Rethinking Venus

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It is a less than a week before we start back at school, and it is at this time I start to focus on what content I am going to teach in my art lessons. I start the Grade 10 art history term with Prehistoric art. One of the pieces we focus on is the Venus of Willendorf, so I thought I would trawl the internet to see if I could find new material on her. To my surprise I discovered some images & comparative material that I hadn’t previously encountered. 

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This glitzy interpretation of the Venus (above) with her left leg lifted up in the air & bedekked in mirror-ball like tiles, can be found in Riga, the capital of Latvia. 

If any of my friends/students want to raise funds for me for one (with champagne included) of these interpretations of the Venus by Jeff Koons in 2013 I would not be ungrateful!  "Koons and Dom Pérignon collaborated on a limited number (650 worldwide) of manually assembled and hand polished champagne holders inspired by Koons’ Balloon Venus...

The two-foot tall polyurethane resin version (shown above) of the artist’s bulbous take on the 25,000 year old fertility symbol, Venus of Willendorf, was designed to cradle a bottle of Dom Pérignon Rosé Vintage 2003 and is offered in a limited edition of 650 worldwide costing $20,000 a piece."

I thought this image with Gormley's figures lined up in front of the Venus is an interesting juxtaposition:

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and this cartoon comparison of prehistoric and contemporary perspectives is quite telling...

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Finally I came across a research paper exploring Jenny Saville's nudes and linking her nudes not only to the Venus of Willendorf but to nudes throughout art history. 

Jenny Saville, Propped, 1992 Oil on canvas 213.5 x 183 cm

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The paper is called "An Admired Abjection" - find the original article here,

and it deals with changing ideals of the female form. The Venus of Willendorf is examined on a page called "From Willendorf to Will Power". 

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New Year's Resolution: Focus on traditional art skills in 2015

Last year was quite strange in terms of my teaching: I had a month's break in May & got my Grade 10 students involved in all sorts of experiments and ventures. Using the ipad to make art; the Woolworths "Making a Difference through Design Project"; creating collaborative paintings (see below) (will be donated later this year to the Addington Childrens Hospital presently going through major renovations); exploring "Wreck this Journal", and creating ceramic vessels. The students, as far as I could tell, loved the experimentation, but I discovered in the third term that their drawing skills were not up to the standard I usually expect from my students.  

Above: One of the collaborative artworks my Grade 10 students made this year. The frame is the original Javanese teak window frames that we rescued from the building site - these artworks have been filled with fantasy scenes that will hopefully bring the little patients of the hospital some comfort. 

To help improve the drawing skills we embarked on a series of traditional exercises and subject matter in term three and four of this year - drawing still life displays using a value scale in pencil and ink. One of the exercises I set for homework is one I have used before. The students find an image they like & tear it in half, paste down the one half & duplicate the other side. This has always resulted in sucessful drawings & is a confidence booster. See the results below: 


So my New Year's Resolution for teaching this year is to focus on traditional skills before we play...


A new conversation

Lara Mellon & I exchanged postcards as a conversation that went on throughout our preparation for our last exhibition "Understory" held at the KZNSA gallery in August 2014. Each postcard given to each other was a direct visual and written response to the card that preceded it. This time instead of exchanging postcards we have decided to respond to assemblages that we make that will be based on the theme: Damage Control 

Some of my artworks in the past have included dead insects, birds and other small animals. I decided to use a carcass of a frog for my first exchange assemblage – I looked up the symbolic meaning of a frog: “...reminds us of the transient nature of our lives. As symbol of transition and transformation...Strongly associated with the water element, it connects us with the world of emotions and feminine energies, as well as the process of cleansing, whether it’s physical, emotional, or more spiritual or energetic.”

Joan Martin, Turning Point, mixed media assemblage, 25x13x12cm 

The snakeskin texture on the box reinforces the symbolism of the frog – the snake is also symbolic of transition. 

Joan Martin, Turning Point, mixed media assemblage, 25x13x12cm (detail) 

This frog lies on a bed or nest of nails that create a halo around the animal, but also suggests extreme hardship.  

Joan Martin, Turning Point, mixed media assemblage, 25x13x12cm

View of whole assemblage above. 


iPad workshop for artists 

I am running a workshop from my classroom tommorrow that will hopefully encourage artists to engage with the iPad as a creative tool. I am going to introduce the participants to the app"Procreate".  

The following description of the app on the "app2art" website gives you an idea of the respect the app has earned since its creation: "Procreate is an extraordinarily powerful and Apple award winning art app. In terms of value for money it enables you do many things on your iPad that would require a Photoshop suite costing hundreds of pounds on your mainframe."

The workshop will start with an introduction to the procreate tools. I do have airserver loaded on my computer so I am hoping to demonstrate these tools directly from my ipad using my smartboard. I have also made a back up slideshow just in case we have a technology failure & I can't for some reason connect my iPad. 

The group then move on to creating a collage using a background image & two other images pre-selected & downloaded from a resource file in my box account. Again I intend using airsever but have made a back-up slideshow called "Collage on an ipad in Procreate app". They will make a very simple collage & learn how to move images, resize, and edit areas of images & finally work in layers within the app. 

I am hoping to get everyone inspired by showing them the two following youtube clips & a slideshow of a drawing I made of my Sphynx cat Sam as a sample digital drawing.

The rest of the workshop will be spent drawing/painting on the ipads. I look forward to witnessing lots of excitement and pleasure when the participants extend their skills on this very versatile app. 


Durban Girls' College Grade 12 Visual Arts exhibition 2014 

I can't believe that my time with this class is almost over. I have dragged them all over Durban in the school bus in pursuit of an expanded art education at the local galleries, cajoled them into listening to my art history lectures with promises of Youtube clips at the end of each lesson, discovered "selfies" of them on my phone, witnessed the 'torture' of non-arty students as models and been surprised by the whole group arriving at the opening of my exhibition at the KZNSA gallery this year.

Please feel free to pop in at school during school hours to view their fantastic exhibition.(or attend the opening)