Peter Doig at Tate Britain

My article on Peter Doig’s exhibition at Tate Britain has been published by Bohemian Aesthetic. See below:

Peter Doig: in the footsteps of Gauguin?

It’s not often I’d walk away from an artist’s work; and if I do, I try to return to it or I find ways for it not to affect me. In fact, Doig’s work is difficult for me to ignore, and I’ve been at a loss to explain this to myself. I can only do so by trying to recall the wise words of one of my lecturers at film school, the legendary Laura Mulvey, who makes the point to always look for something good in a work of art. In relation to Doig’s work, I’m still looking. Maybe one day I’ll understand it.
 
Walking in the footsteps of Gauguin (if, indeed, that’s what Doig is doing), his Trinidad series doesn’t share the same terrain—that of intimacy and compassion. Instead, the paintings appear to be distant and cold, murky, entering the filmic realms. But that’s not Doig’s intention; he says, “people often say that my paintings remind them of particular scenes from films or from certain passages from books, but I think it’s a different thing altogether. There is something more primal about painting.”  But the fact remains that Doig’s work does resemble still frames from motion pictures. His “Rasta in the Thicket in Trinidad” could easily be a shot out of Predator.

Click here to read this article in full.

Published by the kind permission of Bohemian Aesthetic eZine

 

 

Khoya Khoya Chand – The Lost Moon: The Cinema of Sudhir Mishra

Just when you were despairing that all the great directors were no longer exploring film language in Hindi cinema, along comes a classic! Khoya Khoya Chand  released in December 2007 with a highly accomplished cast of actors from Soha Ali Khan, Shiney Ahuja, Rajat Kapoor, Sushmita Mukherjee and Soniya Jehan,  the grand-daughter of the legendry Noor Jehan, shouts from the roof tops that all is not lost in Hindi cinema today. The film is produced by the legendry Prakash Jha. 

Sudhir Mishra has created a masterpiece of cinema in the true creative and artistic tradition of film making. And it does what it set out to do; to bring to the audience great actors and directors of the 50’s and 60’s film world in Hindi Cinema.

Shooting in the style of light and shade, akin to Guru Dutt’s cinema, Sudhir Mishra has created his own film language. Here he uses the camera effectively as an observer. Mishra lays out the narrative of Khoya Khoya Chand through an exploration of a classic love story between an actress, Nikhat played by Soha Ali Khan and a writer-director, Zafar, played by Shiney Ahuja. Many have written about the fact that perhaps it was the telling of the story of Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman’s  story love affair. Nikhat and Zafar’s coming to the industry are a form of escape and refuge; here Mishra employs great technique and vision of the black and white era where shadows are used colourfully to explore depth and emotions, life experiences and intellect of a character as was the norm within the works of Guru Dutt, Bimal RoyMehboob  to name a few.  Mishra uses these when focusing on the characters of Zafar, Nikhat and Prem Kumar, played by Rajat Kapoor.

Each character carries a multitude of shades and as the film progresses, the journeys and transitions forced upon them by the outside world bring to the foreground their darkness. Ultimately the film is about love, loyalty and passion, even within the perceived fickle world of film.

 

Harappa and much more…..

Okay folks, it’s not everyday you come across a cave full of treasure. But here is one I discovered recently…. have a look at this excellent website.

 I hope you enjoy it as much as I have, particularly this comparative of Lahore Railway Station in Pakistan. 

Gulgee is no more – a tribute

The great painter, Gulgee was murdered in his home in Karachi along with his wife and the maid servant. A bizarre killing by any means, the only items that are missing is the family car. The police are currently looking for a servant and a driver.

Karachi has the highest crime figures in Pakistan and is a dangerous and ruthless place for the non-elite and elite alike.

Gulgee was a self-taught painter and rose to prominence by doing portraits of important leaders such as King Faisal  and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. 

