2017 Venice Biennale favourites (1)

Visiting the Venice Biennale is always a great way to discover new artists and to rekindle the fascination for old favourites in the most charming setting of Venice island. Please find some of my favourites below of the 57th edition this year.

The work shown by Dirk Braeckman in the Belgian pavilion really hit home. You may accuse me of being highly biased being a Belgian myself but what is not to love about Braeckman’s analogue black and white photography. His experimentation with this medium at the brink of extinction, the flirting with representation and abstraction, the presence of a combination of intimacy and distance in each image… it all adds up to a fascinating body of work that brings stillness in today’s steady flow of images.
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Maria Lai was born in 1919 and passed away in 2013. She lived nearly a century in Sardinia, Italy and has translated her own history and the island’s folklore in her works. She has been one of the first artists involving the local community in her collective performances long before ‘relational’ art became a thing. In Venice several of her textile works were shown, stitches telling stories!

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Maria Lai – Geografia, 1992 (fabric and thread)

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Detail Geografia

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Maria Lai – Storia universale, 1982 (fabric and thread)

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Maria Lai – Lenzuolo, 1991 (collage of fabrics with wood thread) – detail

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Maria Lai – fabric books

Shimabuku (° 1969, Japan) made me laugh with his ironical works. So interesting how he questions human culture and our environment for life in his projects and thought provoking too. A really nice discovery!

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Shimabuku – Oldest and Newest Tools of Human Beings, 2016 (4 prehistoric stone axes, 4 smartphones, vitrine with glas) – detail

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Shimabuku – Oldest and Newest Tools of Human Beings, 2016 (4 prehistoric stone axes, 4 smartphones, vitrine with glas) – detail

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Shimabuku – Sharpening a MacBook Air, 2015 (MacBook Air with handle, vitrine, HD video, stereo sound – 2’05”) – detail

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Shimabuku – The Snow Monkeys of Texas – Do Snow Monkeys Remember Snow Mountains?, 2016 (mixed media installation, text, cactus pot, HD video, stereo sound, 20′) – video still

The video “The Snow Monkeys of Texas – Do Snow Monkeys Remember Snow Mountains?” originated after Shimabuku was told the story about a group of Japanese snow monkeys who were brought from the mountains of Kyoto to a Texas desert in 1972. In the first year their numbers reduced dramatically, but in the second year their population grew. After hearing this story in 1992 he visited them  in Texas in 2016. After spending a few days with them he decided to make a mountain of ice for them.

Where to see works of these artists now the Biennale closed its doors?
Dirk Braeckman’s work will be shown at a double exhibition in Belgium early 2018, to be held simultaneously at BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels and M-Museum Leuven. Check out his website here.
Shimabuku is taking part in “The Show Must Go On” till 21 Jan 2018 in Kunst Museum Bern, Switserland and in the Biennale de Lyon till 7 Jan 2018. check out his website here.

More of my favourites coming soon. Please share your personal favourites of the 57th Venice Biennale in the comments!

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On the Beach – Pablo Picasso

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Last weekend the 57th Venice Biennale closed its doors. I will soon share my favourites but let’s go to the beach first!
I stumbled upon a highly interesting ‘work in focus’ exhibition at the Peggy Guggenheim museum in Venice. It brings together three masterpieces painted by Pablo Picasso within the span of a few days in February 1937. The 3 canvases are painted at Tremblay-sur-Mauldre, France.
The painting On the Beach which belongs to the Peggy Guggenheim collection is presented for the first time alongside Woman seated on the Beach from the Musée des Beaux Arts of Lyon and Large Bather with a Book from the Musée national Picasso in Paris. Luca Massimo Barbero, who conceived the exhibition, generously put these 3 works in context by presenting sketches of Picasso showing the artists’ process and ideas.

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Picasso – On the Beach, 12 Feb 1937 (oil, conté crayon and chalk on canvas)

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Picasso – Study for ‘On the Beach’, 12 Feb 1937 (pencil, charcoal and blue pastel on laid paper)

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Picasso – Study for ‘On the Beach’, 12 Feb 1937 (pencil on paper)

 

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Picasso – Woman seated on the Beach, 10 Feb 1937 (oil, charcoal and pastel on canvas)

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Picasso – Study for ‘Woman Seated on the Beach’, 10 Feb 1237 (pen and ink on paper)

2 preparatory drawings for On the Beach shed light on the genesis of the painting. One of these, only recently identified in a private collection, is the study that Dora Maar received as a gift from Picasso when they were lovers and conserved until her death. A third study, formerly in the collection of one of the artist’s grand-daughters, Marina Picasso, is for Woman Seated on the Beach. The selection of drawings executed between February and December of 1937 testify to Picasso’s interest in the theme of bathers, to which he returned frequently over the course of his life.

