Exhibitions. The account of exhibitions and lectures I have attended during Unit 2 is written up on my website blog What’s it got to do with drawing? (A Blog) and in a document called Tracking the MA Drawing. Tracking the MA Drawing
I am simply going to list the exhibitions and lectures here, and have marked any that were particularly important for me with a triple asterisk.
2 April: Alexander Calder, Tate Modern.*** Exhilarating, uplifting. Fascinating to watch videos of the development of his circus characters and props through scenarios played out to a close circle of friends in Paris. So humble and inventive. The purest form of play taken into the hardest form of work. The devices fantastically elaborate and skillful. Then the wire drawings of animals and performers, again so cunningly and humbly fashioned. Later the mobiles. Sound entering in with mobility. Uplifting to enter a room with the complex largescale pieces. Weight and counterweight. The sculptures are fantastically airy and majestic at the same time. Like space itself with the insane logic of the stars working itself out to infinity. Calder completely reinvented artistic space. You can’t walk into a gallery room in the same way as you would have done before.
8 April: Betty Woodman: Theatre of the Domestic, ICA. Very interesting to see these ‘exploded’ paintings. Taking iconography of modernist paintings and applying it to ceramics, then making it undergo dispersal. Joie de vivre in these pieces, and I like the confounding of genre stereotypes. Ie the domestic ceramics are made into largescale monumental pieces. Pam Foley (teacher at Sunningwell Art School, Oxford), who trained in sculpture in West Coast USA talks about how in the period in the USA when painting was almost a forbidden art painters fled to the ceramics departments of art schools. So you have a new form: ceramics as 3-D paintings. Interesting perspective – and sad how dogmatic the art world can be. The other side of all the tub-thumping and manifesto-publishing is crushing dismissal of art forms that are no longer fashionable. I really don’t like this aspect of the art world. Seems to be different from literature where you don’t find this degree of aggressive arrogance about the ‘new’.
5 May: Mark Wallinger, Hauser & Wirth***
Sinister sculptures of modern life. Plus series of floor-to-ceiling oil paintings featuring Rohrschach ink blots. Whole gallery full of them. I like the audacity of taking these blots and blowing them up to this scale and then filling a gallery full of them. The result is austere and sort of sumptuously immersive at the same time.
5 May: Joe Tilson, Words and Images: The Notebooks. Lovely to see his thinking moving between print, drawing, writing. Clear relationship between the ‘paintings’ and the prints. Been keeping a family of notebooks over the decades: they are the same size and style; the front cover of each one is different, but recognizably a member of the family.
23 May: Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Barbican. Fascinating medical devices and large medical prints of Hiroshi Sugimoto; Warhol’s sad, sorry Mummy-loves-you-in-Mid-West-America Campbell soup tin world; and Peter Blake’s off-beat mixture of popular paraphernalia and taxidermied antiquity.
31 May: Barbican. Strange and Familiar: Britain through eyes of international photographers.
31 May: Imran Qureshi: Where the Shadows are so Deep. Installation of exquisite miniatures done in gold leaf, spattered across with red paint/blood – ie ancient calligraphy and iconography soiled by modern life. All shown in semi obscurity with spot lighting. Great effect.
10 June: Conceptual Art in Britain: 1964-79
10 June: Tate Britain Commission: Pablo Bronstein
17 June: Slade School of art postgraduate degree show 2016
Very struck by the prints (like drawings) done by a Greek artist Panagiotis. He made sculptures in clay, then drew them in 3-D digital software. The software draws ‘nets’ round the forms. It’s called rhino drawing and it may be how Anthony Gormley now does some of his sculptures. Panagiotis then makes prints of the digital net drawings. These are very beautiful, a kind of new twist on cubist planes.
Also struck by giant cartoon drawings of Amy Herron. She makes cut-out life size figures of celebrities and then sticks huge photo-printed heads on them. The effect is strange, funny, grotesque. They are like cut-out dolls – the paper dolls that girls often have and design outfits for. But done on an outsize scale with documentary photography of real characters. The celebrities thus become like a family of paper cut out dolls. Clever and funny.
Some good painting. Eg painting of schoolgirls from behind by Mary Savva. Figurative. Alluding to classical landscape/architecture. Rendered in early Renaissance, Piero della Francesco stillness and lucid detail. But an eerie modern sexuality in the girls skirts, postures.
