Raphael The Drawings at The Ashmolean

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Before reading this post it is a good idea to read Michelangelo vs Sebastiano so that some of the references back make more sense!

“Raphael’s hand generated lines that gave shape to his pursuit of eloquent forms” From the Ashmolean’s supporting text

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Raphael self portrait, 1501

In a similar manner to the way that a young Sebastiano would approach his works a young Raphael, as seen in the self-portrait above, works in a rough, almost carefree manner. But his work is far from carefree as he works on the proportions and final image on the canvas rather than in a series of working sketches before hand, to get the precise composition, level of detail and anatomy accuracy that the subject deserves – all whilst in his teens.

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Head of an Apostle, circa 1503

His work seems to quickly develop from the early ‘have a go’ style of his self-portrait, through large collections of sketches and workings of smaller sections of a picture. The sketch of the Head of an Apostle above shows Raphael’s ability to bring a sense of movement to a simple black chalk sketch. The lines are swift, the hatch shading and flowing curls of the hair evoke the feeling of movement and enhance the gesture of the turning face.

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Madonna Studies, 1511/13

Through all of the sketches that Raphael did he grew as an artist and fed his grand appetite for learning. The sheets of sketches shown within this exhibition, as with the one above where the central sketch is surrounded by smaller studies of figures and buildings, have pen studies juxtaposed with soft pencil studies – a burst of workings from the mind to paper. Giving a sense of a need to get things down onto paper.

 “With his voracious appetite for new stimuli, Raphael studied the battle scenes designed by Leonardo and Michelangelo and the antique sources that inspired them.” From the Ashmolean’s supporting text

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Raphael’s studies after Michelangelo’s David, 1507/8

It has been noted that Michelangelo was throughout his career jealous and threatened by young Raphael. So, Raphael’s work that took Michelangelo’s and developed it further, adapting it for his own purpose surely added salt to the wound!

Raphael took Michelangelo’s David and scaled him down changing our perspective of him and developing him from a statue to a sketch that conveys movement and depth. Raphael did not just take the ideas from Michelangelo, he fused visual memories of the sculptures, classical reliefs and print sources always seeking to create a greater expressive energy. He confronted these influences with his pen using drawing to understand them and adapt them, putting his mark on great imagery and making it his own. 

Here is what we found most interesting… 

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The Heads and Hands of Two Apostles, 1519–1520

Raphael’s ability to draw heads stood out in this exhibition. From larger refined sketches like the above to little sketches in the corner of a sheet full of other sketches they all had the same ability to show the subject’s emotion. From the warn lines of the elder gentleman to the smooth skin of the younger, Raphael captured a point in time in the subject’s life on their skin and their feelings in their emotion.

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Study for the Massacre of the Innocents, 1509–1510

In the same sense as when a character within a film or TV program breaks the fourth wall* and you get a slight feeling of confusion and in some cases unease, when you notice the lady running straight for the viewer in Raphael’s Massacre of the Innocents the work seems somehow more realistic and unsettling. This woman and child running forward are seen all throughout the development and in the final presentation of this piece. It gives the sense that the mother is running to you for safety and the fact is that you as a viewer cannot do anything about it – it puts you in the scene and that’s what makes it unsettling, but brilliant.

*The fourth wall is a theatre term for the invisible line or imagined wall that separates the stage and actors from the audience. The audience can see through this wall and the actors cannot. In cinema this is ‘broken’ when the actor would talk directly through the camera and screen to the audience.

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Drapery Study for a Sibyl, 1511-12 and Study of a Horseman for the “Repulse of Attila”, 1513/14

As well as Raphael’s studies of various faces, his workings of drapery stood out within the sketches. He created movement in the material using dark and light shading to produce the various folds, and to show the body of the figures underneath the material. Here Raphael’s variety and delicacy in pose and character within these unfinished sketches of Sibyl respond to Michelangelo’s more weighty and masculine female imagery. He also used white chalk to add extra depth to the figures and material highlighting where the light would hit the body and accentuating the muscles and folds.

The exhibition succeeded in showing how studies in simple medial fuelled the development of a young artist to an established one. Our only criticism is the limited space for circulation in the first two rooms.

