Art: Edvard Munch – Love and Angst

One of the largest show of Edvard Munch’s prints and woodcuts in the UK for 45 years is now being held at the British Museum until 21 July 2019. For those who may not be familiar with the artist, you would certainly recognise the “art’s most haunting and iconic face”. A piece of artwork that is so renowned that it has become an emoji!

Despite being considered as one of the founding fathers of Expressionism, very little is known about him. The exhibition aims to shed light on the Norwegian painter by exploring the political history of pre-war era Europe, particularly Oslo, Berlin and Paris where Munch travelled and found new influences. As you wander through the exhibition, it delves into Munch’s unconventional Bohemian lifestyle and beliefs which moulded his art and innovative printmaking techniques.  

Expressionism

Expressionism focuses on emotional experience above all else, particularly the isolation and anxiety of modern existence through highly intense and non-naturalistic brushwork. Expressionism is generally applied to the art of the twentieth century where it is said to have started with Vincent Van Gogh but included others such as Edvard Munch, James Ensor and later, Egon Schiele.  

Expressionists are in contrast to the Impressionists, where the goal was not to reproduce the impression suggested by the surrounding world but to strongly impose the artist’s own sensibility to the world’s representation. Expressionists explored the psyche; the focus was on dramatic and emotion-laden themes, particular qualities of fear, horror and the grotesque.

During the pre-war era, Expressionists reacted to the increasingly industrialised lives and sense of isolation. The artists developed a powerful mode of social criticism through their artwork. This included representations of modern cities through alienated individuals, including prostitutes (think Egon Schiele) who were used to comment on capitalism’s role in the emotional distancing of individuals within cities

The art movement rejected the dominant styles and subject matter of German visual culture at the turn of the 20th century, instead, found early inspiration in the flat patterning and bold forms of The New Art movement. Expressionists looked for inspiration beyond European art and culture to native folk traditions and tribal art; such as African and Oceanic art; as it was then considered to be primitive and unevolved.

The movement flourished from 1905 to 1920, particularly in Germany and Austria. However, with the rise of Nazism in Germany, this led to the end of the Expressionist movement, with most of the artwork removed from museums and confiscated from private collections.

Edvard Munch (1863 – 1944)

Edvard Munch was a prolific yet perpetually troubled artist preoccupied with matters of human mortality such as chronic illness, sexual liberation, and religious aspiration

Born in 1863 in the village of Ådalsbruk in Løten, Norway. Munch grew up with an older sister and three younger siblings. The family moved to Oslo in 1864 and became the start of his personal struggles and anguish. Munch became familiar with death. He lost his mother to tuberculosis before he turned 13. He lost his much-loved sister nine years later to the same disease. His younger sister was diagnosed with mental illness at an early age and his younger brother passed away shortly after his marriage. 

He, himself, also suffered from a poor immune system and was kept out of school for months on end. To pass the time, Munch took up drawing and painting. His father would often read ghost stories of Edgar Allan Poe, which instilled in the young Munch a general sense of anxiety about death (unsurprisingly) and how it constantly advanced on him.

There was a constant conflict with his father who Munch considered as “temperamentally nervous and obsessively religious”. Munch enrolled in a technical college in 1879 but frequent illnesses interrupted his studies and in the following year, Munch dropped out to pursue painting. This cause further friction with his father who deemed art as an “unholy trade”. However, this did not stop the budding artist from enrolling at the Royal School of Art and Design of Kristiania in 1881; where he started to seek an alternative bohemian lifestyle. 

During this time, Munch discovered the writings of the anarchist philosopher, Hans Jæger, head of a group called the “Kristiania-Boheme”. Jæger advocated for sexual freedom and individualism. They formed a close friendship and it was Jæger who encouraged Munch to draw from personal experience in his work. This led to the painting of The Sick Child (1885 – 1886) which served as a memorial to his favourite sister.

