Avante Garde Things – Real, Not Trends

Yes, this is another recycled post from about 3 years ago which I feel good enough to re-post with a couple of additions. Inasmuch as I am officially a “retired landscaper”, we will not be seeing more pictures of myself and friends on the job.  My last one was about 2 years ago, here in Louisville.

For a landscaper, any intensity of interest towards something Avante Garde might seem unusual. But these are the bizarre personal complications our Maker has decided to afflict some of us with. The inspiring nature of art needs to be a part of any grade school and especially junior high school curriculum. Artists hang out way out there in their own whimsy, dedicated beyond the norm to present a weird brand new world of wonder for we admirers to sensually and mentally take in. They perform these works selflessly and most often wordlessly.

Enjoy.

My good fellow blogger Frances the other day lamented the curse of “trends” in gardening, speaking to an irritation I can cop to as well. Here is her rant – fairegarden -and I sincerely implore people to check it out – for the colorful explanations of her angst as well as her usual stunning pictorial abuse of her very own garden. It made me consider the qualities of art and, really, everything – and it also made me consider those things which move me most.

I have a very real fascination with what I consider to be current  ‘Avant Garde’ artists. I also like the connoisseurs of those artists who blog, review and attempt to describe their heartfelt relationships with wild ideas. A restless pursuit of new things can be an addiction – at its worst we become unseated from our table, off chasing the current butterfly. At best – and these are the moments we cherish – we discover something new, uplifting and which cracks open a window into another world entirely. The sheer differentness of utilizing normality to express meaningful connections in new and unique ways shows us our own potentials in their amazing variety. It reveals, too, a depth which is so fortunately unfathomable at its highest expression.

Here is Ernst Reijsiger and Mole Sylla last Summer at a workshop in Amsterdam using classical elements of beat, instruments and the rest but putting it into a stew of cross cultural and uniquely human celebration:

Nor does the stark ability of an artist in his or her moments of great achievement mean any less simply because of the era. Our discovery makes it contemporary in all the important ways, be it the Avant Garde qualities of Antonio Gaudi or the painted styling of Hieronymus Bosch. The unattributed photo below illustrates an incredibly stark imprint of time and place on the part of the artist. In its enlarged state, perhaps you too can find why and how I found myself utterly riveted by it.

A partially-excavated Sphinx looms in its unfinished excavated form and quite broken splendor over the relatively tiny bodies of workmen or perhaps passing Bedouins who had used it as a shady rest stop for Centuries. The contrast of modernity – which is the picture itself – mix with the grandness of scale and the breath of living subjects amid the ruinous nature of Time.

Clicking to enlarge this picture reveals far more than the compressed visual here. Indeed, all of these are prone to enlargement, although I have scaled back the monster shots which take up so much bandwidth, to Annette’s relief.

Less than a pursuit of genius – which is another level of inquiry and surprise – I glory in little discoveries of felt presentation which move me in mysterious ways. Needless to say, among the Avant Garde of modernity, architects and builders tend to rule over a region of art and accomplishment like few others – and I include landscape design artists such as Isamu Noguchi who make indescribably evocative and massive sculptures out of land and the products of Earth itself.:

Below is what was a landfill in Sapporo, Japan before Noguchi changed things:

More Personal – My Private Enthusiasms:

An absolute favorite artist of mine is a lady named Helen Nock – website here – who plies at garden furniture construction, sculpture, iron work, roofing tile salvage and who puts together gloriously beautiful and impractical pieces over in merry Olde England and with whom I share yuks on Facebook. Her overall body of work is absolutely and utterly unique:

Michael Eckerman of Santa Cruz, California is an artist in stone – among other mediums – website here - who constructs structural landscape elements using a bizarre variety of forms and materials. His work has to be seen to be believed:

In closing, I can hardly think of a more interesting sampler of sound and depth than Joe Zawinul and his usual collections of the best musicians on the planet:

Sensational Artwork Using Water

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This stunning and creative photographic capture is among a series of wallpaper pictures from this website: FantasyArtDesign. Photography may be the art form which has most enhanced the  appreciation of water in terms of possibility and incredibly exotic representation………  But, then, photography is passive. It needs  subjects to do its work. As a partner in such stuff, you are reading the blog of one of the most satisfied appreciators of photography in history.  ;-)

But this is only tangentially a photographic blog. Landscaping and the range of possibilities in design and implementation is what this blog and what I am about. And today, I want the whole enchilada – let’s visit water and all the wondrous edifices and constructions which humans have made to celebrate our relationship with this vital and helpful element.

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The work of water is fascinating. We see modern fountains which seem utterly other-worldy and which fascinate us beyond measure. Sometimes even huge, gigantic constructions comprising computer generated pumps and jets which throw coordinated spouts of water into hitherto-unheard of heights such as this monster in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia referred to as the world’s tallest fountain – shooting water 1,024 feet above the Red Sea.

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Or the famous works of kinetic water sculpture such as those made so famous at the Las Vegas Bellagio, of course:

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Barcelona, Spain  finishes second to no one with their miraculous fountain, so appropriately named “The Magic Fountain of Montjuic”.

