what makes a painting a masterpiece?

Rembrandt’s perfect drawing, Caravaggio’s invention of Hollywood lighting, Monet capturing a moment in time. David Hockney and critic Martin Gayford discuss the craft behind the greatest art1931223322602963308337804125
Rembrandt’s A Child Being Taught to Walk, c1656

David Hockney: The moment you put down two or three marks on a piece of paper, you get relationships. They’ll start to look like something. If you draw two little lines they might look like two figures or two trees. One was made first, one second. We read all kinds of things into marks. You can suggest landscape, people and faces with extremely little. It all depends on the human ability to see a mark as a depiction.

Martin Gayford: The whole of picture-making is based on our capacity to see one thing as another. We can find such images in the sky, or, as Leonardo da Vinci suggested, on “walls spotted with various stains, or with a mixture of different kinds of stones”. In such random marks, Leonardo, who surely had a powerful imagination, could make out “landscapes adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, wide valleys, and various groups of hills”.

DH: We obviously want to see pictures, don’t we? We are geared to seeing images on a flat surface. If we put down four marks, everybody knows it could be a face.

MG: That’s part of the alchemy of art, how an artist can transform one thing into another.
Rembrandt’s A Child Being Taught to Walk (c1656). Photograph: The Trustees of the British Museum
Rembrandt’s A Child Being Taught to Walk (c1656). Photograph: The Trustees of the British Museum

DH: The Chinese regarded not acknowledging the brush and the marks it makes as a bit crude; to them, that was trying to cover something up, so not such a high form of art. European art historians don’t look at China very much. But I suspect Rembrandt must have known Chinese drawings, and had probably seen a few. Amsterdam was a port, and the Dutch were trading a great deal in the far east. For example, a Chinese master looking at Rembrandt’s drawing of a family, now in the British Museum, would recognise it as a masterwork.
inRead invented by Teads

The child is being held by her mother and older sister. The mother grips the child firmly, the sister more hesitantly, and Rembrandt observes her looking at the child’s face to see how anxious she is. The lines of her shoulders beautifully indicate this; Rembrandt even turned his pen round and scratched through the ink to emphasise it. It makes me see the child’s face, a hint of worry in it, indicated only by one or two faint marks. One then begins to look at ink, not mothers and sisters, and marks made by a hand, speedily.

The trace of Rembrandt’s hand is still alive. Your eye can go back and forth between brown ink: sister; fast mark: mother. How rewarding this is, to move from the physical surface of the paper to its disappearance when you read the “subject”, and then back again. How many marvellous layers does this drawing have?

The mother has a double profile, Picassoesque. Was it an accident with the pen that he then used as a master would? Both profiles are fascinating about her character. Her skirt is a bit ragged, without any real detail; one seems to know this, and then marvels at how these few lines suggest it. Then, there’s a passing milkmaid, perhaps glancing at a very common scene, and we know the milk pail is full. You can sense the weight. Rembrandt perfectly and economically indicates this with – what? Six marks, the ones indicating her outstretched arm. Very few people could get near this. It is a perfect drawing.
Caravaggio’s Judith Beheading Holofernes (1598–99)

DH: I have always noticed shadows simply because there weren’t many in Bradford.
Caravaggio’s Judith Beheading Holofernes (1599)
A detail from Caravaggio’s Judith Beheading Holofernes (1599). Photograph: Krause, Johansen/Thames & Hudson

MG: The shadow is a negative phenomenon: it is an area behind an opaque object that is shielded from the source of light. If the illumination comes from a single point then the shadow is sharp-edged. In effect, it is a projected negative image: an area of darkness surrounded by an outline.

DH: The shadow is just the absence of light. But do we necessarily always see shadows? You don’t have to see them consciously. The fact that people can take a photograph with their own shadow in it without noticing suggests that they are not aware of them. You can ignore shadows when you are drawing, as the ancient Greeks did, for example. I can, if I draw with just a line; you can choose not to put them in.

MG: In film noir, strong lighting and its deep shadows create the dramatic atmosphere. Without the shadows, this idiom would be far less effective.

DH: It is a kind of joke, but I really mean it when I say Caravaggio invented Hollywood lighting. It is an invention, in that he quickly worked out how to light things dramatically. I’ve always used shadows a bit, because that’s what you need below a figure to ground it, but mine are more like Giotto’s than Caravaggio’s. I use shadows that you see in ordinary lighting conditions; you don’t find ones like Caravaggio’s in nature.