https://www.edvardmunch.org/the-sick-child.jsp
The Sick Child, 1885

In 1889, Munch travelled to Paris to study at the studio of Leon Bonnat and continued to explore the themes of death and personal loss.  Munch’s father passed away that year, and Night in St,.Cloud (1890) served as a memorial. It was after this period, where the Frieze series and related works were the artists most popular and artistically significant period which is the period that the exhibition focuses on.  This was the period, where his signature paintings The Scream (1893), Love and Pain (1893-94), Ashes (1894), Madonna (1894-95), and Puberty (1895) were all created.

https://www.edvardmunch.org/madonna.jsp
Madonna, 1894

Exhibition

Munch’s art is not for the faint-hearted as it explores the fear, gloom and angst of his personal Expressionist art. When entering the exhibition, the first painting is a sombre self-portrait; jet black apart from the face and a skeleton arm placed casually on the bottom of the painting. Considering the pains of his past, death is at the forefront of Munch’s art. It is not hidden or subtle but a print version of The Sick Child, The Dead Mother and a print from woodcuts of The Death in the Sick Room is an emotive depiction of loss, almost too painful to look.

The exhibition focuses on his lithographs, woodcuts, drypoint prints and etchings, Munch’s skills seems unrivalled; by using different mediums and methods his prints are just as vivid and haunting as his paintings. His bohemian lifestyle also meant that Munch explored the representation of women’s bodies. The lithograph titled Madonna is of a beautiful woman but contrasted with a curled foetus in the corner of the painting makes it sinister and dangerous.

https://www.artsy.net/artwork/edvard-munch-madonna-3
Madonna, 1895/1902

Munch seemed to have a difficult relationship with women, he was afraid of marriage and his love life was confusing. He was only engaged once to Tulla Larsen but that relationship ended with a gunshot wound to the finger, of which an x-ray is displayed in the exhibition. Some of his most impressive were his works are from the Frieze of Life series where he depicted a love affair through the kiss, love, pain, jealousy, betrayal and despair. The inspiration for his work has been suggested to be his tumultuous relationship with women and the shock and fear associated with the power and passion of women. 

Munch was a prolific artist where he produced more than 1,000 paintings, 4,000 drawings and nearly 15,400 prints throughout this career. Therefore, it is no surprise that he has influenced many artists after him. German Expressionists painters such as Kirchner, Kandinsky, and Beckmann also expressed their individual psychology through intense colour and semi-abstraction. Munch’s influence even extends to Francis Bacon whose portraits reflect the sitter’s psychological turmoil as is manifested in skewed facial and bodily features. 

It is hard to shake off the melancholy of Munch’s work when leaving the exhibition, yet the British Museum has managed to shed light into the life of the artist that painted one of the most famous paintings in our Modern History. Recommend – 3.5 out of 5 Pineapples.

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

For other reviews of the exhibitions, please see the below links:

Art: Dorothea Tanning

Dorothea Tanning (1)

Until the 9th June, Tate Modern has curated a large scale exhibition of Dorothea Tanning’s work, bringing together 100 pieces from paintings to sculptures spanning her 70-year career. The exhibition is organised by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid in collaboration with Tate Modern and curated by Alyce Mahon and Ann Coxon.

Dorothea Tanning

Tanning was born in 1910 in a small town of Galesburg, Illinois, where, she said, ‘nothing happened but the wallpaper’. As a result of this boredom, she filled her time reading Gothic novels and poetry which greatly inspired her early work. Only in the 1930s did she travel to New York to pursue her artistic career, after briefly studying painting at the Chicago Academy of Art. During this time, she supported herself by being a commercial artist, including advertisements for Macy’s department store. Her first encounter of the Surrealism movement was the 1936 seminal exhibition held at the Museum of Modern Art – Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism. This had a profound effect on Tanning, which resulted in her travelling to France in August 1939 with letters of introduction to artists including Max Ernst and Pablo Picasso. However, when arriving in Paris, the country was at the brink of war and she had to return to New York without meeting anyone on her list.
It was only until 1942 was she reunited with Ernst, who fled from France and became a refugee in New York. The two moved in together about a week after Ernst viewed her work and persuaded his then-wife Peggy Guggenheim to include Tanning’s self-portrait, changing the exhibit entitled “30 Women” to “31 Women. In 1944 Tanning was given her first solo show by Julien Levy after being impressed by her creativity and skill in commercial illustration. Despite the success of the exhibition, the newly married couple in 1946 moved to Sedona, Arizona and settled there until 1949 where they both relocated to Paris, though continued to spend time back in Arizona. It was during this time where there was a significant shift in her style of painting, from the very dreamlike detailed paintings to abstract brushstrokes. The next few decades were a time of great experimentation from painting and sculpture, to writing and poetry.

