All 7 entries tagged Art

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December 06, 2006

My first publication

Right. So it’s got nothing to do with maths. And it’s not under my real name. But something I wrote got published in yesterday’s Guardian. Hurrah!

A few weeks ago, the Guardian invited readers to join in on its new Arts blog to discuss the world’s must see works of art. In between all the pretentious comments on the elitist/racist (read Western art biased) nature of the original list, there was room for constructive discussion.

So I thought of which works of art have made an impact on me, and then I remembered the piece that makes discussions about composition fun: Rubens’ Descent from the Cross. I wrote about the original (see below [1]):

Possibly not his best, but still magnificent and in its original setting. The weight of the task at hand fills the entire picture.

Rubens Real

This actually made Jason laugh, as I made it sound the painting was a bit rubbish. What I didn’t write was the fun you can have playing with this picture. If you can find diagonals in a composition, they’re probably there for a good reason! See what happens when you flip the image:

Rubens Mirror

You’ve just created Ascent of the Cross!

1 Original picture taken from exittoart

April 03, 2006

Another Horsedreamer's Blues

4 out of 5 stars

Last week I was the proud owner of some sort of time turner. You know, the kind that Hermione uses at Hogwarts? It wasn't as if I could go back in time to set things straight, but I did get to do work at over 200% efficiency! While my laptop was flying around trying to calculate whatever 100,000 bubbles are up to, I couldn't use it [even using Notepad caused such havoc that the poor thing nearly crashed head first on our IKEA table] so had to find out what life would be like without a computer and all its goodness.

Also, not being as involved in Rev anymore leaves me to find a new hobby. The answer lie in the magazine rack of Costcutters, in the geeky section. Computer Arts is a wonderfully cheerful magazine that treats its subject in a professional manner, without losing accessibility to poor noobs to computer graphics. But it had to wait to be read, because at home I found Graphic Design School, which promised to teach me principles and practices of graphic design.

And so it did.

In principle, design is very subjective, and as such the author encourages us to experiment a lot ourselves, and don't take his words as a law. There are however quite a few tricks to learn and a few pit holes to avoid. Some of these come down to common sense – but it is useful to read the reasoning or history behind this "sense" – others are words of caution: design often isn't what you want.

Graphic Design School is a great start if you'd like to get into design. It obviously isn't an art course, but it's a good guide and it encourages the reader to get involved. It convinced me to spend the next sum of money I save on Adobe stuff (Creative Suite 2 for "only" £ 346.63 for students – ok, it is quite a save from a near £ 1000!) instead of another bunch of CDs I'll never play.

February 14, 2005

Feeling good

Follow-up to What is Literature? from [TBA]

In my altruistic plan of sharing the great movie High Fidelity, I encountered a setback last night when my friends told me it was a chick flick. Wordspy defines chick flick as a movie with themes, characters, or events that appeal more to women than to men.

The argument was that High Fidelity did not agree with any of the standards of what the antonym of a chick flick would be: think explosive, fighting, little or no talk for several minutes, and lots of swearing. Ironically enough they just mentioned this when one of the characters screamed you fucking asshole and five minutes later another character was in an ideal world beaten up to pieces with a phone and an amp. Right.

To make it all a wee bit clearer, I thought I'd delve into elementary maths and draw you this Venn diagram. A stands for the action and SciFi movies (chick flick antonym), think Star Wars, Rambo, or any James Bond; B includes movies such as Being John Malkovich, The Big Lebowski, Schindler's List, so movies with some arguable artistic value, that lack explosions and relationship-talk; C then stands for the feel-good movies, encompassing the whole chick flick genre, including Legally Blonde, Pay it Forward, and any Disney movie. The overlap between B and C is to leave some room for films like The Matrix or most of Tarantino's movies; A and C overlap for Forrest Gump or Almost Famous.

Any mathematician can tell you that when chick flicks are encompassed by group C, that doesn't imply that any feel-good movie is a chick flick. High Fidelity, being a somewhat feel-good movie with the arguable artistic value, does not have to be a chick flick. It is however in a more precarious position as the main character talks about relationships 90% of the time to his audience, i.e. the viewer. But chick flick? I'd still say no. Men have a chance to connect with the main character Rob (John Cusack), and still feel good about themselves (like the main character does). Women, however, could connect to the main female character, who ends up being 'too tired not to be with' Rob. Not quite the successful strong woman Julia Roberts tells them to be!

