Two things immediately obvious regarding Mr Olbricht; he has wealth, and; he has incredibly good taste. In fact, if I had similar wealth – I already have the good taste :D – then our collections of art would complement each others quite well indeed.
On display at Mémoires du futur, was an abundance of wonderful artwork from artists like Cindy Sherman, Breughel and Durer, Hirst and the Chapman Brothers, Robert Capa, Pierre et Gilles. The range was huge, yet all carried a common theme – the macabre and morbid, the grotesque and that in ways was present throughout, and that, at times, made it difficult to view. Yet it was a somewhat morbid fascination that is not only a personal trait (I know this to be true), that made it hard to turn away. (Some notes from the exhibition PDF 1 PDF2)
Olbricht’s chosen theme was more clearly emphasised by the inclusion of the “Vanitas”. Vanitas, though it’s not new to me in concept, I did not however realise there was a specific term or artistic genre devoted specifically to this idea. Vanitas as a theme in art is most commonly associated with Dutch and Flemish painters, but we can also now find more contemporary artists experimenting with the still life that celebrates the skull displayed alongside objects of beauty or objects that signify wealth e.g rich food or bottles of fine wine. Damien Hirst made For the Love of God. An ironic suggestion that the only way to achieve wealth, is to look inside oneself? Or perhaps to quite simply die where our wealth is found through freedom of spirit. Or was he just making an object of beauty and desire, to remind us only the rich may revel in such possessions. Whenever I view it I am certainly reminded of my place.
Paintings executed in the vanitas style are meant as a reminder of the transience of life, the futility of pleasure, and the certainty of death. They also provided a moral justification for many paintings of attractive objects.
Most pleasantly I was introduced to two new inspiring women artists: Kate MccGwire (this post on HiFructose sums it up well) whose work I found unnerving and mildly discomforting, why I cannot say. The beauty of the feathers contrast against both the oversized slug-like or monstrous form and in some cases the horrid point of the quill which once pierced flesh. Some more of her work
Julie Hefferman also caught my imagination, Art Attack Online offer a good sample of her work though not really allowing it the kind of justice the full size paintings afford. Self portraits always win me over.
I was also very happy to see current work by Australian artist Patricia Piccinini who I briefly studied whilst at University late 90s. More of the grotesque, Patricia was one of the first prevalent Australian based digital artists, employing computer rendering to create odd little monsters I remember the large scale work of Sophie Lee cradling one happily like it was her baby. The billboard size print of this welcomed visitors who had just disembarked from a possible 24 hour journey to Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport. It was in the walk between the aeroplane and passport control. I found that a really odd choice for an initial representation of Australian culture. Piccinini has now moved on from the printed media and creates life like monsters instead. Disarming and alarming, I could not look for very long. Here is her website with a great summary of her work and statement Patricia Piccinini
I also enjoyed the collection of unusual curiosities; butterflies and beetles and rhinoceros horns, tortoise shells – some incredible examples of nature’s natural aesthetics.