Tanning only returned to New York in 1980 four years after Ernst died. She completed her last paintings in 1998 but continued to write focusing on poetry until she passed away at 101 years old in 2012.

Surrealism

Surrealism was a movement that emerged from Paris in the 1920s, with a focus to explore the complexity and hidden workings of the mind as a source of art, as well as writing. It principally grew out from the earlier Dada movement before the First World War. According to The Surrealist Manifesto published by André Breton in 1924, Surrealism was a means of reuniting conscious and unconscious realms of experience so completely that the world of dream and fantasy would be joined to the everyday rational world in “an absolute reality, a surreality.” In other words, they sought to channel the unconscious as a means to unlock the power of the imagination.

The work of Sigmund Freud was influential for Surrealists, particularly his book, The Interpretation of Dreams (1899) which legitimised the importance of dreams. This was particularly prominent in Tanning’s work where she is known to depict her dreams in great detail. Surrealist imagery is probably the most recognisable element of the movement yet difficult to define as each artist relied on their own recurring motifs. Nature is often the most frequent imagery, where Max Ernst was obsessed with birds, Dali’s work included ants and eggs, Tanning included dogs, particularly Ernst’s pet Lhasa Apso named Katchina.

Exhibition & Favourite pieces

“Looking at Tanning’s work is like entering into another universe,” explains the exhibition’s curator, Ann Coxon. “She is interested in everything that lies behind and beneath the facade of the everyday.”

The exhibition starts off with one of her most important works; the painting that turned 30 to 31 women and ended a marriage. Named by Ernst as “Birthday” this painting marks her birth as a surrealist. After their wedding and relocation from New York to Sedona Arizona, doors become a prominent feature in Tanning’s work. The door is a surrealist symbol and represents a portal to the unconscious. It is in this room of the exhibition, where you see the infamous painting Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (1943); though my favourite is the Self Portrait (1944) which depicts the vast empty landscape of Arizona, yet appears unsettling and claustrophobic, as if there is nowhere to run.

Having moved to Paris, her art starts to change from the intricately detailed drawings of Birthday and Eine Kleine Nachtmusik to much more abstract depictions of family, interiors and the dining table as illustrated in Portrait de Famille (1954) and The Philosophers (1952). The mid-1950s was a time of change for Tanning as her style of painting completely changed and her composition and brushwork became more abstract and fluid, and merging of bodies is depicted in Insomnies (Insomnias) (1957). Though in this room, the painting that is at odds with the others is Pour Gustave l’adoré (1974) as she uses a very rich and dark colour palette.

Tanning explored maternity during different stages of her career and her paintings are from idyllic and from my perspective, frightening. Maternity (1946-7) is the most famous of these and the soft sculpture Emma (1970) made from dirty antique lace frills makes this room particularly difficult to see or enjoy. Hidden in the corner of this room of the exhibition, is the surprising Hôtel du Pavot, Chambre 202 (1970–3) where stuffed figures are placed together into an unsettling installation, it is dark and gave me goosebumps as it brings back scenes from Stranger Things.

Tanning changes her medium again in the 1960s where a lot of work was in the form of soft sculptures. Using textiles, pins and other objects she crafts bodily sculptures which come across as playful and erotic such as Pincushion to Serve as Fetish (1965). Yet, the sculpture that should be highlighted in this room Tweedy (1973) and its accompanying turd.
For further information on the exhibition, please refer to the exhibition guide found here.

Celebration of female artists

Not surprisingly. like many women before and after Tanning. Her work was overshadowed by her husband’s fame. She once wrote about herself that “Her existence as an artist was dramatically compromised by her existence as Max’s wife, but love triumphs all,”.

