shape redrawn

There’s something about
Your mouth as it widens
A smile showing your teeth
and arms stretching out
As you speak to me
Skin showing
I remember
The length of you
Enfolding me
Those unexpected moments
Where it was easier to stay
and one night, it tore at me
so very difficult to go

I have been wondering
Whether I dreamt you
Conjured you from wishes
Stolen from magical fishes
On riversides or sandy beaches
Late at night when wolves hunted
The dead gathered their skirts
To dance, so many times
Now distracted. So surreal this
Place I now inhabit

I swear some of you
Has lodged itself inside me
Your cells grafted onto mine
In the tussle and tumble
That our games comprised.
Labyrinthian puzzles,
Tufts of your hair have begun
To grow from my skin
The fingerprints
Upon my shoulders
May have faded

But the shape of you
Remains under my skin

Images: © Pato Rivero, 2013, courtesy of the artist
Text: © JL Nash, 2013

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masculine / masculine

‘Masculine/Masculine. The Nude Man in Art from 1800 to the Present Day’ is a current exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris which at its opening, naturally stimulated plenty of conversation in both press and society. Why? Because it is actually one of the first exhibitions to focus completely on the male nude form.

The artwork is divided into sections: ranging from the classical ideal, heroic nudes, the naked truth, poses in studio and out in nature, nudes in pain and as an object of desire. It doesn’t take much to recognise the themes as they unfold from artists such as Freud, Mapplethorpe, Bacon, and Wiley to name just a few. Whether tortured or tender, they are all indeed a festivity of male form.

Some of the work is breathtaking and interestingly situated as often the same theme or subject matter will be exhibited side by side; a photo beside an 18th Century Painting serves to offer striking contrast in both taste and media.

The sculptures which punctuate the rooms range in scale but all share the same level of passion in anatomical precision. From Muek’s hyperrealistic “Dead Dad” to the sculpture of David (c. 1872) by Antonin Mercié one feels as if one is in a lecture tour offering an historical record as opposed to any particular insight.

Does it need to be accentuated that the majority of the artwork about men is by men in this exhibition? Certainly the man as an object of desire is largely demonstrated through an underpinning of homosexual erotic imagery but this needn’t detract from the incredible range of works such as Jean Jules Antoine Lecompte de Nouy’s agonizing “Mort pour la Patrie” (1892), Jacques Louis David’s “Academie D’homme dites Patrocle” (1780), Karl Sterrer’s rippling “Atlas” (1910), and Paul Cadmus’s exceptionally intimate “Le Bain” (1951).

However, the list could go and this is a bit like the exhibition; painting, drawing, photograph and sculpture in a list as if the curator hasn’t had quite enough time to present the work. One might be inclined to think that less is more but this is not an option. The strength and beauty of Pierre et Gilles’ ”Mercury” (image above) is sadly lost by the end of the exhibition as one reaches a point of overkill as there are definitely more works of art by Pierre et Gilles than any other single artist featured. It may be glorious to celebrate the multiracial existence of society in Vive La France but all you end up with is an admiration of beautifully formed genitalia which is suddenly out of place with the sublime lines of other pieces of art on show.

Francis Bacon’s raw “Three People in a Room”, (1964) is one of the few that doesn’t outline shape and form in the same way that most of the other work does and yet, it screams pain and within it offers some depth of emotion which until that point, was distinctly lacking through the layout of the exhibition.

Someone wrote in the comments book about the theme of homosexuality running through the exhibition and I challenge such a thought. The male form, is indeed both beautiful and ridiculous in the same way as the female form. It is delightful to savour the works on show for the variety they bring not only in the content of theme but also the physical shape of man. It may feel like an overzealous attempt at creating an exhibition which is in many ways, breaking boundaries but put this enthusiasm aside and enjoy the art from Burne-Jones to Rodin, from Warhol to Henri Camille Danger and indeed from Pierre et Gilles to Jean Baptiste Federick Desmarais no matter how camp they may appear when viewed side by side.

There is one particular painting which stood out as intentionally homoerotic. “Shower, After The Battle” (1944) by Alexandre Alexandrovitch Deineka, is as it is described. There is an air of power amongst these young men but at the same time, their youth and vulnerability is palpable. Did Putin really hesitate before lending this work of art? One hopes so, in order that the current international debate over gay rights remains in the forefront of conversation. After all the exhibition’s timing certainly keeps this in mind. But, at the end of the day, as gay rights arguments should be part of a human rights issue agenda, so should these works of art be seen as a general compendium of male form. Informative, a little light on analysis and depth but exceptionally beautiful never the less, there is probably something for everyone in this is exhibition so it’s a must on the to do list.

‘Masculine/Masculine. The Nude Man in Art from 1800 to the Present Day’ is at the Musée d’Orsay until 2 January 2014.

