Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Met Tere Huid (Of Tender Skin) by Berlinde De Bruyckere


Met Tere Huid (Of Tender Skin), by Berlinde De Bruyckere, Hauser and Wirth, Saville Row.

We stumbled upon this exhibition by chance. We went to Hauser and Wirth intending to see the other exhibition that was on, Worry Will Vanish by Pipilotti Rist  (post to follow) but as we were there, we thought we'd pop in the South Gallery as well. I am so glad we did. De Bruyckere's work is a revelation and she's an artist that I want to find out more about. I was awed by the texture of the work, its resemblance to human flesh, and the thinking, the conception behind it.

I did some research when I got home, and one of the things I found out is that she has cooperated with J.M. Coetzee and they have produced a book together, which, needless to say, I intend to get. What he has to say about her work echoes my own feelings:

'I have long admired the work of Berlinde De Bruyckere. More, importantly, I have been touched by her work in ways that are often obscure to me. I would not wish it otherwise. Her sculptures explore life and death - death in life, life in death, life before life, death before death - in the most intimate and most disturbing way. They bring illumination, but the illumination is as dark as it is profound'.

Her forms are made of wax, leather, rope and resin and they evoke decay, but it's active decay. They are reminiscent of flesh, but it's flesh at its most active in the process of decay: writhing, rotting, a hub of activity. Paradoxically, they also reminded me of the flaccid folds of Jenny Saville's nudes (which you can see here ).

In their stillness, De Bruyckere's works confront the connection between mortality and life.

After Cripplewood, IV, 2014 (wax, iron, cloth, blankets, ropes, epoxy)
An enormous wax installation of a fallen tree trunk with branches that are twisted round it. Looking closer at the form, it resembles the muscles, tendons and bones of the human form. De Bruyckere has used exactly the same colour that she uses in her human-like figures (which you can see here ), giving the tree parts the appearance of human flesh. She has wrapped pieces of fabric around the knobs and ends of many of the branches, like bandages on broken limbs.
In an interview she explained how she had brought an elm tree that had been destroyed by a storm to her studio and began making wax casts of it. 'I was touched by its having been uprooted', she said. 'People who are uprooted, you never can really place them again. It's much more violent than cutting a tree down. Uprootedness gives a feeling of loneliness'.

A different view 

looking closer

Met Tere Huid, 2014 (watercolour, pencil and collage on paper)
A series of drawings that are connected to the sculptures.

After Cripplewood, 2014 (watercolour and pencil on paper)

After Cripplewood, 2014, (watercolour and pencil on paper)

After Cripplewood I, 2013-14, (wax, cloth, wood, iron, polyester, epoxy)

Another abstraction of a fallen treetrunk, bound together with tattered fabric which is again subtly pigmented using a palette that subtly resembles human flesh. The anthropomorphic waxy forms appear as rheumatoid joints and bone, bandaged as if undergoing a prolonged healing process. The work rests on a makeshift trestle that recalls a medical stretcher. In contrast to the bare wooden planks forming the trestle, the gnarled and calcified mass on top appears living, though momentarily silenced.

looking closer


Met Tere Huid I, 2014 (wax, cloth, rope, leather, wood, iron, epoxy)

looking closer

Glassdome with Cripplewood III, 2014 (watercolour, wood, glass, cloth, epoxy, iron)
Finally, a photograph of the artist working on Cripplewood.  (Image taken from here )

Monday, 15 December 2014

Indian Waves, Howard Hodgkin

Indian Waves by Howard Hodgkin, Gagosian Gallery, London. (image from the gallery's website).
Thirty gouaches painted by Hodgkin between 1990 and 1991 which were inspired by India were brought to light recently. Hodgkin said he had forgotten all about this series until they were sent to him in brown paper wrapping earlier this year. 'When I did see them properly I felt very happy. I'm very pleased'. We saw eight in this exhibition.
Using handmade Indian Khadi paper, Hodgkin employed the carborundum printing technique for the first stage, in readiness for the next stage of handpainting. Beginning with the same foundation - a blue wavy line that fills the lower half of each sheet with an arc of green above - he then used a vibrant palette of cadmium red and yellow, rose, orange, black, white and Veronese green.
Although often termed as abstract, Hodgkin describes his work as representational of emotional situations. This very modern view has its roots in the end of the 19th century when painting was revolutionised, when a new era began and modern art was born. It was first held by Gauguin who believed that colour could act like words; that it held an exact counterpart for every emotion, every nuance of feeling. That painting should be seen first as ordered patches on a flat blank surface. Its task was not to describe but to express.
Seamus Heaney once said that Hodgkin celebrates what Dylan Thomas called the 'force that through the green fuse drives the flower'.





