Earlier this month, BBC Culture published an excellent article by Arwa Haidar exploring the global reach and universal language of the art of protest through the murals painted across the world to honour George Floyd – the Black American man whose killing at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer in May triggered a massive uprising for racial justice in the United States and beyond.
In an equally insightful article for AFAR, Maya Kroth has also drawn our attention to how artists around the globe are able to turn border walls that symbolise division and oppression into powerful protests.
Indeed, from Syria and Palestine to Egypt and the US, artists defiantly transform the walls that divide us into virtual galleries of resistance against injustice, cruelty and violence, reminding the tyrants and mass murderers ruling over them that they are being watched and will one day be held to account.
Mirror, mirror, on the wall
This year’s Black Lives Matter uprising in the US and the way it resonated with people in different corners of the world drew renewed attention to the art of protest. However, the distinctive art forms that express and help shape social movements and revolutions exist in a much larger frame of reference that certainly includes the Black Lives Matter movement but is not limited to it.
From Asia and Africa to Latin America, murals and graffiti calling for justice, honouring the fallen, and shaming the oppressors act as mirrors to a broken and fragmented human soul yearning for a unified liberation made impossible by the very walls on which they are drawn and painted.
Together, these artworks draw a different map of the world than the one shaped by fictitious colonial borders that divide nations and their collective dreams. From the murals and graffitis painted and drawn in the last century during national liberation movements in Asia, Africa and Latin America, to the ones created during the ongoing struggles for freedom and justice in Kashmir, Palestine, Hong Kong and most recently in the US, these artworks reveal the overcoming of false borders and the mapping of global defiance.
From the heavens down to earth and back
In renowned Persian poet Farid al-Din Attar’s 1177 masterpiece, The Conference of the Birds, we read the story of a flock of birds that embarked on a journey towards Mount Qaf to find their “king”, the mythical bird Simorgh. In the poem, Attar tells us how this divine bird once dropped a single feather from its wing upon China and cast the entire world into commotion:
That feather is now in a museum in China –
That’s what the Prophet meant by “Seek knowledge even in China!”
If the colour of its feather had not been revealed
So much commotion would not have happened around the world …
Attar’s sublime mystical allegory has found renewed meaning in our troubled time. It is as if scores of selfless, mostly nameless, artists around the world have seen a vision of Simorgh’s solitary feather and been inspired to inscribe the humanity’s collective cry for freedom on walls around them.
The feather of Simorgh has always been a symbol of beauty and truth, inspiring poets and philosophers to do and say the beautiful and the just. These anonymous artists, the mystics of our time, depicting the cruelties of our age on those fearsome walls are the offspring of Simorgh.
Murals as mirrors
Revolutions and social movements, however successful they may appear in the moment, often face the risk of being squashed by blunt military force or paving the way for a different type of oppression with the passage of time. But the artworks they inspire keep alive the dreams and aspirations of the brave souls who initially brought them to fruition.
Let me share an example: Soon after the Iranian revolution of 1978-1979, my colleague Peter Chelkowski and I collected an entire archive of revolutionary art that included murals, posters, graffiti, and other related material and published the first book on the visual memories of that historic event. Our book, Staging a Revolution: The Art of Persuasion in the Islamic Republic of Iran (1995), came to be seen as a close examination of the whole iconography of revolutionary uprising and placed the Iranian revolution next to similar landmark events, such as the French, Cuban and Russian revolutions, and the monumental body of public and political art they had produced.
Decades later, I chanced upon a precious collection of pre-revolutionary posters from 1950s and 1960s anticipating the 1979 revolution. I used this collection to help curate an art exhibition in Ashville, North Carolina, and later published a book on these posters, In Search of Lost Causes: Fragmented Allegories of an Iranian Revolution (2014). During that period, I was also working to archive Palestinian cinema in an effort to preserve a precious body of art documenting the struggle and dreams of the Palestinian people.
Simultaneous to my efforts, thousands of others across the world, from Iran and Syria to Egypt and the US were working to produce, preserve and promote political art that helped and continues to help regular people defeat armies, end occupations, topple dictators and claim their most basic rights and freedoms.
