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Monday, 27 February 2017

[Film] I, Daniel Blake by Ken Loach – DVD out on 27 February 2017 / Blu-Ray out 13 February

CERT: 15
RUN TIME: 100 mins
RRP: £19.99 / £24.99
- Commentary with Director Ken Loach and Writer Paul Laverty
- How To Make a Ken Loach Film featurette
- Deleted Scenes
I, DANIEL BLAKE is available digitally from 13th February 2017 on Blu-ray and DVD from 27th February 2017.

Article in progress

Early 90’s, I was an usher @ The Riverside Studios. Ed Lewis, Cinema Programmer, used to program double bills: films by a same author, same actor or films with common subject matters. As far as I remember, Ken Loach’s films were programmed together.
When I became Ed’s assistant, he taught me the importance of British film makers like Ken Loach, Mike Leigh and others. According to him, they were essential in recording social injustices of our time.

When the Riverside closed for refurbishment, I joined the NFT (now called the BFI) as a cinema member. It is there I bumped into the social film maker a few times. Always by the NFT 1 entrance. Polite and humble. Late 90’s or early 00’s, one night, the NFT 1 invited the man for a talk after a screening. I don’t remember the film’s name but there was conflict between its intensity and an individual kicking my back seat on a regular basis.
At some point, avoiding a scandal, I simply looked at the person in a not so friendly mood, like if-you-don’t-stop-I-might-strangle-you! The back sit kicker was very apologetic and so was his wife and I decided to go (with my eyes) “ok but don’t do it again” until I realised Ken Loach had long legs that needed to express themselves.
I mean... who else can go to a Xmas party and brag about being “ass-kicked” by the twice Palm D’Or winner film director?

Months before Ken Loach won a Palm for I, Daniel Blake in May 2016, I wrote to his film production enquiring whether they would be interested in making a film about the unemployed voluntary scheme set up by the Tories. Ken was actually in post prod on similar subject: the unemployed fate!
I had just received a letter inviting me...

My write-up is coming, but if in urge, buy the DVD, it’s an essential to have. Sorry I have been on this article as soon as Ken’s prod sent me the DVD to review.

Sybille Castelain

Thursday, 23 February 2017

[EXHIBITIONS // GAL DEM FEST] Griffin Gallery // Saatchi // Gal Dem [ending between 24 & 28 February – all FREE

Three events to reach out now:

Griffin Gallery 21 Evesham Street London W11 4AJ
Ending 24th February 2017

Mariele Neudecker’ 
Gravity Prevents the Atmosphere from Drifting into Outer Space piece

Two days left to rush to Latimer Road Station in West London to the unmissable exhibition I Lost My Heart to a Starship Tropper.
The exhibition examines the importance of appropriation and influence in the practices of twelve contemporary artists.
Curated by London-based art consultant Catherine Loewe, who says: ‘The exhibition’s title comes from the 1978 Hot Gossip song of the same name, and also refers to the artist Glenn Brown, who used the title for one of his paintings, a meticulous rendition of a Rembrandt. Through this appropriation, Brown united something old and almost sacred with something modern, and this, in part, was the genesis of the exhibition. While all of the featured works open up myriad lines of inquiry, from challenging notions of value and authorship to examining modern morality, the show is in essence about the artists’ relationship with the art
historical canon, from Old Masters to the present.
My heart sank for Mariele NeudeckerGravity Prevents the Atmosphere from Drifting into Outer Space piece... “Suspended in a mysterious thick fog trapped in a glass aquarium, like the memory of a long forgotten submerged world... geographical topography with the mysticism of Romanticism...” as well as her still life framed giclée prints on archive paper.

V&A Friday late, not in V&A site.
Friday Late: gal-dem: 24 & 25 February 2017
Friday 24 February; 18.30 – 22.00
Saturday 25 February; 11.00 – 16.00
Please note events are held off-site in Stratford, East London, and not at the V&A in South Kensington Admission free; some events may be ticketed
Viewing music videos

I have been to the previous one and strongly recommend the experience:
This February gal-dem are back again for an expanded Friday Late. In this second collaboration with the V&A, the online magazine, formed of 70 women of colour, share their take on the world through the lens of film making. This V&A Friday Late is taking place in partnership with Stratford Circus Arts Centre, with further events at Stratford Picturehouse and Gerry’s Kitchen on Friday 24th and Saturday 25th February as part of the V&A's programme of events with communities across East London.
Highlights of Friday evening’s event at Stratford Circus Arts Centre will include energetic performances from Ojerime, DJ Shy One and a video performance from Klein. There will be a rolling programme of films themed around the masculinity of black culture with a discussion curated by Crack Stevens (Akinola Davis Junior). Shiamak Davar International will lead a Bollywood dance tutorial followed by a discussion held by Raisa Kabir on the representation of gender in Bollywood cinema.
On Saturday, events will take place across three venues on one square; Stratford Circus Arts Centre, Stratford Picturehouse and Gerry’s Kitchen. At Stratford Circus Arts Centre events will be themed around DIY Feminism with female film collective Sorta Kinda Maybe Yeah running an activity on women in comedy and gal-dem hosting a skills swap workshop. Queer spaces and notions of masculinity are explored at Stratford Picturehouse with a sneak peek screening of 195 Lewis directed by Chanelle Aponte Pearson and queer performance from Travis Alabanza. Gerry’s Kitchen will host a makers market and a videography editing workshop by gal-dem.
About gal-dem:

Ends 28 February 2017

 Martin Maloney

Saatchi Gallery presents its new exhibition PAINTERS’ PAINTERS: Artists of today who inspire artists of tomorrow, featuring the work of nine present-day painters ranging from their 30s to their 60s.
In an age where painting has become one strand among many in contemporary art making, Painters’ Painters brings together a small group of distinctive figures in the field.
In recent years, painting has been challenged by the myriad of other modern media and technologies embraced by contemporary art. It is less frequently seen in contemporary museums and galleries today and is seemingly out of favour with many curators.
Painters’ Painters focuses on a group of artists who have been undeterred by the gradual decline in interest in this perennial art form.
There is no discernible style or movement these artists belong to, and as an exhibition, it examines the very individualistic and nonconformist approaches explored by painters who are proving to be inspirational to a younger generation of artists emerging from the world’s leading art schools.
Painters’ Painters features the work of Richard Aldrich, David Brian Smith, Dexter Dalwood, Raffi Kalenderian, Ansel Krut, Martin Maloney, Bjarne Melgaard, Ryan Mosley and David Salle.
Painters’ Painters pays tribute to artists who have forged their own intriguingly diverse paths and techniques and continue to contribute to the ongoing development of painting today. They effectively negotiate the paradox of being both mainstream and niche, homogenous yet highly distinctive at the same time.
Music and pop culture fans shouldn’t miss Raffi KalenderianChelsea Hotel (Room 1) and Dexter DalwoodKurt Cobain’s Greenhouse + Brian Jones’ Swimming Pool (Room 3).
Also the urban reality of women by Martin Maloney (Room 4); Ansel Krut’ mocking spirit... (Room 6); David Brian Smith from his great grandfather snaps, a process reminiscent of Gerhard Richter... (Room 10).

Top floor, my heart sank for Jeni Spota C biblical paintings. Aleksandra Mir is impressive also with her giant newspapers headlines Stock Market.
Bottom floor, my heart sank again for anything Alo. Pure Evil, Marc Quinn’s Stealth Kate (yes Kate Moss), Sku and Alaric Hammond.

Enjoy London.

Sybille Castelain

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Dear Loic Prigent, I am not insane, I’m factual... or am I?

Dear Loic Prigent, I am not insane, I’m factual... or am I?

About a year ago, I came across your twits! I thought they were a piss take to women. Women in the fashion world. It’s not like you enhance them, is it? Your twits are meant to be funny, but most of them, if not all of them are about women saying “funny” things in the fashion world. It’s pretty perverse, but you got Catherine Deneuve to read them.
I’m more a fan on your documentaries.

The most recent one, 15 Feb 2017, I couldn’t remain silent: “Je ne suis pas folle, je suis factuelle” (I’m not crazy, I’m factual). Basically, a complete unknown woman to twit readers, is saying something that’s worth a twit and it is supposed to be funny.
TBH, I smiled because I recognised myself. But then again, how many women are told they are inventing facts? How many women are actually told they are crazy? How many women spend their time having to prove stuff because men are playing twisted games? Of course, women are too, but let’s say that here, I am focusing on sexual harassment, rape, sexism and misogyny! Most women are affected on the matter. I have been!

[If you speak to Laurent Bon, your boss @ Bangumi, he’ll tell you surely. If he plays shy, I have been sexually harassed @ Les Inrocks, 1991-1992... kept silent until two years ago]

I started my blog, based in London, in March 2013, waiting for a job to come, showing off my abilities in the world of arts. But have I got any abilities? Question drives me crazy at times. Les Inrocks were quick at noticing my blog, Jean Daniel Beauvallet at least.

If you have time to read, this is how much time I have spent writing, proving, being factual, trying to not sink into insanity: Le Diable ecoute The Smiths; bits and pieces here and there on Les Inrocks; Kill Your Friends; Dear Lemon Twigs; Dear George Michael; Dear Carole Boinet; Journalism / Sexism. Everything is about my ex bosses, Les Inrocks!

