August 17, 2016 § Leave a comment
The work inside Edel Adnan’s Serpentine show is bright and colourful. It doesn’t scream for joy, but it certainly does not appear to be at all woeful. It comes as a surprise then, that it has been titled ‘The Weight of the World’, a term that comes with a lot of negative connotations.
Adnan is more famous for her political writing than her artwork, which may explain the title to her first UK solo show. Adnan was born in 1920s Beirut and has spent her life between, France, Lebanon and the USA. Her writing is apparent in the show, with many stretches of folded card displayed in glass cases. Scrawled upon this paper is writing in both arabic and english, which has then been painted over with striped washes of colour. Although I cannot read Arabic, I can read English, and the political nature of the work is clear in writings about the Ottoman treatment of the Armenians and Greeks at the beginning of the twentieth-century, one can only imagine what Adnan has written about in Arabic.
However, you would be wrong to think that this show is anything but heavy. In fact, Adnan has even explained that her paintings reflect an ‘immense love for the world.’ Perhaps the artist’s political writings have been a plea to others to respect the earth that she loves. Previously she has written about the Vietnam War, yet the images appear free of any pain or suffering. Her palette is soft and airy. Interestingly, not one work is figurative, yet there are dozens upon dozens of landscapes and seascapes, visions into an idyllic world. Beside her concertina’d cards of words, are the same folded origami pieces with endless green hills.
Also on display is tapestry and drawing – still just as calm as the paintings. Adnan’s work does not provoke, it does not shout, it is completely undisturbed, exactly what you need when you can feel the weight of the world on your shoulders.
Edel Adnan: The Weight of the World is on display at Serpentine Sackler until 11 September
August 7, 2016 § Leave a comment
I recently made a late night trip to Tate Modern. My list of things to see was probably half a mile long. The whole museum has been completely re-hung and one probably needs a week to explore it all fully. The display, which impressed me most however, is the current retrospective of late Indian artist Bhupen Khakhar.
The show is aptly titled ‘You Can’t Please all’, and this exhibition has received mixed reviews, however I thought it was fantastic. I hate the to use the word ‘exotic’ to describe non-EuroAmerican art, but that is the only way I can truly describe the vibrant, lux colours spread luminously across the artist’s canvases. Khakhar is a master colourist, using the most striking shades of blues and greens that I think I have ever seen in paint. Born in 1934 in Bombay, the artist started off as an accountant, painting on the side and didn’t give up accountancy until well into his 50’s.
Khakhar’s work is predominantly figurative and narrative. The artist tells stories with his work, exploring class, politics and sexuality. We are shown weddings, domestic scenes and nature. Included in some of the wall-text are clippings of the artist’s writings, which are extremely witty and add to the viewing experience of his paintings.
Khakhar’s homosexuality is prevalent throughout his oeuvre, with some quite explicit scenes of same-sex encounters on display throughout the last galleries. Of these, the most memorable is an image of two winged angel like men in an amorous encounter, caressing each other against a hot pink backdrop.
The show is extremely emotional and at times heart-wrenchingly sad. The final galleries give an honest look at Khakhar’s battle with cancer. In this room the previously bright colours begin to fade and the backdrops turn black and brown. Khakhar’s figures are shown with sunken eyes, holding guns with deteriorating internal organs. These images are shocking, powerful and incredibly brave.
This show will give you something you won’t expect, something you haven’t seen before. It may not be to your taste, however, it is an intriguing look into the work of an artist not often written about in the UK, and, even if you aren’t moved by it, as Khakhar rightly says you can’t please all.
Bhupen Khakhar: You Can’t Please All is on display at Tate Modern until 6 November
July 31, 2016 § 1 Comment
Two days ago I graduated with an MA in Contemporary Art and Art Theory of Asia and Africa. While most people were spending most of their special day posing with their family and friends for photographs, I dragged mine into the Brunei Gallery, which I was lucky to have on campus. On display during the ceremonies is a stunning retrospective of Chinese artist Hong Ling, which just happened to be co-curated by one of my tutors, Shane McCausland.
The exhibition, which is spread across two floors, begins with the artist’s earlier work from the 1980s. Here we can see figurative paintings from Hong’s time as an art student in Beijing. While these images are lovely, it is the painting in the centre of the room, which is not from this period that really stands out. This image is a splattering of bright pink, which is intriguing enough to hold the viewer’s attention and lead them downstairs to where the star images of the show hang proudly against the walls.
The lower gallery displays Hong’s work painted from the 1990s onwards. During this time the artist began to travel and settle on Mount Huanghsan in the UNESCO World Heritage Site province of Anhui. These paintings are constructed on a large scale. Landscapes literally take up the whole wall in bright shades of orange, green, pink and blue. The bright shades are especially striking, as they are not what one would normally associate with Chinese artwork. Hong’s paintings seem very busy and extremely rich in texture. Layers upon layer of paint have been applied to the canvases, resulting in a visual display of wilderness and untouched nature.
