Monday, 24 February 2014

In the Weave: Walter Oltmann @ Standard Bank Art Gallery until 29 March

In the Weave: Walter Oltmann – working over three decades

Curated by Neil Dundas, In the Weave celebrates three decades of work by Walter Oltmann, one of South Africa's finest and most intriguing artists. It also explores his sources, inspirations and allusions to the exchange of concepts between cultures in southern Africa.

Oltmann's imagery includes skulls, skeletons, cut flowers in vases, serpents, beetles, caterpillars, locusts, moths, silverfish and coelacanths. Many of Oltmann's works are monumental and are scaled-up translations of small objects, such as insects. This startling distortion of scale that characterises much of his work renders the familiar unfamiliar, provoking the viewer to see these objects afresh.

For more information go to Standard Bank Gallery

Six Items Needed in an Artist's Toolkit

Time: Set aside a time every day. It should be at least an hour, preferably a lot more. Include weekends and statutory holidays.
Space: Find a space that is always yours--where you can set up and work in continuity. It need not be large, but it ought to be yours.
Series: Do a series of explorations toward tangible goals--say 100 pieces of work in one direction or another. Then start another series.
Media: Choose a medium that intrigues you. Realize that the potential of all media is going to be greater than at first realized. Be prepared for frustration.
Books: "How-to" and art-history books are better than ever. They are your best teachers and friends. With books, you can grow at your own speed and in your own direction.
Desire: Know that desire is more important than any other factor. Desire comes from process. Process reinforces desire and desire becomes love. You need love in your kit.

(with thanks to Robert Genn)

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Beware of Fugitive Paint Colours!

Scientists recapture Renoir's reds

"Madame Leon Clapisson": The visualisation (right) is produced using advanced image processing software

Researchers in Chicago have produced a visualisation of how they think a Renoir could have looked before its colours faded.

The picture of Madame Valentine Clapisson was painted by the great French Impressionist more than 130 years ago.

The original's impact has been degraded and dulled by the action of light. But by using the latest analytical tools, conservators have been able to recover a sense of Renoir's rich reds.

"When we first brought this picture into the conservation studio for examination and removed the frame, we noticed that at the top and at the left-hand side there was a sliver of very intense colour," recalls Dr Francesca Casadio from The Art Institute of Chicago.

"This tipped us off to the fact that the mood of this painting that is now pretty cool and restrained with light purples and blues was once far more vibrant," she told BBC News.

Dr Casadio was speaking here at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She and other specialists in her field have been discussing the technologies they now use to investigate and restore artworks.

The visualisation of Madame Clapisson was produced after subjecting tiny samples of paint from the 1883 canvas to a technique known as Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS). Pigments fade over time as the molecular structures responsible for colour are broken down through exposure to light.
SERS enables researchers to pick out even the smallest fragment of intact structure and determine its molecular composition. This was done with tiny samples taken from the newly uncovered edges of the canvas.

Dr Casadio's and colleague's investigation showed that the picture we see today has lost the impact of Renoir's use of the carmine lake, or cochineal, pigment.Extracted from the bodies of certain insects, this crimson colour should dominate the scene around Madame Clapisson.

"The manuals from 19th Century were already warning artists that carmine lake was a 'fugitive pigment'; it wasn't a permanent colour. And yet, the artists clearly loved it because they continued to use it over and over again even though they had more stable options available to them," Dr Casadio explained.

The study has allowed the conservation scientist to make a compelling computer visualisation of what Renoir originally saw when he stood back after signing his name on the completed canvass. Is it exactly the same?

"We can't quite say that," said Dr Casadio, who acknowledges that the mixing of pigments on a palette does not have the certainty of scientific equations. "We can get very close to the tip of the brush of Renoir because we know the exact chemical mixture he used, but then if you and I were to make a cake with the same ingredients it may not taste or look quite the same."

Northwestern University chemist Prof Richard Van Duyne pioneered SERS. He said the Renoir demonstrated why the Raman technique was fast becoming an invaluable tool for studying artworks: "You get tremendous information about the origins of the painting, the techniques of the artist, an understanding of the fading mechanism, and the ability to restore the painting."

The picture of Valentine Clapisson was actually Pierre-Auguste Renoir's second attempt at capturing a portrait of his subject. Initially, Valentine, the wife of Paris stockbroker Leon Clapisson, was depicted taking tea in a rose garden. But neither the artist nor the client was happy with the outcome and so the subject was moved indoors.

An exhibition based on the research opened this week at The Art Institute of Chicago.
The latest technologies are revealing new insights on old masters
The original picture is known as "Madame Leon Clapisson", 1883. Oil on canvas, 81.2 × 65.3 cm, Mr and Mrs Martin A Ryerson Collection. Digital recolourisation by Kelly Keegan, Conservation department, The Art Institute of Chicago

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

News from Kew Botanical Gardens

Exhibition Tour with Dr Shirley Sherwood

Thu 15 May 2014
Come and meet Dr Shirley Sherwood and learn more about our latest exhibitions and her extraordinary collection of contemporary botanical art.

Event details

Venue: The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, Kew Gardens (how to find us)
Dates: Thursday 15 May 2014, 2-3pm
Price: FREE with admission to the Gardens.
Booking: Places for this tour are limited. Please contact the gallery on 0208 332 3622 or to book your place.
Garden ticket prices: £14.50 for adults and £12.50 for concessions. Kids aged 16 and under go free! (detailed ticket information)

About Dr Sherwood

Dr Shirley Sherwood travels extensively and has been collecting contemporary botanical illustrations since 1990. Her comprehensive collection from over two hundred artists, living in thirty different countries, documents the emergence of a new wave of botanical paintings and the renaissance of their art form. The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art is the only purpose-designed and continuously open gallery in the world that is dedicated solely to botanical art.
Read more about Dr Shirley Sherwood.
Golden Dewdrop (Durantia erecta) by Phansakdi Chakkaphak

About the tour

Currently, there are three exhibitions on show in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art:
In this gallery tour, Dr Sherwood will take you around the gallery, discussing how she curated the first show and highlighting the most significant pieces from her collection.
Botanical Art in the 21st Century, currently our biggest exhibition, celebrates the renaissance of botanical art today and indicates how botanical artists are using different media and trying new techniques to develop the genre into the 21st century.
This exhibition is accompanied by Magnolias - an exhibition featuring paintings by Barbara Oozeerally, and Overleaf - a selection of paintings by award-winning botanical artist Susan Ogilvy.


Susan Ogilvy's beautiful collection of leaves has recently been published by Kew in a new book titled Overleaf. Buy Overleaf from Kew's online shop.
Barbara Oozeerally's collection of Magnolia paintings, which took nine years to complete, will also soon be published by Kew in a new book titled Magnolias in Cultivation which is due to be released Spring 2014.