Sunday, 26 February 2017

EARS FOR THE EYES




at Transition Gallery, Unit 25a Regent Studios, 8 Andrews Road,  London E8 4QN

10 Feb - 4 March 2017

ARTY magazine launch and evening viewing 
Friday 24 Feb 6-9 pm 


Art from Alli Sharma, Clare Price, Jonny Briggs, EJ Major, Kate Lyddon, Cathy Lomax, Adam Dix, Emma Cousin, John Banting and Kelvin Okafor

Writing by Matthew Francis, Joan McGavin, Stephanie Carey-Kent, Claire Crowther,  Tamar Yoseloff, Julian Stannard, Saradha Soobrayen, Paul Carey-Kent, Emma Cousin, Cathy Lomax, Alli Sharma and EJ Major.

Curated / edited by Paul Carey-Kent

Arty stockists are listed here

And the magazine can be bought from Transition's website here








 




Installation images






We think naturally of sound when considering the ear, so there's a certain wilful perversity in making it the subject of a show of paintings, drawings and photographs with no sound directly featured. It does mean, though, that the walls have ears. And that provides an opportunity for different perspectives, looking at the ear as a design, signifier, analogy, symbol etc, and always with the sense that there is something beyond what we see...

The show is accompanied by poets' and artists' writings in a special edition of ARTY magazine, which also includes a suitably quirky roll-call of the ear's appearances in art.



WORKS IN THE SHOW 





Cathy Lomax: Audrey's Ear, 2017

Oil on linen, 40 x 40 cm

Cathy Lomax is fascinated by the romance of cinema, and her paintings – which she often shows in groups - link iconic scenes to form visual narratives in which we suspect she’d like to take part.  Here Audrey Hepburn’s gamine beauty updates Vermeer’s pearl earring, while taking us back to a time of glamour in which the excesses of celebrity culture seem no more than incipient. Is there a snake in the idyllic grass, though – or, rather, smuggled into her famous hair?  

____________________











Clare Price: t.h.10, 2016



oil and acrylic on canvas,  31x36cm

If pareidolia most often stands for our tendency to see faces in the natural world, perhaps it’s aureidolia which leads me to see ear shapes in Clare Price’s abstractions, titled by a personal code and evoked a certain hesitant vulnerability. Or are those sound waves? Or are we inside the ear? Poised lyrically between trembling borders and invasive mist, they both seem to be listening to the other’s muted echo of geometric abstraction, so posing the question: what made the original sound?



____________________





EJ Major: Matiére Signalétique, 2017


Selected film stills


E.J. Major’s selected film stills set up visual parallels between Haneke’s La Pianiste and two other films, analysing the scene, as Deleuze proposes, not by traditional genres, but by what is intrinsic to the images themselves (their material as signals). A long take of Erika, the film’s central protagonist (a woman whose contrasting worlds are classical music and voyeuristic sex) recalls a moment of contemplation in Ozu’s Late Spring. Like the music interrupted in Haneke’s scene, says Major 'the suggestive function of the association is open'. Similarly as Erika enters a lift with her mother and bars access to a young man who has entered the apartment block behind them, is there something in the scene that we are not seeing? There's a visual echo of Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris, but, says Major 'as one sheet of past is recognized, another, the sound, underwhelms the connection'. If in our mind’s ear we can hear the desperation in Schneider‘s voice as Brando chases up the stairs after her in the scene before the film’s tragic denouement, that suggests a darker side to Haneke’s filmic pun. Can we, Major asks, ‘see’ that? In looking, what do we hear?



____________________









John Banting: Dead Gossip, 1931

Gouache on card - 48 x 63.5 cm (courtesy Austin Desmond Fine Art)

It’s no surprise, seeing this alluringly creepy painting, to learn that John Banting (1902-72) was associated with the British surrealist movement in the 1930’s. An animal’s skull seems to have retained not just some well-formed teeth, but a reptilian eye, the sensing tip of a porcine nose, a fleshy and implausibly human ear, and some vestigial system of circulation.  Is that all that’s needed to talk ill of the dead from their own perspective?


____________________




  


Alli Sharma: from the Bats series, 2017,



each oil on board, 20 x 15 cm

Alli Sharma makes lush and openly sentimental paintings of objects or animals to which we might imagine ourselves relating: keepsakes and jewellery, for example, or cats and birds. Her series of bats tweak that somewhat, as few people see them in the same sweet light.  Nor, I suspect, do they differentiate one bat from another too much, but what comes across in Sharma’s set is the attractive personality of different animals.

