It was a potent time for creative explorations. Inspired by Sri Chaitanya’s bhakti1 movement, people were in search of newer ways to forge ties – between themselves, between the self and the universe and beyond. 16th century Bengal2 was experiencing a resurgence which not only prompted poets and artists to find various forms of expressions, but also resulted in a rapid development of its own language. Architects and sculptors of the era grabbed this opportunity to create some of the finest works of terracotta art.
Aki Inomata uses her art to amply depict the anxieties of her time. Series like Why Not Hand Over a “Shelter” to Hermit Crabs? is an unerring commentary on the synthetic to downright ludicrous aspects of modern civilisation. Questions are often raised loud and clear. Somewhat ironically though, these very aspects of her art tend to harmonise instead of polarising views. For in the heart of heart, Aki carries the precious age old sentiments of her land that believes in life, in its every form and expression, to be sacred and reverential. Despite the wide usage of modern technology such as 3d modelling and printing, her art remains very close to nature and intends to be an interpretation of it.
Born and brought up in Tokyo, Aki may have been enclosed in an eternally expanding urban landscape all her life, but she knows where her inspiration lies. After all, she has been busy worldwide in solo and group exhibitions ever since the completion of her MFA in Intermedia Art from University of Tokyo (2008). In the process she showcased her art installations in places such as Hamburg, Linz, Paris, New York, Shanghai and of course at home in Tokyo. Such cultural exchanges only helped to expand her views. Her latest Hermit Crab series named White Chapel is testimony to that.
On the question of a distinguishable existence of man in respect to other living beings, ancient philosopher Zhuang Zhou narrated his experience, Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamed I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awoke, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a distinction. The transition is called the transformation of material things. When in the maze of modern living our ways seem to be hopelessly lost, then in art do we find solace. Because in art remains discreet the answers of such painfully pertinent questions that we continue to bury deep within us till we lose that crucial perspective about our own existence.
In the heart of any successful story lies man, man as a sentient being, der Mensch as in German or manushya as in Sanskrit; the great doer and the chronicler, an observer as well as the observed. He picks up his instruments of creativity, a pen, a brush, a camera, facial or bodily expressions, voice and so on. He becomes a narrator. He keeps registering events or things that stir his passions through means that he chooses for himself. He weaves himself in his story just as much as he describes his outer world in his narrative. In fact, he becomes his story. The audience too does not remain isolated from the premises of his storytelling but becomes a part of it. In that respect, Giovanni Savino is at once a protagonist, an author and a critic of the many tales that he endeavours to narrate each day. After all, these are nothing but mini episodes of his great life’s show, the core of his creative self. Camera in hand he observes each moment as a precious uncut diamond waiting to be given shape and context to let it shimmer in exhilaration. The weather–beaten traveller that he is Giovanni knows the how a man’s freedom and restriction both lie in these four letters, Time. The acute awareness of it driven him from his birthplace the Tuscan landscape to Dominican Republic and now New York with many stops in between. The consciousness of the same also motivated him to extract the maximum out of his own self, day in and day out, testimonies of which galore on the pages of his illustrious albums and now in this thoughtful interview.
For ages artists are trying to arrest motion, capture the essence of it with due regard to the limitations of their tools at hand. It did receive further impetus with the introduction of photography. Even the very first generation of photographers like Étienne-Jules Marey’s (March 5, 1830 – May 21, 1904), Ottomar Anschütz (May 16, 1846 in Lissa – May 30, 1907), Eadweard Muybridge (April 9, 1830 – May 9, 1904) and Felix Nadar (April 6, 1820 – March 23, 1910) indulged in such passions in their own peculiar ways, often producing some very striking results. This was done even before filmmaking has begun. So far, in this regard, Stephanie Jung followed the footsteps of such illustrious names who went ahead of her. However, in doing so she did not fail to add her own deft touch. In urban landscapes of Berlin and Japan she found stories worth narrating and narrating in her own unique way.
Like any other art form, photography too has evolved in the past two years or so. Relentless experiments with this medium ensured that it ceases to be solely a tool for capturing realistic family portraits and develops into an art form in its own right. Experimental photographs are considered an objet d’art and artists like Michael Wesely find their long exposure images in the prized possession of MoMA. So for the young photographers like Stephanie Jung the key lies in stretching the limits, finding new vistas and exploring those to the fullest, both within and without. So far she used her talent effectively, capturing vivid imageries from life’s various chapters which bodes well for herself but even more importantly for her art. It is important to remember here what Felix Nadar said while summing up his thoughts about the art of photography,
According to Balzac’s theory, all physical bodies are made up entirely of layers of ghostlike images, an infinite number of leaflike skins laid on top of one another. Since Balzac believed man was incapable of making something material from an apparition – that is, creating something from nothing – he concluded that every time someone had his photograph taken, one of the spectral layers was removed from the body and transferred to the photograph. Repeated exposures entailed the unavoidable loss of subsequent ghostly layers, that is, the very essence of life.
When a series of Sharon Moody’s artworks were exhibited earlier this year it earned critical acclaim, but not without creating quite a bit of clamour, ironically for the same reason. The series was dedicated to the Classic Comic Books and their rolled, folded and yellowed pages. The work was too perfect to have gone unnoticed. For the same reason, it reignited an old controversy about the ethos of such photorealistic depiction of comic books with their original characters and storylines without an explicit mentioning of the names of the comic artists. Experienced connoisseurs of art may have had a feeling of déjà vu here. Years ago none other than Roy Lichtenstein found himself confronting such questions when he exhibited Whaam! in 1963. Interestingly, many of today’s critics like comparing Sharon Moody’s art to that of Lichtenstein’s, notwithstanding the fact that the latter was a representative of pop art done at a different time and place.
Sharon Moody was born in Florida, but spent much of her time in North Carolina until she completed her BFA from Appalachian State University, Boone, NC in 1973. The ensuing years were marked by her continued explorations in the world of art, further studies, including an MFA degree from George Washington University, Washington DC, and being a teacher and mentor to young talents. In between, she developed a rich body of work that is permeated by the colours of her own thoughts and sensibilities. She is a great admirer of William Harnett and John F Peto’s paintings, artists who kindled the passions for trompe l’œil on the other side of the Atlantic. Her own handling of optical illusion on canvas could be considered an homage to these two great artists. It is her ingenuity that leads her to imbibe the essence of photorealism in the Classic Comic Books without diluting the veritable charm of trompe l’œil. The former assists her to capture the exceptionally minute details of a chocolate bar, a pair of tennis racquets or a one dollar bill while the latter induces the viewer into a forced perspective on a two dimensional plain. It might be true that ‘reality’ is nothing but a ‘persistent illusion’, but in this case the illusion turns out to be a rather gratifying one.