BogeArt Review: Beauty and the Beard

Me and my bearded friend

Me and my bearded friend

Beards. Like ‘em, love ‘em or hate ‘em, Somerset house is bringing them to us in everyshape, size and colour. Only open for the month, BEARD is an exhibition showing a series of photographs taken by award winning photographer Mr Elbank. Elbank’s concept originated as a collaboration with his friend Jimmy Niggles, who is behind the charity Beard Season, which raises skin cancer awareness by encouraging men to grow beards.

The beards on show belong to the old, young, male and female. It largely addresses the beard as a trend/fashion statement/self-expression, with many of the subjects displaying other conscious fashion ‘statements’ in their appearance, such as tattoos, unusual hairstyles and bold clothing. They mention how beards have been ‘scorned, mocked, celebrated and legislated against. Worn by kings and warriors, radicals and revolutionaries they have symbolised power and intimidation or individuality and defiance’; but the images on display are firmly rooted in the 21st century (some of the subjects were found via Instagram) and the focus is on self-image.

The beard is a distinct look, and today one would assume to have a beard is more of a conscious effort than to not, but how did this begin? In a time before grooming (at least to the degree that we know it) surely having a beard must have been the norm for the male gender, as would long hair and pubic hair, it is only in recent history that is has become otherwise. Surely not shaving is more natural than shaving? Regardless, today clean shaven is common and beards have become distinct, and, as these photos show, one can experiment with them just as much as we can the hair on our heads.

The beard is a signifier of many things. Perhaps the most obvious one is masculinity. Women cannot grow beards. Beards are an outward extension of the body, like a penis. The bigger/stronger the beard, the more masculine you are. This exhibition showcases many beards of all shapes and sizes to illustrate a variety of masculinity, as would an exhibition of penis photographs. Mr Elbank draws attention to the usual phallic qualities of the beard, by the inclusion of a portrait of a drag queen sporting a strong beard and a female (The British lady Harnaam Kaur) who has grown one of the more competitive beards in the show. Surprisingly the portrait image of the woman manages to avoid having a circus vibe, instead she blends in quite well as one of the more beautiful bearded specimens to be photographed.

Whilst the beard is a symbol of masculinity, many of the ones displayed are so carefully thought through and groomed that they have gone past the point of masculinity and are verging on the point of feminine. Many of the beards photographed are more metrosexual than manly, and I think the exhibition manages to touch on the changing gender boundaries of the 21st century. What it means to be ‘male’ or ‘female’ is something that is constantly challenged today, with homosexuality, transvestites and transgenderism being accepted on a growing scale. What is expected of us, because of our gender, is, thankfully, losing its rigidity.

In addition the beard, to a modern viewer, has many connotations unrelated to gender. To what many are calling the ‘me-generation’, individuality and distinctiveness are central; and beards, no matter how common they are right now, remain distinctive. Beards can be a strong and bold fashion statement, but if the masses make strong and bold fashion statements, what are we left with? Right now beards seem particularly fashionable, and they do not rely on ‘god-given’ facial features to be successful, unlike the clean shaven look. All they require is testosterone.

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Theoretically it is an accessible trend (although I’m sure many of my male peers who struggle in the facial hair department would disagree), and if it can make the average male face a little more exciting its popularity is understandable. Many members of the older generation seem to find it a rather scruffy trend, but this is a very shallow association. Throughout history the beard has meant very different things, but I think the most relevant, and perhaps interesting, to the ‘me-generation’ would be its role as a symbol of anti-establishment. Not only do quirky beards feel like a stance against the systematic and faceless corporations that have defined economic life, but they have a place in anti-capitalist history. Karl Marx was identified by his thick dark beard and moustache; his writing partner Friedrich Engels held a ‘moustache evening’ with his peers in opposition to clean shaven bourgeois ‘philistinism’; and Che Guevara, fashion’s favourite communist, sported his signature facial hair. Note how only the trendy communists (China is not known for its facial hair) sported the beard.

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Self-image, especially in regards to the subjects of this exhibition, is a curation. The upkeep and grooming of the beards photographed requires commitment, as the grooming guide in the brochure explains, and I am confident that each person photographed is conscious about how they want to be perceived. Then again how can they not be when they are posing for a photograph? I doubt that any of them are consciously thinking about masculinity, anti-capitalism or Che Guevara every time they reach for the clippers, but the beard does imply all of these things. But some vein of these implications is present when a man (or woman) is curating their self-image, even if they just like the ‘look’ of beards.