By far, our favourite part of the exhibition was to watch on video (at the end of the second room) the processes that Raphael would have used to make his studies. Seeing how he used a stylus to create inductive traces before working over with pen. To understand how sketches were made in the 1500s and understand what it would have taken to create the images changed the way that you viewed the sketches. The last room of sketches seemed even more interesting as you began to see the pre-workings and imagine the process of their creation. The video that showed his process would change the whole exhibition if it were viewed earlier.

Thank you for reading!

Bethvictoria.com

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5 London Exhibitions to see

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If you’re stuck on what to do on a warm/wet summers day exhibitions can be the best place to cool down/dry off. We’ve put together a short list of a range of current and near future exhibitions that are definitely worth a visit.

Giacometti at Tate Modern

Until 10 September 2017

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First on the list is a current exhibition at Tate Modern. The gallery is in the perfect position on the riverside between rooftop and outside bars so there’s not really any excuse not to visit. But incase you need more convincing the exhibition on at the moment brings the work of the sculptor, painter and draughtsman Giacometti. The exhibition brings together over 250 pieces, including his iconic bronze sculptures.

Read more here

Rachel Whiteread at Tate Modern

12 September 2017 – 21 January 2018

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Rachel Whiteread House 1993 Photo: Sue Omerod © Rachel Whiteread

This is one to look out for towards the end of summer, but it should be worth the wait. Whiteread was the first woman to win the Turner prize in 1993 and has continued to make interesting pieces since. She is a hands on artist using a variety of industrial materials, such as plaster, concrete and metal. She works with objects and surfaces to create sculptures that mimic our surroundings and objects we see everyday. We looked closely at Whiteread’s ‘Water Tower 1998’ within our Masters study. She has a very interesting and experimental approach to exploring and working on her sculptures which make the process not only the final piece worth a look.

Read more here

Grayson Perry: The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever! at The Serpentine Gallery

Until 10 Sep 2017

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Grayson Perry has risen in fame due to his televised art work, his presence within the experimental art world and his commentary on society and culture. This exhibition at the Serpentine gallery brings together pieces of his work that explore themes that are relevant to all of us. Worth a visit if his documentaries have captured your attention.

Read more here

Plywood: Material of the Modern World at V&A

Until Sunday, 12 November 2017

Moulded plywood chair, designed by Grete Jalk, 1963. Photograph Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Moulded plywood chair, designed by Grete Jalk, 1963. Photograph Victoria and Albert Museum, London

An exhibition showcasing some of the varying uses that plywood has had in the design world. From chairs to planes and trains, the exhibition shows what the flexibility of the material that is now just an everyday material. From the website: “Featuring groundbreaking pieces by Alvar Aalto, Marcel Breuer and Charles and Ray Eames, alongside an incredible range of objects from planes to skateboards, this exhibition tells the story of how this often-overlooked material made the modern world.”

Read more here

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion at V&A

Until Sunday, 18 February 2018

X-ray photograph of silk taffeta evening dress by Cristóbal Balenciaga, 1955, Paris, France. X-ray by Nick Veasey, 2016. © Nick Veasey
X-ray photograph of silk taffeta evening dress by Cristóbal Balenciaga, 1955, Paris, France. X-ray by Nick Veasey, 2016. © Nick Veasey

Moving from art to furniture design we come to a fashion exhibition. This exhibition holds over a 100 pieces from the designer Cristóbal Balenciaga and his team of apprentices. It looks into how the influential designs have shaped modern fashion which in turn has its influence on all other aspects of design.

 Read more here

Bethvictoria.com

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Michelangelo & Sebastiano at The National Gallery

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Last week we visited the National Gallery to see The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Michelangelo & Sebastiano. We’ve written a short review of selected works from the exhibition and what we learnt about Mike and Seb’s friendship and careers.

The artists

Mike and Seb first met in Rome around 1511. Mike was 36 years old, Seb some 10 years Mike’s junior. Their professional reputations at this stage in their careers paralleled the differing years of their experience.

Mike, already known and respected, embraced punctilious preparation, method, and accuracy through observation and study (not unlike Leonardo); creating monumental works in the way of the Florentine and Roman schools that mark out his stylistic development.  Mike was clearly a driven individual who wanted to be number one in his field – not second or third. During his career as a painter, Mike was in fierce competition with Raphael. Raphael was eight years younger, clearly talented and innovative within the renaissance movement.  Historical accounts give a sense of difference between Mike and Raphael – that Mike was obstinate, moody, quarrelsome and unforgiving, where Raphael was humble, sincere and very likeable – which opened doors for him with ease when Mike had to force his way through. The threat to Mike from the young upstart Raphael seems to have been very real.

