SIGHT: Anthony Gormley on Delos

In the centre of the Cyclades archipelago, near the famous island of Mykonos, a small, uninhabited island rises out of the turquoise sea. This is Delos, barely 5km long by 1.5km wide, treeless and bare, and so small that in the heat of summer it almost vanishes in the haze. Amazingly, it is one of the most important mythological, historical, and archaeological sites in Greece.

 

It was on this island that, according to myth, Apollo, the god of light, and his twin sister Artemis, the moon goddess, were born. And it was here that, in the 9th century BC, one of the greatest sanctuaries evolved. Later still, the Cycladic island became a commercial centre, teeming with merchants and slaves.

Because the island is frequented only by archaeologists and guards, the magnificent ruins have not had to bear the brunt of millions of visitors’ feet. This summer, this idyllic site has become the setting for an ambitious and exciting project, connecting the ancient with the contemporary. Besides the Greek authorities, the main players in this experiment are NEON, a nonprofit organization that works to bring contemporary culture closer to the public, and the British sculptor Sir Anthony Gormley.

 

 

Anthony Gormley, born in 1950, has won the Turner prize amongst many other awards, and is best know for his statue Angel of the North.

For Delos, the artist created 29 iron “bodyforms”, several cast from his own body, that are the first artworks to be installed on Delos since the outpost was inhabited more than 5,000 years ago.

 

 

 

One of these sculptures  greets visitors before they even alight from the ferries that shuttle daily from Mykonos—a lone, eerie figure, standing on a rock at the water’s edge, gazing at the horizon.

 

 

 

I hope I can manage to visit the installation sometime this summer but, since I cannot yet report on it personally, I include a small extract from the NEON catalogue:

Two more works from the same series – also looking towards the distant horizon – stand on Plakes Peak and on Mount Kynthos, and another similar work stands in the waters of the harbour. Further sculptures are integrated with archaeological sites across the island, from the Stadium to the Τheatre district and from the merchant stores to the Museum site.
Visitors to Delos are invited to connect with time, space and nature, which inevitably link to our shared future.
SIGHT is organized and commissioned by NEON and presented in collaboration with the Ephorate of Antiquities of Cyclades.’

 

 

 

Definitely worth a visit, if anyone is near the area.

Photos: Google

Athens Open Air Film Festival

When we were kids, we couldn’t wait for summer to come so we could frequent the local θερινό, or open air cinema. We were allowed to go on our bikes, we bought paper cones of passatembos (pumpkin seeds) to munch on, and watched old movies—faded Louis de Funés  comedies, old Greek films in black and white—while sitting on rickety canvas chairs, surrounded by jasmin and bougainvillea. If our parents came along, we could hope for ice cream or a late dinner of souvlakia (kebabs) at the neighborhood taverna.

Nowadays, this summer outing is as popular as ever, but with added levels of comfort. Better chairs, little tables where you can set your drink, a proper canteen dispensing cold beer and soft drinks, popcorn, nachos, hot dogs and the like. And all the latest films.

 

AOAFF20 Romaiki Agora / Thalia Galanopoulou

 

Not many countries have open air cinemas, either because the weather cannot be relied upon, or because it doesn’t get dark until too late. In Greece, there’s one in most neighborhoods (islands included) with an affordable ticket price. As an activity for a warm summer’s night, it doesn’t get much better than this.

For the past nine years, Athens has gone one better, and organizes an Open Air Film Festival, that aims to link the discovery of films with that of different, possibly unknown, corners of the city. Big screens are erected in well known locations as well as unexpected places in the urban landscape, such as archaeological sites, squares, parks and pedestrian areas. The list of films includes timeless classics, indies and blockbusters, but there will also be concerts, short film premieres and other events.

 

 

The festival is aimed at both locals and tourists, and the events are free of charge. This year it started on June 5th with a screening of Fellini’s AMARCORD at the Roman Agora, and will end on August 28 with Terry Gillian’s BRAZIL at the Kolonos Theatre. For those of you in Greece, the program can easily be found online. Enjoy!

 

A Greek filmmaker wins at Cannes

At the Cannes Festival on Saturday, Greek filmmaker Vasilis Kekatos won the Palme d’Or for the best short film with “The Distance Between Heaven and Us.”
He is the first Greek director to ever win a Palme d’Or in this category.
The film was selected out of a short list of 11, from 4.240 worldwide submissions for the coveted prize. It is about two strangers meeting late at night in a deserted gas station on the old Greek National Road. One has stopped to fill up his motorbike, while the other is stranded there, lacking the 22.50 euros he needs to get home. A sum that equals the distance separating them from the sky.

