2009年6月27日 星期六

the Swiss army knife

Inside Europe | 27.06.2009 | 07:05

How a simple Swiss tool became a global brand

Now, what is that every self-respecting boy scout is supposed to have in his pocket?

And how did something that began as a simple tool become a global brand? Our next report has the answers to both those question. It concerns the company which manufactures the Swiss army knife which is celebrating 125 years in business. To mark the anniversary, the Forum of Swiss History has created an exhibition charting the knife’s development. Imogen Foulkes went along to find out more.

2009年6月21日 星期日

In Venice, Peter Greenaway Takes Veronese’s Figures Out to Play

In the abbey on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice, a digital replica of Veronese’s “Wedding at Cana” has been given cinematic treatment.
Courtesy of Peter Greenaway
Art Review

In Venice, Bringing a Painting to Life

The filmmaker Peter Greenaway transforms a life-size digital replica of the Renaissance painter Paolo Veronese’s epic “Wedding at Cana” into a vivid theatrical swirl.

In Venice, Peter Greenaway Takes Veronese’s Figures Out to Play

Courtesy of Peter Greenaway

In the abbey on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice, a digital replica of Veronese’s “Wedding at Cana” has been given cinematic treatment.

Published: June 21, 2009

VENICE — You can love it or hate it. You can dismiss it as mediocre art, Disneyfied kitsch or a flamboyant denigration of site-specific video installation.

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Times Topics: Venice Biennale



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Courtesy of Peter Greenaway

The British filmmaker Peter Greenaway in Venice with a digital “Wedding at Cana” by Veronese.

If you’re in town for the Venice Biennale, don’t miss the marriage of High Renaissance painting and advanced technology that is “The Wedding at Cana,” by the British filmmaker Peter Greenaway. If nothing else, it is possibly the best unmanned art history lecture you’ll ever experience.

Subtitled “A Vision by Peter Greenaway,” this 50-minute digital extravaganza of light, sound, theatrical illusion and formal dissection is being projected onto and around a full-scale replica of “The Wedding at Cana,” Paolo Veronese’s immense and revered landmark of Western painting.

The replica is a wonder of digital reproduction itself. It covers the great rear wall of the Benedictine refectory on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, exactly where the original hung from 1562, when Veronese finished it, until 1797. That’s when Napoleon had it taken down, cut up and carted back to Paris as war booty. It was sent to the Louvre, where its mastery of light and color entranced French painters and influenced the development of Impressionism.

Like the original, the clone measures nearly 24 feet by 33 feet; it appears to include even the seams of Napoleon’s segmentation. It was painstakingly created pixel by pixel and installed in the restored refectory — a Palladian design — on Sept. 11, 2007, 210 years to the day after its removal. It couldn’t have been better timed for Mr. Greenaway.

“The Wedding at Cana” is the third in Mr. Greenaway’s series “Nine Classical Painting Revisited,” which is being produced by Change Performing Arts, with Franco Laera as curator. The first visit, in 2006, focused on Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The second, last year, involved a full-scale replica of Leonardo’s “Last Supper” at Santa Maria della Grazie in Milan (after a one-night projection on the actual fresco that raised art historians’ hackles).

Somehow I missed news of this ambitious project. In Venice for the biennale, and hearing that the Greenaway was worth seeing, I went not knowing what to expect, sat down with other visitors on the refectory’s cool marble floor, leaned back, looked up and, as the piece began, felt my jaw drop.

Palladio’s grand space came alive with images, music, words and animated diagrams and special effects that proceeded to parse from every possible angle the Veronese’s pictorial composition, social structure and drama, which is ostensibly about Jesus’ first miracle, the turning of water into wine, but is really about the lifestyles of the rich and aristocratic of 16th-century Venice. No part of the Veronese image actually moves, but the piece never rests. Close-ups of the faces in the painting, appearing on the side walls between Palladio’s great corniced windows, alternate with apparitional red diagrams of portions of the composition, seen as if from above. There are also subtitles for the whispered conversations that Mr. Greenaway has written for the 126 wedding guests, servants, onlookers and wedding crashers depicted by Veronese.

