Poetic and Spiritual: The Photography of Noell S. Oszvald

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by Noell S. Oszvald

by Noell S. Oszvald

Poetry, meditation and spirituality are often linked. Since the Romantic movement, poetry has been about using an economy of words–condensing meaning only to the essential–to express our profound feelings. Similarly to meditation, this process requires looking within.  The photography of the Hungarian artist Noell S. Oszvald is poetic and spiritual: a visual meditation through images rather than a verbal one through thoughts and words.

by Noell S. Oszvald

by Noell S. Oszvald

It seems to be inspired by the the Buddhist practice of focused thought to achieve peace of mind and the cultivation of wisdom. There’s also a certain animism in it, as the human figure–usually a willowy and beautiful young woman with long dark hair–appears in total harmony with her environment. She often mirrors the positions of the objects or beings around her.

by Noell S. Oszvald

by Noell S. Oszvald

Like in poetry, form itself takes on the utmost importance. In one image we see the young woman from behind assuming exactly the same position as the cat sitting next to her. In another photo, she bends like the tree close to her, in an environment as minimalist and stark as the setting of Samuel Beckett’s plays. In fact, the human being mimics so well her surroundings that she, too, appears to be a prop in the theater of life.

by Noell S. Oszvald

by Noell S. Oszvald

Beckett once said, “All I know is what the words know, and dead things, and that makes a handsome little sum, with a beginning and a middle and an end, as in the well-built phrase and the long sonata of the dead.”

by Noell S. Oszvald

by Noell S. Oszvald

Existential in mood without being somber, Noell S. Oszvald’s photographs do not offer, however, a long sonata of the dead. They stage the perfect setting for a meditation about life, simplicity of forms, oneness between body and mind, and a sense of harmony with our surroundings that doesn’t place human beings on top, but rather as one with nature.

Claudia Moscovici, postromanticism.com

http://www.amazon.com/Romanticism-Postromanticism-Claudia-Moscovici/dp/0739116754

 

A Surrealist Futurism: The Art of Adam Martinakis

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by Adam Martinakis

by Adam Martinakis

The cosmopolitan artist Adam Martinakis was born in Poland, grew up in Greece and lives in England. His style combines a unique mixture of Surrealism and Futurism and his genre can be described as highly versatile. Adam creates sculptures, intallations, and 3D models (via digital photography).

by Adam Martinakis

by Adam Martinakis

Although many of his works would fit right in as the posters for science fiction movies, they are, quite literally, multidimensional, not only in form but also in content. These silent humanoid figures speak volumes about the complexity of romantic love; the angst of the human condition (reminsicent of Edvard Munch’s expressionism); the pieces of our personalities and external influences that compose each and every one of us socially and psychologically.

by Adam Martinakis

by Adam Martinakis

There’s a clear scientific bent to Martinakis’s images and installations, as many of the human figures are positioned within structures that look like the orbits of planets or the makeup of atoms, reminding us, as did the ancient philosophers, of our material place within the universe.

The remains of a memory by Adam Martinakis

The metaphysical dimension of Adam Martinakis’s artwork is very evident in the sculpture “The remains of a Memory,” which reveals both the physical closeness of the lovers and the ephemeral nature of their temporal bond. Like the lovers themselves, memory and existence are inseparably intertwined. As their memory of each other disintegrates, so do their bodies. Adam Martinakis combines art, philosophy and science to create works of art that make profound statements about the human condition.

