Tiny Furniture: Art Imitating Art

Lena Dunham is all about these days.

There is Girls which she writes, directs and acts in. She likely does other things in it too.

By way of familiarising myself with her and some back-story I watched a 2010 film she also wrote, directed and acted in, Tiny Furniture.

Like Girls it is documenting her life as lived. In this case as lived in 2010 in New York, just come out of a relationship of three years, recently graduated college and wanting to be an artist and needing jobs in the meantime to support that. Familiar enough tropes right? Okay I just wanted to write tropes in a blog post and promise not to do it again!

She is also living with her sister and mother whilst doing that.

And her sister is a poet. And her mother an artist photographer.

But her sister really is her sister, Grace Dunham. And Grace Dunham really is a poet.

And their mother really is their mother, Laurie Simmons. And Laurie Simmons really is an artist photographer.

And the film is so named Tiny Furniture because the mum photographs tiny furniture. And she does so in real life.

The family parallels do end there though. Her husband, their father, is the artist Carroll Dunham and he is not featured in the film. Or if he is I did not see him, though I would not know him if I did see him! Hmmm. Anyway.

Here are some of Laurie Simmons’ photographs of tiny furniture.

Laurie Simmons Long House

Long House (Downstairs Kitchen) 2004

TV Room Laurie Simmons

Long House (TV Room), 2004

Red Bathroom Laurie Simmons

Long House (Red Bathroom/ Blue Figure), 2004

About these ads

Everything in moderation?

Bottles 2All things must pass.

Do you have such a gathering in your kitchen corners? Or elsewhere in your home?

Most of these bottles are topless emptied over many many months let me assure you (!) but who can throw them away? Not I.

Not a hoarder am I either but the bottles won’t let me let them go. A strange allure – their shape, their glass shells, their appearance-of-exotic labels

Their basic utility to store, a job well done, yet this is not enough for them, they want to stick around.

A story to tell?…

The same story again and again?

And which one empty bottle won’t do…

A Sculpture

Foundry Statue Morrisons CloseThis above sculpture may or may not be particularly noteworthy to you.

But the location may be. It is for me. For it is situated on a traffic roundabout, and not even a particularly busy traffic roundabout rather one that is mostly passed by shoppers on their way to and from a grocery supermarket, or to get their vehicles filled up with petrol or diesel, or even washed.

Sculpture MorrisonsOn the other hand perhaps it is a good way of this sculpture getting attention to itself as likely most shoppers are creatures of habit and will be passing by this roundabout and thus sculpture on a regular and frequent basis. At some point their curiosity must get the better of them, even the most resolutely art-unimpressed of them, to wander over from their parked vehicles and take a look at it? Certainly this was the case with me.

I thought it fitting to take round about pictures of this roundabout sculpture! Here’s another one.

Morrison's Supermarket Sculpture I took these photos on 12.12.12 but I am making no significance of that – am not going to tag this post so and attract ‘those types’ to my blog! – but you can see it was a frosty winter-day and it gave an added other-worldly dimension to the setting I felt.

At first I tried to get pictures without traffic but traffic proved to be quite persistent in that regard – who would have thought in the middle of the day outside a supermarket carpark! – and in the end relented thinking the pictures are more realistic with the presence of a constant stream of traffic. Though perhaps the presence of a strange man at that time of the day taking photographs of said sculpture triggered their interest and attention much more than the sculpture would have otherwise done!

Sculpture Morrisons Car WashI did not just want to photograph and share it with you though, I wanted to find out more details about it and its creator/s hopefully by way of a plaque – but as I closed up on it there was  no plaque to be discovered – a sculpture with no name and no sculptor giving their name to it, this only piqued my interest more.

Morrisons Sculpture Close Up

I could see that it was representing a foundry with an industrial type bucket pouring molten steel – its usual industrial process diverted from railway switches and crossings instead suspended in time and motion. So perhaps this was the site of a previous industry on this now retail space?

I say retail space as the plan is to extend into a retail park – currently though it is just that supermarket and a drive-by fast food chain (Okay McDonalds, which aside I learn is the third busiest branch in the UK – we are but a smallish town of thirty or so thousand so what does that say about our health!) but there is an area of land nearby fenced off with hoarding waiting for new tenants and it is named the Foundry Retail Park.

This would be my next move to check out their business site and see if they had any further details as to this work.