20 June: Royal Academy Summer Exhibition***
Loved a great many things: austere photographs of German couple Bernd and Hilla Becher (silver gelatin prints of decaying agricultural sheds/silos, strange silhouette memorials to bygone agricultural age); Jane and Louise Wilson Atomgrad, C-type print on aluminium of classrooms and hospital rooms destroyed by atomic explosion(?) – fantastic high resolution of details you can’t rightly bear to look at; the Kipper Kids series of photos (tomfoolery with sinister edge: the pair exposing their buttocks, white masked faces, wearing swimming trunks, wearing noses like medieval shame masks); stone majesty of 2 hose petrified Petrol Pump by Aliora & Calzadilla; William Kentridge lithographs.
Also the series of sculptures of little stacks of books/bottles/cigarette packets and other paraphernalia left in the wake of Japanese earthquake; Rose Wylie’s cat in Party Clothes (something about the position, scale and angle of the cat’s head, she nails it, the impression of a cat looking at a human); George Baselitz Oggi come domani (painting so black you can’t immediately see any figuration, but as you come up close you see the lower half of a woman’s body, wackily drawn with high heels). Lovely drawing of a poke of chips by Michael Craig-Martin and etching of Halloween heads by Cornelia Parker. I love Christiane Baumgartner’s prints, fantastic subdued detail achieved through painstaking woodcut craft, but very contemporary effect. Lovely charcoal drawing of trees by Tony Bevan. Love Rebecca Salter’s subtle Japanese woodblock prints. They look like bleaching effects of sunlight; also, as always, Idris Khan’s work. This time a photographic print, London Eye.
The architectural models are enchanting, beyond the capacity of my brain/skills to conceive, so I can enjoy them in a purely passive state, as if someone is flashing glimpses of futuristic urban miracles in front of my eye. Am moved by Laura Ford’s Silent Howler girl leaning into a doorway. You don’t see her at first, half hunched into the wall, then take her on with startlement. Face covered in painted blonde hair, whole silvered silent form containing whatever young grief she is experiencing, one knee pressed abjectly into the other, outsize sandals showing big gap to the skinny ankles and nylon socks.
Bob and Roberta Smith. Fairly in your face text piece on an old wooden door. Text seems to go down well when it’s very obvious. I always feel a little disappointed by about how crass text often seems to have to be to come across in the art world. A lot of people just won’t bother to read anything with any complexity. I have heard over and over again people – in art schools – say they won’t when faced with text pieces I do. Seen attention drift. It’s a reality. People also often say they prefer text which you can’t read otherwise they get distracted. So if you want to use text you have to be aware of it.
I also love the oil paintings in an older tradition by Bernard Dunstan, Fred Cuming, Anthony Eyton. Don’t love Ken Howard so much – seems corrupted somehow, as if too easy. That doesn’t seem at all true of the others. Lovely little painting by David Pearce of a chair with a bed behind it. I also like Katja Angeli’s print with collage – her forms and colours are intriguing. Have a strange atonal figuration. I nNtice her work also later in Bloomberg New Contemporaries.
27 June: Royal Academy Schools Show. Enjoy the work of a young woman lesbian poet. She does a performance riffing on a sex scene with her girlfriend in the stone corridor down in the basement. She delivers her poem with real authority/courage. I am absorbed for the whole performance. Genuinely talented, which is not always the case with artist-writers. Find too often that students in art schools think they can take off into writing without reading too much, thinking too much, or troubling themselves with editing. This is different. Notice some photographs by her – edgy, lyric-butch with braces and acne – in ING Discerning Eye exhibition later. Really talented.
Some extraordinary video work projected up on a wall in a darkened room. Zoneless, timeless, geographyless world. It is intriguing, arresting, and I don’t understand it at all. Some lovely fragments of plastercasts of Greek cornices and tops of pillars. Love the old medical theatre room with casts for life drawing.
Chania: Museum of ancient history
Ancient Minoan cemetery, Armeni: A site consisting of hundreds of tombs cut into the hillside with stone lined chambers inside.
Knossos***: principal site of Minoan culture. The frescos have always been among my most loved things in art history. It was wonderful to see them physically.***
Heraklion National Museum***: ancient Minoan, Greek, Roman, Phoenician and Etruscan remains. One thing that was important for me was to see the shift from Phoenician to Greek script and then the developments onto our own script. It was also fascinating to see the way that writing and imagery was combined in so many artefacts in the ancient world.
13: ING Discerning Eye, Mall Galleries
24: Hockney Portraits, Royal Academy*** Installation consisting of many portraits of friends/family/acquaintances done in the same setting and over the same period of time. Jewelled and glamorous effect achieved seeing them altogether. Don’t like the garish backgrounds too much, and tend to find the portraits of women clunky. But he does most of the men beautifully – capturing gesture, posture, ageing, the way wrinkles round mouth and eyes tell a story of a personality’s holding up of a mask to the world, to itself – what it shares and what it withholds. Hockney v. intelligent and you can see this in his portraits. Also one of the world’s greatest draughtsmen and that underpins the portraits. I love portraiture and want to develop this: for contemporary portraiture I would look to: Marlene Dumas, Hockney, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Humphrey Ocean, (a little less) Chantal Joffe.
