THE COURTAULDIAN ISSUE 22
MUSEION The East Wing Biennial p. 12
A Climb to the Moon p. 30
Canâ€™t Cit it Out p. 51
Cover by Vitoria Mendes
Table of contents
Musing on the Muse Margarita FA Chiclana
One Line Reviews: Dora Maar Courtauld students
Museum, Is it Just an Umbrella Term? Aniela Rybak
The East Wing Biennial Lewis Duncan
The Nude Subject Rosie Sluggett and Kira Gurmail-Kaufmann
The Problem of the Surrealist Muse Audrey Warne
A Climb to the Moon Alessandra Marchesi
Chameleons Kamran Sajid
An Unannounced Arrival Campari Conchiglie
Muff Busters Kitty Cook
My Personal Museion Zofia Beaupré
Svečiuose pas Rothko Liza Mišeikytė
Can’t Cit it Out Zoe Manset
You Are Enough Anouk de Laubier 1
L e t t e r f r o m t h e e d i t o r
In the past, the idea of the ‘muse’ related to the passive female lover whose sole purpose was to inspire the ‘genius’ male artist. Only in recent history, we have started realizing that the muse goes beyond this preestablished conception. Not only have we begun to break away from this perception of the muse, but we have also begun to relate it to broader ideas. Even though we are breaking from these confines, many people still might subconsciously relate the idea of the muse to these preestablished traditions, so instead of the word ‘muse’ as the theme for Issue 22, The Courtauldian has chosen Museion. In ancient Greek, the word ‘museion’ meant the ‘seat of the Muses’ and represented a philosophical institution or a place of contemplation, thus spawning the word museum. We wanted Issue 22 to take on the role of a conceptual locality, allowing our writers and artists to stop for a minute from the constant stress we have all become accustomed to and take time to contemplate on their own passions, desires, and interests. Our artists and writers have approached the theme in a range of ways, by creating their own definitions of what Museion is. Zofia Beaupré explores how her everyday environment is her ‘Personal Museion’ through her use of analog photography. Instead, Aniela Rybak’s Museum, Is it Just an Umbrella Term?, and Audrey Warne’s The Problem of the Surrealist Muse directly challenge the traditional ideas of the muse and the museum. Others have looked at how more external sources can act as muses, such as the city, in Zoe Manset’s Can’t Cit it Out, and space in Alessandra Marchesi’s A Climb to the Moon. By the time you finish reading Museion, you will hopefully have formulated your own definition of muse and have entered a space of contemplation, your own ‘museion’. Sara Quattrocchi Febles
THE TEAM Editor Sara Quattrocchi Febles Deputy Editor Isobelle White Head of Graphics Zeynep Koksal Head of Art & Illustration Grace Han Literary Editor Ellie Perry Reviews Editor Saga Sjöberg Events Editor Lissie Mackintosh Copy Editors Afrah Allsopp, Bea Fomin, Sarah Chang, and Taija Hurri Graphics Team Audrey Warne, Bronwen Bernstein, Elliot Keim, and Yifan Wang Illustration Team Himarni Brownsword, Rebecca Marks, and Vitoria Mendes Staff Writers Aniela Rybak, Ellen Wang, Lewis Duncan, Margarita FA Chiclana, Philippa Thomas, Sophia Boosalis, Thea Voyles, and Zoe Manset Museion was produced by undergraduate and postgraduate students at The Courtauld Institute of Art, London. If you are interested in supporting future issues or would like more information about the publication, contact: email@example.com. The Courtauldian is the editorially independent student publication of The Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London. The views and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the individual authors to whom they are attributed and do not necessarily reflect those of The Courtauldian, The Courtauld Institute of Art’s Students’ Union, or any of their staff or representatives. Every effort has been made to avoid inaccuracies, to reproduce content only as permitted by copyright law, and to appropriately and fully credit the copyright holder(s) of any content reproduced.
Musing on the Muse
Some thoughts on the problematic glorification of the muse today Margarita FA Chiclana
The concept of the muse is something which I struggle to understand in our day and age. I can understand it in its original setting, but I feel that the term is outdated: the concept is romanticised. And how can one ignore the hierarchical and abusive relations of power between artist and muse? Dora Maar wept, but not because “women are suffering machines”, like Pablo Picasso said. It is widely known that Picasso wasn’t the nicest man to be around if you were a woman, to put it politely. And the fact that Maar is widely identified as one of his muses before her own success is highly problematic. One can easily identify endless examples of this mystical concept of the muse across the centuries. From Millais’s Ophelia (1851-2) to Gauguin’s bucolic and exoticised Spirit of the Dead Watching (1892) to Picasso’s Weeping Woman (1937) to more recent examples found in popular culture like Kate Moss. To be a muse today seems to me to be an oversimplification, an eloquent insult. So how does one respond to this concept today? Is there a space for the muse today? There are no muses looking over the sciences anymore, that’s for sure. So, if we have moved on from that concept, shall we move on from the concept as a whole in the 21st century? I have come to the conclusion that this is a choice. While there is no longer a natural environment where one can fish for an artist to become their muse
(i.e a café where one can meet Breton), one can however, become a muse on their own terms. In the digital age - an era of connectivity and awareness - there are endless sources of inspiration. And the beauty of this is that through platforms like Instagram, both artists and muses can be empowered. One can be their own muse. One can be a muse freed from the straining relations of power between artist and muse. One can choose to be a muse and remain anonymous or choose to be as public as possible. The possibilities are endless. And although I have failed to find a muse, I have realised I use Instagram as a constant source of inspiration. From musing over Rosalía’s nails to Damien Hirst permeating my dreams to Katy Hessel’s The Great Women Artists podcast (must follow if you don’t already). While consciously avoiding calling any of them my ‘muses’, I admit that they provide inspiration to millions of people every day, without necessarily feeling the weight of the term muse on their shoulders. But then again, although the term is empowering when applied to Instagram, it is also reserved for a specific type of person. The unattainable and often alienating lifestyle of mega-influencers is also an endless source of unhealthy veneration. This admiration is closely linked to increasing levels of anxiety and depression among younger audiences. And while I find Instagram to be a liberating approach to
the concept of the muse in the 21st century, it would be naïve of me to not address the detrimental effect of the platform. Returning to my original questions, the relevance of the concept ‘muse’ today is questionable. While it would be nearly impossible to bin the term, I feel Instagram (when used healthily) provides a freeing and empowering platform, and a source of endless inspiration for both artist and muse. But the muse, particularly as a woman, has been subjected to mystification, exoticisation and often exploitation at the hands of the artist. And I personally can’t get behind this archaic concept - especially not in the era of #MeToo.