To cut it short, many of my posts have been used in Les Inrocks posts. But it’s only coincidences, innit? I’m just crazy, right?
To cut it even shorter (so you don’t have to read all my posts on Les Inrocks... or Les Inrocks rewriting my posts), I wondered why my post on David Hockney documentary Hockney (written in Nov 2014) and my post on Conflict Time Photography @ Tate Modern (written in Dec 2014) were intensely read, in French (I have English versions of them) in France, UK and US in June and July 2016... Fleur Burlet of Les Inrocks AKA Fleur Fleurette on Instagram met David Hockney in July 2016!
In my July 2016 section on “bits and pieces” (see above) I made a polite reference to it. If she interviewed Hockney for her Please mag, special on Los Angeles or California, the interview didn’t appear in its autumn issue. But late August early September 2016, again, my two posts were intensely read in France and UK. Did she try to publish it elsewhere? Did she ask him questions according to what she read on my posts?
Da bitch is now 25, I could be her mother, although the best thing I’ve done in my life is to be childless. I would have put organic weed in their milk bottle to boost their immune system, probably with a soupçon of vodka. I can’t believe I have to deal with that cretin of a human being!

Because London is so small, Les Inrocks keep walking on my footsteps. I do Somerset House, they do it, I do V&A, they do it, I do Tate, they do it, I do Alexander McQueen, they do it. How often, pre 2013 have they written about these places? When did they have a front cover on McQueen or any fashion designers? We are fucking talking McQueen here, a giant, a visionnaire, a “social worker”! He was alive once. Why an interest so suddenly?
I have done The Vulgar Fashion Redefined @ Barbican... they just did too!

Concretely? Here you are: 2013, I wrote on Wellcome Collection, months later, they wrote about the place too (for the first time, so it seems); still 2013, I wrote about Karen Knorr – Punks @ Ibid, months later they wrote about the same thing (first time they mention Knorr or Ibid? You bet!); Dec 2014, I wrote about Black British Experience... in March 2015, they write about it!

I have just written on Hockney @ Tate, they have just done it too. I talked Rembrandt, quick click of photography... ways of looking (David Hockney documentary Hockney; Conflict Time Photography @ Tate Modern; Hockney @ Tate Modern), Thomas Andrei of Les Inrocks has just written about it, same photos too... and he doesn’t understand what I’m talking about! Really? Does the fucker know that this very exhibition is travelling to Paris in a few months time? Was it necessary to puke his lame prose on it?

The very same guy who has just twittly befriended Alice Gros @ Fire records (herself a friend with the guy who harassed me at Les Inrocks... and strangely enough I can’t write on Fire Records artists! Only time to write on Las Kellies - the Argentinian ladies loved my post!

What do you think Loic, friend (or at least twit friend) with Les Inrocks journalist Jean-Marie Durand? Am I crazy, Am I factual? What do you suggest?
Any jobs at Bangumi / Stupefiant / Quotidien? I must be good at something if Les Inrocks keep using my posts! They make money out of an unemployed person! Class innit?

As Eric et Quentin would say “J’attends vos réactions!”

Sybille Castelain

PS: on 3 February 2017, I twitted on Nina Simone. On 13 February 2017, you started your prog with the exact excerpt. Coincidence or you are in love with me? How long before I go total nuts?
But you don’t care for music, do you...Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen.

[UPDATE] 19 Feb: tomorrow, on Stupéfiant, you will talk about feminine pleasure... Really looking forward to it! Your mate on the prog will be talking on Andy Warhol... Maybe I’m paranoid, but my December 2015 post on semi-him has been read sporadically in the past few weeks / months!
Since I’m at it, being paranoid, I wonder why Fleur Burlet of Les Inrocks keeps reading my posts? Why she is constantly in Clapton or Hackney, where I live: 17 February; a week ago; 12 February; and so bloody on! London, comment dire... is vast, big, huge, enormous, ranks 13 on population in the world against Paris, 42...  Well, if that makes her happy... cheap!
Since I am at it and you seem to be friend with Les Inrocks, why do they have to hide me on a 90’s picture to celebrate their 80’s start... when they had a picture of it? Will you agree they are a bit... sexists / misogynists / mentally harassing?
Oh well, I’m still at something... what do you think of Agathe Auproux of Les Inrocks writing about George Michael’s death, using one of my twit, when she probs doesn’t give a flying fuck about him? Then criticising a male boxer... and posing herself in similar “sexy” narcissus “strikes”?
Oh and Christophe Conte of Les Inrocks who’s been wondering why... Cos he’s got nothing to do with it... Well, he has! And so have all of them @ Les Inrocks and people supporting them... They have a voice to make this insanity stop, do something about it! But you know what? They make money out of it!

