Juno Calypso: The Honeymoon Suite

Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast

© Juno Calypso

The Honeymoon Suite is a collection of work by British photographer Juno Calypso. The artist uses self portraits and created realities to explore gender and the pressures on women about beauty and appearance. this exhibition that was based around her Honeymoon suite work, also had a range of her work from other projects. Using her self as the subject of the work she creates elaborate and visually engaging scenes often using panels shades and challenging colour contrasts.

Posing as a travel blogger she visited a couples only Honeymoon Hotel in Pennsylvania, to access one of the lurid coloured  and very kitsch honeymoon suites to make some work. Upon arrival and suprised  that she was on her own ( it is a honeymoon location) her tale of being a travel blogger got her access to all the rooms at the hotel. This exhibitions shows that work. Using wigs and costume she created tableau scenes that are thought provoking and at times very strange.

© Juno Calypso

This work builds on earlier work were she created an imaginary alter ego ‘Joyce’, whom she has used to, what the gallery exhibition guide described as:

‘reenact the private underlife of a women consumed by the laboured construct of femininity’

Reading about Calypso’s work online it is clear that she explores societal expectations  of women, the role and power of the beauty industry and also the simultaneously comic and tragic in the every day. Influenced by the painstaking preparation that Geoff Wall under takes in his work, there is a complex and well prepared tableau in all the Honeymoon Suite images.

© Juno Calypso

Some of the strange images such as the one at the top of this blog post offer insight into her core theme of women and the expectations of society. Doing eBay searches for ‘beauty’, in the technology section of the auction website, led her to finding a whole range of devices sold to ‘make you look younger ‘or ‘more beautiful’, or so the marketing goes. As part of her tableau approach she uses costume, wigs, location and these strange devices to present a stark message about the inherent absurdity in how some parts of scoria, the media and commerce treat women. This is powerful work that also uses humour engage the viewer to want to see more.

What did I learn from this exhibit and the artists work?

The work very much chimed with part of of Context and Narrative and the notion of “making it up” to tell a wider story.

The work and the youtube videos by the artist gave me some real insight into the notion of ‘personal voice’. there is a clear mission and purpose to Calypso’ work and whether you like it or not her carefully planned and executed created scenes offered me some real insight into a photographer using a clearly defined theme ad the engine of their creative endeavours. Looking at her growing body of work  I could also see how she further refines and develops ideas from an initial starting point around the

Calypso arrives at a location with camera, lighting and propose and experiments until she achieves the look she is trying to achieve. the idea of experiment rather than sharp design in advance was very helpful as a concept while trying to complete assignment 5!

References

The Honeymoon Suite – Gallery Guide, Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast

Juno Calypso: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmnedKsopaM (Accessed June 2017)

Bouquet, E. (2016) Juno Calypso: Return to the Love Hotel found at: www.port-magazine.com/art-photography/juno-return-to-the-love-hotel/ (Accessed June 2017)

 

Belfast Photo Festival – Off Theme

St. Annes Square – A  journey through Assad’s Syria

Syria, January 2017 – Destroyed street alley in East Aleppo. Residents who have returned to the streets. A child and his mother search a beauty shop for nail polish. ©Christian Werner

Christan Werner’s ‘A journey through Assad’s Syria’ was for me the most hard hitting work I saw throughout the whole Photo Festival. There were only six images by Werner, a German photojournalist and filmmaker, but all were gripping and at the same time full of dread. Making work in Syria’s second city Allepo, his camera offers us a glimpse into the true terror for ordinary citizens trying to find a way through the hell they must have experienced. What struck me most was that he used signifiers that in someway were so mundane but in the context of the terrible conditions for the people of Allepo these simple signifiers take on true terror as the signified.

His portrayal of people trying to go about a life that in anything but normal created a sense of helplessness to my western sensibilities. Reading about Werner after seeing the six   20×16 images he had on display in St. Annes Square, I learned that he had at an early age been influenced by the conflict photographer James Natchwey. Quoting Natchwey in the video clip referenced below, Werner describes his desire , like Natchwey to ‘tell stories that otherwise wouldn’t be heard. This work at Belfast Photo Festival certainly achieves that goal.

