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Vilmos Huszar as a turning point between architecture, object design and independent visual arts


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Where is Harderwijk? What is Harderwijk? I left the train station in Arnhem, not so ready for a two and a half hour travel to the museum of Harderwijk. There was an exhibition of Vilmos Huszar I had to visit, but I just couldn’t think of where Harderwijk is on the map. Is it a city or a village? And why would Vilmos Huszar want to work there?

Vilmos Huszar was born in Budapest in 1884. In 1904 he started studying arts in München where he met Anna Egter van Wissekerke. In 1905 they moved to the Hague, the city that would become the center of De Stijl. In the next few years he was travelling a lot and in 1908 he decided to build up a life in the Netherlands and he never went back to his home country. Anna’s parents would not accept a marriage which led to his marriage in 1909 with her best friend Jeanne van Teijlingen with which he also got a child.

After only half an hour in the train we stopped; For your own safety please leave the train at the next station, our apologies. I am very used to these situations with our Dutch train companies so I stayed calm. After waiting half an hour in the dutch cold and rainy weather the train arrived. Off course this train had some delay which made me miss my next train.

Vilmos Huszar

Vilmos Huszar

Vilmos Huszar was experimenting with many different paint styles from 1906 to 1917. A few examples of these styles are divisionism, fauvism, symbolism, futurism, expressionism and synthetism. He referred to this period as the modern period. In 1912 he had his first painting exhibition in the Netherlands. After three years he started meeting artists that would influence the turning point in his art. These artists were Bart van der Leck, Theo van Doesburg, Jan Wils and Chris Beekman. In 1917 the first edition of the magazine of De Stijl was created of which Vilmos Huszar designed the famous logo.

de Stijl magazine

de Stijl magazine

New building materials like reinforced concrete and steel, and the principles of prefabricated construction helped change architecture in the late nineteenth century. Design tended to lag behind technology, however. The architects of De Stijl also designed in the traditional way at first. It was not until later that they began experimenting with new materials, using a new architectural form language, as evidenced by their square, geometric structural volumes, often with rendered walls and flat roofs. Huszar and Rietveld’s space-colour-composition can be regarded as one of the most successful of De Stijl’s interior designs. The radical example of total design can be read both as a plea for the integration of painting, furniture design and architecture and as a manifesto concerning the intimate relationship between colour and space.

Space is experience, spiritual experience. De Stijl sought to deliver a spiritual experience, albeit more universal. The designers of this generation tried to achieve this with huge, monumental spaces that nevertheless had clear architectural boundaries. To them, colour was an effective means of achieving a new spiritual living environment. The idea was to allow the new abstract style of painting to merge completely with architecture.

Eventually I arrived at Harderwijk, still not sure where I was. I went to the bus station and waited a while. After ten minutes I realized none of my busses had arrived yet. The bus station looked abandoned besides the few people in red and black working clothes. I realized they work at Walibi World, a luna park in Holland. A bus showed up, not the bus I had to take. It was going to Walibi World, just like the next three busses. I still didn’t know where Harderwijk was but I knew it was close to Walibi World.

abandoned bus station

Abandoned bus station

Developments in the industrial production of paint made the vibrant colours used by artists available for architectural interiors, too. The artists of De Stijl made colour ‘separate from the structure’ to ensure that the building was liberated from its conventional enclosed character.

Most art pieces Huszar made in the period he was working at De Stijl have been destroyed after his request. The few art pieces that remain untouched are now situated in big museums around the world.

Finally a lot of busses arrived, most of them going towards France and passing the city center of Harderwijk. Wait what, France is not close to Walibi World right? Or is it? Now I was completely disoriented. I thought my topographical skills were pretty good but after that day I gave up on them. I got in a bus, the woman behind the wheel looked at me, didn’t say a thing. She appeared to me as someone who is tired of living, she was driving like that as well.

In 1920 Vilmos Huszar left De Stijl, it is not totally clear why but some people state it was because of a fight with van Doesburg about the colour scheme Huszar designed. He had enough of the traditional way of painting, he stated it was just a easel painting to fill up museums. We think Huszar’s diversity in his artworks was also a big influence on his leaving of De Stijl. We take this letter he sent to his formal art teacher Bremmer as an example;

“I believe that I am too much of an artist to assimilate what I learned from you in my art works. I write you this so you don’t make any useless efforts. I cannot leave my path but maybe proceed, that means seeing my own way as a tool. I hope to stay in contact.”

