Archive for the ‘art’ Category
Like Ian Sales, these are several Hugo categories that I have big problems with but I think these two categories should simply be merged. The idea of both the Best Pro Artist and Best Fan Artist categories is to reward an artist for a body of work over a year. I see no reason why the issue of payment should come into it.
Not only is it a difficult distinction to draw, it is not present in the other categories. The only other time the word ‘fan’ appears is in Best Fan Writer and there it is as much a description of the type of writing being awarded (writing about speculative fiction) as it is the person being awarded. You can probably count the number of people who make a living from writing about SF on one of John Clute’s fingers. Nor is it a distinction that makes any appearance in the awards for writing speculative fiction itself which are all based on word count. So, for example, Seanan McGuire’s self- published story ‘In Sea-Salt Tears’ appeared on last year’s Best Novelette shortlist. In the only other categories that are awarded to individuals rather than works, the two Best Editor awards, the distinction is again the form of the content rather than the economic status of the producer of the content (this also brings us into semi-prozine territory – more on that later). So below are my two individual sets of nominations but in an ideal world, they would single set of Best Artist nominations.
Best Pro Artist
Best Fan Artist
Another unique feature of these categories is the relative anonymity of SF art, despite its ubiquity. You might well picked up a book because of its cover but you probably won’t know who was responsible. So I’m very grateful to people like Aidan Moher who post about art throughout the
year and this post was only possible because of him, Justin Landon, Liz Batty and Lady Business. But I’m even more appreciative of the Hugo Award Eligible Art(ists) Tumblr. This is everything that author eligibility posts aren’t: a neutral third-party space that crowd-sources information from artists and fans alike and presents this side-by-side allowing nominators to easily compare the quality of these suggestions.
But my knowledge of the field is still weak and you may have noticed that I’ve only selected four artist for each category. Please lobby me in the comments with your recommendation for the fifth spot. Feel free to tell me why my other nominations are wrong and should be replaced too!
Right, the shortlists for the BSFA Awards and the Kitschies are out and they are looking pretty good. As with last year, I’ll be reviewing the nominated short stories and I’d love you to join me. But first – and again, as last year – the art categories.
BSFA Award For Best Artwork
1) Poster for Metropolis by Kevin Tong
One of my nominees, courtesy of a tip-off from Liz Batty. As Tong says, it is inspired by Russian Constructivist design, a highly appealing style in its own right and a good thematic match for the film. But what I like best is Maria’s robot doppelganger emerging from the background and then surging past her.
2) Cover for Tony Ballantyne’s Dream London by Joey Hi-fi
Hi-Fi was my number vote for last year’s award but he lost out to Black Sheep’s cover for Jack Glass. I’m going to be controversial and say 2013 wasn’t – by his high standards – a great year for him (although I’ll still be nominating him for the Hugos). His vote was split three ways for this award and though this is my favourite of the three, it likes the impact of some of his other work. I like the composition but from the condensed landmarks to the splashes of red on a black and white background, it all feels a bit familiar.
3) ‘The Angel At The Heart Of The Rain’ by Richard Wagner
Unlike last year, there are no outright stinkers on the shortlist (which is only three works long) but this is pretty duff. It illustrates a story entitled ‘The Angel At The Heart Of The Rain’ by Aliette de Bodard and so cunningly depicts an angel at the heart of some rain. It has the cheap, flat look of much CGI art and the reflection in the window particularly draws attention to this. The only interesting thing about the work is that it places the viewer in the position of a worshiper. No bad enough to warrant No Award, this still can’t win.
