Tuesday, April 29, 2008

From the other side: Rasťo Čambál

He began to respond to articles on my blog. Then we met for the first time. I was in the role of the translator. Then my lecture in his photo club FOPA followed. He said that I had to disclose the code of Hans Holbein to the club members. After that the meeting in my workshop took place. This way, step by step, I encountered a new person, that's a social network reality. He will reveal more by himself. Rasťo Čambál.

PF 2008
PF 2008

I heard you become photography addict from your youth with one 25 years long break. How did you encounter the photography as a teenager?

I think I encountered it in a very natural way. We had a Flexaret at home, my brother was using it and I tried it too. Simply as children copy activities of elders, I began to do what they did. Of course, if the activity would not amuse me, I would give it up. I took pictures of my family, friends, of my school environment and school trips. We had completely equipped dark room at home, so I did not have to search for the first experience far. I applied to photo club when I was in primary school. I do not remember how much I progressed in the club, probably not much. Surely I got basic craft skill there but not very high.

Why did your break last a quarter of a century? Don't you have a feeling, that you missed the most important time to your creative development?

Why so long break? You have to ask my cubhood :-) . Probably the most important impact on my life than had my interest in playing guitar. Of course, the reason behind it was a girl I fell in love with, and she played the guitar too. That was the beginning of my "musician period", and it lasted 18 years.

And did I really miss the period of creative development? Probably not, because I was involved in my own music, which demanded a lot of creativity, ideas and imagination. I don't want to say I was the only creative person in the group. We worked as a team. I learned there to exploit the alpha level – I exploit it when I create till today.

photography Rasto Cambal
My landscapes

The comebacks aren't easy. Didn't you feel that challenges could be too big for you after so long break?

No, I don't think so. Because I did not do creative photography when I was young I was therefore on the start line. A few years after I finished my music activities I felt lack of creative activities. I had positive relationship to computers so I decided to buy my first digital camera. That was the comeback to my interest in photography. It was just the beginning, right now I do a classic photography. I use different cameras for different sizes.

A job, family, photography. Is it possible to combine them all?

Yes, it is possible, with certain limitations. You have to set up priorities and then you act accordingly. My priorities put photography in a high position, but I know a few very good photographers, who don't do it. I think it's a pity.

photography Rasto Cambal
My landscapes 2

What motives attracted your lenses when you were young? Were they different from today's ones?

I used to take pictures of my schoolmates, but most pictures I took at home. My family. Sometimes I got some orders. Of course, nothing serious. It was all around my schoolmates and family.

Today you focus on man in your artwork. Do you think, that so unfathomable subject can be understood and expressed meaningfully?

I hope not :-). If I did it, what else could I do then? For me most important is searching connected to creating. As we say "The goal is not important, what is important is the way to the goal. There is a philosophy in it. Even if I search for something that has already been discovered. To me it is a process to know it myself.

photography Rasto Cambal

There is a motto in your first picture publication called Identity: "A good looking photography doesn't have to be good, and a good photography doesn't have to be good looking at all." How do you percept and differentiate the beauty and quality in photography? Where are the limits of your criteria defining the basic categories?

There was a time I strived for good looking pictures. And the people enjoyed them. I won several competitions that way. I noticed however that people responded mostly to pictorial form, not to the content. The beauty was in first plane. The content was in the second one. And my desire was to revert it. Then I realised that the beauty is the neighbour of the kitsch. So I excluded beauty from my pictures and began to put it into the content. I noticed I cannot rely on the general view of irony, parody or wit anymore but that I have to be genuine and it has to be about me, my opinions, feelings, that I have to undress completely in public. For me a good picture is the one which doesn't loose its value even after long time. When the picture is timeless. I prefer decadent pictorial form to let the content stand out.

I have a feeling from your work of art, that you want to testify about certain features of human character. Features which are very obvious but we pretend they don't exist, and if they do, then only in the lives of the other people, not in ours. Do you think your pictures bring about feelings of trying to stop disclosing the dark spots in human nature?

People generally don't like to reveal their hidden feelings and emotions. We are different in public and different in private lives. But in spite of this I think my pictures don't cause that kind of response. I rather think people have no desire to understand it, they resist to being genuine to themselves. For example, if we do something wrong, how many reasons to excuse ourselves we find and how much are we willing to admit our own mistakes? Many people find my pictures depressive and I have a suspicion that the only reason of it is that pictures are black and white.

Where do you search and discover the "readers" of your art work?

I don't search for "readers" of my art work. I don't create for a target group. I create mostly from my inner necessity. I am pleased with the fact my work meets positive response, but I don't have illusions about it.

photography Rasto Cambal

Symbolism is main content and means which you use to narrate austere stories. Do you think, that contemporary people who grewn up on the straightforward consumption of unassuming "culture" production can grasp the story you offer?

Probably not. We read symbols differently. Uneducated person can read it mostly based on his own life experience. And we all have our own. But I don't mind if a person finds his own story in the content of my photography. Most important is that he has a will to search for the story.