In his art, Seb was a freer spirit than Mike, intent upon creating atmosphere and emotion over the strictures of precision, in accordance with his training and development in the altogether more liberal Venice school – accentuating the use of colour and improvisation.  This was not dissimilar to Raphael’s sytle and when Mike became aware of Seb and his talent, Mike realised that rather than allow another unwanted competitor on to the Roman art scene, a collaboration might be in his better interest.  Something about keeping your enemies close, perhaps.

The Exhibition starts with pieces by each of Mike and Seb to illustrate their differing styles.

Individual work

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Left: The virgin and Child with Saint John and Angels (‘The Manchester Madonna’), 1497 – Michelangelo

This panel painting in the opening exhibition room shows Mike’s mastery of the sculptural form.   The vividness of detail and colour in the infant Jesus and his cousin St John the Baptist contrasts with the heavy and precise outlines to the left where the panel remains unfinished. These later outlines are likely transferred to the panel from preparatory drawings, hence their deliberateness at this stage in their introduction to the scene. There appears to be no doubt as to what the painting is intended to portray, and how it is to be produced.

Right: The judgement of Solomon – Sebastiano Del Piombo, 1505

Here, Seb does what he does best.  Many figures, all animated in a way that makes them seem alive and in motion, supporting the story that the scene tells.  Again the piece is not complete – the baby that Solomon is issuing judgement over does not appear.  When looking between this and the previous work of Mike, Compare the skin tone and detail on the nude courtier (who is without the sword that he will need to cut the baby in two) with the skin on the infants in Mike’s work.  Also note how Seb’s work is developing as his thoughts and designs develop.  Not much planning in evidence here.  There are sections around the porticos at the side that look like a montage of several different images such is the prominence of prior architectural layouts he has explored over the one currently adopted.

It is quite possible that Seb became infatuated with Mike.  They quickly struck a friendship and artistic partnership which involved doing sketches for each other and actually both painting on the same canvas.  There is a letter in the exhibition (one of several that illuminate the relationship between the two) in which Seb assumes Mike’s hatred of Raphael.  Whether this is founded on genuine artistic difference, or again evidence of the indoctrination that Seb went through under Mike’s control is not clear.

Whilst Mike may have wanted to get close to Seb to control the risk of more competition, he was professional enough to see the opportunity for creating collaborative art of a new type that could continue to develop the renaissance.

Collaborative work

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Left: Lamentation over the Dead Christ (Pietà) – Sebastiano Del Piombo, after partial designs by Michelangelo, 1512-16

In this collaborative piece the possibilities of their combined talents are explored.   The grieving Mary is painted by Seb in a flowing style with intense colours to her clothes.  The moonlit background is full of atmosphere and suggestion.  Here anatomic form, however, is something of a contradiction. A muscular neck, broad shoulders and chest are almost certainly the influence of Mike.  The body of Jesus is painted in a starkly contrasting style by Mike – precise body form and arrangement and highly detailed skin tone.  You can almost see how the body of Jesus could be taken out to be a sculpture, whilst the balance of the painting could only ever be a painting.   It is likely that this piece proved to be on the evolutionary path to Mike’s Pieto.

Experiments in oil on plaster for the Sistine Chapel frescos may have been the subject of Mike and Seb’s early collaboration.  Ironical, as this is the very topic that was to be their undoing as friends.

Right: Study of a male upper torso with hands clasped and six studies of hands – Michelangelo

These studies, of which there are many in the exhibition, show the intensity of Mike’s pursuance of accuracy and truth in his art.  He is not leaving anything to chance when it comes to the final production.  How much his studies allowed him to vary his intentions is unsure.  Did he always start with a master plan for each piece, or were his studies and preliminary designs permitted to cause a change in the plan?

Mike spent many years back in Florence working for the Midici house whilst Seb stayed in Rome.  By the time of Mike’s return, Raphael had died a young man removing the threat to Mike’s ascendency to the top of his profession.

