Reviewing Tate’s David Hockney exhibition for The British Art Journal

In the Spring 2017 issue of The British Art Journal you can find my review of Tate Britain’s David Hockney exhibition and accompanying catalogue. I attended the Tate’s Press View in order to write this review.

Hockney

 

 

Attending Gilda Williams’ course on How to Write About Art

Yesterday I attended Gilda Williams’ ‘How To Write About Art’ course at the Whitechapel Gallery. It was a brilliant and highly informative day – Gilda gave lots of good advice about ways to develop (and spot) good writing, which she supported with clear examples. She also asked the class to write a short piece about one of the works in the Whitechapel’s current exhibition, ‘Electronic Superhighway (2016 – 1966)’, and encouraged everyone to give each other feedback. My text is below. I chose to focus on Jonas Lund’s contribution, entitled ‘VIP (Viewer Improved Painting’), 2014, consisting of a self optimising digital painting, 50″ monitor TV and a gaze tracking camera. View it on his website page here.

What is your favourite colour? What is your preference, blue or pink? After standing for several seconds in front of Jonas Lund’s work, ‘VIP (Viewer Improved Painting’), 2014, it becomes clear that we are being asked this old and clumsy question. Perhaps it reminds us of similarly black-and-white questions we used to receive from peers in the school playground.

Whether we know the answer now or not, Lund’s ‘VIP’ sets out to tell us. It does this by presenting us with two luxuriously long flat-screen television screens that have been turned on their sides and stick assertively from the wall, jostling for the viewer’s attention. They slowly feed us fuzzy blocks of colour, splodges of dark blue are surprised by splashes of sunburnt pink. The edges of different  blocks blur together in a way that is reminiscent of Rothko’s abstract paintings.

Our eyes naturally dart towards the changes in colour, the areas of movement and energy. As we are fed these colours, the monitor, parked confidently on top of the screens, records which we are drawn to and starts to only show those that we like. Rarely do we see an artwork that takes such pains to please us and offer up its images for our own individual delight. Lund’s work is, after all, entitled ‘VIP’. We expect special treatment.

And yet, a sense of unease pervades this experience. We are aware of being watched, our actions are obviously  recorded by a camera and our personal preferences broadcast on a public screen. Over time it is obvious we are only given a limited number of colours to choose from, so our preferences are manipulated by this robot, just like they were by our friends back at school. Peer pressure has not gone away. Instead, as this artwork suggests through its mechanisms and media, it has exploded with the copious amount of technology and online interactions that surround us every day.

 

 

 

What’s in an image? – Marlene Dumas at the Tate

Tate Modern handout for their Marlene Dumas exhibitionMarlene Dumas, ‘Naomi’, 1995, oil on canvas, 130 x 110cm

The title Naomi doesn’t determine the identity of the face in the painting, but it does invite a certain intimacy with the viewer. Naomi. Is this Naomi Campbell, one of the supermodels of our century? If so, this is our chance to really see her up close and even to be offered her full, sensual lips. However, there could be scorn in her narrowed eyes, emphasised by the sharply arched eyebrows. She could be rising defiantly out of the shadows away from our mundane world, although, equally, they could be consuming her. Like many of Dumas’s paintings, it is not clear and we are left to experience this uncomfortable position of not knowing or being able to confidently react to an image, even an image of a person whose form we know so well.

The purposeful lack of clarity to many of Dumas’s paintings partly stems from the fact that she often paints from second hand images, particularly those from the media. This makes her work similar to the result of Chinese whispers; the subjects evolve every time they are captured and communicated through an image that is not their original. Does this allow Dumas – and the viewer – to think about the image rather than the person and the emotions that surround them? This would certainly allow for a more critical engagement with the work.

Naomi seems to be a disturbing cross between a fashion illustration, a fashion photograph and an abstract figurative painting. The conflation of these different types of visual communication suggests that this painting is as much about how we construct and present images, particularly those of women, as it is about what the images themselves represent. It does prompt us to consider what sort of image of ourselves we present to the world each day.