The Iranian revolution degenerated into a theocracy. The Egyptian revolution that followed decades later was brutalised by a military coup. The Syrian revolution was murderously maligned by the combined forces of Bashar al-Assad, reactionary Arab leaders and their Western benefactors. The Palestinian national liberation is facing the gargantuan US/Israeli military machinery. The Black Lives Matter uprising in the US is combatting a racist and militarised police force that the first Black president says we must not call to defund. But what remains constant in the ebb and flow of all these dreams and struggles is the visual and performing arts they have inspired.
Mirrors as walls
Let me now turn to another example: In February 2004, I visited Palestine alongside a number of renowned Palestinian filmmakers to participate in a film festival I helped organise. As we were crossing a checkpoint near the apartheid wall between Jerusalem and Ramallah, legendary Chilean-Palestinian filmmaker Miguel Littin began speculating on how he could project his feature film on to the apartheid wall. Our hosts living on both sides of that wall swiftly persuaded Littin to abandon the idea by expressing their fear that trigger-happy Israeli snipers would shoot and kill anyone who came near the wall to watch his film.
On that occasion, we could not project a Palestinian filmmaker’s vision of freedom on the Israeli apartheid wall. But soon countless, mostly nameless, Palestinian artists turned those very walls into a mirroring gallery of their struggles.
Walls are not just artificial political boundaries dangerous fascists like Trump or Netanyahu erect to try and preserve their crumbling empires and colonies. Walls are also invitations to paint, to dream, to defy, to dismantle what they represent.
At end of Attar’s Conference of the Birds – in a play on the word “Simorgh” which literally means “30 birds” – just 30 birds survive the arduous journey to Mount Oaf. As they reach their destination, these birds come face to face with not the legendary bird, but a mirror in which they see nothing but their own reflections. They come to the realisation that “Simorgh” was none other than their own 30 brave and defiant souls who, against all odds, had dared to see they were the agents of their own destinies. They did not need any king, they were all kings.
The artists who defiantly use the walls that divide us to deliver a message of hope and unity are like these birds – kings seeing the visions of their freedom on the mirror of the walls they had beautifully painted and boldly faced.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.
Ann Clow showing her art in Georgetown – TheChronicleHerald.ca
GEORGETOWN, P.E.I. —
Artist Ann Clow has an exhibit on display at the Kings Playhouse.
Running until Jan. 28, Through the Lense and Palette offers highlights from Clow’s collection.
Originally from Nova Scotia, but living in P.E.I. for the past five years, Clow is a self-taught painter and photographer who has followed in her family’s tradition and been an artist all of her life.
She has been selling her work and giving classes for more than 40 years.
Her work is influenced by her surroundings, and since she values travel, these change over time.
Much of her style can vary from highly realistic, abstract to deeply spiritual.
“My heart is filled with creativity and so is my mind,” she said. “In art, I combine my mind and my heart.”
Once the show is finished, people can also view her work in Montague at The Turning Point health store in the Down East Mall and Twice Upon Book Store. For more information, visit annclow.com and annclowphoto.com.
Art 101: The juiciest art war of the 21st century – CBC.ca
Let’s talk about privilege. It’s a huge part of our lives and a huge part of the art world.
Today we’ll talk about the art war that broke out when one artist decided he owned a colour and nobody else could use it. And we’ll tap into why that colour battle said something really important about the art world.
I’m Professor Lise (not really a professor) and this is Art 101 (not really a class). We’re going on a deep dive into an idea, an artwork or a story from the art world that may be controversial, inexplicable, or just plain weird.
Act 1 – Colour is Important!
Lest you think it doesn’t matter, take a moment to remember how much colour lets you recognize the work of your favourite artists. Like Mondrian, whose pervasive use of primary colour makes his paintings easy to spot. Or General Idea! Their vivid colour scheme is a signature element of their work, just as much as the slightly un-natural colours of any Group of Seven painting let you know you’re looking at a work from your uncle’s coffee-table book.
Artist have even tried to make a colour their very own: in 1960, artist Yves Klein patented International Klein Blue, or IKB, and other artists (including the Blue Man Group) still use it today, continuing his legacy. Sweet little anecdote, right?
