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: Phyllida Barlow

Phyllida Barlow

Phyllida Barlow’s cul-de-sac showcases an entirely new body of work at the Royal Academy of Arts located in the contemporary art galleries, The Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Galleries, which will be open until 23 June 2019.

The British Sculptor is famous for her use of inexpensive everyday materials to create precarious structures filling spaces which they are held. In the form of a “cul-de-sac”, with only one way in and out, there are no barriers for visitors to explore the artwork. The guide that accompanies the exhibition explains that there are usually three protagonists when it comes to her artwork.

The first protagonist

The first protagonist the artwork itself, her use of materials such as plywood, plaster and polystyrene, in addition to the transparency in how her artwork is created. This is part of her wonder as she breaks the conventions of traditional sculpture. Barlow takes inspiration from her surroundings; particularly domestic and street worlds. The untidiness of urban leaving, repairs of buildings and infrastructure repairs holds a fascination for Barlow and is often expressed in her work.

Using such inexpensive materials enables Barlow, unlike bronze, stone or steel; to retain the freedom to make changes to her artwork as it develops, or even change/redo previous works; conveying a sense of transience and impermanence. The unrefined quality of her work, combined with the appearance that it will topple over any minute reflects the chaos and messiness of urban life.

Her work may not be considered beautiful but it certainly emits great energy; when looking at the art close up, the creative process is clear. A visitor should also consider whether you have space to run should the artwork decides to shift from its position of zen!

The second protagonist

The second protagonist is the exhibition space which Barlow considers to be of equal footing with her artwork. The relationship between the two is crucial and the placement of the installations are carefully considered. This is demonstrated wonderfully in this exhibition where her voluminous work fills the whole gallery space. When one looks up, it is difficult to separate her towering structures with the ornate gallery’s curved ceiling. They are as if one.

The third protagonist

The third protagonist is us – the visitors to the gallery. How the individual pieces are placed and how one might circumnavigate around them (such as there is only one way in and out); to explore and wander around spaces is of critical importance in Barlow’s work. The encounter and the residual memory that the visitor is left with has long preoccupied her. This is particularly explored when she represented Britain at the Venice Biennale in 2017. She considers how the public reacts and interacts with inanimate sculptural installations (normally one would just stand and stare). This is carefully considered in this exhibition and as a visitor took the opportunity to weave in and out of the artwork and get up close without being reprimanded. Being able to explore is freedom.

Arte Povera

When searching to understand Barlow’s influence of her work, or what art movement she is part of, it is clear that she remains undefined and does not follow convention. Her work shows influences from Arte Povera, Pop Art and New British Sculpture amongst others. Arte Povera means “poor art” where poor refers to the use of inexpensive materials compared to traditional ones such as bronze or carved marble in sculpture. Using such dispensible materials was to challenge the values of the commercialised contemporary gallery system. The term was coined by Italian art critic Germano Celant in 1967 to describe a group of young and anti-elitist artists. It is considered as one of the most significant and influential avant-garde movement to emerge in Europe in the 1960s. The movement was in contrast to the sensibility of American Minimalism by using performance, and unconventional approaches to sculpture, such as installation. There was no manifesto drawn up for the Arte Povera, as a key factor of the movement was the rejection of rules and pre-existing structures.

The movement was at its height from 1967 to 1972, but its influence on later art has been enduring. In Japan, the Mono-ha group looked into the essence of materials and stepped away from technological modernism. In the US, the terms anti-form and post-minimalism was used to describe work that also rejected the sensibility of Minimalism.

Barlow’s influence

Barlow had an important influence on younger generations of artists through her teaching a the Slade School for Fine Art where she later became a Professor of Fine Art. Her infamous students include Turner Prize-winning and nominated artists Rachel Whiteread and Angela de la Cruz. She became a Royal Academician in 2011 and continues to live and work in London.

What a phenomenal and accomplished female artist, I would recommend this exhibition for anyone interested in contemporary art or one who is curious to try a different art experience. 4 out of 5 pineapples.

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

P.S For another splendid review of another exhibition of her work please see this article here.

 

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: The EY Exhibition – Picasso 1932: Love, Fame, Tragedy

Hi Everyone 🙂

I hope you are all having a great week so far! As promised, the latest update on the Pineapple Chicken Blog is the Picasso 1932 exhibition at Tate Modern. I believe that this has hit London by storm. I wanted to see it the first week it opened but did not manage to get any decent times to visit, so I decided to go at the earliest entrance at 10am on a Sunday morning – as you do 🙂

I love perusing museums and art galleries in peace, so I would go the extra mile to ensure that I go at a relatively quiet time, i.e. anything before 12pm on a weekend. However, there was already a queue to enter and this happened in space of the gates opening to the Tate and me travelling up the escalators!

At the entrance there is a chance to buy an audio guide. I rarely use them but for some reason I decided to spend £4 on the “not so trendy” devices. But alas, IT WAS THE BEST DECISION EVER! I noticed throughout the exhibition there was little to no description for each of the paintings. Most just gave the name of the painting or sculpture. Note, you will be handed a little booklet upon entering the exhibition. A tip for all those who visit, you do not need to read what is on the wall in each of the rooms as it is copied verbatim in your booklet. Spend more time admiring the art! :). The audio guide provided insight into how each painting was produced as well as the economy and society at the time. Honestly, £4 really well spent!!

The exhibition was curated to show most of the artwork produced by Picasso in the year of 1932. It is debated how the artist dated each of his works, so I would argue that 1932 is loosely used subject title. However, this was a period of intense creativity for Picasso and he was clearly a prolific painter. The exhibition had a vast array of paintings shown in the same space for the first time. Indeed, many of the paintings are in private collections. It was exciting to see some of his most infamous paintings in the flesh, such as the “The Dream”. During this time, he used his secret mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter, as the focus of many of his paintings. They were intense and loving studies, and I am grateful for the curators Achim Borchardt-Hume and Nancy Ireson for bringing this to London.

Personally, I am a big fan of Picasso, whereas, I have known others who don’t really like his work. The exhibition provided further evidence of Picasso’s phenomenal creativity and his broad spectrum of styles from classicists to cubism is draw dropping. I think you can tell from my glowing review, the exhibition earns, of course, 5/5 pineapples!

I am not sure where I will be off to this weekend as I will be celebrating my anniversary with my other half (not married but we like to celebrate little milestones). However, the weekend after I will be off to Cancun, Mexico! SO EXCITED! Really looking forward to sharing more photos and things to do then! Remember, I love comments, so feel free to like or comment below!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

Tickets will be available until 9th September and priced at £22 for adults or half price with the Art Fund card.