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Gallery Visits - Serpentine / Sackler / Barbican Centre

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As part of my contextual research, I commuted to a number of galleries in London to view the exhibits on display and find artists that relate to my work and that I develop a liking for. These galleries included the Serpentine and Sackler galleries in South Kensington and the Barbican in North London.

SERPENTINE GALLERY - Bite Your Tongue
Examples of the current exhibition at Serpentine

One of two galleries situated in the midst of Hyde Park, the Serpentine Gallery is currently holding an exhibit titled Bite Your Tongue consisting of the work of the late war artist Leon Golub. The artist was fuelled by his conviction that art should hold a contemporary relevance rooted in the collective experiences of humankind. 

As a postwar, figurative painter, Golub repeatedly returned to themes of oppression and violence to voice his strong opposition to inequality and misuse of power. Below are a select few of his paintings that appealed to me:
Clockwise: Vietnamn I, Postwar, Biology, Vieteman IV, Man, I've Got to Get Myself Together!

The majority of these pieces symbolise the brutality of the Vietnam War from the last century, which to me shows Golub's ambition to get his views heard in the most shocking yet honest way. My favourite piece - and one which I believe relates to my project proposal of exploring what's inside a person to determinate the meaning of their exterior, and a skeleton is a literal interpretation of what is inside a person. Golub's take is more comical than I intend my incarnation of work to be, but also amusing to the fact that an artist should have multiple personality traits.
A select few of the art pieces on display at the Sackler Gallery

SACKLER GALLERY - Boomerang 
The other Hyde Park gallery - the Sackler Gallery - was holding an exhibition called Boomerang by Cameroonian artist Pascale Marthine Tayou. The artist's work is characterised by his belief in the social responsibility of the artist to voice current political, ecological and economical concerns. The paradoxes and contradictions of modern life observed by Tayou are expressed via assemblages of contrasting objects and materials, a few of which I have listed as my favourites of the gallery:
Left to right: Leaves, Our Traditions Coton Tige, Seeing Double

I particualy like the layout of the gallery as it gives off the sense of a mirroring theme. When you travel around one way to view the exhibits - following the paper bag trail exhibit attached to the ceiling - you find them again at the other side but from another direction. Our Traditions comprises of hanging alter objects that represent the origins of African society as a reminder to where we as humans come from and for Tayou to show is own origins.

My favourite piece from the gallery is Coton Tige; a cloud-like object with wooden thorns sticking out of it suspended in the middle of a room. The piece is supposed to be callback to Europe's colonial history of cotton production and the slave labour demanded by it, again a reference to Tayou's familial background.

BARBICAN CENTRE - Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector
The last exhibition I visited was headlined Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector - held in the Barbican Centre in City of London - and rather than exhibit work by artists, it showed household items collected by artists. No photography was permitted inside the gallery so I instead took notes and drew sketches of the works on display.
My notes and drawings from the gallery. I will write them up properly later this week

The fascinating personal collections of post-war and contemporary artists ranges from mass-produced memorabilia and popular collectibles to one-of-a-kind curiosities, rare artefacts and specimens. These collections are supposed to provide insight into the inspirations, influences, motives and obsessions of the artists; Damien Hurst, Pae White, Arnam and Hiroshi Sugimoto among them.

I found the concept of the gallery interesting as it was different take on that to expect from a typical exhibition and makes aware of how important contextualisation is to artists, whether they are young designers or famous artists. 
Publicity photos of Sokimoto's and Pae's collections

The set-ups that appealed to me most included Hiroshi Sokimoto's collection of paintings, which contrasted heavily to the work he produces, and Pae White, whose simple garments of work (i.e. hanging out pieces of patterned cloth together and wire structures) make you see the simplest things of everyday life in a more particular and mesmerising way.
The slow-moving kayak

Afterwards, I visited The Curve exhibition space at the Barbican, which was showcasing Slow Movement; a project by Swiss artist and sculptor Roman Signer. The exhibit featured a kayak boat, described as a longstanding symbol and form in Signer's work for three decades. The kayak is towed through the 90-metre long gallery by a rope suspended from the ceiling, navigating the Curve as if moving through a canal, with two other kayaks installed across the centre in unexpected ways, reflecting Signer’s playful and surreal approach to his subject.


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I found the experience pointless and empty in terms of atmosphere and visual, but I see this as a learning curve that maybe after all the work an artist produces, something that is easy and simple to produce is what climaxes a project perfectly, and that I shouldn't take on the idea that my final piece should be significantly complex.

At a later date, I documented the research I collected from gallery visits from the day previous into my sketchbook, the results of which can be seen below:
The documented the works displayed at the Serpentine and Sackler galleries above and talked about the artists intentions in their work to what they wanted people to see about a particular territory (i.e. the Vietnam War and the traditions of Africa). In the pages below, I wrote up and redrew my sketches and notes taken from the Magnificent Obsessions exhibition at the Barbican and experimented with a range of art materials to reproduce my sketches.
This also includes new sketches and notes I made concerning the works of Damien Hurst, Pae White, Arnam and Roman Signer, among others and how they can help influence my forthcoming experiments and developments. 

In closing, I am confident with the research I have gathered and learned from the galleries and I hope to implement this new knowledge into forthcoming pieces of work, however I believe I still need to collect further research outside of contextualisation for my developments and see where I can move on from there for my final piece.

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