24: Sunday Times Watercolour exhibition, Mall Galleries (had a piece accepted so went to the exhibition.)
24: Derwent Drawing Prize Exhibition, Mall Galleries
28 Sept: Turner Prize Exhibition, Tate Britain Helen Marten, Anthea Hamilton, Josephine Pryde, Michael Dean. (written up on blog.)
5 and 6 October: LONDON FRIEZE.*** (written up on blog with images.)
10 Oct: Champagne Life: Saatchi Gallery
Loved cooking pot piece by Saudi Arabian artist Maha Malluh. She took a wall and nailed overturned aluminium cooking pots to it. You see their burnt bottoms. It summarises centuries of communal eating and women’s work. The installation is called Food for Thought – Al-Muallaqat. The title makes reference to 6th century Hanging Poems traditionally hung in Mecca. Metaphoric connection of the pots and the poems – the burnt pot bottoms full of poetry. Women making huge meals like invisible poets making their poems? Also something of violence in the way they have been upended and nailed to the wall so that we see what is normally invisible: the branded bottoms. Like women – underneath in society, and burnt in the flame of what they make for others (?).
Impressed by room of paintings by Julia Wachtel. Largescale life paintings based on celebrities. Canvases printed with photographs of celebrities eg Kim Kardashian interspersed with oil-painted figure of Minnie Mouse. Then eerie shot of police torturing (?) a figure on the ground. We don’t know where we are, have no context. Glamour is mixed up with pathos is mixed up with sinister political overtones. Also, she has found a way of updating figure painting that has relevance for me. I love to draw and paint the figure but it feels (?) old-fashioned. How can you make it relevant?
14 October: The Drawing Room*** (written up on Tracking Document)
Jerwood Drawing*** (written up on Tracking Document)
Tate Modern: Georgia O’Keefe (written up on Tracking Document)
15 October: Lady Margaret Hall – Senior Common Room collection of 20th century art
20 October: Pecha Kuchas. This was effectively a virtual exhibition because we were being introduced to the most loved drawing and painting of many different students from around the world. (written up in Tracking Document.)
26 Oct: Geraint Evans Lecture (written up in Tracking Document).
26 Oct: Tacita Dean at Frith Gallery*** (written up on blog.)
2 November: Edwina Fitzpatrick (written up in Tracking MA)
9 November: Tania Kovats. (written up in Tracking MA)
9 Nov: Pippy Houldsworth: Rachel Goodyear (written up in Tracking MA)
13 Nov: Lunch with David and Betsy Bell. See Betsy’s prints and paper reliefs from her lifetime as artist. See the book of their art community established in the South of France.
14 Nov: Ruskin Degree Show 2016, BA and MFA*** Found this v. intelligent and interesting show (But struck by the fact that the BFA seemed more convincing than the MFA upstairs). Was particularly struck by the work of Mirren Kessling, self-portrait photographs in the style of historical paintings of women. Eg a painting of herself covered in white pancake make-up with red velvet ribbon round her throat – alluding to 18th century French aristocrats beheaded in French revolution. There is an edgy backtracking way she looks at us through her pancake makeup that suggests she may not be much safer from us than the French aristocrats were from the mob looking at them.A portrait photograph of herself as Pope Joan. Feminist and intelligent. Also v. arresting images.
There is a family of bleached out oil paintings of romantic/classical youths by John Izatt-Lowry – cropped so that you have eg. half a face of a youth with mouth open. A painting featuring only a mouth with bunch of purple grapes. Ie the paintings are romantic, allude to classical motifs, but in a contemporary style. Then digitally created landscapes of William Fadden – crazy mergers of black and white film sets from sphaghetti westerns with luridly coloured sci-fi creatures. Little worlds of finely made ceramic fragments – installed in a specially created wooden bunker. You have to duck your head to an eye hole and look in at this world. Then students doing extremely clever things with film. Splicing historic footage and playing with all sorts of mixtures of sound/light/references – film collage.
I don’t get the installations that much, prints of cacti as a backdrop to garden fences and outsize clay feet. They make me shrug internally and go ‘so what’. I am probably missing the point.
