Deeper Dark: Liliane Tomasko @ the Kerlin

Abstract art can bewilder the keenest of art enthusiasts but there is something immediately warm, familiar and inviting in Tomasko’s work that draws the viewer in and retains their attention. The contrasting textures, rich colours and layering effect apparent in the Deeper Dark series entices the viewer to reach out and stroke the canvas in front of them in order to make sense of its wonderfully obscured surface qualities; the artist’s technique is key in achieving this effect.

“Tomasko looks and feels her way fully into her subjects, putting her world into paint.”
Liliane Tomasko’s Idea of Painting, David Cohen, NYSS, 2008.
2011 Undergone 106.7x122cm

Working according to a theme at all times, Tomasko gathers like-objects (bags, curtains, mattresses, clothing, windows & window corners etc.), photographs them and uses the resultant Polaroid to develop aspects of the image into a larger, more abstract composition. The rich purples and contrasting golds, the coarse textures and undulating folds of material depicted in Undergone (2011) typifies Tomasko’s approach to painting. While her subject matter and process are centred around the tangible, Tomasko’s work is not without conceptual dimension however; painting ordinary everyday objects from unusual and hyper-focused vantage points she teases out conflicting notions of reality as fact and reality as subjective perception.

“There is a significant comment in these paintings on our contemporary world…images transform the meaning of objects that they are meant to represent. The issue of representation and misrepresentation is omnipresent.”(Press Release ‘Deeper Dark, Kerlin Gallery, 2012.)

Deeper Dark, Kerlin Gallery, 2012, Liliane Tomasko: installation view at Kerlin Gallery
2012-Blue-Rising-127x142.2cm

Interestingly Tomasko is married to Sean Scully, one of Ireland’s most preeminent abstract artists.  While they share similarities in terms of their aesthetic preferences (for colour, pattern, abstraction and texture) the two maintain distinct approaches in terms of the creative process and outcome involved in their art. Scully appears to work quite quickly, applying paint in an almost expressive manner despite the somewhat formulaic, geometric nature of his compositions (see *Wall of Light Orange Yellow, 2000 for example). Tomasko’s slower and more deliberate process culminates in softer, more intimate and almost sculptural images such as Blue Rising 2012.

 

So what is abstract art all about? Scully explains “a representational painter wants to show the things in the picture”, the abstract painter probes deeper- “it’s a kind of thinking that takes you out of context”. The latter is certainly true of Tomasko’s work; the bed linen, bags and clothing garments we are all so readily familiar with are rendered barely recognisible in this intriguing series of paintings. The exhibition is comprised of six large works (including those mentioned above), ten smaller colour studies from which these compositions were derived, while a number of preliminary sketches by Tomasko are also available to view in the Kerlin office downstairs and form an interesting addition to the main body of work on display. Deeper Dark runs until May 26th and is well worth popping in to see.

*Wall of Light Orange Yellow, 2000  by Tomasko’s husband is one of ten paintings currently competing for the title of Ireland’s Favourite Painting in the RTE Masterpieces series– be sure to log on and cast your vote!

Monster/Clock @SmockAlley Theatre

Student theatre collectives, for all the rattling enthusiasm, are by their nature caged beasts. Diverting, occasionally unpredictable creatures whose impulses mirror those of their larger, free-roaming elders but whose actions are, more often than not, undermined by the restraints of youth and inexperience. If we’re very lucky, college productions provide us with flashes of genuine talent, of innovation, even (shock!) of brilliance. But if we’re being totally honest with ourselves, we attend these productions expecting flaws. Not squirming, sweat-soaked, blackout flaws, but a healthy dollop of amateurism to confirm that comforting notion that genius is, as assumed, 90 per cent perspiration, and that these youngsters have a hell of a lot more to learn about the biz.

That in mind, it is with no small degree of glee that I have watched the plaudits roll in over the last few weeks, from a host of national news sources, for greener-than-green Collapsing Horse theatre collective’s masterful new puppet musical, Monster/Clock. Billed as a ‘a play on time’, Monster/Clock is the fun-for-all-the-family tale of Toby, a feared and misunderstood ‘monster’ clockmaker’s apprentice (played as the only human in a world full of anthropomorphic animal puppets by fresh-faced Game of Thrones actor Jack Gleeson) who must embark on a quest out beyond the safe confines of the workshop to rescue his Mentor from the clutches of a mechanical megalomaniac, hell-bent on living forever. Along the way Toby joins forces with the grizzled but warm-hearted Father Time, embarks on an ocean voyage with an adventure-crazed Gorilla captain and his motley crew of nautical scallywags, and narrowly avoids being boiled alive by a mob of island cannibals. All while being pursued by the most maniacal pair of swans you are ever likely to encounter.

