Endlichkeit – An Exhibition at Swinton Park

I am pleased to announce the opening of my new exhibition in association with the Swinton Foundation and the New Lights prize: Endlichkeit – Finiteness.  Endlichkeit

The exhibition brings together a series of paintings and prints, and can be seen in the newly created exhibition space at the Swinton Park Hotel, Masham until June 2014.

Swinton Park on Facebook

The paintings explore the way in which the past seems to solidify around us and how things change over a particular period of time. They are concerned with memory, place and power relationships – informed by my recollections of travel across Germany, Austria and Slovakia.

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I am currently exploring new methods of mark making; integrating the immediacy of free hand sketching and painting with methodical, ‘mechanised’ systems that incorporate collage and printmaking processes. More information can be found on my new website which is being constantly updated http://christopherhallart.co.uk.

Do go along if you are in the vicinity. Swinton Park is beautiful: it truly has to be seen to be believed (and they do a fantastic afternoon tea!). More information on the exhibition including directions to Swinton Park, the Swinton Foundation and the New Lights prize, can be found here.

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Forthcoming exhibitions

It’s been a busy few months but I am pleased to be able to share the first results of my endeavours in a new collection of paintings. The work, some of it inspired by my recollections of travel between Germany, Austria and Slovakia, is being shown in a number of galleries and venues across Yorkshire over the next few months – starting with Batley Art Gallery and South Square Gallery in November – click here for more information. Also look out for a special announcement very soon relating to my forthcoming solo exhibition at Swinton Park.

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New Lights Swinton Foundation Award

Having been shortlisted for the New Lights Art Prize 2013 I am pleased to announce that after final judging on 20th September I was awarded the Swinton Foundation Prize! More

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The judging panel for the 2013 prize included Royal Academician Sir Norman Ackroyd, Mercer Gallery curator Jane Sellars and writer and gallery proprietor Chris Wadsworth. The exhibition opened to the public on Saturday at the Mercer Gallery in Harrogate, and will run until the 17th November, before moving on early in the new year to the Biscuit Factory in Newcastle.

The awards were announced by the Chief Executive of New Lights Annette Petchey at a packed opening on Friday night. New Lights is a charity established in 2010, which supports emerging artists who were born or are living in the North of England aged between 23-35. Of the 298 entries received, 50 works were shortlisted; the final exhibition showcases the work of 33 exhibiting artists. The winner of the £10,000 Valeria Sykes Award was Liverpool based artist Josie Jenkins. More information including exhibition opening times can be found here.

It was a great night, I met some interesting people and I am really pleased to have been shortlisted – winning a prize is fantastic! I would like to congratulate all the contributing artists, prize winners and the organisers New Lights on putting together such a diverse and impressive show. I very much look forward to spending a few days at Swinton Park and exhibiting my work there.

Elegy for our times

My current work is concerned with memory and power relationships. We live in a world of ephemeral, disposable images; where meanings are fluid and un-fixed. The media is constantly vying for our attention; television news relays and re-loops the same footage over and over reinforcing a particular version of events, so much of what we take to be the truth. It is often impossible to make sense of what is actually going on.

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In these paintings the aim was to focus in on a fleeting moment and transform it, offering perhaps a glimpse of a wider truth. By isolating and removing an image from its original context, it is imbued with other layers of meaning.

It was an interesting time to be in London: it felt very much like, for a short period, a veil had been lifted – it was very surreal. I could walk around amongst the tourists and visitors – perhaps oblivious to the events of the previous night, photographing and documenting the scene before it was all hastily scrubbed and cleaned up – ‘normality’ resumed.

 

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New website

Check out my new website christopherhallart.co.uk for all developments with my painting and other projects. Don’t forget to follow and share!

As long as the music's loud enough we won't hear the world falling apart (2002) Oil and acrylic on canvas

As long as the music’s loud enough we won’t hear the world falling apart (2002) Oil and acrylic on canvas

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Anger the Magus

Legendary artist and filmmaker Kenneth Anger met fans and devotees at a rare screening of his work at the ICA in London over the weekend.

