Saturday, 12 December 2009

Kapoor and Auerbach in London

Anish Kapoor at Royal Academy

Anish Kapoor, As if to Celebrate I Discovered a Mountain Blooming with Red Flowers, 1981 (Royal Academy, 2009)

I went to to see the Anish Kapoor exhibition at the Royal Academy last week. I was not as impressed as I had hoped. The reviews had been ecstatic, but the reality was a very crowded exhibition, more spectacle than anything.

The high point for visitors was the cannon that fired red waxy substance at the gallery wall. It made a very loud noise! Two galleries were used for a kind of train coated in red wax that imperceptibly moved through on a base.

Other rooms contained Kapoor's characteristic distorted mirror pieces and large wall-based trompe d'oeil work.
Another room was completely full of cement excrescences of all kinds, mostly like massive piles of grey turds. I thought I was going to like this but it was overwhelming.

Anish Kapoor, Shooting into the Corner, Royal Academy, 2008/9 (above top)
Anish Kapoor, Greyman Cries, Shaman Dies, Billowing Smoke, Beauty Evoked (detail), Royal Academy, 2008/9 (above)

However, the first room was the best for me. Simple spiky and sculptural shapes in bright primary coloured pigments. Fabulous.

I saw the movie
, Bright Star, about the poet John Keats and his relationship with Fanny Brawne. I found it a beautiful gentle film which evoked the slow pace of life 200 years ago.

Frank Auerbach at Courtauld Institute
London Building Sites 1952-62

FRANK AUERBACH Study for Shell Building Site: from the Festival Hall, 1958-60 pencil on paper

FRANK AUERBACH Shell Building Site: from the Thames, 1959, oil on board

These paintings meant a great deal to me. I can just remember post-war London. In the words of Auerbach, "London after the war was a marvellous landscape with precipices and mountains and crags.. ful of drama .... it was pitted with bomb sites and the bomb sites gradually turned into building sites .. there was a sense of survivors scurrying among a ruined city".

I am also fascinated, like Auerbach, by building sites, and by the "contrast between apparent chaos of excavated earth and piles of rubble and the beginning of architectural order at its most dramatic".

In an interview with John Tusa
Auerbach talks about the early influence of David Bomberg, who taught students to look for the "spirit in the mass" and to constantly experiment until they found the essence of the subject. Auerbach works and reworks his paintings, working slowly and scraping back the paint constantly to reveal the image until he is satisfied
. His work is characterized by very thick paint. He says this is incidental to his search for the deepest meaning of the subject.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

"Taking Time" exhibition in Birmingham

Taking Time:Craft and the Slow Revolution
(Waterhall, Birmingham, then touring) is an interesting project. The curation and planning is very transparent, as described on website and blog

Neil Brownsword, "Salvage Series"(detail), 2005
Ceramic and industrial archaeology (Crafts March/April 2008).

For me this exhibition is about makers exploring everyday objects and their place in our psyche. Neil Broadsword casts remnants of the lost Stoke pottery culture in porcelain, Amy Houghton explores our relationship with historical textiles and other objects and David Gates how everyday furniture shapes our space and assumptions, to give a few examples.

Amy Houghton, "One centimetre is a little less than half-an-inch." Stop frame animation of Dovecote Tapestry weaving records.
(Photo by Amy Houghton). (Exhibition catalogue)

Associated with this is the idea of "place". Ken Eastman and Dawn Youll investigate how a place is created, quoting this passage:

"When a place is found it is found somewhere on the frontier between nature and art. It is like a hollow in the sand within which the frontier has been wiped out. The place of the painting begins in this hollow. Begins with a practice, withsomething being done by the hands, and the hands then seeking the approval of the eye, until the whole body is involved in the hollow. Then there's a chance of it becoming a place. A slim chance." John Berger, (2001), The Shape of a Pocket, Bloomsbury, p. 29.