Werners images for this exhibit were taken from a wider set of work called Rubble and Delusion. These can be seen here:

http://www.werner-photography.com/albums/rubble-and-delusion/

References

Christian Werner – World Press Photo Interview – Found at: http://www.worldpressphoto.org/people/christian-werner (Accessed June 2017)

Masters of Japanese Photography-Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts

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Masters of Japanese Photography is an exhibition of the work of three photographers described in the exhibition guide as three of Japan’s most prominent living photographers. Nobuyoshi Araki (b1940) Ekoh Hosoe (b1933)  Kikuji Kawada (b1933)

They work is set against a background of post war Japan, a period in which rapid reconstruction and industrial development took Japan from defeat to be a leading industrial and technical nation. At the same time traditions were bing questioned and cultural change in this island nation led to a critical review of identity.  I tend too think of Japan as having three distinct historical contexts, an ancient one rich in traditions dating back to before medieval times, a more recent imperial history dating back to the 1800’s and a post war modern in austral history. The work of the artists in this exhibition touch upon all of these themes and to my relatively uneducated eye, also show European cultural  influences such as surrealism, Dada and classical renaissance european painting.

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before relflecting on the artist i wanted first to say something about the display and curation of the work. All the images were framed in large simple wooden frames and i was really struck by the high quality of the productiopn of the work. Given the dates of the work, i assume they were all film based process, and some were labeled as such. There were three distinct zones separating the work of each arts and in two of the individual exhibits there was a clear sequence. one

Nobuyoshi Araki

Araki is the youngest of the three artists featured and he started his career in commercial photography after graduating in Filmaking from the Chiba University in 1963. His work more than the others appeared to present a sharp contrast. One wall was made up of large 20×24 framed Cibachromes, slightly entail in colour. The images bar one were all of exotic and complex japans flowers. There was something slightly unreal about the works and the colours remind me of the super real and sometimes lurid colours seen in Martin parr images. On the other wall there were images of women, all in monochrome and these ranges from Fashion images with an clear erotic tone to very explicit images of women in Bondage. The contrast in the works was as  I say very stark. The exhibition notes set out out that Araki used ‘Kinbaku’, an ancient Japanese type of bondage using ropes as a recurrent theme in his work. I am not sure I liked the images but I have to say I felt the exhibit in hola gave me a revealing and indeed completing sense of the tensions between the ancient and the modern in Japan. Images of women wearing kimonos and tied in ropes suggest something dark. From a technical point of the view the images were faultless and Araki is clearly a skilled images maker, his work offering glimpses of thing that sit below the surface in this distant and to me quite alien, but intriguing eastern  culture.

Ekoh Hosoe

Originally a freelance photographers and film maker, Hosoe changed his name from Toshihio to Ekoh, in response to an new era in Japan following the end of the war. With a number of artists he established the Vivo agency in japan

Hosoe’s work in this exhibit had a much clearer narrative and although the style of the images changes through the sequence, i found this set much easier to read than Araki’s work. All in monochrome the collection of work on display are large, beautifully printed 20×24 silver gelatine prints framed simply and elegantly. The work has a whole had a beauty about it that appealed to my love of film made black and white art.

The set of images on display were a surreal exploration o the writer Yukio Mishima, entitled ‘Ordeal by Roses’, originally called ‘Killed by Roses’ when published but changes at the request of the subject. The works range from fairly orthodox portrait images to college like surreal interpretations. All had some reference to flowers /roses as part of the iconography. I got a real sense of the tension and angst from the work I think about when considering Mishima. As a student many years ago I had read some of his work an was aware of his ultimate ritual suicide following a failed attempt inciting a coup d’ etat. 

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I could see many in the work and al were executed beautifully. I was confused by the sequencing of at e work, all of which had unique numbers in their titles, but they were not displayed in number sequence. I would have liked to find out the curatorial reasoning behind the sequencing but no one at the gallery could tell me. That said this really did flow and there was a strong sense of sequence. There was also a clear sense of western influence with collage like sequence that used  snippets of well know european art, within the overall composition. I  was also intrigued by the artists use of the rose, a reference perhaps to beauty and thorns. 

