Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Tate Britain – Henry Moore

February 24 – August 8 2010

Rating: 5 out of 5

Henry Moore is one of the greatest sculptures of the 20th century, and certainly one of the most famous British artists who gained global recognition. His monumental works are interspersed throughout the globe adorning office buildings, estates, and parks. During his life, there was Henry Moore the artists, and Henry Moore the salesman. It was the salesman that ultimately left a mark with ever larger work whose commercialization meant a necessary loss of soul.

But none of those questions are evident in this excellent show at the Tate Britain, which exhibits his early work and his smaller scale, more intricate sculptures. They feel at times soft and intimate and at times hard and outrageous. Showing the very best of his work, the show rambles its way through the various mediums, wood, stone, and metal, with an amazing palate cleanser of some wartime sketches in the middle. Setting the atmosphere for the show are also some preparatory sketches that make you feel as if you’re viewing the artist’s studio.

Moore’s reclining figures are represented well with some fine examples chosen to show the fluid lines and unending curves to their perfection. His other sculptures are also quite radical and interesting, including some fascinating incorporation of textile as well as some abstract shapes. Even his shelter drawings, which received a lot of attention at the time, still feel tragic, heroic and agonizing. The only let-down is the last room, which feels empty and cold.

Overall a beautiful show reminding us all just what a great talent Henry Moore was.

Barbican Art Gallery – Ron Arad: Restless

February 18 – May 16, 2010

Rating: 5 out of 5

This fantastic show is described by the tagline, “architecture, art, design, and ping pong”. This accurately describes both the wide variety of talent of Arad as well as his sense of humour and whimsy. The whole exhibition is an absolute marvel – as if wondering around a magical word where the furniture is art and the art is functional and both are interconnected in a very intimate way.

Starting off at the upper level, Arad’s work is shown in separate rooms under various themes, including Scavenging, Tinkering, and Voiding. The work in room 2, are quite interesting and the one entitled The Quick Fox and the Lazy Dog is pure poetry, complete with an ancient typewriter and live moss. There are some fluid smooth lines as well as explorations of various techniques and finishes interspersed throughout the show. Room 8 also has some fantastic sculptures, various versions of bodyguards, including a Swiss cheese one that is just lovely.

And then we go to the lower level where the awe-factor continues with two complementary and opposite chairs in section 9, as well as some fabulous book cases that are pure imagination in section 10. But it is room 13 that in scale and vision is the most impressive, both with the huge U.S.A.-shaped bookcase and the fabulous Reinventing the Wheel, which run up and down the room on rails while keeping the books they protect perfectly in place.

Go see this show to find some inspiration from an artist who has refused to be caged in by labels.

BFI Gallery – Retrospectre Mat Collishaw

February 26 – May 9 2010

Rating: 4 out of 5

Part of the Young British Artists that came to fame in the 1980s and 1990s, Mat Collishaw has explored a variety of mediums, including painting and photography, and in the BFI gallery, video art.

Projected upon a wooden altarpiece with numerous interesting cut-outs and add-ins, including a birdcage, the relatively short work of art is quite interesting. The framing of each individual and simultaneously projected piece of video is excellent, giving form and focus to each part of the whole while allowing for complementary cohesiveness.

The installation is inspired by a great film director and artist, Sergei Paradjanov, whose films are currently being celebrated at the BFI. But you don’t need to know who Paradjanov is to appreciate Mat’s work. The videos explore the universal subjects of life and death, the power of nature and humanity’s interaction with it. Some images are quite contemplative, others are awe-inspiring, and still others are quite disturbing. Grace and beauty sit well alongside blood and fear.

Overall quite an excellent and well-focused work that is at times violent and other times serene and thought provoking throughout.

Monday, 22 March 2010

176 Zabludowicz Collection – The Library of Babel - In and Out of Place

February 25 – May 9 2010

Rating: 5 out of 5

Newly opened exhibition space dedicated to bringing emerging artists to new audiences, the Zabludowicz Collection has over 2,000 works from more than 600 international artists in its archives. Its stunning venue in a former church in Camden plays host to its first exhibition of more than 200 works. This must-see exhibition includes some well known names that seem undercover, including Gerhard Richter, John Baldessari, Tracey Emin and Mat Collishaw with lesser known artists.