Claudia Moscovici, postromanticism.com

http://www.amazon.com/Romanticism-Postromanticism-Claudia-Moscovici/dp/0739116754

E. H. Gombrich and Arthur Danto: Setting the highest standards in expository writing in the arts and humanities

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The Story of Art by E. H. Gombrich

The Story of Art by E. H. Gombrich

Like many scholars of my generation, I have lived through the “culture wars” in the arts and humanities, marked by the rise and critique of poststructuralist and postmodern theories. My personal view on these so-called “culture wars” is that life’s too short to focus on the negative. Why get bogged down in largely academic debates, when there’s so much of value in art and culture? Early on in my career as an art and literary critic, I made a conscious decision to concentrate on the aspects of art, literature and scholarship that I believe make major contributions to culture internationally.  This is what the postromantic art movement, which I co-founded with Leonardo Pereznieto in 2002, is all about.

https://fineartebooks.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/what-is-postromanticism/

http://www.catchy.ro/manifestul-postromantismului/29786

famous quotes by Albert Einstein

famous quotes by Albert Einstein

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” Albert Einstein                                

The inspiration I found in the writing of art historians/aesthetic theorists E. H. Gombrich and Arthur Danto kept me going along this positive and constructive path. In my opinion, their books set the highest standards in expository writing in the arts and humanities. Both of them felt equally comfortable writing for a large general audience as for a smaller group of specialists. In fact, they wrote different books for these different audiences. Though highly respected for their scholarship, both Gombrich and Danto are best known for explaining art history and aesthetics to the general public in a simple, clear and engaging manner. They abide by one of the most famous sayings attributed to Albert Einstein—“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”—which, I believe, should be a mantra for expository writing in the arts and letters (creative writing being, of course, another matter).

forgetting-renoir-2

E. H. Gombrich and “The Story of Art”

Gombrich put into practice his belief that clarity, logical elegance and simplicity are the best ways to communicate ideas about the history of art. Although the author is appreciated among scholars for his later theoretical works, The Sense of Order (1979) and Art and Illusion (1960), which present a psychology of perception and explain the artistic process, his best-known and best-selling work is, by far, The Story of Art (1950). Originally intended as a high school textbook, the book is written so simply and clearly—and it reveals such a genuine appreciation of art–that it quickly became very popular with the general public. Translated into 39 languages, this introduction to art history has been a bestseller for over 50 years, selling over six million copies worldwide. “This is a book which may well affect the thought of a generation,” The Times Literary Supplement declared in 1950. This high praise turned out to be an understatement. The Story of Art has influenced many generations and, I predict, it will continue to do so.

Brancusi-TheKiss

Aside from its clarity, simplicity and eloquence, this book explains cogently and persuasively how the artistic process works. It also introduces the most important artists and art movements of Western civilization. E. H. Gombrich declares from the start: “There really is no such thing as Art. There are only artists” (“The Story of Art,” New York and London, Phaidon Press, 15). By this the author means that art has no timeless standards of value or beauty.

egyptian_princess

There is no essence that encompasses that which different periods and cultures call artistic. Rather than trying to capture the essence of art, Gombrich focuses instead on the particularity of artistic movements and the accomplishments of individual artists. Which is not to say that he leaves aesthetics to the philosophers. His descriptions of artistic movements interweave the texture that holds groups of artists together under a dialogue of assumptions, perceptual problems they are working on, innovations, economic possibilities and modes of representation.

famous Picasso quotes

famous Picasso quotes

“Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist” Pablo Picasso 

Although written for a general audience, and therefore in a much simpler more accessible style, The Story of Art is not worlds apart from his best-known scholarly book, Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation. In both books, Gombrich describes the creative process from a psychological—and hence social–perspective. He contends that artistic creativity is never fully original. In fact, originality didn’t become important until the Renaissance and didn’t become the main artistic standard until the nineteenth century. But no matter what period we are considering, no artist reinvents the wheel, Gombrich contends. Each artist inherits artistic conventions (which he calls “schemata”) and selectively incorporates some of the techniques of established artists that came before him (or her).

Rodin-The-Kiss

This doesn’t mean, of course, that new art is a simple regurgitation of the past. Rather, the past—with its diverse styles and traditions—offers inspiration for new generations of artists.  This leaves a lot of room for creativity. The best artists abide by Pablo Picasso’s famous quote, “Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist”.

