17 July 2011

Grigorovitch or Grigoryevich

Tretchikoff, like all the Russians, had a patronymic. It is a sort of a second name. His father's given name was Grigoriy (Григорий). So the artist's full name was 'Vladimir, son of Grigoriy', or Vladimir Grigoryevich (Владимир Григорьевич).

Now and then, some wiseacre would change this to 'Grigorovich', or even Gregorovich, in Tretchikoff's Wikipedia entry. But Grigorovitch is a Russian surname, not a patronymic.   

And this is Vladimir Grigoryevich.

13 July 2011

The Man behind the Tretchikoff Retrospective

"Rhodes University Department of Fine Masters of Fine Art (Curatorial Practice MFA) student, Andrew Lamprecht, took the bold step of arranging the first ever retrospective exhibition of the populist artist Vladimir Tretchikoff at the Iziko South African National Gallery.

The Curatorial Practice MFA was introduced only a few years ago, and Lamprecht is one of the first to register for the degree and the first to submit. A course requirement is the mounting of a professional exhibition at a reputable art museum.

Lamprecht is a lecturer at the Michaelis School of Art at UCT, and a respected writer and academic. His aim, explains Professor Dominic Thorburn, is to revisit and re-present Tretchikoff's work, and, by doing so, allow the public the liberty to make up their own minds as to whether what he produced can legitimately be called fine art.

Professor Thorburn and Senior Lecturer Ashraf Jamal, who is co-supervising Lamprecht's MFA, agree that his undertaking of this retrospective can be seen as a courageous, indeed risky, career move, given the ongoing fierce debate over this issue of legitimacy."
(Source: http://www.ru.ac.za/modules/blog_include/blog_content.php?blog_id=2152)

08 July 2011

Tretchikoff in Khayelitsha

Khayelitsha is a huge township near Cape Town. It is the fastest growing township in South Africa, with the population exceeding half a million people. The Tretchikoff-Erxell-Khayelitsha concept is about using roofs of the shacks in the township as an enromous art canvas. Erxell believes that with Tretchikoff's imagery, among others, home owners and dwellers can 'showcase their grievances... whilst the powers that be take forever to house them.'
(Source: http://qjdesign.blogspot.com/2011/06/tretchikoff-erxell-khayalitsha.html)

Tretchi up for auction

Cobus van Bosch, a Cape Town artist, did a portrait of Tretchikoff in oil. It's up for grabs at the Association for Visual Arts fundraising auction.

Find out more here: http://theavagallerysa.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/cobus-van-bosch-lot-28/

Calling a spade a spade

Mahala, a South African website, recently published an interesting interview with the curator of Tretchikoff's retrospective in Cape Town, Andrew Lamprecht:

Mahala: So, is Tretchikoff a bad painter?‬

Andrew Lamprecht: Bad has‬ moral connotations as well as those of quality. It is an all-encompassing phrase. I have avoided getting into the age-old debate as to whether he painted well or used colours that were too bright and so on. On one hand he was a brilliant artist, in that he changed the way that many people approached art – opened art up to audiences that had hitherto been excluded from it, or felt intimidated by it. Sometimes his painting leaves me cold and is a bit over-the-top, but at other times it is wonderful in a whole host of ways. Also you ask this question as if one can say “he is a bad painter” rather than “IMHO he is bad”. Part of what I am fascinated by is how a certain group of people felt it their right to make such sweeping pronouncements.‬
(Source: http://www.mahala.co.za/art/deadly-serious/)

Well, I do believe art critics and art historians can make a pronouncement and pronoucу an artist good or bad. At any rate, 'bad' can also mean unprofessional, unskilled, having no talent.

This is bad.

And this is good. It's easy to see why.

When we shy away from calling works of art 'good' or 'bad', we renounce any notion of taste and expertise.

Tretchikoff was no means a great painter but he was brilliant at what he was doing: bringing some colour and glamour into ordinary people's homes throughout the world. No small feat, really.

'Undeservedly popular'

The Telegraph's Rosie Millard has this to say about Tretchikoff's art:

"Few objects are as undeservedly popular as Vladimir Tretchikoff’s Chinese Girl, or The Green Lady. Dating from 1950, this piece of art has long been a fixture on living room walls. It is strange, since the painting’s only real merit is being almost incredibly bad."
(Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/interiorsandshopping/8611035/Love-it-or-loathe-it-kitsch-is-back.html)

One more proof that Tretchi's legacy lives on, whether we like it or not. It's a pity though that Millard dismisses Tretchikoff as a bad artist so easily without trying to look into reasons for his continuous success.

