Exhibitions – Part 4

Phoenix Brighton – MEMORIA – Alex Peckham


This is a multi-dimensional piece created in an almost dark space surrounded by a sound recording of birds and external noises.   It is therefore both internal and external but when you are in the space itself holds you between the two.   Dominating the environment is a huge moth which appears to be breathing – not because it is moving but because of the sound-track and the assumption that this is the only living thing in the environment.

Scattered around are different pieces including tables and chairs – set with specific objects, dried trees, flowers – in retrospect I don’t know if what I “remember” are part of the exhibition or part of my own projection into the space and the experience.

Whilst the piece represents “dynamic sound and light to reflect upon life and death” my own response was of a tranquil, restful, allowing experience.   I found the piece thoughtfully expressive of acceptance – or maybe that is just me!

University of Brighton – Cathie Pilkington

CP 4

The Life Rooms

Anatomy of a Doll & Harmonium

Provocative and ambiguous, Cathie Pilkington’s sculptures make use of dolls in unexpected and challenging ways.

Exhibited for the first time since its debut at the Royal Academy, Anatomy of a Doll responds to Degas’ famous figures of ballerinas, playing with ideas of form and representation: is it sophisticated high art or the mechanics of a handcrafted work in progress? Showing alongside is Harmonium, which transforms a humble wooden shelving unit into the framework for fascinating individual tableaux.

Figurines, textiles, lightboxes and domestic items each tell their own story, questioning expectations of ornament, storage and display. A Royal Academician since 2014, Pilkington is acclaimed for her often unsettling sculptures that question how the female figure is represented. (brightonfestival.org/event/11032)


CP 5

I had not come across the work of Cathie Pilkington before and was thrilled by the diversity of her work.   The ready-made pieces collaged together and over glazed as well as the more macabre created items like the one below I found very resonant with my interests with different ways to examine the female experience.

CP 6

“Storytelling, myths, norms subverted, using “female” materials objects of the home and girl-hood.  Sexualised, desexualised, curiosity, dressing table, femininity? who am I, couples/ceramic maids and partners, obliterated, covered, brown – colours of the 30s-50s”.

CP 7

I loved particularly this dressing-table tableau with the child in 70s browns examining herself in the mirror but surrounded by over gazed idealised shepherds and shepherdesses.  Personally I remember the fascination with my mother’s whole dressing-table “alter-like” specialness – the place the ordinary face became the extra-ordinary or the private became the public.

CP 8

Is the girl willing herself to become adult or more female or different?

CP 9

I have over the years collected pieces of embroidery with crinolined ladies depicted as the epitome of femininity – usually surrounded by hollyhocks in a country garden.  Such a static depiction retained from previous centuries always struck me as an anachronism…..

crinoline lady

The second part of Pilkington’s exhibition was the creation of an art studio – fitted with lecture theatre like seats, mirrors and individual pieces of “sculpture” in the likeness of Degas’s “Little Dancer” but made from a combination of ceramic, fabric etc fixed on apertures.  These are subversive in their depictions of the female form – not idealised – heads back to front, limbs asymmetrical etc.

CP 11

I really enjoyed this exhibition which opened up a different world and a variety of methods.  However Harmonium though challenging I was not all together clear about what she was referencing on the different shelves – there were elements of Louise Bourgeois but maybe that is just the use of fabric.

Fabrica, Brighton – THEY

An exhibition by respected Turkish artist Ipek Duben comes to Brighton this Spring. THEY/ONLAR, a multi-screen video installation, previously seen at SALT, Istanbul, Turkey, will be presented at Fabrica for its UK premiere.

THEY/ONLAR focuses on how Turkish society views They or the Other. Through the stories of several individuals the artist goes behind the scene in Turkish society, allowing us to glimpse her country’s diversity of ethnic, religious and gender positions, the perceptions of members of the Sunni majority, and the everyday discrimination and resistance that it engenders.

In Turkey They covers many ethnic, and religious groups: Kurds, Alevis, Armenians, Jews, Rum (Greek) and Romanis. They also refers to LGBT people, women, covered women, women subjected to domestic violence.

Through their personal testimonies Duben’s subjects discuss their histories, attitudes, prejudices, hear-say and personal experiences concerning each other. But in portraying Turkish society Ipek Duben ultimately invites us to examine ourselves in our context: to listen; to learn; to understand; to be generous to, rather than threatened by the Other.