The stated aim of Collapsing Horse, one which un-self-consciously leaps from its race car bed and skewers, with a cardboard sword, the affected accents adopted in the mission statements of so many infant artistic co-ops, is as follows:

…[To] produce aesthetically unified and thoughtful comedic theatre suitable for kids, teens, adults, and those that came before them. Puppetry, musicianship, physical comedy and scripting co-mingle and inform each other from the beginning: they comprise the sinewy tendons and milky bones that cause this wonderful and powerful theatre to burst forth like some mad clopping beast. Four friends, eager to test each other’s creative limits. Four Irishmen, willing to expand the theatrical horizon of their home.

There is no doubt that part of this show’s irresistible charm stems from the youthful exuberance of its cast and creators. Everything, from the puppeteers themselves, to the props, sets, pitch-perfect chorus, and even the lively plinking notes of the orchestra (positioned rather ingeniously in the Gods rather than the pit), seems to bounce around the stage like Tigger on his summer holidays. Yet, to credit the production with laudable enthusiasm alone would be to do this strange gem a disservice; it would almost imply a deficiency in some other technical area, albeit one invisible to the children in the audience. Children’s shows fail, of course, when no one is laughing; they work when the jokes are divided down the middle, half for the parents, half for the kids. But to truly succeed, as any of Disney’s Renaissance classics will demonstrate, you need to strike the chords that will reverberate through the funny bones of both core demographics, and as many sub sections in between as is humanly possible. This isn’t compromise, it’s just good writing coupled with good voice acting.

In this regard Aaron Heffernan and Eoghan Quinn, the puppet master and writer respectively, are revelatory. Between them these Trinity College students operate and voice at least a half-dozen unforgettable characters, shedding animal skins and guises in rapid fire costume changes. Heffernan in particular, as the elder of the sinister swan bros., the whale-baiting sea-captain; and the fiery Latina aeronautical engineer (oh, and dragon. Of course she’s a dragon), steals almost every scene he appears in. A wrecking ball of energy, voices and accompanying facial tics, he seems to channel the personalities of these creatures (lovingly rendered in whiskers, feathers and wax by, er, himself) through his own physical contortions. Quinn’s script builds to an agreeably straight-forward epiphany but is peppered with memorable zingers and warm-hearted humour throughout.

Director Dan Colley does a fine job of utilising Smock Alley’s unusually structured space, its red brick walls and overhanging metal walkways. Making full use of staircases, balconies and pane-less windows, he allows his actors room to leap and bound, battle and roll, as fur flies and miniaturised whales and hot air balloons float through the air.  These flourishing design touches are what really imbue the production with its beautiful, dream-like quality. Not simply the hand-crafted puppets, though these are an unending source of delight throughout, but also a lovely shadow puppet story sequence, and the slow movements of tiny dolls: our heroes as seen from a great distance. Set designer Colm McNally’s elaborate, spider-like mechanical villain is an incredible feat of prop-engineering by any standards. Requiring a four man team to operate its towering legs, this pompous behemoth facilitates a fittingly perilous final act.

Its run extended for three further dates, Monster/Clock‘s final performance takes place on Saturday April 14th. However, on the back of an almost universal outpouring of praise, and with the Dublin Theatre Festival a mere season plus change away, don’t be surprised if you see this show return to a Dublin stage in the very near future.

Elsewhere…

In the meantime, cast your peepers over a few more reviews:

This production is wise beyond its years. Brisk, smart and immersive, Monster/Clock could travel as far as the adventures that lie within it.

The Irish Times

Monster/Clock quite modestly proclaims itself to be “a play on time”. Perhaps the soft sell approach is one of the reasons why this musical/puppet/theatrical extravaganza so thoroughly blows the unsuspecting audience away?

entertainment.ie

The creativity and imagination in putting together this piece of theatre is astounding. It’s a gorgeously fun way to spend an hour and a half and I would highly highly recommend it. There’s were little ones at the show with us and they seemed to enjoy it as much as the adults.

qualitywaffle.ie

AnnvilleFilms Fundraiser: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Dublin based Director and co-founder of Annville Films, Robert Manson, is organising a fundraiser event in Monkstown Parish Church on April 20th at 8pm, with the hope of securing funds for his first feature film “Dublin Berlin”. The 1920s classic silent film “Dr. Jekll and Mr. Hyde” will be screened with live organ accompaniment in an event that is sure to be unique for all who attend.

The young director has been making short films in Dublin for the past five years and has achieved some success with nominations and awards at national and international festivals. His new film will be shot over the Summer in the two locations on a shoe-string micro-budget with a small and dedicated cast and crew.

