Bernard Pras, genius of perspective

Bernard Pras is a French artist born in 1952, considered to be one of the most unusual artists of the new generation. After more than 20 years as a painter and sculptor of recovered objects, Pras conceived an astonishing form of expression, using photography and sculpture combined to create art installations that come to life only when observed through a certain angle.

I recently came across some of his work and I was so impressed by it that I had to share it!

Like a large-scale Arcimboldo, Pras’s anamorphic installations are the result of an astoundingly meticulous work which consists in assembling several different objects which all together could very well pass off as a dumpster, but here’s the trick: when photographed at a very well-planned, well-designed angle these objects seem to magically merge into one coherent portrait. The most amazing thing to me is the large scale of these sculptures and the absolutely mind-boggling games of perspective, as these art installations aren’t simply laid flat but they work and combine together on several different layers of perspective. I find it impossible not to marvel at Pras’s incredible eye for perspective and at the amount of work that must go behind the assembly of such sculptures.

Here are pictures of one of his installations, Facteur Cheval, from two different angles and a video that perfectly illustrates his anamorphic process:

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Here it is from an angle… just a bunch of random stuff, right?

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There’s another angle. Again, this just looks like a bit of a mess really.

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…and here it is, as seen from the front! Don’t believe it?

I will leave a link to Pras’s portfolio from each of these images, as on his website you have the possibility to look more closely inside the picture as if through a magnifying glass. I find his works can be truly appreciated not only by seeing the final product but also by trying to break it down into the smaller parts which combined it, to look at each individual component and its placement in the overall portrait. I’ve got to admit, I have spent quite an amount of time exploring some of the images that were most puzzling my mind – such as this one which recreates the famous Old Man in Sorrow by Van Gogh. Try having a go by yourself at figuring out how and on how many layers Pras made it!

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I also couldn’t help but making a whole new Pinterest board just for him, so be sure to check it out and follow it if you want to see more of his works.

Here is a Making Of video which gives a little insight into his work process:

 

And finally, here is a collection of some of my favourites:

 

 

Click through to see more!

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Does sex sell?

Something that is almost impossible not to notice about the fashion industry, especially once you start looking at it from a more professional point of view, is that it can have a strongly objectifying view of the body and it sometimes glamourises sexist behaviour and way of thinking. I know, breaking news! This has been observed in advertising for decades now and it never quite seems to decrease, it only transforms, adapting to the taste of the times.

As someone who considers herself a feminist this has been somewhat of an issue for me as I decided to embark on a fashion-related degree. In a way, it was my very own elephant in the room: at first I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to feel about entering an industry that could be so destructive to a cause I firmly and enthusiastically believed in. But I am an optimist at heart, and my conclusion for now is that fashion is a tool, and that it isn’t inherently good or bad by its nature, but just like with any other tools it depends on how it’s being used. And I thought, hey, what better way to change things for the better than to actually work in the industry and find a way to improve what I feel doesn’t work? Hammers are great to nail pretty pictures to the wall, but they would make a great deal of damage if smashed on someone’s head. You get my point.

Something I find most people struggle with (myself included) is drawing the fine line between expressing art through a naked body and sexualising it. I know there is plenty of art out there which features nudity and I absolutely adore (off the top of my head I can think of classics such as Schiele and Klimt, but the honour isn’t reserved to 19th-century Austrian painters). Personally I believe there is a difference between celebrating the body and sexualising it. This is also why I named my Pinterest board “sex sells” and not “nudity in fashion”, because I do not think that nudity in itself is a bad, dirty thing.

The problem arises when the advertisements begin objectifying the female (or male!) body. Women’s bodies are dismembered in ads for all kinds of products, effectively turning their body parts into props, embellishments, objects to sell a product. Those pair of boobs, that leg, those lips belong to a woman who was stripped away of her identity and turned into a thing. From Wikipedia:

Sexual objectification is the act of treating a person as an instrument of sexual pleasure. Objectification more broadly means treating a person as a commodity or an object without regard to their personality or dignity.

The body language of women and girls in almost all of these remains passive, vulnerable, submissive, whereas the man (when featured) assumes the dominating role. Also, he is usually fully clothed.

