Sunday, February 20, 2011
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
The reproduced Merz barn which once contained Schwitters' work was the first piece of 'sculpture' to greet us on our entrance to the Royal Academy courtyard on Sunday. We had gone to see the Modern British Sculpture exhibition. Last September, when I first read of the exhibition, I was delighted. There have been and are so many wonderful modern British sculptors who tend to become forgotten, that I looked forward to an exhibition devoted to that subject. Just like me, the reviewers should have paid more attention to the curators' words which said that they 'would have done their job if the public left the show questioning what is modern, British, and sculpture.
Curtis and her co-curator Keith Wilson, a practising sculptor, said the aim was not to have a traditional survey but to have a series of visual arguments or dialogues.' (From the Guardian, 8 Sept. '10)
As the exhibition approached, I was anticipating a thought-provoking, inspiring, and most enjoyable outing when the reviews started appearing. The first was by a reviewer with whose opinion I usually agree: Laura Cumming in the Observer. Then came Waldemar Januszczak's vitriolic review in the Sunday Times (which one has to pay to access online), and a general wave of annoyance, disgust, anger, such as here. Some reviews that I have found since are more explanatory: here, here, here, and especially here, and the BBC has an interesting video on the exhibition.
Anyway, it was not exactly with reluctance, but prepared for disappointment and even perhaps disapproval we set off.
This show poses questions about modernism. It looks at the routes of abstraction and figuration - are they clear cut or not? It looks at influences, whence and when they came, from the same or different mediums.
I bought the catalogue, and although I want to finish On line first, I can see by just flicking through that my mind is going to be buzzing for some time - just what I need. In fact Tony Cragg's Stack is an apt visual representation of what was going on in my brain as I left the show.
This blog has photos of the exhibition, showing the excellent room containing the pieces from the British Museum, as well as the glorious amount of space allowed for a thorough appreciation of the work and thoughts thereon.
About all the negative reviews: well, it is a 'difficult' exhibition in that it makes one think, is perhaps provocative, and is short on 'easy looking'. I also think that the title of the exhibition is rather misleading, at least without some qualifying phrase. But if you are within visiting distance, if you are interested in art and its development, go, make up your own mind!
Friday, February 11, 2011
I design my work on the computer. Even if I have developed work on paper, or with fabric collage and/or stitch I will photograph or scan it in order to complete the design. Some pieces will remain small: my sketches in stitch, or work to be framed. However, some work is developed to be a quilt form: flat, whole cloth and larger than I can print for myself. Some of the designs originally developed to be small also beg me to be made large. Sometimes this works, and sometimes this doesn't - but I usually try them out. At the top of this post can be seen an A4 stitched piece with its newly arrived larger version.
Sunday, February 06, 2011
Saturday, February 05, 2011
I found the gloves-inspired pieces the most tactile-ly enticing of AK's work, not only because of their siren call to the hands, but because of the many beads which somehow for once to me - not especially mad about beads - demanded to be touched.
I could imagine spending many happy hours stitching those beads, and then pulling on the gloves to perform. Indeed before I had looked up the rest of the work in the Telling Fortunes exhibition I was immediately reminded of much loved images by Toulouse Lautrec of Yvette Guilbert - and I found this delightful site.
I was always especially intrigued by this last drawing because I could see a daring acrobatically raised right leg mostly hidden behind the curtain and the right arm's glove. I know it's not there - but it almost could be. And it reminded me to revisit a doodle I did many years ago, inspired by jazz singers and T-L's chanteuses.
Friday, February 04, 2011
My reaction was confined to me - here is a glowing review on Workshop on the Web. I loved most of AK's work on show; what gave me the strongest negative reaction were her 3D heads. I could not understand why I took agin them so fiercely. I wondered whether it was jealousy on my part - after all I have been pondering the question of how I could develop my own figurative work into 3D, and specifically thinking about heads. Was it simply the green-eyed monster and despair that someone so much better had got there before me? I did not think so, but I needed to find out.
I returned to the exhibition twice more, with different people. My duodidactic friend who also works in textiles disagreed with me; my husband saw what I was getting at, but it did not bother him. It was a difficult problem for me to think about because the heads seem to work in 2D, so looking at them in reproduction was not helping me. This was true of the paper heads in the exhibition too.
I worrited away at the problem until I happened to be thinking about the sculptor Anthony Caro and what I love about his work. A huge penny dropped for me: negative space. One of the reasons I find AC's sculptures so effective is that the positive and negative spaces buzz with the appropriate energy for the piece. I find that this is also true of the ceramic collection pieces of Edmund de Waal. It could well be true that I was annoyed that AK had come up with 3D heads before I had got my own thinking together, and that therefore I was going to be influenced - but the negative space thing sounded righter to me. Anyway, I had to see the heads again.
Luck was with me. The final venue for Allegory is in the town nearest to me, at the Willis Museum. I went there the other day and was bowled over. Some of the original pieces are still there - the pieces I admired, as well as the heads; but also there were pieces from AK's exhibition Telling Fortunes at the Gallery of Costume Platt Hall last year. So, I was doubly lucky. The two large pieces from Platt Hall Glove Fortunes (first four pix in the above link), and Glove Field (pix 10, 11 of the above link) are stunning.
My husband tells me that my faith was restored that AK's new work is living up to the standards which I expect of her, and that the heads fell short. That's why I was angry. I still do not like the heads. They do not work for me - not because of the approach, but I don't think they are quite there yet. As if the elements have been stitched not quite yet in the right position. I feel this because I don't dislike them all equally, nor each part of a head equally. Elements work for me.I think that my husband was right: because I had always derived such immense satisfaction and inspiration from Alice Kettle's work in the past, it was a shock when I simply did not like some of her new work. I was also in a very low emotional state when I first saw the Allegory exhibition. I am so pleased that I have been able to take such time in revisiting the pieces, and thus in coming to terms with a more measured personal critique of them as well as of my reactions. It would be great if we could revisit exhibitions like that: not only within a few weeks, but also with an intervening span of a year.
This has been a fascinating experience - and is perhaps not yet over. I could fit in another visit before the tent is folded.