Text: © JL Nash, 2013
Images:
Pierre et Gilles, Mercure [Mercury], 2001 © Pierre et Gilles. Courtesy Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris.
Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Desmarais, The Shepherd Paris, 1787 Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada, Photo © NGC
Adolphe William Bouguereau, Equality before Death (1848) © Musée d’Orsay, dist. RMN / Patrice Schmidt
Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825), Patroclus, 1780. Oil on canvas, 122 x 170 cm. Cherbourg-Octeville, © Musée d’art Thomas-Henry

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filth – review

If you weren’t a fan of James McAvoy’s already impressive credentials it’s most definitely time you let yourself be moved from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other by his performance as Bruce Robertson, a detective sergeant in Jon S. Baird’s feature film adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel Filth. McAvoy has been working in movies and television since 1995, more recently being known Trance, Punch, Arthur Christmas, X-Men: First Class, The Conspirator, Gnomeo and Juliet, The last Station, Wanted, Atonement, The Last King of Scotland just to name a few. His vast experience is most definitely on show.

The opening scenes reminded me of Shakespeare’s Richard III. The game is set, the lines are drawn and you are watching Machiavellian thought processes. Except this is one pretender who never gets the crown. It’s a performance like no other where the protagonist Bruce is a hallucinatory, bi-polar, corrupt, drug taking, adulterous, hedonistic detective crashing into a breakdown through a murder inquiry which becomes the subplot to Bruce’s machinations to discredit and unnerve his contenders for a promotion, as well as juggle the strains of a marital crisis and hide his deviant sexual tastes, addictions and mania.

As a viewer you see him move from pathos to psychotic insight which may be thoroughly uncomfortable for many to watch. But Baird’s fast paced plot will swiftly take you into humour so black, laughing out loud is not only spontaneous but compulsory.

When James McAvoy smiles there’s something of the smiling german shepherd about him. The draw back of his lips, teeth bared, you are never quite sure what will flash from his mind but it’s brilliant, it’s not James, it’s one hundred percent pure Bruce Robertson and you quickly realize that this smile might suddenly implode as McAvoy accurately displays symptoms of mania including flight of ideas, grandiosity, elation, poor judgment, aggressiveness, and exceptional hostility. Whether or not he is taking his lithium, what we are watching is a high speed train wreck.

In a fraction of a second we watch the protagonist Bruce change from evil destruction to vulnerable compassion; he is the edge of the darkest of nightmares. Even the detail of bitten down nails ties in with the feeling of desperation as he pulls his hands over his face in a moment of effort trying to plug himself back into reality wherein he slips deeper and deeper into the lair of the tapeworm of his own mania. This is indeed a worthy adaptation of Welsh’s novel.

An unexpected line of honesty and vulnerability comes as Bruce fails to perform sexually for one of his extra marital interests and he simply admits to her ‘I’m not well’. This gentle moment teases one to think that somewhere, Jung’s hero’s journey might just be coming into play, but thankfully, that is the realm of Hollywood and certainly not independent films such as Filth, where the stark reality of life continues to smash its way through making you weep one minute with laughter and recoil the next in disgust.

Supporting performances by the hauntingly beautiful Imogen Poots, Iain De Casetecer, Joanne Froggat, Jamie Bell and Jim Broadbent to name but a few of this talented cast are all perfectly placed with special mention to go to Eddie Marsan as the gullible Bladesy and Shirley Henderson as the fantastically cheeky Bunty, the object of Bruce’s prank obscene phone calls.

It’s a fabulous story and although somewhat less than the novel, this hard core film maintains the pace and angst, the comedy and the humour of the book as the script is deliciously accurate to the intrinsic value of each character we see. What’s also very interesting is that at no point do you hate the protagonist. How can you hate such a character who is clearly losing the game? How can you empathise with psychosis because it really is a singular sensation? But don’t be deceived, in amongst the filth, the mire the outrageously non-pc attitudes, it is still a tale with a moral, where unexpectedly, love and light still has a place. I loved it so much I watched it three times and each time, I left sated. Now that’s got to say something.

Filth, 2013 UK 97 minutes 18 rating
Director Jon S. Baird
Text: © JL Nash, 2013

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shunga: sex and pleasure in japanese art – review

An intensely rich feast for both eye and mind is currently showing at the British Museum where 170 works ranging from paintings, sets of prints and illustrated books from UK, Japan, Europe and USA feature ‘Spring Pictures’, the erotic art of Japan from 1600-1900 or in other words, Shunga.

These works of art were developed largely under the auspices of the ukiyo-e school (pictures of the floating world) and saw themselves as a natural progression from the day to day ideals of sex and humour already prevalent in paintings. Shunga, however, were the property of the rich and rulers and although continued through strict conformist times and even banned from 1722, in private, Shunga continued to explore the openness of sexuality in every day lives as well as the sex-industry, often known as ‘pleasure quarters’.  It is not unexpected to see illustrations of married couples making love, even, in some contexts, homosexual intimacy.

