A few weeks ago I was working on an art project that involved subverting an architectural structure in a way that changes its original meaning. The building I focussed on was an old Victorian theatre (built in 1876) which I decided to conceal behind lace. The concept and how I came to deciding on my idea of subversion is drawn-out, so I won’t go into detail, but I took clues from the Victorian era (hence the lace) as well as from the original purpose of the building (to entertain) which I turned around into something hidden from view rather than exposed. This idea was informed by the decayed and neglected condition that the building is in now.
Whilst on site I took many photographs and spent hours absorbing the frayed and forgotten energies of the place; I discovered and observed cracks and holes in walls floors and other surfaces that became ‘peep holes’ through which I could see glimpses of its history. This eventually developed into a theme of concealment through which to subvert the historical meaning of the building.
I might write more in a later post on the different stages of my process, but for now here is one of the outcomes; homage to what was once a vibrant architectural structure built to entertain thousands of people in an age gone by. An old theatre that now echoes silence; forgotten and hidden from view amongst the dust and debris.
If you haven’t yet seen the award-winning film Loving Vincent I’d highly recommend that you do. Not only because it is about the life and death of one of the world’s most beloved artists – Vincent Van Gogh – but because of its unique production. It is the world’s first fully painted feature film using oils on canvas. The storyline was derived from more than 800 letters written between Vincent and his brother Theo.
Loving Vincent is a biographical animated drama about the life of Vincent Van Gogh, but more specifically about the circumstances surrounding his death. Comprising of 65,000 frames, each one is an oil painting recreated in the same style and technique as Van Gogh’s; the animation bringing to life each painting. The project includes the work of 125 painters, hand-picked from 5,000 applicants, who worked for five months to painstakingly paint each of the 65,000 paintings. The attention to detail is astonishing as every brush stroke counts when the paintings are blown up for the big screen.
All the characters in the film are based on characters that Van Gogh had painted throughout his lifetime, each painted scene in the film is based on live action, the cast was purposefully chosen to resemble his portraits. For the film production the actors were filmed on a green screen, these actions were then turned into black outlines and projected onto the artists boards. They painted in the full scene using Van Gogh pictures and references to inform them. Each completed painting was then photographed after which all the paintings in a scene were edited together to create a sequence, each painting being screened for a 12th of a second.
I left the film feeling sad for Van Gogh because of his obsession to be an artist yet he was not appreciated during his lifetime. I wonder how valued he might have felt if he could have known how many artists would have laboured to make this film. The results of which are breathtaking.
How do you paint 65,000 pictures like Van Gogh?
BBC’s piece about Loving Vincent, the world’s first fully painted feature film.
Loving Vincent: The Paintings
I came across an artist interview in BOMB Magazine online called Memory and Ritual: An interview with Doreen Garner by Forrest Muelrath, confronting the legacy of J. Marion Sims, the father of modern gynaecology. It concerns medical Apartheid, the medial abuse of African American women by a white male doctor. Sims has been exposed by “historical accounts of the brutality involved in the development of his surgical techniques and his racism against black people (Muelrath 2017).” The artist reconstructs severed limbs from prosthetics and other materials that informs her process and supports her conceptual premise. The Sims statue in Central Park, currently surrounded by police barricades and protestors, is the subject of Garner’s November 30th 2017 performance in which she addresses the exploitation of black people.
Her discussion of glass as a medium is insightful, argued to be very flesh-like in its molten form, rigor mortis being simulated as the glass cools and hardens.
The performance exhibition includes a surgical procedure, a vesicovaginal fistulas closure, by black women surgeons on an effigy of Sims, simulating a degrading and painful procedure performed on black women without anaesthesia.
This harrowing and emotional exhibition centres around exposure of a sadist who received acclaim as a white male doctor at the expense of many black female patients. Rather than memorialising him the artist is exposing him for many cruel and degrading procedures he performed that people are unaware of.
Muelrath, F. 2017. Memory and Ritual: “An Interview with Doreen Garner by Forrest Muelrath.” BOMB Magazine. Archive Issues. https://bombmagazine.org/articles/memory-and-ritual-an-interview-with-doreen-garner/