Late pieces

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Left: The Visitation, 1518-1519 – Sebastiano Del Piombo

Towards the middle of Seb’s career, during the collaboration period, his style of  painting seemed to take on characteristics of the defined and delicate work that Mike is known for. Here within The Visitation, one of his later works, he has gone beyond the figurative visualisation of Mike towards a subtly grand, abstracted and soulful style. He does, however, still maintain the expressive sky in the background of the work, something that for me allowed an instant recognition that the piece was the work of Seb.

Right: Section of the The last judgement, 1536-1541 – Michelangelo

With the sculptured and detailed bodies within The Last Judgement compared to The Visitation you can further see the differential stylings of the two artists. With Seb searching for less commissions and slowing down his painting career Mike was at the top of his game and with this he produced one of the most significant and renowned fresco paintings in the world. He had been fighting his whole career for the art work that would cause a stir and get his name  firmly secured within the art history bible with the Sistine chapel commission he had finally proven his worth. Although some people did believe that Raphael had painted the chapel, most definitely to Mike’s annoyance.

Mike and Seb’s friendship was put under strain when Seb ordered that the yet to be painted parts of the Sistine Chapel ceiling be prepared with an oil-paint base coat before Mike returned to Rome to complete the task.  Mike did not like working in oils and so ordered those areas painted in oil to be stripped and repaired in order that he could complete the work in his establish fresco style with water and egg-based paints on daily plaster applications.

Whilst Mike was away in Florence, working intensely and relentlessly as usual, Seb had taken up favour with the Pope’s court, where he became a salaried advisor.  Whether this role was so demanding that Seb reduced his painting output, or he became lazy with a fat guaranteed salary is not known.  When Mike returned to Rome he quickly formed the later opinion, which coupled with the Chapel ceiling incident was the undoing of their friendship.

Seb died some 18 years before Mike.  Seb had not produced much of note, and very little that was completed in the final 15 or so years of his life.  Mike went from strength to strength in painting, sculpture, architecture, poetry and letters up to his death in 1564 at the age of 83.  After Seb’s passing and before his own, Mike did not acknowledge any good to have come from his collaboration with Seb.  Indeed, Mike publicly scathed Seb, his work and of what he had become in his later life. Whether this attitude reveals evidence that Mike had only ever used Seb to further Mike’s own career is open for debate.

This exhibition, on at the National Gallery until June 25th, 2017 seeks to explore the coming together of Mike and Seb, their collaborative output, and the breakdown of their friendship.  Overall, the curators have achieved their aim, although Mike’s work out ways Seb’s.  We found one or two of the rooms to have odd exhibit numbering with no clear start point if following the very well put together exhibition guide in strict numeric order.  Also, the lighting was a little off on some pieces creating glare or reflection that was difficult to overcome by vantage point selection.

Thank you for reading!

Bethvictoria.com

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“A noticeable lack of feet…”

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We visited Tate Britain for the extensive exhibition of David Hockney’s 60 years of work from the instantly recognisable to the unseen workings.

There were so many pieces in this exhibition it was hard to choose a direction for this review. So we’ve just chosen a couple of pieces that we liked and looked into how they were made.

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The first piece is called ‘The Road to Thwing’ which Hockney painted in 2006. When displayed this is six smaller canvases hung close together to create one larger piece. When looking at the exhibition we were trying to work out how this would be painted would he do each canvas individually or all as one?

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When looking into it we found this image showing Hockney painting the scene with the six canvases arranged as they are on display. Whether he mapped out the edges of the canvas/basics of the small image and then worked back into each individually or did just do it all at once is not obvious from this image. We think its great that he has actually set this up within the field that he’s painting as with the technique seen within the ‘Australian impressionists’ exhibition we wrote about a few weeks back and not just done it from a photograph.

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David Hockney "The Four Seasons, Woldgate Woods (Spring 2011, Summer 2010, Autumn 2010, Winter 2010)" 2010-2011 36 digital videos synchronized and presented on 36 monitors to comprise a single artwork Duration: 4:21 An Edition of 10 with 2 A.P.s � David Hockney
“The Four Seasons, Woldgate Woods (Spring 2011, Summer 2010, Autumn 2010, Winter 2010)” 2010-2011

This is a collection of 36 digital videos synchronized and presented on 36 monitors to comprise a single artwork. They each last around 4 mins 21 seconds. Each screen consists of nine videos that play at the same time. The videos within the screen are simply the views from different perspectives of a car going down a road. Again we wondered how it was done.