A Weekend of Anger saw two programmes of films (1947-1981 and 1995-present) split over two days. Anger introduced the films personally on both nights to a packed audience and reflected on a career in film spanning nearly six decades.  More…

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After a screening of some of Anger’s most recent films, many of which had never been screened in the UK before, there was an opportunity for questions. Of particular note was Airship 2010-12 – a beautiful series of films featuring hand tinted footage of Zeppelins looming over great cities; and Brush of Baphomet, 2009 another look at the paintings and artwork of Aleister Crowley in the vein of his 2002 film The Man We Want To Hang, this time filmed on digital.

Those that were lucky enough to have tickets for the sold-out event were given the opportunity to ask questions which provided a fascinating insight into the mind and working methods of a true living legend. Anger talked about symbolism in his films, his collaborations with actors and musicians and his concern for the future of cinema in the shift away from celluloid film to digital.

Here is a transcript of what was said:

Q: I’ve got a question about Lucifer Rising? I’ve been studying it very closely and I think I know roughly what it is about but there is one shot that’s a great mystery to me and if you want to keep it a mystery I’ll understand but I wanted to ask. There is a scene where Osiris is throwing his figurines into the Nile and for about half a second there is a multi coloured dog that runs past the camera. I wondered if that dog was Anubis? I know this is a very specific question.

KA: Well it was an Egyptian wild dog and it just happened to appear.

(Audience laughs)

Q: Have you kept a costume archive over the years?

KA: Well, yes but I donated it to the British Film Institute so they have my costumes and I think a few of the costumes are in France at the Cinémathèque Française but I am a very poor keeper of my own material as I travel a lot and move a lot and I tend to lose things so I give them to these institutions and maybe some day they will have an exhibit with my costumes. Alright, thank you.

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Q: I’d like to ask you about Donald Cammell that featured in Lucifer Rising and then he did Performance and yeah what did you think of Performance when it came out, did you feel flattered?

KA: Well Donald Cammell was a close friend of mine one of my several friends who choose to commit suicide so according to Aleister Crowley if you wanna make your exit that way fine with Crowley but I don’t approve of suicide personally and I think it should be resisted. Any rate he was a very talented man of course you’ve seen Performance and White of the Eye and I’m sorry to lose him.

Q: I wanted to ask about the Elliott Smith film and how that came about?

KA: In Los Angeles at the time I lived in a district called Silver Lake and my neighbour was Elliott Smith so I saw him quite often and he would often play a little café for 20 people just for fun and perform. He was a very kind wonderful person and he was another friend who I lost through suicide so it’s unfortunate and erm he was obsessed with death and I tried to talk him, say well death is ok but life is ok too you know to commit suicide at 34 is a big waste. He was a very sweet man.

Q: I thought the thing with the security guards was brilliant (I’ll Be Watching You, 2007), it was like, look super modern and was great. What’s the fascination with uniforms?

KA: Well your trying to be a Freudian analyst. It is obviously, well I’m obsessed no, but I use as an artist certain overblown symbols of masculinity like for instance in my private life, my brother was a high ranking officer in the USN, the Navy, and I was expected to go in but I did go in because at that time it was the very end of World War II I had my choice of either joining the Navy or being drafted into the Army and I liked the Navy uniform better. But as fate would have it the only thing I accomplished in the Navy was contracting Scarlet Fever and I ended up of course I had three months of my grandmother looking after me but that was my service to my country the USA.

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Q: I was wondering what informed your choices about what you shoot on like film or digital for what project.

KA: I didn’t quite understand you?

Q: How you make a decision about what to make a film on are you gonna use film or shoot on digital?

