April 16, 2014

Watch: Man on the Move

French fashion house Hermes has released a new video, Man on the Move, to coincide with its theme for the year: metamorphosis. Ballet dancer Jeremie Belingard o the l'Opera de Paris is seen moving through different pieces from Veronique Nichanian's spring/summer 2014 collection.

April 15, 2014

Opening Ceremony x Adidas Originals

In the fourth iteration of an ongoing collaboration, Opening Ceremony and Adidas Originals has released a baseball-inspired collection of menswear. The all-American red, white and blue palette is employed in shirting, sweats and zip-up bomber jackets, as well as a pair of high-top Stan Smith sneakers, embossed with a baseball patch and stitching on the iconic stripes.

April 14, 2014

The Brit Pack

The British Fashion Council plays an invaluable role in supporting emerging design talent in the United Kingdom, but its remit extends beyond womenswear to include menswear, too. Having begun in 2009, NEWGEN MEN has played a pivotal role in supporting now-established names including Christopher Shannon, James Long and J.W. Anderson. For the spring/summer 2015 season to be showcased at London Collections: Men in June, the British Fashion Council has announced it will support rising stars Alex Mullins and Craig Green, offering financial support to help in staging their shows, increasing their visibility to press and buyers, as well as legal and commercial advice. The two desigers join Agi & Sam, Astrid Andersen, Common, Diego Vanassibara, Kit Neale, Lee roach, Matthew Miller and Nasir Mazhar, also part of the initiative.

April 13, 2014

Mr Porter Presents Nike x Riccardo Tisci

Unless you have been living under a sartorial rock recently, you'll know that sneakers have become big business in designer men's fashion recently. Naturally, the collaboration between Nike and Riccardo Tisci (artistic director of Givenchy) has been eagerly awaited since its announcement, and the designer's take on the sportswear brand's classic Air Force 1 collection is something to behold. Available in several styles (including low and high-top), MrPorter.com is the exclusive online stockist of the special capsule, with the white colour available now and the black to follow it next week.

April 10, 2014

MBFWA: Song for the Mute

Before Song for the Mute's show at Australian Fashion Week last night, the only full menswear collection being shown at the annual event, we went backstage to document the preparation that went into the presentation. Legendary American musician Lupe Fiasco joined Manuscript models Elijah, Mason, Hugh, Jacob and Sam on the runway, adding some international star quality to the show which was presented by Harrolds, the store having long supported Song for the Mute.

Photography Richard Sawyer

MBFWA: Emma Mulholland

There wasn't a great deal of menswear in Emma Mulholland's spring collection, but the easy-to-wear styles and fun, eighties-inspired prints compelled us to share them nonetheless.

April 9, 2014

MBFWA: Strateas.Carlucci

Following Strateas.Carlucci's recent win of the Tiffany & Co. National Designer Award, all eyes were bound to be on the label at Australian Fashion Week, and this was a strong debut. The collection's more structured pieces were the strongest, and while things looked well executed in terms of cut and finish, this wasn't Savile Row; the trans-seasonal men's and women's collection comprised traditional cornerstones of tailoring - blazers, peacoats, trousers and collared shirting - but the pieces were cut in such a way that they seemed like complete reinventions, testament to the designers' unique voice. A men's black wool blazer, for example, was spliced open at its side vents, creating a gill-like effect that worked well with the double collars shown in other looks, with the layering becoming an important element of the collection. 

April 4, 2014

See: Modulations

It was music producer Stephen Pavlovic that brought The Cure to Sydney during his tenure as director of Vivid festival, so it stands to reason that his program for Modulations, a project in partnership with Carriageworks as part of Vivid 2014, is so fantastic. Held on site at Carriageworks in Eveleigh, Modulations focuses on the intersection of art forms, bring together music performances, art, installations and innovative street food. Headlining the event is multi-award winning electronic outfit Pet Shop Boys, for which creative director Es Devlin (known for collaborations with Kanye West and Jay-Z, and who designed the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games), has created a spectacular show of film, lasers and choreography, offering a truly immersive experience. “This is not a traditional arts program, nor is it a traditional music program,” explains Mr Pavlovic. “My vision is to create an intimate, fun, truly creative event that appeals to a wide audience brought together by a shared interest in all forms of creativity and imagination.” 

