Art: Antony Gormley

Another artist that does not need an introduction (particularly in the UK), the Antony Gormley exhibition is being held at Main Galleries in the Royal Academy of Arts until 3 December 2019.

From the British coastline to the rooftops of Manhattan, Antony Gormley’s sculptures are recognised across the world. With work from his 45-year career alongside major new installations created for our galleries, we present his most ambitious exhibition in more than ten years. – RA

Antony Gormley

Gormley is an internationally renowned sculptor, with a focus on the human body, though never really portrayed in its realistic form like Da Vinci. Instead, for Gormley, the body is a “vessel for feeling” and describes it as a “place”.

He has stretched the understanding of our bodies and makes one rethink how we interact with the world. I think the video below summarises succinctly what he is trying to do and captures how his works can make one feel, in particular, the description that his works lead us to a “meditative, if not, worshipful” state is interesting. Perhaps, his most famous work is the Angel of the North, which is a public sculpture in Gateshead in the North of England.

Guide to the exhibition

The exhibition showcased Gormley’s use of elemental and industrial materials, including (a lot of) iron, steel, hand-beaten lead, seawater and clay. His work is raw and lacking in colour as if creating his own dystopia.

  • The Courtyard: Before you enter the exhibition, do look out for my favourite piece of the whole exhibition is the Iron Baby (1999). This lifesize form of a baby curled up on its front is based on Gormley’s six-day-old daughter. She is vulnerable to the elements to remind us of our precarious position in relation to our planetary future, which is something we have to face and tackle.
  • Room 1Slabworks (2019) uses building blocks made of steel, the industrial works look like a pile of artfully placed lego pieces, but as you walk and look closer, each reveals their human form.
  • Room 2: This room showcases his early experimental works made in the 1970s and early 80s. The piece to look out for his other infamous materials he uses for his art – bread. Mother’s Pride V (first made in 1982), is an outline of the body where the void was created by the simple act of eating.
  • Room 3: Probably one of the more advertised pieces of the exhibition – this is something that I have never seen before, but a whole room filled from floor to ceiling of an 8km coiled aluminium tube. Clearing VII (2019) is to challenge the boundaries of sculpture. To get to Room 4 the viewer has to navigate through the tubes – I challenge you on how to get through without touching the artwork!
  • Room 4: A single life-size body form, with its head, bent, as if in contemplation. The use of space is interesting in this room as if the individual is seeking solace.
  • Room 5: One of my favourite rooms in the exhibition, pushing the boundaries of the space within the RA, this vast hall houses the Matrix III (2019) is a vast cloud of recycled (98%) steel mesh. Truly mesmerising.
  • Room 6: Three highly tensioned steel bars zip through several rooms of the gallery. Though extremely abstract, it is one of the more striking pieces of the exhibition, Co-ordinate VI (2019). Passing through several rooms, you wonder where the line starts and whether it ever stops as it disappears into the walls and through the roof.
  • Room 7: I really enjoyed the sketches in this room; it is the only room in the exhibition where there wasn’t a sculpture. Some of the drawings were chaotic, something similar to what you see in a scary movie after the kid is possessed by a spirit, yet was a very interesting insight into the development of Gormley’s ideas.
  • Room 8: Lost Horizon I (2008), where the floating cast iron bodies. The purpose of this room is to deny us the horizontal line in which we orient our lives it was disconcerting for myself!
  • Room 9: Body and Fruit (1991/93) These two big hanging “fruits” originated from the artist’s body, held tightly in a foetal position and then using wooden batons project outwards, which is then cast in iron, to form the shape we see it in this room (really weird to be honest). It is suspended just inches from the floor, emphasising its stillness in contrast to our movement around them.
  • Room 10: probably my least favourite room, these Concrete Works (1990-93), are large concrete blocks, each concealing a void in the form of the body.
  • Room 11: A spectacular piece Cave (2019)is an architectural sculpture. The vastness of this piece just blew my mind. At the doorway, it is possible to enter into the cave or it is possible to walk around the structure – I would recommend doing both. It is supposedly a body crouched on its side but I did not manage to see it on the day…Made from rolled steel; the form and differing lines just meant that every angle was a beautiful piece of art. I am very interested to learn how the artist managed to get it within the space of the RA, please do let me know if you know how he did it!
  • Room 12: More drawings, with some made from blood.  Look out for the two sculptures made of hand-rolled clay on the floor!
  • Room 13Host (2019)gives another experience, similar to the installation 20:50 (1987) by Richard Wilson. You stand to look through a doorway, to another directly on the other side, and it is filled with clay and seawater. The water reflects the door and the sky roof above; reflecting the changing light and gradually transforming.

