Monday, September 26, 2011

$250 for a photo with a naked man?

a stark naked man has attracted attention from hundreds of people at the Art Stage Singapore exhibition, held at Marina Bay Sands. The man is seated in a booth in front of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo's "The Two Fridas", devoid of any article of clothing. Visitors to the exhibition can choose to join him in the room, hold his hand (mimicing the painting behind), and get a photograph taken for a price of $250.

the man, T. Venkanna, is an artist from Hyderabad, India and is posing naked as part of his art installation about "removing the trappings of identity".

I feel that art comes in many forms, be it a renaissance romanticist painting by theodore gericault, or a ready-made my marcel duchamp. and although i concede that what T. Venkanna is doing is indeed art (performance art), i decline to agree that it was well done.

through the process of coursework, my (vague-ish) principles of art have become relatively more concrete. but i realised that a key aspect of art that i feel is important and necessary is that throughout the process of doing the art, there must be some visible effort or growth on the part of the artist - like the evident patience and skill needed to paint "A Sunday on the island of La Grande Jatte", or the hours' effort needed to throw a simple vase. i personally feel that, more than the symbolism of the work, the process and sense of achievement after a period of hard work is what makes art. However in the case of T. Venkanna, I feel that he has put in little or no effort into this work as all he needs to do is sit there and take pictures. There is no necessary artistic skills involved, or creative idea behind it. Moreover, i find this installation rather "cheat" (for lack of a better word), as not only does he need to put in little effort on his part, the painting that he is basing his entire installation on isn't even painted by him. thus in my opinion, i find this installation a very poorly executed example of performance art.

also, "The Two Fridas" was painted by Frida Kahlo at a time of her divorce with her ex-husband, Diego Rivera. The painting thus serves to depict Kahlo's emotions, inner turmoil and the great pain she was suffering at the time. There is no direct (or indirect) link between the painting and T. Venkenna's concept of "removing the trappings of identity". It seems as though the only similarities between what he is doing and the painting is the pose of the two fridas and the pose of T. Venkenna and the visitor. In anycase, even if T. Venkenna did intend to portray "removing the trappings of identity" as perhaps, removing the trappings of sorrow and pain as in "The Two Fridas", I still feel that he should not have mimicked another artist's work, as this causes him to lose his originality as an artist, which contradicts his prominent and outstanding actions.

another reason that i do not like this work is the way the message was portrayed. removing clothes and accessories does not necessarily equate to "removing the trappings of identity", or is a vague and superficial representation of it. I also think that T. Venkenna has failed to properly convey his message to his viewers, as most people view his nudity not as an image conveying the message of "removing the trappings of identity", but more as something that attracts attention because of the outrageous nature of the installation. Also, the fact that 70% of the visitors who have taken a photo with him are women, and that most of them did not dare to look him in the eye, were shy and did not speak to him may suggest that they are simply there because of a certain morbid curiousity, instead of a desire to appreciate art. Also, the extra measures taken to screen the exhibit from the public area to avoid visitors from stumbling upon it by accident is, albeit a thoughtful precaution, but it also suggests that the main aspect of the installation that people pay attention to is the nudity of the man, instead of the message he is trying to convey. As such, I think that T. Venkenna has mostly failed to convey his message through his actions.

footnote: while my comments on this installation have been sardonic and cynical, i do applaud the artist's courage to display himself to the public, and that all of these comments are my own personal views which may differ from others. ^^

Sunday, September 25, 2011


this is my painting for sec 3 eoy practical :D i sort of forgot the theme but i think its nightlife.

the painting depicts a city at night, where the clubs are open and DJs start rocking and concerts and starting and children are avoiding bed time and reading. to the right of the painting, the sky starts to lighten and day comes and cars are seen streaming into the city as people go to school and work and start another day.

my concept for this picture is "the city that never sleeps". because night time is traditionally the time where people go to sleep and cease activity for the day, i hoped to show a sense of irony in this picture that although it is night time, no one is asleep. quite the contrary actually, people are just as active at night as in day, and the addition of day coming and cars coming in and out of the city adds to the effect that the life in a city is just as active at night as in the day.