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Enough Of Fountains

Let’s visit a couple of other water wonders artists have tossed together out of those creative minds over centuries of washing, swimming, boating and drinking the stuff.

The painting below was constructed by a lady with the absolutely appropriate name, April Waters. It can be resourced here, at the Oregon State University Agriculture Art Gallery.

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What’s most unique to me about this particular painting  is its utter realistic depiction of Winter on the American North West – complete with the deluges courtesy of the Pineapple Express’s warm ocean current and the plenty of weather it brings – the (cough, cough)……….AMAZING AND OFTEN DEPRESSING AMOUNT OF RAIN;-)

Other visual artists have become far more famous than April throughout history for their own representations of the liquid of life. Among my favorites is this gorgeous Chinese painting of a leaping carp, an ancient symbol of wealth. The artist is the contemporary Chinese artist Zhou Wen Xi (周文熙)

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Since running water in Chinese symbolism also represents money in its ephemeral forms, I’m hoping this carp visits my house down the Ohio River and stays a while. I’ve always been a carp fan!

Speaking of which, here is some material art composed of animated substance, muscle and even a modicum of brain power who also enjoys the life afloat as well as beneath the currents and flows:

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We should also take a moment to reflect at the vocal expressions regarding water. We sometimes do indeed acquaint ourselves with what water brings as our borderline single most precious resource. These people celebrate water in song -

 

Abnormally Cool Garden Furniture – Helen Nock

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(click images to enlarge)

She lives 3,900 miles from here on a different continent, but Helen Nock’s inspired craftsmanship just about ripped my heart out. I have rarely had such an avid appreciation of someone’s excellent work – and make no mistake, there sure are plenty of folks who do amazing things – but Helen’s work had me from the get-go.

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The two bird baths – above and 2 below -  give an idea of her material and her general concepts. She – like me – loves mosaics and the crazy imaginings one can get from colored glass. Yes,  it’s a weakness, I admit it. ;-)  I thought the Indians got a great deal selling Manhatten for $22 worth of glass baubles, myself. I’da been cheaper! I am moved by the baubles made by the human hand. Just as the stained glass in the great churches moved men and women to forget their meager and hard-fought existences, witnessing God’s glory and the promise of better lives in those Holy Places – be they Mosque or Temple or the Great Cathedrals of Europe – now, from the hands of fabulous craftsmen and women such as Helen Nock, we get yet another near-religious experience. We are now enabled to witness a shameless exposure to radical artistic design – equally powerful in many ways and definitely as mesmerizing.

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Helen – like the architects of those inspirational devices of churches – also loves experimenting with her own version of killer baubles, enjoying the dimensional frames they fool us with and beguile us with so dearly – and with a playful sense of love at the same time. Art with a smile never looked so good. So? It’s A Garden Fer Pete Sakes!!  Get Real! Sue me! What could be cooler? I’m just a gardener!! These handcrafted products bring ferocious and gorgeous new colors into a garden, all season long – no matter the season. Plus, Helen has a hysterical take on symmetry going for her too – balance is structural, by all means, but hardly designed that way above her very substantial steel footings. I find much of her work positively “Antonio Gaudi-like” and love it. In those times of the year when color is so desperately desired, we have this incredible artifact – or many others shown below by way of tables, seats, bird baths or just standard ornamentation – all glitzy, translucent, shimmering and special and all our own. Man, am I ever a fan!

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Here’s a close up of the picture above – and, yes, please ask about materials…………

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This isn’t some small time girl.This is a serious pursuit and we gain from these gorgeous artworks.

I have no problem whatsoever in comparing what she does with the great artisans of our – or any – era. Art is a trick – we take standard average elements and make them something far, far more than they began with. At my most presumptuous, I think that about my best work. Helen Nock, as many others of us, works hard at her chosen craft. Her products are often commissioned by individuals with very particular wants. Take this Sunflower Table for example:

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A stunning fact of her work is not just in its artistic sensibility alone, either. These items are not your everyday flimsy, department store items. They are made with the connivance and aid from her local blacksmith, as Helen’s demands go to such materials as Stainless Steel, bronze, copper and the slates and stone sets which need a firm footing, attached for super permanence. These are, after all, outdoor products for the most part. They need to accomplish sturdiness and stability facing the greatest conniving for failure devised by man or Diety – children, for one thing, rain and wind and the elements in general, for others – including freezing and thawing. Outside of the Sun, Nature’s most  universal killer of man made things is the alternating temperature during a day’s passage.

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Her “smithy”, Nathan Bennett, is a busy man, and thorough. Not only do they conspire to build these edifices extremely well, they build them to last. And not only do they build them to last, but Helen does these series’ of acid washes of the metals themselves, bringing colors out with each application, fastidiously producing her desired product. She works until she gets it right. I think I like this aspect best, but then I would. The thrill of producing permanent things is a wonderful accomplishment.