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A few images from my Pinterest board… go check it out!

I mean… when an ad for a Menswear Spring/Summer collection doesn’t feature any pieces of clothing, not even a scrap of fabric on the floor, maybe it is time to rethink what we are really trying to sell here (I’m looking at you, Tom Ford).

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Menswear and eyewear SS12 collection by… Tom Ford, who else?

I have a great deal to say about the portrayal of women (and men) in media as it’s something that I care deeply about, so stay tuned if you want to read more about this topic in the future!

 

Something to look back on: work view

A while ago, during my first week at university (also known as induction week) we got the chance to see some of the final projects of students from previous years. I thought it was a brilliant way to give us a taste of what we will be working on over the next months (and years), and I remember feeling excited as I looked for booklets and portfolios that caught my eye and being in awe as I flipped through the pages. I gotta say, some of those works looked so professional, I wasn’t sure whether to feel thrilled that I’d be doing such amazing work or inadequate that I would never be able to achieve such great results!

I took a few snaps of some of my favourites and meticulously saved them in a folder on my laptop, for future references.

Now that I’m nearing the end of my first semester, I feel like I understand some of those photos better and I can take away more from them than I could before. After sitting through lectures, taking plenty of notes and restlessly looking things up in my spare time, I feel like I now know what to look for a bit better than my 9-weeks-ago self, I am ever-so-slightly more savvy on the subject and I can therefore appreciate these works more and, hopefully, find a way to use what I loved about them in my future work.

Writing things down always help me, so I thought, why not write a blog about it? I am confident that I will come back to these notes in the future (and by then I will probably be even more “savvy” and will be embarrassed by my own naiveness. But that’s kind of the point of internet, isn’t it?).

Click to enlarge the images!

Villoid: like Polyvore, but with a Chung

Apps are like mushrooms: they just seem to keep popping up everywhere and all the time, in all sizes and shapes – but not all are good. Okay, perhaps not my finest metaphor, but you get the point. We live in an information-saturated side of the world, and in the ocean of apps that we are drowning in, there is always something that will cater to your needs – sometimes it will even create a need you never thought you had.

One particular app has been recently making an appearance more and more often in my circle of social media and technological gadgets, an app that claims “will change the way we get dressed forever”: Villoid. Alexa Chung has been raving about it on her Instagram and various socials for a while, with her distinctively bubbly and quirky voice, so my naturally curious and nosy had to find how what the deal what.

Elle UK Magazine, who reveleaded the launch of the new app, described it as “like Instagram for fashion, but with a buy button”, and similarities to Pinterest, one of my all-time favourite platforms, have also been pointed out. From my point of view, however, the main competitor (and predecessor) of this new app would no doubt be Polyvore.

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Villoid is essentially a social fashion app that allows you to create “boards” (thus the link to Pinterest, which in my opinion ends here) to, essentially, put an outfit together, with a principle not so different than your classic Polyvore sets, only more squared and Instagram-inspired. Board can be used to experiment with different styles or perhaps try and recreate a celebrity’s outfit or a street style you snapped.

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My attempt at creating a board.

You can pick your items from a huge database and each piece of clothing in a board can be clicked on and purchased directly from the app. But the app isn’t limited to the shopping experience, as it is grounded on a social media-like setting in which you can follow other users to see the boards they create on your feed, and even brands such as Miu Miu, ASOS and Acne have created their own profiles so that you can keep up to date with their latest styles.

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“I suppose that scene in Clueless where the computer puts an outfit together from Cher’s wardrobe really stayed with me,” said Chung to Glamour Magazine. “Clothes are fun, making mistakes is fun, being inspired is fun. Villoid celebrates the process of getting dressed and showing your mates.”

It turns out this app isn’t as new as they make it sound. It was originally released under the name SoBazaar by Norwegian e-commerce interpreneur Jeanette Dyhre Kvisvik. After settling the app in Norway, Kvisvik contacted Chung to help her launch globally. By her own admission, Chung didn’t know anything about making apps and the technical mechanisms behind social media: “I found the social platforms I was on limiting in terms of expressing my involvement with and insatiable appetite for fashion by way of street style,” she said. “I had started thinking about how to blend all of these elements in an app format but didn’t have the foggiest about how to proceed with making it a reality.” However that didn’t necessarily stifle the success of the app as her major contribution was her huge following on Instagram and, really, her face.

