Sunday, July 23, 2017

Italian Diaries: Rome -- Intimate Relationship with the City

On the beautiful Wednesday morning, the summer breeze was fondling the milky-white gauze curtains calling unexpected visitors to peek through the shabby window frames of the apartment on via Delle Quattro Fontane. My family and I had arrived to the apartment-hotel that morning and were total strangers who ventured to visit such place, as Rome. It was July - the month of ablaze sun and melting asphalt of the sidewalks. At first, to me, Rome appeared spoiled with strange gapers who did not even realize their impoliteness to intrude authenticity of the ancient city. The crowds of numerous tourists scattered throughout the city, like ants in an anthill. In Rome, I was another guests who craved the beauty and adventures - a true Roman holiday. When I was 8 years old, it was my first experience of such holiday; it was a spring-time, during which the crowds significantly increased due to the fact that Italians were on their long-awaited vacations, which meant that Rome puked people out to the outskirts of its boarders. Thus, tourists were everywhere - from the very heart of Rome to its hidden local streets. From that unforgettable experience I remember how my brother and I bought many scoops of gelato seeking salvation from heat, but all was in vain; to our childish anticipation of an icy splendid taste, the scoops of creamy gelato instantly melted leaving us no chances to satisfy our unquenchable thirst. The city was puking us out to the very outskirts. I came to a disappointing conclusion that I hated Rome, and if it was rejecting my presence, then I had to reject the city's existence. I left home with a silly souvenir - a magnet in a shape of Colosseum, we couldn't even visit; what a shame.

On the summer of 2017, I gave Rome another chance and decided to let in to its ancient ruins. Surprisingly, the city turned out a completely different place from what I expected to see. We stayed in the hotel, where the view from the balcony was worthy of a couple of hundred euros per night. It was incredible; my room contained not only the view but the walls with the gigantic photographs of Sophie Loren and Robert De Niro, which gazed at me as if they were saints. After dropping off our bags, we ventured to explore the city seeking fresh adventures, despite the fact of 99 F heat outside.

The very first plan we had in our adventures list was to find a place where we could eat a decently authentic Italian cuisine. Shortly, we sensed the strong smell of rising dough and ran to the tavern, which was located on the street secluded from the eyes of strangers. My father followed the sacred procedure over the course of many years, ever since from the times when my family used to live in Italy; so, with no intent to cheat on his tradition, he ordered burrata, quattro formaggi and a bottle of prosecco. His funny, but at the same time impressively good Italian never fails to amaze me. Ten minutes elapsed, the pizza as big as a size of my car's wheel dominated the table; it appeared as a work of art - an expressionist painting, that portrayed the entire palette of emotional spectrum. Soon after, the wheel became an empty plate, or a pinnacle of satisfied food prayers.

Our journey continued down the streets of Rome. Nothing has changed - the city remained a paragon of antiquity, but I noticed an interesting fact that young street artists waist off their paint on the insightful signing of their names on the centuries-lasting walls. I believe it's wrong and nonsensical; I highly respect street art, however not the one that lacks fantasy or meaning. Signing your name on the wall to prove everybody that "I was here" is just a mere vandalization of the architecture, you can as simply take a picture in front of the wall and post it on Facebook; to me it sounds like a plan. Anyways, we strolled around the city with no certain destination or intention for a particular search. We attended Campo Marzio - the forth district of Rome with its own miracles. After the contemplation of the beautiful city-scape from Santa Trinita dei Monti and attempts to study a copy of an ancient oblique from Sallustianni Gardens, we ran down the Spanish Steps that was the past place for artists' gatherings and their beautiful models.

Rome was very hot. The endless crowds of tourists along with Vespa drivers blockaded the exit to reality, however we still managed to escape the crowd that suffocated itself. I figured that crowds is one of the main reasons why people tend to underestimate the pleasure of being in an ancient city; it really reminded me of Babylon Captivity. After breaking free, I discovered Rome from the new perspective, we stumbled on the streets, which were not congested with tourists or people at all; these streets were empty and truly authentic. There, I could really tell that Rome became my fabulous acquaintance. The silence prevailed over the smell of roasted chestnuts. Despite the street's simplicity, it was a vivid feast for an eye; the buildings with closed windows but radiantly colored flower beds resembled movie's decorations that managed to survive hundreds of years. To me, those iconic buildings is a true symbol of Rome, or just this street that introduced me to the real environment.  

