As artists, artisans, creatives and makers we all form part of the visual culture community and as such it is always a joy to see and be inspired by the work of others past and present.
One commendable opportunity offered by the Internet is the ability to share our finds and photos of inspirational art particularly the unnamed work of past artisans. Sharing our appreciation gently reverberates across the net as pleasantly, every now and then somebody pops up and leaves some much appreciated positive feedback for my own work.
Just recently I have received a couple of delightful mentions one by Sheri 42 from the blogging world
and one by ‘Suffolk Artists’ on Instagram. And, so I thought I would blog a ‘thank you’ post for both mentions and share the love as they say.
Last November I was visiting Milan and had the opportunity to go to the opera at La Scala to see a semi-staged version of ‘Porgy and Bess’. It was intense and moving and very dramatic. The next morning I went back to La Scala to visit their museum to see their temporary exhibition featuring costumes from previous productions of Puccini’s ‘Madama Butterfly’.
The première of ‘Madama Butterfly’ took place at La Scala 1904. The above sketch and the poster (below) comes from this production with costumes by Giuseppe Palanti (1881-1946). The drawings for his designs were on display showing an interesting interpretation of a Japanese aesthetic as seen through the eyes of a late-nineteenth-century Western artist.
An 1890 photograph of a Japanese lady having her hair dressed.
Poster for the 1904 Madama Butterfly Première by Leopoldo-Metlicovitz
Naturally, costume designs for a staged performance are always going to be larger than life and to be visually effective they have to work for the front row to those in the gods. There was plenty of colour from the costume designer Luigi Sapelli (aka Caramba, 1865-1936) in La Scala’s 1925 production for those seated at the back to appreciate.
Fast forward to 1951 and La Scala invites the Japanese artist, Foujita (1886-1968 ) to work with them on their latest Madama Butterfly production. Interestingly, his costumes were more muted with stylised motifs. Foujita was born in Tokyo and studied both in Japan and Paris. He lived most of his life in Paris becoming a French citizen in 1955. I can’t help but feel that maybe he was very well placed to create a ‘fusion’ collection of costumes for the opera.
By the time we see the costumes for the 1985 production, there is a change in sensibility resulting in a more contemporary less overtly historical look.
Hanae Mori’s full sketch with fabric samples.
Yasuko Hayashi sings Cio-Cio-San in La Scala’s 1985 production of Madama Butterfly.
This is hardly surprising as the famous Japanese fashion designer, Hanae Mori (born 1926) created the costumes. I think her work gives us a more subtle interpretation with a nod to the historical. Indeed, one costume features a traditional Ukiyo-e image adding interest to a dramatic black costume.
Grayson Perry delivered his fourth and final Reith Lecture this morning, I Found Myself in the Art World and it was another fine entertaining, but this time more poignant reflection on the nature of being an artist in the Contemporary Art World. During the course of the lecture he drew our attention again to the playful creativity of children and how an artist strives to nurture yet protect that core of their psyche where serious play generates art.
Grayson Perry continued that artists’ works often express some difficulties they have had in their lives. He suggested that the creative process allows them to work through significant transformational events in the act of producing their art. A process that is recognised by some artists as they overtly use these events. However, other artists are psychologically unaware of these experiences, but still nevertheless they are the engine of their artistic production. He continued that this need to express oneself was not confined to the professional artist, but was evident in ‘outsider art’ such as that of the Chicago janitor, Henry Darger, and Prehistoric Art such as the cave paintings of early humans.
Perhaps, we should also include amateur art in this discussion as although certainly not an asset class, for the artist the work is a valuable vehicle for creative expression and its production is often of psychological benefit.
As with the other lectures in this series an interesting little titbit came out during the final Q&A. A Central St Martin’s student asked about career prospects for a young artist and Grayson replied that it was always good to have a plan B. When quizzed about his own plan B, Grayson said he thought that he would have gone into advertising on the visual design side. As I was listening I thought how interesting and what a coincidence as today, 5 November, is the birthday of Raymond Loewy.
Raymond Loewy Designer’s branding Artist’s signature?
Loewy porcelain designs for Rosenthal. 1950s
Loewy porcelain designs for Rosenthal. 1950s
Grayson Perry had quoted Loewy, a great industrial designer and graphic artist, in his third lecture when contemplating the challenge of the avant-garde. He had mentioned the Loewy principle, MAYA, “most advanced yet acceptable” when discussing a new artist’s offering to the art world and in a way this reflects Grayson’s own challenge to the art world when he made POTS.
22 November 2013 -ADDITIONAL INTERESTING COMMENTARY regarding the impact of Grayson Perry and his art from the Historian Prof. Lisa Jardine