By the time you read this the show will have finished as it was only on at the RA until 12th November 2017. Matisse in the Studio it’s called, which made me slightly worried that it would be second rate sketches but instead the conceit from this show was paintings, sculptures and drawings next to some of the actual objects portrayed (like above).
Nice idea and done well. So by way of example there is a fine painting called Still life with Chocolate Pot. There is a nice gold lustrous sheen to the chocolate pot. Next to it, is the actual chocolate pot (above right). I couldn't find the actual still life but there was also a more abstract painting featuring the self same pot in red (above left).
Standing on a pedestal is an odd looking Venetian chair and surrounding the chair various sketches and paintings featuring the self same chair. In addition a decorative small table and a highly colourful portrait in which it features.
There is then an interesting room with several African sculptures and figures and the influence this had on Matisse, particularly his sculpture and there is a nice juxtaposition of an African male and female figure next to a Matisse female sculpture with some of the exaggerated features clearly influenced by the African ones (as in the above).
Similarly in the next room there are some excellent African masks (and this by the way was a major bonus of the exhibition, art from different periods and parts of the world all of it excellent) and some portraits particularly some beguiling simple line face sketches on one wall.
Continuing on where some of the furnishings from Matisse’s studio including some Arabic and Islamic wall hangings, tables and brazier. The furnishings are colourful and intricately patterned and become the stars of several paintings such as The Moorish Screen, Two Models Resting and Odulisque with grey culottes. This are all very good paintings and especially with Two Models Resting the attitude and presence of the central figures all against a colourful patterned scenery. Along with all this is a very interesting photograph of Matisse with one of the models.
Rachel Whiteread used to be an excellent answer on Pointless to the name a Turner Prize Winner question. She is probably more famous now, particularly with her show at Tate Britain which runs until January 2018. She is perhaps most famous for doing a cast of a house in Bow back in the early 90’s.
Casting things is very much her thing and as far as I know there is no one else doing it, at least no one else I have encountered, all there are plenty of people working in the monumental, structural sculpture scene. Most of these then are the kind of works that you only ever see in galleries or public spaces. I have a preference for art that is or at least could be more personal. Something you could conceivably own and have in your house (assuming you could afford it).
One of the interesting things about the exhibition is that Tate Britain have stripped out the internal walls of the exhibition space so it is just a vast hall. This extended space is in itself interesting to see and I found myself marveling at the architecture of the Tate. It is also necessary given some of the enormous pieces on display (as shown in the picture above).
Dominating the room are casts of the inside of a building and casts of the underside of a stair case. Having these so generously housed allows you to orbit round them and play the game of what is it? And how did she do it? I followed two architects round for a bit and it was interesting to hear them speculate on this.
My favourite of these larger pieces was a cast of a bookshelf (above). Arranged in 4 rows she has somehow managed to capture the back of the books and the marks of the pages in the casting. What I would have been liked to do, but couldn’t was pass down between the shelves.
Incidentally there was one annoying aspect of the exhibition. The pieces are protected by laser alarm systems, which beeps if you, or any part of you crosses the taped lines on the floor. Periodically someone does this and so frequent chirps of various pitches jar you as you walk round.
My favourite of her castings though are the ones done in wax or resin. There are a number of these including one of my favourite pieces usually on display in Tate Modern which is just a series of resin oblong blocks arranged on the floor. I like the texture of these. I like the slightly edible looking quality and I like especially the light filters through them and gives them a sort of internal glow.
There were several pieces done like this including casts of chairs and tables, an orangey structure that I could not identify and a transparent colourless dolls house. I have to say I prefer the coloured ones. They reward more scrutiny.
This then represents my main problem with Whiteread’s work, there is an initial wow factor, then a period of intellectual enquiry but after that there is nothing really to keep you looking at most of the works. There are a series of doors and floor tiles in one corner (I had seen some of the doors before at the Gagosian) that are, well I have to say dull. The best ones of these are the wax or transparent ones where you can gaze into them and see the way they refract and reflect light.
In addition to the sculptures there are some Agnes Martin like drawings, and little collages which are quite interesting. There are some also some smaller casts and some of the smaller ones are more interesting, I think because they are on a more human scale, such as the “Torsos” cast from the inside of waterbottles (picture above). Anyway with these also I was drawn to the waxy ones.
Some of the most interesting stuff is actually on display outside the exhibition and can be seen for free. So for example there are display cases (Vitrines is their official name) housing her note books, smaller models and early castings (such as shoes) and these are very interesting and often very good. There are also photos and models of larger works she has done round the wall and a video about the construction of the famous house.
For me though the best piece was out in the large middle hall. Whiteread had been allowed to select some piece of people she liked for display and you can see her influences here. Roughly in the middle though is a large grid of different coloured, wax casted underside of chairs. These really worked for me. It helped they were under a large window so would glow with a warm inner glow every time sunlight hit them. The various shapes and colours kept me enrapt for quite some time. Even if you don’t fancy paying for the full exhibition it is worthwhile popping in just to see this.
As you leave the Tate (or enter) you are rewarded with another piece, a cast of the inside of shed. It does work better outside but it is next to a Henry Moore and frankly doesn’t measure up.
Incidentally the Tate used to do presentation packs of postcards, but just recently the seem to have stopped doing it. I am slightly miffed. In other news as of last week I now spend one day a week painting in the studio. It is super fun and going very well.
I have been in group shows before. I am a member of the Law Society Art Group and as such I can, as of right, put up to 4 pieces in their annual show, which I have done for the past 2 years.