April 3, 2014

Winter is Coming

Following a brief hiatus from the spotlight, Australian actor-musician-artist 
Noah Taylor’s career is, yet again, on the rise. 

Photography Paul Scala | Story Jemima Sissons

Interviewing Noah Taylor is an interesting gig. Having been stung a few years ago, he is reluctant to meet you in person, so what ensues is a meeting with a shadow – exchanges late at night on email, and on phones in hotel rooms 2000 miles apart. One’s visual references are varied. One minute when he is describing his dislike of modern art (“I have a complete phobia of it”), we are in Milan and Brighton (where he lives), and it is Mr Taylor in Shine that seems to be on the other end of the phone: a wild-eyed, restless ball of energy. Further down the line and we are conversing while he is on a train back home. He is describing his detachment from social media (“I am too old for it”), and it is the comical Mr Bucket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that springs to mind, that expressive face and furrowed brow, his brain whirring too quickly, as you get the impression it often is.

His multifaceted roles are perhaps an apt reflection of his own life. Although most well known as an actor – in particular for his role in Shine as the troubled young David Helfgott, and more recently in cult US TV series Game of Thrones – Mr Taylor is also a talented musician and artist; a man with many strings to his bow. The elder of two sons, Mr Taylor, 44, was born to Australian parents in London, but moved to Melbourne when he was five, where he lived in St Kilda. Bizarrely, for someone who comes across as such a sensitive soul, he wanted to join the army before becoming an actor. “Boys naturally gear towards that kind of thing, crawling around on the floor on all fours, but I’m a coward at heart,” he explains wryly.

It was after he left school at 16 that he fell into acting, without any formal training, and was cast in his first major role a year later, in The Year My Voice Broke, directed by John Duigan. This was followed by Flirting, alongside Nicole Kidman and Thandie Newton, where he played the sweetly awkward young Danny Embling discovering love. Yet it was his raw vulnerability in Shine as the young piano playing troubled genius that cemented his name as one of Australia’s leading actors of his generation. With roles as diverse as Hitler in Max, the harrowed band manager in Almost Famous, and a father undergoing a mid-life crisis in Submarine, he is equally able to show raw vulnerability and master the comedy turn with a simple sideways glance or raise of his eyebrow.

A few years ago, however, he seemed to quite simply disappear, go to ground, only to bounce back three years ago in more roles than ever. What happened? “I took a few years off from acting to pursue music and assumed I could just slip back into it,” explains Mr Taylor. “But actually it was like having to start from scratch, which was a bit humbling, but probably quite healthy. I think I'm more comfortable doing it now and enjoy the sort of roles that come with a bit of age. I actually find it more difficult now these days but that's maybe to do with it taking it a little more seriously.” 

He is now the busiest he has ever been. With six forthcoming film releases including Predestination, a sci-fi psychological thriller; The Double, by Richard Ayoade, about a man driven mad by his doppelgänger; and Epic, a comedy shot in Georgia, made by an old friend of Mr Taylor’s, Ben Hopkins, about a director trying to make a film about a former Soviet Bloc country's national history. Taylor plays “an obnoxious B-grade action move star past his prime.” Then there is The Menkoff Method, a “good old-fashioned Aussie comedy” directed by David Parker, who wrote the classic Melbourne comedy Malcolm, in which he plays the villainous Russian Max Menkoff. As for Game of Thrones, he remains, as you might assume, very tightlipped. “I can't say anything or they'll kill me.” And he certainly wouldn’t be the first.

It is impossible now to pigeonhole Mr Taylor, and he seems to relish in taking on these multiple and very different personalities. Which, then, does he enjoy the most? “It's good to try and stretch your limits doing the more demanding, difficult roles, but they can be taxing on you and those around you,” he says. “These days I like to try and do comedies and slightly over the top villains, which is kind of a form of comedy. As far as favourite roles, I enjoyed playing a Texan serial killer in a fairly obscure film called Red, White & Blue, which is a great film but a bit too heavy for the art film crowd and a bit too arty for the gore brigade so it didn't get much of a look in.”