Lastly, we had a chance to pay a visit to Galleria Doria Pamphilj, where I discovered the definition of art and its magical powers. To give a little bit of history, this place is owned by the family of Doria Pamphilj which derived itself as a result of two marriages; one of them formed a papal closure or a direct attachment to Vatican, which gave the family a chance to gain unquestionable dominance in the state. The family created the gallery in 17th century, and ever since had begun to accumulate the greatest pieces of art, including such masters like Titian and Caravaggio. As we entered the gallery, I realized that this place remained in a complete silence that would be a shame to interrupt; certainty, the gallery directly reminded me of the secluded streets that I previously described. As I figured later on, the most ironic and amazing fact about Rome is that there are a plethora of museums with the greatest artworks one can ever imagine, but those museums have absolutely no visitors. This intimate atmosphere of disclosure with the dead masters and the lively city made me extremely sentimental. As I passed by the canvases and sculptures, I felt that the masterpieces came to life when everybody left the gallery, but I was fortunate enough to contemplate their impersonation ahead of time. My eyes bursted in tears when I came up close to the canvas of Caravaggio: Saint John the Baptist gave me his playful lively look, as if he was a child who wanted to engage in hide and seek. I almost touched its surface. My heart palpitated from observing this miracle. At that moment, the paintings appeared as icons and soul food. I remained still for countless minutes, but someone came from the back and asked me to leave the building because the gallery was about to close. 

Just beautiful. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Introduction to Conceptual Art: "Seriously?"

Tower Bridge, 1906 

Have you even thought of how the world is perceived by various representatives of animal kingdom? For example, bees see through yellow and ultraviolet light, which allows them to observe a completely different dimensions of our conventional reality; it is very different from the way humankind perceives the world. Now, let's say that there is a specific kind of people, which perceives the life and various aspects of it in a completely different, often bizarre, fashion; the category of such unique individuals is called artists. Be it through the juxtaposition of hue and texture or shapes and dimensions, the people of art envision the reality of ordinary aspects through the creativity lens, which magnifies or exaggerates reality by an infinite number of digits. For example, the same way bees see through the ultraaviolet light, the artists like AndrĂ© Derain can envision grey industrial 19th century London through the utilization of vibrant colors and kinetic brushstrokes that instill energy and movement to the two-dimensional surface of a mere canvas. 
Fountain, 1919

To go further, I will ask you another rhetorical question, which will perhaps puzzle your perception: have you ever imagined that a urinal can be an object of art? I am not going to be surprised if the majority thinks that this question is unable to prevent a prompt response,  which is an unhesitant "no." I agree, it may be shocking, but a urinal is a prominent artwork, which serves as an icon of 20th century conceptual art. You may also wonder "am I being serious?", certainly yes! Fountain (1919) is one of the most famous pieces by the dada artist Marcel Duchamp, who was a famous French painter and sculptor. It was enough for the artist to decide to go to the plumbing supply house, called Mott, and purchase an ordinary "readymade" urinal not for the sake of utilizing it for its indeed function, but challenge the conventional norms and create a work of art by simply signing it "R. Mott, 1917." The artist claimed it to be a sculpture, which completely refuted the common conceptions about heroic academic monuments, which convey deep philosophical meaning. But is not art a transformation of ordinary materials into a mind riddle or a clue, which allows our mind to perceive the conceptual reality from the perspective of an artist, and after all, urinal is not a fountain and an opposite from the definition of something aesthetic. Does art have to be made by the hand of an artist? Should art be forced to comply a certain criteria, such as being pleasing and aesthetic?

