Monday 7 August 2023

Travel: The Strange History of Ice Cream Flavours – from Brown Bread to Parmesan and Paté

Noblewomen eating ice-cream in a French caricature, (1801). Gallica


By Lindsay Middleton, University of Glasgow

English Heritage is now selling what it calls “the best thing since sliced bread” at 13 of its sites ~  brown bread ice cream, inspired by a Georgian recipe. The announcement of the flavour mentions several more outlandish Georgian flavours trialled by English Heritage before it landed on brown bread, such as Parmesan and cucumber.

English Heritage is not alone in its efforts to beguile visitors with historical treats. In Edinburgh, the National Trust for Scotland’s Gladstone’s Land features an ice cream parlour linked to the dairy which stood there in 1904. The property sells elderflower and lemon curd ice cream based on a recipe from 1770, and visitors can go on several food-themed tours.

While brown bread ice cream, praised for its caramel nuttiness, may be a more familiar flavour to contemporary eaters than other historical offerings, the iced delights eaten in Britain in previous centuries took a huge variety of flavours and forms.

Agnes Marshall, the authority on ice cream during the late 19th century, published two cookbooks specifically about “ices” (1885) and “fancy ices” (1894). They included flavours from an elaborately moulded and coloured iced spinach à la crème, to little devilled ices in cups.

Illustrations of ice cream in the shape of pineapples and doves.
Some of the different ice cream designs made by Agnes B. Marshall. Dominic Winter Auctioneers

The latter consisted of a chicken pâté spiked with curry powder and Worcestershire sauce, egg yolks and anchovies, which was then mixed with gravy, gelatine and whipped cream, before being frozen in decorative cups and served “for a luncheon or second-course dish”.

Earlier texts contain even more outlandish flavours alongside the typical, sweet offerings.

French foodie Monsieur Emy’s L’Art de Bien Faire les Glaces d’Office (1768) has recipes for truffle, saffron and various cheese-flavoured ice creams.

The history of ice cream

By the time Marshall was publishing, ice cream was far more accessible to the public than in earlier centuries. Prior to the 1800s, ice was collected from frozen waterways and stored in underground ice houses, largely restricted to large estates with the necessary land, wealth and resources.

From the 1820s, however, ice was imported to Britain from Europe and then the US and stored in ice wells and warehouses. The importation of larger stocks of ice reduced costs, while simultaneously, innovators were designing apparatus for mechanical freezing.

A black and white advert for. round turn handle ice cream maker.
An advertisement for Marshall’s patent freezer from 1885. Robin Weir

It would be a long time until ice was easily produced within the home, but cheaper ice made ice cream more readily available and implements were devised so it could be made at home. Both Emy and Marshall’s cookbooks depicting ice cream makers and Marshall’s patent freezer enlisted the same freezing technique as Emy’s Sarbotiere et son Seau (pot freezer and bucket).

Ice and salt were placed around a bucket, within which a custard or water mixture was stirred or rotated until it froze. Marshall’s innovation was the shallow pan, which gave an increased surface area for faster freezing. Equipped with such a freezer (and perhaps Marshall’s patent Ice Cave, for storing the ices), middle-class housewives could produce ice cream in their own kitchens.

Ice cream and leisure

Ice cream is well suited for engaging visitors at heritage properties today, not because of the history of how it was produced within the home but because of its holiday connotations. Whether it is a “99”, an “oyster” enjoyed at the beach, or the nearing jingle of an ice cream truck, ice cream has clear cultural and emotional links to recreation and enjoyment. This was also true in the past.

In 19th century Britain, street vendors (many of them Italian immigrants) began selling penny licks, or “hokey-pokey” from stalls or carts in the streets. In contrast to the immaculately-moulded delicacies in Marshall’s cookbook – which required the purchase of several pieces of equipment – this ice cream was to be enjoyed while out and about. It was also cheap, as implied by “penny” in the title.

Customers would purchase their ice upon a glass “lick”, eat it and then return the lick to the vendor for reuse. With growing numbers of seaside resorts and the rise of the leisure industry over the 19th century, ices were enjoyed while on holiday or daily excursions and at public events like exhibitions or fairs.

Colourful postcard showing colourised picture of children surrounding an ice cream man.
Children surround an ice cream vendor in 1909. Wiki Commons

It is the portability of ice cream, as well as its culinary appeal, that has led to its lasting place in our leisure time – a delicious treat that can be enjoyed, one-handed, as part of a larger experience. The act of eating ice cream prepared from a Georgian or Victorian recipe therefore connects today’s visitors to a long tradition of enjoying ices recreationally.

While heritage properties are unlikely to embrace the more unsanitary ways ice cream used to be eaten, serving up historical recipes gives visitors a chance to savour a new sensory layer of the past. That taste can be linked into larger histories. From ice cream, we can learn about technological developments, changing attitudes towards sanitation, global travel, the availability of ingredients throughout time, trends, fashion and leisure habits.

Delving into the history of food – from the tins in our cupboards, to a cup of tea, or an ice cream at the beach – can bring new perspective to both the past and the present.

