The current exhibition in the Penlee Museum in Penzance lasts until 19th November and is certainly worth seeing for many reasons: its variety of styles, the contrasts between her life in Scotland and St Ives, the photographs, her green transparent glaciers and the more abstract endeavours of her later years. There are paintings which are reminiscent of Christopher Wood, bright touches that are reminiscent of Cezanne and the harmonies of Paul Klee can be glimpsed in the waves and beach scenes.
The view above was painted in 1940 http://www.barns-grahamtrust.org.uk/ -and features the Catholic Church on the left as well as the Church of St Ia almost in the middle. The buildings are vertically elongated which gives them an interesting attenuated quality, The grass of the Island and the roof tiles appear in orange against the predominate blue of the sea. The tide is half way in and the crane on the West Pier is just about visible.
Just a few years before, in early summer 1937, much the same scene was painted by Sir Stanley Spencer. It is interesting to compare the resulting works.
The foreground in Spencer’s painting show palm trees and in general the perspective is given a detailed treatment. There is a large boat alongside the pier. The West Pier is shown in full from this angle and the Island and Downalong shown in considerable detail. The tide level is just a little further inshore. The Mariner’s Church and slipway are both clearly delineated. Spencer became a member of the St Ives Society of Artists. He painted other pictures of the town including this atmospheric painting evidently from the promenade.
Here too is a painting showing the coluration of the rocks and fishing boats equipped with sails along with the coast beyond Hayle in the background. Perhaps painted from the rocks on the town side of Porthgwidden. The lighthouse at Godrevy as made famous by Virginia Woolf in 1927.
Barns- Graham excels in her sketches which are often interesting in their composition and dabs of spare but effective colour. The palette of yellow against grey below shows this in a view crested by The Island.
Inspired by this Youtube clip of Berlin taken in 2015 in black and white, I decided to take a look at some, mostly “street” photographs I have taken out and about in Penzance, Newlyn and St Ives this Summer.
There are two analogue photography websites i would like to recommend:-
More than twenty years ago there was an excellent bookshop at the bottom of Station Hill in Truro. It was manned by a man who looked like a taller version of Alan Bennet who wore a white pullover and so the shop became known in our family as the “White Man’s”. He may well have read English at University because there was an excellent stock of poetry, criticism and literary collections. It was in the front part of the shop that art and photography books were stocked. It was here that I discovered a magnificent book of photographs by Roman Vishniac. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_VishniacI }that was called “Children of a Vanished World” and was more than I could then afford. It was, however, quite stunning to peruse and an astonishing invocation of the past. As one reviewer on Amazon writes:-
“In this book we can see the faces of the children who disappeared a few years later in the Shoah. Just look at them, they are children like all the others in the world; beautiful, funny, playing, studying, and so on. Lives which were brutally cut in the most monstrous way in human history. If they had lived, they would have been merchants, rabbis, doctors, lawyers; some of them would have been known as novelists, scientists, and so on. Why had the world to live without their talents they wanted to show us?”
Vishniac photographed many subjects including microscopic biological specimens but it is this collection about the Shtetel which made him famous. In a way it provides a complement to the magical paintings of Chagall. Also I started to read “Shtetel” by Eva Hoffmann which is also interesting on this topic.
However, more recently,it is the Berlinische Galerie which opened my eyes to two further interesting photographers in their collection-http://www.berlinischegalerie.de/en/museum-berlin/forschung/grant/ These are Steffi Brandl and Erich Salomon. Brandl’s work is remarkable for it’s portrait and figure photography. Her compositions are unfailingly interesting and captivating. So captivating that I made sketches whist viewing them. These are sophisticated photographs that work to capture the essence of the subjects in the lens. She was born in Vienna in 1899 as Stephanie Olsen and trained there under Trude Fleischmann and then married an architect, Ernst Brandl moving to Berlin in 1926. She had a studio at 211 on the Kurfurstendamm and was forced to emigrate to England in 1933-she moved to New York where she died in 1966.