Illustration by Grace Han
One Line Reviews Untitled (Hand-Shell) Dora Maar
Tate Modern, London (20 November 2019 – 15 March 2020)
A nightmare manicure... Really reminds me of the film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen – surreal but very beautiful
Boring Eroticism of the sea, combined with female pleasure
Blackpool beach isn’t what it used to be
Haunting and puzzling, but with a lightness that sets in motion both the mind and soul
Reality displaced A type of death that comes from reaching out
Dora Maar, 1907-1997 Untitled (Hand-Shell) 1934 Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper 401 x 289 mm
Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, Paris Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / image Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2019
Museum, Is it Just an Umbrella Term?
Exploring its past and present history Aniela Rybak
There are over 250 art institutions registered in Greater London. The Tate, the British Museum, the National Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum are a few of the most popular museums in Britain’s capital. They remain the hotspots for the swathes of tourists passing through the city alongside Chinatown or Notting Hill. When looking at the list of institutions in London, one can find all kinds of places from former houses of famous personalities to museums about public transport, crime, and cinema. The overflowing number of museums as well as their variety makes me wonder, is it relevant to put all of these institutions under one umbrella term? The origin of the word ‘museum’ comes from the Greek word ‘museion’, the place where the Nine Muses of Greek mythology were located. In Latin, ‘museum’ is a synonym for a library or a study. Therefore, there can be no doubt that a place with such a name should be associated with either one of the Muses, who represent poetry professing love or epic encounters, history, music, tragedy, hymns, dance, comedy and astronomy, or a connection to any scholarly activity. Nowadays, we mainly associate museums with art, even though there was no Muse representing visual arts in Classical Greece as the concept of ‘art’ as we understand it
today stems from the Middle Ages. The modes of viewing that we associate with museums originated in the cabinets of curiosities (Kunstkammer in German) of seventeenth century Europe. The collections consisted of unusual objects mainly connected with natural history, archaeology, geology and some artworks (mainly cabinet paintings). They were more similar to natural history museums than art galleries. It is important to bring attention to the fact that the function of art has significantly altered through time. When walking through a standard national gallery, one should think about how none of the artworks were made in order to be exhibited in a museum up until the late twentieth century. The possibility for anyone to experience exhibitions with paintings and sculptures with the sole requirement of purchasing a ticket is, in fact, a modern concept. Many artworks presented in museums were either made for private use or were connected to religious practices. If artworks were created to be seen by a wider public, they would be closely connected to the character of the place they were meant for, such as a church or a town hall. This means that placing art in a museum automatically deprives it from its original context. However, if it was not for museums, most of the world would never 8
Illustration by April Abad
be able to see an artwork by Pablo Picasso or Piero della Francesca. It makes me wonder whether museums are the most appropriate places to exhibit art. And furthermore, is it adequate to use the same word in order to describe both the Design Museum and Tate Modern? Can an institution that encourages viewers to actively participate in its exhibitions have the same name as an art gallery that presents its artworks without public interaction? Can an institution that encourages viewers to actively participate in its exhibitions have the same name as an art gallery that presents its artworks without public interaction?
Ever since 1977, the European Museum Forum has awarded the European Museum of the Year Award (EMYA). The range of institutions that have been rewarded is quite varied. The winners have ranged from institutions focusing on art, design, and architecture, to ones specialized in history, literature, and transport. The aim of the European Museum Forum is to “recognise excellence in the European museum scene and encourage innovative processes.” Besides always being different from the previous year’s winner, the awarded museum is also seen as a significant influence on its country’s culture.
“When looking at the list of institutions in London, one can find all kinds of places from former houses of famous personalities to museums about public transport, crime, and cinema.The overflowing number of museums as well as their variety makes me wonder, is it relevant to put all of these institutions under one umbrella term?” 10
Does honouring museums with the award change anything for the visitors? Maybe some people would have never visited certain museums if not for the publicity connected to EMYA. However, not only does the prize promote the awarded institution, but it also reminds the public about the importance of museums. It helps with promoting the idea of alternative education and preserving cultural goods, thus maintaining the key concept of a museum. If a museum is a place where a visitor can learn about history and culture in a non-traditional way, then might it be justified to give the same name to so many different institutions? Maybe the universality of the term is what helps all these institutions to function, as all visitors have certain ideas and expectations of what a museum is in their head. After all, the 250 institutions in London all share the same aim: to preserve and share their cultural heritage.