____________________











Adam Dix: The Collectors2013.

Ink and oil on paper - 72 x 52 cm

Adam Dix generates a haunting atmosphere with his 'oil as if it were watercolour' technique by presenting figures redolent of the past in would-be sci-fi landscapes. Here the peculiar ritualistic uniforms – was this Laura Ashley’s design for the Ku Klux Klan? – reveal no ears. Perhaps hearing has been outsourced in this ambiguous timescape, hence the prominence of a communications tower to which obeisance must, it would seem, be paid. The mystery is increased by the obvious question: what are they collecting?


____________________






Kelvin Okafor: Katherine's Interlude, 2016

Graphite, charcoal & black coloured pencil on archival paper 79 x 67 cm 
It makes sense to hear, given the technical assurance of his graphite and charcoal portraits, that 30 year old Londoner Kelvin Okafor has been drawing people obsessively since he was eight. His ‘Interlude’ series captures fourteen of his rather good-looking friends - but departs from the usual convention of engaging through the eyes as portals to the soul. Instead, we are led to wonder what Katherine might be thinking – or hearing. 

____________________


Kate Lyddon: The Shell-Like Loop​, 2017

Oil on canvas - 30x40cm

A central orifice acts as mouth to a red head, ear to a blue head, and general entry and exit point for what Kate Lyddon calls 'a medley of fleshy dripping drinking body parts'. It's  tasty enough to eat, judged by the knife and fork wielded as he tries to eat her while she drinks him in a disturbing interaction of fluids. If that feels like a collage of myth, medievalism and body trauma to arrive at an alluring grotesquerie, then it's typical of her work.
 
____________________









        


 

Jonny Briggs: Forward Slashes Series # 1, 2013



Altered family photograph, 15 x 18cm



Much of Jonny Briggs’ practice creates new versions of his lost childhood through re-enactments involving his parents. The results are typically both more real than expected (as they look Photoshopped but are not) and psychologically charged. Here an old photo of the family pet is subject to an edit which proposes a disjuncture of the senses. The eyes now rhyme with the long ears as if the dog were seeing through them in the absence of eyes from their usual place.


____________________









Emma Cousin: Falling on Deaf Ears, 2017

Oil on canvas, 70 x 50cm


Emma Cousin’s paintings have an engagingly up front personality, bordering on the comic but balanced by a good deal of painterly acumen. The colloquial and the art-historical play off each other here, as an absurdly literal interpretation of an everyday phrase is delivered with a hint of Tiepolo. How fool is Cousin being, though? There may be a barb in the title, should anyone be visually tin-eared enough not to appreciate what she’s doing.



____________________






Clare Price: t.h.9, 2016



acrylic on canvas,  31x36cm

POEMS

Earring


I love the time of dangle-down -

my flesh in her flesh, my movements
her movements, my panorama hers -

the days when his whispers are mine.



I hate the time of jumbled up.

Unjewelled by the dark, I sweat:

why should she take me off by night?

What rumours are these about studs?





Paul Carey-Kent


____________________








Her Peculiar Oblations

 



sorted it weeks ago
so I don't have to pour oil
down my ears. I do anyway.

'Twice a day, twenty minutes'
said Nurse Florid in April
and then quite dreamily

as if considering the eye of the needle
'April is the cruellest month.'
Then she heaved herself

around the Treatment Room
in a miasma of giggles
'Oh, I do love ears!'

shooting her syringe
towards the ceiling
like the cowgirl in a B-movie

who gives it hard
and takes it hard
and who, by the end, is just one of the boys.

When I walked out
of Nurse Florid's Treatment Room
in dazzling April

my ears were so clean
I thought of banging out
an Alleluia with the Baptists.

I miss Nurse Florid
and her peculiar oblations.
I do it for her mostly.



Julian Stannard





____________________





Charm for Earwigs



Witchy-beetle, forkin-robin,
no one heard you as you clambered
up the nursery slopes of pillow,

felt your way in heaving darkness
where a dreamer breathed siroccos,
scaled the north face of an earlobe,

stumbled on the antihelix
where the cartilage was ruckled
into an upended mizmaze,

teetered round its corrugations,
to the vortex where the tragus
overhung a bloodwarm grotto.

There was curl-room in the concha
but the scent of earwax drew you
through a straight and oozy burrow,

thrumming with a distant heartbeat.
First the walls were soft, then bony,
then antennae scratched a membrane.