Friday, 10 February 2017

[EXPOSITION] DAVID HOCKNEY 9 février – 29 mai 2017 @ Tate Britain

Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)
Acrylic paint on canvas
2140 x 3048 mm
Lewis Collection
© David Hockney
Photo Credit: Art Gallery of New South Wales / Jenni Carter

English version, click here

« Ce qui m’intéresse, ce sont les différentes façons de regarder et comment y penser de manière simple. Si vous arrivez à communiquer ça, alors les gens réagiront. Tout le monde sait regarder. La question est de savoir s’ils sont prêts à regarder activement. » David Hockney

En 1979, David Hockney écrivait : « L’art n’est ni une activité de luxe ni un repli sur soi. Il exerce une influence profonde sur les aspects de nos vies, à la fois de manière direct – en ce qui concerne l’architecture ou le design – et indirecte dans notre façon de réagir au monde qui nous entoure… Si seulement les fabricants de motos étaient allés voir des expos dans les années 60, ils auraient peut-être eu l’idée de mettre plus de chrome sur les réservoirs, voire de peindre les roues en rouge, jaune ou bleu… Ils ne se seraient pas retrouvés à la traine derrière les Japonais, qui eux, semble-t-il, prenaient l’art beaucoup plus au sérieux »

Une quinzaine d’années plus tard, David Attenborough fera écho au peintre comme si on devait rappeler à l’élite que l’art ne doit pas exclure : « … Les arts ne sont pas un luxe. Ils sont tout autant cruciaux à notre bien-être, à notre existence que manger ou respirer. Son accès ne doit pas être réservé aux quelques privilégiés. Ils ne sont pas le terrain de jeu de l’intelligentsia. Les arts sont pour tout le monde, et cette négligence de ne pas y inclure chaque individu nous porte à tous préjudice »

Bien évidemment, dans le premier exemple, Hockney s’adresse en particulier aux institutions artistiques dont le devoir est de collectionner les œuvres d’art, mais plus généralement, il rappelle que l’art doit être accessible à tous les milieux sociaux afin qu’ils puissent voir des expos dans les musées et galeries. Pour que le monde soit meilleur, pour nous aider à changer notre vision de celui-ci… et pourquoi pas… changer le monde, ou du moins y participer ! Hockney dit en fait dans le documentaire éponyme : « Je crois vraiment que la peinture peut changer le monde »

Tate Britain vient d’ouvrir ses portes à la plus ample rétrospective au monde afin de  présenter le travail de l’icône national, David Hockney.
N’étant pas une aficionada originelle de son travail, comme je l’expliquais dans le billet sur son documentaire, je donnerai ici mes impressions sur l’obsession du maitre quant aux façons de regarder et comment pour la toute première fois de ma vie, je me suis approchée comme un animal sauvage de son œuvre de 1967 A Bigger Splash : face à sa taille réelle plutôt que ces imprimés « miniatures » que je trouvais dans les salles d’attente de médecins. Ma manière de voir sur sa manière de voir… J’ai encore tant à apprendre !

Le premier souvenir de ce vétéran de la cigarette est celui de sa mère hurlant. Il avait deux ans quand la Seconde Guerre éclatait et venait de fêter ses trois ans quand une bombe tombait dans sa ville, surnommée à l’époque dans la presse locale ‘la ville du Nord Est’. Le future artiste se souvient qu’elle et ses trois autres enfants avaient paniqué lorsque le seul et unique explosif s’était abattu dans les rues étroites de Bradford un certain samedi 31 août 1940. Son tout premier souvenir, une perspective de clarté.

Alors que l’expo se déroule chronologiquement, la salle ouvrant le bal ‘Within Play’ rassemble un mix de son travail évolutif. ‘Demonstrations of versality’ montre sa période du début, à la naissance des 60’s : des peintures abstraites soufflées de pop-art, une vision in-situ du monde entourant le jeune artiste. Même si Wikipédia présente Hockney comme photographe, entre autre, le blond platine à la coupe au bol ne rate jamais une occasion pour ‘égratigner’ le medium, victime de ses restrictions… que Ansel Adams confirme quant à l’art abstrait « au stricte sens du terme, la photographie ne peut pas être abstraite puisque l’appareil photo est incapable de ‘synthetic integration »

Dans la quatrième salle ‘Sunbathe’, je me confrontais à la fois à mes angoisses et à ma joie. Il fallait me réconcilier à mon enfance et adolescence que je passais dans les salles d’attente de médecins. Je souffrais de sinusite chronique et malgré la tonne de médicaments, je restais invariablement malade, manquant de sommeil puisqu’aucun traitement ne fonctionnait. Toutes ces salles d’attentes semblaient avoir un amour commun pour A Bigger Splash... Je développais alors une aversion sévère pour cette image.
Pourtant, elle a dû oblitérer mon subconscient de façon indélébile pour l’avoir trop regardée involontairement. Lors de ma première escapade à Brighton au début des 90’s, je me suis trouvée comme hypnotisée à un endroit précis du bord de mer. J’y prenais des photos sous tous les angles dont une particulière (ci-dessous) que je tirais en chambre noire. Elle m’avait permise de trouver un job comme assistante photo.
Depuis deux décennies, j’avais complètement oublié l’existence de ce tirage jusqu’en ce jour de 6 février 2017 où je faisais face à mon souvenir de la maladie… A Bigger Splash jaillissait, grandeur nature !
Il faut entrer dans ces deux images par un ponton en érection se finissant par un liquide séminal.

