Hambling, M. 2009. You Are the Sea, Great Britain, Lux Books.
Hambling, M. 2010. The Aldeburgh Scallop, Suffolk, Full Circle Editions.
Hambling, M. 2010. The Sea, Salford Quays, Lowry Press.
Maggi Hambling is a British painter, sculptor and printmaker. Born in Suffolk, she has a particular link with Aldeburgh through her Waves paintings and prints – evocative of the ways the North Sea has ravaged the coast. Her recent work has had a much more political stance, for example in War and Requiem, and also in Edge the exhibition that was showing in Aldeburgh Peter Peers Gallery at the beginning of my visit for Project 4.2 ‘Aldeburgh Diary’.
The North Sea, often like a raging beast, is eating away and changing the shoreline forever. As I get older, I identify with the shifting shingle, as time, like the sea, enforces an inevitable erosion. But this raging beast is as demanding as a lover and I am still seduced and challenged. (2010 The Sea p18)
“As the waves of the North Sea voraciously consume our coast, these new paintings respond to the energy of their action as they break. This sea, the widest of mouths, roaring or laughing, is always seductive. Life and death mysteriously co-exist in the timeless rhythm of the waves.” Maggi Hambling, 2010 Wave website Fitzwilliam Museum
I am the shifting shingle, you approach with stealth, then the dark rooms of your curves, I am tossed, lost, displaced, with greedy lovers’ tongues and lips, you suck in and in again. we rise together, we rise together, then float safe on liquid breasts until the dance begins again and you thrust deep and my resistance is low, dissolve, dissolve. no defence against your relentless advance. I am but a ghost of the shore, disappeared in you. (2009 You Are the Sea text)
This exhibition is more political than much of her earlier work on the sea, dealing with the refugee crisis, battle for Aleppo and global warming.
It is called Edge because I feel we are ‘on the edge’. There is a fragility to our existence – both ours and the planet and these works attempt to address that and strike up a dialogue with whoever is looking at them.
The Edge paintings are large, with characteristic dramatic swirls of texture, that then on further looking show fine detail – people, remains of buildings and boats caught up in the chaos. The global warming paintings have a lot of gold, echoing renaissance paintings – but gold is now a reference to greed.
Hambling also designed the controversial Scallop sculpture on the beach at Aldeburgh that references the life and work of Benjamin Britten whose opera Peter Grimes was based on Aldeburgh. Part of the controversy comes from continuing homophobia of protesters.
The words read:
I hear those voices that will not be drowned
This first video below begins with very atmospheric photography of the Scallop and sea and sky in Aldeburgh to Benjamin Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes opera – then unfortunately it descends into farce.
This second video has film of Maggi Hambling sketching to the Storm section from Peter Grimes opera.
“I have had to go to men as sources in my painting because the past has left us so small an inheritance of woman’s painting that had widened life….Before I put a brush to canvas I question, “Is this mine? Is it all intrinsically of myself? Is it influenced by some idea or some photograph of an idea which I have acquired from some man?”
Some early women photographers did do serious topographical work in the late nineteenth and early 20C:
Frances Benjamin Johnson
Elizabeth Ellen Roberts
Artistic photography, continuing the ‘genteel’ occupations for lady sketchers and watercolourists, was also conducted by:
Julia Margaret Cameron
Lady Elizabeth Eastlake
But their work was more closely aligned with the family album, documentary and performance, rather topographic. (ibid, p.188).
Feminist discourse since the 1970s has rejected the monopoly of the male gaze and articulated the female point of view in relation to the landscape. Social and technological developments have also made serious photographic excursions into the landscape considerably more accessible (Wells, 2011, p.189). A number of female photographers have, in one form or another, engaged with feminist politics in relation to the landscape and the concept of nature, as well as the male gaze.
For interesting feminist and other modern approaches see:
Helen Sear’s series Grounded (2000), in which she digitally combines photographs of skies with images of animal hides photographed at a museum.
Jo Spence subverts classical depictions of nude female figures within idealised settings.
Joan Fontcuberta Bodyscapes (2005) employ three-dimensional imaging software used for military applications to render landscape images of close-up photographs of his own body.
Jo Spence (1934–92) had a highly politicised approach to photography, creating photographs that run counter to the idealised imagery offered by advertising. Spence often worked collaboratively and sought alternative distribution models, laminating work for durability and renting out her photography to conferences, libraries, universities and public spaces to broaden its audience. She also documented her own struggles with cancer.