Erich Salomon’s work is similarly of great interest. In talking of his technique, wikipedia.de says the following:-
Übliche Arbeitsgeräte der Pressefotografen waren seinerzeit unhandliche Plattenkameras für Glasnegative bis 13 × 18 cm. Salomon erwarb wenige Monate nach seinen ersten fotografischen Erfahrungen eine Ermanox-Kamera. Diese war ein neu entwickelter, relativ kleiner Fotoapparat mit dem seinerzeit lichtstärksten serienmäßig hergestellten Objektiv (1:2) und einem Schlitzverschluss, der Belichtungszeiten von 1/20–1/1000 sec erlaubte. Mit der Ermanox waren Momentaufnahmen auch bei schwachem Licht, Fotos in Innenräumen ohne Stativ und Blitzlichtmöglich. Als fotografisches Bildmaterial dienten Glasplatten von 4,5 × 6 cm in Einzelkassetten, von denen man problemlos eine größere Anzahl bei sich tragen konnte. 1930 kam eine Leicahinzu – noch leichter und unauffälliger als die Ermanox.
Esentially this says that press photographers used to have to use large glass plates 13x18cm in size, However, Salomon developed the technique by using a newly developed Ermanox camera which was small with a mass produced lens that allowed exposure times of 1/20 to 1/1000 sec and could therefore be used in low light conditions i.e. indoor photography using flash so that the size of the plates were considerably reduced.and a number of plates could be stored in the box which the photographer manhandled. Hence a series of shots might be made.By the 1930s the even smaller and less conspicuous Leica was developed.
Much more can be said about the dramatic life of this photographer who would indeed make a good subject for a film. Among the images which interested me that Salomon made was a photograph in 1938 taken in the Austrian Embassy in London. It shows, of course King George and the young Queen but also the Austrian Chancellor Kurt Alois Josef Johann Schuschnigg whose attempts to keep Austria independent were just about to fail before the Anschluss. After the invasion by Nazi Germany he was arrested, kept in solitary confinement and eventually interned in various concentration camps. Salomon’s fate was worse- as a Jew attempting to escape he was caught in 1940 in the Low Countries and died in Auschwitz in 1944.
Open Studios can indeed be a pleasant opportunity to travel around Cornwall, meet artists in their studios and, of course, purchase perhaps some pieces of their work. Not least is the fun of returning to Krowji and seeing new artists and new developments in what has become a vital and innovative centre for craft, jewellery, painting, prints and pottery situated in the old Redruth Grammar School and brand new studios.
It was great to view the outstanding ceramics made by Nic Harrison, hand thrown forms rooted in the Leach tradition. Nic having worked at the Leach pottery now has a splendidly appointed studio at Penhale Jakes in Ashton near Helston. Oxides of iron, copper and cobalt produce some wonderful coloured glazes. His work may be seen at http://www.nicharrison.com
Also of considerable interest, because I particularly like the medium, were watercolour studies done both in Spain and locally in West Penwith of Paul Armitage. He has an exhibition coming up at the Trereife Gallery near Newlyn between 20th June and 5th July, this year 2016. The palette of earth tones and greys which he uses have a charming lyrical quality.
After travelling down the high lanes full with the abundance of early summer flowers, a warm welcome awaits in the surreal atmosphere of the Melting Pot cafe in Krowji. Once a Grammar School staffroom it now has something of what I imagine a Zurich kneipe might have developed in the 1920s. The stage seems about to erupt into some avant-garde spectacle.
Even on an overcast day, walking along Lambeth Walk is a pleasure. Just along from the slumbering elegance of the St Ives Arts Club are the reinforced portholes of the Porthminster Gallery. Currently among the many interesting and varied pieces on display here are the intriguing ceramic tiles of the Austrian artist Regina Heinz. http://www.porthminstergallery.co.uk/ The sea has always drenched over Lambeth Walk in Spring Tides, but dull or in the early Spring sunshine, the turnstones are a welcome sight. They seem to have appeared during the time that the seagulls have become more aggressive when swooping indiscriminately down to snatch the lunches or suppers of unwitting and hapless tourists. The turnstones are currently abundant and closely related to sandpipers.