The contrast is another means of expression you use in your works. Do you follow any theory or rules of the game?

No, I do not follow any. I follow my intuition. Right now I am satisfied with wide range of gray scale. I don't use high contrast. I tend to leave out the white.

photography Rasto Cambal

You are president of photo club in Galanta, member of photo club FOPA in Bratislava and member of Alliance of artists of western Slovakia. Can you tell us something about how they function, about the atmosphere and people there?

Everything depends on good will of the members to join the club activities and educate themselves. Nevertheless the education is not the main priority of the club. If the members have a good feelings from being there and are enjoying meetings with others, the purpose is fulfilled. Unfortunately I have to admit that activities of the club lay upon heads of a few people. I heard that similar clubs abroad have similar experience. It is simply human character. Otherwise I have no reason to complain. There are many photo activities during the year, I have to select.

You had a few exibitions of your artwork in the country and abroad. What message could you send to the world and what message did you get? Do you have a feedback?

I could only say that I exist. The feedback is not my main priority. Of course I'm glad whenever I get a positive response, who wouldn't be, but it is not the main thing to me.

You can find Rasťo and his pictures on http://www.rastcam.com/com/

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Anniversary of the Atomium

Designed to represent Belgium at the Universal Exhibition in 1958 in Brussels, the Atomium was intended to last only for the six months of the Expo, from 17 April to 19 October 1958. Fifty years on, this architectural masterpiece remains one of the world's best-known and most visited buildings. Attached as they are to this symbolic edifice over 100 meters high, Belgians tend to forget just how daring, creative and modern engineer André Waterkeyn's design was.

The Atomium

Waterkeyn's intention was to represent an iron crystal – not a molecule or atom as is sometimes believed - 165 billion times its actual size, in the form of an assembly of 9 spheres connected by 20 tubes. Three years of design and construction work were required to develop and implement a project which was to shoot to international fame and contribute to the international visibility of the capital of Europe. The Architects were André and Jean Polak.

The Atomium, which had aged over the years, was entirely renovated between 2004 and 2006. Its exterior was fully re-clad, the exhibition and reception areas, shops and restaurant were reconstructed, an outdoor ticket pavilion was built and the square around the building was redesigned. This renovation work gave the Atomium a new lease of life and has met every expectation. Since reopening in February 2006, the Atomium has welcomed over 1.400.000 visitors and is once more arousing the curiosity and enthusiasm of both Belgians and foreign visitors.

On the occasion of its 50th anniversary, the Atomium management has drawn up a schedule of many activities on the theme of " Brussels Happiness " and of the links between technological progress and the promise of happiness. Almost 50 events (exhibitions, shows, outings, evenings, special publications, etc.) will be taking place between 17 April and 19 October 2008, i.e. during the exact period of the 1958 Universal Exhibition, only half a century later.

Situated on the northern outskirts of Brussels, between the royal estates of Laeken and Stuyvenbergh, and the chaussée romaine, the former Osseghem plateau consisted of meadows and fields during the nineteenth century.

From 1889 onwards, King Léopold II, whose wish it was to enhance the surroundings of the royal palace by the urbanisation of this plateau, undertook a vast program of land purchases, to the point that within twenty years, he had acquired a vast domain of 200 hectares, which he left to the Belgian state on his death in 1909.

While the Atomium remains the main attraction of what is known as the Heysel plateau, a number of other substantial activities have been developed there since 1936: exhibition halls, a congress centre, a leisure and tourist centre, a cinema complex, a planetarium, a stadium, sports grounds, green spaces and restaurants are all there for the greater enjoyment of visitors.

Universal Exhibiton 1958 - 50 years ago. c) SABAM (c) ASBL Atomium (c) Istratov Alexandre.

The Universal Exhibition, inaugurated on 27th April 1935, was certainly the starting point for this development. 20 million people visited the 150 hectares of gardens, ponds, buildings and pavilions sponsored by more than twenty different countries. At night, the area was lit up like an illuminated fairyland with the added enchantment of numerous firework displays.

Twenty years later, the International Exhibition of 1958 confirmed the hosting capacity of this site, enabling almost forty million visitors to view the technical and scientific progress of the modern world in an atmosphere of optimism and enjoyment. The general layout of the exhibition centred on the Atomium, an imposing structure, and comprised six separate sectors spread out over 200 hectares.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Zaha Hadid Wins Competition to Develop Design for Proposed Museum in Vilnius

A jury of six members today announced that Zaha Hadid, London, has won the architectural competition to develop a design for a proposed museum in Vilnius. The architectural competition is part of a feasibility study undertaken by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and The State Hermitage Museum. The directors of both institutions participated in the jury selection process.

Zaha Hadid Architects.

In addition to Zaha Hadid Daniel Libeskind, New York, and Massimiliano Fuksas, Rome , submitted designs for the proposed project.

