Tuesday, 19 February 2013

London: Gallery Marathon Part 2

One of the fab food themed window of Fortnum and Masons, with reflections!

Saturday 17th Feb.

Itinerary for the day, Royal Academy:

  • 12.30 - Constable, Gainsborough, Turner: and the Making of Landscape
  • 4 pm -  Manet: Portraying Life
  • Anything else we can cram in!
We set out in good time and arrived in Piccadilly early, discovering Hauser and Wirth Gallery opposite the RA.  http://www.facebook.com/hauserwirth   H&W are showing selected works by Philippe Vandenberg, an artist I have not come across as far as I remember.  Large space, well lit on the ground floor showing very large paintings with disturbing imagery reminiscent of Goya's Disasters of War series of prints. Attempting to make sense of the balance of power and injustices of this world through manipulation of paint and rejecting American conceptualism,  Vandenberg's  Neo-Expressionism shows his attempt to make sense of his world and his own demons.  The smaller works on the other two floors were made on what looked like found pieces of board or bits of old cupboard doors; they had beautiful surfaces that were drawn and painted upon, resulting in quieter work that was also disturbing.  I really loved them, and the gallery space.

Afternoon tea theme!


A quick look at the fab windows of Fortnum and Masons before crossing to the RA and what I can only describe as a distinctly uncomfortable crush that started in the Foyer and got worse as the day progressed.

An interesting show, the Making of Landscape, about the development as a genre of landscape painting in this country.  It only cost £8 and the accompanying informative booklet was free.  There were not that many actual paintings on display, instead, the use of printmaking by both expert print producers and the artists themselves illustrates the growth in popularity of landscape as an expression of the sublime and popular topography.  The exhibition clearly showed the influence of painters such as Claude Lorraine, who used landscape as part of the allegorical meaning in his work.

 The artists' own use of printmaking was more experimental, and therefor, in my opinion more interesting.  The skill of the craftsmen printers such as Robert Wallis and David Lucas is stunning, and seeing the etching/aquatints of Norman Ackroyd in the same show illustrated clearly how far the genre has come, although the manipulation of the techniques employed would not have been so unfamiliar to the earlier artists I suspect.  Other contemporary pieces such as Richard Long's text piece and sculptor John Maine's granite circle take the idea of landscape even further into contemporary thought and practice.  

This is an interesting exhibition, I would recommend it to anyone who is practicing landscape painting, or using landscape as a thread of thought within their work.

We fought our way back out, through the terrible scrum in the foyer of the RA to try and get a table for a treat in Fortnums, but alas, they were fully booked up, so we found a pub for a quick and mediocre lunch, after which we filled in time before our booking for Manet, with a look up and down Cork Street.  Highlights of which were:

  • Alan Cristea Gallery  http://www.alancristea.com/exhibitions.php   Julian Opie: Winter The gallery was closed, but oh! this show looks good!  I urge people to get to it if they can - follow the link for a brief description.  We peered through the windows into the darkened interior longingly; it would have made a great companion piece to the RA show.  This work reminded me very much of a more undulating version of Ian Mitchell's linescapes.  http://www.ianmitchell-art.com/
  • Mayor Gallery   http://www.mayorgallery.com/index.html  WALTER LEBLANC WORKS ON PAPER & SCULPTURE FROM 1963 - 1985  Just beautiful spare work.  Also, work by  Carlos Cruz-Diez,  beautiful optical colour works that changed as you moved because of how they were constructed with three dimensional planes using some kind of clear perspex like material from what we could make out.  Fab!
  • Adam Gallery: Alexander Calder: Graphic Works.  Such beautifully joyous lithographs, made when Calder was at the height of his printmaking career.  The symbols within the prints are so well placed, the colour, saturated primaries and tertiaries well chosen and placed within the picture plane.  I loved them!  They really brought to my mind Calder's miniature circus, a film of which I saw years ago: it may be available on YouTube, I don't know.    While we were there, we went downstairs and found some amazing Barbara Rae's.  I think they were paintings, but I cannot remember clearly.  What I do remember is their amazing colour and surface textures.  We were lucky to see them I think; most of them were still in bubble wrap, a real bonus.  I bought some catalogues from ex exhibitions, of painters I had never heard of, but whose paintings looks really interesting: Hsiao-Mei Lin, Annabelle Hulbert, Alf Lohr.  

After that lot, we needed tea!

Then, back across the road to the RA for the Manet show.  The crowding was worse than earlier and we found it incredibly difficult to see the work properly.  With a little determination, I managed to see most of the pieces but to see and appreciate the hang in each room was impossible.  One of the frustrating things was that there were some walls left bare, with works hung quite closely into other corners, which always creates bottlenecks.  With such a so called "block buster" exhibition, with anticipated huge crowds, this seems perverse curatorial practice.  

It was great to see works by Manet that I had not previously; but I am still trying to digest what I really think about the exhibition as a whole as my overriding memory of it is the over crowding that spoiled the experience.  One painting sticks: the picture of Berthe Morrisot in Mourning, grieving over the death of her father, stunning and gaunt.  Painted very expressively, it is really moving.

We finished up the day by meeting up with my son Mike and his wife Elaine for a lovely dinner and went home to Sarah's flat exhausted!  A good day though.

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