But certainly since Game of Thrones, famous for its obsessive fan base, he is recognised more and more. “I wasn't really aware of the whole phenomenon until I actually started working on the show. I don't watch much TV and I'd never come across the books, so it wasn't till a while into filming the series that I realised it was kind of a big deal to a lot of folks. If I have a beard in civilian life then occasionally someone will yell out ‘fuck the Lannisters!’ [the evil family in the series, for those living under a rock], I'll give them a thumbs up and that seems to be enough. I've never really had trouble with fans; most people are pleasant enough and I know what it is to be a fan so I try and be polite and friendly if approached, but really it doesn't happen much.”

Having come to the UK in 1998 for work, he ended up living in London before settling in Brighton, a seaside town of faded Georgian splendour, freedom, windy piers, day-trippers and night owls. For him, it is oddly reminiscent of where he grew up. “It actually reminds me of St Kilda. There are still lots of big bums in Brighton, it’s rough around the edges, with a mix of dreamers and junkies. There's some beautiful architecture and I enjoy the slightly tatty seaside holiday resort feel of the place,” he explains. “It could do with a bit more glamour and some more decent restaurants, but that's true of most cities in the UK outside of London.”

He is clearly attracted to the more genteel side of Britishness, citing The Savoy hotel, Jermyn Street and the country’s ‘ancient’ establishments as things he warms to. However there is a part of Mr Taylor that will be forever Australian. “I miss the beaches, the bush and the openness of the Australian psyche and landscape,” he says. Although he doesn’t consider himself an expat as he “hates that expression”, Taylor confesses that he now considers Brighton very much home. “I have grown to love it, I have lived here half my life. I don't attach much importance to nationality, but I am quite patriotic, and am still thoroughly Australian.”

Although Mr Taylor, who goes back to Australia once a year to visit friends and family in Melbourne, confesses that he feels like his home country is increasingly less and less like the place he left. “Everywhere changes, it is one of those weird things about living in another country for a length of time, you go back and after 20 years it is radically different. You can see it in the attitude… it is a lot more materialistic now, it used to be egalitarian, but there is a lot more money obsession. I think this is because the recession didn't really touch Australia and people have got it pretty good there. During the previous government, under John Howard, it became a lot more anti-immigration and hard line, like under Thatcher, with selfish attitudes.” He also feels that Australians can err on the side of complacency. “Australian and British life is markedly different for a variety of reasons, the weather and personal space being a part of it. Life is pretty hard for the average Brit, and Australian life is a dream for many; Australians don't know how good they've got it really.”

Downtime is spent focusing on his other loves, music and art, perhaps where he feels he can be most himself. ‘Film is my work, it is not just for the fun of it, it is very much working for other people, with other people. As I am a control freak I like music and painting as it is entirely my thing.” His art is on the dark side: ghoulish images punctuated with death and murder. He seems, if his pictures of blood-spattered bodies and multi-breasted she-devils are anything to go by, like a very tortured soul. “People often say my art is dark, although I never see that myself, even the ones that involve hangings. A lot of those ones are based loosely on historical events, like bush rangers, but for the main they are, I guess, what you'd call unconscious or subconscious images that float around my head. I tend to repeat myself a lot which I fought against for a long time and then came to the conclusion there was a reason for the images being so insistent, so eventually I just went with them.” He had a sell-out show in the Olsen Irwin Gallery, in Woollahra, last January and is currently working on an exhibition at London’s Lawrence Alkin Gallery, due to open in March.

Music is also a big part of his life. While he was taking time out he focused his energies on this, but even that has undergone a metamorphosis, mellowing a little, like Taylor himself: ‘I've played in and had numerous bands since I was a teen. Probably my favourite is my current band The Rhinestoned Immaculates, a kind of a freaked out, droney, country western band, but I think we've run our course now; they were quite chaotic and violent shows, always resulting in damage both to my guitars and eardrums. I'm going to do something a little bit more refined and romantic next.’

It seems, like his music, Taylor has grown into himself. Having spent many of his years a little tortured, finding his way, he is now riding a wave. He shot to fame early, then disappeared, went to ground, laid low, to get whatever it was that was needed out of his system. Now, back and stronger than ever, he has come full circle. Married to Dionne Loehr, an Australian fashion designer, he is also father to a six-year old girl, Martha, by a previous relationship. Does he think his star is rising, that he is eclipsing the Chris Hemsworths of this world? “Not that I am aware of. I am not really a competitive person, I was just very lazy about my career in my twenties and thirties. Now that I am a parent and middle-aged, I am a bit more driven.”