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The above two images show the device and Hockney at work capturing the videos. We were trying to think of what kind of high tech piece of kit he could of used to create this piece. The rig set up on the bonnet of the car is definitely a lot less complicated than we were expecting and just what we were thinking he would have done. It is interesting that he sits in the back of the car watching every moment of the videos being recorded, even though the cameras will be capturing the work he doesn’t let anything turn out not as imagined or expected.

And the title of this blog comes from the observation of Hockney not really drawing/painting feet. They are always covered with shoes, furniture or missed off completely.

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For example the large socks or bucket in the painting above.

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We also really liked this photomontage of Hockney’s mother. There is a lot of skill used to perfectly capture and then realign the images to get her face clear and not distorted.

The exhibition is open until the 29th May – so get down and check it out for yourself.

Bethvictoria.com

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Rauschenberg at the Tate Modern

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One of the current exhibitions at the Tate Modern is a large retrospective of Robert Rauschenberg’s 6o year career as an artist. Through 11 gallery spaces you are shown the journey of his work from his early experimentation to his late work with all the seemingly random and continuously experimental work in-between.

We went to visit it and so wanted to let you know what we thought. This is written with two people opinions. Beth’s (B) who is the designer and artist behind Bethvictoria.com and Paul (P) a lover of art and design but with a business background. We thought it would be interesting to see the two opinions formed from the pieces.

The first two pieces are found in the first, ‘Experimentation’ room of the exhibition. This room shows the work he created within Black Mountain College where he took classes in the fine arts and the initial works he created during his marriage to Susan Weil. ‘Experimentation’ shows various materials he worked with from light sensitive paper to a car, paint and paper.

Automobile Tire Print, 1953
Automobile Tire Print, 1953

About: Created with the help of composer John Cage and his Model A Ford. The piece challenges the idea of art and authorship.

What we thought

B: A simplistic idea and kind of print. For me it shows the trace that we leave. Even the simple day to day things that we do, like driving a car, change the world around us and leave a print. A comment on society.

P: I like this for its simplicity, but technically this probably isn’t as straightforward as one might think. Keeping all the sheets of paper accurately juxtaposed achieving a smooth substrate to minimise counter-imprints from under the paper, and ensuring the tire was loaded with sufficient paint to get the consistency of impression over what looks like to revolutions of the car wheel, would have been challenges to overcome.

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Untitled, 1951

About: Part of a body of work named Black Paintings created to test the boundaries of abstraction in the 50s. Untitled, 1951, created whilst he was studying, uses layers of newspaper and dense black paint to create a textured and glossy painting.

What we thought

B: The texture of the newspaper isn’t obvious until you get closer to this piece. That’s what I find interesting about this piece. From far away it just looks like black canvas but when you get closer you see that there’s texture and movement with how the light plays on the glossy paint. If you don’t look at it properly you don’t see the detail and it doesn’t make sense.

P: This is moody. The exhibition lighting could, to my mind, have created more atmosphere. Rauschenberg probably approached this from an experimental angle and discovered an abstraction of form and colour that worked. The proportions are comfortable to the eye and I like the emphasis that is given to the abutment of the varying width canvases that make up the whole.

In room three of the exhibition you find the ‘Combines’. Combining materials, objects and processes to create works that he said became ‘awkward physically’. Using mostly found objects which he put on canvas and then enhanced with abstract paint marks. The combines were made in his studio, live on stage and also some grew with their time in exhibition via viewer participation.

Bed, 1955
Bed, 1955

About: Not being able to afford canvas Rauschenberg decided to use his quilt, sheet and pillow for this piece. When it was first viewed it was considered a threatening piece, Rauschenberg said that he did not mean for it it be harsh.

What we thought

B: I wouldn’t say it looks cozy. But I do relate to it. To me its the boundary between being awake and dreaming. The cover at the bottom and pillow at the top are practically untouched – the real uniform world we are in when we are awake. And the part where you would slip under the cover is messy and colourful – the explosion of your ideas and imagination that comes when you are asleep and dreaming.

P: Not a lot to say about this other than I think it is great. I particularly like the almost ‘impressionist’ colour spectrum that is created around the fold of the quilt.

