Yemeni graffiti artist palliates wounds of Saudi war


Dirty Legacy: graffiti art by Murad Subay

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Banksy‘ of Yemen: with my graffiti I want to cover up bullet holes in walls

Today, 10:00

If you’re walking down the street in Sanaa, capital of Yemen, you can not ignore the works of the ‘Banksy of Yemen’. The buildings may be destroyed by all the bombing, but they are not ugly: on the walls is still the graffiti art of Murad Subay.

“When in 2011 the war began, it broke many hearts,” Murad tells the NOS. “But not only hearts were broken, also houses and streets. At that moment I decided to go on the road and to start making graffiti art. I wanted to cover up the ugliness of the war. To make the bullet holes disappear into the wall. I succeeded in that through graffiti.”

Some works by Murad are purely artistic, others have political overtones. The artist invites residents of Sanaa also to help with the artwork. “So people can make their voices heard and express their opinion about the war. Art is not just entertainment, it can be used for so much more stuff. Art gives a voice and provides communication, especially if people can see it so clearly in the street.”

Graffiti by Murad Subay

Drawing

The 29-year-old Murad lives with his parents, three sisters and four brothers in a house in Sanaa. He studied English and got his diploma in 2012.

“I started drawing when I was 13. My parents encouraged me, and thus I could teach myself a lot of things. In 2012 I made my first graffiti work, resulting in a campaign so I could make work all across Sanaa.”

The war has changed a lot, he adds. “It has so much effect on me. On all people.” Murad cites the shortage of basic necessities such as electricity and water, and the economic consequences of the war.

“These things have a big impact on me personally, but also on my work. It is no longer possible to travel freely in Yemen. It is also sometimes far too dangerous to be on the street to make the work.” …

Graffiti by Murad Subay

Murad has already gained much fame in Yemen, he is also called the ‘Banksy of Yemen’. “Banksy is a great artist, a genius. My work resembles that by him because we use the same technique. But the way we work is different,” Murad says.

“I want to involve as many people as possible in my art. If I make a work of art and people walk past, then I invite them always to help me and give their opinion. This allows us to launch a political debate in a non-violent way.”

British art critic John Berger, RIP


This video says about itself:

John Berger or The Art of Looking (2016)

7 November 2016

Art, politics and motorcycles – on the occasion of his 90th birthday John Berger or the Art of Looking is an intimate portrait of the writer and art critic whose ground-breaking work on seeing has shaped our understanding of the concept for over five decades. The film explores how paintings become narratives and stories turn into images, and rarely does anybody demonstrate this as poignantly as Berger.

Berger lived and worked for decades in a small mountain village in the French Alps, where the nearness to nature, the world of the peasants and his motorcycle, which for him deals so much with presence, inspired his drawing and writing.

The film introduces Berger‘s art of looking with theatre wizard Simon McBurney, film-director Michael Dibb, visual artist John Christie, cartoonist Selçuk Demiral, photographer Jean Mohr as well as two of his children, film-critic Katya Berger and the painter Yves Berger.

The prelude and starting point is Berger‘s mind-boggling experience of restored vision following a successful cataract removal surgery. There, in the cusp of his clouding eyesight, Berger re-discovers the irredeemable wonder of seeing.

Realised as a portrait in works and collaborations, this creative documentary takes a different approach to biography, with John Berger leading in his favourite role of the storyteller.

Director: Cherie Dvorák

By Chris Nineham in Britain:

Seeing red: the world view of John Berger

Thursday 5th December 2016

CHRIS NINEHAM reflects on the hugely influential life and work of the radical writer and art critic, who died on Monday at the age of 90

JOHN BERGER played an implausible, almost impossible, role in late 20th-century culture.

Self-exiled from Britain in the early 1960s and living half his time in a French mountain village, his words from afar provided an intimate and engaged commentary on some of the defining injustices and outrages of the era and some of the most important radical art criticism ever produced.

He wrote a series of books about the lives of peasants and migrant workers, including the photo documentary with Jean Mohr called A Seventh Man, which should be required reading in schools around Europe today.

The opening note to the reader prophetically suggests that “to outline the experience of the migrant worker and to relate this to what surrounds him — both physically and historically — is to grasp more [than any survey of] the political reality of the world at this moment.

“The subject is Europe. The meaning is global. Its theme is unfreedom.”

Despite his supreme distance from intellectual fads or fashions, he directed probably the most important experiment in the documentary form ever made for British TV.

The four-part series Ways of Seeing was a mind-blowing assault on the elitist, sexist assumptions of the capitalist cultural establishment.