But there are other varieties of Hollywood lighting. The Mona Lisa is one of the first portraits with very blended shadows. That face is marvellously lit, the shadow under the nose, and that smile. The soft transition from the cheekbone down to underneath the jaw is extraordinary. The way that you move from the light to the dark flesh is achieved with incredibly subtle, graded paint that would have taken a long time to put on. I’ve no idea how he did it. You don’t quite see it in nature, but you certainly do in optical projections. Those unbelievably soft gradations look photographic. That’s what makes it remarkable, and why she has that enigmatic smile. It is a haunting face.
Monet’s Sunset on the Seine in Winter (1880)

DH: We see with memory, so if I know someone well, I see them differently from the way I might if I’ve just met them. And my memory is different from yours; even if we are both standing in the same place, we’re not quite seeing the same thing. Other elements are playing a part; whether you have been in a place before will affect you, and how well you know it.

MG: Time affects pictures in a variety of ways. One important factor is how long it takes to make a painting, which may be a matter of minutes, hours, days, months or years. Certain subjects come with their own time constraints: one of the problems of landscape painting and drawing is that crucial aspects of the scene are extremely transient.
Monet’s Sunset on the Seine in Winter (1880).
Monet’s Sunset on the Seine in Winter (1880). Photograph: Krause, Johansen/Thames & Hudson

DH: There are some wonderfully free Monet paintings of the ice melting on the Seine at Vétheuil, done in January 1880. They were so free because it was rare for there to be ice on the Seine, so Monet would have had to have gone down to the river then and there to paint it. That would have made him work very fast. The ice might not have lasted even a night once the thaw had begun.

When the sun is setting you know that you’ve only got one hour before the light goes so you work faster. He must have been doing very intense looking, my God. Obviously, not everybody is capable of it. Pictures can make us see things that we might not notice without them. Monet made us see the world a bit more clearly.

You have to be in a place for a little while to know exactly when you need to be there for the best light, what the best angle is, which way to move, things like that. If the sun is in your eyes, everything will be a silhouette. Painting is an art of time and space, or so it seems to me. A big thing in drawing is being able to put a figure in space. And you make space through time.

MG: All pictures are, in one way or another, time machines. That is, they condense the appearance of something – a person, a scene, a sequence – and preserve it. It takes a certain amount of time to make them. And it also takes time to look at them, varying from a second to a lifetime.

DH: The eye is always moving; if it isn’t moving you are dead. The perspective alters according to the way I’m looking, so it’s constantly changing. In real life when you are looking at six people there are a thousand perspectives. I’ve included those multiple angles of vision in paintings of friends in my studio. If a figure is standing near to me, I look across at his head but downwards at his feet. A still picture can have movement in it because the eye moves.
Breakup of the Ice by Monet (1880).
Breakup of the Ice by Monet (1880). Photograph: Thames & Hudson

When a human being is looking at a scene the questions are: What do I see first? What do I see second? What do I see third? A photograph sees it all at once – in one click of the lens from a single point of view – but we don’t. And it’s the fact that it takes us time to see it that makes the space.

Renaissance European perspective has a vanishing point, but it does not exist in Japanese and Chinese painting. And a view from sitting still, from a stationary point, is not the way you usually see landscape; you are always moving through it. If you put a vanishing point anywhere, it means you’ve stopped. In a way, you’re hardly there.
St Peter Healing the Sick with His Shadow by Masaccio (1426-7) and The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck (1434)

DH: In Giotto’s Ognissanti Madonna, painted around 1310, there’s dark at the side of her nose and the Christ child’s and under their brows and chins. Their features aren’t in real chiaroscuro but there are enough shadows on them for you to feel the mass and the volumes. But the light and shade he used on faces seem a bit crude to us because they aren’t quite optical; that is, they don’t appear the way they would if seen in an image projected by a lens or in a mirror.

Also, in Giotto the people do not look as if they were studied from living models. Their noses are always a bit the same, although the mouths vary. The eyes are different but they are consistently painted in a slightly flat way. Even so, his figures have vivid expressions and personality.
St Peter Healing the Sick with His Shadow by Masaccio (1426-7).
St Peter Healing the Sick with His Shadow by Masaccio (1426-7). Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Now look at Masaccio’s painting of the elderly beggar in St Peter Healing the Sick with His Shadow, from his frescoes in the Brancacci chapel, Florence, which date from the mid-1420s – more than a century after the Giotto. Note the way the light from above is hitting his cheekbone: it is dark underneath there and in the hollow of his cheek. The shadows under the forearms, below the jaw and at the top of the ear are very dark. Masaccio’s figure has shadows in absolutely the right places, subtly painted. This is a much more accurate depiction of shadow than Giotto’s: it’s what we would describe as more naturalistic. Indeed, these are the first shadows in Italian art that look like a photograph of a shadow.

MG: Obviously, there has been a revolutionary development in the history of pictures between these two paintings: Giotto’s from the early 14th century and Masaccio’s fresco around 1426. This transformation involved the use of naturalistic shadow, real models and what we call linear or Renaissance perspective. These elements appear altogether as a package in Masaccio’s pictures.

