Page 1

Nยบ 3


Canvas

Issue Three

metamorphosis

Front cover and above: Kateriina yli-malmi 4th year Photography “Trying to touch time – impossible. It manages to escape in every occasion. There is no way of keeping time hostage. Time passes, or is it us passing, and time is staying?”


Contents Editorial 4 Apocalypse Envisaged 8 My Twenties 12 Recreating a Masterpiece 16 ‘Pity the Poor Keris’ 22 Fantôme 26 Damien Ortega, States of Time: A Review 28 Emäsalo 31 A Manifestation of the Divine 32 For the Worms 36

3


Editorial The last time I had the pleasure to experience the gallery that was Inverleith House, as I meandered up walkways lined with prayer flags and lanterns, there was a jubilatory air in Edinburgh’s Royal Botanical Gardens (RBGE). This seemed suitable for the exhibition I Believe in Miracles, described by the press as a celebration and a festive commemoration fit for the gallery’s thirtieth birthday and for all the innovative art brought to our doorstep over the past three decades by the passionate and eccentric director Paul Nesbitt. Little was I to know that this visit should have been tinged with mourning for the gallery that would shut its doors to the art world for the last time just a few days later. Inverleith House has invariably been described by critics, whether for the Guardian, the Independent, the Financial Times or the Skinny, as the utmost beautiful and sublime gallery in perhaps the whole of Britain, that always “punches above its weight” (Laura Cummings) for exhibitions of “improbable loveliness” (Rachel Spence). When giving such praise, not one of the writers had any idea that the gallery would not be celebrating its fortieth, fiftieth, sixtieth birthdays in similar ways in the decades to come. Regardless of its warm recognition in the British art scene, the RBGE made the decision to bring the display of contemporary art within this space to an end. With five days warning. Art is of course subjective, so it cannot be claimed that every exhibition held at this gallery was met with praised by all who saw it. When volunteering as an information assistant at Inverleith House in 2015, I spent many days sitting before the abstract paintings of the Belgian artist Raoul de Keyser. This type of spontaneous and accidental style, painted for the sake of the materiality of the medium, does not generally speak to me. However, as each hour spent in the company of De Keyser’s art ticked by, they began to transform my vision, becoming more beautiful, more profound. The changing light quality played with the

Metamorph Ann-Kathrin Müller mfa Illustration “... a metaphor for humankind is revealed, one of the essential features of which is the ability of the mind to reach high while the body remains on solid ground.”

4


colours of the paintings, as the daylight came pouring in through those stunning Georgian windows. This was only encouraged as I saw the public interacting with the art. Some visitors hated the paintings, some loved them, but many commented on how their location, placed next to that view of the Botanics, benefitting from that light, made the exhibition. They could not have had the same effect on us in any other gallery in Edinburgh.

to Dada calling for utopian anarchy in all its forms. Last years Turner Prize winning collective Assemble seeks to narrow the gap between community and art processes, transforming disused urban spaces into entertainment venues or refurbishing derelict homes with the help of residents. So it seems odd that the art world should move in the opposite direction, with adverse changes, to the artists that fill it. Perhaps, with much hope, it is a change to inspire change, something that can be begun in the pages of our journal. In our words we have investigated how music, architecture, design and painting have gone through stages of metamorphoses, from the smallest design changes of a ceremonial dagger to the condition of a much-loved building. In our images, the imagination and creativity of our featured artists show how simple materials can change the perspective on space, time, landscape, culture, gender identity and memory. The list, that goes way beyond what can be included in our few pages, is endless in the possibility of what we can make happen: a testament to the creative environment in which Canvas is born.

On the 18th October 2016, the RBGE stated their reason for the closure was “in the interest of prioritising its core missions”, being the exploration and conservation of plant life. I do not doubt the importance of such a mission; there are obvious benefits of plant life and cultivation, even if for the aesthetic enjoyment of us as visitors alone. But in the past thirty years the Botanics has not experienced any clear detrimental effects due its minimal financial contribution, to put it bluntly, towards Inverleith House and its small team. On the public exterior, the decision appears to have come down to a battle between science and art: rational, reasoned, explainable science won. The question is whether this is reflecting an initial shift in our society as a whole. Should the recent scrapping of AQA’s History of Art A Level be brought to our attention? Or the wider cuts to arts boards from Northern Ireland’s art council to the BBC’s arts departments? There is change afoot, and going on the almost 9,000 signatures petitioning against the closing of Inverleith House and the 900 people who walked through the doors of the gallery on its last open day in solidarity, we, the artistic community of Edinburgh, do not like it. This form of metamorphosis of art culture is a negative place to start. Historically, art has often aimed to positively affect social change, from Gustave Courbet’s movement of Realism, elevating the image of the working classes in the eyes of the bourgeois Parisians,