The East Wing Biennial Lewis Duncan
Susan Engledow Self Portrait 2016, â€˜Nervermore, thoâ€™ the wind sigh in the sedge Oil paint on skin plywood 73.4 x 73.4 cm
The History of the East Wing Biennial
“I want to be free, wild, beautiful, and beneficial. That is why I am doing such an outrageous thing at the Courtauld.”* * Factual Nonsense: The Art and Death of Joshua Compston (2013)
Joshua Compston’s vision for art in the everyday led him to found the East Wing Biennial and later, his East London gallery, Factual Nonsense. The first East Wing Biennial, then known as The Courtauld Loan Collection, opened on 27 November, 1991. This was the beginning of a short-lived but tremendous effort by the young eccentric to transform how people experience art. The East Wing Biennial has remained an important part of the student learning experience at the Courtauld. The new location at Vernon Square calls for a different approach this year. For the 2020 East Wing Biennial, students are excited to curate the Ruth Borchard Collection’s self-portraits throughout the building, offering wonderful artworks close-up, and exploring themes relating to the self. A portrait of Compston normally hangs on the second floor of the Vernon Square building and by this spring, the portrait will be joined by a diverse collection of self-portraits from the Ruth Borchard Next Generation Collection. The collection includes work from celebrated painters such as Celia Paul, Maggy Hambling, and prominent Young British Artists (YBAs) member, Tracey Emin,
and also young artists like Glasgow School of Art student Rowan Bazley and his pencil on paper self-portrait. To have a selection of works from across the spectrum of artists respects Compston’s support for emerging contemporary artists and reflects on the history of the Biennial as he played a seminal role in the early YBAs movement and East London art scene. This exhibition will see the walls brought to life with faces displayed throughout the building, with the East Wing team exhibiting works to convey community and personality. Compston’s fearless character is captured in Factual Nonsense: The Art and Death of Joshua Compston, a biography of compiled anecdotes and interviews collated by artist friend Darren Coffield, who exhibited in the original Courtauld Loan Collection. Among the many stories, Compston’s contemporaries describe his efforts to solicit funds for the Courtauld Loan Collection, met by disuasion from then director Dennis Farr CBE, who wrote Compston a stern letter chastising the student’s criticism of the university and audacity for writing to alumni and patrons. Nicholas Serota wrote back wishing “Good Luck.” But Compston’s 13
Biennial can give back and offer rich experiences. For an institution with an alumni network operating in the world’s most significant galleries and museums, one would expect some training on the tools required for such jobs, and yet, the uni versity has remained quite traditional in the way in which it focuses on the history of art. The East Wing Biennial modernised the student experience at the Courtauld. It needed to be pioneered by a student to break the tradition and bureaucracy of the university structure. Compston’s dynamism gave future students the opportunity to exercise their creativity and learn new skills.
efforts came to fruition, single handedly raising £25,000 with support from the Duchess of Westminster and Jeremy Fry, to hang a show featuring Gilbert and George, Howard Hodgkin, Langlands and Bell, and Damien Hirst. This first exhibition had a lasting mark on the art scene of the time, though Compston’s life was cut-short when in 1996 he died of an ether overdose in the Factual Nonsense Gallery. In one way, his vision was the antithesis of the highly corporate YBAs working today; this year, the East Wing Biennial team intends to have a strong public programme supporting and discussing the exhibition, working with schools, students, and artists so that the
Susan Light New Specs, 2011 Oil on paper on board 79 x 91 cm
“If the Courtauld had a contemporary art programme hither to then the whole of our culture in this country would be different. Because our culture is mainly controlled by Courtauld graduates.”
* Factual Nonsense: The Art and Death of Joshua Compston (2013)
Part 2 The 2020 East Wing Biennial A return to a focused look at the self feels relevant for 2020, to reflect on our lives in the 21st century. This will build on the 2016 exhibition, Artificial Realities, which made audiences consider their experience and perceptions of technology, and 2018’s exhibition, Surge, which challenged traditional mediums and explored gender. The Ruth Borchard Prize is a biennial competition that offers £10,000 prize to UK-based artists, with a number of works accepted into the collection. The collection and prize are displayed by Piano Nobile Gallery and is the UK’s only major collection of portraits. Working as a writer in the mid-20th century, Ruth Borchard would offer artists 21 guineas (approximately £1) for their paintings regardless of their status. The bold offer enabled her to amass one hundred self-portraits for the original collection, and demonstrated a passion for art somewhat similar to Compston’s. The original collection includes artworks
by significant figures such as David Bomberg, though it only includes five self-portraits by women. The East Wing team intends to exhibit highlights from the original collection alongside the Next Generation Collection to create a dialogue about socially relevant interpretations of the self. Tracey Emin is also included in the Next Generation Collection, and is also an artist that played a role in the art scene Compston helped stimulate in the mid-1990s. Networks and communities govern many artistic practices, and to convey these themes, the exhibition will also explore the self-portrait as an expression of individual identities and how they exist in art history and artistic groups. The exhibition will be launched at ResFest 2020, the annual Courtauld research festival. The festival brings together academics, artists, and poets for a variety of activities including talks, performances, workshops and pop-ups. Students will offer tours and introductions to the East Wing Biennial on the day.
The East Wing team hopes to continue the activity and energy that will be experienced during ResFest for the duration of the exhibition, with performances, workshops, and artists’ talks. As mentioned in his biography, Compston had a grand vision for educating the public, particularly local communities on contemporary art. He planned seminars to educate children about art and effectively communicate about the language employed by artists for expression. He wanted to amend the nationwide deficit in understanding and encouraging creativity. The East Wing team is keen to engage with schools and local community groups in the King’s Cross area. This is particularly important for the Courtauld as an institution that has landed itself in an unknown residential area. A baptist church by the gates, houses and apartment buildings surrounding all sides of the building, there’s a lot of potential for making the exhibition outward-looking and inviting. A private view event, open to all, will occur after the ResFest opening and from there an exciting programme of events will commence for the rest of the year. The East Wing team looks forward to providing students with a fascinating collection of artworks to enjoy while on campus and to promote curious and interesting encounters.