Black Market, 1961
Black Market, 1961

About: Originally this was a piece that the audience could participate in. The four clipboards on the canvas were for viewers to put their own pieces of art/notes or doodles into the work. The box contained objects and people were encouraged to take one in exchange for an object of their own. (This was stopped when in one exhibition the objects were taken and not replaced)

What we thought

B: The idea of being able to add to and interact with this piece is really great. I love the idea that Rauschenberg took his recognition and allowed other people to get involved with it. Collaborating with everyone and getting everyone involved in making art.

P: I would love to know if Rauschenberg took an interest in how the contents of the box changed over time. Keeping snapshots of the ever-changing range of items, with the common theme of having been ‘swapped in’ might have been the basis for more follow-on work perhaps.

Silkscreens (Room 5) were a key part in Rauschenberg’s recognition as an artist, being the key to his breakthrough in 1963. Rauschenberg was working on these at the same time as Warhol. He started using his own imagery then he developed to using colour and more recognisable found imagery, touching on the subjects of politics, science and sport. Once his silkscreens had been recognised and shown within galleries he immediately destroyed the tools needed to make any more, removing any possibility of the ease to just repeat himself.

Almanac, 1962
Almanac, 1962

About: Almanac was one of his first screen prints and doesn’t hold any real meaning. It is just an exploration of the combination of imagery, strokes and textures.

What we thought

B: Unlike Warhol, Rauschenberg’s screen prints aren’t concerned with the celebrity. They are, as with his other work, experimental and show working. It doesn’t tell you what it is or how you should think about it – you decide for yourself.

P: At first, this piece creates an internal struggle in the observer as it appears chaotic (Tate calls it ‘poetic’ – I’m not so sure). But as one deciphers the images that have been screen printed and the brush work that is added for emphasis, one is taken on a journey of one’s own making. The piece becomes something different to each observer.

Room 11 shows Rauschenberg’s late works. He had a keen interest in using the latest technology in photography to produce large scale works. He continued to make work until his death in 2008. They continued to be collaborative and experimental. Questioning the idea of art and ownership and the development in technology, media and culture.

Mirthday Man, 1997
Mirthday Man, 1997

About: Mirthday Man was made on Rauschenberg’s 72nd birthday. It includes an x-ray of himself, clippings from art history and imagery from his travels.

What we thought

B: From the exhibition it seemed that Rauschenberg after time creating less colourful box, B&W photographs and installations went back to this type of work that is similar to his screen prints but with modern techniques. I just love that even on his 72nd birthday and for ten more years he was creating such interesting works.

P: It seems a random combination of images, but it isn’t. I imagine the artist anguishing over the arrangement of colour, shape and topic, either to give some order to it all, or to intentionally create disharmony. This is a piece one can look at for hours and see different things and think different things.

So, that’s what we thought about it. The exhibition is open till 2 April 2017 so get down to Tate to see it for yourself!

Bethvictoria.com

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We’re in a gang… The Papergang

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We love stationary.

Papergang is a monthly subscription of stationary with the online stationary store Ohh deer.

This subscription of dreams is having a little bundle of useful notebooks, beautiful designs and funny cards through your letterbox (box doesn’t actually fit through letterbox) and its pretty easy and reasonably priced to get this in your life.

Heres the kind of items we’ve received in past boxes:

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papergang second box april 2016 copy

The 2017 palm print diary is our lifeline to keeping track of what we need to do in the day and we’ve framed the prints and some of the cards and put them up in the bedroom. Every month is a lovely little surprise and always full of beautiful stationary you didn’t know you needed!

Follow this link – Papergang – and sign yourself up! Get in quick to get this months box!

Stationary boxes in the post – what a time to be alive.

Bethvictoria.com

All images from Papergang website
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Arthur Streeton – A master impressionist

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Earlier this month, we attended a wonderful exhibition at The National Gallery titled ‘Australia’s Impressionists’ which runs to 26th March 2017. This is a relatively small exhibition, but expertly curated and features work by four Australian artists – Tom Roberts, Charles Conder, John Russell and Arthur Streeton. Between them, these four created a new artistic movement in Australia based on what they had seen in France and produced a huge combined body of work that represents the very best of impressionist painting from the prodigious talents that Roberts, Conder and Russell are, it was the work of Arthur Streeton (1867-1943) that captured our attention.

