Saturday, 28 February 2015


Dan Passport Mask Ma | Liberia

Miniature masks often called "passport" masks are found among the various peoples of Liberia and Ivory Coast, including the Dan, Yacouba, Gio, Wenion (We, Guere), Geh, Loma, Konor, and Bete. This one comes from the Dan people. 


Sharing a wide variety of uses they are the personal masks of initiated adult men and would be carried on their person or kept on personal shrines in the home. They carried small "passport" masks in leather pouches when they travelled.

Passport masks serve to mark the passage of an initiate into the men secret society and his elevation into the higher ranks. The small masks may be presented at meetings of senior members of the men society to indicate their right to be present and participate in the deliberations.

Divinerâs would recommend that small masks be given to children to wear to ward off evil witches or cure illnesses. Small masks placed on shrines would receive the offerings and prayers of their owners and in time would accumulate a rich patina of different substances that could obscure their features.

Most of these miniature masks mirror the shape and features of the larger masks that they were modelled after. Like the full-sized dance masks the smaller masks reflect the great diversity of styles and forms of the larger masks.


For more information, and a similar example, see Bacquart's "TRIBAL ARTS OF AFRICA."

Friday, 27 February 2015

Friday, 30 January 2015

Uche Okeke: ‘Works on Paper, 1958-1993’

Modernism in mid-20th-century drawings from Nigeria: Above, Uche Okeke’s “Design for Iron Work I,” from 1959; and “Okpaladike and his Obu,” from 1961. Courtesy of the artist and Skoto Gallery 

Article written by Holland Cotter

Histories of Modernism are constantly changing as scholars come to realize its global breadth and local particularities. The marketplace is slower on the uptake. Although New York has a few galleries specializing in early-to-mid-20th-century Asian work, Skoto Gallery in Chelsea remains, more than two decades after it opened, the sole full-time outlet for comparable work from Africa. And it gives us some Modernism-merging-into-contemporary basics in a thumbnail survey of works on paper by the influential West African artist Uche Okeke.

Born in Nigeria in 1933, Mr. Okeke was, in the 1950s, a founding member of the Zaria Art Society, a group of academically trained experimental artists who joined Western mediums — oil paint, pastel, pen and ink — and African content. That content, for Mr. Okeke, included a distinctive type of drawing associated with the Igbo people of southern Nigeria. While many of his colleagues emigrated to Europe and the United States, he has spent almost all of his career in Africa, teaching until the late 1980s at the University of Nigeria at Nsukka. The result is art that, without looking specifically ethnic, is thoroughly and consciously African in its references.

It is also inventively restless. In the work at Skoto, much of it consisting of notebook studies beginning in 1958, when he was in art school, Mr. Okeke moves from fleet watercolor landscape sketches, to ink drawings of fantastic creatures derived from folklore, to portraits that incorporate elements of ancient Nigerian Nok sculpture. And interspersed throughout are drawings of curved and jagged abstract patterns that have sources in Igbo body painting and would have thrilled the jazz dancer in Mondrian. Put any of these modest-size drawings in a gallery at the Museum of Modern Art (will we ever see this?) with comparably scaled Western work, and you’ll find both that they fit right in, and that they don’t, which is precisely the tension that makes them, and the larger Modernism, so interesting.

Monday, 19 January 2015

A Brief History Of Art Censorship From 1508 To 2014

 A Brief History Of Art Censorship From 1508 To 2014

Source: The Huffington Post | By Priscilla Frank - 01/16/2015
Miriam Webster defines censorship as "the practice of officially examining books, movies, etc., and removing things that are considered to be offensive, immoral, harmful to society, etc."
The art world -- a realm populated by masterpieces often hailed for their transgressive, controversial and taboo characteristics -- regularly butts against standards of decency and good taste in the fight for freedom of expression. Throughout history works of art have been altered, silenced and even erased due to unacceptable content, whether the motivations for censorship were religious, social or political. Yet artists have long pushed boundaries of "offensive" through their imagery and content, presenting everything from portraits of a vulva to a performance replicating 19th century "human zoos."
After last week's brutal attack on Paris' satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, and in many ways on free speech in general, censorship remains as crucial an issue as ever. While sources like The Telegraph and the Associated Press self-censored images of past Hebdo covers in the wake of the tragedy, blurring out potentially "immoral" images of the Prophet Mohammed, other outlets defiantly published the same works. It's clear that the phrase "harmful to society" is still a contentious qualifier.

