Wednesday, August 12, 2009

'Readymade Cubism'

Today the opposite of tomato is The Saddest Music in the World

graphite & putty eraser/30x20cm

Considering the source found object from which this latest 'roadkill diptych' drawing was processed, one might refer, art-historically, to such an example as 'Readymade Cubism', the object having been 'accidentally' compressed from three-dimensions-in-the-round into a series of overlapping two-dimensional planes that represent its form as a patchwork composition of shards & fragments, to be read as such which at the same time offer clues as to enable the imaginative reconstruction of the whole object in its original state, or at least an approximation thereof: add the obvious reference to Pop Art, & what might appear worthless - a used/useless, discarded, distressed thing - becomes a rich source of aesthetic resonances.

The drawing was processed mostly from direct reference to a 'distanced' photocopy of the object (in keeping with much of this year's practice & general theme), with occasional recourse to the thing itself. Looking once again, with profound admiration, at the work of Jasper Johns, & especially all those wonderful, compellingly gestured & textured, sensuous surfaces, the dark-toned ground of the left-hand half of the drawing this time employs a more multi-directional mark-making approach than the habitual strictly diagonally-stroked surface.


Test Match Special Eng v Aus 4th Test, 3rd day
Hanne Hukkelberg 'Rykestrasse 68'
Moon Wiring Club 'An Audience of Art Deco Eyes'

Related to both the soundtrack & the general appearance of photocopied source material is today's choice of viewing, a work of musical cinema in the form of director Guy Maddin's inventive 'The Saddest Music in the World'. Very much an object of desire, having been initially encountered as written about, most intriguingly, in an art mag some years previously, the recently-purchased DVD has at last enabled access to a wonderful & strange work of art, its aesthetic abundant in references to cinema's & art history.

Mostly shot in monochrome with occasional bursts of vivid, dreamlike technicolour, its grainy, somewhat degraded, high-contrast appearance recalls that of the silent movie era (& the later technological phenomenon of poor-quality-reproduction xeroxed images), whilst the narrative (essentially a beer baroness-sponsored global competition to discover which country produces, as it says on the tin, the saddest music in the world) is in the best Hollywood tradition of melodramatic machinations & the musical (even if it's something of a warped take on the latter), peopled by an exaggeratedly eccentric cast of main characters to whom sadness is attached, historically & present, even if displaced, in some form - all are somewhat damaged, physically (the female protagonist is, for example, a double leg amputee, of tragi-comic blundering circumstances) &/or psychologically or emotionally, by aspects of personal history, tragedy or over-ambition, but the whole is leavened by the energy of the developing narrative & many touches of comedy & absurdity. The theme of memory - variously its loss, recovery, persistence, fictionalisation & unreliability - is present throughout as the threads of the narrative interweave, to increasingly poignant effect: even in the midst of the film's explicit stylization, the actors' performances, the representations of their personal & mutual melancholies, display a convincing depth.

The striking, theatrical sets (of the environs of a fictional, fantastical, snowbound, Depression-era Winnipeg & an industrial scale brewery) reference such iconic modernism as Cubism, Constructivism & Art Deco, & the whole visual inventiveness & magical aesthetic (which relates 'TSMitW' to a film such as 'The Science of Sleep': similarly, the 'Saddest Music' DVD extras include a couple of making-of documentaries that provide delightful & informative insight into the low-budget creative process) is perhaps best embodied in the creation of a pair of glass prosthetic legs which are subsequently filled with beer (& drunk from & worn!). Much of the film is shot through Vaseline-smeared camera lenses that soften & blur the edges of the frames & otherwise have something of a faceting effect upon the images that again suggests Cubism (as does the nature of the hand-held cinematography), & this simple technical visual device aids the overall strange, hallucinatory aspect of proceedings: its a film that appears, ultimately, quite unlike any other, the product of Maddin's idiosyncratic, experimental creative vision, & becomes a compelling work of art.

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