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2012 Highlights

27 Dec

When it comes picking my highlights of the last year, I am impossibly indecisive – as ever there have been been the usual disappointments but there have been a fair few stunners in the arts calendar.  I can’t believe how many shows I’ve seen but I also feel I’ve missed a lot – if only there were a few more hours in every day.

As I did last year, I’ve chosen the exhibitions that stand out for me as being remarkable; they include stunning art work, and are interesting and well-curated.  Here we go…

Triumphant at Tate – Way back in February, I visited Yayoi Kusama at Tate Modern and I can still vividly picture the exhibition.  Kusama has always been ahead of her time – her work is beautiful, innovative and ground-breaking.  The exhibition worked broadly chronologically with each sequence of rooms studying the emergence of a new artistic stance.

Kusama

Yayoi Kusama, I’m Here, but Nothing, 2000. Own photograph.

Radiant at the Royal Academy  – while the rest of the world is still raving about Bronze, the RA’s highlight for me was their exhibition Johan Zoffany RA: Society Observed.  I admit that, as an 18th century art historian, I may be slightly biased but through these 60 or so works, the RA successfully argued his importance to the artistic culture and heritage of his time.

Zoffany

Johan Zoffany, Three Sons of John, Third Earl of Bute and Three Daughters of John, Third Earl of Bute, 1763-4. Own photograph.

Nailing It at the National GallerySeduced by Art is still on show at the National Gallery and is an unmissable exhibition.  This divided opinion but, for me, it was a stunning and enthralling.  Seduced by Art is not a survey, nor a history of photography.  Instead, it offers an argument and dialogue that presents historical painting, alongside historical photography, alongside contemporary photographs. The National Gallery has had a strong year and I feel its Metamorphosis: Titian 2012 (with Wallinger’s Diana in particular) is also worthy of mention.

The Destroyed Room, 1978

Jeff Wall, The Destroyed Room. Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Canada and via www.ng-london.org.uk.

Leaving LondonEdward Burra at Pallant House was the first major show for over 25 years of the artist’s works in which Burra is finally awarded a smidgeon of the recognition he deserves.  It offered an opportunity to study his extraordinary creativity.

Burra

Edward Burra, The Snack Bar, 1930. Image via www.tate.org.uk.

Also with podium finishes were:

Glistening GoldMondrian||Nicholson: In Parallel, The Courtauld Gallery

This explored the creative relationship between Mondrian and Nicholson, charting the parallel paths explored by these two artists during the 1930s.  It was a far more contemporary show than we would normally expect from The Courtauld and it successfully changed the gallery aesthetic, pairing two artists who many wouldn’t otherwise have realised are connected.

Composition C (No.III) with Red, Yellow and Blue

Piet Mondrian, Composition C (no. III), with Red, Yellow and Blue, 1935. Image courtesy of Mondrian/Holtzman Trust and via www.courtauld.ac.uk.

Scintillating SilverNowhere Less Now, Tin Tabernacle

Artangel’s commission by Lindsay Seers, took place in the Tin Tabernacle; Nowhere Less Now was a poignant amalgam of film, photography, sculpture, performance, animation, philosophy and writing.  Its complexities still offer food for thought many months afterwards.

Tin Tab

The Tin Taberacle. Own photograph.

Brilliant BronzePainting from Life: Carracci Freud, Ordovas

Having successfully juxtaposed Bacon and Rembrandt in the past, Ordovas knows how to get its shows right: Painting from Life was a tiny exhibition bringing together head studies by Carracci and Freud.  This was an intimate, simple and stunning juxtaposition.

Ordovas

Ordovas. Image via www.ordovasart.com.

Last but by no means least – Runner Up  – Alberto Burri: Form and Matter, Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art

Before this exhibition, I didn’t really know who Burri was but he is undoubtedly a master of the 20th century who revolutionised the vocabulary of post-war art.  From the simplest materials, Burri was able to create something monumental and striking, imbued with energy and movement.

6. Burri White Cretto 1975

Alberto Burri, White Cretto, 1975. Image courtesy of the Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini, Collezione Burri and Città di Castello and via www.estorickcollection.com.

But, there was also David Shrigley: Brain Activity at the Hayward Gallery, Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomist at the Queen’s Gallery, Rothko/Sugimoto: Dark Paintings and Secrets at Pace London, Tim Lewis: Mechanisms at Flowers, Doris Salcedo at White Cube and Louse Bourgeois: The Return of the Repressed at The Freud Museum and numerous great little shows at Josh Lilley.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten lots of gems.  We are so fortunate to have such varied and high calibre art to admire on our doorstep.  It’s so easy to get from gallery to gallery however precarious your footwear may be and, of course, there’s always a taxi around the corner.