 

 

Born on the island of Kefalonia in 1991, Vasilis Kekatos is a graduate student of the film department of Brunel University’s School of Arts, in London.
In 2016, he won Sundance Ignite “What’s Next?” Short Film Challenge and received a mentorship from Sundance Institute, with his short “Zero Star Hotel.”
In 2017, he participated in Euro Connection in Clermont-Ferrand ISFF, as well as in Nisi Masa ESP, with the script of his short, “The Silence of the Dying Fish.”
“The Distance Between Heaven and Us” had its world premiere at the Locarno Film Festival 2018. It has also been selected in other international film festivals, such as ZINEBI and Aix-En-Provence, and has won several awards.

 

 

Kekatos got his inspiration for the film on a road trip he took in America, when he went to attend the Sundance Festival. The endless highways, the gas stations in the middle of nowhere, made an ‘almost metaphysical’ impression upon him. Looking to the future, he feels he’s ready to tackle full length films now, although he’s still only 28. The Palme D’or has given him the confidence to do so. You can watch a trailer here

I.M.Pei dies

The most widely known of architect I. M. Pei’s designs has to be the metal-and glass pyramid dominating the main courtyard of the Louvre Museum in Paris. When completed in 1989 it was widely criticized, but today it is as much a symbol and an icon as the Eiffel Tower.

 

 

I. M. Pei has died, aged 102. He is widely considered to be one of the most influential architects of all times, and during his career won nearly every major award in his field.

 

(Photo by Michael N. Todaro/FilmMagic)

 

I.M. Pei was born in Guangzhou, China, in 1917 to a banker father and artistic mother. He grew up in Hong Kong and Shanghai before moving to the United States at age 17 to enroll in architecture school. After graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Pei attended Harvard’s famed Graduate School of Design, where he studied with Bauhaus master Walter Gropius.

Pei loved to research his projects thoroughly, and to allow himself the freedom to experiment with different ideas and materials. He did not like his work to be stylistically ‘stamped’, although he did focus on simplicity, transparency, geometry and light.

 

The Bank of China Tower in Central Hong Kong.. (Photo by Gerhard Joren/LightRocket via Getty Images)

 

Even after retiring from his full-time architectural practice, Pei continued to work into his 80s, creating some of his most memorable projects in that time, such as the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, below, which was completed in 2008.

 

Via his spectacular buildings, he leaves behind a rich legacy in modern design.

 

Dorothea Tanning at Tate Modern

Dorothea Tanning said, ‘Art has always been the raft onto which we climb to save our sanity.’
I watched a video of her, in late middle age. She wore a skirt and heels, had an apron tied about her waist, and could have been preparing dinner for friends. But she was not, she was putting bold strokes of black paint onto a canvas twice as tall as herself and as wide as her studio wall. She was a comfortable shape, and had a comfortable, smiling face. You can tell she’s enjoying herself. Later, she’s sewing some pink material to make one of her crazy soft sculptures. Her hands are freckled, she pushes the stuffing about. Then she shoves a bunch of the sculptures down the stairs, her little Lhasa Apso dogs running around, yapping.

 

 

Dorothea Tanning’s husband was the surrealist artist Max Ernst. She met him as a young woman in Paris, when he was still married to Peggy Guggenheim and was selecting work for the ‘Exhibition by 31 Women’. She had left her native Galesburg, Illinois, where ‘nothing happens but the wallpaper,’ to study art briefly in Chicago, then work as an illustrator in New York. Here, the exhibition ‘Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism’ at the Museum of Modern Art inspired to travel to France to meet the surrealists.

Below is her self-portrait entitled ‘Birthday’, which is the work that put her on the art scene.

 

 

Tanning wanted to depict ‘unknown but knowable states’: to suggest there was more to life than meets the eye. Her paintings combine the familiar with the strange, exploring desire and sexuality. They are bursting with incongruous, amusing detail, such as little dogs based on the Lhasa Apso belonging to her husband, with his moustache, bulging eyes and sometimes human face. The painting below is entitled ‘Motherhood.’

 

 

One of my favorite  works is the one entitled ‘Portrait de famille.’ The ghostly, looming presence of the father, the spoilt, entitled daughter, the maid who is at the same level as the dog. It unsettles the viewer while making him smile.

 

 

Tanning and Max Ernst married in 1946 and moved to Sedona, Arizona, where he built a house with his own hands. Surrounded by lizards, scorpions and snakes, Tanning described Arizona as a ‘landscape of wild fantasy’. They were visited by many artists including Marcel Duchamp, poet Dylan Thomas and photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. In 1957, Tanning and Ernst moved permanently to the south of France.