M. C. Escher

M. C. Escher

According to Gombrich, artistic creativity consists of a trial and error process of experimenting with former techniques and inventions to create something fresh and new for your times. His main contribution, however, is that he manages to make even indifferent readers appreciate art. There’s no way to describe, without having the pleasure of reading The Story of Art, how Gombrich’s clear, simple and eloquent writing style captures readers’ attention and imagination, making us fall in love with art. This is any art historian’s greatest achievement.

fountain

Arthur Danto and “Encounters and Reflections: Art in the Historical Present”

Arthur Danto has a unique background that prepares him equally well to be both philosopher (of art and aesthetics) and art critic/historian. He thrives in both fields, which are not only close, but also complementary. The field of aesthetics explains the underlying structure of art: what is art; how is it created; what is an artist; how does art reach an audience; what are the relationships between art and other fields, like sociology, religion, psychology and life in general. Art history touches upon all of these questions, since the works of every artist are, simultaneously, a creative process, a form of knowledge, an expression, and a contribution to society (even if for some, like the Dada movement, it’s just to negate meaning, “high art” and knowledge).

Like Gombrich, Danto expresses his ideas and theories equally well for both a large mainstream audience and for a small group of specialists in  art and aesthetics. From 1984 to 2009, Danto was the art critic for The Nation. For many years, he also taught philosophy at Columbia University, where he is now Johnsonian Professor Emeritus in Philosophy. He’s known as one of the most effective and earliest proponents of postmodern art. In fact, he introduced Andy Warhol to the general public before he was (in)famous.

andy_warhol_gallery_5

In most of his theoretical work, Danto explains the rise of conceptual art. His artistic heroes are Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol, who arguably contributed most to make art what it is today: aesthetic in the critical and reflexive ideas it raises about art, not in the way it represents objects. Duchamp’s urinal and Warhol’s brillo boxes, Danto argues, are not artistic in their materiality. There’s nothing intrinsic to these objects that makes them different from ordinary household objects. Their aesthetic qualities, Danto suggests, lie in the way their make us question the nature and existence of art in a radically new and provocative way.

discobolus+Myron

The millennia-old Platonic tradition of understanding art as some kind of inferior mimesis or imitation of reality is clearly gone in such ready-made objects and pop assemblages. Gone is also the equally old tradition, famously initiated by Plato and resurrected by the Romantics and even by Gautier, of art as a special, almost daemonic, inspiration that leads to the creation of beauty. Last but not least, in reading Danto we get the impression that the notion of creativity and originality, so vehemently defended by Emile Zola, remains in artists such as Duchamp and Warhol, but is hard to match after them.

Damien Hirst

Once originality is pushed so far as to eliminate the intrinsic qualities and extrinsic social functions of art, what’s left of aesthetics? Does art even continue to exist as a separate domain of creativity? Even Danto, the philosophical defender of pop art before it became popular, is not optimistic about the future of art. In After the End of Art (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1998), Danto sees no innovation possible after the destruction of the aesthetic object. Tracing the path to this destruction and seeing if it can be, in some ways, reversed or pushed beyond the current impasse hence presents a real challenge.

Encounters and Reflections by Arthur Danto

Encounters and Reflections by Arthur Danto

As is the case with Gombrich, Danto’s writing is most effective—and moving—in his art criticism. Encounters and Reflections: Art in the Historical (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1997) contains many of his vivid art reviews published in The Nation between the years 1986 and 1990.  In these essays, the aesthetic philosopher takes a back seat to the art historian. Danto reveals the wonders of the greatest artists in the history of art, from old-time favorites such as Van Gogh and Klimt, to relative newcomers—and two of his personal favorites–Warhol and Mapplethorpe.  Accessible, clearly written, poetic in style, and reflecting not only a deep appreciation of art history but also a genuine love of art, Gombrich’s The Story of Art and Danto’s Encounters and Reflections continue to enlighten countless readers and set the highest standards for expository writing in the arts and humanities.