In light of the events in France, and this critical moment for artistic expression, we're revisiting some of the most impactful moments in the history of art censorship (and attempted censorship), from the 16th century up until the recent events of 2014. Let's begin:

1565: Michelangelo's "The Last Judgement"

michelangelo the last judgement

Although it may not look like the most racy of works to contemporary eyes, Michelangelo's famed Sistine Chapel fresco was deemed unholy and immoral by many proponents of the Catholic faith, including Pope Daniele de Volterra. The scene depicts (unclothed) human souls who rise or fall to their otherworldly fates; some critics could hardly concentrate on the religious message through all the naked parts.

Poet Pietro Aretino wrote of the work: “Is it possible that you, so divine that you do not deign to consort with men, have done such a thing in the highest temple of God? Above the first altar of Jesus? Not even in the brothel are there such scenes as yours…” A pupil of Michelangelo's later added loin cloths to the once nude figures.

1865: Edouard Manet's "Olympia"

manet olympia

By this time, classical nudes had been integrated into the language of art, with painted bodies like Michelangelo's becoming not only accepted but revered. Lounging nudes and odalisques popped up without complication in works by Titian and Giorgione, yet Manet's red-headed nude was deemed "vulgar" due to her unwavering gaze and realistic representation.

While most nudes at the time were rendered in an idealized style, Manet chose to capture nudity in all its bodily reality. Olympia stares head-on at the viewer without hesitation, displaying her form in all its fleshly, erotic glory. Although the work was allowed to exhibit at Paris' annual salon in 1865 (no censorship there), two policemen were brought in to protect the canvas from furious bystanders who flooded the show.

1866: Gustave Courbet's "The Origin of the World"


Only one year after Manet's "Olympia," Courbet upped the ante on NSFW depictions with his naturalistic view of the world's origin -- aka, a close-up portrait of the vulva. Commissioned by Turkish diplomat and collector Khalil-Bey, the work rose to an almost mythical status and was rumored to have only been displayed to others from behind a curtain.

The piece didn't show publicly until 1995, and its whereabouts between 1866 and the late 20th century remain shrouded in mystery. For such a famous painting, it was seldom actually seen. And, yes, the piece is still too scandalous for Facebook, which censored the work in 2011.

1894: Frederick MacMonnies’ "Bacchante and Infant Faun"

frederick macmonnies copley square

This bronze statue of Roman wine deity Bacchante holding a child doesn't look all that NSFW, but the piece sparked outrage when an architect attempted to install the work in the courtyard of the Boston Public Library in Copley Square. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union expressed outrage at the "drunken indecency" on display; their protests eventually led to the piece's transfer to New York. Today it resides happily in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

1969: Dorothy Iannone's Depictions Of "Ecstatic Unity"


Iannone, a self taught artist, combines elements of comics, illustration and pornography in her intoxicating visions of supernatural sexuality. Her colorful depictions of wild eroticism were removed from an exhibition at Kunsthalle Bern in 1969, after the museum director demanded the genitalia in her works be covered up. Since her paintings were dubbed "pornographic," Iannone has put up a fight against censorship in art, promoting instead values of free love, female independence and sexual autonomy.

1987: Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ"

piss christ

Once upon a time in 1987, photographer Serrano dipped a plastic crucifix into a cup of his own urine and it was forever dubbed "Piss Christ." The work was shown in New York to a positive reaction, yet when exhibited in a North Carolina exhibition two years later, with funding from the National Endowment of the Arts, things got ugly. Local Senator Jesse Helms publicly expressed his outrage, stating that the work "dishonor[ed] the Lord." The incident caused Serrano to lose grants and the artist received death threats for nearly 15 years thereafter.