Lindsay Middleton, Food Historian and Knowledge Exchange Associate, University of Glasgow

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

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Monday 24 July 2023

Frida & Diego: Love & Revolution is Insightful and Beautiful; a Reminder of how Anglo-American our Conception of Modern Art is

Nicolas Muray, Frida Kahlo, Bench #5, 1938. New York, USA. carbon print, 45.5 x 36cm; Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of Mexican 20th Century Art and Vergel Foundation. Copyright: Nicolas Muray Archive. Cover picture of Natasha Gelman by Diego Rivera, 1943. 


By Catherine Speck, University of Adelaide 

Frida Kahlo devotees, this is your show. There are her paintings aplenty, photographs of her by Imogen Cunningham through to Edward Weston, and film imagery of Kahlo and Rivera as the happy couple.

But there’s much more to this exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia than a Frida Kahlo love-in. The context for the exhibition, aptly titled Frida & Diego: Love & Revolution, is set in its first gallery.

There, decked out in the colours of the Mexican flag, snippets of historic film footage are on view. They set the scene for Mexico rooted in its colonial Spanish-European past, its 1910 revolution and transition to a democracy.

Unknown Artist, Frida and Diego with Fulang Chang, 1937, gelatin-silver photograph, 12.7 x 10.16 cm; Throckmorton Fine Art, New York.

The newly formed Republic of Mexico ushered in a raft of reforms in the 1920s conducive to cultural growth and valuing its indigenous cultures.

This is the backdrop to a high point in Mexican avant-garde art by Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and a host of other modern artists in this exhibition.

‘Mexicanidad’

Each gallery is a dramatic set for paintings, photographs, murals and moving images.

Architects Grieve Gillett have employed wall colour and shape to craft viewing spaces that induce a dramatic engagement with the paintings, such as Rivera’s hyper-real anthropomorphic Landscape with cacti (1931).

Installation view: Frida & Diego: Love & Revolution, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; photo: Saul Steed.

His paintings compete favourably with Kahlo’s. His scenes of the everyday include Calla Lily vendor (1943), showing two traditionally dressed young girls nursing their gigantic basket of lilies.

Diego Rivera, born Guanajuanto City, Mexico 1886, died Mexico City 1957, Calla lily vendor, 1943, Mexico City, oil on board, 150.0 x 120.0 cm; The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of 20th Century Mexican Art and the Vergel Foundation.

It is emblematic of the shift away from academic subject matter to traditional Mexican art and folk culture which creates a new sense of national identity and pride – known as “Mexicanidad”.

The cultural vibrancy of post-revolution Mexico fostered the production of modern art by artists including Guatemalan/Mexican Carlos Merida.

Carlos Merida born Guatemala City 2/12/1891 died Mexico City 21/12/1985 Variation on an old theme 1960, Mexico City oil on canvas 89.0 x 65.5 cm Private collection L/FK/1-30.

Merida’s vibrant black and bronze abstract shapes dance across the canvas in Variation on an old theme (1960).

Another is Rufino Tamayo, whose inversion of volume and playful approach to representing depth frame his oversized subject in The Diner (1938).

Rufino Tamayo born Oaxaca, Mexico 25/8/1899 died Mexico City 24/6/1991 The diner 1938, New York, New York, United States of America oil on canvas 60.3 x 45.1 cm Private collection L/FK/1-150.

These are just two of a host of fabulous modern artists on view whose work is not sufficiently known outside Mexico: a reminder of how Anglo-American our conception of modern art is.

Enigmatic self-portraits

Kahlo was an extraordinary woman. Her enigmatic self-portraits such as Self-portrait with monkeys (1943) have an undeniable ability to draw in the viewer, her introspection transferring itself to her audience.

Frida Kahlo, born Mexico City 1907, died Mexico City 1954, Self-portrait with monkeys, 1943, Coyoacan, Mexico, oil on canvas, 81.5 x 63 cm; The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of 20th Century Mexican Art and the Vergel Foundation.

She suffered polio as a child. She then had her sights set on a career in medicine when it was thwarted by a shocking bus accident, followed by long periods of rehabilitation.

As a consequence, she took to art.

This well-known story tends to frame her as an artist, and may well explain why her stunning self-portraits – always of her upper torso – convey a singular strength and determination as in Self-portrait with red and gold dress (1941).

Frida Kahlo, born Mexico City 1907, died Mexico City 1954, Self-portrait with red and gold dress, 1941, Coyoacan, Mexico, oil on canvas, 39.0 x 27.5 cm; The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of 20th Century Mexican Art and the Vergel Foundation.

She presents herself as exotic, wearing the indigenous Tehuana dress of her ancestors as both a personal and political statement, while the long skirts disguise her misshapen polio-affected legs.

Her paintings transcend her disability, so while the re-creation of her four-poster bed and bedroom within the exhibition is a homage to her determination, it is unnecessary.

The point about her disability could have been made more gently by the photographs in the space.

Juan Guzman, born Cologne, Germany 1911, died Mexico City 1982, Frida at ABC Hospital holding a mirror, Mexico, 1950, Mexico City, gelatin-silver photograph, 24.1 x 19.0 cm; Throckmorton Fine Art, New York.

Artistic vision

The exhibition is testament to the vision of two emigres, Jacques Gelman and Natasha Zahalka who settled in Mexico City.

