This saturday I took the opportunity to go on an OCA study visit to see the work of Georgia O’Keeffe at the Tate Modern. The tutor in charge, Bryan Eccleshall was very interesting, he wrote this blog post on WeAreOca before the visit (there’s another OCA review here too). I watched the this episode from the arts series ‘imagine…’ on the BBC iPlayer that coincides with the Tate’s O’Keeffe retrospective before the show and I was really glad I did. It allowed me to have a bit of context to her work and life as I went round.
There is so much information on the Tate website I won’t rehash it all here. I took a few photos of the ones I really liked or of those that I made notes on. I remember thinking as I went round that if ever there was an exhibition to make me give up photography and take up painting this might be it. Luckily there some gorgeous Ansel Adams prints near the end to restore my faith 🙂 Stieglitz wasn’t very good photographer (in my humble opinion of course), unfortunately for him his work is shown with hers and looks extremely dull and very dated while hers remains fresh and amazing. It seems to me as though it was his interpretation on her images as sexual which stuck with the critics even to this day. It was interesting to see both their works thought because they clearly had such a profound effect on each others work.
Room 1 was curated much like her first show at Stieglitz’s gallery ‘291’ gallery, alongside his photos of the show.
The tutor had an interesting take, he said that artists only ever paint one thing, over and over, hers is the v shapes and curves . But mostly it’s her connection to, and absorption into, her surroundings, most often nature (but not in the case of NYC). The important thing for artists is discover their one thing. I think my one thing might be macro/closeness, according to some of the comments from my tutor in a previous module (which of course I denied at the time). I shall have to reflect upon this in a separate blogpost. The thing that struck me about the Stieglitz photo of her in the first room (above) was how close she was to the flowerbeds.
I really liked her use of contours. Her work really appeals to me. I like the simplicity of shape and I love the gradations of colour. Her art school education (which I imagine would have been quite strict) didn’t teach her style or subject matter but it did teach her complete mastery over her medium so she could concentrate on style and subject on her own.
I notice that quite a few of the paintings in room two had a split down the middle sort of composition:
In room 5, Natural forms gaspe – 1932, was the first I saw visible paintly application, I mean the others were so smooth and perfect, one twist of cloud was not as smoothly as the others, it was interesting to see.
Room 6: flowers
When looking at her close-ups of flowers I couldn’t help recalling my day in Kew Gardens, taking colourful close up photographs of the flowers for a past assignment.
The tutor said she abstracted them because no flowers are that perfect but I disagree in this case, I think she just zoomed into the perfect bits. Also, critics say they’re meaning is sexual, which she’s always denied, personally I think she’s just painting the shapes that naturally exist and I agree that the critics see something that perhaps she did not intend.
In Another church, Hernandez, new Mexico, 1931, you can really sense the desert light, not in this reproduction (or any I’ve seen) but the painting itself seemed to shine with it.
Room 10: the black place and the white place.
This has been a very exciting visit. I’ve enjoyed writing about it here as a way of reflective recollection of the exhibition and I’m sure I could write tons more (perhaps I’ll revisit it again with some photos of the pamphlet they supplied). I’m looking forward to seeing is anyone else from the visit writes a post because I missed the chat afterwards (I hung around for a while but no one appeared so I went to the National Gallery to do some more research for my assignment). I did take a picture from the balcony of the shop while I waited though. If you are an oca student on the visit and have a blog post please leave me a comment below with the link.