This however is the first one that I've applied for and got into. The show was held by Questa Non E Arte (Italian for this is not art). They have organised a number of such exhibitions in Italy but this was there first in London. I got in by stumbling across an advert on art jobs asking for submissions, so I submitted and was incredibly happy to get a nice email back accepting my work. This was back in August.
The event was held in the Brookmill Pub down in Deptford. I got to attend for the first time last Sunday to hang my work. I had one small corner to play with and so my work was hung thus, then last night was the event itself. It is a very strange experience to suddenly be working with other people. I would have wanted to put in more and perhaps different work but you have to bend with the will of those organising. The abstract and colourful quality was more in keeping with everything else in the show.
The night itself came. Having an exhibition in a pub is odd. Some people are just there to go to the pub and have little or not interest in the art. Others have come especially for the art work. I had to come up with an interactive project which basically involved people putting 3 word reactions on a post-it and sticking it next to the wall. Had a pretty good reaction, one person said they made them feel horny. That's odd right?
I meant to take lots of photos but I completely failed to as I spent to much time chatting to many fine people including Natalia Gonzalez Martin whose massive bulbous organic semi-mummified pieces were a fascinating trio.
Rosina Godwin Mutter's features were these lithe wormish monster like knitted creatures climbing around an upstairs wall of the pub and were intriguing tactile things.
Deptford Does Art who helped organised the whole thing were nice and chatty people, they are due to open a new gallery on Deptford High Street in December.
I found the whole thing exhausting. I have yet to work out how to manage these events. I have to say I was super nervous in the run up and the first few hours and this took a couple of hours before this abated. I do however intend to do this again.
I have been wanting to go to the White Cube Galleries for a while. There are two you see, a large one in London Bridge and a Smaller one in St James’.
I visited the St James’ one in early October , during the Vapours of Gasoline exhibition. The gallery itself is located in Mason’s Yard. One of the small London squares that you can easily walk pass the entrance to if you are not paying attention. The outside of the square is populated by expensive galleries, antique dealers and the like. Squatting in the centre is the a white and grey rectangular build, which is the gallery itself.
It is quite an ugly thing, more so for the incongruity of the setting. The space inside is pretty good though. On the ground floor you have a small squarish gallery and the downstairs, another small gallery and then a larger rectangular space. It is well lit and all very professional.
The show itself was rubbish. Very conceptual with the quite interesting when you first see it but then leaving you with nothing. So there were bath or sink drains set into the wall, neon portrait of two people shooting each other, an old cathode ray tv set not showing anything, oh and various canvases with bad jokes typed on them. Also there is porn. One of the downstairs rooms is just black and white porn photos. Shock and no substance. My favourite thing was a pipe with two pairs of handcuffs attached to it. No its not very good but it was my favourite thing.
It was one of those shows which you struggle to remember anything after you leave.
Then a few weeks later I went to the other branch in Bermondsey. It is a much bigger gallery, done up in a similar style, all polished concrete and white walls. A quiet and calming space. There are basically three rooms. The exhibition described here is on display until 12th November 2017.
In the first one which is called 9x9x9 is a light sculpture by Cerith Wyn Evans. It hangs, chandelier like in the centre of the room, framed very well by the door frame. You can enter and circle round it as it oscilates slightly in the breeze. A good light sculpture must have an interesting form that reveals itself as you see it from different angels. It also, and this is very important, must not be so bright that you cannot look at it for too long. The shapes of the bulbs themselves must be interesting and show some skill in assembly. This has all of these.
The largest gallery is the South Gallery. This features a large number of works by Damien Ortega. 29 of them in fact. Its good stuff. It can broadly be separated into the following categories. The first is casts of packaging done in concrete (a bit like Rachel Whiteread) but the casts are done of both sides to create a composite form. I liked these, particularly the way they were laid out with the objects from which they were cast.
The next categories are pseudoscience posters. I quite like this kind of stuff. I like the idea of an entirely imagined science and some of these put this forward in an interesting way.
Fitting in with this theme are a number of sculptures arranged like atoms, or planets. My favourite of these was a circular arrangement of concentric concrete slabs, arranged like an ancient amphitheater. You could saunter into the centre and swirl round to see it all.
Another one I greatly appreciated was a series of different sized concrete balls. There was an intriguing feature of this is that wherever you stood some of the smaller balls were always obscured by the larger so you could never see the whole from one place. This is an ancient Buddhist idea and nice to see it done again.
The final feature were three clock work type sculptures. Two were in fact identical but one was on its side while the other is vertical.
I spent allot of time in this room examining the various pieces and thought they were all good. You see this is how to do conceptual art. It doesn’t have to be entry and vapid. The ideas can have layers of meaning backed up with a skillful delivery.
The final gallery was the slightly smaller North Gallery which contained the work of Ann Veronica Janssens. The first thing that caught my eye was a Venetian blind sprayed gold. Initially I scoffed at this but I decided that I liked it after all.
Then there was a plastic box with water in it and two fluorescent rectangular door type things. The room is cunningly lit with a rainbowish light and this light interacts with all of the exhibits, especially the spray of chalk like substance on the floor.
I would happily see works by all of these people again. White Cube lowered and then raised my opinion of conceptual art.
On my way up I picked on the “fact sheets” about each artist. My goodness the pretension!
Incidentally on 11th November from 17:00 I am taking part in a group show at the Broomill pub. Details here and below.
William John Mackenzie
I am an artist with a specialism in landscapes and still life. My contact details are here.