Pakistani-born, Dallas-based artistSimeen Farhat has taken a classic novel ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ as a starting point for her new installation for VOLTA NY 2014 edition, which ran from March 6-9 in Soho. VOLTAis called as ‘invitational solo project fair for contemporary art’, so Farhat’s solo exhibition was equally presented by a gallery who is already endorsed multiple times by the fair. Her exhibition, curated by Christine Pfister of Pentimenti Gallery from Philadelphia, emphasizes a materiality of the language puzzles. The artist is known for creating poetic works with dimensionality and message, that come with the use of different languages and ways of communicating in our cultural encounters. This time, her colorful and even candy-colored sculptures and installation speak about the problematic nature of cross-cultural communication, showing the emotions and frustrations that are attached to the rules of using our languages. Farhat’s previous works have drawn from such languages as Farsi (RUMI poetry) and Urdu. Text used around the ”Alice” installation is English.
The immediate surface of the words come across as part of the form, and the text intermingles with the sculptural transparency. This already creates puzzles as we see only fragments of language, which, when viewed from a distance, create aesthetical form. When we step closer to the sculptures, the objects invite us to perceive them from different angles. Pink and black cast resin wall sculpture “She Looses her Temper”, is an example of Farhat’s sculptures that emphasizes the multiplicity of the form when viewed from various positions. As it comes to the emotional statements of texts, the ”pointiness” of words structure dynamic messages.
Philosophy is important element in Farhat’s artist statement:
“Words – written or spoken, understood or misunderstood, poetic or prosaic, curvilinear or rectilinear, are what motivate me to create my visual narrative. I am fascinated by how, through language, we understand a great deal about ourselves and surroundings, and how ideas: simple, complex and abstract, are conveyed and understood using symbols.” (Simeen Farhat)
”Alice’s tears” create undoubtely the center of Simeen Farhat’s VOLTA installation. The blue teardrops in various sizes seem to flow effortlessly from the ceiling, pouring down from Alice’s eyes when she has grown tall. The viewer can imagine Alice, by experiencing the shades of blue in the sculptures, some of them so light-colored that they are almost invisible towards the white backdrop, some darker. The shapes also vary from softer and rounder to sharper ones, and they accumulate and reshape closer to the ground. The tears are seen differently depending on the lighting conditions; the shadows are creating part of the narrative too. Farhat has sometimes included textiles into her previous installations to reference the (female) ‘body’. For Alice, the handcrafted cast resin has worked miracles. Different blue shapes and sizes embody the space leaving room for imagination and story.
Simeen Farhat has exhibited in the United States and internationally, including Pakistan, London, the UAE, India, Finland and Germany. Her collaboration with Pentimenti Gallery will continue through 2014, and her solo exhibition will open in Philadelphia later this year.
In his photographic portraiture of the male body, Kari Soinio studies masculine corporeality, body language, sexuality and identity and looks at the ways perception and recognition operate through visual representations. His auto-portraiture-based work takes a critical look into masculinity and femininity in maleness, showing ambiguous bodies with traits of both and in doing so addresses and challenges masculine complacency and self-importance.
When looking at Kari Soinio’smale portraits, it feels relevant to ask, how do we actually portray the male bodies in general? Soinio’sportraits offer answers that are more subtle than loud. His work is more questioning than giving answers, more provoking than seducing, and more aiming to challenge than trying to frame simple answers. The presence in his photography is strong. The body in the images becomes the one, which is both looking at you as a viewer, and simultaneously makes its own subject the mysterious one. The portraits are saying, you can look at me now, but here is the movement, which does not create passivity of an object. The entire question could be played around the underlying theme of a ’hero’. I am a male as a subject for photography, and, therefore, when you label me, I’m aware of the multiplicity of the ways you are looking at me.
Generally, one can suppose, a man who is portrayed, stands for a cultural hero, often a superhero. We can imagine man and his sports, man in the wilderness, man in action, man doing his duty, man and the muscular body, man and a celebrity status, man and nature, man and the urban life, man and his gadgets, man in his clothing, man in his business suits. The list is endless when we think about it. In the Western art world, we tend to think a man of modernism is someone who is portrayed as part of the bourgeoisie. While he was posing, he came out as a dandy, as a flâneur, being mostly comfortable in his position of posing, being able to pose and gain gaze through a masculinity with substance (think of Oscar Wilde, for instance). Now, self-portraiture is an interesting sport itself, how to present your own body, how to create the gaze, how to, simply, pose?