Gelman came from Russia via Germany and France; Zahalka from Czechoslovakia via Singapore. They met and married, and from the 1940s began collecting and commissioning work from this exciting period in Mexican art.

It is their collection on view, supplanted by some photographic loan work.

Diego Rivera, born Guanajuato City, Mexico 1886, died Mexico City 1957, Portrait of Natasha Gelman, 1943, Mexico City, oil on canvas, 115.0 x 153.0 cm; The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of 20th Century Mexican Art and the Vergel Foundation.

The Gelmans come to life in the exhibition: both Kahlo and Rivera completed portraits of Natasha.

But more interesting is Gunther Gerzso’s Portrait of Jacques Gelman (1957).

This shows a diminutive patron embedded in an abstract field of shape and colour, testament to his love of the avant-garde.

Gunther Gerzso born Mexico City 17/6/1915 died Mexico City 21/4/2000 Portrait of Jacques Gelman 1957, Mexico City oil on canvas 72.0 x 60.0 cm The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of 20th Century Mexican Art and the Vergel Foundation L/FK/1-161.

An insightful exhibition

Between 1923 and 1939, the Mexican government employed artists to paint murals to foster a sense of national identity.

Two of Rivera’s murals valorising the working class are photographically reproduced across large wall spans to convey the intensity and power of his imagery.

There is a delightfully intriguing side to this exhibition in Japanese artist Yasumasa Morimura’s video Dialogue with myself (2001).

He is well known for appropriating the persona of key artists from art history such as Van Gogh, Vermeer and Manet or their signature artworks.

Here, he performs as Kahlo, dressed in her distinctive clothing, while playing the piano and conversing with her.

Perhaps, in these conversations, he is drawing out the inner self Kahlo so perfectly controls in her portraits.

Installation view: Frida & Diego: Love & Revolution, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; photo: Saul Steed.

This is an insightful exhibition, beautifully curated by Tansy Curtin who weaves around the drawcards Kahlo and Rivera to present the breadth of modern Mexican art, situating it in its political and cultural context.

The exhibition catalogue with its fold-out Rivera mural is an indispensable aid. But it is the inspired architectural design complimented by wall-sized imagery of the murals and the artists’ studio and courtyard that lifts the images in the exhibition to another level to make it a wholly immersive viewing experience.

Frida & Diego: Love & Revolution is at the Art Gallery of South Australia until September 17.The Conversation

Catherine Speck, Emerita Professor, Art History and Curatorship, University of Adelaide

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

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Sunday 16 July 2023

Computer-Written Scripts and Deepfake Actors: What’s at the Heart of the Hollywood Strikes Against Generative AI

AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

By Jasmin Pfefferkorn, The University of Melbourne

For the first time in 60 years, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) are simultaneously facing off against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

The key points of contention? Working conditions, adequate pay, and the increasing encroachment of artificial intelligence (AI) into their professions.

The use of AI in the film and television industry isn’t new. Many common post-production techniques use AI technology in special effects, colour grading, animation and video editing.

Not only was the Lord of the Rings trilogy a defining moment of the early 2000s, it also illuminated how AI could be used in film production. The Battle of Helm’s Deep features computer-generated AI armies to create one of the most memorable scenes in cinematic history.

But in the current strike, the specific concern is a subset of AI known as generative AI. It is crucial that an equilibrium is reached between protections for creative professionals, and the application of generative AI as a useful tool.

Remind me, what is generative AI?

Like all AI, a generative AI model is fed existing data (content), using algorithms to process this data, identify patterns and produce outputs – such as an image or a piece of writing. What is significant about generative AI is the capacity to undertake the so-called “learning” process relatively autonomously and to generate original content.

Many of us are most familiar with generative AI as the technical process that gives us increasingly sophisticated deepfakes.

The now infamous image of Pope Francis wearing an oversized puffer jacket? Courtesy of a 31-year-old construction worker using the AI image generator Midjourney.

Generative AI has taken off in the mainstream through companies such as Midjourney, Stable Diffusion, Meta and OpenAI. The latter is now infamous for its large image model Dall-E and large language model ChatGPT.

So what is happening in Hollywood?

Hollywood workers have valid reason for their unease. The fear is AI will not only be used for supporting technical jobs such as colour grading or adding characters in the far background, but it will also replace creative jobs.

For both the WGA and SAG, there is also a legitimate worry that entry level jobs (such as writers’ assistants and background extras on sets) will be largely replaced by AI.

This would significantly reduce opportunities for people entering the workforce to gain necessary expertise in their craft.

With the staggering improvements in each ChatGPT iteration, screenwriters have also been grappling with the possibility they will be sharing creative control over scripts with large language models.

Questions arise around how these works would be attributed, who or what would be given credit, and consequently how payment would be allocated.

These unions aren’t entirely against the use of AI. The WGA has proposed a model for human-AI collaboration where generative AI could produce early versions of a script which human screenwriters will then refine. But many experts and industry professionals see this proposal as alienating writers from the creative process, repositioning writers as copy editors.

