Since 2014・Volume 7
Quarantine is another scary word. Italy and Spain
are under national lock-down and more cities and
countries are poised to follow suit. Many have
already enacted restrictions and/or travel bans.
While quarantine poses inconveniences for most
of the population, luckily 'self-isolation' is something to which most artists are accustomed. It's an ideal period to get-things-done, so isolation could even be considered a necessity in the creation of fine art. Some might consider the situation therapeutic, perhaps even a blessing in disguise for the easily distracted.
Italy's ballpointers in the country's northern cities were among the first to face quarantine conditions head-on. In Milan, Paolo Amico's Light Events exhibition was set to open just as the lock-down went into effect, and subsequently cancelled because of it. ''At this moment we are forced to stay at home,'' he reports. ''The media broadcasts reassuring news, but the mood is not the best. I find it difficult to concentrate on art. Anyway I try to get busy.'' Amico, whose vibrantly-colored ballpoint artwork will soon be featured in The Ballpointer, tells us this experience will surely show in his work. ''I'm digging in my mind, I want to portray every thought.''
In nearby Genoa, Alberto Repetti is dealing with similar circumstances. An
upcoming exhibition of Repetti's artwork at the city's Palazzo Ducale has been
canceled and the artist tells us he and his family ''have been home for days''. The
school where Repetti teaches has been closed, and even though he now finds
himself in his studio with plenty of time he ''gets discouraged and can't find the
Both Italian artists nonetheless speak of unity during trying times, for the greater
good, and shared some 'quarantine art ' with The Ballpointer (pictured).
＊2020 Summer Olympics postponed until July 2021. as of May 1, 2020
With the heightened interest surrounding ballpoint pen as an art medium, the remaining blanks in ballpoint pen art history are slowly but surely being filled in. To those who have followed the medium with more than just a passing curiosity, Matt Rota's recently published book The Art of Ballpoint also helps fill in some of those blanks. To those newly introduced to the medium, the book may even be revelatory. I looked forward to reading this book and had high hopes for it, being the first of its kind. I am also all-in to support anyone writing at length about ballpoint pen art, and Rota seems to know a thing or two about it — or at least did his homework on the subject — but does he know enough about ballpoints to be the writer of the-book-that-needs-to-be-written? With his freshman foray into the world of publishing, Rota ambitiously crams three books into one; a ballpoint pen history book, a ballpoint pen art history book and a how-to book. Therein lay The Art of Ballpoint's biggest shortcoming. In being all of the above, all of the above suffer...
From Tokyo, where the wearing of surgical masks is common even without threat of epidemic, respected ballpointer Lennie Mace has fled to the remote and relatively safe environs of his Japanese Alps 'Castle' (as he did in the wake of Japan's 2011 earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear scare). ''I'm lucky my career allows me the freedom to clear my schedule and 'get outta Dodge' quickly if and when necessary.'' The ongoing construction of his 'Castle', Mace tells us, will keep him busy, and creative. Castle 'blueprints' are always sketched in ballpoint, some of which he has begun ''embellishing into original artworks in their own right'' for future exhibition.
Mace reports that Tokyo's March sumo tournament is taking place ''telecast-only'', live from an empty arena (pictured), an option which is also being considered for the city's upcoming 2020 Summer Olympic Games (July) if not cancelled altogether.
Mace related to us a recent dream wherein fireflies seemed to hold a cure for what in the dream was an unidentified pandemic. He not-so-jokingly advised me to spread the word: ''Fireflies ! Synthesize !'' Always good at mixing heart and humor, Mace added that if it were firefly season in Japan he'd be adding them to his food ''just in case'', and pondered whether a whiff-a-day of ballpoint ink might keep COVID-19 at bay for ballpointers of the world. Weirder things have happened but… don't try these at home !・
Just as so many presumptuous or naive ballpoint prodigies tripped over each other to have you believe they 'came first', so came the race for First Place in formally documenting ballpoint pen art history. Interestingly, Wikipedia got there first, roundabout 2012, with an incomplete but fair overview of the genre. That ersatz encyclopedia's account, however, seems to have fallen short of art world acceptability and might've actually been the spark that set subsequent writers on their respective courses of corrective surgery. Among them was Orlando Lebron, a ballpoint art collector and writer, who, with the expressed intent of ''creating discourse, no strings attached '', began publishing The Ballpointer in 2014 as a kind of trade journal chronicling noteworthy goings-on in the medium...