Here are her own words as to how she arrived at this craft: (from her website profile)

“I was formally trained in fine art and design with a special interest in painting but a series of unnexpected turns led to my current practice. My professional carreer began working with teenagers and young adults disaffected by mainstream education shortly after gaining my B A Hons as a mature student. A fantastic six years of lecturing and teaching both professionally and personally stretching, but by September 2006, I felt the need to focus my own practice. I assumed a return to painting on a full-time basis but working in a disused stone quarry surrounded by wildlife, some training on the resident blacksmith’s forge and a strong interest in nature and natural materials strongly influenced my decision to make beautiful and unusual things that live outside. The metal working opportunity led to developing work where I could integrate wrought iron, and commission the blacksmith to manufacture from my designs.  Exploring mosaic method seemed a natural progression to combine with wrought iron furniture.  Latterly, I explored the potential of mosaic method for individual sculptural work. I will use a range of methods and material as work and inspiration suggest, not all exclusively mosaic but my abiding interest in mosaic method is fired by it’s flexibility and hardy utility, and diverse possibilities it offers in combinations of media and technique.” Works for me!!  ;-) 87082_mosaic-and-metal-detail-of-metalwork-surface-finish Here is Helen herself, decked out in her most decadent and oh-so-fashionable working attire and doing those lady-like things we all expect our wimmins to do.  Yes, she is grinding away with a Super Industrial strength grinder. Oh still my heart!!! ;-) That grinder, by the way, is like what we use for shaving cement blocks and bricks. It is about as safe as a loaded gun and needs that much care to avoid accidental disaster – they are, in fact, so powerful, they can also ruin some work in a split second, too. (She’ll kill me for this, I am sure, lol) Hey. I’m in love, don’t listen to those other guys!  ;-) 4858200074_1a3cce5777_b What we get, from the developer of this art’s perspective, is this – the elemental series of constructions I found incredibly fascinating, to say nothing of the end product: Raw stuff: 4821762119_b1d36ea1b5_b 4821767675_528bbca777_b A forged stainless steel detail: 4832142374_00c716dc84_b The Home Stretch – almost there! 4834696775_780dd45da7_b Still some buffing necessary yet: 4860317729_61ce96bec9_b Final Product: 4864266353_20763149bb_b Pretty amazing stuff. Here is her website:  http://www.helen-nock.co.uk/sculpture–and-wall-art This is where she exhibits just some of her stuff. A word – she also does sculpture and she also does – get this – lighting for gardens, which I show here. This one is entitled “Wall Urchin”: 4287061743_f925380384_o Here it is, lit up: 4287796014_90a45b760b 4287803860_49eeb90a0e_o Helen Nock. My current most favorite artist in the world and also a great gal, I hasten to add. I’ve only spoken with her by mail, asking her permission to spread the Great Word and we definitely made one another laugh. There can be no higher praise. Thanks, Helen and keep it up!! She does a great Pig, by the way!! And in a shirt, no less, for the more modest of us.

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180417_andamento-flow Absolutely wonderful work. 65570_cluster 3894054799_b3ae17dda3_b 87286_garden-table-spira-top-view-scroll-down-for-more-views 139860_garden-table-shingle-dreaming 3894835854_3d8d64e1c6_o 3894048341_e75921d290_o

Blending Light With Water

The mixtures of physical elements reaches a real sort of crescendo when we combine the simple concepts of Nighttime and artificial lighting humans install around their various architectural concoctions of water-based landscaping. From tiny doorway ponds, set just beside our front doors to provide the gurgling sounds of Peace and the small lights we install to enhance its nighttime appearance to the massive structures of light and water magic itself in cities like Barcelona, Dubai, Las Vegas and Singapore, our craving for beauty never stops. The fact that these altogether wholesome and wonderful urges get met by designers and inventors with our highest hopes implicit yields the fabulous work we see below.

The illusions Noguchi sought in his “9 Floating Fountains” constructed for the 1970 Osaka Worls’s Fair still glimmer in the Osaka nights, seemingly dumping tons of water from tight square clouds.

What seems most remarkable, in the end, is the role lighting played in this marvelous bit of architectural whimsy. We do also understand that lights combined with water both bend and refract the light rays in incredibly pronounced ways. We see this from far smaller scale water features in lakes, ponds and the more strictly residential and homey edifices we make ourselves.

We are so fortunate, in the end, to have modern specialists who now seemingly routinely embrace the lighting and water phenomenon and who have designed a great series of total wonders as our own eye candy and inner thrills. Light Shows have made not only the lexicon of modern life but also have come to represent many of the highest achievements in architecture.

Barcelona’s Magic Fountain was among the first to accomplish lighting wonders on such a massive scale when they opened in 1929 for the opening of The Barcelona International Exhibition. 

 

The magnificent urban setting set the standard in the world for what would come next. Other cities proceeded to become equally fountain-famous – Kansas City, New York for the World’s Fair in 1936, Osaka in 1970, leading to the extravagant masterpieces of the casinos in Las Vegas, Macau and Singapore.

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Singapore, for instance, new machinery creates a foggy, wet background upon which to display video and laser elements in a near 3D fashion. Their light shows are becoming totally legendary. Here’s a video from a show taken by an individual’s phone:

Making the Unusually Wonderful is getting easier. We can all be glad of this.