Author: The Kurios

Floating fantasy

In Carlos Bongiovanni’s works, objects are not what they seem. Seen from afar, these unsettling paintings may appear to contain conventional imagery – birds, pieces of fruit, for instance – but upon closer inspection, strange, unsettling objects appear. They retain some elements of the original image, but morph into something else, something less obviously recognisable and disconcerting. Bongiovanni was born in Ushuaia, Argentina in 1983 and now lives in Buenos Aires. To see more images of Bongiovanni’s work, read the  July/August issue of The Kurios. Photo: Heart © Carlos Bongiovanni. Courtesy of Galeria Mar Dulce, Buenos Aires.

Beautiful waste

Serene mosaic figures rise out of the courtyard at Pallant House Gallery, the subject of a new exhibition displaying the eclectic work of the late Nek Chand (1924-2015). The renowned Indian artist died just a few days before the exhibition opened in mid-June, giving this show special significance. Chand was born in 1924 in the village of Berian Kala, in what is now Pakistan. In 1947, he relocated to India with his family. As his day job he was a public roads inspector, but in the evenings he began to mould figures out of recycled and found materials including shells, cooking pots, broken crockery, glass bangles and electrical fittings. Chand, who as entirely self-taught, would make the body of each figure from a mixture of cement and sand, before covering it with discarded objects. The resulting sculptures are highly tactile but also transcendently beautiful. “Nek Chand is a deeply spiritual man, fascinated by the mystical significance of rocks,” said the curators of the exhibition, which is taking place at the gallery in Chichester, southern England. “Chand believed that …

Now who’s wearing the trousers?

Pioneering photographer Annemarie Heinrich (1912-2005) had hard mountains to climb but her persistence eventually paid off. The daring Argentine artist, who moved to Argentina with her family to escape the Nazis, lived at a time when photography was considered a lesser cultural form in Buenos Aires. To complicate matters further, Heinrich liked to experiment with photographing nudity. She kept this a secret which, given that society even disapproved of her habit of wearing trousers to work, was probably wise. A comprehensive retrospective of the German-born photographer’s work at the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires (MALBA) — which ended earlier this month — uncovered her passionate, and very private, experiments with photography. Heinrich photographed many stars of the cinema, theatre and ballet in the 1930s and 1940s, when Argentina cinema was experiencing its Golden Age. In this era, Buenos Aires – dubbed the ‘Paris of the South’ — was a magnet for foreign performers who relished the rich cultural life of the city. The resplendent Colon Theatre is still considered one of the …

Through the looking glass

Since Europeans first made contact with China in the sixteenth century, Chinese art has exerted a heady influence on Western fashion. A new exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, China: Through the Looking Glass, examines the influence of Chinese aesthetics on some of the West’s most lauded fashion designers. A collaboration between the Met’s Asian Art department and The Costume Institute, it mixes high fashion with costumes, films, paintings, porcelains, and other art from China. The exhibition seeks to draw out the image the West has of China, a country which has inspired nostalgia and fantasy in the minds of many of these designers. The curator’s decision to reference Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland in the title of the exhibition reflects the fantasy China has inspired in the West. Chinese history and cinema are seen to have exerted a particular pull on the West’s imagination. Three periods of Chinese history are given particular emphasis — Imperial China, the Republic of China, and the Imperial Republic of China. In the Republic of China, Shanghai …

Remote corners

The work of British photographer Jimmy Nelson (b. 1967) has taken him to some of the least-travelled parts of the world. The self-taught artist began taking photographs when he embarked upon a journey across Tibet in 1987, aged just 19. His year-long journey through the Himalayan country lasted one year, and resulted in a visual diary of images of parts of Tibet that had not previously been explored. His initial foray into photography was published and gained him international attention. Fast forward nearly three decades and Nelson has been present at some of the most culturally and historically significant events of our time. In the 1990s, he was commissioned to document Russia’s involvement in Afghanistan and the beginning of the war in Yugoslavia. In 1994, Nelson and his Dutch wife also embarked on a pioneering photography project in China just as the People’s Republic was opening up. The 30-month project, to be called Literary Portraits of China, took them to the far reaches of the vast nation. In the late 1990s, Nelson began to receive …

