Native American painter Nocona Burgess exhibits at Rainmaker Gallery

Native American Artist Nocona Burgess Visits Bristol for Solo Exhibition at Rainmaker Gallery. Below is the press release for this exhibition, which I wrote, and then co-edited with the director of the gallery.

“White Belly” acrylic on canvas by Nocona Burgess for Rainmaker Gallery, Bristol UK.

Nocona Burgess pushes American Indian portraiture forward with strikingly modern depictions of people from tribal Nations of the Southern Plains.

Powerful portraits of Native American Indians by Comanche artist Nocona Burgess will be presented at Rainmaker Gallery, Bristol, from 16 July to 30 September 2015. These paintings mix careful research, firsthand knowledge and raw passion. Through combining brightly coloured shapes with crisply outlined facial features and traditional dress, Burgess explores the cultural context, life story and identity of each sitter. In this way, the artist urges us to update our perceptions of Native people and consider the intriguing and often highly politicised place of Native American portraiture.

Nocona Burgess, his wife Danielle and his son Quahada, will visit Bristol for a two-week residency, resulting from an ongoing collaboration between Rainmaker Gallery and the American Museum in Britain. During this residency the artist will attend the exhibition opening; teach workshops on colour theory; and give talks about his art, his life and his legendary family history.


“Huuinu Waiipu – Timber Woman”, acrylic on canvas by Nocona Burgess (Comanche) for Rainmaker Gallery, Bristol UK.

Burgess is a member of the Comanche Nation of Oklahoma. He is the son of a former tribal chief and the great great grandson of one of the most revered Native American leaders, Chief Quanah Parker. Burgess grew up surrounded by art. His father went to art school to focus on drawing and painting, and his grandparents made quilts and beadwork from their own designs.

In 1989, Burgess fully developed his artistic talents at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, NM. He was fascinated by how more traditional forms of Native art evolve into contemporary movements. This fascination came to define his focus, leading him to reinterpret traditionally inspired portraits with his own modern slant. It is the notion of the modern Indian that he seeks in his work and recognises in himself.

By painting with vibrant pigments onto dark backgrounds Burgess has perfected a method that he describes as “painting outward”. This approach produces the richly contrasting colours of his distinctive canvases and gives his art a vivid depth. Burgess’ paintings inspire and educate through their unusual techniques and positive dialogues between past and present.

Painting for Burgess is a way of reaching out to others. He strives for an intimate connection with each subject, eager to know their characters. Through his paintings Burgess says thank you to his ancestors for their sacrifices in helping to make the contemporary Native identity what it is today.

Burgess’ paintings have received numerous awards and have been featured in many publications. He exhibits throughout the USA and beyond and this summer alone sees his paintings in Australia, England and America. They can also be found in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC. His numerous collectors include the actor Johnny Depp.

Situated on the border of Redland and Westbury Park in North Bristol, Rainmaker Gallery is the UK showcase for the very best in contemporary Native North American Indian art and design. Founded in 1991 by Joanne Prince, to provide an authentic Native American Indian voice in the UK, Rainmaker promotes awareness, education and cultural exchange through artist talks, events and exhibitions. The gallery exhibits original paintings, drawings and fine art prints and carries a superb collection of high quality handmade American Indian jewellery, Zuni fetish carvings and Pendleton blankets.

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.

 

 

T. J. Clark comes to London to shed new light on Picasso and ‘truth’

Published in Trebuchet Magazine

This autumn, acclaimed art historian T. J. Clark has been travelling round London giving talks about his latest book ‘Picasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica’. In this book Clark concentrates on the artwork Picasso produced during the 1920s, which has been considered not to be the artist’s best period. Indeed, Greenberg calls the results of this artistic epoch a failure of nerve. Other scholars have criticised Picasso’s art at this time in terms of its ‘brightness’, condemning it as overdone. Clark conveyed that he wanted to re-address the 1920s because it is neglected and misunderstood – a motive that fits well with his well-known desires to re-address the methodologies and focuses of the history of art in a new type of Social Art History.

Clark concentrates on three particular paintings in his central chapters. The first, ‘Guitar and Mandolin on a Table’ 1924, which he renames ‘Still Life in Front of a Window’, is the largest still life Picasso ever did. Next to be considered is ‘The Three Dancers’ made in 1925 – a painting Picasso said was his best, or better than ‘Guernica’. This is renamed as ‘Young Girls Dancing in Front of a Window’ in Clark’s book. The last central painting addressed is ‘The Painter and His Model’ 1927, which is by far the least well-known work of the three. The renaming of the paintings to locate the subject matter within rooms and to include window references is important for Clark’s argument, as I hope to illustrate later.  Continue reading