exhibition

Tate Britain – Paula Rego

This week I went to the Paula Rego exhibition at Tate Britain. We just managed to catch it before it finished, but I’m glad we did because it was a very thought-provoking show. I remember studying Paula Rego’s work at high school, but I was still a bit too young to understand the content and impact of her work. The main theme throughout the exhibition was the oppression of women, particularly relating back to Rego’s life and experiences living under a dictatorship, the Estado Novo, in Portugal. 

I found the first couple of rooms particularly interesting because they focused on Rego’s early work, which was mainly collage. As we have been experimenting with this technique of image making in the last couple of weeks during my diploma it was great to see it used in the creation of art, not only using found images but also cutting up and re-using images drawn by herself.

Self-portrait in Red (1966)

My favourite room was what I thought of as the main room of the exhibition. A group of large paintings in acrylic that Rego completed in the 1980’s culminating in what is probably her most famous piece ‘The Dance’. The group of paintings all prominently feature women and investigate how their identities are shaped by a patriarchal society.

The Policeman’s Daughter (1987)

Continuing through the exhibition this theme remains in her paintings, whether exploring her own interpretation of fairytales and popular stories, or as a commentary on the way women are perceived in society through the male gaze and her attempts to subvert this view. Much of Rego’s work has political undertones in opposition of regimes and issues that she finds unacceptable.

Angel (1998)

I can’t honestly say that I liked all of the work, but I did think that the exhibition was well put together, both in terms of showcasing the breadth and quantity of work that Rego has completed over the seven decades she has been a working artist (and still continues to be), but also in challenging the status quo and providing much needed material to open up conversations about subjects that can still be considered taboo.

I’m disappointed that I visited the exhibition so late as I would have liked to recommend it, but if you do get the opportunity to see any of Paula Rego’s work it is definitely worth a look.

exhibition

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2021

As much as I love visiting art exhibitions, I don’t think anything can top the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition for me. It’s one of the most inspirational art events to attend and I think a big part of that is the accessibility of it. Not only does it happen every year (even last year), but the fact that anybody can submit their artwork makes you feel as though you too could be up on that famous gallery wall one day. Every time I visit I always want to create as soon as I get home. 

This year in particular I felt inspired as the exhibition co-ordinator, Yinka Shonibare RA, sought to bring more diversity to the gallery. This mainly focused around the promotion of pan-African art, together with artists who are neurodiverse, disabled, or self-taught, but this also allowed for the inclusion of artwork that is more traditionally seen as ‘craft’ rather than serious art. This feels like an important breakthrough as in 1770 the Royal Academy brought in a rule stating that ‘no needlework, flowers, cut paper, shell-work or any such baubles shall be admitted’, effectively excluding crafts and, by extension, women. Throughout this year’s exhibition there were examples of textile art such as crochet, embroidery, tapestry and quilting. Although I like to dabble in all crafts I see myself primarily as a textile artist, so to see these pieces exhibited alongside more traditional art was actually quite thrilling.

The exhibition is huge. Taking up several rooms you need plenty of time to look around as there is so much to take in. Every wall is covered floor to ceiling with artwork of all different kinds. It is running until 2nd January and I am considering a second trip as I’m sure there were things I missed on my way round, and others that I would like a closer look at. If you want a sneak preview you can browse the items for sale on the RA’s website, but I would still recommend visiting because you can’t beat seeing art in real life.

Tickets cost £22 and it is well worth purchasing a list of works for £3.50. Each work is numbered and the booklet lists the name of each piece, the artist, the materials used, and also the price. The majority of pieces are for sale and can range in price from a few hundred to several thousand pounds. Whilst many of the works are one-offs with only the original available to buy, there are plenty that also have prints available so if you are feeling a bit flash you could buy yourself some limited edition artwork whilst you’re there!