Is it even for you to decide? 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Personal Passion and Importance of Aspiration

Today, I would like to describe a memorable event, which helped me to establish a solid ground to the new beginning - my art future. Even though, I am only seventeen years old at the moment, I realize how important it is to be dedicated to something you truly love, and even though one cannot predict his future, it is possible to set a potential aspiration as a young adult. Personally, my aspiration has always been to be directly related to the field of historical studies, liberal and fine arts, thus I chose an aspiration to become an art historian, since I have been always in love with art history, galleries, academic books and auction catalogues. Frankly, I am originated from the art family, where my mom is a fashion designer, and my grandfather is a craftsmen; being enthralled by the way my relatives do their work has always been magical to me, I learned how to work with colors, draw according to the academic disciplines, work on the old sewing machine and carve stamps on metal, therefore my desire was confidently defined from the beginning - I want to create and learn. 
So, on a tiresome ordinary spring day, I decided to begin volunteering at the local museum of art. This idea was very spontaneous; I was driving home from school thinking about my future and realized that I do noting significant to attain it, especially to reach my aspiration - to become an art historian one day. So, I skipped my highway exit and went in the direction of my future, art museum. To be honest, the last time I visited the same museum was about six months ago and, frankly, I didn't like the quality of the works that were displayed at the museum. It was a local female-artist, who created a series of brutal pieces of art, which incorporated a big varnished canvas covered in paint with the dissected pieces of various animals, such as wings of flamingo or skin of a snake. I respect local artists, who showcase their artwork in such museums, but I was shocked when I saw the artist's works; the notion of death was like a repetitive and haunting motif throughout the series of paintings, which reminded me of traditional Chinese medicine than art. This art is still art, just very immoral, in my opinion. 
Anyways, I need to admit that the museum made a false first impression on me. I realized it when I couldn't find an unoccupied parking spot at the museum's parking lot. It was Friday, and a vibrant flow of people, from children to elders, kept coming to the same building, the art museum. My very first thought was associated with church; it's hard to believe but the places, such as church and art museums, are not so different. They are both social institutes and community centers, which make society believe in the importance of community, connection, and openness to the world. In art museums, people do not just look at the paintings analyzing their cultural and functional context and demonstrate their exquisite taste, people attend museums for the sake of socializing amongst their peers, receiving education, and having a place to belong. As I walked in, I signed up for the volunteering opportunity and have begun a project of reorganization of the art library at the museum, a place that contains over than a thousand books about art, history and culture. On my first day, when I made a prompt appearance at the time when the doors just get unlocked, I spent 7 hours working and met amazing people, as well as helped a 90-years-old man, who was desperately looking for a book with an illustration of a horse. I had a feeling that I made them happy and applied my knowledge to organize the books by various categories. Moreover, I inferred that art museums can be also categorized, not only in such way as a modern or traditional museum of art, but by the notion of being active or passive. For example, active museums function as an active display of contemporary artists, allowing the audience to get acquainted with the concurrent reality; this kind of museums showcase local artists letting the community to evolve and become aware of arts and culture. In contrast, passive museums serve as a place of storage for the artwork, which was created by the artists of the past. 
Truly speaking, I am glad that I have an opportunity to express my commitment though the task of volunteering and utilizing my knowledge to help and guide people through such important aspect of our society - art. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Lisette Model: Coney Island Bather (1939-1941)

Lisette Model was an Austrian-born photographer who created the numerous series of expressive photographs which crowned her enthusiastic career. Being a versatile person, Model spent her early years training as a musician in Vienna; she studied under the avant-garde composer Arnold Schoenberg who introduced her to Expressionism of the early 20th century, a modernist art movement that conveys the world through the lense of subjective perspectives. 
Coney Island Bather by Lisette Model (1939-1941)
Thus, being impacted by the modern Expressionist outlook, she developed a sense of visual aesthetic by abandoning her musical endeavours and beginning her career as a visual artist. Her aim had always been to attain a genuine expression of the daily life. Initially, she became renowned for a series of photograph she completed in the south of France, photographing men and women resting in deck chairs along the Promenade des Anglais. In 1938, Model moved to the land of opportunities, the United States of America, where she continued her career by photographing subtle essences of the street characters, such as reflections of the individuals in the department store windows in New 
Coney Island Bather by Lisette Model (1939-1941)
York City. Due to the nature of her lively photographs, Harper’s Bazaar Magazine commissioned Model to complete a series of photographs on the Coney Island. Thus, the photographer with the great enthusiasm captured generous forms of a plus-size model using a sense of clever social mockery. The Coney Island Bather is filled with sincere expression of subject matter, a woman who is imbued with verve and energy that make her look aesthetically attractive regardless of her extreme forms. The audience adores her openness and sincerity, therefore nods in agreement that the negative social outlooks on the plus-size ladies are overly exaggerated.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Banksy The Phenomena

