Sunday, 25 January 2015

Looking at Pictures

The last week has been a little difficult to find painting time, more workmen and house guests have seen to that, but a couple of gallery trips afforded the opportunity to give painting some thinking time.

The first trip was a relatively short one to the estimable MIMA (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) to view the show 'Modern Art and St. Ives 1915 - 1965'. To say that this exhibition was a revelation would be to understate the impact that it had on me. It was much more than could be expected by the title. The reason for this was simple it was not confined to the work of artists that were practitioners in St. Ives but it explored the relationships between their work and the international community of artists. So not only were there the expected pieces from Nicholson, Hepworth, Gabo, Lanyon, Bryant, Moore et al but works by Braque, Kandinsky, Rothko, Pollock, Modigliani, Giacometti and Mondrian. A stunning array of work, mounted in such a way that the relationships could be discerned. A triumph for a relatively small gallery in an unfashionable location in North East England. A superb gallery and a first class exhibition. Tate, who were involved in the curation of the exhibition, have published a fine catalogue of the exhibition.

Below is a personal favourite from the show.

Cyclamen - Gouache and monotype on paper by Bryan Wynter

A couple of days after the MIMA show I headed south for a couple of days in London.

My first day I headed off to the Courtauld Gallery, having neglected it in recent years and there I found myself bewitched by one painting in particular. After an indulgent hour or so with the Cezannes I moved onto the collection of Fauves a stimulating development echoing ideas discernible in Cezanne's approach. But enough of them, the one that really got to me was the one below, Manet's 'A Bar at the Folies - Bergere'. This is a painting that I've seen on a number of occasions in the past as well as having seen it reproduced in many publication, so it would be fair to say that it was familiar. I'd also read about it in a variety of books where various critics have tried to place it in the development of Art History.

I sat in front of the work for about an hour and for the first time began to have some understanding as to how the composition challenged so many of the long held conceptions about producing images. The use of the mirror as a flat backstop and the lack of discernible perspective lines poses one set of questions. Secondly identifying the light source and its role in illuminating the various elements is a challenge. Is the light source the same for the figure and the items on the table? Lastly the confusion for the viewer engendered by the position of the reflection of the woman and the image of the man in the mirror. The gaze of the woman is another challenge, who or what is she looking at, the viewer, the  man in the election or some unknown person/ event in the background? A painting worthy of some real study. Time well spent for me.

On a lighter note it's always good to see bottles of English ale (Bass) on the table.

A Bar at the Folies - Bergere - Oil on canvas by Edouard Manet

The next day I couldn't resist returning, for the third time, to say goodbye to the wonderful exhibition that has been running at Tate Britain since last year, ' Late Turner - Setting Painting Free', it closes this weekend. Even the huge crowds in there were not enough to mar the occasion, some of my favourite paintings have been in this exhibition, and what a pleasure to stand for a while in front of the exquisite 'Blue Rigi'. Anyone who has the least bit of interest in watercolour should make an effort to see this work, photographs cannot do it any justice. It glows in a way that is unique.

All in all a stimulating few days.

Blue Rigi - Watercolour on paper by J.M.W. Turner.


L.W.Roth, said...

You had quite an excursion and a rich tasting of some very fine art. How jealous I am! I studied 'Follies' and there seems to be two perspectives going on. The frontal view of the woman, the front and back bar , then the back of the woman serving a gentleman is on an angle, what looks like a twenty degree angle. Those images are not lighted. The absent minded look on the woman facing the viewer suggests she's daydreaming possibly about her job. Admits all the hoop-la of the follies, she's having a quiet moment. The lighting on the center figure, the front and back bar is direct. What fun' what do you think?

Mick Carney said...

Linda - You identify some other questions about what is going on - a real thought provoker. As to fun, and it's difficult to see in this reproduction, how about the trapeze and pair of feet in the top left corner?