Friday, 20 April 2012

Picasso's influence on the artworld.

It seems to me as though the format of exhibitions is undergoing a new trend. Of recent years, more and more seem to be concentrating on the influence artists have had on each other’s work, which therefore provides artwork with a greater social context. This is the format of the new Picasso exhibition at Tate Britain which examines the response to Picasso of seven British artists over three generations- Duncan Grant, Wyndham Lewis, Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore, Francis Bacon, Graham Sutherland and finally David Hockney. Each artist has seemingly taken something from Picasso to develop in their own unique context and his profound influence on the artworld is extraordinary. The exhibition is rather large and overwhelming as each room bombards you with a new direction, theme and artist which leaves your head in a bit of a spin.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012


I always think of the Courthauld Gallery as a bit of a hidden gem of London. Although it hosts a very colourful, varied permanent collection, it also has some very interesting temporary exhibitions which often explore a specific theme, movement or phase in an artists career. It presents a bite-sized chunk of artwork which is easy to digest and would often be overlooked within a large exhibition. I remember a past exhibition focusing solely on Cezanne’s paintings and sketches of card players. It taught me a great deal about his working methods, colour choice etc.

Currently, there is a Mondrian-Nicholson exhibition, which draws parallels between these two artists and reveals their creative relationship, which is largely untold. Piet Mondrian and Ben Nicholson were undeniably two leading figures of European Modernism who flourished during the 1930s. They both explored the vast potential of abstract art in achieving a new take on beauty and visual power. Nicholson’s white reliefs are especially stunning to me in the way that they radiate a calm, serene quality with their simplistic curves, lines and shadows. The relationship between the two was one that I was not aware of but on placing the works side by side, becomes unmistakably obvious. But rather than fight for the spotlight, they sit together, complementing each other and highlighting the different dimensions of beauty, which can be achieved through abstraction.

this really is "The Stuff That Matters"

"The stuff that matters” is an exquisite collection of textiles compiled by Seth Siegelaub for the Centre for Social Research on Old Textiles. Siegelaub has a particular interest in the social history of hand-woven textiles and the exhibition reflects strongly on the geographic and historic context of its location.

Artillery Lane is not the typical location you would expect to find such an exhibition. Squeezed amongst the towering blocks of shiny financial offices and bustling sandwich bars one may ask why on earth it is located here. On reading the accompanying exhibition brochure it is so interesting to learn of a lucrative textile industry, which developed in the Spitalfields area after the introduction of a ban on foreign woven silk in 1766. The industry thrived and the quality and richness of its products rivelled even those of France. The ban on foreign trade was removed in 1824, which consequentially allowed an influx of novelty, cheaply priced French silks. This crippled the industry in Spitalfields and led to its collapse, which did not see a glimmer of revival until much later in the 19th Century.

The collection is displayed over several floors of these former silk merchants shops and is divided into silks and textiles of the European rich and the church, archaeological textiles, and ethnographic textiles. The wealth of different fabrics and designs really excite the mind and provide an extraordinary source of inspiration. The detail of the incredible collection of global hats and headdresses speak so much about social and cultural history without the use of words, which I found especially interesting. I was also struck by the muted beauty of the painted bark panels. The simplicity of their patterns and natural colours show that textiles need not be fancy and complex. There is definitely a lot to take in at this exhibition and I would say that several visits are essential.

A moving installation...

During a recent visit to Somerset House I was left speechless by the beautiful installation of 10,000 ceramic daffodils in the courtyard. The installation is named "Out of Sync" and has been completed by artist Fernando Casasempere. Clustered haphazardly together and made of industrial materials, their profound lack of colour made me detect a sombre ambiance or message. I wondered whether they were to commemorate lives lost like post-war poppies however the intention of the artist cannot be further from this. The daffodils are a celebration of winter finally drawing to a close and heralding the beginning of the Summer. Regardless of their ambiguity, they are nevertheless beautiful forms which sit serenely within the classic architecture of Somerset House.

Monday, 16 April 2012

"I do not expect to be a mother but I do expect to die alone"

Nestled in the chaotic area of Brick Lane, Olek’s exhibition at Tony’s gallery does not disappoint in reflecting the suburbs vibrancy and quirkiness. Her exhibition – “I do not expect to be a mother but I do expect to die alone” is the first UK solo exhibition for this Polish-born artist although I learn that she has a rather wide global following and has earned extensive recognition for her work in her current city, New York. On entering the gallery you are enveloped by Olek’s world, an exquisitely surreal environment. The entire gallery walls and floor have been covered in crochet. The space is filled with all kinds of domestic objects, each enrobed in brightly coloured multiple design crochet and featuring reoccurring motifs, such as her trademark camouflage print. Several explicit messages scatter the interior, often with a feminist slant which immediately remind me of the work of Tracey Emin. It is interesting to learn that the messages are indeed personal text messages that the artist herself has received, thus exposing intimate past relationship details. Through revealing her personal history, Olek hopes to explore modern concerns, which trouble her such as privacy, technology and communication.

In addition to these worries, Olek has been keen to reflect her experience of living in the UK and her assimilation into the British culture over the past few months. Iconic London objects such as the black cab have received the Olek ‘crochet treatment’ and as I suspected, the artist’s association with Tracey Emin is reflected by the exhibition’s title, which is a direct quote from an Emin appliqued blanket.

I suppose despite being initially visually pleasing with a cartoon-like, magical quality on closer inspection, things are not quite as they seem. This play between fiction and reality gives the work an ambivalent quality, which can actually be a little unsettling.

The time that would have gone into the creation of the room is astounding and I am particularly pleased that the artist has chosen to re-invigorate the craft of crochet, which is often disregarded as old fashioned and frumpy.