Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Photo Essay: Colours of the Island of Burano in Venice Italy

The vividly hued houses that form colourful rows along all of the glinting canals of Burano 
Andreas Romagnoli travelled to the Venetian island of Burano to shoot the remarkable jewel-like small houses lining narrow canals and tranquil piazzas. The island is otherworldly and silent but for the washing flapping in the wind and the staccato calls of one neighbour to another, write Andreas Romagnoli and Jeanne-Marie Cilento.

THERE can be few other places in the world where primary colours are used with such abandon to decorate houses. The buildings of Burano may be less sophisticated than the better-known main island of Venice seven kilometres away across the lagoon, but the sense of joy created by its little houses overlooking boats passing slowly by along the canals make an enchanting atmosphere.

Each house in Burano is unique, painted in vibrant reds, pinks, blues, greens and violets. The small, rectilinear buildings encapsulate centuries and layers of history and traditions. The rows of houses symbolise the hopes and fears of a small seaside village that consciously chose to have an optimistic vision of its urban spaces.

First settled by the Romans, for centuries the men of Burano have earned their living from the sea. The women still make lace in the doorways of their shaded front rooms. The island's famous lace has its origins in the 16th century when needles arrived on the island from the then Venetian colony of Cyprus. Leonardo da Vinci visited in 1481 and purchased a cloth for the main altar of the Milan cathedral. The lace was exported across all of Europe but by the 18th century was in decline. The industry revived in 1872 when a school of lace making was opened and today is still made carefully by hand.

Wandering through Burano's narrow alleyways and along the town's canals gives you a sense of the island’s history. Fishermen prepare their craft, children play in the backstreets while lines of washing float in the breeze overhead and old men gather to pass the time of day. Community life here seems timeless. The men sitting in the piazzas or by the canals seem to wait for you to ask why their houses are painted the colour of ripe strawberries or plums, why they still live in a small village pummelled by strong winds and full of wintry isolation in the long, cold months. But speaking to the islanders, they give you a strong sense of their pride and endurance.

The towns simple architectural shapes and forms stir the heart and imagination, some gleam in the sun and others are half in shadow. Burano has a heady mix of local tradition and globalisation, calm waters and green grass, crowds and solitude. As you leave the entrancing little island behind on the jugging vaporetto, you look back at the disappearing houses glowing like precious stones in the last rays of the sun and wonder if it was all a dream.

Click on photographs for full-screen slideshow
The local government controls the range of colours inhabitants can choose for their houses

This vibrant magenta is one of the town's signature hues combined with the traditional green shutters

Washing hangs across piazzas and canals across Burano flapping in the sea winds

The brilliant colour gives life to the roofscapes

Fishing boats are parked in front of their owner's doors ready to head out into the lagoon

The rows of jewel-coloured houses form some of the most enchanting urban piazzas in Italy

The painted walls also give a sense of Oscar Niemeyer's use of brilliant colour but on a miniature scale

The brightly-coloured Venetian chimneys of Burano's houses add to the sense of light-hearted design

The houses have a simple, rectilinear design and appear almost two dimensional

Sharp shadows and angles of light heighten Burano's palette of colours

Geometric details stand out like art installations against the blue sky of May

 Wrought-iron decorates the facades of the houses providing small balconies and shelter from the rain
The contrasting colours and shapes create a heady mix of different hues within the narrow streets 
Even cleaning implements take on the look of an art installation in Burano

Pale violet and celestial blue make a charming combination topped by a roof of terracotta tiles

 Not all of Burano is postcard perfect ~ the damp from the sea is always rising and here the stucco separates from the ancient brickwork

A dilapidated house creates one of the only pale corners in the town

Small building details become like works of modern art against the backdrop of Burano



Wooden shutters close up the  houses against the hot afternoon sun

Clothes float in the breeze while two women talk in one of Burano's quiet piazzas
Boats and bicycles are the main modes of transport in Burano



A calm-eyed image of Christ gazes out from one of the terracotta-coloured walls of the town

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Wednesday, 22 May 2013

10 Questions Column: Australian Conceptual Artist Kristin McIver

Australian visual artist Kristin McIver at her new exhibition in front of Sitting Piece just acquired by the National Gallery of Victoria. Photograph by Benny Jewell 
From graphic designer to award-winning visual artist in just five years, Kristin McIver is quietly conquering the hearts and minds of conceptual art lovers around the world, writes Ruth Borgobello

PROVING herself an artist to watch, McIver's latest work The Sitting Piece has just been acquired by the National Gallery of Victoria and she also has parallel exhibitions currently showing in Melbourne and Palm Springs.

