Archive for category Storytelling
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.
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).
©Huw Bartlett 2014
For the final week I invited Actor/Artist/Bodybuilder/Documentary Filmmaker Arnold Pollock to exhibit. His was a unique situation in that he is from Manchester so would be making work from scratch or using whatever he could bring down with him. But this gave Arnold the chance to truly create something in response to the gallery space as initially the space was all he had.
Using his current interest in acting (he’s been on Corrie don’t you know!) and previous experience in documentary film making Arnold created a film that combines his interaction with Brighton and its inhabitants. He accurately describes the film as ‘… the result of pursuing every meaningful coincidence during my stay.’ Most of these coincidences revolved around, and occurred due, to his incredible charm. This charm made it possible for Arnold to swipe personal text messages off of strangers phones which are then used as scripts, acted out with new strangers.
The film also depicts local scenes which perhaps locals would normally overlook, and all pretence is somehow stripped away from whimsical beach scenes such as in the clip below and replaced with an endearing honesty.
It was the perfect way to end the residency. The film left me with a new love for my hometown and showed the true potential of CAC when someone enters it with a blank slate and only their interests as a starting point.
Also screened during the exhibition was Arnold’s documentary of him and friend James walking the Trans Pennine Trail:
© Huw Bartlett 2014
For the second week I invited Spanish photography and moving image artist Nazare Soares to exhibit as I had previously seen examples of her work and loved the experimental realness to her films. I also envisaged that the closeness of the gallery space would compliment moving image work.
Nazare revisited her existing moving image work Hic Non Est, created during a residency in Palestine last year, and reconstructed the work in response to the space. The rooms were set up as a visual diary of her Palestinian memories and experiences and the theme of the tree of life was repeatedly visually present, even in the form of an actual olive tree which transformed the space into an organic part of the show. This is one of the best things about CAC that it has the ability to shape shift with each show, if you brought a tree in to a conventional white cube type gallery it would very much be apparent that it had been deliberately brought in an artwork. At CAC the tree looked as if it could’ve grown out of the ground and perhaps the whole exhibition had come about around the tree.
Image © Jennifer Milarski 2014
” Language has unmistakably made plain that memory is not an instrument for exploring the past,
but rather a medium. It is the medium of that which is experienced, just as the earth is the
medium in which ancient cities lie buried. He who seeks to approach his own buried past must
conduct himself like a man digging. Above all, he must not be afraid to return again and again to
the same matter; to scatter it as one scatters earth, to turn it over as one turns over soil. For the
”matter itself” is no more than the strata which yield their long-sought secrets only to the most
meticulous investigation. That is to say, they yield those images that, severed from all earlier
associations, reside as treasures in the sober rooms of our later insights”
Walter Benjamin: Excavation and Memory
The above Walter Benjamin quote which Nazare cites as inspiration for this piece is particularly poignant when seeing Hic Non Est shown in the CAC setting. Specifically the idea of the earth being the medium in which ancient cities lie buried, CAC is the medium in which Nazare’s show, along with each weekly Work Programme is buried and each artist is an excavator of that which already exists within the layers of the gallery.
After doing a DIY Workshop last year through the Live Art Development Agency I decided to apply for another workshop this year. The one that really caught my eye was run by performance artists The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein and Martin O’Brien.
Along with fellow participants Katy Baird, Sophie Cullinan, Ria Hartley and Emelía Antonsdóttir Crivello, the idea of the superhero as a catalyst for performance making was explored. My boundaries were well and truly pushed from the get go as we learned hip hop dances, frolicked in washing up liquid (not that I could let go enough to do much frolicking!) and recited Hamlet to the tune of twinkle twinkle little star.
I learnt a lot about myself over the three days, particularly about my attitude to success and failure. The tasks were specifically hard for me as I operate under the assumption that there is a right way and a wrong way to do everything, that I need to constantly be in control of myself and my surroundings and on some perverse level enjoy constantly telling myself that I am doing it all wrong and failing. The workshop helped me to see how ridiculous these notions are and that the most interesting situations that open up a dialogue revolve around things going wrong, almost reaching their goal but not quite and just generally failing.
The three days were finished off with a photo shoot in which we show-cased our developed superhero characters. Mine was Kyphosisa (Kyphosis being the medical term for a hunch back which I have a mild case of). She represents the acceptance of flaws and failure, showing that when we finally do this great, powerful things can happen.
The whole experience was incredibly mind altering and where I had previously been using other bodies in my work I finally realised that my own body signified the same things, generic success in the sense that it’s able, relatively fit and white. I had previously wanted to train myself to the standard of a bodybuilder and use this point from which to create work and a discourse, however I now realise there is much a more interesting space in which to do this with my body as it is now. This has prompted me to do a performance myself which I will talk about in my next post.
Bloody fantastic exhibition! Heavy Weight History consists of Polish power lifters attempting, and sometimes succeeding, to lift politically rife monuments around Warsaw. Documented in the form of a reality TV show, much like World’s Strongest Man (one of my favourite TV programmes!) the work questions the continuing relevance of public statues, and uses the rich historical backdrop of Poland as the stage to do so. Being of Polish heritage myself I have often visited Warsaw and have specifically visited a lot of the statues in the work.
It is interesting to think about these large symbols of communist oppression, such as statues and buildings that are left behind and forced on the locals and the meaning that they now signify. I’m thinking specifically about The Palace of Culture in Warsaw, the so called ‘gift of the Soviet nations to the Polish people’, which is still widely despised by the Polish and yet is a massive tourist attraction and landmark to outsiders.
From the 2nd of February until the 14th of April, the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne was host to the magical film works of Kelly Richardson.
Each room on the top floor of the gallery was dedicated to a different mythical landscape, with the large initial room showing Leviathon, 2011 introduced a sci-fi like lagoon scene, looking like something out of Avatar and Predator combined.
The epic scale of the works provided an intensely immersive experience and films became portals to these unknown lands. This cinematic transportation of the viewer perfectly captured the feeling I get when standing on a mountain top or when exploring a dense forest, the feeling that no one else exists. The double sided hanging forest projections, The Great Destroyer, and The Erudtition, shown below were my favourite pieces.
On a separate, later trip to the Towner I had the good fortune of seeing film-maker John Skoog’s first UK solo show. I was particularly struck by his film Reduit (Redoubt) which takes the form of dark, brooding slow shots of the home of Swedish farmer Karl Goran Persson. Persson built the house by hand and fuelled by his intense fear of impending Soviet invasion continuously fortified his home with junk and found objects. The voice over provides an insight into the character of this farmer, who was so mightily strong he would carry large girders back from town on his bike to add to his fortress like home.
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!