Showing posts with label african sculpture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label african sculpture. Show all posts

Sunday, December 2, 2012

old and new worlds, experiment, picasso, african art, el greco

self-portrait exploring new worlds ~ frank waaldijk
self-portrait exploring new worlds (own work, 1987-2012, 45 x 30 cm, click on the image for an enlargement)

[also see the previous post] technical, emotional and psychological experimenting, trying to get to the essence. this work i started when i was in art school (art academy utrecht). almost needless to say, my teachers often didn't quite get what i was driving at, although they thought my work of high quality.

for them, any work i made was to be seen as an exercise, something to repeat at least 10 times, so that they could comment on every stage, and understand where it came from and was headed. for me, i was doing what the title suggests, and for me this is not served by studious repetition.

therefore i still have unfinished works from that period, works that i spent quite some time and effort on then, but was unable to bring to any satisfactory conclusion. in the past 10 years, i've been finishing a number of these `old' works, since nowadays my direction is clearer and my skills have improved.

this also reflects on how i see an artist's development: there is progress, but early periods have their own psychological merit and need not be discarded for lack of skills. on a different scale, i feel the same way about (art) history in general. modern art is all very fine, but... again like i wrote a few posts ago, perhaps george steiner was right in saying that our civilization is past its prime [in a 1989 dutch television series `nauwgezet en wanhopig']

steiner illustrated this feeling with comments about picasso, saying that picasso in essence only commented on the great masters of the past. so let's take a look once more at picasso's inspiration sources. perhaps i mentioned african art earlier on this blog?:

picasso en afrikaanse kunst

but did i mention its influence on les demoiselles d'avignon, the famous painting that picasso worked feverishly on for months, with hundreds of prepatory sketches? (and which he would not show)

picasso, les demoiselles d'avignon
pablo picasso, les demoiselles d'avignon

but one also discerns the catalan-romanic art influences from medieval times.

another major inspiration for les demoiselles d'avignon was the following masterpiece of el greco:

el greco, opening of the fifth seal
el greco, the opening of the fifth seal of the apocalypse

a painting which could have been painted yesterday as far as modernity and experiment goes, but which stems from the beginning of the 17th century, in the last years of el greco's life.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

horse figurines 2: mali

looked for horse figurines on the web, and came across these right away:

horse figurines from mali
horse figurines from mali (ceramic, national museum of mali, period unknown, 15-30 cm)

well. if i ever needed some confirmation that something african seeped into my sculpture...! and aren't they just lovely?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

flamingo man: art appropriation taken too far?

flamingo man, ralf kwaaknijd & unknown nigerian artistralf kwaaknijd, flamingo man (45 x 10 x 10 cm, wood & flamingo feather, 2009)

ok, one might ask, what is art appropriation? well, see wikipedia:
In the [(visual arts)], to appropriate something means adopting, borrowing, recycling or sampling aspects (or the entire form) of man made visual culture. The Oxford English Dictionary defines appropriation in relation to art as 'the practice or technique of reworking the images or styles contained in earlier works of art, esp. (in later use) in order to provoke critical re-evaluation of well-known pieces by presenting them in new contexts, or to challenge notions of individual creativity or authenticity in art.". The term appropriation refers to the use of borrowed elements in the creation of a new work (as in 'the artist uses appropriation') or refers to the new work itself (as in 'this is a piece of appropriation art'). The artist who uses appropriation may borrow image, sound, objects, forms or styles from art history or [(popular culture)] or other aspects of man made visual culture. Inherent in the process of appropriation is the fact that the new work recontextualizes whatever it borrows to create the new work. In most cases the original 'thing' remains accessible as the original, without change.


so i bought the above flamingo man by ralf kwaaknijd, at a friend's price and therefore dirt cheap actually, as a treat and to inspire me in my new studio (see previous post).

but i have to say, i'm irritated by flamingo man even though i know i'm being played by kwaaknijd to provoke just such irritation. this is very irritating also, to say the least.

kwaaknijd plays with appropriation, as other contemporary artists also do, some all the time, some sometimes. but in this case he might be going a step too far, i think. he took a beautiful, poetic, introspective nigerian sculpture of a man (unknown tribal artist, although he tells me is still researching its origin and will attribute better once he knows more) and simply stuck a flamingo feather in his hand. to then claim it as his own work.

there is more to this than meets the eye, because i confronted ralf about this. i put to him that i found this appropriation to be an extra theft, on top of the already physical theft of an enormous amount of african art by western collectors. (see my previous posts on tribal art). and in fact a theft of a worse kind. because now kwaaknijd also claims the artistic credit, one would say the one inappropriatable element left the original artist.

however kwaaknijd at once responded to me by email, and gave permission to reproduce his reply here:


Dear Frank, you still don't get it do you? Flamingo man is precisely a statement about the theft of art from the `primitive' cultures - so `primitive' that Picasso, Giacometti, you name it, all took their forms and ideas and became famous with them.

Apart from the purely visual beauty of flamingo man (you will have to admit that the feather is transformative!) I wished to demonstrate that one can steal easily from the unknown `tribal' artist. (S)he cannot protect her/himself. One buys a sculpture, and the material possession opens up a can of worms of artist's rights' infringements.
Perhaps you will recall the utterly shaming history of the song the lion sleeps tonight? Please look it up to see what I mean (I even saw an American performer claiming it as his own in some historic footage, but I don't recall precisely where).

Yet, flamingo man can actually help by drawing attention to this, I feel. So yes, you are right, appropriation a step too far, that is precisely the idea. But I do not wish to profit from it. And since I appreciate you taking the time to really reflect on my work, if you wish I will sell it to you for the price that I paid for the sculpture, the flamingo feather you get for free.

This way you can own a real Kwaaknijd, and maybe reappropriate it!

Kind regards, Ralf


so now i'm the proud and somewhat ambivalent owner of `flamingo man'. the hell of it is, i have to admit that the flamingo feather is transformative, yet i'm still irritated by kwaaknijd's `easy' claiming of the work. perhaps i'm being too calvinist, feeling that art can only come about by putting in a lot of effort, or maybe i'm just jealous of this postpostmodern hype.

anyway, i'm really glad with flamingo man. to look at a sculpture like that, originating from my great inspiration: african sculpture! it feels wonderful to have it in my studio for daily looking at it.