This from The National Gallery’s web page summarises his life.

“Streeton’s artistic training began aged 15, with night classes in design at Melbourne’s National Gallery School, while he worked as an office clerk and, later, as an apprentice lithographer. He read amateur art manuals imported from Europe and America that encouraged painting en plein air.

 While painting at Mentone Beach, south of Melbourne, Streeton met Tom Roberts (1856–1931), who invited him to join artists’ camps that he had helped found in the bush near Box Hill, to the west of the city. Together with Roberts and Charles Conder (1868–1909), Streeton helped stage the ‘9 by 5 Impression Exhibition‘ in Melbourne in 1889, which served as something of a manifesto for this new generation of Australian painters who were embracing the looser, more open techniques of Impressionism.

Streeton moved to Sydney in 1890, after the Art Gallery of New South Wales purchased a large canvas of his, ‘Still glides the stream, and shall for ever glide’ (1890). He was the first Australian-born artist to have a work exhibited at London’s Royal Academy – ‘Golden Summer, Eaglemont’ (1889) – but when he moved to London in 1897 he struggled to gain recognition. Nonetheless, he stayed in England for around thirty years, sending work back to Australia.

During the First World War, Streeton served as a hospital orderly in London, and then as an official war artist with the Australian army. He was awarded a knighthood in 1937 for services to art.”

Streeton produced a tremendous body of work during his lifetime, everyone of which merits individual study. But for now we have selected five paintings from the exhibition for specific comment and appreciation. As you study them, take in the balance in the composition, the great sense of location and climate, and the wonderful colour palettes he uses, all of which can inform ebullient design solutions today.

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‘Golden Summer, Eaglemont’ 1889. Oil on canvas.

This painting is many things, but we specifically love the colour palette Streeton uses. Vivid blues and golds which he describes as the ‘nature’s scheme of colour in Australia’. The depth of detail, the tranquil setting and the mastery of light and shade all stand out.

Artist : Ena Joyce (Australia, b.1925) Title : Date : (circa 1949) Medium Description: oil on plywood Dimensions : Credit Line : Purchased 1949 Image Credit Line : Accession Number : 832

‘Fire’s on’ Lapstone Tunnel 1891 oil on canvas.

Again that wonderful colour palette stands out. Up close, his use of a 1″ brush in 1-2″ strokes to build up the tonal range of the blue sky is masterful. The vantage point produces a high horizon allowing an exquisite interpretation of sunlight and shade, as seen in Golden Summer. You almost want to reach out and touch the rocks on the left!

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‘Ariadne’ 1895 oil on wood panel.

Blue and pink dominate the colours here. Ariadne appears to almost float on the sand. With her head lowered into her hands, her sorrow easily felt. Again the sense of sunshine and warm climate is projected so well.

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‘Blue Pacific’ 1890 oil on canvas.

This image doesn’t do justice to the tonal range and brush work that Streeton achieved. The light and dark golds used to pull out the centrepiece sandstone cliff face are superbly constructed. Again the colour palette is excellent and exuberant.

Artist : Arthur Streeton (Australia, b.1867, d.1943) Title : Date : 1893 Medium Description: oil on canvas Dimensions : Credit Line : Gift of Lady Denison 1942 Image Credit Line : Accession Number : 7209

‘The railway station, Redfern’ 1893 oil on canvas.

Finally, we bring this one into the selection because of its juxtaposition in climatic terms to the prior four. Here, grey skies, wind and rain predominate instead of warm sunshine. The composition, with all the detail clustered in the top half of the painting, and just the surface treatment and a lone be-coated person and their shadow occupying the lower half, represent such an eye for the scene. It is reported that he painted this in around three hours…

Celebrate the work of Arthur Streeton. He has many lessons to teach modern designers.

Written by Paul Smith for Bethvictoria.com

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The Design Museum, London

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We went to visit the new design museum. It used to be housed in a building by the Thames and Tower Bridge but has now re-opened in the old Commonwealth Institute which has been renovated by John Pawson.

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The space has one permanent exhibition, two spaces for temporary exhibitions as well as a restaurant, cafe and two shops. Going into the space the staff were extremely welcoming and all dressed in aprons like baristas… or elves. Going further into the space you are confronted with a massive void all the way to the roof.

