26th October 2019

 

I was in Venice to visit the Biennale at the weekend.  It was hot beautiful weather, but it was also a Saturday and it seemed the whole of Venice was enjoying the show before it closes in a few weeks. I took the vaporetto from Ca d’Oro to Giardini instead of walking across the city, in order to save time and energy.  As usual it is a great pleasure to join with the visitors and the Venetians as they travel through the city and across the water – especially on a sparkling day as this was.

The theme of this year’s Biennale is “May you live in interesting times“.  I knew of the Glasgow-based artist Cathy Wilkes (British Pavilion), though I did not visit this pavilion because there was restricted entry and a long queue.  Instead there were many artists from China, Africa and India and other previously under- or non-represented countries. India is represented this year for the time, for example.  This was very exciting and  I wish I had had the time and the energy to explore this show thoroughly. It would have taken two days at least, instead of the measly five hours I was able to devote to it this year.  So all I got was a flavour.  For much more, read the excellent review by Laura Cummings in the Observer.

Here are a few notes:

Dutch Pavilion

Stand out items I did see included the Dutch Pavilion, carefully explained to me by the invigilator.  This really helped.  The exhibition is a comment by artists Iris Kensmil and Remy Jungerman on Surinam and the Netherlands and their mutual influence,  including references to Mondrian and Rietveld, the actual designer of the Dutch pavilion.  Jungerman is interested in the way patterns are transmitted and how they shape culture.  I would like to explore the ideas of this exhibition further, as it was absolutely rich with meaning and interest.

“The Measurement of Presence. The Biennale Arte is an arena for continuously redefining notions of nationhood and the locality of art. Remy Jungerman and Iris Kensmil’s The Measurement of Presence calls for an alternative, transnational approach towards what binds us, acknowledging that we are in a constant state of flux. Jungerman and Kensmil explore the possibilities that emerge from not just allowing but embracing this ongoing shift. They explore how a truer measurement of presence, spirit, and history are needed for our interconnected existence.  (Biennale Arte 2019)”

 

Martin Puryear in US Pavilion

Martin Puryear’s confident and beautifully made sculptures in the US pavilion.  I enjoyed this work that was so resolved, so well displayed and which did not require much more from me than admiration and awe at the skill involved.

 

Michael Armitage in International Pavilion and in Arsenale

In the International Pavilion I saw work by Michael Armitage.  He paints quite thinly in oil on huge canvases and his subject is the social and political turmoil in Kenya.  There was more of his work in Arsenale.  I admire his message and also his delicate technique, which is different from the heavy expressive use of oil that I have recently been encouraged to do.

 

Ulrike Muller in Arsenale

             

In the Arsenale I appreciated Ulrike Muller‘s large abstract weaving and her highly focused small enamel pieces (like paintings but not?)   She is interested in critiquing the usual hierarchies of fine art, in which textile art comes a long way down the list.  Good for her. I would like to find out more about her work.

 

Julie Mehretu in Arsenale

            

Julie Mehretu (b. 1970 Addis Addaba) ” is a contemporary visual artist, well known for her multi-layered paintings of abstracted landscapes on a large scale. Her paintings, drawings, and prints depict the cumulative effects of urban sociopolitical changes through the landscape’s alteration of architecture, topography, and iconography.”

“I think of my abstract mark-making as a type of sign lexicon, signifier, or language for characters that hold identity and have social agency. The characters in my maps plotted, journeyed, evolved, and built civilizations. I charted, analyzed, and mapped their experience and development: their cities, their suburbs, their conflicts, and their wars. The paintings occurred in an intangible no-place: a blank terrain, an abstracted map space. As I continued to work I needed a context for the marks, the characters. By combining many types of architectural plans and drawings I tried to create a metaphoric, tectonic view of structural history. I wanted to bring my drawing into time and place.[7]

I enjoyed these paintings, so allusive and delicate, and will find out more about Mehretu’s ideas and work.

 

Otobung Nkanga 

Otobung Nkanga  – I liked her small paintings, so carefully done, and with the colour strip she includes to show her palette.

Some artists were using tech to spectacular effect   Antoine Catala. for example

Liu Wei in Arsenale

Liu Wei – large scale propellor-style installation I found satisfying.  For me it just worked as an art piece and a sculpture.

Arsenale was heavily boarded up in many areas to create the separate exhibitor’s spaces. I usually enjoy this massive echoing space for its scale and I did find the partitioning claustrophobic.

These are a few impressions from the time I spent in Giardini and Arsenale. As usual, there was so much to learn and to see.  I was focused on what was closest to my own interests and that meant painting.  It was fascinating to see what artists are making and saying from all over the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is much too soon (about a week) to write very much about the experience of joining Nottdance for a day. I would just like to thank the organisers and everyone involved for a very special experience.  Here are a few prelim notes.