A Bigger Splash
© David Hockney

Brighton, early 90's
© Sybille Castelain

Je contemplais ce tableau dans une joie contenue (il y avait beaucoup de gens et je n’ai pas osé sauter en l’air). C’était comme une libération de le regarder, de m’abandonner en l’observant, en le fixant. La maladie m’avait quittée depuis quelques décennies (merci la médecine naturelle), mais j’avais entretenu un dégout pour cette peinture. Grâce à un regard nouveau posé sur celle-ci, j’y appréciais cette finesse d’esprit et son travail sans relâche : Hockney a mis sept jours pour achever l’éclaboussure en utilisant des pinceaux de toutes tailles.

La salle ‘Sunbathe’ accueille d’autres piscines (Sunbather, Peter Getting Out of Nick’s Pool) ainsi que, étonnamment, Medical Building... des peintures réalisées dans la deuxième partie des 60’s.

Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), peint en 1972, se trouve dans la longue salle ‘Towards Naturalism’, dédiée aux couples posant à l’intérieur ou à l’extérieur, comprenant Mr & Mrs Clark & Percy et My Parents parmi tant d’autres.

La piscine avec les deux silhouettes, l’homme debout étant Peter Schlesinger – la première véritable romance de Hockney de 1966 à 1971, est un tableau plutôt intrigant : une ligne verticale sans expression apparente fixant une ligne horizontale déformée alors que les lignes de la piscine divisent l’image. L’arrière plan, fait de collines aux nuances vertes, scintille.

Ces peintures, pour la plupart réalisées dans les 70’s, explorent de façon approfondie, la relation entre les locations (nature, lieu d’habitation) et les figures humaines. A cette époque, le maitre peintre, parcourant vraisemblablement des émotions intenses dues à sa rupture, utilisait les lignes, les ombres, les lumières pour définir l’espace, parfois à contre-jour comme Contre-Jour in the French Style (1974) ou encore Ossie Clark et sa femme Celia Birtwell, ce couple hype du monde de la mode des swinging 60's.

A la fin des années 60, celui qui clame avoir grandi à Bradford et à Hollywood (parce qu’il adorait aller au cinéma) s’achète un appareil photo et s’initie à de nouveaux horizons dans la composition d’images. Outil qui le frustre pour ne pas capturer ce que l’œil voit.
Pendant les années 70, il découvre de nouveaux territoires visuels puisqu’il conçoit la scène d’un opéra. Cette expérience l’embarque dans une vision créative à trois dimensions sur un espace donné.

Dans la salle ‘A Bigger Photography’, on y voit les études sur le cubisme de Hockney et sa manière de prendre des photos tridimensionnelles pour les ‘traduire’ en deux dimensions. Ses Polaroids et collages ont principalement été pris en 1982. Au lieu de regarder d’un point de vue unique, nous observons des points de perspectives variées. L’effet de distorsion de l’espace et des corps ne dénature aucunement notre compréhension de ce que à quoi la réalité de l’instant ressemblait. En ce qui concerne Pearblossom Hwy – 11-18 April 1986 (que l’on retrouve à l’intérieur d’une peinture récente The Card Players, 2015), on est plongé dans un voyage fantastique du comment regarder un lieu a priori inconnu et le réajuster intérieurement… une autre perspective de clarté !

La pièce que je préfère de l’exposition est absolument celle des ‘Four Season’ : filmé à Woldgate Woods (Nord Est de l’Angleterre) pendant l’été, l’automne et l’hiver 2010, et le printemps 2011, il s’agit de 36 vidéos digitales synchronisées et présentées sur 36 écrans de 140 cm. Chaque écran est indépendant des autres et a sa manière propre d’évoluer proposant un léger effet de déséquilibre. C’est poétique, enchanteur et immersif.

L’icône culturelle Britannique peut tout à fait penser que l’appareil photo homogénéise le monde et empêche de regarder avec ferveur, mais j’ai eu du mal à rester dans les salles  ‘Experience of Space’ et ‘Experience of Place’. Les couleurs du fauvisme, les perspectives multiples et les formes trop abstraites me paraissent beaucoup trop agressives. A part les paysages au fusain, je n’ai pas su fixer les autres toiles.
La salle suivante ‘The Wolds’ offrait heureusement un répit à l’œil, une sensation de calme. Les paysages anglais sont décidément mystérieux… agréablement mystérieux.

Pour clore le parcours, une salle dédiée aux nouvelles technologies dont le maitre dit « Récemment, la technologie a ouvert les possibilités de nouvelles images, des images beaucoup plus intéressantes à regarder que celles à partir des vieux appareils photos et leurs perspectives fixes. Un autre genre de narratives va certainement émerger avec ces avancées, de la même envergure que les cameras pour filmer il y a 90 ans. L’image de la TV ne peut pas être inerte éternellement. »

Le 9 juillet prochain, David Hockney célébrera son 80ème printemps. Un vieil homme aux yeux d’enfant.