David Bomberg Self Portrait, 1921 Charcoal on paper 73.4 x 73.4 cm
“Ruth Borchard Collection is delighted to offer the experience to Courtauld students to curate the whole Next Generation Collection, for the first time ever.”* * Roberta Travers, Gallery Assistant at Piano Nobile Gallery
Jiro Osuga Crowd, 2013 Oil on canvas
All artworks from Ruth Borchard Collection
Rosie Sluggett & Kira Gurmail-Kaufmann
Materializing the Nude Subject Two artists and their take on the life drawing
Kira Gurmail-Kaufmann and Rosie Sluggett, two artists with two completely different drawing styles, approach the same subject of the nude through experiences taking life drawing classes across London. The subjects they draw become their own artistic â€˜musesâ€™ and lead them to materialize what they see onto paper in their own distinct artistic styles.
Drawing by Kira Gurmail-Kaufmann
Drawing by Rosie Sluggett
I have always been greatly interested in creating contrast in my work with fine linework and block colours. Having made studies from the Parthenon Marbles in the British Museum, I wanted to create another contrast between the cold dis tance of antiquity and the vibrancy of
modern, abstract colour. I then used drawings from life drawing sessions to create sculpture-like fragments of bodies, taking the warmth of living flesh and imbuing it with the coldness of the marble sculptures.
Confronting a naked body and some charcoal with the academic perfectionists of the Courtauld can provide great entertainment - furrowed brows while following the line of a breast, vigorous smudging when realising the genitals actually don’t quite look like that, and a flash of jealousy towards that one absolute bitch in the room who happens to be really quite good, are all behaviours to observe. To be honest, I’d say that those initial reactionsare pretty much as fun as the activity of drawing itself.
But after a few classes, your nervous classmates settle down in the comfort of the familiar, their lines becoming freer and more exuberant. An array of drawings of the same subject can vary so much that browsing through everyone else’s work becomes the evening’s warmest moment. Although at varying standards of finish, each drawing is a delightful little snippet of concentration, meditation, and curiosity.
The Problem of the Surrealist Muse
We should be viewing the women associated with Surrealism as artists and activists—not muses Audrey Warne
Dora Maar, 1907-1997 The years lie in wait for you c. 1935 Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper 355 × 254 mm The William Talbott Hillman Collection © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2019
The concept of the muse has haunted Surrealism since the movement first made its way into the art historical canon. Alongside claims that images featuring fragmented female bodies exemplify a de-
sire for violence against women, the trope of the female “Surrealist muse” has been used by so-called feminist art historians to reduce Surrealism to a misogynistic offshoot of European modernism. 25
While the Surrealists certainly would not live up to 21st century standards of social equality, any sweeping dismissal of the movement as fundamentally misogynistic and rooted in a deep-seated fear and hatred of women disregards the factious and highly complex organizational structure of the group and its many members. As we approach the centennial of the movement’s beginning, it is necessary to contextualize Surrealism’s impact on the
politics of gender and sexuality within its own historical period—and to reconsider the histories of the many women who participated in and influenced the group. There has been a resurgence in scholarship on female Surrealists in the past five years. Tate Modern’s Dora Maar retrospective, which closed on March 15, is only one of a number of recent shows dedicated to reconsidering the impact of the many women associated with the
Dora Maar, 1907-1997 Untitled c. 1933 Photograph, gelatin silver print 240 x 183 mm Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Richard and Ronay Menschel Fund for the Acquisition of Photographs © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2019
Dora Maar, 1907-1997 Untitled 1935 Photomontage 232 x 150 mm Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI / P. Migeat / Dist. RMN-GP © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2019
Surrealist group. Dorothea Tanning, Leonora Carrington, Leonor Fini, Lee Miller, Claude Cahun, Marcel Moore—all of these women have been the focus of exhibitions and publications that have aimed to reject the trope of the Surrealist muse. The concept of the muse exists only in opposition to that which gives it meaning. The muse cannot exist without the artist. Not only does the significance of the term ‘muse’ come from its relationship with the artist, but it is also highly gendered.
The male genius is inspired by his female muse. The label of the muse transforms a woman into an object whose value comes only from her relationship to the male artist. A muse does not exist for herself. These women did not identify as muses, they were labelled as such by the artists and historians who have been responsible for determining who gets to be a part of the art historical canon. While some art historians and curators are attempting to revise the canon, 27
the traditional view that the Surrealists had no room for women and that its male members had no interest in women outside of artistic inspiration or sexual objectification continues to dominate scholarship. By condemning Surrealism as a whole for misogyny, the radical and even progressive ideals of many of the group’s members are overshadowed by the problematic behaviors of - most often - the movement’s highly controversial founder, André Breton. While Breton and the other Surrealists did engage in misogynistic behavior at different points throughout their lives, Surrealism’s ultimate goal— the complete and total liberation of the self from the norms imposed by bourgeois society, including those associated with traditional gender roles—remained a radical point of departure from the heteropatriarchal conceptions of gender and sexuality that dominated France in the early 20th century. By continuing to perpetuate the idea that the female artists who worked in or around the Surrealist group were no more than muses to the men they interacted with, we define their artistic production and identities by their relationships to men. Dora Maar documented the effects of the Great Depression on urban populations throughout Europe. Dorothea Tanning spent over 70 years painting, sculpting, and writing. Leonora Carrington helped start the Mexican Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1970s. Leonor Fini was a polyamorous bisexual who designed the costumes for Federico Fellini’s 8 ½. Lee Miller became one of the first journalists to document the atrocities of the Holocaust during World War II. Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore were genderqueer Jewish lesbians who active-
ly participated in the French resistance against the Nazi Occupation. All these women created and lived outside of the constraints imposed by traditional gender roles and societal values. Some of them had relationships, both professional and personal, with male Surrealists, yet these relationships should not define their involvement with the movement or their work as artists. By rejecting the label of the muse, we provide space for new histories to be written—histories that tell the stories of the women who found artistic and personal freedom in the tenets of Surrealism.
