Tag Archives: Caerdydd

Fimbulwinter by David Fitzjohn at Cardiff MADE

I popped into Cardiff MADE this week to have a look at the exhibition/installation they are currently hosting called Fimbulwinter which has been created by artist David Fitzjohn.

The blurb that I had read ahead of visiting the exhibition space was as follows:

In recent work Fitzjohn has used imagery of wilderness and woodland as a metaphor for both a lost ideal (Elysium) and a hoped for future, in order to explore his concerns regarding climate issues and economic imperialism. Fimbulwinter has extended and developed these themes.

This installation has evolved over five years. While its essence remains intact its physical state, like the changing landscape, has morphed with every site-specific experience. Initially conceived as a response to landscape generally, since his relocation to Wales Fitzjohn has become more particularly concerned with the mythic and timeless character of the Welsh landscape. This experience has reinforced his environmental concerns, but also awakened a deeper feeling for the ancient rhythms of nature that remind us of the fluid and changeable state of our reality and the cyclical order of destruction and rebirth embedded in our landscape.

The title Fimbulwinter is taken from Norse mythology, a period of three successive winters without any intervening summer, an environmental disaster that is the prelude to Ragnarok, the end of the world. While the world may not be ending, it is changing and Fitzjohn’s paper-cut is a response to this; his imagining of the end of things as they are, the mutability and adaptability of nature and the hope embedded in possible futures.

Grand eh?

I was all set to get myself a feel for the ancient rhythms of life and to get all worked up about climate change and economic imperialism.

Unfortunately all I encountered was paper-cut trees.

Just paper-cut trees.

Cute paper cut trees.

Fitzjohn’s paper-cut may be his response to the Norse mythological idea of Fimbulwinter, and those mythical tales might well be relatable to ideas about climate change and the end of the world, but unfortunately this paper-cut doesn’t communicate anything whatsoever about these themes.

It’s just paper-cut trees.

I understand that each presentation of the work sees the structure of this paper-cut woodland change to fill a different space and in doing so this might be read as a reflection of our changing world, but you would have to be a Fimbulwinter groupie, following the work from one venue to the next to appreciate this. Instead what is presented at Cardiff MADE is a static installation of aesthetically pleasing paper-cut trees

Ideas about climate change, economic imperialism, environmental disasters, or the hope embedded in possible futures might have inspired Fitzjohn in creating this work but to describe the work as being about these things requires a real stretch of the imagination.

It’s all well and good telling us what themes this work addresses, but if the work itself doesn’t communicate these ideas then it’s a failure in this regard. Isn’t it?

I struggled somewhat trying to figure out what the work was really all about but then I started to wonder if it was actually about the artist himself or aspects thereof…

The installation is not immersive; it is in fact clumps of white paper thin silhouettes of trees that we’re excluded from, forced to navigate our way around them peering through gaps in the entangled branches. We’re required only to observe, not interact with, the work from the outside, peering in, trying to catch a glimpse at what, if anything, might be at the heart of this faux woodland.

I know a few people that could be described by such metaphors, and so it wouldn’t be too much of a leap to wonder whether this is in fact a self-portrait masquerading as something more pretentious.

All said, I actually rather enjoyed walking around the installation. It’s really quite beautiful.


PS: The coffee at Cardiff MADE is not bad.

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The Lumen Art Prize

I discovered this week that Cardiff city is the proud supporter of the Lumen Prize. In their words:

“The Lumen Prize is an international award that celebrates the very best fine art created digitally. Our goal is to focus the world’s attention on this exciting, emerging genre of fine art through a curated competition that will find the very best examples of digitally-created art and then take this work on a global tour in 2013.”

It sounds like an ambitious project although I’m not quite sure what a “curated competition” is. The word “curate” and various derivations thereof seem to be bang on trend at the moment and so I guess the Lumen Art Prize organisers thought they’d better slip it in there.

Yes I know I’m being pedantic but there was a time in the not so distant future when to curate something meant more than to organise or simply compile a collection of things. There was once the understanding that a Curator is an expert in their field, normally following a considerable period of study and research which would enable them to orchestrate exhibitions (for example) with a degree of intellectual rigour.

These days it seems one can curate a competition or even a blog. It won’t be long before we start referring to our accountants as ‘Curators of Finance’.

Anyhow, that’s my carefully curated rant over. Back to the Lumen Prize.

Is digital fine art really an “exciting, emerging genre”? Digital art has been around for well over a decade if not for the best part of two. There are hundreds if not thousands of online galleries which house millions of digitally created artworks. Behance, Cargo Collective and Deviantart, for example, are three big online portfolio sites where artists from all around the world share their work.

Perhaps it’s the idea that the selected entries are works of “Fine Art” rather than just “Art” that is of importance. After all, the literature produce consistently refers to “Digital Fine Art”. But having looked through the short-listed artists artworks I cannot see anything special that would indicate that these are works of Fine Art. Then the Lumen Prize organisers muddy things even further:

“The Lumen definition of digital fine art: Exceptional Artistic talent expressed through the use of a digital app or software. It may include elements of graphic design, animation, illustration, photography and film as part of the creative process.”

So entries must be works of Fine Art but can incorporate graphic design, illustration and so on? Like the use of the word ‘curated’ that irked me above. The more I explore the remit of the Lumen Prize the more I think that the term “Fine Art” has been inserted into the literature under the assumption that it adds some intangible level of credibility to the project.

It certainly seems to have led to a certain type of digital art being selected for the short-list. Whether this is reflective of all the work that was submitted I guess we’ll never know but I for one certainly don’t find these images inspiring or engaging. Many of them look like amateur attempts at chocolate box art.