One of the most dystopian scenarios to be put on the table by big studios has been termed “performance cloning”. This involves paying background actors a one-off fee to scan their likeness. This likeness can then be owned and used by companies in perpetuity.

While creating a regressive payment model, it also raises issues of consent: what happens if your AI body double is used in a way you would never agree to?

It’s also a question of copyright

With generative AI, consent is closely bound together with issues of copyright.

Comedian Sarah Silverman is currently suing OpenAI and Meta for copyright infringement. She alleges their AI models were trained on her work without her consent, and were consequently able to roughly reproduce her comedy style.

That her oeuvre is part of the machine learning dataset is unsurprising. This dataset encompasses billions of data points – essentially all that has made its way onto the internet.

Though generative AI is said to produce original content, a better way to view this content is as a remix. These models regurgitate what they have been trained on.

If they become foundational to the film and television industry, the originality of our cultural products is up for debate.

Streaming services have already primed audiences in the algorithmic curation of taste. Generative AI extends this existing trajectory. If studios become overly reliant on these technologies, chances are the “new” content offered to us will only echo what has come before. It may even move us further away from equality in representation, with the bias of these AI models well-documented.

We need collaboration without exploitation

As workers fight for industry regulation to ban the replacement of humans by AI, it is important to reiterate this is not a call to ban the technology outright. Generative AI has already been used in valuable and compelling ways in film.

An early example is David France’s 2020 documentary Welcome to Chechnya, which explores the persecution of LGBTQ+ people in Russia. France did extensive post-production work using AI, producing synthetic voices and superimposed faces to protect his subjects’ anonymity while retaining their humanity.

The question at the heart of copyright – how we balance protecting the rights of creatives with the openness needed for cultural production – resurfaces in this context. We need regulatory measures that enable creative collaboration with generative AI while ensuring creative workers are not exploited to further centralised power.

In June, the Directors Guild of America won protection against being replaced by AI tools in a new labour contract with producers. The hope is that protections will be extended to screenwriters and actors.

Otherwise, in Hollywood, AI might just steal the show. The Conversation

Jasmin Pfefferkorn, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Culture and Communication, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

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Tuesday 11 July 2023

In Greta Gerwig’s Barbie Land, the Matriarchy can be just as bad as the Patriarchy

Getty Images
Katie Pickles, University of Canterbury

Spoiler alert: this review contains plot details of the film.


At last – after the hype and advance mass-merchandising – the Barbie movie is here. Part spoof, part action fantasy, part Barbie doll virtual museum, it’s a full-blown product placement experience – but ironic as much as iconic.

The movie sets off feeling like a post-pandemic party. It’s an opportunity to be frivolous after a time of adversity, and to reclaim the pink of life – especially, perhaps, for fun-starved Gen Z. Given Barbie first appeared in 1959 as a baby boomer’s plastic mini-mannequin, dress-up fashion doll, that’s real inter-generational reach.

But to early critics, the doll evoked the mass production of white, American tween culture. To feminists seeking women’s liberation, Barbie symbolised a culture that objectified women, treating them quite literally as living dolls.

All this is captured in the first part of the film, where “Stereotypical Barbie” and “Just Beach Ken” are brilliantly brought to life by Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling. The film playfully toys with the long history of Barbie debates, subtly feeding into the backstory.

Just as impressively, no expense has been spared on set and accessory design. Watching the actors breathe, think, move and play like dolls is hilarious and spooky.

Ruth Handler, co-founder of Mattel and creator of the Barbie doll, on her creation’s 40th birthday in 1999. Getty Images

Of course, real people playing dolls might suggest those feminist fears have been realised. Except for the fact that Barbie Land in this film is an empowering matriarchy, full of dreams coming true, and where the dolls are leading perfect lives of substance.

Unlike real-world America, there is a woman president. Equity, diversity and the acceptance of all body types are on display. All of which support Barbie manufacturer Mattel’s claim to create the dolls as “role models” for women’s advancement in a changing world.

And then the aspirational matriarchy starts to malfunction. Stereotypical Barbie develops bad breath, flat feet, cellulite and a fear of death. A leak in the portal to the Real World means dark and crazy drawings by that Barbie’s owner are having a voodoo effect. She must travel there to sort things out.

‘I am Kennough’

The movie turns dark, with tag-along Ken discovering patriarchy in the Real World and taking it back to Barbie Land. With Ken largely invisible in the film’s merchandising and girls-night-out launches, we’ve been set up for the surprising plot twist.

Gosling proceeds to own the screen and make this the Ken Movie. He rejects being “just Ken” and instead acts, dances, prowls and flexes to steal the show. (He calms down later, accepting that Barbie does not want to be his girlfriend.)

An appendage no more, it is Ken, not Barbie, who whines about blonde fragility and every night being a girls’ night, and who now sings of seeking to push women around and take them for granted.

This is where the movie is at its most profound. Ken, not Barbie, is the victim of sexism. As Barbie has flourished, Ken has been left behind. Kens are the objectified, excluded second sex.

There are echoes here of the American feminist Susan Faludi’s writings. In the early 1990s, she saw feminism as being defined in a sign hoisted by a little girl at the 1970 Women’s Strike for Equality march: I AM NOT A BARBIE DOLL.

