Your eyes and ears on the world of art and culture. We remind you that 18 years of back issues of eMusings can be found on our archives page.

Although we are not traveling as we once did, and surely will again, the internet allows me to bring you excellence from around the world.

Martin Heidegger, German philosopher, once asked, "Why is there something rather than nothing?" It prompted me to ask "Why are there so many somethings?" One vivid answer may be found in the work of Nick Cave, whose grandiloquent environments fill our minds with symbols, signs, banalities and grotesqueries. Imagine an installation that incorporates millions of plastic beads, 13 gilded pigs, 17 cast-iron lawn jockeys...and that's just the beginning. Cave's ambitious new work, "Is There Racism in Heaven?", is being shown at Carriageworks in Sydney. Another installation, titled "Until", includes 24 chandeliers. In 1992 he created "Soundsuits", which disguise class, gender, and race so that people can "get outside" of themselves. Cage says that he has, for years, devoted part of every day to silence, meaning no music, no phone, just the presence of thoughts in his head.

Feast your eyes on the exquisitely detailed black and white imaginings of Song Kang, Korean-American artist living in Atlanta, Georgia. Using ink as her primary tool, she bases her pieces on the question, "I wonder?". Recently she began adding color as well to these nature-based but wildly expansive and imaginative scenes. She calls her style cross-hatched, and has said, "In one moment, I feel like I’m building a distinct environment one crosshatched pebble at a time. The next moment, I’m clueless with only an impulse and a gut feeling to add something somewhere".

Peng Wei is known for her paper sculptures of female bodies. She begins with torsos made of layered flax and cotton, and then paints images from ancient Chinese narratives upon them. The result is a group of startling and delicate figures, blending tradition and the contemporary. There is a raw immediacy to these works, combined with a fine eye for balance and flow.

We are beginning to see more photographs of gay men come to the fore. Less often we can find photographic reflections of gay women. One fine example appears in the work of Joan E. Biren, known as JEB, whose ground-breaking work has just been republished in a book called "Eye to Eye". She speaks of the atmosphere surrounding her in the 1970's, basically men's views of lesbians as young and slim. On the experience of being lesbian, she says, "Being identified as a lesbian meant you could be fired, lose custody of your child, be banished from your family, expelled from your place of worship, deported, thrown out of your rented apartment - and a lot of other horrible things that were completely legal and quite common". She is credited with giving the lesbian community an identity, and a sense of confidence in themselves.

The Carl Freedman Gallery in the U.K. is featuring the striking work of Lindsey Mendick. These pieces are worth a close view: Mendick has an unusual eye for the sardonic and is not afraid to reveal what others feel but do not express. See, for example, her piece called "Are You Going to Destroy Me?" or her glazed ceramics. You might also want to peruse some of the other artists at this gallery. They have a talented collection of creatives.

Color pencils are not a tool used often, and certainly not in the way that Uli Knorzer uses them. These portraits demand your attention. The level of detail is exceptional, especially when shown against a solid color background. You want to know more about his subjects: the richness of his technique emphasizes the silence of his subjects. Where are they? What is their background? Knorzer gives us much, and hides so much more.

Much has been written about the spider sculptures of Louise Bourgeois but less about her motivation in making them. This article delves into the artist's life to find how these compelling works evolved. A quote from Bourgeois is illuminating: "The friend (the spider -- why the spider?) because my best friend was my mother and she was deliberate, clever, patient, soothing, reasonable, dainty, subtle, indispensable, neat and useful as a spider."

Molly A. Greene fills our vision with her lyrical and rhythmically obssessive forms. They undulate, they throb, and they leave us little room to escape. But then, why would we want to?

Google Arts and Culture takes us into the world of Vassily Kandinsky with a project called "Play a Kandinsky". They examine Kandinsky's fascination with hearing color in shapes and sounds. You are invited to experiment with his art and your feelings. While this may or may not be what Kandinsky had in mind, it does give you a hands-on opportunity to play with moods and colors yourself.

We return once again to Christie's Auction House this time for a series of marriage portraits, according to Christie's the finest examples in art history. I am not in a position to refute their claim, but it is certainly worth your time to look at the pieces they have chosen. One comment from the Christie's list stays with me: "Rembrandt had loved and lost, while Vermeer went from health and good fortune to madness and death in a few short days. So perhaps it is no wonder that the great Dutch painters living in their topsy-turvy world, revolving forever on fortune’s wheel, understood so well the vulnerability that accompanies love."

We have shown you several times in the past the extraordinary fashions created using 3D manufacturing by Iris Van Herpen. She has continued her explorations into this new field with a group of clothes made from ocean plastic. The outfits you see here come from the artist's recent collection called Roots of Rebirth Spring/Summer 2021. Her aim, she says, is to offer a "translucent and fragile interconnectedness" with the skin. I know of no one else reaching the heights of fashion in this way.

Exuberance is one word that comes to mind when looking at this presentation of works by contemporary Japanese artists. Chiharu Shiota, for example, uses thousands of red, black and white threads interwoven to cover entire rooms. Takashi Murakami is the founder of a movement called "Superflat" featuring bright colors without a sense of perspective. Yasumasa Morimura takes historical figures from Western culture to transform himself.

"Grotesque" and "claustrophobic" are words being used to describe the works of Vanessa Baird, who is having her first show in the U.K. at London's Drawing Room. Other descriptives include "filty", "furious", and "fun-filled", so you can expect an adventure when you view them. Based in Oslo, Baird lives in the same house where she was born and raised. She is well-known in Norway, where she designed the Nobel Peace Prize diploma. The reviewer mentions a sense of being "surrounded" and overwhelmed". For myself, I am reminded of the work of Lucien Freud and Stanley Spencer in the U.K. Baird is not only prolific, she is gifted, brilliant, and unrelenting. One thing is certain: you won't be bored.

c. Corinne Whitaker 2021