Tuesday, 5 November 2013

If you only see one more exhibition this year...

...please make it this one!


Paul Klee was a master of the use of colour, who enjoyed to 'take a line for a walk' (to use his own words)! Some of his work in this exquisite exhibition expresses his delicate touch, innovative approach and regular experimentation with techniques and materials. For me, this is the best show of the year.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

"It's grim up north!"

The new blockbuster exhibition at Tate Britain explores the work of an artist who is probably most famous for painting the working classes in the industrial north of England. LS (Laurence Stephen) Lowry depicted people going about there daily lives in Manchester and Salford where he was born. He perfectly captures the repetitive drudgery of people, heads down, making their way to or from the mills or factories where they work. The extremely tough living and working conditions of these people is also reflected in the dark, smoky and grimy canvases.

The exhibition is entitled Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life, but whatever the people in his scenes are doing it seems to me they just precede modern life and modernity. These lives are the remnants of the industrial revolution, then pre-war and post-war poverty and destitution, before the trappings of modern life. Perhaps modern life as we now know it began during the industrial revolution, as did modern art arguably, but anyway Lowry depicts the day-to-day 'battle of life'.

In life its often many moments outside of many of our daily working routines that stand out. For me, this is inadvertently the case with this exhibition. With so many dark, brooding scenes of peoples place of work, its the depictions of their leisure time that stand out...

Lancashire Fair, Good Friday, Daisy Nook (1946), (oil on canvas)
This is the case with Lancashire Fair, Good Friday, Daisy Nook (above) and Going to the Match (below) both in Room 1.


Going to the Match (1958), (oil on canvas)
Then there's Bandstand, Peel Park in Room 2...
Bandstand, Peel Park (1928)

St. Augustines Church, Pendlebury (1924), (oil on panel)
There's such a contrast between these these two paintings that are hung opposite each other also in Room 2. The dark and brooding early work St. Augustines Church, Pendlebury (above) and the surprisingly light Piccadilly Circus, London (below) from late in Lowry's career.


Piccadilly Circus, London (1960) (oil on canvas)

Blitzed Site (1942)
After the street life of Room 3, in the next room there are bleak cityscapes of a different kind in Blitzed Site (above) and The Lake (below).

The Lake (1937), (oil on canvas)
A rare moment of celebration in VE Day (below)...

VE Day (1945), (oil on canvas)
Ancoats Hospital Outpatients Hall (1952)
Perhaps Ancoats Hospital Outpatients Hall (above) and The Cripples (below), also in Room 5, consist of more Lowry-esque subject matters!

The Cripples (1949), (oil on canvas)

Fun Fair at Daisy Nook (1953), (oil on canvas)
Having said that, the show returns to the Fun Fair at Daisy Nook (above) and The Park (below).

The Park (1946), (oil on canvas)

Ebbw Vale (1960), (oil on canvas)

The exhibition ends with a room that includes some of Lowry's largest canvases, my favourites of which are Ebbw Vale (above) and Hillside in Wales (below). They depict scenes in South Wales, where Lowry also painted. I like the hazy and ethereal back/mid-ground sections in both The Park and Ebbw Vale. I prefer the way these details disappear in the distance to the child-like details in the foreground of some of his work.

Hillside in Wales (1962)

Friday, 21 June 2013

Caulfield & Hume

Tate Britain's two current ticket exhibitions, before the eagerly anticipated LS Lowry show that opens next week, display the work of two complimentary artists. The late Patrick Caulfield and contemporary artist Gary Hume both use areas of bold flat colours in their paintings, so this may be one of the reasons that the galley have put them side by side with one ticket for both. This though encourages other comparisons, with Caulfield's work normally coming out on top.

Window at Night (1969) (oil paint on canvas), Patrick Caulfield
Personally I prefer the simpler of Caulfield's work, where he may just use four colours on a canvas. Examples of this include Window at Night (above) and Dining Recess (below). In both of these paintings he uses light well, so that parts of each work stands out and other parts sit back.


Dining Recess (1972) (acrylic paint on canvas), Patrick Caulfield

After Lunch (1975) (oil paint on canvas), Patrick Caulfield
I like Caulfield's excellent use of colour and the contrast he can create by painting small parts of a painting in an incredibly detailed photo-realist style. This obviously then stands out from the flat colour and sharp clean lines that are more typical of him. A classic and famous example of this is the view of the landscape from the window in After Lunch (above).
I feel that this is less successful when paintings become to busy with too much going on in them and with too many different colours used. Dining/Kitchen/Living (below), with its photo-realist casserole dish, is an example of this.