Musical cure

The kissar is a 19th-century lyre from northern Sudan, traditionally used at ceremonies to eliminate possession by spirits, considered mental illness in some parts of the Middle East. An enormous kissar adorned with coins, charms and beads is currently on display at the British Museum, and gives us a fascinating insight into the cultural practices of the region. The kissar would have been played at weddings by a singer and spirit healer. It would also have been used at cults known as Zār ceremonies, and the trance dances which took place during these ceremonies. Zār ceremonies, which remain popular in the region to this day, were designed to calm the restless spirits of the possessed in Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. The ceremonies are typically viewed, not as exorcism, but as a means for women to form a social bond and communicate more openly in conservative Muslim societies. To continue reading about the traditions of the Sudanese lyre, check out the July/August issue of The Kurios. Music, celebration and healing: the Sudanese lyre is on at the British Museum, London, until …

Zurich to Tehran

Iranian-born Shirana Shahbazi produces photographs in classical art-historical genres, including landscape, portraiture and still life. She often repeats images across different mediums, for instance in hand-painted billboards in Iran, or in hand-made carpets. Recently, she has also translated her imagery into large-scale installations hung on wallpaper. In her latest body of work, shown here, Shahbazi was inspired by a family road trip from Zurich to Tehran in April of last year. These delicate, washed-out images appear to evoke travel and landscape photography, but they are far more intimate than typical images of that kind. See more images of Shahbazi’s work in the July/August issue of The Kurios. Photo: © Shirana Shahbazi. Photo courtesy of On Stellar Rays, New York.

A stranger no longer?

It has been a long time coming, but now that a sequel to Albert Camus’ classic L’Etranger (The Stranger) has arrived, we wonder why it didn’t happen sooner. The French writer’s existentialist classic about the absurdity of life was first published in 1942 and is still widely read and loved (particularly by men, if you are to believe the reader surveys). The novel is set in Algeria when it was still a French colony. The nihilistic protagonist, Meursault, shocks through his indifference. L’Etranger famously opens with his emotionless reaction to the death of his own mother. The story reaches a climax when Meursault kills an Arab on the beach, for seemingly no reason at all. No argument precedes the killing, so it gives Camus a device for exploring the absurd psychology of the protagonist and anti-hero. Now Algerian journalist Kamel Daoud has written a sequel from the point of view of the brother of the Arab who was killed. This is what makes The Meursault Investigation so different to L’Etranger, in which not a single Arab …

Blurred lines

In Boris Nzebo’s multi-layered works, human heads merge with urban cityscapes. These boldly coloured and patterned works evoke the visual dynamism of a West African city. Born in 1979 in Gabon, Nzebo now lives and works in Cameroon. He draws his subject matter from his hometown of Douala, where he is particularly inspired by the elaborate hairstyles of locals, which often feature as hand-painted advertising illustrations in West African beauty parlours. To continue reading about Boris Nzebo and see more images of his work, read the July/August issue of The Kurios. Photo: © Boris Nzebo. Photo courtesy of Saatchi Gallery, London.

Bold enigmas

You could be forgiven for thinking that some of the work by Chinese artist Zhu Da, better known as Bada Shanren, is by a contemporary artist. Born in 1626, Bada Shanren is remembered as reclusive and somewhat eccentric. He produced highly individualist works which were daring for their time, some of which have been brought together for the exhibition Enigmas: The Art of Bada Shanren, at Washington’s Freer Gallery of Art. The artist,who was born a prince of the Ming imperial house, later retired to live a secluded life as a Buddhist monk. It is said that he suffered from epilepsy and became dumb. The direct, expressive style of his ink paintings of birds and flowers does not jar with contemporary viewers. His work has been very influential in China but also in Japan, where his bold style is particularly appreciated for its similarity to Zen painting. To continue reading about Bada Shanren, check out the July/August 2015 issue of The Kurios. Photo: Lotus, Bada Shanren (Zhu Da) (1626-1705). China, Qing dynasty, ca. 1665. Bequest from the collection of Wang Fangyu …