Kikuji Kawada

Kawada, unlike his peers in this exhibition started out as an economics graduate and after working for a publishing company got involved in photography. A founder member of the Vivo Agency his work in this exhibit is a strange and at times hard to follow exposition  of natural phenomena. With a particular focus on eclipse and images of the astronomical events. This ‘Last Cosmology ‘ set draws upon traditional notions of such natural events being the harbingers of disasters. The work was very dark and although there was some serial progression i the eclipse images, I found the narrative of the work oblique. The exhibit notes talked about influences from European landscape art but again i found that hard to read. I will persevere though. i have made it an early new years resolution to look further into work that is hard to grasp and see it as an academic as well as aesthetic challenge. I was remanned of the scene from early black and white hour fils, patricianly the cloud and moon images. there was area Hammer feel to some of this work.

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What I learned from this exhibit

This was a challenging and thought provoking show. i led Hose work the most, and was more intrigued by Akira and Kawada. I left with a real sense that visiting exhbition and getting something from them isn’t about whether i like the work or not. Rather it is about the thought processes that are provoked. All three of theses artists offer an insight into post war Japan, a clash of cultures and the influence of the west. i also reflected that the post war industrial growth in the country also gave us many of the tools we all use to make our our own work

Note to Self- Follow up on the Vivo  Agency and the idea of an anti documentary approach. 

 

References

Koetzle, H-M,(2015) Photographers A-Z, Taschen, Koln

Sainsbury Centre Gallery Guide  (2016) University of East Anglia,Norwich

Henri Cartier Bresson: Paris – Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts

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August 6th  2016

To link with the Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts significant exhibition Alberto Giacometti – A  Line Through Time, The Sainsbury Centre were also displaying 83 images of Paris made by Cartier Bresson between 1929 and 1985. I also visits the Giacometti exhibition and my brief review can be found here. The exhibition was organised by Magnum Photos and the Foundation Henri Cartier- Bresson.

Although I was familiar with Cartier Bresson’s work this was a a rare opportunity to see a range of work displayed together and all printed with traditional silver gelatin processes. To add to my interest, the beautiful traditional prints had been made under the supervision iof cartier Breton himself,  so unlike other reproductions of images by the artist, these I assumed must approximate to the product that cartier Bressson visualised himself for the final image.

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The 83 monochrome  images, printed to about 20×16 were all displayed in a large well lit but not too bright gallery space. All were very simply but classically mounted and framed. There was a clear consistency  to the presentation of the work that to my eye allowed me to see past the display medium and really focus on the work itself.

I was also really struck by the very sharp consistency of the tonal range in the prints, this was fine art monochrome printing at its best.

The images were all arranged chronologically and there was a clear sense of development, in particular the artists shift to using 35mm which liberated him from the constraints of the earlier larger format cameras.

I am trying hard not to think about the photography involved and shift my thought process to the finished images and see through and past  the process. I found this very hard in the exhibition because I am a fan of 35mm film as a useable format and the  engaging images in the collection present such a strong argument about the power and efficacy of 35mm film in the hand s of a master!

I was alo really delighted to gaze upon a Cartier Breton supervised print of ‘Behind the Gare Saint Lazare’. I had looked at this work many times in books and of course had deconstructed it as part of my studies on the OCA course -Expressing Your Vision, my blog entry about it can be found here. I have to say the 20×16 in the frame looked really quite different to the versions in books and on the web. Far more subtle detail and tonal range.

The collection contained a rich mix  of images ranging from  street scenes,  people , couples, humour and well well observed moments of human interaction, joy and sadness. Cartier Bressons eye for the subject but also the tight and structured compositions that is a hallmark of his work. It is hard to describe the sense of completeness that I felt in seeing  his work arranged in a very well curated collection. The exhibition catalogue alerted me that some of the images in the collection had never before been displaced, i was not surpsperibd by this given there were many images I had never seen before even after looking at his work in books for 30 years.

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© Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos.

Of all the images in the collection it was the groups of people in his work that really drew me in . He must have made himself near invisible to have made some of these images given his proximity to make the work, yet the impression that he had not changed the scene by his close presence.

Henri-Cartier-Bresson-Flea-Market-on-the-boulevard-Richard-Lenoir.-1952-x600

© Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos.

