Brutalism – A Visit to the Barbican Estate

The 500 words task for Assignment 5 reads as follows:

A 500-word analysis of a maximum of four works in any media other than painting or sculpture which demonstrate the influence of the political, social and economic changes that have taken place since 1945.  (course notes)

Does Architecture count as a media? The WHA has included it all along so I’m assuming yes. Also, the second visit task is as follows:

Look at some twentieth-century buildings If you live in a big city you’ll be spoilt for choice but most towns will have something of interest. Go for something different from your earlier visits. This could be a tube station, a block of flats or a shopping mall. Don’t just think about the way it looks or the materials and building methods used. Try to imagine how easy it might be to maintain and clean, how efficient it might be in terms of its use of energy, how secure it might feel for someone on their own at night, etc. Make notes in your learning log. (course notes)

I thought I’d try and combine the two but depending on time constraints this might not develop enough to cover the visit task, I primarily visited this area to discover for myself what the big deal with Brutalist architecture was so that I could develop my 500 words from more than just reading research.

Brutalism

As a post war evolution of Modernism, the lofty, utopian ideals of Brutalist architecture have been lost to the mists of time and what we are left with today are big, blocky public buildings (whose exterior concrete facades have not aged well), with various social problems such as graffiti and antisocial behaviour. Some people subscribe to the ‘so ugly it is beautiful’ school of thought and many existing Brutalist buildings, such as the Barbican Complex, are now Grade II listed. The style was popular in the postwar era many people needed rehousing after the blitz, the economy was in tatters so new developments needed to be cheap, with easily sourced building materials such as concrete. The name is actually a wry English twist on Le Corbusier’s French term béton brut (raw concrete) popularised by British architectural critic Reyner Banham.

Barbican Estate Visit

The Barbican Estate is huge. Its infamous amongst visitors to the barbican arts centre as being impossible to navigate, a fact to which I can attest having got lost trying to find my way out once I’d finished with my visit!

 

I loved this fantastic short film about the barbican from 1969:

References:

Brutalism.online. (2017). Introduction to Brutalism. [online] Brutalism.online. Available at: http://brutalism.online/brutalism [Accessed 2 Aug. 2017].

City Of London. (2017) Barbican Estate history At: https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/services/barbican-estate/Pages/barbican-history-architecture.aspx
(Accessed on 15 Aug 17)
 

Clement, A. (2011) Brutalism: Post-war British Architecture. The Crowood Press

Financial Times (2013). Brutalist architecture: a concept made concrete. [online] Available at: https://amp.ft.com/content/4dcac1fe-be25-11e2-9b27-00144feab7de [Accessed 2 Aug. 2017].

Hyett, P. (1999) ‘Trellick Tower – a giant among high rises ‘In: The Architects’ Journal 1999, May 6, p.20. [online] At: https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/home/from-the-archive-trellick-tower-by-ern-goldfinger/5208036.article
(Accessed on 15 Aug 17)
 

Painting Review: Georges Braque – Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece 1911

Following on from my Cubism Research, and in preparation for assignment 5 annotations I have decided to research Georges Braque’s Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece 1911. The obvious choice of Cubist painting to annotate would be a Picasso which is precisely why I choose one by Braque. Picasso is the household name of Cubism but it seems from my research that they participated fairly evenly in the collaboration, even at times so closely as to be indistinguishable. This was the period known as ‘Analytical Cubism’. Additionally, I could go and see this one in person which always helps me!

I tried to keep in mind Terry Smith’s four ways of looking as per assignment 3 feedback. I went to the Tate Modern to see it (apolgies for the wonky picture, there was a rope around an adjacent exhibit so I couldnt start square on to get the photo).

Georges Braque –
Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece (Clarinette et bouteille de rhum sur une cheminée),
1911, Oil paint on canvas, Support: 810 x 600 mm
frame: 935 x 723 x 74 mm, Tate, Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

Again, I’ve tried again to apply the techniques I learned in reading about the OU study diamond to this painting review. The grid format wasn’t that great for the blog so I’ve split into more of a questions and answers format.

Effects & techniques:

  1. What initially catches your eye? Where do you go next? And after that? The section in the middle triangle with the bottle, the clarinet & scrolls of paper (?), then the writing Valse, then the glass.
  2. Where do you end up? Do your eyes stray away from the work altogether? Your eyes rove around the painting from plane to plane trying to make sense of what you’re looking at from one recognisable bit to the next to try and piece together what is there.
  3. Is there anything that you didn’t notice at first but saw later in your reading? I looked at it all but I still don’t understand many elements.
  4. Did your eyes keep coming back to a particular part of the art work? The little round bit under the clarinet because I know it should be recognise it but I’m still not sure what it is.
  5. Is there anything that you didn’t look at or thought wasn’t important? no.

Colour:

  1. Has a wide or narrow palette of colours been used? A very narrow colour palate typical of Analytical Cubism has been used to concentrate the viewer on the forms.
  2. Have contrasting colours been placed next to each other? Not really
  3. Are there more warm colours than cool colours or vice versa? slightly warm colours
  4. Would you describe the colours as being bright or dull? Are there more bright colours than dull colours (or vice versa)? The colours are muted and earthy to concentrate on the forms
  5. In what way is dark and light colour used? dark and light colour is used to separate the planes

I. How wide is the range of colour values featuring in the art work? Very wide from light to black

II. Are contrasting colour values present in the art work? Use of contrasting colour values pick out the various planes of the work. The light is not coming from any clear direction.

III. Are contrasting colour values used to model three-dimensional forms? Contrasting colour values are in places used to model three-dimensional forms, for example the clarinet mouthpiece and holes, which in this part of the painting is lit from above.

IV. In what way are the colour values distributed throughout the art work? In contrast to tradition paintins where the distribution of the colour values helps pull your eye around the composition, light here is used almost randomly to separate the various planes and sections.

Medium:

  1. Does the medium impose any limitations on the way the artist works, or allow any particular effects? The oil paint has been applied in various ways across the surface of the painting. Thinly in places, for example at the edges where you can see the the texture of the canvas. The black lines and white space opaque smooth:
    [Detail 1] Georges Braque – Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece,
    1911, Tate, Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye
    and some parts are rather more thickly applied it little dabbing brushstrokes for texture:
    [Detail 2] Georges Braque – Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece,
    1911, Tate, Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye
  2. Is the medium used unconventionally or is the medium itself unconventional and, if so, does this contribute to the expressive effect of the art work? It doesn’t seem very conventional, but nothing about Cubism is!
  3. Does the medium used suggest a particular mood? the planes sort of shimmer above the canvas. its an odd effect.
  4. Does the medium used prompt the spectator to read the work in a particular way? yes, the different paint textures mean you associate different sections with different elements

Composition:

Representation of depth Technique: Effect:
(a) overlapping Y The scene feels 3 dimentional because of the many overlapping layers, but they dont overlap in a traditional sense. Its a bit confusing what object is what.
(b) diminishing scale N As far as I can tell there is no diminishing scale.
(c) atmospheric perspective N The space behind is a limited space of the mantelpiece so even if this was painted traditionally this would not have atmospheric perspective.
(d) vertical placement Y Yes, you can read the canvas from the bottom up to the bottle at the top.
(e) linear perspective N

Y

One of the tenants of Cubism is the abolishment of single point perspective to explore forms ‘plastically’

Looking at this a bit longer I’ve changed my mind here, there is linear perspective on one or two of the view points which are not immediately obvious.

(f) modelling Y there is a slight modelling on some aspects for example the curl of something in detail 1 picture above.

I found it hard to see just by looking and making a sketch helped me here:

The different view points overlay so its a bit confusing so here I’ve tried to break down what i see i my head as separate views. I started with the bottle, on which the scheme seems to rest on. it has serveral view on it. the most obvious being the frontal view, where you can also see the glass and the nail. I’ve left the clarinet out of this picture because i dont think it was placed behind the bottle on the mantelpiece.

Here is one view that i think sets out the main pieces in their places on the mantelpiece. I see the clarinet, the rum, a glass, a scroll of paper (probably sheet music given the words written on it) it looks to me like he has pages under the objects which jut out and overlap the edge of the mantelpiece.

Perspective view from the edge of the mantelpiece

Its possible that this view in blue below is the same scene from the other end of the mantelpiece.

this is my suspected bits of mantelpiece views, from all different directions including underneith to see the corbel.