When I got to the museum I still had half an hour until closing time. The two and a half hour travel turned out to be four and a half hours. Fortunately this was enough to see the exhibition about Vilmos Huszar and even get a private tour by a guide. When walking back to the station I realized Harderwijk was actually a very cozy city (yes it’s a city). It apparently has a beach and it was once a craft city. The people were very kind and helpful. When I got in the train to go back to Arnhem I saw an old man waving to the train. Harderwijk is the city where Dutch children visit their grandparents for a few days and then wave each other goodbye at the train station. I was told Harderwijk was the end of the world, a place where you wouldn’t want to be found either dead or alive and that it had a great coffee shop. I believed it but now I know it’s not the end of the world.  

After Huszar left De Stijl he got many commercial art requests from C. Bruynzeel and Miss Blanche. He made many artworks in different styles, often with small details referring to De Stijl. He would for instance put a red line in a realistic painting. In December 1939 he and his wife Jeanne moved to Hierden, a small village near Harderwijk, because of the war danger. Here he had the chance to go on with making art. During the war he was active in the resistance Migchelsen. In 1945 Jeanne died and not even one month later he got together with his housemaid Anke van der Steen with who he got married in 1953. Jeanne’s parents were very rich, but after her death Huszar was left with only his atelier. Anke, Vilmos and his kid moved to the atelier. They were very poor so Huszar started trading art for basic needs. For instance the still life of a bottle of Hollandia Water to his housemaid.

still life with bottle of Hollandia water 1946-1947

Still life with bottle of Hollandia water 1946-1947

In the last few years of his life he went back to painting like he did when he was still in De Stijl. On 8 September 1960 Vilmos Huszar passed away in Harderwijk.

 

 

A Seer Reader


Thursday, February 2, 2017

 

I was trying to find a book in the library with a design which excited me; something I’d like to write about. I chose to pick up A Seer Reader for the assertive, bold cover design it boasted. By using red, white and black, the colour contrast is stark, the combination connoting power. The font type replicates typical, 70’s typography, with its sweeping thickness and curvy motion; it asserts a confidence. A shallow indent delicately engraves ‘A Seer Reader’, indicating the importance of the books title, over the authors name. The ‘A’ starting the title, leads a triangular shape centering attention to the middle of the page. Every element to the cover designed by Zack Group, makes for an eye-catching, attention-grabbing book. The cover enticed me to open the book, and discover what inspired me to chose A Seer Reader for my investigation on design. Surprisingly my analysis wasn’t the result of my initial drawing to the cover, (and therefore comes without credit to the books designer,) but moreover to the author, Ed Atkins.

 

I discovered that every page of the A Seer Reader was adorned with dancing doodles; playful, printed, pen-style drawings dangle from the words, interrupt the verses and sulk in the far corners of the pages. There are tiny squiggles, illustrations, and symbols referencing or resembling punctuation. The doodles appeared to me, to specifically elude each poem with unique visual imagery. I decided I’d like to discover why they were designed in the way they are. I’ll investigate the context the book is published within, and therefore the content of A Seer Reader. Focusing on the style of the font used for the doodles, their arrangement on the page, and the choice of imagery, I’ll analyze specific examples from the book in attempt to explain why the doodles are designed in this way.

A Seer Reader was published for Ed Aitkin’s solo exhibition in Serpentine Gallery during 2014. Working predominantly with video and language, Ed Atkin’s visual art is inspired by the poetry he wrote for A Seer Reader. Ed atkin’s solo at Serpentine consisting of sound works, text instillation and images revolves around a multi-screen video instillation named Ribbons, where Atkins attempts to emphasise questions concerning the relationship between real life and virtual concepts, objects and environments. He explains that his videos are a ‘…kind of poetry of their own’.’ ‘…interested in previously literary-theoretical concerns about seeing and reading, interpretation of metaphor, figuration and literality.’ He uses CGI to literalise what was once only possible in metaphor.

In Ribbons he creates a surrogate character resembling his own physical appearance in a haunting online replication of a life. Atkins intends to ‘re embody’ himself as a possibility of what we may become in an paradoxical way of spreading a message that we need to focus on developing a more powerful mortal life. Through this high tech HD animation he ironically uses his medium to do exactly the opposite by creating a virtual world.

The character developed by Atkins is a young white male, wearing a bald
head and an action man body adorned with tattoos, he has a habit for drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes. His appearance and his humanly habits reflect somebody stereotypically disapproved of, in today’s society. Atkin’s concern for the world we exist within, is evident in the design of the tattoos enscribed on the skin of his surrogate, Dave. Desperate phrases like ‘love please’ and ‘bankrupt’ are scrawled onto his skin to illustrate his story of conflict. They physically demonstrate the feelings Dave would have as a human, but as a virtual delegate, his being is absent from. On his skin; they’re positioned outside the human nervous system. I think this indicates a detachment from the animations human intimacy with himself.
After studying the videos Atkins produced for his solo exhibition, I noticed similarities in style between the doodles illustrating A Seer Reader, and the tattoo’s scrawled on Dave’s skin. It now became evident to me, that considering the importance of what the drawings suggest in his video work, the way they are designed in A Seer Reader will also have a special significance to the ideas Atkins questions in his work.