Two qualities of the beard as an image I feel are not addressed by these photos (perhaps hinted at, but only by default) are the concepts of disguise and religion. Beards can be a disguise, as they prevent us from knowing the beard owners facial features exactly. There is an insincerity to them, the owner might be hiding something underneath the mass of hair. Beards have lots of religious connections, they’re an integral part of some religious practise, but ‘hair and religion’ would need its own exhibition, probably a bigger one than BEARD, and I’m beginning to think I’ve already taken too much from what is essentially a trendy charity exhibition.

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Olly, 20, French and German student

Why do you think the beard is so popular right now?

‘We all want to be unique- just like everyone else’

Isabella Bornholt; BogeArt

The Brutalist Nightmare

South Bank Centre Image Courtesy of The Daily Mail.

South Bank Centre
Image Courtesy of The Daily Mail.

If you’ve ever wandered along the South Bank, strolled down Bedford Way or walked around Barbican, chances are you’ve come across Brutalist architecture before. Those gigantic asymmetrical, concrete slabs, mounted together to create some of the capital’s most iconic modern buildings such as the National Theatre, surround the Londoner on a day to day basis. These buildings with their intimidating aesthetic, industrial appearance and overwhelming ratio of concrete are, right now, experiencing a Renaissance. Their cool and plain exteriors are becoming the basis for modern-day design and architecture, with some original Brutalist flats being privatised and selling for thousands of pounds.

However, this admiration for these monumental concrete buildings has only been recent. In fact, their introduction into London’s landscape wasn’t received with such high regard. It wasn’t long after they were built that the meaning of the word ‘brutal’ perhaps became too closely associated with these buildings in modern culture. The term ‘Brutalism’ was first coined in the 1950s and derived from the French word ‘brut’, meaning concrete: Nothing to do with the ‘brutal’ aesthetic that the movement is often associated with. The term refers to a specific architectural period in post-war Britain, still recovering from the destruction of World War II. Due to the cheap cost of concrete, the government were in favour of employing this new ‘brutalist’ style in order to rebuild social housing and public and government buildings. This meant that Brutalist architects, like Ernò Goldfinger, Sir Denys Lasdun and Peter and Alison Smithson designed their buildings with certain ideals in mind. These buildings needed to be above all functional for the people who inhabited them, as well as cheap and easy to build, giving them their plain and non-decorative exterior and frank materiality. Especially regarding social housing projects, Brutalist architects sought to provide a sort of social utopia and equal living standards. In high rise Brutalist buildings, flats were usually of equal size, and areas were built into the building complex which separated living and leisure activities such as shops, almost like a city within a city. Despite this, brutalist architecture became increasingly criticsed during the 1960s and 70s.

It wasn’t just its ‘ugly’ and ‘harsh’ exterior that appalled people (Prince Charles once said that when the Luftwaffe “knocked down our buildings, it didn’t replace them with anything more offensive than rubble”), it was also the state of the inhabitants’ wellbeing that was being questioned. Structural issues quickly began to arise, living conditions were cramped, and with no garden fence to chat to a neighbor over, people often became isolated and anti-social. These confined conditions lead to an overhanging cloud of claustrophobia and fear which soon resulted in vandalism and high crime rates. These once hopeful ‘utopian’ communities were increasingly becoming somewhat dystopian. Famous high rise buildings such as Goldfinger’s Trellick Tower (1972) became increasingly associated with anti-social behaviour (including reports on rape and attacks on children) and the Smithson’s Robin Hood Gardens (1972) also became synonymous with crime, causing its demolition to begin in 2013.

Trellick Tower. Image courtesy of the Telegraph.

Trellick Tower. Image courtesy of the Telegraph.

It’s hardly surprising then, that these once hopeful and functional buildings became the architectural backdrop for dystopian fiction in popular culture. J.G. Ballard’s 1975 dystopian novel High-Rise (soon to be made into a film by Sightseers director, Ben Wheatley) tells the tale of an über modern, luxurious set of high rise flats, closed off from the rest of the world with only its high-tech commodities to cater for everyones’ needs. This utopian beginning soon ends in its inhabitants, who, shut off from modern society, begin to segregate and turn on each other. To cut a long story short, this results in crime, murder and violence, which is not too dissimilar from the stories of Trellick Tower and Robin Hood Gardens. Then we have the cameo appearances that brutalist architecture appears in in dystopian film. Think back to Stanely Kubrick’s controversial 1972 film, A Clockwork Orange, where the Brunel University Lecture Centre becomes the setting for the authoritarian Ludovico Medical Facility. What was once seen as a Socialist dream in 60s and 70s Britain soon symbolised a totalitarian nightmare.

