Monday, 24 March 2014

Klee,hamilton,The Vikings, Picasso. Baselitz and co.

Klee, Hamilton, The Vikings, Baselitz & Co. and Picasso
Up to London, by car and train, Russian, Italian, Hubble bubbles on Edgware Rd., crowds, lights, veiled women and rickshaws. My Echo shoe soles disintegrate, Pedyr's spectacles have to be mended with Sellotape, my coat belt buckle gets stuck down by the front seat upstairs on the no 7 bus just when it's time to get off so I am trapped, a lovely Greek meal at Kolossi in Paddington, sunshine and laid back Caribbean buskers by Tate Modern and the lift still isn't repaired , will it ever be? in the Royal Norfolk Hotel.
At Tate Modern the Paul Klee, on it's next to last day is very crowded and must have 300 small pictures to view, in 17 rooms. I am a bit disappointed although there are a lot of works I like, very subtle when I examine them, very finely drawn and beautiful colour combinations. I could have preferred it edited down to a more manageable number, with a few contextual photos of how two world wars were happening in his lifetime, some information about abstraction developing in other countries, about the Bauhaus, music contemporary to Klee etc.

Hamilton, feels easier to process as I remember a lot of the events, but the works that aren't the famous pop collage and the photo of Jagger in handcuffs seem so preoccupied with being stylish. I love the roto reliefs and I enjoy the portrait of Tony Blair as a cowboy with guns, although I think it was more of a saviour complex coupled with being taken over by Bush VIP glamour that led him into Iraq.
A new day dawns and we're off to the British Museum, where enthusiastic officials corall us, detain us and eventually tick off our names as if they used to work for DHSS, before searching our bags but failing to mention that photos are not allowed. There are a lot of very small pieces of jewelry and other small objects, in semi darkness and a slow moving queue to see them, held up by those with audio guides. There are interesting quotes up high in big writing and lovely voices speaking presumably Norse and related languages.
Very little about women until the bits near the end about Odin's wife Sif having her hair cut off by a joking Loki and restored in gold by helpful dwarves, and the lovely white queens with their worried looks from the Lewis chess set, and I realise thence to Lewis Carol.

It's mostly gold ornaments for men of remarkably lovely detail, swords, warships and helmets. Women's jewelry seems to be random stringing of a variety of beads, and their marks of importance are the housekeeping keys.Words we retain from Viking times include 'egg' and 'sister'. One and a half hours later we stumble out into the gift shop, better informed, blinking in the light, wanting to buy something and eat a large lunch upstairs, where I realise I am looking at all the glasses, the decor, the coffee cups as if stuck in a perpetual museum of objects.
I would have liked more and larger video projections of the modern authentic remake of a Viking boat at sea, maybe clips from our previous notions of the Vikings, from Noggin the Nog to wilder adventures, more poetry including sagas in translation.
After eating we went to see the German Baselitz and Co, passing so many other wonderful exhibits we could have enjoyed for free, and delayed to enjoy two recently acquired lino cuts by Picasso, shown in various states as he progressed to the end result, so lively and rhythmic, colourful and dynamic.
The German artists from West and East we viewed from the unfortunate position of visual and mental and physical exhaustion, despite the delicious treat of an expensive lunch and a long sit down. However, even if I had been feeling sprightly I don't think this collection of messily drawn vague stuff could have ever competed with the rest of the museum. These were not the best work by Penck, Richter, Blinky Paloma etc. surely, just an assortment, set against a museum full of marvellous things.

Back to Paddington, guarded by alarmingly armed policemen, with it's ever passing crowds, balm for a flaneur with her sketchbook, with the incomprehensible announcements, the temptations of cheap jewelry, magazines and even sandwiches without horrid mayonnaise, and we'll be back in Cornwall feeling as if these two days have been a week of looking.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Cornelia Parker talking at Falmouth art college.

Cornelia Parker - lecture at Falmouth University , February 2014

The talk had a  title 'truth to materials' to which the artist referred from time to time, whilst showing us images of her work, things chosen because she likes them, whereas she said she has produced plenty of  work she would not show now.

Cornelia said, 'squashing things is my only expertise'. She works in many media, taking an interest in many things, from her famous exploded shed to interviewing Chomsky, to be seen on youtube.

