Picasso: Peace and Freedom

June 1, 2010

Still Life with Skull, Leeks and Pitcher (Nature morte avec crâne, poireaux et pichet) 1945

Tate Liverpool is currently staging a major exhibition bringing together 150 works by Picasso from across the world – Picasso: Peace and Freedom. The show exhibits paintings, drawings, sculptures and ceramics related to war and peace from 1944-73, alongside a wide range of letters and ephemera. The exhibition also uses archive material to further explore Picasso’s work in the cold war era, and how the artist transcended the ideological and aesthetic oppositions of east and west.

The centrepiece of the exhibition is undoubtedly the Charnel House (1944-45); last seen in the UK fifty years ago. This masterpiece artwork was inspired by a short documentary about a Spanish Republican family who were brutally murdered in their own home. It is Picasso’s most politically explicit painting after the better known Guernica (1937). There is also a portrait of the Rosenberg’s, the communist couple who were famously executed during the 1950’s in the US.

The Charnel House, Paris 1944-1945

This eye opening exhibition throws new light on Picasso’s political position and its significance for his post war output, by putting key works alongside excerpts from the artist’s papers held by the Picasso Archive at the Musée National Picasso in Paris. In doing so, the exhibition reveals Picasso’s undeniably influential status in political matters of his lifetime.

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Chris Ofili: Dung, Beads and Glitter

March 28, 2010

Without a doubt this is one of the most enjoyable exhibitions I’ve seen in a while. Entering the show to be greeted by Ofili’s huge canvases drenched in colour, glitter and dung is really quite baffling but undeniably uplifting. Wandering between the first few rooms, the genuine beauty of the work is totally awe inspiring.

Though seemingly simplistic from afar, Ofili’s paintings are in fact incredibly intricate, multi-layered works. A close inspection of the earlier paintings reveals Ofili’s ingenious use of resin to load up the canvas with layered texture, creating a three dimensional effect. Having previously been fairly unfamiliar with Ofili’s work, it soon became clear that the images used to market the exhibition cannot do anywhere near adequate justice to work. Ofili must be seen to be appreciated in all it’s intricate detail – I whole heartedly recommend a visit.

Left: No Woman No Cry, 1998 & Right: Double Captain Shit and the Legend of the Black Stars,  1997

The exhibition introduces the work of 42 year old Chris Ofili in Chronological order, starting with a selection of his very earliest works from the mid 90’s. These pieces have a strong tribal feel to them, the influence of a trip to Zimbabwae the artist made in 1992 on a British council scholarship. It was in Zimbabwae that Ofili first experimented with elephant dung, an element which quickly became distinctive of his style. Somehow the dung seems absolutely necessary to the success of the work, becoming integral to the whole balance and effect. In an interview with The New York Times in 1999 Ofili explained the dung balls are; “a way of raising the paintings up from the ground and giving them a feeling that they’ve come from the earth rather than simply being hung on a wall”.

afro, 2000 (Pencil on paper)

These early works are steeped with references to black culture; particularly hip-hop which played a deeply significant role in defining the culture of the artist’s generation. The image of an afro headed man in iconic across many of his works and influential figures in hip-hop and black culture are integrated into his works.

The Upper Room, 2005-2007

Moving on from Ofili’s early pieces, the exhibition takes on a much more meditative feel as you are lead into a deliberately ‘spiritual’ environment. The purpose built, ‘Upper Room’, was designed in collaboration with architect David Adjaye; an enclosed, darkened space in which a series of paintings make up one epic work. Twelve paintings of a monkey with a chalice represent the twelve disciples, blurring the lines between Christian symbolism and imagery of other faiths such as the Hindu monkey god Hanman. The repetition of the work combined with the religious imagery and atmospheric lighting has a genuinely moving effect.

Left: Habio Green Locks & Right: Ritual & Resistance (Desire), 2009

In his later paintings, the change in Ofili’s style is dramatic to say the least. Stripped of colour and void of the exuberant energy oozed in his paintings from the nineties, the exhibition ends on a disappointingly sombre note. It is an interesting transgression in style and apparently a deliberate shift, set as a challenge on the artist’s part. The dramatic effect of the works still remains, but the dung balls, resin, glitter and beads are gone (for me the best bits!) I Can’t enthuse about this exhibition enough – it’s  must see!

