Tag Archives: Art

Cuddly avacado

Awww! Cute cuddly cuddling avocado!

Image: Hanna Dovhan

Image: Hanna Dovhan

More wonderful woollen creations can be found here: http://annadovgan.tumblr.com/ and here:  https://www.etsy.com/shop/Wooolsculpture?ref=l2-shopheader-name

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Startled face

startled face

Image: Electric Puppet

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Bolt Poetry by Tobbe Malm

I never imagined that a bolt could actually look sad, but it seems that it can. These wonderful artworks were created by a Norwegian artist and photographer named Tobbe Malm, and all images belong to him.

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Pained faces

I also came across this the other day (in the same internet browsing session as the neckless duck I posted a few moments ago), and thought it worth sharing:

They look like quite interesting and animated clay faces, don’t they? Wrong. They aren’t clay at all. They’re intriguingly made from mangled and contorted origami-inflicted loo rolls by a man named Junior Fritz Jacquet, and more of his work can be found here.

 

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Damien Hirst and the ignorance of journalists: a Facebook rant from July 2013

This is a bit old but (I thought) worth sharing. As the title suggests, I posted this on Facebook almost a year ago, but the sentiments are the same now. Obviously, when I mention something is ‘current’, I mean current in July 2013.

Here is the original article that I refer to:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2013/jul/17/damien-hirst-photograph-severed-head-censorship

 

This article has irritated me somewhat. Firstly, I hate that the thumbnail for the article has that picture on, but I can’t really comment without putting the article on that I am moaning about, and the picture won’t disappear. I missed this story when it was first in the news, but picked up on it thanks to a cartoon in the current issue of ‘Private Eye.’ Basically, two archaeologists from Leicester Uni have objected to Damien Hirst exhibiting a photo that shows him at the age of 16 posing next to the severed head of a man who donated his body to science. Fine. The picture is in ridiculous bad taste, and they have a point about the family of the dead man and the fact that he probably didn’t give permission for photos to be taken of his corpse (which needs to be given when bodies are donated). But the article irritates me due to the complete ignorance that the writer has. Apparently, it is “academic pomposity” for archaeologists to speak out about something they believe is wrong if it impinges on others. Right. Hmm. Also, “archaeological ethics” needs to be put in quotation marks in the original article, as though it is some sort of alien or laughable concept. It is not. It is an integral part of the practicing of modern archaeology that needs to be taken into account at every turn when excavating and when presenting the past to the public. Next-“Only in dictatorial regimes do university professors decide what does and does not belong in an art gallery.” Erm….nope. Surely many art gallery curators are also able to be lecturers, and academic opinion coupled with the sensitivities of the public are always to be taken into account when presenting art and archaeology. But archaeologists cannot comment on art, can they? I’m sure the writer also thinks that anthropologists can’t, either. Then there’s this bit, which I will quote at length- “Leicester University’s experts say it contravenes guidelines on the ethical treatment of the dead: the poor man whose head is in the picture, they say, would have been recognisable to his relatives. He left his body to science and it was used in a jokey work of art. As archaeologists, they claim expertise in this strange field of postmortem ethics. Perhaps they got carried away by the sentimentality that surrounded Leicester’s rediscovery of the bones of Richard III.” Oh come on. Richard III is not quite the same. And then, the final flourish of ignorance- “Archaeology is the scientific study of the past, and it has no business pronouncing on the ethics of modern art.” Give me strength. Of course archaeology has the right and the position to comment on the present as much as any historian, author, artist or religious leader. It just annoys me that such a woefully ignorant person can comment upon a discipline that they clearly do not understand, and can therefore present it any way they like in the media, biasing those who do not know the subject to think that it is something that it isn’t. Okay. Rant over now.

Image: siliconangle.com

Image: siliconangle.com

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Fordite / Motor Agate

Image: Flickr / nebbie

Image: Flickr / nebbie

Well I didn’t know that. This is Fordite, or Motor Agate, an entirely man-made material, formed in car factories from layers of old automobile paint that dripped onto the metal racks which transported cars through the paint shop and into the oven. The paint was hardened to a rock-like state by the intense heat, with some paint undergoing over 100 bakings, and eventually became too thick, requiring removal. The following images show just what beautiful patterns some of the layers of paint formed, and pieces are now polished like gemstones to produce stunning art objects and jewellery. Some of this can be found over at:

http://www.fordite.com/Jewelry_Gallery.php

It is also possible to date pieces of Fordite through the grouping and appearance of colours in the material, with some pieces having taken many decades to form.

