Archive for category Painting

Croatian Art Adventures

In this post I will mainly be talking about The Croatian Association of Naive Artists, however I will briefly mention the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb as I feel they both encompass the same spirit of the need to create art and the catharsis that it provides.

Last summer I had the pleasure of visiting the Mirko Virius Gallery in Zagreb, Croatia. The artist’s exhibited at the gallery are all Naive Artists, in the sense that they have had little or no formal artistic training. They also adopt their own creative style which is normally characterised by its childlike or ‘naive’ quality. Proportion and more importantly, realism is not the focus of these works, yet the simplicity and imagination of these works somehow presents a truer reality.

Sometimes formal training can remove the wonder and true creativity of the practitioner, or it can insert certain ideas and concepts into the artist’s mind and force their hand into a certain discipline or style.Whilst it is great and necessary to learn about what has come before, sometimes creativity needs to come from deep within the artist, without any restraints.

The gallery is named after Mirko Virius, a peasant and self-taught painter who became a forerunner of Croatian Naive Art after participating in the First Exhibition of Peasant Painters. Despite only being an active painter for three years (1936-1939), his paintings captured the politics behind social themes in paintings such as The Beggar, The Plowing and The Overturned Cart. Virius was arrested during World War II due to his political activities and taken to a Nazi concentration camp in Zemun, Serbia, where he died in 1943. His tragic fate was immortalised by his friend Generalić, who painted The Death of Virius, one of his most famous paintings.With these events you can begin to see just how important a role naive art has played in Croatian history.

I feel more of an affinity myself towards Naive Art, or Outsider Art, in the sense that even though I have an arts education background I do not feel that connected to the mainstream art world. I create work purely because I cannot imagine not doing so and I create work primarily for myself.

This leads me on nicely to the Museum of Broken Relationships. A museum in Zagreb dedicated to the trinkets and mementos left behind after a relationship fails or ends. The catharsis involved with celebrating and displaying failure instead of so-called success (there’s a whole day dedicated to couples, Valentines Day, and nothing for people to celebrate being in a fabulous relationship with themselves!) is similar for me to the catharsis that comes from naive art, where the work is the most important thing, not wether they learnt under a certain master painter or are represented by a top end gallery.

This is an image of one of my favourite exhibits. The couple were attempting a long distance relationship and each time one travelled to visit the other they cut off a leg of the caterpillar. As you can see they didn’t make it through all of the legs, but the hope that they imbued within this object is incredibly powerful.

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I am also including a link to a good friend of mine’s blog. Clare Brown is currently living in Split, Croatia (I’m not jealous at all…..) and has written a piece about her visit to the Croatian Museum of Naive Art (which is just up the road from the Mirko Virius Gallery).

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Fighting for Words

For three days in August I got up close and personal with a group of fellow artists in a DIY workshop organised by performance artist Kira O’Reilly . Part of the Live Art Development Agency’s DIY 10:2013 initiative to enable ‘unusual professional development projects conceived and run BY artists FOR artists’, Kira’s particular workshop was titled ‘Thinking Through the Body. Combative Manifestos’. This appealed to my continuing investigation in to what the body is capable of and specifically I was drawn to the idea of working with my own body. The workshop proved to be physically and mentally challenging.  For the duration of the workshop we wrestled, grappled and circuit trained with the idea of manifestos and words of intention in mind whilst exhausted. The parallel between the urgency of a manifesto and the urgency of trying to think and formulate words whilst exhausted was interesting, in both cases you are left with the pure and necessary. What needed to be said at that moment.

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Me getting my arse kicked by fellow artist Tom.

Towards the end of the workshop we began to think about how the skills we had learnt could be used in a performance. These ideas recently spawned in to an exhibition organised and curated by Anais Lalange at the Resistance Gallery in London. This chance to develop ideas and present them to an audience enabled me to hone in on my feelings around the workshop, namely my attitude towards sweat and not constantly upholding a perfected visage. Traveling from the workshops each day on the tube whilst still sweaty and with no make up on was, at first, an uncomfortable experience for me. It quickly became liberating and highlighted just how ingrained and ridiculous societal pressures for the way we look are, these ideas are reflected in the film, Wordout below.

The exhibition included performances by:

Joseph Mercier and Jordan Lennie – How I remember it, a recounting of  their recent performance piece Rite of Spring, a fight lasting the duration of the 100 year old, controversial piece of music by Stravinsky. They spoke of the oddness of how quickly the audience became accustomed to the violence and took sides, cheering for the men to tear each other a part. They also explained that due to the intensity of the fight they would not be repeating the performance.

