Thursday, 26 May 2016

Light Art: Liz West at the Aesthetica Prize Exhibition

Last week, I finally went to visit the new Aesthetica Art Prize 2016 Exhibition organised by the Aesthetica Magazine in York which features ten shortlisted artists from around the globe. This text is a personal account of my interactions with one of the artworks exhibited: Shifting Luminosity by Liz West.

Shifting Luminosity, Liz West (2016)
Shifting Luminosity, Liz West (2016)

The art work is located in the crypt of St Mary's, a former church which is now a contemporary art space. This well-thought setting creates a strange atmosphere, from a dark corridor to the revelation of light. The location adds a new meaning to the artwork, the Christian conception of light as revelation. Lights help us to see what is unseen, this oxymoron describes perfectly the work of Liz West. You have the sharp LED light mixed with the tender pastel colours, themselves defined by dark lines.

Shifting Luminosity, Liz West (2016)
Shifting Luminosity, Liz West (2016)

The artwork itself is a composition of bright colours and black lines. The bright side of the lights are facing the wall, creating a canvas of lines and colours for the viewer. It reminded me of modernist artworks, how not to think about Piet Mondrian, but also of Juan Miró. The Spanish artists plays with colours and forms to create composition of splash of colour and lines intertwined on the canvas.

The Smile of the Flamboyant Wing, Joan Miró (1953), Museuo National Del Arte (Madrid)
The Smile of the Flamboyant Wing, Joan Miró (1953), Museuo National Del Arte (Madrid)

This playful and open interpretation is what I was interested in both artists, West and Miró. The lines are firm but not rigid, and the colours are fun and yet nostalgic. The nostalgia of Liz West's is made clear by the title "Shifting Luminosity", something is changing, what you see does no longer exist. One second you see a colour then it is gone replaced by another one. The play of 2D and 3D is always very interesting, you can either perceive the artwork as a canvas, a painting of light, or as an installation with big black and rigid sticks of light.

Shifting Luminosity, Liz West (2016) Details
Shifting Luminosity, Liz West (2016) Detail

Hope you enjoyed this quick text on my personal interaction with this artwork. Art is not only reserved to "connoisseur" and everyone is allowed and should write about their own feelings and experiences, nothing or no one is wrong or right.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

The Art and Science of Nineteenth-Century Stained Glass (Oxford, April 2016)

Last April, I was invited by Thea Goldring and the Ertegun House at Oxford University for a conference on "Art and Science of Nineteenth-Century Stained Glass". I  had the pleasure and honour to chair the session on "French Stained Glass Ateliers and Their techniques".  Here are my conference's highlights: 

The first presentation focused on 19th century stained glass French historiography and was given by Mr Jean-François Luneau (Université Clermont-Ferrand), a 19th century French stained glass specialist (and my PhD supervisor). His talk emphasised the evolution of studies concerning stained glass of the 19th century, from no study to a pick in the 1980s as well the lack of general studies of the subject, to the absence of study on civil and domestic stained glass. In fact, 19th century stained glass bibliography is dominated by case studies, from small local publications to work done by l'Inventaire (public-founded organisation which inventories every aspects of French heritage, from architecture to decorative arts). The pick of the 1980s made me think about the relationship between the rediscovery of the Gothic Revival or néo-gothique in France, and the effect on the perception of 19th century artworks. The exhibition Le "Gothique" retrouvé in 1979 has had a strong impact of the perception of 19th century art and is an important benchmark in the study of 19th century art. However, the real discovery for me was the distinction between "vitrail tableau" and "vitrail mosaïque". The last one is often labelled as "archeologic" and follow Middle Ages techniques, whereas the vitrail tableau as defined by Jean Taralon (1958) is closer to a painting and required modern techniques. 

On the second day, Amélie Duntze (Université Clermont-Ferrand) presented her work on Eugène Oudinot de la Favrerie (1827-1889), a stained glass artist who trained as a chemist and patented new techniques in France and in the US. The links between art and science in Oudinot's artistic life were highlighted by the study of his patents from the 1880s. These patents focused on different techniques such as the replacement of tiles in furniture by glass panels, which was also developed in the US by Louis Tiffany, as well as a technique of gilding stained glass. This gilding was an ingenious invention, creating a double effect; during the day you could see the coloured glass panels and at night (with artificial lights) the panels were like gold and would sparkle. This technique was used in a private house in New York, as well as at the château d'Eux (a castle "restored" by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc). 

Another presentation was given by Tom Küpper, glass keeper at the Lincoln cathedral and PhD candidate at the University of Lincoln, on 19th century amateur stained glass. This talk emphasised the role of amateur artist in the 19th century, especially women's role. Their works were mainly commissioned by local churches, and most of them had done one stained glass panel. However, some amateurs started to develop a relationship with their stained glass atelier, and would submit several design to the atelier. Most amateurs would only design the cartoons and not actually make the stained glass themselves, which was advised by DIY books and the School of Design. 

This conference was extremely interesting in developing the complex relationship between science and art in the 19th century. It was mentioned by Thea Goldring in her talk on how stained glass artists slowly differentiate themselves from chemists. Some stained glass panels still have the mention of the chemist who created the pigments (the work of Chevreuil on colours should be mentioned), as an ode to the alliance between art and science but slowly science started to be perceived as contrary to art. The conference also talked about the perception of 19th century art, and the need of more studies in this field to understand this art for its own sake and not just as imitative.