I like Dorothea Tanning, as does my wife. The sunflower (above) is one of her favourite pictures, one that we have both admired in the permanent connection in the Tate along we went to the Tanning show at the Tate Modern. We were not disappointed. Its a great picture, with the weird skinny elfin figures and the enormous sunflower. The picture itself is quite small, but still packs a punch.
The best surrealist painting packs a strong visual image and also reminds you and feels like a dream. Birthday (above right) was one of my favourite paintings in the whole show. This is a self portrait of Tanning and although she is bare breasted it is not a sexual image but exudes strength, with the signature foliage draping down her back. This painting really spoke to me. I have had dreams in which I am confronted by a myriad of doors. Tanning too by the look of it. Also the small flying creature has more than a striking resemblance to my cat. Not only does it strike all these cords but the technical ability on display is fairly astounding. I like this painting very much.
The almost photorealistic dreamscape (if that isn't too much of a contradiction) continue for the first couple of rooms. I shall not show them all here but the Philosophers is worth looking out for. Tanning (or versions of her) feature in a number of them. So for instance you have these self portrait (above left) of this lonely figure in what appears to be nigh attire looking out a landscape that reminds me of Yellowstone national park. The misty lake floor and the hazy horizon make it a lonely place. I like the contrast between the grey and brown rocks.
Twists on a classic theme is something that happens in art a lot with varying degrees of success. Tanning pulls it of rather well with her take on a still life (above right) where all the flowers are dead and you have this odd and disturbing insect thing sitting on the table. I love the detail of the table cloth with its bumps and creases lovingly depicted. I also like the dead black rose rising above the rear of the table.
Doors. There are frequent doors in Tanning's paintings. Maternity is a theme she explored both in odd fabric sculptures (of which more later) but also in paintings in which a stunning example is above left. The construction is in some ways quite simple, figures, doors, sand and sky. Of course that is irritatingly reductive. Like her other paintings it brings about this odd sense of deja-vu, like you have experienced something strikingly similar. In the background, through the rear door is this assemblage of items looking like female undergarments. Then you have this trio of figures, the barefoot woman holding a baby and then this dog, with a human face (the dog appears in various paintings also). What particularly struck me is the ripped, almost ghoulish shroud-like feel to the woman's clothing. Its almost like the baby has ripped through it you know, like that scene in Alien.
Probably the high point of disturbing, more nightmarish than dreamlike is the Guest Bedroom (above right). Again beautifully rendered. There is allot going on here, the person in bed with their arm around a manikin, the naked elfin girl, the horrific dwarfish figure, their head obscured by what looks like a gas mask covering their head, then this looming death like apparition in the shadows in the background. It is somewhat striking. She is good a fabric is Tanning and shows this off with black, grey and beige coverings. I imagine there are reams written about the meanings in this painting. I prefer just to look at it and wonder.
Tanning lived for a long time. She die age 101. Later in her career she moved away from the realistic style to a more swirling and abstract style. The first one of these to great you is this flame coloured number (above left). It is very large and the central door is in fact a piece of wood, stuck to the middle of the canvas. The swirling yellow and orange is very eye catching and gives a dynamism to the piece. The message appears to be left is trying to get in and right is trying to keep her out. The style is so different it would not be difficult to believe it was by a completely different artists. To be honest I prefer the realist style but these more swirling pieces have something to offer.
Much more hellish is this swirling grey number (above right). Figures emerge from the mists including the dog previously mentioned and various odd people. It is one of those paintings where the more you look at it the more things and people you see.
You still get in these later works that same quality of reminiscent and dreams one has had. One of my favourite of these works is the one above left. Most of the painting is nearly black with swirls of misty red. Then emerging from the darkness is the zombie like hand scrapping the floor. The arm changes from vague to photorealistic. The blues and greens of the limb appeal to me.
Very different in tone at least but still recognisably the same tone is a sort of legs and eye combo. The eye seems to be one of a cat. Seems to be a number of sensual female forms. This becomes a trope of Tanning's later work, there is quite allot that is vaginal, occasionally quite explicitly so.
At the end of the last room is a large predominately green painting. Naked figures cavorting (are they cavorting) with their faces obscured by these swirling lights or possibly flower heads. The deep green colours greatly appeals to me and gives the impression that you are looking down into a pool, to see the nymphs therein among the reeds.
The exhibition was slightly oddly laid out in that in the Tate you usually enter one door, and through the various rooms, and out of the different. This time the last room was showing a tedious art film which I did not watch and so to escape you had to go back through the exhibition. I didn't mind this because I nearly always do this anyway. On my way out I looked at these well nearly pornographic entwined naked figures. I prefer the one on the right where there is the keyhole shape. The black lines striking up and across the scene lift it for me. They are a strong addition.
The other figure I really liked is a, well it's a figure. It is made of intertwining fabrics forming this hunched sad, monkish figure, chained to a pole. It is spooky and quite moving but a bit at odds with the rest of the show, which I found mostly joyful and uplifting, in you know quite a disturbing way.
At the Hayward Gallery at the moment (from whose website all the photos of photos are pinched, like the one above, but its reviewing so I think its probably fine) are two shows, Diane Arbus: In the Beginning and Kader Attia: The Museum of Emotion. I shall start with the first which frankly I prefer. It is indeed very good. You have until 6th May (for both I think) but I certainly recommend Arbus, especially if you are a photography fan.
