Key Creatives Reveal Their Most Intense Experiences With Art

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Laments: Skyscapes From Close-Range, 1991© Nobuyoshi Araki, Courtesy of Taka Ishii Gallery

AnOther presents an exclusive preview of the inspired new manifesto, Merry Art, which sees creative luminaries – from Ed Ruscha to Inez & Vinoodh – share their most memorable interactions with a work of art

"Merry Art is a manifesto for remembrance, in the present, towards the future," muse Donatien Grau and Hannah Barry, the writer and gallerist behind the beautiful new publication. "The request we sent to all contributors was to describe their most intense experience with art in 200 words. We wanted 200 words to be a pattern, and certainly not a rule – so if it took some of them more than the suggested length, they did nothing else than bring diversity into this polyphony. Contributors come from all fields: they emanate primarily from the creative community, across art, literature, and fashion, but also come from the worlds of business, academia, and politics. We are delighted to have had such varied and fascinating responses – and we are deeply grateful for every single one of them. It is our hope that reading Merry Art will count as one of the reader’s most intense and inspiring experiences."

Laura Bradley 
"My friend has a fantastic collection of books, many of them now out of print. I enjoy nothing more than to look through them whilst he makes tea. One evening, I discovered, for the first time, Nobuyoshi Araki's Skyscapes. Breathtaking images of the Tokyo sky – a stark contrast to the sexually explicit images that one normally associates with Araki. Shouting from the kitchen, my friend, an artist, relays the story behind the work. ‘He’ d just lost his wife, Yoko... after months of battling with a terminal illness – you want tea, yes? – he took nothing but pictures of the sky... from his balcony – biscuit?’  They are raw, powerful, and deeply moving. They capture the subtle nuances of light and dark. They are beautiful in their simplicity. His muse, Yoko, regularly appeared in many of his images – from their honeymoon in 1971 and intimate moments during sex, to her hospitalisation in 1989 until her final heartbreaking days in 1991. The skyscapes are Araki's coping mechanism and his final goodbye. We usually block out these intense period of mourning. Grief and love are two of the most intense feelings we can experience."

Hannah Barry
"It was my mother who suggested – as I toiled with sixth-form French classes – that I should look at the Calligrammes of Apollinaire. Published in 1918, these are his self-styled calligraphy telegrams; poems written in the shape of their subject. There I found it: ῾Mon coeur pareil à une flamme renverseé’ or ῾My heart like an upside-down flame’. The heart, a reversed flame – the old metaphor for love doubly visible – once in words read, and the letters of those words making out the heart shape and taken together, were heart and flame both. The experience of seeing and reading was the beginning of a journey into the world of art and the pleasure of looking and thinking, that beautiful tangle of seeing sometimes something, sometimes nothing, sometimes more, sometimes less, or something new, renewed, anew."

Daphne Guinness
"One memory of creation I remember involves an artist called Dieter Roth. The memory took place in Cadaqués, which is somewhat of a haven for artists, and where I grew up. Our house is very hard to reach, up a dirt track. There are no hours, and the only way to know that a day has passed is when the sun has set. Because of this, lunch is often at seven in the evening. One day, Dieter, my brother Valentine and I decided to go for a postprandial walk down to the village. It was pitch black apart from the stars high in the vaulted roof of the night which lit the way down. Dieter suddenly had the urge to pee, so he pulled down his trousers and went over the edge of the track. Suddenly, he started waving one fist at the stars screaming ῾Blah blah blah, you Milky Way, stop looking at my cock᾿. This went on, and he became more engaged with the stars and the universe. He was certainly having a conversation with something, oblivious to my brother and I, laughing.

Dieter’s work was always fairly involved with the body – one of his sculptures was made from rabbit excrement, and another piece of his consisted of plastic bags filled with vanilla pudding and urine. Then again, a lot of artists were examining their bodily functions around that time; when I went to New York a little later in life, I saw Andy Warhol’s last show, where he exhibited the piss paintings, and nobody took those seriously at the time.

Life in Cadaqués was a melting pot of artists, and as you know, artists create their life. Their art mirrored their lives, and sometimes they were quite literally ῾taking the piss᾿. Marcel Duchamp was also a staple of the scene, and my father remembers him being confused about his great (and most would probably agree, the  greatest) contribution to urinary art. As my father tells it, he was chatting to him at an exhibition when Duchamp laughed and said, Isn’t it extraordinary that all these young people are taking me seriously?᾿"

Ed Ruscha
"Here is a multiple bronze sculpture (edition of nine) by Salvatore Scarpitta (1919–2007). It is a Nazi war helmet (notice spelling of title, Helmut) made into a cooking pot. I view it as the ultimate disrespect for your enemy (although American G.I.s made a habit of heating soup or coffee in their battle helmets). I knew Salvatore but never knew he did this work. If I had known I would have bent his ear about its excellence – how the crude handle adds to its comedy. The feet are skewed and off balance and the small hole in the side of the helmet give a person pause for thought. This work could be paired quite comfortably alongside various Renaissance and Baroque bronze cups and vessels. This work is a twentieth century comment on ancient subjects and ancient materials."

Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin 
"Fear turns an image of love, hope, gratitude, forgiveness, peace, fidelity, attention, compassion, light, and synchronicity into an image of eternity." 

Merry Art: The Most Intense Experience With Art is available to buy now from Hatchards Bookshop and Hannah Barry Gallery