Exploring themes of desire and aspiration prevalent in our hyper-consumer culture, McIver’s work draws on seductive advertising tools - emotive language, light, and hyper-gloss materials to provoke viewers into reflection. Her latest show ‘Status Quo’ at the James Makin Gallery in Melbourne, explores the surreptitious agenda of the digital world, transforming personal thoughts and data into economic currency.

After completing a Masters of Visual Art at Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne in 2009, McIver’s work has been selected as finalist in a number of awards and residencies, including the Melbourne Sculpture Prize, Montalto Sculpture Prize, Substation Contemporary Art Prize, and Ward’s Summer Open Call in New York. In April this year, she launched her first international exhibition at Royale Projects Gallery in California.

1. What are you currently working on?
I am working on a new series of work which explores the commoditisation of identity in the globalised, digital age. It draws upon my own personal data, that is automatically collated and on-sold by programs such as Facebook, as its subject matter. I plan to use this data, in particular my facial recognition data, as the basis for a series of self portraits using different media. This may include painting, assemblage, musical composition, and a living garden. In the example of painting, each character of the data would be assigned a corresponding colour, which when applied in sequence would form the painting. In a musical composition, the colours would be replaced by musical notes. Each self portrait becomes a merging of the analogue and the digital, and highlights the increasing loss of control over identity as we post our self-image online.

2. What are the themes and inspirations for your new show?
The new series extends upon the themes in my current exhibition Status Quo, currently on show at James Makin Gallery in Melbourne, Australia. Status Quo continues my investigation into hyper-consumer culture and the commoditisation of our lives. Thought Piece, a major installation in the exhibition consists of neon, steel and concrete, transposing my digital thoughts into material subject matter. Another work Sitting Piece, includes the viewer in the listed medium, whereby the work is not complete until the viewer engages with it. As with social media, and the wider consumer culture, the user/consumer is an essential part of the system.

3. How did you choose art installations as your creative metier?
I am primarily a conceptual artist, so I try to choose the medium and method of installation that best conveys the themes I am trying to communicate. My work generally comments on consumer culture, so often I employ mediums and language from the realm of consumer society to reference the works back to these familiar signs. I am particularly interested in the way a viewer engages with an installation occupying space, as opposed to viewing a flat picture plane.

4. Can you describe the experience, person or training that has had the greatest impact on your artistic career?
Completing my Masters degree at Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne in 2009 helped me to consolidate my ideas. The process of theory based practice punctuated by group and private critique sessions encouraged me to go beyond my comfort zone in my thinking and also the ambition of my works. My wonderful supervisors Bernhard Sachs and Stephen Haley among others greatly assisted in that process.

5. What do you find the most challenging aspect of your work technically?
Installation art can be challenging as I am often dealing with new materials and processes. As a result there is a learning curve with each project.

6. Where do you like to draw or create your initial installations?
Ideally I like to sit outside with my notepad and scribble concepts and visualisations down on paper, without the usual distractions of screens and noise. However ideas can't be forced, and inspiration often occurs at the strangest times, when I am not even engaged in the creative process - in the shower or while watching a music gig. When I decide something has potential I usually trial installations in my studio which is where the details are refined.

7. Do you have a set schedule of working creatively everyday or is the process more fluid?
My creative schedule is more of a fluid process as I'm usually working on a few projects at once. On any day I might be conceptualising a new work, reading theoretical texts, installing an exhibition, building a new work, painting a canvas, working on technical drawings, or collaborating with fabricators to realise a larger work.

8. What part of your artwork gives you the most happiness and do you find your creative process is more rational or instinctive?
I love seeing viewers interact with the works, often seduced by the bright candy colours or neon lights, then having that "ah" moment when they suddenly grasp the deeper concepts that underpin the work. With my artworks the initial process is instinctive - concept development and visualisation - then rational in their execution.

9. Is there a town or place in the world you consider inspiring?
New York City is definitely my favourite city of inspiration. There is such a breadth of contemporary artwork and a rich and diverse cultural history. The energy of the city is very inspiring.