Arrywiggle, horny-gollach,
you awoke me from my stupor,
rasping with a chitin stylus

on my mind’s long-playing vinyl,
ratcheting my taut tympanum
with your cacophonic tarsi,

set my ossicles percussing
with the clangour of rough music,
dustbins, copper saucepans, kettles.

Now I smear a linen poultice
with the pulp of roasted apple,
press it, wincing, on my pinna.

Malic steam pervades my chambers
to entice you with a perfume
sweeter than November compost.

Clipshears, codgybell, twitch-ballock,
lift your bristles from my eardrum,
let the sea of cochlea settle,

turn back from the labyrinth.


Matthew Francis




witchy-beetle, forkin-robin, arrywiggle,

horny-gollach, clipshears, codgybell,

twitch-ballock = dialect words for earwig - MF


____________________


and speaking of Van Gogh’s ear…






Most of the ear, or the lobe alone?
The latest thought is that most of the ear
was cut off by Van Gogh just before Christmas.

Cut by himself or by Gauguin’s sword?

The consensus seems that he did it himself
at the Yellow House, having threatened the friend
who was threatening to leave, whom he saw
as a traitor, a kind of a murderer.

Given to a whore or a young woman he knew?

Not a whore, but poor Gaby, whom a rabid dog bit.
The wound had been cauterized, scarring her arm;
her life saved by injections in a Paris hospital
that her job in the brothel helped to pay for.

And what became of the ear?

It made Gaby faint when she opened the paper,
saw what it contained. She dropped the gift.
It went to the hospital, I read, but couldn’t
be sewn back on. Since then, I don’t know.

*

I suppose it’s nowhere now
though, like Shelley’s heart, or Cromwell’s skull,
or Thomas More’s head, someone may have kept it,
decided they must garder cet object
précieusement
as a keepsake, a touchstone, an almost holy relic,
to be perfumed or bound in special linen
or buried by night in a secret place
away from prying eyes, researchers
and perhaps unbalanced future fans.

Joan McGavin



Note: Van Gogh was living with Gauguin in Arles when the famous incident occurred on December 23, 1888.  Gauguin was a keen fencer, lending some credence to the suggestion that he might have sliced the ear off in a fight which was followed by a pact of silence. A diagram drawn by Van Gogh’s physician, Dr. Felix Rey, has recently been found, indicating that the whole ear was cut off. And the identity of the young woman to whom he gave the ear - saying the words quoted in French -  has been established.  JM



____________________







Marcus and Me


Marcus and me like to wear
three jumpers to school.
The teacher tells me to say
the word warm at least
seven times a day. But Marcus
says that warm is too small
a word, it moves away
too quickly like a mouse.

Marcus says that Anaemia
are little creatures, like lice.
He thinks he’s caught them
by sucking the daisy foam
off my wallpaper.
Mum might have it too,
her pale face and kisses
taste of copper coins.

She doesn’t mind Dad’s
barking. Will it kill her?
Like her too tight shoes or
an Asthma Attack? Marcus
sometimes hides outside
my parents’ room. His ear
to the wall, his finger scraping
the paint off the radiator.

When Marcus and me have
an earache we go to my mum
and kneel like a donkey, my head
sideways on her lap, catching
the splashes one drop,
two drops. Mum rounds up
the wild hair from my ear but
her thumb can’t shut out the thunder.




Saradha Soobrayen
 
                           ______________________



Hearing aids


When she first got them she wore
them every day like a new
dress, twirling in the racket
and tumble of words like rain.
Now she delays putting them
in for as long as possible.
She likes the cool deep silence
of unravelling iced velvet.
Frank jerks his head and whispers
"Tell gran not to drink her ears”,
nodding conspiratorially
at the plastic snails coiled in a tumbler.
Far away as a pigeon up a tree she shouts
“I haven’t put my ears in."
We know she’ll drink her tea
then loop them up and over
between dry cartilage and
stiff grey perm into deaf ears,
pretending to switch them on.

Emma Cousin



____________________


Hear


I am reading a poem about silence
where Beethoven appears in the last line,
straining to hear his own symphony.
The waiting room is full of muffled coughs,
whispered conversations, the soft tread
of the intern’s surgery slippers on the tiled floor.

The doctor looks deep inside, probes a thin needle
into the inner chamber, applies suction,
I can hear a long roar, then pop. The room is full
of creeks and songs, a sonic hum
I've never heard before, the low tone of dog whistles.
I am Super Ear. The doctor’s voice resonates
inside my body. I carry his clear vowels home

and on the way I try to remember everything
I didn't hear, the thousand daily sounds
that just washed over, or disappeared,
in case I have lost something important,
a phrase that might have changed my life,
the music of a new language.



