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Saturday 29th November 2014Holiday Gifts for Artists

It's that time again - and this year, with our suggestions, every artist in your life will be sure to appreciate their gifts. Whether they're for a loved one or a special treat for yourself, this is a fantastic time to get great deals on art supplies, no matter if you're restocking your supplies or branching out into some new experiments you might otherwise not bother with.

Winter can be a creatively bleak time, and even though the bad weather tends to lend itself to extra studio time, the holidays tend to be full of bustle and family and friends - all lovely, of course, but not always the best way to produce new work. Take it as an opportunity to explore new media, or try out new projects that require supplies you might not buy. Give yourself a budget, and drop by your local art supply store or browse the net for some new and interesting ideas, and give them a shot!

Tech toys are one of the best items to pick up around the holidays though, as the combination of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and all sorts of holiday deals mean there is a huge section of time when tech products are on sale. While they might not seem like the first choice for artists, you can be sure that you'll get some great deals they'll love.

One of our favourite deals for the burgeoning digital artist is a tablet. Not a drawing tablet, although those are awesome too, but actually a tablet computer. Thanks to the various deals, its possible to pick up a cheap tablet for under $50, making it affordable to even the most starving artist. Add in a free sketching application, and suddenly they have a digital sketchbook that never runs out of pages - and comes with an 'undo' button!

Digital picture  frames are also a great gift idea for artists, who often have difficulty choosing between the various works they love to display around their homes. With a digital picture frame, you no longer have to choose. For an even better gift idea that's a sneaky promotional idea to boot, buy cheap digital frames, preload them with your own artwork, and give them to friends and family in the hopes of generating some sales for your larger works!

And of course, if none of those ideas suit, it's always a good idea to help the artists in your life with a Gallereo subscription! ;-)

Posted on November 29th 2014 on 05:07pm

Wednesday 26th November 2014Art Basel in Miami

We've frequently discussed the recent worldwide trend towards the art fair, and how it's growing to supplant traditional gallery sales. Some gallery owners absolutely love it, and some gallery owners find it crude and tasteless, but no matter which side of the fence you're on, it's impossible to deny that they have taken centre stage in the art world. Popping up in cities all over the world, the art fair has become a staple. Arguably, the fair that started it all, Art Basel, is just about to launch its next iteration in Miami.

Art Basel Miami may seem a bit of a confusing principle - after all,  Basel, the town which the fair is originally named for, is located in Switzerland, hardly the same type of environment as Miami. However, that may be its strongest selling point, as it also has a regular branch in Hong Kong. The Miami fair seems to be a relatively unique event, though, growing to become the newest must-be-there party slash mardi-gras slash celebrity birthday bash, where star-spotting is easier than spotting the next up and coming artist. In fact, the art almost seems to get lost behind the headlines that grab viewers, usually about which celebrities flew their private jets there, who they met, who they fought with, and so on and so forth.

The effect it's had on Miami itself is a rather remarkable one, however. Craig Robins, one of the people who were instrumental in launching the Miami branch of Art Basel, told the Guardian recently, “The idea that a city can market itself around culture was launched in Miami. We’ve tried to integrate the art side into the business side, and success there gave us capital to do more culturally.”

There was, of course, some resistance at first, especially from the mayor of Miami in the 1990s, who couldn't envision an art fair - so Don and Mera Rubell, collectors who are also movers and shakers in the Miami art scene, sent him to Basel to see the fair first hand: “Money, visibility – he saw what a huge scene it was. You have to remember that art is now global and art fairs are the only way to connect.”

It's become so popular there's even a name for the impact the fair has had on development around the city: the Miami Effect. Not exactly creative, perhaps, but the developments sure are.