DH: Before he painted the older beggar Masaccio must have looked hard at a real man, a model. This is a depiction of an individual. And the shadows on his face are placed as they would be seen in a camera. There are no faces in Italian or Flemish art before 1420 that look like this, and that implies that the reason for the change was technological. It must have been. I think Masaccio had a mirror or a lens and used it to project images. An optical projection needed shadows; you cannot make one without them. The first optical projection I made in my studio in California was with a concave mirror; when I saw it I realised the light causes the shadows. A photograph requires the same conditions.

MG: Nonetheless, there is a staggering leap in verisimilitude in the works of Masaccio, and also – even more evidently – in those of his Flemish contemporary, Jan van Eyck. It is perhaps the most extraordinary development in the history of pictures, and one for which art historians have had no adequate explanation.
The Arnolfini Portrait (1434) by Jan van Eyck.
A detail from The Arnolfini Portrait (1434) by Jan van Eyck. Photograph: Thames & Hudson

DH: The extraordinary thing about Van Eyck is how he comes out of nowhere, and has somehow worked out how to translate into paint the different kinds of sheen on brocade cloth, glass, wood, different kinds of metal, stone, glass, wax, flesh, and all sorts of diverse shine and reflections, all absolutely perfectly. It’s almost unbelievable, isn’t it, the more you think about it?

Some historians seem to imagine that Van Eyck’s studio would have been like Cézanne’s: the artist’s lonely vigil. It wouldn’t have been like that at all: it would have been more like MGM. There would have been costumes, wigs, armour, chandeliers, models, all kinds of props. You just have to look at the paintings to see that. It isn’t possible to paint like that from imagination. So his workshop must have been close to a Hollywood movie: costumes, lighting, camera, let’s go!
Vermeer’s The Art of Painting (1666‑1668)

DH: Vermeer and other artists using a camera obscura weren’t really looking at the world, they were looking at a flat projection of it and sometimes you see more that way, especially such things as textures on brickwork or in cloth, and patterns in fabrics. When painting the lovely map on the back wall of The Art of Painting, Vermeer picks up every little crease, every little fold. The sharpest things in the painting are the map and the chandelier, and they are the furthest away. The human eye would not see those so clearly at that distance, but they are the kind of thing exaggerated by a camera. That map would be a perfect subject for optical projections because it is flat, but not quite flat – and that’s why we are interested in looking at it. I don’t think Vermeer could have painted the map freehand with such precision and detail.

MG: Vermeer was an artist visibly enthralled by optical devices. His pictures reveal how he loved the heightened detail and texture he could see with the aid of a lens. But he clearly also appreciated the strange transformations, glitches and distortions it produced. In this respect, Vermeer resembles a contemporary artist such as Gerhard Richter (an avowed admirer of his work). Therefore, to deny the Dutch painter used a lens is to misunderstand his achievement, which lay, precisely, in finding the poetry in this new way of seeing the world.
Vermeer’s The Art of Painting (c1666–68).
Vermeer’s The Art of Painting (c1666–68). Photograph: Krause, Johansen/Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

DH: Understanding a tool doesn’t explain the magic of creation. Nothing can. People say leave some mystery, but actually it’s impossible to take it away. Optical devices don’t make marks; they don’t make the painting. No lens could see the whole of Vermeer’s The Art of Painting with everything in focus. No lens could today, no lens ever could; therefore, he had to refocus and put things where he wanted. He had to construct the scene. It’s a fantastic painting. Also, I like the title: The Art of Painting. It’s not called The Craft of Painting – I know it was once called The Artist’s Studio as well – but it is also immensely about the craft.

What is so amazing is the way the figures fit in space. Your eye looks from the girl’s hand on the trumpet to the knob of the map, and there is space there. It’s done through control and modulation of tones and edges, with unbelievable skill. Finding those equivalents in paint is tremendously hard. The softness between the painter’s hair and the map is fantastic.

MG: Vermeer’s people are reticent and withdrawn, with Rembrandt’s you have the impression that you can read their thoughts. Louis Armstrong was once asked who was the better of two trumpeters called Billy and Bobby. He considered the matter, and pronounced, “Bobby, because he’s got more ingredients.”

DH: In a way, Vermeer and Rembrandt are opposites. But Rembrandt is the greater artist, I think, because he’s got more ingredients than Vermeer. Rembrandt put more in the face than anyone else ever has, before or since, because he saw more. And that was not a matter of using a camera. That was to do with his heart. The Chinese say you need three things for paintings: the hand, the eye and the heart. I think that remark is very, very good. Two won’t do. A good eye and heart is not enough, neither is a good hand and eye. It applies to every drawing and painting Rembrandt ever made. His work is a great example of the hand, the eye – and the heart. There is incredible empathy in it.