Dora Maar, 1907-1997 Untitled (Fashion photograph) c. 1935 Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper 300 x 200 mm Collection Therond ÂŠ ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2019
A Climb To The Moon William Blake and his “little man’s” big aspiration Alessandra Marchesi
Illustration by Nicholas Tang
Wind whispering through the trees, a wave breaking on a shore, the heartbeat of a human being, a baby crying, a man laughing, the sound of a kiss. Imagine all these sounds floating eternally in remote space. Launched by Nasa on September 5, 1977, the spacecraft Voyager contained the so-called ‘Murmurs of Earth’: simple images, greetings, and sounds trying to present the complexity of our world. Ever since, the space probe has been travelling among the stars with no real destination, only waiting to be discovered, finally heard. Likewise, we wander around the world without a certain destination, in the hope of bumping into something that will give us a meaning. And day by day we greet people, we laugh, we cry, we hear the waves crashing on the beach and we shiver for a blast of wind. We collect all these images, sounds, feelings as if, like the Voyager, one day we will fly off towards an unknown planet and carry with us the legacy of humankind.
When looking up at the starry sky, I like to imagine myself as that little man faintly sketched in William Blake’s illustration for The Gates of Paradise. The engraving, realised in 1793 by the British poet and painter, shows a man at the bottom of a long ladder, whose opposite end leans against the moon. Alone in his venture,he is about to cross the dark outer space. On the right, a couple observes the apparently impossible endeavour. Although the two figures are barely outlined, we can perceive their apprehension and fear as they cling to one another and point at the brave little man. Beneath the scene, “I want! I want!” is written in bold black letters. It is the desperate cry of the figure as he gazes upwards. Not bigger than a playing card, the plate is just as playful. It comes naturally to laugh at the naivety of the little man, whose desire is so blinding that he does not foresee the absurdity of the journey.
However, just like we can be tricked by cards, the engraving can be read from another angle. I find its innocence somehow evocative. No matter how pathetic he might look, the sketched figure keeps hoping that one day he will reach the moon. Indeed, I would say that he is not that different from us, the dreamers who look yearningly at the stars. Dazzled by the passing headlights and the steady lamp posts, we look for authenticity in the last few surviving glimmerings of the night. â€œSpeak silence with thy glimmering eyesâ€?, wrote Blake in his poem To the Evening Star. Like silent confidants, stars have been eyeing humanity ever since the very beginning. And humanity, in turn, has been entrusting its hopes and secrets to them. Poets and painters have been ascending that ladder with every rhyme or brushstroke that led them closer to capturing the nature of stars. Driven by the same innocence, the same curiosity, they were not daunted by the dimension of the challenge.
Like Blakeâ€™s man, we are constantly spurred by desire. It is the will to know things, to experience, and to be better that can blind us, but it is the same need that makes us alive. It would be easy to rely on our own certainties and, like the two figures on the right, be mere witnesses of life. Yet, if we settle for being earthbound, we will be stuck in the trivial loop of passivity. Instead, if we are brave enough to start our climb towards the moon, at the cost of looking stupid or ridiculous, we can reach new perspectives in life. Even though stars are gradually fading away, shadowed by the ever-growing artificiality of city lights, we should keep looking for them in every corner of the sky. And when we see them, we should be reminded of that little manâ€™s big wisdom. In this way, we can evade the constraints of ordinary life and take action to pursue our ambitions. After all, unlike the Voyager, we have the power to define our path and give our own meaning to those countless images, sounds, and feelings that we gather every day.
Chameleons Kamran Sajid
we are chameleons varnished in red, white and blue our varnish brands us in forests and deserts but in the harsh light of the concrete factory we are only green our colours mix and brawl in the sky leaving our horizons foggy the sky is speaking to us in our mother tongue why must our horizons be foggy? oh, our homes are brighter now (!) we have cake in our cupboards (!) well, the harsh light blinds us the cake leaves us bloated we’rebystill All illustrations Afahvitamin Sheikh D deficient
we scrub at our varnish with postcolonial fervour and we return to our roots we were born in flooded warzones grounds blasphemed by red flags and land mines our soaking glasses impeded our vision, and we continue to explode the lava ground was green for our parents isn’t it ironic? how ambition was what removed them of their clarity? so what is left of us? our spirits crushed by misunderstanding identity and home painfully intangible it is our colours that remain resolute in a refusal to be exoticised with a heart revealing a green that never faded away
Illustrations by Afah Sheikh Instagram: @safahmaryam
An Unannounced Arrival Bernard Buffet and his muse Campari Conchiglie In times less sensitive and more politically incorrect than our own, Zeus would have been called ‘a playboy’ or, to put it more crudely, ‘a bit of a lad’. If he were alive today, however, he would find himself under investigation or arrest: it transpires that he used his powerful position as the King of Gods to sexually harass and prey on young women, disguising himself as many things including (but not limited to) a shower of gold, a bull, and a swan. Far from being traumatized, it appears that nine of his children went on to lead successful lives inspiring poets, painters, dancers and so on; these nine daughters were the offspring of Zeus and Mnemosyne: the Muses. Inspiration, something which the ancients simply couldn’t seem to figure out, is hard to describe, let alone define. While scientists (particularly those with a great many letters after their name) of our less romantic times have drawn some conclusions as to what it is and how it comes about, the way that the everyman sees inspiration has remained more or less the same. To most, inspiration is the unannounced arrival of something profound while you are otherwise engaged. To Bernard Buffet, that something was ‘Annabel’.