Zuma, of all people...

"[South Africa's President] Jacob Zuma... in many ways resembles the late Tretchikoff. Both are really bad at what they do but remain relatively popular. Both have done rather well financially because of what they do best (painting kitsch Javanese women for Tretchikoff, singing and dancing for Zuma). Both can pull a few tricks out of the hat to please the crowds. Both have been panned by the 'critics' and shunned by the chattering classes. And the careers of both can be explained with reference to their tumultuous pasts."

02 July 2011

Voxafrica reports...

Voxafrica posted a video from the Tretchikoff retrospective in Cape Town. See what the originals of the Chinese Girl or the Weeping Rose look like, without even travelling to South Africa.
Original link

What a find!

So many interesting things have been published in Afrikaans about Tretchi lately, especially now that the Tretchi retrospective is in full swing! It's a pity that most of you folks don't read Afrikaans, really.

Yvonne du Toit, an independent journalist from Cape Town, was a friend of Tretchikoff and even made two documentaries about him. Besides, she's the one who came up with the title of the exhibition: the People's Painter.

For almost two decades now, she researches Tretchikoff's story. On this photo, she displays two portraits that she bought from his muse, model and mistress Leonora Moltema, or Lenka. He painted her in Java where he found himself during World War 2.

Both pictures are very interesting. But look at Tretchi's Self-Portrait from 1945!   

He looks very different from the self-assured man in his better-known self-portrait from the 1950s:

Read more about Yvonne and her research here (in Afrikaans): http://nuwegeskiedenis.co.za/vladimir-tretchikoff-die-mense-se-kunstenaar/
(English-speakers choose this option)

Watch Yvonne du Toit's documenrary Red Jacket to learn more about Lenka's story. To order a DVD, write to joyride@xsinet.co.za

An elephant? Tretchikoff? You can't be serious!

The artist and journalist Cobus van Bosch believe that Tretchikoff in the South African National Gallery (or any national gallery for that sake) is like a bull (or an elephant) in a china shop. Tretchi's exhibition poses the question: if this may be displayed at an established art museum, then what may not?
(or read an English translation)

Melvyn Minnaar, a major South African art critic, replies to Cobus, saying that the Tretchikoff retrospective is, in fact, something that had to be organised long ago. He found no elephants in the gallery whatsoever.
(or in an English translation, courtesy of Google)

Which side am I on? Somewhere in the middle.

Sweet, sweet, sweet...

There've been so many sweet, positive reviews of Tretchikoff retrospective, which is being held in Cape Town. I simply must add a few acid notes.

Today, I came across a very insightful review of that show by Lyn Siebörger, a girl from South Africa.

Here is what she has to say about most of Tretchikoff's work:

'No conceptual thinking is required, nothing is deeper than the painted surface. These are wallflowers, content to ‘be’ without asking more. They allow one to relax in their presence.'

Please, do read the rest of this review here: http://onesundayafternoon.posterous.com/considering-kitsch

Tretchikoff and Afrikaners

Tretchikoff: die koning van "goeie" kitsch
It's my article that appeared in Rapport, an Afrikaner newspaper, lately. I don't know if any of you can read Afrikaans.Well, there's always Google Translate to help you out these days.

Over 10000 see Tretchi's exhibition


As you may know, Tretchikoff's retrospective is taking place at the Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town.

The show opened to great acclaim in late May and will be running till late September. So there's still plenty of time to get on that plane and make it to South Africa.

Within a month, over 10000 people have seen the retrospective. It is certainly a very impressive result for the S A National gallery and South African art in general.

As for Tretchikoff's own attendance figures, it's by no means a record.

At his first ever exhibition in Cape Town in 1948, when he was a completely unknown artist, without any advertising or considerable publicity, he had almost 13000 visitors. Within just 11 days.

But those were different times. 

Face to face with Tretchikoff's most famous model

Ever wondered who was the woman who posed for Tretchikoff's most famous painting, the Chinese Girl?

In December 2010, I was lucky enough to find her and meet her in person.

Read about her here: http://mg.co.za/article/2011-05-20-face-to-with-the-woman-who-is-tretchis-chinese-girl

Tretchi's Green Lady Rehabilitated

Love this cartoon:


This is Self-Portrait by a prominent South African artist Alexis Preller.

And this is Self-Portrait by Vladimir Tretchikoff.

Don't they look somewhat similar?..

More about Preller's work here: http://www.arttimes.co.za/news_read.php?news_id=4442