On the 12th of February we had a trip to London with the class. We went to several galleries all around London in aim to enhance our practice and to see what the current trends are within the art world at this time.
Saul Leiter – The Photographers Gallery
The first exhibition we attended was Saul Leiter at The Photographers Gallery. This exhibition was mainly based on photography but also highlighted Leiter’s primary career as a painter. Before he became a colour photographic pioneer he focused his work on fashion too, something that he ended up being well known for. The photographs shown in the exhibition were principally street photographs of New York, he was drawn to shapes, shadows, surfaces and textures in his surroundings. Colour is a key factor in his work and he was one of the first photographers to use colour within his work. Leiter is best known for his use of abstraction and figuration.
In the exhibition I took note of how the photographs were curated and positioned within the space. All images were distributed evenly in the room making use of all the walls available. There was also some cabinets that had diaries and writings placed within them so we could discover more about the artist. The room was split into sections due to the descriptions placed on the wall providing essential information about artist and artwork. The room could be viewed in either direction which confused a little the viewers however it did not effect the experience whichever way you chose. The room was completely closed in so the only possible light was from artificial lights which were directed onto each piece in a way that did not give glare off the glass protection.
Overall I thought Leiter’s pictures were a real life view of the street of New York during the 40’s and 50’s. The captured the simple lives of the inhabitants in a era before modern technology which is something that is rare to see in this day and age. The dated signage and clothing were all stylised of that era. I appreciated how he got a colour pop in a lot of his black and white images focusing on one feature such as an umbrella or a traffic light. It showed understated features brought to life in image. The quality of images was also strong, however I did take note they have been printed several years after they were taken. The quality of image printed could have been further enhance bringing out the real colour photography.
Jo Spence – The Final Project – Richard Saulton Gallery
In this exhibition, the late Jo Spence exhibited her final body of work. These were pieces she produced whilst trying to overcome her struggle with Leukemia. This series was of autobiographical importance and researched into the clinical aspects of Leukemia. For the creation of several of the images Spence aimed to take photographs of herself at a cemetery however due to her health this became complex and so for some of the image archival footage was used though the projection of images on photographs. Through her work she turned herself back to a darkroom technique she used to teach to children during the 1970’s, this linked highly with the theme of photofantasy which she was exploring. Parallel to this work she was creating a series of still life and constructed pieces that aimed to explore morality and help Spence to get to know death as to reduce the fear of the subject.
The exhibition took place over a large room that was split into smaller sections thanks to permanent wall dividers. The big glass window faciliated the light within the room and artificial lights were provided to enhance this. Spence’s work was divided by theme within the bigger theme, so each wall was focused on showing one idea or technique. The worked extremely well from the point of view of the viewer as it was easy to understand. Each image was printed in high quality and looked stunning blown up on the white walls. The size helped us to see all of the details within the work and the thought put into each image.
Jo Spence’s exhibition really had an impression on me. Her final works are thoughtful and careful in both theme and content, she creates poignant images in which I wanted to explore more. She clearly went through a emotional and physical journey in both her life and through photographing these images. They all have such a narrative to them which cleverly links from one image to another even though series. Spence was an interesting and exciting artist and her work is a strong part of her legacy and being shown more than ten years after her death. This work touched me and I had an emotional connection with the work as a viewer and even more knowing she wanted to continue exploring methods of photography as they had important implications for her. I really appreciated going to see this artist within this fantastic gallery space.
Line – Group Show – Lisson Gallery
Fifteen international artists exhibit in this group show at the Lisson Gallery appropriately named Line. The work spans from the late 60’s all the way through to pieces which are produced on site. The work varies in its materialistic qualities and therefore its way of being presented in the larger context. In the exhibition, line is treated as a physical autonomous entity which has no obligation to represent the outside world. The exhibition is guest curated by Drawing Room being that in Line, drawing is both physical and intellectual.
The gallery is spaced over two floors and has two entrances. We took the front entrance which led us into a dark room where a video was playing. From here it was difficult to decipher how big the gallery actually was and I was pleasantly surprised. Even through the work was related by the word Line, it was so varied with each piece having its own interpretation. This made the way in which is was curated very thought through and precise, there was a strong mix of installation and wall work that the installation could have enough space to be explored from every angle and the wall work could be viewed from a suitable distance. The rooms were lit by a mixture of spotlights and natural light however the natural light filled up the gallery due to the floor length and ceiling windows.
I really enjoyed going to see Line, especially at such a well known gallery. I found the space exciting and interesting as a gallery and the exhibiting artists a really eclectic mix. I had the chance to see artists such as Sol Le Witt and Susan Hiller who I had never discovered before within a gallery space and also see some work which I was not as familiar with. I also discovered Jonathan Monk and his piece Fallen which is a white neon light sign. Monk created this piece using a rope the exact measurements of his height which he dropped on the floor. This was then made into a neon light. He has made several of these each in different colours. He called the work an abstract self portrait. I think Monk is an artist I would like to explore more in the future due to his relation with abstraction and light.
