All posts filed under: art

To hell and back: the Brazilian artist making dramatic works

Brazilian-born Tiago Carneiro da Cunha has made a body foray into painting in his latest body of work, Trânsito dos Infernos (Transit through Hell). The artist, who has gained a reputation in the past for his sculptures and video work, has made a body of oil paintings that are the result of four years’ research. These intense, sensual works evoke dramatic landscapes and characters using a simple, unmixed palette. Though innately recognizable, these scenes are also exotic, fantastical – and in their strangeness, disconcerting. The artist was born in São Paulo in 1973 and now lives and works in Rio de Janeiro. He started out drawing comics that was published in underground magazines in Sao Paolo, before working as a freelance illustrator for the Folha de S. Paolo newspaper. He later went on to study art at the Parsons School in New York and Goldsmiths College in London. Tiago Carneiro da Cunha’s paintings are currently on show at Galeria Fortes Vilaca in Sao Paolo. The exhibition Trânsito dos Infernos brings together 20 oil paintings. Photo: Noite …

Painting the inner life of nature: the beguiling work of Hilma af Klint

The elusive Swedish artist Hilma af Klint (1862–1944), the subject of a new exhibition at London’s Serpentine Galleries, is finally bursting into the limelight. The artist, today considered a pioneer of abstract art, was an obscure figure in the art world until very recently. But this was partly of the artist’s own doing – she herself stipulated that her abstract work should be kept out of the public eye for two decades after she died, out of fear that she would be misunderstood. Indeed, it was not until the mid-1980s that her works were seen publicly. Moreover, whether through geographical distance or deliberate intent – she had little to do with other artists working at around the same time, and who had similar preoccupations to her. Even though she worked at the same time as well-known abstract artists like Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian, she worked in isolation from the European avant-garde. To continue reading this article, please download the latest issue of The Kurios here. Photo: From The Ten Largest , 1907, by Hilma af Klint and …

An anthropologist from the future: Kapwani Kiwanga breaks with the ordinary

Canadian-born Kapwani Kiwanga was the Commissioned Artist for this year’s Armory Show in New York. Her on-site installation, The Secretary’s Suite, is an interactive installation that investigates the complexities of gift economies. The artist’s visit to the United Nations’ art collection last year inspired the piece. The Secretary’s Suite is composed of a single-channel video and a viewing environment inspired by the 1961 office of the United Nations Secretary General. Through the installation, Kiwanga played with concepts of fact and fiction to explore the practice of gift giving found in popular culture, religious ritual, and global relations. Kiwanga was born 1978 in Hamilton, Ontario and is now based in Paris. Trained as an anthropologist and social scientist, her unconventional artistic practice is characterised by the idea of herself as a ‘researcher’ in her own projects. Her varied practice takes the form of videos, sound and performance. Research areas that have informed her practice include Afrofuturism, the anti-colonial struggle, collective memory, belief systems, vernacular and popular culture. The artist’s work is characterised by a documentary mode of …

The Arab world writ large: Walid Raad

New York’s MoMA is showing the first comprehensive American survey of the Lebanese-born artist Walid Raad (b. 1967). It features his work in photography, video, sculpture, and performance from the last 25 years. Raad’s work is informed by his upbringing in Lebanon during the civil war of 1975–91. His work is also preoccupied by the socioeconomic and military policies that have shaped the Middle East in recent years. Two of Raad’s long-term projects are the main emphasis of the show: The Atlas Group (1989–2004) and Scratching on things I could disavow (2007–ongoing). The Atlas Group is a 15-year project exploring the contemporary history of Lebanon. In it, Raad produced a series of fictionalized photographs, videotapes, notebooks, and lectures that related to real events and research into audio, film, and photographic archives in Lebanon and elsewhere. In his ongoing work, Scratching on things I could disavow, Raad expands his focus to the wider Middle East. The work examines the recent emergence in the Arab world of new infrastructure for the visual arts, including art fairs, biennials, …