15 Nov: PhD Long Table.
16 November: Isabel Seligman. Drawing the Line.***
17 Nov: Private view Discerning Eye 2016. See the 2016 exhibition.
23 Nov: Yu-Chen Wang, Taiwanese artist. (Written up in Tracking Document.)
30 Nov: Lecture Alex Hartley.*** Showing at Victoria Miro. (written up in Tracking MA Drawing).
30 Nov: Collect picture from Ing Discerning Eye. Take another look at the exhibition.
30 Nov: Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2016. V. *** Loved the work of Iranian filmmaker Maryam Takafory. Deeply intelligent and moving study of the difference of physical movement apportioned young men and women in her culture. Filmed sequences of men being prepared in a circle with swords, flashing dynamic movement, jumping, assertion, danger and authoritative expression – orchestrated externalization of anger, assertion. Meantime, the feet of a woman are shown beneath a shower cubicle door. She is menstruating. There is enclosure, invisibility, immobility. The quality of filming, eg the detail of her toes, the textures of shower room door and tiles, is magnificent and moving. Would definitely go and see more of her work. Also loved a stunning cloud drawing/digital print by Kate Fahey. I think it is a digital print across many different panels of fine rice paper. They have been placed together on one backing paper. Has a quality of infinite fragility that is contrasts eerily with the very powerful resolution of the cloud form. Also love the way it is displayed – great big piece facing you as you go in. Could be sinister like an atomic mushroom cloud. But it floats in a sublime way too, cut off from everything on the white paper.
Also liked a small ceramic wall piece consisting of mirror with earbuds and little pot of Vaseline. Thought it a bit meaningless at first but it has stuck in my mind. The piece had a quality of functionality – ie looking at a simple mirror in a bathroom – but in a v. fine stone glazed clay. It mixed traditional clay material with transitory materials like earbuds. Also liked Jack Bodimeade’s series of paintings of plugs and Katja Angelli’s collages. And the painting/collages (with plasticine/cable etc) of Sebastian Jefford.
6 Dec: Meet Professor Lisa Walker at Nuffield Cancer Genetics***
7 Dec: Group exhibition CfD. (written up in Tracking MA).
7 Dec: Michael Vale, theatre set designer. (written up in Tracking MA)
11 Dec: Lara’s ballet show, Oxford. Wonderful dynamic contemporary dance. Want to do a piece combine dance/film/drawing.
22 Dec: Bob Dylan’s drawings and paintings.
11 Jan: Jessia Voorsanger: *** talking about her 25-year career chasing celebrities by sending them mail and keeping the responses, harassing celebrities at glitzy events when impersonating them; and hiring team of teenage girls to ‘fanogram’ the famous. She insulted David Hockney for having no sense of humour as he didn’t find her pathetic imitation of him funny. Her art work conssits of keeping a record of all her interactions with the famous. Was shocked and dismayed by the committed vacancy of this artist. Also that she is given a platform for 2 hours in a leading UK art college to talk to young people. This is what their heads are being filled with; no wonder Donald Trump gets elected. Also that she appears to be being giving regular slot on Wimbledon MFA. God. You get too old to waste two hours of your life on this. The only moment when she always seemed as if she might be on the edge of growing up/saying something significant was when she got breast cancer and started dressing up as famous men when bald/exhausted from chemotherapy and photographing herself. These images had presence/interest. Her collages were more interesting than the celebrity stuff that had taken up most of her life – but she’d never have got famous for them. Came away thinking in Shakespearean metaphors – blowflies on the anus of the famous. Parasitic life forms preying on the corruption of the Tudor court etc.
12 Jan: Sketchbooks. Great discussion about sketchbooks. What counts as a sketchbook, what counts as sketching? Experimental quality, on the way to something else. Thinking, reflecting, working things out. Why we keep them, how we keep them (ie on paper or across digital platforms.) Bound in a book or in notes in a shoebox.
It was good to hear people’s comments – truthful. Several people said they tried to keep sketchbooks but left them only partially filled in: the front and the back. There was something pressurizing about them. They got abandoned in favour of something else. Su said she didn’t want to waste her energy too much on the sketchbook but wanted it to go on the finished work. For Tina, her sketchbook was a special private place. She kept different kinds: for sketching from observation on the tube, working out ideas in her home. Tania keeps series of notebooks for projects, v. practical, full of lists/data/records. Glynis saws up A4 hardbacks with a bandsaw and slips a small block in her rucksack and sketches on the go. I work across the computer with AI and Photoshop ‘sketching’ and also in traditional sketchbooks. Writing has also become a form of sketching through to finished projects, eg with the Freud Museum. Ruth hates the idea of doing anything digitally and has traditional sketchbooks. Glynnis shared a story of a student who couldn’t cope with the idea of keeping a sketchbook. She told him to keep receipts or labels, or tickets and put them in a shoebox. He began to scribble all over these and they became his looseleaf sketchbook.