Dining/Kitchen/Living (1980) (acrylic paint on canvas), Patrick Caulfield
Caulfield later sometimes returned to a simpler colour scheme, which I feel works better. Bishops (below) does this, again with a photo-realist detail in the form of the beautifully painted door handles.

Bishops (2004) (acrylic paint on canvas) Patrick Caulfield
One of the YBA's to graduate from Goldsmiths in the late 1980's, Gary Hume's work often combines flat area's of colour with a sparing use of line painted onto aluminium.

Blackbird (1988) (gloss paint on aluminium), Gary Hume
The only paintings in this exhibition that stood out for me, were the more representational Blackbird (above) and the interesting Beautiful (below). The latter was one of those artworks where its not until you get close to it before the details reveal themselves under the flat layer of pink paint. The darker part you can see from a distance (and in this photo) is Michael Jackson's nostrils, the lines that appear in the pink close up are the outlines of Kate Moss' face!

Beautiful (2002) (gloss paint on aluminium), Gary Hume

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Last chance to see....

...the Giorgio Morandi, Lines of Poetry exhibition at the Estorick Collection (in North London). The show was due to finish this Sunday April 7th, but has been extended by 3 weeks until the 28th. The Estorick Collection of modern Italian art currently shows not only etchings and watercolours by Morandi, but also the work of contemporary painter Alberto Di Fabio. Aside from these there is always the small but impressive permanent collection. Its famous for its Futurist artworks, but also features artists including Amedeo Modigliani and Giorgio de Chirico.

In the Morandi exhibition, these works below are the ones that stood out the most for me. In Savena Landscape (below), I like the way the river is left blank and the landscape is etched and printed around it. The plant form in the foreground contrasts well with the river.

 Savena Landscape, (1929) (etching), Giorgio Morandi
In Hillside in the Morning (below) I like the fact that I couldnt tell if the background colour around the etched/printed areas was a wash applied by the artist or the ageing discolouring of the paper?

 Hillside in the Morning, (1928) (etching), Giorgio Morandi
In Still Life of Vases on a Table (below) Morandi again leaves the prominent objects in the foreground blank with the background etched and printed around it.

Still Life of Vases on a Table, (1931) (etching), Giorgio Morandi
On of my favourite paintings in the permanent collection has always been The Boulevard by Gino Severini (below). I also remember seeing this one in the Futurism exhibition at Tate Modern in the summer of 2009.

The Boulevard, (1910-11) (oil on canvas), Gino Severini

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Gaiety Is the Most Outstanding Feature of the Soviet Union:

New Art from Russia is one of the current exhibitions at the Saatchi Gallery. Although the exhibition packs a punch in terms of its ability to shock, its arguably only the photography of Boris Mikhailov that really highlights the plight of the poor working classes in the former Soviet states since the break up of the USSR.

These are some of my highlights from Rooms 1 through to 10...

Think Steam Above The Wing Of A Sparrow, wood and paint, 2009, Anna Parkina

Wounded Deer, (lime wood, painted pine and iron), 2012, Gosha Ostretsov

Criminal Government, mixed media, 2008, Gosha Ostretsov
(detail below).


Bedtime Story, (glass, pvc and strings), 2012, Daniel Bragin

Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 2012, Janis Avotins

Principles of Surrender, mixed media, 2010, Nika Neelova

Heart, Organ Of Love (Sometimes My Heart Turns Into A Chicken), mixed media, 2011, Daria Krotova
The other exhibition at the Saatchi is: Breaking The Ice: Moscow Art 1960-80's, which I personally prefer to the other exhibition. These are some of my favourite works from Rooms 11 to 14 upstairs...

Tramway in Moscow, oil on canvas, 1959, Oscar Rabin

Portrait And Flower, oil on canvas on plywood, 1962, Oleg Tselkov

Diptych, oil and mixed media on wooden boards, 1966, Dmitri Plavinsky

McLenin's, light box, 1990 - 91. Malevich - Black Square, oil on canvas, 1987, both by Alexander Kosolapov

Man Ray...