Like many initiatives these days the funding is difficult to secure, and Manson has offered incentives to donors for their contributions much like that which is used on the fundit.ie website.

You can check out what is on offer over on the Dublin Berlin website.

Tickets can be purchased from Entertainment.ie

Robert has directed films which have been screened all over the world. He has won several awards; most notably The Taylor Art Award (RDS / 2008), The Royal Television Society’s ‘Student Drama Award’ (Ireland /2009) and two awards at The Salento Finibus Terrae (Italy / 2009). Robert represented Ireland as an cultural ambassador when he travelled to Jordan for a screening of his film The Silver Bow at The Cutting Edge Irish Film Festival in 2009. His first feature project, developed through MEDIA funded ENGAGE, was pitched to a panel of industry professionals in Helsinki in 2010. Dublin Berlin is set to be Robert’s feature film debut.

robertmanson.ie

This is quite a lovely short film entitled “The Silver Bow” by Manson that is worth 7 odd minutes of your time.

Director: Robert Manson
Producer: Paul Curran
Cinematography: Piers McGrail
Starring: Joe McKiney, Cillian Harrison, Tara Breathnach

“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”

We thought this would be a great opportunity to have a look at the 1920 film, directed by John S. Robinson and starring John Barrymore and Nita Naldi.

In 1920 motion picture was in its infancy and film was still being explored as a medium for experimentation. In this short snippet it is clear to see that even simple fades and the merging of two separate images was difficult to pull off and considered ground-breaking for its time. Here we see The Dr’s hand gradually transform into Mr. Hyde’s elongated beastly form.

As is expected of films from this time the movie is completely silent and would have been viewed in a cinema with a live musician on a piano. This will also be the case in Monkstown on April 20th when the organ will be performed live on the night … spooky!

There is however music within the film itself. A little known fact is that the pioneering composer Edgard Varèse cameos as a policeman in the film. The composer is known as “The Father of Electronic Music” due to his pioneering early work with electronic musical sources and techniques. He is perhaps best known for his work with the architect Le Corbusier when he composed 8+ minute “Poème Electronique” to be played into a pavilion at the 1958 World Fair designed by the architect.

Getting back to the film, if you are still listening to Varèse’s strange sounds you are no doubt contorting your face in bizarre astonishment.. however you can be certain that your contortions will pale in comparison to John Barrymore’s which allowed him to switch from Jekyll to Hyde with out the need of any make-up. Would you believe that he is also the paternal grandfather of Drew Barrymore, and there seems to still be some resemblance there!

This brings us all back to the performance in Monkstown on the 20th of April in the Parish Church. Be sure to drop by to show your support for new Irish cinema and screen-writing. It is sure to be a great event and definitely not one to be missed!

Tickets can be purchased from Entertainment.ie

Paul Graham’s The Present at the Pace Gallery, New York (#paulgraham)

We are alienated, we are isolated, we are disassociated.We move with a practiced purpose to fulfill the day’s rituals and bring that day to an end, and in doing so invoke a facilitating sightlessness. In Paul Graham’s current exhibition at the Pace Gallery in Chelsea, New York, street photography’s focus is moved from the spontaneity of composition and the street itself as scene, to the insular presence of the individuals of whom these scenes consist. Though by no means a collection of portraits, the photographs each show a moment slowed to a halt, with the world surrounding presumably carrying on at its usual pace. Sixteen diptychs and two triptychs show either two or three shots of the same intersection in New York City, taken only seconds apart from the same point of view. There is a static tension as we move from one moment to another and back again, expecting a moment of resolution, and so become the mechanism by which the time between the images is played on repeat, over and over.

In focusing on an individual as they dart silently from one second to the next, we concern ourselves not only with their individuality but how their individuality is maintained over time. A world’s worth of associations is the burden of every human being, and by honing in on them we presumably share in their connotations, becoming fluent momentarily in their vocabulary of memories, fears and confusions. Whether by a frieze-like flatness or cloud-like depth – like a bubble bulging, the result is that we are consistently spectators, and though we may wish to, we cannot intervene. The size of the images could at times immerse us – we feel we’ve caught sight of the figures from down the street and are now encroaching upon them, but we too are stationary, and must accept the connotations.

Paul Graham's The Present at The Pace Gallery. Image courtesy of Pace Gallery and the artist.

The private lives and assumed complexities of individuals is a moving force behind street photography; without the emotion we know them to carry, what would we have other than vacuous tableaux? We see illustrated in The Present a progression into or out of time; a girl weeping as she walks down the street is replaced by another mid-conversation in a spontaneously dynamic pose. Did the girl who with such endearing awkwardness attempted to conceal her tears manage to pull herself together or achieve some solace once out of frame? What can happen in a moment? Do we change irrevocably with every new experience? What would these places be without the people who inhabit them?