I’m curious as to why the doodles appear in the font style they do. They are printed on the paper in a scrawly handwriting in a biro or sometimes with a bold marker


fixed page

The independent, physical and primally instinctive movement of writing with a pen in ones hand, is raw and natural to the intellectual human being society knows today. Atkin’s uses the soon disappearing practice of writing by hand, to convey the humanly emotions of himself, or anybody in our society today, onto the virtual future we face (the skin of Dave). Therefore the font design that distinguishes the poetry in A Seer Reader, from the handwriting doodles can be compared to the contrast between Daves cgi skin and his tattoos.

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The poetry is written in a serif font type, commonly used in literature of today, its appropriate for clear messages to encourage the reader to focus on the content of text. It may be used to help develop the trust of the modern target audience, which is important if they are to value Atkins’ poems as high literature. By choosing a serif font which was developed digitally, Atkins paradoxically hints at what the digital world has already done to change the way our brains work, to raise questions regarding our future and technology. There is a confident, official level of professionalism created by digitally produced font, totally un-emotionless and un-personal for the reader of today. Its in these respects that the I relate the choice of serif font to Atkins virtual surrogate replica of a human. Both the poetry in sensible, digital serif font and the pinky rendered skin of the CGI Dave is tormented whilst illustrated by a real humans handwriting scribbles. The choice for handwriting therefore poses a conflict between some of the characteristic, fundamental elements of human development regarding language in the mortal world, (a practice at threat of,) the human’s of our virtual future; a product of our current society.

By using handwriting the design of the doodles appears uniquely personal; autobiographical. Atkins uses his own style of taking notes to project his personal concerns with society onto his surrogate; he plays with his ego, flipping himself into his virtual identity blanketed by his naked, surplus and mortal emotions Through his CGI in Ribbons. In A Seer Reader the intimacy created between the reader and Atkins, through his use of highly personal handwriting, implies the doodles are like entries to a diary, personal thoughts belonging to the artist. The doodles style in handwriting therefore allows us to understand Atkin’s truly distressed feelings towards our existence in the future he insights, in the mostly raw, open and honest way.

A consolidation thoughts form from Atkin’s head; the handwriting translates a universal language of emotion, in how each word is formed from the authors hand to the paper. The handwriting helps to illustrate Atkin’s feelings as he writes, and emotionally connects with each specific word. For example on page 92 of A Seer Reader, Atkins poem stabs at capitalism and using a current slang, (another characteristic typical to a human of our time,) he makes a metaphor for our choking industries; ‘butthole’.

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He illustrates with a pencil sketch of a butthole, labelled with more slang; ‘hey’. He adopts a loose, scrawly joined up handwriting to do so. It feels fluid, creating a casual, relaxed visual effect which allows the readers feel comfortable to laugh, as he playfully mocks the sincerity behind his poetry. By contrast the choice in design regarding capital letters, a larger size font to the majority of the doodles and sharp points determining the end of letters, suggest aesthetics which relate to an irrational state of urgent, abrasive, human panic.

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Page 103 in the handwriting ‘DONT DIE.’

Capital letters accentuate importance, taught in the grammar of the languages in our society, showing Atkin’s thoughts which should shout from the page. These features of the handwriting style show how Ed Atkin’s conveys different emotions through the doodles design, he plays with his readers to elude how he feels as the artist.

The design regarding the placement of the illustrations on each page and they’re relationship with the text arrangement is also of interest to me. The doodles are very specifically positioned, creating a new design and rendering a unique layout on each page. The notes are cheerful, their haphazardness and impermanence in position creates a youthful energy of its own. Many harass the text, dangling from the words, interrupting them like a vandalised high school text book decorated by an excited teenage rule-breaker. Upon flicking through the book I think Atkins creates a chaotic feel with the arrangement of the doodles. Maybe he does this in an attempt to question the power which our mortal life (represented by the emotive tattoos / doodles he writes by hand,) has, over the possibility of a virtual future (what his poetry represents). An issue presently discussed within his poetry, as well as what he represents with his surrogate Dave in Ribbons. Chaos raises concern to me, and suggests Atkins might be trying to raise awareness of his issues with the future and society today, through fear.

