Saturday, 22 November 2014

Ai Weiwei at Blenheim Palace




Ai Weiwei at Blenheim Palace.





Unable to leave China since his imprisonment in 2011 due to his political activism, Weiwei had to use 3D models and videos of Blenheim Palace to position his 50 works of art. Nothing in the show is labelled, so it's up to the viewer to search out the Weiweis among the palace's collection of Chinese porcelain and antique furniture. We did in fact miss the marble surveillance camera which I am sorry about.

The show is a combination of old and new, East and West, good taste with bad, high culture and low, traditional art and conceptual, and a mix of periods: juxtapositions that amuse and make you think. The tapestries, paintings and furnishings are interrupted by Weiwei's art, subverting this bastion of traditionalism. All rules are broken and there is no respect for authority. At times his art seems to mock its surroundings.




 
Pillar, 2007
 
 
 


looking closer



 
Chandelier, 2002
 
This 17ft glass crystal chandelier hangs from the opulent  baroque ceiling of the great hall. A signifier for conspicuous consumption it speaks not just for the opulence of Blenheim palace but also for the rise of a status-conscious wealthy class in communist China.
 
 
 
 
 
Amongst the pillars holding classic busts in the North corridor Weiwei has placed his own pillars which blend with the surroundings unless you look closely
 
 
 


Cao, 2014





looking closer





Mask, 2013




 
Slanted Table, 1997
 
In the middle of a small anteroom full of photographs of Winston Churchill stands the 'altered'  Qing dynasty table.
 
 

 
 

Handcuffs, 2012 and Hanging Man in Porcelain, 2009





The handcuffs, made of valuable huali wood, are placed on Churchill's bed.





Above the bed, a profile of Marcel Duchamp made out of a wire coat hanger.





Ruyi, 2006




Watermelon, 2006





Beneath a showcase of greetings cards that Churchill made, is Watermelon


 



Han Dynasty Vase with Coca-Cola and Caonima Logo, 2014





The vase is a Han dynasty one. 




 
Soft Ground, 2014



 


looking closer 


 

 
Owl House, 2010
 

 
 


looking closer
 
 
  
 
 
Sunflower Seeds Stool, 2014
 
 
 


 
looking closer
 
 
 

 
Han Dynasty Vases in Auto Paints, 2014
 
 
 


Weiwei covered these Han dynasty (202 BC to 220 AD) vases with car paint




 
He Xie, 2012
 
 
 

 
2,300 hand-painted porcelain crabs. The installation refers on censorship, playing on the similar-sounding 'river crab' and 'harmonious', part of a Chinese Communist slogan.
 




Grapes, 2011





looking closer




 
Circle of Animals, 2010
 
 

 

 
Inspired by the fountain sculptures in the Summer Palace in Beijing that were torched and looted in 1860 by French and British soldiers, Circle of Animals is a collection of gold-plated Zodiac animals.  The regal yet cartoonish animal heads are a reminder that though the Cultural Revolution destroyed much of China's artistic heritage, the West is by no means blameless.
 
 
 

 
one more view
 
 
 

 
Marble Chair, 2008
 
 
 

 
looking closer
 
 
 

 
Map of China, 2009
 
 
 


Bowl of Pearls, 2006




 
250kg of freshwater pearls in a giant rice bowl
 



 
Divina Proportione, 2006
 
 
 

 
looking closer
 
 
 

 
there were three of those in the Long Library which was designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor 
 
 
 

 
Study of Perspective, 1995-2011
 
 
 

 
Also in the Long Library, Weiwei's 40 images from the extensive series 'Study of Perspective', dating back to the 1990s - blown up snapshots of the artist sticking his middle finger up at symbols of influence, from Big Ben, to St Paul's, Tate Modern to a super-yacht. Is he metaphorically giving the finger to Blenheim itself? Weiwei is not just a great artist, but has also never been afraid of taking on the powerful.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 

 

 
The bridge and the Column of Victory were our view as we left the palace
 
 
 


we walked through the arched passageway




 
and we headed towards the car park with a different view of the bridge on our left.
 
 
 
 
Sources: 
 
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Secret Garden



 
During our recent visit to Blenheim Palace we walked around the secret garden, my favourite part of the grounds, and one of my favourite gardens. It's located to the left of this avenue and the contrast between the open spaces that surround it, and it's enclosed loveliness is a real treat.

 
 

 
A narrow entrance with this statue on the left
 

 
 
 
 
and this one on the right.
 
 
 


 
Small, narrow paths
 
 
 

 

winding all around the garden,





lots of autumn colour this time of year,




 
acers,
 

 
 


lots of water






in the form of small pools






and the small canals that connect the pools,






 fish,
 
 
 

 
 
more fish,
 
  
 

a small cascade,




 
the sound of running water throughout the garden,
 
 
 
 

 
a delightful small bridge,
 
 
 
 
 
grasses
 
 
 
 
 
in various colours,
 
 
 
 
 
benches
 
 
 
 
 
to sit and admire and contemplate,
 
 
 
 

 
tall, majestic trees,
 
 
 
 
 
 
the thoughtful placing of plants,
 
 
 
 
 
are some of the ingredients that make this garden so special.
 
 
 

 

Ai Weiwei's installations were an added bonus this time





Waterdrop, 2009

 



Rock, 2009




Oil Spills, 2006




looking closer





This garden is a real delight.



 

Out in the large open space again after the garden's enclosed secrets





while in the distance we could see Ai Weiwei's Bubble, 2008.