Despite this, it cannot be disputed that Tanning was an accomplished artist who had a profound impact on the Surrealist movement, as well as subsequent generations of artists. Her exploration of the female form meant that she was often associated with the feminist movement. This included her own portraits where Tanning incorporated her gothic self-image which was cultivated from the novels she read in her childhood. Tanning also explored motherhood in detail even though she never had children herself. The works themselves were hauntingly beautiful but sad. Motherhood may have been considered but her art reflected her issues and thinking around this.

“Women artists. There is no such thing—or person. It’s just as much a contradiction in terms as ‘man artist’ or ‘elephant artist’. You may be a woman and you may be an artist; but the one is a given and the other is you.” – Dorothea Tanning

Tanning was not keen to be known as a feminist and did not want to be categorised. Despite this, she has become a role model for women trying to break free from the restrictions of womanhood to become artists and continues to influence artists today.

How many pineapples?

A hauntingly beautiful exhibition, a must see – 4.5 out of 5 pineapples.

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

Art: Pierre Bonnard – The Colour of Memory

Pierre Bonnard
The Mantelpiece (1916)

Pierre Bonnard: The Colour of Memory is the first exhibition at the Tate since its previous exhibition twenty years ago. It will be available until the 6th May, so for all those who wish to go, I do recommend to do it soon! Tickets are priced at £18 per adult. 

Monet and Matisse are household names, but Bonnard is not an artist I am familiar with. This is why I am so glad there are so many wonderful institutions and curators in London organising exhibitions. There is always an opportunity to build up knowledge in art history. On a side note, have any of you completed short courses in art history? I would be really like to attend one but I don’t know which ones are worthwhile!

My review below has been inspired by Tate’s own blog post on the Eight Essentials to Know About Pierre Bonnard.  

History of Pierre Bonnard

Pierre Bonnard was born in 1867 in Fontenay-aux-Roses, Hauts-de-Seine. He was the son of a prominent official of the French Ministry of War, and upon the insistence of his father, Bonnard studied law at the Sorbonne from 1885 to 1888. Whilst working in a government office, Bonnard attended art classes at École des Beaux-Arts and later transferred to Académie Julian. He became an artist in 1890 sharing a studio in Montmartre with Maurice Denis and Édouard Vuillard. 

Les Nabis & Colours

During the 1890s, Bonnard was a prominent member of Les Nabis, who were a group of artists that saw themselves as prophets of modern art (talk about bigheaded much?!). They favoured a bold yet simplified style of painting. Bonnard was particularly famous for his use of colour, and throughout the exhibition, you will notice the intensity of colours ranging from the very light to the deep and vibrant. A great example of this intensity and one of my favourites is Bathers at the End of the Day (1945). It has been said that he was inspired by the Impressionists, including painters Paul Gaugin, Jean Renoir and Toulouse Lautrec which is definitely evident throughout the exhibition.

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Bathers at the End of the Day (1945)

Nudes & Bathtubs

Personally, I think one of the greatest influences on Bonnard’s work was his wife Marthe de Méligny. It is nearly impossible to imagine the paintings without Marthe de Méligny, I didn’t count how many paintings or photos were of her, but a majority of the exhibition had her presence. 

She was often the inspiration for his paintings of nude women and the many baths. The baths were partly medicinal as Marthe had a tubercular condition and obtained relief from the water. These simple yet intimate moments were some of my favourite paintings by him.

He met Méligny in 1893 and she remained an ever-present subject of his paintings. Defying convention at the time, Bonnard did not marry Marthe until 32 years after they had met. However, this was only after his numerous affairs with younger women, in particular, Renee Monchaty, who tragically took her own life the year Bonnard and Méligny married. 

 

Still Life & Memory

Many of Bonnard’s paintings were of simple everyday life. He was an Intimist and often painted still life and other domestic scenes. He rarely painted from life, most of his paintings would start out as sketches from memory and then he would paint in his studio. This allowed Bonnard to add details and complexity to all his paintings. He was freed from the constraints of the “moment” and could transform his sketches with his imagination. One of my favourite paintings is Coffee (1915), where there is a weird looking dog (he really can’t draw dogs) in the corner of the table perched on this vivid red checkered table cloth. It is so simple yet captivating. I also seem to like paintings of food in general, because The Table (1925) is also one I really liked.