By the end of that decade she described the betrayal of the American man, and a crisis of masculinity. Emasculated men, she wrote, were left behind in the wake of women’s progress. But as the inhabitants of Barbie Land discover in the film, matriarchy can be just as damaging as patriarchy. Better to mix pink and blue to make purple instead of them competing.

Irony at every turn: Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie at the European premiere of Barbie in London. Getty Images

Rejects save the day

Writer-director Greta Gerwig and her collaborator (and husband) Noah Baumbach feed the dichotomy of being “for” or “against” Barbie. But they ultimately render that debate history.

Enter Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon) and Alan (Michael Cera), outcasts and rejects of Barbie Land, who want “nobody in the shadows”. These are the real heroes who save the day, deprogramming the brainwashed Barbies. It is one more layer of irony in a film about a doll once accused of brainwashing girls.

Indeed, when Barbie cries at one point about being ugly, providing irony within irony, narrator Helen Mirren steps in to suggest that Margot Robbie was probably not the right actress to cast to make that point.

By the end of the film, Barbie has become real and ordinary. Replete with genitalia, she liberates herself from her plastic-fantastic dream world – without Ken – to live in the unruly real world. In a full circle, the doll becomes human.

So, must women’s empowerment come at men’s expense? The historian of patriarchy Gerda Lerner once addressed this very question. She said the idea was an outmoded construct that

no longer serves the needs of men or women and in its inextricable linkage to militarism, hierarchy, and racism it threatens the very existence of life on earth.

As in the finale of Gerwig’s film, Lerner’s feminist vision was for everybody to stand in the sunshine. In a world emerging from COVID and grappling with the general grimness of war and climate change, Gerwig’s Barbie is both an exuberant opiate and a comment on the state of global feminism.

Perhaps most ironically, however, it may signal market saturation for Barbie. Surely this must be her peak moment, a massive last hurrah, after which the doll and all she has represented for over 60 years recede into history. Then again, Hollywood loves a sequel.The Conversation

Katie Pickles, Professor of History, University of Canterbury

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

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Sunday 9 July 2023

Pierre Bonnard: the master of shimmering luminosity, who painted difficult paintings and yet made them lucid and accessible

Pierre Bonnard 1867-1947 The Dining Room in the Country, 1913. Oil on canvas. 164.5 x 205.7cm Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the John R. Van Derlip Fund. Photograph: Minneapolis Institute of the Arts

By Sasha Grishin, Australian National University

Pierre Bonnard, unlike his older contemporary, Paul Gauguin, never visited Australia, yet Bonnard’s influence on Australian art is pervasive and profound.

This unusual and magnificent exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria allows us to see Bonnard like never before.

In part, this is due to the exceptional depth in the selection of the more than 100 works by Bonnard for this exhibition, largely drawn on the extensive collection held by Paris’s Musée d’Orsay.

Also, in part, by a stroke of genius in commissioning the celebrated Paris-based architect and designer India Mahdavi to create the exhibition’s scenography.

The exhibition is like a creative collaboration between the artist and the designer. Architectural props, painted walls, special carpets and furnishings all combine to create an intimate environment, setting the mood to be captivated by the magic of Bonnard’s colour.

A solitary path

Like his contemporary, the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky, Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) initially studied law. After graduating, he abandoned it to pursue a career as an artist.

Also like Kandinsky, he lived and worked in the centre of the art world of his day. He was associated with many of the key artists, and yet, in the final analysis, Bonnard – like Kandinsky – was essentially a loner who traced for himself a solitary path.

Pierre Bonnard ,Paris, Rue de Parme on Bastille Day, 1890. Oil on canvas, 79.2 x 40.3 cm. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon. Photo: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

In the final decade of the 19th century, Bonnard together with several other young Paris-based artists, including Edouard Vuillard, Maurice Denis and the sculptor Aristide Maillol, formed an artistic brotherhood on similar lines to that of the Nazarenes and the Pre-Raphaelites.

They called themselves “The Nabis” (a Hebrew and Arabic word meaning “prophets”) and essentially adopted Gauguin’s aesthetic stance of Synthetism.

The basic argument of Synthetism was that the art object an artist produced was a synthesis of the artist’s own vision, training, the medium involved, as well as the stimulus of the scene or object depicted.

In other words, it was a theory which gave the creative person greater artistic licence in interpreting a scene or composition in a work of art, rather than merely transcribing it.

Pierre Bonnard, Twilight, or The croquet game, 1892. Oil on canvas, 130.0 × 162.2 cm. Musée d’Orsay, Paris Gift of Daniel Wildenstein through the Society of Friends of the Musée d'Orsay, 1985. Photo © RMN - Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski.

Early Bonnard Nabis masterworks include Twilight, or The croquet game (1892), and Paris, Rue de Parme on Bastille Day (1890). These revel in the qualities of the flattened picture plane, the unexpected viewpoints and the strong ornamental properties.

Siesta (1900), a great painting from the NGV’s own collection, has Bonnard moving towards a lighter and more luminous palette with adventurous spatial constructions.

Ostensibly, it is simply a painting of the model shown within the intimate space of the artist’s studio.

