Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Architectonic walls in Atomium

While finishing my essay about concrete I found out that there is an exhibition in Brussels, to be more precise in Atomium, this bizarre symbol of Belgian capital. Post war architectonic facades that I was looking for in my neighbourhood are the central subject of this exhibition.  The only wall I found was this, near the back door of the local primary school.

From the exhibition:

Konstantin Brodsky's building

Marcel Breuer, Torrington building, Nijvel

Strangely all of the 8  houses they feature are in Brussels or in Wallonia, French-speaking part of Belgium. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Concrete- physical characteristics

I am not much of a writer when I am not excited about the subject. Physical characteristics subject doesn't excite me a bit. Still it's necessary to know what this material is capable of. Being practical, cheap and therefore ubiquitous, it is often can be seen in a pretty bad state of decay. Eroded surfaces with rusty metal bars that appear from the cavities and nasty cracks  gives us the idea that this material lacks durability and that it is not trustworthy.  The critics have point, it doesn't age gracefully.

Comparatively recent concrete buildings ask for more maintenance than medieval castles. The news about Lloyd Wright's textile houses multimillion repair bills and pieces of Russian constructivism falling down on pedestrians heads do not add respect to the material. On the other hand it has so much potential that modern technology doesn't give up on it and  constantly works on it's improvement. The compression strength of concrete is high, tensile strength can be improved by adding reinforcement -steel bars and fibers.
Steel reinforcement increases tensile strength to such an extent, that concrete suspension bridges became a part of our environment since 1889. The use of reinforced concrete instead of iron made the construction much cheaper. The engineering science at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th was based on quite a romantic idea of mathematical beauty of the construction. Mathematically clever and correct meant beautiful. The complicated buildings of that period, especially bridges, are fascinating examples of human engineering genius and beauty. The breath-taking examples of modern and old bridges made of concrete and steel prove that utility can be beautiful.
The Akashi Kaikyo Suspension Bridge is the longest suspension bridge in the world

The word "Art" is present in all the descriptions of  great bridges.
"The Millau Viaduct takes its place among our most shining works of civil engineering," Chirac said while unveiling a commemorative plaque at the bridge. "[It] is a magnificent example in the long and great French tradition of audacious works of art, a tradition begun at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries by the great Gustave Eiffel." An architectural critic echoed: "an epic work of art [with] an ambition far beyond utility." Photo borrowed from this site
When we travel by car from the South of France back home I always want to take this road because of the Millau viaduct.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Every thing that is human

In her artist statement Jenine Shereos writes about her work "The Breath"

Breath(e) is an exploration of the 'permeable boundary' that exists between our physical bodies and the world around us. There is a literal exchange that occurs within every inhale and every exhale.

I can't help thinking, that this  text was written post factum and that the inspiration for making this piece was an Anatomy atlas. I like the intricate network of blood vessels that looks like a system of roots going deep in the soil which makes the figure look like a tree. And Jenine's little leaves made of human hair. Very unusual material which definitely make some people shudder in disgust, unlike Victorians we don't exchange locks of hair with lovers and don't wear brooches woven from hair of dead people.

However parts of human bodies were not wasted in older, less squeamish cultures. Bones, hair, sculls and pieces of mummified corpses were used for rituals and decorative objects together with horns, teeth and claws of hunters trophies. Some examples from MAS museum, Antwerp.

In Tibetan tradition, a body without soul was worthless, the dead were left in the mountains to feed scavenges. Bones served as offering vessels musical instruments, drums(sculls) and flutes(thigh bones). Smaller bones were connected together to form strings which then were fixed on the priests waists as a sort of aprons.

This decorated fake head from Latin America was made of human bones and feathers and was used for burial ceremonies.

The photo of the decorative scull of unidentified animal, probably cow (human sculls are still taboo these days) was taken on the same day I visited the MAS museum.

Whatever was the artist's inspiration for this piece, bone is just a beautiful material, no wonder  ivory was extremely popular.

Marc Cordenier bone sculptures

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Middelheim Museum

Middelheim museum in Antwerp houses an extended collection of the 20th century sculpture. I was curious how many concrete pieces they have. There were some objects that looked like concrete but when I came closer and touched them and scratched them gently with my nail, and knocked lightly with my knuckles, they turned out to be metal or natural stone. I managed to identify only four (!) concrete pieces and was absolutely sure but 2 out of four were 'granite stone' according to internet catalogue. Couldn't believe my eyes. Granite stone 'Column pavilions' by Charles Vandenhove

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Monique Donckers - Greening II

  I was in the Botanical garden today as promised, the grass just started to grow, there are first spiky crocuses and magnolias are impatient to start blooming. The Greening is in progress. To take photos of such a long and narrow composition is not easy, I should have  taken another lens. And a touch of photoshop would be nice. The fifth piece is nearly invisible in the grass and there is a black plastic box with a huge green button on the background.
Here they are.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Monique Donckers

I would like to write more about this woman, I love her work and can't imagine Antwerp without these guys. They were discovered by my inquisitive daughter when she first came to visit. There are five of them, I'll make a  photo tomorrow.