What also took my by surprise was that the later images (late 1970’s to early 80’s ) did seem less strong and less focussed on individuals and more about the composition of a scene. i am not suggesting the images were weak as photographs, more that his attention and perhaps even inters had waned. This fits with things that i read suggesting in later life he lost some of his interest in photography and was far more interest in painting.

All in all this was a fantastic show that afford me the opportunity to look at Cartier Bressons work as he had intended, this gave insights into the impression he was attempting to create with his work that simply can not be seen in the same prints in books.

I left the gallery with a real enthusiasm to make more work of people in the streets, it was an object lesson in being inspired by an artist to go away and make work, tempered with thought that i need to try and create ab original take on his approach and not merely to go and try and replicate it. Either options still seems a real challenge!!!

 

 

 

 

Conceptual Art in Britain 1964-1979-Study Visit

Tate Britain-20th August 2016

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I’m not a great user of social media and as a result I tend to try and get to as many  study visits as time and resources permit as a way to counter the potential isolation of distance learning. I really like the interaction of these events an the opportunity to get a tutors take on a show. I have, since completing my first course with the OCA (C&N is my second module)  started to look at events beyond my normal areas of interest, to push my own boundaries and it was very much in this light that I signed up for Conceptual Art in Britain 1964-1979. I knew this show would take me out of my comfort zone and my motives for my journey with the OCA have very much been about doing things that can be hard and not taking a line of least resistance.

This show really tested my resolve in a number of ways but proved to be, from my perspective, a really valuable and enjoyable learning experience.

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The odds were stacked against me enjoying the event though and I need to set out why. Laura Cumming’s review of the show from the Guardian, circulated in advance of the event,

did little sell it as a worth while visit and her comments such as:

“But this is generally an art that isn’t too interested in appearances. Much of this show consists of texts in hideous typefaces, black-and-white photographs and photocopies. Art & Language, a terminally glum collective, cover the walls with their pensées on the US critic Clement Greenberg and their theories on the condition of art.”

didn’t exactly inspire a sense of a worthwhile use of time, not least the nearly 300 mile round trip involve in the visit.

The review in full really didn’t instill a sense of an interesting and well curated collection of work.

And with a summary statement like:

“Much of this show, it’s true, is excruciatingly dull.”

didn’t fill me with a sense of an engaging gallery of art work. To add to this I was really feeling quite poorly. I left my home in rural Norfolk feeling OK but as my train approached London I felt decidedly unusual and as I got off the tube at Pimlico I was feeling quite ill (apologies to other students if I seemed somewhat distant, I was putting on a brave face). I subsequently discovered that I had food poisoning from a meal the day before and while I kept up a stoic front  and made an effort around the gallery, my family had taken the better option and were all sick in bed at home from the same offending foodstuff!

So the odds were stacked against this being and engaging event. In spite of my malady and Cumming’s harsh and in my view inaccurate take on the show, I really got a lot from the study visit and really enjoyed the experience even if I misinterpreted some of the work. I use the term misinterpreted quite deliberately because I found some of the work visually beautiful, and by the end of the visit, I recognised this was not the artists intention. But, reflecting on the Barthes idea of the Death of the Author, I reserve the right to draw something g different from a work than the artists intent!.

I am also  very grateful to Robert Enoch for his excellent marshalling of the visit, I have attended another visit led by Robert and he creates and great balance between providing tutorial guidance, which offers insight and opportunities for reflection whilst  liberally firing off challenging questions to his charges! Like the previous visit led  by Robert that I attended he really adds value to the experience through his knowledge and through the excellent critical  questions he poses. I would not have reached the conclusions I did about this work and the artist that contributed to it with out his insightful and encouraging oversight of the visit.

So, the show? Well I have drafted  and redrafted my thoughts several times since the visit and I have also looked at some texts about conceptual art. I also spent some time reading excerpts of Art and Language, although some were hard to find, fragments spread accrues the internet, some of it was surpassingly accessible. May be I read the easy bits but the Art and Language approach of rich description as the essence of a work provided me with insights in to the ideas behind conceptual art. I  am still undecided how I feel about this as a school or movement in art but whether I like it or critique it, I want to understand it. The notion of discourse recreating or redrafting what we define as art I found intellectually challenging and stimulating. Given the dominance of art as a thing, a painting, photograph or culture, or art as ‘artefact’, i was intrigued at the idea of a concept or idea being the art. i am not sure this is the right interpretaionof Art and Language group, or indeed of conceptual art, but if nothing else, the visit has given me hours of thinking and pondering!