Pierre Bonnard French 1867-1947 Siesta (La Sieste) 1900 oil on canvas 109.0 × 132.0 cm National Gallery of Victoria Felton Bequest, 1949.

However, as you enter the picture space, you realise the figure is being presented from a high angle. You literally peer into the space where the mass of crumpled sheets and soft sensuous flesh meet the richly patterned wallpaper and carpet that seem to envelop and surround them.

Although the figure in her pose may allude to a well-known statue from classical antiquity, the rendition is thoroughly modern. The bedside table thrusts diagonally towards the figure and opens the work to a whole host of Freudian interpretations.

While Bonnard here may well be drawing on artistic sources as diverse as Manet, Matisse and Cézanne, the painting itself is a wonderfully resolved and unified artistic statement – a triumph of visual intelligence.

It is displayed together with the photographs Bonnard took of his model that may have served as source material for the artist.

Bonnard was inspired by photography and the unexpected angles and the cropping of images and implemented these strategies in his art.

The window

The window (1925) is a beautiful and lyrical painting executed by Bonnard while staying with a woman called Marthe in a rented holiday villa at Le Cannet, near Cannes, in the south of France.

Looking out of the window, we see the red roofs of the little town of Le Cannet and beyond that sweeping Cézannesque hills.

Pierre Bonnard, The window, 1925. Oil on canvas, 108.6 × 88.6 cm. Tate, London. Presented by Lord Ivor Spencer Churchill through the Contemporary Art Society, 1930. Photo © Tate.

Although his chief preoccupation appears to have been with the attempt to balance the tonal values of his palette and to create the compositional structure through colour, the artist also seems intent on loading the work with a private iconography.

In the foreground on the table lies a book and a sheet of paper with writing implements. On the balcony, in a central position, appears the head of Marthe, shown in profile reading.

The book is clearly identified by an inscription on its cover as the novel Marie by Peter Nansen that Bonnard illustrated.

If one adds together the visual clues, one possible interpretation is Marie was Marthe’s real name and in the year the painting was painted, 1925, Bonnard finally married Marthe. One could speculate that the piece of paper alludes to a marriage certificate.

The master of shimmering luminosity

Ultimately, Bonnard was the master of shimmering luminosity who painted very clever and difficult paintings and yet made them appear lucid and accessible. The open window, the doorway and particularly a mirror were his favourite ploys to give space an ambiguous but convincing formal structure.

His painted surfaces have a textural presence with choppy, visible brushstrokes.

Unlike the Impressionists who followed the reliable path of contrasting complementary colours to make them visually vibrate, Bonnard would set himself impossible tasks such as juxtaposing pink and orange or lemon yellow and olive green.

Pierre Bonnard, The studio with mimosa, 1939-46. Oil on canvas, 127.5 × 127.5 cm. Centre Pompidou, Paris, Musée national d’art moderne - Centre de création industrielle. Purchased from Charles Terrasse, 1979. Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM - CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Bertrand Prévost.

He then would cast his central figures against the light and would work on a solution until each tone appears alive, shimmering and vibrating.

In the context of Australian art, scores of artists responded to his work – Emanuel Phillips Fox, Ethel Carrick, John Brack, Fred Williams, Jon Molvig, Brett Whiteley and William Robinson among them.

While I have viewed many Bonnard exhibitions in Australia and abroad, this is the most moving and subtle display that I have encountered. I left the show spiritually refreshed and with tears in my eyes.

Pierre Bonnard: Designed by India Mahdavi is at the National Gallery of Victoria International until October 8, 2023.

Sasha Grishin, Adjunct Professor of Art History, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

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Saturday 8 July 2023

Paris Fashion Feature: Design and Destiny in Yuima Nakazato's AW 2923-24 Haute Couture Collection

Feathery creations made from fabric, with no wastage, and hand-made ceramic jewellery designed by Yuima Nakazato and shown in Paris. Cover picture and main photograph above by Elli Ioannou. 

The fusion of futuristic technology and craftsmanship is at the heart of Yuima Nakazato's groundbreaking new haute couture collection. Drawing inspiration from his transformative journey through Kenya last year, the designer was profoundly moved by the sight of mountains of garbage, starkly juxtaposed against the raw beauty of the African landscape. Reporting by Antonio Visconti. Story by Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Photography by Elli Ioannou, Andrea Heinsohn, Patrick Marion and Anna Nguyen

Called Magma, Yuima Nakazato's 
atmospheric haute couture show. 
Photograph: Andrea Heinsohn

Yuima Nakazato's new collection is another creative exploration of his experiences in Kenya, highlighting the urgent need for environmental consciousness and reimagining fashion's role in contributing to a better future. 

The epiphany the Japanese designer had in Africa about the scale of textile waste was examined, through a different lense, in last season's collection too. 

Nakazato is challenging traditional notions of producing fashion and encouraging conservation and social change. The designer's 14th collection was presented in Paris at the Palais de Tokyo with an atmospheric show in a darkened space with suggestive hovering black "clouds" and a brilliant, red-lit floor covered in Nakazato's print of the piles of abstracted garbage that looked like a fiery landscape. 

