Living Cities

Wandering around in the fabulous Tate Modern in London I walked into a small but interesting exhibit Living cities.

The displayed works from artists around the world examine the modern city using a range of materials including leather and couscous.

Some of my personal favourites are below.

Damian Ortega (°1967 Mexico, works in Mexico and Germany) has replicated floor plans of modernist apartment buildings from around the world using cow leather. The resulting cut-outs are installed as hanging sculptures. Each work’s title gives the name of the building, its date of completion, architect and location.These residential apartments were conceived to replace existing ineffective city housing with egalitarian structures. Ortega’s soft sculptures offer a gentle critique of modernism’s promise to transform how we live.


Damian Ortega, Skin, 2007

Skin, Przyczolek Grochowski Estate, LCS, 1963, Oskar Hansen, Warsaw, Poland 2007.

Skin, Centro Urbano Prsidente Aleman C.V.P.A. 1950, Manio Pani, Mexico City, Mexico 2007.

Skin, L’Unité D’Habilitation à Berlin, 1956-1958, Le Corbusier, Berlin, Germany 2007.

The large-scale collage below by Mark Bradford (°1961, USA) included materials found by the artist on the streets around his studio in Los Angeles. The collage is constructed entirely from paper fragments which the artist believes ‘act as memory of things pasted and things past. You can peel away the layers of papers and it’s like reading the streets through the signs.’


Los Moscos, 2004 by Mark Bradford (mixed media on canvas)

It was lovely to see the work ‘Ghardaïa’ by Kader Attia (°1970, France) in person. On the table is a model , made entirely of couscous, of the ancient Algerian city of Ghardaïa. The prints next to it show a photograph of architect Le Corbusier who has visited Ghardaïa in 1931 and adapted elements of the buildings in his own designs. There is also a photograph of Fernand Pouillon, one of Le Corbusier’s followers, who drew upon these ideas to design the social housing project in suburban Paris where Attia grew up as a child of Algerian parents. The artist’s own history and the wider post-colonial relationship between Algeria and France come together in this work.


Ghardaïa (2009) by Kader Attia (cooked couscous on wooden table and digital prints on paper)


Ghardaïa by Kader Attia – detail


As it resembled a bird it was as if she could fly

IMG_3095Martha  Tuttle (°1989, Santa Fe, New Mexico) is only 29 but her work has been recently purchased by MOMA New York. That’s not what convinced me to go and see her work in person in the Geukens & De Vil gallery in Antwerp. I was attracted to how she manipulates organic materials and uses textile techniques to create works lingering between paintings and sculptures.



Martha Tuttle is fascinated by matter, by the live-ness and fluidity of organic materials. She spins the wool in each painting by hand, then weaves it into cloth which is washed and often pounded for hours. By spending so much time manipulating her materials the energy of the artist’s body becomes an integral part of the work. The dense, irregular wool surface is combined with fragments of dyed transparent silk showing the space behind the work. Elements of brass, bronze, found stones and stones cast from stainless steel add layers of materiality.IMG_3088

IMG_3083For the exhibition in the gallery she added small shelves inspired by the beautiful architectural  space of the gallery. And in doing so she is linking everything together: landscape, body, material. Fascinating artist to discover!

Still on view till 24 November 2018 at Geukens & de Vil gallery.
If you want to know more: A video recording of a lecture Martha Tuttle gave in the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in 2016 is available on the Modern’s Youtube.


Dutch Realism


Arnout Killian – Bust I (2004), oil on canvas

Fieldnotes is back with some more artsy discoveries. While strolling through the marvellous collection of the MORE Museum in The Netherlands, the work of several contemporary Dutch realist painters caught my eye. Please meet two of them.

Arnout Killian (°1969) lives and works in Amsterdam. Aside from making sound installations he paints hyper realistic works. Despite the big size of  his works the subjects are often cut off and painted against a non-defined background. As a result the works breath stillness and a sense of distancing. Intriguing work!


Arnout Killian – Cubicles (2011), oil on canvas


Arnout Killian – Beheaded mannequin (2004), oil on canvas


Arnout Killian – Foam (2002), oil on canvas

For Lotta de Beus (°1974) painting is about finding new images. The source materials she uses are old photos and Super8 images.  These are manipulated by changing the contrast, colours, shapes etc resulting in totally new images. Her paintings do seem to show a still from a larger story. And as a viewer you naturally construct your own personal version of the story.


Lotta de Beus – Eclipse (2008), oil on canvas


Lotta de Beus – Between us (2007), oil on canvas


Lotta de Beus – Truth or dare (2008), oil on canvas

Museum MORE is the largest museum for Dutch Modern Realism in the cozy town of Gorssel. Recommended if you like to be pleasantly surprised by a lesser known museum. If you manage to drag your kids along – they have nice guides for kids to fill out (at least for 9-12yrs, maybe also for younger kids). And they serve nice Dutch apple pie!

2017 Venice Biennale favourites (2)

Also this year the Japan pavilion at the Venice Biennale was one of my favourite country pavilions. Takahiro Iwasaki was selected to show “Turned Upside Down, It’s a Forest“.
Takahiro Iwasaki (°1975, Japan) sculpts miniature landscapes from unexpected materials. Drawing on Japan’s industrial history, Iwasaki recreates factories, ferris wheels and radio towers that present a snapshot of a bygone era. Far from being glamourous monuments, Iwasaki’s sculptures are melancholy, recalling the trauma of warfare, and more recent natural disasters in Japan and its psychological impact.


Australia presented Tracy Moffatt  with “My Horizon” showing 2 new photographic series and 2 films. Tracey Moffatt is one of Australia’s best known and internationally exhibited artists and the first indigenous Australian artist to represent her country at the Venice Biennale since 1997.
Her work strikes the right political chords, but does so in a highly stylish manner. Moffatt does not take photographs; she stages them, as if they are scenes from a film. As much as Moffatt’s work is about pain, it is also about glamour.


Tracey Moffatt – Mother and Baby from the series Passage, 2017


Tracey Moffatt – series Passage, 2017

In the series Body Remembers we view Moffatt herself as the maid in an isolated location. Moffatt alludes to memories, and discontent and its aftermath but the narrative is all up to the viewer.


Tracey Moffatt – Touch from the series Body Remembers, 2017


Tracey Moffatt – Rock Shadow from the series Body Remembers, 2017

And finally I would love to mention paintings by the African-American artist McArthur Binion (°1946 Mississippi). Completed between 2014 and 2016, the DNA series consists of abstract patterns painted on top of color copies of Binion’s birth certificate and pages from the address book he kept from the 1970s to 1992 when he left New York to teach in Chicago. Or how to make captivating paintings with words and biography!


To read more:
Takahiro Iwasaki – “Turned Upside Down. It’s a Forest”.
Tracey Moffatt – My Horizon, the book.
Interview with McArthur Binion.


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.
Dirk BraeckmanIMG_1681IMG_1680IMG_1682

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!


Maria Lai – Geografia, 1992 (fabric and thread)


Detail Geografia


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


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


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!


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


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


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


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!

On the Beach – Pablo Picasso


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.


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


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


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



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


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.


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


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


Picasso – Bather by a Cabin Skipping Rope, 6 Feb 1937 (wax crayon on fine grain tick tracing paper)

Picasso – Two Nudes on the Beach, 1 May 1937 (India ink, pastel and pencil on mahogany panel)


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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


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


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.