Exhibition: Degas to Picasso, Creating Modernism in France

I really enjoyed this exhibition as it had a high number of drawings and works on paper, many of which I had not seen before.  It also introduced a number of new artists to me.  The title of the exhibition is slightly misleading as it begins with a drawing by Jean-Honore Fragonard, so that it can put the rise of modernism into a historical context.

As normal with exhibitions, I choose four images to write about in my sketchbook pages.

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As I finished writing this page it stuck me that I should also pick images that were less successful for me and explain why.  You can often learn as much from these images as my favourites.  A learning point for the future.

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Exhibition: Queer British Art 1861-1967

Queer British Art explores the connection between art and gender/sexual identity from 1861, when the death penalty for sodomy was abolished, to 1967, when sex between men was partially decriminalised.

The exhibition reflects both the changes which have occurred in attitudes to being queer (although with current events in America and Russia this is questionable) and the changes in art generally.  I particularly enjoyed seeing the small drawings of Duncan Grant and Keith Vaughan as these are so rarely displayed and have a great sense of movement and power expressed in just a few lines.

I picked out four paintings which I included in my sketch pages to record my thoughts about the exhibition.

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Venue:  Tate Britain

Date of Visit:  25 May 2017

Exhibition: Robert Rauschenberg

Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008)

‘painting relates to both art and life. Neither can be made…. I try to act in that gap between the two.’ Rauschenberg, 1959.

I visited this exhibition at Tate Modern on an OCA Study Day on 21st January and again on 14 March 2017. It was a retrospective of his work and follows a loose chronology, with eleven rooms each containing a shift in his technique or mode of working.

The exhibition was vast and had an amazing variety of work on show which at times was overwhelming (hence the second visit).  On the study visit the tutor asked us to think about what made Rauschenberg a ‘radical’ – his technique, changes of style, attention to American culture, or collaboration?  At the end of visiting the exhibition I don’t think it was any one of these which made him a ‘radical’ rather a willingness to do all four and many others, continually changing and adapting.  Many artist develop a style or made of working which they become ‘known’ for and end up working in that manner for the remainder of their careers.  Rauschenberg shifting styles, collaborated with many other others in different disciplines and continually challenged the accepted view of what made a work of ‘art’.  Whilst artist such as Duchamp have done this in the past with his Readymades Rauschenberg took this to a new level, always challenging conventional views.

As there were so many works I could select to write about I have picked four works which particularly appealed to me either because of the finished piece or the idea behind the finished work and wrote about these in my sketchbook.

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JMW Turner – Adventures in Colour

I visited this exhibition in January at Turner Contemporary, Margate.  The exhibition explored Turner’s use of colour, his experimental techniques, his engagement with colour theory and use of new paint pigments.  I was hoping to see his watercolours and sketchbooks and was not disappointed.  I wrote about two of the pictures in my sketchbook.

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One of the things that came out of this exhibition for me was how the simple nature of the marks in his sketches would still make the image recognisable and how he could capture the atmosphere of the place by his use of colour.  These are both aspects I need to incorporate in my own sketches in order to remove that feeling that I need to produce a perfect image of the visual appearance.

Towards Night

This exhibition of sixty artists exploring the nocturnal covers a period of over 250 years.  I therefore found it interesting to see works from the 1830s next to works created in the last ten years.  You could see both how much the work has changed and also how little it has changed.

Two works I picked out for my sketchbook were Peter Doig, Echo Lake, 1998 and Samuel Palmer, Moonlight, a Landscape with sheep, c1831-33.

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The Doig picture has a really strong narrative and it is this aspect I would like to explore more in my drawings.  Creating enough narrative in the picture, without saying everything, so that the viewer can create their own unique story from the image.  The Palmer image also has a narrative, both romantic and mystical (no doubt from his association with William Blake).  The Palmer picture also attracted me because of the sheer range of mark-making he used with the ink.  Everything from thin scratchy lines to larger ink blotches – again something I need to work upon in my drawings.

Other images which I particularly noted were:

Emil Nolde, Friesland Farm under Red Clouds, c 1930 – it is the low farm buildings on the flat wet landscape, almost unseen because of the red and blue cast of the vast sky, which attracted me to this image.  Link here.

Julian Bell, Hong Kong Dave and the Constellations – the figure right in the foreground laying on their back on a bench with a beer can underneath, looking at the night sky, with groups of people behind and shops in the background, gave this image a real contemporary feel;  a scene you could imagine happening in many places and on numerous nights.  I especially liked the red tone of the whole image with the small area of complimentary green punching out of the picture from the shop interior.  Link here.

One Day, Something Happens: Paintings of People

I visited this Arts Council Collection Touring Exhibition at the beginning of January but am only just getting round to writing it up; I am still learning to juggle my time regarding studying and other commitments.

The exhibition presented images drawn from the Arts Council Collection which explore the everyday theatricality of the body.  There was a very wide range of artists on show with quite diverse works which made the exhibition both exciting and challenging.  Two particular works which I found interesting were Richard Hamilton, Hugh Gaitskell as a Famous Monster of Filmland (1964) and William Roberts, The Seaside (c 1966).  The former because of the use of the enlarged newspaper photograph overlaid with the oil paint mask and the latter because of the movement and rhythm created by the position of the figures. I brought the postcards of each and included them in my sketchbook.

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Other works which I found interesting were:

Martin Westwood, Extrusion 24. Geld, 2008 – it was the collage added to a pen drawing with the glass of the frame used as another layer which attracted me to this image.  Link to image here.

Prunella Clough, Lowestoft Harbour, 1951 – the portrait format, muted colours and multi-perspective made me really look into this image.  Link to image here.

Ryan Mosley, Northern Ritual, 2011 – it is the repeated motifs across the canvas, the colour harmonies, the position of the foot coming out of the canvas which attracted me to this image.  I also liked the fact that you cannot see the faces of any of the people depicted  – the central figure facing the viewer has their face obscured by the leaf and the others have their backs to the viewer; in spite of this you can fully relate to what is happening in the image.  Link to image here.

Venue:  Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne

Georgie Meadows: Stitched Drawings

This exhibition of machine stitched line drawings shows the consequences of ageing and dementia on people Georgie Meadows has encountered in her work as an occupational therapist.

The line drawings, mostly in black thread on three layers of cloth (two layers of thin calico-like material separated by a layer of wadding) are really well observed. In one image, of a carer helping their partner to stand, you can almost see the weight being transferred from the partner to the carer. In other drawings long strands of threads are left hanging which brings a freer gestural quality to the drawing and also seems to represent the tangled memories associated with dementia. The fabric of some drawings, particularly when depicting a head on a pillow, is slightly discoloured which to me represented the strains from the head left after long periods in bed.

I left the exhibition with mixed feelings. The drawings are excellent but at the same time the subject matter I found depressing – is this what is awaiting me? It also brings into focus the very current issue of our attitude to ageing as a society, resources for the care of the elderly and the role of the carer. Finally, it highlighted the question of what is drawing and the need to be all encompassing in that definition.

Venue: The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge

Artists Website:  here