• This is an edited extract from A History of Pictures: From the Cave to the Computer Screen by David Hockney and Martin Gayford, published by Thames & Hudson at £29.95. To order a copy for £24.56, go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min. p&p of £1.99.

Translation of visual art into words – possible? relevant? meaningful? problematic

.Is the translation  (re-interpretation, re-statement, description, understanding) of the essence of visual art(work) into verbal language – possible? relevant? meaningful? problematic? necessary?

Examples of two artists with descriptions of their work by a gallery.

Why we make art. Art widens the boundaries of our being.

In the short essay “Childhood and Poetry” Pablo Neruda describes an experience during his childhood when a boy like himself reached over the fence and handed him a tiny toy sheep. The sheep was broken and faded but it was full of authenticity, the most wonderful toy sheep he has ever seen. He quickly left his treasured pine cone at the same spot in exchange and never saw the boy again. This exchange of gifts settled deep inside him “like a sedimentary deposit”. Pablo Neruda suggests the importance of mutuality, of art’s unique ability to connect two strangers. Art is a vehicle for human connection, that is why we make it.

It is even more true now, in our messy, modern, internet dominated lives, when we’re so inundated with work and personal issues, that sometimes the most important thing is to know that another person, albeit a stranger across the globe, has been there and is feeling exactly how you feel. Artworks on Stew captures the nuances, frustrations and imperfections of life in the digital era, in whimsical and moving ways. You may be overwhelmed to find an artist from Poland who pinpoints precisely how you feel about love. Or you may be surprised to find a young artist from Hamburg whose wise and whimsical drawings succinctly articulates the importance of human kindness. Through their work these artists want to pass to the other some good things of life, things that are truly worth celebrating.



Art as a vehicle for human connection:

Life laced with intrigue: Jarek Puczel from Olsztyn, Poland


Firstly, Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up is every designer’s dream, it’s one of our all time favorite movies…and we’re entirely enamored with the iridescent bubble! Society bristles with enigmas which look hard to solve. Jarek Puczel’s images are snapshots of life, undoubtedly laced with intrigue and drama. With a hushed tone they bring out the moments of tension in our everyday lives. Colors in his compositions are reduced yet thoughtful, creating an outstanding graphical clarity. As in love, we delight in that degree of youthful curiosity and are fascinated by life’s undulating layers of mystery.

Lovers (1) is featured on the cover of The Jezabels’ new album The Brink. Lovers (1) and Lovers (2) are best sellers on our site! At first look the compositions seem calm and apparently simple but the more you look at them the more intimate and riveting it gets — the more caught up you are in the moment.

Jarek received his MA from the University of Warsaw in 1990. His paintings have been exhibited across Europe and the United States.

Our favorites:


seasideOn the Shore

lovers1-lrLovers (1)


lovers2.1Lovers (2)

girlonseesawGirl on a seesaw

Life laced with intrigue: Jarek Puczel from Olsztyn, Poland
Society bristles with enigmas which look hard to solve. Jarek Puczel’s images are snapshots of life, undoubtedly laced with intrigue and drama. With a hushed tone they bring out the moments of tension in our everyday lives. Colors in his compositions are reduced yet thoughtful, creating an outstanding graphical clarity. As in love, we delight in that degree of youthful curiosity and are fascinated by life’s undulating layers of mystery.
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Forever, like the movies.

Art by Anna Di Mezza are like frames from surrealist cinema, they draw you in with mysterious settings: giant crystalsicebergs and outer space. But it’s the allure of surprise and uncertainty that holds our attention. Her art is a delightful mix of bizarre, intriguing, relatable and romantic. They break barriers of time and makes us surrender to wonder. Jarek Puczel’s sequences are magnets for emotion. He captures the most monumental moments of life and love. An embrace is made continuous, the most glorious human achievement turns into an emblem for endless possibility, that throb of first love is replicated infinitely, intensely, and precisely in color. His artworks are glimpses of forever.
Art that makes us surrender to emotions and wonder:

framebirthofcurrencyThe Birth of Currency  NEW
by Anna Di Mezza from Douglas Park


framecoldreceptionCold Reception  NEW
by Anna Di Mezza from Douglas Park


An example of ‘art speak’

Images for artist goo.gl/y8hiAc



‘La Collectionneuse’ ft. in Numéro

September 2013 / Press

What’s your background? Where did you study and what did you study?

Born and raised in downtown New York City in the 1970s. Attended university at Eugene Lang College within The New School for Social Research. Completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in Comparative Literature, which was essentially a mixed bag of literature, post-structuralism, gender studies and cultural studies, with a Marxist slant. It was a scattered education. After years of freelance jobs and art- related projects I attended the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum.

How did your background, family and the culture you were raised in shape your identity and taste?