The conversations, which are signaled by red lines snaking through the crowd on the cloned image, are mostly banal and hokey: Renaissance snark covering real estate, fashion, traffic, the costs of feeding so many people, this new thing called the fork and the strange miracle worker. Jesus has shown up with his mother rather than a wife, and six followers who are fishermen, and positioned himself in the exact center of the event, which all causes quite a bit of sniffing among the other guests. But they like the post-miracle wine: “No cloudiness.” “It’s certainly got body.” “Tastes like a south-facing mountain grape.”

On the veranda above the feast the servants worry about the rising number of guests (800, not 500), the whereabouts of co-workers, the disposition of the new china and the dwindling supplies; they provide perhaps the most convincing sense of immediacy and material culture. The impact of the drama is amplified with some raging fire and a thundering downpour that lasts a tad too long, alluding to other biblical events.

But it is the formal and spatial parsing of the image, its figures, hefty architectural setting and deep vista that is most enthralling. Often familiar art historical ploys are used, but it is still amazing to see so many of them put through their paces so quickly and effortlessly and at actual scale.

In one sequence the figures are numbered and Jesus’ centrality is confirmed with a series of radiating red lines. In another, color drains from the image and the work’s grand spatial recession is measured in white lines on grisaille. There is a shift to stark white on black and the image rotates, so that we are once more above it. Different figure groups are highlighted: you see, for example, that the arrangement of Jesus and his party presages the Last Supper.

Different reactions to the miracle — skepticism, fear, devotion — are singled out. Details are brought forward, like the two men craning out from the upper reaches of the columned edifice who have, for eternity, their own overhead view. Or the meat carver whose knife is positioned directly over Jesus’ head.

To a certain extent all the digital manipulation works its own temporary miracles. Even the inane conversation begins to resemble things that might have floated through Veronese’s mind as he determined his figures’ attire, body language and facial expression. And instead of the usual art-history-lecture spoon-feeding of information, you have the illusion of seeing and thinking for yourself with heightened powers. The next stop should be the Louvre and the real thing.

Mr. Greenaway’s plans or hopes for the future include Picasso’s “Guernica,” Seurat’s “Grande Jatte,” works by Pollock and Monet, Velázquez’s “Meninas” and maybe even Michelangelo’s “Last Judgment.” Stay tuned.

“The Wedding at Cana” runs until early August, then again from late August through the second week of September; Palladian Refectory, San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice; changeperformingarts.it

2009年6月19日 星期五

Those Medieval Monks Could Draw

Those Medieval Monks Could Draw

Published: June 18, 2009

When you think of medieval art, drawing may not spring instantly to mind.

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Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vatican City

Pen and Parchment: Drawing in the Middle Ages at the Met includes this Crucifixion by Opicinus de Canistris from the mid-1300s. More Photos »



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Medieval ivories and enamels? Definitely. Medieval sculpture, metalwork and stained glass? Sure.

Of course medieval artists — many of whom were anonymous monks working as scribes in scriptoria — drew. All those manuscript illuminations had to start somewhere. But did they actually make drawings that survived and were cherished as drawings, or that filled practical needs that only drawing can?

To most of us, European drawing before the Renaissance and its emphasis on individual genius and the artist’s hand is a dark, uncharted void. Which may explain why “Pen and Parchment: Drawing in the Middle Ages” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art feels so startlingly full of light. You may even find yourself rubbing your eyes and blinking.

The 50 little-seen works on view span nearly five centuries and reveal medieval drawing to be vital, evolving, remarkably diverse and essential to the medium’s Renaissance blossoming. The medieval period is often compared with its successor and found lacking. And the superficial clumsiness in some of these works may initially ratchet up your awe for the Renaissance and for the radical changes wrought by its embrace of antiquity and its obsession with the human body and linear perspective.