 

 

 

here i thought these were scrolls of music sheet

Use of lines:

Directional lines (horizontal, vertical, and diagonal): There are plenty of diagonal lines radiating out and upwards from the bottom like a fan and a slight overall pyramidal feeling to the composition. The main elements are in an internal triangle section. Internally to that there are bisecting vertical planes and pieces (eg the Clarinet is horizontal and the bottle is vertical) and various little triangles made of overlapping planes of various textures and detail

Contour lines – can also be used to outline forms; such contour lines can be described in terms of their thickness and sharpness. There are thick contour lines all around the painting but many are for the contours of the plane not actual for an object as such.

Meaning – initial thoughts from the observed ‘evidence’/ Context & Meaning:

I’ve blocked these two together because without understanding the concepts Cubism it’s really hard to read the painting and understand any of its ‘evidence’ or even what you’re looking at.

In Harrison & Woods Art in theory 1900-2000 anthology there were quite a few articles which helped me understand this painting (and Cubism in general).

 

mostly I put my research straight into the annotations, the other painting review here and the main research notes page here.

References:

Berger, J. (2001) Selected Essays. New York: Vintage

Clark, K. (1960) Looking at Pictures. Holt Rinehart and Winston, New York

Cooper, D. (1972) Braque: The Great Years. The Art Institute of Chicago
Harrison, C. & Wood, P. (2003). Art in theory 1900-2000: an anthology of changing ideas. (New ed). Blackwell Publishers.

Honour, H & Fleming, J. (2009) A World History of Art. (7th Ed), London, Laurence King Publishing

 

Exhibition: Hokusai beyond the Great Wave

I really enjoyed the Hokusai exhibition at the British Museam on friday. In recent research I learnt that many Western artists (especially Van Gogh) were influenced by Japanese art so I thought I’d go a long to see what the fuss was about. I didn’t realise that the Japanese were equally influenced the other way too from pigments used to different perspective.

For conservation reasons there was a rotation of about half the artworks halfway through the exhibition run because some works can only be displayed for a limited period of time due to their light sensitivity.

Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) is widely regarded as one of Japan’s most famous and influential artists, this was a 30 year retrospective. He started off as a wood block print cutter but mostly he made print ready drawings and other people cut and printed them for him, he had close working relationships with his publishers.

His most famous picture is the Great Wave, reproduced on pretty much everything by now. The original Great wave was printed 8000 times, using four seasoned cherry wood blocks carved on both sides.

Under the wave off Kanagawa (The Great Wave) from Thirty-six views of Mt Fuji. Colour woodblock, 1831. Acquired with Art Fund support. On display 25 May – 13 August.

Some notes I made as I went around:

  • He used many different names throughout his career, sometimes passing them on to pupils.
  • Red stamp is painters seal, different for each new name.
  • His daughter helped him in old age complete his work. He thought he be a true artist at 100 but only live to 90. She tried to pass off her work as his because it brought in more household income.
  • He designed hair comb and illustrated books with woodblock prints.
  • 36 views of mt fuji
  • He didn’t cut the wood himself except in his teens
  • Loved his ghost stories. His sketchbooks of ducks and frogs and insects. The last room his dragon
  • Experiment with European paper & perspective and shading & Imported Prussian blue pigment.

 

Weeping cherry and bullfinch. Colour woodblock, c. 1834. On display 7 July – 13 August.
Umezawa Manor in Sagami Province from Thirty-six Views of Mt Fuji. Colour woodblock, 1831. On display 7 July – 13 August.
Clear day with a southern breeze (Red Fuji) from Thirty-Six Views of Mt Fuji. Colour woodblock, 1831. On display 25 May – 13 August.
Amida waterfall, deep beyond the Kiso highway. Colour woodblock, 1833. The Tōyō Bunko, Tokyo. On display 7 July – 13 August.
Eagle and cherry. Hanging scroll, ink and colour on silk, 1843. Ujiie Ukiyo-e Collection, Kamakura. On display 7 July – 13 August.
Snowy morning, Koishikawa from Thirty-six views of Mt Fuji. Colour woodblock, 1832. On display 7 July – 13 August.

References
British Museam. (2017) Hokusai: beyond the Great Wave At: http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/hokusai.aspx
(Accessed on 17 Jul 17)

British Museam Blog. (2017) Hokusai: old master At: http://blog.britishmuseum.org/hokusai-old-master/
(Accessed on 17 Jul 17)
 

Visit: Sculpture in the City 2017

Sculpture in the City map 2017

SPOILER ALERT: this post contains pictures of the work so if you want to save your first impressions then dont read any further!

A giant green and yellow sculpture appeared outside my station (18). Then I saw Lava blobs (16) outside the walkie talkie building. I wondered to myself if I was hallucinating from reading too much WHA on the train, but no, it’s Sculpture in the city time again! Here is the map of all 18 locations around the square mile where the sculptures have been placed. Initially I thought I wouldn’t get to all of them but it was addictive, and like Pokemon I just had to see them all. I tried the smartify app on a couple, dont waste your time, it doesnt seem to work (on android anyway).

1. ‘Ajar’ | Gavin Turk | 2011

Gavin Turk – Ajar, 2011, Painted bronze 229 x 103 x 66 cm, Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

As a reference to the painting ‘La Victoire’ by Rene Magritte, ‘Ajar’ is a surreal gateway: a spiritual journey through the imagination, an interactive sculpture that children will enjoy as much as adults. It is a key to the imagination: unlocking ideas of the infinite as mused on by Aldous Huxley quoting Blake, “If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”

It simultaneously references both Duchamp’s work ’11 Rue Larrey’, a corner door that is always open and shut and a Bugs Bunny sketch, where a door in a frame freely stands on a cliff in a landscape. ‘Ajar’ is placed without walls and is permanently half open encouraging the choice to go around, or go through. (City Of London, 2017)

Rene Magritte – La victoire (The victory),1939, Oil on Canvas, 53.5 x 72.5 cm © Rene Magritte
Marcel Duchamp – Door 11 rue Larrey, Paris 1927, Wooden door made by a carpenter following Duchamp’s specifications (220 x 62.7 cm.).

As I walked up to this one I got a lovely sense of wonder that you sometimes get with Surrealist work. That’s what I like about the sculpture in the city website – no pictures, so you still get that first impression of the work in person. Without even reading the blurb on the plaque I knew this must reference Magritte but I love that he also mentioned bugs bunny in the list of inspirations. It’s interesting that Duchamp did one similar, since this is not a readymade, just made to look like one from bronze, tradition sculptural material. Having said that, Duchamp’s one wasn’t a real ready-made either if he had a carpenter specially make it to specifications rather than nabbing a mass produced door. Subverting the subversive.

 

2. ‘The Black Horse’ | Mark Wallinger | 2015

Mark Wallinger – The Black Horse, 2015, Bronze, resin, stainless steel 196 x 273 x 67 cm. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

The sculpture was made with the help of advanced technology, scanning a racehorse, part owned by the artist, named Rivera Red.

The horse is a subject with deep emotional and historical meaning. As the artist notes, ‘people still have an atavistic love of horses.’ Though bent to our will the thoroughbred represents unfathomable instincts.

The thoroughbred could perhaps stand as an exemplar of this country’s identity and our relationship with the natural world. It was first developed at the beginning of the 18th century in England, when native mares were crossbred with imported Arabian stallions. Every racehorse in the world is descended from these animals. (City Of London, 2017)

This was one of the handful of the sculptures which had a homeless person taken up residence nearby. In this case, I thought the big issuer seller and his dog were an interesting subversion of the context of the work. Owning/keeping a thoroughbred is the province of the very rich, situated in the centre of the financial district, side by side is a man who is penniless keeping a dog for protection while he lives on the streets. It reminded me a little of the recent saga of the Bull in New York and the subversion of that work by Fearless Girl, then the resubversion of that by Pissing Pug.

3. ‘Work No. 2814’ | Martin Creed | 2017

Martin Creed – Work No. 2814, 2017, Plastic bags, Dimensions Variable. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

Merging art and life, Martin Creed uses ordinary materials and everyday situations to create multimedia works that have confounded and delighted viewers and critics for nearly 30 years.