Both my parents migrated from the Philippines to New York City in their 20s, my father to attend graduate school and my mother to take a job at the United Nations; they met in New York. By Philippine standards they were privileged which enabled them migrate comfortably and earn the same status in the US. They seemed to embrace and be embraced by what was believed to be a “classless” society in the US at the time, relatively speaking, and they identify as New Yorkers to the core. As a native born American, I am more skeptical of the un-traumatic assimilation into the “American dream”. I definitely experienced our “otherness”, something my parents perhaps could not psychically afford to acknowledge in pursuit of ‘fitting in’. I was drawn to more marginalized subject positions for their political potential– “F.O.B.”, the racial slur for fresh off the boat. Obviously I had the luxury to explore this without living the harsh realities of an actual refugee but it has been part of how I am perceived by Anglo-Americans and Europeans who do not know better; who see a brown person adopting ‘their’ codes, amazed at my ability to pass the test. To them I will always be trespassing which is something I have fun with on many levels.

Who are your references, in art?

At the moment I am reading Sturtevant and Adrian Piper. I would not call them references. My work does not refer to theirs. They my examples or motivating forces.

Before art, my biggest inspiration was cinema, discovering these auteurs in my youth– Godard, Varda, Marker, Rouch, Rohmer, Rivette, Ackermann, and later Weerasethakul who hails from Thailand. Blissfully Yours was a defining moment in showing how the task of art, especially cinematographic art is the “invention of a people” in the Deleuzian sense of becoming. Although my work is in part object-based, my inclination is towards narrative. If you spend time with my work, the layers are there.

Who are you talking too? Who is your public?

Too soon to say who my public is, public under construction.

Could you elaborate on why and how you make transitions from art and fashion?

The economy of cultural goods and the conditions in which they are consumed, appropriated or fetishized interests me, as well as how taste mutates cross- culturally.

What do you think of desire and erotism (that’s the theme of the issue) (the anus, the tongue etc, if you can talk about the show at front desk would be good)

In my work desire and eroticism can be seen as having been reduced to detached social transactions that are then projected back as desire and eroticism. I’m curious about the tension in the work when you subtract romance from desire to end up with power, which of course gets recuperated as desire. It is on the viewer to locate where in the artwork this dynamic starts and ends.

In my show La Collectioneuse at Front Desk Apparatus I created walls to trap the overhead lighting to make a bright, void-like space that I likened to a bleached anus. In the show I toyed with positions such as top and bottom, as termed in the gay world, to talk about the middle man in the art market – the art advisor or gallerist as the mediator between artist and collector.

In exhibitions, is the notion of display important and why?

In my work conditions of display are often inseparable from the work itself.

Is your work site specific and related to exhibitions?

It is site-specific in as much as the context provokes, it is more interesting to intervene than to treat the space as neutral.

What are you working on at the moment? What is your next project?

A solo show at Gaga Mexico City in 2014.

‘La Collectionneuse’ ft. in NY Observer

September 2013 / Press

Being an artist these days involves turning oneself (and one’s art) into a brand, an object, a digital file—something to be collected, stockpiled and exchanged. Which is a concern that runs through Carissa Rodriguez’s sharp, multivalent show in the offices of Front Desk Apparatus, a hybrid art advisory, marketing agency, publisher and gallery.

Ms. Rodriguez doesn’t seem particularly irked by this reality. A longtime director at Reena Spaulings Fine Art, a Lower East Side font of artistic talent and branding magic, she’s expertly surveying and surfing art world power dynamics, rather than attacking them directly in her solo gallery debut in New York, which follows an impressive run of sterlinggroupshowappearancesin the city, and superb-lookingoutings abroad.

On a standing wire rack in the space’s small gallery, she has deposited copies of three different postcards, each bearing a slightly tawdry, private detective-style photograph of one of her paintings (they’re all identical) hanging in one of three collectors’ homes. They’re free for the taking, inviting visitors to both consider and potentially contribute to the promulgation of her brand.

A fourth postcard has a photograph of a square of fierce Halogen lights, the very ones that are installed on the ceiling around the corner. They light a tiny, empty gallery within the gallery built of drywall and painted Super White—a send-up of the intensely bright, cold light that has proliferated in galleries in recent years and is ideal for digital reproduction.

The rise of the Super White aesthetic is in no small part thanks to the blog Contemporary Art Daily, whose proprietor Forrest Nash has collaborated with Ms. Rodriguez on a project on Front Desk Apparatus’s website, a script-generated image feed that serves up mostly photographs of attractive model types, luscious-looking cakes, celebs (including Hillary Clinton) eating pizza and portraits of a baby-faced man. The subtext may be that, in an art world as large (and flush) as today’s, artists risk becoming nothing more than producers of comfortable visuals for self-selecting consumer groups—an unpleasant digital feedback loop that risks destroying Mike Kelley’s old belief that art is “simply about fucking this up for the pure pleasure of fucking them up.”

