Sunday, 23 October 2016

Hari Kunzru on tolerance

I think that Hari Kunzru puts the case for tolerance and understanding very well in this recent article 

  Jonathan Franzen claimed he won’t write about race because of limited ‘firsthand experience’, while Lionel Shriver hopes objection to ‘cultural appropriation is a passing fad’. So should there be boundaries on what a novelist can write about?


Hari Kunzru

Clearly, if writers were barred from creating characters with attributes that we do not “own” (gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and so on), fiction would be impossible. Stories would be peopled by clones of the author. Since trespassing into otherness is a foundation of the novelist’s work, should we restrict ourselves in some way, so as to avoid doing violence to those who identify with our characters? The injunction to refrain from “cultural appropriation” sounds like a call for censorship, or at best a warning to self-censor, an infringement of the creative liberty to which so many surprising people profess themselves attached.

It is true that the politics of offence are used to shut down dissident voices of all kinds, frequently in minority communities, and the understanding of culture as a type of property to which ownership can be definitively assigned is, at the very least, problematic. Should the artist go forth boldly, without fear? Of course, but he or she should also tread with humility. Note that I do not say, “with care”. I don’t believe any subject matter should a priori be off limits to anyone, or that harm necessarily flows from the kind of ventriloquism that all novelists perform. Quite the opposite. Attempting to think one’s way into other subjectivities, other experiences, is an act of ethical urgency. For those who have never experienced the luxury of normativity, the warm and fuzzy feeling of being the world’s default setting, humility in the face of otherness seems like a minimal demand. Yet it appears that for some, the call to listen before speaking, to refrain from asserting immediate authority, is so unfamiliar that it feels outrageous. I’m being silenced! My freedom is being abridged! Norm is unaccustomed to humility because he has grown up as master of the house. All the hats are his to wear. For the deviant others, who came in by the kitchen door, it has always been expected, even demanded.
Good writers transgress without transgressing, in part because they are humble about what they do not know. They treat their own experience of the world as provisional. They do not presume. They respect people, not by leaving them alone in the inviolability of their cultural authenticity, but by becoming involved with them. They research. They engage in reciprocal relationships. It does not seem like a particular infringement of liberty to pass through the world without being its owner, unless someone else is continually asserting property rights over the ground beneath your feet. The panicked tone of the accusations of censorship leads me to suspect that what is being asserted has little to do with artistic freedom per se, and everything to do with a bitter fight to retain normative status, and the privileges that flow from it. The solution is simple, my fearful friends. Give up. Accept that some things are not for you, and others are not about you. You will find you have lost nothing. It may even feel like a weight off your shoulders. Put down that burden and pull up a chair. You might hear something you haven’t heard before. You will, at least, hear some new stories.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Venice in October

Historic Castello quarter where I stayed

View from my room:)
Just around the corner

The Maritime Museum
Portrait by/of Bellini in Accademia Art Gallery
Two of the original bronze horses of San Marco

San Marco piazza from above
Flying visit to Venice to see the Architecture Biennale, here are a few fleeting impressions from the city

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Waqas Khan

Waqas Khan


Jonathan Jones in this article:

asks "How can you express love in art?  One way is to make it with love.  Art created by a devoted hand projects its kindness into the space around it and the hearts of those who view it".

Elphida Hadzi-Vasileva at Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham

Fragility - drapes made from pig guts

A detail from Fragility ( I think)
A section of zebra heart

Haruspex - sections of pig gut

This artist, Elphida Hadzi-Vasileva,  works with internal organs of animals to create installations and sculptures.  I like this take on anatomy.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

THE HORSE IN THE HEART Whitespace Gallery, Edinburgh

An exhibition of drawings by Diana Hand  

Whitespace Gallery, 25, Howe Street, Edinburgh EH3 6TF
8th October to 13th October, 2016

The Double   ink on paper


I have been working all summer towards this exhibition of equestrian drawings.  I love to work very spontaneously and freely, but I would also like more control and understanding over what I do, and to develop a different approach to equestrian art, one that is not purely figurative.  And one which has, to quote previous blog, "a frame of wider reference" than simply my intuitive and immediate responses.

One such wider frame is the study of anatomy, and  for the past year I have been doing different courses - at the Ruskin School of Art in Oxford, at the Glasgow School of Art and with Alan McGowan in Edinburgh.  I have also been to clinics on equine anatomy run by Gillian Higgins at agricultural colleges in Gloucestershire.

I have been re-reading The Artist's Guide to Animal Anatomy by Gottfried Bammes.  I read this book about five years and was drawn to his expressive and free illustrations, but I skipped the anatomical information.  But by now  I know enough to make a deep study of his anatomical and dynamic structural approach, and to understand that this knowledge is the foundation of freer and more imaginative work.

I also used his suggestions about experimenting with different media and letting the medium shape the drawing.  This gave a great sense of movement and energy to start with and then I could explore the anatomy and form in this context.
Running Horses   Watercolour and charcoal on paper

Horse's Head   Watercolour wash and charcoal on paper

Another discovery was the use of a narrative.  Quite by chance I dropped a sheet of tissue paper onto a wet gesso surface.  It was beautiful and delicate and I transferred the marks onto an existing black canvas.
The shapes suggested horses' bodies and movements and the ghostly presence of horses in the distant and near past, inhabiting our psyche as they do for the horse lover.  I made a large more finished piece of this.

These We Have Loved    Charcoal on paper  1370 x 1010

Drawing from One Hundred Horses series

Later I realised that the concept is slightly similar to the "One Hundred Horses" paintings by Guiseppe Castiglione (1688-1766), an Italian Jesuit missionary in China.  I like these paintings because of the depiction of horses "off-duty" by someone who obviously knew them very well and appreciated their interaction with humans too.

This exhibition has been a much more personal "journey" than the previous exhibition earlier in the year.  I did have a system to work from and help me expand my references and knowledge, but the subject matter tended to take its own course and chance threw up new perspectives and meaning!  

Bring it on!

Sunday, 18 September 2016

The Anatomy of a Cardboard Box - exhibition in Dunblane, Perthshire

Inside Out and Upside Down - the anatomy of a cardboard box
2nd to 29th April, 2016

"This is an excellent exhibition and deserves recognition"  Comment by a visitor to the gallery

In an exhibition of new drawings at Dunblane Museum Gallery, I explored the shapes, shadows and corners suggested by everyday packaging material.  This work is based on my interest in these discarded fragments of our contemporary life, and the associations and stories, not to mention the beautiful shapes and shadows, that I see in these objects.

I  experimented with a particular approach to making art, consciously moving from concept to making and back again, as described by Donald Schon in his book “The Reflective Practitioner”.  The trigger in this case is a piece of packaging material that is quite architectural in nature.  This also picks up on my interest in and research into architectural space, and gives me a framework for the process.

I experimented with Schon’s ideas by shifting between by making drawings of the carton (from different angles, in different media and from different distances)  and pausing to reflect on what I was trying to say and  what was emerging, with reference to my personal reactions and to the work of other artists and writers. I thus tried to bridge the gap between ideas and making, and this is the purpose of the exhibition.  I have discovered that the drawing process gave me much more insight into ideas and that the ideas broadened the range of possibilities and gave me an on-going structure to work with.  In other words, it gave me a frame of wider reference.

I continued my research in this topic for sometime afterwards, visiting educational seminars and summer schools.  I will resume and hope to continue the work.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Painting people

Here are two pieces I did at a recent portrait painting workshop with Alan McGowan in Edinburgh.