Friday, May 31, 2019

Strange Beasts...

A brooding beast to mark the end of the month. In fact, this is was one of a collection of curious creatures to be found in different exhibitions around town by the artist Mauro Corda.

Some of the sculptures are of imaginary hybrid creatures such as this snaky -headed 'cobra tiger', above, which looks as if it is preparing to strike.

Or this rather more docile camel-unicorn...

Or the 'walrus bear', above, with its impressive pair of ivory tusks, roaring at passers-by from its bank of shale.

Other figures are of real-life species, albeit in danger of extinction. Take this enormous sculpture of a perched fruit bat, hanging from an imposing stand of at least two metres in height...

Or this cluster of oil-coated mischievous meerkats that huddle together on an upturned barrel...
One of the key features of the show are the numerous sportive bas-reliefs to highlight the 2024 Olympic Games, to be held in Paris...

The following black and white portraits were part of the Chambres exhibition – Positif/Négatif – Noir/Blanc. Whilst the portraits were classic bas-reliefs, rather like traditional death masks, the white versions were concave – as if the faces were molded into the bed pillows.

The masks that I preferred were the ones of the most interesting facial traits, with less regular features. Prettiness never seems to highlight character in art in the same way that rugged, striking expressions do. All those prominent noses, craggy jaws and brows, hooded eyelids and etched skin seem to tell a story where the conventionally attractive features simply fail. Pity life cannot follow along the same aesthetic lines!

I have often noticed that modern figures in ultra-realistic sculpture do not always seem to convey an appropriate tone and mood and often look like Disneyfied pieces of work.

I didn’t initially appreciate all the Corda portraits for this reason of ‘blandness’. Many just seemed to be 3D print-outs rather than real artistic portrayals. However, once I had just focused on the more interesting faces, I really did start to enjoy the exhibition. The white portraits look better in photo than reality, I noticed, but the optical effect is lost.

Corda is a contemporary sculptor, born in 1960, who studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Reims.

I am off to see an exhibition of the street artist Levalet in Rouen tomorrow! Update to follow!

Thursday, May 30, 2019

After the Rain, the Sun....

The month has been taken up by extremes of the pleasant and not so pleasant... Fortunately, troublesome legal formalities, tax declarations and hassle at work have all been offset by trips, visits and concerts. These all seem to alternate with a certain reliability, yet their rate and rhythm are difficult to foresee.

Meanwhile, as unseasonably cold weather gives way to warmer temperatures, a new passionflower plant is growing up, sending out a collection of tendrils, shoots and striking flowers. The honeysuckle that had to be cut back last year is about to burst out in bloom too... However, the vine weevil beetles are also back on the balcony, readily devouring foliage with voracious appetite, presumably priming themselves for another onslaught on my flowering treasures whilst I prepare myself..... for war.

It all seems to be swings and roundabouts and the other day I actually found myself humming this funny old school-assembly hymn which is quite soothing in its simplicity. Right, off for some nocturnal beetle-bashing!

                Glad that I live am I
                That the sky is blue;
                Glad for the country lanes,
                And the fall of dew.
                After the sun, the rain,
                After the rain the sun;
                This is the way of life,
                Till the work be done.

                     Lizette W. Reese (1856–1935)

Street Activity

Last week I came across another work by the street artist Levalet. Stuck in an otherwise unoccupied alcove on the grimy façade of a building that houses a law firm stands a rather jaded Lady Justice. She looks down below, cigarette nonchalently perched on her lips, clasping her Iphone as she props a drooping set of scales over her arm. Her blindfold has slipped down from her eyes, to be worn bandana-style around her neck. There is no limb to grasp onto the sword by her side...
Is this an illicit tobacco break or is she about to throw the towel in?

This is Iustitia, the Roman goddess, who, alongside Prudence, Fortitude and Temperance, was of the four cardinal Virtues in mythology. Her Greek counterpart is known as Themis, the personification of 'divine order, law, natural law and custom'. She was also mother to the three Fates, who literally weaved the destinies of men on the loom that laid out the threads of life's tapestry. Through this divine female frontline, mere mortals were assessed, judged with reason and rationality, and finally  punishment was meted where due.

On numerous law courts around the world, Iustitia is traditionally dressed in a Greco-Roman toga, as worn by classical figures of philosphy and mythology, thus highlighting the ancient Roman adage "Cedant arma togae" (meaning "Let war give way to the civil power.") Justice is presented as 'blind' (hence the eye-covering) since justice is objective and unbiased. It does not pass judgement based on mere appearance but the weight of fact. Likewise, the scales of justice measure both sides of the story at hand with fairness. The wronged and the alleged wrong-doer, the opposing parties are treated with objectivity and the final outcome - the rightful verdict - is governed by the weight of evidence. Justice symbolically keeps the double-sided sword by her side, ready to strike a blow and deliver a binding decision. Physical might is thus led by justice alone and wielded with logic and reason, keeping corruption at bay, symbolized by the serpent under the left foot of Justice. Sadly there is no snake in this image of a worn-down provincial French Lady Justice, perhaps not all that surprising in view of the present social/political climate.

While vast parts of the country regard the future of France in the bleakest, blackest of lights, seeing red with every measure of action or inactivity n the government's part, the vision of this rage is bright yellow in colour; les gilets jaunes. Shortly after noticing this rémoise Justice, I encountered crowds of demonstrators and wreckers going on the smash around the town - breaking and burning, slicing and shattering. Initially, they seemed to have taken aim at affluent commercial institutions such as banks, insurance and estate agencies, and the odd jewellery store, but as they headed up my street, any old glass window, item of street furniture, fencing, railing, traffic light and humble wheelie rubbish bin became fair target.
No wonder Justice has laid down her sword and turned to her fags and phone!

A shattered glass 'spider's web' on a street sign.