Saturday, 13 December 2014

Totentanz, Christiane Baumgartner

I was introduced to the work of Christiane Baumgartner by Olga of Threading Thoughts so when I found out that there was an exhibition of her work in London, we went to see it. We saw four exhibitions of different artists in Mayfair that day, all small but delightful.

Totentanz by Christiane Baumgartner, at Alan Cristea Gallery, Cork Street, London.

Baumgarter is known for her woodcuts taken from her own video stills in which she employs a system of carefully carved horizontal lines that taper and thicken in such a way that images merge. The viewer is forced to work hard to recognise the image, and through having to put in the effort, we are more conscious of what it is, we pay more attention. Viewer participation is required as is the case with a lot of modern art.

She is interested in the contrast between the modern and sometimes distanced process of shooting digital video and the physicality of creating prints using ancient woodcutting techniques. By combining two seemingly opposing mediums, notions of time, movement and transition are embedded in the work.


Wald bei Colditz (Wood near Colditz).

A series of forest scenes.


Totentanz, (Dance of Death).

A 15-part work printed in electric blue, that depicts the smoke trails of a plane which has been shot down and is falling from the sky.



Deep Water

Reflections in a canal. The title references the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010, which happened whilst the artist was participating in a residency in Birmingham when she collected footage for the piece.

Vince Court.


Thursday, 11 December 2014

In my Craft, or Sullen Art

In my Craft, or Sullen Art, by Tessa Beaver, at Leamington Art Gallery.

Sweet Chestnut Trees, 2001, (charcoal on paper)
'What I admire about trees is that they show all of their scars so visibly on the outside'.

Glimpse, 1992, (etching)

Interior with Papyrus Plant, 1982, (etching)

Sandform Crab, 1984, (etching)

'I value those simple sandform prints now, because they have an originality, a newness of seeing,... and, true to received wisdom, they hardly sold. I made seven of them (and three much later, as a commission) ... empty but for the embossed corrugations, the pale warmth of the sand colour....'

Tamrack, 1985, (woodcut)

Shadowed Apples, 1989 (etching)

Bracken, 1978 (ink on paper)

Pebbles, 1978, (ink on paper)


September Grief, September Rain, 1999, (watercolour)

These pots were produced by Beaver in the 1990s. One series are moulds of vegetables and these were created using clay slip. The others were hand moulded.

Thalassa I and II, 1987

Cwmystwyth Lead Mine, 1985 (etching)


The Job People woodcuts, 2013

Beaver became immersed for a number of years in the resounding language of Old Testament prophet Job.

The Job People woodcuts are roughly-gouged portraits of current day Syrian refugees. Pointing at images in a Guardian newspaper report of the ruined city of Homs, Beaver remarked: 'These are people's homes. People are being bombed out of their homes and I mind about it. I mind very much'.



No Woman, No Man, 1991 (oil and mixed media on canvas)

'The process I'd developed, of dribbling paint in a way that was only partially in my control, arose out of a need, periodically, to destroy parts of an image before I could carry on... so I found elements emerging that were unexpected. This is essential. Images have to surprise me. If I were to contemplate making an image which I could foresee exactly, what would be the point in actually doing it? The excitement is the risk, the unknown, the hitherto unexpected... As I painted, sometimes a head would wander in and out of gender. One small change can give a face a female or male slant. This was why I called the series No woman, no Man. Gender was perhaps the least important element in the paintings. It was purely, the head, the face of a person with all their depths and ambiguities, that mattered'.

New England series, 1982.