Sunday 11 February 2018

Thank you

Last night my blog broke the half-million mark - it has received half a million views so far. Over the last six years or so, I have enjoyed recording some of the things I have done, the galleries I have visited, and reminiscences on my travels. It still gives me enormous pleasure keeping this personal diary. The fact that people want to read it is an extra bonus.  I would like to thank everyone who has read and commented on my blog.

These are the top seven posts:

1. Gordon Baldwin - Objects for a Landscape 2   A post following our visit to York Art Gallery and Museum which featured a comprehensive exhibition of Baldwin's ceramics.

Back in 2012 I wrote: 'It is the combination of sculpture with painting that make Gordon Baldwin's ceramics so innovative and unique. He broke entirely with the Leach tradition that form was all that mattered and has created ceramics sculptures which he still calls vessels and in so doing has challenged what is seen as 'art' and what is seen as 'craft'.

The fundamentals of his art: the relationship between inner and outer space; the economy of the form reminiscent of Cycladic art; the depths of the glazed clay achieved by often using various pigments; the economy of the lines on the surface of the forms which tend to follow the vessel's dips and swells; a preference for organic rather than geometric forms that are rounded rather than angular'.

2. Diego Rivera - Murals for the Museum of Modern Art .

We saw this exhibition in 2012 in New York. The post has got the second highest views in my blog partly due to the fact that it was used by New York teachers as part of a Year 8 scheme of lessons on Mexico and the Mexican Revolution. This gave me great pleasure and for the two years that the scheme was running it was really exciting seeing groups of 30 students logging on to my blog to do their research and homework.

In 2012 I wrote:

'There was no 'Occupy Wall Street' movement when MoMA started planning an exhibition to commemorate the 80th anniversary of its Diego retrospective. They were also not to know that 'Occupy Wall Street' would be evicted the week that the exhibition opened, and yet what appropriate timing! Today, as then, the gap between the 1% and the 99% is getting bigger and the fat cats are getting fatter.

The first Rivera exhibition at MoMA was their second one-person show (Matisse being the first), just as the horrors of the Great Depression were sinking in. The show consisted of eight 'portable' frescoes. The museum organiser wanted New Yorkers to get a taste of the revolutionary murals that were springing up all over Mexico at the time. Mexico muralism emerged in the 1920s in the wake of a bloody 10-year-old revolution that brought a Marxist-led government to power.

Public buildings were adorned with murals that taught socialist ideals and celebrated Mexico's pre-colonial indigenous culture. Rivera's exhibition broke attendance records even with an admission of 35 cents during the Great Depression. People went mad for it and the show outsold Matisse by far.'

The power of those frescoes was not just the fact that they were an integral part of the nationalist, radical Mexican revolution but also because they coincided with the establishment of the first workers' state in the Soviet Union and the fact that Rivera aligned himself with Trotsky and opposed Stalinism.

The paradox was that Rivera's social realism, (secular, revolutionary responses to church frescoes) was an art for the people which he executed while enjoying the patronage of the most successful bankers of his time. Five of the frescoes were copies of murals that Rivera had made in Mexico: Sugar Cane, Liberation of the Peon, Agrarian Leader Zapata, The Uprising, Indian Warrior. The other three Rivera did during the uproar that followed the opening and were added during the six-month run of the show. The last and most ambitious is Frozen Assets which caused a second even bigger uproar'.

3. David Hockney - A Bigger Picture  (2012 was obviously a good year!)

This is part of what I wrote about Hockney:

'We see the influence of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists on Hockney's latest work: not just the unapologetic prettiness of their paintings, or their celebration of the beauty of nature, but also the vivid colours employed by the Fauve painters. The biggest influence however, is Monet, not just because of the immediacy of his technique in working out of doors, but also in his use of serial imagery: returning in different weather conditions and in different times of the day to the same motifs, as well as in the enveloping scale of his late panoramic paintings of the water lilies in the ponds of his home at Giverny.

But even though Hockney is in dialogue with the French Impressionist and the Fauve paintings, the subject, by contrast, is very English. There has been criticism that some of his most exuberant colours are not to be found under a pale Yorkshire winter sun. This is however in line with Impressionist colour theory which allowed Monet's haystacks to contain vivid hues of purple and red in order to capture prismatic effects of reflected light'.

A very memorable exhibition and this is part of what I wrote: 

'I can't remember the last time I went to an exhibition and did not want to leave. This exhibition is a total experience, one that draws you in.

Kiefer creates contemporary history paintings in the grandest possible fashion. His themes include the Holocaust, Egyptian mythology, German mysticism and the poems of Paul Celan, a Holocaust survivor who wrote some of his poems in the concentration camp where he was incarcerated. Ash, sand, gold leaf, broken ceramics, diamonds, straw and wood are some of the materials that Kiefer uses. Bark-like layers of pigment and shellac protrude from the canvas like relief sculpture. A lot of Kiefer's paintings are monochromatic with impasto surfaces to which organic matter, including sunflower stalks and bundles of straw as well as metal objects such as books made out of lead are included. He sometimes leaves his paintings out in the wind and the rain, or bathes them in acid in order to achieve their battered, time-worn surfaces.