and if you look close enough,
you'll see a city that never sleeps;;

where the process matters so much more;; part 2

continuation of my previous post ^^
out of the two branches of pottery, the branch of hand-building still appeals more to me. for throwing, all you do is bend over the wheel trying to steady your hands to shape the spinning clay. but the works are (usually) always just round, smooth and symmetrical. there is not much feeling in the process, its more of the work that perfectionists do. (to put it bluntly) although it is true that through throwing, people are able to create works that are of a more sophisticated, elegant and classy, i don't think that that is the main point of pottery.
as i have said in the previous post, the main point of attraction pottery holds for me is the process of creating a piece. it is the experience of molding and shaping the clay with your own hands to create a piece of art. i feel that throwing does not offer me the full experience of clay, but hand building does. in hand building, you are not restricted by the wobbling clay or the turns of a wheel. in hand building, you just have the lump of clay in front of you, and some tools and your two hands. to me, hand building offers so many more possibilities and opens up so much more potential in clay.
in hand building, you can physically shaped the clay, twist the clay and bend the clay however you like. and since it is "hand-made", there is little or no chance of replication, making each piece unique. and because of the high level of interaction between maker and clay, each piece is thus more personal and holds more sentimental value. there is also more opportunity for texture and designs in hand building, creating even more possibilities for the average lump of clay.
these are a few of my favourite hand-building works ;D the first two photos are different angles of a bull sculpture i made last year. it was made out of a picture in one of the books my teachers had lying around their studio and is one of the most realistic figurines i've ever made ;D just so you know it's made out of a single huge lump of clay that i shaped and carved out :D i emphasised more on the muscles and form of the bull as it crouches because i wanted to try and capture the power and strength the bull represents.

the next one is a basket i made by weaving clay coils together. the idea is simple but the effect is (in my opinion) really good, mostly because of the design and the colour combination. the glaze i used was so cool - brown when painted in less layers and blue in thicker layers. the effect with ultramarine was a lot more than i bargained for ^^

the last one is actually a candle holder. i posted it here not only because i liked it but because i thought it related to my coursework a lot :D there's a hole at the top of the owl's head where you put the candle in and there are rows of tiny holes in the belly for the light to shine out. owls are nocturnal creatures which always fascinated me because they live in a world that is mostly devoid of light. when i was young, i used to think that nocturnal animals had the ability to produce light or glow, which is how they live in such darkness. so i used that memory and made this candle holder - an owl that can glow :D

comments! - valerie's blog :) - liyi's blog :)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

where the process matters so much more;; part 1

oh well in case you didn't know i've been taking pottery for about 7 years on and off but i only started throwing last year. here are a few pictures of my works ^^

for me, pottery has been a way to get away from the stress of everyday life. there is just something very therapeutic about sitting on a chair for hours on end watching a lump of clay shape itself into an artwork. in order to make pottery, you have to have the "work with whatever you've got" mindset, especially for throwing. Unless you're an experienced potter who can make exact replicas of vases or bowls, there is no way for you to predict what a little nudge will do to your work. neither is there a way to predict how the glaze will look, whether it will spread evenly, or it will flow down the sides. It is this level of unpredictability that I really like about pottery. That, and the fact that the process is always more important than the final.
For paintings, you look at the composition, the subject matter, the forms, the brushwork - in other words, you look at the final and how it looks, because that is the point of painting. but it is a different case for pottery. when you view a pottery piece, the main point is not the form, nor the colour. it is imagining how the potter made the work, how he made a sculpture like that, or how he made the vase curve that way. pottery is also a very personal thing, because only you know how the entire process from wedging to glazing goes about. only you can look at one of your works, and recall the memories of shaping and trimming, of colouring and polishing. it is this aspect of clay - that the process matters so much more - that holds the attraction for me.
these two bowls hold a special significance for me because they were the first ever pieces i made when i first started throwing. i especially like the one on the left, because of the colour combination i chose - stormy grey outside, and mother of pearl inside with shino beige for the rim. the grey flows down the side like rain and clouds, as though its really stormy grey and the whole feeling is just very subtley complementary C: you might guess from the pictures that i like to paint my pieces in glazes that flow, and you'd be right. i especially love the glaze mother of pearl - a runny glaze that appears transparent in less layers, and white in thicker ones. a good example of a use of this glaze would be the second picture. it's a pot painted in cobalt blue for the bottom half and liberal amounts of mother of pearl at the top. The result is that the mother of pearl flowed down the sides of the vase during firing, mixing attractively with the blue ^^ ever since then i have always liked the combination of white on dark blue. the third picture is a work that was more experimentative. i was actually inspired to try it when i saw one of my teacher's work - a slim vase with thin layers of colour running down on each other. so i decided to try it out by adding mother of pearl in between layers of colours to make them run and it worked! (sort of) :D the first picture is one of the few i have that doesn't have runny glazes. its the combination of a matt beige with a glossy clear brown. the effect is very simplistic and elegant in its simplicity c:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

final. (FINALLY.)

