Last week gave me an opportunity to have a couple of days in London and catch a couple of gallery shows before they ended later in January.
The first show was another chance to spend some time with one of my favourite groups of painters, the Glasgow Boys. Many of the paintings in the show are ones that I've seen in various gallery visits but not before all in the same place, so a real treat.
The Glasgow Boys were a group who challenged the conventional Academy wisdom of the day by taking up ideas deriving from French painters of the Barbizon School and Impressionists. In particular the method of painting en plein air became an important element in their approach. Linking this to an interest in more natural subject matter was the key to their methodology.
Some of these works are among my favourite pictures and I thoroughly enjoy the technique and subject material of some of their members, particularly James Guthrie.
James Guthrie - Hard at It
The second show that I chose to visit was the Tate Modern presentation of Paul Gauguin, Maker of Myth. A different set of paintings as Gauguin shifts away from naturalist interpretations and pushes our understanding of colour, form and perspective and marks a shift towards more modernist image making. There is no doubt that this has been an impressive exhibition but as I write it has just closed and sad to say opportunities like this do not occur very often.
The curation of the Gauguin show was interesting in way that the rooms were laid out thematically. Titles such as Identity and Self Mythology, Fictions of Femininity and Making the Familiar Strange give a flavour of the thinking behind the organisation.
Exciting though these fabulous shows are do think that there needs to be some thought given by galleries as to how they organise access, in particular in terms of numbers of people. It's a real challenge to reconcile the need to balance the different considerations of allowing access to the maximum number of people, financial returns and comfortable viewing. One thought that came to mind whilst wandering the Gauguin was that there are different reasons for attending exhibitions from casual interest to serious study and that may be worth thinking about in terms of how one caters for those different needs. The reason I mention this is the fact that I came away from Tate Modern feeling that I'd not had the best of it having had to negotiate the huge crowd and finding it impossible to spend sufficient time in front of the works that caught my attention. However, it's better to have had the chance to see the show rather than not having been allowed to experience them at all.