Tag Archives: Contemporary Art

Ivan Marchuk

Who likes Ivan Marchuk’s paintings? After all – the question wants more than a personal aesthetic statement. Marchuk is incredibly East-y if you know what it may mean. Spiritual, complex and with some philosophical ambitions. Thus, saying yes to his vision seems like supporting a specific world-view.

Marchuk’s painstakingly detailed works, at once lyrical and disturbing look like clinical operations on the open heart. The open heart of living things – the intricate microcosm of structured chaos, stylized forms emerging and dissolving back into itself.

Some more info on painter’s life and work here.


More or less ‘incognita’?

Well, l cannot avoid this question now -not after almost four years of studying art and over two years of writing the blog with the ‘unknown’ promise in its title… How ‘known’ my land has become – to me and to others who – just due to my appearance within the ‘art-world’ – have been gracing me with their attention and often a friendship in here and in the ‘real’ life?

As l stated introducing the blog, and with some inevitable degree of audacity in all those happy beginnings – this writing of mine has been devoted to an exploration of an ‘unknown’ – ‘Terra lncognita’ of the contemporary art and my own personal expression. So – more or less ‘incognita’? Or – shall l rather ask – have l failed better or worse?

Some of my long-followers may already have an answer and l won’t blame them for that – where has the drive of the ‘old good times’ gone? And – the author’s ability of abandoning the site seems to be the only thing that got ‘better’ with time…

Right – cannot or won’t defend myself here. Not because of my apparently innate self-indulgence which had made this adventure possible at all, but cos – believe it or not – l’ve been trying to display some sort of integrity all the way through. Hence , never this very virtual profile has appeared better (hopefully not ‘worse’) than my actual experience had been-  day to day – enfolding the world as seen by the ‘painter’s’ eyes… Mirroring all the tides of emotions and the intellectual gain, as well as meaningfully keeping silent throughout the toughest bits…

But – to return to the dilemma – is it all more or less known/unknown right now? How do l feel about embarking the ‘professional’ board? These and many other questions need to be  addressed within the next few months in a way that nothing/nobody could have ever been able to teach me to deal with…

Am l afraid? Perhaps more than my sensibility and sentience can admit for the sake of my own well-being. Yet – in all that fear l’m still lucky to have all those beautiful individuals who will stay be me… and l’m still able to write it down in here… how truly and undeservedly lucky one can get…


A seminar with Francis Bacon …

Well – he has never taught art to others officially, and has never been taught art by others in such a manner

And while not being entirely sure, if just because or despite of that  – Francis Bacon excels as an art (painting) tutor. I found him so lucidly articulated, so continuously and deeply inspiring in his views on the artistic practice that I just couldn’t help not to present his ‘tutorials’ in a customized, yet systematic way.

Bacon took with him his mystery of how to talk about highly complex and irrational matters in an analytical and engaging manner.  And this very ability of his redeems his work, which could otherwise be easily classified as a tormented expression of an idiot-savant. Being himself deeply anti-theoretical he offers an impressive theory of his own oeuvre. With a certain force of authority, though never deliberately,  he shows that an artist’s journey is (should be) a continuous interplay between both challenges: ‘making images’ and making sense of them…

All points below are taken from interviews Bacon gave to D. Sylvester and while taking part in a documentary devoted to his work. They are extracts of the artist’s more elaborated statements. To access the original talks get a book and watch the movie (links below).

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You have to decide, that you are not going to be afraid of making a fool of yourself.

One needs to find his subject – otherwise one will be tempted to escape into a decoration. Most of the problems of the painting now result from the fact that painters don’t know what to paint – they are short of images.

The better the techniques of recording the reality become – the more inventive the painter needs to be in his ways to lock reality into something completely arbitrary. Going back to figuration in a more accepted sense is weak and meaningless.

The image – its power and integrity matters more than the beauty of paint.

Narration speaks louder than paint – avoid telling stories, unless you want to.

Aim at a highly disciplined work, even though the methods of pursuing it need to be ever- experimental and deeply instinctive. To make an image one has to control it.

Use secondary imaginary as a compost which will breed you images.