Rio remembered

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Kurt Klagsbrunn (1918-2005) arrived in Rio de Janeiro, the then-capital of Brazil. The Austrian medical student of Jewish descent had been forced to abandon university with the rise of the Nazis. He fled from Vienna, seeking refuge first in Lisbon, then Rotterdam,with his family. He finally alighted in Rio in 1939. Klagsbrunn began, slowly but surely, to start taking photographs of life on the other side of the Atlantic. His work began to reflect the diverse panorama of people living in this vibrant city, from slave descendants to aristocrats. Rio would become a source of lasting inspiration to the young immigrant and he began to document parties as well as social and political events. More than 200 of his Rio photographs are brought together in the enlightening exhibition Kurt Klagsbrunn, a humanist photographer in Rio (1940-1960), at the Museu de Arte do Rio. “One of Kurt’s features is a very loving relationship with Rio de Janeiro,” said Paulo Herkenhoff, one of the exhibition’s curators. “Klagsbrunn produced an …

Truly, madly, beautifully

Portia Zvavahera’s sumptuous paintings draw on subjects from both life and dreams and combine printmaking with painting. Her vivid imagery is drawn from religious narratives from both Christian and indigenous African traditions. Her deep understanding of colour and form is evident. Zvavahera represented Zimbabwe at the Venice Biennale in 2013. The artist was born in 1985 in Juru, Zimbabwe. To continue reading about Portia Zvavahera’s work and see more images of her paintings, read the May/June issue of The Kurios. Photo credits: ©Portia Zvavahera, I Can Feel It in My Eyes [14] © Portia Zvavahera. Courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town/ Johannesburg. Photo: Mario Todeschini.

Nature overflows

Janaina Tschäpe’s organic and ethereal work reflects the abundance of nature in Brazil. Her beautiful multi-layered paintings are like nature itself. She has said she seeks not to portray a dream world, but the sensation of being inside one. Tschäpe was born in 1973 in Munich, Germany and was raised in São Paolo, Brazil. She lives and works between New York and Rio de Janeiro. To continue reading about Janaina Tschäpe’s work and see more images of her paintings, read the May/June issue of The Kurios. Photo credits: Janaina Tschäpe, Contemplating Landscape (2014), Installation View. Photo courtesy of Edouard Malingue Gallery.

Forgotten pioneers

The Argentine artist Flavia da Rin was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1978, and still lives in the city. Her practice includes photography and painting. In a recent series of powerful photographs, Da Rin has re-created images taken in the 1920s and 1930s of mould-breaking women who had a passion for dance, including Lizica Codreanu, Giannina Censi and Mary Wigman. The Romanian ballet dancer Lizica Codreanu was a member of Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and a constant fixture in avant-garde circles during Paris’ heyday. She was a favourite of the Ukrainian-born painter Sonia Delaunay, and the Romanian-born sculptor Constantin Brancusi, both of whom made their careers in France and designed iconic costumes for her. To continue reading about Flavia Da Rin’s work and the forgotten female artists she photographed, read the May/June issue of The Kurios. Photo: Flavia da Rin, Untitled (Codreano /Brancusi III), 2014. Photo courtesy of Ruth Benzacar Galeria de Arte.

New voices

Mawande Ka Zenzile’s bold work deals with memory, ethics, politics, the politics of representation, and history. Through compelling imagery, he often draws attention to Xhosa history and heritage. The Xhosa are the second largest cultural group in South Africa, after the Zulu-speaking nation. The artist was born in Eastern Cape, South Africa, in 1986. He is in the process of completing a BA in Fine Art at the University of Cape Town. Please continue reading about Mawande Ka Zenzile and see more images of his work in the May/June issue of The Kurios. Photo credits: Mawande Ka Zenzile, The Problem We Didn’t Create (The Death of Socrates) 2015 © Mawande Ka Zenzile. Courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town/ Johannesburg. Photo: Mario Todeschini.

Building Latin America

More than a half-century after its landmark 1955 exhibition, New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is revisiting the fascinating terrain of Latin American architecture. Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955-1980 provides a complex overview of architectural innovation spanning eleven countries: Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. Sprawling cities such as Mexico City and São Paulo were among the fastest growing cities in the world at this time. The region’s unprecedented urbanization was characterized by avant-garde artistic practices, often in challenging political circumstances. During this period, a number of Latin American countries experienced volatile political change. Many saw periods of military dictatorship. Bringing together the architectural achievements of such a large continent for over three decades is no mean feat. Please continue reading in the May/June issue of The Kurios, out now. Photo credits: Affonso Eduardo Reidy. Museum of Modern Art of Rio de Janeiro (MAM), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1934-1947. ©Núcleo de Documentação e Pesquisa? Faculdade de Arquitetura e Urbanismo da Universidade Federal do Rio …