Claudia Moscovici, postromanticism.com

http://www.amazon.com/Romanticism-Postromanticism-Claudia-Moscovici/dp/0739116754

Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary: The Imaginative Photography of Andrew Shushvalyuk and Iren Lesik

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Somewhere on the boundary between fantasy, science fiction, and surrealism, you will find the imaginative photography of Andrew Shushvalyuk and Iren Lesik. Their images are narrative in style. Each of them tells us a story: but we have to use our imagination, to help co-create the plot. Crossing the line between reality and imagination, this fantastic photography helps us see the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Andrew Shushvalyuk and Iren Lesik’s images tend to play with the notion of gender. They often feature a young couple, juxtaposed or intermingled in images that seem right out of fairy tales or science fiction scenes. The maiden in distress; the meeting of two lovers from completely separate realms and ways of life; the desolate yet majestic tower: the motifs of fantasy and fairy tale  are seamlessly integrated with contemporary elements of our every-day lives to create a fresh and original digital photography.

Yet the emotions these images evoke are far from other-worldly. They’re relevant and touching precisely because they’re the normal emotions we all feel:  longing, love, grief, sadness, hope. Transposed unto a different realm–the objects of our dreams or visions–these photographs gain depth without losing their relevance. We can still relate to them–and apply them to our ordinary lives–even though we see them as part of a completely different world, the realm of fantasy.

On their website, http://anshulesik.com/Andrew Shushvalyuk and Iren Lesik describe the manner in which they create: “We take pictures, travel, work with magazines, make up unusual designs. We’re constantly seeking and experimenting; always on the moveArt, of course, has to be relevant. We want to create such a deep meaning for each picture that it will not lose its relevance for many years…. In the ordinary, we find the extraordinary.”

Playing with gender stereotypes yet also androgynous, fantasy-based yet also real; theatrical yet not over-the-top; expressive yet open-ended to many interpretations; emotional yet understated; poetic yet mythical: to my mind, the imaginative photography of Andrew Shushvalyuk and Iren Lesik represents the best of contemporary digital photography. Those who have not seen it yet can take a look at the treasure of images on their website: http://anshulesik.com/

Claudia Moscovici, postromanticism.com

http://www.amazon.com/Romanticism-Postromanticism-Claudia-Moscovici/dp/0739116754

Evul Mediu by Adrian Mociulschi: A monumental cultural history of the medieval period

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The Middle Ages spans ten centuries, from the fifth to the fifteenth centuries. It encompasses a myriad of diverse cultural legacies, ranging from the collapse of the Roman Empire, to the rise of Christianity and birth and expansion of the Islamic Empire, to the invasions of the Vikins, Magyars and Saracens. Understandably, its art history is equally diverse, including the periods referred to as Early Christian art, Byzantine art, Romanesque and Gothic art and architecture.

The medieval heritage left us the awe-inspiring basilicas of early Christianity; some of the most spectacular cathedrals in the world during the Gothic period; magical illuminated manuscripts; luminous mosaic and stained glass windows (vitrailles); frescoes and tapestries that recorded the annals of history and celebrated the exploits of war.  It is incredible that this vast and culturally rich period is often dismissively described as “the dark ages,” obliterated, as it were, from the annals of history. Often regarded by Enlightenment philosophes as a period of cultural regress–a time of oppressive religion and superstition–this caricature of the Middle Ages continued into the modern period as is still sometimes taught in history and art history courses today.

lansare Evul Mediu/Editura Curtea Veche

Adrian Leonard Mociulschi‘s monumental cultural history, Evul Mediu: Arhitectura si Muzica (The Middle Ages: Architecture and Music), published by Editura Curtea Veche in 2011, rehabilitates this period, revealing in exquisite prose and clear writing some of its richest artistic legacies. To depict the cultural richness and diversity of the Middle Ages, it takes a special kind of study: a hybrid and multidisciplinary book.