‘Putting Myself in the Picture’ (Camden Press 1986) brought together her raw and confessional works to inspire a younger generation of photographers. Remodelling Photo History (1982) a series of self-portraits in collaboration with Terry Dennett. The work consists of a series of diptychs where two photographs of Spence are juxtaposed. In some pairs, the first is a parody of a more traditional pictorial image; the second shot is less conventionally framed and the irony is articulated with less subtlety.
‘Victimisation’ “Here we see that the estate will not admit trespass, and that it stands in for the heroic (male) defender of the ground, repelling weak opposition at its border. Jo Spence failed to cross the barrier, allowing the absent landowner (through his gate and sign) to become hero, male, the creator of difference… her mockery diminishes the victory won by the landowner.” (John Taylor 1994, p.282 quoted Alexander p133)
Solnit was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to a Jewish father and Irish Catholic mother, and in 1966 her family moved to Novato, California, where she grew up. “I was a battered little kid,” she said of her childhood. She skipped high school altogether, enrolling in an alternative junior high in the public school system that took her through tenth grade, when she passed the GED. Thereafter she enrolled in junior college. When she was 17, she went to study in Paris. She returned to California to finish her college education at San Francisco State University. She then received a master’s degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley in 1984 and has been an independent writer since 1988.
Her writing has appeared in numerous publications in print and online, including the Guardian newspaper and Harper’s Magazine, where she is the first woman to regularly write the Easy Chair column founded in 1851. She was also a regular contributor to the political blog TomDispatch and is (as of 2018) a regular contributor to LitHub.
Solnit is the author of seventeen books as well as essays in numerous museum catalogs and anthologies. Her 2009 book A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster began as an essay called “The Uses of Disaster: Notes on Bad Weather and Good Government” published by Harper’s magazine the day that Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf coast. It was partially inspired by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which Solnit described as “a remarkable occasion…a moment when everyday life ground to a halt and people looked around and hunkered down”. In a conversation with filmmaker Astra Taylor for BOMB magazine, Solnit summarized the radical theme of A Paradise Built in Hell: “What happens in disasters demonstrates everything an anarchist ever wanted to believe about the triumph of civil society and the failure of institutional authority.”
In 2014, Haymarket Books published Men Explain Things to Me, a collection of short essays written about instances of “mansplaining.” Solnit has been credited with paving the way for the coining of the word “mansplaining,” which has been used to refer to instances in which men explain things (generally toward women) in a condescending and/or patronizing way, but Solnit did not use it in the original essay. Solnit’s book included illustrations from visual and performance artist Ana Teresa Fernández.
In 2019, Solnit rewrote a new version of Cinderella, also for Haymarket Books, called Cinderella Liberator. In this feminist revision, Solnit reclaims Ella from the cinders and gives both the prince (“Prince Nevermind” in her version) and Ella new futures that involve thinking for themselves, acting out free will, starting businesses, and becoming friends, rather than dependent lovers. As Syreeta McFadden argued for NBC News, Cinderella has long been retold, changing with the times and this was a much needed revision. Solnit’s retelling is creative in that she uses the original Arthur Rackham’s original silhouetted drawings of Cinderella, but liberates her through research, words, and story.
New York Times book critic Dwight Garner called Solnit “the kind of rugged, off-road public intellectual America doesn’t produce often enough. … Solnit’s writing, at its worst, can be dithering and self-serious, Joan Didionwithout the concision and laser-guided wit. At her best, however […] she has a rare gift: the ability to turn the act of cognition, of arriving at a coherent point of view, into compelling moral drama.”
‘l love every minute of my life… I squeeze it like an orange and eat the peel, because I don’t want to miss a thing.’
Huguette Caland (January 1931 – 23 September 2019) was a Lebanese painter, sculptor and fashion designer known for her bright abstract paintings, erotic line drawings, and her Middle Eastern-inspired fashion designs. I came across her work in July 2019 at an exhibition at Tate St Ives – see exhibition catalogue:
Born in Beirut in 1931, she was the daughter of Bechara El Khoury, the first president of post-independence Lebanon from 1943. She began to study art in her 30s at the American University in Beirut just after her father died in 1964. By this point, Caland had married Paul Caland (the nephew of one of her father’s political rivals), had children, and taken a lover called Mustafa (who featured in many of her works). In 1970, she decided to leave her life in Lebanon behind and move to Paris to build a career as an artist. “Art is not a part of my life; it is my whole life.” She became a regular guest at the Feraud studio, meeting many artists, including André Masson, Pierre Schaeffer, and Adalberto Mecarelli. In 1979, Caland collaborated with designer Pierre Cardin, creating a line of caftans that were displayed at Espace Cardin.In 1983, Caland met Romanian sculptor George Apostu. From 1983 until Apostu’s death in 1986, they worked in Paris and in the Limousin, creating many paintings and sculptures during this time. In 1987 she moved back to Los Angeles. Then after moving from one studio to another, in 1997 she finally settled in a studio in Venice where she frequently hosted friends and members of the art community, including Ed Moses, Chris Burden, Larry Bell, Billy Al Bengston, and James Hayward. In 2013 she returned to Beirut to say goodbye to her dying husband, and remained there until she died in September 2019 at the age of 88 – just after the end of the exhibition at Tate St Ives where I saw her work.