John Akomfrah – Lisson Gallery
This exhibition looks at the artist/filmmakers new and most recent pieces. Akomfrah has a unique rich multi layering style which touches on both the poetic and the political. He fuses contemporary issues with those of a historical, fictional and mythological nature. The work investigates a number of themes including personal and collective memory, post colonialism, temporality and aesthetics. Akomfrah aims to explore African diaspora in Europe and the US. The exhibition is split up into three sections each comprising of a video piece and several large scale photographs. The first piece shown is The Airport (2016) which recalls the work of Kubrick and Angelopolous that uses narrative landscape shots of Greece. It takes on board the significance of Empire and ghosts which linger in our collective unconscious. The second piece is called Auto Da Fé (2016) which means Acts of Faith is a diptych which looks at immigration through religious persecution. It comes in the form of a film which is a series of 8 historical migrations that have taken place over the last 400 years. All of the films were filmed in Barbados but the landscape remains neutral to give across the universal nature of the individual stories. The third piece named Tropikas (2016) is filmed in the Tamar Valley in South West England and was made into a 16th century port of exploration of the African continent. The artists aims to show the deep rooted and darker history of the river and show the UK role in the development and proliferation of slave trade.
What caught my eye most about this exhibition is the quality of both the photographic images and the cinematic video pieces. The standard was very high and the fact there was not too many images in one area aided in the viewing of them. The video pieces were always introduced by the images themselves and then we would enter a room or take some stairs to access the video work. I found this a very alternative way of curating but it worked well! The gallery did look a little sparse and I feel the images could have been made even bigger to have an even bigger impact within the space. Overall I thought the visual effect this artist produced was fantastic and I would go and see an exhibition of his work again.
Rana Hamadeh – The Show Room
This exhibition was Hamadeh’s first solo one in the UK and exhibits a major film piece created under a co commission from The Show Room, Nottingham Contemporary and the Institute of Modern Art Brisbane. The video piece is named The Sleepwalkers and focuses on a re dramatisation of the story of two Egyptian serial killer sisters, Raya and Sakina. Their execution was the first legal execution in Modern Egypt and took place in 1921. The reproduction of the story incorporates modern prototypes of female monstrosity spanning from poverty, rurality and immigration. The piece also explores the theme of gender within the justice system and a persistent state of emergency. The themes lie close to those most prominent in Egypt and a broader Arabic context. Hamadeh’s video work is part of a greater series called Alien Encounters which explores the complex notions of alieness. The work is split into three sections, a glossary alongside objects which explains the broader context of the artwork, the main video piece and a maquette showing the film set.
The exhibition was set in one room that was split into two by an artificial wall. On the wall the glossary of images was displayed lit by spotlights on the ceiling. The video piece was on the reverse of this wall and to its right the maquette which was again lit by a spotlight from the ceiling as not to disrupt the video piece. From the first section of the exhibition I believed the theme of the work centred around Colonisation. This became apparent it was not entirely true when entering the video piece where another context emerged. This was very confusing as a viewer to see two such contrasting themes and not knowing which one was the real meaning behind the work. I feel this was due to lack on explanation on the gallery wall and only on the hand out we were given. The curation was also confusing as the video piece enticed the viewer in however we had to look at the objects and glossary first. I feel this should have been better signposted. The video was very loud and overpowering making it hard to read the works. However the video quality was sharp and cinematic making watching it an immersing experience.
Royal Academy Interims
The aim of the Royal Academy Interims is to see and explore the work being currently completed by second year RA students. The exhibition was set over three big room and there was a range of different mediums being shown. A lot of the work I found very abstract, not only in the use of material but also in a wider context. No two pieces even resembled each other. It may have been for this reason the show did not “curate” well, no flow could actually be made. One of the pieces that did catch my eye was a contemporary table made by Josephine Baker- Heaslip. This table incorporated a wood base and glass top and has several legs all jagging out in a circle. I found this piece very utile in a room where utility was lacking over contextual.
The Calder Prize – PACE Gallery
This exhibition features five artists who explore the enduring impact of Alexander Calder’s work and ideology. These six laureates are Tara Donovan, Zilvinas Kempinas, Tomàs Saraceno, Rachel Harrison, Darren Bader and Haroon Mirza. Calder rejects hierarchies of materials and embrasses the use of industrial materials such as steel and iron. His mobiles have had radical contributions to art and they are still resonant with artists of the 21st Century. Throughout the exhibition we can view examples of Calder’s work alongside work that continues his artistic identity. The different media shown throughout highlight the innovative spirit and contextualise Calder’s influence after his lifetime.
The exhibition was set over two floor, the first floor being the main floor containing the most artwork. Each piece had a lot of room for itself and the floor was protected by security guards just proving its prestige. Artificial lights flooded the entirety of the room as there was no windows. A helpful guide was provided so we could see which artist made which piece. Each piece was made to a high standard and the quality of the work was clear. It is also evident how Calder’s work has influenced the work created and exhibited, especially in the materials employed.
This exhibition really striked me as high class high quality one. The pieces exhibited took on an exciting and thoughtful ideology that linked back strongly to Calder’s work. One of the pieces I was impressed with was Kempinas’ Illuminator XXV which used aluminium, resin and lights to create a moon style circle. I really connected to the piece because of the scale and the impact the colour palette of black and white had on me. Proving in some ways colour is not always necessary to create an effective piece. Kempina’s other piece Flux was another one that caught my eye due to its impossabilities. In the piece, a fan is able to keep afloat and in the same place two pieces of DV tape. The whole piece was entrancing, it was hard to take my eyes off it wondering if the tape would ever actually fly off, however it never did. Along side this work was Dovovan’s Untitled made from Slinkys. I thought this was an ingenious concept that used a child’s toy to make art. The reflection in the Slinkys also gave the piece another dimension and made me intrigued to see where the Slinkys joined and how they did not just spring off each other.