On some pages it appears the design regarding the placement of doodles serves purely for illustrational purposes. For example on page 86 a smiley mouth and a big floppy tongue curve and grin around the word ‘mouth.’

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The positioning of the doodle presents a clear visual anecdote of the text, as its placed directly next to the words, the reader sees them together creating imagery. The poem on page 94 begins with ‘down the line.’ Directly beneath at the end of the poem and the lowest point on the page is an illustration of 9 arrows pointing downwards.

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Again this provides a clear illustration of the text, but it also speaks of itself and the symbol is close to the bottom of the page, it feels they are going down as well as ‘being’ ‘down’.

I’m curious to understand if there is a relationship between the way the doodles are used for illustrational purposes which seem therefore to be in harmony with the poetry, and the concepts which lie behind Atkins exhibition at serpentine which A Seer Reader was published for. Despite the chaos of the doodles, and the lively energy they carry as they appear in different places for each poem, they do help the reader take their imagination further in their illustrative quality. If the handwriting doodles refer to issues regarding mortal life, and the poetry talks on the concern for the virtual future, then Atkins could be showing the bond between the illustrations of his thoughts, and his poetry. As one where he symbolizes how mortal life still has power to change the effect of the virtual world or what is to be of the future, as the illustrations aid the text.

The discourse structure (involving the positioning of illustrations with relation to the poetry,) may be designed as it is in A Seer Reader to give stage directions to the reader. It creates a similar discourse structure within the poem to that of a script. On page 46 Atkins places the handwriting scribble ‘nausea,’ in a new verse, in line with the direction the poem would be read in.

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Atkins allows these direct assertions of feelings to stand as lines by theirselves. They appear significant and with a different font (in scrawny pen,) they contrast to the rest of the poem, they work as powerful instructions. With their own space they order the reader to feel something. They also give relief to the poetry; a breath between verses to give time for the reader to reflect, to feel, before continuing to read. When looking at page 99 a short, six line poem is centred to the left of the page, so the text lays closest the core of the book.

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A poem which torments human’s obsession with eschatology, with disregard and humour. A slap-stick illustration of a hand, labelled ‘swallow,’ underneath, sits directly in line with the verses on the opposite side of the page. Aligned with the poem on a vertical axis, its clear the text and illustration are to be read one after the other; they have a connection, although they are separate because they imply a direction; a change of action. The illustration is cut right to the edge of the paper, giving the impression there is something to reveal on the next page. Its likely that after reading this grave poem, which makes dark humour about the possibilities of our future, the space allows the text and the reader to breathe. I think Atkins wants the reader to digest the words of this poem, look to the right and ‘move on,’ indicated by the encouraging instruction of a pointing finger to turn the page. In this case the positioning of the doodles may be used as a order to feel an emotion like a stage direction, or to initiate a direction.

Some doodles intimately relate to words in the poems. On page 57 a bold marker is used to underline the final verse in the poem, this draws attention to it and marks the line with importance.

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On page 30, the two opening words, which start verses following each other, are connected with a squiggle.

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When joined they spell the phrase ‘the something.’ Making a new verse within the poem. This statement also exists on the page now without relation to its context in the poem without the joining squiggle. This draws emphasis to the phrase and creates layers within the poetry.

In some cases the positioning of the handwriting squiggles make them a part of the poem, although they contribute letters in a different style to the rest of the poetry in its serif font. On page 67 the poem begins using letters O the handwriting style, to begin the first words of following verses.

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The size of the squiggly letter is obese to the rest of the text, it helps to compose a bold and grand opening word. This is a common design in a lot of literature, Atkins makes a reference to it in his own style in an impish attempt to add intellectual value to his poetry through his page design. The choice to have these in the doodle style instead of the serif font refers to the power the doodles have over the poetry on the page, as they refer to the dying practice of handwriting as a symbol signature of our mortal lives in society today.
I’d like to find out why Atkins chose to use this specific imagery, for his doodles. Many of the symbols he uses look similar to punctuation, commas, full stops, brackets. His choice to use marks in A Seer Reader and for the tattoos in his video, which are similar to punctuation, gives a further clue that not only the handwriting is being used as a symbol of our mortal life today. There are other reoccurring themes within his imagery, including hands, eyes, penis’ and delicately sketched vaginas. All parts of the human body. Atkins decision to design his illustrations using this imagery, again, references mortal
life and current society which he discusses along with his thoughts about the future in his poetry.