Currently the Tate Gallery in St Ives is closed although, of course, the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden is open. Details are available at http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-st-ives/admission-opening-times. A worthy alternative to the Tate Gallery is the Penwith Gallery where at http://www.penwithgallery.com/about/ it is stated that,”In 1960, the present site, then a pilchard-packing factory, was acquired and converted into a gallery, with artists’ studios above. In 1970 adjacent property became available, and the artist members, assisted by Barbara Hepworth, sought funds to create the present group of galleries, studios and workshops. To take on the task of maintaining its buildings and workshops, to arrange the programme of exhibitions and execute the gallery business the Penwith Galleries Ltd. was created.” Just opposite the Ropewalk where, of course, rope was manufactured, it was here that Troika pottery had it’s workshop and showroom.
The current exhibition runs until April 19th and visitors are likely to find it various with many works to catch the eye. There are the well-known and established favourites like Antony Frost, John Piper and Noel Betowski (whose work from a previous exhibition is shown on the clip above) as well as painters who have recently joined such as Jessica Cooper;mentioned previously on this blog. In addition to the paintings both pottery and sculpture are on display in this well-lit environment.
Two works caught my attention and set off trains of thought. The first was a small work by John Emanuel, who moved to St Ives in 1964 (his work is often to be seen at the charming Belgrave Gallery just off Fore Street-http://www.belgravestives.co.uk/) and is a delightful classical head. Hearing the sound of the sea in the distance might prompt us to these lines of Homer from “The King of Asine” in the Illiad:-
And the poet lingers, looking at the stones, and asks himself does there really exist among these ruined lines, edges, points, hollows, and curves does there really exist here where one meets the path of rain, wind, and ruin does there exist the movement of the face, shape of the tenderness of those who’ve shrunk so strangely in our lives, those who remained the shadow of waves and thoughts with the sea’s boundlessness
This exhibition comprises fierce, expressionistic works- many of single female sitters on couches-apparently his models arrive at twilight and he paints them when he cannot quite see the exact colours clearly on his tubes of oil. As the introduction to the exhibition at King’s Place, London states, “Opening in conjunction with the Baroque Unwrapped music programme, Piano Nobile presents Thomas Newbolt: Drama Painting – A Modern Baroque. Immense paintings by contemporary artist Thomas Newbolt explore the very essence of painting: the paradoxes of light and dark, psyche and body, figure and ground. Such liminal spaces are where Newbolt finds a vital potency: ‘I’m interested in the emotional area the painting opens up, so when I stand back I feel it’s true’. Layering undiluted oil paint in vigorous impasto, the paintings have a physical depth mirroring their expressive complexity.” Indeed it is the case that these paintings in impastos of pure colour have an impressive presence and dignity.
The figures have the sense that they are apprehensively awaiting a tense psychoanalytic session. Their long and elegant dresses have a timeless elegance about them perhaps reminiscent of Christian Schad but painted with an intensity approaching Francis Bacon. The colours are rich and vivid with an accent on vermillion or verdant dark greens against an equally strong background of intense blue or brown. There is an interesting triptych and smaller studies of heads. Dramatic, indeed, so if you are in London to see a play, take the short walk past the Guardian offices in Kings Cross to see these intriguing works.
“Louise was born in 1984 in London she studied at Falmouth school of art in Cornwall graduating in 2007. She was immediately picked up by SAATCHI/channel 4 collaboration ‘Sensations’. She exhibited internationally living in Cornwall, London and Paris for a while. After a residency in Iceland and living with Nuns in a convent in central London she settled in Berlin in 2013 where she currently lives and works.”
The above is a quotation from the artist’s personal statement. Louise has lived in a number of interesting environments. I couldn’t help smiling, when she described how when homeless in London, she wrote around to numerous agencies and the only supportive assistance she received was from the convent. She is currently based In Berlin and has it happens in the long Sonnenallee – a location in East Berlin made famous by Thomas Brussig in his ironic and witty novel, which has now been made into a film and performed as a play at BTZ.