I'd agree that High Fidelity is a feel-good movie, still in good company with say Forrest Gump or As Good as it Gets. And I would not be surprised if the movie has a higher appeal with women than with men, but to put it in the same little box with The Sweetest Thing, or any Meg Ryan movie just doesn't feel right. Wordspy's definition is too broad: the classic chick flick is there for women to feel good and to provide them with role models. Movies about relationships might be more enjoyable for women, but surely they're not necessarily chick flicks?

2 Final notes:

  • I omitted an overlap for A and C because I thought it didn't exist, but just realized it's the perfect spot for most adventure and kids movies;
  • A quick look at the not so reliable imdb website shows that until they're 45, men rate High Fidelity higher than women do till their 45th, after which men suddenly seem to be fed up with it and drop their ratings.

February 13, 2005

The critics love it

Follow-up to Another package from [TBA]

The fabric has been unfolded and see the river of saffron flow through New York's Central Park. NY critics love it, calling it 'poetry in motion', a manifest 'full of life and energy' and a 'work of pure joy'. Again visit de Volkskrant for more pictures, or the New York City council website for more info.

February 09, 2005

Another package

Writing about web page

Artist Christo, renowned for wrapping large objects/buildings/islands, has finally been allowed to turn New York's Central Park into one big birthday present. On the Dutch Volkskrant's website, two photographers (Judith Baas en Jan Tromp) are keeping track of the progress of this work of art.

Upper East Side, Reservoir, Central Park. You can see the arches through the trees at the bottom of the picture.

Don't ask me what will become of this. I might update this entry once the work is finished... In the mean time, follow the link and you can see the progress yourself. Captions are in Dutch but if you really need to know what it says, ask me.

For more information about the project itself, follow this this link.

January 09, 2005

What is Literature?

Writing about web page

Alert: Long entry with italic paragraphs hence destructive nature to both this blog as well to your time management.

I'm not a language student, nor do I claim to be literary educated – if that exists – though I have done my Creative Writing and Journalism courses. At one point the lecturer involved told me he didn't regard Tolkien's work as literature – subjectively speaking that was. Still, I was shocked, being in the heydays of my fascination for Middle Earth.

The other day I met up with Tim and Susi, the latter being an English literature student in Edinburgh, which triggered a discussion about literature, and again I was shocked that someone did not regard one of my favorite books as literature. This time it was Nick Hornby's High Fidelity – a bridge too far! To find out what is literature, let me take a detour.
Note: All of this is subjective, hence open for discussion.

Now, I did do some art courses and remember the discussions during the Modern Art lectures about a toilet bowl being art as it is not in its function of a toilet bowl etcetera (won't go into details). A nice description of what art is can be found if you follow the link, though it's not the one I want to use. The author of the website basically regards anything ever reproduced by mankind to reflect reality is art. Interesting, but news reports and building plans and maps of england would be art then as well.

First, let me be snobby, and dismiss all decorative arts and crafts, and as I don't care about most of the fine arts, I'll focus on painting. The last refinement concerns the time frame – although beautiful works of art were created before modern times, most of these were commissioned (by church, state, or nobility), hence restricted the artist's freedom of expression. Finally, I don't want to include paintings from the 18th and 19th centuries as either the previous objection still counts, or art was heavily monitored by institutions (Salon). For me, the discussion starts with Van Gogh, Cezanne, and Gauguin.
Note: I just realize I restrict myself to 'Western Art' as well - apologies for this small minded vision.

Now that we've just removed 99,9% of what Belladonna (author of the website) calls art, let's change the definition as well. Art should be thought provoking, in the sense that it stirrs emotions in the people, even if it is of disgust or confusion. Art should be innovative in the sense that it fits in a somewhat natural course of development (e.g. from cubism to collage to pop art), and it should be inspiring and motivating for others to be creative. Oh, and it should be contemporary! In the sense that if I'd paint a beautiful scene of Amsterdam set in the 17th century in the style of Rembrandt or his contemporaries, it would just be silly and adds nothing to the current course of art.
Note: Again my apologies, for part of these definitions are blatantly though not literally copied from sources I discussed in my art classes. I'll try and find the source asap.

It has hard to criticize contemporary art, but I just want to say it might well be that nominees for the Turner Prize do not fall under this definition. Or maybe even Damien Hirst (shock! horror!). Anyway – art might not be art when it is young; sometimes it needs time to be appreciated. Back to literature.