Shunga wasn’t just titillation for men, however, as the exhibition explains, women often received Shunga as part of their marriage trousseau and particular collections were almost certainly created more for women than men. From a society of such repression and rules, it is refreshing to see that behind closed doors, sexual pleasure was accepted and indulged by both genders.

The exhibition houses work by such greats as Hishikawa Moronobu (1618-1694), supreme in his signals of erotic suppressed emotion and blossoming sexuality, Kitagawa Utamaro (ca. 1753 – October 31, 1806) whose studies of light and shade made him exceptionally appealing to European impressionists and Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) not only famous for his ‘Mount Fuji Seen below a Wave at Kanagawa’ but of course, physical embraces between couples so tender that it might make one feel like a peeping tom.

The history of Shunga is fascinating and this exhibition not only informs but also leads to question Shunga’s place today. In a time where erotica is often photographic, is there a place for the line drawing, the hint and not so hidden positioning of genitalia? Of course there is. Shunga’s magic lies both in the simplicity of line of the body, each curve or dimple moving into view with the gentle rhythm of human intimacy and the intense patterning of the clothing, the robes, the backgrounds which capture so effectively every sensual second you are sharing in full view.

Shunga: sex and pleasure in Japanese Art is being exhibited at The British Museum, London from 3 October 2013 – 5 January 2014. Room 90-91, Admission charge.

Text: © JL Nash, 2013
Images: Courtesy of The British Museum, London
No1: Torii Kiyonaga (1752–1815), Detail from Sode no maki (Handscroll for the Sleeve), c. 1785. © The Trustees of the British Museum.
No2: Kitagawa Utamaro (d. 1806), Lovers in the upstairs room of a teahouse, from Utamakura (Poem of the Pillow), c. 1788. Sheet from a colour-woodblock printed album. © The Trustees of the British Museum.
No3: Sugimura Jihei (fl. 1681–1703), Lovers under a quilt with phoenix design, untitled erotic picture, mid-1680s. Private collection, USA.

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blue jasmine review

I never want to see Blue Jasmine again. But if you love Woody Allen’s movies, you must see it and if you hate Woody Allen’s movies, you should see it. He’s not in it which is the first indication it’s not a comedy but his acerbic observation of the frailties of all of us run deep and hit hard in his most recent offering to the silver screen. You might not think you would relate to the main character played by Cate Blanchett whose life has crashed after the arrest and subsequent suicide of her high profile conman husband. But don’t be fooled into thinking this plot point is a spoiler for the film, because every relationship she has and every combination of relationships within the movie show the audience a little bit of the human condition covering most classes, socio-economic groups and gender. It calls into question not only family relationships but also the way we define ourselves in old and new friendships.

Cate Blanchett’s character, Jasmine, is scarily vulnerable and damaged throughout the film from start to finish and in a sense there is no resolution at the end for the audience to cling to or to feel a sense of safety. This actress delves deep into the shallowest of human waters and successfully brings home, denial, greed, anger, and betrayal leaving us with a clear sense of vulnerable instability. There is a clear development from the high life she has enjoyed, a life of blind snobbery through to needing the charity of a sister she has hitherto ignored and largely been ashamed of. We see her character trying to make something of herself, and redemption for her denial, her ignorance, her previous choices seems in grasp. Then, at a point where she is offered a new start, it becomes painfully clear that despite the typically Allen use of a chorus of characters, echoing the central themes in the style of a perfect Greek Tragedy, where they continuously remind her of her past throughout the film, she is still in denial and largely in her own version of reality. Her expectations of a new beginning crash and her opportunities for a fulfilling and rewarding relationship evaporate.

Woody Allen allows Jasmine the freedom of talking to herself in monologues which offers not only exposition in plot but also serves to display her depth of despair and ultimately mental illness. There is no happy ending for her character other than she is forced to face the realities of her own actions, the consequences of her own decisions and in that, the film acts as a modern morality tale.

In Blue Jasmine there’s a touch of the Steinbeck about the characters, from a variety of his stories but perhaps it’s simply an incredibly accurate mirror of humanity which never changes no matter what era from which the story is crafted. As I said, I never want to see Blue Jasmine again, but not because there is anything wrong with the film. Far from it. This kind of masterpiece chronicling the mundane through to the exotic, the full to the empty has taken my heart and mind, placed it in the wringer and left me in such a state of deep reflection, I’m almost afraid of what I might see next time. It’s brilliant and the only person it won’t move is someone who is in complete denial about their own life but then as the movie shows us, perhaps that’s more of us than we might think exist.