In Work No. 2814 a tree ‘blossoms’ with plastic bags caught amongst the branches. This accentuates what some might see as a common ‘everyday’ occurrence, until it becomes something more absurd, yet humorous and strangely beautiful at the same time.

Creed approaches art making with humour, anxiety, and experimentation, and with the sensibility of a musician and composer, underpinning everything he does with his open ambiguity about what art is. (City Of London, 2017)

To be honest, I dont think one person noticed this while I was standing watching, until I raised my phone to take a picture. I think if he wanted to make it more absured than the everyday he would need lots more bags here!

4. ‘Never has there been such urgency, or The eloquent and the Gaga’ | Ryan Gander | 2014

(Detail) Ryan Gander – Never has there been such urgency, or The Eloquent and the Gaga – (Alchemy Box # 45), 2014, Conical parachute, polythene barrels, nylon webbing, aluminium fixings, items from the artist’s collection, stainless steel etched plaque, Dimensions Variable. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye
Ryan Gander – Never has there been such urgency, or The Eloquent and the Gaga – (Alchemy Box # 45), 2014, Conical parachute, polythene barrels, nylon webbing, aluminium fixings, items from the artist’s collection, stainless steel etched plaque, Dimensions Variable. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

An air-dropped aid parcel suspended from a tree by it’s parachute.

The parcel contains items relating to the subject of the ‘disparity between research based practices and production based practices; the polarity between the conceptual significance of the object as carrier; and the gulf between learning to speak with great articulation and eloquence and the incoherency of stuttering and stammering a chain of unrelated words at great volume’.

The contents of the aid parcel are listed on an etched, metal plaque placed nearby. (City Of London, 2017)

(Detail – plaque) Ryan Gander – Never has there been such urgency, or The Eloquent and the Gaga – (Alchemy Box # 45), 2014, Conical parachute, polythene barrels, nylon webbing, aluminium fixings, items from the artist’s collection, stainless steel etched plaque, Dimensions Variable. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

This one is just damn strange. The metal plate lists all the contents and says things like “An A1 sized offset print of an image of the fictional artist Aston Ernest standing on Sizewell beach, Suffolk, UK, dressed in a fisherman’s yellow waterproof Oilskin, whilst engaged in his performative artwork entitled Speak Easy, 1989, in which the artist attempts to hook the horizon, where the sea meets the sky, with a wooden walking stick, whilst shouting the poem ‘Speak Easy’ at the sea.” and “Two flesh coloured European size 38 ladies thongs and two pairs of ladies flesh coloured mesh briefs, also European sized 38, purchased by an assistant of the artist from the retailer Topshop.

I had to go back to the one after walking past it on two occassions and not seeing it, mainly because Paul McCarthy’s sculpture (below) is just past the tree that this in so that is the first thing that catches your eye in this clearing.

5. ‘Apple Tree Boy Apple Tree Girl’ | Paul McCarthy | 2010

Paul McCarthy – Apple Tree Boy Apple Tree Girl, 2010, Aluminium, (Boy) 525 x 208.3 x 189.2 cm, (Girl) 546.1 x 290.8 x 213.4 cm. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

Paul McCarthy’s ‘Apple Tree Boy Apple Tree Girl’ (2010) belongs to the artist’s Hummel series, executed on a monumental scale. The kitsch mid-century German figurines depict rosy-cheeked children in idyllic repose. In McCarthy’s world, this Aryan naïveté becomes a target for parody, and ultimately, defilement and disfigurement. The figures deformed innocence suggests the conditioning of children, from Hitler youths to contemporary, TV-addled teen consumers. The miniature Adam and Eve find themselves reborn as 18 foot Überkinder; they remain only a suggestion of their former selves, sweetly deformed to the point of abstraction. The implicit naïveté of the Hummel motif is materially deconstructed, portraying a sophisticated fall from grace for these darling figures, in simultaneously literal and metaphorical terms. (City Of London, 2017)

This one was creepy. The texture was very interesting though.

6. Black Shed Expanded’ | Nathaniel Rackowe | 2014/2016

Nathaniel Rackowe – Black Shed Expanded, 2014/2016, Timber shed, fluorescent lights and fittings, bitumen, paint, steel, 240 x 220 x 220 cm. Edition 2 of 2 (2016 edition). Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

Nathaniel Rackowe’s large-scale urban shed structure is installed, seemingly mid-explosion, upside-down, its contours wrenched apart, exposing its illuminated interior. The wooden shed, painted with black bitumen, emanates an eerie acid-yellow glow from the white strip-lighting inside it reflecting off the painted walls of its interior. The structure appears to be exploding, split apart by the force of the light within. Rackowe says, ‘I thought it interesting to take the humble shed and elevate it so it can rise up and challenge architecture, deconstructing it to the point where you are forced to re-read it.’ Referring to garden sheds throughout the suburbs of London, the work has an equally universal impact in its depiction of such a familiar, domestic structure. (City Of London, 2017)

I loved this! It taps into the cultish standing recently of the humble shed. I wonder if he is a follower of shed porn or fifty sheds of grey of twitter?

7. ‘4 Colours at 3 Metres High Situated Work’ | Daniel Buren | 2011

Daniel Buren – 4 Colours at 3 metres high situated work, Clear acrylic sheets, coloured self-adhesive filters, wood, screws, white and black paint, 2011,300 x 300 x 300 cm. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

4 Colours at 3 metres high situated work is a variation on the theme of the pergola or ‘attrape soleil’, which Daniel Buren has explored in several public works, which play with outdoor light, the movement of the sun, architecture and coloured shadows. All of Buren’s interventions are created ‘in situ’, appropriating and colouring the spaces in which they are presented. They are critical tools addressing questions of how we look and perceive, and the way space can be used, appropriated, and revealed in its social and physical nature. In his work life finds its way into art, while autonomous art is able to reconnect with life. (City Of London, 2017)

(looking up through) Daniel Buren – 4 Colours at 3 metres high situated work, Clear acrylic sheets, coloured self-adhesive filters, wood, screws, white and black paint, 2011,300 x 300 x 300 cm. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

I think I visited this one at the wrong time of the day. I saw a picture on the internet where the colours were reflected onto the pavement, so presumably they move around the structure with the sun. Probably mid-day would be best. When I went after work the sun was so low it was behind all the buildings but I could still go into it and look up through the colours which was fun.

8. ‘Reminiscence’ | Fernando Casasempere | 2017

front, side, back view of :
Fernando Casasempere – Reminiscence, 2017, Porcelain, 135 x 135 x 115 cm. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

Fernando Casasempere (born 1958) is a sculptor working with ceramics, the traditional material of pottery, and his work explores ideas relating to landscape and the environment. Conceptually his use of earth/clay and his concern with nature and ecological issues connects him to artists associated with the Land or Earth Art movement, but Casasempere works out of a very different cultural tradition, being profoundly inspired by the Pre-Columbian art and architecture of Latin America. Reminiscence (2017) evokes not only geology but the remains of a once-grand ruined structure or even a construction site. Placed in the heart of the City of London it is a powerful statement about the relationship between nature and culture. (City Of London, 2017)

The texture of this was lovely but it didnt look like porcelain. One of the few of them I was compelled to touch.

9. ‘Tipping Point’ | Kevin Killen | 2016

Video here :

'Tipping point' by Kevin Killen, 2016. #sculpture #sculptureinthecity

A post shared by Suzy Walker-Toye (@scuba_suzy) on

Kevin Killen – Tipping Point, 2016, Neon, 240 x 120 x 30cm. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

In this series of work, my role has been to observe and photo-document, studying the outlines created by city lights. Walking the city photographing and recording, the non-stop nature of the city is documented through endless small events and incidents. Long-exposure photographs capture objects and people as black marks obstructing the lights of the city. I later “translate” these images into three-dimensional neon installations, with the city sounds correlated to match the sequence of the neon as it turns on and off. (City Of London, 2017)

This one was quite easy to spot on the wall nearby the information plaque. It was interesting to watch the neons flashing and imagine what bits of city each was correspoding to. I took a small video of this one.