Tamar Yoseloff

 


____________________

 

Ears for the Eyes

We’re out riding, me and you in the New Forest, along a sandy track.

You stop: I see from your ears you have spotted a bird (or two) in the bush way, 
way ahead, beyond me. Your ears pricking forward, stalky and strained, say it all.

We wait – one of us patient, one of us tense. My legs pressure your sides, asking you
to walk us on. Lowering your head, you acquiesce.

You like to scan the land, seeking threats, as when your wide-scoping eye finds 
the loping dog behind: no sounds find my ears, but yours, flat back, shout high alertso that I tense to your spring forward, your dismissing of the dog-foe, the kick across its bows.

And on we trot.

Yes, you are good at dogs. But not so snakes, masked under cover of heather edging 
our track. Snakes who, if there, quicken to trit-trotting hooves.

You start, you snort, you spook to the side. Your ears let me down, too quick for me,
and sharp down I go, striking the track, vibrating your snakes away.

You wait, regarding me, as if to say it’s safe, it’s safe for you back on my back.

So on we trot.


 
Stephanie Carey-Kent

                                           ____________________

Hear in the Art


Jump red tick
Drum my rib

Jump red tick
Ear in the heart

Jump red tick
Sound me out

Jump red tick
Herd this us

Jump red tick
Bug lug vamp 


Claire Crowther



'I saw a red tick and I have a friend with Lyme disease, which has kind of ruined his life except he’s anything but a ruined person, and the tick jumped and looked to me like a heart - shape, colour, jump-jumpiness.' - CC


____________________



Her Earrings 

Cautiously - is that the door? -
I quantify her habit:
three boxes with thirty four

pairs (admittedly five from me),
two lonely extras (one mine -
a parrot whose mate flew free

in high winds at Devil’s Dyke)
plus the six she always wears.
Eighty-odd, of which I like

especially the bamboo
drops which, looking so heavy,
yet fall light; the dangle-zoo

with lizards and swinging apes;
the yellow shells - with the surge
of the sea on tap, perhaps –

and the abstracts which make her
a miniature gallery.
But enactments talk louder

than taste; and more than suggest
that of all her adornments
I love this repertoire best –

for what do I tend to buy
as proof? And what does she wear
that I never even try

to take off? In ears we share
a mild imbalance - with which
we’re happy, being a pair.





Paul Carey-Kent
 



LEND ME YOUR EARS

Or, rather, don't: here are a few things which aren't in the show, but which came to mind in putting it together. Let's start with what I would guess are the three most famous paintings on the theme.







Hieronymus Bosch: Detail from The Garden of Earthly Delights, c. 1490-1510

Two enormous ears, pierced by an arrow and cut by a knife, are prominent in the bizarre goings-on in Bosch's Hell. Interpretations of his symbols are speculative, but this       contraption has been said to symbolise man's deafness to the New Testament exhortation: 'If any man have ears to listen, let him hear.' Sadly, Bosch's great triptych never leaves Madrid.



Johannes Vermeer: Girl with a Pearl Earring, c. 1665

Not many paintings have inspired a best-selling novel... I suspect it's the way the pearl earring echoes the eyes which makes this the most subtly erotic painting, a well as the most famous, to draw attention to the auricular zone.


 

Vincent van GoghSelf-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, 1889

The outcome of the most notorious ear incident isn't far way - the Courtauld owns  this painting - but arranging a loan might have been awkward...   The latest research confirms that Vincent cut off the whole ear, so giving an automatic art reference to the various more recent sculptural treatments of an ear.





Kelvin Okafor: Identity Series - Ear, 2014

Kelvin Okafor is known for his stunningly achieved graphite and charcoal portrait drawings of his friends, such as the exhibition's  Katherine's Interlude. Here though is a self-portrait which, paradoxically, shows only his ear, posing the question: how many people could you recognise from such a view?



       


Vincent van Gogh: Ears of Wheat, 1890

There are actually two strands to van Gogh's ear works, as he painted wheat fields consistently during 1885-90: drawn to biblical parables, his empathy with manual labourers and colour in nature: 'Are we not ourselves very much like wheat... to be reaped when we are ripe?', he asked.  This, from his late Auvers-sur-Oise months, is one of his most  'all-over' compositions.






Emmanuel Sougez: Three Ears of Wheat, 1929/30


While we're on cereal, Emmanuel Sougez (1899-1972) was a French photographer known for an intense metaphysical focus on still life objects, as in this monumental, almost architectural, gelatin print of three partial ears of wheat.       