This is an exhibition which is foremost about memory. Kiefer has resurrected the horrors of the 20th century in a shocking and explicit way and is determined not to allow us to forget. History is at the centre of this exhibition and even though parts of it are very beautiful, there is horror there too. Ash is one of the predominant materials that he has used - ash reminiscent of the nightmare of the Holocaust, not just ash  of bricks and mortar but also ash of human flesh. Death ash. You cannot escape it'.

5. Sherrie Levine - After Walker Evans

'Sherrie Levine, the appropriation artist par excellence, shocked the art world in 1979 with her After Walker Evans photographs. Walker Evans photographed the Burroughs, a family of sharecroppers in the Depression era and his photographs were published in a book that became the quintessential record of the rural American poor. In 1979 Levine re-photographed Evans' photographs and without any manipulation of the images she presented them in an exhibition of her work.

In representing these canonical images of the rural poor - the expropriated, those existing outside the dominant culture, the Others - Levine was calling attention to the original act of appropriation when Evans first took these photographs, as if to illustrate Walter Benjamin's observation that 'photography has succeeded in making even abject poverty, by recording it in a fashionably perfected manner, into an object of enjoyment...'

Her work is within the tradition of reconstruction, in revealing power structures and ideological imperatives in any given cultural situation, and more specifically, questioning traditional ideas of originality and authorship....

She also challenges our notions of authorship, of the paternal rights assigned to the author by law and because she has appropriated the work of only male artists, she is also seen as a feminist hijacking patriarchal authority. As Craig Owens has stated, Levine's disrespect for paternal authority suggests that her activity is less of appropriation and ore one of expropriation: she expropriates the appropriators'.

We saw Woodman's iconic photographs at the Guggenheim in New York and I was immediately fascinated and awed by her talent, her vision, her imagination and the immense artistic output of such a short  and young life.

'This exhibition was a retrospective, 31 years after her death by suicide at the age of 21...

Her photographs represent an unusually coherent vision of an artist who had barely reached adulthood. An artist on the verge, neither mature woman nor innocent child - her art is inward looking, experimental and incomplete.

Her preferred subject was herself from the first time she picked up a camera as a teenager. The fact that her main subject was her own body would logically place her work within the genre of self-portraiture, but she transforms it into a far more complicated and ambiguous undertaking. Not only is she both subject and author in her works, but she also alludes to a representation of self within the pictures, particularly through her use of mirrors and portraits.

''Woodman's self-portraits demonstrate an awareness that the genre is as much concerned with how representation is effected as it is with offering supposedly profound truths about the artist who effects that representation' (Chris Townsend).

'Saville's exaggerated nudes show with an agonising frankness the disparity between the way women are perceived and the way they feel about their bodies. In her work she visualises her concern about the tyranny wielded over women by the fantasy of the perfect body. By deconstructing the male fantasy about what a woman's body should be, Saville re-appropriates this body.

Most of her paintings depict the body covering the whole of the canvas and sometimes spilling over the edges and this adds to the drama - her nudes push towards the viewer rather than being safely contained within the frame of the canvas.

The bodies of her subjects face the viewer with purpose and do not conform to the notion of a passive object to be viewed - they are very much in-your-face. When viewing her paintings, after looking extensively at the subject's body and flesh one is confronted with the subject's gaze, another challenge to conventional representations of the female nude where the 'nude' is an object of entertainment deprived of a thinking mind.

She has attempted the deconstruction of female 'nature' as fabricated by patriarchal discourse, seeking to re-appropriate the female figure. By shifting the female body's position as an object of male delectation, and thus deconstructing the male fantasy projected for centuries on it, Saville is able to question the female body's representation throughout art history'.


  1. Eirene, I am certainly delighted that I found your blog, and benefit greatly from it. Long may you enjoy it yourself.

    1. Thank you, Olga. I too enjoy and benefit from your blog.

  2. Congratulations Eirene.......I too benefit from your posts...and the side bars too...seeing what you are reading is always a bonus.
    You put so much effort into the whole thing,...carefully documenting everything,

    You make me feel shallow,....and I am....mine is just look at me....

    But so what???.....we both try to document what we are doing....what interests us...and I am so happy to have you as a fellow blogger and friend.

    Keep it's to the next half million

    1. Thank you, Julie, for your kind words. I am happy to have you as a friend and fellow blogger too and it was reading your blog that gave me the impetus to start mine. I have also always appreciated your encouragement. As for shallow - nonsense. You are nothing but... It's fascinating reading about your travels and I always look forward to finding out what you are up to.