Her work – like her life – is characterised above all by a sense of fun, energy and delicacy in her treatment of themes of eroticism and relationships. It includes large abstract oil canvases of body landscapes, simplified ink drawings and fashion design.
Martha Rosler is an American artist. She works in photography and photo text, video, installation, sculpture, and performance, as well as writing about art and culture. Rosler’s work is centered on everyday life and the public sphere, often with an eye to women’s experience. Wikipedia
Rosler’s work is quite diverse, but can be seen as underwriiten by four main themes around the question ‘What is subjectivity in the context of late capitalism?’
Biopolitical: the way that power orchestrates the body, particularly for women. Draws on de Beauvoir, Lefevre and later Foucault.
Everyday/ordinary/banale and commodification
Vernacular projects referencing Pop Art, snapshot photography and citizen journalism
Urbanism an political economy of place
Her work is directly linked to her activism: feminist, anti-power, anti-militarist and in support of human subjectivity. She draws on the theory and practice of ‘estrangement’ of Brecht and Godard where the work invites the viewer to recognise/misrecognise and then deny the content of what they are seeing – leading to critical thinking – leading to taking a position that things should be different.
She has used image and text in different ways. Some of her work is very effective in exploiting gaps and contradictions between the two ‘descriptive systems’.
This work is a large gallery frieze of a series of photographs of buildings and store fronts with bottles in various positions as traces of events, as a dyptych with ‘poems to alcohol’ – lists of words and phrases referring to drunkenness. They were produced as a counter to what Rosler sees as the voyeuristic and parasitic photography of homeless people and people with alcohol issues with quotations from them that are often taken by students, journalists or NGOs.
I find the unusual juxtaposition of two ‘ descriptive systems’ of image and text that are ‘inadequate’ in themselves to communicate collisions of power very poignant.
Semiotics of the Kitchen
House beautiful: bringing the war home
Other works are much more direct and – I think to a modern audience used to very polished and well-constructed video on what are nowadays common themes – rather cliche. Though the same issues remain.
Jenny Holzer (born July 29, 1950) is an American neo-conceptual artist, based in Hoosick Falls, New York. The main focus of her work is the delivery of words and ideas in public spaces.
Holzer belongs to the feminist branch of a generation of artists that emerged around 1980, looking for new ways to make narrative or commentary an implicit part of visual objects. Her contemporaries include Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman, Sarah Charlesworth, and Louise Lawler.
The public dimension is integral to Holzer’s work. Her large-scale installations have included advertising billboards, projections on buildings and other architectural structures, and illuminated electronic displays. LED signs have become her most visible medium, although her diverse practice incorporates a wide array of media including street posters, painted signs, stone benches, paintings, photographs, sound, video, projections, the Internet, and a race car for BMW. Text-based light projections have been central to Holzer’s practice since 1996. As of 2010, her LED signs have become more sculptural. Holzer is no longer the author of her texts, and in the ensuing years, she returned to her roots by painting. https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/jenny-holzer-1307
Most important element is the political content, making it clear and bold, though often based on enigmatic images and comntradiction.
She works visually with text usually short quotes in bold typeface eg futura, and uses black, white and ‘lipstick’ red, sometimes other bold colours or limited palettes. Sometimes in caps, sometimes lower case and often reversing front and background colours.
Appropriation eg images from 1950s used in 1980s. Silkscreen.
Barbara Kruger (born January 26, 1945) is an American conceptual artist and collagist. Most of her work consists of black-and-white photographs, overlaid with declarative captions, stated in white-on-red Futura Bold Oblique or Helvetica Ultra Condensed text. The phrases in her works often include pronouns such as “you”, “your”, “I”, “we”, and “they”, addressing cultural constructions of power, identity, and sexuality. Kruger currently lives and works in New York and Los Angeles.