 

 

 

Paul Graham's The Present at The Pace Gallery. Image courtesy of Pace Gallery and the artist.

The surreal, sometimes even CGI-esque effect of the photographs enhances the distance of their inhabitants; the figures are so involved in themselves time seems to pass outside of them, and so the scenes are rendered frieze-like, rendering them symbols of the feelings they undergo. The by now somewhat tired theme of the isolation of the individual within society is  given an added depth as we ask, Why are we alone? Is it an inexorable subjectivity that divides us? In a city so often discussed in terms of its ability to consume or subsume identity, to throw over us a blanket of anonymity, these photographs are fresh, moving and occasionally even startling in their ability to move. Would anyone prove so quietly fascinating if selected for this level of observation? Is it a common trait that when caught unawares our interior are exposed?

Paul Graham's The Present at The Pace Gallery. Image courtesy of Pace Gallery and the artist.

The instant assertion of stillness upon entering the exhibition is tied to a very palpable sadness, as it seems that having come to the end of some sort of tether, these people will never move again. But of course in the next image they have moved – or are even gone, and it seems so implausible they were capable of movement we think they must have disappeared rather than left, or have been replaced. This contemporary fear that we are all of us expendable and disposable is here plainly addressed, and is connected with another ailment of our currently ‘anxiety-ridden’ society, namely that we are incapable of stopping or even pausing – which is of course enforced upon us here. This is what we look like when we are still.

Paul Graham's The Present at The Pace Gallery. Image courtesy of Pace Gallery and the artist.

 

Paul Graham's The Present at The Pace Gallery. Image courtesy of Pace Gallery and the artist.

It’s interesting to think that this isolation and disassociation shown, so expected and dealt with across a range of media now, is comparable to psychoanalytic descriptions of the most profound insecurity, and even schizophrenia. This feeling depicted, of being separate not only from others but from your own body, once a symptom of imminent mental collapse is now a feature of modernity, our contemporary means of response to an environment we find overwhelming or simply unpleasant to be in. In this context of stillness, we are reminded of the questions posed by the culture we frequent: If we are not constantly producing or consuming, then what are we doing? Are we afraid to do nothing because it equates being nothing? If I stop for a moment I’ll be tossed out, replaced, displaced. Unless I can relay my day in terms of sequential achievements and productivity nothing has really happened. The equation of importance and identity with employment has lost currency now that so many are out of work, so what do we turn to if we are to establish ourselves to others? Are people losing sight of themselves in the throes of this transitory context? Again we come to this need of rapidity and efficiency, that Graham has managed to illustrate by negating it, articulating it by its absence. We have only a few moments to make an impression, to make ourselves clear, and then the chance is gone.

Paul Graham's The Present at The Pace Gallery. Image courtesy of Pace Gallery and the artist.

For a review from the New York Times, click here.

Make/Do presents “Situations Vacant”

make/do presents ’situations vacant’, a plaster cast model making workshop, where participants will be guided through the process of making architectural plaster models of empty retail units. The workshop aims to alert people to the number of ideal spaces for creative endeavour lying idle in the city. 15 places available.

Sometimes the most difficult thing to do is to slow down and take stock. With the depth of abuse in Irish planning slowly being absorbed following the publication of the Mahon Tribunal, it seems now that our societal attitudes towards property use and value need to be scrutinised.

Make/Do, the architecture research group, are currently running ‘Situations Vacant’, which seeks to examine the volume of uninhabited space in Dublin, and invites involvement from the general public in generating ideas about the potential use of these vacant building lots. In the heady days of the Celtic Tiger, buildings could not go up quickly enough to sate the public thirst for investment opportunities, but much like any party that goes on too long, the music has died, the crowd has left and the mess that they left behind does not look so good now that the lights are back on. But just because the economic value of these empty sites scattered around Dublin has plummeted, have they become useless, redundant remnants of a boom we want to forget? Or are they possibilities waiting to be uncovered, chances waiting to be taken?

The Situations Vacant team certainly believe that by challenging the meaning of the word ‘value’, these neglected pockets of Dublin could become the next chapter in our cities entrepreneurial and creative narrative. While Make/Do are primarily concerned with the promotion of architecture in Ireland to a wider public, and the Situations Vacant project with ‘recording… the gaps in our city in the fallout from economic prosperity’, the aspiration is to invite commentary on how our city is used, and to inspire people to engage with the possibilities that these empty sites have to offer. The documentation is taking the form of plaster cast models of the identified properties, and seeks to communicate the number of such locations without having to resort to overwhelming figures or unreadable graphics.

