Exhibitions – Part 4

Phoenix Brighton – MEMORIA – Alex Peckham

memoria

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

William Kentridge – Whitechapel Gallery

The Refusal of Time

kentridge-1

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.

kentridge-3

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

kentridge-5

“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

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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

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“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)

Conclusions

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).