Belief+Doubt (2012) at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Much of Kruger’s work pairs found photographs with pithy and assertive text that challenges the viewer. Her method includes developing her ideas on a computer, later transferring the results (often billboard-sized) into images. Examples of her instantly recognizable slogans read “I shop therefore I am,” and “Your body is a battleground,” appearing in her trademark white letters against a red background. Much of her text calls attention to ideas such as feminism, consumerism, and individual autonomy and desire, frequently appropriating images from mainstream magazines and using her bold phrases to frame them in a new context.
Kruger has said that “I work with pictures and words because they have the ability to determine who we are and who we aren’t.” A larger category that threads through her work is the appropriation and alteration of existing images. In describing her use of appropriation, Kruger states:
Pictures and words seem to become the rallying points for certain assumptions. There are assumptions of truth and falsity and I guess the narratives of falsity are called fictions. I replicate certain words and watch them stray from or coincide with the notions of fact and fiction.
Her poster for the 1989 Women’s March on Washington in support of legal abortion included a woman’s face bisected into positive and negative photographic reproductions, accompanied by the text “Your body is a battleground.” A year later, Kruger used this slogan in a billboard commissioned by the Wexner Center for the Arts. Twelve hours later, a group opposed to abortion responded to Kruger’s work by replacing the adjacent billboard with an image depicting an eight-week-old fetus.
Kruger’s early monochrome pre-digital works, known as ‘paste ups’, reveal the influence of the artist’s experience as a magazine editorial designer during her early career. These small scale works, the largest of which is 11 x 13 inches (28 x 33 cm), are composed of altered found images, and texts either culled from the media or invented by the artist. A negative of each work was then produced and used to make enlarged versions of these initial ‘paste ups’. Between 1978 and 1979, she completed “Picture/Readings,” simple photographs of modest houses alternating with panels of words. From 1992 on, Kruger designed several magazine covers, such as Ms., Esquire, Newsweek, and The New Republic. Her signature font style of Futura Bold type is likely inspired from the “Big Idea” or “Creative Revolution” advertising style of the 1960s that she was exposed to during her experience at Mademoiselle.
In 1990, Kruger scandalized the Japanese American community of Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, with her proposal to paint the Pledge of Allegiance, bordered by provocative questions, on the side of a warehouse in the heart of the historic downtown neighborhood. Kruger had been commissioned by MOCA to paint a mural for “A Forest of Signs: Art in the Crisis of Representation,” a 1989 exhibition that also included works by Barbara Bloom, Jenny Holzer, Jeff Koons, Sherrie Levine, and Richard Prince. But before the mural went up, Kruger herself and curator Ann Goldstein presented it at various community meetings over the time period of 18 months. Only after protests did the artist offer to eliminate the pledge from her mural proposal, while still retaining a series of questions painted in the colors and format of the American flag: “Who is bought and sold? Who is beyond the law? Who is free to choose? Who follows orders? Who salutes longest? Who prays loudest? Who dies first? Who laughs last?”. A full year after the exhibition closed, Kruger’s reconfigured mural finally went up for a two-year run.
In 1994, Kruger’s L’empathie peut changer le monde (Empathy can change the world) was installed on a train station platform in Strasbourg, France. One year later, with architects Henry Smith-Miller and Laurie Hawkinson and landscape architect Nicholas Quennell, she designed the 200-foot-long (60 m) sculptural letters Picture This for a stage and outdoor amphitheater at the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh. Between 1998 and 2008, she created permanent installations for the Fisher College of Business, the Broad Contemporary Art Museum at LACMA, the Moderna Museet, Stockholm, and the Price Center at the University of California, San Diego. For a site-specific piece that she produced at the Parrish Art Museum in 1998, Kruger placed across the upper range of the museum’s Romanesque facade stark red letters that read, “You belong here”; below, on columns separating three arched entry portals, stacked letters spelled “Money” and “Taste.” As part of the Venice Biennale in 2005, Kruger installed a digitally printed vinyl mural across the entire facade of the Italian pavilion, thereby dividing it into three parts—green at the left, red at the right, white in between. In English and Italian, the words “money” and “power” climbed the portico’s columns; the left wall said, “Pretend things are going as planned,” while “God is on my side; he told me so” fills the right. In 2012, her installation Belief+Doubt, which covers 6,700 square feet (620 m²) of surface area and was printed onto wallpaper-like sheets in the artist’s signature colors of red, black and white, was installed at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.