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“So many downloaded the app the minute Alexa announced her ‘secret project’ last week that the app was crashing,” said Kvisvik. “Social media stars are more important to young people than movie stars. Community trumps the elite. It is in this reality Villoid comes in, merging social media and community thinking with e-commerce. The world is changing, and the market places are changing with it, and we try to be at the very forefront of that development.”

Villoid is currently available in the App store for iOS and an Android version should be released by early 2016.


sources:
ELLE UK
Fashionista
Forbes
Apple Store
Harper’s Bazaar
Glamour Magazine

Tim Walker’s The Muse

As a huge lover of film and motion picture, you can imagine my joy when I found out that Tim Walker, one of the most world-renowned fashion photographers, has directed a short film. Naturally, I had to watch it!

This mesmerizing and haunting 12-minute short was born out of a photoshoot that the very same Tim Walker took for W Magazine, starring model and long-time collaborator Kristen McMenamy as a mermaid (a role that, as they revealed in an interview, she had always wanted to take on and he had always wanted to capture). The basis of the shoot was Hans Christian Andersen’s short story “The Little Mermaid”, which was elaborated into a darker romantic idea of a mermaid kept in a tank in her lover’s garden.

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“A fairy tale without darkness won’t resonate emotionally,” said the British photographer. And his fascination with the fantastic and the borderline-disturbing is plastered all over his work. It comes as no surprise that some of his biggest sources of inspiration are the sinister illustrations of Arthur Rackham and the eerie fairytales of H. C. Andersen.

Ben Whishaw (whom I already loved in Perfume: The Story of a Murderer and Cloud Atlas, and who you probably recognise from the latest James Bond movies) is Edward Dunstan, the photographer obsessed with his muse. The concept of the lost muse or inspiration and the effects that this loss has on the artist isn’t new to arts and film, and it perhaps became iconic with Fellini’s Otto e Mezzo (8½), whose veiled autobiographical tones depict an alter-ego of the filmmaker going through a “director’s block”. Just like in Walker’s short, memories and flashbacks merge with reality, and fantasies and dreams become a mean to an escape.

The artist’s consuming obsession and blinding perfectionism take over to become the central element of the short: Edward wanders aimlessly in open fields of grass lost in an empty sky; he watches footage of his muse on a loop and obsessively organises the pictures he took of her. He is trapped in his own mind, just like the mermaid was trapped in his tank. “I was as much your prisoner as you were mine,” he echoes. But there is a warning:

Legend has it that if a human man falls in love with a mermaid she will grow legs; legs that will, if she so desires, carry her far, far away from the very man she cast her watery spell upon… But what becomes of the human man, when her spell remains but she is gone?

The idea of separation is also a constant: first between his mind and the outside world, then between the present and the past, shown through bright and hopeful flashbacks; and finally between him and her, through the physical barriers of the tank at the beginning, and of the footage projected on the wall towards the end.

“His shoots, they don’t start with the clothes,” said Stefano Tonchi, the editor of W, who commissioned the original shoot. “They start with an urgency for him to tell a story”.

The short was shot on film (not digitally), with no use of CGI, and mostly silent. Part of it comes from the feeling of emptiness and alienation that the director wanted to convey; part of it must necessarily come from Walker’s solid background in photography, which, as Ben Whishaw puts it, is a much more sculptural process, it has much more to do with the body and its physicality than it does with dialogue. In fact, the only real dialogue that takes place in the film is that of the artist with the footage of his long-lost muse, caught in a perfect moment of vulnerability and grief, and exquisitely expressed through the actor’s body language.

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The film is available on We Are Colony, a website that aims to provide exclusive independent films and behind-the-scenes footage with a pay-per-title policy. The special bundle for The Muse includes lots of extra interviews, hidden scripts and cut scenes and is only £2,49.


sources:
http://www.timwalkerphotography.com/
https://www.wearecolony.com
http://www.asff.co.uk/
http://www.madeinshoreditch.co.uk/
http://www.pulsefilms.com/
https://www.i-d.vice.com