What I should add is that this supermarket – admire how I am steadfastly not naming it remaining commercially pure despite it being quite clear from the photographs to any of you familiar with it or indeed not familiar with it seeing as the name appears in a few of the photos! – only opened last year, 2011, and the sculpture followed shortly after.

The developers of this land are known as Carillon-Richardson (two separate companies in a business marriage) but the details they provide are sketchy – literally! – including plans and work-in-progress photos of the supermarket build but which then terminate unfinished in July 2011.

Carillon Richardson Bathgate Development Aerial Shot

I then discovered a website for a graphic design consultancy To The Point who are responsible for the branding for this retail park and in a blog post of September 27 they detail that the site is indeed built upon the site of an old foundry – Balbardie Steel Foundry.

This foundry having many owners the latter being  Balfour Beatty and was closed in 2009 according to the website of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland which includes 72 digital images of the site including this!

RCAHMS digital photography View of sculpture alongside public path of line of dismantled railway with back view of foundry buildings from south. DP053459 Copyright RCAHMS

RCAHMS digital photography View of sculpture alongside public path of line of dismantled railway with back view of foundry buildings from south. DP053459 Copyright RCAHMS

The sculpture had a previous life, but was this life its first life?

And still no details of its provenance. By the way if you like photographs of derelict industrial spaces (as I do!) then there are many colour and black-and-white photographs to feast yourselves upon in this collection including another of this sculpture but that is just it, it keeps being referred to generically as a ‘sculpture’.

I did discover that the steelworks itself was originally opened in 1907 so spanned a full-century before being laid-to-rest (business actually relocated to nearby Queensferry) and there is much detail of its history and main industries undertaken, but no reference to the sculpture. The mystery remains. But in these Internet times there can be no mysteries, can there?!

Keech Furnace Technologies

KFC Foundry Website Images

Well the web did allow me to establish that a South African company Keech Furnace Technology had this listed as one of their previous works as Balbardie Steel Foundry Germiston. Known by their abbreviation, KFT specialise in the design, production and service of electric arc furnaces. They were founded in 1978 so could they have undertaken this sculpture? If so there is no detail on their website.

Credit to the supermarket whose sculpture this sits in front of, okay I relent, Morrisons!, who have commissioned a number of statues situated in front of their other stores such as the two featured below. The first for a Tyneside store, the second a Leyland store.

Jarrow Crusade by Graham Ibbeson

Jarrow Crusade by Graham Ibbeson

Leyland Motors Sculpture

Leyland Motors Sculpture by Stephen Charnock

They though both have information, about their work and their creators.

The sculpture the star of this post remains though a mystery, to me and it seems to the Internet.

To you?

Foundry Sculpture Bathgate

Lost in the woods

Easton Bing towards Glasgow RoadIn London (and I presume in other populous cities) before you can become a licensed taxi driver you have to be tested comprehensively to demonstrate you extensively know your city – or at least its streets that most quickly (if not most cheaply!) take you from the proverbial A to proverbial B. It is known as acquiring The Knowledge.

I don’t live in a city but a town, and usually when I travel I do so in my car, passing through my surroundings in a bubble of air-conditioning, warmth and music. I am paying attention to the road, at least subconsciously, and very little heed to the people and places passing me by. Additionally I am likely driving the same tested and trusted routes to my usual destinations.

Of late though out of a desire to add some healthy routine to my sedentary lifestyle I have begun walking. I had tried returning to mid-distance running of my teenage years as an activity I enjoyed and did well at but those years did not want anything to do with  me – running now gave me a pounding headache instead – so I then decided by way of a more gentle return to exercise that I would walk, and a minimum thirty minutes per day.

Easton Bing WoodsOn my walks I often take music though I don’t always listen to it – nature’s soundtrack is often as preferred. But if I am listening to music I use it has a time measurement too, usually walking for about five songs in any direction before turning around and heading home.

And I discovered that walking, by slowing me down, caused me to be taken in by the world around me. I also discovered how little I knew of my town, of my closest neighbourhood, even the long and winding street that I live on.

Usually if I am walking not driving it is still with some purpose – to the Post Office or Grocery store to do the things you usually do in those places! Again I am not paying too much attention to the world beyond my peripheral vision. Whereas walking for the sake of walking and I start to take note and notice of what is going on, and not going on, in my town.

And last week about three songs from my home I came upon a stile-entrance to some woodland which ordinarily I would cast a cursory glance at and move on but here decided I would take up its invite. Once in I quickly forgot about my thirty-minute time-frame wanting to see which part of town the other side of this wood would take me too.