The photographs are all black and white from the 50s and 60s, and all from New York and New Jersey. Arbus has a thing from performer, particularly circus performers and what are charmingly called female impersonators. The gentleman above, who is the poster image for the show is a prime example. He goes by the superb moniker of Mr Dracula.
Arbus uses black and white very well, particularly a strong light contrast. So most of the photos have a similar trick of the centre figure lit but with darkness particularly in the lower right and right of the image, so you get these figures emerging from the gloom. It is difficult to adequately explain. Just go and see it.
The show has been curated. In the two galleries that this show occupies these pillars have been erected and as you can see above each picture placed on its own pillar. Actually you get two on a pillar, one on each side. This is a very good idea, and gives each picture its own its own space. Congratulations to whoever thought these up. The pillars are also different sizes depending on whether the photo are landscape or portrait.
The photos themselves are very personal and individual capturing the character and feel of the individual in a way that photography doesn't quite often do. So you get drag queens in their dressing room, people in their living rooms, on the street. One of my favourites was simply called "Girl on the street looking up". That is what you get but there is a loving humanity too them. Conjours up a place and a time very strongly. Photography often leaves me called, as they often for me a least, lack an emotional punch. There is no place to put yourself in the picture. These though allow you in somehow. Very strong.
On now to Attia;s exhibition which as the name suggests "The Museum of Emotion" is basically a fake museum. Some of the individual pieces I quite liked. For example a sort of flattened wooden bowl, with slashes of silver (above left), and a sort of daggery statuey figure, again flecked with silver. They were my strongest things in her show.
She really goes for the theme in the main room, with large metal shelving displaying distorted wooden carvings of various figures and on each shelves various political pamphlets. Along one wall wooden cabinets with various things made from or depicting ammunition or weapons (above right). I always thought that doing an exhibition like this of a fake museum, or fake archaeological finds would be a good and interesting idea. Damien Hurst thought the same, he did it at Venice at the last Biennial. Having seen it though it has surface interest. Some of the individual pieces are very well conceived and interesting, and the message of colonial exploitation is a worthy one. Frankly though I found myself wishing that I was seeing an actual display in the V&A or the British Museum. The concept is not enough, I'm afraid, to sustain the experience.
The ticket gets you in for both shows so you might as well go round it. Maybe you will disagree with me.
Unless you've already been to the Alfred Munnings show at the National Army Museum because it finishes on the 3rd March. So you might get there if your quick. My father is obsessed with military history and in fact has a his own website celebrating this called British Battles. Occasionally his interest in military matters and mine in art coincide as they did on this occasion, so I summoned him up to London, and along we went. It was in fact rather good.
Munnings' thing is horses. He is really really good at horses. So his career as a war artists focuses very strongly on these creatures. He has an impressionistic style with a muted pallet, that reminds me of camouflage as you can see from the picture above of a cavalry brigade pausing by a stream. He has this very effective way of highlighting parts of the horse using green paint.
Most of the paintings on display feature horses. One of Munnings' common tricks is to have at least one of the horses looking out at you, which puts you exactly in the place of the artist and you can imagine yourself sitting there in France, in 1918 (which is when most of the paintings were done) with these war horses peering curiously at you. All different hues of horses but also different breeds with these much bigger, denser animals pulling artillery and supplies. He is much less effective when his pictures are just landscapes, or only have people in them. Some of the paintings are more intimate. For example there are two pictures next to each other, one is the sketch you see above of a trooper with his horse and next to it and oil painting of the same subject. The label says it is unfinished but It could easily be taken as not being so. The whole thing is quite impressionistic with a the face of the anonymous soldier, the only thing in focus. Its quite effective.
Munnings can get the shape and character of a horse exactly right. He can get the gate as well so horses moving, look like they are moving, like in the picture above with a Canadian Calvary regiment on the move. Each horse is rendered if anything as more of an individual than the people, but if you are interested in your military kit you can pick it all out on the horse.
Munnings also does that classic impressionist trick which you can see in the first picture in the blog. The horses in the foreground are done in fine detail but the further you move back the less detail they are in. This helps give you a sense of perspective but also your brain tricks you into seeing detail all the way back and the background blobs as horses.
Artistically then Munnings is accomplished and interesting but one of the problems I had is that his work is often is a bit pro-war, the celebration of the glory of war, in stark contrast for example the work at the Aftermath show last year, or Magical Realism. There are no bodies, the closest you get is ruined landscape for example with this regal General (whose name I forget) astride his horse (above left) or this heroic cavalry charge (above right). They are good paintings, but they are very establishment. This is perhaps not surprising though given that Munnings had been hired by the establishment to produce these paintings.
I also learnt something. Have you heard of the Canadian Forestry Division? No neither have I. They were basically lumberjacks who came over from Canada and with the help of co-opted POWs, chopped down forests in Britain and France (mainly France) to provide lumber for the war. This apparently freed up much space on transport ships, making a substantial contribution to the war effort. Anyway Munnings was hired by this division. There a number of interesting paintings of the paintings of the forestry division in action (like the above left). The best of them have horses in them, hefty creatures pulling lumps of lumber.