Posted on November 26th 2014 on 04:32pm

Friday 21st November 2014Artist Spotlight: Ernie Button

Many a great artist has had a passion for a good stiff drink. Whether writer or painter, sculptor or poet, a great deal of our cultural legacy is inextricably intertwined with alcohol, for better or for worse (and sometimes, it's a bit of both). For Ernie Button, however, alcohol has taken on a whole new level of artistic meaning. A photographer based in Phoenix, Arizona, Button had a taste for single malt whisky, and one evening before cleaning up his glass, he noticed that the last drop or two of whisky in the glass had dried into a remarkably patterned film. Naturally, his photographic instincts kicked in and he decided to begin to experiment with the concept.

Single malt aficionados will no doubt be aware that there are several distinct types of whisky, hailing from various parts of Scotland (there are others from other locations around the world, but to be true to form, single malt scotch comes from Scotland). Islay whiskies, with their dark, smoky peat flavours, tend to be mercurial in the glass, requiring some experimentation to produce a pleasing effect, but Speyside varieties are much more cooperative, regularly creating appealing patterns.

The final touch in Button's process is the addition of coloured lights beneath the glass surface which he and the whisky collaborate on (presumably, not always an recently emptied glass, or the project would likely lose direction fairly quickly). The careful lighting helps produce the truly otherworldly images, seeming like landscapes out of a science fiction movie, or perhaps even some elaborate dreamscape.

As it turns out, the science behind the process is equally remarkable, as Button found out when he began to investigate the nature of fluid dynamics. Dr. Howard Stone, a professor at Princeton University in the United States, was equally fascinated by the imagery produced by Button, despite not being a fan of whisky in general. In fact, one of his team members, Dr. Hyoungsoo Kim, presented the results of their research at a meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics, which is much closer to scientific regard than most artists reach. It just goes to show that there often is an appealing intersection between science and art, even if some scientists find the idea abhorrent.

You can view the entire collection and order prints from Button's website, located here.

Posted on November 21st 2014 on 07:10pm

Wednesday 19th November 2014Cosby Art Exhibit Continues

Much of the art world thrives on controversy. It's one of the many engines that drives gossip throughout humanity, and artists are no exception. The very nature of the work we do challenges the way people see the world, and how they interact with it. But as the trend of exhibiting the collections of prominent celebrities continues, there is often some unintended controversy that gets dragged into the fray along with the art itself.

Take, for example, the famous yet currently-embroiled comedian, Bill Cosby. Like many rich and successful people, he has amassed a private collection of artwork that rivals many galleries, and like many rich and successful people, he has chosen to share that with a more recognizable gallery in hopes of sharing the work he has collected, and less obviously, add to his prestige and reputation. To that end, the National Museum of African Art, a subsidiary of the world-famous Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., has been displaying works from the collection of Bill and Camille Cosby as part of the 'Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue' exhibit, which is planned to run until 2016.

However, as anyone who has so much as touched a newspaper or a computer will no doubt be aware, Bill Cosby is currently at the centre of a storm of accusations of sexual abuse from a growing number of women. While no formal charges have yet been laid against Cosby, many questions have been raised about whether or not Cosby's art should still remain a part of the Conversations exhibit. Until recently, the Smithsonian has refused to comment on the issue, but has finally relented and released a statement that manages to say very little other than disavowing any connection between the appropriateness of the collection's use and Cosby's alleged actions.

The statement reads: “The National Museum of African Art’s mission is to inspire conversations about the beauty, power and diversity of African arts and cultures. We began planning for the “Conversations” exhibition two years ago to help showcase the history of American art created by persons of African descent. It brings the public’s attention to artists whose works have long been omitted from the study of American art history. We are aware of the controversy surrounding Bill Cosby, who, along with his wife Camille, owns many of the works in the “Conversations” exhibition. Exhibiting this important collection does not imply any position on the serious allegations that have been made against Mr. Cosby. The exhibition is centrally about the artworks and the artists who created them.” An admirable goal, but the art world doesn't exist in a vacuum - we all live there.

