A Year in Reading

by HRM on December 31, 2012

a list from Harriet Alida Lye


I made a resolution to read only things that moved me and didn’t always succeed, but since “move” is a pretty general term, I guess I didn’t ever really fail either.

I read Surfacing by Margaret Atwood, over New Year in Northern Ontario. It was my first Atwood – my reluctance probably due to the fact that, as a Canadian, I felt I’d already absorbed her – and the woods and that cabin and “those damned Americans” stayed with me throughout the year. I read Craig Thompson’s dazzling Habibi and came out of it different than before, believing in new things.

I read about 60% of The New Yorker – mostly fiction, little about the election. I didn’t read as much of the news as I feel a good person should. I read Tweets and lots of things on Facebook, most of which went in one ear and out the other and of those that stayed, I wish they’d leave.

I read lots of Alice Munro. A little of Hateship, Friendship Courtship Loveship Marriage, all of Runaway, and most of Dear Life, her new yet familiar collection, and felt glad for Alice in every line.

I read Chatwin’s On the Black Hill after a trip to Wales, and The Sense of an Ending, and felt I could have done without either, though both reminded me of my father. My father gave me The Girl in Blue, my first Wodehouse, and that reminded me of him, too.

I reread White Teeth, having remembered only that I loved it, and loved it all over again; I reread bits of Just Kids just to remember why I do all this, and reread This is Water for the same reason. Reread Franny and The Virgin Suicides to remind myself of what I love about writing.

I read To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time, and read the whole story aloud to my special friend in an accent I personally think was alarmingly Southern (alarming since I’ve never been South of Virginia). I read George Saunders’s short stories and his short novel, The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil, and preferred the stories. I read Fall on your Knees and felt Canadian and sexual and naively excited by both of those things. That scene in Central Park is, well, hot times.

I re-read my own first novel, rewrote half of it (then rewrote it again), and then wrote a second novel just to escape the first. For the second book, I read lots about bees and Canadian history. I read novels by two of my dearest – Rosa Rankin-Gee and Nafkote Tamirat – and felt privileged to know these people personally.

I read most of Rabbit at Rest, the final in the quartet, and while I love Updike mostly, I found myself bored and defensively feminist, so stopped after the (warning! spoiler!) heart attack. Same disappointment with another favourite: Ondaatje.

I read Canadian heavy-hitters The Sisters Brothers and Half-Blood Blues, and now memories of Oregon during the gold rush and Berlin blues bars during the war feel like my own.

I read loads of submissions – short stories and poems and essays – for this magazine, the surprising and beveled gems of which are published in issue 12, and I read novellas for the Paris Literary Prize, for which I am helping separate the wheat from the chaff.

I read, loved, and constantly misquote This is Not the End of the Book. Read it if you want to feel like you’re attending the most interesting private dinner party; read it if you want to be more interesting at your own private dinner parties.     

I read Never Mind by Edward St. Aubyn and found it rolled off the tongue but was too full of hateful things to continue with the series. I read Carol Ann Duffy’s new and beautiful collection, The Bees, to purge myself of all that undirected and inward spite from Never Mind.

I often tried to read the weather and always failed. In Sweden, the locals tried to teach me to read the birds but I failed here, too.


Small stories unfolding

by HRM on December 12, 2012

Five questions with artist Kyle Hughes-Odgers


kyle-hughes-odgers-profile-picThere’s a Confucius quote that goes something like “the man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”  Kyle Hughes-Odgers is the exceptionally talented Perth-based artist who is carrying these small stones. He is always working, chipping away at creating new pieces, and then all of a sudden you realize that the whole mountain’s been moved – as if it happened overnight. But that’s what being productive and dedicated often looks like from the outside. As if overnight the success story has been written when in reality it’s been a long time in the making. Kyle is an inspiration when it comes to achieving and staying focused. In the last year alone, he’s held his first European solo-show, painted in strange locations around the globe, and illustrated his first kid’s book.

His work is fine-tuned yet humble. It is whimsical and precise and even though you’ll feel transported by it you’ll still feel safe. You’ll want to look closely, to see every detail and when you do, you’ll feel something of a curiosity and sadness and hopefulness all at once.

– Lacey Haynes


One: What are you currently working on?
I’m preparing a new body of work for my next solo exhibition with Turner Galleries in Perth, Western Australia which opens Feb 8 2013. I am also working on a large scale sculptural cut-out steel installation for DMG architects. The final work will be 6m at the highest point and 40m in total width. So I will be spending most of the summer in the studio to get this work complete.


Two: What’s it like to be based in Perth, Western Australia – ‘the most remote city in the world’?
I travel a lot but I tend to be very productive when I’m back in Perth and in the studio. There is a lot of development taking place [in Perth] at the moment, which is interesting to watch.


Three: Do you consider your street art and fine art to be part of the same thread?
They are part of the same thread stylistically but my studio work tends to have more complex ideas and concepts where as my street work is more about the use of scale, placement and integrating the work to either reflect or contrast each unique location. Studio work seems more intimate and focused, where as my street work is a much more visceral.