My favourite picture though is just of a lonely horse (above right). You get a real sense of the creature. It was a very interesting show and I enjoyed it. You might have done too, but its probably too late.
Ever heard of Fausto Melotti? Neither had I before Friday when I popped into the Estorick to see their exhibition of his work. He is apparently quite famous in Italy but not that well known here. The Melotti show is quite small, occupying only the two galleries on the ground floor but I enjoyed in. I always like discovering artists who are new to me. The permanent exhibition at the Estorick is also good and worthwhile trotting round while you are there.
Melotti's work, as displayed at the Estorick can basically be divided into two. Work on paper, often involving pastels and burn marks and usually as a study for a final sculpture, and the sculpture themselves which usually involve thin dangly pieces of metal such as the one above right which is called the Lion. You can't really see in the photo but the head is just a battered round disk in a smiley face in it. This and the floppy tail with the two balls on the end make for an absurd construction, especially when married with the name. I new when I saw this that Melotti and I were going to get on. I like an artists with a sense of humour.
This fine structure above left looks, with i thin strands of wire curving off to one side, like a waif like figure, possibly a little to fond of new romantic music, striding through the wind. The square at the top, reminiscent of the head, is in fact a mirror. You have to crouch a little to make yourself appear in it and there is no doubt something deeply psychological going on behind its construction but I just find it quite joyful.
Demonstrating the other side of Melotti's work are two sketches (above right), are they sketches? What ever they are I like them. The top one was done in memorial to a friend of his and those clutch of bamboo like sticks together with the black rain give a real sense of sadness. He has achieved here the simplicity I like in Japanese, Chinese and Korean ink paintings, of which these reminded me. The one below it, the thicker dark marks are produced by burning the paper slightly. I like the feel they give and may try doing this myself (and perhaps burn the house down in the process who knows). In the same room as these, was a much more vibrant painting with burn marks housing colourful pastel sketches. It was good, but I prefer Melotti's more monochrome works.
The second room had much more substantial sculptures in it that reminded me of Mona Hatoum (only the wire is not barbed), and I wonder if he inspired her (he lived before her). So you have these large cage like structure with these dangling slight chains on either side and in the middle (above left). They aren't attached at the bottom so sway slightly in any breeze. Contained within them are these thin wire curved shapes, and thicker metal curved shapes. They all have names like counterpoint.
My favourite piece in the whole show was somewhat smaller (above right). I wondered if it was a mock up of something bigger. It look a little like an elaborate machine, like something they would use to communicate with on Blake's 7. Again you have the dangly wires but I enjoy the various elements play of each other, with shadows falling on gauze behind those hemispheres. Also reminded me of chemistry experiments I used to do in an earlier life. I kept coming back to this one again and again.
The three slender wires, particularly when they cross over the thicker one, remind me of musical staves and I am left with the impression I am looking at the essence of an instrument, possibly two. A chello and a violin perhaps.
There were also two pendulum based pieces. If you look at the first picture in the blog you can see a large steel one, with three pendulums hanging down. If you sweep past them at sufficient speed they will oscillate for you (and pleasingly while I was there a small bird would tweet just outside the window every time I did this).
The other one is done in brass I think it is (above right) and I do like the deep browny-goldy glow of brass. Set in pairs facing opposite directions it is a very pretty and quite thing.
There were other pieces I haven't shown. It is an interesting show. It is a calmer more cerebral form of art Melotti's. It doesn't shout at you, it invites you in (for the most part) and causes you to write drivel when you think about it afterwards. After you have been round the show though go round the rest of the show. My current favourite piece in it is this one below.
Incidentally, you only have another week to see one of pieces in a show at the Indo bar. Go along. Buy it.
Until 16th February the Pastel Society is having its annual show at the Mall Galleries. This time they are celebrating their 120 years. So by the time you read this you'll have missed it which is a shame as it is a pretty good show. Tastefully hung and well arranged, as typified by the main wall, with their pleasing and attractive logo. In the main room as you can see the exhibition had clustered works by the same artist together. This works well and makes for a cohesive and impressive display.
I went on a Wednesday lunch time and there were a fair few people in the show. At one end of the hall on a series of benches was a demonstration area. While I was there it was covered in various sketch books, watercolour, pastels and pencil. It brought a different dimension to the show. Sadly I couldn't stay for the demonstration.
2 quite interesting display cases were in the North Gallery. It being an anniversary show this was subtly celebrated by a collection of historic catalogues (above left). IN the other another series of sketch books (above right).
Now onto the painting. I started a the back of the North gallery and made my way south to the main gallery (if you know the Mall Galleries there is also the Threadneadle space but the pastel exhibition did not use this space). First out of stocks is Alex Jacob-Whitworth with Blencathra from Eycott in the Heat which is a fair mouthfull of a title (above left) . I like the scratchy quality to it which gives a good feeling of dryness and heat. The dark hills in the background create a good sense of depth.
Pastel is often perceived as a twee medium. It is nice then to see pieces that subvert this expectation. Lyn Howarth does this very well in Someone to Watch over me (above right) with and almost photo-realistic depiction of a tramp sitting in front of a graffitied wall. The texture of his beard is particularly pleasing.