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Picasso – Large Bather with a Book, 18 Feb 1937 (oil, charcoal and pastel on canvas)

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Picasso – Bather, 6 feb 1937 (pencil on paper)

 

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Picasso – Bather by a Cabin Skipping Rope, 6 Feb 1937 (wax crayon on fine grain tick tracing paper)
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Picasso – Two Nudes on the Beach, 1 May 1937 (India ink, pastel and pencil on mahogany panel)

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Picasso – On the Beach, 30 Dec 1937 (pencil on squared paper)

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Picasso – On the Beach, 30 Dec 1937 (pencil on squared paper)

1937 was a crucial year for Picasso’s work and for the historical events against which it is set: the Nazi were consolidating their power in Europe and supporting Franco’s policies in Spain. These circumstances, among others, would eventually lead to the outbreak of the Second World War. The pair of engravings Picasso produced in January 1937 titled The Dream and Lie of Franco are also on display introducing the great themes of Guernica.

On the Beach is a gem of a ‘work in focus’ exhibition on Pablo Picasso, still on view in the Peggy Guggenheim museum Venice till 7 January 2018.

Playground – Thomas Lerooy

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Thomas Lerooy – Remain, 2017 – bronze, marble, 51x42x41 cm

Thomas Lerooy his school notes always turned into doodles and drawings. At the beginning of the year, he was warned to keep his atlas spotless, but by the end of the year, it was covered in drawings. It’s all for the better this man found his way in a unique art practice which involves drawing, sculpture and installations.
Lerooy is born in Roeselare, Belgium (°1981) and now lives and works in Brussels.

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Thomas Lerooy – With in, 2017, mixed media, 196×140 cm (background) and Phoenix, 2017, mixed media, 37×46 cm

The fleeting power of time is ever present in his work. Walking through his current solo exhibition Playground is like being in an arty roller coaster. Each work seems to come from a totally different reality with its own rules and historical references.

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Thomas Lerooy – Playing with fire, 2017 – mixed media, 196×140 cm

His drawings are made on found paper collaged together for the bigger works. In his words: “When I started drawing, I was terrified of the blank page. Every line you draw has a story. I didn’t want that. At a certain point, I started collecting old catalogues, cutting out and making collages of all the yellowed and thumb-marked paper. I find that I can draw on those pages because I’m drawing on someone else’s story. That involves the idea of layers, and that is my true starting point.

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Thomas Lerooy – Playground, 2017, bronze and concrete, 3900×2428 cm (detail)

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Thomas Lerooy – Can’t fly, 2016, bronze, patina and silver, diam. 25 cm

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Thomas Lerooy – Not enough brains to survive, 2009, bronze, 138x120x120 cm

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Thomas Lerooy – Beauty in the shadow of the stars, 2015, bronze, patina, 100x400x300 cm

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Thomas Lerooy, exhibition view of Playground, 2017

In his current solo exhibition Playground he interpreted the museum space as his play pen in which he built ‘play blocks’ in primary colours to form a labyrinth. So fun to discover!
His whimsical yet dark Playground can be discovered at Museum Dhondt Dhaenens, Belgium till 4 Mar 2018.

A studio visit can be found here and more of his works here.

Writings on Water

Dancing ink on canvas, drawing with a hand breathing.
I draw what I cannot dance… remaining forever on a page.
Carolyn Carlson, 2017

Scan 2017-8-5 15.29.14From the image on the exhibition leaflet I just knew it was going to be good. But walking through the exhibition of Carolyn Carlson’s drawings revealed some serious soulful authenticity.

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Carolyn Carlson photographed by Guy Delahaye in Venice, 1988

Carolyn Carlson is a Californian dancer and choreographer who has lived for extensive periods of time in Paris, Roubaix, Venice and New York. During her nomadic existence she has always written, drawn and painted in fusion with her dancing career.  Carolyn Carlson’s ballet, ‘Writings on Water‘, lends its name to this exhibition that presents over 100 sketches and drawings. The venue, museum La Piscine in Roubaix, is no coincidence. Not only is the water just next to the exhibition rooms but Carlson was also director of the Centre Choréographique National in Roubaix for 9 years.

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La Piscine, Roubaix, a public swimming pool turned into a museum.

Carlson calls herself a self-taught poet, illustrator, and calligraphic painter, with influences from a Zen Master. During a meditation class in New York in the 1960’s she drew her first ink drawing with a one-out breath. She recalls that instant as a discovery, a key to her work. Her dance improvisation encouraged also her calligraphic works which she likes to call an imaginary spontaneous solo.

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For the ballet ‘Signes’ she collaborated with Olivier Debré. In the exhibition you can see Carlson’s design drawings and a video of the final ballet.

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It’s also very interesting to see many of her tools, sketchbooks, artist books etc. displayed in the exhibition. Altogether, ‘Writing on Water’ succeeds to provide an intimate look into the holistic artistic life of Carolyn Carlson.

Carolyn Carlson ‘Writing on Water’ is on view in La Piscine till 24 Sep 2017. Pictures are taken by me in the exhibition, artworks are taken from the catalogue.

 

Punk – Junko Oki

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Junko Oki – A Bulb, 2017 (Detail)

Junki Oki started her artistic practice in 2002 right before turning 40. Her work consists of embroidery on old fabrics, often several centuries old, collected by her late mother. Her work focuses primarily on human relationships, particularly those of her family.  Personal memories seem to spiral into abstract intricate thread drawings. Junko Oki is based in Kanagawa, Japan.
I had admired her poetic and authentic work online, so when I learned that Office Baroque in Brussels was hosting her first solo exhibition in Belgium I just had to go and see her work in person.