Co-produced with Brighton Festival and with the generous support of SAHA Foundation

Fabrica  images

The statement above was part of the PR flyer for the exhibition.   Spending quite a lot of time watching the films I became more and more intrigued by the individual stories and what was the same and what was different one to the other and to my own experience.   There was a great deal revealed about the culture and politics of gender which I could identify with as my experience from 50s – 70s .   The difference was the attitudes of the ethnic groups to each other.   There had been times which they clearly lived amiably side by side but more recently a sense of separateness and fracture.

I am not sure how to respond to this as a piece of artwork -clearly there is a documentary format, biographical.  What I enjoyed was the way each person was caught as it were mid sentence and mid discussion – each following the previous and phasing into the next.  It left you wanting to hear more and certainly becoming involved in the narratives.

In conclusion I was reminded of the Jo Cox quote “more similar than different”.






Part 3 -Exhibitions 3

Rauschenberg – Tate Modern

I finally got to the Tate Modern to see the Rauschenberg exhibition. What struck me was how to look at the work that has become the iconic 60s images specifically the Combines and silkscreen paintings from the viewpoint of these being “new” and inventive departures from what was going on at the time.  In fact I found all these less impact -full than some of his very early  “scatole personali” (awkwardly physical).  These tiny disintegrating memorabilia reminded me of some of Susan Hiller’s boxes.   Heaped in meaning and significance.

But what I hadn’t known about were his collaborations with actors, composers and dancers and the creation of multi-layered theatre pieces. Some of the stage detail and running order scripts are themselves works of art.   I have collected a number of snippets from these:-

30 Large Desert Turtles with Torches Strapped to Their Backs

Spring Training 1965

Rauschenberg and Paxton took turns carrying each other like planks

People were carried around on brightly coloured boards reading out a newspaper backwards – Urban Round

Rauschenberg carried a sack containing a singer who sang an old Spanish song  – Open Score 1966

There is something about these suggestions of the live action that bring very strong images to mind.

Transfer Drawings

rauchenberg dante 2   rauchenberg dante 3 rauchenberg dante

Rauschenberg’s discovered technique of transferring images onto paper using lighter fluid led to his development of multi-layered series of images of Dante’s Inferno.  These amazingly detailed and delicate creations moved me more than anything else in the exhibition.   Probably coming across something so very different from the expected was part of it.   Also they encapsulate a depth of thought and vision which I didn’t find in the other work.  After these I find the silkscreens rather crude and something of the “factory” similar to Warhol’s output.  The transfer drawings are intensely personal and the introduction of different materials and techniques intriguing.




Part 3 – Exhibitions

Paul Nash – Tate Britain

Before I went to see the exhibition at the Tate Modern I was reading Paul Nash – Landscape and the Life of Objects (Andrew Causey).  He worked very much in the same genre as Samuel Palmer and William Blake – also a painter/poet.

1 Dreaming Trees

Working from he 3 trees series and many depictions from the two images below of Wittenham Clumps  (1913) he began to conjour up the feeling of place which he returned to after his WWII experiences.




2 We are Making a New World (1918)

Dramatic sunrise/sunset with red clouds overlooking dramatically ruptured earth and trees – uncompromising not heroic.   This he repeated in many of his wartime paintings moving into an almost abstract/realist phase.

“Nash’s war experience transformed his work: he painted in oil for the first time and discovered a new artistic language of powerfully simplified forms which both conveyed the appearance of ravaged landscapes and suggested violent emotional experiences”. (exhibition handout)

3 Places


“In the 1920s Nash became emotionally attached to significant places which inspired sequences of works.   He responded both to the specific qualities of these landscapes and the feelings and memories that they prompted”.  (exhibition handout)


“Nash’s paintings rapidly moved in 1928-9 from popular landscape to emblematic representation…suggests an elite visual langue that can work…by means of surrogates. ..Nash appreciated in full for the first time how defunct standards of representation in art had become”. (Causey p63)

4 Room & Book

Reflections, intersecting planes, multiple perspectives

“Yet I still need particularly organic features to make my fixed conceptual image” (1937)

5 Unit One

For Nash Unit One was important in publicly stating his commitment to international modernism…alongside other leading British avant-garde artists

I found this section the least interesting apart from the Stone Tree and Druid Landscape paintings 1934 where he refers to ancient stones he has visited at Avebury and other sites.

6 The Life of the Inanimate Object

” Nash explored the idea of a life force in inanimate objects and created encounters between them, arranging flints, bones driftwood and small geometric objects into his still life compositions”.

Worked with Eileen Agar – one of my favourite unsung heros of collage, avant-garde imagery.   With her he created assemblages using photographs, sketches, paintings and other objects.