   

Meret Oppenheim: Giacometti's Ear, 1935

Oppenheim befriended Giacometti when she arrived in Paris in 1932, and may be referring to his use of cast body parts in the elegant construction of this ear from other elements.  Comparison with photographs of Giacometti suggests, however, that is a far from accurate portrait in terms of his earshape, rather normalising the sculptor's own elongated form.


Guillaume Leblon: Portrait, 2016
I can't vouch for the accuracy of French artist Guillaume Leblon's portrait of his young son through the synecdoche of his ear, but I'd be surprised is such a tender portrayal were not accurate in its opaline rose glass. It gives rise to the thought: how many other parts could one use similarly without it looking rather more disturbing than affecting?




David Shepherd: Wise Old Elephant - unlimited print  from his 1962 painting

This was the world's best-selling print in the 1960's, launching  David Shepherd's career as a wildlife artist and conservationist. His commercial success was built on two failures: when, on leaving school, he travelled to Kenya hoping  to become a game warden; and when he was rejected by the Slade on his return to England. Critical acclaim has eluded him, too, but few paintings have such a high proportion of ear. 




Joyce Pensato: On the Way, 2008

Mickey Mouse probably has the most famous ears in popular culture, and many artists have used him. Joyce Pensato deconstructs pop art's cartoon icons by crossing them rather brutally with  Abstract Expressionism. The battered energy of her charcoal and pastel here leads to a typical balance of humour and grotesquery.
 

Rachel Maclean: still from Germs (2013)

The ears are often striking parts of Rachel Maclean's many ways of dressing herself up to appear as the only actor in her super-saturated worlds. As a germ, appearing in parody adverts for killing them, does she have five hands, three of them oddly placed - or three hand-like ears, only one curiously  located? 




Euan Uglow: Marigold, 1969 


Typically, this night painting  reaches what Lawrence Gowing termed Uglow's ‘subversive traditionalism’ by forcing  close examination through the process of measurement. Unlike any other Uglow work, though, Marigold features a black model - and centres on her ear.



Suzanne Dworsky:  Sea Breeze, 1978

This is from the American photographer's a set of close-cropped images of Cape Cod. What's nice here is  the intimacy of focus, enhanced by the rainbow heart, and the implications teed up by the title: of action - through the blown hair - and sound: breeze, breath, waves.

         

Clive Hodgson: Untitled, 2014

Only in the context of the other works is this abstraction likely to appear auricular. Hodgson certainly had no such intention, but its typically prominent signature (calling knowing attention to its making) might then make it a self-portrait of sorts, so I relate it to van Gogh, whereas the following has more of a Vermeer connection...

            

Jonathan MonkPierced Portraits (#22) (Woman with gold earring), 2004

In typically mischievous style, Monk has simply pushed a red drawing pin  into a series of found vintage drawings of women, a violent subversion referencing Fontana, playing with the differing realities of image and object, and suggesting some sort of rebellious intent to this mid-20th century subject's earwear. Or is it just that the drawing is sold?





Georgia O'Keeffe: Red Hill And White Shell, 1938     

Not so much a word in your shell-like as a suggestion that the landscape might be listening to us, just as we should listen to it. That aside, one of O'Keeffe's best meldings of geometry and colour in the guise of representations in which the body never seems far away.



    
Colin Crumplin: Ear (Evander Holyfield), 2000
               

At 286x238cm this was just too big for the space, but it references perhaps the second most famous ear wound  in history - Mike Tyson taking a chunk out of Evander Holyfield's ear in 1997. It also illustrates Crumplin's unique process of matching a semi-randomly generated abstraction with a found image which he then paints in realistic manner - it often takes him years to find a match, so this was pretty quick.




Bruce Nauman: Westermann's Ear, 1968

Bruce Nauman cast the ear of the artist HC Westermann, then surrounded the greenish plaster with a rope which both echoes the loops of the ear and can be read as the completion of a head to make a portrait which might well characterise his friend as a good listener.


      

Tony Cragg: We, 2016

This is a somewhat atypical Tony Cragg, given he's known for suggesting the face only on careful examination of his 'Rational Beings' series. It's very much the royal we of self-portraits, with 250-odd cragg-heads built into a giant conehead. It may well have more ears than any other sculpture. So much listening power put me in mind of...



 
Nedko Solakov: Ears, 2016

Nedko Solakov tells stories which may or may not be literally true, though he has said that he didn't invent his youthful involvement with the Bulgarian Secret Service. That inspired his Top Secret installation made just after the fall of the Berlin Wall, which gained attention at Documenta 12 in 2007, and lies behind this combination of aluminium casts and text as we approach Documenta 14.




Femmy Otten: The discomfort of rationality, 2016 

Upcoming Dutch artist Femmy Otten mixes mythologies and eras liberally, and there's something of Gaugin's sculpture in this oil on burl wood face-of-sorts. The theme of ear inversion recurs: has the mind gone beyond normal physiognomy as well as its awkward rationality to reach a  transcendental space of dream colour?  

                

Eva Kotátková: image from Anatomical Orchestra, 2014
Back at East European listening, the Czech Eva Kotátková explores how conditions constrain the individual. She says the installation and performances of Anatomical Orchestra explore 'an ill or disabled body, one whose senses are not functioning, as a result of which the body becomes a partially empty shell not able to fully use its potential, or one missing sense becomes replaced by another that’s far more sensitive and developed' - as when a blind man develops enhanced hearing. 

Peter Liversidge: Proposal for Kate McGarry, 2017
Peter Liversidge works from written proposals which set out his intentions for a show: for Kate McGarry he opted to make work inspired by pareidolia - our tendency to read images into abstraction. One wall of many photographs parodies that somewhat, as mouth and eyes are blatantly imposed rather than found - indeed, one pair of eyes reads as ears.. .

John Baldesarri: Beethoven's Trumpet (With Ear) Opus # 133,  2007   


This stick-your-head-in sculpture was inspired by Beethoven's own collection of ear trumpets, and is silent until the viewer speaks into it - then a random section from a late Beethoven quartet is heard. It's as if a communicative link has been made, yet if this is the composer's deaf ear, then the surreal absurdity extends from how it looks to what it does...



Nicolás Guagnini: Hard of Hearing, 2013


Deleuze – see EJ Major for more on him – developed the concept of the body without organs to represent depth over surface. Argentinian Nicolás Guagnini prefers organs without bodies: heaps of ceramic penises, noses and ears. This installation of ‘Heads’ and ‘Hard of Hearing’ at the Lars Freidrich Gallery in Berlin gives the impression that all might have been stolen from ancient statues, consistent with Guagnini’s general appetite for cultural plunder.




Penelope Slinger, I Hear What You Say, 1973 - photographic collage on card, 24 x 19 cm


Penelope Slinger’s anarcho-feminist collages from the 1970’s fell out of view in Britain for 40 years after she emigrated to the US in 1979, but – championed by Riflemaker - have recently featured in several shows.  This striking self-portrait is from the series ‘Eat My Words’ (1971-77), which also features eye in mouth and mouth in mouth combinations but not, I think, any attempt on ‘eye in ear’.


 Jan Euler: "        " , 2016

German painter  Jana Euler has a way with compellingly experiential body images. Here, in one of a coruscating series of paintings on the theme of the absent centre (and with an absent centre of a title for each in the set) , she collapses a body around a void which pivots on the ears.



    




Richard Deacon: Tall Tree in the Ear, 1984



This two part sculpture isn't so much tree and ear as, according to Deacon, a title which fits the work as 'the shiny metal could be aerial and the blue could be sky or water, and the shape could be an ear or whatever, and the height is the height of the tree'. But it was 'the difference between the inside and the outside as the material gathers on the inside' that he thought was the interesting bit - which does suggest how what we hear isn't simply what arrives. 



Pieter Hugo Escort Kama, Enugu, Nigeria, 2008
This is from South African photographer Pieter Hugo's 'Nollywood' series, for which he asked a  prolific director to help him work  with actors from the world's third largest film industry - Nigeria makes 1,000 films a year. The scenes are staged melodramatically as myths in which everything is exaggerated - here including the ears - yet that could be just the documentation of a highly theatrical movie.


Roger Ballen: Dersie and Casie Twins , Western Transvaal,1993

Yet perhaps that wasn't such an exaggeration... It's hard not to focus on the ears in the most famous of Roger Ballen's images of rural white South African communities in the apartheid years, which focused on the failure of the regime to treat equitably even the whites who didn't fit the agenda of the privileged class. One was working inside, one outside when Ballen came across them, hence the contrast in shirts.

 


David Lynch: still from Blue Velvet, 1986

Cathy Lomax, who invited me to put together 'Ears for the Eyes', combines the worlds of film and painting, so it seems only fair to conclude with the most famous cinematic organ of hearing: Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) discovers a severed ear in Blue Velvet's opening scene, and it triggers a journey into the seedy underbelly behind suburban appearances. You never know where an ear will lead...



Ways of Seeing: Echolocation


Of all the mammals, bats are probably still considered the most unpopular. Nevertheless, they are also one of the most extraordinary and we are fortunate to have 18 species in the UK.

Using a high frequency system called echolocation, bats are able to see in the dark by using their ears. Echolocation works in a similar way to sonar. Bats make calls as they fly and listen to the returning echoes that bounce off objects or prey to build up a sonic map of their surroundings. They emit sounds through an open mouth, at a frequency too high for adult humans to hear, and use their ears as receivers. A bat can tell how far away something is by how long it takes the sounds to return. Individual bat species echolocate within specific frequency ranges that suit their environment and prey types so we can distinguish different types of bat using bat detectors. Most bats, including the well-known pipistrelle and long-eared species, operate in the range 40-50 kHz, but British bats are spread from as low as 20 kHz for the Noctule Nyctalus noctula to 110 kHz for the Lesser Horseshoe Rhinolophus hipposideros.
Alli Sharma: Brown Long-Eared Bat, 2017
The volume of calls also varies. The Brown Long-Eared bat Plecotus auritus is our most distinctive species, medium-sized with very long ears. The ears are nearly as long as the body but when at rest they curl their ears back or tuck them away completely under their wings, leaving only the pointed inner lobe of the ear (the tragus) visible. Sometimes called ‘whispering bats’, they have developed a very quiet echolocation system, which is inaudible to moths and other prey, but not to them, thanks to the evolution of their own enormous ears.



Alli Sharma

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Images of Sound


Where is the ear?

One thing, it is rarely singular. Humans, like most animals, tend to have a pair. A set, in the case of humans, of strange appendages protruding more or less obviously from the head connected to inner canals which facilitate the transmission of vibration and sound signals to the brain, the organ of exchange.


When I hear what you hear do we imagine the same? If I shut my eyes and listen to the voice of John Pilger, I see Clive James. You? What separates what I hear from what I see? For Gilles Deleuze what is more interesting is their interrelationship and to impose a separation is to falsify experience. For a hearing person you might say. To some extent yes, but the deaf community also talk of an awareness of condensed inner speech. A voice that can be heard in the mind may not sound the same to all.




Gilles Deleuze calls sound signals, like visual signals, or any other stimuli for that matter, images. A more accurate description would be images of sound as it suggests both matter and its memory in a constant state of becoming. This becoming-nature of things is the continuum of being. Deleuzes conception stems from Bergson whose materialist philosophy collapses the typical dualities of Western thought, subject and object, body and brain, reality and the virtual, image and its perception. In place is a coexistence of tenses within an unfolding present, never static, never given and received in equal measure but giving and receiving together, all at once and at the same time.


 As I write I have one of Beethovens Piano Trios playing. Ladah deedo dee doodley do, deedodeedo ladade doode doode doode doode do. Hear it? For the most part I dont. My focus is here. However, playing music with lyrics when I write interrupts my thoughts. Hardly unique but I may not be the same as you in this regard. Relations, says Deleuze, are what matter but they are constantly in flux. Relations operate both normatively and subjectively. The visual or sound image suggested to one mind is particular even when it is similar. This is Deleuzes difference and repetition, wherein repetition as sameness extends into difference. They co-exist.


Deleuze saw in cinema a means through which to envisage thought. Despite perhaps the dark theatre, movement and time do not stop whilst a film plays, though it may feel like they do. Cinema, far from being a closed set, simultaneously implicates what lies outside. This movement implicit in the Whole breaks down the separation between spectator/actor, real/imaginary, sound/vision, fact/fiction. The brain is the organ of exchange with which we receive, interpret and create simultaneously. The Whole becomes the Open where nothing rests. Cinema, Deleuze suggested, is an externalization of the narrativization of life that we do with our eyes, ears and minds all the time.




Im still wondering, where is the ear?


EJ Major

Beautiful Ears



The peculiar looking openings on the sides of our head are not obviously attractive and exactly what constitutes a beautiful ear is not as easy to define as an eye, mouth or nose. The main aesthetic ear worry is that they are too large, oddly shaped or protruding, and surgery (referred to as otoplasty or pinnaplasty) to ‘correct’ the position of ears is one of the most commonly performed cosmetic procedures. The tradition, it seems, is for ears to be discreet. Sometimes as Madge Garland in her book The Changing Face of Beauty points out, women’s ears vanish for a century at a time, hidden by curtains of hair in the Victorian era or under coifs and hoods during the Tudor era.


When ears are on show their primary beauty function is as a receptacle for jewellery, which is usually attached by piercing the ear, one of the oldest known forms of body modification. Faces are our identity and an earring, as the piece of jewellery that sits closest to our face, can be seen as a kind of frame. In the grand tradition of nonsensical beauty advice, theories about which earrings you should wear abound. The website jewellerypassion.net states that


      Long earrings optically elongate the face and neck. They are suitable for women with round faces and short necks.

      Earrings with geometric shapes sharpen the features. If your features are angular, you can soften them by wearing round or oval earrings.

      If your face is long, small round earrings are the ones for you, while ladies with the square face type should go for long, dangling earrings.

      Large earrings are great for faces with small features. Massive ones should be worn without a necklace.

      Brunettes can bravely wear earrings with brightly coloured gems, while blondes should stick to the light-coloured ones.

      Young girls can wear earrings of any material, while mature ladies should only wear jewels fashioned out of precious metals and stones.

Luckily most people take no notice of such unscientific rules, a position exemplified by Elizabeth Taylor, who had what could justifiably be called a jewellery addiction. Taylor’s earrings, which came in all shapes and sizes and were often made from the most precious materials, really do seem to accentuate her classical looks and beautifully coloured eyes. ‘I’ve always loved dangling earrings’, she recounts in the book Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair with Jewellery, ‘I wanted a pair of what I call chandelier earrings… I tried on these long earrings and the more I swished my head back and forth, the more they twinkled… I was smitten…. And these were paste – not even real diamonds.’ A couple of months later back in New York, Liz looked for her earrings. She eventually found them but, she told her then husband Mike Todd, they felt different. ‘He chuckled and told me he had taken the paste ones and had them made up with real diamonds.’ Thus the Mike Todd diamond ear pendants were born.
Image of Liz with earrings
In the endless search for newness, where everything has been done to eyes, cheeks and lips, the humble ear has taken on a new role in the world of high fashion. At the 2014 Paris Fashion Week ear makeup became a micro trend. ‘Designer Anthony Vaccarello sent his models down the runway with graphic, inky lobes... Makeup artist Tom Pecheux was going for a quasi jewellery look. Kind of like a second-skin ear cuff’, wrote Lauren Valenti at marieclaire.com. Pecheux’s black lobes were influenced by Douglas Gordon’s photograph series Three Inches Black, which shows a finger tattooed entirely in black as though it has been dipped in ink. To create his graphic black ear look Pecheux coloured in the bottom half of the models' earlobes with a liquid liner pen. Then reported Sophia Panych at allure.com, ‘to make it look more luxurious and less aggressive, he covered the liner in a chunky, iridescent black glitter.’ Pecheux’s ground breaking lobes made the ear a legitimate site for makeup and in Spring 2016 superstar makeup artist Pat McGrath created a silver statement ear for Louis Vuitton, while at Opening Ceremony Yadim applied full glitter ears to her models.
Image of Black ear makeup
So far so ornate but away from the exaggerated other-worldly looks of the high fashion catwalk the ear has also featured in the ridiculous world of reality star self-obsession where the make-up ideal is less Leigh Bowery and more perfect CGI mask. In early 2016 it was reported that Kylie liked to apply makeup to her ears. Contouring, for the uninitiated, is a makeup technique that has become something of a Kardashian trademark. It is akin to painting and involves applying different coloured products to the face to emphasise shadows and highlights. Kylie later revealed that she didn’t actually contour her ears, rather her makeup artist applied foundation to them so they matched her face rather than the red carpet.
Image of Kylie Jenner’s ear
This is where makeup application drifts from artistry to pointless self-obsession.  In February 2016 the Daily Mail reported on two models experimenting with contouring each other’s ears. Charlie Lankston described the results: ‘I just went with trying to emphasise the existing shadows, in the same way that I would do when contouring my face. However, while the results were visible - upon very close inspection - both Lindsey and I surmised that the entire process of actually applying the make-up to the ear took a lot more effort than either of us would care to take on a normal everyday basis.’

Cathy Lomax

Emma Cousin reading at the opening
 
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About Me

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Southampton, Hampshire, United Kingdom
I was in my leisure time Editor at Large of Art World magazine (which ran 2007-09)and now write freelance for such as Art Monthly, The Art Newspaper and Border Crossings. I have curated five shows in London during 2013-15 with more on the way.Going back a bit my main writing background is poetry. My day job is public sector financial management.

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