It managed to be both iconoclastic and deeply insightful at the same time by insisting on locating art and artist both in their historical moment and the relations of artistic production.

Strong stuff for the BBC.

He followed it up with a stream of essays and books on art and culture that have proved, perhaps more than any other body of work in the English language, the enormous importance that creatively handled Marxism has for the appreciation of art and culture. Some of the best of them have recently been published in two excellent Verso volumes, Portraits and Landscapes.

Ever sensitive to individual artists’ dilemmas and achievements and, at the same time enraged by the barriers to self-expression produced by a society based on profit rather than need, Berger was the wise alter ego of every artist struggling to bear witness to a more and more degraded world.

His book The Success and Failure of Picasso and the recently republished essay The Moment of Cubism together constitute one of the most convincing accounts of the potential and the limits of artistic liberation.

Because he perceived culture as the active interplay between human creativity and stubborn, given reality, again and again his essays shed light on both the artists’ work and their world, as exemplified in this comment on the Romantics:

“Romanticism represented and acted out the full predicament of those who created the goddess of Liberty, put a flag in her hands and followed her only to find that she led them into an ambush: the ambush of reality.

“It is this predicament which explains the two faces of romanticism: its exploratory adventurousness and its morbid self-indulgence.”

Berger tended to radicalise with time. Looking back in 1979 to an essay he wrote in 1968 about the importance of a political approach to art, he admitted that in some respects he might have become more tolerant:

“I now believe there is an absolute incompatibility between art and private property, or between art and state property — unless the state is a plebeian democracy. Property must be destroyed before imagination can develop further.”

His radicalism was wholly reliable and outspoken. Awarded the Booker Prize in 1972 for his novel G, on air he denounced the slave-derived wealth of the Booker family and donated half the prize money to the British chapter of the Black Panther Party.

It is said that he was accompanied to the ceremony by a member of the organisation, who urged him to “keep it cool.”

See also here.

Cuban painter Wilfredo Lam exhibition


This video from London, England says about itself:

24 December 2016

Art historian Julian Stallabrass visits the Wifredo Lam exhibition at Tate Modern and analyses the life, artistic influences, work, and legacy of the Cuban painter.

New Hieronymus Bosch film, review


This 2016 video is the trailer of the film EXHIBITION ON SCREEN – The Curious World of Hieronymus Bosch.

It says about itself:

Who was Hieronymus Bosch? Why do his strange and fantastical paintings resonate with art lovers now more than ever? How does he bridge the medieval and Renaissance worlds? Where did his unconventional and timeless creations come from? Discover the answers to these questions and more with this remarkable new film from EXHIBITION ON SCREEN.

The Curious World of Hieronymus Bosch features the critically acclaimed exhibition ‘Visions of a Genius’ at the Noordbrabants Museum in the southern Netherlands, which brought the majority of Bosch’s paintings and drawings together for the first time to his home town of ‘s-Hertogenbosch and attracted almost half a million art lovers from all over the world.

With his fascinating life revealed plus the details and stories within his works seen like never before, don’t miss this cinematic exploration of a great creative genius.

I went to see this film on 17 December 2016.

An earlier film, Jheronimus Bosch, Touched by the devil, had as its main theme the complex preparations for having the exhibition to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of the painter in the North Brabant Museum in Den Bosch, the city where he was born and worked.

The new film was finished after the exhibition in Den Bosch. It shows images of the paintings, drawings and spectators in the museum. And images of Bosch’s works, sometimes zooming in on details. Or scans, showing that Bosch sometimes painted over parts of earlier versions.

Art experts explain in the film what, according to them, Bosch meant to say in his works. He must have been an avid reader, as some of his work is based on texts and pictures from books. The interviewees point out allusions to Biblical stories or medieval traditions which are not obvious to 21st century spectators. However, what Bosch really meant is a more complex issue than becomes apparent in the film.

We know more or less which art is by Bosch. We know something about his life from Den Bosch city records. However, we don’t really know about the connections between his life and his work.

There are not any writings by Bosch about how he saw his work.

Well, maybe there is one: a sentence in Latin above a drawing, about innovating oneself being better than relying on other people’s innovations. Is that Latin sentence by Bosch? We don’t know. We don’t know Hieronymus Bosch’s handwriting.

The film says that Bosch was an innovator compared to the late medieval artistic status quo, as he introduced phantasy into his work. They might have said as well that he was one of the first artists to depict common people; not just Jesus, angels and people at the top of political or church hierarchies.

The film does say that Bosch lived in turbulent times, but does not dwell extensively upon that.