April 1, 2014

Walk the Line

An exhibition of the work of conceptual artist Sol LeWitt offers an opportunity for reflection amidst the noise of overhyped contemporary art, writes Alison Kubler. 

‘…I will refer to the kind of art in which I am involved as conceptual art. In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art. This kind of art is not theoretical or illustrative of theories; it is intuitive, it is involved with all types of mental processes and it is purposeless. It is usually free from the dependence on the skill of the artist as a craftsman.’

Sol LeWitt’s treatise in Artforum in 1967 is widely recognised as the first public recognition of the conceptual art movement, although Mr LeWitt himself resisted the tag. He is one of the great artists of two overlapping centuries, who counted as his contemporaries fellow American artists Dan Flavin, Robert Morris, Frank Stella, Carl Andre and Lawrence Wiener, amongst others. Mr LeWitt’s practice, which included drawing, printmaking and sculpture, (or as the artist preferred to refer to them, ‘structures’) emerged out of minimalism in the 1960s as part of a larger intellectual approach to art making and theory. This in itself was a response to post-war abstract expressionism and modernist formalism art theory with its linear progressive trajectory, as defined by the art historian Clement Greenberg. Minimalism argued for objectivity over subjectivity, and challenged the status quo of the white cube or gallery space and the heroic machismo of the modernist ‘artist’. Mr LeWitt’s structures took the modular form of the square or cube as a central starting point because it is a non-emotive shape. His strategy of repeating patterns – linear – and structures reflected a kind of do-more-with-less strategy characterised by an elegant spare quality and humility of materials. In 1968 the artist would begin formulating the deceptively complex wall drawings for which he is best know, bringing three-dimensionality to the two dimensional plane.

I have always considered that one of the most decadent artworks a collector could own would be a Sol LeWitt wall drawing. One could keep it safely in a filing cabinet alongside one’s tax receipts and feel smug about owning something that is largely invisible. It is valuable by stealth. You see, a Sol LeWitt wall drawing is powerful in its intent. It involves the act of mark making on a wall that serves both as an interaction with architecture and three-dimensionality and engages with minimalism’s dialogue with phenomenology, but it also offers a provocation about the value of art, challenging the status quo and the purpose of art. Drawn directly onto the gallery wall originally in pencil or chalk (inherently democratic mediums), the wall drawings were always intended to be ephemeral and temporary.

Rendered by a team of assistants following precise drawing instructions detailed by the artist, the wall drawings privilege concept over content, negating modernism’s primacy of the authenticity of the artist’s hand and celebrating the purity of the artist’s concept. When one buys a Sol LeWitt wall drawing, one receives not the finished artwork but rather the schema, an authenticated map that can thus be realised in another space. The drawings are not site-specific; they are unfixed and changing, though the central idea is not. Each iteration of a wall drawing is distinctly different by virtue of its installation by different hands, and thus each work is unique though pre-determined. Mr LeWitt created over 1,200 wall drawings over some 37 years, expanding his ‘palette’ in the 1970s to include coloured ink washes (ostensibly influenced by his experience of Italian frescoes whilst living in Siena) and again in the 1980s when he began to use vivid acrylic paints.

Four new wall drawings, three of which will be for the first time, will be realised as part of Sol LeWitt: Your mind is exactly at that line, an exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales that covers forty years of the artist’s work and for which two Sol Lewitt estate-approved assistants are being flown to Sydney to create. The catalogue of work for the exhibition is drawn in part from businessman, philanthropist and art collector John Kaldor’s considerable gift to the state gallery, (together with significant works from the Naomi Milgrom Collection in Melbourne and the Sol LeWitt collection in Carver, Connecticut). Of course, we have Mr Kaldor to thank for, amongst other things, Jeff Koons’ Puppy at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney in 1995, John Baldessari’s Your Name in Lights at Sydney Festival in 2011, and the performance tour de force 13 Rooms at Carriageworks last year. Few people have brought so much to Australia, and Mr Kaldor’s relationship with Mr LeWitt stems far beyond this exhibition and, in many ways, is the impetus for its creation. 