His work changed dramatically and went into religious and spiritual realms, providing the Islamic world of some of the most mesmerising calligraphy. Vasl, an international artist’s collective based in Pakistan, considers Gulgee as one of the Master painters of Pakistan. The collective hold an impressive collection of images by Gulgee which you can see by clicking here. 

Gulgee’s art will be greatly missed.

Asma Jahangir Arrested

Your support and urgent action is request. Please write to General Musharraf at the Pakistani High Commission. Email at hoc@phclondon.org or write to them to the address below demanding Asma Jahangir’s release alongside all other detainees:

Head of Chancery
High Commission for Pakistan
34 – 36 Lowndes Square
London
SW1X 9JN

In his wisdom, General Musharraf has decided to arrest a whole cross section of free thinkers which include human rights activists, artists, intellectuals, lawyers and Judges.

Amongst those arrested is Asma Jahanghir. She has set up a regular update of the situation in Pakistan, an extract of it is published below:

“The situation in the country is uncertain. There is a strong crackdown on the press and lawyers. Majority of the judges of the Supreme Court and four High Courts have not taken oath. The Chief Justice is under house arrest (unofficially). The President of the Supreme Court Bar (Aitzaz Ahsan) and 2 former presidents, Mr. Muneer Malik and Tariq Mahmood have been imprisoned for one month under the Preventive Detention laws. The resident of the Lahore High Court Mr. Ahsan Bhoon and former bar leader Mr. Ali Ahmed Kurd have also been arrested. The police are looking or 6 other lawyers, including President of Peshawar and Karachi bar. The President of Lahore bar is also in hiding. There are other scores political leaders who have also been arrested. Yesterday I was house arrested for 90 days”. For the full update click here

Salima Hashmi Arrested

“The objective of art is to give life a shape and though artists cannot change the world they can, through their work, give flight to imagination; they can give you the direction” Salima Hashmi

The recent arrest of Professor Salima Hashmi, daughter of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, highlights the crisis that Pakistan continues to face as democratic forces fail to engage effectively with the masses and the occupying power. General Musharraf’s knee jerk reaction of arresting human rights activist, lawyers and Judges leaves no room for progress and instead invites the like of Benazir Bhutto to intervene ensuring a bloody civil war. Silencing artists, thinkers, and intellectuals mirrors the actions of dictators such as Saddam Hussain and the Iranian regime.

Salima Hashmi’s contribution to the advent of art in Pakistan cannot be understated. She has been the Dean at the School of Visual Arts, Beacon house National University, Lahore. In addition, she is an activist, a painter, art educationist, writer and curator. In recent years she has been working on developing closer links with India and working towards a unity group. She was educated at the National College of Arts (NCA), Lahore, the Bath Academy of Art, U.K., and the Rhode Island School of Design, USA.

In addition, Salima taught for 30 years at NCA, Pakistan’s premier art institution, and retired as its Principal. Her work has been exhibited, and she has traveled and lectured extensively all over the world. She has also curated numerous international art shows in England, Europe, the USA, Australia, Japan and India.

Salima Hashmi is a recipient of The President’s Award for Pride of Performance, Pakistan.

Despite international protests, Salima Hashmi’s arrest alongside that of the renowned human rights Activist Asma Jahanghir has gone unheard. Surender Bhutani, Indo-Asian News Service from Doha, at the Hindustan Times writes further about Salima Hashmi’s arrest.

Salima Hashmi, an activist, painter and daughter of famous Urdu poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz, has been arrested in Pakistan following the imposition of emergency, fellow activist Asma Jahanghir told a TV news channel Sunday.

“I am under house arrest (and) so is my dear friend Salima Hashmi,” Jahanghir, president of the Pakistan Human Rights Movement, told the Al Jazeera TV channel from Islamabad.

To read the full article go to Hindustan Times

The Cinema of Santiago Alvarez

Santiago Alvarez was a Cuban filmmaker who began making films in his forties, so there is hope for all of us!