The author first specifies what his book is not (p. 10). First of all, it is not a metahistory (or “studiu asupra istoriei”). In other words, it is not an updated history. Nor is it a work of art history. Evul Mediu is also not a philosophical essay, despite its philosophical undertones. Finally, it’s not a pamphlet that makes a polemical argument about the medieval period. But in some ways, it’s not any of these things separately because it is all of them together–art history; cogent argument about the richness of medieval art, music and architecture and a nuanced philosophical exploration of the epistemology of art and what it teaches us about the past as well as about ourselves today. The totality of this book is therefore far greater than the sum of its parts. Evul Mediu is not easy to categorize because its project is so ambitious that it spans not only many centuries, but also several fields–art, architecture, religion and music, as the title suggests–as well as several genres of writing and traditions in historiography and art criticism.

As vast and ambitious as Fernand Braudel‘s histoire de longue durée (and reminiscent of the tradition of French historiography of the Annales School) yet written as clearly, for a general audience not just for specialists, as E. H. Gombrich‘s The Story of Art, Adrian Mociulschi’s Evul Mediu is a book that makes an important contribution to all the domains it touches–history, art history, philosophy and criticism–by restoring for its readers the richness, diversity, nuances and–above all–the splendor of the Middle Ages.

medieval illuminated manuscript

Adrian Mociulschi is well-aware that history is not just a recording of the events of the past, but a preservation and recreation of that past–and of its relevance–for each generation of new readers; for the present. Historiography is therefore, as the author explains, a creative and a philosophical exercise: “The past is not only what was, but also the awareness of the passage of time, belonging to memory. Which is to say, it constitues an experience that has to do with the subjectivity of our perception” . (“Trecutul nu este doar ceea ce a fost, ci este constiinta scurgerii vremii, apartinand memoriei. Ceea ce este, constitutie o experienta raportata la subiectivitatea propriei noastre perceptii” (Evul Mediu, pp. 9-10).

To be aware of the cultural legacies of the medieval past implies simultaneously to appreciate that history for what it was–so different from our cultures and experiences today–and to become better aware of the roads that made us who we are today. It is, for Mociulschi, therefore both an epistemological journey (learning about the past and how it shaped our present societies) and an ontological discovery (seeing what constitutes us as human beings, which can’t be studied apart from our histories). To offer just one out of the many examples in this beautiful book, Mociulschi asserts: “Bizantine art, having as its final goal the sacred rather than the esthetic (even if it expresses itself through esthetic forms), is inscribed in the religious dimension and, through it, reveals itself as a door towards the transcendent. Religious icons were viewed as windows to eternity; churches symbolized the (central) place of God in the midst of the Christian community; religious writing constituted veritable philosophical and theological treatises”. (“Arta Bizantina, avand drept cauza finala sacrul si nu esteticul (chiar daca se exprima prin forme estetice), este inscrisa in dimensunea religioasa si, prin aceasta, se descopera ca o poarta catre transcendent. Icoanele erau privite ca ferestre catre eternitate, bisericile simbolizau locul prezentei lui Dumnezeu in mijlocul comunitatii crestine, scrierile patristice constituiau veritabile tratate de filosofie si teologie” (Evul Mediu, 35).

It takes Adrian Mociulschi’s double expertise in music (The Academy of Music in Bucharest, 1998) and theology (The Catholic Theological Institute in Bucharest, 2005) and deep knowledge of the history of art–not to speak of his exquisite, poetic and philosophical writing style–to engage readers in a history of the Middle Ages where the sense of wonder and appreciation of  this period’s many cultural splendors shine through on every page.

Review translated into Romanian, on Agentia de Carte:

Claudia Moscovici, postromanticism.com

http://www.amazon.com/Romanticism-Postromanticism-Claudia-Moscovici/dp/0739116754