Gemma Batchelor

4th Year Fine Art Editor-in-Chief

5


Stefanie Blum Mfa Contemporary Art Practice

6


For Thermal Insulation: Golden Side to Body

7


Apocalypse Apocalypse Envisaged: Goethian Allusions Lent to Franz Marc’s The Fate of the Animals Through Richard Strauss’ Metamorphosen

T

he fleeting brevity of this essay necessitates a presentation of its aim at the outset. What follows below are by no means thoroughly worked through solutions, but rather, merely ideas in their first state. Metamorphosen, a ‘study for 23 solo strings’, was composed by Richard Strauss during the closing months of WWII.1 It appears that no connection has hitherto been made between this work and visual art, excluding its frequent use in accompanying documentary footage of German cities in rubble. The connections that shall be made stretch back to Bosch, Grünewald, and Dürer, with the genre of the grotesque, which in turn relates to 20th century caricatures. The validity for such an approach can be argued on the grounds that German cultural identity, albeit a post-unification construct, is a collective memory, with reference points (trees, even) such as Goethe and Beethoven, which are constantly recurring, much like a Nietzschean cycle. Indeed, this arboreal metaphor would be apt in the burning down of cultural symbols during the war, and Peter Vergo has responded to such ideas in adding Anselm Kiefer to this list of German artists, for whom trees act as a constant reference. However, for the sake of brevity, this essay will focus on The Fate of the Animals by Franz Marc, another product of kultur in extremis. Drawing on Timothy L. Jackson’s essay ‘The Metamorphosis of the Metamorphosen: New Analytical and Source-Critical Discoveries’, a summary of his reading is followed 8


Envisioned by its application onto the painting. Whilst Marc’s painting dates from 1913, my attempt is to see if any of Jackson’s reading is applicable onto Marc’s animal symbolism.

greater difficulties, and the safety of his Jewish daughter-in-law, Alice, and grandchildren, was an urgent concern. Whilst Strauss had initially been involved with the National Socialists ‘in the sincere if ultimately misguided hope of preserving the great German cultural tradition from within’, it was only at this late juncture that he realised the full enormity of Nazi criminality.7 Burying himself in Goethe, that pinnacle of German culture through whom Strauss could seek ‘continuity with a tradition that appeared to be dissolving’, he came upon a poem, Niemand wird sich selber kennen.8

Since the immediate post-war era, the subject of Metamorphosen has been accepted uncritically to be the destruction of Munich. This was based on the close proximity of sketches for Strauss’ 1945 revision of the waltz München, which is an overt response to the outward, physical destruction of Munich. The snap rhythm of the Metamorphosen was accepted to have been derived from a sketch labelled Trauer um München, providing ‘definitive proof’.2 In turn, this sketch is supposed to explain Strauss’ quotation of the Eroica ‘Trauermarsch’ at the end of the Metamorphosen.3 With a short supply of convincing symbols of German anguish and suffering, such a reading fulfilled a ‘deeply rooted contemporary need’.4

“Goethe’s view of metamorphosis is essentially optimistic, but Strauss grotesquely inverts this, whereby man descends to the bestial through selfknowledge, no longer affirmed as a means of discovering the divine within.”

Undeniably, the Metamorphosen relates to the war in a general sense, but this reading is now untenable. In reconstructing the compositional chronology, Jackson has shown that much of the work on the Metamorphosen predates the Trauer um München sketch.5 Thus, ‘Strauss first arrived the musical-poetical idea of the Metamorphosen well before encountering a compositional impasse and interrupting work to turn to other projects’, including the revision of München, to which the Trauer um München sketch properly belongs.6

With its emphasis on self-examination and selfjudgement, Strauss seems to have been affected personally by the line ‘No man can know himself’.9 It was from a sketch for a choral setting of this poem that the seminal idea for the Metamorphosen originated. This incomplete Goethe setting was put aside in August 1944 when Strauss received the Metamorphosen commission, but the essential

The relationship between Strauss and the Third Reich is an ongoing debate, but the complexity of the issue has now become clearer. Strauss was an elderly man for whom emigration posed