It seems only fitting to include some of my favourite shoe pictures from the past year and to thank my principal shoe photographer (you know who you are).

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shoes (4)

Shoes

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Thank you, as ever, for reading Artista.  I hope you had a very Merry Christmas and wish you all a Happy Shoe Year.

Ski boots

Endless Impossibilities – Lindsay Seers at the Tin Tabernacle

20 Sep

It has been nearly a week since I visited the Tin Tabernacle in Kilburn and I’m digesting what I saw.  But, I think that is the point of the work – it is intentionally so complex that we go on pondering its meanings and will never quite fully understand every component.

The Tin Taberacle. Own photograph.

Artangel’s latest project is a commission by artist Lindsay Seers taking place in the Tin Tabernacle in Kilburn, a remarkable corrugated iron chapel that I was quite curious to see.  Artangel seek to take art out of traditional gallery settings and open their projects up to new audiences.  They are offering free tickets on a Wednesday afternoon to allow those who may not be able to afford to pay an opportunity to experience the work.  Not only have they hit the nail on the head with this incredible project but they have made it accessible and, as ever, they must be applauded.

Flat-packed corrugated buildings, such as the Tin Tabernacle, were sent by the Victorians to colonies all over the world to act as temporary places of worship.  This specific example, constructed in 1863, is now a Grade II listed building that has been home to the Willesden and St Marylebone Sea Cadets since 1949.  Shortly after occupying the site, they transformed it into a training ship so the building has portholes, rigging, a 1943 anti-aircraft gun and much more besides.  Although the outlines of a ship are normally present, the building is no longer recognisable and a lot more has been added to it in the creation of Seers’ piece.

Inside The Tin Tab. Own photograph.

Entering the Tin Tabernacle was the start of my adventure.  You walk through a grubby yard at the side of the church and are shown into a waiting room – the ship’s wardroom.  Music calls softly from everyone’s headphones.  When everyone has arrived, you’re shown into Seers’ world where nothing is as it seems.

Entering the building. Own photograph.

The idea of creating spaces and buildings is not new to Seers.  The Tin Tabernacle is a living museum and much of what you see belongs to the Cadets although it’s impossible to tell what was here and what was not.  And so starts the endless impossibilities of this piece.

Nowhere Less Now is a poignant amalgam of film, photography, sculpture, performance, animation, philosophy and writing that brings together research, history, autobiography and fiction in an exploration of time, place, family, sea-faring, masonry and more besides.  The work consists of two films projected simultaneously onto specially designed screens, resembling two eyes – a theme which is omnipresent throughout the work in the discussion of heterochromia, a condition that results in different coloured eyes.  The multi-layered soundtrack is played through the headphones creating an intimate and more personal experience.

A still from the film piece.  Image via www.telegraph.co.uk

Magical realism comes into play with Seer’s multi-media installation, blurring boundaries between truth and fiction; the magic of Seers’ art is that we are unable to distinguish which is which.  She establishes extraordinary connections and creates experiences that set off connections within your mind.  The story tells us of her great great uncle, George Edwards, a sailor who was born on 27th September 1866, a hundred years to the day before she was born (look carefully and you can find a photograph of George on one of the walls).  He sailed to Zanzibar where she had previously discovered another prefabricated church.  The story also involves a present day African sailor called George and takes us to a George in the future where photographs have ceased to exist.

A still from the film piece.  Image via www.timeout.com

Seers feels that we experience everything through complicated connections and her work aims to represent the experience of ‘being’, jumping backwards and forwards as these connections progress and develop.  When the film ends, we’re left with so many questions.  I don’t want to describe the video in any more depth as part of the beauty of the work is the mystery.  Before leaving the Tin Tabernacle, you have the opportunity to wander round the dimly lit space for ten minutes not really knowing what to make of the surroundings.  The act of experiencing the site is a one-off voyage of discovery.  On the way out, visitors are handed a fairly substantial book and this is my one criticism – everything is meant to be unresolved and no-one should have to feel the need to read nearly 200 pages in a bid to help them untangle the webs of Seers’ work.

The book that’s handed out on exit.  Image via www.immprint.com

It’s easy to forget where you are and walking back onto the street is quite disorientating.  Seers has a unique way of seeing things.  Is this an autobiographical piece or is this all fiction?  We’ll never know.  Are the people in the film who we think they are?  Again, the implausibility of the story is meant to baffle and move us.  Whatever you take from the content of the piece, the method of projection, design and transformation of building and the overall construction are so beautiful and dreamlike and executed to such a high degree of finish that you can’t help but be moved in some way.

Lindsay Seers: Nowhere Less Now is at The Tin Tabernacle until 21st October 2012, www.artangel.org.uk.

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