Image: talyer jewelry

Image: talyer jewelry

Image: Flickr / m e sweeney

Image: Flickr / m e Sweeney

Image: Flickr / sue kershaw

Image: Flickr / sue Kershaw

Image: Flickr / m e sweeney

Image: Flickr / m e Sweeney

Image: Flickr / sue kershaw

Image: Flickr / sue kershaw

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Spotty Mouse

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Quick post now just to say that despite the reservations I have with Damien Hirst, I do quite like his recent print of Mickey Mouse. I couldn’t really say why I like it- I just do. Even if I could have done it myself using Paint or some brightly-coloured markers.

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Rob Pointon: A Stoke-on-Trent artist in Oxford

As you may know if you have been reading my blog for any length of time, I originate from Stoke-on-Trent, and have moved back here with my partner and children following three years studying in Oxford (which I now consider to be home). Well, before going to uni, I was aware of a local artist working in Stoke named Rob Pointon, whose artwork I greatly admire for its skill, Impressionist style, and fantastic distortion of images to create effects akin to a fish-eye lens. However, it seems that in these three years, his career has really taken off, with exhibitions being hosted in many cities across the UK and abroad, his artwork being displayed all around Burslem (my hometown within the City of Stoke-on-Trent), and canvases owned by HRH The Prince of Wales and the Her Grace Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire. Well, I recently came across an image that he produced at the top of the Saxon church tower of St. Michael at the North Gate in Oxford, and a few days ago another, painted inside the Divinity School of the Bodleian Library.

View of Cornmarket Street from the tower of St. Michael at the North Gate, Oxford, by Rob Pointon

View of Cornmarket Street from the tower of St. Michael at the North Gate, Oxford, by Rob Pointon

Interior of the Divinity School, Bodleian Library, Oxford, by Rob Pointon

Interior of the Divinity School, Bodleian Library, Oxford, by Rob Pointon

I just thought that I’d share these, because I think they are wonderful images, and blend nicely the two places that have made my family who we are. You can follow Rob’s most recent projects here: www.robpointon.co.uk

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2013- Electric Puppet’s first 5 months in review

2014

Well- it’s New Year’s Eve, and time to reflect on what has gone on over the past year. For my family, this has been a big year, as we left the comfort and splendour of Oxford to return to our home city of Stoke-on-Trent; I graduated from university; I got my first job; we decided where we want to go with our life in the near and more distant future, thanks to an American man and his family on YouTube; I completed my first book of poetry, which had been languishing prior to this summer; I took the plunge and begun this blog, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a while; and have got back in contact with several family members that I haven’t seen for the best part of a decade thanks to Facebook. It has been eventful, and had also been emotional and tiring for all of us. Also, with any luck, next year should be just as eventful- beginning work; trying to get my book published; endeavouring to write the novel and short story collection that I’ve been planning for a month or so; and getting married. Yes: my partner and I are getting married next year!

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In terms of this blog, I will be getting up several ‘Thoughts on…’ posts for the books I have read recently- the first two Adrian Mole books, Penelope Lively’s ‘Heat Wave’, Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’, and Tove Jansson’s ‘Finn Family Moomintroll’- in the new year, and hopefully will get the first few up on New Year’s Day. For now, though, I thought that I would highlight a selection of posts from this blog that have proved popular, may have been overlooked, or are of relative interest for me.

I think that’s enough links to my other posts to be getting on with for now. Anyway- check some of these out if you haven’t already, or have a browse of the blog and see what you come across. Also, you can follow Electric Puppet on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/electricpuppetblog

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Lastly, here are a few fellow bloggers that I’ve come across in the past few months that you may find of interest:

Don’t Bend, Ascend

These Bones of Mine

Bones Don’t Lie

A Corner Of Tenth-Century Europe (written by one of my Anglo-Saxon lecturers from Oxford; he has since moved on to work at Birmingham University)

Museum Postcard

Prehistories

Interesting Literature

I hope you have a very happy New Year, and that 2014 will be good for you.

Image: The Telegraph

Image: The Telegraph

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A small victory for anthropology: the return of sacred Hopi masks

Image: Reuters

Image: Reuters

There are some stories in the news that irritate me to Hell, and then there are others that make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. This post involves one of each, and they are both connected.

