At The RA

Jul. 28th, 2015 01:40 pm
millionreasons: (marnie)
We went to see the Summer Show at the Royal Academy. As ever, the fun was had not looking at the art (there's far too much to take in, starting with the stairs which were zig zagging brightly, and therefore difficult to walk up), but guessing the price-tag. There was celebrity corner: Damien Hirst by Harry Hill, for the inconsequential sum of £2K, Grayson Perry by Una Stubbs (a mere four hundred quid), and Simon Cowell by Jean Samtula (NFS). Elsewhere, we found a large abstract in oils for £57,000 and a small watercolour of a gas holder (£250), which I liked equally. The most shocking price was £9 for a gin and tonic from the in-gallery bar.

Unlike, for example, the NPG's annual portrait prize, which always features: a small child, an old person, a celebrity, a self-portrait and a person from a different race to the artist, the Summer Exhibition is multifarious: sculpture, wood cuttings, aluminium canvasses, portraiture, architectural objects, tapestry, neon installation, traditional watercolour landscape painting, post-impressionist street-scenes, all of life is here. There was also some dreadful shit.

Dave and I both liked this Venn diagram come to life:

Afterwards, we ate lunch at Cha Cha Moon, which gave us both bad stomachs. I looked up their awful food hygiene rating, and have become a little obsessed with this site. My favourite Stoke Newington Indian restaurant also has a two!

Art, bitch

May. 24th, 2015 04:02 pm
millionreasons: (london)
Into a deserted, rain-swept West End to do Art (and shopping. And eating). We visit the Photographers' Gallery's annual Deutsche Bank prize, this year featuring heartbreaking photos of murdered or raped or assaulted black, gay South Africans. It seems horribly ironic that horrific homophobia is so rife in South Africa, where gay equality is enshrined in the constitution and same sex marriage has been legal for almost a decade.

There are also rather odd, old photos of Soviet sunbathers and Viviane Sassen's Rothko-esque abstract pictures, more like paintings than photography:

My favourite entry, also South African, is from Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse about Ponte City, a tower block in downtown Joburg built for whites in the apartheid era, abandoned by white-flighters to black South Africans and immigrants, now in the process of regneration/gentrification: the current occupants booted out. It reminded me of the tale of Balfron Tower and indeed, the views from the tower were comparable to those in Poplar despite Southern Africa and East London's geographical dissimilarities. Best were the towers of photographs of windows, doors, and windows to the world (TVs) in each of the flats.



Into Soho, we go up the stairwell of an NCP car park on Brewer Street and enter into the backend of the Matrix simulation. The darkened room contains three light boxes with swarms of ball bearings swooshing from side to side like massing insects, punctured by dizzying bursts of strobe lighting, sending my teeth into fits. In the back room, fifty computers trill out information, I expect cloned Kraftwerk members to be standing behind each projector. It's like living inside a hard drive as the machines burp out noise and flickers and sheet lightning flashes of inspiration.



C.P Snow would be delighted (I think) with this mixing of the two cultures. Comments in the visitors' book are a little more "London" than your average Turner exhibition commentary: 'I still don't understand super-symmetry, but I like it!' and the more prosaic 'Science, bitch!'
millionreasons: (Default)
To the Tate with Tanya, who had snagged a membership card. We went to the Yayoi Kusama and Damien Hurst exhibitions - both very pop-art, both bright, shiny, immediate things rather than art wot makes you fink. Kusama is a Japanese artist who spent two decades in NYC, becoming a middle aged flower child, hosting happenings, painting polka dots on people, constructing a boat made out of phalluses, getting all naked and psychadeelic, before returning to Japan in 1977. This culture shock was enough to make her commit herself to a mental institution where she still lives and produces. As ever with the Tate, the best art is not the paintings (which you never can see anyway - trop de monde), but the installations, in this case, a UV lit living room covered in polka dots and then the disco room: infinite mirrors layered in sparkly lights:-