Am kürzeren Ende der Sonnenallee
Currently, Louise Thomas has just completed a three month placement at Porthmeor Studios where her work has focussed largely upon an historical approach to the coastal landscape including ships and shipwrecks. About her work, Louise has written,”I construct magical realist narratives through collages, sculpture and painting. The enviroments or events depicted show contrast between real and magical elements. These elements are visible through my different methods of production and placement of resources. I find inspiration from a wide range of source material, from films I have made of abandoned interior spaces, to specific walking routes, to archive material of paintings hanging in museums. I perform extensive research and careful study of the subject matter, building a pool of scenarios to work from.”
“Through construction of models and collages I develop my ideas for painting. From the initial source material I make collages and if necessary bring in images from holiday brochures or photocopies from unique archives. I will research historic events, sourcing restoration records from museums or libraries. I usually end up with stage sets to play out scenarios. The models can be in clay, paper, plaster and other site specific materials. I work my way through various stages, addressing ideas of scale, colour, atmosphere until I find a valid reason to develop a painting. The historic elements run alongside fictional narrative I have developed; for example flooding the space, rebuilding it, imagining it thousand years from now or highlghting natural phenomenon.”
The dark period after the First World War stimulated many responses in artists of the participating countries.
In Dresden, a realistic reaction was that taken by Otto Dix who had seen action from 1915 -as a member of a Field Artillery Regiment in that city. He also saw action in a machine gun unit and took part in the battle of the Somme. He was then transferred to the Eastern Front and then returned to Flanders. He was a pupil of Conrad Felixmüller and a founder member of the Dresden Succession https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dresdner_Sezession. The disturbing images that he made from his traumatic memories from these fronts influenced the expressive style with which he depicted life in the Weimar Republic.
Another fascinating figure who came to Dresden in 1918 and became the Chairman and founder member of this group was Conrad Felixmuller.
Berlin Art Fair actually lasts, not a week, but just five days. It is an event which stretches across the whole of central Berlin with for instance, more than 40 openings on just one evening. It comprises several separate art fairs; the ABC fair itself contains works from a hundred separate galleries and from 17 different countries. Another complete section is the POSITIONS fair and is a similarly large event spread across several large halls. Little wonder therefore that the brochure introduction by Christiane Meixner says, “Kunst kann schoen anstrengend sein”-art can certainly become stressful and hard on the feet too, as there is such a wide variety of art on display, and such a large quantity to see. There are, after all some 400 galleries in Berlin.
The significant fact that emerges from these crowded halls with a welter of visual display units and ingenious installations is the priority given to current social and political events. Much of the art on display concerned the ecology, relationship issues, gender identity, media simulacra but significantly as the refugees were streaming into Bavaria there were sketchess that addressed to designing buildings of safety for immigrants. As I write this review today, I have just heard too that the Berlinische Gallery will be making entry free to those escaping from strife in Africa and the Middle East.
Perhaps, the artist who has attracted the most attention was Cindy Sherman. Her show displayed more than 60 photographs from every stage of the renowned American artist’s lengthy career. Sherman played both subject and artist by turns, displaying herself as a magazine centrefold, film starlet, or unhappy housewife, uncannily mimicking cultural stereotypes. She also experiments in exciting ways with the tropes of art history within her conceptual portraiture. Famed for the quiet horror of some of her images, these were works throughout her career which have been collected by the octogenarian Berlin collector, Thomas Olbricht. The works shown included the remarkable black and white “untitled film stills”.
U.S. artist Paul McCarthy exhibited at the Schinkel Pavillon, a magical venue designed by the Bauhaus architect, Richard Paulick, once an official city guest house of the GDR. McCarthy worked with his son Damon for the Volksbühne, a program of walk-in installation, film, performance, music and painting, “Rebel Dabble Babble Berlin”(described as a meditation on architypes and oedipal tensions within family dynamics) accompanied by concerts, performances and discussions on Viennese Actionism, it was curated by Theo Altenberg under the motto “existence Palace”. In the Schinkel Pavillon, Paul McCarthy’s work dealt with the human body and its transitions; going to sleep, life and death, presence and illusion.