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On the third floor is the free permanent exhibition. You’re greeted by a large changing sign showing the name of the exhibition designed by Studio Myerscough. Designer Maker User shows 1000 plus items of 20th and 21st century design. Which is great if you have the time and patience to read all the little bits of information and look at all the items then this is a great exhibition. To us though it was a crammed experience with one design and text drowning and being drowned by the next. I didn’t know where to look, and between moving out the way for people to walk past and not getting distracted by the next visual, I only really looked at the start object and walked through the rest. (Plus couldn’t get far enough away to fit everything into a photograph!)

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Overall other than the overwhelming squished display the architecture of the building was pretty nice. A great space to look up and admire… but maybe not the most useable. Still worth a visit, we may not have enjoyed it that much, but you may do!

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All Photographs ©Bethvictoria.com

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Lisbon, Portugal

Here is the second instalment of our recent trip to Portugal. We only spent one day in Lisbon but we packed a lot in! So here are some of our highlights!

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If you want to view the whole of Lisbon, look out over the Tagus River and see a little bit of history visit the São Jorge Castle. The castle offers various views of the whole of Lisbon and even boasts a camera obscura. One of the turrets has been adapted to hold a camera obscura that allows you to experience the views of Lisbon in a magical and interesting way. Another way to view the Lisbon landscape is the Santa Justa Lift, although I wouldn’t bother paying to go up the lift, if you head to the ruins (bellow) you can walk across a bridge and get to the viewing platform for free!

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Carmo convent and ruins. Struck by the 1755 earthquake this building has partly been rebuilt and restored but a beautiful open roof has been left, allowing the blue sky to flood light into the grounds. It is a great place to sketch and view some architecture from the 14th century. It also boasts a little museum and gift shop with some interesting books of Lisbon.

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Expo’98 Portugese National Pavilion by Alvaro Siza. We visited this in the morning before the sun decided to make an appearance, it was pretty soggy… This piece of architecture is sort of mind boggling, it doesn’t seem possible that the thin piece of concrete can drape so easily between the two porticoes. It also has some beautiful coloured tiles on the inside and outside.

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And for some great food head to Timeout’s Mercado da Ribeira a fun and interesting food hall that offers a range of food types and drinks! Also the Bairro Alto district offers a lot small bars and pubs that allow you to grab a drink and walk around or to the next pub. We’d recommend checking out the Park Bar located on the top floor of a car park with great vibes and views of Lisbon.

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5 London Exhibitions this summer

There are as usual a tonne of different exhibitions on this summer in London. We’ve chosen 5 that we are interested in and will let you know some more we find later!

1 -Paul Strand: Photography and Film for the 20th Century

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“A major retrospective of the work of American photographer and film maker, Paul Strand (1890-1976), and the first in the UK since the artist’s death. Strand was one of the greatest and most influential photographers of the 20th century whose images have defined the way fine art and documentary photography is understood and practiced today.”

 Look out for a review on this one coming up!

19th March – 3rd July at the V&A

2 – Performing for the Camera

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A exhibition exploring the relationship between photography and performance. “What does it mean to perform for the camera?” An interesting exhibition that makes us think what does it mean to be yourself in front a camera, we are so used to cameras being constantly on us do we ever act ourselves or are we always performing?

Now – 12th June at Tate Modern

3- Conceptual Art in Britain 1964–1979

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“In the 1960s artists began to abandon traditional approaches and made ideas the essence of their work. This fascinating exhibition explores this pivotal period in British history, which changed the way we think about art to this day. It gathers together artists who took art beyond its traditional boundaries to suggest new ways of engaging with the realities of the world beyond the studio, which ultimately led to a questioning of the function and social purpose of art.”

12th April – 29th August at Tate Britain

4- Painting with Light

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Art and photography from Pre-Raphaelites to the modern age.

“Spanning 75 years across the Victorian and Edwardian ages, the exhibition opens with the experimental beginnings of photography in dialogue with painters such as J.M.W. Turner and concludes with its flowering as an independent international art form.”

11 May – 25th September at Tate Britain

5 – David Hockney RA: 82 Portraits and 1 Still Life

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This exhibition explores Hockney’s return to portraiture from his work with landscapes. The portraits are of a range of sitters from family to colleagues.

2nd July – 2nd October at the RA

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