9


Apocalypse

Goethian Allusions Lent to Franz Marc’s The Fate of the

poetic and motivic idea was retained, being reworked into the Metamorphosen. This reworking seems to coincide with Strauss’ ultimate disillusionment with the National Socialists, carrying the confessional aspect into the Metamorphosen. Thus, the Metamorphosen is a philosophical, ‘Goethian probing of the underlying cause of war’, unrelated to the programmatic allusion of the revised München.10 Goethe’s view of metamorphosis is essentially optimistic, but Strauss grotesquely inverts this, whereby man descends to the bestial through self-knowledge, no longer affirmed as a means of discovering the divine within. Whilst at least one critic had misinterpreted Strauss’ caption ‘In memoriam!’ above the Eroica citation, claiming the work to be a Grabgesang for the Hitler regime, the caption could still refer to Hitler, ‘not as a true hero, but as a false hero who aspired to greatness but descended to bestiality.’11 Borrowing Beethoven’s ‘ironic, premature ‘burial’ of the stillliving Napoleon’, Strauss too sought to repudiate a tyrant whom he had once supported.12 Let us now turn to The Fate of the Animals, where animals shriek in terror in a mythical forest, foreshadowing the cataclysm of WWI. Through this arboreal motif, Marc’s image finds a connection with the German cultural tradition with which he is part of. But is there an underlying philosophical concern with the society that was rapidly disintegrating? Whilst we have established that the Metamorphosen is not concerned with outward destruction, is there anything to be learnt from superposing Strauss’ inversion of Goethe’s classical metamorphosis concept onto the painting?

Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s ideas, filtered through Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche, may provide a connection. Poisoned by bourgeois culture, man has descended to become a ‘degenerate’ animal, lacking the freedom of instinct.13 The pre-war Expressionists, feeling the constriction of the deteriorating Wilhelmine society, desperately sought the ideal of primitive instinctual life. Thus, for Marc, the animals represent a transfiguration on the other side of the scale, whereby man could ascend to the divine through self-knowledge, and reconnect with nature. At its most basic level, The Fate of the Animals is a meditation on the chaos and brutality of war, a theme that is shared by the Metamorphosen.

Toshi Ogita Graduate History of Art and Music

10


Envisioned Animals Through Richard Strauss’ Metamorphosen

Adventure of a lifetimE Alex Roddan 4th Year Painting

11


My twenties

Lauren Frost 4th Year Fine art

12


KLaudia wyderkiewicz

4th Year photography

The work I produce is evocative in regards to the themes that I seek to explore and their inter-relationship with my past. From portraits of loved ones to landscapes and photographs of strangers, the work analyses themes of memory, the passage of time and the ‘everyday’. I was brought up in Poland, where the camera had a permanent presence in my everyday life. Perhaps the cultural connection I have developed whilst growing up is now visible through my visual approach to photography today, as I search for the light and moments that reflect the years of youth.

13


SIOBHAN MCLAUGHLIN

3rd Year Fine Art

"The current focus of my work is the aerial viewpoint; of looking down into the urban environment with thought relating to space, distance and relationships between those living in the city and their surrounding landscape."

Composition III

Composition I

"Through compositional framing and research in colour theory, the cityscape is abstracted and transformed." 14


"I observed a girl making her way

through Sand Castle at St Andrew. There is naivety, simplicity and most of all this notion of the unknown where was she before she embarks on a journey, caught in motion."

Girl

Mekhala Dave

MA Modern & Contemporary Art: History, Curating and Criticism 15


Aftermath of the fire as seen in the Composition Room of the Glasgow School of Art, 2015.

16


RECREATING A MASTERPIECE: THE GLASGOW SCHOOL OF ART

On the 17th of October, the Glasgow School of Art hosted the ‘State of the Mack,’ an event where the university’s restoration team provided an update of their work on a Charles Rennie Mackintosh masterpiece. Following a devastating fire in 2014, the building received widespread news coverage in regard to the destruction. As of this summer, the two-year journey of recovery is underway, and the process will be just as interesting as the result. It is hard to imagine the restoration of any other building requiring the same level of painstaking research into the architect’s original

intentions, but such is the fame of Mackintosh that the designer arguably takes precedence over the building itself. ‘Restoring a Charles Rennie Mackintosh Architectural Gem From The Ashes’ was the headline of the New York Times as restoration commenced.1 As if the portrayal of Mackintosh’s life as an ignored artistic genius was not tragically romantic enough, the fire has provided another opportunity for the city of Glasgow to give love to its favourite architect in the face of adversity. The project is therefore far more significant than any ordinary restoration - and this was a message conveyed at the ‘State of the Mack’ talk, which