Verdict

An immersive experience, Gormley’s art made me reflect on my body and provoked thoughts on how I interacted in the world. The industrial materials used, as I mentioned before, seems to reflect another life – a dystopian world. Recommend this exhibition for his fans and sculpture lovers. However, it may not be for everyone. Though I found it interesting, after walking through the rooms, there a slight sadness when I realised my favourite piece was free to see in the courtyard…

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

Art: Frank Bowling

Frank Bowling

Hi everyone! How have you all been? It has been a while since I last wrote a post. Life has been a bit of a rollercoaster and I have turned 30th!! Making The Pineapple Chicken Blog officially two years old 🙂 It is pretty surprising actually and what a journey it has become. There are no plans to stop posting and hopefully I will share a little art and wellness for many years to come.

Since I have not posted in a while, I realised that I needed to get this post out as soon as possible because it is last chance to see the wonderful Frank Bowling exhibition at the Tate Britain which finishes next week on the 26th August. It is the first retrospective of his works spanning 60 years, he is a true master of colour and paint. For me, the art was unique and otherworldly. I came out of the exhibition feeling completely zen and at peace.

Should you visit, I would recommend ordering the audio guide for the exhibition as it provides a lot more flavour to the wonderful pieces of his work and includes jazz pieces which inspired Bowling’s art. The guide also includes Bowling himself with his smooth baritone voice.

Frank Bowling

Born in Guyana in 1934, he moved to London when he was 19 years old and studied at the Royal College of Art alongside David Hockney. He continues to fly between London and New York studios mastering his abstract and visionary use of paint. Using countless methods and processes, from staining to pouring and different materials and object, the exhibition provides a key insight into his creative world. Now 85 he still paints every day, experimenting with new materials and techniques. For anyone who knows where I can get my hands of some of his artwork or even prints, please do leave me a comment or email message, I would love to see his work in my home.

Exhibition

In my usual format, the below is a walkthrough of the exhibition rooms and highlights of my favourite key pieces to look out for. Bowling is also one of the best artists I have come across when it comes to naming their pieces of work. Unlike others who prefer “Untitled”, for Bowling, there is careful consideration of naming his pieces of work. They would only be named after they are completed and he returns to look at the pieces.