How about a naked man? Is there a controversy regarding the subject? Seeing naked men in portraits is still quite a taboo outside the art-context. Perhaps, even photography and male nudity still have a quite fresh relationship. Even when the history of performance art and some theatrical traditions of avant-garde have exposed naked bodies as sites of performance throughout the past century, the subject matter still has the power to startle us. The human body and its performativity is a powerful tool enabling us to discuss society, gender, sexuality, identity, culture, power, class, race, beauty and aesthetics.
Body representations and questions relating to them, and to our ways of posing are without argument more often associated with women’s bodies. However, whether it is our bodies in advertising, in media, in television, in art, in fashion, in sports, in health and nutrition, we have opinions about our physicality. Our skin is reality. It is the window to our selves rather than what we aim to say, or how we wish to act. Our visually overexposed cultures tend to invite us to look at, to evaluate, to be seduced, to judge, to react to the lens. Yet, that is a very human characteristic. We are bodies, and we need to focus the conversation on what is our relationship to ourselves.
Kari Soinio says that his source of inspiration is the complexity of the male ’self-consciousness and body image’. This opens into many interpretations of the masculine essence in our culture, showing maleness through icons of male heroes. Soinio’s portraits discuss with these cultural images, yet they offer ways to look at the masculinity as a more vulnerable entity, which nudity already poses. Is his posing creating classic male bodies? In the ways the torso, arms, head, shoulders etc. are presenting shape and balance, yes. When it comes to mixing the color palette into the image, some of the more toned ones are definitely blurring the lines of the self. The rigid becomes more soft and round.
Is nudity a surface where naked male body transforms into something else than naked female body, because of the culture they impose? The latter is often a territory for many cultural signs, which note male gaze, voyeurism, sexism and pornography. Therefore, portraying women’s bodies differently is a constant challenge in the art of photography. The iconography of a male posing in pictures might offer a surface to investigate our bodies as sites for many identities, which are necessarily not just male. This play is of course available for ‘any-body’ regardless of gender. In Soinio’s photographs, the viewer can see a body that is in and out of balance. The portraits do not fit inside their frames, they want to step out. From this viewpoint, the naked heroism is within our acceptance of our body as a spirituality. We might see the human body as part of nature, part of yoga-culture, part of wellness and balance. The nature-body communicates across the simple boundaries of gender. Our bodies are aiming to balance and be off-balance. The experience as the viewer is to kinesthetically feel together with the portraits, and move outside the frames.
…Kari Soinio is a New York based artist working mainly with photography. He received his BA from the Lahti Polytechnic in his native Finland and his MFA from University of Art and Design in Helsinki. He has also studied at the International Center of Photography in New York…
Kari Soinio has recently shown at Storefront Bushwick in NYC (2013), at Heino Gallery (2012) and Korjaamo Gallery (2011) in Helsinki, at Northern Photographic Center in Oulu (2011) and at several galleries and museums in Finland, including numerous shows at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma and Finnish Museum of Photography in Helsinki. His monograph “From Landscape to Place” was published in 2009 in conjunction with shows at Heino Gallery and a mid career survey at Kerava Art Museum. His show at the Institut Finlandais in Paris was part of Mois de la Photo in 2010 and received significant attention from the French art press. His work has been shown internationally in the US and in Europe: at Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield, England, NGBK gallery, Berlin, Germany, Arthouse, Sofia, Bulgaria, Ludvig Museum, Budapest, Hungary, Signe Vad gallerie, Copenhagen, Denmark, Peer Gallery, New York, USA, Gallery Papatzikou – Photobiennale Thessaloniki, Veroia, Greece, Ingrid Hansen Gallery, Washington DC, Municipality of Neapolis Gallery, Thessaloniki, Greece, and Kakelhallen, Mariehamn, Åland. Soinio’s work has appeared in NY Arts Magazine, Connaissance des Arts, l’Humanite, Réponses Photo, Art Actuel, La Tribune, Next Level and in numerous books, newspapers and TV programs in Finland.
Station Independent Projects organizes exhibitions and events with a focus on artist advocacy. It is located in Lower East Side.