But with a little time at this show the gap starts to shrink. The skills of medieval artists dovetailed with their otherworldly goals: the bodies that interested them most were heavenly. But, as this exhibition demonstrates, realism was not beyond their reach.

The material on hand ranges from accidental drawings — that is, unfinished illuminations that inspired a new emphasis on line — to exquisite efforts like a breathtaking ink rendering of a facade of Strasbourg Cathedral from around 1260. Many of them crossed the Atlantic Ocean for the first time to be here. Adding to their freshness, almost all come from university or monastic libraries rather than museums.

Organized by Melanie Holcomb, an associate curator, and Elizabeth Williams, a research assistant, both in the Met’s department of medieval art, the show comes with an excellent catalog that brings together a pithy introductory essay by Ms. Holcomb and lengthy entries by Ms. Williams and a dozen other curators and scholars. That number alone suggests both the broad scope of the works on view and the rarity of the occasion.

In the first gallery an assortment of illuminated manuscripts — psalters, gospels, epistles and a Bible or two — trace the liberation of drawing from its subservient role in richly colored illuminated texts. Hand-drawn line gradually assumes a life of its own, uncoiling from elaborate initials, existing on equal terms with color and abandoning carefully framed settings to exploit white parchment pages and the physical facts of the book as object.

In an 11th-century French codex, the Maccabees pursue their retreating foe across the gutter of a two-page spread as over adjacent hills. Shields are painted orange and green; chain mail is indicated with tiny circles in ink on wash; otherwise line dominates, especially satisfying in its account of the lunging horses and contrasting body language of victors and vanquished.

Occasionally lines do all the work, as in a sinuous ink image from the late ninth century of St. Paul lecturing an agitated crowd of Jews and gentiles, rendered by a Swiss monk with a special talent for depicting hair. (Tonsures never looked so good, and Paul’s beard ends in curling droplets of ink.) The image is part of a copy of the Pauline Epistles lent by the Monastery of St. Gall, having been made on the premises.

But luxury of material and execution were generally considered the Christian way, and this led to lavish minglings of colored line, solid or thinly washed color and gold leaf that reached its height among Anglo-Saxon draftsmen. In a Gospel from Canterbury around 1000, St. Matthew, seated by a lectern, is shown in robes that consist entirely of swirling lines of blue, green and red ink. His immediate background is a deep red wash surrounded by a more densely colored architecture; the book on which he works has gold-leaf pages.

Equally striking, and much nuttier, is an image of the evangelist John from the Corbie Gospels (French, 11th century). Both his robe and the columns flanking him are white parchment streaked with red, for an alluring candy-cane effect.

Antiquity makes it presence felt in an illustrated copy of the plays of the Roman playwright Terence made in St. Albans, England, in the 12th century. Here a wonderful portrait of Terence in a carved frame held by two masked attendants is joined, on the facing page, by additional theater masks displayed in a grand set of shelves. Classical motifs and details mix freely with medieval ones in plain ink and wash, which were considered appropriate for pre-Christian themes.

In the second gallery, drawing expands to provide knowledge itself with an infinitely flexible linear framework and to serve, as perhaps no other medium can, as a form of conjecture or speculation. In an array of charts, diagrams and maps, scholars both secular and ecclesiastic tried to organize received knowledge or depict the structure of the cosmos itself. A learned manuscript from a Benedictine monastery in 12th-century Germany tackles the human anatomy, tracing five systems of the body in separate images. The same monastery produced a copy of the “Etymologies” of Isidore of Seville in which a red-ink chart measures degrees of kinship with an elaborate pyramid of male and female faces. Bracketed top and bottom by the head and feet of Jesus, the totality has the bluntness of a drawing by Louise Bourgeois.

In contrast a drawing from Salzburg from about 1150-60 is all suave realism in its portrayal of Philosophy as a queenly figure adored by puttilike beings symbolizing the seven liberal arts. It has a naturalness and grace equal to that of many Renaissance Madonnas or Baroque portraits. Across the way a very long scroll presents a history of the world based on the genealogy of Jesus.