The Inky Tentacle
Unlike the BSFA Awards, I don’t get a vote for this. If I did, it would go to the cover for Cory Doctorow’s Pirate Cinema by Amazing15:
But wait, what’s this? It has been shortlisted as a single entry with their cover for Doctorow’s Homeland. Boo, I say. On principle, I’m opposed to this and it smacks of lazy judging but perhaps more importantly, it shackles a great image to an average one. Pirate Cinema is a crisp, clever visual pun of the type that made the cover for Mira Grant’s Feed so effective; Homeland is just pastiche. In contrast to these clean designs, next up are two riotous covers:
There are similarities to the pair but, for me, the cover for C Robert Cargill’s Dreams And Shadows by Sinem Erkas edges out that for Charlie Human’s Apocalypse Now Now by (that man again) Joey Hi-Fi. Its unified colour scheme makes the weirdness of the detailed illustration that bit more macabre, a portal into the book itself. Hi-Fi, in contrast, splatters the book all over the cover but without including much in the way of his trademark touches. The strong shadow on the central characters face is halfway there but really, this could be a lot of other people. And what are those at the top? Tentacles? Blatant award bait! By this point, I think it is fair to say that the judges are fans of colour blocking:
I go back and forth on the cover for Monica Hesse’s Stray by Gianmarco Magnani. I like the fact it deliberately signals a different tradition of design and I love the cropping of the image. At the same time, the image itself isn’t anythign to write home about it is all slightly anemic. It summons up ennui rather than teenage angst. Finally, there us the cover for Adam Christopher’s The Age Atomic by Will Staehle probably is a good guide to the contents but really all you can say about it is that it is green. I don’t think it has much of a place on a shortlist that already contains the Amazing15 covers.
SF awards season has begun and, to be honest, I imagine you are already well aware of this. So I’m not going to post the shortlists for the BSFA Awards or the Kitschies. I would, however, like to discuss the Best Artwork category for the BSFA Award and Inky Tentacle for the Kitschies. The BSFA Award is open to all artwork, not just book covers, but this year it happens to be made up of five covers so a direct comparison is possible. I am going to start with that award since, as a BSFA member, I get to vote for this award so these comments also represent my ballot. (I’m going to reproduce small images to give some context but it is worth checking out the award sites to see the full details of each cover.)
5) Ben Baldwin for the cover of Dark Currents (Newcon Press)
This is, as far as I’m concerned, a nothing image. The content is uninteresting, the execution is poor (the relative sizes of the different elements are all out of whack and look like dodgy photoshop layers) and its got a crap ‘pirate’ typeface slapped on the top. If you look on Baldwin’s website pretty much everything on there is better than this.
4) Dominic Harman for the cover of Eric Brown’s Helix Wars (Rebellion)
A traditional science fiction cover and my response to traditional SF covers is much the same as this. You wouldn’t catch me reading this on the train. We have explosions, we have a fancy spacesuit, we have a lot of lazers and even more orange. I also can’t help but notice that our stalwart hero is looking directly at the reader whilst rather caverlierly firing his gun at something out of his (and our) line of sight. And why does a laser rifle need a massive banana clip? Appropriately, this is worldbuilding every bit as shoddy as you’d find in a Brown novel.
3) Si Scott for the cover artwork for Chris Beckett’s Dark Eden (Corvus)
A good match for the novel which takes place on a planet without sun is therefore illuminated only by bioluminence from its flora and fauna. The specific image of the insect is then embellished with abstract whorls which make the whole thing appear uncanny and disquieting.
2) Blacksheep for the cover of Adam Roberts’s Jack Glass (Gollancz)
An inspired idea to translate the iconography of science fiction into the iconography of Christianity. I’ve no idea if there is any relevence to this beyond the title of the novel but it works perfectly.
1) Joey Hifi for the cover of Simon Morden’s Thy Kingdom Come (Jurassic London)
Joey Hifi is, simply put, the best cover artist currently working in SF (Hugo nominators, take note). His work for Lauren Beukes and Chuck Wendig has been outstanding and this cover doesn’t disappointing. He layers two simple images – the radiation symbol and an atomic explosion itself – over other and then sketches the results of these into the image itself. I particularly like the little details where the rifle and the mushroom cloud break the line of the symbol. Nice placement of title and author too.
This makes an interesting link to the Inky Tentacle since, due to the relationship between Jurassic London and the Kitshies, Hifi’s cover is ineligible. This is a shame and makes me doubly keen for it to win the BSFA Award. In contrast tot hat award, the Inky is a juried award which this year was judged by Gary Northfield, Lauren O’Farrell and Ed Warren. They are all professionals so you would imagine it to be judged to different criteria than those used by the members of the BSFA but I was still surprised that there was no overlap. I had thought the Blacksheep cover for Jack Glass might make it.
I’d like to start by discussing two images: Peter Mendelsund’s cover for Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus (Granta) and Dave Shelton’s cover for his own A Boy And A Bear In A Boat.
Both are bold images that lack any genre reference point. The cover for The Flame Alphabet, in particular, fits very neatly into contemporary literary fiction design and conveys little about its contents. The novel itself is obviously science fiction so the cover is equally obviously eligible but is this enough? A Boy And His Bear In A Boot is less abstract – a clever joke, in fact – but the same applies. Well, if it is good enough for the judges.