 

 

 

 

Around 1955 Tanning’s style changed from meticulously rendered figurative dreamscapes, to more abstract shapes where, however, the human figure could still be discerned, within a confident gestural flow and movement. And in the late 1960s, in yet another shift of direction, she started making her weird soft sculptures, using fabrics sourced in junk shops and her old Singer sewing machine.

 

 

In 1976 Ernst died and Tanning was bereft. She gradually moved back to New York and turned to writing, publishing two memoirs, two books of poetry, and a novel. She died at the age of 101, the year her last collection of poems, Coming to That, was published.

 

“Living is so amusing” Dorothea Tanning

 

 

 

Tate Modern has put on the first large-scale exhibition of Dorothea Tanning’s work for 25 years: ‘It brings together 100 works from her seven-decade career – from enigmatic paintings to uncanny sculptures.’ The exhibition is on until June 9, don’t miss it if you’re anywhere near.

All the colors in the world

Like most artists, I’m addicted to art supplies. Let me loose in an art shop, and I can spend hours amongst the multitude of paints on offer, trying hard not to bankrupt myself.
Nowadays paint is mostly made in labs, using different chemical substances, but artists in the past made their own supplies, using whatever materials they could find—including ‘the impossibly esoteric, the dangerously toxic, the prohibitively expensive, and the perilously fugitive,’ according to writer Simon Schama (article in the New Yorker, September 3, 2018). It’s a process I find extremely interesting, although I’m quite happy to squeeze ready-made paint out of a tube myself.

 

 

Imagine then my delight when I came upon an article on the Forbes Pigment Collection, a technicolor array of more than 2,500 samples, housed at the Harvard Arts Museums. The collection was started by Edward Waldo Forbes in the early 1920s, after he purchased a damaged Renaissance painting of the Virgin and child. Hoping to restore the painting to its original brilliance, Forbes realized that he needed to understand the materials he was working with. Forbes was the director of Harvard’s Fogg Museum from 1909 to 1944, and he firmly believed in the interdependence of art and science.

 

 

Arranged according to the exploded color wheel, the thousands of shades on display in the Collection — some poisonous, others impossibly rare — are a library of more than just color. Scientists and art historians tap into the collection in order to verify the origins of questionable paintings up for auction, or work to identify the key compounds of ancient colors in order to better preserve cultural masterpieces for generations to come.

The stories behind the pigments are endless, but some particularly stand out. Here are some of the best:

Dragon Blood: The legendary pigment was purportedly gathered from dragon wounds in the Middle Ages; more accurately, its color comes from tree resin. Conservation scientists at the Collection are working to unlock the mystery of this centuries-old pigment.

Mummy Brown: Made from the ground up remains of actual Egyptian mummies, mixed with white pitch and myrrh, it was used from the sixteenth century until late in the nineteenth when supplies ran out. At the time the mummies were imported into Europe in large numbers to be used for medicinal purposes (Ugh…)

 

 

Tyrian Purple: An ancient Phoenician dye that requires 10,000 mollusks to produce a single gram of pigment, is said to have been discovered by Hercules’s dog as he snuffled along the beach. It is a secretion produced by several species of predatory sea snails in the family Muricidae, rock snails originally known by the name Murex. Being extremely expensive to produce, it became very popular during the Byzantine Empire (Ancient Greek: πορφύρα, porphúra,) where its production was tightly controlled and its use restricted to the dyeing of imperial silks. Thus a child born to a reigning emperor was said to be porphyrogenitos, “born in the purple”.

 

 

In the reds range, Crimson is produced from the dried bodies of the kermes insect, which were gathered commercially in Mediterranean countries, where they live on the kermes oak, and sold throughout Europe; while Carmine is made from the dried bodies of the female cochineal, and was probably brought to Europe during the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniard Hernán Cortés.

Indian Yellow: It was noted for its intense luminance, was widely used in cloth dyeing and was especially well known from its use in Rajput-Mughal miniature paintings from the 16th to the 19th century. Indian yellow pigment was originally manufactured in rural India from the urine of cattle fed only on mango leaves and water. The urine would be collected and dried, producing foul-smelling hard dirty yellow balls of the raw pigment, called “purree”. The process was allegedly declared inhumane and outlawed in 1908, as the cows were extremely undernourished, partly because the leaves contain the toxin urushiol which is also found in poison ivy.

 

 

Lapis Lazuli is a deep blue metamorphic rock used as a semi-precious stone that has been prized since antiquity for its intense color. As early as the 7th millennium BCE, lapis lazuli was mined in northeast Afghanistan. At the end of the Middle Ages, it began to be exported to Europe, where it was ground into powder and made into ultramarine, the finest and most expensive of all blue pigments. Its rarity and brilliant hue, as well as the difficulty and expense of the extraction process made it more expensive than gold. It was used by some of the most important artists of the Renaissance and Baroque, including Masaccio, Perugino, Titian and Vermeer, and was often reserved for the clothing of the central figures of their paintings, especially the Virgin Mary.