7 Unseen Landscapes

Post 1936 he works on intensly surrealist landscapes where reality & dream co-exist.   (Even on the Downs)

International Surrealist Exhibition

Circles of the Monoliths

Land of Dreams

Monster Field

8 Aerial Creatures

9 Equinox

“The mystical association of two objects which inhabit different elements and have no apparent relation to each other”.

More painterly depictions beautifully rendered – some of my favourites.



I was moved by many of Nash’s paintings in ways that I didn’t expect to be.   However I was mostly drawn to the closing of the circle the meeting as it were of his  very early pre-war drawings of trees and particular places and the later equinox cycle.


Part 3 – Exhibitions

William Kentridge – Whitechapel Gallery

The Refusal of Time


The initial work encompasses many of Kentridge’s themes and working methods:-

“This work explores how the measurement and control of time, space and light have led not only to greater scientific understanding, but also to the exploitation of global resources and peoples.” (exhibition handout )

He utilises the depiction through complex made up machinery as above which reminded me of different mechanised textile machinery, early computers, depicting useless actions repeated again and again.

The room was surrounded by screens upon which an ongoing carnival of silhouettes of actors and dancers act out another repeating procession.   Screens also show early scientists engaged in experimentation.  You are surrounded by action, movement, engagement on what it is not clear.


It is interesting to have so much happening in one space and it is difficult to “watch” any of the action for any length of time without being diverted by another action elsewhere in the room.   It is both distracting and attracting at the same time.

The Tapestry Library


“The Streets of the City a horse gallops across two ancient maps, of southern Europe and of Italy’s Abruzzo region, These detached aerial views contrast with the drama of the animal collaged from slogans, emblematic of the street as a site of protest”. (exhibition handout)

Having come from a tapestry training I often find the work of artists translated into tapestry very disappointing because the images do not work well in the medium.   However this very strong image and its 2 other neighbours, are surprisingly strong and engaging.   Kentridge has used his collage technique to advantage in contrast to the details of the maps.   I also like the inclusion of the working lines, overlapping of what looks like photocopying and stray treads etc.

Right Into Her Arms


Drawing from musical scores by Alban Berg and Kurt Schwitters’ sound poem Kentridge create a theatrical piece projected onto 3 moving theatre flats.   The flats move in and out turn and the images  influenced by the woodcut prints of Otto Dix, George Grosz etc intertwine around the “stage”.

This is an engaging piece using a variety of materials and methods intermingled onto the staged canvas that he has created.   I was inspired by this to buy a copy of Lulu an opera that he directed and designed in 2015. (more notes to follow when I have watched the opera).

O Sentimental Machine


“A cast of megaphones, typewriters and movie cameras represent the 20th century technologies that drove progress and social change dramatised by Philip Miller’s score….Behind closed doors we see futurism become history as the gestures and props of revolution sink under water” (exhibition handout)


Kentridge’s extremely enjoyable and complex works defy my immediate analysis.   I was drawn to the variety that he uses in terms of method and image and the way he has confined this over time to produce very strong and thoughtful pieces.

Following the exhibition I have spent time watching many interviews and films on his work on YouTube – which I will refer to later.(see Bibliography).

Moving Towards Assignment 2

Background & Context

I am moving towards Assignment 2 but I need to work through a lot of thinking before I can finalise my subject matter and materials.

Recently I have returned from a week in Madrid where I was overwhelmed by the work in the 3 main galleries which we visited;  The Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza. There is so much to think about but initially I thought that I would concentrate on those painters and paintings which I feel at this time have most relevance to the next assignment.

To back track slightly I was (see Assignment 1) very affected by the paintings of Cotan and drawings by Redon whom I continue to be mesmerised by.   The format of the drawing which I submitted for Assignment 1 was based on my thinking in relation to these artists as well as the format of early medieval imagery.

Before leaving I started to read Goya by Robert Hughes (2006) which hugely enhanced by understanding when I saw the selections of Goya’s paintings, etching/aquatints and murals (transferred to canvas).

Of course I also spent time with Velasquez: Les Meninas (1656) but not enough to really take in all its genius.

Finally Picasso’s – Guernica (1937) had an enormous impact on my understanding of composition.  More later.

The only way I believe I can rationalise – or maybe not- my interests, understanding, emotional response is to summarise my responses to the particular artists mentioned.

Juan Sanchez Cotan

I had done my research before the visit and was looking forward to seeing the 1 Cotan in The Prado – but it was not on show – great disappointment.