"Piss Christ," to this day, remains as controversial as ever. A group of protesters attacked the piece with a hammer at a 2011 exhibition and just last week the Associated Press took down the image due to pressure following the Charlie Hebdo attack.

1989: Robert Mapplethorpe's "The Perfect Moment"

robert mapplethorpe

Mapplethorpe's 1989 black-and-white photography exhibition sparked a dialogue on sexually explicit images and the true state of freedom of expression, showcasing a dramatically lit photograph of a man urinating into another man's mouth and another of a fist being inserted into a man's anus. The exhibit, slated to show at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., was cancelled before it even began.
Senator Helms caught wind of this exhibition as well and was not pleased. He bashed the NEA again, criticizing it for subsidizing a show he claimed featured "morally repugnant materials of a sexual nature." A 2013 exhibition titled "Saints and Sinners" commemorated the 25th anniversary of the controversial moment in the fight for freedom of expression.

1989: "Dread" Scott Tyler’s "What is the Proper Way to Display the US Flag?"

dread scott tyler

Scott, an art student at the Chicago Institute of Arts, organized an installation in which viewers could not reach the photography book at the center of the show without stepping on an American flag laid out on the ground. As a result, some viewers were arrested for stepping on the flag, after a veteran alerted authorities of the work. (Scott himself was arrested for burning a flag in defiance of the Flag Protection Act in 1989 as well.)

Visitors were also encouraged to record their thoughts on the show, which ranged from "I feel you did something wrong and I feel you should be put in jail or have something done to you for this. I love my country and it hurts me to know that don’t" to "This flag I’m standing on stands for everything oppressive in this system -- the murder of the Indians and all the oppresses around the world, including my brother, who was shot by a pig who kicked over his body to 'make sure the n***** was dead.' The pig was wearing the flag."

The installation had its critics. President Bush called the work "disgraceful" and Bob Dole expressed: ''Now, I don't know much about art, but I know desecration when I see it." Tyler, only 24 at the time, received numerous death threats resulting from the piece.

1990: Karen Finley's "We Keep Our Victims Ready"

chocolate smear

Finley along with Tim Miller, John Fleck, and Holly Hughes are known as "The NEA Four," a nickname the quartet earned after their respective NEA proposal grants were vetoed in the 1990s. Finley's grant was vetoed due to review by Rowland Evans and Robert Novack -- who never saw the piece in person. The New York Times wrote at the time: "What put Ms. Finley in the storm over the National Endowment is a recent syndicated newspaper column by Rowland Evans and Robert Novak in which she was cited as an example of the trouble the endowment has brought upon itself because of its willingness to finance exhibitions that might be considered obscene or without 'true artistic merit.'" They also condescendingly referred to her as a 'nude, chocolate-smeared young woman.'"

Finley responded: "My work is against violence, against rape and degradation of women, incest and homophobia. When I smear chocolate on my body it is a symbol of women being treated like dirt.''
The controversy eventually led to a Supreme Court case in 1998, which Finley lost after her proposal failed a congressional "decency" test for federal funding.

Finley did, however, achieve minor revenge, executing a piece entitled "Return of the Chocolate Smeared Woman" in TriBeCa in 1998, as a reaction to the controversy and hearing. "As we file in, gorgeously painted men and women in a little bit of brown velvet offer cups of beer and direct us to sit on white plastic paint cans. Up on stage, a good-natured crew (the Furballs) are doing the hustle as a line dance, the beat bouncing off the walls, lights flashing. Karen arrives, disrobes, and begins slathering herself with brown goo."

1999: Chris Ofili's "The Holy Virgin Mary"

chris ofili the holy virgin mary

For the uninitiated, Ofili's "The Holy Virgin Mary" depicts a black Virgin Mary with a clump of elephant dung on one breast and clippings of pornographic magazines in the background. Mayor Rudy Giuliani was not a fan, dubbing the work along with others from the "Sensation: Young British Artists From the Saatchi Collection" exhibition "sick stuff." Giuliani filed a lawsuit against the Brooklyn Art Museum for showing the work. The museum resisted Giuliani's demands, and its director in turn filed a federal lawsuit against the mayor for a breach of the First Amendment. The museum won the case.

2012: Pussy Riot's "Punk Prayer -- Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!"

pussy riot arrest

In February 2012, five members of the feminist punk rock group Pussy Riot staged a performance in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior, protesting the church's support for Vladimir Putin during his election. The collective, donning brightly colored miniskirts and balaclavas, danced wildly while shouting "Mother of God, Blessed Virgin, drive out Putin!" After 40 seconds they were removed by police. Subsequently, three of the group members were convicted of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" and imprisoned as a result.

Following their sentencing, people around the world, from Bjork to the German parliament, expressed their disapproval. Amnesty International even declared August 17 "Pussy Riot Global Day." The women were released in 2013; however, after they performed onstage with Madonna, six members of Pussy Riot petitioned to remove Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikov from the group for forgetting their original aspirations and becoming "institutionalised advocates of prisoners' rights."
"When we were jailed, Pussy Riot immediately became very popular and widely known," explained Alyokhina and Tolokonnikov, "and it turned from just a group to essentially an international movement. Anybody can be Pussy Riot, you just need to put on a mask and stage an active protest of something in your particular country, wherever that may be, that you consider unjust."

2014: Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds

ai weiwei sunflower

Chinese artist and activist Ai was supposed to exhibit his porcelain sunflower seeds at an exhibition honoring the 15th anniversary of the Chinese Contemporary Art Award in 2014 -- he was, after all, a founding, three-time jurist. Yet due to pressure from the Chinese government, which Ai has never been shy about criticizing, his work was cut from the "15 Years Chinese Contemporary Art Award" show. Furthermore, museum workers erased Ai's name from the list of the award's past winners and jury members.

Ai remains unable to leave China as a result of his arrest in 2011.
2014: Brett Bailey's "Exhibit B"
brett bailey exhibit b

This controversial performance replicated the "human zoos" that existed in the 19th and 20th centuries, forcing viewers to confront a heinously racist moment in history head on. However, many accused the exhibition, which featured black actors in cages and chains, of being racist itself.
The piece was slated to run at London's Barbican Centre, but was cancelled due to the "extreme" nature of the protests and threats made against the performers and staff. "We find it profoundly troubling that such methods have been used to silence artists and performers and that audiences have been denied the opportunity to see this important work," a statement from the Barbican read.

"It has not been my intention to alienate people with this work," Bailey wrote for The Guardian soon after. "To challenge perceptions and histories, yes. Explicitly to offend, no."

TOOLS OR TALENT? The makings of a great project manager are shifting

download (27).jpg

Project management is not so much a science as an art, says expert Dennis Comninos, as business turns towards talent over technicians as the differentiator of great project managers.

Until recently a search for a good project manager would focus on what they could do - what they knew about processes and software – the tools that made them competent.
Today that is not enough. What is now increasingly sought is not so much a project manager as a project leader, a person with the instinctive ability to look beyond ticking project boxes, and to apply strategy and business focus.

“In the last 10 to 15 years there has been a focus on skills, software tools and techniques but those are not what make a great project leader,” says Dennis Comninos, course convenor of the UCT Graduate School of Business’ popular executive course on Project Management and co-author with Enzo Frigenti of the definitive international bestseller The Practice of Project Management, A Business Focused Approach.

In a climate which is highly competitive and fast paced, business is under pressure to produce high-quality, technically innovative products hard and fast with lean organisations and tight budgets. What it takes to succeed in this climate is high performance levels and a focus on strategic and business objectives.

Walter Baets, Director of the UCT Graduate School of Business, says that additionally, business – especially in Africa – is looking for people who can manage projects in conditions of high uncertainty and inequality and are able to drive change towards more inclusive business models.

It is a tall order – and may explain why the failure rate of projects is estimated to be between 40% and 70%. Comninos says this begs the question, why, with all the sophisticated tools and methodologies, are we not succeeding?

“We’ve got trained certified people out there, but successful project management is not about competence, it’s about capability,’ says Comninos.

It’s an approach that has long resonated with Comninos, and it is a project management philosophy that is gaining momentum globally as business moves to apply less emphasis and investment into the mechanical side, and instead to look beyond qualifications and competence to raw talent.

“It is no longer enough to look for a qualified project manager with good people skills and competence with best practice. What you want is someone with the flexibility and insight to focus on business value while driving a project forward. It is a shift from process to value delivery,” he says.

It is the differentiator between strategy and action plans, bridging the gap between the boardroom where strategy happens and the coal face where the work is done. What you want is someone who can combine service delivery with big picture thinking, he adds.

“The trick is to find the right people, with the right tools, at the right time. You want to tap into that select group that is truly capable – the gifted bunch,” says Comninos.

“You’ve got to be careful what you look for. Psychometric testing is helpful. Talent is the key and you need to identify it,” he adds.

“If you take someone with the right talent and instincts, you can quickly teach them the process, tools, and techniques required to perform. What has been done in the past is to mechanically teach the tools, processes and techniques and assume that that is all that is required for success. Talent and capability are the keys to success!”

The UCT Graduate School of Business Project Management programme runs from 11 to 14 August 2014 in Cape Town. For more information contact Tracy Kimberley on 021 406 1346 or visit

Source: The Project Manager

Use of Indian Inks

Top Tips for Painting with Ink

Modern inks are a far more versatile medium than you might imagine. The intense colours, transparency and fluidity make them well worth a try, especially if you already enjoy watercolours

ink pots

In order to understand more about the characteristics of ink, we need to pay homage to the humble ink stick, which originated in the Far East more than 2,000 years ago. This is solid ink, diluted with water for varying effect. Thick ink is very deep and glossy, while thin ink appears lively and translucent.
The marvel of the media is how an artist can skillfully use ink to create an image of great immediacy and life, balancing brightness and darkness, density and light, line and tone. Manufacturers advocate the use of ink for both clearly defined line work or broad washes of subtle colour, but I prefer the latter.
Inks undoubtedly stand as a medium on their own, but are also great in mixed media pieces, used as washes to unify areas in drawing, collage and pastel. When choosing which type of inks to buy, the main considerations are what you are going to use to apply them (be it brush, nib or pen) and whether you need a finish which is rated permanent. The major development in inks over recent years has been the increasing use of pigments and acrylic resins. The main difference between dye-based inks and pigmented acrylic inks are colour intensity (stronger in dye-based inks) and resistance to fading (an advantage of acrylic-based inks).

Be Prepared

Have lots of water on hand for wetting the paper, diluting colours, and using in washes. Have plenty of kitchen towel too – great for wiping excess water off, drying brushes and controlling the spread of the ink solution.

Don't always use straight from the bottle

Pre-mix your colours, very much in the same way you would with paints. Less is more too - a few well-mixed colours used in a range of transparencies and intensities will work to great effect. All inks are intermixable.

Experiment with application

Try pens, nibs and even twigs; traditional and Chinese brushes, pipettes and sprayers can all be used too. I would recommend starting with a very soft brush.

Don't be afraid to dilute

By diluting the inks a lot, you can push each colour to a whole range of subtleties by varying the amount of water you use.

Keep the work simple

Let the transparent veils of colour and subtleties of tone speak for themselves without too much over-working and touching up.

Experiment with papers

Hot-pressed watercolour papers are ideal for letting colour flow. You can also try heavyweight paper with a rougher surface or, at the other extreme, traditional Chinese rice papers are fabulously responsive to the subtleties of ink.

Let it flow

If we are to learn anything from the ancients, let it be that ink requires an amount of water to give it vivacity, and that it’s lively character is not one that likes to be overly ‘boxed-in’. Let your inks flow and find their own edges.

The Author

Artists and Illustrators

Artists & Illustrators is Britain’s most popular magazine for practising artists, whilst also being equally relevant to professionals, aspiring amateurs or to those who paint purely for pleasure. Full of step-by-step practical advice, readers’ own work, exclusive features on famous names and expert product tests, this is the top publication for every artist seeking inspiration, whether they favour painting, drawing or printmaking.

Source: Artists and Illustrators

Use of Oil Paints

Paint Mediums Explained

Few things divide oil painters as much as the use of mediums. Are they the key to the ‘secrets’ of the Old Masters or merely unnecessary complications to painting? Tutor Martin Kinnear experiments

Oil paint is simple stuff – just coloured powder (pigment) and binder (oil). Before 1851 and the introduction of the first collapsible paint tube, artists would mix each colour from scratch,adding whatever adulterants were necessary for the task in hand. Less opacity could be created by adding resins, faster drying by adding lead, extra gloss by varnish, dullness by waxes, and so forth.
Modifying the paint was part of the craft of painting. Combinations that worked were handed down from master to apprentice, new combinations jealously guarded, new materials eagerly sought and tested. By the start of the 19th century it had become not simply impractical but unthinkable to paint without a medium of some kind, typically a general purpose medium to be added at a fixed ratio to all freshly-made paint.

A medium, then, is simply an additive to paint formulated to enhance a desirable characteristic (such as lustre or translucency) or offset an undesirable one (such as a long drying time). In doing this, a medium will also often allow you to effect a technique – such as scumbling, glazing or impasto – more easily, subtly, forcefully or quickly, depending on its formulation.
If you are happy to live with variable drying rates, sinking in and all the vagaries of ‘raw’ oil paint, then there is no reason whatsoever to encumber yourself with mediums. However, if you aspire to recreate some of the classic effects of the past – such as those in the works of Turner or Rembrandt – you will need to modify your paint, as they did, with mediums. Although here I concentrate on oils, everything is generally true of mediums in other types of paint.

Most mediums are made from a very limited number of ingredients, and once you understand these you will be able to predict how any combination of them will work.

Oils with solvents

Drying oils such as linseed, poppy and walnut will oxidise into a translucent glossy film over time, giving oil paint its characteristic richness, lustre and depth. Unlike solvents, oils increase the drying time of paints, and improve the overall adhesion and appearance. However, excess use of oils will not only substantially increase the drying time, but can cause the paint film to wrinkle. A compromise is to mix oils with solvents – often called ‘Van Eyck’ medium; a simple 1:1 oil/solvent mixture.


Wax is commonly added in small amounts to paint as a stabiliser, but used in larger amounts it creates a wonderful impasto effect that dries quickly to a matt finish. Wax has been used for centuries to create softly luminous effects when painted thinly. It can be applied either as a cold paste mixed with oils or heated using the encaustic method. A thin final coat of cold wax makes a wonderful matting agent, allowing paintings to be hung in difficult light. Wax is both brittle and easy to melt, limiting its use to rigid panels unless it is combined with another ingredient.


Painters have long used tree resins dissolved in turpentine (a varnish) to add both gloss to the paint and decrease drying time. Historically, all manner of resins were used – amber, dammar, gum arabic or mastic, for example – but most have fallen by the wayside as they have proved unstable in the long term, causing the paint film to yellow, peel or crack. Despite these known defects, resins add such amazing and subtle effects to oil paints that they continue to be used. A modern synthetic resin known as alkyd promises to solve these defects, allowing painters to recreate effects similar to Turner, without the fading and cracking that afflicts his work.


A solvent is a thinner such as turpentine or white spirit. Solvents significantly decrease drying time, but weaken and dull the paint film, making them ideal for an imprimatura (stained ground) or other initial painting stages. Excess use of solvents will cause lack of adhesion or ‘chalking’, however, and they often have unpleasant fumes. Solvents are also a key ingredient in resinous mediums. They can be used to rapidly underpaint oils and then be worked over in a matter of minutes. Solvents applied to upper layers of oils can create interesting effects. A low-odour solvent, such as Gamsol or Sansodor, will make this safer and more pleasant but extend the drying time.

Martin Kinnear is a professional painter and owner of the Norfolk Painting School  ( where he teaches traditional oil painting and the use of mediums. 

The Author

Martin Kinnear

Martin Kinnear is a professional painter and owner of the Norfolk Painting School ( where he teaches traditional oil painting and the use of mediums. 

Source: Artists and Illustrators