If you have ever wandered through the streets of Hong Kong, it is highly likely that you may have stumbled upon one of the characters by local creative team Graphic Airlines (G.A.L). Championing “the aesthetics of ugly” through their distinctive style, TAT and VI – the collaborative duo behind G.A.L – are represented on urban façades by chubby-cheeked figures with vacant stares and strangely deformed creatures. Plastered on every imaginable vacant surface, they are almost impossible to miss.
What undoubtedly makes their work so appealing is the manner in which it adds a contemporary artistic layer to Hong Kong’s city palimpsest. As G.A.L often present their work in dilapidated and forgotten alleyways and nooks in the city, it creates an evocative tension between old and new culture that exemplifies the richness of the Hong Kong’s urban fabric. A far cry from the homogeneous, streamlined, minimalist aesthetics so often associated with modern Asian cities, observing G.A.L’s work provides an insight into how local creatives engage with their city and play a small role in its transformation.
Not content to create merely within the realms of street art, their work can also be see on tee shirts and accessories, the walls of galleries and, most recently, post-it notes. G.A.L’s next venture is the group exhibition Post-It Show, which will be on at the Atticus Gallery in Barcelona from 5 May to 31 May 2011.
British artist Kate MccGuire begins her artist’s statement with the following proposal: “I gather, collate, re-use, layer, peel, burn, reveal, locate, question, duplicate, play and photograph.” Although this proclamation sheds light on the evocative nature of her practice, it fails to mention the one thing that blew me away when I first viewed one of her installations: she quite often incorporates feathers into the structure of her pieces.
And it’s not just a matter of collecting a few pigeon feathers scattered around urban centres, MccGuire uses the plumage from a diverse range of birds, including mallard, goose, peacock, pheasant, teal, woodcock, woodpigeon, quail, grouse, French partridge, turkey and chicken. Assorting and juxtaposing the quills of these feathered friends, she creates strangely organic and metamorphic works that appear like slithering and writhing creatures. Flirting on the boundary between horrifically creepy and strikingly beautiful, MccGuire’s installations highlight how an unexpected material can be appropriated to produce new modes of representation.
Move over Claes Oldenburg, Australian artist Dawn Tan is giving the soft sculpture medium a contemporary makeover. Artistically appropriating and enlarging the packaging for a number of mass-produced food products, Tan’s most recent work is concerned with “how packaged food is taking over natural, organic food. The idea of consumption becoming obsessive, how traditional made-from-scratch meals are now replaced often by instant colourful packaged food.”
The results of this creative interrogation is her “Soft Friends” and “Homebodies” series of works that playfully shift foodstuffs from the supermarket and kitchen pantry to the art gallery and everywhere in between. The larger-than-life sculptures are a clever comment on the pervasiveness of mass-produced goods, and by enlarging their form to such bizarre dimensions Tan defamiliarises their presence, thereby calling attention to the unnatural aesthetics of packaged food products. Intellectual process aside, it’s also a delightfully cute series. I bet Oldenburg wouldn’t have the sense of humour to walk around in a human-sized packet of Pascall Marshmallows.
Not content to transform food into larger – and sometimes mobile – pieces of art, Tan also illustrates recipes and giant food diaries. You can check out more of her work via her blog and her online shop.
Counting Katherine Hepburn, kaleidoscopes, human contortions, inertia, braided topknots, face paint and “the dance of death” from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis as her current fascinations, designer and illustrator Tara Dougans capably brings these ideas together in her pieces. Born in Canada and based in London, Dougans’ work is “heavily influenced by the virtue of ‘taking one’s time’ and focuses specifically on handcraftsmanship, the value of process and detail oriented design.”
Her meticulous attention to detail is what makes Dougans’ work particularly intriguing. Specifically, the intricate pattern work, which takes inspiration from catwalk couture, graces the bodies of the Ziggy Stardust-esque characters that feature in her illustrations in beautifully complex designs. The blending of high drama, striking colour and a haute couture sensibility results in a truly distinctive style that marks an evocative threshold between fashion illustration and drawings made by hand.
Although Éric Rohmer is sometimes rather unfortunately overlooked in favour of his contemporaries within the French New Wave, he is perhaps the one auteur from the period who maintained a distinct style and thematic approach to filmmaking across his career. While Jean-Luc Godard became increasingly political and iconoclastic as his career progressed and François Truffaut moved between genres, Rohmer’s commitment to a series of films – under the collective title of the Six Moral Tales – presented film viewers with an individual cinematic treatise on relationships by gravitating around the themes of desire and morality.
I thought audiences and producers would be more likely to accept my idea in this form than in another. Instead of asking myself what subjects were most likely to appeal to audiences. I persuaded myself that the best thing would be to treat the same subject six times over. In the hope that by the sixth time the audience would come to me.
- Éric Rohmer
Composed of six films – The Bakery Girl of Monceau (1962), Suzanne’s Career (1963), My Night at Maud’s (1969), La Collectionneuse (1967), Claire’s Knee (1970) and Love in the Afternoon (1972) – the Six Moral Tales all replay the same narrative conceit that portrays a married or committed man’s reaction to sexual temptation. The individual results are varied (his 1962 and 1963 short films are generally regarded as inferior); however, they collectively reveal a consistent thematic vision. With their naturalistic filming style and introspective, highly intellectual dialogue, they could easily be passed off as banal in some scenes and overbearingly didactic in others. This, thankfully, is not the case.
It is the notable addition of director of photography Néstor Almendros, who was responsible for the cinematography of all of the films from La Collectionneuse onwards, who instills the Six Moral Tales with a restrained and elegant sensuality. The sight of a young girl’s knee, bent as she climbs a ladder, inspires lust in Claire’s Knee, the tanned curves of the provocative Haydée arouses both desire and repulsion in La Collectionneuse, and the problematics of negotiating sexual passion in the face of conservative religious values is at the forefront of My Night at Maud’s. These gestures and dilemmas enliven Rohmer’s loquacious scripts with a subtle eroticism.
Indeed, it is the quiet and gentle eroticism of Rohmer’s cycle, which creates a tension with the underlying ideas of morality, that make the Six Moral Tales such compelling viewing. Although more than 30 years have passed since the films were released within a particular social period that harboured specific ideals, Rohmer’s films still resonate today. If only desire was still portrayed so eloquently.