An incredibly well-celebrated, patronised, and prolific painter of the mid-late 20th century, Bernard Buffet has been inexplicably wiped from the contemporary knowledge of ‘who’s who’ in the 20th century art world. Quite literally the greatest rival to Picasso that the century had to offer, Buffet led a somewhat extraordinary life painting, smoking, drinking, loving and hating, deliberately remembering and deliberately forgetting, living. Having married and divorced one woman and very recently fallen out of love with one man, by July 1958, Buffet found himself in rather… well…a pickle. A sensational party, hosted by Buffet in his grand and simultaneously rustic Chateau l’Arc, resulted in inspiration. Lending reason to a bullfight staged in a temporary bullring, dinner, dancing, and a firework display, the party strikes as one that would have been hard to forget (provided that you were not inebriated, intoxicated… just plain drunk). As dawn broke on July 11, Buffet found himself swimming (fully clothed) by the side of a young and boyish looking woman: Annabel Schwob de Lure. It is hard to deny that Annabel Schwob de Lure, who was to become Annabel Buffet on December 12 of that same year, was Buffet’s muse.
Illustration by Vitoria Mendes
“To most, inspiration is the unannounced arrival of something profound while you are otherwise engaged. To Bernard Buffet, that something was ‘Annabel’.” 37
His first picture of her was drawn with charcoal. On the process, Annabel was to later recall:
During the following years, Annabel became Buffet’s muse: his sitter, his subject. He painted a series entitled Portraits d’Annabel to be exhibited under the same title at the Galerie David et Garnier, Paris, in 1961. However, two pictures of this series, which followed the initial charcoal sketch, were never exhibited; they are known only to a few friends of the Buffets’. Annabel was more to Bernard than just his sitter. Having lived a troubled life of battling against anxiety, poverty, and, one would suppose, never-ending rumination, Buffet connected with Annabel on an especially deep level; after all, she was one of the more remarkable women to emerge from Paris’ subterranean nightclubs. Plagued by death, Annabel’s life may well have been even more tragic than Buffet’s: her mother committed suicide when she was just eight. Moreover, studying the story in retrospect grants one the novelty of knowing its conclusion long before its protagonists: both Annabel’s father and husband were to commit suicide too. Married and together until the end of Bernard’s life in 1999, these two undeniably troubled artists sought refuge and inspiration in each other. To Annabel, Bernard was a rock - a predictably unpredictable, passionate, and sensitive lover and friend. To Bernard, Annabel was his everything. His Muse.
“Bernard, sketchbook on his knees, stared at me with his green eyes, drawing silently. An unforgettable moment. When I saw it, I was amazed to discover that his love had washed years of strain from my face – I was young and happy again. A second birth.”
“His Muse.” 38
My visit to the first Vagina Museum Kitty Cook
Before endeavouring to actually visit the Vagina Museum in Camden Market, a pop-up museum based there for a short time, I had some initial thoughts and opinions about the museum itself and questions or themes I hoped it would discuss and display. I think it is safe to say that the Vagina Museum has been created based on the fundamental assumption that much of the general public or Camden tourists from across the world are unaware of the complexities and stigmas surrounding vaginas. With this in mind, I woke up on a crisp and cold Saturday in January and decided to take the bus and see what the Vagina Museum was really all about. Whilst on the way, I had received awkward jokes and giggles from my friends on discovering where I was headed to. My
mother’s audible cringe at the end of the phone conversation we had that morning raised some questions for me. If the idea of a ‘Vagina Museum’ is so obviously jovial and embarrassing to different members of the public from all ages and identities, how would the museum itself project this stigma into its exhibit space to tackle these stereotypes about vaginas? Before I delve into my personal experience at the Vagina Museum, I thought it would be beneficial to copy down in this article the museum’s mission statement from their website: 1. Spread knowledge and raise awareness of the gynaecological anatomy and health 2. Give confidence to people to talk about issues surrounding the gynaecological anatomy 3. Erase the stigma around the body and gynaecological anatomy 4. Act as a forum for feminism, women’s rights, the LGBT+ community and the intersex community 5. Challenge heteronormative and cisnormative behaviour 6. Promote intersectional, feminist and trans-inclusive values On arriving at the Vagina Museum’s small space within Camden Market itself, I realised that the physical amount of space they were working with was arguably difficult to construct a concise message into. Perhaps controversial to some, 39
the Vagina Museum widely uses discourse to portray itself. This can be seen through the array of boards dotted across the small space all with facts concerning vaginaâ€™s and their representation within our society. What I liked as you entered the museum is the play on words on the centre-board, â€˜Muff Bustersâ€™. In itself, the term provides a humorous stage to set the museum and its pieces albeit alongside serious and concerning facts about views and opinions from across the world of female genitalia. As the museum is based mostly on textual information, it forced me to question my own idea of a museum away from the traditional status-quo and wonder
about the changing ideas behind spaces such as these. Although, it is important to remember that the Vagina Museum itself is a pop-up space, and a permanent fixture would have maybe led the curators to take a more visual approach to their message. Despite this, it was interesting to see how the museum offers a chance for local artists to display their feminist and body-positive works in a small space dedicated to this within the gift-shop area. In January, illustrator Charlotte Willcox showcased her work. Personally, I love this touch within the space as it portrays a real feeling of permanence to the project and what it stands for. It is interesting to consider the changing nature of museums in our modern
All illustrations by Vitoria Mendes
world whilst experiencing the Vagina Museum. Originally, the team began launching small pop ups and exhibitions across the country in 2017. In cases such as the Vagina Museum, having the title of ‘museum’ plays an important role in the way they are conveying information to their audience. If this was just an exhibition, I would find it highly likely for there not to be such a commotion and as much interest and publicity surrounding it. In this way, I think it is interesting that the Vagina Museum uses its platform and status as a ‘museum’ to educate about something that is severely lacking in the art world. If you asked the average person on their perception of female genitalia within art, it is likely they would imagine an almost romanticised version of the female anatomy. Even throughout history, art has had an uncomfortable relationship with displaying genitals; a common conception of this is the use of fig leaves created to cover the anatomies of the classical sculptures acquired by the Vatican City. Although I came in with many presuppositions about what I would see and experience at the Vagina Museum, mainly that I would feel uncomfortable and slightly embarrassed by my visit there, I was pleasantly surprised with how the project managed to give an informative yet non-abrasive experience for the visitor and stay true to its mission statement, and I hope they find permanent premises and continue to do so.