Posted on November 19th 2014 on 04:14pm

Friday 14th November 2014Kurt Perschke and the Big Red Ball

Sometimes, copyright infringement is a murky situation - difficult to prove, as in the case of derivative artworks, satire, and convergent design - but sometimes it's pretty hard to deny. If you're a relatively well-known artist with a signature piece, it can be hard to see how others managed to miss it. Enter the artist Kurt Perschke, whose most recent project involves an installation of a 15 foot high red plastic ball near various major landmarks around the world. Named the RedBall project, this continually unfolding and ongoing project was started 13 years ago, so it's not exactly a question of prior art - and yet earlier this year, Perschke found some undeniable similarities between RedBall and a recent marketing campaign by petrochemical giant Shell.

While Perschke has yet to file any kind of formal challenge or lawsuit again Shell, he has nevertheless made many public comments about the similarities. “It’s painful. There isn’t any doubt in my mind. Even though it might seem that a ball would be a ball would be ball, RedBall is specific in the way it is constructed and built and these graphics that they have created are spot on.”

Shell has so far denied the informal accusations, as a spokesperson told the Guardian recently, “This Shell campaign uses red spheres as a visual device to illustrate the volume of CO2 that the Peterhead CCS project is designed to capture each day. It is intended to help consumers understand through a simple visual representation the importance of capturing CO2 for a better energy future." It's a remarkable testament to their public relations abilities that even while refuting accusations of plagiarism they can manage to stay completely on-message.

Curiously enough, this isn't the first time Perschke has had issues with a large company's advertisements. In fact, just last year, he filed a lawsuit against a French company, Edenred, and they settled out of court with undisclosed terms. Perschke hasn't yet decided whether he is going to file a similar lawsuit against Shell, but as he said to the Guardian, "It is my creation. I think it is lazy. My work has a history, it has been around for years and to appropriate it maybe seems more than lazy – even a little dangerous. The larger issue is the impact on the work, I don’t want the work impacted or associated in this way. We’ve worked for many years on a project which really does bring joy and surprise to people and we don’t want it co-opted.”

Posted on November 14th 2014 on 11:23pm

Wednesday 12th November 2014Art vs Design

Many designers have often railed against the perception that their work is not art. A quick tour of the prominent sites around the net will reveal a number of bitter back and forth rivalries, and probably an equal number of admittedly more silent spectators who don't seem troubled one way or the other. It really all comes down to what your individual perception of art really is, a topic that has plagued and entertained the art world since the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, when modern art was finally coming into its own.

Is art simply something beautiful? Something well-executed? If so, then any number of designs could be considered art. But if your perception of art is based on the emotions an object generates in you, then the entire world could be considered art, if seen in the right way. Often, the argument is made that intent to provoke emotion or thought is the metric by which an object's 'art-ness' could be judged. But what happens when that intent is then overridden by a larger goal? Say you're looking at a film clip that generates powerful emotions in you. It's beautiful, incredibly well executed, and entertaining to no end - but at the very last few frames, it turns out the entire thing is an advertisement intended to make you associate those images and emotions with a particular brand. Does it then lose all of its artistic appeal? Is it design, simply by being designed?

Part of the problem with these kinds of issues is basic semantics - when we say 'design', what exactly do we mean? There are a number of possibilities. Even artists may have an ulterior motive when it comes to the creation of their artwork, as they hope to create pieces that will sell, and increase their fame and ensure they have food on the table. Is that really so different from a brand? Conceptually, maybe, but the end result is still the same - the desire for money to change hands.

Perhaps we could approach the problem from an entirely different perspective, and say that art is anything that is produced for the sheer pleasure of the person who creates it, no matter what it is. Art is an expression of internal emotion, a way of explaining the way we see the world to others - and no matter what form it takes, it will add a little bit more beauty to the world.