But there are also drawings that focus on specific events, like the charming “Privilegium Imperatoris,” a land-granting charter issued by Alfonso VII, king of Castile and León in 12th-century Spain, and lent by the Hispanic Society of America. The main players line up along the bottom of the sheet, as if posing for a photograph. Nearby a Limoges cloisonné plaque, displayed facing the wall, suggests the preciousness of parchment; on its copper back, an artist practicing his drawing skills has incised a human head — small, sharp and very much alive.

In the third and final gallery the devout anonymity of the medieval artist begins to erode. A 13th-century English artist named Matthew Paris is represented by large close-up portraits of the Madonna and Child and two images of the adult Jesus that probably record paintings he saw. And not to be missed are three drawings by Opicinus de Canistris (1296 to about 1354), an Italian cleric trained in the arts of illumination and cartography.

Two of these works are tall, double-sided sheets of parchment on which Opicinus erected fantastic traceries of layered images and diagrams. They were among works rediscovered in the 1920s that Opicinus made in the 1330s after a strokelike illness. His aim was to express a new relationship between the earthly and spiritual church, and this comes across most spectacularly in an image of a haloed man whose robe and body encompass a scene of the Crucifixion. Looking at this extraordinary composition, you may rub your eyes and blink yet one more time.

“Pen and Parchment: Drawing in the Middle Ages” continues through Aug. 23 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; (212) 535-7710, metmuseum.org.

2009年6月16日 星期二

Making Stairs a Lure for Exercise

Fitness: Making Stairs a Lure for Exercise


Researchers are urging building designers to rethink their approach to stairs to encourage people to use them more.

2009年6月12日 星期五

René François Ghislain Magritte

Arts on the Air | 10.06.2009 | 16:30

New Brussels’ museum honours leading surrealist movement figure

One of the leading figures of surrealist art movement, René François Ghislain Magritte, has finally been honoured with his own museum in Brussels.

The new museum opened to the public this month with more than 200 works by the painter who became famous for his thought-provoking images. It is the largest Magritte collection in the world, and in addition to his paintings, the museum shows letters, drawings and photographs of the Belgian artist.

Magritte started his career as a wallpaper designer and a fashion illustrator. His paintings often betray the artist's sense of humour and feature the juxtaposition of ordinary, surprising or erotic images. In many he appears himself in the guise of a man in a bowler hat.

Reporter: Mariana Schroeder

Arts on the Air | 10.06.2009 | 16:30

Backstage at Germany’s legendary Berlin Ensemble

The legendary Berliner Ensemble, was founded by Bertolt Brecht and his wife Helene Weigel in 1949, following the much acclaimed production of his play Mother Courage.

This highly symbolic cultural institution, moved into the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm, Berlin in March 1954. Since 2000 Claus Peymann, has been director.

Cheryl Northey went backstage at the Berliner Ensemble to see if Claus Peymann, is still producing political theatre Brecht intended.

2009年6月9日 星期二

John Wesley at his Venice opening

Pop and Rococo Meet and Greet

Todd Heisler/The New York Times

John Wesley at his Venice opening on Friday.

Published: June 8, 2009

VENICE — For more than 40 years the art world has never known quite what to do with John Wesley and the paintings that seem to tumble out of his dreams.

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Images courtesy of the artist/Fredericks & Freiser Gallery

“The Mouse Tells Jokes” (2002).

Early on it classified him as a Pop artist, a label that sat uncomfortably. “But I accepted it because it got me into a lot of shows,” said Mr. Wesley, now 80. He has also been called an insurgent Minimalist, largely because of Donald Judd’s admiration for his work and Mr. Judd’s enshrinement of it alongside some of the most important examples of Minimalism at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Tex.

The critic Dave Hickey, in an ecstatic essay in 2000, even launched a rear-guard action for Mr. Wesley as a 20th-century extension of Rococo, putting him in the company of Boucher and saying of his relative lack of prominence among the great postwar painters: “Those who know know; those who care care; those who don’t know or care don’t have a clue, but that’s O.K., too.”