10. 12. & 13. ‘Support for a Cloud’ | Mhairi Vari | 2017

Mhairi Vari – Support for a Cloud, 2016, Outdoor television aerial, wire coat-hangers, greenhouse/ poly-tunnel repair tape, 150 x 75 x 65 cm. Photos by Suzy Walker-Toye

Support for a Cloud plays across ideas of macro and micro – referencing concepts rooted in the natural sciences from cosmological formation to that of the insect cocoon. The artwork which is hung in three different locations is intended to inhabit the urban environment with its alien, nest-like structures that play on synthetic/organic forms. The visibly complex surface of these cocoon-like structures is generated by loops of agglomerated tape. The surface is alluring, even seductive and gently catches both daylight and artificial light, which animate the work further. These works are like small pieces of architecture inhabiting the manmade environment like nests or protective cocoons. (City Of London, 2017)

I went to the plaque at #10, looked around. Nothing obvious. Then looked up. I still wasnt sure. It’s so cleverly integrated with the archicture it looks ‘natural’ but also alien, kind of like a creepy cocoon. It reminded me of the Alien films, where’s Signory Weaver when you need her? I had to go back to see 12 and 13 since apparently I walked right past them without spotting them. It’s also grown on me with repeated viewing.

11. ‘Dreamy Bathroom’ | Gary Webb | 2014

Gary Webb – Dreamy Bathroom, 2014, Aluminium, bronze, automotive grade paint and lacquer, Dimensions Variable (depends on site location), Approx. 350 x 150 cm. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

Gary Webb’s whimsical, texturised tower of joyful abstraction is composed of a number of individually crafted components. The use of bronze, which lends Dreamy Bathroom a sense of sculptural gravitas, is pitched against the colourful, aesthetic playfulness of the shapes. The reflective, brightly coloured surfaces allude to, or parody, the kitsch appropriations of Pop Art, whilst the forms themselves are a nod to the post-industrial rigours of Modernism. Webb’s practice focuses on the formal interplay between contrasting shapes, lines, materials, fabrication techniques and points of art-historical reference. Rendered in a combination of industrial, organic and classical materials, Webb combines traditional craft methodologies with modern technologies, in order to create work that evades categorization, and tends towards the inscrutable. (City Of London, 2017)

14. ‘Falling into virtual reality’ | Recycle Group | 2016

Recycle Group – Falling into Virtual Reality, 2016, Plastic Mesh, 400 x 100 cm. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye
Recycle Group – Falling into Virtual Reality, 2016, Plastic Mesh, 400 x 100 cm. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

Recycle Group reflects on what our time will leave behind for future generations, what artefacts archaeologists will find after we are gone, and whether these artefacts will find their place in the cultural layer. As their name suggests, the duo is concerned about the rising level of material waste as a byproduct of widespread consumerism, creating work through the use of recycled materials. Their works also “recycles ideas”, drawing upon classical Western traditions such as narrative relief carving and Christian iconography to compare contemporary times with other histories – social media with religion, corporate leaders with kings, and online existence with mausoleums. The artists’ latest installation created for Sculpture in the City features a scene of a person falling into the virtual world executed in traditional saint-like image in mesh bas-relief. The mobile gadgets act as an emphasis that technology has on the modern world and questions yet again the idea of virtual archeology. The work draws inspiration by the futurist novel, Simulacron 3 (1964). (City Of London, 2017)

(Detail) Recycle Group – Falling into Virtual Reality, 2016, Plastic Mesh, 400 x 100 cm. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

View the introduction video of Falling into virtual reality here:

15. ‘Temple’ | Damien Hirst | 2008

Damien Hirst – Temple, 2008, Lacquered paint on bronze, 657.9 x 327.7 cm. Photo by Suzy Walker.Toye

‘Temple’ is a 21-foot painted bronze sculpture that weighs over three tonnes. Made in 2008, it presents a male torso whose partial exposure reveals the underlying musculature and organs. The artwork illustrates Hirst’s long-standing interest in anatomical models, which were initially featured alongside pharmaceutical packaging and specimen jars in his early ‘Medicine Cabinet’ series. ‘Temple’ succeeds other monumental anatomical models made by Hirst, including ‘Hymn’ (1999-2005), which was inspired by a model belonging to Hirst’s son, Connor. The artist explains: “I loved it that it was [like] a toy […] similar to a medical thing, but much happier, friendlier, more colourful and bright.” Damien Hirst cited in Damien Hirst and Gordon Burn, ‘On the Way to Work’ (Faber and Faber, 2001), 147. (City Of London, 2017)

I wouldn’t have guessed this was bronze, it looks like a giant version of one of those plastic models you see where the pieces come out like a organ puzzle. It’s much more impressive than 16-17, I wondered if they put it in this out of the way space because people would travel further to see work by a familiar name?

16. ‘Untitled x3’ | Bosco Sodi | 2012-15

Bosco Sodi – Untitled x 3, 2015, Ceramic glaze over volcanic rock, 120 x 80 x 100 cm ; 120 x 70 x 72 cm; 105 x 75 x 45 cm, Photo by Suzy Walker.Toye

Sodi’s rocks are, for all intents and purposes, excerpts from the natural world transformed through a highly physical process. Extracting dried volcanic magma from the Ceboruco volcano in Mexico, and selecting each rock for its formal qualities, he glazes the brittle surface before firing the sculpture at extremely high temperatures for three days. Each stone, having been subjected to variable elements, such as atmospheric pressure, humidity and temperature, reacts in unique, sometimes destructive ways. By altering the surface texture and the context in which these rocks exist – in this case the streets of London – he reflects on our perception of value and antiquity. The artist creates an incongruity between the setting and the course, and the exterior and core, of each piece. (City Of London, 2017)

A.K.A. Lava blobs. That’s what he should have called it if he was stuck for a title. Initially I saw these after seeing the plastic-fantastic looking one at #18 (below) and assumed it was from the same artist. I walked passed them both times in a bit of a hurry and must admit to being a bit disparaging about the look of them. When I took the time to read the blub (far enough to the side not to be immediately obvious if you go sailing past) I was amazed to see that they are actually real lava, glazed over.

17. ‘Envelope of Pulsation (For Leo)’ | Peter Randall-Page RA | 2017

Peter Randall-Page RA – Envelope of Pulsation (For Leo), 2017, Dartmoor granite, 160 x 140 x 110 cm. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

Peter Randall-Page (RA) was born in the UK in 1954 and studied sculpture at Bath Academy of Art from 1973-77. During the past 30 years he has gained an international reputation through his sculpture, drawings and prints. Shown for the first time in its Fenwick Street location for Sculpture in the City, Randall-Page’s most recent sculpture, Envelope of Pulsation (For Leo) 2017, is carved from a rare block of granite from Blackenstone quarry on Dartmoor. This new sculpture is the latest in a series of works exploring the way in which subtle modulations of the stone’s surface can evoke a sense of internal structure in the imagination of the viewer. ‘Envelope of Pulsation’ is a tantric aphorism describing form. The dedication is for Peter’s late friend, Leo, who owned the quarry.(City Of London, 2017)

Another one where the homeless man is getting more attention that the work, well he was there first! Its also another one which is easy to overlook, when coming from the other direction you see the giant and green and yellow of the one below pulling you eyes first. The texture of the one can really only be appreciated from certain angles, its one you have to work to be interested in.

18. ‘Synapsid’ | Karen Tang | 2014

Karen Tang – Synapsid, 2014, Epoxy, fibreglass, paint, Styrofoam, timber, steel 3.3 x 4.0 x 3.1 m. Photos by Suzy Walker-Toye

 

‘Synapsid’ (2014) is a large, vividly coloured sculpture which seems to morph between abstract, alien and animal forms. With its radioactive hues and blobby segments, ‘Synapsid’ evokes sci-fi invasion scenarios where monsters rampage through the built environment. The sculpture takes its title from the scientific name for proto-mammals which evolved to have skulls distinct from those of reptiles; the structure of ‘Synapsid’ hints at a cranial enclosure and eye-sockets. Viewers are drawn into Synapsid’s apertures and interior spaces, which are designed to be immersive, interactive and playful. (City Of London, 2017)

I have to say, I still dont like this one. I thought it would grow on me, and perhaps it has a little, but its still meh.

References:

City Of London. (2017) About the artworks At: https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/visit-the-city/art-architecture/sculpture-in-the-city/Pages/about-the-artworks.aspx
(Accessed on 30 June 17)

Visit: Public Art: ‘Ritual’ by Antanas Brazdys 1969.

The visit for this section is actually a choice of two (or both if I get time). I thought I’d go for the a piece of public art choice first. I’ve walked past this sculpture on occasion for many years and never really know why it was there so I thought this would be a good opportunity to find out something about my local environs.