The title of Ms. Rodriguez’s show, taken from the 1967 Eric Rohmer film, may provide a hint as to how artists can cope in this environment. (It definitely provides a model for a series of scary, funny ceramic case paint cans lined with razors that she has copied from it.) In the movie, a woman unapologetically collects male lovers. Here, Ms. Rodriguez adopts the role of the vicious collector herself, using the tropes of institutional critique—architectural intervention (those Michael Asher-esque walls) and incisive installation shots (the Louise Lawler-esque postcards)—to assemble a chilling indictment of some of contemporary art’s prevailing banalities.

In a mantelpiece in the gallery, she has embedded a Cartier ring. As you admire its elegance, perhaps even lusting after it, you may find darker thoughts about aesthetics, and power, sneaking up on you. (Through Oct. 7)

La Collectionneuse reviewed by NY Times

September 2013 / Press

There is a lot going on in and among the works in Carissa Rodriguez’s surgically precise New York gallery debut. The more you think about them, the busier it all becomes.

Ms. Rodriguez is a latter-day Conceptual artist with a preference for physical perfection similar to appropriationist precursors like Sherrie Levine, Louise Lawler and Sarah Charlesworth. Her efforts here center on the business, display and collection of art; different modes of site-specificity; and the circle, or cylinder, as a recurring form. Eric Rohmer’s 1967 film , “La Collectionneuse,” provides the title and features an artwork made from a used paint can neatly embedded with dozens of razor blades. Ms. Rodriguez has recreated it in four tastefully colored ceramic vessels, blades and all. (Rohmer aside, they also evoke Giacometti’s 1931 spiked phalluslike sculpture, “Disagreeable Object,” and Meret Oppenheim’s 1936 fur-covered teacup.)

Other elements on display include a gold wedding ring, set into a groove cut in the gallery’s marble mantelpiece — a perfect wedding of two materials; and a three-wall enclosure tailored to the gallery’s lighting system — a square of fluorescent ceiling lights — that intensifies the hygienic effect of the gallery as white cube. A revolving metal rack displays four sets of black-and-white photographic postcards free for the taking: one shows the gallery’s ceiling, which has a center circle remaining from its original light, as well as the fluorescents. The other three document a series of monochromatic wall pieces by Ms. Rodriguez titled “Standing O” installed in the homes of three collectors. Round, with pronounced drips, these pieces may summon the old Sherwin-Williams logo of a globe dripping paint and the phrase “Cover the Earth,” which has a new resonance in today’s global art market. That Henry Sherwin (1842-1916) patented the first resealable paint can should probably not be ignored.

– Roberta Smith

From – http://frontdeskapparatus.com/news/

10 of the world’s most unusual wonders


Root bridges of Cherrapunji, Meghalaya, Indiaindex

To cross the rivers and streams of the Cherrapunji forest in Meghalaya state, north-east India, put your trust in a tree. There are no standard walkways to be found: instead, the tangled, twisting aerial roots of the rubber trees on the banks stretch across the water, forming a living, ever-growing bridge to the other side. These organic bridges are the result of a little human guidance and a lot of patience. Members of the local Khasi tribe control their growth by laying lengths of bamboo or betel nut tree across the water as a guide, then waiting for the roots of the rubber trees to follow along. As the roots grow, the Khasi add handrails made of vines and fill in gaps with mud and stones, creating a solid pathway. It takes up to 20 years for a bridge to become sturdy enough to cross.

Merry Cemetery, Săpânța, Romania

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Photograph: Michael Bukowski

At the Cimitirul Vesel (Merry cemetery) over 600 colourful wooden crosses bear the life stories, dirty details and final moments of the bodies that lie below. Illustrated crosses depict Săpânța’s soldiers being beheaded and a townsperson being hit by a truck. The epigraphs are frank and often funny: “Underneath this heavy cross lies my mother-in-law … Try not to wake her up. For if she comes back home, she’ll bite my head off.” The cemetery’s style was created during the 1930s by Stan Ioan Pătraş, who began carving clever and ironic poems about the deceased and painting their portraits on the crosses. Pătraş died in 1977, having carved his own cross and left his house and business to his most talented apprentice, Dumitru Pop. Despite the darkly comic – or merely dark – tones of the crosses, Pop says no one has ever complained about the work.

