Sunday, 25 January 2015

January 2015- Recent exhibitions visited

Since starting back to life with work and so on, this year has started pretty well with regard to visits. I have been to London, and have seen some interesting stuff, such as the exhibition, Germany: memories of a nation at the British Museum, which was worth visiting. It provided a good little introduction to German history and there were some fantastic artefacts on show, such as a four great wooden carvings by Tilman Riemenshneider and work by Kaethe Kollwitz. Just too many people in the show, people tend to crowd around certain exhibits (especially if they are carrying the audio guide) and so you can't see or read the key information, even get near certain artefacts.

From a textile and art perspective I also went for a very quick walk-around the 1st floor of the National Portrait Gallery to find the Grayson Perry things he had worked on during his Ch 4 TV programme, Who am I? which I watched last year. There were a tapestry, a silk print, a bronze and ceramics discussing the identities of individuals alone or in groups following the themes of the three parts of his programmes. I quite like Grayson Perry, I enjoyed his Reith Lectures very much and find his work quirky and fun with some darker undertones, however I also think that he doesn't say anything new much in his work. If you follow the news and watch challenging documentaries, read The Guardian newspaper and are generally interested in ideas about cultural creations of subjectivity then this work really reiterated many of the ambivalences that such 'discourse'  encompasses (an academic term for many ways/media and voices discussing a theme or set of theme - my quick explanation, some may disagree). Not everyone will necessarily have thought about this in these terms and so there is still value in his work. Anyway, the broken and mended (in gold) pot based on the politician was quite harmless I thought. His demeanour had lacked redemption in the interviews Perry had had with him and I felt that his carelessness and non-guilt position were maybe not captured as fully as they could have been - a pattern on phalluses and the reference to the white middle aged and middle class male seemed a bit obvious. On the other hand I liked the strength of the viciousness of the dark angel of forgetfulness  on the pot describing the force of dementia. Putting the work among the great and the good is a useful way to challenge the convention of portraiture.

The other thing I went to visit was the Fleming collection where a tapestry is on show until mid-February, Fleece to Fibre: The Making of the Large Tree Group Tapestry. I had never been to the Fleming Collection before and it is a very nice small place for exhibiting Scottish art. It had combined the textile display on the upper floor with an exhibition of landscapes by Scottish artists on the lower floors. This worked well, and I was pleased to see an emphasis on making in the tapestry exhibit covering the whole room on the first floor. This display was divided up with photographs of the artist's studio, sheep breeds that contributed their wool to the work, cabinets with correspondence about and examples of wool used. The cartoon was opened out on the floor with a few small samples showing how the weavers tested the colour blending in certain areas of the work. There was a video discussing the making further and the inspiration the artist, Victoria Crowe, had gained from an elderly shepherdess who was depicted in the tapestry walking to her sheep in the snow. I was very happy to have found this small gallery, I discovered new artists I had not heard of before and enjoyed the woolly display, so had a very good afternoon that day.

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