Alan Woods points out that Bosch’s turbulent times reflect in his art. One year after Bosch died, Martin Luther started the religious Reformation. Already before that, the stability of feudal society had been undermined: by the Black Death plague, by wars, by persecution of ‘witches’, by the rise of the urban bourgeoisie which eventually became rivals of the nobility and Roman Catholic clergy ruling classes.

Woods writes that Bosch sharply criticized the powers that be. Bosch’s art says that in choosing between good, leading to paradise, and evil, leading to hell, also many religious and political authorities choose evil and should burn in hell. Among his many depictions of priests, monks and nuns, not one shows these religious people in a favourable light.

Jeroen Bosch, detail of the Garden of earthly delights

This detail of Bosch’s Garden of earthly delights shows a nun with a pig’s body. On the left of the detail is a being, half fantasy animal, half noble knight. A criticism on behalf of the urban bourgeoisie to which Bosch belonged, of the aristocratic and clerical ruling classes?

Bosch’s Hay Wain, as the film The Curious World of Hieronymus Bosch says, depicts greedy people on the way to hell. It does mention that the pope, the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and kings are among these sinners. But it does not say that Bosch may criticize the clerical and secular powers that be in that.

The film shows Bosch’s painting The Ship of Fools, and comments on it. The film says that people boarding the ship of fools will sail to hell. However, a monk and nuns are prominent passengers on the ship. The film does not comment on that.

Jheronimus Bosch, Ship of fools

The art experts in the film give the impression that Bosch was part of the social and religious establishment. That an art critic of Rupert Murdoch‘s daily The Times says so in the film could more or less be expected. It is a pity that other interviewees don’t examine arguments for the theory, unnamed in the film, that Bosch was a critic of the establishment.

Nevertheless, an interesting film, worth seeing.

Dinosaur sculpture lessons for children


Tyrannosaurus rex with gypsum head and paw prints

In Leiden in the Netherlands, there is the exhibition of their newly acquired Tyrannosaurus rex Trix; before Trix will go abroad and come back forever in 2018.

Also in Leiden; from sculptor Simone van Olst (translated):

T.rex in town! Make this Christmas your own T.rex in plaster (stone). Come to the sculpture workshop on 21 or 28 December in the pop-up store in Leiden and go home with a tough dinosaur head or paw print. After the workshop you will get a nice goodie bag and an extra sculpture set to take home.

The workshop is in the Pop-up store (old V & D building), Aalmarkt 21 in Leiden. The workshops will be on Wednesday 21 and 28 December between 13.00 and 17.00. Every hour you can join. The rounds last for between a half hour and one hour. The cost is 10.00 euros per child, including material, a nice goodie bag and an extra sculpture set to make another dinosaur at home.

The workshop is suitable for children from 4 years on. It is desirable for the youngest children to be accompanied by an adult.

Not a dinosaur fan? Then it is also possible to create a nice Christmas pendant in gypsum.

Dutch cartoonist Peter van Straaten dies


Child abuse, cartoon by Peter van Straaten

This 2011 cartoon is by Peter van Straaten from the Netherlands. It is about sexual child abuse in the Roman Catholic church. It depicts a praying child, abused by a crucifix.

Peter van Straaten died this week, 81 years old.

Van Straaten said about some of the reactions to that cartoon:

I got a huge load of hate mail and even death threats. I’m not used to that at all, it really scared me. … But apparently there were a lot of outraged Catholics. On the advice of my wife, I even removed our nameplate from the front door.

Unknown Mondriaan painting discovered


Mondriaan's Landscape near Arnhem, photo Christiie's images limited

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Unknown Mondrian surfaces at auction

Today, 15:47

A ‘new’ Mondrian has surfaced at Christie’s auction house in Amsterdam. The work comes from private ownership and was hitherto unknown. The painting shows a landscape with in the distance Arnhem city, writes Omroep Gelderland.

Piet Mondrian painted the work in 1902 or 1903. The painting Landscape near Arnhem is not described in any catalog and has never previously hung in a museum.

According to art specialist Odette van Ginkel the owner does not know much about the origin and how it came into the family. Van Ginkel believes the painting was sold fairly quickly probably after it was finished. Possibly therefore it has never appeared in a catalog.

Authenticity

There is little or no doubt about the authenticity of the painting. Dutch Institute for Art History RKD and the The Hague Municipal Museum reviewed the work.

A similar work by Piet Mondrian is known, painted from the same spot on the north side of the capital of Gelderland.

Tuesday

The painting is now officially approved and will be listed in the next catalog of Mondrian‘s work. Which will come out next spring.

The painting is estimated to be sold at between 120,000 and 180,000 euros. The work will be auctioned Tuesday at Christie’s in Amsterdam.