The Hopi, whose full name is Hopituh Shi-nu-mu (“The Peaceful People” or “Peaceful Little Ones”) are a native matrilineal tribe indigenous to the US state of Arizona, that live mainly on a reservation that is completely surrounded by the land of the Navajo. There were, according to the 2010 US census, 18,327 members of the Hopi, and many traditional crafts are carried out in order to make a living, such as high-quality pottery-making, the carving of Kachina dolls, and the making of silver jewellery. As with many tribes around the world, Christianity has been taken up by some Hopi, but traditional religious beliefs still dominate their culture, and it is to these beliefs that the news story in question relates. For the Hopi, ceremonial masks and head-dresses made by members of the tribe are seen as tombs, representing the spirits of the ancestors, and as such these items are treated as sacred and as living beings, being kept behind muslin screens so as they can ‘breathe’ when not in use, and being ritually fed corn pollen. However, despite such objects being protected in the US, with the sale of Native American items being outlawed in 1990, this rule does not extend to other countries. As such, on 9th December 2013, a sale of  27 Hopi masks and artifacts taken from Arizona in the early 20th century went ahead at an auction in Paris. The advocacy group, Survival International, tried unsuccessfully to challenge the auction in court on behalf of the Hopis, but at the sale the Annenberg Foundation stepped in, spending $530,000 (£325,732) on 24 objects with the sole aim of returning these items to the tribe. This is absolutely wonderful news both for the Hopi, indigenous peoples in general, and for anthropology, as it shows that there are people out there who are able to see the importance behind so-called ‘art’ objects and their relevance to the beliefs of others. 

Sadly, in April this year, another sale of 70 Hopi masks took place in Paris, with these items going to collectors for a combined sum of €930,000 (£787,107). These are some of the masks sold:

Image: Getty Images

Image: Getty Images

Acoma sacred mask. Image: AFP

Acoma sacred mask. Image: AFP

Heaume Korosto sacred mask. Image: AFP

Heaume Korosto sacred mask. Image: AFP

Hilili sacred mask. Image: AFP

Hilili sacred mask. Image: AFP

Ho-ote sacred mask. Image: AFP

Ho-ote sacred mask. Image: AFP

Wuyak-ku-ita sacred mask. Image: AFP

Wuyak-ku-ita sacred mask. Image: AFP

At the time of this latter sale back in April, I posted this on Facebook with a link to the BBC News article about the sale:

Seriously- I love the quote at the end: “I guess that museums will be obliged to give back their collections. It’s major. It would be terrible for the art market in general.” Erm….no. There is a difference between the ownership of tribal material by museums and the selling of these items on the open art market. Museums of ethnography such as our own Pitt Rivers work extensively with tribal peoples to gain understanding of customs and beliefs surrounding objects, and closer connections often allow for museums to retain these items but make them accessible to tribes for their own learning, study and occasional use for rituals. Some items are repatriated as they are seen to be important for the people who made them or who have descended from the original creators, and because it is often the moral thing to do, especially if they were taken under overly violent colonial methods, through false means or other illegal practice. To say that they should not be returned due to the loss to the “art market” is an insult to our western intelligence as people who can see objects as more than simply “art”, and is certainly an insult to the Hopi and any other tribal people. To them, these are more than “art” (if they even conceive of ‘art’ for its own sake) and should not be treated by those who feel they are better than indigenous populations as commodities. Items to be learnt from and studied, yes. In the right way this can be very productive for all involved. But not as a means of imposing superiority. And not as something that has nothing but monetary value.

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Banksy’s ‘Cave Painting’

banksy cave art

 

Just a quick post- I came across this earlier, and wish I’d known about it sooner. I love it! I’m a fan of Banksy anyway, but adore this image due to it not only including a mocked-up archaeological image, but also because it comments powerfully on the treatment of and attitude towards graffiti art in the 21st century. Historical and archaeological graffiti, whether it is cave “art”, or the scrawled latin phrases seen at Pompeii and other Roman sites is seen as a record of past views, thoughts, styles and cultures, whereas recent graffiti is something to be despised and abhorred if it not in the correct place or of a temporary nature. Why can’t modern graffiti to the character and history of a place or a building in the same way? It is the archaeology of the present, and we will mourn it when it is gone. Anyway- something to think about!