  • Room 1: Birthday (1962) – This was an extremely powerful piece, though not visually beautiful, it is unforgettable. This painting was part of an exercise when Bowling was at the Royal College of Art where the theme was of birthdays. This piece depicted the intense pain of a neighbour giving birth. Inspired by Francis Bacon and this is reflected by the strong gestural strokes.  Room 1 holds his early work which demonstrated his interest in social and political issues as well his own personal narrative.
  • Room 2: Mirror (1964-6) – The painting dominated by this spiral staircase gilded with gold connecting the studio at the Royal College of Art to the V&A museum in London. The painting also includes a self-portrait and a portrait of his wife (at the time) Paddy Kitchen. Room 2 held paintings that were created during 1964 & 7, which was a tumultuous time in his life and career. In 1966, Bowling moved to New York to establish himself and it is in this room, we see Bowling use of stencils in his work.
  • Room 3: Barticaborn 1 (1967) – This is the largest room in the exhibition and introduces map paintings. In New York, Bowling stopping painting the human figure that was seen in his earlier works. Fields of colour are overlaid with stencilled maps of the world and silkscreened images, it is in this room, we start seeing different techniques of processing paint, from painting to staining. This focus marks Bowling’s rejection of the western-centric cartography of many world maps.
  • Room 4: Tony’s Anvil (1975) – Around 1973, Bowling stared pouring paint on a titled canvas to produce contrasting layers and colours from a height of two meters. The spilling paint created an energetic and innovative painting style, it is the first time we see bright and bold contrasting colours. #
  • Room 5: Vitacress (1981) – This is my favourite room in the whole of the exhibition. By the end of the 1970s, Bowling has mastered his techniques of painting that he had been working on over the past decade. He had a deep understanding of the dynamics of the flow of paint and the drama of colour combination. He created Cosmic Space through the use of ammonia and pearlescence, and applied splotches of paint by hand, producing marbling effects. These are pure masterpieces of paint and personally, I thought made the whole exhibition worthwhile visiting!
  • Room 6: Spreadout Ron Kitaj (1984-6) – In the 1980s, Bowling started to experiment with texture in his paintings. This involved glueing various objects, including plastic toys, onto a canvas. He also made use of acrylic gel to extend the volume of paint, texture and transparency in his painting. There was a greater range of colours (often spanning the rainbow) and layering.
  • Room 7: Great Thames II (1989) – This room brings together four pieces that were created in 1989 of abstract expressionism to capture Bowling’s interpretation of the  English landscape.
  • Room 8: From V2-RS1 (2005) & Haze (2005) –  In the 1990s, Bowling continued to create with acrylic paint and gel and similar to Room 6, experimented further with materials and glueing of materials. It is also the first time we see smaller-scale paintings, one of which, is so simple, yet distinctive. This is the first time we also see a very subtle colour palette; making these also one of my favourite pieces.
  • Room 9: Aston’splunge (2011) – Capturing all his skills in one piece, Bowling has combined pouring, spilling, throwing, brushing and dripping paint premixed with gel, water and pearlescence. It is just an explosion of colour. This piece refers to the middle name of his assistance and longtime friend Spencer A. Richards. The final room of the exhibition showcases recent art pieces over the past decade and at 85, Bowling continues to create in his studio and experiment with techniques adopted over many decades, combining them into an infinite number of variations.

Bowling’s technical mastery, acquired through decades of experimentation, gives way to a remarkable confidence to improvise. He continues to establish, and systematically break, an ever-changing set of self-imposed rules. – Tate

Master of painting and colour, the retrospective of Frank Bowling’s six decades of masterpieces is a trip worth making to Tate Britain. This blog rates the exhibition 5 out of 5 pineapples, so hurry as it is the last chance to see it as it closes next week!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

Art: Natalia Goncharova

Natalia Goncharova

The first retrospective of the (take a deep breath) female Russian avant-garde artist, painter, costume designer, writer, illustrator, and set designer Natalia Goncharova is being held in the UK at the Tate Modern and will be available until the 8 September 2019.

When embarking on this art journey and blog around two years ago, I had no idea what my preference would be or what would interest me. It has been a journey of self-discovery and a lot of learning along the way. Though very early on, I knew that I would make the effort to celebrate and learn about the works of female artists. Living in London has meant that I have been able to enjoy the increase in exhibitions to celebrate the works of solo women artists, such as Lee Bul, Dorothea Tanning, Diane Arbus and Lee Krasner just to name a few and may it long continue! For those interested in female artists, I recommend following @thegreatwomenartists on Instagram, where Katy Hessel does an amazing job of introducing up and coming women artists as well as historical figures.

Natalia Goncharova

Born in 1881, Natalia Goncharova grew up in the Tula province, some 200 miles away from Moscow. She was born to a family of “impoverished aristocrats” who made their fortune through textiles, and as a result, this meant that she was familiar with all the stages of textile production, in addition to, nature and farming life. This influenced a lot of her later work through the design of costumes and fashion, as well as her paintings of traditional Russian dress and life.

In Imperial Russia, life and society were dictated by rigid class structures, though Goncharova did not fit into these accepted categories. She was a founding member of both the Jack of Diamonds (1909–1911), Moscow’s first radical independent exhibiting group, the more radical Donkey’s Tail (1912–1913), and with Larionov (her life-long partner) invented Rayonism (1912–1914), see more on this below. She was also a member of the German-based art movement known as Der Blaue Reiter.