Picasso vs. Matisse

It turns out that Picasso really disliked Bonnard yet Matisse was a fan. When visiting the exhibition, you can understand why there are such divided opinions regarding his work. Upon reviewing my pictures of the paintings for this blog, they were obviously a record of the ones I liked the most, I can really understand the allure of Bonnard. I was drawn to his use of colours and perspective in his paintings. Many of my favourites were of his wife such as the nudes and the bathtubs. 

However, Bonnard seemed to lack consistency, which is where I side with Picasso. There were definitely other paintings where the proportions of the people or faces were very distorted that I had to question whether it was purposeful or was it just sloppy? I mean just look at the mother and child, or the woman in the foreground in Piazza del Popolo, Rome (1922). 

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Piazza del Popolo, Rome (1922)

Who do you agree with the most – Picasso or Matisse? As always, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments, so please drop me a note below!

Overall, I would give the exhibition a 3.5 out of 5 pineapples. It was well thought out and thorough exhibition of the artist’s work. At least by the end of it, I felt like I knew him a bit better and could draw my own conclusion as to whether I liked him or not. 

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

For those who would like a little more detail, the Tate has a wonderful introduction to the exhibition.

P.S. these other reviews just made me laugh so I thought I would share.

Art: Christian Dior – Designer of Dreams

Dior

Dior. For many women, the four-letter word exudes iconic, feminine, aspirational – the list can go on. It is easy to understand when the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (“V&A”) announced their upcoming Christian Dior – Designer of Dreams exhibition there was much furore; so much so that the exhibition had to be extended to 1 September 2019, and even then, the tickets are all sold out

So far, there has been a mixed reception with some critics noting “style over substance” highlighting the display failed to set the scene and did not match the history of Dior with the social economic climate of the times. Others, have showered it with praise and described it as a wonderful show of Monsieur Dior’s fairytale; some even go as far to describe it as “the greatest fashion show the V&A has ever staged”.

Given the difficulty in obtaining the tickets to the exhibition, expectations were high. Located in the newly built and cavernous Sainsbury’s Gallery, with structural curves to die for. The new space was a welcomed changed to previous fashion exhibitions, such as Balencigia and Fashioned from Nature, where they were located in a dark corner of the museum.

The start of the exhibition centres around the iconic New Look with the Bar Suit. A white boxy suit jacket with an impossibly cinched (pretty sure it was the width of my one thigh!) and the voluminous skirts, which was a dramatic departure from the fabric rationing during the war period. The exhibition vaguely moves from the history of Dior fashion house starting with 1946 at Avenue Montaigne and ending with the final runway piece of 2019 by the inspirational Maria Grazia Chiuri. Personally, she is my favourite creative director in the history Dior, with her debut giving tribute to the iconic Dior “New Look”. Noting sadly that my body shape would ever fit into the ultra nipped waists of the look, one can still dream of the whimsical skirts of tulle.

As you walk through the exhibition navigating between dimly lit rooms to the beautifully decorated, such as the “flower” room by the design studio Wanda Barcelona and the finale Ball Room, one can’t help to be mesmerised. However, it was difficult to follow the theme throughout as each room seemed independent and did not flow onto the next. Each room was aesthetically pleasing and each garment beautifully displayed but it failed to share much detail on the pieces. The overall experience felt like an extravagant fashion show with mannequins, where guests had to walk around and fight for a closer view. Ultimately, the exhibition failed to tell a story.

Despite this, undoubtedly, there were elements of the show which made the visit worthwhile. It was an opportunity to see these beautiful garments up close and admire the details, where one would not have had a chance otherwise. The innovative styles, the intricate stitching and the structure of garments honour not only the designers but the ateliers who turned sketches to exquisite and alluring pieces of art. For those who have tickets to the exhibition, you have plenty to look forward to and it is worth the wait!

The Pineapple Chicken gives the exhibition a 4 out of 5 pineapples. Have any of you been yet? What were your favourite pieces? As always, I would love to hear from you!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

P.S The Little Big Movement is now back online! Check him out here!