Next we have two of my favourite cartoonists: Tom Gauld’s cover for Costume Not Included by Matthew Hughes and Oliver Jeffers’s cover the Terrible thing That Happened To Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne.
Gaunt is just Gaunt which is to say marvellous. God on his laptop is a classic Gaunt touch and I love the reptillian hood smoking a fag at top right. Just a shame it has to have the Angry Robot logo (even re-drawn) on the front. Unfortunately, whilst I am a fan of Jeffers’s own work, this image does nothing for me. Which leaves La Boca’s cover for The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman.
This has really grown on me. As with Thy Kingdon Come, the designer has taken a classic image (in this case the famous Lousie Brooks profile) and repurposed it. By simply stuttering the image, La Boca manages to evoke the setting, genre and tone of the novel whilst creating a memorable cover that stands on its own feet. This is my undoubted winner and I suspect the judges will agree with me. Rash, I know.
My personal shortlist for a combined award would have been Si Scott, Blacksheep, Joef Hifi, Tom Gaunt and La Boca. But what were the deserving covers that were missed off both shortlists?
The resulting exhibition opened yesterday and is on at the Danielle Arnaud gallery in Kennington until 10 February.
On Sunday, I went down to the Southbank to see The Edges Of The World, the Ernesto Neto exhibition at the Hayward. It is a really fun experience, the whole think is imbued with a child-like sense of joy about the world, from the sculpture like a giant geometric toy to the colourful womb-like space the The fact you have to take your shoes off further breaks down your sense of adulthood and the actual kids were loving it.
Downstairs it was a bit more serious (but not much) at the New Decor exhibition which was essentially artists versus interiors. My favourite piece was actually the most serious: Jin Shi’s 1/2 Life which takes its inspiration from the explotation of migrant labour. In contrast, the rest of it was all rather playful (with mixed results – a lot of the Gelitin pieces looked like modern art cliches). Even the toilets got in on the act:
Is this part of the exhibit or is it always like this? Anyway, we wondered out into the sun to be confronted by a model favela outside. This was an installation artists Haas & Hahn, a sort of slum version of Home Sweet Home*:
Their social project ‘Project Morrinho’ is one that takes the form of a miniature city built by young people in Rio de Janeiro from brick, paint and other found materials inspired by the landscape, architecture and everyday life of the favelas that span the city.
In unwitting homage to the name of the project, some nob had extensively tagged it with Chelsea graffiti. This didn’t look particularly out of place though, the London kids invovled in making it obviously weren’t overly blessed with imagination.
Then it was across town to the V&A for 1:1 Architects In Small Spaces (hence the trip to Thai Square). Okay, I’ll be honest I was going there for one main reason: The Ark. It was every bit as awesome as I’d hoped but unfortunately none of my photos came out. So instead here is a picture of the equally awesome Ratatoskr (named after Drill Tooth, the Norse messenger squirrel). It was made by scanning twelve birch trees, digitally knitting them together and then cutting them out and combining for real. The result is incredibly impressive.
The Beetle House was another favourite and has given me an overpowering urge to buy a shed and take a blowtorch to it. The exhibition is free and I would highly recommend getting down (the rest of the V&A is pretty amazing too). If you can’t, I’ve got a few more photos and you should check out the concept submissions online.
* My house is the red one with flowers coming out of it at the top left of that photo.
I’ve just come back from the framer’s and I have now achieved one of my ambitions in life. I am the proud owner of an Andreas Gursky:
Now, it is hardly ‘The Rhine II’ but to be honest the chances of me aquiring the world’s single greatest photograph are pretty slim. Besides I do already have a copy of it hanging in my bedroom thanks to the Tate’s awesome printing service. No, ‘Untitled XV’ may be a minor work created for the last World Cup but it is mine, all mine.
I didn’t have any trouble with the moving picture categories but I’m struggling with the static ones. So far I have:
Best Graphic Story
- Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe by Bryan Lee O’Malley
- Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday
- Invincible Iron Man: World’s Most Wanted by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca
Best Professional Artist
- Adam Tredowski
- Stephan Martinière
Best Fan Artist
Any other suggestions?
For some reason I always forget to read the Berger & Wyse cartoon in the Weekend section of the Guardian. When I do catch sight of them – as I did this morning – I inevitably end up giggling like a loon.