The Brunel University Lecture Centre in A Clockwork Orange. Image courtesy of http://www.collective-zine.co.uk/cboard/topic56559-brutalist-architecture.html

The Brunel University Lecture Centre in A Clockwork Orange. Image courtesy of http://www.collective-zine.co.uk/cboard/topic56559-brutalist-architecture.html

The irony of Brutalist architecture is huge, leaving it as one of the most misunderstood aesthetics in modern design. Its unfortunate that the monumentally terrifying, yet fantastic look of these London buildings became too closely associated with brutality and crime in general, not just within fiction but in the day-to-day lives of the people who lived there. However, as mentioned earlier, Brutalism is now experiencing a wave of nostalgic appreciation. Trellick Tower, the high rise building known for its violent crime rates, has privatised and gentrified its flats which sell for thousands and thousands of pounds. I suppose it just only goes to prove how one man’s utopia is another man’s dystopia. Maddy Martin; BogeArt

BogeArt: Humans of Art

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Clare, 61, Restaurateur; seeing Rubens and his Legacy at the Royal Academy

‘I love Rubens; his painting’s remind me of the balls I used to go to at the Banqueting House in Whitehall. He painted the ceiling you see- a lot of people don’t know that. His overtly fleshy touch is a bit much for some, but you can not deny he was a superior painter.’

BogeArt

BogeArt: Frieze Art Fair

As I have said before on this blog, I find Frieze a bit of a headache. There is a lot of art, a lot of bad art at that, and a lot of fashionable people walking around stocking up on dinner party conversation and waiting to have lunch at whatever trendy pop-up catches their eye. This year I spent the whole week at the fair as I was working there, which was actually great because I did not have to pay the hefty £30 entry fee. To add to that I could do little bit of the frieze everyday, rather then getting exhausted, overwhelmed and disheartened after a marathon day of art. Here are some snaps, the sculpture park was free so next time be sure to check that out even if you are not going to the main part of the fair. Our feature on frieze fashion is coming soon!

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Emoji art- watch this space

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This guy was definitely the bell of the ball

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Maddy looking extremely unfazed by this guy dropping his trousers

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Me tryna look £500,000 next to a £500,000 sculpture

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Wow man

Isabella Bornholt; BogeArt

BogeArt: Hot Right Now- German Art in London

German art seems to be rife in London right now. With various galleries and museums around the city exhibiting the works of numerous German artists, it’s a great time to view some fantastic modern art and in most cases, delve into the fascinating history of Deutschland. Here are the best of the bunch.

As you’ve probably seen advertised all over the underground, the Anselm Kiefer exhibition at the Royal Academy opened a couple of weeks ago, showcasing his enigmatic and ambitious large scale paintings and sculptures in one of the biggest Kiefer exhibitions ever to be held in the UK. With the Guardian calling it “the most exciting show in Britain this Autumn” and critics praising his sublime depiction of a post-war era, this is one exhibition not to be missed.

https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibition/anselm-kiefer

Continuing with London’s love for all things Deutsch, the Tate Modern is also exhibiting the work of another important modern German artist: Sigmar Polke. Polke’s witty, rebellious, colourful (and at times surreal) multi-media creations fly the flag for European Pop-Art, with the Tate bringing together Polke’s work over a five decade career. Starting with Polke’s more Pop-Art works which demonstrate his conflict of living in the Soviet east and aspiring to the 60s consumer culture in the west, right through to his more experimental work in the 80s, the exhibition at the Tate Modern proves Polke to be an important figure in 20th Century European art, even up there with his pal and (and more well known) contemporary, Gerhard Richter.

http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/alibis-sigmar-polke-1963-2010

The British Museum is also showcasing numerous German creations. The ‘Germany divided: Baselitz and his generation’ exhibition brings together prints and drawings from German artists who migrated from East Germany to West in the 1960s and 70s, with works preoccupied with the post-World War One cynicism and guilt, as well as the consequences of the devastating divide of a defeated country. Artists such as Gerhard Richter and Sigmar Polke are featured in the exhibition amongst others, offering the public a satirical yet disturbing take on the mindset of a post-war generation.

http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/past_exhibitions/2014/germany_divided.aspx And if that’s not enough, be sure to check out the British Museums ‘Germany: Memories of a Nation’, an extraordinary collection of objects telling the story of Germany over the past 600 years. So put on some deep house, get bopping and give in to your inner Germanic manic. http://www.buzzfeed.com/jobarrow/would-you-pass-gcse-german-now#39gg193 Maddy Martin; begot

BogeArt: Art picks

  1. Turner vs. Constable– the two most famous c.19th British landscape artists go head to head this autumn; the Tate Britain hosts a Turner exhibition and the V&A shows a Constable one. These will give us an opportunity to compare the artist’s two incredibly different styles as they capture the essence of British Landscapes. Not to forget the skies: In Turner’s eyes the sun is king, and in Constable’s view the Cloud is God. These two shows should also prove how photography affected landscape painting. Constable died before the first photo was ever taken, and therefore had no concept of photographic reality, whilst Turner lived through this invention. With this in mind Constables realistic and atmospheric paintings and Turners dramatic and emotive works take on a new meaning.