First impressions

I had a fabulous mind-blowing day at the Nottdance 2019 festival.

  • so well thought out
  • Lovely dance space
  • Beautifully organised
  • Top quality events and performances
  • Balanced “flavours”
  • creative buzz

I had to get there before I could even begin to grasp it.  No idea what to expect

  • Breakdancing?
  • Community event?
  • I did not have a clue, but it turned out to be all these things and super smooth

What I did

  1. Katye Coe’s open class on contact improvisation.  90 mins of free style and contact with music once warmed up.  Beautiful experience.  Starting from “listening to the body”, thinking of gravity and being in space.
  2. Julie Cunningham Open Practice   a privilege to watch this amazing dancer work through her warm up routine, explain her ideas, particularly about gender fluidity and lesbianism, and then perform a short dance.  It probably meant a lot but I enjoyed the beauty of her movement and the integrity of the whole experience.  Discussion about non patriarchal ways of viewing the body, its fluidity and messiness.
  3. Reading room. A discussion group focussed on the small library in centre – started with books being scattered off shelf around the room and everyone sharing or reading what caught their eye.  This was a brilliant way to access the books in a different way, how different when they were on the floor or on windowsills or seats, how much easier it was to start discussions with fellow readers.  I felt more at home and confident in this session.  I appreciated the parallels between choreography and visual art.  So eye opening and shifting.  Books we discussed:
  • Inside Choreocracy
  • Power of just doing stuff
  • Marcus Coates  a practical guide to unconscious reason
  • Wondrous Women – a group in Nottingham
  • Cai Tomos
  • Using the sky  by Deborah Hay – “I wanted to choreograph a spoken language that would inspire a shift in dance away from the illustrative body, despite its intense appeal to dancers and audiences alike, to a non-representational body”   “the surplus of output for my whole body at once far exceeds any additional input from me. 

4. Jennifer Lacey, extraordinary dancer and artist, doing hermeneutics practice in Nottingham Contemporary. I sat in on one session, amazed by her evident            skill and depth of knowledge and vast self confidence.

5. Matthias Sperling and Katye doing an amazing dance in the Nham Contemporary. I was quite tired by this time, went to sleep at one point, still did not understand his ideas, but appreciated the quality and originality and spirit of the beautiful performance.

Thoughts?

  • Oh so refreshing
  • Tremendously aware
  • Wish I had been there for whole thing
  • Wish I had seen more
  • But this was just a starter for me
  • Choreography as a practice, seeing visuals in a different way as a result, choreography as a way of creating with the human body
  • Had a discussion with Antonio from Spain/London about the conceptual/non conceptual approaches to choreography.
  • I think that sometimes conceptualisation is like legislation, the mind as agent, otherwise things do not happen, cannot change
  • I am on a track of sorts, particularly regarding improvising and less emphasis on figurative art
  • Matthias exploring new ways of knowing through movement and the body
  • Hearing about other ways of combining visual art and movement   Dancing Museums  “The Democracy of Beings”

Research and ideas

Matthias writing about magic and science, “the magical and the scientific, the imagined and the actual, the subjective and the objective, or with mind and body.  Warburg placed movement at the centre of his way of understanding the world”.

Matthias on how different artists “could be seen to be exploring aspects of this evocative and generative zone in their practices… I see these practices as working within and on the fundamental connectedness of our mental being, our physical being, and the manifold other human and non-human beings in the environments around us.  “

The practitioner as “seismograph” – a person who is tuning in to particular frequencies, resonances and ruptures that are vibrating in the environments around them, diagnosing their epicentres and bring them to light to be perceived in different and yet related ways”… each offering “vitally regenerative responses to the many-layered complexities that we are living through”  (Matthias Sperling)

How does this relate to visual art and to my work?

Good question.  I am blown away by the experience of being in Nottingham, and now, a week later, am unable to produce a coherent impression.  All I can say is that I understand choreography slightly more than I did, and that I have discovered the beautiful and original ideas and writings of Deborah Hay.  Which might be applicable to my art practice and which might help me understand the body, my body, and movement more.  It is something below the radar, and I prefer to leave it that way, reading her books “Using the Sky” and “my body, the buddhist”, as meditations or prayers.

Taking art off the wall into a physical and shared space/awareness, which is less visual and more holistic.  Also more immediately universal.

Thinking back to the work I did for exhibition earlier this year “Being Human – Together”     I was pushed for time in preparing for this exhibition, and had not yet processed ideas from Mattias’ workshop at Siobhan Davies Dance Studios in London.  In fact I drew in a spontaneous way and subjective way,  so perhaps I was understanding more than I realised.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was interested to see how Hans Hofmann influenced Lee Krasner, when I saw the exhibition of her work in the Barbican recently.  I am curious to know more about Hofmann

Here is a statement of his approach when he opened his first school of art  in Munich (2015).  It explains the relationship between the artist’s inner nature and the need for or experience of study.