I have no idea how to copy the definition for art to literature. I have no sense of literary history and have no idea how to even devise a universal definition when there are so many languages covered by literature. Even focusing on English/American literature won't help me having only read 10 books that would probably be considered literature in similar sense we just discussed art. And Nick Hornby.

The idea we (Tim, Susi, and me) came up with was to consider something literature, when it is written in such a way that it is all that what art is. I haven't read it (yet), but I believe the Da Vinci Code wouldn't be covered by this definition. Nor would most detectives or thrillers – they are nice stories and often very exciting and fun to read, but are they thought inspiring and moving and do they stir any emotions other than a thrill (such as a painting might just be beautiful and that's it).

In the Netherlands we have an author who has been hoping to win the Nobel Prize for literature for years now (Harry Mulisch). I haven't read most of his books, but so far only one would be literature (De Aanslag). In his other books he tries so hard to include wisdom and to create 9-page-long sentences that it is almost impossible to read, let alone to give you a chance to think for yourself.

Nick Hornby is literature. He can make the seemingly casual life of some bloke from somewhere in London sound interesting, inspiring, moving. I cannot say it is innovative, as I don't know if anyone else wrote such a book in our time before him, but it certainly was contemporary. We can all recognize London the way he describes it, at least if we've been there. Someone from the 1920s would have no idea what he's talking about, nor would most certainly someone from the 2030s.

Another friend told me to read Tony Parsons, seeing it's a similar kind of story. Now, I've read Man and Boy, and just finished Man and Wife, and it just doesn't seem literature to me. They're great stories and I would tell anyone to read it, but it seems too familiar to me now. It's like reading Virgil after having read Homer. But then Tony Parsons does not improve on Nick Hornby.

Dilemma. What is literature? And how can I define it such that Nick Hornby is literature and Tony Parsons isn't (no offense to him or his work - I do love it). For the record, I haven't read any James Joyce, but I'm sure it's literature. To me, the most literary piece of English/American literature I've read is The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald. The most horrible piece of literature that I'd rather not call literature is Snows of Kilimanjaro by Hemingway. Let me know what you think, or tell me your worst piece of literature or best piece of non-literature. Oh and I agree Tolkien's work on Middle Earth isn't literature, though I'm positive he has written literature according to our undefined definition though I can't remember what it was.

December 04, 2004

The Witches – Birmingham REP

Writing about web page

Not music related, but musicality says musical is a play with lots of music but the keyword is play: I went to see Roald Dahl's The Witches in the Birmingham REP tonight and it was ace!

First half (up till the boys are turned into mice) was OK. Bit static performance as most of the story has to be introduced. Bit awkward as an adult is playing the little boy. He looked young though. The stage setting was brilliant – great use of space and nice modern curtain (i.e. three 'walls' sliding over each other creating frames for different acts or for video displays). Articulation was good though often scrambled by whatever the 10-year-olds in the audience were snacking. Seats were comfy and leather-clad and we had ample space for our legs. The witches were actually quite scary (for a 10 year old – they stopped snacking as soon as the first gruesome act was committed) and disgusting. The special effects (mainly boys turning into mice) were really impressive. We were trying to spot them going below the stage but they were on an open table!? It took my slightly more clever teaching friend to explain how they did it.

Second half was hilarious. It started off with the mice trying to get around in the hotel. Had nothing to do with the story, but again the staging was very real and mice-costumes lifelike. Best act of the show was seeing the two trying to get up the stairs – it was rewarded with plenty of cheering and clapping from the very enthusiastic crowd. Even more praise was there for the high tech life-size mice, who seemed like little puppets from the back (where we were sitting in the first half – we spotted exactly 9 seats for us on the front row which is where we moved to for the second half to spot the details) but turned out to be remote-controlled robot-puppets (or so I believe). At one point one of the mice was 'running' (i.e. cycling) through the restaurant but alas it stumbled over some ledge on the stage, whilst the rest of the cast were frozen in their timeframe! Fortunately, the mouse's grandma (still human) defrosted to help it back on its saddle so that it could reach her table in time. Clearly, you had to be there to understand how incredibly hilarious this was, though cleverly solved.

Overall, it was a very rewarding night, with a nice ride in the Birmingham ferris wheel as a dessert. Apologies if you're appalled by the review – I tried my best to make it as boring as possible, which does not at all reflect the fun I had watching this performance. Link might not work when the performance is over (10 December).

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