Je suis très reconnaissante d’être invitée à certaines avant-premières de la Tate, mais je suis très triste de savoir que les gens aux revenus minimums ne pourront pas se payer le ticket le moins cher à 15 Livres ! Avec le plafond du Benefit Cap ayant sonné le glas, il faut s’attendre à trouver de plus en plus de gens à la rue : un minimum de 50 Livres en moins par mois pour payer le loyer. (Je me demande du coup si la Tate va me garder sur sa liste pour avoir écrit ce que je pense…)

Sybille Castelain

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

[EXHIBITION] DAVID HOCKNEY 9 February – 29 May 2017 @ Tate Britain

Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)
Acrylic paint on canvas
2140 x 3048 mm
Lewis Collection
© David Hockney
Photo Credit: Art Gallery of New South Wales / Jenni Carter

I’m interested in ways of looking and trying to think of it in simple ways. If you can communicate that, of course people will respond. Everyone can look. It’s just a question of how hard they are willing to look, isn’t it? David Hockney

In 1979, David Hockney wrote: “Art is not just a luxury or a self-contained activity. It has a profound influence on aspects of our lives, both directly – as in the case of architecture and design – and indirectly in the way we respond to the world around us... If only our motorbike manufacturers had gone to a few exhibitions in the early 60’s, they might have got the idea of putting more chrome on the petrol tanks or painting the wheels red or yellow or blue... They would [not] have been left behind by the Japanese – who seem to take art more seriously.
Some 15 years later, David Attenborough will echo the painter as if some elite need to be reminded that art is not about exclusion: “... The arts are not a luxury. They are as crucial to our well-being, to our very existence, as eating and breathing. Access to them should not be restricted to a privileged few. Nor are they the playground of the intelligentsia. The arts are for everyone – and failure to include everyone diminishes us all.

Of course, in the first instance, Hockney addresses more specifically to art institutions which duty is to collect art, but more generally it is an invite – making it accessible - for all walks of life to visit museums and galleries. Perhaps to make the world a better place, change of vision of the world... and why not be wild... change the world, or at least participate to it! He does actually say in his documentary HockneyI do believe painting can change the world”.

Tate Britain will open its doors tomorrow to present the world’s most extensive retrospective of the work of David Hockney.
Being originally a non-aficionada of his work as described in my review of a documentary about the master, I’ll give my impression of his obsession in ways of looking and how for the very first time in my life, I approached his 1967 œuvre A Bigger Splash for real, in real size... as opposed to medium prints in French doctor’s waiting rooms. My way of looking on his way of looking... I seem to still have much to learn!

The cigarette smoker veteran’ very first memory is of his mother screaming. He was two when WWII started and just turned three when a bomb got dropped in his town known then in local newspapers as the “North East town”. The future artist remembers her and his three siblings panicking when the first and only device exploded on the narrow streets of Bradford on a Saturday 31 August 1940. That’s his first ever memory, a perspective of clarity.

Although the exhibition is chronological, the first room “Within Play” gathers a mix of his works to show his ways of seeing and changing. “Demonstrations of versality” shows his early period in early 60’s: abstract paintings with a pop-art feel, an in-situ with a vision of the world around the young artist. Despite Wikipedia presenting Hockney as a photographer among other art fields, the blond platinum pudding-bowl hair never misses an opportunity to “undermine” the medium, as it has its restrictions... confirmed by Ansel Adams in regard of abstract art “In a strict sense, photography can never be abstract, for the camera is incapable of synthetic integration.

In the fourth room “Sunbathe”, I had to confront myself to both my fear and joy. Reconciling with my childhood and teens. I spent a lot of time in doctor’s waiting rooms as I suffered from chronic sinusitis and despite a huge amount of medication intake, I remained invariably sick and sleep deprived as no treatment worked. So, I visited doctors all around France who all seemed to have a common love for A Bigger Splash... I developed therefore a strong aversion towards that picture.
Still it must have created a forceful impact on my way of looking at it. In my first ever trip to Brighton in the early 90’s, I kept going back to a specific spot and took pictures all around it. I was fascinated. That photo (below) helped me get a job as a photo assistant.
I forgot all about that photo until I faced my sickness memory on that 6 February 2017... A Bigger Splash, bigger than those prints in waiting rooms.
A bit like entering a picture via an erected pontoon ending up in some form of seminal fluid.

A Bigger Splash
© David Hockney

Brighton, early 90's
© Sybille Castelain

I stood there in a contained joy (well, there were quite a few people around and didn’t dare showing off my contentment loudly). It was like liberation to look at it, gaze at it for real. My sickness disappeared some decades ago (when I indulged on natural medicine) but I maintained a dislike on the painting. Thanks to a new way of looking at it, I appreciated its wit and its hard work behind it: seven days to accomplish a splash using different brushes.

The Sunbathe room welcomes other swimming pools (Sunbather, Peter Getting Out of Nick’s Pool) as well as, funnily enough Medical Building... paintings made in the second half of the 60’s.

Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) painted in 1972 is part of the large “Towards Naturalism” room dedicated to two people posing outdoors or indoors that include Mr & Mrs Clark & Percy as well as My Parents among others.
The swimming pool with two figures, the standing man – vertical line - is Peter Schlesinger, his first true romance from 1966 to 1971, is quite an intriguing picture: a seemingly expressionless vertical line gazing at a deformed horizontal line while the swimming-pool lines divides the picture. The background, made of shade of greens hills, is glowing.

These paintings, mainly made in the 70’s, explore on a deeper level the relationships between locations (nature, living environment) and human figures. It was a time when Hockney, most certainly going through intense emotions, used lines, shadows or lights to define its subtleties as using against daylight space in Contre-Jour in the French Style (1974) or the fashion Clark couple.

In the late 60’s, the artist, who claims an upbringing in Bradford and Hollywood (because he adored going to the pictures and watch movies), bought a camera and developed new ways of composing an image and felt restricted as it doesn’t capture what an eye can see. In the 70’s, he discovered new visual territories after designing an opera’s stage, opening him up to a three dimensional vision of working with space.
In A Bigger Photography room, Hockney studies cubism and how to take pictures in three dimensional space and translate into two. His composite Polaroids and photo collages were taken mainly in 1982. Instead of looking at one point perspective, we are looking at many points of focus. The effect of distortion of space and bodies doesn’t, in fact, distort our understanding of what the “events” actually look like in reality. In Pearblossom Hwy – 11-18 April 1986 (also seen as a picture in another picture in his recent The Card Players, 2015) is a fantastic way of looking at an unknown place and getting the brain to readjust its... perspective of clarity!

My favourite room in this exhibition is definitely the Four Season room: shot in Woldgate Woods (Summer 2010, Autumn 2010, Winter 2010, Spring 2011), it’s a 36 digital videos synchronised and presented on 36 55 inch monitors to comprise a single artwork. Each frame has its own evolution, has a slight effect of imbalance when looking at it and yet is hugely poetical, enchanting, immersive.  

The British cultural icon might think that a camera homogenises the world and discourages active looking, but I did have some difficulties staying in the Experience of Space and Experience of Place rooms. Its extreme bright colours, multi-perspective, abstract shapes... I found it quite aggressive and couldn’t get my eyes to focus on anything (apart from the charcoal landscapes).
The following room The Wolds offered me a sense of calm, soothing my eyes. British landscape sustaining its mysteries...

The last room is dedicated to new technologies and the master says “It is only very recently that technology has opened up the possibilities of new images, images far more interesting to look at than those from old cameras with fixed perspective. New kind of narratives might emerge from these advances, as happened with the new movie camera ninety years ago. The television picture can’t be fixed forever”.

In July the 9th, Hockney will be 80 years young. An old man with children eyes.

As mentioned in my twit today, I am extremely grateful that the Tate invites me to some of their previews, but I am also extremely sad to know that the unwaged or financially unprivileged won’t be able to pay the ticket price to see a unique British artist.
Now, with the Benefit Cap in place, unwaged people have to pay a minimum of £50 a month to their rent, more to others. Expect more people reaching the streets to sleep in there!
(I wonder whether I’ll jump off the press list now for speaking my mind!)

Sybille Castelain

Sunday, 5 February 2017

[FILM] Damien Chazelle vs John Cassavetes – une « réflexion »… anodine

Pris sur le net

As an artist, I feel that we must try many things - but above all we must dare to fail. (Hopefully from) John Cassavetes

Ceci est une cascade... sans dossier de presse, sans projection privée... toute seule… vu dans une salle de ciné à sa sortie! La La Land et autres…

Vers 9pm, le 24 Janvier 2017, je twittais “la la land = beautifully shot, great colors combinations... so empty! like #HighRise, no invite to get into it. struggled to keep awake!(La La Land = joliment filmé, superbes combinaisons de couleurs… si vide ! comme #HighRise (le film), aucune invitation à y pénétrer. Ai lutté pour ne pas dormir)

Deux jours plus tard, un(e) “concurrent(e)” qui s’essaie à la critique de films twittait “Finally saw La La Land. Yes it's got obvious ideological problems, & is a self-mythologising Oscar voter's wet dream, but it's hard to hate” (Enfin vu La La Land. Oui, il y a des problèmes idéologiques, et c’est le mythe d’une éjaculation nocturne pour un Oscar, mais c’est difficile de haïr)… Bon ben… OK, ça veut rien dire mais fallait le dire!

La La Land de Damien Chazelle… je me suis profondément ennuyée ! Je sais, les temps sont durs et comme dirait le « couple » Thomas VDB / Mathieu Madénian, on a besoin de comédies musicales… ou de Soupe aux choux ! Pour s’échapper ! Sauf que l’ennui nous cloue dans un moment bien présent et ne propose aucune échappatoire.

