Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Garden visit

The delightfully beautiful garden of West Green House is but a few minutes' drive away, and today seemed a perfect day for our first visit of the year.
There is water informal and formal -
my preference is for the former, especially when the irises are in bloom.
The wet weather and the more recent sunshine have brought out a strong crop of blooms, especially roses,
and these are beyond blooms: rhubarb seed.
It is just a thoroughly delightful place, that feels very much like the garden of a person rather than of an institution, and always a pleasure to visit.
And what adds icing to the cupcake is that we can have a lovely lunch there too.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Summer pavilion

Off to Hyde Park in London this morning, early when the city was quiet and the park was still after the rain.
We were making our other annual visit to a summer excitement: the Serpentine pavilion.  This is pavilion number 12, and has been designed by Herzog, de Meuron, and Ai Weiwei, the trio who conjured the Bird's Next stadium in Beijing for the Olympics there.  Every year since 2000 a temporary pavilion has been designed by a top / famous architect and has a great way for the strolling public to sample their work.  Our unpredictable weather provides a stiff challenge too!

This year the design went into the ground, and what has resulted is a kind of archaeological dig of footings or remains of previous pavilions.  The depth is only 1.5m to the water table, and the roof, which catches rain is 1.5m above the ground.
It is completely lined in cork - apart from one triangle, which seemed to be the lowest, and therefore perhaps represents the top of the water table - which is beautifully fitted together, and feels fantastic. The detailing is exquisite, even the edge with the grass where the cork curves to meet the green.
The seats are shaped like large champagne corks, and the cork itself makes attractive visual use of the damp!  There are also corks outside near the coffee van, which to our relief opened not long after we arrived.
We sat awhile, enjoying our coffee and quietly watching the sparse people become crowds before wandering off.  Two aspects of the pavilion jarred: the station platform gale phenomenon which in this case was horizontal rather than vertical (deeply chilly when it was pleasantly warm outside), and the 'tacked on' strips of lights which just did not sit well for us with the otherwise meticulous detailing.  It could be that they were meant to represent the kind of lighting provided for covered archaeological digs - but the latter are not covered in cork.  Maybe picky, because otherwise we loved both it and its concept.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

What remains in the memory

One artist's work was worth the visit to the Royal Academy on its own: Jayne Parker's occupation of the Small Weston Room was a surprise which blew me away. The room is dedicated to films which are an unexpectedly outstanding experience.  This is serious beauty.
I could not quite believe that I was in the Summer Exhibition as I watched and listened to the film entitled Woman with crossed arms, the name by which Rodin's sculpture of Eve is sometimes known.

Presumably Jaray's hand is behind another shocking departure in this year's Summer Exhibition, the giving over of an entire gallery to one film.  In recent years, the Small Weston Room has been used as a dumping ground for the kind of pictures - watercoours of rubber plants, tabbies, St Mark's Square at Dusk - that dog the Academy's efforts to make its summer show less embarrassing.  Jayne Parker's wonderful Trilogy: Kettle's Yard does that all by itself. 
On screen, a cellist's hand draws a bow across strings.  The instrument's body is scratched, gouged: the lines have the feel of incisions in paint.  Something about Parker's shot - the cropping-out of all unnecessary information, its head-on angle - gives the image a painterly feel.  As the hand saws away, you have the sense of a canvas come to life, of hearing a painting - a Braque, and early Ben Nicholson? - as well as seeing it.  It is magical.
We found nothing in the rest of the exhibition which could come near matching the power, beauty, and yes, memorable magic of the film.  The contemporary music, the sounds, the movements, the visual arrangement, the focus, the choice of the beautiful Rodin piece and its inspirational evocations - and the complete unexpectedness of it all made the experience one which I will savour for a long time.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Part 3: sculpture / 3D

