I visited a friend in Manchester for a weekend, had an amazing time hopping to museums and exhibitions. I went with her and her mum, it was a fun experience to visit a gallery with someone who doesn’t come from a creative background to observe how they interact and see art. We went to Whitworth Art Gallery where both Cornelia Parker and Sarah Lucas were exhibiting works. I was quite interested in Cornelia Parker, I know very little about her practice but a lot of what she creates seemed to have something quite destructive about it, especially the more process based works on paper and works with rope with for me, I felt there was a relationship between tension and destruction in a sense of how the materials destroy a surface. Her hot poker drawings really evoke this idea, initially I thought they were bullets and I could imagine the action in my head which resulted in the mark making, but when I found out they were hot poker drawings I sensed the painful burning of such a delicate surface. I was also taken by the serialism/patterns created by the poker which makes all seem like destructive/chaotic process are very normal.
I was also interested in Parker’s sewn definitions of opposing concepts. I liked how she had taken definitions from the dictionary. One was sewn to be read right to left and the other left to right. It was pretty difficult to decipher, but it made me think about my own practice and how there is a blurred line between opposing concepts. I think it’s very intriguing how we as humans can actually define such abstract concepts, for me these feelings and emotions are indefinable but how we use language to express a feeling or the intangible is something I’ll never really grasp but as it’s probably the most universal way of understanding one another there is no other choice but to use language as the tool of expression.
Having been researching Brancusi for my dissertation, I stumbled across his relationship with Rodin so I was amazed to see his sculpture of The Kiss wrapped up in rope. Within this context, I associated rope with the idea of either being bound or restricted both romantically and violently, as we know rope is a huge inspiration in my practice and I think of it as uniting opposites and I see similarities in Parker’s practice, especially after seeing the texts above.
I can’t say that I’m particularly interested in Sarah Lucas but it was good to see some of her works as I missed her exhibition at Whitechapel.
I also went to a few galleries, since we’ve handed in our essay, it’s been working non-stop towards the exhibition and I was feeling pretty rubbish after the crib we had with Liz, in hope that I would perhaps be inspired. I did this in between visits to people’s off-site exhibitions which was really great.
Paul McDevitt – Grand Canyon @ Stephen Friedman Gallery
This exhibition was pretty amazing. I was really taken by the technical skill of the artist, who used chalk and pastel on these large scale drawings below. They reminded me of my rope drawings but also many strands of hair unravelling. The detail is pretty amazing, I liked the ones without the typography because of how abstract they appear, especially the ones in which layers look like they have been ripped away – these seem very chaotic and speak out destruction.
Richard Long – The Spike Island Tapes @ The Alan Cristea Gallery
This exhibition contained a few, fairly large relief prints and some colourful works too. I really liked the monochrome prints, in fact I thought they were the strongest and correlated well with his older works. For me they were more natural. I felt like I was being immersed in a forest of tall trees, but I could also feel movement, as if I was running through that forest. A silence is captured in these that I associate with nature that I feel the more vibrant prints don’t because they’re loud. I think of fire, or warmer seasons, perhaps destruction?
Christina Mackie – Tate Britain Commissions 2015
Now, I really wasn’t impressed with the commission for the Tate Duveen’s Gallery, I’m not sure what I was expecting but I found it very anticlimactic. I found it quite pointless and didn’t think the statement that was given really matched what we were ‘being sold’ as viewers, because the physical content was not ‘selling’ anything. And I use the word ‘sell’ because I’m pretty sure there was enough money poured into this commission to make something worthwhile.
Apparently, it was meant to be exploring a state of flux between binary opposites, these are self and world, subject and object, natural and man-made – but I don’t believe it was successful in doing so. I know the nature of colour was being explored, but this was only being explored through the ink that had permeated the silk nets and water as well as the artists use of colours of the spectrum – so this was probably the natural aspect being explored. In terms of self, I guess that would not only be how the viewer interacts with the installation but also reflections when looking into the water (possibly). Subject and object – I’m thinking this is processes that are intangible or the more natural process that occur and object being the physical installation and the environment, which then goes onto the space itself being man-made. This is me guessing. As for there being a state of flux, I couldn’t see that happening at all. Apparently the colour of the dye is meant to change but there just isn’t enough lighting in the Duveen’s Hall for this to really happen.
I went to a few of the off-site shows, although I didn’t make it to any crits unfortunately, I went to a few Private views though. But there were so many going on at the same time so it was quite easy to forget or get confused with dates.
From Art Represent on 9/03:
There were some interesting ideas at this exhibition, I really liked the prints. To me there was something quite primitive about them, they reminded me of African masks but I felt there was a cubist influence there. But I thought they looked great in monochrome too.