10. In our digital age what does art give us and how do you define contemporary art?
The digital age is having a profound effect on the way we create and view art. The initial wave of digital art was "digital" in its subject, execution and presentation. However now that the initial excitement is over we are beginning to see the effects of digital on traditional artistic mediums, in a similar manner to how photography revolutionised painting in the late 19th century. I believe we are witnessing the emergence of a new contemporary art movement which is a hybrid of analogue and digital.

For more information about Kristin McIver's work contact the James Makin Gallery at 67 Cambridge Street, Collingwood Melbourne Australia: www.jamesmakingallery.com


Click on photographs for full-screen slideshow
Exhibited at Kristen McIver's new show at James Makin Gallery in Melbourne Thought Piece 2013 Neon, concrete, motion sensors, vinyl, electrical impulses  210x350cm. Photograph by Tim Gresham 

Lifeless III 2009 neon and synthetic polymer paint 45x170cm. Photograph by Tim Gresham
All For One, One For All 2011 Neon
The Good Life II 2011 Neon steel plastic and chain. Photograph by Tim Gresham
View Piece 2012 neon steel and acrylic

Is  This Love?  2010 Neon and steel 52x52cm 


Lifeless IV 2010 Montalto Sculpture Prize installation

The Dream neon and steel 2008




All that is Solid Melts into Air 2010 neon

Dream Home Visualiser #13 2008 Photograph by Tim Gresham  
Divine Intervention II 2010 neon steel artificial plants 250x120cm. Photograph by Christian Capurro









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Tuesday, 14 May 2013

10 Questions Column: Painter Nicola Rotiroti in Rome

Artist Nicola Rotiroti looking Byronic at his Rome studio in front of a new work for his next exhibition. Portrait by Andreas Romagnoli



Painter Nicolas Rotiroti is celebrated for his accomplished large-scale figurative paintings of people immersed in water. Andreas Romagnoli and Jeanne-Marie Cilento ask him 10 questions about his life and work and he sits for an exclusive photo shoot at his studio in Rome.

The artist began his career studying at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Calabria's capital Catanzaro, the city where he was born. While still a student, Rotiroti started to organise exhibitions and make videos about art. After completing his degree in painting in 1996, he went on to win awards for his work at Italian exhibitions including the Biennale Internazionale di Arti Visive held in Avellino. Along with participating in group exhibitions and holding solo shows, Rotiroti has created music videos and worked on creating the scenography for Italian concerts, television and fashion shows.

1. What are you currently working on?
I am working on myself. I’m trying to understand myself through the experience of painting. It is a continuous confrontation with the double nature within me. I'm just at the beginning of a journey that I foresee as very long and intense.

2.Where do you like to draw or create your paintings?
There is not a physical space that I prefer for starting a new creation.  My paintings are all born in my mind.

3. Do you have a set schedule of working creatively or is the process more fluid?
I paint everyday. I feel like a priest celebrating his prayers. For me, it is a way of paying attention to my soul. Painting is a way of expressing the unfathomable.

4. What part of painting gives you the most happiness and do you find your creative process is more rational or instinctive?
My pleasure is to paint instinctively. I want people to breathe that sense of freedom and creation in my work.

5. What do you find the most challenging aspect of your work?
The biggest challenge for me is to make my reality and my sense of the world truly shared and understood.

6. Is there a town or place in the world you consider inspiring?
I believe that more than cities or places, it is the mystery of an encounter that inspires, guides and surprises me.

7. What inspires your creative work now?
Life. Life and its relationship with the invisible. Or rather, with the not yet clearly visible - before it is unveiled. I find this inspirational – it is like a deep breath and then an exhalation. It is not just about the purely rational and the mind but about the body and the condition of my sentient being.

8. Can you describe the experience that has had the greatest impact on your painting?
There is a profound relationship between human creation and creativity. Like many artists, it is the idea of the mother and her mythical presence or absence that inspires my work. My paintings try to witness the extraordinary mother’s body which is a sign of love.

9. How do you assess your paintings?
For me, my work is not calculable and I am not objective enough measure the paintings I do.

10. In our digital age what does painting give us as an art form?
I don't think I'm ready to answer this question. Maybe I never will be.