Despite the fact that this genre of art is apparently “exciting” and “emerging” the selectors seem to have short-listed work that looks like it is trying to replicate traditional methods such as painting and drawing.

Excuse me for a moment whilst I just bang my head against my desk…

I think that this project suffers from the same problem as the Cardiff Open I mentioned in an earlier post. The Cardiff Open suffered from restrictions that were too loose as it was bound only by geographical location. Similarly this competition suffers from only being bound by media. To suggest that the competition is curated as the organisers do is ludicrous when the subject matter of the works is so wide ranging.

I do like the Lumen Prize concept but like many such projects it seems to be lacking from any serious pre-planning which has resulted in a rather flaccid selection of work.

As I understand it they received nearly 500 entries to the competition and almost 1000 votes for the public vote. For an international project with such apparently grand ambitions this is a minuscule number of submissions and barely two votes per submission. If I’d submitted work myself I wouldn’t have been happy unless I’d received a couple of hundreds votes for my work alone.

I hope that artists aren’t discouraged from applying from future iteration of the Lumen Prize by the “Fine Art” tag or by the work that has been submitted so far.

The idea of creating digital displays of art in non-traditional locations is in interesting idea. I hope the Lumen Prize organisers are able to take a more open stance in future to encourage participation from a breadth of artists and not just those who consider themselves Fine Artists.

The three Lumen Prize winners will be announced at Cardiff City Hall on Friday 19 October 2012.

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Chapter Staff Tee Shirts

I popped over to Chapter Art Centre last month to enjoy a film and a couple of pints. It seems they’ve issued their staff with a new uniform since I was last there. Well half a uniform at least… staff tee shirts.

God only knows who designed them. They are black, the front is plain with no design or embellishments whatsoever whilst the reverse has the Chapter title cut out from a rectangle that graduates from red to yellow reminiscent of a sunset.

From a practical point of view they’re completely ineffective as you’re only be able to identify a member of staff from them if they have their back to you.

And from a design point of view they’re horrific. With all the talent available in Cardiff alone you think they would have commissioned a designer or illustrator to produce something snappy. I’m guessing that they either asked one of their fine artist (who from my own experience often lack any design sensibilities whatsoever) friends to come up with the design or else the staff team themselves all came up with a design each and they selected one to use by drawing lots.

Ok so I know this is only a small matter and yes I do have bigger gripes about Chapter. The thing is this sort of thing is indicative of the arts in Cardiff. Putting a little more time and thought into the production of these t-shirts wouldn’t haven’t been a big ask and everyone would have benefited; Chapter would have a better image and their guests would be able to identify their staff from any direction and not just as they’re walking away.

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Creative Cardiff

Actually it’s not just “Creative Cardiff” it’s “@CreativeCardiff“. Yes they are so bang on trend that they have adopted the ‘@’ from their Twitter handle as a part of their branding (I say branding but you must understand that I mean this in the loosest sense of the word). Unfortunately those folk behind @CreativeCardiff seem to have neglected to consider that there is more to contemporary society and the creative insutries than Twitter. Their narrow-mindedness is reinforced on their Get Involved page where they link to their Twitter account but none of their other online platforms.

For those of you who might not have come across this ugly monster @CreativeCardiff is “a showcase of the creative economy in Cardiff“. It’s “a myriad of different festivals, events and performances“. Yes that’s right, it’s not a myriad of the same festivals and performances but “different” ones.

ooooh!

Are you enraptured yet by this creative showcase yet?

Anyhow, back to the branding. @CreativeCardiff say of this “Creativity knows no bounds. That’s why the @CreativeCardiff brandmark has several incarnations, colours and fonts!”.

What a pile of shit!

What this actually says to me is that rather than waste money paying one of the local design companies that they’re looking to promote through this initiative why not use some of the shitty free fonts that were pre-installed on my computer to design a logo? After all designing stuff is easy right? Anyone with access to Microsoft Word and Paint can do it.

You’ll also notice that the @CreativeCardiff website is built upon the free WordPress Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha. The bosses clearly didn’t want to waste a penny in launching this project and yet again rather than approaching the city’s design community they thought they’d cobble together something on the hoof.

Creativity may know no bounds but @CreativeCardiff clearly knows no creativity.

Seriously! How can they expect anyone to take them seriously as a showcase for the creative industries in Cardiff if they themselves don’t employ any creativity in their appearance?

The fact of the matter is that the “myriad of different festivals, events and performances” which they purport to be bringing together would go ahead regardless of @CreativeCardiff’s existence. Cardiff City Council however cannot let such wonderful activities as SWN and the Cardiff Design Festival be so successful without trying to cream off a sliver of the accolades for themselves can they?

It really is rather disgusting.

If the Council really are interested in supporting the creative industries in Cardiff then they’re going to need to put their money where their mouth is.

The final line on their Get Involved pages reads “let’s not keep it a secret, let’s join together to get the message out about our creative city.”

Yes! Lets do that. But lets not do it through the ugly monster that is @CreativeCardiff. It really is a monster. The “several incarnations, colours and fonts” that @CreativeCardiff have put to use bring to mind the Hydra. The Hydra was a reptilian beast from Greek mythology that had many heads and breath so virulently poisonous that if breathed in by a man he would die in the greatest torment.

Where is Cardiff’s Heracles to slay this beast?

Step forth.


UPDATE (11 September 2012):Since writing this piece a few weeks ago Creative Cardiff have had themselves a re-brand. They’ve dropped some of the horrors that offended me as noted above but it still truly dull and uninspiring. Go have a look for yourselves.

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