Facing the Modern at the National Gallery

The Facing the Modern exhibition is on at the National Gallery in London and is the product of Gemma Blackshaw’s mastermind. It is a fabulous exhibition made up of six rooms. As well as paintings, there are artefacts including Beethoven’s death mask! The New Viennese used portraiture to show their status and give them a sense of belonging. The exhibition takes the viewer through the story of the middle class and their rise and fall in regard to political power. It displays their hopes for the future and also their claims to the past. From Klimt to Schiele, there are some genius works to be seen. It is on until the 12th January 2014 and is well worth a visit.

A shrink-wrapped house by Iain Baxter

When the home of 3 East End Levy sisters and a cutting-edge artist with a thing for plastic merge together, created is an eerie work of art and a fascinating domestic time capsule.

This is a piece by the Canadian artist Iain Baxter in which every piece of furniture, fixture and fitting is covered in polyethylene capsules. Its a kitsch domestic space that has become art. It is named ‘Rebecca’s Bagged Place’ – modern art at its best.

Its at Raven Row gallery in London and runs until 15th December.

Ralph Steadman

Ralph Steadman is an aritst and illustrator who’s drawings are bilious, snarling and scary. He is America’s counter-culture Godfather of gonzo-journalism (a style including the reporter as part of the story via fist person narrative.)

He’s part of ‘The Cartoonist’ club in London and his work is wildly exuberant, often a grotesque distortion of peoples features.

Look out for his new book ‘Proud Too be Weirrd,’ although it will set you back a cool £250.  You’ll find a collection of his drawings and reflections from smoking to the role of chances in life.

Axel Vervoordt – Interior Designer

Stumbled across the Belgian interior designer Axel Vervoordt. He has an amazing eye for creating the most beautiful art spaces. His spacial awareness is divine. One of his key elements are his unusual artefacts which make his spaces unique.

Why not look him up on Google or when you’re next at Waterstone’s. One of his books ‘Living with Light’ showcases recent projects where he mixes minimalism with beauty.

Any response..

“Police seize painting of Putin and Medvedev in women’s underwear from a gallery in St Petersburg saying that the satirical display had broken unspecified laws. Russia has a law about insulting authorities, an offence that carries a maximum one year prison sentence.“   – Daily Telegraph August 2013

Art causes many controversies, whether it is in relation to political, social or economical issues. Even in the last few years, the art world has had its fair share of stories.

Damien Hirst’s exhibition in the Tate Modern, named his most successful solo show and the most popular in the Tate’s history, was said by critics to be perfect to accompany the 2012 London Olympics. However, not all agreed with this view many complained about the lack of talent on display. It was branded ‘meaningless’, ‘repetitive’ and ‘a dismal let down.’ The exhibition included some of his most famous pieces: spot paintings, pillbox collections and the diamond encrusted skull. Living animals were also included and caused controversy as flies were left to die in one of his pieces. Although, despite this negative feedback from some, nearly half a million people visited the exhibition, showing it was a great success, even if the outcome for some was an unfavourable response.

Michael Landy’s controversial attitude to art caused turbulence when he systematically destroyed all of his possessions apart from the clothes he was wearing by putting them on a conveyor belt to be crushed to dust in 2001. His work ‘Break Down’ was intended to free himself from his physical restraints. He gave none of his possessions to charity and it seems as if the only thing he achieved was self-destruction. People were appalled that he wasted all of his things when they could have been given away to help others. Also, another factor making Landy a disputed artist is that he claimed to never have visited a gallery and is not a painter or sculptor. Despite this, he has become well known and recognised for his controversial work and therefore has succeeded in being an artist that is talked about.

Half of the excitement of art and exhibiting work is that people have different opinions on it and whilst some may find works offensive or meaningless, others may appreciate it. This makes for great discussion and, I think, if an artist has managed to get a response, of any kind, they have succeeded in creating something special.

The Fitzwilliam Beauty

Whilst visiting the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, I was captivated by a painting by Adriaen Coorte called ‘A bundle of asparagus’ located on the balcony in the room of British Art 16th – 18th centuries.

Having viewed many different artists still life paintings and trying one myself, I have found that a huge amount of skill is involved in making it effective. Getting the light and tones correct is a challenge and Coorte should be commended for the contrast he created between the dark background and the bright white and green asparagus. The black background gave a strong support for the subject matter, this makes the piece stand out. Additionally, the perspective line painted in bright white colours gives the piece another dimension which enables a more 3D appearance. Its bright colour makes the painting eye-catching.

Still life was meant to provide a record for the future. In many of Coorte’s paintings, asparagus plays an important part. Asparagus was a luxury item in the 17th century. As Kurt Anderson said ‘When I paint a still life, I want it to be anything but still. I want it to shimmer with light. I want it to rustle with movement.’ Adriaen Coorte did just this. I would really recommend visiting the Fitzwilliam Museum, its beautiful paintings and sculptures are an inspiration.

Grotesque beauty?

A few weeks ago, whilst visiting the Saatchi Gallery at Sloane Square, I came across a very interesting piece that instantly caught my attention. It was a 3D piece by Jodie Carey named ‘The Daily Mail – Arrangement Three.’ It is an arrangement of flowers which are made from newspaper.

The great skill and craftsmanship was what initially attracted my attention as it is a vast display and the ‘flowers’ are densely packed. However, on reading its placard, I discovered that the leaves and flowers were stained with tea, coffee and blood. I was even more alarmed when I found that it was the artists own blood that had been used. This made the piece shockingly compelling and I could not help but admire its grotesque beauty.

When artists say they ‘put all of themselves’ into their piece, Jodie Carey can say this more literally. I find this interesting because she has thrown away conventionalities and has created a piece that is outrageous and yet simple. Personally I would not buy this piece, but it is very thought provoking.

The Saatchi Gallery has wonderful displays and every piece has been chosen carefully to make the exhibitions interesting and eye-catching. It is well worth a visit.