Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Pilobolus in Adelaide

Ok, Pilobolus. I’m pretty sure some are wondering what does that word signify. Well, if you’ve googled it before, you come up with
a) Some sort of fungus that survives on cattle dung
b) a famous US dance company that has been in existence for 38 years =)

Obviously, the second one is what I am referring to. Attending the Adelaide Fringe has got me excited about attending another one. Pilobolus has amazing dancers and this is the company’s debut in Australia (and exclusive to Adelaide. Haha..). Student tickets were relatively cheap at $25. The show was held at Her Majesty’s Theater on Grote St. It is quite an old theater but still very nice. I got quite excited about the chandelier -_-“. We were seated at the balcony overlooking the stalls so we got a pretty good view of the stage. The program of the evening was split into 5 short pieces: Aquatica, Pseudopodia, Gnomen, Symbiosis, and Day Two. I was a little worried that I might not understand all these artsy dance stuff but once they started on their first piece, I was completely blown away. They were awesome. All the grace and fluidity in their motions. I know everything is choreographed but they were able to make it seem a spontaneous, spur of the moment action. Those with a subtle storyline were intriguing. They make you wonder, smile, they leave you awed. I especially love Gnomen which had this sense of regal-ness as the dancers interacted with each other. They had an air about them which sometimes serve to puzzle and at other times just make you laugh. Ok, I’m not making much sense here but I find it hard to describe the feelings that went through me when I was watching for my perch at the top. One thing that struck me (and really amazes me) is their ability to not only control themselves but also the amount of control. I sometimes get this fleeting feeling that the dancers were emotionally outside their bodies and that they, were watching, like us the audience, themselves moving from a distance instead of being in the whole whirling thick of things. I guess it is just the precision and grace of their movements. It just seems surreal. Like there is someone outside tweaking the scene while the dancers were also controlling their bodies with invisible strings from above.  Aquatica was also nice as it gave me a fairytale sort of feeling. I was a kid again playing by the seashore, while the waves sent up seaweeds to tickle my feet and every piece of flotsam was a treasure the sea gave up.

I think my $25 well spent. Its a pity they’re not touring to other cities in Australia. There are quite a few videos of their performances on Youtube. Just type in Pilobolus. They also performed at the 79th Academy Awards ceremony and that was really good. I wish I could have sneaked some pictures of the performance we were prohibited and I don’t want to take any chances with it.

Oh no… I’m now looking forward to going on another theater excursion again. The Australian Ballet is giving a performance later this year, and there is Cinderella on Ice (omg!) as well. I saw a leaflet advertising Les Miserables and I was quite interested in that until I realised that 1) it is a musical 2) I suspect that everything is going to be in French and THEN I will be worse than a duck lost in the desert. I really want to watch Cinderella on Ice but the tickets are a whooping $40 – 50 for students. =(

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I happened to read an article in the newspapers a few days ago that one of the largest art thefts in European history has occurred in a private Zurich Museum. The works of Degas, Van Gogh, Monet, and Cezanne were stolen.


Woman at Her Toilette by Morisot
Woman at Her Toilette – Morisot

They were artists who painted in the style of impressionism, a movement that developed in the late 19th to early 20th century. I confess that I have no idea what style this is, so out of curiosity, I decided read a little about it in the internet. Maybe not the most reliable source sometimes, but it is easy to find what you’re looking for every time. Plus, I saw a book in my aunt’s place which was a compilation of Renoir’s works. That also motivated me to do something much more productive than lazy surfing through the net. This is what I found and understood so far.

Apparently, Impressionist artists were radicals of their time. They broke the rules of academic painting, and instead sought to portray reality in a fresh and immediate way. Quick spontaneous brushstrokes of unmixed colours were used to achieve these vivid overall effects, rather than bothering with meticulous details. The artists also tried to capture the momentary effects of sunlight by painting out of doors, as opposed to the usual of painting indoors. The results were of course so much different from what society was used to at that time that most people did not comprehend the works and felt that it was ‘unfinished’.


Boating Party by Renoir
Boating Party – Renoir

Famous artists from that period include Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Mary Cassat, Edgar Degas, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, Berthe Morisot and most of them got their inspiration from Eugene Delacroix. These artists worked together closely and shared new techniques hence there are some similarities between their works (actually, for the life, I can’t see it).

I find that how they became an independent group of artists rather interesting. During the middle of the 19th century, the Académie des Beaux-Arts dominated the art scene and demanded that paintings were carefully finished with historical subjects, portraits, or religious themes. The Impressionists, on the other hand, painted still life and landscape, which was a big ‘no-no’ at the time.

The academy held an annual, juried art show at the Salon de Paris where works of artists were displayed. The Impressionists, with their lighter, brighter works, were often rejected by the jury in favour of those that conform to the approved style. This continued for a few years, however, the last straw came when Edouard Manet’s painting Le déjeuner sur l’herbe (The Luncheon on the Grass) was rejected in 1863. The indignation was so high among the artistic population that Napoleon III allowed the opening of the Salon des Refusés (Salon of the Refused). This became their own independent exhibition and they invited artists of similar styles to exhibit there. In 1884, the Salon des Indépendants was organised.

Response from the public were mostly negative, some painters had to endured cruel attacks from critics but most persevered. It was around this time that the term ‘Impressionist’ stuck and became the name which these artists would be known.

After that, from what I can understand, starting from the 1800’s, the once closely knitted group started to disperse as each artist took a different direction in their styles. Some went back to exhibiting their paintings in the Salon in order the gain prestige and commissions.

Only when the Camille Pissarro, the Impressionist patriarch, died in 1903, did people start to agree that this movement was the main 19th century revolution in art. By that time, diluted forms of Impressionist paintings were common in Salon art.


Resources, further reading:

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