Illusion & spectacle: the video art of Theo Eshetu

London-born Ethiopian artist Theo Eshetu was showing recently at Tiwani Contemporary, his first solo exhibition in the UK. Working exclusively in video art, Eshetu combines the formal components of film with anthropological ideas, as a way of examining the notion of culture itself. He draws on his joint European and African upbringing in his work, combining themes and symbols from his dual inheritance. Eshetu lived in Ethiopia until the age of five. Eshetu’s acclaimed 2014 work Anima Mundi, an immersive multimedia and video installation, is included in the show. Situated within a mirror box, a flickering globe of moving images “alludes both to the multiplicity of ways to perceive the world and the capacity of video to create illusions,” according the show’s curators. The viewer also becomes part of the installaton as their own image is reflected ad infinitum. The artist may have wanted to represent the idea of life as a spectacle, or could be alluding to the proliferation of images in contemporary life. Works from The Mirror Ball Constellation (2013) are also featured in …

Image game: Adriana Varejão’s challenging work

In a new series of paintings created for Dallas Contemporary, Brazilian artist Adriana Varejão (b. 1964) explores themes of colonialism and cultural identity. The artist has used her own image as a starting point, then changed her appearance through adding facial markings and altering the tone of her face. In this way, she manipulates her ethnic background and the manner in which her image is interpreted. Varejão’s rigorous practice is informed by cultural and historical research. For each series of work, she investigates fields such as art history, anthropology, colonial trade, demography, and racial identity. In her early work, she made graphic depictions highlighting what she perceived to be historical inaccuracies and hierarchies of power during Brazil’s colonial period. She would often allude to the subjugation of native people by Portuguese conquistadors and the evangelisation by Catholic missionaries. Varejão lives and works in Rio de Janeiro. In 2013, she won the Mario Pedrosa Award from the Brazilian Association of Art Critics, which recognizes the Brazilian contemporary artist who most contributed to national culture the previous …

Alternative reality: Sara Ramo’s blurred boundaries

Spanish artist Sara Ramo (b.1975) recently presented new works, including videos, photographs and sculptures – at Galeria Fortes Vilaça in Sao Paolo. The works in Os Ajudantes (The Helpers) blur the boundaries between reality and fiction. In one video, twelve masked creatures wander through a dark landscape, playing musical instruments. Under the flickering light of bonfires, their appearance comes and goes, lending the video a mysterious atmosphere. Bereft of any narrative, we are left pondering the reality of these odd creatures, which at times appear familiar and at other times, completely foreign. In the series Matriz e a Perversão da Forma (Matrix and the Perversion of Form), the artist presents sculptures made of dental stone. Each piece is a mixture of the real – its material is something we recognize – but the shape is unfamiliar. As in the video, we are confronted with fragments of a whole, which has a distancing effect on the viewer. Sara Ramo was born in 1975 in Madrid, Spain, and currently lives and works between the city of her …

Constructing modernity

Radical Uruguayan artist Joaquin Torres-Garcia (1874–1949) epitomised individuality in the arts. A key figure in Latin American modernism, his influence nonetheless extended much further than the continent of his birth. A number of North American artists, including Louise Bourgeois and Barnett Newman, felt his idiosyncratic influence. The artist was born in Montevideo. He left for Barcelona aged 17, where he trained as an artist. In the Catalan capital, he became active in the local artistic movement known as Noucentisme, or “Nineteen-hundreds Style.” The artists and intellectuals that worked within this movement were reacting against what they considered the aesthetic excesses of Modernisme. Noucentista art was characterized by a return to order. Its artists set out to embody the timeless values of the Mediterranean through their art, as well as revive the classical past. In the decorative arts, the values of Noucentisme were seen in an emphasis on traditional hand-craftsmanship. As one of the leading members of Noucentisme, Torres-Garcia became a well-known painter during his years in Barcelona. His first major commission was for a series …

Radical leanings

Cultural production in Eastern Europe and Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s shared certain characteristics, namely radical experimentation and a dissemination of ideas. There was also a marked scepticism towards authority, including artistic authorities and hierarchies. As such, there was an emphasis on creative production outside of the market. The parallels between cultural production in these geographically distant regions are explored in a new exhibition at New York’s MoMA. At that time, anti-art magazines circulated and radical artists operated in underground collectives that were outside of the cultural mainstream. There was a proliferation in process-directed exercises, games, gatherings, walks, alternative music, and concrete poetry. Anti-art groups sprung up, like Gorgona in Yugoslavia, Aktual in Czechoslovakia, and El techo della ballena (The Roof of the Whale) in Venezuela. A community of avant-garde artists operating in Argentina in that period is explored in some depth. The artists Oscar Bony, David Lamelas, Lea Lublin and Marta Minujín – who were all associated with the influential Instituto Torcuato Di Tella – confronted mass media communication. These politically-engaged artists …