KA: Well the decision is being taken away from me. Already we are seeing 35mm and 16mm film, the kind of film that has sprockets along the edge, as a 20th century phenomenon. It is being replaced by something called ‘digital’ and I’ve been forced to use digital in my latest works like Airship even though I prefer film. But film is going out, the powers that be that run these huge factories Kodak and so forth are phasing out film and replacing it with digital and we can’t do anything about it because I can’t manufacture my own film in the bathroom. It’s more than my technical ability. But erm, the sad thing about digital it seems clean and easy to use but it has, scientists have told me, and I have a number of friend who are scientists, it’s got a very low shelf life. If you put it away for 30 years and come back and say let’s see this film from 2013, it won’t be there, it will have disappeared – in other words the tracks become muddled and they sort of melt into each other and there is nothing there. So it’s another example of the human animal trying to cheat time and seize time in a way that has defied the human race since the ancient Egyptians. The ancient Egyptians tried to cheat time by carving in stone and indeed their writing, once we figured out how to read it is still there but how much of the 20th century or the 21st century writing which is largely on film or digital survives in 100 years is problematic. In other words it is like writing on water. So we still have to keep trying. Perhaps the scientists of the future will invent something that’s more permanent but my…the nitrate film of 35mm was a wonderful product it gave you very fleshy contrast in black and white and was great for Technicolor, but when they made these things it was like the fashion of the week. There was no intention to have it last for 50 years. Because it was for this season that they made films and then they put it on a shelf and if it survived it wasn’t really a concern, ideas of reviving old films didn’t exist in early Hollywood. The idea of showing something finally like the first revival of any early film was the silent film by D.W. Griffith which is on the Civil War which is named Innocent was added music and revived in the early 1930s so then it became that they began to figure out that maybe people would like to see more of these old films. Then you have a problem because silent films were shot at 16 frames per second and the sound speed is 24 so if you show silent films on a sound speed projector everything looks jerked up which gives a very unfair vision of what it was like. So these are technical problems that can be worked out one way or the other but not very well.

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Q: Could you talk about your approach to using music and how do you choose which pieces of music to use in a film?

KA: Well it’s just pure instinct, I have to like it. In the case of Ich Will! I felt that Bruckner’s 8th Symphony, he was dying when he wrote it, was perfect for this view of Hitler Youth and erm… so that’s why I chose Bruckner who happened to be Adolf Hitler’s favourite symphonist. There is another magnificent symphonist at work who is banned and that was Mahler because even though Mahler converted from Judaism to Catholicism he was still unheard in Nazi Germany, a whole bunch of artists that ere just erased. Luckily copies of their work survived in other places.

Q: Do you go to the cinema very often and if so what do you like to go see?

KA: I go see them, I live in Hollywood so I have magnificent projections at places like the ArcLight Theater. It is the luxury cinema of Hollywood and I do go to see a lot of films – doesn’t mean that when I see a film by Spielberg that I approve of it but it doesn’t matter if I approve of it or not I want to see the techniques that are used. The one commercial filmmaker that I really admire most was Michael Powell. The director of The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus and other masterpieces. And I am now good friends with his widow Thelma Schoonmaker and she is now the editor for Martin Scorsese who is also a friend of mine. I never used my friendship in the commercial film world to try and move into that world because I am an independent artist and I turned down the possibility of working at 20th Century Fox when I went to school right next door at Beverly Hills High School what is now Century City.

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Q: How did your association with Getty come about?

KA: I’m sorry?

Q: Some of your films are to do with Getty?

KA: My good friend John Paul Getty, I’ve known him for years he sponsored Mouse Heaven he was fond of Mickey Mouse too and he sponsored that. I’m all for the idea of art patrons. Because if you look at the past the great painters, all had a patron whether it was the Vatican or a private aristocrat. They needed a patron and they still do. I could never afford even though I’ve earned income from my books and so forth to make films – I need a patron and so Paul Getty has died unfortunately at the age of 70 which I consider not old, a young age to die but I have another patron a woman by the name of Agnès B. Agnès is my current sponsor and I’m grateful for that so any potential sponsors…

(Audience laughs)

Q: How difficult do you think it is to be a rebellious filmmaker how difficult was it for you in the past and do you think it has got easier now – do you think it is possible to rebel against the mainstream as a filmmaker?

KA: Well who’s going to pay for the film? In other words rebelling is fine but someone has to buy the film and give it to you, you can’t steal it and print it and have it shown, nice idea but you really can’t. So erm, I think it’s a very expensive physical medium to work in after all what did Rimbaud need? His mind and a pencil to write his beautiful poems. A poet working with words it’s just his imagination, a pencil and a piece of paper that is all he needs. As you get into more elaborate art forms it becomes more and more difficult, expensive and complicated, but any rate I hope to make several more films I certainly plan to and if I run out of money from one sponsor I’ll find another I hope! So far Agnès B has been very accommodating. She also made my suit, my shirt…

(Audience laugh and applause)

Q: Do you have any plans to write another book?