Hellen Burrough and Philip Bedwell – Hellen reads The futurist manifesto of lust by Valentine De Saint-Point whilst Philip increases the intensity of a choke hold on her until she can longer breath or speak. The piece is very moving as the words are reflected in the tenderness of the embrace, which although violent is akin to lust in it’s intensity and intimacy. The fulfilment of lust is in itself a violent act ‘We must stop despising Desire, this attraction at once delicate and brutal between two bodies, of whatever sex, two bodies that want each other, striving for unity.’

A group performance combining a minute of repeated excercise with a minute of manifesto creating (completing sentences from a given few words)  dictated by MMA coach James Duncalf (who was our teacher of all things fight-y during the workshop) and carried out by the following artist – Hamish MacPherson, Laura Burns, Anais Lalange, Hellen Burrough, Philip Bedwell and Jungmin Son.

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MMA coach James Duncalf giving an example of one of the exercises, Photo courtesy of Alistair Veryard

Anais and Laura – Anais reads  as Laura restrains her. The exertion of constantly trying to battle and resist is heard in her voice and a further urgency is given to the words.

Finally Hamish and Laura fought out their thoughts around the idea of a manifesto.

The film that I created for the event was a reflection on the words that had gone through my head during the workshop, my attitude to sweat and the idea of words as motivator and catalyst. I used a mixture of words I had written during the workshop and those which had stood out to me since. I particularly liked the idea of words associated with battle, and was drawn to quotes from films such as Conan the Barbarian and 300. These films depicting hyper-masculinty and violent strength bring to mind the feeling of working out, and reflected the feelings conjured up in myself when I was wrestling with the other artists. The film also dealt with my feelings around body image and I feel the quest to achieve ‘the perfect body’ is really an inner voice calling out for warrior days, when humans could hunt and bodily contact was a way to communicate the entire spectrum emotions.

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The Sketchbook Project 2013

At the beginning of this year I sent my little sketchbook off to New York as part of the sketchbook project.

The Sketchbook Project is a global, crowd-sourced art project and interactive, traveling exhibition of handmade books. Basically you send off for a book and can fill it however you so wish, then return it to The Brooklyn Art Library and they take the books completed each year on a tour around America in their mobile library van!

I started using the sketchbook as an ideas base for the Cubicle Creations project, and really enjoyed playing with collage and my theme of hyper-masculinity without the pressure of it being marked for academic purposes or anything like that. It is also nice to receive emails from different cities along the tour saying someone has viewed your sketchbook. I really like the fact the my little book is travelling to places that I have never been before!

I had also wanted to attach sound modules to the book, like the ones you get in cards that play you a tune, in order to have the pages grunting as you opened them. However I was a bit concerned about the book getting through customs, so that’s another idea to approach at a later date!

The Sketchbook Project 2013 from Jennifer Milarski on Vimeo.

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Jeff Keen Artist’s Sketchbook

Jeff Keen Dreams of The Archduke Sketchbook from Jennifer Milarski on Vimeo.

A film made for the Jeff Keen retrospective, Shoot The Wrx, Artists and Film Maker Jeff Keen, at Brighton Museum.
The film being shown in the gallery is closer to 20 minutes long but this version has been sped up to give a taste of what is inside.
Copyright belongs to The Jeff Keen Estate and Brighton & Hove Museum and Art Gallery.
The film was produced by Jennifer Milarski, with the help of Anne Nielsen.

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Cubicle Creations at Wahoo West Beach Brighton

Cubicle-Creations

To explain: below is what was written about the Cubicle Creations project in SQ Magazine  http://sqmagazine.co.uk/

”Wahoo Brighton have scoured the region for 15 local artists to create artistic concepts for each of their toilet cubicles with £500 going to the best one. Want to know more?

Well, for the past few months, a swathe of local artists have applied and been whittled down to just 15 lucky entrants, who have been hand-picked to work throughout November and get their chance to showcase their talents to Brighton’s nightlife.

The project deadline has now hit – and the unveiling and judging will take place at Brighton’s First “Burn Your Dregs”, a night designed for Writers and Artists to get together and make something good.

All this and a live DJ thrown in too, Jakub Machal Mancal. West Street is getting cultured!”

So I saw the flyer for this in Clarkes Stationers in Brighton and decided to apply, and I was lucky enough to be accepted! Wahey/Wahoo!

As I am a digital artist and have a background in fine art, I was excited at the prospect of creating some work which got me away from the computer screen and coding! I was also really looking forward to having the free reign to do what I ever I wanted in that amount of space and without constrictions.

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Here is the first wall done!

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The tiles were made up of two designs I made then photocopied and mirrored to connect to each other.

The themes I am normally drawn to in my work are issues around gender and gender representation. With Polish heritage I often also incorporate folk art traditions, motifs and patterns, this also relates to my experiences of the clear gender roles in Eastern Europe and the folk art motifs are a nod toward this in my work.