Let’s move on.
Act 2 – The Colour War
You know that big bean at Chicago’s Millennium Park? It’s a huge reflective satisfying shape and every single person who visits Chicago is contractually obligated to take a selfie in front of it. It’s actually called Cloud Gate, and it’s by British Indian artist Anish Kapoor. It was made in the mid 2000s out of 168 plates of stainless steel joined by welding, and it cost in the vicinity of 20 million dollars.
Why does the massive and expensive bean matter to our story? Because it’ll give you an idea of the scale and scope of Kapoor’s art — he’s a huge deal, and his work costs a lot of money.
Why are we talking about Anish Kapoor? Calm down, I’m getting to it. Kapoor’s gotten a ton of honours for his large-scale architectural public art. He’s won the Turner Prize (the Oscars of the art world) and was even knighted in 2013. So let’s agree, he’s done good work and made his name.
In 2014, he started working with an entirely new material called Vantablack. It was developed in the lab of U.K.-based Surrey NanoSystems and it’s the blackest paint ever made. Originally fashioned to help in optics and aerospace, Vantablack’s dense black look is much easier to grasp in person than in photos and it’s made possible through pretty intense chemistry. In essence, light is TRAPPED by Vantablack instead of being REFLECTED by it — creating an effect that looks a bit like what it might be like to spot a black hole in space. In effect, Vantablack is pretty special and pretty new.
How did Kapoor start working with it? Well … he licensed it. Exclusively. That’s right, uncles everywhere — Anish Kapoor is the only person in the world that can use Vantablack in art.
Hey, did I hear somebody say that’s a dick move? You’re not alone!
On this Instagram post, where Kapoor shows off a work featuring his exclusive black, Willsmithfresh comments, “One man owning vantiblack [sic] is truly the loneliest bean that you’ll ever see.” And hannahjasmin_ says, “Selfish enough to keep an entire colour all to yourself, and all you’ve used it for is a circle. Congratulations, you’re the worst.” And that’s just two members of the general public — some artists were pretty upset that Kapoor took this incredible new invention and crafted a situation where he was the only person who could benefit from it.
Why’d Kapoor do it? He’s said a few things on the topic, including that “it’s not about possessing the stuff.” He’s also ascribed the response to the colour itself, saying, “The problem is that colour is so emotive — especially black … I don’t think the same response would occur if it was white.”
Enter Stuart Semple, popular British multimedia artist, nice guy and … well, for this story, let’s call him a “democratist.”
Semple was one of the artists aggravated by Kapoor’s snatching of the black, and so he decided to invent his own radically new paint: the pinkest pink. He made it beyond vibrant, very affordable, and available to any artist in the world — except Anish Kapoor.
The resulting war raged on through the late 2010s, marked by regular skirmishes. Like when Kapoor somehow got his hands on some of Semple’s pinkest pink shortly after its debut, and posted himself flipping the bird to Semple — the bird in question covered in Semple’s pink paint. Classy move, Anish Kapoor.
Semple, undaunted, went on to make other paints available to the world, including his own version of the blackest black, the mirroriest mirror paint and the glitteriest glitter.
Ok, so why are we reviving this story from 2016? Well, it’s fun! Artists fighting is hilarious! Uncles everywhere rejoiced. And you can find a good number of articles, explainers, and I dunno, maybe even a graphic novel about the Semple vs. Kapoor incident. But that’s not really why we’re here. I mean, it’s part of why we’re here. But there’s more to it.
Act 3 – Why it Matters, or, Kill the Rich
Here’s why Kapoor’s hoarding of black paint points to a problem in the art world, and why Stuart Semple worked so hard to steal Kapoor’s acorns.
It’s about access. Let’s talk about that for a minute.
When you go to your parents and say, “Uncle, I’d like to be an artist,” their inevitable question is, “How will you make any money doing that?” But there’s a missing question here. That is: how are you going to be able to afford to be an artist?
Let me explain: If you want to be a successful artist, you need stuff. I get it — our earliest evidence of art is with simple materials on a cave wall. But making art costs money, and if you want to make art now you need things like: a space to work in, materials, a computer, unlimited bandwidth.These things cost money. Cheap materials can, unfortunately, look like cheap materials. Expensive materials or processes can, unfortunately, look special.