Artist Derrick Velasquez was presented at VOLTA by Philadelphia-based pentimenti Gallery. His marine vinyl and plywood wall pieces are sculptures, if you like, and at the same time they possess some qualities that are decorative, or design. Yet, this is not entirely summing up what he is doing with the ingredients. The art made by Derrick Velasquez is very physical. The layers of meaning, which come to your mind begins with words, like arts and crafts, ancient, poetics, mechanics, physics, installation, historical play with objects, and the body-art. He says in VOLTA NY 2013 introduction to his work, that his attempt is to ‘construct a language of structure that questions our physical and psychological interactions with industrially manufactured materials that exits in the spaces we inhabit’. Velasquez works with plywood to investigate the gravity or tension on the wood together with the materials of marine vinyl, acrylic and hardwoods. He adds into these the human body dimension. When the body is part of the picture; questions, how the wood can be stretched to measure our physicality, and what is a relationship between the space, the materials used and the body, are relevant. All these questions are also important in design. While his art looks very organic and natural, it also comprises qualities of forced, structured and compressed; so the tension is created.
The Untitled (draped body) wall pieces series has come out from a meditation process, in which Velasquez discovered his direct connection and interaction with the large sheets of vinyl. In order to cut the sheets of material, he carried the textile material over his own body that became a table and cutting surface for the work. He tried to think and imagine the visuality of the vinyl draping over his body, when he could not see what it would actually look like from the outside. Overall, his intention has been to take away the ‘consumer use’ of the materials, and let his body create the form for the objects. So this way, the image and spatialization of the form is a continuation of his body, it is an embodiment of the craft, and the weight of his own body, which has shaped and layered the form.
For his series Untitled, which was on display at VOLTA, Delasquez did meticulous hand cutting of individual strips of marine vinyl placing and accumulating them onto precut wooden forms.
As a bookbinder the vinyl is a material I used as covers for hand bound soft cover journals. The form and process of the formalized wall pieces came from an every day practice of precutting enclosure straps for the journals and placing them on a screw on the wall. As these began to accumulate, I realized I was denying the intended surface of the vinyl and exposing the innards of the synthetic fabric. This creates a new flat surface that lacks the continuity of a sheet of fabric and becomes a construction of sophisticated and subtle color harmonies by way of hundreds of hand cut and layered strips. As number of the vinyl strips grows, the relationship of the visual structure slowly shifts – the vinyl no longer conforms to the shape of the wood form, but instead rounds out to a gentle curve.
Untitled (draped structure 2) is a piece inspired by images I’ve taken while driving over bridges. By taking the language of structure that exists within a bridge, I’m referencing the mechanical aspects engineering and physics of a form that has a different set of parameters than the human body. By draping the vinyl over this invented structure, I aim for an indirect narrative and association between edifice and drapery. Ideas of gravity, force, tension and repose come to mind as one might observe and think about the relationship between buildings or bridges and the colors placed on them. (Derrick Velasquez, 2013)
(See also his installation art (Knitting movie) on his website here. Derrick Velasquez was born in Lodi, California, He currently lives in Denver, Colorado. He received his MA of Fine Arts from The Ohio State University in 2008, and his BA of Studio Arts and Art History degrees from University of California, Santa Barbara in 2004.)
VOLTA NY’s 13 art fair is running for the sixth year in a row. The art fair celebrates a brand new location in SoHo’s vibrant 82 Mercer Street. I visited VOLTA during its opening day on Thursday March 7th (until March 10th). Spending time next to the colorful, innovative, thoughtful, provocative, and utterly timely international platform of contemporary art was worth every minute. The two floors packed with art, which were made with diverse techniques and means, and meeting people from around the world, who were enthusiastic about it, did not even feel a bit too much. Also, it was refreshing to stop for a moment, to look out from the large windows and enjoy the street scene, whilst being inside experiencing art. After looking out, I could again discover something new.
My first story from the show is about Lynn Aldrich. Los-Angeles based artist Lynn Aldrich‘s exhibit at VOLTA takes place at the same time as her solo show is at the JENKINS JOHNSON GALLERYin New York. This show called Free Refill: Old & New Works opened on February 7th and is now on display through March 30, 2013. Lynn Aldrich’s creativity is truly on display of her sculptures and installations that show huge potential to the acute topic of environmental change with social relevance. Aldrich’s aesthetic, carefully made almost minimalist works state a question about our excessive consumption and our man-made impact/problem on the environment. Lynn Aldrich uses materials that are part of our everyday collectables from the Home Depot store, for example. Her sculptures and installations contain parts, which, if gathered excessively, lead to problems with waste and garbage. The plastic accumulating in the ocean is one such problem. Her use of bold or natural pastel-like colors melt in with vivid and organic forms, which together create ideas of technological interplays between humans, their sciences and innovations, and the natural environment. What I especially like is that the sculptures evoke clear sensorial responses. The Sky Light (Noon) sculpture, (no. 1 here), radiates turquoise light and invites to be in-contact-with itself. The sculptures also showcase authoritative presence. A work on the wall, Out of Ink in the Dark, 2012, (no. 2 here), possesses loudness and command reminiscing of the devices that have taken so much space in our everyday communication. Plastic Pacific, 2010, (no.3 here) articulates with its title about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and echoes about the human imprint on the natural ecosystem. The plastic tubes with oil glaze represent clearly the unnecessary amount of things that we have gotten used to, and have access to. By using everyday objects from Home Depot world, such as hoses, pipes and sponges, Aldrich states their physical functions. Alternatively, she references with the objects, that they represent the water flow of the ocean or the cleaning of the ocean. The works are asking us to pay attention to and listen to its fragile system, and asking us to do something about it. The Desert Springs, 2005-2009, (no. 4 here), with downspouts and gutter extensions, is an installation in which the organic nature-like looking particles are like the Coral in the ocean.
Gallerist Lea Karttunenfounded her art gallery Galleria Saima in the heart of Helsinki in 2012. She is a graduate from the Graphic Design program at the Institute of Design and Fine Arts in Lahti Finland. Lea has worked in the graphic industry for decades, and painted in her free time in Italy where she is inspired by the ancient Etruscans.
LK: The art gallery has been my long term dream. My idea is basically to create a platform for young talent. Then I want to work with different artistic genres, I want to mix forms and overall be very interdisciplinary. In my opinion, this is the way to create a new type of artistic space. And it is situated in the heart of Helsinki.
What is your background in the arts?
I have always worked with painting myself, but I love and respect all the other art forms as well, for example music and theater. I studied visual communication, Russian classical portrait painting, and akvarell painting with many prominent artist-mentors. I find that this is truly a life-long learning process, to acquire techniques takes a long time. In addition, I have been involved in the business world for decades so I have that experience as well.
I visited Saima after it had opened in August 2012. I was impressed by Mari Vuolanto’s huge black-and-white works on paper, which you presented for the opening without frames. She has lived and worked in Italy too. I understood that your dream is to bring Italian art world closer to our Finnish one. How do these two places meet in your gallery?
I love Italy, its culture and nature, and the ‘Etruscan influence’ in Mazzano Romano is a constant source of inspiration. Perhaps this is the reason why Italy has been part of my vision from the very beginning. I personally think that Italian artists are more expressive or courageous, and more multiple in their approach than we often are here in the North.
What is your curating principle and the set of goals?
By combining different art forms and using interdisciplinary means, I want to bring something new to the art field. I want to be taking part in the current trends, or what is timely, both locally and internationally.
This is what we have planned for the near future in the gallery. We will have very interesting event coming up, when we are working together and in conjunction with another show taking place in London. On April 20th 2013, one artist paints here at Saima Galleria and the ’other part’ paints simultaneously in London. These two artists are making portraits of each other. The project examines memories, discovers distance and longing. We will use internet in the process of making the portraits.
Then we will have an exhibition coming up, which will be based on music, and focuses on the musical and the sound experience. I believe that when wecombine different art forms we promote new kind of art-loving participation and we create new opportunities for audiences.
Tell me about your current exhibition with artist Valentina Toma?
Valentina comes from Italy, she has lived two years in Helsinki, and this is her first exhibition in Finland. Most of her works, now on view at our gallery, are from 2011-2012, and her show is named as E´IL TEMPO DEI COLORI BRILLANTI (Its time for brilliant colors). During the 1990s and 2000s, Valentina had exhibitions all around the world, including in New York, in Hong Kong, in Mexico City, as well as in numerous European cities. Her paintings are combining pop surrealism with neo-realism. These paintings are very strong and powerful. The colors are strong, and her technique is very detailed and expressively disciplined. Valentina is a graduate from the Florence Academy of Art.
Galleria Saima is open during the exhibitions: Wednesday-Friday 11 am –5 pm, Saturday-Sunday12-4 pm.Adress: Neitsytpolku 9,00140 Helsinki. (Valentina Toma’s exhibition in on view until 10.2.2013.)