Pourtant le réalisateur a bien tenté cette esquive… fait en sorte que nous soyons émerveillés, que nous rêvassions ! Il y a bien évidemment les références musicales dans son troisième et dernier opus. Excellentes ! Beau travail, légion du bel hommage.

Cependant, tout au long du film, c’est cette lueur John Cassavetes qui plane en filigrane (qui m’a d’ailleurs aidée à rester éveillée). Malgré les paillettes, ce  prétendu rêve, les jolies couleurs et la composition de l’image sans reproche, c’est le réalisateur, époux de Gena Rowlands à qui je revenais ponctuellement, me tirant de la lassitude. Pour cette persistance et cette intransigeance à réussir dans le monde cloisonné du jazz, ces amours imaginaires… cet hymne à la femme et aussi la solitude des personnages !

Pris sur le net

Un « faux » air de Shadows ou encore Too Late Blues (TLB) se faufilaient ici et là.
Par curiosité, pour en savoir plus sur ce metteur en images, je me procurais Whiplash, son deuxième film que je visionnais quelques jours plus tard.
Si La La Land n’a a priori aucune évidence cassavetienne (pas sûre que ça se dise but you get it don’t you ?) à l’œil nu, Whiplash s’en rapproche furieusement, sans microscope cette fois.

Pris sur le net

Tout d’abord, la ressemblance frappante des protagonistes : Miles Teller dans le rôle d’un étudiant (Andrew), batteur ambitieux et prometteur dans Whiplash versus Robby Darin (Ghost) incarnant un pianiste tout aussi ambitieux et dévoré par cette même passion du jazz dans TLB ; Les deux hommes sont sous l’emprise d’un mentor : un prof de fac aux méthodes abusives s’efforçant de rabaisser ses élèves pour extraire le meilleur d’eux, versus un agent quelque peu véreux se confiant à Ghost à propos de sa petite amie Jess (de l'agent)  dont l’ambition est de chanter « Keep them insecure » (Maintenons les dans le manque d’assurance) ; des amours impossibles ou difficilement négociables avec une carrière de jazz. En général, c’est autour d’une table que les sujets se discutent ou se sensibilisent pour les deux créateurs de films ; pour Cassavetes et Chazelle, les femmes sont hautement respectées : à une époque où la femme n’était qu’un objet de désir et de soumission, Cassavetes, au travers de Ghost, l’élève à un rôle d’être humaine puisque le personnage refuse de coucher chez Jess (devenue son amie). Alors qu’elle promet de le satisfaire, jouant là le jeu que la société lui a programmée, une gentille femme prête à procurer du plaisir.
Andrew (Miles Teller) quant à lui dans Whiplash, pense que sa relation avec Nicole va l’empêcher de progresser et on assiste à l’humble discours de cette jeune fille très mature et défiant son amant, même si le couple se sépare. C’est donc dans la solitude que les personnages de Whiplash et TLB s’adonnent, se perdent, renaissent.

Pris sur le net

En 2009, le jeune réalisateur Nord Américain tourne son premier film Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (vu il y a quelques jours) en 16mm et B&W. Son film « le plus Cassavetes » où on y retrouve les thèmes de l’amour incompatible avec l’ambition d’un jazzman, la solitude, mais surtout un cinéma-vérité que Cassavetes transcendait. C’est à Shadows auquel on pense en visionnant cette petite pepite toute simple où l’on y voit des parties et du tap dancing sur fond de jazz traditionnel. La trompette et les relations interraciales dominent les deux films alors que les deux jeunes femmes ont des rôles aux antipodes et pourtant s’affirment à leurs manières. Madeline est une introvertie à la recherche d’un travail alors que Lelia de Shadows est à la fois opiniâtre et séductrice. Dans les deux films, les jeux de cameras s’acoquinent avec les visages et les corps de ses protagonistes et élargissent leurs champs de visions dans les parcs…

Pris sur le net

Tout comme John Cassavetes, Damien Chazelle étudie ses personnages (dans ses deux premiers films) et extrait l’essence de leur art, de leur être. Peut-on considérer que le jeune réalisateur revisite et décline les films du maitre ?

Rien n’à haïr dans le La La Land de Damien Chazelle puisque sa chorégraphie des couleurs tatoue notre esprit alors que l’histoire s’oublie assez vite. Le film est au rêve ce que High Rise de Ben Wheatley est au cauchemar. Tout se trouve dans une farandole d’images sensationnelles et de personnages simplement absents, en surface, sans profondeur… creux !
Le spectateur ne reçoit aucune carte d’invitation pour s’identifier à eux ou du moins pour s’imprégner de leurs essences ! Ce rêve californien ne permet pas d’engager une conversation politique, philosophique, poétique… 
Il a l’avantage de ne procurer aucune bonne raison de se disputer avec son / sa voisin/e ! Une légère bousculade, peut-être, de sensation anachronique qui surfe sur du vintage sans craquelure de la moitié du XX siècle avec des téléphones portables et quelques titres pop-rock sur fond de jolies images satinées.

Sybille Castelain