 

Tate Modern currently displays the most significant exhibition of Marlene Dumas’s work ever to be held in Europe, open until 10 May 2015.

 

 

Automata in ‘The Beales Bequest’ exhibition

This article is published on The Ken Stradling Collection blog

'The Kissing Couple' by Peter Markey

‘The Kissing Couple’ by Peter Markey

The automata on display have very different subject matters, but each exudes a great sense of fun. They are both by Peter Markey. One is entitled ‘Kissing Couple’. We have not been able to find the title for the bold, beautiful runners.

‘Kissing Couple’, which is damaged and missing the base, dates from around 1999 and was probably bought from the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre in Covent Garden for whom it was made. This highly unusual shop sells unique handmade automata, as well as kites, card cut-outs and videos. Their permanent exhibition space in Coven Garden sadly dissolved in 2000, but part of their collection is currently in an exhibition at the American Visionary Arts Museum in Baltimore.

Colin and Jennifer had a third automaton, called ‘The Rare Appearance of the Lesser Spotted Markey Bird’. They left this to The Ken Stradling Collection too. It is not currently on display because it is broken and waiting to be fixed.

‘The Rare Appearance of the Lesser Spotted Markey Bird’

‘The Rare Appearance of the Lesser Spotted Markey Bird’

Automata date back to the eighteenth century and are closely aligned to the mechanisms of clockwork. It was not uncommon for them to be life size. One of the most famous automata in this period was made by Vaucanson in France and was called ‘The Defecating Duck’. Many of Vaucanson’s automata were made with scientific and educational uses in mind. For example, his ‘Flute Player’ simulated a human being’s actions of playing a flute in order to reveal natural characteristics needed to control this instrument. In this way, these automata were designed to simulate human actions and to show a process that revealed itself over time.

By the mid nineteenth century, automata were often ‘quotations’ of the latest technology – for example, pistons and pullcords as opposed to clockwork – and were frequently associated with mass aesthetic entertainment. So their values and functions significantly changed; many were made with the aim of performing circus tricks and took the forms of clowns or animals.

The runners by Peter Markey

The runners by Peter Markey

‘The Beales Bequest’ exhibition is open to view on Wednesdays 10am – 4pm at The Ken Stradling Collection until 11 March.

Contemporary Sculpture at the Zabludowicz Collection

This article is published in Trebuchet Magazine.

The latest exhibitions at the Zabludowicz Collection in north London explore how to make and present contemporary sculpture. Four young artists are presented and their work each occupies a different room in the gallery spaces, which makes for an eclectic viewing experience. The Collection is known for showcasing emerging young artists and nurturing the latest talent in the UK and abroad, and this show certainly does by enabling interactions between new pieces for the exhibition and artworks from the private Collection.

Work by Sam FallsAlthough each exhibition has the potential to be a disparate experience, and the gallery as a whole to feel fragmented, the Zabludowicz Collection manages to hold them together through several common themes, some of which are more obvious than others. These themes include the evocation and exploration of the human body, the concern with states of change and the passing of time, and the use of everyday materials. The artworks are also in dialogue with the gallery’s environment.  Continue reading

Reflections on UCL’s Printing Techniques Workshop

This article is published on the UCL Art Museum blog

Slade students, artists and curious print-making novices both from within and outside of UCL got together for a Pop Up lunch-time talk by artist and UCL Art Museum Curatorial Assistant, Ling Chiu on 27th May in the UCL Art Museum. When she is not at the Museum, Ling works at a printmaking studio in southeast London, helping artists such as Ray Richardson and Peter Blake to create prints in screenprint, etching and lithography.