“Art does not consist in the objectivized imitation of reality.  Without the creative impulse of the artist, even the most perfect imitation of reality is a lifeless form, a photograph, a panopticon.  It is true that, in the artistic sense, form receives its impulse from nature, but it is nevertheless not bound to objective reality; rather, it depends to a much greater extent on the artistic experience, evoked by objective reality and the artist’s command of the spiritual means of the fine arts, through which this artistic experience is transformed by him into reality in painting.  Creative expression is thus the spiritual translation of inner concepts into form, resulting from the fusion of these intuitions with artistic means of expression in  a unity of spirit and form, brought about by intuition, which in turn results from the functioning of the entire thought and feeling c omplex accompanied by vigorous control of the spiritual means.  Imitation of objective reality is therefore not creation but dilettantism, or else a purely intellectual performance, scientific and sterile.   A work of art is, in spirit and in form, a self-contained whole, whose spiritual and structural relationships permit no individual parts, despite the multiplicity of depicted objects.  Every independent element works against the spiritual context, and makes for patchwork, reducing the total spiritual value.  The artist must therefore learn the spiritual media of the fine arts, which constitute its form and fundamentals.  The artist must create his particular view of nature, i.e. his own experience, be it from nature or independent of it.  Through these realizations the assignments of the scholastic years will be clearly understood, ensuring the further development of the artist, who must then detach himself entirely from schools and directions and evolve a personality of his own”

P 9 Hans Hofman  by Helmut Friedel and Tina Dickey   Hudson Hills Press New York (1997)

 

LEE KRASNER  (1908-1984) AT BARBICAN  JULY 2019

Beautiful set up and arrangement of her work, this was a fascinating exhibition showing the development and achievements of a major American painter, who also happened to be the wife of Jackson Pollock.

It is clear that she was highly motivated from the very start

 

Life drawing

First with academic teacher Job Goodman

Then won scholarship to Hans Hofmann School   “push-pull”  flatness and three-dimensionality    Krasner started to move into abstraction

War Service Windows     20 department store windows promoting PWAP projects

She attended some of the courses and created collages of her photos blended with her own work.

 

1945 Little images    Detailed abstractions full of intense life and detail

Mosaic wagon wheels  1947  exhibited successfully

1955 Stable Gallery exhibition

1951 Betty Parsons Gallery had shown her  Geometric abstractions – no sales

In her depression she created series of black and white drawings but then ripped them up

These were layered over the B Parsons paintings as collages and then exhibited at Stable Gallery to great acclaim.

1956 Prophecy   After the death of Pollock large abstractions with reference to body and figure (I think)

1957 Night Journeys

Working at night in Pollock’s old studio using just umber because she did’nt like using colour in electric light

 

1969   The stained hand made paper  (images and description to come)

1970s Palingenesis   Hard edged colour and abstraction

1974  Eleven Ways    Collaging the abstract life drawings done years earlier

 

My personal view

I loved this exhibition for its story and the beautiful presentation.

To see how Krasner progressed from working in the classical mode to abstraction in her figure drawings, and then in the little paintings was fascinating. The Little Images and the Stable Gallery pieces I also really loved.  They were such strong images and the colours and shapes so tight and right. The Little Images appear to be her breakthrough into abstract painting after years of “grey slabs” if I recall the interview properly.

Prophecy I appreciated because of its distortion of the figure   Yay!!!

I liked the way her thoughts and feelings were described as background to the different series of works, and how she got stuck and then moved through, and was so engaged with the process.

She seemed to be a daunting person, quite abrasive!  Quite hard to watch the interview given at the end of her life.  No longer an attractive glamorous woman, but remaining an intense artist, as was her essence.

I liked the smaller works better than the huge paintings she did after Pollock’s death.  Why?

In her words “You can have giant physical size with no statement on it… and.. you can have a tiny painting which is monumental in scale”

Maybe I could appreciate the earlier stages because closer to my own experience

I read an article about the Turner prize 2020 nominee and made a special trip to see his exhibition, “Manifestations” at the David Zwirmer Gallery in London.

Murillo works energetically with texture and textile and paint to recreate almost wall sculptural pieces.  He has a brilliant sense of colour and pattern and design, and his work is much sought after.  I myself worked for many years with cotton and other fabric which I dyed myself.  I still get a thrill from using cloth, but I never dared to break the rules as Murillo does in his cross over works.  There is something Japanese about the free mark making in this work.