“It is interesting to consider the changing nature of museums in our modern world whilst experiencing the Vagina Museum.”
My Personal Museion
The pursuit of inspiration through the lense of a 35mm film camera Zofia BeauprĂŠ
More than two years ago, I decided to sign up to take darkroom classes at my high school. During the very first lesson, our teacher encouraged us to establish a certain theme that we could frequently document and use as our photographic subject. I was thus told to start considering what I could photograph in my environment that could be of any interest to me. I realized that the most interesting photographic subjects around me were my friends - people with whom I came into contact with every day and knew their routines almost by heart. Thus, I decided to dedicate most of my work to them and their daily endeavors. The themes of these projects varied - I took photos of them eating, styling their hair, or simply indulging in everyday pleasures. As I explored these various themes I became more and more fascinated with capturing them in their most natural state while doing the things they did frequently in pursuit of pleasure, satisfaction or relaxation. The places where my photos were taken were usually where my classmates and I spent the majority of our time studying or relaxing after school. Hence, it is there where I produced most of these staged or natural images. For example, by taking photos of my friends eating their favorite meals in the places where they dined regularly, I was able to capture them in a casual state while doing something they enjoyed. This resulted in producing images of them in a rather awkward demeanor as they ate their food, but thanks to this, they seemed more candid and raw.
I became so absorbed in this subject that in our studio class I even decided to recreate a scene from school; with the use of an old classroom desk, I photographed two of my friends. I instructed them to look slightly bored or even mad in order to reflect the way they act in school. Another instance was when our yearbook photos were taken and I decided to make use of the professional lighting equipment. I asked my friends to turn around so that I could take photos of the way they styled their hair for that occasion. Seeing the same people nearly every day in similar surroundings inspired me to try and capture them in their most “raw state” and thus, emphasize the attributes of their character with which I associated them with the most - manifested in what they ate, their sport activities, or the path they took to school. As a result, I believe that I was able to generate a series of photos that reflected my environment in the most complimentary way. This approach towards documenting the ‘everyday’ has made me become more conscious and as a result, more appreciative of my surroundings. Instead of dwelling on the monotony of mundane experiences, I strive to explore the various aspects of my friends’ day-to-day activities, which has enabled me to transform my daily environment into my own personal museion.
“Transform my daily environment into my own personal museion.”
Can’t Cit It Out Unveiling the Megalopolis By Zoe Manset
For a fair amount of times when trying to spread my thoughts on blank paper, I wondered if the concept of the nine muses was some sort of trick invented by unsuccessful artists looking for excuses. I mean, blaming writer’s block on Calliope taking a day off sounds a whole lot easier than telling your editor that you just can’t do it. As both sneaky and plausible as this may sound, my romanticism ultimately got the upper hand and unveiled a theory that is now a firm belief of mine. A couple of years ago, the sinews of my literary explorations had me seated atop a vast rooftop overlooking the dizzying chessboard of dark back alleys and shiny skyscrapers that draws out Hong Kong Island. I was writing an article on the notion of Desire, the burning, all-consuming feeling spelt out with a capital D. Attending your average high school, I’d had the chance to observe and meditate on the power of adolescent desire. I had a lot to say, thoughts moved around in my mind in an excited frenzy that I’d felt many times in the past. I felt this need, this borderline ecstasy of knowing that there is something that you absolutely have to get out there and onto paper, canvas or whatever your medium may be. This tingly feeling in the tips of my fingers that had gotten me out of bed time and time again, and left me fidgeting in the middle of my room, trying to get my thoughts in order and start creating. At this very moment, this burning feeling
to create something, whatever it was and however much it was worth melted and fused with the utter shock I felt gazing at the city below me. Again, this was a known feeling that would sometimes get to me and find me dizzy for a little while as I contemplated the city I called home, its never fading lights and incessant buzz.
“I wondered if the concept of the nine muses was some sort of trick invented by unsuccessful artists looking for excuses.” It was an urge to run through it, soak it in, and somehow incorporate it. An article that had started out as a tale of human desire for others, turned into the exploration of the sensations both the city and the desire to create triggered in me. They were almost physical. There was such a sensuous power to them that they could have been compared to a feeling of lust, one to be easily felt in the face of Apollo’s mythical muses. The city below me was its very own well of inspiration. It was exhilarating, its constant flow of people and things that 51
moved around between sea, mountains, and steel high rises over crumbling two storey houses. For as many years as there are muses, I sang, danced, acted out, wrote and sometimes even drew (to the despair of my art teacher) following Hong Kong’s rhythm. It did not matter what it was or how good what I produced was, it just had to get out. That is just what this city did to you, a concentration of thousands of elements lost in the South China Sea. The issue with staying in the same place for a long time is that nothing prompts you to consider it within different frameworks. Hong Kong to me wasn’t a city, it wasn’t the economically booming megalopolis Europeans hear about on the news. It was home. It was rows of dodgy market stalls on faux marble floors, rocky beaches and smoky winds from the Mainland. And although I’d been lucky enough to visit other cities around the world, the idea that Hong Kong could fit under and be part of the generic appellation of ‘city’ had never hit home. As it did in many realms of my personal construction, settling in London last year was what changed it for me. It brought me to the realisation that Hong Kong was not the only place, and more specifically, not the only city to trigger intense emotions that begged to be translated into something else. I had thought my home had been inspiring because I loved it fiercely, yet discovered I could hate and still be furiously prompted to create. I settled in London and brooded. I refused to open my eyes and kept them shut so tight that the only thing that filtered under my swollen eyelids were large and uninviting patches of grey.