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There was so much to take in throughout the whole exhibition, I don’t feel I can do justice to it and as mentioned already, it was far more the thought processes this visit generated than any specific artist that is what i took from the event. That said there are some works I need to make reference to.

Roelof Louw’s: Soul City, the remnants of the  Pyramid of Oranges confronted us as we entered the first gallery. Except it was no longer a pyramid, more a small and apparently random pile of oranges. Reading about it and discussing it with other students I had a eureka moment! I suddenly  got the principles, all be it t a rudimentary level of Conceptual art. Whether I like it or not is less important than feeling I understand it. On entering the  gallery I had discussed with two other students the fact the pyramid would only have been visible to the public in the moment the gallery first opened. As soon as the first visitors entered the gallery on the exhibitions opening day, the pyramid would have  ceased to be and although it was progressively depleted as people, encouraged by the artist, took oranges from the pile. To me the art work wasn’t the artefact of the pyramid, but rather the concept the artist created. Whether or not the pyramid of oranges was there was not actually significant. The process of taking and reduction was important though and that is what I  was observing or seeing

Keith Arnatt’s ‘Wall of Art as an Act of Retraction’ demonstrated  perhaps how conceptual artists use photography as a tool to say something beyond the artefact of the images. The 11 photographs in the sequence shows Arnatt eating his words , literally! The sequence is strangely mesmerising.

Art as an Act of Retraction 1971 Keith Arnatt 1930-2008 Transferred from Tate Archive 2010 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P13140

Art as an Act of Retraction 1971

As is John Hilliards , ‘Camera Recording its own condition was for me a visually beautiful rectilinear montage that although aimed at provoking thought about time, light  and photography as a medium, I simply found it  aesthetically marvellous. There is a diagonal of correct exposure that runs across the work and the opposite cornes record perogressive under and over exposure. The work is both thought provoking and beautiful.

Camera Recording its Own Condition (7 Apertures, 10 Speeds, 2 Mirrors) 1971 John Hilliard born 1945 Presented by Colin St John Wilson 1980 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T03116

Camera Recording its Own Condition (7 Apertures, 10 Speeds, 2 Mirrors) 1971

Ed Herring’s ‘Proposition’ was similarly strangely engaging, 400 postcards in a very 1960’s card index left me asking question about intent, but also what was contained out of site on the postcards? The work was the product of the artists giving out and collecting cards which he had asked people to keep in the possession for a week. I remain intrigued by what is contained on the cards.

Proposition 1970 Ed Herring 1945-2003 Purchased 2012 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T13814

Proposition 1970 Ed Herring

Margaret Harrison’s “homeworkers’ also piqued my interest. I had a  visual but also conceptual engagement with the lot of the elements of “Homework’. Although simple graphically, the work proved thoughts about art and politics, particularly the politics of the weak and exploited. there was also a strong gender theme running through the work. I left feeling this work was far more about ideas than a visual artefact and although in no way linked in the exhibition , it was I my head very linked to the earlier work in the gallery and the Art and language group.

In a similar way I was drawn to the work of Conrad Atkinson and his insights into what we euphemistically call the ‘troubles’ in Ulster. The linear collection of images and words dominated by the colours of the Republic of Irelands tricolour flag underpinning evocative images and statement about ulster I thoroughly enjoyed and again found very thought provoking.

Northern Ireland 1968 - May Day 1975 1975-6 Conrad Atkinson born 1940 Purchased 2010 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T13258

Northern Ireland 1968 – May Day 1975

I recocognise I have only scratch the surface of the experience of this show but the works I have referred to and indicative not of style or aesthetic, but of a series of interconnected ideas the exhibition provoked in me.

 

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This was a really worthwhile study visit, I had expected the content to be challenging and I hadn’t expected to like much of this show. The reality was quite different. I have come away from this experience with a genuine understanding of what conceptual art attempts to achieve and whilst I am uncertain if I understand it all, I have a desire to learn more about conceptual art and it’s influence in work that has come after what was displayed in the gallery.

Many thanks to Robert and fellow students for a very thought provoking day.