17

frequently acknowledged the building’s important aura. Brian Park, director of Page\ Park Architects, gave an example of the continuous nature of research the team requires in restoring the Glasgow School of Art. Initially the iconic Hen Run connecting the two phases of the school’s construction was considered a relatively simple task to restore. However, photographs came to light revealing that the original design differed significantly from the sloping glazing which we know, and the detailing is thought to have been altered in the 1950s.2 While the original flat glazing above the Hen Run would have been


prone to leaking, contemporary glazing will allow Mackintosh’s vision to be realised using modern techniques. This is in line with a recurring statement from the team-- to recreate, and even improve, the original Mackintosh designs. Some evidence of original work is harder to come by, but no effort has been spared in seeking it out. Investigating the original glass plate negatives of photographs of the then newly-constructed School has revealed that cables running through the library were manipulated to be removed from photographic prints. Robyne Calvert, Mackintosh Research Fellow at GSA, adds that the original photographs also show a lighter tone to the finishing of the famous library lights, which will return in the restoration; the original drawings by Mackintosh requested them to be ‘made in brass finished antique,’ before they were presumably painted over at a later date. 3 The priority is to restore the building in ‘Mackintosh’s direction,’ and once again the design will not only be a recreation of the original but an improvement, with the lights to be brighter than before. A small number of practical exceptions are to be made contrary to the desire for recreation. This includes the expansion of a lift shaft to accommodate wheelchair use, and the addition of an unseen fire suppression system for pertinent reasons. But the overall outcome will perhaps be closer to how Mackintosh had designed it than even before the fire.

Interestingly, Article 11 of The Venice Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites describes the international framework for restoring a building which has had a history of changes: ‘the valid contributions of all periods to the building of a monument must be respected, since unity of style is not the aim of a restoration.’4 Is the aim of the Glasgow School of Art to restore the building, or to create a shrine to Mackintosh? And is the team in fact adding another layer of distortion to Mackintosh’s work by invalidating his building’s historical evolution?

“Is the aim of the Glasgow School of Art to restore the building, or to create a shrine to Mackintosh?”

Part of the reason why the building is so revered is due to its functional arrangement, which it will still require as a working institute. Muriel Gray, chair of the board of Governors, explains that the school, ‘ will die if it becomes a museum.’5 And yet this seems to be the route that the restoration team is taking by glorifying the original above all else.

18


At the talk, Liz Davidson, Senior Project Manager of the Mackintosh Restoration at GSA, suggests that the team will be going even further by constructing Mackintosh’s unimplemented design for additional lighting above the studios, which has been identified in original design drawings. There is the danger that in implementing previously unconstructed designs, the restoration team will presume to understand the intentions of Mackintosh. The amendments to the Mackintosh historiography, from being presented as a Modernist pioneer in Thomas Howarth’s influential book Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Modern Movement in 1952, to being depicted within the context of the Symbolist Movement in Timothy Neat’s book Part Seen, Part Imagined in 1994, suggest that attempting to conclusively characterise Mackintosh is unwise. Both financially and stylistically, Mackintosh had faced opposition in his design of the Glasgow School of Art. ‘It is but a plain building that is required,’ the Governors had pleaded in 1896 as the competition for its design took place with a budget of £14,000.6 But now, with an incredible level of fame and appreciation, the restoration team are devoted to recreating Mackintosh’s stylistic vision at the estimated cost of £35 million.7 The concept and spaces will for the most part remain the same, but the antithetical circumstances of the restoration ensure that it will not be a repeat of the past. View of the Hen Run prior to the fire, 2014. Image rights: Collections Trust.

Alborz Dianat MScR Architecture following page: Anna Dixon 4th year Illustration

19


‘Pity the Poor Keris’:

A Metamorphosis of a Dagger

In July 2005, the Youth Chief of the United Malay National Organization (UMNO), Hishammuddin Hussein, delivered an inciting speech that showed Malay pride and persistence in the Malaysian political arena. His bombastic words were prefaced by an event that cemented the symbolic value of the keris as a political weapon. Hussein waved and kissed the dagger while his entourage chanted, “Long live the Malays”.1 Today, we see the keris taking on a painfully dominant political meaning, which denotes Malay-Malaysian (henceforth Malay/sian) radical ethnocentricity.2 However, historically speaking, the keris has long been part of a non-political, traditional culture of the Malays. The keris was (and is) often used in ceremonial events such as weddings and coronations. So how did the keris end up deep in this ethno-political controversy? I argue that the answer lies in the metamorphosis of the keris form – from being a tool to a cultural symbol to a political weapon – parallel to the history of the Malay/sians.