Painting (if successful) is a process of unlocking sensations and feelings on as many levels and as acutely as possible.

Painting is a ongoing interplay of luck/hazard, instinct and one’s critical sense.

Your technique needs to be as subjective and unique as your sensibility is.

‘Fresh’ image is the one which has a ‘foam of the unconscious’ still locked around it…

Make your forms memorable – otherwise they will exist only as ‘blobs’ on a wall…

A chance is more important than a conscious intellect because I made images that intellect would never make.

If you going to capture something REALLY REAL – it will be painful…

The most important thing for a painter is – to paint – nothing more…


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D. Sylvester, ‘Interviews with Francis Bacon: The Brutality of fact’, Thames and Hudson

Francis Bacon Documentary’

Here: preview of a new exhibition of Bacon in Dublin: ‘Terrible Beauty’


Hans Bellmer – subverted fragility

Bellmer considered his works to be a conscious act of defiance against German fascism with its cult of “the perfect body”. He created and photographed two life-size pubescent dolls, which he distorted, dismembered, or menaced in sinister scenarios that sometimes included himself. These scenarios seemed to be nightmarish manifestations of a journey into his unconscious.

I keep wondering what was there exactly that this Polish-born (1902 Katowice), German-blooded and French-based & buried (1975 Paris) artist had been trying to mutilate and to sodomize with such a passion… One or the other part of his multi-national identity? Surreal tragedy of his paranoid, violent times? Or maybe ‘just’ the black hole of his own psyche, the Jung’s ‘shadow’ – that ‘invisible saurian tail that man drags behind him’ and dreads the confrontation more than anything in his life?

I won’t find out for sure…perhaps all the questions bear a seed of an answer in them… What I find fascinating about Bellmer’s artistic exploits is how his dolls can function ambiguously in two contrasting realms: one is the sphere of extremely wounded, violated innocence and fragility – a dismal betrayal, some bestial deeds… The other side of the same coin is these dolls’ hyper-sexual appeal as they are misogynously portrayed as alluring and dangerous man-eaters, who need to be tamed by dismantling them to pieces… Transgressive and sexist odor of this art is as important as the normality (so-called) it yearns for by subverting it.


‘Making Worlds’ by losing your way…

That is a surprisingly romantic title for an enormous international art show – ‘Making Worlds – Fare Mondi’… Right from the day it was announced I knew I got to see it.

In a strange way that name referred to my own idea of art as a device for creating universes, for inventing new realities and new ways of perception of what is ‘known’ and ‘familiar’… To see how very different artists from tens of countries address this very issue right now; and to experience it in one place within only few days of an intense take – that sounded like a dream-come-true opportunity.0

Then I made my way to Venice… A group of us – final year fine art students – we spent half of a night and most of a day getting ourselves from a tiny, misty Irish airport right to an artistic epicenter of the 53rd Biennale. And then – the true challenge had begun… Being a first time visitor to Venice – one has to invent ways – quick and efficient:  of avoiding crowds, of finding ways in an omnipresent maze of lanes and canals, of keeping cool when faced with a wondrous strangeness and beauty of the place and, finally – to get the most (and the best) of the shows presented – tens of them blown around the city like some erratic parts of a huge machinery; often in places that even locals found difficult to find…

I can be pretty sure not to be the first and the last of the 53rd Biennale visitor, who was immensely tempted to dismiss the entire pandemonium and to spend some quality time in one of the Irish or English pubs; just drinking some wine and staring at Venetian light reflected from the Grand Canal… So tempting…

Anyway, I went through it all in a less indulgent way, which means: I stuffed myself, my cameras and my notebook with the visions of ‘Making Worlds’… Facing it all, and reflecting on it afterward looking for a compendium, links and any order – that is a sort of making yet another world – so diverse, rich and demanding the whole experience is. Yet, it does not necessary mean, that the Biennale was/is a miraculous, creative Wonderland…quite to the contrary – but by its intrinsic qualities like the size, inter-nationality and the inherited prestige – it’s born to leave a clear mark on one’s artistic psyche; not matter how critical and contemptuous one becomes when addressing it.