Many Berlin collectors grant the general public access to their spectacular collections, known as “Sammlungen”, during Berlin Art Week. Once the interest of famous critics and writers like Walter Benjamin and Stefan Zweig, this tradition is continued by wealthy software developers and Parisian architects. They all experience pleasure (Zeigefreude) in showing their magnificent assemblies. Naturally, their interests vary from concept art to retro-charm. The venues are equally spectacular from the brick dominated Backsteinarchitektur of what was once a margarine factory, with magnificent views over the Spree, to the claustrophobic walls of a former East German bunker now covered with works by Ai Weiwei (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/art/artists/inside-ai-weiweis-berlin-bunker/) and Alicja Kwade.( http://www.artberlin.de/kuenstler/alicja-kwade/)
One of the encouraging developments during the Berlin Art Week was the emphasis placed upon independent and non-conformist work. There are many happenings taking place throughout the week and some of these may be referenced on You-tube. When I left Berlin, after a two week stay, I had to pay something like an extra 50 Euros in city-tax. I feel a little better about this now having discovered that one of its uses is to support a diverse network of Free Berlin Project Spaces. Since 2009 there have been something like 200 spaces around the city which retain the oddness and originality of an era when William Reich was being read in communes. Two are worthy of special mention. A park wall in Görlitzer Strasse in Kreuzberg has designed an outside project called “Kleister” or wallpaper paste. A group of photographers have stuck posters of their pictures on a park wall. The result will be marked soon by sun, rain, graffiti and theft! Another exhibition of interest because of its connection between places and images was the work of Stefan Schneider at Kurt-Kurt in the district of Moabit. One of images taken of old wooden boats on the beach at Dungeness has a particular lyrical charm.
The whole art week is a tribute to the importance given to art in the capital city. The Art Week largely runs outside the exhibitions in the main galleries. However, the exhibition at the delightful Berlinische Galerie called “Radikal Modern” shows the incredible redevelopments of buildings and planning in general since 1960. The recovery of this city from the years of Nazi terror, bombing and Cold War division by The Wall is a tribute to the courage and imagination of its inhabitants that have recovered and built a new life from out of the rubble of the past. (http:/berlinischegalerie.de/ausstellungen-berlin/aktuell/radikal-modern/
Just 100 years after the birth of Louise Bourgeois in 1911, her work is due to be re-considered and this display at the Haus Der Kunst in Munich affords an opportunity to evaluate a small but interesting section of it.
Her concerns flourished in a troubled personal and collective past. Here is revealed a land of mirrors, shadows and memory. The exhibition is dominated by large structures, perhaps up to 6m in height as cells, enclosures and gigantic spider like constructions. Their colours are sparse but significant. These units were created by Bourgeois from 1996 after the year 2000. It is impossible not to be aware from their imposing presence of surrealism, of Kafka and of both feminism and psychoanalysis. Having undergone analytical treatment, Louise Bourgeois’ work struggles with the emotions of early childhood; jealousy, fear, security, sexuality, voyeurism and mothering are prominent themes in this exhibition. The supporting frames and nesting shapes are reminiscent of her work inspired by Giacometti as well perhaps of Francis Bacon.
The cells are enclosures which suggest relationships which may sometimes become claustrophobic. The insides are not entirely open to the viewer who may feel something of an intruder into a private and personal world. “Cell VI” for instance, consists of a metal stool placed inside a screen of four doors with a gap for the spectator all painted in a light blue suggests an interrogation or perhaps, self-accusation or possibly both. Seeing a number of such structures standing separately, cells or selves in isolation, portraying pre-occupation with past trauma, is reminiscent of Hesse’s evocative poem, “Der Nebel” and its daunting conclusion, “Jeder ist allein”.
Yet despite the creepy insect structures, the wire netting, the discarded bottles, there is an underlying energy about Bourgeois’s work which involves the courage to confront the past. There is an implication of the possibility for communication. Bourgeois was deeply influenced by Leger who believed that together men could transform social relationships and build a better future. As D.H.Lawrence suggested, “One must learn to love, and go through a good deal of suffering to get to it, and the journey is always towards the other soul.”