I was in a part of my town only those with The Knowledge or A Knowledge would have – those being not just school-age children but all-ages children – part-time pondering poets, wandering wondering writers, perambulating prevaricating philosophers, sauntering seeking singers, ambling angling artists, and other such vagrants, and was surprised therefore to come upon a sign-post.

This signpost.

Easton Bing signpostIt was not as if I were in deep woodland. These trees I was moving among were skirting a housing-estate, their houses could still be seen through the trees. Traffic on both Glasgow and Easton Road (where I had entered the woods from) could still be heard. I could not get lost even if I wanted to. Yet there it was, a sign-post.

Whose ideas was this?

It would have been erected by our local council, West Lothian – perhaps in a particular year they had run a surplus and having sign-posted the roads and pavements to death it was decided that untended nature would be next.

The only sign that was mysterious was Easton Bing. You might know Bing as that old guy who you hear on the radio about this time of year serenading White Christmas. Likely too you know Bing as Microsoft’s attempt to cash in on Google’s search-engine territory. But in Scots parlance it is a term for waste, more specifically mining waste.

But I was pretty sure it was just the route to take me deeper into the woods. So perhaps upon this mining waste trees were planted and this wood grew. When and if that is even possible I do not know. I could find out but for now I like to continue to speculate.

Perhaps had I ventured into it I would have encountered not just further sign-posts but a Woodland Wi-Fi area run by squirrels and have been accosted by boot-shining badgers and  busking deers.

Easton Bing

What lies beyond?!

Now I have written that I will have to go back and find out!

Winter from my Window…

Five weeks ago I posted a photograph of the autumnal view from my window calling it ‘Autumn from my Window‘ – I was proud of that title!

And you liked it, well WordPress Liked it – twelve of you to be precise. Thank you one and all. Though that is twelve more than my more regular writing posts and I took those 12 Likes as more a denigratory comment on my writing skills than a complimentary one on my photographing skills!

In passing I noted that if I were so minded I ought to take the same picture each day – I am quite sure then those twelve Likes would soon dissolve back to zero but at least you could admire my single-mindedness if give it a wide enough berth.

Well anyway I did not commit myself to that but I thought I would share with you the view from that same window today by way of a now and then, if then being a mere five weeks ago.

I would have preferred that nature had not sprinkled the scene with Christmas dust, and that you could see the trees as wintry stark stoic statement. And perhaps another day I may post that too.

I have tried to recreate the view angle to the best of my abilities and what has not changed is the presence of sunshine, hence my Elizabeth Fraser inspired title!

Autumn from my kitchen window


Not Yet Sunburst and snowblind

Not Yet Sunburst and snowblind

Autumn from my Window…

I have decided to blog a photograph. I have no illusions about professional and or art photography, I am but an happy amateur. And do not plan to regularly post photographs either – writing is still my main mistress of which I am ever loyal etc etc.

But having posted it to both Twitter and Facebook without awe and to Pinterest without ‘aww’ I thought I would see if I could match that sequence of indifference here.

Though I have said I plan no further such digital camera snapping shots I did consider that I could take a picture of the same spot each day at the same time each day too which may even then come to be considered in some quarters as something very nearly art, or at least an artistic enterprise. But the  organisation and discipline involved in such a project dissuaded me – in other words I could not be arsed.

The picture naturally needed a name – a throwaway name for a throwaway picture was perhaps called for but a shortlist arose in me.

  • Autumn from my window
  • Autumn from my kitchen window
  • Autumn from my kitchen window at half-past-two on a Wednesday afternoon
  • So that the view from Sam Flowers’ first-floor kitchen window could be seen by the world and thus that world not be so bereaved of its otherwise absence
  • Everything changes, everything remains the same
  • The futility of railing against the futility of being
  • Trees

    Autumn from my kitchen window - Bathgate, West Lothian, Scotland


The Cold War – Sandy Skoglund

A picture speaks a thousand words it is often said. Even if we don’t hear all of them. Some pictures have more to say than others…some have over-much to say – others short, sweet, succinct.

A picture cannot be self-evident then? It can speak but it speaks in multiple tongues.

And in any case self-evident to whom?

Some listeners hear more, experience more than others do.To one a picture may elicit a warm fuzzy feeling of love and empathy; to another it elicits nothing they remaining cool and indifferent to it, yet another may have a visceral dislike to it.

One may be flattened in awe by it but another left feeling only existential ennui…

Each of us ourselves will sometime hear more or less depending on our moods and our current and passing preoccupations. Sometimes to our environment we are as a sponge, other times as marble.