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The jewelled saints of 16th century Europe, and other beautifications of the dead

The hand of St. Valentin. Image:  Paul Koudounaris

The hand of St. Valentin. Image: Paul Koudounaris

It has been a well-known fact in Christianity for much of its history that the presence of a saint’s body at a religious site makes it a much more enticing prospect for pilgrims, and by extension a very lucrative form of income. As such, there are numerous examples of monasteries and cathedrals throughout Europe that claim to hold saints remains- either entire bodies, particular body parts or items that belonged to a person or had touched a body- and in many cases several sites profess to possess the same relic. Some saints can quite comfortably be said to be where they are thought to be, such as St. Cuthbert at Durham Cathedral, whose elevation at Lindisfarne and subsequent removal to Durham was well documented. However, many others, such as the remains of John the Baptist, or pieces of the ‘True Cross’ are more suspect. Often, this dubious nature is down to enterprising, exploiting and morally corrupt clergy, who created false relics using randomly-discovered or disinterred bones to knowingly hoodwink unsuspecting and gullible pilgrims. However, sometimes this is down to simple confusion or misplaced assumption. It seems that both could be the case here.

In 1578, rumour spread that there had been found catacombs below Rome containing the bodies of thousands of early Christian martyrs. Many of these skeletons were removed from their resting places and transported to religious houses around Europe to replace relics that had been lost under the Reformation that had swept the Continent earlier that century. Whether or not these were actually the remains of the saints that they were believed to be will probably never be known, but I can see that misattributions may in many cases have been accidental and down to simple confusion. However, there is also the rather large possibility that some unscrupulous individuals did probably attribute remains to people that they may not have belonged to, and personally I think that many of the complete skeletons sent about the Continent may actually be composed of the bones of several individuals due to the often fragmented and jumbled nature of remains in catacombs.

This aside, the new relics were graciously received, and once they had been reassembled, they were often enshrined and decorated in costumes, wigs, jewels, crowns, gold lace, and armour as a physical reminder of the heavenly treasures that awaited in the afterlife. Many of these bodies have never been seen by the wider world outside of the religious institutions they are housed in, and have been recently photographed for the first time by the photographer Paul Koudounaris.

St. Albertus. Image: P.K.

St. Albertus. Image: P.K.

St. Benedictus. Image: P.K.

St. Benedictus. Image: P.K.

St. Deodatus

St. Deodatus. Image: P.K.

St. Friedrich. Image: P.K.

St. Friedrich. Image: P.K.

St. Getreu. Image: P.K.

St. Getreu. Image: P.K.

St. Valentius. Image: P.K.

St. Valentius. Image: P.K.

St. Valerius. Image: P.K.

St. Valerius. Image: P.K.

The whole enterprise may look somewhat bizarre and macabre to us now, but this is by no means the only time that such ornamentation has been employed, or the only culture in which it has been carried out. For example, that last image of St. Valerius has had jewelled eyes inserted into the orbits which is reminiscent of the cowrie shells inserted into the skulls of the Neolithic dead in Jericho around 6000-7000 BC.

JerichoSkullsLater, we see similar practices amongst the Aztecs:

A skull partially covered in jade, from Monte Alban Tomb 7. Interestingly, this skull was heald for a time at a convent.

A skull partially covered in jade, from Monte Alban Tomb 7. Interestingly, this skull was held for a time at a convent.

A mask made from a human skull with the back removed and lined with dear skin to be worn as a mask. This is meant to represent Tezcatlipoca, or ‘Smoking Mirror’, one of the four Aztec creator deities.

A mask made from a human skull with the back removed and lined with deer skin to be worn as a mask. This is meant to represent Tezcatlipoca, or ‘Smoking Mirror’, one of the four Aztec creator deities. Image: The British Museum.

Indeed, the Aztecs and other Meso- and South American cultures had a tradition of adorning corpses of ancestors and royalty when displaying them around the inside of their temples, and anthropological cases exist of extant tribes around the world carrying out such elaborate rituals of adorning the dead for display purposes. We could even include this famous piece of ‘art’:

'For the love of God' by Damian Hirst. image: Getty Images.

‘For the love of God’ by Damian Hirst. image: Getty Images.

All very interesting, and all very macabre!