KA: Well it’s already written. It’s called Hollywood Babylon 3…but unfortunately I have a chapter devoted to Tom Cruise and he belongs to an evil bunch of idiots named Scientology and they have threatened to…well I tell you what they do a friend of mine wrote an article about the Scientologists, he lived in the desert and he opened his mailbox and there was a live rattlesnake in his mailbox. That’s just the sort of trick Scientologist do and so if I write about them they’ll figure out some way to inconvenience me I’m sure but never the less they’re cracking up because their main bookstore on Hollywood Boulevard now has a big sign saying ‘For Lease’. That means they’ve given up selling their poisonous books. So any rate thanks for your attention, you’re a great audience and I hope to come back before too long with a couple of new films, thank you.

(Prolonged audience applause)

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The Spirit of Patrick Nuttgens

I was asked to prepare a slide show as part of the staff development day for Leeds Metropolitan University Library. Drawing on archival sources, anecdotal/oral history and rarely seen images from the Library’s own extensive Slide Collection, the presentation concentrated on the early days of what was then Leeds Polytechnic in the period 1969-1978.

The slides follow a rough chronology charting the amalgamation of the constituent Leeds colleges (schools of law, technology, commerce, catering, art and architecture), the founding of the Polytechnic as an institution in 1970, and the period of expansion through the 1970s under the helm of Professor Patrick Nuttgens.

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Images courtesy of the Slide Library, Leeds Metropolitan University

The slides are a rich resource that offer a window on what was an optimistic and ambitious period in higher education provision; one that was radically different to the model we see today.

In Leeds, one of the first cities to be designated for a new Polytechnic, expansion through the amalgamation of Leeds Central Colleges led to further integration with the addition of James Graham College, City of Leeds College of Education, and the Carnegie Physical Training College in 1976.

The City site was landscaped, trees were planted and work began on ambitious building projects that led to the construction of iconic (or infamous – depending on your point of view) buildings such as Brunswick Terrace and the H Block – both since demolished; the former sold off and pulled down in 2009 to make way for the new Leeds ‘First Direct’ Arena.

Under Nuttgens the ethos of “education with a purpose” came to the fore with an approach that sought to combine academic and vocational disciplines opening opportunities for higher education outside of the traditional university system. Nuttgens was one of the great polymath academics – an architect, painter, educator, raconteur, television pundit and a prolific author perhaps his best known book being the influential ‘The Story of Architecture’. From his Obituary in the Guardian April 2004:

“Patrick was the product of two traditions: education for its own sake and, through his craftsman father, education for a purpose, via practical experiment. The possibilities of merging these two traditions thrilled him when, in 1969, he was appointed as the first director of Leeds Polytechnic: “Doing, making and organising are fundamental activities, and they are what a polytechnic is all about.”

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Image courtesy of the Slide Library, Leeds Metropolitan University

The 1970s were a turbulent period particularly in education. Initial enthusiasm for the polytechnic concept quickly turned to hostility in some quarters, especially from within art schools. There were fears that the independence of individual schools would be lost and the free spirit which had built their reputations in the 1950s and 60s stifled by bureaucracy, ‘technocratic meddling’ and budget cuts. Headingley-born artist Patrick Heron, in his famous article for the Guardian newspaper in 1971, argued against colleges’ integration into the polytechnic system – describing as he did – Leeds College of Art as ‘the most influential school in Europe since the Bauhaus’.

Amidst the political ferment of the early seventies, the Leeds Polytechnic Fine Art department thrived in what was to become a creative and often confrontational atmosphere – where traditional boundaries between staff and student became blurred. With legendary figures the likes of Jeff Nuttall and Geoff Teasdale among the teaching staff (read ex-Leeds Poly student Marc Almond’s autobiography Tainted Life), and a notorious reputation for headline grabbing radical performance art – Derek Wain and Peter Parkin’s notorious “Violence in Society” performance being only one of the more well-known examples of what was going on at the time – the success of the School culminated in a triumphant show at the ICA in London in 1972, an accolade that was unprecedented for an English regional art school at the time and one has never been repeated since.

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Lightworks 2013

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Sethos as selected by Lightworks 2013.

This years event took place at various locations around the town centre including the Town Hall and Abbey Walk Gallery. More info here: http://lightworks.me/

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