There were quite a few portraits in the show. I think about 10. Two have made it into this blog and the one above right, the portrait of Harriet by Penelope Milner. There is an intimate softness to the portrait, a real affection that the use of pastels highlights rather wonderfully. The off kilter stance of the subject makes this portrait slightly different, as though she is leaning towards you. It is beautifully rendered, and rather lovely.
As previously intimated you can't review pastel show without encountering landscapes, and particularly foliage, it is after all a subject matter that plays to pastels strengths. Of the various treescapes, I have chosen two of my most favourites. David Brammeld's Autumn Colour (above left) is exactly that, strong dark trees against soft yellow and green.
At the other end of the seasonal scales is Richard Marshall's Springtime with Judas Tree (above right). Lovely and light, a spring morning. The tree has a nice sculptural aspect with nice strong shadows on the underside, and those thick field of daffodils. Very nice. I do like that tree.
Back to abstraction, with these multi-coloured portraits both by Jocelyn Rossiter (above left). They have similar motifs with the fronds in the bottom picture and the red hand emanating fronds in the top one. I prefer the top one I think. It seems to have more going on, the birdlike neck and torso and the divided head, against that emerald green background. No, I definitely prefer the top one.
Who doesn't like an abandoned building? Only monsters and Tom Walker's Automatic (why is it called automatic, who knows? - above right - top) is a lovely deserted attic fall of swirling autumnal leaves, the tree canopy visible through the roof. The small door at the end helps establish perspective.
So far its all been colour so Katie Parkin's Shifting Tide is a beautiful calm technically superb piece and the deserving winner of The Pastel Society Young Artist Award. It is in fact not entirely charcoal with red pastel give tone and warmth and indeed establishing a sheen and wet feeling to the rocks. Very nice.
The north Gallery has then (or rather had, by the time you read this blog the show will have finished, never mind, try going next year?) a fine diverse display of paintings. Some of them (such as that umber autumn tree in the bottom right of the above left picture) built up in interesting ways, using some kind of gesso related magic. There was also one wall dedicated to candidates for membership (above right), which showed to me at any rate that the future of the society looks fairly strong.
I like all three, but I think the bottom two work better, against the white background. They have a slightly 3d effect and when I looked closer, and hopefully you can see on the individual shot, this is because the shapes have been cut out, pastelled separately and then collaged together to form the final image. Good idea, done well. Had I had any money at the time I went to the show, the one painting I would have bought is Secret Pear.
Landscapes now and starting off with two very different contrasting styles. First and arrangement in blue and white (above left) Robin Warnes' House Boats. A very calming and meditative pieces. It took me a while to realise that the building on the right is a house boat, front on, the composition presumably a deliberate play on the words house boat. I also like the way the main boat is floating on the water, with that strong line of shadow hovering underneath.
Very different, a riot of colour and noise and aggresive pastel marks are the quartets of forest scenes by Sarah Bee (above right). Her style creates a wonderful impression of raging storms, and gusting winds. It is particularly well suited to rushing water, which is why I think here bottom two pieces are the more effective and the ones I prefer.
As alluded to previously there is a certain style of landscape that one instantly thinks of when the work pastel is mentioned. Colourful. pastoral, perhaps slightly twee. There is a reason for this in that pastels, particularly soft pastels lend themselves to producing this kind of work. Actually I quite like this kind of landscape if done well, and the best example of it in this show at least is Margaret Glass' landscape, Seashore Shade, Pin Mill (above left). The building is very well rendered and provides a focal point that draws you in, and the contrasts and dappled light on the beach and particularly in the foreground are very pleasing. The bank of trees give a slight sense of menace which stops the picture from just being a twee beach scene.
Completely, different, massive, dominating the far wall and immediately capturing your eye when you enter the Mall Gallery is Jeanette Barnes' Crossrail Station Canary Wharf (above right). Barnes had been especially invited to exhibit in this show, and I can see why. Done entirely in Conte crayon the swirling lines not only give a nice rendition of the new station but also a sense of its ongoing construction. I like this and at £13,500 it is probably the most expensive thing in the show. It also shows what you can achieve purely in monochrome.
There was also in the main gallery a section dedicated to portraiture, of which the most compelling was the slightly disturbingly titled Gorilla by Brian Dunce (above left). It is a montage of three reclining white women on the left and divided by this shaft of white, a black lady conveying a bright bunch of flowers. The whole thing is rendered in lovely glowing detail, with the qualities of pastel used to stunning effect. There are various comments in French on it. I have my own conclusions as to the meaning of the title along with the subject matter but I will let you draw yours. It is a lovely painting though.
Abstract, colourful, reminding me slightly of Paul Klee, are these three very enticing visual feasts, of various churches by Martin Goold (above right). None of the squares are solid colours but either shade from one tone to another, or are like small squares of bright tartan with differing colours intersected by lines.
We are coming to the end now so I will leave you with two very different pieces. One is riotous agit-art type construction of aggressive lines and scratches out and graffiti like writing (above left). It has a terribly pretentious title which I refuse to repeat and frankly slightly spoiled what I had initially viewed as an interesting striking use of pastel, by Libby January .
