Art in The Week That Was

A selection of creative current affairs and events which have hit the headlines in the last week…

1.  Harry Benson Royal Portrait

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Glasgow-born Harry Benson and his latest photograph of the Queen, captured in the Audience Room at Buckingham Palace, where the monarch’s weekly meeting with the Prime Minister is held.

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery commissioned acclaimed photographer Harry Benson to capture a portrait of the Queen.  Harry first took a shot of the Queen in 1957, when she opened a coal mine in Scotland.  Following that, he regularly photographed her all over Scotland and later at an Opening of Parliament.  Of the latest shot he says that “it was the highlight of my career”, however.

In the portrait, Her Majesty wears a stunning diamond brooch featuring thistles – the national emblem of Scotland.  The colour of her violet dress was chosen by the 50-year photographic legend himself.

It is the first time the Scottish National Gallery have commissioned a photograph of the Queen.  Indeed, Christopher Baker (Gallery Director) said, “Harry Benson’s portrait of Her Majesty is a respectful and thoughtful work, which will, I am confident, prove extremely popular.”.

2.  World UFO Day

In accordance with World UFO Day earlier this month, the world’s press proffered some interesting articles on ‘UFO Hot Spots’.  If aliens do exist, they seem to enjoy viewing our ancient art and archaeology!  Both Nazca (Peru) and Stone Henge (Wiltshire, England) are on the Hot Spot List, as well as other key monuments to both religion and ancient civilization.

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The Nazca Tarantula.  Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, the largest of the enigmatic glyphs at Nazca are over 1,200 ft long.

Stone Henge is touted as being the world’s most famous prehistoric monument and its first phase – a wooden henge – was built around 5,000 years agoEnglish Heritage say the current stone circle was built as a second phase in the Neolithic Period (c. 2500 BC).  Various burial mounds were then completed in the vicinity during the Bronze AgeArt Today has visited this stunning architectural marvel and can report it to be a truly moving experience, especially on Midsummer’s Eve (21st June).

Meanwhile Nazca, a later development, was the result of a flourishing civilization in southern Peru, between 200 BC and 600 AD.  The area is famous for its large-scale, 2-D line-drawings depicting animals, which are hewn into the ground and only truly visible from the air.  Various theories as to the reason for such artwork abound. Erich von Daniken*, for instance, speculated that the lines were part of ancient runways built for aliens to visit earth.  Other alien theorists believe them to be dedication glyphs, inviting prehistoric alien visitors to come back again.

3.  Hand Sculpture Chile, Acatama Desert

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‘Mano de Desierto’ by Mario Irarrazabal.  The sculpture is made of iron and cement, and measures 11 metres tall.  It is a frequent graffiti-target from Route 5 tourists, and needs constant maintenance.

Another alien sight reaching the press this week, was the 11-meter Hand Sculpture ‘Mano de Desierto’ in the Acatama Desert.  By Chilean artist Mario Irarrazabal, it was financed by a local booster organization called Corporación Pro Antofagasta back in the 1980s.  The motion of hands rising from the ground is an obsession of Irarrázabal’s. His other works of note include a colossal sculpture – ‘Monument to the Drowned’ – which explores the same idea.  It is located on Parada 4 at Brava Beach in Punta del Este, a tourist destination in Uruguay.

4.  Wimbledon Design

Wimbledon began, with its procession and fanfare.  The most famous Grand Slam tennis tournament has graced London‘s SW19 postcode since 1877, and has seen progressive and innovative programme designs over the years.

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The Wimbledon 1887 programme – lots of facts and official detail –  similar to contemporary theatre posters.

One of the first programmes – issued in 1887 – was a sturdy and staid printed affair, with the conveyance of fixtures and stats its primary focus.  By 1948, the first photography appeared on the cover, making it visually appealing and indicating that a vast array of readers would know exactly what the tournament was about.  London tennis was gaining caché, and an American win for both the Men’s and Ladies’ Singles (Bob Falkenburgh and Louise Brough) illustrated its world-wide appeal.

The 80s and 90s became more about digital graphics, and the first full-colour illustrations were produced to grace the cover.  From pop-art bubble writing, to a linear depiction of the gates – the covers were becoming more about design and less about the detail.

In more recent times, the programme cover has returned to a full-colour photograph, with different subjects and inference.  In 2013, the shot featured a glossy picture of the trophy with the by-now entrenched purple and green logo colours used as faux binding detail.  This year, however, has seen a court photograph again but with the focus shifted to a bordering tree, the action blurred to add dynamism.

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The Wimbledon 2013 programme – a glossy, full-colour finish, worthy of such an illustrious sports tournament.  Attracting not only prestigious tennis stars, but also the well-heeled elite.

5.  Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week ’17

This particular fashion week saw Iris Van Herpen’s ‘Aeriform’ collection stride forth down its runways.  An Art Today favourite, this collection analysed ‘the nature and anatomy of air and the idea of airborne materiality and lightness’.  Sheer, illusion textiles joined metallic, architectural waves – eliciting technical designs worthy of the futuristic voyeur.  Producing a stand-out feature of the AW season, this label proved its worth in gold.

According to the designer’s website, her inspiration was drawn from Danish underwater artists ‘Between Music’ ‘who challenge the relationship between the body and its elemental surround, in a subaquatic environment where air is absent.’. 

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From the Iris van Herpen ‘Aeriform’ runway show, Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week ’17. Each garment was formed by moulding thin, laser-cut strips of metal, which were heat-bonded together.

The designer stated:-

“Their liquid voices and the subsonic darkness from Between Music overwhelmed me. It motivated me to dive into the contrasts between water and air, between inside and outside, between darkness and lightness.”

The Iris van Herpen team are currently celebrating their 10-year anniversary as an Haute Couture fashion house.  Accessories can be purchase in their online boutique at irisvanherpen.com/boutique.

 

[Credits:  www.telegraph.co.uk; lonelyplanet.com; english-heritage.org.uk; atlasobscura.com; creativebloq.com; irisvanherpen.com]

 

 

 

 

 

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