Specialness and prestige are two words we don’t talk enough about when we’re talking about how artists get started. A painter who submits work to the gallery made on panels of stainless steel with the blackest black paint in the world is going to get some notice.
Artists level up. That Cloud Gate we talked about at the beginning? That wasn’t Kapoor’s first work. It’s the result of fame, skill, AND MONEY — both the money he makes from the work AND the money he had to put into it. I’m not trying to suggest that you can’t be an artist without money — you can AND YOU WILL. But it helps, right?
So when the rich guy snatches up the best materials and makes them exclusive to himself, he’s tapping into an issue that’s big in the art world: PRIVILEGE. What Stuart Semple is doing, on the other hand, is making prestige materials — the whateveriest whatever paint available to anybody who wants to use it, except Anish Kapoor. Look, it still costs money — we can’t get away from that. But Semple’s made a big gesture to acknowledge that artists have a rough go and gave them a little leg up.
So let’s give a little shoutout to Stuart Semple, because while this may have been a fun story about artists getting real angry, it’s part of something bigger. And I suspect Semple will keep doing his part to make the art world a more democratic place.
Act 4 – The End!
Thanks for listening! Especially because working from home is really lonely.
See you next time on Art 101!
Artworks featured in this video:
00:46 – Broadway Boogie Woogie by Piet Mondrian (1942)
00:51 – AIDS by General Idea (1988)
00:56 – Lake and Mountains by Lawren Harris (1928)
00:59 – Autumn Foliage against Grey Rock by Franklin Carmichael (1920)
01:21 – Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor (2006)
01:47 – Leviathan by Anish Kapoor (2011)
01:54 – Shooting into the Corner by Anish Kapoor (2008-2009)
02:04 – Sectional body preparing for Monadic Singularity by Anish Kapoor (2015)
06:09 – Lady Gaga ARTPOP by Jeff Koons (2013)
06:13 – End of a Century by Damien Hirst (2020)
06:15 – Eroded Delorean by Daniel Arsham (2018)
06:27 – Gathering Clouds I-IV by Anish Kapoor (2014)
During these pandemic 'daze,' art an essential service – The Sudbury Star
Article content continued
Online, the producers promise I can learn about thousands of new products, boats, accessories, and services, and receive exclusives Boat Show deals and learn plans for the summer boating season ahead.
From NYC, I signed up to connect directly. I phoned my dear colleague, former Commodore Roy Eaton, residing in Little Current. He has been the collegial, renowned Host of Hosts of the Little Current Cruiser’s Net for the past 17 years. Over the years, Roy Eaton has been written in Sail Magazine, Cruising World and in 2010, he was awarded The Canadian Safe Boating Council Volunteer of the Year, devoted to safe boating.
A seasoned sailor, Roy’s so personable, during summer boating season he’s known as the Voice of the North Channel. The Net broadcasts every morning from July 1 to Aug. 31 at 9 a.m. on VHF Channel 71.
“Roy, will you present at the Boat Show about sailing the North Shore this summer?”
“Bonnie dear,” he laughed, “I’m on as guest speaker in thirty minutes.”
I tuned in, listening to Roy speak about, Summer in Paradise — Northern Georgian Bay and the Fabled North Channel. He showed charts to boaters, sharing knowledge and tips about anchorages. I knew many of them. As a former Caribbean sailor, I learned how to navigate, became proficient, and then took on The North Channel. with help, of course.
Staying afloat is definitely artful.
The day after, the seminar coordinator told Roy; “You broke the bank yesterday. There were 532 boaters in attendance at your seminar. Since our seminars are all recorded and saved, they’ll be on the website starting Jan. 25.”
Happily listening to Roy provide knowledgeable information for boaters who hope to ply the North Shore this summer, about the anchorages, towns, places to dine, and places to hike, was absolute Northern Ontario artistry.
Our Bonnie’s been in the Window Seat for 29 years, always learning about us in Northern Ontario. Please find her at BonnieKogos@gmail.com. She loves hearing from you.
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