Out of the Box: David McDermott, Peter McGough, El Anatsui, Gerard Quenum


Since we are going out of the box today. I quote Robert Frost the American poet who said, “I crave the flaws of human handiwork. I gloat over imperfection.” I will begin with two artists who combine artistic craft and original spirit.

As I write this blog, facing me on my desk is an invitation from their gallery show. One of their art works is on the front and it says, “I’ve seen the future and I’m not going”. What about if you are sick of Apple, Cloud, Twitter, consumerism, loneliness, IKEA, buying buying buying manipulation of government, advertising, and no one looking you in the face – only at their computer, and worst of all for real lovers of art, looking at art which gives you nothing back. You know the real things, the authentic things, are dying out. We are, it seems, just bouncing around – no bookstores? Almost no serious art critics left or specialists who really know their artists. Prices at auctions have now left out the middle class and the connoisseurs that do not have the money of the truly wealthy. Well here are two artists that have created their own world of art. They look backward. They dedicate their art to the period of the late 19th and early 20th century. Their historical house is lit with candlelight as they try to recreate the mood of the past. They wear the fashion of two dapper men from around 1928 and live as much as possible in their own world. You can see them also on YouTube. Their artwork encompasses photographs of themselves in that sepia unworldliness, dated 1893 or a photo of them in Top Hat “The seen and unseen World of Mc Dermott & McGough 1907” taken actually in 1989 on cyanotype print on paper. Many of their oils look like the bright candy coloured ads of the 1940s to the 1960s with themselves of course featured in them. These series of oils influenced by pop art, movies, male comic heroes, flowers, homoerotic motifs show a sweetness that has been lost in our tough pragmatic world. An innocence lost..their oil paintings are extremely well painted, the photography series, original and interesting. They have presented to the public in a humorous and provocative way an alternative counter movement to the world of science/technology taking over our lives. Try it; turn off your computer or your TV for one evening. I dare you.

Several galleries carry their work.

el anatsui

El Anatsui

El Anatsui is one of the best-known African artists alive today. He lives in Nigeria and at 68 is having his first major retrospective in a western museum. The Brooklyn Museum in New York is presently showing his work. I had seen his work, I don’t remember where it was, I only remember I was riveted on the spot. I stood transfixed and enveloped by it. There is the first glance from a distance like you are looking at a shimmering huge illuminated manuscript that is draped on a wall and as I moved closer where I could touch it, I realized it was made from…well, trash: tin cans, caps from liquor bottles, milk cans, aluminum bottle caps, crushed, stacked, painstakingly woven together with copper wires producing in the whole a shimmering blur of beauty. Ah beauty. Yes I can use this word here. And at the same time my mind was racing. How can anyone take the left over trash of our world and weave such powerful works of art that they sing to you like a shimmering melody. Well a great artist. How many hands worked on this village? I would imagine, like our medieval tapestries, it was done at one time with many hands working together on one solitary vision, materials, hand-rolled, bent, folded, twisted somehow woven together. The artist calls his works ”the nonfixed form.”  Our great tapestries where rolled up and carried to great castles, and so too the tents of the nomadic tribes. Once leaving his studio these works can be folded up and placed on a wall – anyplace – upside down – whatever, leaving the discretion to the buyers and curators. The meaning of his art?  Well I’ll stick to the simple thought that amongst the trash of our world an artist has appeared that sees all materials have their dignity and that you can make beautiful works of art of the highest level. Art does not always have to be difficult dry cold with only a curator to explain it. Sometimes a world-class artist comes along and makes magic and don’t forget that, in the end, Picasso turned to African works of art to inspire him and move him in his artistic life.

Represented by various galleries.

Femmes Peul by Gérard Quenum

Femmes Peul
by Gérard Quenum

Another African artist who works with the discarded material of our world. Gerard Quenum, younger, born 1971 in Benin began showing his works on the streets of Porto Novo with a group of artists. They were called ”The Guerilla Exhibitions.” Gerhard uses mainly dolls in combinations with other materials. The white-faced dolls that were given to black children to play with. He recomposes and paints them adding elements like wood or fabric, which he found thrown away on the streets. Gerard believes that by the way the children play or have played with them, they have given the dolls souls.  He then restructures them again. Gerhard transmits his feelings of horror – how young children are abused in our world through his dolls. Spooky, powerful with another otherworldliness perhaps a hint of voodoo power underlies it.  His sculpture “The Nomad on the Edge of the Desert” (2012) is a truly powerful, graceful, spiritual work of art. Gerhard’s sculptures have moved to galleries in Paris and London and are now in major collections such as the British Museum and National Museums of Scotland.

Recently shown at the October Gallery in London.
His show was very well reviewed, prices affordable.

Top 10 Auction Houses
(July 1, 2011 – June 30, 2012)

Auction House Auction turnover in Euro Percent
Christie’s 244 006 580 28.25%
Sotheby’s 189 004 193 21.88%
Philips de Pury & Company 89 961 674 10.41%
Poly Auction 56 323 539 6.52
China Guardian 37 715 050 4.37%
Hanhai Auction 23 077 565 2.67%
Rong Bao Auction 19 877 113 2.30%
Ravenel Art Group 16 631 453 1.93%
Council Auction 12 794 077 1.48%
Xiling Yinshe Auction 12 649 905 1.46%
Andere 161 766 089 18.73%

Source: Artinvestor

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