most kerises span between twelve to sixteen inches from hilt to tip.3 However, the peculiar form of the keris is not just an advantageous accident. During the Hindu-Buddhist period of the Malaysian Peninsular (c. 800), the keris was introduced through silat combat and its form was conceived to maximize utility.4 Consider the average keris: its one-foot length is optimal in the close-quarter martial style. The curvilinear blade inflicts a wider wound, which is harder to heal; the slanted hilt was for convenience when drawing and for quick stab-and-withdraw moves with straight, forward thrusts.5 The dagger’s notorious reputation did not originate from its efficient form though. The wrath of the dagger manifests due to its ability to poison its victims, making dying by the blade of a keris an excruciating one.6 But fashioning the keris requires skills and knowledge beyond the practical; it requires the knowledge of magic. Legend has it that a keris is a living entity. Various literary sources refer to the keris as having an animus, a “temperament” and agency.7 One such keris in Perak Museum, Taiping, is known for its thirst for blood. After

The keris form is iconic: the slanted and pointed hilt, the curvilinear blade and the embellished sheath. When the three parts are assembled,

‘the answer lies in the metamorphosis of the keris form – from being a tool to a cultural symbol to a political weapon’

22


‘Legend has it that a keris is a living entity’ dusk, it is believed to “sneak away, kill someone, wash and wipe itself” before returning back to its place of safekeeping.8 Similarly, the fifteenth century Hikayat Hang Tuah tells us that Hang Tuah’s keris, the ‘Taming Sari’, was noted for its ability to unsheathe itself and attack the opponent whenever the owner was in danger. While these legends are extravagant as historical sources, they provide a window into the world of the Malays with regard to the cultural status of the keris. The keris’ supernatural powers are believed to be rooted in the syncretic worldview of the Malays: having mixed traditions from its indigenous, Hindu-Buddhist and Islamic periods. Particularly, the wooden hilt of a keris makes for prime example. The hilt is often carved from a strong wood,

which carries the most life essence.9 Furthermore, the making of the hilt would not be attempted by anyone other than a master carver.10 The magnificent task is to match the life essence of the wood to that of the owner, thus binding man and dagger together. So close was the association between man and his keris that the dagger became an ethno-marker during colonial British Malaya (from the mid-eighteenth to mid-twentieth centuries). As a result, the keris became a cultural symbol for Malay identity (as opposed to the Chinese- or Indian-Malaysians). In other words, the keris not only became integral to the Malay image but also began to metonymize the individual. Even today, the dagger makes an appearance in Malay ceremonies that involve a strong sense of self: id est weddings, royal coronations.

Figure 1. Malaysian Coat of Arms displaying five keris forms.

Figure 2. UMNO logo released in 2015

23


‘If not, then, in the words of Noor, “pity the poor keris”.’ Returning to Hussein’s keris-waving act, it is misleading to think that this was the first incident in which the keris was incorporated into Malaysian politics. One only needs to examine the national heraldic design and logos of Malay/sian political parties to understand the political role of the keris. Take the Malaysian coat of arms: five kerises are encased in the top horizontal section of a central escutcheon. UMNO’s flag also employs the silhouette of a keris as its sole and central subject.11 More recently, in 2015, UMNO released a new logo with two kerises forming an ‘X’ in the centre. The implicit message is that Malay identity is integral to the Malaysian identity today. The obvious critique, then, is the fact that Malaysia has long been a multicultural nation.

The keris, as perceived by Malay/sians has indeed morphed through time but it is precisely this metamorphosis that should be embraced. The point is to not to do away or replace the narrative. If anything, the composite biography of the keris epitomizes how historical linearity may be harmful to a nation’s healing. For this reason, the keris and the histories that it signifies ought to be comprehensively taken into account to appreciate its place in current society. If not, then, in the words of Noor, “pity the poor keris”.13

The multicultural aspect of Malaysia can be noted in its Hindu-Buddhist, pre-colonial and colonial pasts. At every significant turn of Malaysian history, the people have been well exposed to foreign exchanges. Therefore, the assertion of the keris Figure 3. UMNO flag with the keris form as as an ethno-nationalist symbol for the Malays its central subject. ultimately disregards the people’s experience of pluralism. Reacting to this revisionist stance, Farish Noor rightly noted that the keris is “the most Irina Ridzuan apt and oldest signifier of a plural cosmopolitan MSc Late Antique, Islamic and Malaysian that we have today”.12 The urge, then, Byzantine Studies is to understand how objects retain all of their histories. Understanding the 18th-century social context of the keris should not abrogate its more-distant past.