...Portraits is the current ticketed exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery that takes a chronological look at the innovative American artists portrait photography. Each room focuses on work he did in each city at a certain time: starting in New York from 1916 to 1920, then moving through Paris and Hollywood and back to Paris from 1951 to 1976 when he died.

Although some of Man Ray's most pioneering work (such as rayograms) cannot be shown, there are examples of experimental techniques he used on display. These are a selection of my favourite photographs from the show:

A very interesting and alternative self-portrait from 1916...

Self-portrait (1916)
The very famous... 

Le Violon d'ingres (1924)
The combination of two negatives exposed together on the enlarger?

Barbette (1926)

Solarised Portrait of Lee Miller (1929)
Both of these two artworks above and below are good examples of the solarisation technique.

Self-portrait with camera (1930)

Dancing around Duchamp!

The Bride and the Batchelors: Duchamp with Cage, Cunningham, Rauschenberg and Johns is the current exhibition in the Barbican's art gallery. The show explores the legacy that the French born artist Marcel Duchamp (1887 - 1968) left in the USA and more specifically the influence he had on the composer John Cage (1912 - 1992), the choreographer Merce Cunningham (1919 - 2009) and the visual artists Robert Rauschenberg (1925 - 2008) and Jasper Johns (born 1930). With the exception of the latter, the previous three Americans all attended the innovative Black Mountain College in North Carolina and all went on to collaborate later in their careers.

The title of the exhibition is named after the Duchamp artwork The Bride stripped bare by her batchelors, even (1915-23), also known as The Large Glass. The original is not displayed here, but a later version is wonderfully lit with spotlights casting striking colours and shadows through the work. Unfortunately I couldnt include a photo of this artwork, but the following pictures are some of my other highlights from this well curated show...

Bride, oil on canvas, 1912, Marcel Duchamp
Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2), oil on canvas, 1912, Marcel Duchamp

Painted Bronze (Ale Cans), bronze & oil paint, 1960-64, Jasper Johns
These two works by Jasper Johns from the 1960's above and below remind me both of Duchamp's readymades that came before and work by Fischli & Weiss after, such as the Untitled (Tate) installation from 1992-2000.

Painted Bronze, bronze & oil paint, 1960-64, Jasper Johns

Portrait of Chess Players, oil on canvas, 1911, Marcel Duchamp

Untitled (Late Kabal American Zephyr), mixed media, 1985, Robert Rauschenberg
For someone who is more interested in visual art, this diverse exhibition offered a great musical and dance-led backdrop to the painting and sculpture. This was especially prevalent on the upper level, where I found myself periodically distracted by the performances on the lower level. I like the idea behind the 'live' piano music by Cage, which was played by 'ghost pianists' so that the two Disklavier piano's seem to be playing by themselves.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Paris 1901

This is the year in the life & work of Pablo Picasso that the Courtauld Gallery focuses on in this excellent exhibition. The show has only paintings from Paris in 1901 when the Spanish artist had a breakthrough year, hence the title Becoming Picasso.

In some of the artworks on display there's a clear link between both what came before and after. One such work is Casagemas in his coffin (below) where I feel there's perhaps the influence of Cezanne and van Gogh in the brushstrokes, before a flat simplication of colour, line and form began soon after. This work depicts how he imagined his dear friend, Carlos Casagemas, looked in his coffin at the funeral Picasso could not attend. This was a suicide that deeply troubled the Spaniard and started his 'blue period.' The subject also cropped up in later works, such as The Three Dancers of 1925.

Casagemas in his coffin, oil on board, 1901

Harlequin & companion, oil on canvas, 1901
It was not long before Picasso's work lost more of its spatial depth, such as in Harlequin & companion (above) and Child with a Dove (below) and the reduction of three dimensions arguably set him on the road towards Cubism. I like these beautiful paintings for their differing use of flat colours inside bold black outlines: bold stunning colours above, soft pastels below.


Child with a Dove, oil on canvas, 1901
Ticket exhibitions at the Courtauld Gallery are normally spread over just two rooms, as is the case here. Becoming Picasso reflects that old adage: 'quality over quantity,' so please dont be put off by the small size of this show. For me this is the best show in London at the moment, and thats before you even look round the impressive permanent collection in the rest of the building.