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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
For example the large socks or bucket in the painting above.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
‘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.
‘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!
‘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.
‘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.
‘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.