Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Exhibitions and Courses

I spent the weekend of 29th and 30th July in London with my daughter.  The schedule of 3 exhibitions, plus lunch by the canal was a good one; neither of us was too exhausted by the end of it.

Saturday: Tracey Emin, The Hayward

Saturday 29th July: we met under the clock at Waterloo Station where I arrived from my parents' house in good time for the Tracey Emin at the Hayward.  I was really keen to see this exhibition, Sarah less so.  As artists, we all put ourselves into our work but Tracey IS her work and the exhibition is remarkable.  Her raw emotional response to the events in her life using media that span traditional "womens" skills like sewing, and the media of drawing, painting and film make for an absorbing and emotional show.  Some of her imagery and use of language is maybe a little too raw and explicit for many people's taste, but I applaud it.  How else could she express some of the awful things that happened to her as well as her gutsy joy of life and her sheer bloody mindedness?  

I have always admired Tracey's drawings, the way she manages to express difficult subject matter so economically with  a few expressive, scratchy lines but I had no idea she could paint so brilliantly.  The few fantastic paintings in the show were an absolute revelation to me; they were utterly beautiful and uncompromising at the same time. The sophistication of the painted surface seduces the viewer, entices them in and, as you stands there, the subject matter emerges, challenging you to equate one with the other.   Hats off Tracey, we both loved your show!

The South Bank was teeming with people enjoying the fountain, the beach area and the rooftop garden complete with raised vegetable beds, scarecrow, wild flower meadow and lawns.  The bunting flapped gaily as we made our way after lunch, past Gabriels Wharf and on to Tate Modern for the Miro exhibition.


Saturday: Joan Miro, Tate Modern

This time, our enthusiasms were reversed; Sarah really wanted to see this show, while I was not all that interested.  I found myself very irritated as usual by the way that Tate hung some of the paintings, putting two paintings close to a corner which created a bottleneck of viewers while further along the wall there was a large space.  I wonder sometimes if they ever go round the exhibitions once they are open to see how the space is working?  I think not. 

It was interesting to see Miro's early paintings of the farm and countryside of his boyhood.  I particularly enjoyed the series of collaged pieces and the Constellation series.  The wall of drawings that were on display with imagery that was similar to Picasso's Guernica was impressive but I could not  engage with Miro's personal imagery and symbolism.  I found myself becoming increasingly irritated by the seperate images floating about on the picture plane and have an aversion for the raw, fairly unmixed colour even though I understand that Miro chose them deliberately.  In the end, I think I just prefer paintings to be a bit more gestural and painterly, less "coloured in" than Miro's work appeared to me.  I was impressed by the way Miro refused to toe the party line during his lifetime and continued to make work that was honest and critical of his government.

 Sarah was really absorbed by it all and found it far more interesting than I did; her love of all things Spanish and her knowledge of Spanish art was obviously an advantage.  However, I have to say, that on Sunday, I was able to see some connections that surprised me.

Sunday: Twombly and Poussin, Arcadian Painters, Dulwich Picture Gallery

A lovely lazy lunch in an Italian resaurant on the canal near where Sarah lives in Bethnal Green, then on to the Twombly and Poussin.

What a fantastic show!  Somehow I didn't mind the imagery, marks and words or calligraphic non words floating across the ground of Twombly's paintings; I have known and admired his work for a long time.  This connection with the Miro show on Saturday made sense and enriched my experience of both exhibitions.  I love it when that happens, it makes looking at art so rewarding and memorable! 

The parallels between the two artists were explored in this show.  Both moved to Rome, albeit 500 years apart and both artist were referencing nature, the pastoral, life, death, eroticism, poetry, myth and the antique.  I have never studied Poussin in depth and this show forced me to do so.  I now have a greater appreciation of his work and I was struck by his use of light and dark across the picture plane, his use of colour and how the figures in many of his paintings were arranged in a band across the surface, emulating carved friezes of ancient times.  The rythms within his drawings made me think of Pollock.  The use of colour and light in some of the paintings resulted in an abstract quality shining out across the surface of the painting, had me quite transfixed.

Twombly's paintings and drawings are wonderful, full of vigour, beauty and enigma.  Only by standing in front of the work for a length of time that is longer than a glance as one walks past is it possible to see the work properly.  As you stand there, the work reveals itself to you; marks and words that were not clear gradually appear and the meaning and beauty of it becomes more apparent.  I say more, because I am never sure that I fully understand Twombly's work but it doesn't matter.  The gestures, the drips, use of colour and division of the painting surface is fascinating and inspiring.  Of course the show was poignant as Twombly's death had been announce only a few days before. I reflected upon my experience of standing in front of Tracey Emin's paintings the day before and again marvelled at how interesting unexpected connections between artists are.  I bought the catalogue that accompanies this exhibition and it is excellent.

All in all a fabulous weekend; thank you Sarah!

CIDA Courses

I have been attending some excellent one day courses run by Anamaria Wills and her colleague Lea, whose surname escapes me and I am not sure that I have spelt her christian name correctly either.  The courses have been run on Mondays during July and August at Yorkshire Dance in Leeds and have only cost £5.00 per session, which is excellent value.  The final session is next Monday 15th August and is about "Surviving and Thriving in Yorkshire".  So far we have covered "The Work of Art: Artist as Entrepreneur", "Earning Your Money" and "Professional Presentation".  

All have been incredibly thought provoking and stimulating,. The passion and enthusiasm of Anamaria and Lea has been quite inspirational.  Meeting other people from the arts, lots of dancers and performers as well as visual and conceptual artists has also been very useful; we have learned a lot from each other and shared experiences.  I recommend CIDA to everyone earning or trying to earn a living from their creativitiy.

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