Monthly Archives: September 2014

What Are You Looking At: 150 Years of Modern Art in the Blink of an Eye- Book Review

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What Are You Looking At: 150 Years of Modern Art in the Blink of an Eye, By Will Gompertz

What Are You Looking At….. is a book detailing the history of modern art for amateurs. Gompertz takes us on a journey through modern art, starting with the impressionists, right up to the hugely popular modern street art movement made popular by Banksy amongst others. The book is split up into the main modern art movements like cubism and abstract art. From here, the author describes the intentions of each movement whilst introducing it’s major players and why they did what they did.

The book takes the standpoint that a lot of people regard modern art to be lacking in skill, with quips like “I could of done that” echoing around modern art galleries. It is a standpoint that many gallery curators would encounter in their everyday lives. It’s a fact that many critics and a great deal of the public don’t particularly see much skill in works like Damian Hirsts ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, 1991’ ,Duschamps ‘Fountain’ or numerous comparable works. It is Gompertz who persistently tries to battle against this mindset in the book and he argues the validity of all modern art throughout.

 

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The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, by Damian Hirst

 

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Marcel Duschamps Fountain

 

This mindset works to varying degrees. If you were of that mindset before reading the book it is great, as it makes you understand the validity of the art. But if you weren’t and you appreciated the art beforehand, then the passages of validation is just hot air.

As a complete amateur to art, this book was exactly the entry point I was looking for. The vast majority of art ‘outsiders’ are intimidated when they try to discuss art in a meaningful way, myself included. But this book is written in such a conversational tone, that it is just engrossing. Gompertz strikes the perfect balance, he doesn’t patronise the reader and he doesn’t bombard them with artistic jargon. This was exactly the way I wanted modern art described to me. Art was of interest to me, but I never felt like I was able to truly understand it or discuss it in any way apart from superficial statements like, “it’s nice to look at”. This book has really helped open my eyes to art and I now feel semi confident when discussing the various movements of modern art.

A problem I found was that the Kindle version had issues. One of these was that the pictures of the art were black and white and not in the best quality. When discussing work like that of Mondrian, you really need to see the pictures in colour. I therefore had to Google all of the images that Gomepertz talks about. This  was time consuming and slightly annoying. But be prepared to do it if you purchase the Kindle version, as it is necessary.

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Broadway Boogie Woogie by Piet Mondrian is an example of artwork that needs to be seen in colour to appreciate.

The book tries to describe modern art as a continuous narrative. I found this really interesting. When talking about a certain artist, Gompertz begins with a short biography, which helps to contextualise the work of the individual. I really enjoyed finding out about the artist and the ideas behind the works, as well as the art itself.

I think this book is the perfect introduction to modern art. Because of this I would give this book a 9 out of 10, it was everything I wanted it to be on purchasing. It gave me the information I craved, told in an engaging and non patronising way. I really enjoyed this book and I would really recommend it to anyone who is interested in art, or those who feel they don’t fully understand modern art. This book has certainly peaked my interest in art and will probably be the first of many art books I purchase in the future.

 

 

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Rayman Legends – Game Review

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Rayman: Origins is a side scrolling platformer, starring Rayman and his cast of crazy friends. The action puts Rayman and Co in the centre of numerous adventures, that require you to jump, flap and fly to save the world from an assortment of wacky villains.

This game is incredibly good fun. Every single minute of it is enjoyable. Whether you are playing along to the rhythm of Eye of the Tiger performed exclusively by ukuleles or fighting an enormous luchador, the result is the same, pure, unadulterated entertainment. I thought I would mention this at the beginning of the review because it’s what struck me first when playing it. It’s just easy to pick up, beautifully creative and whacky fun. You jump straight in and never want to jump out. It is an engrossing experience which shows what can be done using even the simplest of gaming mechanics and principles.

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Fighting a giant luchador, is just the beginning of the unique fun that happens regularly in Rayman: Legends.

Its a super stylish, super crazy and exudes an absurd personality that is omnipresent within the game. The visuals and soundtrack are both completely unique. The backdrops to the side scrolling action are remarkably creative and this helps to give each adventure a unique tone and feel. The music complements this fantastically well, evoking a playful atmosphere which is pulsating throughout. An example of this is a spy themed level where the cliché Bondesque music is pastiched brilliantly. This is probably why I like this game so much, it just exudes a unique, fun character which shines a light up to the gaming industry as a whole, giving a message that games are primarily about fun, not just shooting.