Many more people will undoubtedly know and care about Mr. Wesley now, as a result of a blockbuster retrospective, organized by the renowned Italian curator Germano Celant under the auspices of the Prada Foundation, that opened here on Friday in conjunction with the Venice Biennale.

The show, which runs through Oct. 4, is only the second major survey of Mr. Wesley’s bright, funny, relentlessly flat and often unsettlingly erotic work, after a well-received retrospective nine years ago at the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center in Queens. The new exhibition, spread out through the cavernous rooms of two former boarding-school buildings on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, has brought together three times as many works, more than 150 dating to the early 1960s, when Mr. Wesley, who had moved to New York from Los Angeles, was still working at the post office. (He once described that job equably as “a very polite prison, full of very decent prisoners.”)

When he arrived in Venice last week and had a chance to look at some of his older paintings for the first time in decades — many are in collections in Europe, where his early following was much stronger than in the United States — he grew a little teary.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing those,” he had said shortly before leaving for Italy, sitting in his sunny, rambling apartment and studio near Washington Square in Greenwich Village. “I want to make sure they’re mine,” he added with his characteristic dry wit.

Mr. Wesley, who grew up in Los Angeles, had a difficult childhood and no formal art training before deciding to become a painter. When he was 5, his father died of a heart attack on the family’s bathroom floor, and Mr. Wesley ended up briefly in an orphanage, returning home to a demanding stepfather. Before the post office, he worked as a dishwasher and later as a draftsman for the Northrop aircraft company, interpreting blueprints, an experience that contributed to the dark, matte industrial blues of his early paintings.

Though he has described himself as a loner, he has nearly always been alone in a crowd of fellow artists. He was close to Ed Kienholz in Los Angeles, and his second wife was the painter Jo Baer. Besides Mr. Judd, he has counted Dan Flavin and Robert Ryman as friends, and in a published conversation with Alanna Heiss, the curator of his P.S.1 show, he recounted once making an impromptu beer delivery to Willem de Kooning’s studio, where the two men talked about their shared susceptibility to anxiety attacks.

But Mr. Wesley has always been very uncomfortable talking about himself or his painting, a reticence that may also have contributed somewhat to his below-the-radar reputation. The writer Hannah Green, his third wife, wrote that he made it a “rule never to talk about his work and above all not to catch himself sounding eloquent.”

A tall, slightly stooped man dressed like a Sunday gardener in a chambray shirt and New Balance running shoes, he was courtly and funny during the interview of almost two hours while managing to answer almost no questions about the visual obsessions that return again and again in his paintings: dogs, birds, airplanes, floating babies, lithe pink women and cartoon characters like Popeye, Olive Oyl, Dagwood and Blondie.

With titles like “Hungarian Dog Wrestler,” “Debbie Millstein Swallowed a Thumbtack” and “Bumstead in Bedlam,” they can suggest old blues songs sprung surreally into the visual world, a kind of postmodern channeling of the “old, weird America” written about by Greil Marcus and mined by Bob Dylan.

The critic Ken Johnson, a frequent contributor to The New York Times, wrote in Art in America that it is “as though the clichés of popular culture had been dipped in the pool of the artist’s unconscious and come out soaked with private meanings, associations and feelings.”

Asked about such interpretations and about often being described as a surrealist — the curator Mr. Celant said he has always seen the strong influence of de Chirico and Magritte — Mr. Wesley shrugged. “I didn’t go out and try to be a surrealist,” he said. “It was just fun doing what I was doing.”

Hanging on the wall of the apartment near his desk that afternoon was a meaty-looking canvas slathered with paint that looked nothing like a Wesley. He explained that he had made it when he was very young, under the influence of Soutine, before he discovered the work of Jasper Johns and other post-Abstract-Expressionist artists and radically changed course. He was relieved, he said, that the old painting had his son’s name written all over the back of it: “That way if I croak, it won’t go into my body of work — it will go back him.”

