10 November 2010

Day 5- Ian Fairweather - Le Hermitage

Monastery 1961
synthetic polymer paint and gouache on cardboard mounted on composition board 144.5 h x 185.5

Australian painter Ian Fairweather (29 September 1891 – 20 May 1974) had the kind of extraordinary life story that demanded to be told in the form of (a now revised) biography:  From his days as a PoW after being captured by Germans in France during the First World War, to a prestigious art school in London and leading a wandering existence, his is a rich story. Perhaps the most important time in this man's life were the twenty years of solitary existence he lived on remote Bribie Island, off the coast of Queensland. Among the still, dappled trees he spent these last years of his life painting. In this way he reminds me of an ascetic monk, spending his days in quiet reflection, a kind of tanned and hirsute desert father, painting recollections in a rough shack with whatever materials he had on hand. Often he would paint on newspaper, an art conservationist's worst nightmare.  His work straddles abstraction, Aboriginal bark painting and Zen Buddhism, taking all his significant cultural and spiritual influences. The resulting work contains calligraphic lines which draw in and divide creating  an effect  almost like that of a church's stained glass. Suggestions of figures seem to emerge and disappear as on a spiritual plane, the dabs of coloured paint, asking for the viewer's contemplation and stillness. Often wavering between figurative painting and abstraction, Fairweather said, ‘It’s between representation and the other thing, whatever that is, and it’s difficult to keep one’s balance’. One feels that 'other thing' is a highly evolved sensitivity to the spiritual within the man. One story which has become almost as great as the legend himself. After WWII, in a kind of 'dark night of the soul'  he constructed a simple raft and departed Darwin for Timor, almost perishing at sea and making headlines in Australia. 
Ian Fairweather | Epiphany 1962

"Monastery may be considered a recollection of an experience many years before when the artist stayed briefly at a monastery near Beijing. He described it to his early biographer Nourma Abbott-Smith as a place of spirituality. He recalled that the snow outside covered the monastery while the inside was illuminated by hundreds of candlewicks floating in golden bowls, casting flickering shadows and softening the carved aspect of the statues. In a broader sense, as Murray Bail noted in his later book on the artist, Monasteryalso represents all monasteries, all contemplative silences and so summarises this serious artist’s obsessions." 
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

Day 4- Unreal Country - Ilya Kabakov

Day 4.
Well it is now day 5! So today is a double bill. I began this yesterday....

I am supposed to be writing an artist's statement for an exhibition this Friday. I thought I would share the artist's inspiration for her one of her major projects, The Museum of Lost Worlds. I myself  ran into Kabakov's work as a teenager on art camp, it was a working sketch for his 1999 work, Wings which moved me greatly.  It was a very linear, almost Da Vinci-like drawing of a winged contraption that quivered on the borders of invention and imagination. 
The art world is a dream world, a fantasy people live in, it is non-stop here. You make this exhibition in the art world, it is not reality. It is a very happy place because it is like a permanent dream, like jazz, non-stop, it just keeps playing.
Born in the Soviet Union in the 1933, Kabakov began his artistic career as a children's book illustrator which allowed him the luxury of dabbling in bboth officially sanctioned art and being present in 'unofficial' art circles. Now living in Long Island, Ilya Kabakov continues to create installation and sculptural works with his wife Emilia. Regarded as one of the most important Russian artists of the 20th century, he was the first living artist to exhibit his work at the Hermitage in St Petersburg. His work often contains a dualism - between what is real and imagined,  official and unofficial, arbitrary and non arbitrary. Often he will use literature to create an alternate version of history or reality as in his Albums ('70s-'80s) project , where he creates 10 characters to tell his life story because, in his opinion, nothing ever really happened to him. Much of his work attempts to grapple with his ideas on the birth and death of a civilization, the Soviet Union. The work below, The Flying Komarov (komar - mosquito), shows Soviet people, rendered in coffee-stain, old-book brown fly above their static housing, their confines.
Ilya and Emilia Kabakov

From the album "The flying Komarov"

From the album "The flying Komarov", 32 sheets, sheet No. 7, 51,5 x 35cm

In an interview, he tried to explain his world-view to a confused American journalist: 
America is more reality, this is your hand, this is your head; and in Russia it is absolutely different. In Russia, I look at you and it is my dreams, my fantasy about you. And this is a general point, a general principal. Like in literature, we talk about reality, but it is not reality.

Ilya Kabakov (1999) Wings (How to make yourself better or how to become an angel)

You need to make two wings from white tulle fabric, using the same sketch that is appended to the project, and also leather straps for attaching these wings on your back and fixing them in place. After this, having stayed alone in your room (this condition is fairly important, for both the productivity of the impending activity, as well as for the avoiding undesirable reactions on the part of other people in the family) you should put on the wings, and sit completely without anything to do and in silence for 5-10 minutes, after which you should turn to your usual endeavors without leaving the room. After 2 hours you should repeat the initial pause again. After 2-3 weeks of daily procedures, the affect of the white wings will begin to manifest itself with greater and greater force. 

Kabakov creates rich back stories to his sculptural and installation pieces, layering fantasy and unreality and weaving a dream state of possibilities. The result is transcendence; the flight of the cheaply shod, reigned-in, coffee brown homo-Sovieticus above his State version of  Utopia. Ilya, an unabashed dreamer, creates a new, imagined, heroically-winged collective history for the Soviet people.