If you are interested in how it all works there is a programme available on BBC iPlayer called ‘Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, which explores the selection process and has interviews with Yinka Shonibare RA, along with several hopeful applicants discussing their work. 

exhibition

David Hockney – The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020

I was very excited to go to my second art exhibition of the summer – The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020 by David Hockney at the Royal Academy, London. I’ve been a fan of Hockney’s work for quite a long time after seeing another exhibition several years ago and was inspired by two of his pieces in particular when I began to create my own artwork; Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica (1990), and The Road to Thwing (2006). I really liked his use of mark making to give the impression of these landscapes and the way the paintings can be appreciated from both far away and close up. 

This exhibition was a collection of 116 works created between 11th February to 4th July 2020 with the express purpose of exploring the changing of the Normandy landscape as it moves from winter into spring and even summer. Hockney began using an iPad to create artwork back in 2010 and produced all the paintings included in this collection using an app that had been developed and adapted for his specific requirements. The exhibition itself felt quite small, covering only three rooms of the gallery, but the paintings were hung close together and not always in chronological order. Some had been placed in groups all showing the same view allowing a direct comparison between the stages of spring. 

No. 316, 30th April 2020

For me the enjoyment of each painting was two-fold, firstly enjoying it from a distance and appreciating the scene as a whole and then getting closer to each one to really see what kind of marks had been used to form each element of the piece. I particularly liked all the different ways Hockney depicted the grass whether it be long, short or freshly mown. 

No. 323, 13th May 2020

Another technique I really liked was the paintings in which it was raining. The straight lines Hockney uses across the top of the painting to represent the rainfall seem so basic and almost child-like, but are actually really effective and the paintings showing the rain falling into the pond made me smile. 

No. 346, 22nd May 2020

I think the ones of the pond were my favourites because I found it very impressive the way he managed to capture the reflections in the water. They really brought the painting to life for me and gave the impression of depth and perspective. The other thing that Hockney managed to capture well in all the paintings were the skies. No matter if they were clear blue, heavy cloud or somewhere in between it gave you a strong sense of how that day or night felt and you could tell if it was a crisp early morning or a blazing hot afternoon.

No. 340, 21st May 2020

The exhibition is on until 26th September, so if you are in London I would highly recommend it. The Royal Academy is on Piccadilly so is very close to other things to see and do and as it was such a small exhibition it only took us around 45 minutes to look round. We’ve got tickets booked for the Summer Exhibition in September and I already can’t wait!

exhibition

Sophie Taeuber-Arp at Tate Modern

In September I’m going to be starting a foundation diploma in Textiles, which I am very excited about. In preparation for the course we were given some homework to do over the summer. One of the tasks to complete was to visit a gallery or museum that exhibits Art or Design, so last week I visited the Sophie Taeuber-Arp exhibition at the Tate Modern

I had never heard of Taeuber-Arp before and only came across this exhibition because I was specifically looking for one to attend. I’m so glad that I found out about her though as she sounds like my kind of lady! She was a crafts professional (a title which I think I may have to adopt!) and specialised in many different aspects of the arts, crafts and design including wood-turning, sculpture, jewellery making, and performance art as well as editing and producing work for several arts and crafts publications of the time. The majority of her work was produced across the time period spanning both the world wars during which she lived and worked in Switzerland (her home country), Germany, and France. 

Wood-turned marionettes commissioned for an adaptation of Gozzi’s play King Stag

The majority of her early work was exploring abstraction within the grid structures of textiles and featured spaces created within horizontal and vertical lines. She then translated these images into textile pieces such as cushion covers, rugs and wall hangings, as well as beaded bags and jewellery.

It was really interesting to see the progression of Taeuber-Arp’s work throughout her lifetime as you progressed through the exhibition. Towards the end of her career (and life) her work began to include more free-flowing organic forms, although strong linear structures were still very much in evidence. It was clear to see how she had developed her style and artistic expression over the years.

I’m so pleased that I went to this exhibition and if you are in London in the next couple of months I would highly recommend it. Taeuber-Arp was a fascinating lady who knew her own mind and what she wanted to achieve. 

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The Getty Center

I’ve been away on holiday for the last couple of weeks, but I couldn’t resist doing something a bit creative whilst we were away! My husband and I spent the last week of our holiday in LA visiting our friends who live out there. We decided to head up to the Getty Center (https://www.getty.edu/), a cultural organisation dedicated to the visual arts. 