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Thoughts on Ruskin’s ‘Great Ideas’

Ruskin on art and life

I finished reading this book before starting the Kafka works that I am currently enjoying, but never got around to posting on it.  This has been due to my reticence over attempting to succinctly explain the ideas within it. As I stated in a previous blog entry, this is one of the books in Penguin’s ‘Great ideas’ series, and is made up of two extracts from Ruskin’s existing books: ‘The Nature of Gothic’ from The Stones of Venice Vol. 2 (1853), and ‘The Work of Iron, in Nature, Art, and Policy’ from The Two Paths (1859).

The writing style of Ruskin is typically Victorian and somewhat hard going, but soon grew on me and became easier to follow- I think it just threw me at first. The first extract is a celebration of the Gothic style of architecture, claiming that this Mediaeval combination of features is the most perfect building style due to six “…characteristic or moral elements”, which he lists as: “1. Savageness. 2. Changefulness. 3. Naturalism. 4. Grotesqueness. 5. Rigidity. 6. Redundance.” I didn’t quite follow some of his logic within the chapter, or understand some of his points (I think that I may need to re-read it in due course), but what shone through more than anything was both Ruskin’s love for the architecture he was discussing and his sheer passion for his subject matter. He went off on various tangents within the piece, but the most important point that seemed to be made was on the nature and the production of art. Within his explanation of “savageness”, Ruskin suggests that the perfection of the Gothic comes from its imperfection- an imperfection that is due to true thought, feeling and application of craftsmen, rather than the perfection created by skilled workers who give no thought to their work. He views these latter people as slaves, and believes that people should do without convenience, beauty or cheapness, as these can only be gained through the “…degradation of the workman”. We then get a list of ways in which this can be prevented:

1. Never encourage the manufacture of any article not absolutely necessary, in the production of which Invention has no share.

2. Never demand an exact finish for its own sake, but only for some practical or noble end.

3. Never encourage imitation or copying of any kind, except for the preserving records of great works.

Through his examples, he displays his dislike for mass production and thoughtless creation that exploits the worker rather than celebrating them, and provides us with a moral and a philosophy that is as equally relevant now in the 21st century as it was then in the 19th. Despite some reservations, I found this piece of great interest as both an insight into the way Ruskin thought, and as an alternative way of viewing art and the work of the craftsman. From an anthropological stance, this latter point is of interest as it provides arguments that can be given in any discussion of the question of art- what it is; whether some things actually are art, and just as a way of providing another case study for a society’s opinions about art (as I’ve stated on the ‘Archaeology & Anthropology‘ page above, the anthropology of art is one of my particular interests in this discipline).

The second piece in this book was the essay ‘The Work of Iron, in Nature, Art, and Policy’, that originally was “A lecture delivered at Tunbridge Wells, February 16th, 1858”. I will say less on this piece, in part because I have less to say, and in part because this does not seem to have been the main focus of this ‘Great Ideas’ volume.

The essay takes as its subject iron due to it being integral to the economic and manufacturing of Tunbridge Wells at the time, and personally I think that the piece begins well. Even though a few of his facts are slightly questionable now, and some seem naive in their assumptions, he starts by explaining how both the natural and the man-made landscape are affected by iron in its oxidised form and how the majority of the colour and features we find so asthetically appealing are due to iron. I found myself learning a great deal from this, and at several moments as I was reading I found myself thinking “Oh yeah; I never thought of that!” However, I felt that Ruskin became somewhat unstuck in his discussion of iron in policy, as all this seemed to amount to was a religious and moral rant about war, which took away somewhat of the intellectual argument he begun with. I don’t mean to say by this that religious discussions cannot be intellectual- far from it; it is just that he didn’t really seem to make an argument, and seemed to… well- moan, for want of a better word.

However, despite the book ending on this rather flat note, I was pleasantly surprised by the two pieces as a whole, and am interested in delving further into Ruskin’s work in order to understand some of his other ideas and to see how these two segments fit into his wider academic philosophy. The book is also quite a recognisable product of its time, and it is also enlightening to read Ruskin as a way of further understanding his times. Slightly heavy going at times, but recommended on several levels!

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The Matilda Project

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Penguin Blog

Thoughts and ideas from the world of Penguin

Women of Mongolia

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Don't Bend, Ascend

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These Bones Of Mine

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Museum Postcard

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Bones Don't Lie

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Ancient Bodies, Ancient Lives

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A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe

Early medievalist's thoughts and ponderings, by Jonathan Jarrett

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