Star City, Moscow Oblast, Russia

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Photograph: Tass/UIG

During the development of the Soviet space programme, a secret air force facility in the woods north-east of Moscow transformed into a settlement called Star City. The area centred on the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, where prospective cosmonauts would undergo physical, technical, and psychological preparation for space flight. Following the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the curtain of secrecy was lifted, and the centre opened its doors to the public. Today, a handful of companies offer tours of the facility, during which visitors can wear a mock spacesuit, take a ride in the centrifuge, or board a zero-gravity flight that simulates weightlessness through a parabolic trajectory. A museum of space travel and exploration contains an impressive collection of vintage spacesuits and capsules charred from re-entering the atmosphere.

gctc.su, starcity-tours.com

Fingal’s Cave, Scotland

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Photograph: Jaszmina Szendrey

Like something out of a fantasy novel, Fingal’s Cave in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides is a huge (82 x 22 metre) sea cavern with walls of hexagonal basalt columns. Celtic legend holds that the cave was once part of a bridge across the sea, built by giants to fight one another. Science says it was formed by masses of lava that cooled so slowly it broke into long hexagonal pillars, like mud cracking under the hot sun. When naturalist Sir Joseph Banks rediscovered the cave in 1772, it captured people’s imagination and inspired the work of artists, writers, and musicians. Composer Felix Mendelssohn wrote an overture about the cave in 1830, the same year painter JMW Turner depicted it on canvas. Thus was born a Romantic-era tourist site that is just as entrancing today.

Underground Temples of Damanhur, Italy

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Photograph: Temple dell’Umanita Association

Beneath the mountain commune base for Damanhur, an eco-society established in the 1970s, are five levels of subterranean temples decked out in startling new age splendour. Damanhur, 30 miles north of Turin, is based on neo-pagan and new-age beliefs with emphasis on creative expression, meditation, and spiritual healing. From 1978 to 1992, its citizens worked around the clock in shifts to excavate 8,500 cubic metres of earth. Each hall, and hallway, was decorated in a different theme, with murals, stained glass windows, mirrors, and mosaics. The 70s-style artwork depicts many things, from the history of the universe to a forest of endangered animals to the International Space Station. The perimeter of one of the circular rooms is cluttered with sculptures, due to the directive that each member of the community must carve a statue in their own likeness.

Firefly squids in Toyama Bay, Japan

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Photograph: Brian J Skerry/National Geographic

The firefly squid is a cephalopod that glows brilliant blue and usually lives in the deep, dark waters surrounding Japan. But every year, from March to May, millions surface in Toyama Bay to spawn. This time of year is also prime fishing season. Nets trawl the pre-dawn waters, hauling up piles of squirming, glowing creatures and turning boats into beacons. The beaches are bathed in a blue glow as the adult squid – who have a one-year lifespan – lay their eggs and prepare to die. The Japanese government regards the annual show as a “special natural monument”. While the firefly squid are highly regarded for their magical visual effects, they are also prized for their tasty innards. After basking in the glow of the bioluminescent bay, go to a sushi joint and feast on squid served raw, boiled, or turned into tempura.

Kane Kwei carpentry workshop, Accra, Ghana

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Photograph: Robert Estall photo agency

A Ghanaian teacher was once buried in a ballpoint pen, a singer was laid to rest inside a microphone, and a labourer was interred in a hammer. These “fantasy coffins,” built in the shape of items representing the deceased’s occupation, passions, or aspirations, were made by craftsmen at Kane Kwei carpentry workshop. The studio was established in the 1950s by Seth Kane Kwei, a member of the Ga ethnic group of coastal Ghana. The Ga believe that when someone dies, they move on to another life, and continue to exert influence on their living ancestors. Family members therefore make sure to honour the deceased and secure their from-the-grave goodwill by staging elaborate funerals involving hundreds of guests and a procession.


Paronella park, Queensland, Australia

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Photograph: Tommaso Lizzul

Since childhood, baker José Paronella had dreamed of building a Moorish castle. In 1913, the adventurous then 26-year-old left his village in Catalonia and moved to tropical northern Australia. There, he eventually found wealth as a sugar cane farmer, and was able to pursue his dream. In 1929, Paronella purchased a plot of rainforest in Queensland and began building his castle by hand, using sand, clay, old train tracks, gravel from the nearby creek, and wood taken from abandoned houses. By 1935, the structure had expanded to include a pool, cafe, cinema and ballroom, as well as tennis courts and villa gardens with a grand staircase – all open to the public. After Paronella’s death in 1948, the building suffered decades of neglect, but conservation efforts mean the castle is alive again. Lush tropical plants have encroached upon and mingled with Paronella’s hand-built stairs and fountains, making them look like they sprouted from their natural surroundings.


