Saturday, October 08, 2016

The bonus was Flesh

Donald Rodney: In the House of My Father (image from here)
Although I had prepared to see the ceramics at York Art Gallery, I had neglected to investigate what else was on show.  I was delighted therefore to note on entering the building a poster promoting a temporary exhibition including work by Degas, Chardin, Bacon, Rubens, ... entitled Flesh.
This is such a thought-provoking exhibition it would have warranted a journey even without the inspirational ceramics.  The theme is a universal one, but the individual components are not generally seen together: religious painting, still life, abstract, photography, documentary, painting, film, sculpture, ....
Although photography was permitted without flash, the snap above of the Ron Mueck Youth was the only one I took because I would not have done justice to anything.  This review has an excellent selection of good photographs, and there are more here, here, and here.
Behind the sculpture above can be seen a group of photographs about self harm.  (I have not been able to track down who made this work.)  It was so interesting to have such aspects of flesh included in the exhibition.  Similarly I found Jonathan Yeo's (widely known as a portrait painter) painting of a patient undergoing a facelift compelling -  just as I have found Jenny Saville's work.
The exhibition contains the beautiful and the repulsive - in all categories: just as I find Rubens repulsive, I find beauty in the elegant limbs of Berlinde De Bruyckere's Romeu 'my deer'.  I found it challenging to be faced with so much flesh, and to have to think about how we generally think about each aspect of flesh in such separate - often mutually excluding categories.
Just as the exhibition in Margate brought the idea of roundness into every corner of my mind, this collection of aspects of flesh has also filled my thoughts - not least bringing Hamlet to mind:

O, that this too too solid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't! ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. 


  1. Wow! This is not to be missed. So, I now have two reasons to visit York and the gallery which I must do before Christmas.

    Five of us went to York for a few days five years ago or so, because we wanted to see the Gordon Baldwin exhibition: three of us are great fans of his work. Not only did we really enjoy seeing so much of his work, but we were also very impressed with the gallery itself: their permanent collection is very interesting, the staff are very friendly and the whole place is so welcoming. Now of course, it's been refurbished, lots more of ceramics to see, and now this wonderful temporary exhibition. I can't wait.... Thank you for this post, Olga.

    1. I wish you a great visit, Eirene. And as I'm sure you know, there are a number of great Baldwin pieces in the Shaw collection.