My intension for this visit (since its local and out in the open), was to visit it first knowing nothing about it and record my reactions to it, then do a bit of research and perhaps have another visit to see if I see anything new about it.

So initial visit:

This sculpture is tucked into a corner next to a building, Woolgate Exchange which is basically a little annex of Coleman Street, City of London, EC2R. As you see there is a little bench behind it, so I had to wonder is the ‘front’ facing out towards the street or the bench for viewing, or is the bench just in a convenient out of the way spot behind it. There are no other benches in the area. After walking around the sculpture, I’ve concluded the latter and that the front faces onto the street.

There is a plaque at the base of the sculpture (see last photo) it’s a bit faded but you can still make out: ‘Ritual’ by Antanas Brazdys 1969. Prize winning sculpture in a competition for British scultpors under 35 years of age. And it lists the sponsors and judges etc.

Before reading the inscription I would have said this might represent a woman or a mother, with a flared skirt, tiny waist and big arms coming in for a giant hug. It still might be female related, depending on what Ritual (if any specific)  the artist is referring too. I guess I’ll find out when I research this a bit. As you move around the sculpture, even fractionally, the distorted reflections on every surface change and swirl. You can see the sky and the surrounding buildings in the ‘arms’ and the middle tube. The cube reflects more flatly without the warping of the building frontage and the ‘skirt’ relects a very warped upward view of the buildings. I was wearing a bright red top and looked for myself in the reflections and I was harder to pinpoint than you’d think given how reflective the surface is. I’m in there, my legs in the skirt, as a tiny button in the middle of the tube and in three places on the arms, facing forwards in the centre, and facing away to each side on the side of the arms. It’s like this all the way around, cleverly almost masking the viewer or changing their direction. This makes me ponder the surroundings in this little officey square more than I would have if I’d just been walking past, or even if I’d been sitting on the bench.

 

todo: write about this I found one link so far: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1431375

edit: todo:

could this be anything to do with the Ritual of Absinthe prep? see the image on this page: http://www.absinthespoon.com/rituel.php

theres a strong tradition of portrying Absinthe in art from Edgar Degas, Van Gogh to Picasso :

https://www.moma.org/collection/works/81307

http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/collections/works-in-focus/search/commentaire/commentaire_id/dans-un-cafe-167.html

http://blog.vangoghgallery.com/index.php/en/2015/01/06/van-goghs-relationship-with-alcohol/

References:
Historic England. (2016) Ritual sculpture At: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1431375
(Accessed on 30 June 17)

Exhibition: David Hockney at the Tate Britain 

I can’t recall when I’ve enjoyed an exhibition more than the recent David Hockney retrospective at the Tate Britain. It spanned a period of 60 years of creating, as he approached his 80th birthday he’s amazingly still learning new technology and has replaced his sketchbook now entirely with an ipad!

This exhibition shows how the roots of each new direction lay in the work that came before (Tate Britain, 2017a)

I tried to make some notes on my way around the exhibition, which I’ve supplemented with the supplied room guide (picture above). I actually bought the catalogue too.

Room One: PLAY WITHIN A PLAY

intro room:

I felt that this was the introduction room for those who don’t know Hockneys work. Probably so you don’t launch straight into room 2, which is probably the less interesting one in the show (at least I thought so). After this intro room the show progresses mostly chronologically. It also allows the show to come full circle as some works in the last room of the exhibition relate to those in this room. Showing, through the exhibition Hockneys subtle use of repeating themes. This room sets the scene for the rest, setting the viewer thinking about how Hockney questions the conventions of picture making and illusion of 3D space on a 2D surface. It’s quite clever curation.

Play Within a Play 1963

David Hockney – Play Within A Play, 1963
oil on canvas and plexi, 72×78 in. © David Hockney

Inspired by the image of his friend John Kasmin, pressing himself against the glass door of the gallery, this large painting plays with illusion, reality of 3D space with theatrical panache. Kasmin is painted on the canvas standing with his back against a tapestry backdrop/curtain in a tiny space, with a chair next to him. A plexi-glass sheet is a few inches in front of the canvas with his pressed hands and body imprinted on that so what appears real is an illusion and what appears to be an illusion is actually there. Clearly inspired by Domenichino’s Apollo killing the Cyclops, 1616-18 from the National Gallery (below). Hockney has a vast understanding and appreciation of art history (I’m still reading his book Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the lost techniques of the Old Masters) so it’s unsurprising that he would take an old Fresco as his starting point here. Similarly with 4 Blue Stools, 2014 (also in the room), Hockney is playing with illusion of space and reality. Here he’s using stitched together digital photos to create a scene which on first glance looks real but is actually impossible.

Domenichino and assistants, 1581 – 1641, Apollo killing the Cyclops
1616-18, Fresco, transferred to canvas and mounted on board, 316.3 x 190.4 cm
Bought, 1958. NG6290, This painting is part of the group: ‘Villa Aldobrandini Frescoes’ (NG6284-NG6291), https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG6290
David Hockney – Kerby (After Hogarth) Useful Knowledge 1975, Oil on canvas, 6′ x 60 1/8″ (182.9 x 152.7 cm)
Gift of the artist, J. Kasmin, and the Advisory Committee Fund

Kerby (After Hogarth) Useful Knowledge 1975

The title refers to John Kirby’s 1754 pamphlet on linear perspective, cleverly illustrated by William Hogarth with his engraving Satire on False Perspective. The inscription of which reads

Whoever makes a DESIGN without the Knowledge of PERSPECTIVE will be liable to such Absurdities as are shewn in this Frontispiece (Hogarth).

Throughout the exhibition it becomes obvious that Hockney is obsessed with issues pertaining to the convention of one-point perspective, so it’s no wonder he remade this parody of false perspective. This is another example where the scene, which on first glance looks real, is actually impossible. I’m not sure of the significance of the stand-in of Michelangelo’s David, presumably some sort of artistic in-joke.

William Hogarth – Satire on False Perspective, 1754, Engraving

Model with Unfinished Self-Portrait 1977

David Hockney – Self-Portrait With Blue Guitar, 1977
oil on canvas, 60×72 in. © David Hockney

I didn’t realise at the time but just rereading the title here and the blurb from the exhibition room guide, the figure of Hockney in this one is actually a picture within a picture. It’s the unfinished “Self-Portrait with a blue guitar”, 1977. And the curtain in both paintings looks to be the curtain attached to yet another, unseen painting on an easel behind the sleeping figure of Hockneys boyfriend.

David Hockney – Model With Unfinished Self-Portrait, 1977
oil on canvas, 60×60 in. © David Hockney

Rubber Ring Floating in a Swimming Pool 1971

I think of all the paintings in the first room this was my favourite. A witty take on abstract art, which is blasted once you read the title and cannot unsee the realistic representation.

David Hockney – Rubber Ring Floating In a Swimming Pool, 1971
acrylic on canvas, 36×48 in. © David Hockney

Room two: DEMONSTRATIONS OF VERSATILITY

David Hockney – The Cha Cha That Was Danced in The Early Hours of 24th March, 1961, oil on canvas, 68×60 1/2 in. © David Hockney

Early work. This room, of all the rooms, I found the least interesting, because it’s the least Hockney-esk. This room showed works from his early years at art school, where he was showing off his art prowess and trying on different styles. As he noted, ‘I deliberately set out to prove I could do four entirely different sorts of picture like Picasso.

Although I did like The Cha Cha That Was Danced in The Early Hours of 24th March, 1961 and some of the ones with Graffiti in them.

 

Initially, Hockney experimented with abstraction, making a small group of free-flowing paintings in which symbols of personal desire began to emerge. As his interest in different pictorial conventions and concepts of space developed, he employed graffiti, cryptic codes, phallic shapes and freehand writing to suggest themes of sex and love. Here, child-like scrawled bodies, identified by numbers corresponding to letters of the alphabet, are situated in areas of spatial ambiguity, offering recognisable representation while drawing attention to formal qualities such as texture and brushwork. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

Room three: PAINTINGS WITH PEOPLE IN

David Hockney – Domestic Scene, Los Angeles 1963, oil on canvas, 60×60 in. © David Hockney
David Hockney – California Art Collector, 1964
acrylic on canvas, 60×72 in. © David Hockney

Largely based on his first exhibition, Paintings with People In, at the Kasmin Gallery in London in 1963. A few from his series Domestic Scenes, celebrating longer term gay relationships with portraits of the domesticity between couples. The paintings from this point start to be more observational.