The other, was also a contender for painting I would have bought had I any money is simply called Moon by Susan Dakakni (above right). Lovely isn't it?
Just to remind you I am in a show at the Indo Bar until the end of the month. Go and have a look.
The beginning of the year has kicked off with two group shows for me. The Law Society Art Group, which comes round every year, and a group show at the Indo Bar of those from the Mendes stable. I had three works in the former (of which Tree over the River Lee above left was the biggest) and one in the latter (above right). It is interesting for me as the Indo show work was produce about 9 months after the ones in the Law Society Show but I was pleased to see a great increase in quality.
doesn't really do the work justice. Also I chose 4 very different works this year, which meant they were separated throughout the show. I think next year I will choose 4 that are thematically similar in the hope that they will be hung together and make more of an impact.
There was some good quality stuff on display, I particularly liked the wall above left where I thought my Brighton painting was in good company with some large powerful landscapes. The fact it was hung lower than them though meant it was difficult to see. Also as you can see from above right it was behind a pillar. Still these are minor gripes. It was quite a good show and I shall of course go in again next year.
Then on Tuesday night, I and others were back in the Indo, for the launch of the Mendes Studio show. The common factor is that all the people presenting receive private tuition from Hugh. The setting particularly suits the mournful subject matter of my painting (top of the blog) and of course the beer and pizza is excellent. It was a superb and well attended night. I don't feel I can really comment on my colleague paintings so I will simply present them below. The show is on until the end of the Month so pop along and have a look.
Two Temple Gardens is a magical place (above left). Currently it is showing an exhibition about John Ruskin (above right) called the Power of Seeing. Nestling near the embankment at the bottom of the Temple it is built in a medieval style but was in fact built in the Victorian era by William Waldorf Aster to use as his estate office. Before this I had never heard or been to it before. It is open to the public from January to April each year, and each year hosts a different exhibition. Ruskin is this year. Entrance is free. It is open late on Wednesdays.
The inside is a wonderland, with blush dark wood, tiled and carpeted floors, a vaulted stained glass window (above right), and a plus stair case. The main room is a wooden paneled hall complete with chandeliers and ornate carved details (above left).
Each end of the hall has detailed stained glass windows showing pastoral scenes, the windows set into alcoves each containing plush green leather sofas. Specially commissioned sculptures relating to Ruskin sit atop slatted pedestals (above right). Also for your delectation I give you a detail of some of that ornate carving (above left). Frankly it is worth going just to have a snoop around the building. There is a nice looking cafe there which I think will tempt me back.
Onto the show, which is worth going to as well and basically divides into two parts, work by Ruskin and stuff he collected. The cabinet above left neatly encapsulates this including as it does several metal objects he owned (including a rather fine vase) and a gentle graphite drawing of the two metal flowers that sit there bottom left of the cabinet. Ruskin being who he is there is lots to do with Sheffield (and most of the works are on loan from various institutions there). So you have this dull brown, smoky industrial landscape with what could quite easily be a shell hole in the foreground, being a view of Sheffield by Stanley Royle.
As you ascend the stairs you are greeted by these two hanging screens? are they screens, lets say they are screens. I failed completely to find out when they were made or by who but they are beautiful. , swirling foliage, and on the one on the left this peacock like bird, nestling among those pink and red flowers. The one on the right darker and autumnal with a cheeky little art barely visible and perched on the right.
Upstairs in a smaller room, are a collection of ephemera that Ruskin owned, including busts of various people, old books, pieces of architecture, the odd psalter illustrated pages of medieval manuscripts. The Two Temple surroundings really come into their own here especially the shelving shown above.
Architecture was obviously an interest of Ruskin's. This can be seen from the piece of building, cornices that are scattered around the show. Pictures of buildings, done in fine detail by Ruskin (above right) and others.
More on the illustrated book line with some fine medieval manuscripts with those ornate golden borders that we all love to see. In one cabinet in a special presentation box is a fine Turner Watercolour (above right) all soft yellows, purples and blues. I read somewhere that the Impresionists where the first to use purple as shade but having looked at the Turner watercolour I am not sure this is true.
Books of flora and fauna, in this case fauna being birds where also among the collection with types of birds loving illustrated. Presumably in this example the male and female of the species. Ruskin also had a thing for pretty rocks and gems. There are two cabinets repeat with iridescent rocks. Geology was an interest of his it would seam and her wrote a treatise on it (and other things) and did a number of detailed watercolours showing the striations in slate in particular.
More or less opposite is another collection, this time of botanical print. For reasons that were not made clear the photographing of some of them was forbidden. While I am on the subject there are also some early daguerreotypes in the show. Feint displays of silver and black which you have to peer close up to make out what they depict. You are not allowed to photograph them either but they are interesting to see.
Turner was a big inspiration to Ruskin and in the first room you come to there is a corner dedicated to works by him, or inspired by him that Ruskin owned (or indeed produced such as the watercolours at the top of the blog). I particularly liked the watercolour you can see above, with its almost menacing shady tree in the middle distance and the characteristic Turner indistinct buildings in the background.
