By Deb A.
This interview is featured in Issue 3 of Agave Magazine, which will be released June 1, 2014. Subscribe here to get your free copy delivered directly to your inbox.
Agave Magazine is proud to announce our very first Artist-in-Residence, Tony Luciani. Tony’s artwork has been a captivating staple of Agave so far: we introduced the magazine to the world with his painting, “Chiesa di San Francesco”, on the cover, and “Wonder Woman” stopped readers in their tracks in Issue 2. Influenced by the Renaissance Masters as well as Antonio López Garcia, Käthe Kollwitz, and Lucian Freud, his immense technical talent is rivaled only by his instinctive ability to elicit powerful emotional responses. In this first interview, Tony discusses drawing as an underrated art form, art as compulsion, and his ultimate goals.
AGAVE MAGAZINE: Do you prefer to paint or draw?
TONY LUCIANI: Drawing, without a question. For me, it’s much more immediate and rewarding, whereas my paintings can take months, with no guarantee of success. I love the variable grey tonalities of the charcoals. Drawing has had a history of being identified as inferior to painting, with works on paper usually labelled as sketches or preparatory studies. I’d like to think that worked-out compositions, details, tonal values, depth and the overall thought process can give more for the viewer to absorb than just a finished canvas. I want to see the whole story, not just the credits at the end. And besides, I’d like to think my drawings stand up for themselves, even without a final painting.
What has been your most challenging piece?
I was going to say my most challenging piece was my most compositionally complicated, but I will go the other way with it and say "Wonder Woman" was the one. It was a work that was very personal and meant to subdue the heart-wrenching stress I was going through with my partner’s breast cancer. The work was never meant to be shown. It was of a beautiful person who was being stripped of her dignity: right breast removed, hair fallen out, yet the simplicity of life and survival was hopefully captured in her eyes and body language. The earrings symbolized that she still was a woman no matter what was taken away.
You have created a strict work schedule for yourself that demands dedication. What motivates you to do what you do?
I don’t think of it as “motivation” as such. I feel it is more of a need. Of course I love what I do, and creating something from nothing gives me a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. That last sentence reminds me of what a minister friend told me years ago as we played our weekly game of chess together. After a couple of chess moves in the quiet of a summer’s night, he said, “Tony, I look at your art, and now I feel I can almost relate to what God must have felt when He created something from nothing.” A bit of an exaggerated analogy on his part, but nonetheless, for me, a compliment. And yet sometimes, the motivation comes with the fear of not knowing what else I want to do, or can do.
What would you like viewers to gain from your art?
I can’t expect that every work I do will give the viewer a feeling. That’s not realistic. Though my objective is to transfer the understanding from thought to the sensation of ‘hum.’ That’s the feeling in the gut verses the nit-picking of the brain. Those head-scratching summations are best left to the art critics.
What do you personally hope to achieve through your work?
For me? Meaning. For others? Meaning.
By Deb A.
This week saw the Prix Pictet, a prestigious prize honouring photography that addresses issues surrounding sustainability, awarded to German photographer Michael Schmidt for his series Lebensmittel (foodstuffs, or groceries). The work consists of 60 photographs in a grid that each show a part of our food chain: a perfect green apple, an empty egg carton, a slaughterhouse, pigs packed tightly together, hamburgers... it is a stark, uncompromising confrontation of the realities of what we eat, where it comes from, and what it means (or doesn't mean) to us.
The theme of this year's Prix Pictet is 'Consumption', and all eleven of the shortlisted works offer an arresting glimpse into how well-being and affluence are linked to ownership, appearance and waste, in a world that has created "demand for essentials that we didn't know we needed": Laurie Simmons examines materialism through a Love Doll, Adam Bartos documents yard sales, and Rineke Dijkstra follows a Bosnian asylum seeker's acclimatisation into Dutch culture. Kofi Annan, who presented the award, rightly noted that "the shortlisted artists have made powerful images that ought to persuade governments, businesses, and each of us as individual consumers of the need for a fundamental rethink of the principles on which present-day affluence is founded."
If you find you're in need of a rethink, the shortlisted works will be on display at the Victoria &Albert Museum in London until June 14th.
By Deb A.
For Salman Rushdie, it's W.H. Auden's "In Memory of W.B. Yeats". For Daniel Radcliffe, it's "Long Distance II" by Tony Harrison. These are just a sample of the poems, collected over years by Anthony and Ben Holden, that bring one hundred (successful, creative, distinguished) men to tears.
The jarring premise of the anthology is neatly encapsulated in its title, Poems That Make Grown Men Cry: the implication being that a poem that can make even a man – tough as nails and hardened through generations of staring, unmoved, into the distance – get misty-eyed must be some poem indeed. Women are already so prone to tears that a tome titled Poems That Make Grown Women Cry would presumably be far too heavy for the fairer sex to carry home from the bookstore anyway.
Unsurprisingly, the anthology contains some incredibly moving works by famously talented poets (mostly from the 20th century); the content of the book is not the problem. Instead, it's the brazen implication that being visibly moved by art is most remarkable when the tears slide past a five o'clock shadow rather than a glossy lip.
There is a sequel with female contributors in the works, but this seems more like a concession to those who questioned the gender stereotypes at play, rather than part of the plan all along. After all, the idea for the collection arose when Anthony Holden noticed that some of his male friends were deeply moved by certain poems. Whether a successful, creative, distinguished woman blubbering over a sonnet would have piqued his interest –or anyone else's, for that matter – is a matter of speculation.
Nonetheless, the sequel will surely be an equally poignant collection. What a pity, though, that the gender divide is the starting point. Poems That Make Eminent Men and Women Cry might have addressed a much broader readership.
By Deb A.
Much ado was made of the paltry $285,879,000 brought in by Christie's first spring auction of 2014 — predictions had pointed to skyrocketing prices that, it turns out, simply did not stand up to reality. However, while some classics remained unsold, victims of optimistic estimates, others sold for well above their expected prices. Whether exceeding expectations or failing to 'perform', the one thing all the lots have in common is that ownership is out of reach for the average art lover, which is why this week's blog brings you a few highlights of Christie's Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale of May 6... arranged by date, not price.
By Deb A.
The British Library is the home of two Gutenberg Bibles; one of da Vinci's notebooks; the only remaining manuscript copy of Beowulf; the earliest known printed book, the Diamond Sutra... and an impressive collection of comics.
Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK is the UK's largest exhibition of comic books, with the majority of material coming from the library's permanent collection. While comic books are often taken lightly in the realms of art and literature, The British Library aims to shine a spotlight on the art form's power, displaying comics that challenge the status quo in a range of social issues including politics, violence, gender, and sexuality. The earliest exhibit dates back to the 15th century, but the bulk of the display comes from the last hundred years, and includes contributions from Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore and Jamie Hewlett.
Co-curator John Harris Dunning, working alongside Adrian Edward and Paul Gravett, hopes "that this show will stimulate creative disobedience and throw down the gauntlet to young creators – as well as show audiences, who perhaps have not read comics before, what a diverse and exciting medium they are. The demystification of the process of creating comics is a key part of this exhibition, with once in a lifetime opportunities to see original artwork and scripts from comics greats."
Comics: more than mysterious men in tights, and definitely not just for kids.
Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK runs until August 19th, 2014.
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