thINK ARCHIVE by B. Neufeld & R. Bell orig. posted Aug 1, 2016
REALLY ?・Hype & 'Hyper '・Act I
A lengthy international flight allowed The Ballpointer publisher Ronald Bell and thINK columnist Bruce Neufeld ample time to butt heads, as they often do, about all things ballpoint. Alcohol was involved. I put in my two cents occasionally but mostly kept out of it, content to record the proceedings from relative safety across the aisle. This segment of their lengthy discussion was spent debating Photorealism in ballpoint pen art. It's amazing how much two aging intellectuals can ramble on about a dead end topic. Now they had fourteen hours to kibitz. Somewhere over Canada ...
Ronald Bell: So it's just this new, fashionable 21st century rebranding as 'Hyper-realism' that irks you?
Bruce Neufeld: It's never just one thing with me, you know that. (RB nods in agreement while laughing.) We're talking figurative art and Photorealism , two terms that describe their subjects perfectly. When I hear 'Hyper-realism' I think realer-than-real. I think Don Eddy, Richard Estes, Chuck Close; names from art history. Back then (late-1960s into the 70s) it was enough to simply call it what it was: Photorealism. Seamless, technicolor painting that could truly be mistaken for a photograph. It was a full-fledged art movement. More importantly, a first of its kind. Compared to what those artists were doing, today's so-called 'Hyper-realists' don't even come close!
RB: You walked five miles to school barefooted, didn't you? Maybe they don't teach Photorealism in art school anymore. Or art history ?
BN: This reboot as 'Hyper-realism' is just art-speak hype by Generation X, Y, Z or whatever letter at the end of the alphabet we're on now.
Orlando Lebron: What comes after 'Z '?
RB: Mayan prophecies come true; skies fall.
BN: When I'm looking at a drawing — a drawing where crosshatching is clearly visible, even from ten feet away, and the only color used is blue — sure, it might be a fine photorealistic representation, but what's so 'hyper-realist' about a blue line drawing? Nothing seamless about that ...
BALLPOINTBRIEF by R. Bell originally posted March 21, 2020
PEN demic Sheltering-In-Place PART 1
TITLE ・DATE ・MEDIUM ・SIZE
thINK ARCHIVE by B. Neufeld originally posted May 9, 2016
book review: The Art of Ballpoint
Written by Matt Rota・Published by Rockport Press
Click on an image above to read the fully archived article.
thINK ARCHIVE by B. Neufeld originally posted Nov 8, 2015
2015: A Year in the Pen
Exclamation Points・WHYs & Why NOTs
Broad and thoroughly informative, if somewhat clinical and negligibly incomplete, introduction to and overview of the ballpoint genre. Given the confines of encyclopedic acceptability, the article's lack of personality is forgivable. Just the facts, Ma'am. Its first incarnation, as "Ballpoint pen drawings", appeared in 2011 as one poorly written, unsourced, 2,000-character paragraph. The article went through various self-promotional, free-for-all incarnations until finally given deserved respectability and taken to fruition in 2012 by wiki contributor "Penwatchdog", who turned the paragraph into the 40,000-character, fully sourced, encyclopedia entry it remains today.
ARTNEWS・Making Cutting-Edge Art with Ballpoint Pens・Trent Morse・January 8, 2014
Followers of the genre might feel ARTNEWS simply jumped the bandwagon to prove that they-know-ballpoints. Mr. Morse likely read the wikipedia page and tweaked it to suit ARTNEWS bias in an unsurprising act of exclusionary art politics to comandeer an unexploited and otherwise ignored corner of contemporary art. Academics drawing a line in the sand, so to speak? Maybe its merely another case of ill-informed coverage. Understandably, they've got their own agendas to serve, but: an article chronicling the history of ballpoint art with no mention of Lennie Mace? Morse even bypassed the ballpoint photorealism (and viral overkill) of Juan Francisco Casas in favor of naming the "Portuguese lawyer" who reportedly achieved the same (ballpoint photorealism and viral overkill) "as a hobby".
The Age (Australia)・Are Melbourne's commercial galleries becoming an endangered species?・Lucinda Schmidt・June, 2014
Troubling Truths: this article about the state-of-the Art Scene in Melbourne, Australia touches upon a topic familiar to many world-class "art" cities. "Why buy what I can get for free?" and "Why leave the comforts of home to see art I can see from right here on my sofa?" Buying what you can get for free shows you actually care enough to support it, and leaving the comforts of home is underrated.
thINK ARCHIVE by B. Neufeld originally posted June 30, 2017
book review: Ballpoint Art
Written by Trent Morse・Published by Laurence King Publishing
Pandemic is a scary word but here we are in the midst of just such a scare, facing an equal-opportunity killer virus which sees neither race, gender nor economic status, with 9,000-and-counting deaths to its credit.
International travel was among the initial and obvious risk factors, and public safety precautions were swiftly enacted. Gatherings of any kind soon became high risk, and The Ballpointer began receiving announcements of opening receptions—and exhibitions altogether—being cancelled as 'social distancing' took effect.
Prior to governmental decree some event organizers voluntarily postponed or cancelled events, but not all. In Britain, where (as of this writing) deciding for oneself was still an option, the Affordable Art Fair in Battersea, London, opened March 10th and ran for five days as scheduled. Brit ballpointer James Mylne participated, debuting six new pieces from his On Lux Bags series at the event. Mylne reported to The Ballpointer that opening day was ''surprisingly packed,'' and joked that ''free booze probably cuts through the general panic'', but noticed a ''quieter'' atmosphere in the latter days of the event.
Elsewhere in the world, organizers have had little choice or none at all. A group exhibition set to open under such inopportune circumstances in Hong Kong featuring artwork by architect and ballpointer Pete Ross was postponed as concern heightened about the spread of the virus in the city. Ross was not only a scheduled participant but also a co-owner of the venue, Hong Kong Art Collective gallery, which took the opportunity and made the effort to instead present the show as a 'virtual exhibition' on their website.
Artwork, above-left slideshow : 'quarantine art' by Paolo Amico, Italy, work-in-progress; Crowds at London's Affordable Art Fair Battersea, held as scheduled. Above : Tokyo's telecast-only sumo tournament. Below : quarantiine art by Alberto Repetti, About Landscape (Thought #5).
All art & images March 2020 © respective artists.
＊CITIES ALREADY IN 'LOCKDOWN' WORLDWIDE now considering extending 'social distancing' . as of May 1, 2020
My Ballpointer bosses made the mistake of giving me a key to the mailbox; access to all incoming correspondence. At least once a month The Ballpointer gets a message accusing the site (or me) of unfairly installing itself (or me) as some kind of quote-unquote ''ballpoint police''. ''Ballpoint Big Brother'' is another accusatory term that's been used ...
Top FAQ from readers: ''Why haven't you featured so-and-so.'' Unfortunate truth: not everyone is anxious to talk with The Ballpointer. I've been given permission to name names as long as I show some restraint with my own assumptions or opinions. ''Let readers know which artists we've approached without stepping on any toes and scaring those artists away,'' were my instructions. Familiar names to ballpointers: Casas, Yanovskaya, Shohei, Lee, among others. All have been solicited for interviews. No success. I can't speak for the WHYs and why-NOTs but unresponsiveness leaves room for conjecture, the realm of this column. What kind of artist turns down an opportunity to talk about their art? Niche artists not cooperating with niche media? Those who haven't been featured can't blame the site for ignoring them. The Ballpointer encourages artists' cooperation to insure quality and coverage of the artwork as it should be. Some contributing editors may choose to simply bypass unwilling artists and move onto others. This column sweeps up behind them. Freedom of the press. With or without a subject's blessing, there's always something to report ...
＊NOW HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS as of May 1, 2020
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