It's not often us British people go for story telling art, comics and graphic novels are a niche market in this country. The Japanese though have a much larger affiliation to picture stories in their national identity. Maybe with the writing having a basis in representational images has helped join the dots for them. We'd have to ask an expert on the history of Japanese culture. Never-the-less, what has now become a world-wide phenomenon, synonymous with cutesy teenagers and down to earth over-reactional adults with wide eyed enthusiasm and bewilderment, is the Manga iconography. No longer just about the comic books, most of us are more familiar with the films and TV series' that keep us entertained often late at night.
Because the Manga culture is so important, not just to the Japanese but to all of us, the British Museum are making it a key feature this May to August. The Citi Exhibition Manga is made of six individual rooms each with its own Manga inspired theme. By looking at a spectrum of perspectives, visitors can really get to know this subject to rich standards. With over 70 Manga releases created by over 50 artists, the whole breadth of the culture is demonstrated and explained. This is the first time ever that the British Museum has honoured an element of Japanese culture in its world-famous Sainsbury Exhibition Galleries. There is a first time for everything, after-all.
The event coincides with the Rugby World Cup, which is in Japan this year as fans around the world will know. The Paralympics are also due, with their Japanese event taking place next year. To top off the occasion, this event is the first in a whole run of Japan-UK cultural bridge building exercises over what's been named the UK-Japan Year Of Culture. Extraordinary things await us all, no doubt! The two distant countries, unified by their Island nation status and our love of Manga of course, can enjoy a whole host of themed celebrations of each other.
In order to leave visitors with a true education in the entire Manga system, the six rooms aim to showcase just one part of the bigger whole. First is The Art Of Manga. This room explains the theory of Manga art, and what the key features are which artists must adhere to. We all know when something looks like Manga. Perhaps it's a subconscious thing, do we know why it looks like Manga? This will help us to find out for ourselves.
The second room in the exhibition is Drawing On The Past. Now it's time for a quick lesson in the history of the culture and brand. Visual storytelling as a mode of communication has a rich history in Japan, it's not so much of a niche thing like it is in the UK. Because of this, the medium in deeply ingrained in the long and vibrant history of Japanese life. In this room we see how all of this resulted in one firm with a catchy logo who conquered the world.
A Manga For Everyone is next, and it highlights the accessibility of the media. With genre after genre listed for visitors to browse, everyone can find an animation that suits their taste. You'll be amazed at what is out there, and when we consider how long it takes to produce just a few minutes of film, we can see how in depth and dedicated the teams at Manga must be. In the forth room is The Power Of Manga, and it examines the cultural influence the brand has had over the years. Ideas and imagery from the Manga worktop have found themselves in all manner of situations. Here we'll learn about a few.
The Power Of Line comes after, this room shows us some abstract timelines of how the art has matured and evolved since its beginnings. There's even a nineteenth century scroll, or theatre curtain which spans over 17 meters in length! It depicts demons and ghosts and is quite a shocking piece of classical art. It has to be seen in person to get a true scope of its size and power. In the final room we find Manga No Limits. This last section shows how the Manga theme has grown beyond the original publishing house into something much more vague and abstract. Building on the Power Of Manga section from earlier, from a more artistic point of view, it explains how the culture has defined an entire global art-form which can be adapted and utilised for all manner of creative activities.
Want Manga now? Here's a cool film and book shop. Purchases support Alternative Fruit.
Some time in the 7th decade of the first century, a group of artists were commissioned to paint a fresco on an incredibly important wall. Only the best will do when the art is intended for the Emperor, and when they have a reputation such as Nero's then mistakes in form or personal behaviour could be fatal. Who would be prepared for such work? I am sure all the top artists of the day were clambering over each other to be chosen. Luckily for us moderns, Emperors are much less likely to enter murderous rages.
The magnificent Domus Aurea or Golden Palace was one of Emperor Nero's residences. Some of the building was discovered by artists searching ruins for good views to sketch. Situated next to the world famous Colosseum of Rome, the ancient royal residence was buried beneath a hill by Emperor Trajan. Could this be a case of imperial jealousy? Now the majority of the palace is buried under the bustling city of Rome, however not all was covered in concrete.
Famous Renaissance artists including Raphael were able to hoist themselves into an accessible part of the building on ropes. They used the innate depictions to inspire their own pieces. More recently, a team of archaeologists were exploring the nearby vicinity. They had a hunch there was more to be found, and within little time, they had uncovered the secret chamber. The paintings on the wall had been remarkably preserved and contained much of their original vibrancy. A true feel of the first century still hung in the air.
The entire site was once a grand palace, with an artificial lake as the centrepiece. There would have been many rooms, each designed and furnished with the most exquisite materials from all over the empire. Work is ongoing to excavate the rest of the new chamber, now with just the vault currently open. Dubbed “The Room of The Sphinx”, it no doubt holds many more cultural and historical treasures to relish once finished.
It's still difficult today to procure live specimens of aquatic life for students to learn about them. Pictures in books often don't do justice to the complex beauty of some of the ocean's more complicated and illustrious life-forms. Creatures with bodies so far away from the mammalian that it takes a good look at one to fully understand it are found in the sea, where the rules of what works are totally different.
In the 1860s, a father and son team of glass-blowers decided to adapt their skill to create life-like glass models of some of these creatures. So life-like in fact that trained marine biologists mistake them for the real thing when flicking through pictures, it takes a keen eye and maybe a bit of time to read the title to realise it's a model.
The Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka models can be found all over the world, at the time they were sent in their hundreds and thousands to various museums, universities, and schools. Designed to be accurate teaching models, the work that went into each piece was phenomenal. To truly replicate something in glass requires a lot of persistent effort and trial and error. Once the technique is perfected however, the family business could churn out as many as people wanted. The Blaschka's created all manner of glass specimens, from flora to fauna.
The individual glass parts were sealed together with resin glue and wire to complete the three dimensional sculpture. Extremely delicate, yet beautiful and enchanting, the scientifically designed representations of squids and such, are now extremely prized collectors items. If you have one, consider yourself extremely lucky! This is in part due to the fact that even modern glass-blower artisans struggle to replicate the unique and replicable designs crafted by the Blaschka's all those years ago.
French photography artist Guido Mocafico has spent years photographing the pieces. Travelling all over the world to their resting places in museums and other institutions of learning, each piece required special permission and assurances for the professional artist to get even close. But, once there, Mocafico was able to put them in the frame so we can all enjoy their brilliance. You can visit Guido Mocafico's website or just get a book about the Blaschka Glass creatures.
Looking to the future, we can possibly make models from other materials. Although glass is beautiful and artistic, it's also highly fragile and as many have shown, replicating the beautiful designs of the past is a tall order. We could use wood, plastic, fabric, or maybe even pixels. A true to life computer model could be programmed to behave like the real thing, maybe we could build a virtual ocean full of life for future marine biologists to learn from?
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Pingle in Sichuan, China, is famous for its long musical history. This ancient settlement traditionally has been a hub for Chinese musical talent and inspiration. Architect firm MUDA have unveiled plans to build a hotel in the magnificent town based on this special cultural heritage. The planning went as far to checking out the local styles and interpretations of design to ensure their building matched the architectural 'genetics' of the location.
The hotel is built around several curving lines that dictate harmonious flow, just like that found in great music. Rhythmic sections mean that the building adapts and wanders in units like the bars on a stave. These subdivisions are held as one by an exterior aluminium skin that adds vibrancy and illumination to the structure. Also, paying attention to the cultural history of the area, Sichuan bamboo texture has been replicated on this outer wall, meaning that although progressive and fit for the future, the frontage fits in with all that has come before it.
The M50 Art Hotel was especially inspired by a famous Chinese love story.Like the Romeo and Juliet of the east, Zhuo Wenjun and Sima Xiangru are based on true life circumstances and have inspired many stories and cultural expressions.. A song about the couple, written for the guqin, called Feng Qiu Huang stood as the initial basis for the hotel's design.
“We learned that the love story between Zhuo Wenjun and Sima Xiangru happened in Qionglai. Taking the song "Feng Qiu Huang" as the starting point, guqin was found, and the strings were extracted. The project abstracts the action of "touching the strings" into architectural form. When the strings solidify at the climax, the final form of the building is obtained, which also responds to the theme “Architecture is frozen music”.
-MUDA-Architects (Arch Daily)
The abstract oblong design stretches about 80 meters in one direction and around 20 in the other. This means that four floors can host several hundred visitors at once. With a spiral staircase penetrating right up through the rhythmic system of levels, the entire project allows residents to truly explore the functional design. A grand entrance clad in transparent glass will allow visitors to walk into a well-lit and spacious foyer before checking in and finding their apartment. Expected to be ready in 2020, this iconic building will undoubtedly attract multiple scores of visitors.
Swedish-American artist Mikael Chukwuma Owunna felt that black people were getting a second class ticket from society. The individual may be seen as equal however on a cultural level, more work had to be done to ensure the effects of equality. One particular issue that moved Mikael was the statistics for police using their guns on black people. Police officers who are sworn to protect and serve their community, in the opinion of many, are acting like occupying forces exerting summary executions on the streets. Is this what we call justice in our modern and removed from the primitive society that we've worked hard to achieve? Mikael Chukwuma Owunna doesn't think so.
But he's not like them, he doesn't fight fire with fire. Mikael decided to elevate black people using art, using soft power to get the message out there that there are beautiful people too. Showing that they have intimate feelings and sense good and bad may sound like something we don't need any more. If that's the case for you, consider yourself lucky. It seems that ingrained cultural perceptions are still on the gradient, and someone needs to come along and level the ground. We can all do our bit on that front, black, white, Asian, Indian, Inuit, and Aborigine.
Mikael Owunna has used special photography to turn his subjects into exciting night sky scenes. Studded with luminous starlight, his UV flash filter tones down the skin to almost pitch black. This captures much more from the fluorescent paints than usual. and transfers onto the camera as a literal glow jumping from the skin. Because of the dark skin pigment and the contrast between the black and white, it really looks like their bodies have been painted in stars.
Finding his sense of identity in a society that values only certain individualism and uniqueness has been difficult for Mikael. Being openly homosexual and black has given him a difficult journey, when considering his Swedish heritage, we can empathise a clear sense of wanting to belong from an early age. Rather than striving to fit in and following the crowd, showing the world why his ideas and personality are valuable for their own merit has hopefully inspired many more to do the same. It's a known fact that upon seeing their portraits, many of his subjects have had strong emotional responses. All good ones, too.
You can get on the train with Mikael Owunna on Instagram and Twitter.
Introducing The Sir Elton John And David Furnish Gallery At The Victoria And Albert Museum | Alternative Fruit
What was once known as Gallery 101 at the hugely loved V&A Museum in London has been reworked to become an incredible collection of photographs. Its namesakes, celebrity couple Sir Elton John and David Furnish, have been involved from the beginning. It's a little known piece of trivia that since 1991, Sir Elton has been collecting photography. He loves the medium and truly enjoys investing in works by celebrated photographers from across the history of the art.
Alongside some 800,000 photographs from the V&A's own vaults, a princely fraction of Sir Elton John's private collection of thousands will also be on display. The pair are working on a co-curated exhibition that speaks to them, and hopefully communicates their humanity to the rest of us. We're all interested in how it feels to be a star, and what kind of things create intrigue for them. Checking out collections administered by celebrities gives us a unique insight into their personal space.
Elton's photograph collection is one of the largest and most extensive private holdings on the planet. He proudly owns originals by masters such as André Kertész, Dorothea Lange, Man Ray, and Edward Steichen plus examples of some of the most contemporary and modern templates in the making such as Cindy Sherman and Alex Prager. Sir Elton and David really wanted to show off a wide variety of works that speak to as many people as possible. This means choosing perspectives and attitudes from a whole array of minds, some of which may not agree with our own.
It's important to the couple to help out with the public showing of art, this gallery is just one of a long list of philanthropic ventures undertaken by the singer-songwriter and his husband. The pair first came into photographic contact with the V&A back in 2014 when they lent a generous selection from the collection for a temporary exhibit. Now with a more permanent fixture in place, they were on the tip of the tongue as to who to ask for working to create something iconic and lasting. With passion and clout, nothing can stop Sir Elton John (signed stuff) and David Furnish from living their dream of educating wide audiences and nurturing an interest in the medium of photography.
" Just in time for his farewell world tour, this lavish, unofficial retrospective commemorates Elton's incredible life and career."
Out September: Elton John: Rocket Man by Chris Roberts . Pre-order today!
Recently opened for the first time in a century, a ninth century Venetian church plays host to an exhibition all about the ocean. As this iconic city is situated on the coast, with water all around, it makes perfect sense to show this artwork here. Drawing attention to the inevitable climax of climate change, many of the world's coastal and island communities are at severe risk of flooding as the ice sheets melt away.
Joan Jonas, a well-known American multimedia artist, has decorated Ocean Space with Moving Off The Land II. Its many displays and pieces completely submerge visitors in the world of the sea and our place next to it. With a mission to highlight the need for action to improve ocean health and the planetary ecosystem as a whole, this ancient building has been repurposed to fit with the main agenda of the day. Those of us living inland may not feel the same degree of urgency as those living in places of excellent antiquity at risk of becoming unusable.
With the help of Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21), this arts organisation of aquatic intrigue is now open for all the many visitors who travel to the area. They've been involved with many similar projects around the globe, this recent issue at Venice being the latest. Using art to communicate information and values surrounding the ocean has helped to inform a whole new group of people. Scientists and sailors may already know their fair share, so finding a medium that appeals to someone else is always a good idea.
For Joan Jonas, Moving Off The Land II involved three long years of research and creative thinking. By visiting aquariums and ocean museums, Jonas was able to fill a bucket full of inspiration that ultimately made its way into the new exhibition. The multi-media aspect of Jonas' work includes prose by Dickinson and Melville. Sketches and photographs make up the rest, with paintings and assemblages. Running alongside the 56th Venice Biennale, centred on the fragility of nature as a whole, Joan Jonas will team up with musician Ikue Mori on the 7th of May for a live performance in the Church of San Lorenzo.
From the 30th of March to the 17th of May visitors to Lagos can be fettered away by an amazing exhibition by a duo of philosophical artists. Comprising of 45 works, the Diffusion Exhibition portrays the human journey through time and space via the lens of consciousness. What are we conscious of, what do we care about? These are the things that dominate our awareness, and our position on the grand social array. What we choose to do with our lives is a reflection of our level of consciousness, and in this case, reflecting the ideas and perspectives gathered so far is being conscious of consciousness itself. Is this the pinnacle of our understanding?
Famous words like I Think Therefore I Am from the philosopher Descartes (pronounced Daycart) maybe don't ring true any more. To truly be someone don't we have to think about how we think? Computers can think to some extent but they're told what to think about by people. It gets very confusing but thinking on its own doesn't really make us a someone any more. Doesn't there have to be an instigation and a reason behind the thought too?
We humans have evolved mentally over the past few thousand years. Now we know more about ourselves and the universe we live in, we can be more able to make moral and ethical decisions. Our social thinking which morals and ethics stem from is part of our empathic system, which requires an ability to know how something feels. Naturally those who have not been subject to a thing cannot fully empathise with a person who is subject to it, they can take a guess but it's like throwing darts in the dark. This has given us a reason to communicate and explain, to produce art and give reason to feelings.
By exploring how we as humans have moved socially, empathically, and personally through spiritual and material means, the Diffusion exhibition gives light to the distance travelled so far. As we are born in our own times, we each have the opportunity to process the procedures of life for ourselves and make our own choices about how we will adapt them for our own peace of mind. This is how gradual change occurs in life and society. The mixed media work and paintings by Promise Onali and Chibuike Uzoma will stand to clarify one aspect of this multifaceted field of vision.
Read more about the exhibition on Vanguard NGR
What was once a giant oil-drum, designed to tank millions of gallons of black gold for Chinese consumers, is now a giant museum. It's recently been kitted out by design artists teamLab, a collective of ultra-modern creative innovators. Universe of Water Particles opened on the 23rd of March, and wowed visitors within moments. In other areas, an exhibition called Under Construction features works by Chinese artists including Zeng Fanzhi, Ding Yi, and Yang Fudong. There's also an intriguingly titled section named Sometimes you wonder, in an interconnected universe, who is dreaming who? This philosophical and thought provoking work is by Adrian Villar Rojas.
The total TANK Shanghai museum is made up of five whole oil-tanks. They were the acquisition of Qiao Zhibing, who bought them from the local Hongqiao International Airport. This fabulous and truly inspirational display of adaptive and interactive art really shows us how sustainability can be a continual work in progress. It's anyone's best guess as to what to do with all the things we no longer need, however with a bit of creative ingenuity we can solve problems and create worthwhile experiences for all people.
When East Meets West And Sea Meets Sky – Over 30 Oil Paintings By Late Master Yeh Shih-Chiang On Display | Alternative Fruit
Through the months of March to May, visitors to the Hanart TZ Gallery in Hong Kong can immerse themselves in the groundbreaking work of Shih-Chiang. An exhibition dedicated to the artist named “Edge of Sea and Sky” will allow art-lovers to explore in minute detail the methods and masterpieces left behind by this sought after painter. Over thirty pieces will make up the solo exhibition, allowing a full range of his work to be visually dissected.
The work expressed a major theme of the time which could be found in the East. Post-war-modernism had become a major export from Western society and it quickly began to influence artists from outside of its area of origin. Arriving in Taiwan in 1949 from his home town in China, after visiting as an art student a few years earlier, it seemed Shih-Chiang had grown fond of the location. The art scene there undoubtedly provided him with the inspiration and encouragement he needed to fulfil his visions.
The combination of influences of the day resulted in a form of Chinese Modernism which has become a template for other later works to draw from. Chinese work of the day typically used ink as its medium. With the work of Shih-Chiang, he wanted to symbolise and represent the ingrained problems with Chinese art culture. He felt that artists were continually pushed into representing political opinion and working to benefit the state if they wanted to be given the respect of the community. Shih-Chiang didn't like this, and he showed it by doing something uniquely him.
These oil paintings, created outside of China, show a clear vein of anti-establishment. Using an alternative medium and drawing so heavily on Western influences as well as remaining abstract and non-statesmanly, Yeh Shih-Chiang left a trailblazing line of influence all for himself. Is that what it takes to make an arts master? What do you think?
Take a look at this slide-show of the oil paintings by Yeh Shih-Chiang
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