Archive for the ‘art’ Category

Scarlet Raven – animated body art

Posted: December 28, 2012 in animation, art

Nick Zedd

Posted: October 25, 2012 in art, Film, tv
Nick Zedd and Monica Casanova

Nick Zedd and Monica Casanova

The early films of Nick Zedd are collected on Abnormal: The Sinema of Nick Zedd which i would heartily recommend. Geek Maggot Bingo attempts to shoot a horror film in an apartment complete with bizarre monster and woods. It’s a bit like Plan 9 from Outer Space – only more fun. Electra Elf is much later.

A good book on Zedd is his autobiography Totem of the Depraved.

Electra Elf

Electra Elf

Kathie Vezzani

This video entitled 500 Years of Female Portraits has been floating around for a few years, but I just saw it for the first time today. It’s fascinating and creepy at the same time, albeit I did enjoy watching the changes of painting styles through the years. Let me know what you think–creepy or cool?

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Leon Golub Interview with Jon Bird

Posted: October 16, 2012 in art

Held in South London Gallery – 3pm 4th November, 2000


[Jon Bird¹ began by setting the background to the current exhibition prior to introducing Golub, Bird first became involved with Golub in 1982 when he was asked to write an essay which was placed in the catalogue² to Golub’s exhibition which was held at the ICA that year.

The exhibition, “Mercenaries and Interrogations” featured his notorious large unmounted canvasses of torturers, mercenaries and their victims. There were also several of his small portraits of dictators.

After the exhibition, some of these paintings were bought by the Saatchi’s. Since then, there has been no major showing of Golub’s work in this country. The current exhibition, at the South London Gallery, is a smaller version of a recent show held in Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin.

The South London Gallery has assembled a cross section of large canvasses dating from Gigantomachy II (1966) to “White Squad (El Salvador) (1980-81) and right up to date with “This Day.”(1999). Most of the paintings date from the 90’s.


These notes are not a full transcript of the interview, more a distillation of my impressions.]

BIRD: We have a unique opportunity here, since we are holding this interview in situ with the paintings. What do you feel about seeing your paintings displayed in the South London Gallery?

GOLUB: Of course I am familiar with the paintings. Some of the more recent ones I am more familiar with. The hanging in this gallery is different from the other (in Ireland) where they were hung in narrow corridors that you had to pass along. Here, the paintings are hung on top of each other which I do not usually see because they are large canvasses.

B: Perhaps we could talk about some of the paintings in more detail, the two behind us for example, “Two Black Women and a White Man” (1986) and “Try Burning This One” (1991). What about the hanging of them?


G: The hanging of these are good. The White Man seems to be looking in the direction of the two thugs in the other painting.

B: Then asked him about the “White Squad” painting on the far wall.

G: Paintings are made of composites. I use photographs, lots of them, but there is no single image which makes up these paintings. The El Salvador painting has a fellow standing over the trunk of a car. In the trunk is a body, a different one from the one in the original photograph. The thug standing over the trunk didn’t have a head in the original photo. I added one. He’s a thug but I made him a handsome thug. I like to show the tension between the killers and torturers and their normal lives. This guy in the painting is turning round to look at the viewer as if to say, “You’ll end up in the trunk too.”

The figures in the paintings, such as in “The Site”, tend to be larger than life size. This is so that they are not dwarfed by the viewer.

B: Asked Golub about his treatment of the paint surface.

G: This is an arduous process. I treat the paint as skin. If I wanted to overstate the case I could make the analogy between the skin of life. I remove paint to get at the skin of the canvas. I began to do this with paint in the 50’s though I first started with lithographs in art school. I would do a lithograph and then keep working on it, scraping the stone down to a sixteenth or even a thirtysecond of an inch which is pretty thin.

When I started to use paint I didn’t like oils. They took too long to dry so I used floor enamels which have a range of interesting dull flat colours. They also do not give – there is no plasticity in them, unlike oil paints.

When you use them the enamel sinks into the unprimed canvas but on a primed canvas they flake and crack – sometimes within months. I decided to add to the process by cutting into the paint. After Enamels I began to use lacquers. I would put about ten coats of lacquer on a canvas then begin to scrape away – often for days using a plasterer’s tool.

In 1961 I started to use acrylics on unprimed canvas. Unlike lacquers, acrylics will not allow you to build up ten layers of paint so I use about five coats.

The full technique involves laying down a flat painting of a number of coats then dissolving the paint in solvent prior to scraping. Originally I used some very dangerous solvents. I had to have all sorts of tests when I used them. Now I use alcohol and that seems to work fine for me.