We drove up to the car park and then took the shuttle train up to the museum itself. It’s located in the hills with amazing views overlooking LA. The building itself is very impressive, made mainly of white stone it towers over the main courtyard, softened by sweeping curves.

We didn’t go with the idea of visiting any specific exhibition so we just had a wander round and checked out anything that interested us. We started off by looking around an exhibition on the history of photography showing the progression of cameras from their inception up to the first digital camera made by Apple, storing up to 32 photos! This lead us on to an exhibition called ‘The Flavio Story’ showing photographs by Gordon Parks, who went to Brazil for Life magazine to document poverty in Latin America. We also had a quick look around another photographic exhibition called ‘Once and Again’ showing pictures by photographers who had visited the same subjects repeatedly, showing changes over time.

After this we decided to have a look around the gallery with paintings by famous artists including Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Cezanne and Turner. I really enjoyed seeing these paintings in real life and we spent quite a while browsing around the ‘Paintings from Europe’ section.

My favourite part of the visit was the gardens. The Central Garden designed by Robert Irwin is a circular design with a winding path criss-crossing over a stream down to a large pond featuring a hedge maze. Even though there were quite a few people there the whole place felt really relaxing and it was lovely to wander along the paths surrounded by a massive variety of flowers. We also went down to the South Promontory which has a desert theme and features a sea of cacti.

If you are ever in LA and looking for something to do that inspires your creative side and takes you away from the hustle and bustle of the city I would definitely recommend a visit to the Getty Center, plus it’s free entry!

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Van Gogh and Britain

I recently visited the Tate Britain to see the ‘Van Gogh and Britain’ exhibition currently taking place. The exhibition explores Vincent van Gogh’s relationship with Britain and the time he lived here in London.

The first half of the exhibition looks at the artists and images that influenced him when he lived in London from 1873-1876. This was before he was an artist and he worked for an art dealer, Goupil, which was how he was exposed to a lot of the pieces that he found inspiring. I didn’t realise but Van Gogh didn’t actually become an artist until after his return to the Netherlands. He first tried teaching and preaching but eventually turned to painting in 1880 and continued this for the last ten years of his life.

Whilst he was in London he immersed himself in culture, visiting as many galleries and museums as he could. Throughout the exhibition you can see examples of work by various artists that influenced his work from subject matter through to form and style next to Van Gogh’s own work that he produced later on in both the Netherlands and France.

The second half of the exhibition goes on to demonstrate the impact Van Gogh’s work has had on both his contemporaries and more recent artists. It also looks at the exhibitions of his work in Britain, most notably ‘Manet and the Post-Impressionists’ in 1910 and the showing of his work and publication of two biographies and his letters in the 1920’s. Many people linked Van Gogh’s mental health with the genius of his work and this led to a lot of interest in his paintings.

A selection of postcards showing some of Van Gogh’s well known paintings.

I thought the exhibition was well laid out and clearly showed the progression of Van Gogh’s life and work. The descriptions next to the work were very informative and I felt like I learnt a lot whilst I was there. They had several of his famous pieces such as Starry Night over the Rhône (1888), Sunflowers (1888) and some of his well-known self-portraits. It is a very popular exhibition as Van Gogh is a well-known artist and the rooms were extremely busy, with queues forming in some places to see certain works of art. I was also surprised that Tate Britain were allowing people to take photographs of the work. I found it quite distracting as it meant people were spending a lot of time lining up their perfect shot or getting really close to the paintings to photograph details. It seemed like many of the people there were just interested in photographing it all and were not really appreciating the art in real life. I saw several people going round photographing the painting and the description next to it, presumably to read later. For me this seems to defeat the point of attending an exhibition. They might have been better reading up about Vincent Van Gogh on the internet!

My favourite painting: Pollarded Willows, Arles (1888)

Tate Britain is a five minute walk from Pimlico tube station or a 20 minute walk from Victoria station. For a non-member the ticket cost £22. It took about an hour and a half to go round the exhibition and afterwards we sat down for a drink in the Djangoly Café inside the Tate. The exhibition finishes on 11 August 2019 and I would say it’s well worth a visit.