Left: The Razing of Lazarus & Right: Dance in Shadow

Find out more at Tate.org.uk

Esthetic Judgements

January 4, 2010


Having recently grabbed a last chance to visit the retrospective exhibition of John Baldessari’s work at the Tate Modern, ‘Pure Beauty’, I would definitely recommend a trip to anyone. It’s a beautifully curated, though provoking exhibition displaying a huge range of work full of wit ,sensibility, self-critic, humour, intellect, connections, age and political awareness.

Prima Facie (Third state):From Aghast to Upset, 2005, photo courtesy of Baldessari studio

Much of the work is written text which although initially confusing encourages you to consider what constitutes a work of art as well as to give some thought to the philisophical question that is highlighted.

Photo courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery NY

The work will make you laugh, think, confuse and perplex you, exactly what you want from a great exhibition. I particularly love this piece; ‘Cigar smoke to Match Clouds that are the Same’ (by sight, side view)…

Detail: Cigar Smoke to Match Clouds that are the same , 1970-1971, photo courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery NY

 John Baldessari, ‘Pure Beauty’ closes January 10th 2010.

Jill Magid: Authority to Remove

January 3, 2010

Opposite the millienium bridge, mirroring a stunning reflection of London, I find this is a really enchanting piece of work. Unfortunately the installation by Jill Magrid, in the ground floor window of Tate Modern will be removed today as it is the last day of this intriguing artist’s exhibition ‘Authority to Remove’. In her work, as can be seen in this particular piece, Magid employs Visual strategies that render text illegible in order to frustrate and perplex the viewer, yet resulting in a magical and beautiful work.

In her Level 2 exhibition at Tate Modern, Magid explores the themes of secrets and secrecy, reflecting on the emotional, philosophical and artistic relations between institutions and the individual. Today, 3rd January 2010, is the final day of the exhibition so get over there while you still can!

Artist Statements:

I Bring things that are far away in closer to my body.
Drawing over things is a way to get inside them.
I like secrets, not neccessary in their exposure but in their very existence.
To enter a system I locate the loophole.
If my subject is made of clay, I will work in clay.
If my subject id text, I may write.
If my subject is too big, I will grow.
If my subject is out of reach, I steal it in a mirror.
Repeating something helps me to perceive it. So does cutting it out.

When in love, I separate a someone from the everyone.

Isolating details os like making bubbles.
An extra becomes the protagonist after the film is made.
Without gravity we end up hovering.
What is considered banal or cliche might be hiding something.
Permission is a material and changes the work’s consistency.

Summer Season Draws to a Close

August 19, 2009

This summer’s season of exhibitions is drawing to a close with some of the best shows having less than an month left to go. Of all the exhibitions this summer Walking in my Mind at the Hayward Gallery stands out as by far the most impressive. The show exhibits the work of ten international artists – Charles Avery, Thomas Hirschhorn, Yayoi Kusama, Bo Christian Larsson, Mark Manders, Yoshitomo Nara, Jason Rhoades, Pipilotti Rist, Chiharu Shiota and Keith Tyson -each of whom transform the gallery’s interior space and outdoor sculpture terraces into a series of gigantic sculptural environments,  representing an individual mindscape. The show closes on 6th September.

southbank 019

I also recently enjoyed the current Richard Long exhibition Heaven and Earth at Tate Britain. This is a beautifully curated show that instills a sense of calm serenity as you wander round the tranquil space. Long draws his inspiration from nature making art from his experiences with the earth. He rethinks the relationship between art and the landscape through his epic walks depicted by map patterns, photography and large installations of rocks and organic materials. Heaven and Earth also runs until 6th September.


So get your skates on before it’s too late!

Walking in My Mind at the Hayward Gallery

Richard Long: Heaven and Earth at Tate Britain