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The relationship between the state and society in China has been ground for producing controversial works of art such as the iconic photograph of Tank Man — the lone civilian standing up to the People’s Liberation Army in Tiananmen Square — or Ai Weiwei’s Study in Perspective, both of which seek a spiritual redress in their defiance of authority. In this sociopolitical tradition stands the work of the Beijing-based artist Liu Bolin, who employs photography as a means to explore the Chinese national identity while silently protesting its government. His series Hiding in the City was born out of the governmental eviction and subsequent destruction of his Beijing studio in 2005. As a result, Liu began to use the city around him as a backdrop, painting himself to blend in with a landscape in constant flux. By literally blending into the city, Liu, who considers himself an outsider, creates a tension that challenges the viewer to question what is on and beneath the surface.

Liu’s Hiding in the City series, along with other work by the photographer, is currently on view at the Eli Klein Fine Art gallery in New York City. For Liu, the most important element of his images is the background. By using iconic cultural landmarks such as the Temple of Heaven, the Great Wall, or the remains of Suo Jia Village where his studio was housed, Liu seeks to direct awareness to the humanity caught between the relics of the imperial past and the sleek modern monoliths of the 21st century China. Each image requires meticulous planning and execution: as both artist and performer, Liu directs the photographer on how to compose each scene before entering the frame. Once situated, he puts on his Chinese military uniform, which he wears for all of his Invisible Man photographs and, with the help of an assistant and painter, is painted seamlessly into the scene. This process can sometimes take up to 10 hours with Liu having to stand perfectly still. Although the end result of Liu’s process is the photograph, the tension between his body and the landscape is itself a manifestation of China’s incredible social and physical change. Simultaneously a protester and a performance artist, Liu completely deconstructs himself by becoming invisible, becoming a symbol of the humanity hidden within the confines of a developing capital.

Liu Bolin is a Chinese artist whose work has been shown around the world. The exhibition Liu Bolin: Lost in Art will be on view at the Eli Klein Fine Art gallery in New York City through May 11.

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Eye painting by Marc Quinn (5)

This big brown eye is a painting on oil by Marc Quinn. His work reminds me of Suren Manvelyan’s photographic series entitled “Your beautiful Eyes.”

Eye painting by Marc Quinn (3)

Eye painting by Marc Quinn (1)

Eye painting by Marc Quinn (2)

Eye painting by Marc Quinn (4)

Photos © Marc Quinn
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When British painter Lucian Freud died in July 2011, TIME’s art critic Richard Lacayo wrote that Freud “proved with a bang the continuing vitality of the figurative tradition in art.” A prodigious realist painter, who many considered one of the greatest British artists of his generation, Freud began his career using sharp, tight lines. In the 1950s, he set aside his thin brushes for thicker, hog’s-bristle brushes that Lacayo wrote “pushed pigment across the canvas in rich, thick flourishes.”

Freud painted dozens of nudes and loved subjects with copious amounts of flesh. He took long periods to complete portraits and required his subjects to commit incredible amounts of time to the process. In 2007, the Telegraph chronicled Freud’s painting of art handler Rita Kirby, a process that took 16 months and required Kirby to pose for him seven nights a week on top of her day job.

A new exhibition at London’s Pallant House Gallery features photographs by David Dawson, who was Freud’s model and studio assistant for 20 years. The show features some of Freud’s key paintings alongside Dawson’s photographs of the artist at work in his studio. In addition to photographs of the painting process, Dawson captured intimate moments of Freud’s life, including the application of shaving cream with one of his large brushes and cuddling Kate Moss in bed.

What emerges is a portrait of an artist who took painstaking care to capture intimate details in his paintings where the point of completion was different for each one. “Freud’s criterion is that he feels he’s finished when he gets the impression he’s working on somebody else’s painting,” Martin Gayford wrote in the Telegraph in 2007. Freud often looked inward. His 2005 self-portrait—one of many he did in his lifetime—is one of his most recognized paintings. But perhaps the most complete portrait of Freud will emerge after his death in pictures from Dawson’s lens, instead of the artist’s brush.

David Dawson: Working with Lucian Freud is on view at the Pallant House Gallery through May 20. An exhibition of photographs by David Dawson will be available for sale at Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert through March 2.

Nate Rawlings is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @naterawlings

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