By investigating Ed Atkins process as an artist, focussing primarily on his exhibition at Serpentine Gallery 2014, and more specifically the video work Ribbons, I have come to various conclusions about why the doodles which intrigued me into investigating the design of A Seer Reader, are designed in the way they are. The handwriting style the doodles are written in, connotes natural human thought patterns, unstable emotions and ultimately the questions the author presents. Handwriting also serves as a symbol for language and writing in which could represent the typical medium used and developed throughout our human age. It therefore creates a tension with the computer generated font type used for the poetry, which might suggest the virtual future which Atkins discusses, as a running theme to his work. The doodles appear in totally different positions throughout the book, on each page. I therefore discovered various different reasons for the design of their arrangement. They can be placed intimately within contact of the poems, to draw attention to specific words or phrases, or to illustrate an idea directly which shows how human knowledge can still be useful for bettering the future, when considering the broader context of his practice. They can be placed in a location on the page which will give a direction to read in or indicate that one should stop reading to feel something. The placement of the doodles when they create letters which integrate directly with the poem, connate high literature as Atkins desires his writings to be read with sincerity as he discusses deep issues surrounding our society and regarding the future. Finally the chaotic feel created by the different placement of doodles on each page questions the urgency of the issues the handwriting stands for; the mortal world and its conflict with the virtual world of the future. To end my investigation I discovered that the imagery Atkins uses in the design of his doodles references English punctuation, and the human body. Again it links directly with his exhibition and his proposal of questions regarding our existence in the society we live in today, and its relation with the virtual future.

Curves


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Golden_Ratio_4

curved_archtecture_redu

Capture d’écran 2014-06-04 à 14.38.24

 

If I tell you architecture, you’ll tell me SQUARE

If I tell you nature, you’ll tell me ROUND

We obviously link architecture to geometry, structure, squares, etc… and nature to organic features and therefore curves and irregularity.

Therefore what is interesting is the notion of curve in architecture.

We started seing curving architectures at the same time as the introduction of movement in art (cubism, kinetic art, futurism, chrono-photography, mobiles, etc….)

Beyond the fact that it’s aesthetically seducing, and beyond the fact that it is bringing movement, curves are attracting more attention from your brain.

Psychologist Oshin Vartanian made researches on what was going on in people’s brains as they viewed two rooms — one with rounded features, the other more rectangular. First of all, the ones that were confronted to the curvy one were more likely to define it as “beautiful”. They also displayed more activity in a part of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex that, among other functions, is linked to the brain’s ability to regulate and process emotions.

Curved buildings can point to nature, whereas angular buildings contrast with it. Straight lines and angular shapes are disconnecting a building from nature, and humans natural state. It is reducing everything into a harsh and boxy aspect, which we naturally don’t identify in so much.

I observe (on a very personal level) that in the end my attraction goes to buildings balancing the angle and the curve. The final reconciliation between “organic” and “organized”. People like Frank Gehry, Herzog et de Meuron, Oscar Niemeyer, Zaha Hadid, Rudi Ricciotti and many others are/have been working on it and succeeded quite well so far, to bring new rules and esthetics to modern architecture, inspired from the so called international style and reconciled with more organic references, as well with new materials that are more environmental friendly.

I am starting for this occasion a tumblr “Curves” where I will be developing this idea through posts and references, grasping a lot of elements orbiting around this, and that is starting from this thesis that I invite you to read on Orthogonal Allegory in Architecture by Anton Stuckhardt [graduation essay [x].

 

the family of man


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

This second book the family of man attracted me in a different way. printed in 1955 it was at the time  – ”the most ambitious and challenging project with photography that had ever been attempted” (three million photographs were originally collected from amateur and professional photographers (not to mention more than a handful of gems by Henri Cartier Bresson). 10,000 of which were included in the MoMA exhibit while a further 506 photos from 68 countries were chosen for this publication (now that’s a die-hard archiving project!!)

“The Family Of Man” was originally produced for the museum of modern art in new york- not with the intention presenting the photograph as art but to show – ”photography as a dynamic process of giving form to ideas and of explaining man to man.” -to teach man about himself in all his various creeds and shades (this book was much before its time and although it did not have the intention of formenting multicultural acceptance it probably had a great influence and later gave way to books such as the 1968 random house publication The Colour of Man.) in the foreword Edward Steichen explains that his family of man was created in the passionate spirit of devoted love and faith in mankind.”.  and this i feel is what drew me to this book. pictures of birth, love, life and death shown with tangible empathy and passion. pictures of every possible ethnicity.  tribesmen from papua new guinea, native americans, french peasants, maori. this book although outdated is not without some degree of power still as can be seen by the frequency it has been rented out in recent years by people with a similar curiousity and interest to mine.

rietveld library number - 760.3 / stei / 1


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