Illusion and artifice remained a strong feature of his work of this period, typified by paintings including a curtain. The curtain frames the passage of light, identifying the stage of Hockney’s painting as a theatre of representation. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

The hypnotist 1963. I love the ‘rays’ from the hypnotist’s fingers zapping towards the other figure and the way the figures are so near the edges of the frame with the massive space between them.

David Hockney – The hypnotist 1963. © David Hockney

Room four: SUNBATHER

From 1964, Hockney lived in his ‘promised land’ of Los Angeles. The images in this room reflect his sunny outlook where he found inspiration in the outside spaces, geometric office blocks, patterns in swimming pools and gardens. These are possible what he’s best well known for.

I love the simplicity in A lawn being sprinkled 1967. I enjoyed being able to see in person how crisp those lines are of the jets of water, and how the lawn texture is built up (you cannot really glean this from a picture) and how the lawn and sprinklers seems to come out at you whilst the grey building behind recedes. I could almost hear the sound of sprinklers when I stood before this painting.

David Hockney – A Lawn Being Sprinkled, 1967
acrylic on canvas, 60×60 in. © David Hockney

A bigger splash 1967

Unlike Britain, swimming pools aren’t seen as a luxury in California and they feature heavily in Hockney’s work around this time. So much has been written about this painting it’s hard to know where to start. I love that he said the part that took the longest to paint was the splash when in reality the splash is the most transient part of the painting. Todo: further reading links: here, here and audio here.

Hockney’s laboriously painted splash might be seen as a dig at the macho spontaneity associated with abstract expressionism (Tate Britain, 2017b)

A Bigger Splash 1967 David Hockney born 1937 Purchased 1981 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T03254

Sunbather 1966

He was obsessed with how to depict transparency, of glass and especially of constantly moving water. I didn’t realise that the patterns in the water are from the painted pattern on the bottom of patterned until I saw some photographs of it (later in the exhibition). I thought they were stylistic references to sun glitter but they convey the feeling of the motion of the pool either way. Futurist tendancies Mr Hockney?

David Hockney – Sunbather 1966, © David Hockney

Man in the shower in Beverly Hills. 1964

David Hockney – Man in Shower in Beverly Hills 1964, Purchased 1980, http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T03074
© David Hockney

Hockney has said: ‘For an artist the interest in showers is obvious: the whole body is always in view and in movement, usually gracefully, as the bather is caressing his own body. There is also a three hundred year old tradition of the bather as a subject in painting.’ (Tate, 2017c)

Savings and loan building 1967: Abstract art was dominant at this time and in typical witty Hockney fashion he satirises this by representing observed, realistic looking office building as a modernist grid style.

David Hockney – Savings and loan building 1967
© David Hockney

Room five: TOWARDS NATURALISM

Towards the end of the 1960s, naturalistic representations of the human figure became a key element in Hockney’s work. Drawn to the psychological and emotional implications of two figures within enclosed settings, Hockney worked directly from a circle of friends and acquaintances in a series of double portraits that capture their intimate and often complex relationships. Near life-sized, these carefully staged compositions combine informal poses and settings with the grandeur and formality of traditional portraiture. Almost all these works are painted in acrylic, which dries quickly and cannot be scraped off the canvas, thus demanding a greater degree of planning and meticulous application. This process, with its greater capacity for scrutiny and observation, meant that Hockney could work from photographic studies to sketch out overall compositions but he chose to paint his figures from life. (Tate,2017b)

I loved this room. Here I show them in chronological order, except the first, which I remember seeing first in this gallery, fresh from the sunny swimming pools to serious contemplation on art history, was this intentional curation to emphasis the varied nature of Hockneys interests?

Looking at Pictures on a Screen 1977
Henry Geldzahler studying reproductions of historic paintings in Hockney’s studio. I thought this must be the start of the ‘great wall’ of images that Hockney gathered together for his thesis and book Secret Knowledge? Interesting to see the seat, for viewing the picture he is gazing at. I wondered why not have them all on one wall so you can sit in one place and look to see which one you want? I wondered how much of this was staged.

David Hockney – Looking At Pictures On A Screen, 1977
oil on canvas, 74×74 in. © David Hockney

I love his series of double portraits. As I discovered when researching the Arnofini Portrait, a double portrait is a complex thing. With one person in a portrait, the artists wants to capture the likeness/personality of the sitter, his or her relationship to their surroundings, and to their relationship to the viewer. For a double portrait he has to think about all that for two sitters, plus the relationship between them.

Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy 1970–71

David Hockney – Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy, 1970 – 71
acrylic on canvas, 84×120 in. © David Hockney

Fashion designer Ossie Clark and textile designer Celia Birtwell with their cat in their Notting Hill home shortly after their wedding (where Hockney was best man).

This is much larger than I imagined. Hockney really must have laid the acrylic paint on thickly here because can hardly see the texture of the canvas at all, the surface is completely smooth. He’s made things hard for himself here by situating them against the light. Usually in his double portrait paintings, one of them is looking at the other (to create a “cyclical movement of looking” (Tate, 2017d), see the two others below), here both figures stare out at the viewer, as with the Arnolfini portrait (AP), the viewer feels like a third person in the room, as though you’ve just walked in they both turn to look at you. Perhaps they couldn’t agree on who should look at whom, it is a power play? Percy, the cat looking out of the window from Ossie’s lap, takes the place of the little dog from the AP, but whereas the dog represented fidelity, the cat has “symbolic resonances of the libertine and somebody who disregards rules and does as they please” (Tate, 2017d). This is sort of reflected in Ossie’s relaxed seated pose too. Oh Dear. Celia’s pose looks more guarded, and her expression almost rueful. His expression seems very serious. His bare feet are buried in the rug, and as with the AP, Celias long dress covers hers entirely. Traditionally lillies were symbol of the Annunciation and feminine purity, they sit in the foreground close to her. Hockney has reversed one of the conventions of wedding portraiture by having the man seated while the woman stands, and the two figures are separated by the large open window, perhaps Hockney subconciously picked up signed that their marriage wouldnt last right from the beginning? If Hockney was drawing some parallel between the two paintings he may have also got a kick out of the fact that this was their bedroom but doesn’t look like it, and the AP is not their bedroom but everyone thinks it is (because of the bed)!

Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy 1968
English novelist and playwright Christopher Isherwood (right) and his partner, artist Don Bachardy, in their Californian home.

David Hockney – Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy, 1968
acrylic on canvas, 83 1/2 x 119 1/2 in. © David Hockney

Interestingly, in this portrait, the background is strangely similar but this time the blinds are firmly closed. Both figures are seated and the light streams in from the right. One looks to the other, who looks at the viewer, creating that aforementioned cyclical relationship. There is a bowl of fruit between them on the table and a stack of books on either side, one more book on the left that the right presumably to break up the symmetry? The power somehow feels more balanced in their relationship as represented than either of the one above or the one below.

Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott 1969
The figure in the centre is Henry Geldzahler, friend of Hockney and his partner, painter Christopher Scott, looks on. This one is interesting, when continuing to think about the power distribution in the relationship. Here, we as the viewer are at eye level with the seated figure who is looking at us. His partner is looking at him, and standing off to the side with his coat on. Geldzahler was the Curator of Contemporary Art at The Metropolitan Museum, New York at the time so he almost looks like he could be conducting an interview here, sitting right in the middle of the sofa is a massive power play, especially when you can make or break the career of everyone in the room. This window has no blinds at all, combined with the view of skyscapers one could assume they are in an expensive high rise appartment. The window, the glass table and Geldzahler’s glasses allow Hockney to play again with three different interpretations on the transparnecy of glass. Although the window is behind them, the light is coming from an unknown source from the left, and since the lamp is not on, this is most likely daylight from another great window.

David Hockney – Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott 1969, © David Hockney

American Collectors (Fred and Marcia Weisman) 1968

David Hockney – American Collectors (Fred & Marcia Weisman), 1968
acrylic on canvas, 84×120 in. © David Hockney

American art collectors Fred and Marcia Weisman outside their modernist Los Angeles house with sculptures by British artists Henry Moore and William Turnbull in the garden. I love how he’s choosen the paint them out here as though they are works or art along with their statues.