Art: Martin Parr – Only Human

Hi everyone!

I hope you are well and enjoying a positive week so far. This Thursday’s art instalment on the Pineapple Chicken Blog is on the latest exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery (“NPG”); Martin Parr – Only Human. I am a big fan of photography, this is why I started taking photos several years ago. Though I am still very much an amateur and lately I have been too lazy to carry my gear around – my favourite photography style continues to be street photography and portraiture.

NPG is somewhere I go back to time and time again because they always have great photography exhibitions (also a worthy mention is the Barbican Centre).  The Martin Parr: Only Human exhibition was another great opportunity to broaden my horizons and see the works of another artist to inspire my own photography. The exhibition is available until 27th May 2019 and costs £18 per adult or half price with the Art Pass. If you are under 25, the exhibition is only of £5 every Friday! (when the gallery is open until 9 pm.)

After Don McCullin’s exhibition at Tate Britain, I realised that I do not know many British photographers and as usual I walk into this exhibition not knowing very much about Parr. I think I should start a project on iconic British photographers, what do you think?  

Martin Parr

He is a British photojournalist and is one of the “best known” (oops!) and “most widely celebrate photographers”.  He is known for his satirical and anthropological look of modern life, in particular documenting social classes in Britain and exploring British identity. 

He seems to live and breathe photography (which is awesome). According to Wikipedia, he wanted to be a documentary photographer at the young age of 14 and went on to study photography at Manchester Polytechnic. After that, it seems like nothing could stop him. He is a prolific photographer and by just doing a quick search on Amazon you will quickly find a vast number of published photobooks by him. On my to buy list is “Small World”, which I had a quick flick through at the exhibition shop. The book is a portfolio of photos he took internationally as a critique of mass tourism. Considering that I love to travel, I thought would be good to have this in my collection 🙂

Only Human

Only Human exhibition captured a different perspective on everyday lives. The exhibition was surprisingly large and took an hour to walk around. Each room was individually themed with appropriate props and walls painted in very vibrant colours. For example, there was a room with photos of people dancing had a giant the disco ball in it. One of my favourite rooms was the room with beach photography, where one of his photos was used as a wallpaper and the adjacent walls in a shade of bright yellow, and just a deck chair in the middle.  What was most surreal was in the middle of the exhibition there is a room converted to a “greasy cafe” (which I grew up with in London) where you can order cakes and teas that were stereotypical of “English” tradition. 

Parr has an amazing eye for capturing humorous moments, making his photos inquisitive and engaging. There were some that just made me laugh, particularly his collection of self-portraits when he travelled, taken by the typical “tourist trap” photos in traditional gear and/or with weird backdrops.

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For his own photos, he uses vibrant (close to being slightly oversaturated) colours which reminded me of William Eggleston’s photography. Coincidentally, I saw back his exhibition back in 2016 at the NPG as well. Eggleston’s photos are more ethereal/whimsical, I think Parr’s photos have more of an edge to them. For many of his photos, they may look humorous but as you look a little longer, you realise there is more than meets the eye such as inequality, his photos are not critical, but they definitely brush being “political”.

Parr travels around Britain to try and capture what it means to be British, and of course, includes the hot topic – Brexit in the final room of the exhibition. I really enjoyed the photography in this room, because for me as a British born Chinese living in London, there is no one “look” for being British. I laugh at some of the sensibilities and traditions but recognise that a lot of being “British” is very much part of who I am too. One of his photos, though simple, captured two Muslim girls working behind the counter of a traditional Fish and Chip shop.  

This struck a chord with me because, to me, this is true Britain and how I see my home – a multicultural society. I grew up with my parents running a fish and chip shop and my uncle running a stereotypical Chinese Restaurant (with little lanterns and fortune cookies), but now I work in the City of London and my sister works in a startup in Covent Garden. There really is no template. Don’t get me wrong, we have SOOOO many issues, as captured Parr’s photos exploring how Upper-Class White Males still run many of our institutions – “The Establishment”, but I appreciate that Parr explored this and encourage debate about this.

