Thursday, 30 June 2011

NAS: Third Year Grid Show

Third Year Grid Show
National Art School

The National Art School Year Three Grid Show presented different approaches to the idea of ‘the grid’. It was a very diverse, mixed bag of work as students each approached this topic from a different perspective. Some were outstanding- some I really didn’t get at all. While the portrait in Nick Matthews A murder of memories was interesting it was the grid he had constructed in the background that demonstrated a clever use of the grid and alludes to how it is often used as the foundations behind a work.
Nick Matthews

Susan Foster’s floor piece Look at me! Look at me! Look at me! Could easily have been overlooked and mistaken for a variation in the texture of the floor. Perhaps this is the point. It’s genius lies in its subtlety.

Susan Foster

For me the stand out work was Alicia Poppett, 102, 122, 133, 124, which became a cause of fascination as people circled the coloured liquid in the glasses which formed a perfect grid on the floor. This work also inspired others to create an impromptu artwork, reflecting its concept and execution, with plastic cups and beer bottles forming a grid which stood parallel.

Alicia Poppett

Other great works included Elsie Williams, Untitled, Chris Packer, Dowel Piece, June Sartracom, Construction Site and Meredith Birrell, White Squares/ Coloured Squares 1-12.
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Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Art & Fashion: Marriage of Convenience?

The debate between Art and Fashion is not a new one. Many designers begin their career as artists and the line between what constitutes “art “ and what constitutes “fashion” is becoming increasingly ambiguous. One prominent public example of this is the “fashion” choices of Lady GaGa. One could argue that she is a walking piece of art and that here we see a harmonious marriage of the two disciplines. However, what do young, emerging Sydney artists and designers think of the increasingly blurred definition?

In Fall/ Winter 2002-03 The Times released their Fashion Issue. Jeff Chu explored the marriage of art and fashion and the dysfunction of such a union. In his article Clare Wilcox, then curator of the 2002 Gianni Versace retrospective at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, made the bold statement, ‘The issue is function. Fashion is a handicraft, which has to function on the body. It has a different intention from that of art.’

Artists Lachlan Anthony and Clementine Barnes along with fashion designers Samantha and Vienna of Sanoii + Six and James King respond to this claim and give their opinion on the future of art and fashion: happily ever after or a marriage of convenience?

Clemetine Barnes is currently majoring in painting at the National Art School in Sydney and in her own words she is a ‘bit of a dag when it comes to clothes- more middle age than new age.’
[ii] In direct contrast to Wilcox’s statement which implies the difference between art and fashion is that fashion has a function while art does not, Barnes believes it is the complete opposite. ‘The difference between art and fashion is that art has a function and fashion does not’. She explains that originally clothing would have been fashioned for the purpose of protection against the elements and that naturally as time progressed this evolved and ‘the function of fashion now comes secondary to form.’

An admirer of the work of artists Casper David Friedrich and Malevich, Barnes is animated when explaining what art can offer us. Using Friedrich as an example, in particular his work Monk by the Sea, the artist elaborates that ‘to me, this painting represents how functional art is- it is at once evocative, mediative, inclusive, emotive and alive.’ Clearly it is the art works ability to inspire such reflection and emotion that proves its functionality. It is not simply a pretty picture. As Barnes succinctly puts it, ‘More timeless than a little black dress will ever be- no matter how hard it tries.’

Adopting a different approach, designer James King believes it is not just a difference between fashion and art but art and design. King majored in textiles and ceramics at the College of Fine Arts in Sydney and relishes ‘photographic art- direction, new technologies and fashion.’
[iii] While he agrees that fashion and art are different, the designer does not agree with Wilcox’s assertion that fashion is a handicraft, commenting, ‘I think fashion is design.’ King laments that design is what truly makes fashion fashion and not simply a serviceable garment. ‘Good designers are architects of society and culture’.

Exploring this gap between art and fashion further, King explains that art, by its very nature, is reflective, where fashion has the intention and ability to push society forward towards exploring new ideas and movements. However, one could argue that art also serves this purpose and site examples of some of the most influential and imperative movements in art history such as Pop Art, Dada, Impressionism, Futurism- just to name a few. These movements, and those that pioneered them, effectively altered the way in which society at the time viewed art.

King references David Bohm when he comments that ‘As designers we “need to create something new that is whole and total, harmonious and beautiful.”’
[iv] It is here that we can detect the difference between art and fashion. While fashion is assumed, as Bohm states, to be whole and beautiful, art often finds its beauty in being incomplete and it is not always aesthetically pleasing. So perhaps the difference lies in people’s expectations of art and fashion rather than the thing itself.

In contrast to King’s opinion, designers Sanoii + Six question if there is even an argument here and believe that ‘Fashion is a form of art.’
[v] The duo highlight that there is always the exception of Haute Couture which, while exceptionally designed, painstakingly created and effortlessly stunning ‘are completely non-functional.’ Defining art as a means of self expression and a process through which one attempts to gain a reaction or emotion, Sanoii + Six beg the question- ‘Isn’t that what fashion is?’ They answer their own enquiry with the response that ‘fashion is expression.’