Image society

Brazilian artist Leda Catunda’s new exhibition at São Paolo’s Galpão Fortes Vilaça brings together paintings, prints, watercolours, collages and sculptures. Leda Catunda and the Taste of Others also features printed wallpaper made especially for the show. All of the works being exhibited were made following the same structure as the drawings on the wallpaper, as the artist tries to convey a sense of unity within her diverse practice. In Catunda’s work, patterns normally originate in watercolours, to then be replicated and multiplied in prints. She normally gives these same patterns body in her paintings and sculptures. The show also features a number of pop references, used by the artist as a way of questioning the concepts of beauty and exoticism. Please read more about Catunda and see more images of her work in the May/June issue of The Kurios. Photo credits: Leda Catunda, MG – Mulheres Gostosas, 2014. Courtesy of Galpão Fortes Vilaça. Photo: Eduardo Ortega.

Chanting with forms

The Indian artist NS Harsha draws on a broad range of influences including Indian artistic and figurative painting traditions and popular arts, as well as western art. His quietly philosophical practice mixes personal experience with shared narratives and broader socio-political themes. The artist has described the process of producing these works as ‘chanting’ with forms, as though the process of making them were a musical composition. He has also said that the intensity of life in India, which has one of the largest populations in the world, constantly forces him to think about human form. To read more about NS Harsha and see more images of his work, subscribe to the May/June issue of The Kurios. Photo: NS Harsha, Mooing here and now (detail), 2014. Courtesy NS Harsha and Victoria Miro, London. © NS Harsha.

Lunar mysteries

Eugenio Cuttica: The inward gaze at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires brings together the paintings of the Argentine artist Eugenio Cuttica from the 1970s to the current day. The first part of the exhibition presents Cuttica’s early works, in which he grappled with new forms of expression. Cuttica was part of an expressionist revival that took place in Argentina in the 1980s. This room also includes a painting by Argentina’s most celebrated impressionist painter, Fernando Fader, which Cuttica selected from the museum collection himself. The second room showcases a series of Cuttica’s paintings from the 1980s and 1990s which present large-scale mythical themes. Finally we are presented with a series of the artist’s latest works, centred on the representation of a little girl known as Luna (Moon). In these semi-fantastical paintings, the figure of the girl dissolves mysteriously into a landscape, suggesting a ghostly presence. Eugenio Cuttica is featured in the May/June issue of The Kurios. Get your copy here. Photo courtesy of Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.

Paper people

The first solo show of the Ivorian artist Yéanzi is taking place at Cécile Fakhoury Gallery in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. In Yéanzi’s mixed media paintings, he blends together successive layers of press cuttings onto canvas. He then melts plastic on top to form human images. The result is ambiguous and powerful imagery. Yéanzi is featured in the May/June issue of The Kurios, out now. Get your copy here. Photo courtesy of Cécile Fakhoury Gallery

Desert hope

An exhibition at the Museo de la Memoria in Santiago,Chile, is showing 58 photographs from the Flowers in the Desert series by New York-based photographer Paula Allen. These photographs tell the story of a group of Chileans, known as the women of Calama,who spent 17 years searching for their relatives who disappeared after the 1973 military coup of General Augusto Pinochet. In the first few months after their disappearance, the women of Calama met in secret but in time, frustrated by the lack of state information about their loved ones fates, they took to the desert themselves with shovels to try to find the bodies. The husbands, fathers and brothers of these women went missing during the infamous Caravan of Death, a term used to describe the journey taken by five soldiers to four northern cities. They murdered a total of 72 people on their way, including 26 men in the city of Calama. Their bodies were buried in a secret grave in the desert. Continue reading about Flowers in the Desert in the May/June issue of The Kurios, out …

Runaway genius

A celebrated artist in Mexico, the British-born surrealist painter Leonora Carrington (1917-2011) was little-known in her home country for most of her lifetime. Her unique, mysterious paintings have only recently begun to garner attention in the UK, four years’ after her death. Please continue reading in the May/June issue of The Kurios, available now. Photo: Leonora Carrington, The Pomps of the Subsoil (1947). Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts University of East Anglia. ©Estate of Leonora Carrington/ARS, NYand DACS, London 2015.