Jason Brooks – Neutra House. © Jason Brooks 2015

Some of Hockneys work reminds me of the work of artist Jason Brooks (famous for Hed Kandi Illustrations). I wouldnt be suprised if Brooks if heavily influenced by Hockney. They live in the same sun drenched, stylish, happy flat world.

 

Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) 1972

David Hockney – Portrait of an Artist (Pool with two figures), 1972
acrylic on canvas, 84×120 in. © David Hockney

Painted at the time of their break-up, Hockney’s then boyfriend, artist Peter Schlesinger, looks down at the figure of John St Clair, one of Hockney’s assistants, swimming underwater. (Tate, 2017b)

I found it interesting that the blurb in the booklet stressed that they’d just split up. It makes you assume from the picture that something was going on romantically between the two figures in the painting and perhaps this is the reason for the break up (I have no idea if this is true or not though).  Why would you paint someone like this if you were broken up with them? Was this painting, getting them together like this the cause of the breakup? The blurb poses more questions than the painting alone would have done. Interestingly in this painting, neither people in the painting is looking at the viewer, we’re all looking at the man in the pool, and the other man looking at the man in the pool, interesting when the view out across the mountains is spectacular and no one is looking at that.

My Parents 1977
The artist’s parents, Kenneth and Laura Hockney.

In this work, painted a year before his father’s death, Hockney’s style has shifted towards a closer study of human behaviour. His mother poses, attentive and graceful, while his father, who fidgeted during sittings, was painted reading Aaron Scharf’s book Art and Photography. A book on Chardin draws a parallel with intimate domestic scenes of the past, as do the volumes of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past visible on the shelf. Piero della Francesca’s Baptism of Christ (now in the National Gallery; see below) is reflected in the mirror, forming a triptych with the two figures. Gallery label, August 2004 (Tate, 2017e)

David Hockney – My Parents, 1977
oil on canvas, 72×72 in. © David Hockney

I found it really interesting that he abandoned painting a self-portrait in the mirror in a 1975 version of this but I cannot work out if that means anything or if I’m reading too much into it? Placing himself in the middle connects the two figures of his mother and father in a familial relationship. Placing The Baptism of Christ in the middle, as it was in the middle of the altarpiece, makes the two painted portraits of his parents essentially panels either side (as there were panels either side it on the altarpiece painted by another painter). Is this another art history play with reality vs painted surface conundrum? Also, this one struck me suddenly again, how many square paintings he has in this exhibition, in this one its obvious because he’s left the top of the painting unadorned, perhaps as space for God the Father (the third member of the Trinity) which may have originally have been represented in a roundel above The Baptism of Christ.

Piero della Francesca, about 1415/20 – 1492 – ‘The Baptism of Christ’, 1450s
Egg on poplar, 167 x 116 cm
Bought, 1861, NG665, https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG665

Contre-jour in the French style – against the day dans le style-francais 1974

David Hockney – Contre-Jour in the French Style-Against the day Dans Le Style-Francais, 1974
oil on canvas, 72×72 in. © David Hockney

The last one on the way out of this room caught my eye. this fantastic 70’s wallpaper with the beautiful formal garden beyond. This was directly inspired by a window in the Lourve.

 

 

 

 

 “The first time I went,” he wrote, “I saw this window with the blind pulled down and the formal garden beyond. And I thought, oh it’s marvellous! marvellous! This is a picture in itself … So I took some photographs of it, made a drawing, and started painting.” (David Hockney. My Early Years, op. cit., p285) Consciously drawing on a traditionally French style, the pointillist technique of the neo-Impressionists, helped him to loosen his brushwork again, and from the start the painting went well. The result beautifully depicts the light passing through the translucent blind and its reflection in the parquet floor. (Sykes, C S, 2012)

Room six: CLOSE LOOKING

David Hockney, Study of Water, Phoenix Arizona 1976, crayon on paper, 40.6 x 45.4 cm
© David Hockney

I spent ages in here, the behind the scenes room full of sketches, prep drawings and pen & inks. I love the outline ink on paper portraits and seeing the difference using a camera lucidia had on his drawing. And his study of water, phonex arizona 1976 crayon on paper. Too much looking and not enough note taking for this room thou! The blurb from the exhibition booklet states the following:

From the beginning Hockney’s ability at drawing has provided the bedrock for his art. The earliest work here, a self-portrait, was made when he was a teenager. For Hockney, drawing is primarily a way of looking more intently. Many of the drawings in this room – in pen and ink and in coloured crayon – are from the late 1960s and 1970s. At this time, Hockney developed a way of working that enabled him to capture the essence of a scene with the most economical of means: a few lines express the character of a sitter; one or two items conjure the feeling of a place or a moment in time. Because Hockney tends to make drawings when away from the studio, many reflect his travels and include friends and boyfriends in exotic places, the loneliness of hotel rooms or the pleasures of a lazy lunch. In the 1990s, Hockney proposed that many artists since the Renaissance had used optics as aids to depiction. He made a series of drawings using a camera lucida, a device which transfers the observed object to enable the artist to draw it with optical accuracy. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

David Hockney, W.H. Auden I 1968, pen and ink on paper, 43 x 35.5 cm
© David Hockney, photo: Richard Schmidt

Room seven: A BIGGER PHOTOGRAPHY

This room was dedicated to Hockneys ‘photography’. I remember being especially inspired by this when I was at high school. It’s really much harder than it looks to make a decent looking picture using this technique, especially with a film camera. I can see why he used polaroids to start with which he got used to the technique. A continuation of Hockneys issues with single-point perspective and a revisit to many familiar themes. Taking a cubist approach and trying to communicate the experience of the world as it actually is in 3 dimensions.

He described conventional photography as akin to ‘looking at the world from the point of view of a paralyzed Cyclops – for a split second.’ In contrast, he sought to create a photography that could accommodate different viewpoints as well as time and movement. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

Billy +Audrey wilder, Los Angeles, April 1982

David Hockney, Billy + Audrey Wilder, Los Angeles, April 1982, 1982. © David Hockney

Don+Christopher, Los Angeles, 6th March 1982

Gregory swimming, Los Angeles, March 31st 1982

David Hockney – Gregory Swimming Los Angeles March 31st 1982. Composite Polaroid. Collection of the artist. © David Hockney

Capturing the motion of a swimmer around the pool.

Grand canyon with foot, arizona, Oct 1982

He got tired of the annoying white borders so swicthed to 35mm photographs. This was an extrodinary collage of 35mm borderless images with the artists foot right on the edge of the cliff. Vertigo inducing. This one doesnt really incorporate motion unlike the next…

Walking in the Zen Garden at the ryoanji Temple, kyoto, Feb 1983

David Hockney – Walking in the Zen Garden at the Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto, Feb 1983, photographic collage, © David Hockney

Another foot one, which shows a tranquil walk around a Japanese Zen garden.

The scrabble game, Jan 1983

David Hockney, The Scrabble Game, 1 January 1983 (1983) , Polaroid composite. Collection of David Hockney © David Hockney

I love this slice of family life one, reminds me of playing scrabble (very badly, and taking pictures) at my husbands family.

Pearblossom hwy 11-18th April 1986 #1

David Hockney – Pearblossom Highway, 11-18 April 1986 #1, Collage, © David Hockney

This is the famous one that everyone knows. Its huge!

Room eight: EXPERIENCES OF SPACE

I wasnt so keen on the this room. Too ‘jazzy’ and abstract. I dont think abstract was really his speciality (with the exception maybe of The eleventh v.n. Painting 1992). The discordant colours made my eyes sore. Perhaps I’ll appreciate it a bit more once I’ve studied part 5 of the coursework. These did catch my eye (in a good way) though:

Breakfast at malibu, Sunday, 1989 & Breakfast at malibu, Wednesday, 1989

David Hockney – Breakfast at Malibu, Sunday, 1989. oil on canvas. © David Hockney
David Hockney – Breakfast at Malibu, Wednesday, 1989. oil on canvas. © David Hockney

 

 

 

 

 

I love everything about them, the setting. the different tea sets, the view, the handling of the sea, the table surfaces, the title that specifies the day but not the month. everything.