Yet the artist still pays homage to Chinese tradition. There are a series of paintings that have been hung in a way similar to hanging scrolls, in a series of rainbow colours. The atmosphere given off by the paintings of the gallery also emits a real appreciation and respect for the natural world on display in the paintings. Also included in the show are photographs and sketchbooks, providing the viewer with a deeper understanding of the artist’s preparatory process.
The exhibition is on display long past the graduation ceremonies and I thoroughly encourage everyone to go and see it.
Hong Ling: A Retrospective is on display at Brunei Gallery, SOAS until 24 September
July 25, 2016 § 1 Comment
I have just returned from a trip to my mother’s beautiful homeland: Beirut. Of course, no trip would be complete without a visit to a museum or gallery and Lebanon certainly impressed with its stunning Sursock Museum.
The Nicolas Ibrahim Sursock Museum is a glittering white palace. When the sun is up its spectacular façade boasts the best combination of Venetian and Ottoman architecture, while at night its multi-coloured stained glass windows sparkle like magic. The inside of the museum is just as spectacular as its exterior. One can see the best of modern and contemporary Lebanese and Middle Eastern art across the galleries walls from the likes of Paul Guiragossian, Etel Adnan and Saloua Raouda Choucair among many others. Most of the artwork is bright and colourful – dispelling any preconceptions you may have about the Middle East.
The museum is famed for its Salon d’Automne, an open call exhibition much like the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition, which first took place at the Sursock Museum in 1961. For me, the most impressive part of the museum was the Salon Arabe. This room, which is a full of marble columns and keyhole arches sits next to Nicolas Sursock’s office, giving a taste of history in a building that celebrates the new and innovative.
The Sursock Museum is simply gorgeous and a certain must-see for anyone visiting Beirut
July 17, 2016 § 1 Comment
I stumbled upon a photograph of Christine Ay Tjoe’s exhibition at White Cube on instagram by accident and knew instantly that I had to visit. The colours in her work and the way they fall across the canvas look strikingly similar to Cy Twombly’s work, but there is a kind different energy splattered across the images that isn’t so gentle.
The works in the show are all abstract manifestations of pinks and blues on white and cream backgrounds. There are 12 large canvases spread sparsely across a large gallery, giving the viewer the space to take in the paintings from a variety of distances and angles.
Ay Tjoe is an Indonesian artist; with this being her first solo show in the UK. In an interview she has stated that her artwork represents her view of human interest from different angles – a display of what people would do if they were invisible. At some points it seems as though fish are bleeding out of the paintings. I am almost certain that I saw a blow-fish, perhaps this represents an attempt to escape, or maybe it relates to the waters surrounding Indonesia.
At first glance, the paintings are attractive bursts of oil paint across clean canvases, but the viewer only has to find out the titles of the images to realise that they have more layers beyond the surface. One work has been given the title ‘Demonic Possession’, which transforms pleasant pinks into bloody reds, scratches and bruises. Another notable work is ‘Concealer Player’, a diptych which moves from cool, watery ocean blues on the left side to concentrated pinks and greens on the other.
This exhibition is a fascinating display of colour and emotion. There is also a striking exhibition of Raqib Shaw’s work running concurrently at White Cube that I encourage everyone to see.
Christine Ay Tjoe: Inside the White Cube is on display at White Cube Bermondsey until 11 September
June 1, 2016 § Leave a comment
Where London has Hyde Park and the Serpentine Gallery, Moscow has Gorky Park and Garage Museum. Both respective art galleries host contemporary art inside their individual city’s greatest park. The Serpentine Gallery is one of London’s gems and I absolutely fell in love with Garage on my most recent trip to Moscow.
Garage was founded in 2008 by Dasha Zhukova and was the first philanthropic institution in Russia to comprehensively present contemporary art to its local Muscovites. Situated in the heart of Moscow, the site plays host to many temporary exhibitions as well as a lovely cafe and a very good bookshop.
On my visit I was lucky enough to catch the end of an exhibition of Taryn Simon’s work. The images on display consisted of beautiful flower arrangements that displayed idealised bouquets of flowers that couldn’t be made in reality because of political issues in the cities that each individual work took it’s title from. The works were bright, striking and beautiful, the kind of contemporary art that you wouldn’t mind having on your wall, in fact, I was quite disappointed there were no postcards of these in the bookshop as I loved them so much.
Also on display is the artwork of Viktor Pivovarov in an exhibition entitled ‘The Snail’s Trail.’ This show was colourful, fun and confusing. The colourful illustrations take the viewer into all kind of imaginary worlds, asking them questions about maths, philosophy and nature. This exhibition is particularly fun if you have a little grasp of Russian, words that you wouldn’t expect to appear together are presented side by side in images where they ought not to belong.
Downstairs in the museum’s atrium is Rashid Johnson’s immersive installation ‘Within Our Gates.’ The American artist has built what looks like a greenhouse inside the gallery. Inside a metal frame are dozens of exotic plants as well as random books and films playing on television screens. There are also deck chairs for the viewer to sit on and ornate oriental carpets on the floor. It is an eclectic and beguiling display that is more visually appealing than one might expect.
Next time any of my readers are in Moscow, they simply have to visit Garage.