The first few minutes of the show were silent, except for the evocative clinking of the designer's hand-made, ceramic jewellery, worn like elegant sashes slung across one shoulder, and falling to the waist. A mesmerizing soundtrack was introduced that added to the sombre yet beautiful presentation. 

Nakazato is challenging traditional notions of producing fashion, highlighting the urgent need for conservation and social change

The clinking, red ceramic jewellery 
made by the designer. 
Photograph: Anna Nguyen
Inspired by ornaments worn by African tribes, the jewellery is made of thousands of ceramic pieces, each hand made by Yuima Nakazato in his atelier. These were then crocheted together with bright-red twine to form what the designer calls "acoustic ceramic dresses," creating the ethereal sound at the beginning of the Paris presentation. 

The red ceramic pieces made a striking contrast to the silky, black designs created by the designer's revolutionary Type-1 construction, where the garments are riveted together rather than sewn with a needle and thread. These fluid, draped pieces were like wearable staples amid the more dramatic, conceptual designs.  

Larger, jewellery pieces like abstracted exoskeletons and oyster shells were worn with long, dark capes and tunics, making a strong visual statement. 

Ankle-length skirts, dustcoats and the suspended ceramic pieces, some like lilies curling around the neck, kept to the tripartite palette: black, red and white. Diaphanous prints in black and white provided a lighter and airier note to the tenebrous ambiance. 

A crinkled, strapless gown, the colour of parched earth, and a ruched jacket in the form of a Renaissance doublet, were made with a textile that had a three-dimensional affect. Brilliant red prints made by Nakazato of conceptual images of garbage were on flowing robes and highlighted against black. Some were like tribal robes or flung over the shoulder, like contemporary urban warriors walking across the desert. 

Inspired by ornaments worn by African tribes, the jewellery is made of thousands of ceramic pieces, each hand-made by Yuima Nakazato in his atelier

The voluminous yet airy and light concoction
in faux feathers. Photograph: Patrick Marion
A feathery, voluminous concoction in white with a large, sculptural neckpiece added an otherworldly note of drama along with the sparkling eyeshadow drawn across the forehead. 

Shimmering in deep reds, another striking design with faux feathers above a ruched skirt was like an exotic bird. with sparkling red across the brow.

Leaving no wastage of material, the feather like pieces of fabric were cut out with no material remaining from the roll.  

As a counterpoint to the distinctive red and black looks were romantic gowns with rippling fabric gathered and cinched at the waist by large, ceramic sculptural buckles and with attenuated reds becoming white, on long skirts. 

Looking like a young chieftain, a model with a bare chest except for a totemic necklace and diaphanous feathered cape in red with a white stripe, made another connection with the African landscape.

A feathery, voluminous concoction in white with a large. sculptural neckpiece added an otherworldly note of drama 

The 3D textile created using brewed 
protein fabric and digital printing. 
Photograph: Anna Nguyen 
The flower-like confection of look 29 was created using Yuima Nakazato's "brewed protein" fabric made by Japan's Spiber Inc, that he has experimented with in other collections, and which shrinks when in contact with water. 

An extraordinary three-dimensional textile is created from a rectangular piece of fabric by controlling the shrinkage with digital printing technology. 
 
As noted by the designer, his travels in Kenya, did affect his creative vision over the past two haute couture seasons. The scale of the waste he encountered left an indelible mark on his consciousness, including the hellish images of fires amid plastic trash and noxious odors. 

It was like a bleak portrayal of the end of the world, leaving the designer with a desire to not only evoke change but feeling compelled to find a way to reimagine the landscape's ugliness and transform it into something meaningful with this new collection. 
 
"The shocking experiences I had during my 2022 visit to Kenya still remain vivid in my mind to this day" he explains. "Among the many memories I have of that time, the mountains of garbage I saw are particularly hard to forget. The spontaneous flames, the reeking odors, the garish colors of the plastic trash ~ it seemed like the end of the world, and it left my head spinning." 

"The shocking experiences I had during my 2022 visit to Kenya still remain vivid in my mind to this day."

The "awful scenery" which Nakazato transformed
into an abstract landscapte for this fiery red print.
Photograph: Andrea Heinsohn
His memories of the experience are deeply ingrained, particularly the haunting images of piles of textile waste which have informed both this collection and last season. 

The new work has subsumed more of his intital shock and he has approached the theme this time in a more philosophical way. 

"I saw a piece by Hokusai commonly known as "Aka-Fuji" at an art gallery," the designers says. "This scene of Fuji recalled to mind thoughts of the magma sleeping within the mountain, and somehow made me aware not only of its beauty, but also of the spooky nature of the landscape as well. 

"Using a photo, I had taken while in Kenya, I graded it all in red and printed it out on a piece of fabric. Suddenly, the awful scenery became abstract, and the mounds of manmade garbage somehow turned into something almost like a landscape. At that moment, I realized that it was possible to reconsider the essential meaning of a thing, thereby endowing it with a new meaning and an entirely different value. " 

"The spontaneous flames, the reeking odors, the garish colors of the plastic trash ~ it seemed like the end of the world, and it left my head spinning." 