Having just spoken about Turner I will now have the gall to talk about me! I have a show starting Tuesday 5th Feb until March 3rd at the Indo Bar. It is a group show and I have one painting in it (see below). Come along and see it in person.
If you can, always open with some boobs. Be warned that this blog and also the Klimt and Schiele at the RA is not fit for work. There are many boobs, and more than a couple of vaginas and the odd penis. You have then been worked. This is basically high class porn. Drawn porn if you will. Still I shall talk about it anyway.
Despite this I prefer Schiele's work. Klimt's sketches while technically superb and often very detailed I find very cold and classical. Schiele by contrast is often spiky, quick and full at character. You get the feeling there is an actual person being depicted rather than a type, and indeed this is often borne out by the labels. I prefer actual people. The other thing I spotted that was interesting was the use of materials. Both used packing paper. Presumably because it was very cheap.
Klimt though can give you a very fine lesson in how to conduct a drawing study, particularly in this female nude (he only does men from the back), rendered three times, in slightly different ways and from different angles. I particularly like the third one with the excellent use of shading to give the tonal contrast and a three dimension feel to the picture whereas the first one has more a feeling of motion. They all have boobs.
You get colour with Schiele you see as in this rather fine pen and watercolour portrait of a man. I like the washed multicoloured torso contrasting with the detailed face and those odd spectral hands, vein highlighted particularly the odd left hand poised as though holding a drink, or possibly a fag. Contrastingly Klimt's almost manga like naked lady picture. It is a type not a person.
He does vivid flesh tones well in the case of the red head on the left where as the possibly early teens prostitute from late 19th century Vienna. Pale, thin and disinterested. A very visceral indictment of the sex trade. You are made to feel shame. Very effective. Again it is because you have an actual person here rather than a type.
Moving beyond portraiture Schiele does some interesting things. He was sent to prison for taking a pre-teen girl on a trip, in a way the RA portrays as naive rather than suspicious. So you get these soulful desperate pictures of chairs from prison interiors (above left).
On a more cheerful note there were three charming flower pictures (above right). This is where the use of packing paper works well as it has a velum like colour. Schiele makes good use of negative space, in that the flowers are more absent than they are there.
Back to lines. One thing Klimt developed (which Schiele later coped), was the positioning of the figure, with them extending from the bottom to above the top of the frame, and in the exact centre so they are like a human column (see above left). It is quite an interesting stylistic touch.
There is one example of a more detailed Klimt drawing and it is the one above of a woman. Shrouded in black, her face a barely visible dark grey and bleak looking it packs a punch and tells quite a story. The rectangle of light in the upper right hand corner makes the whole thing visible and bearable, and allows you to see the hat. Otherwise it would just be too dark.
The eyes and face sparkle with a real cheekiness to it, particularly the pose half turned away. Likewise the sketch of one of Schiele's early patrons, a railway inspector who brought a number of his works. There is a real affection for him in that sketch, and again we have the column thing going on. They are both done with quite spare simple lines.
There are about 7 of them flanking a corner in one room of the gallery. They are all of him in various poses, in none of them does he look even slightly happy about, well anything really. Some of them such as the one above left he is barely there, just a disembodied head, with arms marked by flashes of blue and a sweat band, like a sulky ill tennis player. Others like the nude next to it, he is very much all there with the same skin tone we saw in the nude female red head and the same stark humanity. It is hammered into your retina with the white highlight that halos the entire figure.
Finally we have full frontal nudity, dirty crouching nudity. Skinny gaunt musculature with this black substance leaking out forming a shadow, a trick he also uses in a female nude. its very upsetting.
Opposite these shameful (seems like the right word) self portraits are more affectionate pen and ink portraits of family (above left). The more shaded one is his mother, again showing a classic Schiele trick of having the head and hands with the torso merely suggested by their shape. The one on the left has the other Schiele classic, particularly in young women, the mixture of innocence and knowingness.
Through the next room and you have a series of ladies crotches. They are very well done and quite shocking but I mean why?
Klimt can also be filthy, but in a much more aesthetically pleasing images and you have too such examples here although they are very feint which is probably just as well. The one left is a red chalk image of a naked lady being fondled by another lady. The other, pencil line drawing is prudishly called woman with right leg raised, presumably because the title, woman fingering herself was just too much for the various curators who have displayed it.
If you want some disturbing and well rendered filth, and I have to say I did and was not disappointed, then this is the show for you, but you only have 3rd February. Also it is a master class in how to draw people.
The horror of a cold and miserable January is punctured by the London Art Fair. It only runs for a week and closes on the 20th so chances are you've missed it. It is a show I enjoy. It is one of the few places where you can see allot of Modern British art in one place. It allows me to chart both how my taste is changing but also how fashions in the art market are changing. This year the vogue for slightly weird fantastical art has gained ground on previous years. None of it particularly grabbed me though. As I entered I made a decision not to photograph artists I had covered in previous years, a vow I broke almost immediately.
If you don't know the London Art Fair, it is a mammoth exhibition centre called the business design centre, a large central atrium surrounded by a balcony and leading off the north side a smaller exhibition hall. In the smaller hall there is what is called the project space, for newer works and more avant guard stuff. I started there and moved down into the main hall then out the door. So lets go with the first one, which is pretty much the was this installation Ilkwoon Youn. Firstly there is pile of burnt looking paper (above left) which I enjoyed but better where these section black and white logs which make a city scape when you step back from them. It messes with your eyes but I like it.