drawing by Mary Fletcher
Some interesting responses came to the questions, which as usual at lectures were kept to rather a short time at the end but were the best part. Cornelia described being an artist as political and philosophical. She was keen on work for an anti - fracking campaign but often her political work was not clearly on one side of a fence as she hopes to have a wide appeal. 
Her work at the V&A using squashed brass band instruments she saw as an intrusion of something working class into that environment but she did not say if the fact that the instruments were clapped out and ruined was part of what she meant to say.
 Equally she mentioned that whereas Gordon Brown cherished the old cracked leather of the old chancellor's red leather case, George Osborne has had a brand new one made with 'fake distressed look' but she did not say if she found this apt for a Tory chancellor. 
However, she admires the work of more overtly political artists like Bob and Roberta Smith and Jeremy Deller.
I always deplore the paucity of political work at the art college shows so hope this encourages more students to interest themselves in the here and now and taking a stand on important issues.
 C.P.seemed to delight in paradox, such as finding a Bedouin family in Palestine who make crowns of thorns to be sold to Christians in Jerusalem.
I  gathered her parents did not understand or encourage her work and that she is a lapsed Catholic.
Whilst showing a rorsach blot pattern Cornelia said they all look phallic, just as I was thinking of womb and vulva shapes.
Cornelia has not made drawings of things for years but takes  photos which are a sort of sketchbook of references.
She is embarrassed to be a Royal Academician and uses her feelings if negative to put into her work, making a work using the many red dots next to the most popular summer show print of a bird and showing this, minus bird image, in the room where all the small works are hung close together.
As I have made two works about red dots and the questions people ask about the success of a show, I fell to thinking that many artists must have also done work on this theme and wondering how Cornelia Parker got her breaks into stardom, but was too slow to ask, fearing that no one really tells us that and that my burning envy of her success is futile.
The artist remarked that some students were bogged down by the amount of theory they learnt before they had even made much art and become accustomed to using their hands and producing ideas in quantity.
I liked her and her quirky work and was surprised to see she is only a few years younger than I am.
Cornelia Parker is apparently creatively open to using whatever she sees around her, such as casting spilt milk patterns between cobblestones, using cold cure rubber, or throwing a meteorite into a lake and putting up a notice about it, making photograms using the light of a match to illuminate the previous spent match, using snake venom and its antidote to make a drawing. The number of ideas was impressive and we should perhaps have asked if she does anything specific to engender them, although she did mention that residencies were useful spaces for new influences and time to ponder.
There is a new book out about her work by Ilona  Blazwick and Yoko Ono, about £20..

Can an artist be successful who does not live in London, or does not wish to jet round the world to take up residencies and exhibiting opportunities?
Did Cornelia have to stick to the one idea about squashing things for a good while before she couldbe accepted as doing other stuff?
Does she survive financially by various means and would she have told us how?

A packed theatre made an attentive audience and I was glad to have been there.

INNterval at Halsetown Inn Feb 2014

INNterval 2-8 Feb 2014 compared with 'The Bridge' on tv.

This exhibition was held at the Halsetown pub, near St.Ives,  in a week before they were to refurbish the upstairs rooms. Hence the witty title.,
Ilker Cinarel  had this bright idea and organised it. He also greeted visitors at the preview which was very nice, and had provided a useful plan of the show and list of the exhibits with remarks about it from the artists. The preview was a very enjoyable occasion and most unusually for an art show had a large area for parking. We, myself and Pedyr, had eaten  downstairs first and so went up to the show feeling quite cheerful and bright.
As often happens the meeting of people we knew and the chat was the most enjoyable part and the art came second. The reference at the entrance to some connection to the actor Henry Irving who lived near here years ago was not in any way connected to by the show, which was  a mixture of all sorts. Maybe the connection helped them get a huge square inchidge in the local paper as a sort of nod to heritage.
My favourite work was two charcoal drawings of a pool table by Michael Broughton , not framed, just put up on the wall. Simply two good drawings with no attendant hype or pretension.
Unfortunately the room was dominated by an insanely bright light and I could not bear to look round the rest of it.
The rest of the show was dimly lit as for a party.
Ilker Cinarel had two walls of drawings of his father which looked good in that they were bold and varied. What he said  in the text  didn't mean anything to me but I could see he was working on something systematically and repeatedly.

Janet McEwan also had repeated images of people in red suits in photos,  apparently a project of substance that could be referred to online.

  Christiane Berkhoff  had been embroidering, making a feature of painstaking handwork that takes a long time. You could have a go at this technique, but having a horror of painstaking craft I declined.
Liam Jolly had film of himself endlessly brushing his teeth in the bathroom, and other video and reflections, literally, using ,mirrors, but it needed some help to get the ideas and I didn't ask him about it.
 There were some sweet smelling rotting apples and a dilapidated shopping trolley which had been part of a performance.

There were lots of other things of course, but after an hour or so of sidling round the crowded corridors and rooms, greeting friendly people and noticing who was there we wanted to get back and I was looking forward to the last part of 'The Bridge'

This brings up the contrast between film, the cathedral of our times in its huge work of collaboration, pursued with such excellent control of media, such wonderfully engaging acting, characters and plot, evocative music and moody night scenes, in which the fragility of our contemporary world, so complex, so easily terrorized by extremists, so in need of reform to save the planet from decadent horrors is combined with intriguing alterations from the usual male/female stereotypes, so comfortably watched from my bed with a cup of tea in complete concentration to read the subtitles, so immersive and amazing;  and visual artists, so apt to present something that is only half worked out, struggling after something without anything being clear to the visitor who drops in,  gains a few wild impressions, chats and leaves.
Artists are working without much money, no team of excellence to help like the film crew, and not having had to pass their ideas by powerful people who insist on pace and intrigue, on the work making sense and appealing to a wide audience. 

So, the early evening's haphazard glimpses of fragments of peoples' earnest efforts to continue their addiction to expressing their visual ideas, is followed by the magnificently glamorous and adept film-makers seamless and beautiful production.

Two ends of the spectrum of contemporary art.