In 1998 Mr Kaldor invited Mr LeWitt to Australia a second time, 21 years after his first visit in 1977 in which he produced monochromatic wall drawings for the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the National Gallery of Victoria (Project 6 of Mr Kaldor’s ongoing series that now numbers 29). On his return visit (Project 11) Mr LeWitt produced a new work,
Wall drawing #876, imbued with colour and movement in matt and gloss acrylic in primary and secondary colours for the Museum of Contemporary Art. Mr LeWitt’s enduring relationship with Australia continues with this exhibition, not the least because the artist’s practice runs counter to so much current contemporary art, which is by turns declarative or didactic. A quick glance at museums and galleries around the world reveals programs filled with attention seeking look-at-me installations and ‘moments’.  Amidst the noise of this loud explanatory version of art that seems designed for its reception by social media, Mr LeWitt’s work offers quietude, moments of contemplation and an intellectual reflection on ‘art about art’. Specifically his work rewards thinking and time spent. The viewer intent on finding a quick explicit meaning in the work of Sol LeWitt must grapple with the coolness of the intention and its explication.

If Your mind is exactly at that line is indicative of new director Michael Brand’s vision for the Art Gallery of New South Wales, it might point to an increased intellectual engagement with art and ideas. Following on from the large scale exhibition America: Painting a Nation, it also might suggest where Brand’s head is at, having recently resigned from his position at The Getty Museum (after his position became, in his own words, ‘untenable’) in Los Angeles to take up the helm in Sydney. Curated by Natasha Bullock, the Sol LeWitt exhibition looks to the collection’s strong holdings, greatly increased by Mr Kaldor, and turns our vision outwards to the legacy of contemporary American art.
An important addition to Your mind is exactly at that line is work from the artist’s own personal collection (which at the time of his death in 2007 numbered some 9000 works), specifically works by prominent indigenous artists gifted to him by Mr Kaldor. Mr LeWitt’s collection, which ranged from mid-19th century Japanese prints to work by other minimalist luminaries such as Eva Hesse, Donald Judd, On Kawara, Dan Graham, Hans Haacke and Gerhard Richter, was built through swapping works with contemporaries or the purchase of works by emerging. For the first time, Mr LeWitt’s works are exhibited alongside that of indigenous artists such as Gloria Tamerre Petyarre and Emily Kam Ngwarray, whose work in particular he deeply admired in written correspondence to Mr Kaldor, in the country of their origin.

This is a complex curatorial juxtaposition, not least for the subjectivity it imbues Mr LeWitt’s own work with. Inevitably we find ourselves looking at the artist’s own austere work with a new scrutiny, looking for chinks in the conceptual armour. Was Mr LeWitt’s interest in Aboriginal art the direct influence for his ebullient wall paintings rendered in bold acrylic colour? How else might we make sense of these latter works, with their undulating lines and curvilinear forms (although Mr LeWitt’s strict rules still applied – no colour was allowed to overlap another)? Mr LeWitt declared in 1967 that ‘art that is meant for the sensation of the eye primarily would be called perceptual rather than conceptual. This would include most optical, kinetic, light and colour art.’ Do Mr LeWitt’s later colour-based works constitute perceptual art?

Perhaps the appeal of Aboriginal art for Mr LeWitt lay in its frequent repetition and seriality, a shared characteristic. For many people it is fair to say that an engagement with indigenous art is based purely on an aesthetic level. This is why it fills the atriums of hotels and features as the backdrop to politicians and businessmen proselytising. Indigenous art has always walked the tightrope between conceptual and decorative art; an intimate knowledge of the themes and stories contained within does not preclude an appreciation of its form – quite the contrary. For the layperson, traditional indigenous art is a kind of narrative art expressed as abstraction. Seeing Mr LeWitt’s work alongside some of this country’s greatest indigenous artists is a real revelation, a rare treat. As the artist wrote: ‘It doesn’t really matter if the viewer understands the concepts of the artist by seeing the art. Once out of his hand the artist has no control over the way a viewer will perceive the work. Different people will understand the same thing in a different way.’ This sentiment is perhaps what makes his work entirely relevant for a new audience, for whom art theory is largely irrelevant.

Images from top: Sol LeWitt, Wall drawing #1091: arcs, circles and bands (room), 2003.
Sol LeWitt, Incomplete open cube 5/6, 1974.
Sol LeWitt, Pyramid, 2005