Still life with lemons – 1602

What fascinates me about the still lives of this period is the way that the everyday objects are given a reverence by putting them in a setting which could be a kind of altar.   In a time when people were still attached to the source of their food as well as their connection with the religious thinking and growing philosophical theories about life and death.

(The theme of life and death or more specifically the story of life and death seems to run through my interest in all the artists mentioned.)

As I have charted previously for Assignment 1 the still life tradition became more and more elaborate and more and more opulent as the decades progressed and then regressed via the Impressionists and Cubists to everyday themes and content.

The super-reality and the dark darkness also pertains to available daylight and the possible use of camera lucida. Containment is an issue within these compositions which was something that I found useful when working towards finding deep tones and shadows.

I  must admit that my notes to myself after seeing all the epic art in Madrid were:-


Francisco de Goya

Robert Hughes’s Goya (2006) was an exceptional accompaniment to my visit to Madrid.   From an artist I knew absolutely nothing about to becoming fascinated by the different phases, materials, content and context of his lifeworks.

For the purposes of the relevance to my choices and interests in putting together my Assignment 2 composition I would like to highlight the following pieces or phases of his work.

The “Black Paintings” –  frescos/murals which he painted onto the walls of his home


Pilgrimage of San Isidoro


These murals/paintings which Goya undertook between 1817-1823 on the walls of his house following his first and then subsequent severe illnesses are the artist’s personal depictions painted in what Hughes cites as “very strange times, both for Goya and for Spain” (p376).   That they were painted directly onto the walls of his home without the requisite preparation of the surface (which Goya had the skills to render as he did in other settings).   That they are very emotional, dark, even horrific renderings of different themes places them completely outside of his former works:- playful bright cartoons for royal tapestries, formal court portraits and different series of prints marks them out as a distinct personal series of works not destined for public eyes.   They were eventually taken from the walls and transferred to canvases is the only reason they were preserved.

“He had no audience in mind.  He was talking to himself. He never imagined that the Black Paintings would be seen anywhere except where he was.” (Hughes p 379)

Furthermore Hughes calls them a “freakish, vivid precursors of modernity”, (p 379 and that is how they struck me.   They emanate a very visceral, deep, dark world.  Figures are often grotesque, contorted, screaming and reminded me of some of Francis Bacon’s work. In a working life where nearly all of his work was subject to wealthy patronage these stand out as something very out of the ordinary.

The subject matter includes ordinary people often in dire circumstances battling against themselves, the elements, life and the fates are what Hughes calls “populacho, or pig-ignorant mob”. (p382) Also the physicality of how they were rendered adds to the aggressive, brutal depiction of Goya’s personal state and the state of Spain at this time.

Without going into details I wanted to note that Hughes also makes the connection with Picasso’s Guernica 1937 (on which I will comment further) (p383) as well as Salvador Dali’s Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War) 1936 both artistic responses to the Spanish Civil war.

For me these pieces show an artist working beyond his own era in ways that did not become common practice until some 200 years later.   They convey an honest outpouring of Goya’s personal experience rendered with a bravura that I find truly astonishing.

These paintings for me show an artist laying out his deepest fears and responses to a world in turmoil, his own inner world and that of his country.  I want to use the word “heroic” but in some ways this relates, historically to a different tradition and these paintings are not in anyone’s tradition but his own.  The human condition being grappled with via epic themes and painted in emotionally bold gestures.

The Caprichos


“What Rembrandt did for line etching, Goya and his colleagues did for aquatint, and they did it with one astonishing burst of creativity: a series of eight prints that Goya entitled Los Caprichos.” (Hughes p 179)

Again these were not created with patronage but at his own cost and in large numbers, 300 sets.   They are fantastically rendered satirical comments on the society in which Goya lived covering the church, society, the inquisition, moral themes, scatological content, witches and witchcraft, marriage, wealth etc. The use of the aquatint and newly discovered addition to the printers art allowed him to create depth and tone in a much more subtle and successful way than in the past.

It is believed he had seen in the collection of his friend when he was recovered from his first illness prints by some of the English and French satirical artists including Rowlandson and  Hogarth.   Spain was due to its historical position in Europe and the work of the Inquisition cut off from the wider artistic developments.   There was hardly any access to works from beyond its borders and Goya was little travelled (only once to Italy at this point).

There are so many of these prints I respond to not only because of the diversity of his subject matter,  his “black” humour and the outpouring of creativity they are a testament to.

Desastres – Later war related etchings/aquatints (1810 –


The war with Napoleon saw Goya’s response in a large number of aquatints as strong, emotional and acerbic comment on the experience of Spain at the hands of France.

