Tuesday, 4 June 2019

A Review of Gehard Richter at the Gagosian, London

by  Ellen Matin Charlesworth  I  digiQualia.com

Few artists can command of the eyes and wallets of the artworld in quite the same way as Gerhard Richter. A perfunctory google search will inform you that until recently, he was in fact the single ‘most expensive living artist’. Unsurprisingly, this illustrious but ill-defined pedestal invites criticism. David Hockney, the successor to the title, is also one of Richter’s most vocal detractors.

“Richter is the one person I don’t really get. I saw the shows, but I thought it was like belle peinture, Paris 1959, and belle peinture was meant as a putdown.”1

Until recently, I was inclined to agree. The large smeary canvases that go for such extraordinary sums, seemed somewhat irrelevant to the discussions of today. They draw from a particularly masculine vein of abstract expressionism. They’re big, intimidatingly so. Sure, some of them are lovely to look at, but others are reworked to the point of being overwrought.

Suffice to say, I wasn’t their biggest advocate.

And yet yesterday, I found myself at Richter’s show at Gagosian’s Davies Street gallery. Dragged to Mayfair by glowing reviews, and quite literally pushed through the door by a friend’s enthusiasm, I had expected to be confronted with more of the same.

But this giant of the contemporary art world, well, he’s gone small. Instead of being overwhelmed by enormous canvases, I found myself squinting at two neat rows of photographs. Not the silver gelatin prints that are the standard gallery affair, but the good-old four by six. The kind of photograph you find in every house, in dusty albums or tossed in draws; the kind which makes the occasional debut around younger relatives, who laugh at the fact that people really did used to dress like that.

It is such a particular format, so strongly associated with family, that I find the medium itself inherently nostalgic. Even in a bright and very public gallery space, experiencing Richter’s photographs was surprisingly intimate. 

The display consists of photographs partially obscured by coloured smears of acrylic. Each daub of paint, each impress of the Richter’s various tools, gives the impression of a work just left. You can’t shake the distinct feeling that if only you’d been here a moment earlier, you’d have caught the artist in the act. Yet, it’s so artfully done that the distinction between paint and photograph is indistinct.

Much has been made of the play in Richter’s oeuvre between the media, and this exhibition proves no exception. Here the acrylic interventions lend an ineffable quality to what would otherwise be quotidian images.

Though his works cover urban and gallery settings, it is particularly evident in the photographs of natural landscapes. The white is of a similar enough tone to the overexposed sky that it takes a second to register as paint. And, there is a beauty in this fusion of media: the way the paint cusped the overgrown hedges of the English farmland; the splatters that turn hawthorns into roses. By blocking extraneous elements of the photograph, Richter limits our understanding of the scene to the key components. The paint doesn’t obscure but refines the image.

Normally, landscapes are immense things that we build up in the same way one would a sketch. A rough first impression provides a framework for the more easily comprehended details. Our eyes rarely manage to take in the whole, instead constantly refocusing while flicking from one element to another. These works seem to capture that split moment of attention. A detail nestled in the vague impression. Their true brilliance lies in the ability to capture not an image of a landscape, but the distilled experience of one.

These works mark a significant tonal shift from Richter’s earlier work, and as an initial sceptic, I highly recommend going to visit the show before it closes on the 8th of June.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

An Interview with Clio Newton in Zurich, Switzerland

by  Flora Alexandra  I  digiQualia.com

Clio Newton is an American fine artist living and working in Zurich, Switzerland. She is known for her large-scale charcoal portraits, which perfectly capture her subjects. Artists she's been inspired by include Alice Neel, Artemisia Gentileschi and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Clio trained at Cooper Union, New York as well as Florence Academy of Fine Arts and is currently pursuing her MFA at Zürcher Hochschule der Künste in Zurich. Follow her on Instagram @clionewton to follow her journey. 

Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to be an artist?

