Friday, 20 September 2013

Friday fun: artistic parody

If you have anything to do with art in New Zealand, you will at some point encounter Dick Frizzell's 1997 lithograph Mickey to tiki.  It’s ubiquitous.  It’s apparently New Zealand’s best selling print.  It’s also controversial, because there are a lot of Maori who consider Frizzell’s use of the hei tiki image to be cultural appropriation.  Mickey to tiki shows an image of Mickey Mouse morphing into a tiki that looks like what you would expect to get if Disney drew their interpretation of a hei tiki.  The idea is that there should be no sacred cows in the art world, that so-called “low art” is really no different to “high art”.  I can agree with that on a superficial level (artists shouldn’t be afraid to tackle controversial topics), but to me the purpose and cultural context of the art is more important.  Art’s more than just a suite of techniques and images.  Art has meanings, just like words have meanings.  The meaning of a hei tiki and its cultural significance are vastly different to the meaning and cultural significance of Mickey Mouse.  I'm not going to get into the whole issue of cultural appropriation because I don’t feel qualified to discuss it, but I personally don’t think it makes much sense to compare the two things in this way.

Mickey to Tiki Tu Meke
Picture found here

That said, I do like the way Frizzell used line drawings of the intermediate stages between the two images to depict his metamorphosis.  Frizzell had worked as an animator, and it shows.  It’s very hard to convey the idea of metamorphosis in one static image, and this is probably the most successful example I’ve ever seen.  I think a lot of this work’s popularity comes down to the fact that it’s very well done, very innovative, and very different to anything else that’s out there.

Whatever your views on Mickey to tiki there’s no denying it’s extremely popular, and it forms the basis of Frizzell’s reputation as an artist; as far as I can tell his other major claim to artistic fame is a grocery store mascot (no, I did not make that up).  There’s also no denying that Frizzell has shamelessly cashed in on the lithograph’s popularity and the controversy it generated, and milked it for every cent it’s worth.

With that in mind, I’m delighted to bring you Tiki to Diki, a parody by Shane Hansen, who is awesome and deserves a blog post all to himself, which he will get at some stage.  The first time I saw Tiki to Diki, I laughed until I was nearly sick.  Here, the tiki morphs into a caricature of Dick Frizzell.

Picture found here

It’s the little details that make all the difference.  Hansen’s tiki looks a lot more like a real one than Frizzell’s, which I think is a nice acknowledgement of the real cultural context that tiki iconography comes from.  Here, it’s Frizzell who is depicted as a cartoon, and I like the way Hansen has used cartoon iconography to suggest that Frizzell is eager to cash in on his creation.

My favourite thing about Tiki to Diki is the tone of the painting.  While it is a critique of Frizzell’s work, it's very light-hearted and it has a sense of humour - essentially the painting equivalent of workplace banter.  Considering the subject matter, I think it might have been easy for this painting to come across as bitter, or angry, or just jealous at Frizzell's success, but Hansen has got the tone just right and the result is a funny, irreverent painting.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

I finished my dragon head

The dragon head in profile, complete with spiky little mohawk.

My beaky dragon head is heavily based on a gigantoraptor skull, without feathers.  Gigantoraptor didn’t have teeth, so it most likely had a beak like a modern bird.  We don’t know for sure whether it was feathery, but I’m the right age to have happily nostalgic memories of how raptors looked back in the day when we didn’t realise they had feathers, and it was probably inevitable that my childhood fascination with them would work its way through to this blog at some point.  The thing is, theropods are even cooler and more interesting now that we know just how very weird they were (though I have to admit they’re a lot less scary-looking with feathers – I mean look at this little guy, it looks too cute and fuzzy and cuddly to make a good movie antagonist). 

One of the fun things about gigantoraptor is that we don’t know if it had a crest or anything like that on its head.  I took that as carte blanche to add some little horns.  I really like the horns.  They make it look like it has a mohawk, and I think they give the head some personality.  

Here's what the dragon head looks like from the top.  You can see all the bumps and texture in the skin, even though it isn't painted yet.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

This post was brought to you by Oranjeboom Dutch lager

Seditiosus top tip: once you've finished your after work beer, you can use the empty bottle as a handy sculpture stand.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Beaks and eyes

Maybe a dragon that evolved from dinosaurs might look like a bird in some ways.  I don’t think it would have feathers - dragons are always scaly in stories and I’m waaaay too lazy to put feathers on this thing - but it might have a beak a bit like a bird.  The beaky head idea is one I really want to try, so I made up a beak using an old train ticket and some paper clay.  As a nod to the more conventional depictions of dragons with teeth, I made the beak slightly serrated.  It doesn't look like much yet, and this might not be the final colour of the beak, but I think this beak idea might turn out to be interesting.

In fact the idea of a beak on a dragon isn’t all that revolutionary.  Medieval beasties like the basilisk and the cockatrice, which broadly fall under the category of dragons, were often depicted with beaks.

Now, some of Fragonard’s models have false eyes.  I want to try this approach.  I thought of doing this with the anatomist’s head, but decided there was already so much going on with that head (what with the cut away teeth and the corrosion casting and the horns and everything) that doing all that and false eyes would be overkill.  With the dragon, however, I think eyes should be okay.  Taxidermists’ eyes always give great results, so I made some taxidermist style eyes with acrylic domes and paint.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

It's about time I made a dragon

I haven’t done much in the sculpture department the last couple of days because I’ve just started a new job, but I have been playing around with a concept or two.  I’m always very impressed by Dan Reeder’s work, and looking at his blog makes me think it’s probably about time I made a dragon.  For those not familiar with Dan “the Monster Man” Reeder, he’s a paper mache artist and tends to specialize in dragons.  The things he can do with paper mache have to be seen to be believed.  In this time lapse video, you can see him make a sculpture of Drogon from Game of Thrones:

I also had heaps of fun making Bruce the anatomist’s head, and so I got to thinking about what dragon anatomy might be like.  Then I remembered how, years and years ago when I was a kid, someone told me that dragons are actually dinosaurs.  I say “are” because this guy believed dinosaurs had survived the Cretaceous-Palaeogene extinction and a few of them were still around today.  He thought people encountered dinosaurs in historic times and called them dragons, because they hadn't invented the word dinosaur yet.  He said a fishing trawler dredged up a plesiosaur carcass in the seventies, which proved his claim.  At the time I mentally filed this one under Would Be Cool If It Was True But I Bet It Isn’t, especially since this was coming from a man who didn't know the difference between dinosaurs and plesiosaurs.

The “plesiosaur” was a disappointment, as you would expect.  It was a shark carcass that had decomposed to a point where it was no longer recognisable, a fact which was proved by analysing tissue samples.  But nowadays we know that some of the smaller therapods’ descendants really are still around; we call them birds.  So I started thinking, well, what if dinosaurs evolved into dragons?  What would a dinosaur-dragon look like?  Would it have a beak like Gigantoraptor?  I think this idea deserves further exploration.