This year was a disappointment for me as far as sculpture was concerned.  The piece above is attractive enough, and a clever idea, but, ....  Although I paid more attention to prints than before, I did try to keep an eye open for sculptures too.  I thought that the piece in the first room was brilliantly placed because of the red walls hung with bright paintings.
The idea to paint the walls red was that of the artist with overall responsibility for this year's more viewer-friendly hang: Tess Jaray.  I was delighted with the effect it had on the sculpture, but that's about it for the sculpture as far as I was concerned.
David Mach has made yet another clever sculpture out of wire coat hangers - I was bowled over by the first one I saw, was happy to recognise the next few, but now I'm bored with the idea, just as I am bored with his multiple postcard collages.  His work which once wowed me now seems lazy and glib.
David Nash has one piece: Hump with a hole, which looked sorry for itself, and completely out of place in its surroundings.  I much prefer the look of these three humps in his present exhibition at Kew.
Indeed the main room full of sculpture - room VII - made me want to get out as quickly as possible.  One piece only attracted me: a piece of ceramic by Philip Eglin.
That and another ceramic piece by Edmund de Waal, high up on a wall in splendid isolation in the Large Weston Room, were the only 3D pieces I really admired.  The de Waal is entitled A lament, I don't know if it is named for the Purcell Dido and Aeneas (The lament) which he has called 'the most moving piece of music you will find'.  I cannot find a photo of the piece, a white aluminium shelf with white glazed porcelain vessels, but I found it wonderfully elegant.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Summer Exhibition part 2: prints

I must start by saying that I treat the Summer Exhibition not as an exhaustive examination of every individual work: this would be truly exhausting, and I'm sure that by the end I would not remember anything.  There is so much on view, jostling for attention (although that was better this year on the whole) that I tend to concentrate on that which attracts me.  I miss things each year, but I am ok with this.  I also find that favourite artists like Paula Rego and Ian McKeever can sometimes suffer from the crush.  I find that generally the pieces with a self contained composition which work best for me in this exhibition format.
I have been interested in the prints just as much as the paintings over the years, but now of course my eye is a little more informed.  And in addition to this I have acquired the more focused curiosity of someone trying to make work in the same field.  In that spirit I was keen to see if Hughie O'Donoghue's prints were included, specifically because he uses carborundum.  The most beautiful of his prints, Night swimming 1 is at eye height, and consists of three landscape pieces of paper abutted vertically.  It is a powerful work which provided me with inspiration.  I cannot find a reproduction of the print online, but the bather in this link gives a good idea of the style and power of the piece.
Another personally inspirational piece was Mimmo Paladino's Paesaggio.
This is a lithograph with a collaged lithograph, which intrigued me technically
, especially as it slots into my interest in 3D-but-not-quite-3D.  I very much liked the ascetic elegance of Ann Christopher's three pieces from her series The Space Between, and the minimal pattern of a piece by Vera Boele-Keimer
As ever, I found Stephen Chambers' prints intriguing - I'm not sure how much I like them, but there is something very attractive about a lot of them, and they certainly always get me thinking.
But the artist whose work I spent time discussing today with my print teacher is Catherine Yass.  I have only recently become aware of her and her work, and am especially drawn to the pieces on display at the exhibition - a set of eight entitled Safety last to which the image below belongs. 
Catherine Yass: Safety last 4, etching

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The first two rooms

Today we went on our annual outing to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.  After too much wintery weather, the dial seems to have been reset to summer, and this outing was appropriate.  This year is supposed to have a substantially different approach to the hanging: for a start the theme was to be smaller works.  And the exhibition starts with the Wohl Central Hall this year, which has been painted red - and great it looks too. The Portrait of a young man standing sculpture by Leonad McComb RA is polished bronze which reflects all the reds and other bright colours around, and I thought looked just wonderful.
I particularly liked John Hoyland's two paintings which can be seen to the left of the sculpture.  His bold colours zing against the red just as much as they do on a conventionally white painted wall.
All the paintings in this room looked good against the red, and two struck me in particular: first the figurative Catch August by Marilyn Hallam.  I loved the transparency in this, capturing so well the heat of living in the city in summer.
The second painting which drew my attention was After the flood by David Gould.  This is a painted relief in ox blood red and off-creamy white.  And what has been even more pleasurable than the fleeting experience of being attracted to the piece amongst the blizzard of viewing so much is the delight of finding out more when searching online.  I shall be able to savour this  work for a wee while now.
This large room is usually full of huge paintings jostling for attention - each one shouting its wares at the top of its voice.  This year however, a wave form of small pieces, each spaced with enough room to breathe, sweeps round at a generally comfortable height for viewing.  This made the room feel most pleasant and relaxed, and I enjoyed walking round.  There are many many paintings here, but so very few drew my attention.
The to me exquisite oil painting City by Alicia Rothman,
the elegant, sketch-like Seated Figure by John Wragg RA were two,
and the intriguing and delicate Burning Light from her Sunshine Drawing Series by Julia Hutton stood out and made me want to find out more.  The other attraction in this room was that there are three stitched works amongst the paintings: Housework by Caren Garfen, From where I am looking by Miranda Arglye, and Untitled, a multi-coloured abstract embroidery by Lara Punch.