Artists often took risks to create their works, using poisonous pigments like Emerald Green (a toxic copper-acetoarsenite) to get the color just right; or White Lead, a pure white pigment obtained by corroding metallic lead with acetic acid in the presence of carbon dioxide. This was done in pots with a little vinegar added, which were stacked up and covered with a mixture of decaying dung and spent tanner’s bark.

 

 

The Forbes Collection is constantly updated as many artists donate new samples. It could be described as a conservator’s crystal ball: offering glimpses into the aging process for various pigments, binders, and any other materials that might make their way into a work of art. Experts also might use the collection to evaluate the legitimacy of a painting’s attribution to an artist. By analyzing the chemical makeup of the pigments used in a painting and comparing them to the known standards of the Forbes collection, analysts can determine whether the colors used would have been available to a specific artist during their lifetime, or if a pigment would be available in the region from which the painting is believed to have originated.
One example is the verification of a painting by Jackson Pollock that went on the market a few years ago. Curators were ready to assert the painting was genuine, until this lab ran tests of the pigments that were used, using pigments in the collection as a standard, and discovered that the red that was used was not available in art-making materials until 20 years after Jackson Pollock had died.

 

 

Among the collection’s newest acquisitions are samples of Vantablack, a material developed by Surrey NanoSystems in the United Kingdom which is one of the darkest substances known, absorbing up to 99.96% of visible light. It was intended for military purposes and astronomy equipment, but there is an amusing story attached to it, because the company exclusively licensed it to artist Anish Kapoor’s studio for artistic use. This caused outrage among some other artists, including Stuart Semple. In retaliation, Semple banned Kapoor from buying Pinkest Pink, a strongest shade of pink that he had developed. However, in 2016 Kapoor got his hands on some Pinkest Pink and posted an Instagram post of his middle finger dipped in it. Semple then created another shade of paint made from crushed glass as a retort to Kapoor, and later barred Kapoor from buying other products of his, including his extremely strong shades of green and yellow paint as well as a paint sold as Black 2.0, which is nearly indistinguishable to Vantablack VBx, despite being acrylic. If one wanted to buy any of these paints, they would have to sign a contract stating that they were not Anish Kapoor and didn’t intend to give the paint to Kapoor. Vanity? Performance art? You choose.

All photos Google

Equine art series

I like to do as much sketching from life as possible because, although often imperfect, it helps capture movement and spontaneity. And I do find nature is a great inspiration.

 

 

Plants, trees and flowers are easiest, because they don’t tend to move around much, and humans can be persuaded to pose. Animals are a lot trickier. Dogs are best when they’re asleep, but mine sadly is so small and dark that from above she just looks like a black blob; I would need to get down on floor level, but, when I do, she wakes up and starts jumping around like a flea.

A nice field of cows having a siesta in the sun is not too bad, but horses are a nightmare. No sooner are you set up that they decide to come over and see what you’re doing, eat the paper, chew your clothes, etc. Even if you’re on the other side of the fence, you get a load of snorting nostrils, bug eyes and, if there’s a few of them, shoving. And then they gallop away…

 

 

The famous 18th century painter George Stubbs used to hang cadavers of horses in his barn to be able to study their anatomy. The smell must have been unbearable—and the flies! Ugh…
Nowadays we have manuals and photographs to study from, and videos that can be put in slow motion to break down movement.

 

 

Horses are fascinating, expressive creatures, so I’ve been making a whole series of paintings, incorporating my previous work with layers and collage. Under some of the paintings I used pages from an old book, primed with gesso—amusingly, the book is an old French manual of equitation (you can see it most clearly in the first painting.) I also used tissue paper, silver foil and eco-print paper for the collage, and charcoal, pencil, graphite powder, watercolor, and oil pastel for the images.

I did not aim towards photorealism, but made the horse the center of a dreamlike, abstract landscape. The background could be water, or snow, or an indistinct field, or clouds of dust.

 

 

Horses are prey—that makes them nervous and fleet, because of the flight response. However, when not threatened they are serene, and enjoy being in their natural environment.

 

 

I’m also drawn to horses of myth, who play a big part in many legends, and are especially prominent in Greek mythology. Immortal horses drew the chariots of Zeus, the sun god Helios, and Achilles in the Trojan war. They were gold-bridled, sometimes fish-tailed when they belonged to Poseidon, and often winged, like Pegasus.
So I had to have winged horses in my series.

 

 

And finally I added the human form, since men and horses have been linked since the beginnings of civilization. The painting below is entitled The Red Trousers. A girl on her horse, bareback and bare footed, standing in water.