Jack Miller’s 'Weird Tales'

Jack Miller’s ‘Weird Tales’

Ling introduced us to fine art printing techniques, referring to the UCL Art Museum’s extensive collection of prints as inspirational examples. We were encouraged to look at a diverse selection before the workshop started, and then to reflect on them again after we had learnt about some of the printing techniques. This produced different engagements with the work, and was a fun way of relating techniques back to the art objects. The most popular print Ling displayed from the collection was Jack Miller’s ‘Weird Tales’ (UCL Art Museum 9239), which had a textured, velvet effect produced by combining flocking with screenprint techniques (think Andy Warhol meets 18th century floral wallpaper!).  Continue reading

Beyond the Object: Dale Chihuly’s Glass Sculptures at the Halcyon Gallery

This article is published in Trebuchet Magazine

Claiming that he was always “interested in space”, American artist Dale Chihuly has enthusiastically adorned the entire interior of the Halcyon Gallery on New Bond Street with his large hand-blown glass sculptures. These works and installations are collectively titled Beyond The Object, which seems appropriate for Chihuly’s attention to space and architecture surrounding his artworks. From the street, the objects glint in enticingly strong colours, and once inside, they completely absorb you.

The vibrant glass sculptures cover – and at times seem to crawl over – the walls, floors and windows in fantastical displays of colour, energy and light. Each is reminiscent of sea creatures: limpets, shells, jellyfish, seaweed, or anemones. Yet they also take on abstract shapes, stimulating one’s imagination and engagement with form over detail.

The shadows cast by the three-dimensional objects are definitely important for each sculpture and they work in a number of ways. They extend the spaces of the sculpture, highlight and compliment the glass colours and magnify some of the details on the sculptures’ surfaces. The shadows also challenge assumptions that glass sculptures are inherently static objects, because, of course, the shadows change and move throughout the day.  Continue reading

One Day in the City Festival at UCL

This article is published on the UCL Art Museum blog

Balloons in the south cloisters at UCLOne Day in the City Festival taking place on Friday 13th June brings together a celebration of literature, art, music and culture in London. The framework is broad. Nick Shepley, the founder and organiser of the festival, and Teaching Fellow in English Literature at UCL, acknowledges this and says he has not tried to narrow it down to specific themes: “It is about opening out and trying to bring people to something that is a simple celebration of the city, its literature and art, and its cultural richness.”These are areas people work on everyday across various departments at UCL with their own audiences. Nick wants to harness this, and “break down the potential separation of audiences with the One Day festival, encouraging a wider demographic to come along.”

The festival’s centre will be in the UCL South Cloisters, decorated with a fun and artistic skyline created through lighting and architectural constructions. There will also be a multitude of balloons lining the Cloisters and leading the way to various events. These events will include a debate about taboo language with India Knight (journalist and author), Will Self (novelist) and Tim Clare (poet), a Caribbean carnival and seminars on topics related to creativity in London. In the UCL Art Museum there will be a talk by one of the Slade students, Helena Hunter, a poetry workshop and live performances as well as Slade students distributing prints of their work. For a full list, see the One Day website here.  Continue reading

Matisse Live: Tate Modern

This article is published in Trebuchet Magazine

The Parakeet and the Mermaid

The Parakeet and the Mermaid

On Tuesday 3rd June, Tate achieved its first live broadcast to cinemas across the country with Tate Modern’s Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition. This was definitely an evening of experimentation and the start of a new way of experiencing art at the Tate. There were high expectations, excitement and some nerves for those participating in the event and members of the public eagerly awaiting it in the cinemas.

Virtually led through sections of the exhibition, the audience was taken on an intimate private view. The exhibition rooms seemed uncanny without their normal heaving crowds, and the format was an ideal way to take in the cut-outs – artworks that demand lots of space in which to be viewed, as well as inviting movements from the spectator within that space. Neither the art nor the film encourages you to stay still.  Continue reading

The 6th Annual Slade / UCL Art Museum collaboration

This article is published on the UCL Art Museum blog

‘Getting close but then again not close at all’ by Olga Koroleva

‘Getting close but then again not close at all’ by Olga Koroleva

The themes, materials and presentations of the annual collaborations have varied immensely, and this year there is a great diversity within the exhibition itself. The range of media is particularly striking, as is the way digital technologies have been used and portrayed to give new experiences of space – particularly the spaces of the UCL Art Museum itself.

There are four time-based media works and one beautifully crafted light box installation, giving emphasis to technological media within the show. However, an array of oil paintings, intricate drawings, etchings and even a bronze cast are also part of this exhibition.  Continue reading