24


Fionnuala Mottishaw 4th Year Painting

The three-headed Oracle Stone is intended to serve as a guide to any confused visitor. In the collected wisdom and knowledge of its multi-headed state surely this is perfect aid in releasing oneself from any tangle. But the heads are not working in unison; they contradict each other, the shapes and characters of each transmogrifying to create a discordant whole. Even the piling up of more figures does nothing to alleviate the burden of confusion; for these small additions seem to refuse to lead any help, remaining blank faced in front of the increasingly fraught questioner. But in their defence how could they possibly cope with such complexities - there is a llama balancing on their heads.

25


Fantôme

Jean-François Krebs 4th Year Landscape arhitecture

Fantôme (ghost in French) is a performance I did in my own flat in Edinburgh. I invited only two people to come and see the performance. My flat hadn’t been cleaned nor tidied for more than a month, reflecting my inner apathy, creating an oppressive and uneasy atmosphere. In this warm, womb-like environment, I re-enacted my own embryonic life, and fusion with a possible twin, with Barbara and Dalida songs in the background. Depression, twinning, gender identity, fetal memory.

Fantôme was screened for the first time during the event the Library is Open! Drag queen poems that I organised with poet Iain Morrison in the Scottish Poetry Library. This event is nominated for the Creativity Award 2016 from Creative Edinburgh. In full drag, I read a long poem while the video was projected.

26


37° Celsius nebula I miss you comme avant, sur un nuage blanc pour cueillir en tremblant des étoiles, des étoiles as if I could live inside myself when I was a child I wanted to be a cosmonaut or a scuba diver I wanted to go back from the very beginning to go back inside looking for you go back to the stellar nursery helium hydrogen and dust as if I didn’t need to breathe as if twin-twin transfusion syndrome was a funny game twin-twin, twin-twin on the playground it is always the biggest star that first wastes away 37°Celsius nebula all around 37°Celsius nebula inside didn’t you like it?

27


Damian Ortega: a Review Upstairs in the Fruitmarket Gallery shadow-like images of a medley of objects sit upon a table. Diligently placed by Damian Ortega, these works are mirrored onto the facing wall. To view these images is to enact a miniature tableau of Plato’s cave: you might walk behind the table, placing yourself between it and the wall: the real ‘ideal’ forms behind indiscernible to you, leaving you privy only to the crude, pale plastered grey figures. Except those objects on the table aren’t really real are they? They are clay models painstakingly crafted by Ortega, and consciously arranged to construct a sort of utilitarian anatomy of humankind through the permanent objects he/ she leaves behind. The Fruitmarket explains that, “all of life is there – we are what we make, how we make it, and what we make it with”. The shadows shown here are impressions of impressions.

Indeed, this whole exhibition is subsumed into the word ‘impression’. Ortega has created sculptures that focus on how the elements act on the earth. He explores the ‘impressions’ left on the earth by the intersection of human intervention and natural forces: both the ripples of sand left by the kiss of a wave and the cavity on the shore resulting from a toddler’s sticky-fingered excavation. However, he does this in a perverse way, by meticulously recreating nature. Making ‘impressions’. The literary theorist Victor Schlovsky said that the purpose of art is to make a ‘stone stony.’ Is this the condition of humankind at it stands now? Are we at the point that we so firmly habit the cerebral sphere and are so removed from our physical surroundings that we need to consciously go to an art gallery to be reminded of them? Take ‘Eroded Valley’ for

example, in which Ortega “track[s] the eroding power of a river on a sequence of planes made from brick” blurring the boundaries between the natural and the man-made. The form of the bricks extends out to the form of the piece. The progressive erosion is cleaved out of a rectangular block. The mark of skilled craftsmanship in Classical sculpture was for the viewer to be unable to discern the block of marble the statue was carved from. This sculpture is rather a manifestly self-enclosed artefact, an object whose confines are clearly delimited.

snaking, sprawling and it seems incongruous for it to be contained in the flat surface of the exhibition room’s artificially geometric walls. Furthermore, if we become lost in and enthralled by the aesthetic pleasure of the centripetal scattering of blobs of clay in ‘Broken Sac’, the jutting pillar that interrupts this motion, abruptly reminds us of where we are.