Cinched at the waist by sculptural, ceramic
belt buckles, this diaphanous gown has 
a delicate attentuation of red to white.
Photograph: Elli Ioannou
Choosing the color red as a symbol of transformation, Nakazato employs it to express his conviction that there is a path to changing the future. He redefines red as a catalyst for positive change and a call to action. 

"Red usually represents warning or crises," he says. "However, rather than viewing it as an alert to the environmental issues facing us today, I've chosen to put my belief in the color and use it to express my conviction that there is a way for us to change the future." 

Central to the creation of the Magma collection was the recycling of 150kg of used clothing brought back from Africa that he was also able to use in his previous collection. 

The challenge of recycling clothes without proper labels, so the origin and type of material remain unknown, was overcome with Seiko Epson's dry fibre technology. 

Nakazato describes the process as "rescuing clothes that had nowhere else to go," and transforming them into new textiles for the creation of innovative garments. 

With this collection, Nakazato defies conventional fashion norms and empowers the industry to embrace sustainability and social responsibility. By repurposing used clothing, utilizing cutting-edge technologies, and drawing inspiration from nature and cultural heritage.

"I've chosen to put my belief in the color and use it to express my conviction that there is a way for us to change the future." 

The haute couture presentation at the Palais de 
Tokyo in Paris, was enveloping and atmospheric.
Photograph: Patrick Marion
Nakazato challenges the fashion world to adopt a new perspective ~ one that prioritizes the creation of an improved environment through the way garments are designed and produced.

Seiko Epson's digital textile printing technology also played an important role in translating Nakazato's impressions of Africa onto fabric. 

The photographs taken amidst the mountains of garbage became the foundation for installations at the shows, symbolizing Earth's destruction caused by humanity's hand. This expression of devastation serves as a reminder of the urgent need to address these issues. 

To infuse the collection with a sense of authenticity, Nakazato's team ground stones from East Africa's largest desert into nano-size natural pigments. These pigments were then used to dye the synthetic brewed protein materials developed by Spiber Inc, resulting inresonant earthy hues woven into the fabrics. 

Nakazato challenges the fashion world to adopt a new perspective, the creation of an improved environment through the way garments are designed and produced

Designer Yuima Nakazato takes his bow 
at the end of his show in Paris.
Photograph; Anna Nguyen
Like last season, Nakazato drew inspiration from the traditional costumes of tribespeople in Northern Kenya, incorporating their wrapping techniques and reinterpreting fashion's approach to size and gender. 

His latest collection exemplifies the designer's commitment to addressing social issues and driving change through fashion. By transforming used clothing into new textiles, utilizing cutting-edge research, and incorporating elements inspired by Africa's landscapes and tribal history, Nakazato presents a vision of a more hopeful fate for humanity and the planet.

Through his thought-provoking designs and experiments with producing new textiles, Nakazato asks the industry to reevaluate its practices and embrace the power of fashion as a catalyst for  change. 

Highlights of Yuima Nakazato's Haute Couture AW 2023-24 Collection 
Yuima Nakazato Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2023-24, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Photograph: Andrea Heinsohn


Yuima Nakazato Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2023-24, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Photograph: Elli Ioannou
Yuima Nakazato Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2023-24, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Photograph: Elli Ioannou

Yuima Nakazato Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2023-24, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Photograph: Elli Ioannou 

Yuima Nakazato Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2023-24, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Photograph: Elli Ioannou

Yuima Nakazato Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2023-24, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Photograph: Andrea Heinsohn

Yuima Nakazato Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2023-24, Palais De Tokyo, Paris. Photograph: Elli Ioannou


Backstage Yuima Nakazato Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2023-24, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Photograph: Elli Ioannou
Backstage, detail of the hand-made ceramic jewellery, Yuima Nakazato Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2023-24, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Photograph: Elli Ioannou

Backstage Yuima Nakazato Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2023-24, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Photograph: Elli Ioannou
Yuima Nakazato Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2023-24, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Photograph: Anna Nguyen

Yuima Nakazato Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2023-24, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Photograph: Anna Nguyen


Yuima Nakazato Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2023-24, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Photograph: Andrea Heinsohn

Yuima Nakazato Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2023-24, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Photograph: Patrick Marion


Yuima Nakazato Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2023-24, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Photograph: Elli Ioannou

Yuima Nakazato Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2023-24, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Photograph: Anna Nguyen

Yuima Nakazato Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2023-24, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Photograph: Patrick Marion

Yuima Nakazato Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2023-24, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Photograph: Elli Ioannou


Detail Yuima Nakazato Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2023-24, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Photograph: Anna Nguyen

Yuima Nakazato Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2023-24, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Photograph: Anna Nguyen
Yuima Nakazato Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2023-24, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Photograph: Andrea Heinsohn
Yuima Nakazato Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2023-24, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Photograph: Anna Nguyen

Yuima Nakazato Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2023-24, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Photograph: Patrick Marion

Yuima Nakazato Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2023-24, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Photograph: Andrea Heinsohn

Yuima Nakazato Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2023-24, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Photograph: Anna Nguyen

Yuima Nakazato Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2023-24. Palais de Tokyo, Paris, Photograph; Patrick Marion

Yuima Nakazato Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2023-24, Palais de Torkyo, Paris. Photograph: Anna Nguyen

Yuima Nakazato Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2023-24, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Photograph: Andrea Heinsohn.


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