For more information about Nicola Rotiroti's work visit his website: http://www.rotiroti.it


Click on the photographs for a full-screen slideshow 
The artist contemplates his palette before continuing with his new work at his studio in Rome. Photograph by Andreas Romagnoli 
Nicola Rotiroti picks up a brush in his studio in Rome where he is preparing for his new exhibition. Photograph by Andreas Romagnoli
Doppio 2011 oil on canvas 150x160cm 

Polittico 2011 oil on canvas one of nine 40x40cm

Polittico 2011 oil on canvas one of nine pieces 40x40cm

Cesca 2011 oil on canvas 150x180cm


Vale 2011 oil on canvas 100x120cm


Fluido 2011 oil on canvas 100x120cm



Blu 2011 oil on canvas 150x150cm
Polittico 2011 oil on canvas one of nine pieces 40x40cm
Mani 2011 oil on canvas 150x180cm 

Polittico 2011 oil on canvas one of nine pieces 40x40cm



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Thursday, 9 May 2013

Nendo Exhibition: Glassworks at Dilmos Gallery in Milan


 Designer Oki Sato of Japanese studio Nendo talks about his new Deep Sea cabinets presented at Dilmos gallery during Milan Design Week
Milanese design gallery Dilmos held an exhibition of glass by award-winning Japanese studio Nendo during the Salone del Mobile, Jeanne-Marie Cilento writes. Additional reporting by Nicolas James. Photographs by Solange Souza, Joakim Blockstrom & Ambrosio De Lauro.

CALLED Glassworks, Nendo’s chief designer Oki Sato wanted to create a show about rethinking traditional uses for glass. Dilmos’ all-white gallery located in Pizza San Marco provided a minimalist background to Nendo’s spare exhibition. 

Sato first opened an office in Milan in 2005 after founding Nendo in 2002 in Tokyo. The multi-disciplinary practice includes architecture, furniture, interiors plus industrial and graphic design. Last year, Nendo was chosen as Designer of the Year by Wallpaper Magazine and received the Elle Decoration International Design Award.

Sato showed the process of making and decorating Baccarat glass and how Coca-Cola bottles can be reused to create other glass products at the Dilmos show. He also designed the new Patchwork vases for Lasvit as a collection in Bohemian glass. It combines the cut glass techniques particular to Bohemian glass with the production methods for creating sheet glass. "We reheated a variety of objects already decorated with traditional cut glass patterns, then sliced them open and re-attached them to each other to create one large object,’’ Sato explains.  “As a way of making, the process was like sewing together animal hides, or piecing together small fragments of cloth to create a great patchwork quilt."

The most alluring if hard-edged pieces in the exhibition were the Deep Sea tables using different gradients of blue glass. Designed for Glas Italia, the collection is composed of a low table and shelving. "It's possible to colour glass by melting a layer of transparent coloured film onto the surface,’’ says Sato. “We decided to deepen the shade of each successive glass sheet by slightly changing the combination and number of layers for each one. The viewer is drawn into the depths of transparency and colour, as though gazing at the surface of the sea. We also progressively narrowed the space between the shelves and combined them with a mirror to further emphasise the colour gradations. The result was furniture with depth and transparency from any angle."

A less successful project for Glas Italia are Nendo’s Mirror chair and Mirror stool console made of tempered and silvered glass 10 mm thick. Evanescent in shape and colour ~ the piece is not particularly functional and the design doesn’t appear fully resolved. A contemporary interpretation of a dressing table, it has a cartoony two dimensional look combining a mirror and a chair in one piece of furniture with frosted gradations showing the unlikely fusion of the two elements. The chair could be used as a ledge for objects as well as an (uncomfortable) seat. The piece comes in two designs: a large mirror and chair and a small mirror with a high stool.

Nendo’s collection called Bottleware for Coca Cola is made up of recycled glass bowls and dishes. Coke’s contoured bottle has been symbolic of the company since 1916 and Nendo’s tableware collection is made from bottles that have deteriorated over the course of recycling and can no longer be re-used for their original purpose. "We were captivated by the particular green tint known as “Georgia Green” and by the fine air bubbles and distortions that are a hallmark of recycled glass," says Sato. “So we decided to create simple shapes that would enhance these traits. But we also wanted users to feel a remnant of the distinctive bottle in the new products.

“Our solution was to create bowls and dishes that retain its distinctive shape, as though the top had been sliced off. The dimpling on the bottle base is not ordinarily a strong visual feature, but it's a particular characteristic of glass bottles and visible to anyone who picks up the bottle to drink. Keeping these ring-shaped dimples on the base of our bowls and plates also helps to convey important messages about the way that glass circulates between people as it's made, used and recycled for further use."