Courtesy of Make.Do SITVAC
Making Models. Courtesy of Make.Do SITVAC

Following in the vein of projects such as NamaLab (namalab.tumblr.com) and PRACTICE space/overlooked (www.spaceoverlooked.com), the recent graduates of Dublin’s two architecture schools, DIT and UCD, are examining the role that architecture plays in the experience of the city, and asking how architecture can help us to design a society that does not determine success by the number of zeroes, but by the quality of life.

If you would like to get involved in Situations Vacant, drop in to Unit 4, James Joyce Street to help make some models. The project will be running until March 30th, with an exhibition running until April 7th, as of time of writing

National Gallery of Ireland: #Roundtable2012

On Friday the 23rd of March the National Gallery of Ireland hosted a Roundtable event entitled “The Challenges Facing Museums on-site and online in the 21st Century”. This session of talks was designed to draw a line under a discussion that began at the 2011 symposium “Future Forecasting: The Challenges Facing Museums and Cultural Institutions” which addressed the issues facing museums and galleries as they move further into the 21st century. The exciting line-up of guest speakers included:
David Anderson, Director General of the National Museum Wales
Peggy Fogelman, Frederick P. and Sandra P. Rose Chairman of Education Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Sarah Glennie, Director; Irish Film Institute & Incoming Director; Irish Museum of Modern Art.

As well as brief talks from both Margherita Sani, LEM Project co-ordinator (With which the event was associated) and the National Gallery’s own Dr. Marie Burke.

Throughout the event the National Gallery broadcasted proceedings online and discussion was had between those in the room and around the world using the twitter hashtag: #Roundtable2012

We will summarise some of the ideas shared in each talk and show how these ideas were discussed online during the event.

The Talks

What will the Museum of the Future be like?

David Anderson

As Director General of the National Museum Wales, David Anderson took some time to highlight current projects in Wales and the issues that the Museum must deal with in the future. Referring to St. Fagans National History Museum‘s current process of redevelopment, he gave an insight into the approach that the museum must take to “reconnect” with its social significance and location.

He focussed on the issue of what a museum is for and how it should maintain relevance to the people that visit it. Specifically with St. Fagans he emphasised the effort to reconnect humans to the environment and how the physical and traditional act of “making” had been neglected – it was thus the museums role to facilitate that reconnection by asking the visitor what it means to be human.

He emphasised that culture did not exist in objects but in people and societies and that a healthy balance between object and society centered Museums were needed.

Interestingly he touched on the moral issues that surround many exhibitions and shows. We have all visited a controversial exhibition at some point in our lives yet rarely are these controversies addressed directly by the exhibition itself even though the visitor will often be knowledgable of the issues before attending the show.

This led to seeking to embrace the knowledge that is “out there” beyond the museum space and embodied in society and in the visitors to the museum. The need to avoid isolating the museum from the public and the responsibily of the museum to embrace public intelligence and knowlegde is paramount.

He stated “Museums hold the repositories of the dreams and memories of thousands of people in their collections” yet emphasised that its contents were “just a shell”, that the real wealth of the museum was with the society it represented. That we should know our cultural rights even if we do not use them.

Innovative Public Programming of the Future

Peggy Fogelman

Here the history and development of the MET, New York, was used to demonstrate the steps that should be taken in planning for future museums.

She emphasised the social conscience that the MET had demonstrated throughout the 20th century, reacting to the pressing social issues that existed beyond the museum itself like the civil rights movement of the 60s. That it was important for the museum to change and adapt with its society while preserving that which had gone before.

She used the example of the “Arts Awareness” scheme of the 1970s where High School students were encouraged to react and enjoy the art in a more passionate fashion in an attempt to break down the barriers between the visitor, the object and the institution.

She went on to highlight other schemes like the “Machine Project” and “Shine a Light” all of which follow in this train of thought that encourages performance and events within the gallery/museum space. Imagine male nudes wrestling in reality and not simply in marble. Imagine Marching bands in the café area popping up out of nowhere..

It is this willingness to blur the boundaries between the institution and the experience that Fogelman wwas trying to emphasise as a way forward for the museum. To allow for a continuous engagement in change and not simply one significant event… we need to challenge assumptions of what can happen at a gallery.

Museums as Cultural Institutions in the Context of Audience and Enterprise

Sarah Glennie

In this talk the fine balance that must be taken between the commercial and social demands of an institution were highlighted by Sarah Glennie, who has ensured the smooth running of the IFI through our current economic troubles.

She explained how, by adjusting the public image of the institute in subtle ways, the commercial wings of the IFI (The Café and Shop) could be boosted commercially without sacrificing their important cultural integrity.