Text: © JL Nash, 2013
Images: Film stills from Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmin, 2013

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monday morning

I awoke and you were between my lips
Until I stretched out the fantasy of night’s longings
I rose and lamented the absence of your scent in my nostrils
I showered and saw the water on your skin
Grafted onto me piece by piece from some
Clandestine nocturnal operation

I drank coffee and saw my reflection
Some beautiful monster I had become
Of your making in dreams late and early
And in the pattern of such formation
There was a taste of the finite and
I called it lust and
It tasted good

Text: © JL Nash, 2013
Images: © Predrag Pajdic with Yohan Campistron, Paris, 2013

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artificial intelligence by francesco romoli

Images: © Francesco Romoli, courtesy of the artist.

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postcards from the future by francesco romoli

Images: © Francesco Romoli, courtesy of the artist.

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studiolav at designjunction in london

Designjunction is, in its own words, ‘a contemporary design show’ which is actually the prize part of the London Design Festival. This is its third year. Last year it attracted over 17,000 visitors and serves to platform the very best in international design ranging from lighting through to furniture.

This is where StudioLav finds itself from 18-22 September at the centrally located 1960’s Postal Sorting Office in London as one of the best international design companies. Not surprising as they were shortlisted for the Young Designer of the Year category for the Elle Decoration International Design Awards 2013.

The youthful energy of this young company carries within its products and design, wisdom as well as making use of modern materials and production techniques. This is enhanced through their newest collection, which will be showcasing at designjunction called OMBRO.

One might be reminded of the romance of old film reel in the patterning of these tables, even though the tops can be cleverly changed for differing colours to suit one’s own interior tastes. Perhaps, that’s why these two bright sparks Loukas and Vasso (who are StudioLav) named this collection OMBRO. A word which describes a cinematic technique to produce moving image through illusion of space, line and alternating form. Of course, it’s clear to see and indeed even feel the magic of the layered geometry combined with the most precise of angles in the production of the finished products.

Talking to Loukas in London as he prepares for this spectacular event, and enquiring as to his and Vasso’s inspiration, it’s the railings, the gates, the shadows and the sun. It’s how light strikes and creates and overlaps. These tables come alive and one feels as if they could be growing in the garden let alone, decorating the inside of the house.

Why tables and why not anything else? I’m asking, considering that StudioLav is already known for their detailed crockery, their luxurious chairs, quirky food stamps and their very funky pencils. The table, Loukas gently says, his voice like a 3B pencil sketching a shadow, the table is in view at all times. We sit on chairs and although we use them, we stop seeing them. The table is intrinsic to the house.

Curious to know where StudioLav’s priority lies, the questions keep coming and Loukas obliges, both excitedly and calmly to stress that although the central idea is exceptionally important, there must always be a balance between concept and functionality at all times.

Two and half years of working together but apart, Vasso working from Athens and Loukas based in London, the distance between, although sacrificing the immediacy of creation, is working well for them as they become more and more successful to now international acclaim and recognition.

How marvelous then, that it is possible to view this newest collection OMBRO and imagine letting the sun fall through the window and the light patterns travel over the floor or wall as it hits the table in your living room or bedroom. StudioLav’s ideas are always fresh, exciting and new. This collection excites and pleases in the same way. Make a point of getting to designjunction in London between 18-22 September at The Sorting Office, 
21-31 New Oxford Street,
London, WC1A 1BA to see StudioLav’s stunning designs at Stand F16A.

Text: © JL Nash, 2013
Images: © Predrag Pajdic, 2013

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alexandra eldridge: meetings with my daemons

The world renowned Alexandra Eldridge’s paintings are being exhibited again. What absolute joy to have the chance for exploration of the space between the temporal outer world and the latent internal world that she creates. Alexandra’s use of collage, paint and Venetian plaster is just the tip of the iceberg of her creativity and sublime imagery, reaching from the depths of her subconscious out into that of the viewer, leaving traces within, of her mysterious and message laden works that might be earthy and transcendent to some but to others, lift into the realm of power and ultimate forces of nature which drive the universe we all inhabit.

In this solo exhibition, Meetings with My Daemons, Alexandra’s paintings once again take the viewer on a journey, original to both parties. It is a witness or indeed a recounting of profundity, the strike of revelation based on her experience in the deeply magical and spiritual Kauai, where she tells of the getting of a vision of her soul image. These mythical encounters, streamed from her subconscious, spilled into her paintings as animals and symbols and now stands testament not only to her brilliance but offering a modicum of insight into the elusive shadows of beauty that exist within her mind.

Alexandra Eldridge is an artist of international standing and repute and has exhibited her work both nationally and internationally in over forty solo and group exhibitions. She has also conducted numerous workshops and had residencies in France, Italy, Spain and throughout the United States. Her physical body currently resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico but her spirit lives within each painting at each location it finds itself.

Until 22 September 2013
Nüart Gallery
670 Canyon Road
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
US

Images: © Alexandra Eldridge, 2013, courtesy of the artist.

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