About left Beverley Bennett's trio of charcoal geometric compositions that she has called Graphic Score's. I like them they are very contemplative pieces, with these intersecting tonally varying shapes. This pretty much typifies where my tastes are moving towards, simpler, starker black and white pieces. Above right Rita Egli's Hominium figures, which come in groups of 2, 3 or 4, fused together at the shoulder. They are like space age figures, with their blank shiny faces, all peering up at you.
Garry Pereira (above) is someone who I featured in previous posts and he was here again with finally painted landscapes in wooden box lids, but what really attracted me with this grid of small landscapes. They are superbly detailed with much charm and character to them. They could be quite cliche but both the composition of the pieces and Pereira's unique way of presenting them lifts them. They are very good.
Do you like flowers then you will like these two paintings? Then I have something for you. Above left you have two paintings called Flower Garden by the excellently named Rinring Wang. They are simply coloured paper glued onto canvas but they have a lovely field quality to them. Bringing blossom brilliantly to life is Hyun Ok Park's Spring Afternoon. The lovely impasto blossom works spectacularly well.
Its a photo-realistic oil tanker (above). Sitting alone, rusting and stranded on this gray background. The canvas is very long making for a piece that packs a punch. I like the detail, particularly the blue and rusting staining down the side of the ship. It is the work of Stephane Joannes.
The vogue for the surreal and the fantastic was also present in sculptural form as you can see by these full length skull headed figures (above right). Very well done though, in a appalling way. Much more interesting to me is the Minotaur (above, above right) who is either setting off in a sprint or stumbling to the ground. It is bronze and is the work of Cesar Orrico.
Above left we have James Kennedy's Transpositions, using the intriguingly named process of Intaglio (which is a printing process). It is a series of intersecting geometric shapes giving the appearance of buildings or a cityscape from above. I like it.
Agnes Martin is one of my inspirations so I have a soft spot for work that echoes her style particularly when it is done well. The artist is called Eleanor Wood and I do like her squares of colour.
Its made of soot! And water. Nigel Bird's Horizon (above left) delivers on its title in a novel way. That solid thick layer of black like the mantel of the earth, and the drifting lines above it that could be smoke (which is what the medium makes you think), but also could be fog bound trees. The framing of the piece is interesting but I think it work even better with white above, as well as below the image.
Completely different, and vastly more expensive at a cool £35,000 is David Donaldson's Young Dancer (above right). Technically superb with the rendering of the dress and the central figure. What particularly draws me to this the sass of the pose and the slightly strange, chubby face. Its almost like she is puffing out her cheeks, or holding in a draft from the cigarette. It has what I like about portraiture, there is an actual person there.
Carla Kranendonk, a very close contender for most excellent name in the show changes both subject and style for us completely with her joyous portrait Fifi (above left). It is riot of colour with the figure almost lost in the patterned background. You also have those nice 3d touches with the button on the bag and the flowers, coming out and enhancing what is otherwise a flat perspective piece. I like her pose to, and despite the simplicity of the depiction of the person you still get a sense of personality there.
Minotaur! Full sized bronze sculpture, tackle out, but it is of course the bookish pose that really makes this superb sculpture. Its a nice contrast subject and positioning. Sadly I completely neglected to find out who this was by. If you are reading this blog on Sunday 21st and you live anywhere near Angel then you could maybe scamper along and find out for yourself and who know, if you have the no doubt tens of thousands necessary, this magnificent creature could be yours.
Fang Jun (above left) gives us a fairly traditional misty brown mountainscape. I like these. They very much invite me into the picture to be part of the world and the technique of hiding the landscape in clouds or fog is one that really appeals to me. Craggyness of the mountains is always a must. There are many of these types of paintings around but this was the only one in this show. Nice isn't it?
Glass. I do like some glass. The work of Akido Noda is something that has attracted me before and would be purchased would it not be for the fact that you know, I need to eat and heat my house etc. This year there was a frankly lovely installation of pieces of coloured glass called With the Passage of time (above). They are delicate whispy things like clouds or islands on a violent see. They are lovely and I would wish to have them. Sadly they start at £3800 (for the one on the left) and go up from there. Also I suspect that just one would look lonely and you would have to Pokemon them (got to catch them all for those over the age of, actually scratch that because a few months ago I was behind an elderly woman in the cue at the RA who was playing Pokemon on her phone while we waited).
The shifts of shading within the pieces given them a feeling of depth and draw you in. At £900 they are also the more affordable end of the show. I really like these.
Frankly it looks like people pissing in the river and I wonder if that in fact what it is by the artist, or maybe the gallery had a fit of embarrassment and changed the name. I do like an abstracted landscape though. I like the darkness of the mirror with the splash lines scratched into it and the violent red, pouring into the river. Then there are those odd patches of grey and yellow. It is interesting to speculate on what those are. Little Islands? Bunches of bulrushes?
More restrained and cubist is Paul Feiler's the Green House Oxford (above right). Here there are more recognisable elements, such as a chair and a door, distorted in interesting and colourful ways to make for a fine composition.