Late Turner: Painting Set Free at the Tate Britain, 20th Sep-25 Jan

Constable: The Making of a Master at the V&A, 20th Sep-11th JanAncient Rome; 1839 by Joseph Mallord William Turner, Courtesy of Tate Britain

 Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Ground, 1823, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  1. ‘Death is very likely the single best invention of life’ –Steve Jobs– artist Hynek Martinec is showing at a new gallery from the former directors of Haunch of Venison. His monochrome paintings of symbols and imagery associated with death harp to the Renaissance and Baroque in terms of style. Saying that the colour scheme adds a delicious liquidity to these wonderfully morbid canvases.

Hynek Martinec: Every Minute You are Closer to Death at Parafin

 Hynek Martinec, courtesy of Parafin

  1. Be Seduced by Schiele– a little later in the month at one of BogeArt’s favourite galleries, The Courtauld. The Courtauld is the perfect setting for Schiele’s first major solo museum show in this country; its intimate atmosphere will lend to Schieles expressive pen and provocative eye.

Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude at The Courtauld Gallery, 23rd Oct-18th Jan

 Egon Schiele, courtesy of The Courtauld Gallery

  1. Remember Rembrandt– at one of autumn’s blockbuster shows. The national gallery provides us with an opportunity to view works from the more accomplished part of his career. No doubt the fabulously lit National Gallery will ensure Rembrandt’s textured canvases will be appreciated in all their glory.

Rembrandt: The Late Work at the National Gallery, 15th Oct-18th Jan

 Rembrandt, courtesy of the National Gallery

  1. Postcard Perfect– the V&A’s retrospective of the famed fashion photographer Horst P. Horst spans over his 60 year career. The exhibition is full of elegant and iconic images perfect for postcards; we wouldn’t expect anything less from Coco Chanel’s bestie who has over 90 Vogue covers to his name.

Horst: Photographer of Style at the V&A, 14th Sep- 4th Jan

 Horst, courtesy of the V&A

  1. Get Mind-Fucked at Malevich- Catch the Malevich exhibition before it closes. Get lost in the works by the original Suprematist. With it’s meaty context, including the well-known ‘Black Square’ and a unique approach to the geometric, the Tate Modern’s exhibition does not make for a relaxing afternoon at the gallery- and nor should it.

Malevich: Revolutionary of Russian Art at Tate Modern, 16th Jul- 26th Oct

 Malevich, courtesy of the Tate

  1. Filter Through Frieze- Frieze can often be a tedious affair, with a lot of uninspiring work and pretentious arty people running around. Regardless of this, and the over-priced tickets, the fair is so important and one cannot claim to follow British modern art without going to Frieze. One of the plus points of there being so much lack-lustre work is that when you do come across a gem, it sparkles a little more by comparison.

Frieze Art Fair in Regents Park, 15th-18th Oct

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  1. Stay out Late at ‘Late at the Tate’- this bi-monthly event is a favourite of ours here at BogeArt. This October the theme is ‘Made in Transition’. There will be a big emphasis on music this time, with many audio visual performances to match. Explore the ‘act of moving between’ with a drink in your hand- if all else fails there is always the permanent collection to roam almost undisturbed.

Late at the Tate at Tate Britain, 3rd Oct

 courtesy of the Tate Britain

  1. ‘A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men’ –Roald Dahl– everyone’s favourite illustrator is coming to the House of Illustration. Feel nostalgic and enjoy the charming illustrations by Quentin Blake. Rediscover Roald Dahl characters such as ‘The Twits’ and ‘The BFG’ and this lovely exhibition.

Quentin Blake: Inside Stories at House of Illustration, Now- 2nd Nov

quentin blake, courtesy of House of Illustration

BogeArt Review: Kenneth Clark- Looking for Civilistation

http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/kenneth-clark-looking-civilisation

Production shot of Kenneth Clark at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, for Civilisation 8 - The Light of Experience 1969

Production shot of Kenneth Clark at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, for Civilisation 8 – The Light of Experience 1969

Kenneth Clark broke the barriers of what an art historian could be. He tried to appeal to the masses in a way that no hArtstorian had done previously. He sought to spread an appreciation of art and aesthetics; and he succeeded in doing so throughout his career in a variety of ways.