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3.75 out of 5 Pineapples

I enjoyed the exhibition and the topics it covered but, overall, I was not particularly blown away by Parr’s photography, so if you aren’t really into street photography, you may not enjoy this. For those who would like a deeper understanding of everyday Britain, I think it is worth giving it a go. 

Are any of you familiar with his photography? Who is your favourite photographer? As always, I would love to hear from you!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

Art: Don McCullin

Hi Everyone!

https://www.christies.com/features/Don-McCullin-6777-1.aspx

How has your week been so far? Work has been slow for me and the weather has been pretty miserable in London, but I am grateful for some downtime. Moreover, I have something really exciting to look forward to this weekend! This probably also explains why I have mentally checked out at work. My university friend is getting married in Chamonix, France, so I am going to go snowboarding for the first time (last time was about 10 years ago so I will consider myself as a beginner again!) and see some friends that I have not caught up with since I graduated!

Last Sunday, I went to the latest exhibition at Tate Britain – Don McCullin, it will be available until 6th May 2019, for those with an Art Pass, it only costs £9 or £18 for a normal adult ticketI love the Tate group and I think Tate Britain is one of the most beautiful art galleries in London. I highly recommend wandering around the free exhibits if you ever have the time!

Don McCullin

I love photography exhibitions (see my previous post on Diane Arbus) and as I am still working on my own photography, I was excited about this specific exhibition. I did not know much about Don McCullin, so I thought it was a great opportunity for me to learn more about him and see whether his photos would inspire different techniques of my own.

For the past 50 years, he has travelled the world capturing the horrors of wars in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. During this period, he was shot and hit by a bomb in Cambodia; an individual was standing in front of him and took a majority of the shrapnel, unfortunately, the Cambodian male died shortly after. He has been imprisoned, expelled from a country and even had a bounty on his head. I am completely in awe of him – he had the courage and bravery to go where other photographers didn’t and, most importantly, he ensured that every photo he took was with compassion and respect.

He does not want to be known as a “war photographer” – just a photographer. Personally, I think he is much more than this; it really is no surprise that he is so critically acclaimed. He is described as a “legendary” photojournalist or “one of our greatest living photographers. I do not think my words in my post today will do justice in trying to explain how his photos made me feel – “impactful” had been used to describe his photography but I think this is woefully inadequate.  

“Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.”

Exhibition

The exhibition spans from his first photos that were printed in 1959 that captured the gangs (The Guv’nors) in North London, to most recently, the war in Syria. It is split out into 23 sections and I was very surprised how large the exhibition was, as it highlights McCullin’s extensive experience in capturing key moments in our modern history, in addition to, his more artistic photos of still life and landscapes.

When coming up to the exhibition entrance, note the disclaimer on the side. There are photos of deceased people and extreme starvation. I didn’t pay it too much attention and I thought that I was a tough cookie and could view the exhibition without too many issues. How very wrong I was! I was shocked myself that I could even give an outward display of emotion. Therefore, this is a warning to my readers: the exhibition is not for the faint-hearted, (this is also why I have not shared my favourite photos in the blog) be prepared to be moved to tears, particularly his work on the Biafra war.  My tears reflected McCullin’s astonishing skill as a photographer; he was able to capture emotions or “the moment” that seems to be unparalleled by others. My personal favourites were his portraitures where I found myself captivated by the individual and wanting to know and understand the story behind the photograph. Though the topics were heart-wrenching, McCullin did everything to capture the truth and let the photographs tell the story.

“Photography has given me a life… The very least I could do was try and articulate these stories with as much compassion and clarity as they deserve, with as loud a voice as I could muster. Anything less would be mercenary.”

Given the topics that are covered, it was obviously not an uplifting exhibition, but very much an important one. It was a stark reminder of how terrible we, as humans, can be to each other and it is a topic that we cannot, and should not, shy away from. It is photographers like him that tell the unheard story and forces us to face reality, take action, and learn from the past. One of the best quotes I have heard from a speech summarises this perfectly:

“We seem to be able to all agree on the future, but we always argue about the past” – Secretary-General of the UN, António Guterres.