For as long as I can remember I was serious about art. My father is a sculptor, my mother is a photojournalist and my brother is a brilliant musician and scientist so creativity was abundant in my childhood. As a kid I spent a lot of time in my room painting and drawing and just had this feeling from very early on that art was going to play a major role in my life.

Can you tell us about the process of making your work?

Sometimes when I begin a piece I have a clear direction of where I’m taking it and other times it’s a process of discovery. Inspiration can come from a lot of places, women that I meet, looking at art I admire and from the making itself.

What piece of your artwork would you like to be remembered for?

I’m still working towards the piece or pieces I’d like to be remembered for.

If you could work within a past art movement, which would it be?

I wouldn’t trade this art moment for any other. There’s this incredible history of craftsmanship, deconstruction, abstraction, rebellion, to pull on or push against and the speed at which things are transforming is unprecedented. But I believe there's a simultaneous slow down effect happening in western culture. People are reevaluating everything and trying to understand what is really important. It’s a very exciting time to be creative.

Your work is predominantly figurative, so how have you deepened your understanding of the human form?

I’ve always been interested in the challenges of figuration. Playing with scale was an important development for my work. Sometimes in order for an art object to translate a feeling or experience of reality you have to manipulate and invent.

How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less?

For me, beauty is a lot about authenticity. I respond most to the people and things that feel real in my life.

Is there a favourite painting, which inspires your work?

I would never say I have a favorite painting, there’s way too many to choose from. There was a moment when I was 13 though, visiting the Met in New York, when I was struck by a small Ingres painting of St John the Evangelist. It’s a small, quiet painting, just a head study, but it’s remarkable. In that moment I realized paint has a unique ability to do something supernatural. The portrait was more than an illustration of a man, it somehow embodied his soul. I think this began my fascination with the uncanny and what happens when an artist transcends representation in their work. 

You’ve studied across Switzerland, America and Italy, but which experience was the most impactful on your work? 

I’ve been fortunate to have experiences in very different types of art institutions. It’s difficult to say the impact my experience in Switzerland will have on me since it’s ongoing but looking back I can say Cooper Union in New York was the most impactful so far. For anyone who’s familiar with the school, it has a really special history and I was able to attend tuition free - in keeping with the school’s mission. I met incredibly talented and driven people there who I am still in close contact with today.

Which artist of the past would you most like to meet?

That’s a tie between Alice Neel and Artemisia Gentileschi. Both women were phenomenally gifted and completely unabashed, determined to make their work regardless of what the world around them had to say about it.

You move between both charcoal and oils. How do you balance the materials involved in your practice?

Both mediums have an immediacy and malleability that I like. I usually go through phases, where I’ll focus more on drawing for a few months and then switch back to painting. I’m not consciously balancing anything, it feels natural to move between them.

Has social media had a positive impact on your career?

Social media can connect artists with each other and with incredibly diverse audiences. I like that I’ve discovered artists on the platform that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise, yes I think it’s had a positive impact.

What do you wish every child were taught?

Treat your dream like it’s your job and it will become that.

Do you prefer to work within a community or independently?

I work independently in my studio, it's the only way I can get quiet enough to get into the mind space necessary to make work. For my studio practice it’s important to have long stretches of undisturbed time in order to be productive.

Do you often make and receive studio visits? Are they important?

Yes, I do make and receive studio visits and they are very important. One of the most valuable resources an artist can have is colleagues they respect who are willing to be honest with them about their work. Art is this funny in between - it is something you make for yourself but it is also something you bring into the world for others. Critical conversation helps.

Do you have a routine or follow any rituals when you paint?

I do have a routine, I’ve found showing up is the most powerful thing you can do in making art. If you wait for inspiration it might not come; you have to go to your studio, hang your paper and start looking for it.

What advice would you give a young artist following in your steps?

My advice would be to make the work you want to see, not what you think other people want to see.

Do you love what you do? Why?

Yes, I love what I do. Every time I start a new piece there is this thrill of uncertainty and unlimited potential. It’s incredibly freeing. I think art is a lot about pursuing that feeling of freedom. 

Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste.