MODERN ART FOR THE LOST SOULS.

This is a letter to a friend who asked me for a crash course on the movement of Modern Art, Abstract painting and the like. I firmly believe that my friend’s trust in my knowledge of this lofty thing called art is misplaced, but it is said that, “if you are called to be the hero, then go be the hero.”

So you are all welcome to partake of my scraps of knowledge on the matter. I insist that everything written here, should be taken with a sizeable grain of Magadi salt.

Dearest Friend,

I do not know who drizzled over your brain the idea that I am a connoisseur on Art but having agreed to write the primer without first investing thought in the possibility of exposing myself. I guess it’s too late for me too. I will tell you all I know, which I will warn you, is not much.

 

I would like to come off as sophisticated and say that I enjoy modern art but there are very countable paintings I can say I have liked. And even then I do not like them enough to want them on my walls. I think that Art is one of those things in life that is accommodating of everyone and modern Art is the fortress for those who are batshit crazy (to your altar I will bring a one Cy Twombley. Google him please.) 

cy_twombly_3

Painting by Cy Twombley….  (I know)

But even if I harbour those sentiments towards the genre, I will dare to say that there is form to the madness.

 

Some clarifications first; Modern art is a movement of Art that began from the 1860’s to 1970s. Abstract Art or (Abstraction of reality) is a style of art under the movement of Modern Art, where a subject is reduced to the basics of its structure. There are some other examples of genres under the modern art movement and these are; Cubism, Futurism, Pop Art, Dada, Conceptual and Installation art et cetera.

 

To understand any abstract painting, I think it’s important to know a little about the history of art and European Art in this context, which is the progression of art through time. How art came from the cave paintings of stone age chaps who just wanted to say, “Never 4get Gipiir.” Then the crisp photo realistic portrayals of life by early artists like Rafaello, Donatello, Michelangelo etc. Up to the point of classifying Wassily Kadinsky’s thin soup of floating geometric symbols, Rothko’s thick horizontal bars and Cy Twombley’s goonish smudges as art.

cy 1

Our chap Cy Twombley strikes again…

 

 

Well friend, the world was fascinated by those who had the ability to replicate life and all the parts of life until the birth of a movement called impressionism. Impressionism in the visual art context means the impression that a subject makes on the artist. Artists ceased to be concerned with the accurateness of form or the objective of replicating an object and instead labored to present a subject from the perception they had about it. Their focus was on the way that a subject was affected factors like light, mood, movement and the artist’s feelings about it. It so happened that the birth of impressionism in the 1840’s happened shortly after the invention of the camera in the 1830’s.  So it could have been that artists in that time felt that their work as imitators was obsolete, now that a machine could reproduce a subject so succinctly, and therefore shied away from competing with photography or they simply felt relieved of the burden of replicating life and instead took to painting with other intentions other than imitation. I don’t quite know why but impressionism became the rage where form and rigid structure were ditched for how a subject was perceived by an artist. As a result the brush strokes became wild and blurry to capture fleeting moments.

henri-matisse-joy-of-life.-image-via-hemrimatisse.org_1

A painting by Henri Matisse- A pioneer of Fauvism which is a style in the impressionist movement.

 

 The era of impressionism is when Monet came up with his famous lilies. Of course as life goes, there was resistance by the traditionalists who were not impressed by this impressionism business. There was an attempt to tame art by those who felt that art had gone to the dogs if principles like form had been given up. This move to redeem art gave way to the reactive post impressionists who gave lee way to madness, only as long as there was form to it. And so the spirit of perception of a subject over its exactness kept up, the experimentation with brush work and colour continued but emphasis  was put on form, this resulted into painters of that time using black outlines to aid them in defining a subject. You know the saying that, you could be the juiciest mango out there and you will still meet someone who loathes mangoes? Well, there were some chaps who couldn’t stomach the nebulous productions of the impressionists. These chaps later became post impressionists but they did not do much to deter art from the course it had taken and this was the course of free thought. The art movements that followed like symbolism, fauvism and expressionism were gasoline to the fire of liberation from old principles.  

 

I have said much about impressionism, I wish I had reserved that phalange juice to tell you about Expressionism because it was the movement that preceded modern art and all its progeny like, cubism, surrealism, Dada, conceptual art, futurism plus all the other wacky ones that elude me now. Expressionism in an accurate portrayal of its name as its name was emphatic on self-expression  through art. It was the artist’s mind turned inside out. It was all about the artist’s emotion or feelings. And I think because of the difficulty in giving structure to feelings, colour became one of the greatest tools of expressionists to express and to communicate their feelings to the viewer.

We all know that the sky is blue but because Edvard Munch was feeling terrified, the sky becomes the colour of a wound bleeding any minute in his painting “The scream.”

The Scream by Edvard Munch

The scream by Edvard Munch

Looking at the years in which expressionism came into being, they were years that preceded the world war; these were times when people were pregnant with trepidation about politics, the economy and all those things that people lose sleep over and because of this, the artist’s canvas became a kind of gargoyle from which people’s feelings came forth. So with expressionism, there was a disregard for imitation or replication of the world and a new found respect for the articulation of an individual’s feelings through art.

 

As the art became intent on expressing the intangible and complex, like feelings and emotions it mutated into abstract art, so it is through this trap door that we will lower ourselves into the dungeon of Modern art.

I hope that at this point, you realise how fast you can lose your marbles if modern art is approached with the mind-set, with which one approaches the works of renaissance; a fun and easy quiz on religious or political iconography. You know that Venus rose from the sea after Zeus’s phallic bits plopped into the sea and so when you see a hot wench rising from an ocean, you say Aah! Venus! And smile smugly to yourself because your vast knowledge on Greek mythology has finally been of some use.

 

My point here is that the first tip to understanding modern art is to know that it is an inward expression of an individual and not likely to be a visual replication of anything in life. So instead of looking at Rothko’s “greys” and asking, what is this or what did he draw? The question should be how do I feel about this painting?

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A painting by Mark Rothko. (Do not worry, the meaning of this one flew at a higher altitude than my intellectual antennas.)

 

It’s very possible that you will feel indifferent towards a painting without a compass to help you navigate it. Even with things like feelings, one needs a sense of direction to at least know that they are on the right path or close enough. So below are the tools you can use to navigate an abstract painting.

Colour. I wrote earlier in the paragraph about expressionism that colour is used in a symbolic way to communicate mood in art. Colours in abstract art, often retains the classical meaning attached to them. So red, will be passion, anger or heat. And blue could mean peace or melancholy. White could mean purity, insanity or loss. Deliberateness. So you remember that time I sent you a quiz  from buzzfeed about modern art, well I ended up wrong about a painting belonging to modern art on basis of the deliberateness of the brush strokes. Now I am sure this example does not aid your confidence as my student in abstract art but I will still say that, it is another factor. Quick short brush strokes may portray vibrancy or disturbia and long swirly strokes (characteristic of expressionism era) may mean reflection, sorrow or peace.(Please know that Art is the beautiful mistress of relativism.) There are other things like rhythm and speed that can be reflected in art pieces too.

Textures & Materials; You can read an art piece from its textures or the materials used. These will help you gauge themes of the subject for instance plastic materials in use may be about urbanization. There are other things about a painting like rhythm and speed.  With the help of Lines and shapes, one may get a clue as to what the artist was portraying. There was a time I saw a huge abstract painting in the conference room of Fairway Hotel. Now, I am not even a fan of abstract art, I usually give a piece five minutes of attention and if it doesn’t make sense, I don’t get hung up on it but this piece at Fairway hotel in the midst of all its abstract clutter, I recognized in the background running through the whole piece; The Golden spiral, that pattern which is repeated in every living thing. I looked at the general colour scheme which was a composition of brown earthy tones with greens and blues and I concluded that the artist meant to display the “finger print of God” in every piece of creation. But you can see that it took some knowledge of something like the Fibonacci principle, golden ratio and all that blah blah to have this piece open itself up to me. Which brings me to my next tip.

 

Context. Time and place. Zeitgeist. Germans who championed the expressionist movement which eventually sired things like futurism, Dada art, deconstructivism etc (all though don’t go shouting about this because there are racial wars over who pioneered the movement especially with the French. I just made up my mind and gave it to the Deutch peeps, because they are only known for alcoholism and genocide.) I was saying that Germans, who pioneered this movement, seemed to be troubled and taking shit going on everywhere so personally. Early painters of modern art were bent on expressing the turbulence within, critiquing and mocking society. So looking at a painting’s year of production, name and nationality and rummaging through the dusty library of history or current affairs inside your skull will be of great help.

Name of the painting. I will not insult your intelligence my dear friend by explaining the significance of nomenclature in art or for anything. But let me say that it may not always help you especially when you see that Rothko, names his paintings by colours, as if it’s not already obvious. As if when we stand before his huge columns of colour we are there to confirm whether it really is “Orange, Red and Yellow” as he named it. As if we will stand and exclaim that, “Truly! That is the exact likeness of Orange, Red and Yellow like I have never seen before!”

Ouvre. An artist’s body of work through a life time. Yup. So some artsy chaps like to break down their paintings into series. Whereby one artist intent on documenting, let us say the Maji Maji Rebellion, will have the intention of painting the full rebellion but will break it down to minute occurrences, then break it down to parts of objects…you get my drift?

So this artist, will paint only a tiny water droplet on an expanse of canvas and name the painting, “Rebellion; Sacred 1.”  So until this little prick paints all his things and assembles them before you, you will never be able to understand that he was talking about the Maji Maji rebellion.

I don’t know if I have left any useful tips out but from what I have written so far, you can clearly see that when it comes to abstract art, most people are simply winging it. I mean it is an abstraction of reality. It’s already enough that our realities are not monolithic. And so because it is subjective; you mostly bring your feelings and project them onto the art. And one should have no fear of being wrong or be intimidated by the prospect of being wrong thinking that others have a better understanding of this genre than they do. Most red blooded people at this point would say, fuck a duck and I can’t even protest that. If we pursue this logic of subjectivity, projection, and disregard for whether a common understanding, then we the viewers become the artist and we do all his work. Everything becomes art and if that is the case, then why pay an artist? For what are paying him?

Needless to say this genre is at the high table of Esoterism. It’s an exclusive club and writers of art review magazines do not help matters in breaking it down for us.  A certain essayist called it “art bollocks.” Politely called art speak in other places, art speak is some bamboozling assemblage of colossal academic words that hint on lofty concepts like metaphysics or high level thinking planes. I can’t describe art speak without speaking like them even. Anyway, so Modern art is being kept afloat by writers like these who raise the value of an art piece with what they write about it and that way they attract rich white people and other spineless chaps who are too afraid to say that the emperor has no clothes. I think modern art is being sustained by the magical power of the human need to identify with the majority, people are afraid of being the ones who don’t get it; otherwise most of these these people would be out of work.

 

Just to let you know about my personal favourites I am into impressionism, fauvism, expressionism and just a wee bit of surrealism. I stick with the classics mostly, neo surrealism is just so nihilistic and there isn’t a place in my soul so dark that it can contain it.

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The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali, the father of surrealism. (This is the only surrealist painting I like in the world.)

 

 

This response has taken unnecessarily long that I dread your depth of disappointment when you finish this document and realise how unwarranted the wait was. Aside from the other limping excuses of electricity, slumber and so forth which I have been doling out to you, part of my delay was because I thought that I was writing this as a serious academic essay and the prospect of an audience threw me into a panic which saw me deleting paragraphs as soon as they were conceived in quest for an impressive piece. But the moment I knew that it’s just an old buddy behind the screen, I felt that I can afford to be reckless. I mean I take you seriously but it’s much easier writing to an acquaintance than it is to total strangers.  So Friend, that is what I can tell you about the subject, basically there is no manual to it.

I come to the end of this letter earnestly hoping that there is something that you did not already know.

 

Yours Sincerely,

Ann Lindah Namuddu.

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The Black And White Roads of Ivory

pia

To them they are merely black and white shapes,

employed to bring sparkle to the beautiful words

which help them reminisce.

For them to feel,

words ought to escort melody

or else music is simply neat rows of sound.

Yet I find that, for me to feel,

words are irrelevant to this melody

for my profoundest feelings are encased in each key

in every note, is a perfect expression of my passion.

They are my keys, to the secret doors

which open into gardens where my emotions grow.

 

Here in this octave, the first,

lie the low haunting calm sounds,

that twist my insides into giant Gordian knots.

The kind that only the incurable pain of your absence

with the bitter-sweet memory of you brings.

Yet it is also in these deep gentle notes that I hear you

the sensual voice which made my guard disintegrate

every time into a pile of fine sand.

 

Those silvery tinkly notes of the last octave,

whose sound is reminiscent of water drops falling onto a pool,

clear and distinct,

are a musical drizzle that

falls onto my thirsty soul.

Soaking it causing the feelings,

buried deep within to germinate.

 

I find you in the harmony of notes combined,

an intoxicating emotional cocktail

of dizzying nostalgia and nauseating regret.

Of love lost and passion unspent.

I find you, like the grand transpose,

taking me your audience by surprise.

Bringing a fresh wave of goose bumps each time

and yet unlike the transpose of music that has to cease,

you do not.

 

To them they are simply black and white keys,

beneath my fingers, they are secret chords

that unlock the memories in my hearts diary.

Unlike them, I do not need the words of love songs,

to reminisce.

I only need to walk down,

these black and white roads of ivory

and I will be led to you.

piano art

Namuddu Ann Lindah-2012

THE MENTAL CATARACTS OF THE SNOBBISH LITERATI

I wrote a thing!

The Lantern Meet of Poets

“Read!” say the snobbish literati. Their noses see saw between musty books and the air as they raise their nostrils in disdain whenever they contemplate or chance upon people who do not wish to wile their hours away doing what they do. They lick index fingers and flip pages as they indulge in tall tales or cogitations of people who have made a vocation of day dreaming.

They are not hard to spot, these literati. First sign is usually an indication of poor sight in form of visual aids like thick rimmed spectacles. Their eye capillaries are bursting, a trend that begun from high school where they read after lights out by the aid of a Tiger head powered torch. By their twentieth year, these voracious readers have hit a certain number of books. Their craniums, now heavy,  reel with the knowledge of the human condition, which world literature overwhelmingly…

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AISLES OF BLOOD: ROYAL WEDDINGS AND BRUTAL ENDINGS

The Lantern Meet of Poets

At the start of last month, Uganda’s women were at it: waving placards, marching, singing, and then finally hurling obscenities at the posse of constables ringed about the National Police Headquarters in Naguru. Their cause: the blood-dimmed tide of rampant kidnaps and unsolved murders that’s gripped the country’s capital these past few months.

In the end, both the day’s oppressive sun and government paid them little mind.

But the march didn’t fail to leave itsmark; and least of all because Dr. Stella Nyanzi was the procession’s defacto leader. With the volatile, and in equal parts, infamously famous feminist activist in the recipe, a lasting ‘impression’was no doubt in the offing.

To that effect, tactics were changed, so that instead of merely shouting themselves hoarse against a wall of intransigent, uniformed masculinity, the protesters drew from their holsters plus-sized dildos.

The eye-catching artifacts were subsequently held against the protesters’ gyrating crotches…

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Of weddings and kidnaps, and the return to the past!

The Lantern Meet of Poets

My friends and I agreed to write about the royal wedding, and kidnaps of mostly women in Uganda that have proved too complex a puzzle for our government to solve. Never mind that peace is the NRM government’s flagship propaganda tool. According to President Museveni and other apologists of his military dictatorship that sprinkles a few rain drops of democratic trappings in a desert of political diversity, they should rule for life because Uganda discovered peace under his reign. The past is terrible and past leaders are swine because people were being killed day and night without effective government response, they postulate.

A recent visitor to Uganda who has tasted the tasty NRM government propaganda may get the impression they are living in the past. A past condemned, convicted, and demonized, a past in which nothing good ever happened.

For our present pain is real. Rent? We pay in dollars!…

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THE ZEN MIND PROJECT: Conversations on mental health with Ugandan teenagers.

I can tell the confusion among my readers on what is going on with their beloved headless chicken. I know that ever since the advent of the headless chicken, the posts on this blog have been the chronicles of a decapitated chicken scurrying hither and thither through her twenties.

What is happening at the headquarters of the headless chicken, has a long juicy story behind it, as my stories often are, and I promise to sit down with you over some chicken bran and talk about it sometime. However, for now, I ask you to follow me on this noble two months project that the chicken and another human have taken on.

So dear reader I would like to tell you about some thrilling work that I will be doing in the month of May and June. A young lady called, Racheal and I, are going to hold conversations on mental health in schools under a project called the Zen Mind project.

“Zen Mind?” Why that name?

When I hear the word Zen, my mind quickly throws together  facets of western pop culture’s interpretation of Buddhism. I instantly hear a flute played in a musical style that is particular to the Orient. Enveloped in the haunting sonorous sounds of the flute, I see a plump clean shaven man of Mongolian extract wearing long robes and sitting in holy stillness in the midst of a cyclone.

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While the term Zen in Buddhism is a more complex concept, in popular culture it has come to mean a state of being peaceful and relaxed regardless of the chaos around you.

buddha

The pursuit for this state of Zen-ness through our project is why my project partner Racheal and I, settled for this name for our mental health project. The term “mental health” in Uganda has been in circulation for a few years now, as discussions on the definition of mental health are held on various online and offline forums.

However while these discussions on mental health go on, the discussions on the subject remain mostly in medical and elite circles and as a result, reducing the term to a mere buzzword, used a lot but rarely unpacked to lay out what it entails.

The Zen Mind project, will for the next two months , hold conversations with young teenagers in school about Mental health. We hope that these conversations will unpack and de-medicalise mental health. We hope to help Ugandan teenagers understand what mental health means and why it is important to talk about it. We want to talk about what good mental health looks like, what deteriorating mental health looks like, and how to cope or respond in crises.

teen

While this project will do most of its work in school outreaches, we will also engage with people online by writing about mental health.

The Zen Mind project is one of the 28 community initiatives started by young women who are  initiates of a Sisterhood called Circle of Love. These young women seek to change their communities by using their privilege of education and acquired skills set to deal with existing problems in their community and create the change they desire to see.

The Zen Mind project is run by Nabbanja Racheal and Namuddu Ann Lindah.

 

rach

Racheal is the one in blue and I am the one in green.

This blog post is a first of the many online posts that we will publish on our project.

Engage with us on this blog and follow us on our private accounts.

Facebook: @Lone Pringle

Facebook: @Racheal Rampo

Twitter:@MamaMiaItsBeans.

The headless chicken counts on your support, in form of blog shares, so that we can reach a wider audience, as it goes on with its world changing business. Thanks you in advance. 🙂

Stay Zen,

Koo.

7th (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE HEADLESS CHICKEN STILL ROAMS UN-SEASONED, UN-BOILED, UN-DEEP FRIED.

she rose 1

 

At this point, I don’t even know if you are still interested in what I have to say, let alone if there is still such a thing as Kuku-dom. But if there is a lone Kuku out there who still needs that explanation for purposes of closure before they burn bridges, I will not withhold an explanation from you.

First of all, I want you to know that it is I the headless chicken, writing to you. Every time I disappear for a while, rumors start flying all over the web talmbout how I was last seen next to a salad in Javas. None of that is true. I am still Kuku Baya(Bad Kuku), running free, in no particular direction, eluding hot ovens and open jaws. No body has gutted me and stuffed me  with rice and potatoes yet.

kuku3

 

With that affirmation out of the way, let me get into the reasons for my absence.

Now that you are reading this sentence, I don’t know how to break it to you that there is no grand excuse for neglecting my blog for a year. There is no great tragedy or triumph that I can present to you as a justification for not writing and subsequently win your sympathy. This year more than ever I have wanted to write. More than ever my cup of inspiration has flowed. I have had electricity, wifi and times when I have had more free time on my hands than I needed. So what happened to me?

This is what; a desktop full of movies and series, Instagram, books you can’t put down, my ever wandering mind etcetera. All these distractions come charging at me, soon as I sit down to write. I end up watching the movie Juno which I have watched a million times, folding my laundry even though I hate folding laundry, pick a twitter fight with a stranger on another stranger’s wall or I decide that now would be the opportune moment to try out that Gordon Ramsey banana crepes recipe. Keep going like that, you find that you are 80years old with no passion in life except basking in the sun like a lizard.

I plan to get back to blogging on the regular and to this cause, I have made great sacrifices like deleting every movie and series on my desk top except the movie Juno. I have evacuated numerous tins of hair butter, jewellery, mugs and bowls from the only table I have in my room. Even though, now as we speak, I am writing from inside my bed, with my blankets to my chin, leaving only my arms sticking out because it was cold and I couldn’t feel my feet even after 4 cups of Dawa tea.

sleep2

I plan to write from the table in my room. My jars of hair butter and body oils will go to the pink trolley where they are supposed to be. My mugs and bowls will go back to the green trolley that serves as my pantry and cupboard.

My laptop will graduate from the floor onto that table which from now on wards, will be its permanent place.  I had to be theatrical about starting over. I had to physically create a place for writing in my house, so that it can happen also in my mind and in my habits. I realized that the clutter on my laptop’s desktop, would lure me down the rabbit hole of checking out the contents of every folder on my computer. So I decided to also sweep it clean. Next I plan to work on my sleeping schedule so that it can permit me to write in the morning during the week.

I know you have had it with me and my endless scroll of excuses but I promise that you are dealing with a whole new Kuku with a contrite heart. There is one more thing that I have been mulling over for a while now and I would like to share it with you guys but because I have promised myself that I will be writing shorter blog posts, I will stop here.

If you are reading this sentence. You are the reason, I am writing again and I am grateful for you.

Till next time, stay out of ovens my beloved kukus.

kuku