Clay models painstakingly crafted by Ortega, [are] consciously arranged to The block-form of ‘Eroded construct a sort valley’ echoes the fact of utilitarian that the whole exhibition anatomy of human itself is constricted in the kind” space of the gallery. For example, Ortega notices that the contours etched out to create the work ‘Tripas de gato/ Isobaric map’ “look like a map of air or ocean currents”. We automatically conceive of this as something

A sort of uniformity runs through the exhibition courtesy of the medium of clay, used for all the sculptures. Indeed, Ortega stretches this


classic medium of artifice to its material limits. It would seem difficult to represent something as transient as a wave with such a dense substance but the artist achieves it in ‘Lava Waves.’ Ortega is able to capture the essence of the natural object in motion, condensing an organic entity into a visual image. In the work in which he moulds clay with his hands, the title and action is supported in the texture and physicality of the piece.

A sort of uniformity runs through the exhibition courtesy of the medium of clay, used for all the sculptures.” These pieces of raw clay are literally ‘handmoulded,’ with the clear impressions of Ortega’s fingertips. This piece has a sense of artist’s touch, a feeling of human intervention. He tried to achieve this delicate tone in other works, such as ‘Broken Sac,’ but he instead worked with local blacksmiths to create unique tools for the project. Throughout his practice Ortega has had a keen interest in tools-exhibiting works that have contain signs of having been fashioned with machinery to even presenting actual tools as art-pieces. We return

to the table of ‘abrasive’ (read: impressionleaving) ‘objects’. We might give pause to thought here, as Ortega has said he wants to explore the forces of nature, and we may also note that this exhibition is called ‘States of Time’ and the ‘state’ of these ‘natural forces’ is perpetual and indifferent to the destructive but temporally fleeting interventions of humankind. Downstairs, the ‘special tools’ used to create ‘Broken Sac’ loom in the corner of the room, gazing with parental pride over the work they have created. It is perhaps an accident of similitude, but nonetheless a very meaningful one. The circular loops atop long sticks, which constitute these tools, appear like two humans. The Fruitmarket curators masterfully explained this exhibition: ‘All of [human] life is there’. The tools are us. In the kingdom of nature, natural forces will always reign supreme. In an exhibition that is encapsulated by impressions we might wonder what it says about us that the only traces left by humans independent of nature in Ortega’s ‘restaged’ universe are our ‘abrasive objects.’

Eleri Fowler 3rd Year English Literature


Roxana Karam PhD Architecture


Emäsalo Feeling completely alone in the world is what I liked best, mornings with no stirring of human activity except the coffee machine making a racket and butter frying in the pan.

and on the way to the island shop I pick blueberries, their juices decorating my lips. You get used to it after a while, the walk down to red hut, paskahuusi, because it all looks like a Pekka Halonen painting.

Breakfast on the veranda: a view of trees and once a hare darting past, while I read a book in that Marimekko chair, its bright red flowers almost bursting into existence.

Vast expanse of blue interrupted by reeds, curving beaches before horizons of birch trees; islands and our rowing boat and sea, a scene from the Kalevala and a distant splash— Aino swims by, transforming herself into salmon.

Paths through the forest, the elusive promise of chanterelles after rain

Rebecca Wallop

4th Year History of Art and English Literature

31


A Manifestation of the Divine:

Michelangelo from Drawing to Execution in the Sistine Chapel One of the most iconic and written about artists in history, Michelangelo (1475-1564) was surprisingly private about his artistic practice.1 Trying to discern the process behind his famous Sistine Chapel ceiling proves to be a challenge, as he is noted for having his assistants burn his sketches.2 As a result, much of the ‘evolution’ of the design remains elusive and the painted frescoes appear to the viewer as seemingly spontaneous acts of creation. Fortunately, a small number of sketches remain, or have come to light in the centuries since the Sistine Chapel was painted, illuminating some of Michelangelo’s processes and demonstrating the narrative of continuity and change that led to the

creation of the masterpiece. It is thought that a sketch of the hand of Adam in the British Museum is the earliest consideration for the design.3 Although it only shows a single spandrel and some vague outlines for the framework of the narrative, it shows an early preoccupation with geometric panels, which would be consistently present and which dominate the final work.4 There is also an interest in creating a fictive architectural frame, which did not coincide with the physical structure of the Chapel, another factor which would remain until execution.5 Finally, this initial sketch shows Michelangelo’s early intention to seat the twelve apostles in the spandrels, a highly problematic section due to its concavity as the transitional area between the wall and vault.6 Despite the difficulty of this surface, some continuity can be seen even from this basic initial sketch, as the frontal view of the figures is maintained through to the reality seen in the Sistine Chapel today. A second design, in the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts, shows some progress for the same area of the ceiling.7 The lozenge was enlarged and transformed into an octagon: this enlargement in particular

