Category Archives: Art and artists

The High Art of the Low Countries


A review of the first in the series in the Telegraph with an outline of the ideas covered in this documentary.  Artists  and their masterpieces covered: van Eyck, van der Weyden, Bosch, Bruegel, Rubens.

I remember seeing the Rubens and Brueghel exhibit at The Mauritshuis in The Hague in the Netherlands and it was one of the most magical experiences in paint I had ever seen.

Some of the art covered in the documentary:
Ghent Altarpiece
Garden of Earthly Delights


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The Greatest Artist that ever Lived – Virtual Tour of The Sistine Chapel

There are hundreds of to do lists of the “hundred things to do before you die” sort. I have only one item and it is the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo. A One Man Show of gigantic proportions that has been around for 500 years and still makes ordinary beings like myself weak in the head.

Photography at the Chapel is not allowed and I was happy to discover The Vatican has kept up with the 21st Century and put this online. If there is one thing that is worth the price of admission and a round trip ticket so you could see it in person, this is it. Below is a link to the Vatican website that hosts the tour online.


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45 Everyday Phrases Coined By Shakespeare

Isn’t language astonishing? The ability to convey complex concepts to another by means of few oddly shaped symbols. And then gurgling these out to make a point across the air,  or scribbling them down in a way so they carry meaning 500 years later.

BBC America has a list of 45 everyday phrases coined by William Shakespeare. In this context the words sound more beautiful and poetic than when used casually. Here is the list – you would be surprised:


“All our yesterdays”— (Macbeth)

“As good luck would have it” — (The Merry Wives of Windsor)

“As merry as the day is long” — (Much Ado About Nothing / King John)

“Bated breath” — (The Merchant of Venice)

“Be-all and the end-all” — (Macbeth)

“Neither a borrower nor a lender be” — (Hamlet)

“Brave new world” — (The Tempest)

“Break the ice” — (The Taming of the Shrew)

“Brevity is the soul of wit” — (Hamlet)

“Refuse to budge an inch” — (Measure for Measure / The Taming of the Shrew)

“Cold comfort” — (The Taming of the Shrew / King John)

“Conscience does make cowards of us all” — (Hamlet)

“Crack of doom” — (Macbeth)

“Dead as a doornail” — (Henry VI Part II)

“A dish fit for the gods” — (Julius Caesar)

“Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war” — (Julius Caesar)

“Devil incarnate” — (Titus Andronicus / Henry V)

“Eaten me out of house and home” — (Henry IV Part II)

“Faint hearted” — (Henry VI Part I)

“Fancy-free” — (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

“Forever and a day” — (As You Like It)

“For goodness’ sake” — (Henry VIII)

“Foregone conclusion” — (Othello)

“Full circle” — (King Lear)

“The game is afoot” — (Henry IV Part I)

“Give the devil his due” — (Henry IV Part I)

“Good riddance” — (Troilus and Cressida)

“Jealousy is the green-eyed monster” — (Othello)

“Heart of gold” — (Henry V)

“Hoist with his own petard” — (Hamlet)

“Ill wind which blows no man to good” — (Henry IV Part II)

“In my heart of hearts” — (Hamlet)

“In my mind’s eye” — (Hamlet)

“Kill with kindness” — (The Taming of the Shrew)

“Knock knock! Who’s there?” — (Macbeth)

“Laughing stock” — (The Merry Wives of Windsor)

“Live long day” — (Julius Caesar)

“Love is blind” — (The Merchant of Venice)

“Milk of human kindness” — (Macbeth)

“More sinned against than sinning” — (King Lear)

“One fell swoop” — (Macbeth)

“Play fast and loose” — (King John)

“Set my teeth on edge” — (Henry IV Part I)

“Wear my heart upon my sleeve” — (Othello)

“Wild-goose chase” — (Romeo and Juliet)

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Bust of president John Kennedy by Dalí

Pieced the image together from Sotheby’s website – I felt I should compose as large an image as I can because this piece is very unusual. Why is it unusual? Because a paperclip is the badge of a quintessential bureaucrat, a man or a woman pushing papers from one tray to another under the pressure of a relentless authority figure. The piece was recently sold at an auction on Sotheby’s and my hope is it hasn’t been magnetized and used as a paper clip holder by an actual bureaucrat.

Authority has always been a good incentive for work. The quality of the authority directly correlates with the quality of the work. Rejection and glorification of authority  have prodded countless artists from around the world in all of history – from anonymous Tibetan sand paintings, to painful tomb sculptures commissioned by Michelangelo’s patrons, to the soft paintings in the Papal chambers, to the pro-totalitarian message of the Russian Constructivists, to various rejections of reality like Abstract Expressionism.

“Executed in 1963; this wax model was cast by the Rudier foundry then covered in paperclips by Dalí.”


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The Abramovic Method Games

As a founder of MAI I got an early access to a series of simple exercises called The Abramovic Method Games.  Here are some screenshots of the Zen like games.

The Artist is Present game – you can play the game on Pippin Barr’s website here:the-artist-is-present-game-screen-marina-abramovich

the-artist-is-present-game-marina-abramovichComplaining to a Tree is my favorite game. There is a story I remember that involves a tree, the story gets pretty Balkan as Marina Abramovich is a Serbian, I am a Bulgarian and my late grandfather, who gets involved in the tree story, is a Macedonian.  My friends and I were visiting my grandfather at his house on the Black Sea – it was my birthday and I fell really sick with fever. My grandfather immediately said we ought to find an oak tree to hug for me to get better. We, the whole gang, got into a car and drove off to go find an oak tree.

Obzor, where my grandfather lived, sits where the Balkan Mountains dip into the Black Sea. The area is covered in woods and we drove up and down the road  looking for a good-sized oak tree grove.

We found the trees, we all hugged one and I got better. The point is, from my personal experience, complaining to  a tree helps. If you get a chance – you should do it too. (I assume no liability in case you take my advice and instead of going to the doctor- you go looking for a tree. I remember Tree Hugging was big in California when I used to live there but have no time to google the context. It seems the Tree Embrace is not a very Balkan idea after all).

You can Complain to a Tree here:complaining-to-a-tree-mai-gamecomplaining-to-a-tree-mai-game-screenshot2complaining-to-a-tree-mai-game-screenshot


Counting Rice and Sesame – play the game in your browser here:



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An Art Gallery in the air – Sochi Olympics Ceremony sets inspired by Bauhaus, Russian Constructivism and Agitprop imagery and typography

Wassily Kandinsky in his “Concerning the Spiritual in Art” devoted two chapters to the symbolic meaning of the triangle and its tri-dimensional counterpart, the pyramid – II. THE MOVEMENT OF THE TRIANGLE and  IV. THE PYRAMID. Kandinsky was also the first chairman of the Russian Constructivism movement which inspired the geometric vision for the Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony yesterday. It was spiritually and typographically resting on the Russian Constructivists and Agitprop designs of the 1920’s.

Here are several images from the Opening Ceremony sets:

Russian Constructivists artwork that inspired the above sets – the Avant Garde movement in art and architecture in the 1920s. An El Lissitzky’s composition:

Iakov Chernikhov and his compositions that pre-visioned computer graphics by a century:

Vladimir Tatlin’s Tower:

Agitprop posters and typography:

Bauhaus poster:

Turksib (1929) Poster:

Sochi Olympics Ceremony costumes:

In comparison,  Avant Garde, Bauhaus inspired ballet costume designs by Anatol Petrytzky circa 1920s:

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Joseph Campbell’s “The Power of Myth”, in conversation with Bill Moyers is free on souncloud

The role of the artist I now understood as that of revealing through the world-surfaces the implicit forms of the soul, and the great agent to assist the artist was the myth.
-Joseph Campbell

I worked as an artist for George Lucas and I am very familiar with “The Ranch” in Northern California, where Lucas held 4th of July parties every year. The following conversations between Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell took place at  George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch, right before Campbell’s death in 1987.

If there is a single text that has influenced my view of the world – The Power of Myth is that text. In it Campbell says:

“Everyone is a hero in his birth. He’s undergone a tremendous transformation, from a little water creature living in the realm of the amniotic fluid and so forth, then coming out and becoming an air breathing mammal that ultimately will be self-standing. This is an enormous transformation and a heroic act.”

On Art and Artists Campbell wrote:

” Myth must be kept alive. The

people who can keep it alive are artists of one kind or another. The function of the artist is the

mythologization of the environment and the world.”

Joseph Campbell also wrote “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”, a seminal work of comparative mythology.

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