She expressed how hard it is to avoid being distracted by the commercial elements (lovingly described as the profits gained from “burgers and toilets”) away from the true function of the institution as a cultural asset. However she wanted to stress that in the future these strategies will be essential to maintain and improve cultural services. That institutions should not be under the impression that engaging on a business level will jeopardise their value, on the contrary they have seen to improve the IFI’s activity even in times of financial struggles.

She also touched on the importance of the community and encouraging a sense of ownership in their visitors. While a membership programme was discussed she also touched on the growing importance of social media, with Twitter and Facebook being highlighted as their primary, and most cost effective interaction with their visitors.

However she emphasised the fact that success should not be measured by “likes” or “followers” but by the quality of the service that is delivered by the institution.

Reaction Online

The discussion brought reaction from around the globe as people watched via the National Gallery’s internet feed. We have compiled the discussion in this stream.


New Video: The Viking Project – Distance

Check out this charming video of a new song from The Viking Project. It was recorded outside the ladies room in Busaras no less!

This is the latest in a series of videos by Finn Keenan (Havagawk) that highlights the musical talents of Irish artists performing in peculiar places.

Here the Viking Prject (Andy, Steve, Dave, Mick and Tim) whip out a couple of guitars and a harmonica down one of the less populated corridors of Busaras and treat us to an on the spot performance of their latest song, Distance. We last caught up with the lads when we mentioned their performance at last year’s Electric Picnic festival where they blasted out their own brand of rocket-fuelled whiskey blues to an extremely receptive audience. Since then they have dug in and worked hard on the Dublin music scene performing at various venues around the city and blasting out harmonies to whomever would have an open ear.

Last January we had the pleasure of recording the lads in studio for an acoustic session where their astounding harmonies and lyrical abilities were highlighted for all to hear. You can listen to the studio version of Distance below, however in the mean time sit back and enjoy this fantastic on-the-spot rendition from the bowls of Busaras’ best boudoirs!

Studio Version:

Viking Project on:
Facebook
Soundcloud

Da Vinci’s “Battle of Anghiari”: Is Vasari in the way?

The myth has been there for centuries, the discussion has been brewing for months and now finally it seems to be coming to a head. The controversial methods being used by Maurizio Seracini and a team of Art Historians investigating what lies behind a large fresco by Vasari in the Plazzo Vecchio, Florence, seem to have yielded conclusive evidence that there is in fact a painting lingering in an air pocket behind the 16th Century fresco.

Sceptics were up in arms when the team were given the go ahead to drill 4mm exploratory holes into Vasari’s work in order to satisfy their curiosity.

So what is this all about?

Leonardo Da Vinci began work on The Battle of Anghiari in 1504 before abandoning the work due to difficulties with his experimental oil based paints. The work remained unfinished in the Palazzo until 1563 when Vasari painted a series of frescoes in the space coinciding with the room’s renovation.

It is argued by Seracini that Vasari, an art historian in his own right, refused to paint over the Da Vinci painting out of respect to the Master and had the painting preserved behind a new wall. The ball really got rolling when radar scans of the wall revealed an air pocket behind the wall, one that did not exist behind any of the other walls in the room.

As a result, the decision was taken to drill small holes into damaged areas of the existing fresco that are due to be restored anyway, and extract some samples from the surface behind to test for traces of paint.

Expert art restorer Cecilia Frosinone left Seracini’s team in protest at the decision to drill and led a campaign (Ultimately in vein) with sceptic, Naples art historian Tomaso Montanari, to halt the drilling.

The results released this week show that samples gathered do in fact have traces the paint used by Leonardo Da Vinci at the time of the original painting.

So what is the problem and where does it go from here?

Those that oppose the investigations have had good reason to be sceptical up to this point, and perhaps have also desired to avoid any future actions that may be taken should the results turn up positive. Seracini’s suspicions, while no doubt backed up by historical records of the painting in the room, are also based on the existence of a flag on the Vasari painting that reads “He who seeks, finds”. The art historian was perhaps the prime target to be ridiculed for such romantic assumptions considering his featuring in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.

However these fairy tale results seem to confirm his suspicions making for a great story (and great TV with National Geographic involved in the investigations). Sceptics maintain however that the results have still not been independently verified and only examined privately:

“These samples were analysed in a private laboratory and not delivered to Florence’s official restoration centre, the Opificio delle Pietre Dure,” said the Italian art history professor Tomaso Montanari. “All they got was a PowerPoint presentation. If they have results which are truly relevant from a scientific point of view, would it not have been better to send them to the Opificio, then hold a press conference?”

The Guardian: 12/03/2012

However if we are to avoid any dramatic scepticism and believe that they are in fact traces of a Da Vinci painting…

…what difference does it make now?

Nobody disputes that the unfinished work ever existed, however it was abandoned due to the failure of the Master’s own experiments with paint solutions. These same experiments resulted in the degradation of famous works like The Last Supper which is a good measure for the state that this painting would be in now. Considering that Da Vinci abandoned the work before it was finished, it also suggests that it may be in worse condition than the Last Supper.

So when the call comes to expose the Da Vinci painting from behind the Vasari fresco, and it will no doubt come, should it be entertained?

This is not to say that the Vasari will be destroyed, it would not be the first time that a fresco had been moved (For example Masaccio’s Trinity (1425), was transferred to canvas and moved in 1860 to the inside wall of the church facade in Santa Maria Novella down the street.) But would it be worth putting the existing artwork in danger? The Vasari is in itself a priceless work that deserves to be considered just as important as the work that may or may not exist beneath it.

Everyone is obsessed with the genius of Da Vinci, and rightly so, his record speaks for itself and time has consistently demonstrated the relevance of the great man’s work to future generations, however does our admiration and desire for this Master lead us astray? Should we not just let go?

Statements like “Da Vinci’s Battle of Anghiari is considered by some to be his finest work” fuel this blind desire to, at any cost, release the work from its tomb, as if raising a loved one from the dead. Furthermore, terms like “the lost Da Vinci” distract from the fact that the work was abandoned, unfinished, and has never been lost. We have always known it existed in some shape of form in that room, the original preparatory work still exists, an etching by Lorenzo Zacchia and later copies of that etching by Rubens are also to be found in the Louvre, yet they all feed this desire to see the real thing.

Perhaps we need to let go.

So is Vasari in the way?


It is no doubt true that he would be the first to admit his love for the great Masters of the High Renaissance and his own personal debt to their genius. While his style is more attuned to the work of his idol Michelangelo, Vasari gushed over Da Vinci in his Lives of the Artists (1550) and described him as a man “in whom, besides a beauty of body never sufficiently extolled, there was an infinite grace in all his actions; and so great was his genius, and such its growth, that to whatever difficulties he turned his mind, he solved them with ease.“.

Vasari would stand aside in an instant, however that is not to say that Vasari’s work is not deserving of as much of our attention! Should Vasari’s work be moved to expose a degraded, unfinished Da Vinci, a room which has displayed Vasari’s work for nearly 500 years would be disfigured and unbalanced for the sake of curiosity.

I would say to everyone to sit back and enjoy Vasari’s The Battle of Marciano and the influence that the work of the great masters had on its conception. It may pale in comparison, however one would worry that should we get what we wish for we will ultimately be sorely disappointed.

What do you think?

Let us know what you think should happen at this stage. Do you believe it is worth moving Vasari? Or that there is even a Da Vinci painting to be found at all?

Here is a great blog post on the topic from blogger William Newton…

Regardless, what this investigation really boils down to is the answer to a simple, but difficult question: Is it worth destroying a Vasari in order to obtain a da Vinci? For no matter how careful the investigators might be, and no matter how advanced the technology employed, there is no way to bring whatever is on this inner wall to the light of day without some risk that the Vasari painting on the outer wall will be completely destroyed, whether as a result of carelessness on the part of those conducting the operation, or through some at-present unforeseeable event or events.

William Newton – blogofthecourtier.com

Jonathan Jones seems to believe without question that the work is that of Leonardo’s. His blog on the Guardian seems to show just how caught up in the media storm of a new Da Vinci one can get.

But a Leonardo is a Leonardo. This one exerts a terrific pull on the imagination even though we can only look at tiny preparatory drawings. The original would be a new (and secular) Last Supper. This might just be the most important hole in a wall since the one Howard Carter looked through to see the treasures of King Tut.

Jonathan Jones

Some Informative Articles

BBC – Lost Da Vinci Prompts Art Row
Guardian – 2005 New Lead in Hunt for lost Leonardo
Guardian – Art historians say they have found evidence of ‘hidden’ Leonardo da Vinci

#OFFSET2012

Run by Peter O’Dwyer, Bren Byrne and Richard Seabrooke (all creatives living and working in Dublin) it has become Dublin’s premier creative festival attracting speakers and visitors from all over the world. In the 2 years since inception OFFSET has produced over 100 hours of presentations, workshops, debates, interviews and Q&A’s with some of the leading creatives in the world, several large scale gallery shows and some proper full-on party nights.

Offset 2012 is well under-way at the Grand Canal Theatre in Dublin where it will treat design enthusiasts and creatives to a jam packed schedule of talks and events.

Check out their funky looking guide to get loads of info in all of its colourful glory!

Since it kicked off this morning attendees have tweeted like mad commenting on what’s been going on at the event using the hashtag #OFFSET2012. We are going track this for the duration of the weekend so that all our readers who can’t make it can still gain something from the event!