I thought the sound detector piece was pretty great too, didn’t get pictures though as this seemed to be more of a communal area where people were gathering but it was innovative. As for the curation, I think the group probably could have thought it out a bit more but apparently they put it all up on the day because they had the space for a very limited time. However, I did like how Jinah’s sculpture/installation was placed by the window to get natural light.
The Joint – Rachael & Juan
I didn’t get to see Rachael’s, apparently it broke the previous night during the PV and I was so disappointed that I didn’t get to! As for Juan, I’m impressed by how much his practice has developed since first year (we were both in the same tutor group). His mural was pretty amazing. I did a project on Mayan art during A Level’s so I could see the South American influence, I loved how he took traditional south American art and explored it in a contemporary way through the use of graffiti.
White Spirits – Peckham Rye
This was my favourite exhibition. I think the space itself was extraordinary – it was a bit of a wreck but in a great way. A lot of the internal structures behind what probably would have been covered up by plaster board was on show, the plaster on the walls could be seen, it just felt very atmospheric and desolate. But what the group did with the space was fantastic, the work made loos like it was intended especially for the space and the curation of it was well thought out.
I thought Binbin’s paintings were amazing, I know in first year she stuck to working with paint but she has definitely become more experimental with texture, I think vibrancy of the paintings worked well with the space because there was a balance where areas of the paintings were fading away. The one’s covered with net like material reminded me of layers of spider webs, you could see she had painted in between the layers. But the colour palettes really added a ‘pop’ to the space.
These looked really amazing within this space too:
I liked the effect of the cracked plaster (I think this may be the material used on the canvases?), it just worked with this space so well, especially the piece near the firework! The piece that had plaster peeled away revealing parts of vintage looking rug was really clever, in a sense there was a correlation with the piece to how layers of this space are slowly disintegrating, falling or decaying away.
My previous post ‘Eternal Love’ were pictures of sculptures that formed part of the ‘Love Series’ by Lorenzo Quinn that I discovered over the summer at the Halcyon Gallery in Harrods, I wrote this post separately because I liked the sculptures so much I thought they deserved their own post =D. I’m glad that I did come across them because the pictures do no justice for the beauty of the sculptures. They have a very strong presence, perhaps due to the material and scale, yet there is something tender, passionate and sentimental about them.
Something even more amazing is that the gallery assistant demonstrated how they’re able to rock from side to side like a pendulum. I was quite scared and excited because the hands act like a weight to maintain a balanced movement to prevent the sculptures from dropping. To me, this kinetic energy and constant rocking demonstrates not only unity and balance but eternal love between two people within time and space (existence).
‘Our hands are bound together, intertwined for eternity..’
After the Anselm Kiefer exhibition, we went on to see another two exhibitions at Hauser and Wirth, one of which Pipilotti Rist was displaying.
This show was comprised of some sculpture and video installations; Rist examined the relationship between humans and nature, like Kiefer. Her videos are immersive and contain a heightened sensuality as organic and bodily images, some real – some computer generated, flood the two screens in the dark room as tranquil music plays in the background. Below is a sneaky picture I took of one of the sculptures that contained a small moving image inside what looked like a glass ball.
It was all very kaleidoscopic, images of skin were zoomed in so much they became abstracted. They were layered with rich plant life of all colours, slowly transforming into clips of moving stars and galaxies out in space. Me and my group sat in blankets, staring at the videos in a peaceful trance in which we also left feeling relaxed but rejuvenated.
My experience of this exhibition was a good one, I feel that on a deeper level, Rist is trying to make the viewer think and perhaps try to perceive things that cannot easily be seen with the naked eye – things beyond our daily experiences of life and the universe – deeper into existence in both internally and externally. But she, like Kiefer references the notion of interconnectedness between humans, nature and space and how we are all one.
I am very late in posting this but me and my group attended a few exhibitions on 27th November that we could reference for our T.O.P presentations, I shall write a post on each exhibition but by far, my favourite was the Anselm Kiefer exhibition at the R.A. which is what I will begin with first , mainly because it was the one I responded to most.
Initially, I’d never heard of Anselm Kiefer neither had I researched his practice and I kept it this way because I’d rather form an opinion by viewing the art of the artist first, but I had no idea what to expect.
Upon first glance, I realised that Kiefer was an exceptional artist who was keen to explore the world, what it was about and that each creation was fuelled by various techniques and driven by concepts regarding the makings and substance of the universe. The concepts and subject matters he delves into are something we have in common, as I am currently looking into history and which is something Kiefer started with, only he was more concerned with the loss of these memories, especially as he was born into a time where Germany was pure rubble and recovering from the aftermath of Weimar Germany.