32


demonstrates a strong interest in divided narrative scenes.8 Such compartmentalisation is now one of the key features seen in the Sistine Chapel, with strong fictive architectural features allowing and encouraging individual contemplation of single scenes. Furthermore, the band of geometric motifs seen in the first design has been moved to the area above the spandrels thus creating a new directional focus for the viewer, spanning the vault. 9 These two initial designs show little interest in precise measurements, which highlights how early in the creative process they were to have been received.10 Nevertheless, the fact that aspects of these can be seen in the ceiling as Michelangelo painted it, even if these be ideological rather than literal transference, proves the importance in every step of the evolutionary creative process.

“The artist requested his assistants burn the cartoons he had created for the ceiling in an attempt to keep his creative process private...However, a small number of sketches remain�

A more direct use can be seen in a sketch held by the Cleveland Museum of Art (1511). Its origin was long questioned after it was published in 1938, but Edward J. Olszewski convincingly argues for its authenticity.11 Many historians argued that it was a copy of the nude above

33


as a schizzo or pensiero (‘working drawing’): one of these feet sketches can be seen in the painted figure of the final work.13 Moreover, the unfinished quality of the head in the Cleveland sketch proves interesting. Firstly, this suggests that there was an ongoing process of change in Michelangelo’s mind and even though he obsessively sketched the feet of the figure, he gave less precedence to its face, which one might assume would be an initial consideration. Furthermore, there is a clear interest in the torso which has been elaborated upon and detailed to a far greater degree than the head. This is an indication of a wider tendency in Michelangelo’s sketches in the preparatory process. Studies for the Libyan Sibyl (1511) in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Study for the Nude above the Persian Sibyl (1511) in the collection of the Teylersmuseum of Haarlem both illustrate similar preoccupations with anatomical accuracy, particularly the formulation of musculature. However, as Olszewski indicates, it is also noticeable that many of these secondary figures are not as fully defined or elaborated in the painting of the ceiling itself.13 This creates an interesting contrast with the aforementioned loose sketches of the ceiling formulation which become more detailed in their execution, again leaving a suggestion about the intricacies of Michelangelo’s artistic practice.

the prophet Daniel, but, as Olszewski indicates, the lighting of the sketch is vastly different from the figure on the ceiling, making the argument of it being a preparatory sketch by Michelangelo much stronger.12 Alongside the figure are several sketches of feet, indicating its status

Illustration: Florence Richardson 3rd Year Fine Art

34

Hannah Green, 4th year MA History of Art and English


Mary Lannia MA Landscape Architecture

Self portrait: “The story of one with a past to be left behind and a new beginning, not very comfortably but cautiously and courageously tread into.�


For the Worms

Beneath lush plains, worms died in a bundle of their own complacency. From their bodies sprung forth skeins of hyphae to be woven into mesh, not unlike the white cottoned embryos of the bombax tree - in the center of which held life, to be disseminated, sought after, consumed by soot-dredged prairie birds that took shelter by the dried-up tributaries of the earth.

And each morning the same still sun slides down each selfsame dagger-blade of the same still grass.

Grace Wong MSC Creative Writing

36


The canvas team Editor in Chief: Gemma Batchelor

Head of Art Panel: Liselotte Dossenbach Team: Ainne McGuinness Michelle Wolodarsky Laura Dow Suzie Anthony Katy Pereira

Deputy Editor in Chief: Samantha Ozer Team: Natasha Graydon Marianne Wilson Claudia McPhail Sumedha Vashistha Susie Curtis Blythe Lewis India Gelling

Head of Production: Florence Richardson Team: Oona Buttafoco Stephanie Jin Alys Gilbert Sasha Mather

Web Editor: Sophie Porter

37


History of Art Society

Canvas is generously supported by the Edinburgh College of Art and the History of Art Society.

For more information on the artwork featured in the journal and full references for articles please visit our website, where you can also find past issues and details on future submissions. www.canvasjournal.com Facebook: canvasjournal Instagram: canvasedinburgh

Image above: Klaudia Wyderciewicz (see page 13 for more)

39


Profile for Canvas

Canvas Issue No 3: Metamorphosis  

Edinburgh University's History of Art Journal

Canvas Issue No 3: Metamorphosis  

Edinburgh University's History of Art Journal

Profile for canvaseca
Advertisement