Fine Arts

NIGHTMARISH PHOTOGRAPHS BY PIETER HUGO

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I mean, do you honestly think a portrait can tell you anything about the subject? And, even if it did, would you trust what it had to say?

South African Pieter Hugo’s striking photographs of contemporary Africa, infamously referenced by Beyoncé Knowles and Nick Cave’s Grinderman music videos, have garnered global recognition. His work has been collected by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The FOAM Museum of Photography, and The Museum of Modern Art. With even a passing glance at this young artist’s curriculum vitae, his influence on contemporary art and photography is clear.
Born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1976, Hugo is a self-taught documentary photographer. His images are created using a large format camera, a bulky piece of equipment that does not lend itself to the surreptitious photographer. His work hinges on a personal interaction and connection with his subjects. “The power of photography is inherently voyeuristic,” he said in an interview with The Independent last year. “But I want that desire to look to be confronted.” And yet, he is “deeply suspicious of the power of photography.”

The most well known book The Hyena & Other Men (2005-2007), documents a group of performers in Nigeria and Lagos who work with hyenas, baboons, and pythons. Hugo’s Nollywood (2008) a commentary on Africa’s film industry, is described by critics as “overdramatic, deprived of happy endings, tragic; the aesthetic is loud, violent, excessive; nothing is said, everything is shouted. ”Permanent Error (2011) studies a dump in Ghana where the obsession with gadget iterations—the tech industry’s “planned obsolescence”— is exposed in a narrative of global wastefulness. Although each of these evocative series asks us to reassess the perceptions of our world, Hugo’s Hague collection questions photography itself: its limits as well as its increasingly complex methods of representation.

The nature of Hugo’s subject matter has been criticized as sensational and exploitative of the “exotic other” — a criticism of documentary photography dating back to its inception. “My intentions are in no way malignant,” Hugo says, “yet somehow people pick it up in that way. I’ve traveled through Africa, I know it, but at the same time I’m not really part of it… I can’t claim to [have] an authentic voice, but I can claim to have an honest one.”

PIETER HUGO official site

Guernica

 

‘DIABLERIES’ BY BRIAN MAY, A STEREOSCOPIC JOURNEY TO HELL.

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Brian May is one of the world’s foremost collectors of Victorian stereo cards. He published his first book about these cards in 2009. A Village Lost and Found contained a complete series of stereo cards taken in a small Oxfordshire village, and was a huge success and the subject of a great deal of media attention.

In this second book, the subject is of broader interest and is more controversial. Diableries (which translates roughly as ‘Devilments’) presents an extraordinary set of French stereo cards, which were published beginning in the 1860s, and continuing on until around 1900. They depict a whole imaginary underworld, populated by devils, satyrs and skeletons which are very much alive and, for the most part, having fun. The cards are works of art in themselves, and are known as French tissues, constructed in a special way to enable them to be viewed (in a stereoscope – which is supplied with the book) illuminated from the front, for a normal ‘day’ appearance in monochrome, or illuminated from the back, the view becomes a ‘night’ scene, in which hidden colours magically appear.

The scenes depicted in these Diableries were made in clay, on a table-top, with amazing skill, by a small bunch of gifted sculptors, and then photographed with a stereo camera. The resulting stereo pair of prints was made on thin albumen paper, and water-colours were applied to the back of the prints. The eyes of each skeleton were then pricked out with a sharp instrument, and small pieces of red gel, or blobs of reddened varnish, were applied to the back of the pricked holes. Behind this pair of prints was added a layer of tissue paper, which hid the ‘works’ to the rear surface of the view. The print and the backing tissue were then mounted together, sandwiched between two cardboard frames – each with twin cut-out ‘windows’ for the prints, and the whole was glued together to make a French Tissue stereo card and the eyes of the skeletons leap out in red, in a most macabre way! Collectors prize these cards, which are quite delicate, and must be handled with care, in order not to damage them.

In addition to the beautiful images of the complete set of over 70 stereo cards which can be seen in 3D using the viewer provided, Brian and his fellow authors and researchers Denis Pellerin and Paula Fleming provide an explanatory text for every card to unravel its meaning – the satirical nature of the cards is hidden to modern eyes.

BUY ‘DIABLERIES’ 

Last Gasp Publishing.com

THE ‘UNDERGROUND GHOSTS’ OF LIVIO SCARPELLA

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The work of Italian contemporary artist Livio Scarpella turns good and evil into delicacy.  This group of sculptures, named “Ghosts Underground”, depicts lost souls anguishing beneath the effect of a thin veil.  Scarpella’s interest in this subject was inspired by a trip to the Sansevero Chapel in Naples, home to Antonio Corradini’s “Veiled Christ”.  Before that time, he mostly exhibited paintings for a decade. By mixing influences of Rococo sculptors like Corradini with modern iconography, Scarpella explores a struggle with religious faith.  He couples his “blessed” and “damned” figures with light and dark colored mineral rocks, like amethyst and quartz, inside the chest.  They are hardened hearts that embody the ghost hidden within.  Scarpella takes this idea to a new level in his recent work. His exhibit “Fuori dal Tempo” (“Out of Time”) now showing at Gallery Gomiero in Italy, looks at the theme of sin without repentance.  Undeniably, Scarpella pursues a morbid imagination dominated by smug virtue and natural beauty.
“Fuori dal Tempo” by Livio Scarpella is on view at Gallery Gomiero in Milan, Italy through April 26.

LIVIO SCARPELLA on Facebook.com

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