The exhibition approaches his life and relationship with art in a chronological and compartmental way. It begins with a room dedicated to Kenneth Clark ‘the subject’, as his father was also an art lover and there are many portraits of the family. We trace his youth and when it was his love of art began to grow- his nanny took him to a Japanese print exhibition where ‘I was conscious for the first time in my life…that beauty is something timeless’. It was then he had a realisation of the ‘aesthetic experience’, of the ‘aesthetic sense that holds those other mental activities together’. Sometimes I feel that today the aesthetic and its importance can be neglected in art criticism.

The next room concerns Kenneth Clark ‘the collector’. Clark was head of the National Gallery at 30, and his goal was to modernise and democratise the gallery during his time there. He was responsible for the introduction of electric lighting and the photographic department- without which there would be no postcards. He made few noteworthy purchases for the galleries collection and did not identify as a collector personally either. Saying that there are a few gems in his personal collection which are displayed, namely some delicate drawings of gothic architecture by Ruskin. Kenneth Clark describes them perfectly: ‘they are some of the most beautiful records of architecture ever made, for Ruskin is able to combine knowledge and love, sensibility and precision in a way that is extremely rare’. I find myself admiring his eloquent and accurate commentary over the collection.

Have we started worshiping critical thinkers in the way we do artists? There are many articles on how art is a religion and we worship artists*, and here is the Tate Britain giving us the same platform to worship Clark that they normally give to artists: an exhibition. It’s not a small exhibition either. I had never been to an exhibition centred around an art historian, rather than an artist or theme, before this exhibition at the Tate Britain. If artists are the prophets of this religion then the art historians/critical thinkers are the saints.

The exhibition is big, perhaps a little too big, and my suggestion would be to dip in and out of the collections, there is too much material to spend time on every piece. It gets more exciting when the focus shifts to Kenneth Clark ‘the patron’. Clark took on a rather renaissance approach to the role of the patron; he financed art not just for the love it but also to support art and artists. Like the renaissance patrons he is playing a part in art history. There is a lot of Henry Moore and Stanley Spencer in this part of the show, as they are two acclaimed artists whose careers owe a lot to Clark. They have some wonderful Henry Moore prints and drawings. What looking at these works with Clark in mind does do is give the pieces some context. In the Tate Britain there are many famous Henry Moore sculptures, and in these early prints and drawings we can see the beginnings of a great artistic career. With this exhibition we can look at the works through Clark’s eyes, being by young exciting artists trying to carve their careers, not quite in the same stuffy museum context one normally sees Moore’s and Spencer’s works. Kenneth Clark became an important figure for the Neo-Romantics.

The exhibition also addresses Kenneth Clark’s role during WW2. He was head of the National Gallery when the collection had to be evacuated to caves in the depths of wales in order to protect them from bombings. He was the brains behind the gallery’s program to show one of its masterpieces every month to the public. Whilst the chosen masterpieces would be temporarily at risk, it was important for morale that the British public had the opportunity to be reminded of man-made beauty and achievements at a time when they were acutely aware of the destruction humans were capable of.

The exhibition concludes by addressing the project Kenneth Clark is perhaps most famed for; the 13 part television show ‘Civilisation’. Clark felt that one had to move with the times, especially when it came to making art available to the public, and found television a new and exciting way to appeal to the masses. He created and presented the first popular, large scale, art history based series. The response was mammoth. It was released in 1969, when western civilisation had recently felt threatened by the anti-establishment violent student protests of 1968, and fans of the program felt it had re-affirmed and reclaimed the positive achievements of ‘civilisation’. It was there to reassure the public at a time when ones cultural identity was being challenged. It was extremely well received by Kenneth Clark’s peers and the general public. At a private screening of ‘Civilistaion’ that Clark attended, he was so overwhelmed by the cheers and applause that he hid in the loo for 15 minutes and just wept.

A fascinating retrospective on a fascinating man. The one thing that really endeared me was the fact that above all Kenneth Clark comes across as an art lover. Like us wondering about the exhibition, he is a fan. He wanted to make art more approachable and this exhibition makes him more approachable.

Isabella Bornholt; BogeArt

*http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/artblog/2007/may/30/howartreplacedreligion http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/hay-festival/9049701/Hay-Festival-Jonathan-Franzen-Art-is-a-religion.html