I think that McCullin does just that. His photography is sensitive and poignant. I will revisit this exhibition before it closes in May. I managed to walk through the exhibition in an hour, but it was slightly rushed because I was meeting a friend after. There is a “slide show” nearer the end of the exhibition showing the photography that has been in The Observer and other newspaper outlets, unfortunately, I didn’t manage to sit through that.  I think for the second time around I am going to leave more time so I can enjoy the photos for longer. This is why this exhibition gets 5 out of 5 pineapples.

Have any of you been to the exhibition or have heard of Don McCullin? As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.

With Sweet and Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

P.S. for those who want to learn more, there are other great reviews of the exhibitions in the link below:

 

Culture: The Sun – Living with our Star


Hi everyone!

How are you all doing? Are you looking forward to the weekend? I will be in Paris from Friday, so I am hoping for good weather and more photos to share with you on the blog :). Last Sunday, I visited the Science Museum’s exhibition – The Sun: Living with our Star. It has been running for a while and will continue until the 6th May 2019. For those who haven’t yet checked it out, you still have plenty of time!

Science Museum

I have not visited the Science Museum in South Kensington, London in many years. It is still one of the coolest places. It is a huge space and covers a vast range of topics. For those that don’t have a chance to visit London anytime soon, they have improved their digital resources and it is now possible to search and explore over 250,000 objects online.

Last Sunday was glorious. The weather was just perfect which is unheard of at this time of year, it was around 15 degrees Celsius and the sky was beautifully clear and blue. I managed to capture some pretty awesome shots outside and the lighting in the beautiful entrance hall.

The Sun: Living with our Star

The exhibition focuses on our nearest star – the Sun through objects, interactive videos and imagery. It is an in-depth study, starting with how it has been worshipped through history and how it is the centre of how time is measured on Earth. One of the coolest displays was a game on how to read sundials – this might sound silly, but I have never learnt how to read one, so now I know which I think it is pretty cool! Despite it being made for kids and we all now have watches and phones which tell the time…maybe in an apocalyptic scenario it might prove useful.

The exhibition then moves onto the next room to explain how the sun can impact our health. From being used to prevent/cure diseases such as Tuberculosis in Victorian times to the invention of sunlamps in the 1920/30s, through to the societal shift after the War, where people started to enjoy the healthy sun kissed looked and the rise of skin cancer since then. I spent a lot of time in this room as there was a lot of information dotted around and some vintage advertisements from different eras.

You can’t help to notice the “fake” beach setting with gold palm trees and some random deck chairs located right in the middle of the room. Guess it is made more for kids and potentially an Instagram moment?! I did appreciate; however, the constant background noise of the sea and seagulls; made me think that I need to plan a trip to the seaside soon!


The exhibition then moves on to how humans have been trying to harness the sun for energy. Given that I work in the renewables industry, this section was probably my favourite. It was awesome to see the beginnings of solar energy. Surprisingly, the use of fossil fuels and how it will eventually run out was already considered by the engineers of the Industrial Revolution, yet several hundred years on, we continue to use these pollutants as our main source of energy [Rant over]. One of the interactive exhibits was to try and bounce “sun rays” into a solar panel and light up a central light. It stumped me a bit, but I challenge anyone else to give it a go!

The final room of the exhibit explains the dangers of the solar storms caused by sunspots, with a focus on a storm in 1859, also known as the Carrington Event.

I knew nothing about this or the impact it would have on us today given all the technology we have. There is a very good video which explains the phenomenon in the exhibition, admittedly, made for kids, but very interesting nonetheless! There is also a game to try and save the Earth from future sun storms, I also challenge anyone to get full marks (I got 4 out of 5…clearly I was too risk-averse!).

The exhibition ends with a large room with awesome footages of the solar flares and sunspots. A vivid reminder of how small we are in comparison in the grand scheme of space and within our solar system.

Overall, it was an extremely informative exhibition and took me around an hour to complete. I highly recommend it for families as it is more catered for children. However, that is not to say an adult won’t enjoy it too (like me!). The exhibition gets a solid 3.5/5 pineapples!

I hope you enjoyed the little science snippets of the day as it is slightly different from the usual art and culture on the blog. I would love to hear from you, so do leave a comment below!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken