Thursday, 22 July 2010

Back online mid August...

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Barbara Kasten

Using constructed abstract environments, mirrors, subtly lit planes of glass or blurred, inanimate objects for her subject matter, photographer Barbara Kasten creates images that frequent leave the viewer baffled and bedazzled. She builds complicated environments then carefully lights them, sometimes creating technicolour abstract collisions, other times allusive, enigmatic shades and shadows. Looking at her work its often hard to deduce exactly what you're looking at, and the brain struggles to get a sense of scale - something not that common in photography. Kasten encourages this sense of confusion by keeping recognisable reference points out of the photographs. Even when photographing actual objects or places, such as classical statues, or archaeological digs in New Mexico or Turkey, the images are lit so as to appear staged and unreal, or pushed out of focus to the blurred limits of perception.
The Bauhaus movement, Constructivism, Abstract Expressionism (the Juxtaposition series features Pollock's drip paintings), and 1980s architectures have all influenced Kasten, who has been shooting for over thirty years now, and her photographs have mirrored the prevailing trends in art over the decades. She cleverly manages to use contemporary references in all her series, whilst staying true to her vision.

From the 'Architectural' series, 1980s

From the 'Studio Construct' series, 2007

From the 'New Mexico' series, 1990s

From the 'Construct' series, 1980s

From the 'Juxtaposition' series, 1980s

From the 'Greece' series, 1990s

From the 'Studio Construct' series, 2007

From the 'Architectural' series, 1980s

From the 'Greece' series, 1990s

From the 'Construct' series, 1990s

From the 'New Mexico' series, 1990s

From the 'Architectural' series, 1980s

From the 'Incidence' series, 2010

From the 'Juxtaposition' series, 1980s

All images © Barbara Kasten

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Michael Gira

An unflinching, uncompromising character, Michael Gira is best known as the founder of Young God Records and the leader of Swans, one of the most brutal, relentless and downright loud bands to ever exist. Musical legend tells of the walls of venues quaking as they cranked up the volume of their early live sets in the 1980s, and of fans vomiting as the sheer noise pummeled their organs. Definitely an acquired taste, Swans are justly infamous for their music, but Gira also masterminded the artwork for all their releases over the years, which deserves recognition in its own right. Simple, stark and powerful, it reflected the bleakness and brutality of the band's music and has stood the test of time as a great example of band identity and sleeve design. Using large sans serif typeface and slabs or bands of colour, coupled with simple, iconic symbolism, Gira, together with Paul White of Me Company in the early years, created an aesthetic which he has carried through his twenty-plus years of music. After folding Swans, Gira took this pared down identity to his next band, The Angels Of Light. There's a recognisable evolution to the design over the years, which leaves you in no doubt who is behind the music
Not all of the sleeves were effective, but shown below, in vaguely chronological but by no means complete order, are some of the standouts. Such consistency over so many years makes for one of the strongest bodies of album artwork of the last few decades.
For all his cynicism and bleakness, Gira is not averse to the odd bit of wry humour, the lyrics of his songs occasionally raising a smile, as do the sleeves to Feel Good Now or the strange rabbit-men on the Love Of Life and White Light... covers. He recently announced he is restarting Swans since he longs to be subsumed by noise once more, so it will be interesting to see how the art and identity of the new album appear.

Swans, 1984

Cop, 1984

A Screw, 1986

Greed, 1986

Greed, reverse, 1986

Holy Money, 1986

Holy Money, reverse, 1986

Public Castration Is A Good Idea, 1986

New Mind, 1987

New Mind, reverse, 1987

Feel Good Now, 1989

White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity, 1991

Love Of Life, 1992

Celebrity Lifestyle, 1994

The Great Annihilator, 1995

Filth/Body To Body, Job To Job CD reissue, 2000

Filth/Body To Body, Job To Job CD reissue, reverse, 2000

Swans Are Dead, 1998

Swans Are Dead, reverse, 1998

Children Of God/World Of Skin CD reissue, 1997

Soundtracks For The Blind, 1996

New Mother, 1999

How I Loved You, 2001

Everything Is Good Here/Please Come Home, 2003

Praise Your Name, 1999

A portrait of Gira on the reverse of Praise Your Name, 1999