For cubicle creations I wanted to create something that addressed the way in which women are used for advertising and on posters in toilets, the fact that these are always visually appealing or model like women. To counter act this bombarding of female ‘perfectionist’ imagery I wanted to give balance to this by having a cubicle with visually appealing, hyper masculine men in. I disembodied the images of the men to de humanize them and make them purely into representations of fleshy supposed attractiveness. The folk art flowers represent the female form and contrast against the harshness of the headless figures.

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I have included the large figure of Arnold Schwarzenegger on the back of the door in a typical body builder pose, I use his form in much of my work as a sort of muse character. To incorporate a digital aspect I projected his form onto the door in order to paint it. I had also planned to have a small projection on the ceiling of my cubicle, a film which fit in with the style and themes of my cubicle, but disappointingly it didn’t come to fruition.

The front of the door is like a book cover hinting at what is inside.

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I found the work space very calming and due to the size of the cubicle felt like I was in my own little world, stepping out to have a chat and enter another cubicle and world!

The comments of The Mayor of Brighton summed up the experience for me as he said that the project represented the diversity and ‘rock n roll’ persona of Brighton, especially as Wahoo is not necessarily the first place one would think of as hosting art, it symbolized the  open mindedness of the city. I am always interested in changing peoples perception of art, and dislike the idea of people having to walk around a white space, silently contemplating the work. I love it when art is out there in the world for people to experience, with none of the elitist notions attached to it.

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Here is a link to photos of all the toilets and the artists in them!

 https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.543750652320673.133998.130487940313615&type=1

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Me in my completed toilet!

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Carrieres de Lumieres, Les Baux, France aka The most amazing exhibition I have EVER been to!!!

I have just got back from Provence and have to say the highlight, apart from the exquisite wine (I will now only drink clairette de die darling!), was by far a visit to the Carrieres de Lumieres in Les Baux. Luckily my mum had spotted an article in The Observer about the caves and so after convincing my partner to drive the two hours from where we were staying, wiggling up and down mountains, we arrived in, or I should probably say on, Les Baux. The video below shows the location and the stunning projections inside: Carrières de Lumières – Spectacle “Gauguin, Van… by culturespaces

As you will see it is a combination of Van Gogh and Gauguin’s work shown in the context of ‘Painters of Colour’. The soundtrack on the video is also the same as was played within the caves and had been perfectly mixed to convey the emotions through each era of the artist’s work.

The only thing the video doesn’t do justice to is the sheer scale and awe that you get from being in the space, it is literally gigantic and even before you enter the setting and the quarried cliff face is an artwork in itself! The fact that the floor and walls were being used and the way in which the paintings came to life nearly made me have a little cry! It was one of those situations where you wish you had thought of this, had been part of it, but also sheer joy that people in the world are out there creating these sorts of events. As I tend to mention a lot, I am interested in the ways in which digital media can enhance and compliment history and tradition and this was literally the most perfect example I have ever seen of this in action. You could see kids and adults alike with their interest sparked, perhaps much more so than would be the case with a static painting in a formal museum environment.

I should also mention that Jon Cocteau’s Le Testament d’Orphee, which was filmed in the caves in 1959 was also displayed within the caves, projected onto a stone wall, which provided an amazing viewing experience as the texture of the wall made the caves in the film almost 3d! And it was amazing to walk around and imagine the scenes being played out.

I shot quite a lot of film whilst I was out there so expect more from Provence to follow!

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QR Codes in the Modern British Paintings Gallery

How can the old and the new enhance and compliment each other?

Is there a place for technology at traditional sites such as museums?

Does technology help people to engage with artworks?

These are some of the questions that artist and volunteer Jennifer Milarski has been asking.

Come and help her get closer to the answers in the Modern British Paintings Gallery, on the first floor of the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery from 29 May – 1 June.

‘I have introduced the idea of QR codes into the gallery, as I want to find out how people really feel about the use of technology in traditional spaces such as museums or heritage sites.

The idea is to use the QR codes as a way to bring a new perspective to the artists and their work, to make the artists more accessible by having an image of them and to show their work in the context of other works by them in the museum’s Fine Art collection.

I was drawn to the Modern British Paintings Gallery by the fact that a lot of the artists in this gallery were connected somehow, and not only by painting. The narratives between the artists and between their works is what appealed to me. The little unknown or seemingly insignificant details about people can actually add an interesting dimension to the work .’

It is advisable to download a QR reader onto your smartphone prior to visiting the gallery. Suggested for iphone is Scan which is downloadable from the app store for free or QR Droid for Android, also free of charge.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a smartphone or a QR reader as Jennifer will be present in the gallery with her own mobile device to help with any technical issues and demonstrate the project.

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