Rayman: Legends is currently available on the PlayStation store for only ten pounds. This represents great value for money and is a sound investment for any avid gamer. You also get two games for the price of one as you can play every level from Rayman: Origins on this game. I had already played Rayman: Origins and enjoyed it thoroughly and replaying some of the levels was just as enjoyable as when I first played them. If you haven’t played origins then this makes the game incredibly good value. At this low price point I must say that I would recommend any gamer to buy this. It’s such a refreshing gaming experience that can be enjoyed by any of gamings niche audiences.

The new music style levels are my highlight of the game. They basically have you platforming at high speed hitting certain objects to the beat of the song, in a similar fashion to the Guitar Hero franchise. You play along to Eye of the Tiger as well as a fantastic orchestration level which is quite probably my favourite level of the game. They are a fresh idea for the Rayman franchise and give the gamer yet another means to have some great fun and memorable moments.

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New musical levels provide even more depth to the Rayman experience

This game accommodates for all level of players from beginners to platforming fanatics. If you are beginner you can cruise through most levels, but if you are more advanced you will trying to find every hidden character and collect as many lumes (the equivalent of Mario’s coins) as possible. This is a huge undertaking as the game just gets harder and harder. At times it has you screaming at the screen, but I think this is a good thing as few games offer the degree of difficulty that some of the levels provide. The cliché of a game being easy to pick up difficult to master, is very apt for this title.

Despite me saying that this game is for everyone, it should be a approached in a light hearted way, this game says nothing about everyday life or the human condition, it’s just fun. So there is a chance that those less whimsical could be caught up in being cynical about the surreal nature of the game, but to the cynics, I say relax, it’s a game and enjoy it for what it is, a wonderfully creative achievement.

Offline Co-op is another aspect of this game. It allows four players to pick up a controller and jump into the action. You go through the single player campaign with multiple players. This has problems though, as the screen gets packed with too many characters and it ruins the pacing which is so fantastic when played alone. The online offering is not much better either, this game is definitely best experienced on your own, or with two players in my opinion.

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Playing with too many players can lead to a visual overload.

I am scoring this game 9 out of 10. This is because it’s an unbelievably fun game with whimsical, eccentric environments and soundtrack. It is a unique experience and at just £10 it is a sound investment for any gamer. For me this is a standard bearer of how much fun a light hearted game can be and I will certainly remember my experiences of Rayman: Legends for a very long time.

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The Minutuarist- Book Review

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The Minituarist by Jessie Burton

The Minutuarist takes place in 16th century Amsterdam, where newlywed Petronella Brandt opens the doors to her new life. But when she gets their, married life is not all its cracked up to be…

The title of this book, to me at least, is slightly misleading. The Minutuarist, (someone who makes small things) is a peripheral figure in the book and the vast majority of the content is about the odd family that Petronella Brandt finds herself in the centre of. So maybe ‘The 16th Century Dutch Housewife’ is a more apt name, but is perhaps less catchy and interesting. This annoyed me because I got something I wasn’t looking for.

There is not a huge amount of description in The Minituarist. One of the main reasons I bought to the book was because of it’s 16th century Amsterdam setting, it’s a period and setting which is relatively uncommon for modern day fiction. Unfortunately where the book takes place is almost completely irrelevant to the story. There are a few romantic descriptions of the famous canals and a bakery, but apart from that, the book never delves into it’s setting beyond face value. Amsterdam is simply a framework.

When you start reading, it becomes immediately clear that it is written for the female market. After reading the books synopsis and reviews prior to buying the book, I don’t feel this was made apparent. This again annoyed me slightly, as this wasn’t what I wanted, but I persisted with the book regardless.

However the story is intriguing throughout, even if is not what I expected. The book tells the tale of Petronella Brandt, a country girl recently married to a rich Amsterdam-based merchant. Life at her new marital home is not what she expects. Whilst her dissatisfaction is going on she is sent numerous miniature objects by a local artisan. The miniaturist makes unbelievably accurate pieces, which begin to concern Petronella as they become more and more insightful. From here the story twists and turns and has some genuinely shocking moments. This is definitely an enjoyable book to read and I found it difficult to put down. However upon completion I felt like it didn’t fulfil it’s own potential. The story certainly seems appealing and on reaching half way, you feel like the book is really going to deliver. But the second half of the story languishes on and goes in directions I didn’t want or expect it to take. This left me disappointed when the book finished.

Overall I feel like The Minitiarist is an interesting book, but it doesn’t fulfil it’s early promise and because of that I would score it a 7 out of 10, it’s a very decent read, but simply not fantastic. For a debut novel, this is an author which I will be looking out for in the near future. I definitely think it is worth a read for some people, but for me, it wasn’t what I expected it to be.

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