Nendo’s project for Baccarat called Harcourt Ice is a collection of crystal glasses for the French luxury brand which has been making crystal since 1764.  "For our redesign of the company's signature Harcourt line, we wanted to highlight a new facet of the beauty of glass by creating an edge like beautifully frozen ice, then 'melting' it,” Sato explains. “The company's skilled craftsmen smoothed the edges by melting the surface of the finished Harcourt glasses by dipping them into the acid ordinarily used in the final stages of the polishing process. The soft feel and distinctive light refraction of the melted edges closely resemble those of ice that has begun to melt. The image of hard ice gradually dissolving into free-flowing water, as though capturing one moment in time, represents the company's graceful movement between tradition and innovation."

Nendo also created a storage unit with doors made of transparent disk-shaped glass sheets. Called the Rotating Glass Shelf, the shelves are made of birch with disks in blown glass. “Our design derives from the historical practice of cutting sheet glass from glass discs,’’ Sato says. “We thought that the faint swells and depressions that result from the artisanal handmade practise would gently warp the things placed on the shelves behind the glass. The holes in the centre become finger-sized handles to roll the discs left and right."

Lastly, Nendo created a mosaic glass table for Italian company Bisazza. The table has a metal structure with a glass top made from mosaic tiles. "We applied transparent mosaic tiles to the tabletop,'' Oki Sato says. "While colourfulness is ordinarily the defining feature of mosaic tiles, by removing this distinctive characteristic we brought out their texture, re-emphasising their materiality as glass."

Click on photographs for full-screen slideshow
The Deep Sea low tables with gradations of blue designed by Nendo for Glas Italia. "It's possible to colour glass by melting a layer of transparent coloured film onto the surface,’’ says Sato. “We decided to deepen the shade of each successive glass sheet by slightly changing the combination and number of layers for each one. The viewer is drawn into the depths of transparency and colour, as though gazing at the surface of the sea."




The Glas Italia tables and shelves in varying shades photographed at the opening of the Nendo show during Milan's Salone del Mobile



 Journalists and designers gather to look at the new designs for the Patchwork Glass collection created by Oki Sato for Lasvit

Drawings showing the various traditional patterns of Bohemian glass that Nendo transformed for Lasvit

The Bohemian glass bowls on display showing Nendo's process of creating the new Patchwork vases collection

A close-up showing the different patterns of Bohemian glass used for the new Patchwork vases."We reheated a variety of objects already decorated with traditional cut glass patterns, then sliced them open and re-attached them to each other to create one large object,’’ Sato explains.  “As a way of making, the process was like sewing together animal hides, or piecing together small fragments of cloth to create a great patchwork quilt."
Nendo's new Rotating Glass Shelf made of birch and disks of coloured glass that form transparent round "doors" with the central holes as handles. “Our design derives from the historical practice of cutting sheet glass from glass discs,’’ Sato says. “We thought that the faint swells and depressions that result from the artisanal handmade practice would gently warp the things placed on the shelves behind the glass."
Designer Oki Sato contemplates the Mirror Console and Seat designed for Glas Italia


 The Mirror Console and Seat made in tempered glass that has a cartoony two dimensional look 

The new pieces for Baccarat by Nendo that reinterprets their classic glasses for the Harcourt Ice collection
 The new wine glass with the "melting ice" effect Oki Sato wanted to create for Baccarat. "For our redesign of the company's signature Harcourt line, we wanted to highlight a new facet of the beauty of glass by creating an edge like beautifully frozen ice, then 'melting' it,” Sato explains. 
Nendo designed this table for Italian company Bisazza made of glass mosaic tiles on a metal structure

"We applied transparent mosaic tiles to the glass tabletop and while colourfulness is ordinarily the defining feature of mosaic tiles by removing this distinctive characteristic we brought out their texture, emphasising their materiality as glass," explains Oki Sato.
The new Bottleware collection designed for Coca Cola. "We were captivated by the particular green tint known as “Georgia Green” and by the fine air bubbles and distortions that are a hallmark of recycled glass," says Sato. “So we decided to create simple shapes that would enhance these traits."
"Our solution was to create bowls and dishes that retain its distinctive shape, as though the top had been sliced off," Sato says of the Bottleware collection for Coca Cola. "The dimpling on the bottle base is not ordinarily a strong visual feature, but it's a particular characteristic of glass bottles and visible to anyone who picks up the bottle to drink."

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