I did not like London and refused my entire self to it. Yet, as much as I hurt and felt misplaced, the city was still there and so was my wide grey avenues, need to write, to get its bricks and its wide grey avenues, its hostility out of my system. I was both surprised and scared, because whilst nothing to me seemed inspiring about this big bog of a place, the jittery feeling that sometimes took ahold of me in a delicious frenzy was ever there. It waited for me to accept that. After pushing away the unnecessary fuzz, the overwhelming crowds that were welcoming in Hong Kong and somehow wild in London, the core of what it is that draws one to or repulses one away from the city was what mattered to create. Behind all cities, in their conglomerate of human emotions, bits of nature and creation, hides a well-intentioned muse waiting for the flames of passionate creation to roar. Her job stops there. To know whether this flame will destroy all or warm up and comfort is entirely up to you. A year later, Iâ€™m not brooding but Iâ€™m still writing. London hasnâ€™t really changed, but the way I write about it has. It went from bitter and sarcastic to tender and curious. But most of all, this very special city had me realise that I could well have stayed hostile towards it and yet continued to be inspired by it. Because the city, with the brunette woman smoking cigarettes in her dimly lit living room every evening at ten past six and with the tree that I frequently walked past that made me discover the joys of spring and the gloomy winter, was always there.
All photographs by Zoe Manset
Svečiuose pas Rothko* Liza Mišeikytė
100cm x 120cm oil on canvas Photograph by Elena Krukonyte
* Loosely translated to Revisiting Rothko
You Are Enough
A reflection on our self-worth By Anouk de Laubier
Frida Kahlo once wrote: “I am the person I know best” – She believed herself to be her own muse. In today’s society, seeing ourselves as enough can either be considered as being ‘too’ confident, ‘too’ self-aware or ‘too’ arrogant. Why imprison our uniqueness in order to ‘fit in’? French author André Gide wrote, “be faithful to that which exists within yourself ” and “dare to be yourself.”
The concept of the muse has not drastically changed over the centuries, and the idea of embodying perfection for someone else remains heavily suggested behind the word. The muse however, has no subjectivity; most of the time she is historically viewed as a female of extraordinary beauty. Metamorphosed into an idealized object of the male gaze, the muse becomes a ‘product’ of someone else’s mind, her individuality is suppressed and her mysterious attraction is the only thing that perpetuates in history. Who really is the muse and what makes her so unique and appealing outside of the artist’s representation? Being a muse today becomes ever more challenging as well as problematic. Social media pushes us to attain perfection. I would even argue that it constraints us to fit into multiple perfections at the same time. Be ‘thin’, have white teeth, be ‘curvy’ (but not too much), travel, go to restaurants, show your friends, get drinks, party, and eventually, show that you are doing some educated gallery and museum visits. In the end, some influencers have become our own evil muse. 58
To dare and be daring, now that is something that requires personal strength and self-confidence, aspects which many of us do not even attempt or consider to be worth trying. Easy to say, harder to do -I know. On another note, can we be someone else’s unconditional muse without being a muse to ourselves first? Being your own muse leads to an ego trip of some kind, but your own individuality also abounds with mystery and creativity. You are an inexhaustible source of surprises, and seeking to find your own identity would be restricting yourself to the absurdity of only having a single personality, obliviating your originality. In creating different mises-en-scène, Cindy Sherman used her own body to create multiple identities. Are those identities in some way autobiographical? That remains a question unanswered, but Cindy Sherman is to me the embodiment of a free muse, using her persona and her own body to create someone else, a different ‘her’ each time.
Illustration by Jago Henderson
In another genre, self-portraits are problematic in their own way. Broadly speaking, there are two types of self-portraits: the ones which concentrate exclusively on the physical accuracy of the sitter, and those which focus on making the inward outward, in other words, making the invisible visible. Albrecht Dürer’s self-portraits are an acute representation of the physical, handsome-looking
man that the artist was and differ greatly from Van Gogh’s troubled self-portraits. Self-portraits are the first step towards understanding your own body, face and mind. While self-portraiture is a starting point in considering and acknowledging ourselves as worthy of representation, it also works metaphorically as a window and guides the beholder in understanding the artistic self presented.
Note to self:
How can you learn from others if you do not know yourself first? Understand your weaknesses, make the most out of them, but be proud of your perfections as well. Comparison leads you nowhere. Instead, acknowledge that you are enough and that inspiration that comes from others is important, but not crucial. You can learn from others but expressing your own uniqueness when creating can only come from you. You can and you should be proud to be your own source of inspiration, your own muse. Don’t let society demotivate you. Be more daring. Dare to show your worth and have no boundaries.
Dolly Parton Challenge Renaissance Babes Edition
Cartoon by Rebecca Marks
In the past, the idea of the 'muse' related to the passive female lover whose sole purpose was to inspire the 'genius' artist. Even though w...
Published on Mar 17, 2020
In the past, the idea of the 'muse' related to the passive female lover whose sole purpose was to inspire the 'genius' artist. Even though w...