What is art? Some people identify art as something aesthetically pleasing that often carries expression of a unique artistic visual language or an impactful opinion on social or political issues. Art is a vehicle of our society, it screams for our needs in order to get noticed. In fact, not only artists whose paintings hang in the galleries deserve special attention, but the street-art paintings, often time, are equally informative and appealing. 
Banksy for the TIME magazine in 2010
In 1900s, when the world underwent economic convulsions rapidly moving into the new century, self-expression was a key element of our society, therefore the street-art became extremely popular. Due to the extreme progression of the street-art's popularity, it was significantly hard to stand out of the sea of the extraordinary visual artists, however one managed to be noticed for sure. 
Since 1900s, Banksy has been a phenomena that used to describe a unique artist who would never reveal his authentic identity. When the TIME magazine, in 2010, regarded him as one of the top hundred influential people in the world, he took a picture wearing a brown recycling bag covering his head. Banksy paints our society with with a sense of wit and metaphors, revealing the aspects that no one would manage to say out loud. He crosses the barriers of pleasing visualizations, he voices his opinion through his spray-paint creations which influence the opinions of our society. 
I like his artwork because it shows the truth about the world; plus, it is open for the audience anytime, street is his personal gallery that is open for the public. He proves that the abstract social boundaries are irrelevant by painting where he can get noticed and portraying what others can't say.
His style tends to be bold and distinct for the audience to undoubtedly decipher that this work is made by Banksy. His vision is fresh, quirky and often surrealistic, therefore it is easy for him to attract and conquer the hearts of the public. Banksy utilizes dark humor and irony to reduce complex abstractions and diminish them to something clear and simple but covered with active imagination. 
A Bombhugger by Banksy
My favorite Banksy's artwork is  "A Bombhugger" that shows a little girl holding a bomb in her warm embracement. To me, this work shows how war, or the symbol of war, the bomb, disregards the generation boundaries and attracts the social violence which ultimately becomes acceptable. In his message, Banksy supposedly shows that war becomes really prevalent, so people nod in agreement and even embrace the fact that there is a constant war is the world. To me, this message proves that Banksy conveys his voice by choosing a simple and clear way, a juxtaposition - a child who's hugging an instrument of destruction, a bomb. 
To conclude, I believe that art has power and the artists, like Banksy, prove that art is indeed a vehicle of the modern society that portrays our social and political issues in a way of an influential social commentary. I adore street-art and Banksy's work, and hope that, one day, I will get lucky enough to contemplate his artwork my self. 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Death of Marat by Jacques Louis David: The Propaganda Tool

Self-portrait by Jacques-Louis David
Propaganda is a mechanism that utilizes the biased promotion for the sake of persuasion. Due to its biased nature, propaganda can be tacky, ascending from the covers of the tabloid magazines, or can be exquisite, like the paintings by Jacques Louis David. Living in the 18th century France, David was a painter who was an active supporter of the French Revolution and the key dictator of the arts, or, in other words, propaganda at the time. But was he a genius of propaganda? 

For the sake of destruction of the monarchic rule, David remained in the country with his powerful ambition, admiration of the classical ideals and devotion to republican government. David sought Roman Empire's rebirth as a New France, France where Revolution can make a difference and unite social classes, ultimately obliterating the French monarchy. His beliefs embodied the unique art movement, Neoclassicism where the prevalence of polished surface, diligent contours and carefully sculpted forms, created astounding pieces of art that were intended as moral epitomes. 

