I have been enjoying the Tate Channel - an online collection of videos with artists of various shades. This is a rare and inspiring resource. I say rare because these videos have been prepared with the context in mind, on the whole they are not mini documentaries, news reports or commercials, but are made for the web audience. The videos are very simple interviews (usually minus the interviewer) which allow the artists to talk in a very natural and open way. Here is the deadpan world of John Wood and Paul Harrison, a pair of unusual video artists.
An interactive installation by John Green at the Keighley Arts Factory from Friday 11th September to Wednesday 30th September 2009. The artist gives us a tour of the piece and explains his motivation.
I liked John and after we shot this he told me how he had come to art late in life and a year out studying had been transforming for him – the best year of his life, he said. He’s clearly a man with a passion for what he does.
This was shot on my Canon 5D. You’ll notice John is holding a mini disc recorder – in fact this is recording his voice. Getting the tracks in sync was easy. In order to make sure he was in focus I did some calculations on my iphone hyperfocal distance calculator which came out at 1.2m.
In order to get a wide enough depth of field I had to set the camera to F8 but required a very high ISO setting. The picture noise was evident. Shutter speed was set to 50th (on a 60th I got a terrible flicker from the lights).
I love David Hockney's pictures. I warm to him perhaps because, like me, he was born in Bradford and I often pop in to Salts Mill to see his work.
I met his friend the late Jonathan Silver once and there are people like them who have a wonderful independence and way of looking at the world; they're able to look at something ordinary and make something of it.
Imagine on BBC ONE last week featured a film about Hockney made by Bruno Wollheim over a three year period. David Hockney would not have a film crew follow him but did allow Wollheim to shoot the documentarty on his own.
The way the film was made is in itself interesting. At one point in the film Wolheim could be seen in a mirror both conversing with Hockney and shooting the film simultaneously. Here was a film being made by someone on the inside of the story being given special but qualified privilege.
David Hockney declared photography as incapable of capturing things as they really are, "this needs looking at" he says with a twinkle. He explains that it was all looking through holes; all Western perspective was – you're not connected with it, you want to be in it. I don't look thought the camera anymore,he said. So, having once embraced photographic techniques to aid his art he has now abandoned the camera, or so he says. Wollheim catches Hockney sneaking some photography into his work and challenges him on this.
I liked the tone of the film and David Hockney comes over as thoughtful, witty and even spiritual. He thinks that three things are required to paint great pictures – hand, eye and heart.
One of my new year resolutions is to get to see more art in Yorkshire. To that end I have created a list of interesting venues in the shire (started under the excuse of work). There are some great places that I'd not given much thought to but have been given a new lease of life – like Cartwright Hall in Bradford and the Leeds Art Gallery.
Before Christmas I ventured down to the Bradford Playhouse. The thing about this venue is that it's not a big show of a building. There's no grand architecture or swish entrance foyer – in fact you might miss it, but I will say I was impressed by the commitment and enthusiasm of the staff to the cause of art and specifically art in Bradford. There are varied spaces and as well as the main theatre there is a cafe area used for live music and art exhibitions.
Like many venues such as this, the Playhouse exists on the edge of financial survival and so one of the difficult decisions has been to hold occasional sales of costumes and props from a 40 year old collection. Watch this video
My own new year resolution is to be more attentive to art in the region and take notice of some of the smaller art and performance venues. You might like to look at ITV Local Yorkshire's art venues listing and try some of them out. Art in Yorkshire And If you would like to comment on a venue or recommend one for inclusion on ITV Local Yorkshire, please have your say.
The Grand Tour in York is a project aimed at setting masterpieces free onto the streets. It's been extended until November the 2nd thanks to extra funding (or I would have missed it). The paintings are dotted around the streets, not always in the obvious places. This one is in a side road near a rubbish collection point, which adds some charm I think.
When I told my artist mother that I had been to the Tate Modern to see the crack, she gave out a short laugh; this gasp was her way of saying, why on earth do you want to go and see that load of rubbish?
I found the experience exciting, as I always do when visiting these works designed specifically for this huge space. It is as much the responses to the work – as much as the work itself – which seem interesting. The probing, tracing, straddling public examining every little detail of this feature. (As someone pointed out, this was a looking down experience and actually not about engaging with the great space of the Turbine Hall.) But what if the viewer simply looked at the piece in isolation – as if stumbling on it without hype or explanation?
Conceptual art in my mind easily spills into the space occupied by branding and advertising. Here, Doris Salcedo wants to communicate the idea of fractured society, but her canvas is not exclusively the concrete floor of the Tate Modern. The communication requires a strategy which includes press releases, photographs and editorial. It propagates through TV and radio, around the internet, through consumer generated content (like this piece). By the time I arrive at the exhibition I am already warmed up to its gathering fame. The notes to accompany the piece give me plenty of context so, in some way, the work becomes more like the cover of an exciting book or the title sequence of a movie thriller; the real interest is actually behind the intriguing artwork or within the programme. In due course I go on to read more about Salcedo and so the experience is complete.
It is for this reason that I think conceptual art has a hard time with people like my mother. She sees the whole thing as clouded by its association with marketing and advertising – which, as we all know, is evil to the core. From within advertising, most creatives like to think of their work as art; they will do everything they can to pump up the cultural value of work for the likes of Sony or Guinness.
To give some more flesh to the piece, Shibboleth is after the Hebrew word that was used to separate the ‘inferior’ Ephramaites from the ‘superior’ Gileadites after he Old Testament’s bloodiest massacre. The few remaining refugees attempted to cross the river Jordan but were unable to pronounce the ‘sh’ of the password and so were slain. The act of differentiation between products and the propagation of ideas that set up divisions between ‘superior’ and ‘inferior’ is at the heart of marketing, interestingly.
All this raises the age old question of what is art and why can’t we all be artists? Are there Ephramaites and Gileadites in the art world? I suppose we’ll know only when we look back and see a body of work settled in the historical flow.
Back in January I posted a short video about the Volume installation at the V&A. Well, continuing the technical theme, here is an interesting series of images showing the construction of Volume by the creators, United Visual Artists. Click here or on the image below to go to the slide show.