finally! after one year, this is my final :D 4 trees, 4 candles, 4 choices. which is yours?
as far as all my trees go this has to be my favourite. its the spring tree, with new leaves just sprouting out, symbolising hope of new life, and hope for change, as the tree will not stop here but continue to grow leaves till it has a full crown. spring is a very hopeful season :) for farmers, it means the snow will melt and their plants will grow again, for people, it (usually) means a new year and new beginnings, for animals it means the coming of warmer weather. the birdhouse is the candle holder because spring is the time where birds return, after migrating before winter, symbolising the return of hope and life.

my comments: this tree was inspired by my spaghetti tree, except i blended the spaghetti together partially so that it looks a lot more realistic. the birdhouse was /supposed/ to be on the tree, but it fell off so i'm going to stick it back after everything is fired ^^ the red+grey oxide really came through when i was glazing the birdhouse. the brown that was created made the birdhouse look very woody and nice :D
summer. the hottest period of the year, but the favourite season of trees. in the summer, they are at their prime, with huge crowns of bright green leaves, soaking up the sun. the hot sun is the source of hope for the trees, as it promises food, light, warmth and life. also, for people seeking shade from the sweltering heat, the great crowns of the tree provide the perfect place to sit under and perhaps read a book, or swing from a branch.

my comments: don't look at it now, but the tree and all the rocks are actually not attached to each other. they (heh) sort of broke apart due to poor joining but its okay! it can be salvaged :D the thing i regret most about this sculpture is still not being able to shape the crown more realistically. (plus, i probably shouldn't have added so much oxide to it either ><)
autumn - the season of harvest. this is the season that farmers have been looking forward to all year, as it is finally the time they can reap the fruits of their harvest. not only do farmers hope for this season, trees do too. their fruits are finally grown and the seeds in them can be dispersed to grow into more trees. autumn is the season of hope of more food, harvest, and new life. so i thought it would be apt to let the object of all this hope - the fruit - be the main part of the sculpture, the place where the candle is placed. the apple symbolises fertility and new life. due to greek mythology, the apple is also associated with Aphrodite, and to throw an apple at someone was to symbolically declare one's love. not only so, the apple also plays a big part in the creation of life, as it was the forbidden fruit in the garden of eden.

my comments: the apple fell off again D:< but kay lah it was cause i hollowed the apple slantedly because the apple was going to lean on the tree so the "floor" that the candle is supposed to be on had to be parallel to the floor.. so as a result the c.g. went bazongkers and it couldn't stay on the tree >:
winter. the time of bitter cold and harsh snow. but even though times are bitter, hope is burning bright in everyone's hearts, providing them with the warmth and strength to survive the winter. a den is used as the place to hold the candle to emphasise on this point. animals like bears and foxes seek refuge from the cold in their warm dens, and hibernate throughout the winter, in hope of waking up to a warmer, greener place. by placing a candle in the den, i hoped to symbolise the hope that the animals and people hold in their hearts and minds, the hope that gives them the power and will to survive through winter.

my comments: haha i don't know why but this sculpture looked alot better when it wasn't painted >: but even though winter is supposed to be cold and harsh, its my favourite season (competing with autumn). there is just something so attractive about a scenery with the ground covered in sheets of white, and fluffy white flakes drifting down.. (kay fine i probably like winter because i'm been living in summer my whole life) but still ^^ I really like my den by the way. from behind it looks just like a big rock, which suits the natural feel of the sculpture ^^

tree try-outs! (real ones.)

this is my next trial after that failed one that broke. i realised that not only was that one too weak, it did not look realistic enough for my liking. so i tried using the spaghetti thing again and stuck them on layer by layer to slowly build the tree you see above :) its not very big.. probably just 15 cm at most.. but the tree looks //a lot// more realistic. but looking back, i realised that the knobbles in a tree aren't actually so prominent and... individually formed? its more of one shape made of different shapes. so i suppose i should have like took some slip and blended round the edges so the coils look more natural instead of.... a heap of spaghetti.
oh this is the crown of leaves for the summer tree! its hollow on the inside so a candle can go in and shine through the holes (: but i could have made the form more realistic i suppose but i forgot and left so it became dry and hard.. >:
this is the winter tree! see the big boulder-ey thing there its a cave where animals hibernate in the winter :) and its also where the candle goes ^^ i took this picture because i thought the tree looked really cute as though it was asking for a hug :D
this is the autumn tree! the apple is hollow (the hole's on the other side) to put the candle in. i'm so proud of the apple :D originally i just made the apple without the stalk or leaf and went around asking people what they though it was. all said it was an apple ^^ -happy- but the apple looked so nice i was quite sad to have to hollow it out >: