• Beyond the Canvas

There are moments in life when our fear is such that we scramble for ways of taming it, in the hope that this crippling fear will somehow dissolve. And when we feel at our most powerless, all sorts of coping mechanisms kick in as we go down unexplored avenues trying to believe we can do something, anything, This is one of those moments.

Me, I turn to art, like I always do. So today I'd like to showcase the work of Marina Skugareva, born in Kyiv, Ukraine in 1962. I don't know much about her or her creative practice, but I liked the sophistication and complexity of this still life, where I see echoes of my beloved Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin. So I thought I would show my support to Marina and all the Ukrainian people. Because that is literally all I can do.

#marinaskugareva #ukrainianartist #femaleartist #stilllife #contemporaryart #peace #nowar #blog #artblog #beyondthecanvasblog

Marina Skugareva

Still Life, 2008

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  • Beyond the Canvas

Today Instagram is aflood with red hearts, declarations of eternal love, schmaltzy quotes and unmissable promotions. And while swathes of people around the globe enthusiastically celebrate romance, it would appear that the origins of Valentine's Day are rooted in unspeakably gruesome rituals performed by the ancient Romans.

So here I am jumping on the bandwagon with this Banksy piece, which first appeared on a wall next to Prince of Albert pub in Brighton, the LGBTQ capital of the United Kingdom. Two policemen lock lips in a passionate embrace, and I can't help but think that this image would have been far more relevant and provocative if it had popped up somewhere in the less open-minded North East of the country. Anyway, I digress.

What I really wanted to talk about has nought to do with love (sorry) and everything to do with coppers. Last week, Cressida Dick, the former Commissioner of London's Met Police resigned over a string of scandals culminating in a serving officer murdering a young woman (see my post). To make things worse, a recent report uncovered a widespread culture of institutional racism, misogyny, bullying, corruption and sex harassment. The commissioner's position had become untenable, she simply had to go.

However, I find myself thinking that Dick, who happens to be an out gay woman, may in some way have been a victim of said culture because of her gender and, possibly, her sexual orientation. Despite her responsibilities, it's hard to see how the first female leader of the UK's largest police service could have ever succeeded in bringing real change to a male-dominated environment that is so evidently tainted with toxic masculinity.

#valentinesday #loveislove #murales #streetart #banksy #urbanart #art #artblog #beyondthecanvasblog


Kissing Coppers, 2004

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"Good artists copy; great artists steal." - Apocryphal quote

The history of modern and contemporary art is littered with instances of appropriation. Picasso famously adopted cultural imagery from African art assimilating, not without controversy, tribal art aesthetics into his Cubist works. Later on, albeit in different ways, and to name just a few, Andy Warhol, Barbara Kruger, Richard Prince and Cindy Sherman all purposely borrowed and incorporated elements from other visual cultures in their work.

There is however a thin line between original and transformative appropriation and lazy, formulaic appropriation. Blame it on my Italian background and my blind veneration for Renaissance art, but I get particularly nervous and unforgiving when artists ransack the work of the Old Masters in search of a quick win. Ah but it's a tribute. Ah but it's a reinterpretation. Ah but they are challenging old tropes. Ah but it's a dialogue. No.

The Carmignano Visitation, Pontormo's Mannerist masterpiece, had already been subjected to Bill Viola's excruciating pseudo-existentialist slo-mo spectacularisation when the video artist produced The Greeting in 1995. Today I ran into a much less offensive homage painted in 1985 by a minor Italian painter I had never heard of before. I liked the use of modern architecture in the background, but those grumpy looking women looked stiff like cheap department store mannequins and lacked any of the spirituality that the depiction of a visitation demands.

Pontormo, on the other hand, razzle-dazzles us with a stunning range of almost fluorescent colors and exquisite details. The swirling fabrics alone are a head-spinning symphony, the delicate embrace, the interlinked arms, the elongated hands, the knowing look between Mary and Elizabeth, the contrasting indifference of the other women, the intertwining of the figures, one of Pontormo's trademarks. It's an extraordinarily bold, powerful, imaginative and moving painting. If only they would leave it alone.

#pontormo #mannerism #appropriation #art #artblog #beyondthecanvasblog

Jacopo Pontormo

Carmignano Visitation, c. 1528-30

Francesco Giuliari

Natura morta con rivisitazione, 1986

Bill Viola

Still from The Greeting, 1985

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