Where we experience the art may also effect how we are affected – the company we are in, or if we are alone. We may respond better in a crowd at a gallery with friends and strangers or by ourselves at home with a paper print or online image.

But what about what we already know of the artist and their art?

Do you find knowing about what the artist thinks about it a help or hindrance? Do you need to find out what the artist says about their work/s first before experiencing it? Or do you prefer to experience it first without that knowledge only seeking out what the artist thinks about it afterwards?

The reason for these musings arise having happened upon a piece on My Modern Met about Sandy Skoglund called Incredibly Elaborate Non-Photoshopped Scenes posted up by one of their bloggers Eugene. The article presents a brief biography about this American artist and sixteen of her works. You can also access many more of her works on her website which includes video too, as well as a much more detailed biography/résumé.

The Cold Wharf - Sandy Skoglund

[Having read this again it seems I have deleted a few lines of text. This was over a year ago and I cannot remember now what I wrote but this is just to acknowledge that and the slight abruptness in the narrative of the next main paragraph!]

[Also when I first wrote this I was under the impression this piece was called 'The Cold Wharf' - I must have been very tired! - but have left the musing as it is for this piece was more about my impression of the piece itself rather than any objective reality pertaining to it. And I did later in the piece make reference to the cold war. Clearly it would have been a difference piece had I got my facts correct though!]

Though perhaps it was not that random and perhaps my sub-conscious and its silent hand led me to it above all others. Perhaps.

Like the other images though it was dominated by a palette of two bold colours. For The Cold Wharf these were red and gold. Or red and orange. Or red and yellow. Clearly I am confident that one of the colours is red at least!

The Cold Wharf has a sleeping man surrounded by an army of toy soldiers armed with toy rifles and toy guns. There are toy missiles too. These are many but all unattended. All of this artillery though is aimed toward the sleeping man.

Is he sleeping though or are his eyes just closed in fright, ostrich-style? He is prone on the ground but his hands are over his ears and he appears to have moved his head beneath the telephone table. Taking cover from the toy bullets, from the noise?

Are the violent images arranged against him real or in fact part of his dream, his night-mare?

Or where does this violence originate anyway? With him or with others? Where does his violence end and the world’s violence begin? Is this the violence of his own life – his mind, his home, his neighbours, his neighbourhood. Or the fictional violence of comics and books, computer games and action-movies seeped into his unconscious?

The violence visited from the second-hand daylight of his TV screen? The endless staged killings of crime shows and the common-place tidal wave of violence from news-programmes?

The violence of war and genocide and crime and matter-of-fact accidents.

Or is this a Grimm fairy-tale, the innocent play soldiers become sinister reality and about to turn on their Gulliver?

This image is a staged scene – everything in it I can assume is there for a reason.

Why is the dog there? Lying alongside him, so then the man’s pet and close faithful companion…mirroring his master’s actions, joining him in his doom.

And the telephone and its stand – are they significant, or at least have meaning? The telephone to provide a call for help, the SOS from all the violence. But it is inescapable violence so the telephone is redundant, a sign only of futility…

Do the colours themselves have any meaning – political or religious or other symbolism? Perhaps that depends on when the picture was taken. Red could mean China or the old Soviet Union, communism itself, and the reasonable or unreasonable paranoia thereof?

The gold makes me think of the sun and the red imagery of Japan so perhaps then the Rising Sun…I am assuming the prone man is American or at least Western then if I am considering his enemy to be from the East…he looks Caucasian but it is not that clear. Japan is now a friend of the USA but if this picture was set in the early 1940′s?…but then that telephone is not of that decade, far more modern than that. Perhaps it is a metaphor for the rise of Japanese industry and prosperity and the decline of the USA’s industry and prosperity.

And what of the title The Cold Wharf? Sounds like The Cold War but…

What do its words mean to me? Cold is obvious but the colours feel like a glow of warmth and of a radioactive heat at that, and ominously nuclear than solar.

The word Wharf though does not resonate with me… for now at least …

And what of this picture’s thousand words to you reading this post? You may hear similar words to what I hear but you may well hear something else entirely. You may indeed have no interest at all in what The Cold Wharf has to say.

For some that is the curse of art. For me it is its blessing.

The beauty of ugly, the ugly of beauty – David Kretschmer

Mirrors - David KretschmerMirrors - David KretschmerIn my post International Photography Awards 2011 I promised further posts about some of the individual photographers who received awards or placed second or third.