He was also born during a year that the Nazi salute and uniform were made illegal and the happenings were not taught during his years of schooling. Yet as you can see, in the painting above Kiefer decided to address these taboos which led to controversy and rejection from most of his art tutors. Regarding German mythology, I found a great quote in an article via The Guardian:
‘Throughout the 1970s Kiefer devoted himself to Germanic myths. He explored the forests where early German tribes had defeated Roman legions and which were an “infinite vessel of mystery, of fairytales, of childhood memories”.’
I genuinely believe this is one of the main reasons why I am working with Greek mythology, it’s magical and supernatural nature excites me and takes me back to my childhood years when I wanted to be something ridiculous like Wonder Woman or Hermione Granger from Harry Potter just because she could whack out a few spells. It’s those dreams and fantasies of having an innate power that makes the women of Greek Mythology interesting to me, they’re portrayed as being strong and powerful yet divine. But there is also the historical issue of the loss of traditional arts and crafts, in which I recently looked at weaving during my last theory essay, this is pretty much becoming a lost craft but something one that was mainly associated with the work of women.
Kiefer than moved onto concerns of the cyclic nature of existence., raising questions on relationships between life and death/destruction and reconstruction. These theoretical issues were also explored through the exploration of philosophy and cosmology – something I also explored before turning to mythology. I have been fascinated by the life cycles of stars and spent most of my foundation year reading up on the birth and death of stars and how the remaining substances of exploded stars are something that we are all made of, hence the quote by Carl Sagan:
‘We are all made of star dust.’
… is one I truly adore. Kiefer has studied how cosmologists come to study constellations, consciously making the most captivating lead surfaces scattered with diamonds, of course, emulating constellations.
Here, you can see a body, not sure whether the figure is lifeless but one thing for sure is that he is lying lonely under a sky scattered with stars. My interpretation of Kiefer’s star works is that he looks into not only the relationship between how everything is interconnected, how star and human life cycles coincide but also a wondering or questioning about what occurs beyond existence. The greater questions such as ‘When we die, will we go to heaven? What will become of our bodies, both physically and spiritually? Is there even such thing a thing as heaven?’ Questions I often asked myself whilst reading into cosmology.
A very strong key theme running through Kiefer’s practice is nature, he not only painted sunflowers in his paintings a lot, but they have been richly used in his painting and sculptures along with lots of other raw materials. The use of sunflowers have multiple interpretations, they follow the sun and are rejuvenated by it in the way humans are, yet when they die their buds are filled with ashy seeds – potential life.
“When I look at ripe, heavy sunflowers, bending to the ground with blackened seeds… I see firmament and the stars.”
Raw materials such a straw, rocks, flowers, clay, ash, dust and most importantly, lead are essential in the process of making Kiefer’s vast scale works – they emulate the raw elements of the earth. For example, lead:
‘Incorporating materials such as concrete, straw, ash and shellac, Kiefer’s works often decay with age, and the artist embraces this loss of control. Embodying this mutability is lead, which alchemists once believed could be turned into gold. Books – often with wings – have been a repeated motif since the late 1960s and represent, for Kiefer, important repositories of learning, religion, culture. Many of these book sculptures are made of lead, which Kiefer first used to mend his plumbing in the 1970s. He has subsequently described it as “the only material heavy enough to carry the weight of human history”.’ (Taken from the RA website).
Kiefer also puts his works in electrolyte baths, or paints layer upon layer then hacks them off and layers on more paint or materials, this is all in the name of destruction and reconstruction – but drawing on alchemical notions. I know I have spent a lot of time analysing his works but, I believe that I’m working with similar ideas, like how growth towards something is evident in my rope drawings, how they appear to be organic but also how the drawings of frayed rope seem to suggest a form of breaking or deconstruction, with themes regarding the cyclic nature of life and time at hand.
There is the chaotic element which goes along with destruction that I feel I must touch upon, I feel like my drawings remind me of tornado’s. They are quite robust and I’d like theme’s of disaster and renovation to be introduced at some point because I am pretty fascinated by how much destruction Mother Nature can cause as opposed to focusing on beauty and growth. I find destruction and chaos to be equally as beautiful (as crazy as it sounds). At the moment they are just drawings but I do feel that I’ll be working on a similar scale to Kiefer at some point.
Lastly, I watched this pretty inspirational documentary on Anselm Kiefer ( as recommended by Vicky) and it was amazing, it showed a lead up to the RA exhibition we just visited which was great!
Overall, this was truly captivating exhibition that left me both overwhelmed and captivated by the beauty and depth of conceptual thinking, and art itself had evoked an emotional side in me which is something I hadn’t experienced before. Stunning.