Mr. Wesley begins his paintings by tracing images, often fashion or news photos, from magazine and books. As the tracings are transformed into gouaches and then into acrylic paintings, the elements morph, often becoming reversed or repeated, and the forms are stripped down, rendered more rubbery and stylized.

Eyelashes can come to look like black webbing. Baseball gloves can be mistaken for ears or maybe vaginas. Dagwood might disappear altogether, with just an empty speech bubble left floating in the room to indicate its sad-sack source. (“It’s magic,” Mr. Wesley deadpanned during the interview, as Jessica Fredericks, his dealer, held up a recent tracing he had made from a clipped newspaper photograph of Condoleezza Rice. Mr. Wesley said he had simply been struck by the form of Ms. Rice’s face, but added: “I like Condi. I hope they don’t put her in jail. She just got in with the wrong crowd.”)

Asked how he would describe himself as a painter, he burst out laughing and said, “I have absolutely no idea.”

“But I seem to have found my own place,” he said, “which I’m thankful for.”

Outside the gallery on San Giorgio Maggiore on Friday night, as he made his way through the admiring, well-heeled crowd pressing around him, he looked as if he were longing for a nice, quiet corner to hold down. But he was smiling more often than not, and at one point gazed over the water toward the heart of Venice, then up at the huge exhibition sign that faced it, emblazoned with his name.

“Well,” he said, “this is really something, isn’t it?”

2009年6月3日 星期三

At British Museum, Kew's Gardeners Conjure Up India

MAY 8, 2009

At British Museum, Kew's Gardeners Conjure Up India

LONDON -- Founded in 1759, the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, in southwest London, started out as an aristocratic showpiece. But the gardens gradually expanded into one of the world's great centers of botanical knowledge, turning England's imperial byways into conduits for field research. As part of its 250th anniversary celebrations, Kew has joined forces with Britain's other great 18th-century institution, the British Museum, and installed a special Indian garden in the museum's forecourt. Designed by Kew horticulturalists Steve Ruddy and Richard Wilford, "India Landscape" transforms 440 square meters of lawn into a concise overview of the Indian subcontinent's three main habitats: the Himalayan Mountains, the temperate woodlands of the Himalayan foothills and the humid subtropical lowlands.
[British Museum Garden] The Trustees of the British Museum

The India Landscape at the British Museum.

The Himalayas are conjured up with a vertical rock garden, surrounded by pine trees and cranesbill. The temperate zone includes a Himalayan walnut tree and a blue poppy, one of the world's truly blue flowers. The subtropical regions come to life thanks to a lotus filled pond, and a mature banyan tree. The winding path, in the shadow of the British Museum's neoclassical façade, has a dense but spacious quality, and the gardeners have somehow managed to create a sense of north-south travel as we make our way from barren rocks to the spidery lushness of the banyan.

India has special significance to Kew. The gardens' famed 19th-century director Joseph Hooker (1817-1911) made a journey to India, where he catalogued the subcontinent's plant life in a major work, "Flora Indica," which is still a standard reference book on the subject. Hooker helped shape modern English garden tastes with many of the plants he brought back, and perhaps the greatest surprise of "India Landscape" is to find a typically English rhododendron bush in its native Indian habitat.

—J.S. Marcus

Until Sept. 28



【明報專訊】英國大英博物館為慶祝Kew Garden今年250周年紀念,由即日至9月27日,大英博物館與Kew Garden合作,在大英博物館內建造一個別開生面的印度花園。這個名為「Indian Landscape」的展覽在Museum forecourt的西邊草坪(West Lawn)舉行,他們挑選印度最富代表性的植物,並且按地理,由南至北逐一展出。讓你在英國陽光下,沐浴印度香氣中。


與此同時,即日至8月23日,博物館的35號房間展出印度王室宮廷畫。這批畫作由Mehrangarh Museum Trust借出,畫功精美,展示了印度17至19世紀的宮廷美學,畫作更是首次在歐洲公開展覽,機會難能可貴。

Indian Landscape﹕免費入場

Garden and Cosmos﹕The Royal Paintings of Jodhpur 8英鎊(約102港元)