Perceiving the surroundings.

 

Fassler, L. (2014-2015). Gare du Nord II. [image]. Available at: http://www.larissafassler.com/nord_2.html [Accessed 11 Nov. 2018].

While working at my project for FAT1, I came across the article by Fiona Shipwright about psychographic maps created by a Canadian artist Larissa Fassler. I found it interesting because it relates to the sketches I made while analyzing the keyword I chose as a topic for my project – „Ways”.

Larissa Fassler’s cartography visualizes the places from her own perspective. Her work gathers observations and notes taken on site. To illustrate, fig. 1. demonstrates a fragment of Paris with commentary of what have happened in each place. These descriptions try to report the current state, current moment. However, the artist repeats her visits to the analyzed sites – here is where some situations overlap. One can see that some actions are repeatable. Fig. 2. represents the detail of the first image (psychogeography of Paris), showing the notations of what people surrounding her do, what language they speak, how many pedestrians crossed the street. In her maps she also tracks the direction of sunlight or wind – the passageways, the shadow areas etc. As a result, Fassler creates a subjective vision of the place – a subjective cartography.

This way of analyzing the space can give a huge amount of information and of understaning the people’s needs, their actions, their way of “using the city”. It is obvious that the designed urban space is going to be “used” by people, however this obvious statement is often overlooked by architects and urban planners.

schlossplatz

Fassler, L. (2014-2015). Gare du Nord II – detail. [image]. Available at: http://www.larissafassler.com/nord_2_detail.html [Accessed 11 Nov. 2018].

What Larissa does, is treating the space psychologically and socially, thinking about it in the human scale. She is not the first person that brings our awareness to designing the space for people. I think it is necessary here to bring the name of Jane Jacobs, a famous activist and journalist that manifested the right way to plan the city which is taking into consideration the city-dwellers. In her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities she highlights the harmful effect of designing the urban space for vehicles, and not taking into account people. She shares her observations about how the residents live and function in their neighbourhoods. The book was published in 1961, but a lot of remarks and notes she made are still relevant to current times.


“There is no logic that can be superimposed on the city; people make it, and it is to them, not buildings, that we must fit our plans.”
Jacobs, J. (1961) The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Random House.


schlossplatz

Fassler, L. (2017-2018). Columbus Circle, NYC II. [image]. Available at: http://www.larissafassler.com/NYC_2_detail.html [Accessed 11 Nov. 2018].

The connection to my keyword project that I found in the work of Larissa Fassler is the one of depicting the city as we perceive it. I gathered a lot of associations and interpretations of “Ways” and found a variety of different possibilities to explore. I started with „Ways of Seeing” that suggest several alternatives and indicates that each person has their own way of perceiving, thinking or remembering. The more literal meaning that caught my attention was defining the word as roads that cross and intersect, which can be visualized as maps. Connecting these two interpretations brought to my mind the subject matter regarding „mental maps”.

I started sketching from memory the ways I walk everyday and I tried to draw the map as I remember it, writing down what I did in those places or how the particular place makes me feel and sketching the interesting items I can find there. Fig. 3. represents one of the scribbles that I made. While doing this excercise, I was thinking about the reasons why I memorized these specific places. I realized that sometimes I remember some place because it evokes strong emotions – like anxiety caused while walking in a huge crowd of people not being able to overtake. Then, another reason is that we often keep in mind locations of our favourite cafeterias and restaurants or stores where we bought some unique items. I observed, that I tend to recall places that caught my attention because they were nicely designed or they looked cosy and attractive to me.

 

own images

The way each person memorize places is very thought-provoking – all of us create our own mental maps that are very different from each other, because each person has distinct experiences and commutes via distinct ways. While living in a particular city we can have a lot of this kind of maps in our mind – each for unique occasions such as where to eat something fast or where to drink a cup of good coffee? One will recollect the place for the reasons like seeing the beautiful mural or seeing the book one would like to read in a counter of some bookshop. We sketch our own maps everyday – to think about the route we will take home or to think of a bar we want to meet with friends.

Archie’s Press. (2018). Madrid Map. [image]. Available at: https://archiespress.com/collections/cities/products/madrid-map [Accessed 11 Nov. 2018].

Lastly, I would like to mention Archie Archambault’s mental maps of cities, states and outer space (and others) as his work also connects to the topic I am researching. Archambault started to produce his maps because of the concern that the society nowadays looses their navigational skills and sense of direction due to the technology, especially Google Maps. He creates his maps by walking around the city and making notes, asking locals for directions and checking with them whether his observations are correct. To visualize those maps he uses circles – the shape that he claims to be perfect, because it is pleasurable to look at and it was used by people for centuries. What I found interesting is that by creating those diagrams, he develops the ability of perceiving the surroundings and understanding the location, making it easy for him to move around the city without any map at all.

Sources:

Shipwright, F. (2016). Unchartered Ground – Larissa Fassler’s Psychogeographic Cartographies. [online] uncube magazine. Available at: http://www.uncubemagazine.com/blog/16549313 [Accessed 11 Nov. 2018].

Morris, H. (2016). The ‘mind maps’ of the world’s cities challenging GPS. [online] telegraph. Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/news/mind-maps-of-the-world-s-cities/ [Accessed 11 Nov. 2018].

Fassler, L. (2018). larissafassler. [online] larissafassler. Available at: http://www.larissafassler.com/startside.html [Accessed 11 Nov. 2018].

 

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Roy Lichtenstein exhibition – contours and patterns.

Ava

Lichtenstein was one of the representatives of Pop Art, the movement that dominated the second half of twentieth century, among such artists as Andy Warhol or Robert Indiana.

IMG_3985

Fig. 1. source: own picture

The exhibition of nearly 50 posters from different periods of his life was prepared by Fundación Canal in Madrid. The exhibition presented Roy’s way of seeing and his method of art expression. Many contemporary practitioners are influenced by his work, especially the illustrators creating comics, even though Lichtenstein himself said that the comics was only his way of creation and the place to look for inspiration. Looking at the posters presented at the exposition I was trying to watch them from the perspective of people living in the time when they were firstly displayed for an audience – in 60s and 70s, in the time when this kind of art was a complete novelty. What did people think about his art back then? How did he became so recognizable? What I tried to pay attention to was use of contour and patterns. The palette of colors that he repeated in a lot of his pieces. All of the scenes, taken from the mass culture and consumerism, depicted in a very clear visual way.

Clear” is the word that comes to my mind while looking at those posters. They are easy to interpret consisting of an obvious visual language that often uses signs or pictograms as a technique of creating an artwork. Lichtenstein’s tools are contours and patterns. He expresses the idea using lines and geometrical splashes of color – all giving the impression as very ‘controlled’ and previously planned. However, the exciting thing is the unexpectedness in use of perspective. The artist uses non-obvious frames and zooms of the visualized objects (as shown in fig. 2 and fig. 3), which makes his art remarkable.

 

Sora

Fig. 4. Lichtenstein, R. (1996) Landscapes in The Chinese Style [Offset Lithography] Madrid: Fundación Canal.


Fig. 4. represents the poster of ‘Landscape in the Chinese Style’ – the Asian influence can be clearly seen. What comes to my mind is Japanese woodblock printing. Interpretation of this style made by Roy Lichtenstein is very interesting because it shows the classical Japanese way of catching perspective, it represents the element of landscape – often depicted in woodblock printing in the far east, and the format is vertical. The artist play with the patterns, avoiding strong contour and providing the depth using aerial perspective. This technique makes it look a bit mysterious, creating similar atmosphere to the ones presented in Japanese prints.

While looking at the fragment of another poster from this series (fig. 5) it can be noticed that the theme is not so obvious – everything seems a bit strange to the viewer. Only when we take a few steps back the patterns can create the mountains.

These art pieces are the very few ones where Roy did not use the strong contour. They are very different comparing to the other posters and – since I am very interested in Japanese woodblock prints, especially from XIX century – they caught my attention.

Sora

Fig. 5. Lichtenstein, R. (1997) fragm. of Landscape in The Chinese Style [Offset Lithography] Madrid: Fundación Canal.

Sources:

Exhibition titled “Roy Lichtenstein, posters” in Fundación Canal in Madrid. Web address: https://www.fundacioncanal.com/20315/roy-lichtenstein-posters/?par=exposiciones

The illustrations of Sidney Sime.

Sidney Sime was one of these artists whose works need to be examined in every detail, because there is so much happening. His illustrations tell the whole story – one do not have to read the description. I was stunned by the author’s imagination and manner of depicting imaginary worlds when I first came across this artist. Sidney Herbert Sime was born in 1867 in Manchester, although the precise date of his birth is not known. In general, his life seems a bit mysterious. As a child he was forced to work for five years in the coal mines as a pit boy. It costed him a huge labour and affected his way of thinking and seeing the world. Later, he would specialise in black and white illustrations showing the dark mystical creatures and fantasy lands, all creating the impression of a dream or a nightmare.

from an ultimate dim thule SIME 2.jpg

fig. 1. source: Sidney, S. (1897). From an Ultimate Dim Thule. II. The Idler; an illustrated magazine. [pdf] London: vol. 11 (6), 707. Available at: link [Accessed 30 Oct 2018].

In 1895 he made his first illustrations for the magazine called Pick-Me-Up. He started with caricatural and comic representations. He soon found the way to give more philosophical overtone as he had always been fascinated by the idea of afterlife. The fascination about heaven and hell can be noticed in a majority of his artworks.

fragm

fig. 2. source: Sidney, S. (1897). From an Ultimate Dim Thule. III. The Idler; an illustrated magazine. [pdf] London: vol. 12 (1), 123. Available at: link [Accessed 30 Oct 2018].

In the beginning of the twentieth century Sime gained recognition and was titled the pioneer of comic-grotesque style. In my opinion, the characters in his drawings are very diverse, complex and bizarre. They express a variety of different emotions, but their behaviour is easy for the viewer to interpret. In fig. 1. the two individuals in the lower right corner look like two dark stains of ink, however their posture and the eyes carry an obvious meaning. The composition of that piece is also quite interesting – the dark sky covered with stars that look like eyeballs and the lower part very bright, seems to me as if filled with light. Analysing the figures, they are inverted – the darker ones in the front and one that is white in the back. Nonetheless, the drawing has its unique character and retain the harmony. Fig. 2. represents the fragment of an image. I selected it, because the way the main protagonist of that piece is drawn is very expressive and catches the attention of an audience. I can clearly imagine how he would gesticulate in reality and how he would change his body language if he was able to move. In my mind, he resembles a bit the characters from the books of Terry Pratchett – six-inch high blue people called Nac Mac Feegle (from the series of Discworld; the Wee Free Men and others). I made this comparison to indicate the influence of Sime to the contemporary fantasy illustrations and stories. To give an example, we can clearly see the connection in the work of contemporary artist Roger Dean. Although his paintings use much more vivid and intense colours, there is a similarity of visualizing the landscape and resemblance in creating the atmosphere (fig. 3.).

From producing the images for magazines, Sime turned into illustrating books. His talent was recognised by Lord Dunsany who wanted him to create illustrations for his stories. The style of the writer and the drawings fit perfectly creating permanent relation between them. It is said that some of the writings Lord Dunsany produced around Sime’s drawings which only emphasize the strength his art had over someone’s imagination. First book illustrated by Sime was published in 1905 and was called The Gods of Pegana.

 

The mystery is predominant in the works of Sidney Sime and it is probably the reason why so many people are dragged and fascinated by his art. I found his works very inspiring and stimulating one’s imagination. There are the whole stories hidden in his images and sometimes we can discover many small details we did not pay attention to before. For that reason, I decided to research the illustrations of Sidney Sime and his biography. It made me understand the contemporary trends in illustration (in science fiction and fantasy) and where they came from. It also made me realize how our past can influence the way we perceive the world. In this case, the experience of working in coal mines as a child surrounded by darkness, being told the made-up stories of creatures living in tunnels of the colliery, largely affected Sime and awaken his imagination.

Illustrative Design of Fountain and Figures

fig. 4. source: Sidney, S. (1914-1930). Illustrative Design of Fountain and Figures. [image] Available at: https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/illustrative-design-of-fountain-and-figures-12557# [Accessed 30 Oct 2018].

Sources:

Heneage, S. (2004). Sime, Sidney Herbert. [online] oxforddnb.com. Available at: link [Accessed 30 Oct 2018].

Broughton, M. (2014). Artist in focus: Sidney Herbert Sime. [online] artuk.com. Available at: link [Accessed 30 Oct 2018].

Thesing, W. (2000). Caverns of Night: Coal Mines in Art Literature, and Film. [ebook] Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 19-31. Available at: link [Accessed 30 Oct 2018].

SidneySimeGallery. (2013). The imagination of Sidney Sime. Available at: link [Accessed 30 Oct 2018].

 

 

Some thoughts on Jon Klassen’s books about hats.

Sparkle

image source: own photo of the book by Jon Klassen

Recently, I bought a picture book written and illustrated by Jon Klassen called “We found a hat” published in 2016 by Walker Books. The book is the last one from the trilogy – the first one is called “I want my hat back” and the second one – “This is not my hat”. Each one of them tells a story which encloses around a hat. I have always admired books constructed in a simple but witty way that are moving or evoke a variety of different emotions, but never really had a chance to reflect on them. While doing the research I stumbled upon an article where the author describes all three of his “hat” books. What I found interesting was looking for solution to the problem of narration. He was struggling with describing the story from the third person’s perspective and it finally came naturally that he decided to use only dialog. In picture books, images and text go along, meaning – illustration reflects what is written. However, in Jon Klassen’s books one can notice the playfulness between the words and visual representation. That is to say, even if the character says that something is true, it doesn’t necessarily means it really is.

image source: http://blog.picturebookmakers.com/post/152596041611/jon-klassen

In this example visual content doesn’t agree with the rabbit’s response. The author leaves the space for our interpretation. In the end of the book the bear manages to get his hat back, but we can only suppose that he ate the rabbit. The second book also have a bit of dramatic overtone, as the main character – a little fish, that stole a hat from a bigger fish, is also eaten at the end (although the reader does not know for sure). The last book is a bit different. It is more open for interpretations, for me it is a bit nostalgic and philosophical. One can come to realise that there is a hidden meaning of friendship and trust. It makes us wonder about jealousy, falsehood, guilt and other feelings that can destroy the relationship with others. In the book we meet two turtles that found a hat in the middle of a desert. They are wondering what they should do since there is only one hat and it is impossible to share it. Interestingly, the subject talking in the book – the turtles – is plural. They talk simultaneously which presents the sense of unity and it shows that both protagonists have a close relation.

Video – trailer of the book “We found a hat”

Spread from 'We Found A Hat' by Jon Klassen – published by Candlewick Press, United States

image and video source: http://blog.picturebookmakers.com/post/152596041611/jon-klassen

The characters in Jon Klassen books are drawn simply, we can read their thoughts and emotions mostly from their eyes or postures. They are expressionless, inscrutable and a bit bland – they never look at each other while making a dialog, rather they stare at the reader, they seem as if they were taken from another place, not very involved with the story. I think this stylization was carried out on purpose – making the nature of the animals funnier to interpret. We can find this motif in various books or movies. For instance, it is used frequently in the movies directed by Wes Anderson, where the characters behave and act in a very serious manner. However, it is impossible not to laugh while watching them.

Clip from Moonrise Kingdom (by Wes Anderson)

Moonrise_Kingdom

image source: http://www.dazeddigital.com/music/article

Sometimes, the characters that do not speak much, the ones that seem inexpressive and maybe a bit awkward, can illustrate better the message of an art work. The book by Jon Klassen made me think of the role of picture books in general, but also about each element that has to be well thought and fit into the whole concept. From his talks and the article about creation of the books I learned about idea-development and the surprising ways it can take us. It was interesting to see the first version of “We found a hat” which involved three protagonists wanting to get the hat for themselves. The characters are very egoistic, there is no friendly relation between them. Also, the prime idea contained another type of circumstances – the animals are surrounded by snow that keeps falling until it covers completely all three of them along with the hat. The whole process that the author went through took him back to this first thought but changed its meaning into the more positive implication.

Spread from 'We Found A Hat' by Jon Klassen – published by Candlewick Press, United States

image source: http://blog.picturebookmakers.com/post/152596041611/jon-klassen

Sources:

http://blog.picturebookmakers.com/post/152596041611/jon-klassen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHOuhleUCCs

Introduction. The silence of spaces.

Hello! My name is Zofi. I am studying MA in Illustration at University of Hertfordshire and this is my Research & Enquiry blog. The main purpose of this blog is to explore the choosen keyword – ‘ways’, but also to reflect on unrelated pieces of work, nonetheless beautiful and inspiring, found during researching.

The first example I would like to share is the series of acrylic paintings created by a contemporary hungarian artist – Zsofia Schweger. The series is called Sandorfalva, Hungary, which is the name of  the author’s home town where she and her family lived before moving to UK. The paintings explore the meaning of belongingness and displacement. The experience of homesickness and memories. They perfectly picture an atmosphere of moving out of home where one was growing up gathering all the childhood memories. The spaces feel empty and they look as if they could be anywhere in the world, abandoned. However, looking at them one can feel the sense of unity. The artist used only light pastel colours and she chose simple composition and flatness as tools to communicate with the viewer – for me all the paintings show predominant sadness. Something is missing, it is absent and one can hear the silence inside the house, unfamiliar and strange.

While writing this, I am thinking about my own personal experience which is still very fresh and recent in my mind. Moving out of the house is, on one hand, very exciting because you are going somewhere new having plenty of possibilities ahead, plenty of new adventures. On the other hand, it is upsetting when you realize this is the last time you look through your window, the last time you see the trees in the garden where you used to climb when you were little and the last look at the empty space surrounding you. You think ‘I will never sleep, work or eat here again’. Everything seem so surrealistic, all the things gone, rooms emptied and plenty of boxes laying in the corridor.

In my opinion, this feeling and the atmosphere surrounding it is very hard to explain using words, but it is strikingly well captured by Zsofia Schweger.

Zsofia Schweger - Sandorfalva, Hungary #34

sources:

http://socks-studio.com/2018/07/01/spaces-left-behind-paintings-by-zsofia-schweger/

https://zsofiaschweger.com/art-project/sandorfalva-hungary/