Wonderfully presented in a variety of rooms, the show feels fresh, young and interesting. You feel as if you’re entering an artist studio, a grungy warehouse space, or squatters premises, complete with the peeling paint, damaged hardwood floors and exposed pipework. All very rough around the edges, atmospheric and presenting a wonderful setting to some fantastic work, much of which is provocative without being forced. With such a variety of work on show, it’s impossible to recommend a specific room on highlight a particular favourite as ultimately they all complement each other to form a comprehensive picture of the variety of contemporary art.

There is some really interesting and cool stuff on show in this fantastic space. Perhaps, the most interesting part of this show is the guest curating aspect of it – both with scheduled tours through the exhibitions led by some of the artists as well as allowing any viewer to lead their own tour through the show. Run to see this show immediately – you will not forget it.

Foundling Museum – Mat Collishaw, Tracey Emin, Paula Rego

January 27 – May 29 2010

Rating: 4 out of 5

This gem of a museum is set in a beautiful house with some excellent works in its permanent collection. Starting its life as a charity to take in abandoned children in the 18th century, since the very early days, it also acted as a gallery with artists donating their work to the good cause. Spread over four floors, Britain’s first public art gallery mixes its permanent and temporary exhibitions throughout, including the facade of the building.

On the ground floor, the small committee room has some lovely paintings, including a beautiful large work by William Hogarth. The impressive staircase is lined with fantastic portraits, including my personal favourite, The Pinch of Poverty by Thomas Benjamin Kennington. And then, there is the fantastic court room on the first floor with several gorgeous paintings and a stunning ceiling.

The temporary exhibition has some big hitter names, showing work that specifically relates to the history and purpose of the Foundling Museum. Tracey Emin’s work is typically mixed, including light sculpture, bronze work, and sketches, but mostly uninteresting. In contrast, Mat Collishaw’s work is fantastic. Equally as relevant to the building but much more absorbing, his photograph on the first floor is stunning. Paula Rego’s work, with the fantastic Oratorio on the first floor landing is reminiscent of marionettes. The lower floor is the only place in the museum where white walls present the work of all three temporary exhibiting artists. In this room, Collishaw’s work is quite interesting, Emin’s is basic, and Rego’s is thoughtful and absorbing.

Serpentine Gallery – Richard Hamilton

March 3 – April 25 2010

Rating: 4 out of 5

The Serpentine Gallery presents a solo exhibition by one of Britain’s most well-renowned living artists, Richard Hamilton. Representing Britain at the 1993 Venice Biennale and with a variety of big name exhibitions under his belt, Hamilton has gained a reputation of exciting work with a social consciousness. Throughout his 50+ years of work, he has worked in a variety of media, including traditional painting and prints as well as various mixed media and installation work.

Most of Hamilton’s work has a meaning behind it, refreshingly mostly sex-free. Hamilton ticks the box of the biggies including global politics, civil unrest, terrorism, and war. Some of it is overpoweringly obvious (such as a painting of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair dressed up as an American Cowboy) and other is more subtle. The result is a mix – some of the work was perhaps radical in its day but with modern eyes seems average and tired, but other still is quite stirring and challenging. The central room of the gallery showcases the best highlights with Jesus walking along as just an average guy and TV dripping blood.

Like most other artists, some of Hamilton’s work still feels quite relevant and raw with an impact worthy of his status in the art world. But other is mundane and uninspiring leading to questions about Hamilton’s inspiration or lack thereof. Well, we can’t all get it right all the time.

Overall a good, but not great, show.

Natural History Museum – Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition

October 23 2009 – April 11 2010

Rating: 5 out of 5

This annual photographic exhibition displaying the most talented nature photographers is usually quite good. And this year does not disappoint. Atmospherically set in a dimly lit section of the museum, this show has some spectacular images of the natural world, flora and fauna alike. The focus of the show is capturing animal behaviour on land, in the air, and underwater. Some photographs are fantastic in how they capture the sometimes whimsical and loving and other times frightening behaviour of animals. Others are simply aesthetically stunning showing animals in their gorgeous natural habitats. Of the different wonderful rooms, Wild Places and Animals in their Environment are the highlights.

But you don’t have to be an animal lover to enjoy the exhibition. In Praise of Plants shows some amazing photographs of various plants, including a fantastic photo of a salsify canopy. Then, there is the nature in black and white gallery which is pure poetry.

The most interesting part of the exhibition is the young photographers section, split in different age brackets starting as young as under 10 and going up to 18. It’s really quite surprising to see some lovely photos and realize just how young the photographers are.

Overall, yet another gorgeous show in a long line of excellent annual exhibitions. A good reminder of all that is green or blue, alive and worthy of our respect and appreciation.