Her work greatly influenced the avant-garde in Russia and she was not afraid of being controversial. In 1910, her first solo exhibition was denounced by the press as “disgusting depravation.” Russia, clearly, was not ready for her. At her exhibition, where she displayed the first time her depiction of female nudes ultimately led to the confiscation of her two female nudes and her ‘God(dess) of Fertility painting by the police. This led to her being on trial for violating a law relating to the public display of ‘corrupting’ images but was acquitted. These are currently displayed at the Tate Exhibition.

Goncharova’s experimentation with self-fashioning succeeded in provoking a reaction and brought her considerable attention. Her first retrospective exhibition in 1913 confirmed her as one of the most successful and radical artists, where over 12,000 people visited the exhibition. She was a force to be reckoned with and broke down the barriers of what society deemed what a woman should and should not do. 

“As an aristocrat’s daughter, a radical artist and a woman she always stood apart” – Tate Modern Exhibition Guide

Key Pieces

The exhibition is displayed roughly in chronological order and the key influences on her art during that time. Below are a few key pieces in each room to illustrate how she is a pioneer of “everythingism”.

  • Countryside: Peasant Woman from Tula Province (1910) is a beautiful example of Goncharova’s eye for detail and realism, in particular, textiles which continued to be explored and developed throughout her life. The bold lines contrast with the intricate pattern on the traditional costume making it a very striking portrait.
  • Moscow: Peasants Picking Apples (1911) marks a change in Goncharova’s painting style. Influenced by European painting, realism made way for old colours and minimal and flattened surfaces. On the opposite wall, there is Queen Isabeau (1909) by Picasso, the similarity is clear. I am not actually a fan of this painting as it looks like something that would be included in a children’s book but recognise it is a key piece in her repertoire and emphasises her ability to adopt many different styles.
  • 1913 Exhibition: Gardening (1908) is one of my favourite pieces, where the limited palette reminds me of the French Impressionist style. Goncharova expresses a particular interest in work completed by women, such as them washing linen or harvesting, have a look-out for others in this room.
  • Fashion: From the accounts of people who met Goncharova testify to her unique approach to self-presentation, including painting her face and wearing extravagant outfits. Fashion designer Nadezhda Lamanova commissioned Goncharova to create works for her fashion house, where she chose to use a striking colour palette in Design with birds and flowers. Study for textile design (1925–8)
  • War: In 1914, Goncharova and Larionov arrived in Paris, however, by August it was the outbreak of the First World War. In this room, it displays her series of Mystical Images of War. This was the first time she used lithography to produce these hauntingly beautiful black and white prints. The White Eagle, Maiden on the Beast and Angels and Aeroplanes are just a few of my favourites
  • Art and Religion: central to the development of Russian art is devotional religious paintings, however, this was an exclusively male practice. Goncharova entered a challenging territory when she applied her own approach using simplified forms. Many at the time thought it was inappropriate and yet were acknowledged at the time to being some of her strongest works. My favourite was Christ the Saviour (1910-11)
  •  Modernism: this is the room that introduces the new movement that she created with Larinov Rayonism, look out for the colourful and electric painting Dynamo Machine (1913)
  • Paris: In 1919, Goncharova moved to a flat in Paris where she would remain for the rest of her life. Having a studio enabled her to return to large scale works, including the beautiful Spanish Woman with a Fan (1925-9) and Spring (1927-8) which is stretched over a frame creating a free-standing screen.
  • Theatre: the final room brings together Goncharova’s sketches, costumes and set designs from several ballet productions. The costumes in this room are splendid and not to be missed, my favourite being The Firebird which is one of the most enduring productions in the Ballet Russes repertoire.

Rayonism

Rayonism, or rayism, was based on the effect of light on landscape or cityscapes. Goncharova and Larionov developed a new modern style to express energy and movement. It is a subset of Russian Futurism and the movement was inspired by scientific understanding of the material world through x-rays and radioactivity, as well as, the fourth dimension.

Extraordinary Pioneer of Everythingism

The exhibition celebrated an extraordinary woman who defied conventions and had her own voice during a time when many others wanted to silence her. Highly recommended, 3.5 out of 5 pineapples. As always, I would love to hear what you think so please do leave a comment below!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x