What’s in an image? – Marlene Dumas at the Tate

Tate Modern handout for their Marlene Dumas exhibitionMarlene Dumas, ‘Naomi’, 1995, oil on canvas, 130 x 110cm

The title Naomi doesn’t determine the identity of the face in the painting, but it does invite a certain intimacy with the viewer. Naomi. Is this Naomi Campbell, one of the supermodels of our century? If so, this is our chance to really see her up close and even to be offered her full, sensual lips. However, there could be scorn in her narrowed eyes, emphasised by the sharply arched eyebrows. She could be rising defiantly out of the shadows away from our mundane world, although, equally, they could be consuming her. Like many of Dumas’s paintings, it is not clear and we are left to experience this uncomfortable position of not knowing or being able to confidently react to an image, even an image of a person whose form we know so well.

The purposeful lack of clarity to many of Dumas’s paintings partly stems from the fact that she often paints from second hand images, particularly those from the media. This makes her work similar to the result of Chinese whispers; the subjects evolve every time they are captured and communicated through an image that is not their original. Does this allow Dumas – and the viewer – to think about the image rather than the person and the emotions that surround them? This would certainly allow for a more critical engagement with the work.

Naomi seems to be a disturbing cross between a fashion illustration, a fashion photograph and an abstract figurative painting. The conflation of these different types of visual communication suggests that this painting is as much about how we construct and present images, particularly those of women, as it is about what the images themselves represent. It does prompt us to consider what sort of image of ourselves we present to the world each day.

 

Tate Modern currently displays the most significant exhibition of Marlene Dumas’s work ever to be held in Europe, open until 10 May 2015.

 

 

Palestine: What Hope Peace?

This article is published in Trebuchet Magazine.

On the 14th of November, Bristol was given the opportunity to watch the first viewing of the film, “Palestine: What Hope Peace”, by activist and freelance journalist Kerry-Anne Mendoza. Bristol was an appropriate city in which to introduce her film not only because it is her home, but also because of the variety of ways that it has expressed its concerns for Palestine, including active societies at the university, a two-week occupation outside the BBC buildings back in July along with almost daily demonstrations in the city’s centre, and in particular the establishment of an innovative Palestinian Museum (where Mendoza’s film was shown).

Mendoza has been travelling to Palestine and Israel since 2002, interviewing locals and documenting the conflict and its effects, which she feels is never accurately revealed by the mainstream media. Her latest film, lasting an hour and a half, documents the catastrophes that took place in July and August of this year, which was catalysed by the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli men aged sixteen to nineteen.  Continue reading

Through Our Hands: New magazine on contemporary art & quilts

Through Our Hands magazine front coverThrough Our Hands is an online platform developed by Annabel Rainbow and Laura Kemshall promoting contemporary artists and makers, specialising in quilts. One of their aims is to help quilting gain a wider and refreshed recognition in the wider world. The project’s beginnings coincided with an exhibition on quilts, featuring Annabel’s work, at Leamington Spa Museum and Art Gallery in 2012, which I reviewed for The University of Warwick Student newspaper.

They have just launched their new, online quarterly magazine featuring artists’ work, interviews with makers, tips on quilting techniques and exhibition features. I was very pleased that Annabel asked me to contribute to the magazine with a piece on the Matisse exhibition in London.

The link to the magazine is here.

 

 

The Press Photography of Red Vienna 1929 – 1938: An interview

Published on the UCL Art Museum BlogHelen Cobby interviews the researchers of the Red Vienna project, Eva Branscome and Catalina Mejia, before their Pop-Up Display and Lecture on 12th Nov.

Nazis handing out soup in front of Karl Marx Hof

Nazis handing out soup in front of Karl Marx Hof

This event is based round American press photographs depicting social housing estates during the turbulent inter-war years in Vienna. The photographs record three specific epochs within this time frame, from the building of the social houses to the take-over of Austria by the Nazis. The interview below includes Eva’s and Catalina’s thoughts about the development of their project, the active role of the photographs in the manipulation of historical events, as well as the importance of new photographic technologies emerging at the time and new relations between image and caption that this brings.

How would you summarise some of the fundamental debates posed by these press photographs? And what social constructions do you think the photographs specifically add to, or help create?

Eva: The first lot of photographs I have document the fantastic socialist housing projects that took place in Vienna at the end of the 1920s. The government realised it had a problem with overcrowding and people being homeless after the First World War. These housing projects addressed issues with families, and with children – such as not having a place to play, and being forced into crime. It was believed that by giving families decent homes, society could be changed and people could be made happier and more productive. These housing projects produced great excitement internationally by experimenting with Socialism through architecture and thinking about how it could change the world.  Continue reading