Domestic friction: Mexican artist Pia Camil’s ‘homely’ Modernism

Mexican artist Pia Camil draws inspiration for her objects, seen in the following pages, from contemporary consumerism, incorporating signs and objects from everyday life. The artist, born in Mexico City in 1980, also reclaims abandoned structures from highways, driven by her belief in the failure of capitalism. Her wide-ranging practice, which takes in hand dyed wall hangings, ponchos and ceramic vases, often ends with the presentation of multiple objects in the same room. She also undertakes live performances that experiment with notions of domestic space. Her work appears to create a friction between domestic comfort – indicated by the ‘homely’ crafted feel of many of her ceramics and textiles – and a more hard-edged Modernism. Carry on reading about Pia Camil, and see more images of her work, in the latest issue of The Kurios. Photo: installation view: Pia Camil. Pangaea II. Image courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery, London (c) Justin Piperger, 2015

Searching for the ideal: contemporary Asian art

After Utopia: Revisiting the Ideal in Asian Contemporary Art at the Singapore Art Museum explores the idea of utopia, a term originally coined by the writer Thomas More in the 16th Century to describe a fictional island in the Atlantic Ocean. From the Greek works for “good place” and “no place” the word refers to a place that possesses near perfect qualities. The exhibition is centred around four approaches to the idea of utopia. “Other Edens” explores how gardens are used as a symbol of the ordinary paradise to which we want to return, while “The City and its Discontents” locates our search for paradise in the contemporary worlds we inhabit. “Legacies Left” examines the ideologies that have left their mark on societies around the world in the last century. Meanwhile the final section “The Way Within” eschews grand narratives, locating the search for a utopia within the self. The image of a garden representing a utopia is seen in Geraldine Javier’s Ella Amo’ Apasionadamente y Fue Correspondida (For She Loved Fiercely, and She is …

Forgotten corners: Aida Mahmudova’s tender paintings of Azerbaijan

Aida Mahmudova’s tender paintings address memory and nostalgia. The Azeri artist, born in Baku in 1982, draws her inspiration from the landscape and architecture of her native Azerbaijan. She works across installation, sculpture and painting to capture forgotten corners of a country that is fast developing and is in danger of forgetting its past. Her work also deals with the friction between reality and fiction, and the impermanence of identity. Her sense of ephemerality can be gleaned from the gentle layering of these works. As well as being an artist, Mahmudova — a niece of the president of Azerbaijan –is an important figure in Azerbaijan’s small but growing arts scene. To continue reading, please subscribe to the September/October 2015 issue here, or by searching for The Kurios App on your mobile device.  Photo credit: Aida Mahmudova. The neighbours. 2015. Mixed media on canvas. Courtesy Leila Heller Gallery.  

A History, in objects

Captain James Cook landed on the east coast of Australia in 1770. The landmass he alighted on was larger than the continent of Europe. For the next more than one hundred years, the British would rule the land as a series of colonies, which would eventually join together to become modern-day Australia in 1901. But the country’s history goes back much further than Great Britain’s involvement. People are believed to have lived in Australia for between around 40,000–60,000 years. The first people to arrive were the Australian Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. They came by boat from nearby islands that are now known as Indonesia. Each Aboriginal group settled in a different area of the country and had its own languages, laws and traditions. They lived in diverse environments ranging from lush rainforest and desert-like landscapes to inland rivers, islands and seas. They lived off fishing and hunting, and invented tools like the boomerang. However they never farmed. Their religion is known as the Dreaming, and art and music was important to them. The cultural habits of …

Dream or reality?

Zimbabwean-born Virginia Chihota makes highly introspective work that occupies a place between dream and reality. The quietly striking works showcased in the following pages are from her series munzwa munyama yangu (A Thorn in my Flesh). Her expressive paintings result from a mixture of screen-printing and ink on paper, and the artist has said she finds inspiration in solitude. Chihota moved to Triploli, Libya, in 2012 and has spoken of how the culturally isolated experience of living in a foreign culture has fuelled her work. Continue reading about Virginia Chihota in the July/August issue of The Kurios.  Photo: Virginia Chihota, The Root of the Flower we do not Know, screenprint on paper, 2014. Courtesy of Tiwani Contemporary.

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 …

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 …

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.

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.