Great Stalacpipe Organ, Luray, Virginia, US

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Photograph: Joel Sartore/National Geographic

Deep in the limestone Luray caverns is an unusual musical instrument designed by a tinkerer named Leland W Sprinkle. With its four-keyboard console, it looks like a standard variety church organ, but there’s a crucial difference: there are no pipes. Instead, the “pipes” are stalactites and the instrument is a lithophone – a device that produces music by striking rocks of differing tones. Sprinkle, a mathematician and electronics scientist at the Pentagon, came up with the idea for the “Stalacpipe Organ” after touring the caverns in 1954. He spent three years searching for stalactites that corresponded to the required musical notes, sanding them down to be pitch-perfect, and running five miles of wires between the console and the rubber mallets that would strike each stalactite. When the organ was first installed, Sprinkle himself took to the keys to entertain visitors. These days the organ entertains cave visitors with automated renditions of such classics as Moonlight Sonata.


Everlasting lightning storm, Catatumbo, Venezuela

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Photograph: Xinhua

There’s something strange in the air where the Catatumbo river flows into Lake Maracaibo. For 260 nights of the year, often for up to 10 hours at a time, the sky above the river is pierced by lightning, producing as many as 280 strikes per hour. Known as the relampago del Catatumbo (the Catatumbo lightning), this everlasting lightning storm has been raging for as long as people can remember. The lightning, visible from 25 miles away, is so regular that it’s been used as a navigation aid by ships and is known among sailors as the Maracaibo Beacon. Recent scientific studies have determined that the concentrated lightning is likely caused by an air current that sweeps moisture from the Caribbean Sea and drives it up above the lake. Climate research scientists are currently using Catatumbo as a testing ground to trial a lightning forecast system.

Extracted from Atlas Obscura by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton (Workman, £25). Copyright ©2016. To order a copy for £20.50 including UK p&p visit the guardian bookshop or call on 0330 333 6

Does/can anyone share the aesthetic perception underlying any visual artwork?

Theau105au130au137au136au87au88au98au116 question -Does/can anyone share the aesthetic perception underlying any visual artwork? – shares certain aspects with the philosophical problem of ‘other minds’. Not all questions are philosophical and philosophical questions are asked in certain ways and dealt with or ‘problematized’ in certain ways.

Philosophy, like visual art, is only one among many socio-cultural practices. People have different interests in life and among these are their concern with certain socio-cultural practices such as the arts, performing and visual arts, sport, literature, music, entertainment, different intellectual discourses such as philosophy, sociology, physics, etc.Not everyone is interested in art and some might prefer the performance arts, music or literature rather than fine art and more specifically visual art. Even among the individuals interested in the latter the degree of their passion for visual art will immensely. For many people it is sufficient to view (some) visual art, collect, sell, buy, write about or teach it, for for some people it is necessary to execute it.

It seems to me the more serious and original practitioners of visual art develop a very unique and clear ‘aesthetic perception, ideas or mindset’. Some of them develop techniques or employ techniques so that they are able to express, concretize, depict, realize or give visual form to their aesthetic perception.

The question I am interested in is this – can anyone really grasp the aesthetic ideas (mindset, perception) underlying even one of the works of van Gogh, Picasso, Klee, etc?

Why would anyone wish to explore, identify, grasp, understand and share this mindset? Many people art satisfied to view a work of art, buy, sell, auction, collect, critique it – or make a living of it in these or other ways. But, why would anyone be so passionate about a work of art that s/he wish to share its underlying aesthetic ideals, perception, and ontology? Is it even possible for anyone to really grasp a work of art (and these underlying phenomena) to such an extend that s/he will actually be sharing or participating in the aesthetic ideas being expressed by an artist in even one work of art?

Perhaps it is easier to deal with literature as it uses words, just like we use when we try to analyze and talk about it, perhaps it is possible to grasp the intentions of a composer underlying and being embedded in a certain composition by a professional musician who learns and executes it.

But as visual art does not employ any of the tools of these two socio-cultural practices, how should one go about trying to explore and grasp the aesthetic perception, ideals, intentions, reality or world expressed or concretized in any or even one particular work of art? It is said that the problem of knowing other minds or the mind of another requires conceptual or verbal analysis – what are the tools we can employ to explore the aesthetically relevant aspects of the mind of the other ( in this case a particular visual artist, as we are given hints about and pointers to it in a work of visual art)?

Does anyone ever really grasp, and share the intentions and aesthetic perception (ideas and mindset) of an artist as depicted in, concretized by and communicated in his work? Is this empathy relevant and meaningful or is merely required to treat an art work like any other object such as a chair used to sit on, etc by viewing it, selling, it, buying it, talking about it, etc. After all it is not a human or even a living being that have any rights, or does it?

My work are mere ephemeral, accidental marks…

My work are mere ephemeral, accidental marks…
My work are mere ephemeral, accidental marks… reminders of and pointing to things like the wind that blew and the sun that shined in forgotten or never known places on this planet and far off spots in the universe; sharing the fate of countless, unknown beings (and those who never or hardly existed), creatures big and small, fauna and flora who hardly left any mark of their fleeting passing through the universe and might have had a ‘name’ (existence) only in the mind of their creator as a tiny wave of energy…