Pacific coast highway and santa Monica, 1990

David Hockney – Pacific coast highway and santa Monica, 1990, © David Hockney

This looks abstract at first glance but is actually very realistic view of winding roads and a high up view of Santa Monica (very small buildings on a giant curve of the bay). It has lots of texture. I’ve never been there but if I ever get the chance to go and see this view in person I’ll be delighted.

Through the 1980s and 1990s Hockney’s paintings focused on the experience of looking. The freedom and variety of markmaking within his paintings of this period – descriptive and decorative, denoting space, material and experience – reflect the layers of memory and invention within them. The post-cubist space that he created during this period was applied to landscapes and interior scenes of his new home in the Hollywood Hills. Landscape became the subject for paintings that were about moving through the terrain, the winding roads of Nichols Canyon and Outpost Drive being routes from his hilltop home to his studio. In these works flatness collides with illusion of spatial depth. But above all, these are paintings through which the eye dances, drawn by a sensuousness of line and colour where edges of viewpoints fold into and across each other. Hockney’s painting describes the complexities of space and there was an interchange at this period between his designs for operas and his painting. One tool he exploited was reverse perspective, which in his stage designs was intended to make the audience feel directly involved in the production by exploiting fluctuations of deep and shallow space. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

Room nine: EXPERIENCES OF PLACE

This room concentrates on Hockneys time in the late 1990s when he was producing landscapes (East Yorkshire where his mum lived, Grand Canyon, his house in Hollywood). I especially liked his images from Yorkshire, the English countryside is bright colours of summer and hairpin turns in the roads vividly reminds me of my frequent trips down to Dorset where you get glimpses of bright yellow rape seed, greenary and various other amazing field patterns whilst trying to fight off the spectacular carsickness.

David Hockney – Going Up Garrowby Hill, 2000, © David Hockney

He used multiple viewpoints to create a sense of his movement through the landscape, in particular up and down Garrowby Hill which rises from the Plain of York to the higher Wolds. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

The road across the wolds 1997

David Hockney – The road across the wolds 1997 © David Hockney

15 canvas study of the Grand canyon 1998

His multi canvas work is so big it lends some of the vastness of the view by being so vast itself. There is apparently a 60 canvas version! (see here)

David Hockney – 15 Canvas Study of the Grand Canyon, 1998 oil on 15 canvases, © David Hockney

Hockney also determined to paint the vast spaces of the American landscape. When he saw the Grand Canyon described as ‘the despair of the painter’ he could not resist the challenge, capturing the view with multiple perspectives. In depicting such places Hockney created an illusion of depth by the use of a foreground plain on which were arrayed objects, whether bails of wheat or small desert bushes. These derived directly from the abstract forms in his ‘very new paintings’ of a few years earlier (in the previous room) which themselves had been influenced by his stage work. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

Room ten: THE WOLDS

This was what my friend described as the room full of worm paintings (because of blossom on some has a giant maggoty feeling to it). She’d seen them at the Royal academy show a few years back (unfortunately I didn’t make that one) and they are amazing. Huge studies of the English landscape across multiple canvases, May blossom on the Roman Road 2009 in particular clearly has a Van Goghishness about the sky.

Hawthorn blossom near Rudston 2008

David Hockney – Hawthorne Blossom Near Rudston , 2008 oil on canvas, two panels, 60 x 96 in, © David Hockney, Photo credit: Richard Schmidt

May blossom on the Roman Road 2009, oil on eight canvas

David Hockney – May blossom on the Roman Road 2009, oil on eight canvas, © David Hockney

Woldgate woods, 6&9 November 2006. 6 canvas

David Hockney – Woldgate Woods, 6 & 9 November 2006. Oil on 6 canvas 78in x 152in. © David Hockney

 

Six part study for bigger trees, 2007

In 2006 Hockney returned to his native Yorkshire to paint the changing light, space and landscape of the Wolds. Works such as The Road to Thwing 2006 and A Closer Winter Tunnel, February – March 2006 show that Hockney was painting outside on larger canvases, sometimes moving between several before assembling them to create the effect of a single image. His move to a warehouse studio in Bridlington enabled him to create ever more complex and expansive pictures and begin exploring computer-generated images to aid their production. Hockney shares with earlier artists including the Romantics an engagement with the landscape based on memory and observation, but his focus is different. ‘Artists thought the optical projection of nature was verisimilitude, which is what they were aiming for,’ he said, ‘But in the 21st century, I know that is not verisimilitude. Once you know that, when you go out to paint, you’ve got something else to do. I do not think the world looks like photographs. I think it looks a lot more glorious than that’ (Tate Britain, 2017b)

Room eleven: THE FOUR SEASONS

video room

Following on from the big trees and woods pictures in the previous room, this video room gives a slightly motion-sickness-inducing look at a similar scene across 4 seasons. I didn’t even know Hockney did video installations but here they are. Like his photography, it isn’t just from one point perspective. It’s like cubist video would be. On each wall is a giant bank of screens showing one season creating an immersive environment.

In 2010 Hockney began making multi-screen video works by fixing a number of cameras (one or each screen in the final work) to the outside of a vehicle which was then driven along the road at Woldgate, near Bridlington, Yorkshire. The result was like a cubist film, showing different aspects of the same scene as perceived by a moving observer. As well as an exploration of the way a subject is seen over time, this work was a celebration of the miracle of the seasons. The experience of spring in 2002, after more than twenty years in seasonless California, had been one of the stimuli for Hockney settling in Yorkshire for about a decade. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

Room twelve: YORKSHIRE AND HOLLYWOOD

I didnt write any notes for this room. Here is the blurb from the booklet:

Hockney’s move from Yorkshire back to the Hollywood Hills in 2013 was marked by two different views of the landscape. His last work in Yorkshire was a sequence of 25 charcoal drawings celebrating the arrival of spring at five locations along the singletrack road running between Bridlington and Kilham that had provided him with much of the subject matter for his painting of the previous years. The first works he made on his return to California were two charcoal drawings of his poolside garden at morning and evening.

The last four years have seen an intense diversification of Hockney’s practice and the media he has used in his constant search for ways to represent the world of three and four dimensions, emotion and feeling, on a two-dimensional surface. Through arrangements in his studio of furniture and people – family, close friends and assistants – he finds new ways to represent the experience of looking. His art springs from a personal environment, yet, for Hockney, the most important place is the studio, where his consistent questioning and hard looking is manifested in pictures that encompass and transform how we see and respond to the world around us. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

Room thirteen: iPADS

Ipads! And the card players, 2015,photographic drawing printed on paper and mounted on dibond

One of my favourite rooms, I spent ages in here watching the timelapse videos of how the images on the ipads gets built up. Despite the difference in technology his style still completely shines through. He’s totally given up using a normal sketchbook and draws on his ipad so he can email straight to his friends. This is amazing use of technology but given his age its extraordinary. I found it very inspiring.

David Hockney Ipad drawings (these two were a video them being created)

Hockney has always welcomed the challenge of picturing transparency. The sheen of glass, passage of light, splash of water, all predominate within his paintings, drawings and photography since the mid-1960s. Something else that has characterised his work from the outset when, as a student, he started printmaking, is his constant desire to master new media. In 2009 glass and technology came together in his discovery of the iPhone, and the following year the iPad, as a new drawing instrument. On the iPhone he drew on the small back-lit glass screen with the side of his thumb, changing to a stylus with the larger screen of the iPad, to offer a different variety of line and a new luminosity of colour. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

further reading todo:

References:
National Gallery. (2017) Piero della Francesca, The Baptism of Christ At: https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/piero-della-francesca-the-baptism-of-christ
(Accessed on 7 June 17)

Sykes, C S. (2012) David Hockney: The Biography, 1937-1975.
Tate Britain. (2017a) David Hockney At: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/david-hockney
(Accessed on 1 June 17)

Tate Britain (2017b) David Hockney Exhibition Room Guide. 

Tate Britain. (2017c) David Hockney – Man in Shower in Beverly Hills, 1964 At: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/hockney-man-in-shower-in-beverly-hills-t03074
(Accessed on 7 June 17)

Tate Britain. (2017d) David Hockney – Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy, 1970-1 At: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/hockney-mr-and-mrs-clark-and-percy-t01269
(Accessed on 7 June 17)
Tate Britain. (2017e) David Hockney- My Parents At: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/hockney-my-parents-t03255
(Accessed on 7 June 17)