Some Lovely Tweets

We will be picking out some tweets from the weekend that we quite like… get tweeting!

Day 1 Ends with a party…

OFFSET 2012 Opening Video from OFFSET on Vimeo.

New Works @ The No Grants Gallery; interview with artist Bartosz Kolata

In 2005 Polish born artist Bartosz Kolata took a one year break from his studies in Art Conservation and Restoration at the Nicolaus Copernicus University, UMK. He hitch-hiked across Europe with his partner ultimately aiming to reach Barcelona, but ‘stopped off’ in Ireland to visit a good friend.

“I came to Ireland in June 2005 completely accidently… with no money at all (we had just  a few euro in our pockets when we arrived here) we had to stay and work.”

Seven years later Kolata is still living in Dublin and is an active member of the Irish art scene. He has had a number of exhibitions in Ireland over the last few years and has won several awards including the prestigious Irish Art Award presented to him by the Digital Hub in 2007. Kolata is currently exhibiting nine paintings under the title of ‘New Works’  at the No Grants Gallery in Temple Bar. He offered us the following insight into his background, the exhibition and the works on display…

Kolata originally pursued Art Restoration & Conservation rather than Fine Art on the grounds that it might offer a more financially secure way of founding a career in the Arts; he now appreciates how significant this training has been in the development of his work as an artist. Kolata feels he has a broader understanding of art having studied the work of various artists, from the middle ages right up to the 19th century. He states:

“At that time when I was just 19 I had not a very clear idea what art restoration was about but I decided to give it a try. And I do not regret it at all… Now I can really appreciate how important knowledge is… It gave me a bigger perspective and better techniques too. I hope you can see this in my current paintings.”

The Raft of the Medusa, 150/130cm, oil on canvas, 2011

Works like ‘The Raft of the Medusa’, 2011 – a homage to the well known French Romantic painter Théodore Géricault, certainly reflect his interest in and understanding of the history of art. In the original, Géricault sought to depict the corruption and savagery that followed when the French frigate ‘the Medusa’ was wrecked on the African shoreline in 1816. The wealthy and well-connected on board were allocated space on lifeboats and even the weaponry was prioritised above the lives of the 149 people who were consequently left to fend for their lives on a make-do raft. “What followed was a two week nightmare of stormy seas, brutal murders, insanity and cannibalism” (Steve Durbin, Art and Perception, 2007.) ‘The Raft of the Medusa’, 2011, considers man’s enduring struggle for resources within a contemporary context; Kolata seeks to highlight the fight for survival ‘in a commercial and racist society’. He states:

“I set a group of people in the landfill climbing each other trying to reach a ‘new’ disposal of garbage. They look like [they are] posing but in reality [they are] fighting for survival. I think that violence is a natural [part of] human nature.”

Hide and seek, 61/45cm, oil on canvas, 2011

Despite the innocuous title of the exhibition ‘New Works’, themes of violence and danger underpin the nine paintings currently on display in the NGG.  While some of the works contain overt visual references to violence (Empty Pool, 2012), others are more subtle in tone (Bridge, 2011). In Hide and Seek, 2011, two hooded figures trek through a disconcertingly dark wood; the setting is as obscure as the figures are anonymous. When asked if his tendency to leave faces blank in his recent works was significant Kolata reflected:

“It gives my paintings more anonymity…we believe and try to prove that each of us is unique… but for me we are all repeating patterns.”

In explaining his preference for short titles, Kolata states: “Titles can give you only a direction where your thinking should follow”; he argues that artists should raise questions in their work rather than providing answers.

Farm house, 110/150cm, oil on canvas, 2011

Kolata maintains a graphic quality in his work that he attributes to an early interest in photography. While he prefers working in oils, he strives to achieve ‘weightlessness’ in his work and to create effects in oils that are reminiscent of alternative mediums. This experimental approach is exemplified in FarmHouse, 2011, where the surface of the yard is relieved in a variety of brushstrokes that remain apparent to the viewer. Kolata’s techniques reflect his opinion that painting is a “process of learning”; he constantly strives to find new ways of working. He sites German and Dutch painters from the 14th -16th centuries (namely Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Breughel) as particular influences on his work, but states:

“I love to discover new and young living artists all over the world. Fortunately we live in the age the internet. I am always shocked [by] how many amazing artists are out there and still not discovered.”

According to Kolata, it is the positive feedback he receives and the contacts that he generates in exhibiting his work that “makes me believe that what I am doing isn’t worthless.” We at Arthub certainly see the value in his paintings, and would recommend dropping in to see ‘New Works’ in the NGG between now and it’s close on the 22nd of March.