After about 15 years of using the plasterer’s tool I discovered I could use a meat cleaver (points at Gigantomachy II). See those diagonal marks on the paint. That’s the cleaver. There’s a huge advantage to a 4 inch edge as opposed to half an inch.

Then I got a hernia and after my operation I found I couldn’t scrape. So I got someone to help me do the scraping. I would just do the heads and hands whilst an assistant did the other parts. Sometimes about 20 people have worked on my paintings. I don’t know if people can tell who does what but now I know why no one will ever know what parts of a painting Rembrandt did.

Scraping leads to great textural effects but it can also lead to mistakes which need to be retouched. I like that combination of control mixed with chance effects.

B: In 1992 you changed your working methods. You began to introduce text into the paintings and there was less overall scraping of the work. You also began to place the figures within a pictorial space – albeit a sparse one. There also seem to be elements of fantasy in the work.

G: Well, even with the help of assistants I still had to do some scraping – a lot in fact. Eventually I found it harder and harder to carry on scraping. Right now I’m interested in the tension between the global nature of society and the fractures that also exist within. Within the macrostructure there are all these microstructures. I suppose I get irritated with things and I want to monkey around. I’m trying to be a smartass.

Take this painting “Strut” (1994). I started with this phrase in Spanish “El Dolor y la Morte” – Paint is death. And then you have this guy sitting on the left giving the viewer the finger. Then there’s another phrase saying “Announcing the End of the World” and above it a fireball – a very faint fireball. Then you have, in the front all these showgirls strutting so I called the painting “Strut” (This is presumably symbolic of defiance in the face of destruction). I got that skull from Tarot cards (Points to “Times Up” (1997).

B: The image of the dog emerges in the 90’s.

G: I used to have dogs. I collected literary quotes about dogs. For example Churchill – Churchill’s “black dog” (depression). When a city is under attack, dogs are symbolic of societal breakdown. For example the imagery of dogs running loose.

B: Your work is still open to the possibilities of subject matter such as gallows humour.

G: I’m trying to get at the real. What’s real? I don’t necessarily know. I use the word voyeurism as something virile, something focused. I take a displaced fragments approach.

You have this tension. People are autonomous but also subject to control. The question is how we interact. Paintings are simple things. Take the middle painting (The Site) 1994. What you have is those guys in suits. They’ve just come from the embassy and they’re having to deal with this massacre. Anyway they are stood around and one of them is eating an apple in the middle of all this.

Then there’s this painting here “Laughing Lions” (1995). There’s this quote “Laughing Lions must come” (a quote from Nietzsche) and you have another dog and another fireball. And there’s also a woman acrobat.

By this point the interview was getting a little fragmented so Jon Bird opened the discussion up to questions from the floor.


Q1: You use Latin quotes. Is there a connection with Pompeii?

G: I love Pompeii, especially the red backgrounds. I use that red in a lot of my paintings. I love Roman portraits and frescos and their lyrical art. Roman art to me reflects a struggling urban aggressive society.

Q2: Why weren’t your canvasses stretched?

G: I think of paintings as fragments of skin. I do stretch the smaller paintings but I like the way the larger paintings hang. Also sometimes I put holes and cut some of the canvasses and these won’t stand stretching. I see frames as both protective and as warnings not to touch a painting. Not that I want you to go around putting your hands all over my pictures.

Q3: Are your canvasses primed?

G: No. Acrylic doesn’t need primed canvasses. Anyway I leave all that to conservators in the future.

B: I’d like to close with one last question. You are an avid consumer of media images. Given the power of global media, spectacle and the World Wide Web – what does it mean to be pursuing this traditional activity of painting? What does painting mean to you?

G: Over the years there have been a number of false predictions about painting. People have said that figurative painting is dead. That was often said by abstract painters. Then they said that painting was dead. That was often said by sculptors. I am sceptical of statements made by self interested people.

To me the notion of painting is of a blank canvas. Each painting is a new start. You can go to a movie and things happen in front of you. Boy meets girl. Boy gets girl. Everything works out. Paintings don’t move. A painting just sits there. It’s a static way of resolving things which has a power precisely because it does not move.

You can look at a painting once and nothing happens. You can keep seeing a painting in a gallery and it becomes familiar and you begin to acknowledge it. The another time it stops you in your tracks. It has the possibility of riveting you years later. Painting still has that peculiar magic where we respond to spots, colours and symbols.

¹ Jon Bird has recently written and had published “Leon Golub – Echoes of the Real” (Reaktion Books)

² “Leon Golub – Mercenaries and Executions” Essay by Jon Bird. Interview with Michael Newman. Published by the Institute of Contemporary Arts 1982.