"The creation of the new center of contemporary and media art in Vilnius would be an important phenomenon in European cultural life,” said Mikhail Piotrovsky, Director of the State Hermitage Museum . “We are honored that The State Hermitage Museum is participating in such a significant undertaking. The project in Vilnius would be an excellent complement to the programme we have recently developed exhibiting contemporary art at the Hermitage."

Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas said, “ has set its sights on becoming a premier international center of art. We can think of no better institutions -- The State Hermitage and the Guggenheim Foundation -- to help guide us in this project. Their participation on our jury has led to selecting Zaha Hadid to design the new venue, which we believe will best enable our capital city of Vilnius to achieve this goal.”

An exhibition organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, entitled “Imagining the Future: Design Proposals for a New Museum in Vilnius” will open to the public on April 10th at the Jonas Mekas Visual Arts Center in Vilnius and will allow visitors to view the works of all three architects who competed for the project.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Magic of Things: Still Life Painting 1500–1800

The Stadel Museum in Frankfurt presents the exhibit The Magic of Things: Still Life Painting 1500–1800 through August 17. Dewdrops on dainty petals, light glancing off glass drinking goblets and precious silver dishes, candied sweetmeats in blue-and-white porcelain bowls from China, the delicate fluff of a peach, the pallor of a skull... To this day, still lifes captivate us with their close-up views of objects no longer living but far from lifeless, reproduced with painterly finesse and subtle colouration. However, still life painting was anything but a purely aesthetic matter, even if the present-day viewer tends to perceive it as such. The exhibition “The Magic of Things. Still Life Painting 1500–1800” is designed to convey both aspects – the genre’s aesthetic pleasure as well as its contemporary context with regard to meaning and function.

Pieter Aertsen (1507/08 - 1575), Market Piece with Christ and the Adulteress, 1559
Oil on oakwood, 122.5 x 180.5 cm. Inscribed left on barrel “P A / 1559”.
(between P and A a trident; only upper triangle of “A”)
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Artothek

With more than ninety masterworks, the show spreads out a panorama of the still life’s development in the Netherlands and Germany from its beginnings in the late fifteenth century to the end of the eighteenth century. To this end, it unites the superb holdings of the Städel Museum in Frankfurt, the Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt and the Kunstmuseum Basel, enhanced by a number of selected loans from other collections, public and private.

After its liberation from the religious painting of the late Middle Ages, the still life initially served as a means of recording and interpreting the stationary objects found in the viewer’s everyday surroundings, objects in which the order and structure of the abstract world of the Baroque could be mirrored: for example the individual’s senses and “humours”, the elements or seasons which shaped and moulded his environment, or the mortality of mankind in general and man’s longing for redemption from sin. Due to its concentration on a small number of consistently recurring objects, however, the late Baroque still life also served as an ideal experimental laboratory for means of artistic expression. The still life ranked low in the hierarchy of genres, and to attain success its practitioners had to use it to demonstrate their special artistic abilities: a work owed its charm and value to its composition, the meaningful combination of objects and the skilful brushstroke. As a result, the paintings bear witness to mastery in the wonderful rendition of various surfaces.

Willem van Aelst
Fish on a Tin Plate and Two Glasses, 1679

Retracing the evolution of still life painting from 1500 to 1800, while also acquainting the visitor with the most important pictorial motifs and types, the show begins with the forerunners to the still life produced in the period marking the transition from the Middle Ages to the Early Modern era. The first section thus illustrates the process of the still life’s emancipation from its role as a symbolically charged accessory of religious painting to a pictorial theme in its own right.

The subsequent section is devoted to the early autonomous still life of around 1600 with Jan Brueghel and Georg Flegel as its chief exponents. Here the superb selection of splendid works already constitutes one of the exhibition’s highlights.

Following the cartouche paintings, banquet pieces and vanitas still lifes make up the next group of works, introducing viewers to the symbolism of Baroque imagery and its highly idiosyncratic blend of sensual stimulation and admonitions regarding the transience of earthly existence.

By contrast, the following department on fish and hunting still lifes exemplifies the considerable extent to which seventeenth-century painters specialized in certain genres as a means of gaining a competitive edge on the art market: often one artist in a given city would virtually hold a monopoly on a certain type of composition. The “sumptuous still life”, for its part, – represented above all by the names Jan Davidsz. de Heem and Willem van Aelst, with several works by each of them on view – was entirely dedicated to the description of luxuriance as well as the demonstration of fine-painterly virtuosity.

The final chapter of the show explores the eighteenth century, which lends particularly apt expression to the theme of the “magic of things” in the paintings of Justus Juncker – an artist who elevates a pear, for example, to imposing monumentality by enlarging it and placing it on a pedestal. Jean Siméon Chardin’s Städel painting “Still Life with Partridge and Pear” employs no more than a few laconic brushstrokes to endow those objects with astonishing presence, bringing the exhibition to its magnificent conclusion.