In my opinion, one of the most powerful pieces of Neo-classicism art with a strong political propagandizing message is The Death of Marat. The subject matter, Jean-Paul Marat, was a friend of Louise David, radical journalist and politician who was one of the most powerful men in Revolutionary France. He ran a biased newspaper called L’Ami du Peuple (or Friend of the People in translation), in which the author published lists that revealed so-called enemies of the people, not much regarding the reasons why whose people were the so-called enemies; thus, he was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people due to creating those enemy-lists. Moreover, by some 18th century contemporary accounts, Marat was an unattractive man who suffered from the chronic skin disease, therefore was prescribed with sitting in the bath tubes, such as the one that is pictured on the painting by Louis David. 

The Death of Marat 

The very first impression I perceive while looking at the artwork is fear. The subject, the body of Jean-Paul Marat that is slumped in his bath, is captured in the moment of agonizing death; his expression reveals the sense of dread and pain due to being suddenly assassinated by the opposing party member, supposedly, a monarchic supporter, Charlotte Corday.

Frankly, I believe that the position of the dead body shows a hidden message due to being portrayed in the position of the dead Christ as being taken down from the cross. Such position utilized as a propaganda tool in order to show the righteousness of the French Revolution, and how the Revolutionary devotee was murdered allegedly for making the good acts that were viewed as crime, the same as once the Christ died on the cross for his right deeds which were, however, condemned. Therefore, Marat is painted as an idealized saint who looks younger than his 50 years, and the skin disease has not so much relevance in the portrayal of the ideal features; on the painting, Marat is a victim
The Position of Christ on the Painting by Caravaggio

The evidence of the murderess is implied in the bloody knife and the letter of introduction, which Marat is tightly gripping in his left hand. His assassin's letter which which, in reality, never existed says: "July 13, 1793. Marieanne Charlotte Cordray to Citizen Marat. Because I am unhappy I have the right to call on your goodwill." 

In contrast to the note, there is another letter lying on the top of the rough crate. The letter serves as visual clue, again clearly showing the favorable propaganda of the French revolutionary movement; in the latter, the widow who lost her husband is requesting a donation for the sake of helping her 5 children children. The banknote that is placed on the the side of the letter suggests that Marat was about to give a donation to a suffering woman. However, with no evidence, in real life, that Marat was actually a charitable man, on the painting it is evident that he is alacrative and eager to submit the donation to the poor woman, but the murdered stripped Marat of the right to commit a kind deed by killing him in cold blood. Now, it becomes clear that the French Revolution is initiated for the sake of supporting the lower social classes and is willing to accomodate the needs of those who can't afford the basic necessities. 

Therefore, according to all my cultural analysis, I believe that Jacques Louis David was a genius of his craft, not only in painting but ultimately in propaganda. Just by analyzing the cultural context of one of his works of art, it is evident that the utilization of the revolutionary martyr clearly states his personal political convictions and compels his audience in his rightness of political ideals. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

How to Feel a Painting's Heartbeat?

    When I often observe a blank canvas before starting my new piece, I realize that I paint history. In my own definition, history is what is truly created by us; we are the history consisted of diverse snippets. Every life is a snippet, a story, that adds up to the grand history of the

 Universe. But is the story going to continue existing after one farewells with his/her life? Thus, often times, people desire to leave something significant after them, usually in a physical way. Frankly, it doesn't matter what continues living after one's dead, be it his/her donated organs, memory boxes, or an apple pie recipe. However, in my opinion, one of the objects that can breath after its creator died is a painting

   When I go to a museum I always look closely at the painting, carefully moving my sight across the canvas's surface, I see the brushstrokes that act as an engine of the painting; I can not only see, but feel the kinetic movement of the strokes which organically arrange the composition. Fuel that makes the surface appear kinetic is paint; it fires the paint setting the engine on to work as a single organism. Every brushstroke is a dedication, to what someone loved that dearly to the point when a painting is created. Every brush's movement conveys a painter by showing his charism, mood and attitudes. The artist puts his soul into this, and by such commitment lightens the hearts of his audience. 

Especially, Impressionist artists, like Claude Monet, give me a feeling that I'm able to hold a conversation with someone who passed away almost one and a half century ago. It's truly astounding, how some can master life by living a viable artifact, such as a painting, after them.