Thursday, 30 January 2014

London Wore Many Coats

London wore many coats yesterday. The day started bright and sunny and was business as usual but by lunchtime showers took everyone by surprise. I started my day feeling foolish for carrying an umbrella but by lunchtime I was feeling quite pleased with myself as I walked across Millennium Bridge looking out onto the river and St Pauls.  I was on my way to Tate Modern to see the surprises Paul Klee had for us all.

It has been years since I have seen more than a handful of his paintings so to be immersed in this historic body of work was a delight. Each period of Klee’s life, each direction of his work was chronologically displayed with not only the full information about his materials and methodology but also was clearly set into the history of that period. His time as tutor at the Bauhaus was a rich period where he experimented with style and content and use of colour and materials and it was most interesting to have this period also clearly set into the context of the political extremes experienced in Germany at that time. Art is always powerful when set in real time and to see an artist’s development and progress is exiting and inspiring.

As I walked through this big exhibition, some 12 rooms or so from memory, I was interested to hear other visitors’ comments. My eye was caught by a couple strolling around at the same speed as I was and I overheard them comment on “what a large show of small paintings it was”. And I looked again, for even though the works shouted out from the walls none of the works were actually very large. There were the first and founding colour explorations from his North African visit, his experimentation in method and style during his Bauhaus years, (in both cities)  his slowing down at the beginning of his illness, and then his speeding up at the end with his deep felt and strongly voiced political response and even though these paintings felt huge and carried such weight they were not actually big paintings.  

As always I was thrilled to see original works of art: there is a similar rush with live music, and I was humbled and inspired to see all this work, to see his notes in margins, to know that Paul Klee had actually framed some of these pieces himself and as I walked back across the river, now bathed in late January sun, I determined I would  draw more and doodle more and hope to be always surprised by art.

Don’t miss this one. Check Tate Modern for opening times.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Sainsbury's ...... but not for groceries

Another New Year and I find myself in Norfolk, Norwich to be precise, for another few days with another question:- and so what to do this time? It’s been a long time since I have visited the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts and I am so pleased I made the decision to check it out.

The title of their current show intrigued me: Masterpieces: Art and East Anglia. It seemed like a pretty broad subject and so it was. I can’t remember a more eclectic exhibition. Paintings sat shoulder to shoulder with old maps, photos, furniture and more and the title itself came from the phrase master piece which used to describe a piece that an apprentice would make to demonstrate their accomplishment and which showed that they had sufficient command of their trade to be henceforth regarded as a master. Hence master piece

The first room was full of faces and each one was looking out from a different moment in history and each had its own story to tell but they were all connected by the simple fact that they all had connections to East Anglia. In modern times East Anglia may seem like it is sitting out on the periphery of things but it is the case that until recent times, in geology terms - barely 6,500 years ago - that this part of Britain was part of the continental land mass of Europe. It still has a special connection to the region of Northern Europe and because of this has been a major economic, political and religious centre for centuries.

As I walked through this vast exhibition of the story of the melting pot that is East Anglia, I was thrilled to learn, amongst other things, that John Hedgecoe took the pic of the queen that was used for the first postage stamp, that Cuban born Peter John Emerson, Walter John Clutterbuck and Olive Edis were forerunners in the late 19th century new world of photography and documented the now long gone ways and people of that life.

I gazed at Gainsbourghs, Constables, a Singer Sargent, a Dufy, three Maggi Hamblings (wonderful!), an Eric Gill, a portrait by Lucien Freud of Cedric Morris and vice versa, the set of prints John Piper designed for the first staging of Benjamin Britten’s Death In Venice at the Aldeburgh Festival in 1973, and amongst my favourites, paintings by Ivon Hitchens, and John Virtue. I said it was eclectic! And it is worth visiting as one of your first exhibitions of this New Year. It runs till February 24th.

Happy New Year!