Back to the Future: Anthony Gormley, Marc Quinn, Manuel Franquelo, Grayson Perry, Craigie Horsefield and Urs Fischer

Cragie Horsfield's  99 Posse

Georg Bak and Christina Scheublein
Scheublein Fine Art
Tapestry by Cragie Horsfield
99 Posse

New media changing art or not?
Urs Fischer, Gormley, Horsfield
There is a chance we will be looking at art in a very different way in the near future. New technology is available now which a few years ago didn’t exist. When Swiss artist Urs Fischer wanted to make a copy of The Rape of the Sabine Woman, a marble sculpture originally made in 1583 into a wax sculpture he needed help. So as artists through the centuries have done, he looked for technical assistance, in this case the Kunstgiesserei, an art foundry in St. Gallen, Switzerland. Here it was digitized by a state-of the-art optical scanner, which created a model, then a mold, and then a sculpture in wax mimicking the original plus wicks which burned throughout the 2011 Venice Biennale at the Arsenale. An aesthetic meltdown. It was a sight to see at the fair. He is not the only one using the computer. Painters such as Jeff Koon and Michael Craig-Martin construct images using a method of computer screen “collaging” that is selecting and assembling images from different sources digitally and when they have the visual result they want they make it into a painting. They can scan an image, manipulate its perspective and colors and then project the result onto a canvas upon which they paint. In fact I just bought a young artist doing just this and I love it. The juxtaposition and colors are amazing. Anthony Gormley one of England’s most well known sculptor realized a 85 foot high 60 ton crouching figure made out of steel girders on the shore of Zuiderzee. Digitization was totally needed to do this monumental work. Starting with a plaster cast of himself it then had to be translated into an openwork structure of steel girders. One had to find the pattern of metal struts that described the body in the smallest number of components. Yeh right! An engineering project as well as an artistic one. First software developed by Roberto Cipolla and his team at the University of Cambridge transformed photographs of the cast into a fully rotational 3-D computer model. This was then translated into an open steel lattice with help from an algorithm devised by Sean Hanna of the University College of London. Next engineers drew up a detailed design. Using a webcam, the engineers then monitored the construction process carried out by the Scottish steel firm Had-Faband and was completed in 2010. Whew! Artists maybe a little engineering course might help you. After all, in the time of Leonardo da Vinci an artists training included engineering and anatomy. The artists of his time believed in “deep seeing” which meant understanding the underlying processes of the world and was seen as an essential tool for making art. “Artists” of his time, as you can see by his inventions, where not interested in the superficial looking but the underlying principals that underlined our world.

Renaissance in Tapestries
I saw these leading artists at the Fondazione Georgio Cini at the 54th Venice Biennale 2011. Their works on tapestry were shown among the beautiful classic tapestries that the foundation owns and other contemporary artists that were using the classic hand loom and Jacquard loom. But these artists, they offered to my eyes a new art form never seen. They had radically changed what you could weave in a tapestry. They were designed in collaboration with Factum Arte an organization dedicated to creating art through digital means and woven from digital files in the studios of Flanders where to this day classical high quality tapestry is still manufactured. It was Craigie Horsfields “99 Posse” which stunned me. A monumental tapestry enfolded me. I was looking at a photograph transposed onto a fabric a deep and luxurious texture enfolded me a classical chiaroscuro painting with hints of Caravaggio seduced me. A crowd of young men looking at something – no wait a minute, they are dressed in today’s clothes (faces don’t change so much over the centuries) and in the center is Jesus who appears at a rock concert! In Naples! OK Craigie you had me at the first blink. With the digital files and the Jacquard loom, weaving and computing had met its match. The transformation of tapestry weaving had reached the point where it is possible to reproduce a photographic image in threads, with fine detail and smooth tonal transitions. Up until now it had been impossible to reproduce a photograph without the tonal gradient breaking up into banding. And I am not finished. British artist, Grayson Perry gave new life to tapestry with a reworking of the seven ages of mankind within a contemporary consumer context. Marc Quinn seemed to have found the perfect media for his lush nature and fauna paintings. The digital data contributed to the manipulation of color. This wider range of colors that was not available up until now enhanced the work making it more vivid more lush combined with the thickness of the tapestry produced an almost sculptural effect. Combined with the gigantic blowup of the flowers Marc Quinn certainly showed in his work a revolutionary expansion of color and form. And then there was Manuel Franquelo, one of Spain’s leading artists. As far as I know Manuel created the first two-sided tapestry. On the backside the surface is woven into a design that looks like the surface of the moon the other side photographic images are shown while a 3D laser scanner runs across it exposing a text written by Plutarch in both Morse Code and Braille. Mysterious and groundbreaking. The artists were shown March 2012 in a group show at the Scheubleine Fine Art Gallery in Zurich. Adam Lowe was the curator and I felt it was one of the most important art movements that I have brought to the Art worlds attention in a long time.

Grayson Perry

Grayson Perry

I would have bought them all if I could but you really need high ceilings and space. A castle or manor house would do. To make a collection of this new old medium will definately increase in value. The tapestries ranged from 60,000 – 150,000SFr – some unique some small editions.

Recommended Reading:
And that’s just the start of the new technology coming. The next level of experimentation, which is in a parallel world, tends to be in Robotics, Kinetics, and Biology. There will soon be very unusual collaborations that will affect the future of how one will look at art. A good book to read on this that includes many other technologies is Art+Science Now. Printed by Thames & Hudson

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