One such was German photographer David Kretschmer, currently based in the Netherlands, whose entry ‘Mirrors’ was runner-up in the Non-professional Fine Art category.

He describes his work thus:

“Mirrors shows the contradictory view on beauty in the modern society. Four beautiful young girls, looking very doubting and insecure. As they are almost perfect looking, they observe themselves very strict and criticize every single flaw on their body and face. The four guys are in complete contrast to the girls. They are not perfect at all but they look very confident at themselves and don’t care about any beauty ideals. They are not pristine but they are satisfied.”

I have to agree.

Consider too a couple of recent pop songs.

Christina Aguilera‘s torch-song ballad ‘Beautiful’ nails this subject to its scarred beating heart. It was penned by Linda Perry and could we imagine her having penned it for Justin Timberlake?

The Sugababe‘s anti-anthem Ugly was similarly stirring in sentiment, but again could we have imagined the, let’s face it, far less photogenic Take That, agreeing to sing the Dallas Austin lyric?

I only have to think of myself and how much time I spend in front of a mirror before venturing out into the big bad world – barely a cursory glance often enough as I tumble outside – and believe me I am not one of nature’s pretty pictures!

Mirrors - David KretschmerMirrors - David KretschmerNot all of David Kretschmer’s work is detailed on the IPA site but you can see it in full on his own website. He is a newcomer to professional photography beginning as a freelancer last year. He already has a number of other photography awards to his name as well as appearing in numerous international publications including the UK’s Digital Photographer, the South Korean Blink and the Russian Fotovideo.

As well as the concept beyond his ‘Mirrors’ work I enjoy the way they have been executed – the opposite of Omar Ortiz who paints pictures that look like photographs, Kretschmer’s photographs look like paintings.

I also like the way some of the subjects have been shot – looking less like reflections and more like they have become Alice Through The Looking Glass as we bare witness to their out of body experience.

I look forward his future work.

Mirrors - David Kretschmer

Mirrors - David Kretschmer

Alexander Kitsenko – Magic Landscapes

Alexander Kitsenko Ukrainian Autumn

Ukrainian Autumn

Alexander Kitsenko

From 1X site

Here then it is.

Perhaps the best way to post about a photographer is simply to display some of their work with a few of my own personal responses – a picture speaks a thousand words – like many a cliché it is a truism too – and let the viewer make up their own mind.

Some background may be of interest though.

Alexander Kitsenko describes himself as a Landscape Photographer on the 500px site and states that he is from Kharkov in Ukraine. That is the extent of the biography he gives – suggesting perhaps that he too thinks his work should speak for itself.

The subjects of his photographs are certainly landscapes – and all Ukrainian landscapes it seems – for me to they have a dream-like quality – something about how he captures natural light – whether at dawn or dusk, direct sunlight or the watery filtering of cloud or mist.

When I googled him, my passing reference to him in my last post on this blog was page-ranked third, and with all due respect to my, it is sadly fair to say, little-viewed-blog this would suggest that he is not widely published on the web.

However he is signed up to other community-based photography websites where more of his work is on show – some of it indeed, such as 1X, the same as available on 500px – understandably as a photographer work is shared across multiple sites for maximum exposure as also you never know which of these sites will stand out from the crowd and which will get lost in the sound of them.

He does on the 1X site provide further information about himself – that he is an amateur photographer and that he is trying to ‘make life a fairy tale’ which is certainly the aura I get from much of his work.

More prosaically he states that he is in his early thirties and shoots his landscapes on a Canon EOS 35D – a camera from about 2005 now superseded by updated models – a modest mid-range camera in terms of performance if more fire-power and cost than most friends-and-family photo-taking cameras. And it demonstrates that though your choice of camera is clearly a central choice the most important factor is the photographer’s inner-eye, their sense of subject and art.

I also came upon the above photo from a site called Weather Forecast which I found arresting. Like a lot of his woodland photographs the forest is magical looking if in a Grimm way, beautiful yet forbidding.

He is also featured on Art Limited where both the same bio and photographs are on show.

As then details of him are not forthcoming on the web I will, as I suspect he wants it, let his work do the talking.

Alexander Kitsenko The Kingdom of Fog

The Kingdom of Fog

Alexander Kitsenko Mystik Forest

Mystik Forest

Alexander Kitsenko Evening Silence...

Evening Silence…

Evening Silence…
Alexander Kitsenko - Ukrainian Landscape

Ukrainian Landscape