Posted on November 12th 2014 on 07:37pm
Labels: art, design

Friday 07th November 2014Ancient Art

When you think of the earliest examples of artwork ever discovered, you probably think of cavemen painting on walls. Primitive hunting scenes, and extremely crudely stylised figures of men and women in various basic layouts. You may even be able to call to mind some of the more well-known examples that you probably learned about in school - the cave paintings in Lascaux, France, being one of the most popular examples in the latter half of the 20th century. The earliest recorded examples in Europe are dated to roughly 30,000 BCE, and are found in Spain, in the El Castillo cave. It may surprise you to learn, then, that these are not even remotely close to the earliest recorded human artwork, as a recent study discovered.

Examining various rock art formations and paintings across Southeast Asia, a team from Griffith University lead by Professor Paul Taçon discovered that many of the formations dated to 40,000 BCE, and are widespread across all of Southeast Asia, from Indonesia to China to Malaysia and Thailand. This may not seem too remarkable, at first, until you realize that up until this study, many scholars had theorized that artistic practices had first evolved in Europe and then spread outwards via human migrations as tribes expanded and explored new areas.

Those of you with a sociological or anthropological background will no doubt immediately notice the flaw in that Eurocentric view and be unsurprised by it, but these findings are solid evidence that artistic practices evolved much earlier than are evidenced in Europe, and suggest that as early humans migrated out of Africa, they took a thriving artistic practice with them, instead of developing one along the way.

This theory would likely have been disproven much earlier, if it weren't for the fact that the unique geology of Africa makes it less likely to find artworks protected from the elements, which can rapidly decay artwork to the point of unrecognizability. It is often theorized that the reason we find cave paintings dated from that time period isn't because early humans only painted in caves, but rather because those are the only places where they have been preserved.

Sometimes, when struggling with a piece of work in the present day, it can be helpful to think about the fact that human beings have been creating for longer than we can easily imagine. It's an inextricable part of our consciousness, and no matter how difficult it can seem at the time, it's literally part of us to create.

Posted on November 07th 2014 on 08:59pm
Labels: , ancient art, news

Wednesday 05th November 2014Artist Spotlight: Lenka Clayton

At first blush, Lenka Clayton's newest project is a bit unremarkable. A simple collection of objects that could have been found in anyone's junk drawer, forgotten coat pocket, or even a street gutter. Yet as the 63 starkly paced objects begin to take on meaning, the story behind them unfolds into a smile, or even a laugh. The various objects, ranging from the mundane to the disgusting, are all objects that were removed from the mouth of her baby son in the nick of time, just before they became a potential trip to the emergency room.

CIgarette butts, coins, bubblegum and buttons are among the wide variety of pieces included in the work, entitled '63 Objects Taken From My Son's Mouth', which is currently on display in the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas, USA. While perhaps not the most illustrious of venues, it nevertheless is an interesting look at how potentially life-threatening events metamorphose in our memories as time progresses.

"To be included I had to physically extricate the object myself, and have a real fear he was about to swallow it," she explained in an interview with the Daily Telegraph. "What interested me afterwards was when something so terrible and life-threatening turned into something else - a story. From a moment of horror came something like humour."

The piece is actually part of a larger project, which she has titled the Artist Residency in Motherhood. "I aimed to embrace the fragmented mental focus, exhaustion, nap-length studio time and countless distractions of parenthood as well as the absurd poetry of time spent with young children as my working materials and situation, rather than obstacles to be overcome," Clayton explained.

For any artist parent who's ever had their creativity plunged into the doldrums by lack of sleep and exhaustion (although it's sometimes true that those can be creative drivers), it's a clarion call of possibility, an inspiring look at how the most basic form of creativity - creating a tiny new life - can also push us to new artistic and creative heights. While time in the studio may be short, if every experience you have acts as a potentially inspiring moment, actual studio time might become less and less important to the creative act itself.


You can read more about the project at Clayton's website, found here.

Take heart, sleepy parents!

Posted on November 05th 2014 on 06:43pm
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