“At the end, the Desastres de la Guerra open outward, beyond mere human stupidity and detestable cruelty into a pessimism so vast and desolating that it can fairly be called Shakespearean”. (Hughes p 302) Goya did not print this series.  They were not published in his lifetime and did not appear until 1863.

Odilon Redon – The Noir


I am only bringing the work of Odilon Redon (Assignment 1) back into this context in order to point out my growing awareness, having seen the Goya’s, of the tradition out of which Redon’s work is drawn.

Noir, the Romance of Black in 19th Century French Drawings & Prints , Lee Hendrix (2016) is the next book which I am going to read in order to further understand these connections.


Picasso – Guernica


As epic as it is seeing the real painting of Guernica what really caught my attention were the photographs taken by Dora Maar as the work progressed.   I don’t know whether it had occurred to me before but this series of images show how the composition of the painting shifted and changed over time as Picasso created the work. Alongside these are other works which reference the figures, crying woman, bulls, fallen hero etc.

When I was struggling with putting my own composition together I am trying to be less anxious about how this happens and the time it takes.

What’s the Story? – Content & Context

Even a week on from finishing the Assignment 2 drawing I am not clear yet how all this is referenced by what I have seen in Madrid and my recent reading and thinking.

There are themes however that I am starting to recognise:-

  • There is a story behind the drawing or painting.   Though I am as yet not clear what mine may be I am now aware the more I understand the stories of other painters the more possible it is for me to articulate one of my own
  • I am drawn to the darker more introspective aspects of pieces of artwork
  • I also go for humour and a did at the status quo
  • I like the idea of metaphors but do not yet feel confident about using them myself
  • I appreciate both the detailed and larger gestural aspects of the artists
  • I still struggle with what a composition might be

Some Are Nights Others Stars – Towner Art Gallery – September 2016

Michael Armitage, Ruth Claxton, Tiffany Chung, Siobhan Hapaska, Isaac Julien

Some Are Nights Others Stars brings together a diverse selection of international artists whose works embody the contrasting experiences of displacement, loss and separation with the dynamic possibilities of movement, transformation and remembrance. Presented as an interrelated set of experiences, the exhibition weaves together concerns about land, architecture, progress, utopian dreams, inequality, trauma and resistance that refer as much to imagined futures as to the historical past.

Encompassing film, installation, sculpture, painting and drawing, this major exhibition occupies the unique architecture of Towner’s Ground Floor Gallery. Though the selected artists vary in approach, consistent within all the works is their critical engagement, emotional power and ability to create interweaving narratives that suggest multiple states and histories.

The title of the exhibition alludes to the poem Ashes by Serbian poet Vasco Popa that begins in loss and rallies against destructive forces and dehumanisation until we become the dreamer and the dreamt, ‘both stars and night’.

Some Are Nights Others Stars

Siobhan Hapaska – Intifada (Shaking Off)

Siobhan Hapaska Intifada 1


Intefada 2

Explanatory leaflet in Exhibition Diary.

The part that is not obvious is that each olive tree has some kind of motor around its truck and they are constantly gyrating.   Which means that the whole piece is moving all the time as the leaves are falling the straps that are attached to the trees and to the building are all vibrating. It is also quite noisy – I am not sure if it meant to sound like gunfire or not.

The whole piece feels monumental and inhabits the large space with great presence.  I was affected by both the ideas behind the piece and its actuality. The trees have literally been pulled up and their roots are in the air – the people are rootless without their land and their produce.


Sussex Open – Towner Gallery – Eastbourne

Annual exhibition selected by judging panel.

A few of the drawings and paintings I particularly liked and responded to.

Anny Evason

A pair of graphite drawings by Anny Evason.  Beautifully drawn showing the full diversity of marks available using just one medium.   As I am presently struggling with my own drawing I was awed by the expertise of these strong and evocative scenes.

“I make drawings as finished work, not just as preparation for something else. I find the process of drawing direct, spontaneous, fluid. The act itself is way of thinking. I aim for that elusive equilibrium between the mark and the iconography.” annyevason.co.uk

Rachel Adams -  Cup of Possibility

Rachel Adams - First They Came


Rachel Adams – Cup of Possibility, First They Come, The Passenger.

I particularly like the use of flat colour and tonal blocks in these paintings. The way the paintings evoke memories, photographic reminiscences of her life.


Sheila Morrow – Hand Embroidery

This is actually deep red stitching taken from a 2 minute sketch.   I like the way the spontaneity of the drawing has stayed true in this hand worked piece.