David Shrigley's My Rampage is Over (above left) is genuinely funny. I laughed when I saw it and that has been the reaction of everyone I have show it to. If you don't at least smile then you are a monster. It still makes me smile. Simple but effective the humour is done in the juxtaposition of the style and pose of the elephant with the words. Very well done.
Eileen Cooper is another inspiration for me. She is a superb example of someone who has really nailed a distinctive style. You can tell work is her at a glance. Dynamic poses with a simple line to them and exaggerated features are her calling card. The negative space often makes for interesting images too. This one, Warm Water (above) is an excellent example of her work.
So that's it for this year. I will leave you with a cute picture of a dog, the work of David Remfry.
I've been meaning to go to Anni Albers at the Tate Modern for ages but I finally made it. It is on until 27th January 2019 if you want to go and I suggest that you do. She is credited, more than anyone else anyway with elevating Weaving into art, and this show charts very nicely how she did it. You are greeted as you enter with a large loom, very like the one above, indeed possibly the one above. She was originally a student at Bauhaus in Germany before the Nazi's shut it down and thence she went to Black Mountain Art College in the U.S (where Rauchenberg amongst others studied). So the show displays her work and others from Bauhaus and the work of her students from Black Mountain. They have also done a smart thing in that some of the rooms are separated off, not by walls but by diaphanous hanging screens. It is very effective.
The above is the kind of thing Albers produced, geometric wall hangings, grey white and black are a common colour scheme and I find them calming almost spiritual pieces. The squares are differently textured some distinctly jumperish. It is of this type of work that gives us possibly her most famous piece (above right) the simply titled Black, White and Yellow. As with much great art it is both simple and complex. What was also quite engaging was to hear two american ladies speculating how it was made. It would appear that in fact the technical skills required is considerable.
In addition to the weavings are designs for hangings done in coloured gouache. Interweaving and geometric. They reminded me of Agnes Martin and Malevich or possibly Mondrian. The more blocky one which reminds me of tetris was done by one of Albers' tutors Gunta Stolzl, the first female tutor at Bauhaus. Another one of her tutors was Paul Klee and the ideas he taught of rotation and reflection of shapes appears several times in Albers' work.
One of my favourite pieces in the show is above left, it is called Ancient Writing. It beguiled me for quite some time, not just ancient but also reminded me of a 1980s computer game. Above right we have a design in soft pastel Las Cruces I which led onto a silvery textile cross. The other piece above right is called Pictograpic with the thick grey shapes contrasted by these white crosses which you can just about see.
The largest room has a number of different elements. There are the pictures weaves, like the one above left which has the name Black, White Gold, the black threads appearing almost like writing, a common theme in Albers work. There are more of these as you track round the room like Play on Squares, Northwesterly where she has managed to conjour up the feeling of a weather front. She moves into colour as well with the vivid red and oranges of south of the border and the layers of blue, purple and red that you can see in Red and Blue layers (above right). Albers does tend to be somewhat literal in her titles.
The room is divided by a gauze screen and roughly speaking once you get to the otherside you are into commercial designs that Albers either produced on commission or speculatively. Something very austere about that lonely bed covering in the square enclosure above right.
Among these commercial designs was a pattern that looked very familiar. Albers produced them for Knoll Textiles. I am not sure whether I have seen these actual patterns before or if they have just had many imitators over the years but it certainly has a very familiar feel to it. You can very much see here the rotation and reflection that Albers learnt from Klee.
As you round the corner into the home stretch the smallest room in the exhibition contains the most spectacular piece of work. Commissioned by a Texas Synagogue the Six Prayers are six wondrous columns of golden thread. Each one is given a subtly different composition. Differing uses of black and white thread give a tonal contrast between the pieces. They are very nice. They really glow and I bathed in them for quite a while. Frankly the show is worth it just for this.
Knots. If you are a weaver you are going to be obsessed with knots. Indeed one of the thing this exhibition brings out is the depth of Albers' knowledge and there are samples in cabinets where she has tried using different materials in combination. Back to knots. Above left you have this stark and effective white gouache on a black background. It is quite evocative. More complex is this pencil and ink drawing (above center) with elements of the knots highlighted in the ink. Finally these elements go onto to appear in textile form in Underway (above left) where the rivlets of thread feel like river currents, or lava flow.
More Gold! This time in Epitaph (above left) which has a water like quality where at the bottom of the piece the direction of the thread shifts giving it a reflective quality, does the same at the top to. Its like a sort of organic maze. You have here again the theme of suggested writing but this is displayed more effectively in two smaller pieces (above right) called Code (the gold one) and Haiku (the silvery one).
It is also in this room, in a screened off section that you have the samples mentioned previously and also the products of Albers' research and trips to South America, particularly Peru, which provided a substantial amount of her inspiration.
There are also a number of very careful Gouache studies on the wall where Albers tries out different colours and different shapes to see what works. This is done well in this show, showing her process and mind at work. For such a technical, physical medium like weaving this is somehow more successful. In other shows I have been to this part has been a bit flat and dull.
I shall leave you with a rug with knots on it. Annie Albers is someone worth getting to know.
I am an artist with a specialism in landscapes and still life. My contact details are here.