Born in Cuba, Havana 1919, Alvarez studied at the University of Havana and at the Columbia University, New York. After the Cuban revolution in 1959, Alvarez served as vice president of newly formed Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematograficas (ICAIC) and later as the director of the Latin American ICAIC newsreel, from 1960. He died in 1998 in Havana of Parkinson’s disease.

Since so much emphasis is being given to feature length documentaries recently, it would be interesting to see the work by Alvarez released just as Battle of Algiers, serving as an example of filmmakers creating a political film language for future documentary filmmakers. ‘Now’ made in 1965 is a profound document of political film making at the time.

“Not intended as a work of great subtlety, Alvarez wields other people’s images with perhaps more artistry than those who created them, and builds a remarkable piece of rhetorical cinema in the process… ‘Now!’ is strident, yes; but breathtaking” Tom Sutpen

Alvarez also produced a large number of short films which illustrated his enormous talent as a filmmaker.

I came across this excellent write up on him on from Cinema Texas Film Festival 2002, presented by Travis Wilkerson. The festival was co-sponsored by the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies. The Cinema Texas presented a retrospective of Alvarez’s short film, seldom seen outside of Cuba.

SANTIAGO ALVAREZ RETROSPECTIVEHE WHO HITS FIRST, HITS TWICE: THE URGENT CINEMA OF SANTIAGO ALVAREZ

The films of Cuban director Santiago Alvarez are inextricably linked to the United States, and nearly all of his key works concern some matter of American history: the civil rights movement, the wars in South-East Asia, U.S. interventions in the Americas. They exist as a kind of fractured mirror to the last 40 years of American history-a subversive, alternate history. Alvarez’s first exposure to radical politics came while he worked briefly as an immigrant coal miner in Pennsylvania in the 1940s (with the outbreak of war, he returned to Cuba). He didn’t produce his first film until he was in his forties, but the indefatigable Cuban director more than compensated for lost time. In a film career which began with the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and continued until his death in 1998 at the age of 79, he directed nearly 700 films. Lacking formal training, Alvarez was tapped to direct the Cuban Film Institute’s (ICAIC) newsreel division Noticiero ICAIC. The choice was one of political utility and little artistic ability was expected from the novice director. Yet over the next 30 years, Alvarez supervised the production of nearly 1500 weekly newsreels and in the process transformed a banal and wholly utilitarian genre into a veritable laboratory of radical innovation.

Although he produced works of nearly every conceivable length, it is surely in the short film that his audacious talent is most impressively manifest. His mastery of this form is a product of the unique circumstances of his film education at ICAIC. Working under extremely tight temporal and material constraints, Alvarez became a master of improvisation. He combined the use of limited found materials-archival footage and photographs-with a dynamic graphic sensibility, bold and unexpected music-image pairings, and a highly contemporary use of rapidly paced editing. Fusing the avant-garde with popular culture, he sought to synthesize a filmic style as revolutionary as the changes then sweeping his society. As Alvarez moved from the highly condensed newsreel into longer documentaries, he would only deepen his exploration of radically motivated experimentation. The resulting films were always political, often didactic. They could be playful or deadly serious. They were borne of rage, bitter irony and an almost limitless solidarity. They could be raucous or silent, brief or monumental, laconic or verbose. They were prone to tangents, but could be as eloquent as poetry. They never sought perfection. They were never made with posterity in mind. They were made for the here and the now. They showed the world to be forever changing and changeable.

What is striking, even today, is the manner with which they successfully balance goals we tend to regard as irreconcilable. They are at once highly experimental, yet completely accessible. They were produced by a state-financed collective, yet register an unmistakably personal vision. They were produced without regard to posterity, yet they reverberate with a timeless vitality. And Alvarez used every means at his disposal, which meant that frequently the films were made with next to nothing at all. “Give me two photos, music and a moviola…” he said, “and I’ll give you a movie.” And what a movie it would be.

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