Four: Your paintings, when seen together, tend to depict an overarching story or theme. Tell us how this all unfolds.
When I start working on a new exhibition or group of paintings I usually start with a single idea or narrative that I’m basing the series on. Each painting works individually and also as an extension of the surrounding paintings in the set. This helps me to build up a bigger world with multiple layers and sub-stories within the larger concept.


Five: When looking back over 2012, what’s the most exciting thing you had the chance to be a part of? And what do you look forward to in 2013?
I’m not sure I can pin point one project as 2012 has been very busy but it was great to hold my first international solo exhibition in Berlin last February. Taking a residency in Port Hedland in the Pilbara and painting walls / found objects and experiencing the desert landscape was great. Painting in abandoned French mansions in the jungle of Cambodia was also unforgettable. I appreciate traveling for projects and getting to see lots of different places around the world. 2013 I’m looking forward to my upcoming solo show with Turner Galleries, exhibiting in Europe and painting in more unexpected places.

See more of Kyle’s work at www.kylehughesodgers.com


The Triumph of Painting

by HRM on December 2, 2012

Art en Capital with Mia Funk
Les Mangeurs de Lotus Bleu, by Mia Funk Les Mangeurs de Lotus Bleu, by Mia Funk

Painting is dead, or so everyone keeps telling me, but if that’s the case they haven’t bothered telling the organizers of Art en Capital, nor the tens of thousands who were queuing outside the Grand Palais to be admitted for the salon’s vernissage this Tuesday. There were lines around the block waiting to be let inside.

The annual event, which in the beginning was simply known as ‘Le Salon’ because there were no other rival events, was first held in 1725 in the Louvre. Between 1748 and 1890 it was the greatest annual or biannual art event in the Western world. Over the years other salons emerged, including the Independents in 1884, Dessin et de la Peinture à l’eau in 1949, and the Comparaisons in 1956, all of which join the original Salon, now known as the Salon des Artistes Français under the Nef of the Grand Palais, united under the banner Art en Capital.

Yet despite this long-standing history (FIAC was only started in 1974 and Art Basel in 1970, while Frieze and Art Paris are relative newcomers, only 9 and 14 years old respectively), I was surprised to learn that many Parisians aren’t aware of the Art en Capital salon or believe the Salon was a historic event that was discontinued years ago.

The event is the opposite of controversial, but that’s what makes it interesting. It’s unapologetically devoted to visual art, particularly diamond painting. I emphasize this because it’s in contrast to other red-carpet art events held at the Grand Palais, where the visual aspect of art often takes second place to the business, conceptual, or showbiz aspects. At the latest FIAC I don’t how many times I overheard gallery-goers saying under their breath ‘but is it art?’ before turning away from the full-scale installation of a car wash, or electric fan, or bathroom complete with dirty towels thrown on the floor. More than craft, the work that seems to go into these pieces are the explanations.

At Art en Capital there are no explanations, but there’s no question: it is art. You might not like all the pieces on show, many of them displaying traditional skills taught at art academies, but what is evident is the time and thought that has clearly gone into each work.

Since its early days in the Carré du Louvre when Ingres, Rodin and Cézanne exhibited, much has changed, but much has reassuringly stayed the same. I was walking around the exhibition with Paris-based writer Susie Kahlich, who remarked on this fact. “It’s great to know that people are still painting like that.” We were looking at a painting of bathers that was no more than a few years old, but might easily have been painted in 1940s. And I echoed that it was nice to know that people are still painting, full stop. Because if you’ve attended recent editions of Frieze or Art Basel, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the more traditionally-trained artists had given up.

Pastel, by a student of the Académie Julian  Pastel, by a student of the Académie Julian

Not at Art en Capital, where there is plenty of the traditional beaux-arts on show – sculpture, oil painting, watercolour, engraving, even photography to a lesser degree is represented – what there’s little of is irony. Which is fine by me because I have overdosed on irony. Once novel and attention-grabbing, it now plays like a joke told too often. I mean, how many times can you look at a badly composed photograph of an obese tourist before it loses it’s edge and just becomes what it is – sort of pointless and ugly.

Of course, like all art, it’s hit and miss and not all the artworks succeed, but in the age of the easy, pixel-perfect image, it is encouraging to see that so many are still trying at all. Listen to the conversations as you take in the exhibition and you are likely to hear comments on the technique, style and composition, but no one questioning whether or not it’s “art”. Eavesdropping at the exhibition on a couple standing in front of my own painting of three women in a shadowy blue green landscape, I was lucky enough to overhear their comments, “the composition and the colours are marvellous…”

It made my day. And if, like many people, your faith in contemporary art has in recent years been flagging, and you’re looking for an exhibition which represents what French artists – outside the hyped art market bubble – are doing today, then a visit to Art en Capital will make yours. At the Grand Palais until 2nd December.

Mia Funk


How to look at everyday things differently

by HRM on November 16, 2012

Artist Jonas Hohnke on Paris vs. Berlin

Jonas Hohnke

Jonas Hohnke is a conceptual and installation artist whose work has shown in several group and solo exhibitions across his native Germany and in Belgium. He completed a residency at the Paris Cité internationale des arts in September.

On the afternoon of our meeting, Jonas arrives at a small seventh- arrondissement bar on the abandoned yellow bicycle he’s been navigating the
city fromsince summer. He found it bent against a fence somewhere and had been watching it for a while (he explains as we order the beer on draught), butseems to be the only one who uses it, and he likes forgoing bus and métro for an immediate street view. My bank card is locked again, apparently, and we commiserate a minute on the small exasperations of the foreigner in France. There are perils and privileges to acting on a nomad itch, but Paris has been good to us, we agree, as conversation turns to home – artists in New York City, and Germany, in and outside of Berlin.

– Emmeline Butler

How is the art scene in Paris different from the art scene in Germany?
Paris is like a museum itself, with its actual museums all housing masterpieces, while the contemporary art scene since the mid-twentieth century moved more to New York and London. Now especially it’s in Berlin. There are still very good gallery shows in Paris, but I think in general the museums here are more important for the art world, at least at the moment. The art scene in west Germany, where I live, had big days in the nineties, with the Becher photo school – photographers like Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, and Candida Höfer, who are all well-known internationally. I think the most expensive photograph ever sold was by Andreas Gursky for, I don’t know, 4 million dollars. And Joseph Beuys taught at the academy of fine arts in Düsseldorf in the sixties.

Jonas Hohnke

Maybe in ten years we’ll talk the same way about the people working in Berlin today, but I think now, while everyone has the chance to “get big” in Berlin, the result is more ephemeral. There are so many artists working that there is always a next “big thing” coming, and then the next one. It’s like parts of New York – before about ten years ago, everyone could live in Berlin without a lot of money, but as soon as there’s the first gallery, there’s the first Starbucks, and no one can afford to pay rent. The art scene moves to another neighborhood, and then to the suburbs, or a city that was never known as an “art” city.

What are your favorite places in Paris, and how do they inspire your work?
I like the Île Saint-Louis, because it’s next to my studio, and it’s a nice place. My favorite place to go running is the Jardin du Luxembourg. I think there have been so many artists inspired by Paris for the last few hundred years that it can be hard to find new things here to inspire you to make something new. Paris hasn’t changed very much, everything is still very old, and I would need more time here to work on something specific to Paris. For exploring the city, I think I prefer maybe Belleville and the north of Paris, but my favorite place is still my studio. I need a quiet place to work, and the Cité is perfect for that. The visual artists and musicians who live here are from all over the world, so we’re learning from each other’s perspectives, yet our main interest is still the same.

Jonas Hohnke

You started out studying as a painter. How and why did you end up making installation pieces?
As a student, I started in photography and painting. It wasn’t until I decided to quit both that I felt I could really work, because my work was no longer about one or two special media I used but depended on ideas, and I could use everything.

For example, in one installation, I hang towels. The idea is that everyone changes and builds objects everyday. It’s not about what Beuys said, that everyone is an artist – I don’t think that is my opinion – but I think that everyone makes sculptures and pictures. It’s more about how to look at everyday things differently, in the context of art.

In another, I made a wall painting of the temperature meter from my old car, which I installed in the exhibition space. As the visitor walks close to it, and walks left and right and back, he goes from cool to hot and back. In the end I modified it so there’s a text you read as you walk across. One is a series of screenprints – in German, we call it a Siebdruck – on which I printed screens, like colanders, that you use in the kitchen.

Jonas Hohnke

So I don’t think that studying art is about learning technical skills – everyone has to develop those for themselves – but rather to discover what you can express, or what you want to express. It doesn’t matter if someone is a good painter if the content of their work isn’t interesting. When you go to a museum, you can appreciate seeing a truly beautiful painting, like “oh it’s so nice”. But for me, it’s not important that a painting is nice, like the later paintings by Picasso were not considered “nice”. When Picasso invented methods for representing time in his paintings, transforming his figures until they didn’t look human in order to tell whole stories, with timelines – an idea like that is more interesting to me than whether a painting is beautiful.



You can touch the water

by HRM on November 13, 2012

African travelogue: part 5

Rousseau, Carnival Evening

Our contributing editor, Lacey Haynes, recently traveled through Africa. We will be releasing weekly installments from her travel log.

Okavango Delta – Botswana
Tuesday, early evening

Chillie, a smiling story teller whose tribe is native to the delta, propels the Makoro through shallow water by standing in the stern and pushing with a pole. The boat is traditionally made by digging out a large tree. I am grateful for the ease and silence of a boat moving through water. He points out a king fisher, an eagle, and the heartbreakingly beautiful, painted reed frog. We pull up close and I smile to its tiny body; red and precious in the long grass. Chillie speaks with one of the other guides in a language I do not know. I ask what he is saying. He twinkles, “we are so happy to see you smile like that at him.” Later he says that when he dies he’d like to come back as the painted reed frog.


ISSN: 2116 34X