Making Worlds… artistic (and curatorial!) calling, duty, obsession, wonder and a doom. Nothing more self-indulgent, nothing more pretentious. Nothing more marvelous, nothing more risky. In fact, I don’t personally believe that the most of Birnbaum’s show has stood up to its own challenge… And instead of some down-spine shivers and wide-opened eyes browsing a miracle of some new-born, never seen before worlds – one had to chew up, once again, the same familiar concepts and interventions  cooked and served in a way, which anyone even mildly accustomed to the history of the contemporary art has to know by heart by now…

In other words, there was a chance-taking, adventure -seeking, alternative-supporting attitude bitterly missing in all the curatorial effort of this Biennale. Each show of this type is a sort of an authorship (sometimes – dictatorship); but if a good author hides his strings he is pulling to make his personal vision to be appreciated, Birnbaum made it all too predictable and dull as a whole. One has to allow to risk it all, to be completely lost in order to make entire world out of this self-implied or provoked chaos. There is no other way of creating new world than the one which faces chaos and a gulf; otherwise we got ‘re-making’ old worlds or ‘recycling’ the existing, but worn out ones…

I lost my way dozens of times in Venice. Venice is the space to be lost and to be found, and this very process goes in circles and in-finitum… One has to throw away all maps, one has to trust his instincts and follow no path other than the one which cuts across the old ones instead of re-drawing them…

Making worlds is the most human of all human dwellings… And it is possible, yet not easy – to make a new world out of this too-familiar, too-excessive, too-indulgent entropy of art today.  By losing one’s way in it – one will find the way out of it…


Contemporary Art (7) – Marlene Dumas

“My best works are erotic displays of mental confusions (with intrusions of irrelevant information).”

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Marlene Dumas (b. 1953, Cape Town) – one of the most important, influential figurative painters working today.

With Dumas one may easy get into a trap of ‘an infatuated viewer’. Trap she has crafted herself – deliberately or not- it is working well, and blinding all those moths that had dared to approach these paintings too close, well beyond the line of their personal zones…

They are there to seduce, to spit at taboo, to provoke, to lit the flames of all sorts of powerful emotions… Embodied femmes fatales, dark and alluring, doomed and the born survivors…

To form any theoretical apparatus for Dumas’ work is a waste of time. Yet, it doesn’t mean the paintings are irrational. Quite opposite is true – to experience them means to approach them with some sort of a keen intelligence, yet it’s a special kind of intelligence; even not the emotional one – more sensual, passionate one… And some deeply fleshly logic has to be put to hard work… Painted with brooding, intense sensations they reveal themselves under the touch of a viewer’s neurological stir…

As paintings-artworks they are deliciously painterly and ardent in execution. Paint is being laid (poured) loosely and in a number of visceral, beautifully transparent layers; highly expressive marks co-exist with a smooth, detailed finish in one part or another. The overall impression is that of a juicy, bitter-sweet forbidden fruit – to be taken of left behind….

Mmmm…


Human vs. Animal (2)

Anthropomorphobia is the fear of acknowledging in nonhumans qualities we wish to consider only human. Anthropomorphobia is traditionally associated with anxiety responses to fictional animal characters displaying human behavior in works of fiction like “The Secret of NIMH”. However, with the development of androids and robots that mimic human behavior, the concept of anthropomorphobia has been adapted to include nonliving stimuli.

Interesting neologism with some profound possible consequences: the abject sphere of human psyche denying its roots which have been always deeply existing within the womb of Mother-Nature.

Humans excel in being humans; ‘humane’ means ‘divine’ – a step beyond this illuminated Olympian circle of ‘humanity’ – one is in a grave danger to slip into that chaotic inferno of natural world – of Beasts and Monsters, of Wild Creatures and unpredictable Elements…

Humans dread being ‘inhuman’ more than they dread being dead. There can be hardly any fear more deep-seated and penetrating and more repressed at the same time.

Yet – let’s beware my fellow human animals – ONLY what is HUMAN can be INHUMAN. In countless records – from simple myths and folk legends to complex ideologies and works of art – we are faced with the fact that the most alienating, monstrous forces are shown to reside not in some intergalactic spaces but deeply within the fabric of the human species itself…


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