Damien Hurst had his fair bit of sparkle as well. I got to see the famous shark, sheep and sliced cows (I didn't go to the YBA Sensation show) as well as a vile piece featuring a bleeding calf's head, fed on by flies which kept accidentally killing themselves on the insect-o-cutor. Yes, Damien, we get it, everything dies; you're not 15 anymore, get over it. As a counterpoint to this was the butterfly room in which the lovely insects flew about, resting on flowers, visitors, walls, and fruit. The guards were not keen on photos but I got a little badly framed pic of a bowl of butterflies. Hurst seems to have no middle ground, it's either horrible (a giant ashtray, a black sun made from dead flies) to the brilliant - mirrored rows of colour-coded pills, bright beachballs, bouncing infinitely, the (in)famous bridget Riley-esque polka dots.

My fave piece was probably Anatomy of an Angel, a plaster cast dissected Hurst-style. It was the only one that made me think a bit; about the role the angel lore plays in our society, they are things that only "exist" to help humans, we don't think about their mythical lives, we certainly don't consider if they have innards.
millionreasons: (london)

Out to the National Gallery to meet Dave#1, Heike and Tanya and later, DanF AliceandSteve, Gareth and DJJohn to see the Tom Hunter exhibition. He takes staged photographs of people in Hackney, some based on news headlines, but all influenced by classical paintings. The curator has done rather clever positioning of one photo: if you stand in front of a picture of a woman in a strip joint looking at herself naked in a mirror, you can look a little to the left and see its influence in one of the main galleries. My favourite is one based on the A Bar at the Folies-Bergèremoved to Mare St. Some of the others are just too graphic for me - I don’t want to see a re-constructed gang-rape blown up to A0 size. One could argue that the original paintings were inspired by violence, but these were fictional events, Biblical or Greek myths, not stuff that has actually happened a mile or so from where I live.

Then to the Photographers Gallery for lunch to have a gander at the Deutsche bank competition. Yto Barrada’s entry is at a disadvantage as his works are in the café and we’re too busy snacking on cake and sandwiches to take much notice. Robert Adams does small boring black and white photos. There’re millions of colours in the world – monochrome landscapes do not work. Good then that Alec Soth has used lots of trashy colour for his pics of the mid-West. The best is a beautiful mountain fronted by a decrepit looking petrol station. But it’s Phil Collins we’ve really come to see. Not the bald drummer, but the karaoke king of Istanbul. We sit in a darkened room watching a video of 17 young Turkish people covering all of the songs (except Money Changes Everything) from The World Won’t Listen in front of gaudy backdrops. We have the usual range of narcissists, freaks, oddballs and weirdos. The bare-chested young man singing Ask is very far from the shy narrator of the song. Two teenagers warble their way through There is a light, enjoying themselves tremendously. Two very odd fellows do, aptly, Unloveable, the second guy doing rap-type asides (“Yes, I know I am strange” “You are mine. I am yours”). A very tender boy with tearful blue eyes heartbreaks his way through Asleep. A strange skinny thing dances to Oscillate Wildly. A rock chick with a half decent voice covers Half a Person. For some, they’re just having a laugh, for others, it looks like the dream of a lifetime has come true. The camera lingers on each singer for just a few seconds too long and we see their reactions after the song has finished: some embarrassed, some amused, some emotionally drained. The last song is Rubber Ring, sung by a 30-ish woman in glittery eyeshadow, slightly out of tune but with an amazing intensity and at the end, she looks like she’s about to cry.

So then au pub where many drinks are consumed in convivial surroundings before a traditional post-pub prandial visit to the Stockpot, the only place in London where one can dine in 1958. Leaving, we spot the 19 crawling around the corner, so we run over Piccadilly Circus, me shrieking as cars try to mow me over and I remember doing the same about 18 years ago when we were late getting to Hyde Park to catch the day-out coach back to Doncaster.


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