There is one more work which impressed me - Buddy, placed underwater in a lake. The lake is a couple kilometers from my home and I walked my dog around it hundreds of times. Only divers of a local club can see the sculpture. I couldn't make the photos myself, I am not a diver, they are from this site.

Placement is crucial for Monique's works. She inhabits our environment with her figures, they grow in the gardens or descend in the ground (that depends from which side you look at them), they stare intensely from the depths of waters. They are often in groups of three or four, lacking details, lacking clothes,  lacking pedestals, like the "Calais citizens", extraterrestrials among the humans around. I don't know why, I want to cry, when I see them.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

De Stijl and its Maison d'Artiste, Den Haag , Gemeentemuseum

The exhibition in the Hague was very well scheduled. In December I tried to combine concrete and antique  doll houses/quilts- two very divergent interests. Coincidentally, the Gemeentemuseum in the Hague had the same combination of subjects for their exhibitions in December. The best of both worlds. First I was fascinated by the Art-Deco building that houses the museum, very Piet Mondrian colours accentuated the Mondrian dress, furniture of Piet Klaarhamer, and famous Maison d'Artist  by Theo Van Doesburg.  These accents of bold colours scattered around the museum were in full harmony with the interior of the building

Concrete- in the background

Very often concrete serves as an unobtrusive and inconspicuous background for colourful artworks or other objects of any kind.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Concrete- a chameleon material

All the materials could easily by concrete, most of them are. I don't have a decent photo of semi transparent or light-emitting material, which could be concrete as well. A list of concrete varieties is endless nowadays. Porosity of limestone and matt smoothness of hard polished granite, bubbly surface that reminds polymer foam, grain, colour and texture  of natural stone can be obtained if necessary.

Concrete in everyday life

There are many ways this material is used. I am trying to investigate why the majority of people won't think of concrete as an art material. However they agree that Concrete is indispensable for architecture and monumental sculpture, where strong building material is necessary.
This perception changed when minimalism came to fashion, greish colours and vast empty surfaces work well with dullness of concrete varieties made especially for interior design. Still minimalism is not a way of life most people want or can afford. Our life space is quite limited to be able to play with light and materials. Mass-produced concrete garden pots, stepping stones, fences and sculptures that's what we have at home.

The rest is in pavements and posts of public places, underground parking lots of the supermarkets and carcasses of unfinished buildings. Wherever hard work of carrying and supporting something should be performed-there comes concrete, very often in many disguises.

New development area in Antwerp

Underground parking of local supermarket

In the radius of 500 meters from home I could have found hundreds and hundreds of concrete examples

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Industrial sites

There never will be an architecture in iron, every improvement in machinery being uglier and uglier, until they reach the supremest specimen of all ugliness – the Forth Bridge.
William Morris

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I am back

After three months of being extremely busy with coordinating dolls quilt exhibition, preparing my Procion Master classes and lecture on the history of textile for the "Tradition" festival, I am back to my art material essay. I have so much to say, that I am scared to bore the teachers, moreover, I don't rely on any expert opinions or special books for that matter. Will my conclusions be commonplace or far fetched? Shall I go to the libraries to seek help or take the risk and leave it as it is. In the meantime, while considering these two approaches, I am trying to start using Photoshop to make collages based on my picture collections. Very convenient to use a collage instead of putting dozens of photographs one after another on the website or blog.
I love rusty objects, state of decay and disrepair,except in my own house. But this is probably my karma: love ruins-live in ruins))

Bon courage pour la peche (lucky fishing!) is written on the rusty surface, the first photograph

Ropes ans nets weathered and torn but still very picturesque

I was also curious how the sailors ropes could inspire artists and architects. The interior of one of the sake bars in Melbourn is decorated with manila ropes (

"The bridge" by Simon Starling (

And last, but not least The patterned Concrete Wall by Dany Marti

more of this artist

What a long way one should go from a pile of neglected fishermen nets on the shore to the beautifully patterned wall structures. Chapeau!