Sanoii + Six create eclectic clothing and swimwear which is all lovingly created by hand. Having completed their training at the College of Fine Arts, the Sydney- based pair create a limited number of each piece, ensuring it is one of a kind and something to be treasured. This compliments their argument that fashion and art walk hand in hand and that the designer is in effect an artist.

Artist Lachlan Anthony appears to adopt the middle ground, acknowledging that while sometimes art and fashion may overlap, there are often times they do not. ‘There is no doubt that at times they hold out hands to feed each other, yet other times they are so far distanced that the mention of a connection would be ludicrous’.
[vi] He believes it is the intention behind the work that ultimately causes them to differ, and that if motivations fall within the financial realm than fashion cannot become art or be considered art. An example he sites for this is British Sculptor Anish Kapoor designing jewellery for Bvlgari, a move he believes was ‘purely a matter of profiteering,’ with the artist ‘delivering themselves powerlessly to the exploitive ends of a company wanting to increase profit and profile.’

For Anthony, it comes done to consumerism and the role fashion plays in perpetuating consumption, explaining that ‘fashion is more vain, savvy and exploitive than its younger cousin art.’ However, he does admit that both art and fashion have ‘very real powers to alienate both individuals and social groups as they are industries that mesh with the socio- economic stratification of capitalist economies.’

Addressing Wilcox’s comment directly, the artist challenges this idea that art and fashion differ on the basis of function, as it fails to consider that while fashion, by its very nature, addresses the body, ‘this criterion should not mean that art intended for the body be restricted to the realm of fashion.’

Having examined how art and fashion can differ, Anthony sites the work of fashion designer Hussein Chalayan as an example of where the two are integrated. In particular he mentions how Chalayan constructs dresses from wood which then transform into pieces of furniture and compares this ideology to that of a conceptual artist. ‘Here fashion IS art- there is no question.’

Anthony, along with artist David Withers, is a sculpture and installation artist based in Sydney. His work explores the ‘bodies’ complex experience with the constructed domestic and urban worlds.’

As we have seen, there really is no clear definition between art and fashion, as we are lead to believe by Wilcox’s original statement. This next generation of artists and designers each have such strong and incredibly diverse opinions on the topic and are each validated in their views. Is the marriage between art and fashion harmonious or headed for a fall? This clearly depends on who you’re asking, their training and experiences within the field. While the boundaries are ambiguous, it is evident that the two cannot be segregated entirely and perhaps it is Anthony who sums it up best when he says ‘The deliberate mashing of artist and designer can be thrilling, producing works that defy absolute categorisation within either sector.’

[i] Chu, Jeff, Time Magazine: Fashion Issue (Fall/ Winter 2002/ 03)
[ii] All quotes from Clementine Barnes are taken from an email interview conducted on February 22nd , 2011.
[iii] All quotes from James King are taken from an email interview conducted on February 22nd , 2011
[iv] David Bohm, On Creativity, 1996, Routledge.
[v] All quotes from Sanoii + Six are taken from an email interview conducted on February 22nd , 2011
[vi] All quotes from Lachlan Anthony are taken from an email interview conducted on February 22nd , 2011
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Monday, 20 June 2011


Making every 3D film you’ve ever seen look like a flip book, the latest cinematic experience from iCinema, Scenario, transports its audience into another world- literally. Scenario is a 360- degree 3D cinematic installation that interprets and responds to human behaviour through an artificial intelligence (AI) system. Five people are allowed to enter the space at a time and are encouraged to work as a team to make the giant humanoid baby “whole again”. There are obstacles however, in the form of dark humanoids who kick around a head, foot and other body parts which you are told you must retrieve. It is only once the child is complete that it is able to walk away, whole and saved.

is based on the 2008 Josef Fritzl case where it emerged that a man in Austria had held his daughter captive for 24 years in a concealed basement in his home and had fathered seven children with her, including one which died and was incinerated by Fritzl. An unlikely inspiration for an interactive film, Scenario is, in a word, creepy. As you enter the space a softly spoken voice urges you to come in and comments, “You want to know don’t you.” As the world around you shifts and changes the voice sets the scene, commenting, “The world is divided between those who see and cannot do and those that do but cannot see.”

Addressing such a sensitive topic it is easy to see the slight controversy surrounding the films funding and inclusion in the 2011 Sydney Film Festival. It is also easy to see why persons under 18 years are not allowed to view it. The Director of the Sydney Film Festival, Clare Stewart, acknowledged the sensitivity of the content but believes Scenario “recognises this in that it requires players to work together to put things right.”

Each participant is assigned an eye- ball which acts as their proxy in this virtual world. A light coloured humanoid jumps on it and it is their job to collect the hand or foot or head of the child you are restoring or saving. The dark humanoids who attempt to sabotage your efforts demonstrate that often we don’t recognize the face of evil. A female voice can be heard saying, “Don’t do this to me, father, help me,” serving to heighten the already formidable atmosphere.

Once the giant baby humanoid is complete a female voice says “welcome home” and the baby walks away playfully singing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’. I found this particularly unnerving. Then the snow begins to fall and it is so real I reach out to touch it. While Scenario is overwhelmingly disarming, it is technically brilliant. Only lasting a mere ten minutes, the experience stays with you long after you leave, the weight of the encounter like a bad memory that isn’t yours to repress.
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