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Junko Oki – A Jacket, 2016

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Junko Oki – Fingertip, 2017

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Junko Oki – Anna Maria, 2016

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Junko Oki – A Mineral, 2017

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Junko Oki – Snow, Ruby, Lemon, 2017

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Junko Oki – Memories, 2017

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Junko Oki – Time Machine, 2017

 

IMG_9196Apart from her 2 and 3 dimensional embroidered work, Oki is also known for a series of artist books. The success she enjoyed after showing her work to the world was compiled in a beatiful book ‘Punk’ that not only captures her work but also the unique atmosphere she manages to instill in each work.

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Punk – Book on Junko Oki’s work, 2014

Solo exhibition Junko Oki on view at Office Baroque, Brussels till 27 May 2017. The gallery has some copies of Punk for sale. Check out their website.

 

 

Gerhard Richter – New Paintings

 

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Gerhard Richter- Abstract Painting (946-4), 2016. Oil on canvas

Gerhard Richter, one of the most famous artists of our time, has lived in Cologne since 1984. It’s there that Museum Ludwig currently presents his new paintings. 26 abstract paintings are exhibited, all created in the past year. Some of my favourites are below.

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Gerhard Richter- Abstract Painting (943-1), 2016. Oil on canvas

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Gerhard Richter- Abstract Painting (944-10), 2016. Oil on canvas

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Gerhard Richter- Abstract Painting (946-3), 2016. Oil on canvas

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Gerhard Richter- Abstract Painting (946-5), 2016. Oil on canvas

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Gerhard Richter- Abstract Painting (947-1), 2016. Oil on canvas

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Gerhard Richter- Abstract Painting (947-8), 2016. Oil on canvas

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Gerhard Richter- Abstract Painting (939-7), 2015. Oil on canvas

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Exhibition view Gerhard Richter New Paintings Museum Ludwig

The museum asked the master himself to select some of his older works from their collection to contextualise the surprisingly bright colourful new compositions. These works are shown in a dense showcase adjacent to the exhibition.

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Gerhard Richter- Ema, Nude on a Staircase, 1966. Oil on canvas

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Gerhard Richter- Betty, 1977. Oil on canvas

Gerhard Richter’s first wife, Ema, with whom he moved from the GDR to West Germany, posed for a photograph, appearing naked on the stairs in his Düsseldorf studio in 1966. With ‘Ema’, the artist painted one of his first works based on one of his own colour photographs that would become an icon in his oeuvre. Ema is at that time pregnant with their daughter Babette who was born 6 months later. Babette is depicted 10 years later on the painting ‘Betty’.

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Gerhard Richter- War, 1981. Oil on canvas

The paining above, ‘War’, belongs to a series of abstract paintings that Gerhard Richter painted in preparation of his contribution to Documenta 7 in 1982. It’s one of his first monumental abstract works.
One can only conclude that Richter, at age 85, relentlessly continues his investigation in the presentation of reality and continues to be fascinated by the use of chance in the creation of his works.
On view in Museum Ludwig till May 1st 2017.

Saul Leiter: paintings

“I may be old-fashioned, but I believe there is such a thing as a search for beauty – a delight in the nice things in the world. And I don’t think one should have to apologise for it.”  

Saul Leiter in  ‘In No Great Hurry‘, a 2014 documentary about Saul Leiter

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Saul Leiter, Untitled, ca 1960. Gouache, casein and watercolour on paper

Saul Leiter (1923-2013) was born in Pittsburgh. His Jewish father was a well known Talmud scholar and Saul studied to become a Rabbi. His mother gave him his first camera at age 12. At age 23, he left theology school and moved to New York City to pursue painting. He had developed an early interest in painting and was fortunate to meet the Abstract Expressionist painter Richard Pousette-Dart, who was experimenting with photography. His interest in photography grew and he started to take pictures of his neighbourhood. The rest is history. Saul Leiter became a pioneering photographer with a very distinct eye.

Despite his photography career, he never gave up painting. In the retrospective exhibition which originated at the Deichtorhallen in Hamburg and travelled to FOMU in Antwerp, his pioneering pictures were shown next to his colourful paintings; abstract paintings on Japanese silk paper, painted-over nude pictures and small paintings in sketchbooks. A beautiful  artistry of Leiter to be discovered!

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Saul Leiter, Untitled, ca 1960. Gouache, casein and watercolour on paper

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Saul Leiter, Untitled. Gouache and watercolour over gelatine silver print

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Saul Leiter, Untitled, 1960. Gouache and watercolour over gelatine silver print

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Saul Leiter, Untitled, 1960. Gouache, casein and watercolour on paper

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Saul Leiter, Untitled. Gouache, casein and watercolour on paper

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Saul Leiter, Untitled. Gouache, casein and watercolour on paper

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Saul Leiter, Untitled, 1960. Gouache, casein and watercolour on paper

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Saul Leiter, sketchbooks

All pictures were taken by me in the Retrospective in FOMU, Antwerp.