of the box that I think I used to be in a few years ago.
Colour fonts or chromatic type are not new. The first production types appeared in the 1840s,1 reaching a peak of precision and complexity a few decades later as efficiencies in printing enabled greater creative freedom. In 1874 William H. Page of Greeneville, Connecticut, published his 100-page Specimens of Chromatic Type & Borders2 that still has the power to mesmerise designers today.
Joshua Smith creates marvelous urban miniatures very detailed. His works also include graffiti, posters, even street signals and the texture of ruined building. These artworks are an hommage to neglected buildings and abandoned areas in the city. More artist’s works here.
Chilean architect and illustrator Francisca Álvarez Ainzúa created “Architecture of the Portrait”: a series of illustrations of renowned architects drawn with the precision and accuracy of a fineliner. In order to choose the protagonists of her geometrical analyses, the architect states a preference for strong character and the presence of imperfections, which imparts a certain richness to the representation.
The architectural construction of the face is done using lines to create a hatch effect. Next, she adds color that pays tribute to the traditional default CAD shades: yellow, cyan and magenta.
Featuring timeless classics from the yo-yo and the slinky, board games Cluedo and Mousetrap, to childhood companions in the form of Stretch Armstrong and Tickle Me Elmo, Toys is the ultimate celebration of beloved childhood relics.
Captured by renowned photographer Kevin Fox, this series of images are now available in a new book of the same name, which includes interesting stories and facts behind each popular toy – from the LEGO bricks on the International National Space Station and the limited-edition perfume that smells of Play-Doh to the fact that Sophie the Giraffes sell more annually in France than babies are born and that Pope Francis and Miley Cyrus have both been spotted wearing Loom Bands.
Accompanied by an essay by child development expert, Stevanne ‘Dr Toy’ Auerbach and packed with trivia on iconic toys and games that redefined play, this coffee-table book pays homage to items that defined a multitude of childhoods.
Essential for lovers of design and nostalgia – and all big kids – Toys is a warm and insightful journey into the past that brings back the sense of anticipation we’ve all felt waiting to get our hands on that new must-have toy. Grab a copy of the bookto recall long lost memories of your childhood.
Via Creative Boom submission | All images courtesy of Kevin Fox