Saturday 6 December 2014

Artworks as triggers of memory

A day off work  to finally get to see the Anselm Kiefer exhibition at the Royal Academy ( fitting in a few more exhibitions at National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery for good measure). Amazing, monumental and thought provoking. After starting with a display of books, the 'Attic' paintings are powerful  and I love how the wood grain effects are continued throughout his work - the woodblock prints used in the  'forest' of the last room (below) were fantastic. 
The materials he uses are diverse : straw, mud, sunflowers and seeds   and they have meaning for him. The way he uses lead is fascinating - I particularly liked the books 'under the linden '  and large pieces studded with diamonds were just magical in how they caught the light.
The pieces that I spent most time with were in room 5: ' sands from the urns' (below) based on the clay brick ziggurats of Mesopotamia. Hand -pressed mud was used for  clay tablets and bricks and he is quoted as perceiving " a secret connection between writing and building"  wondering whether bricks , like tablet, could hold memories of people , of events, of time.
I was reminded of our visit to Syria  almost exactly ten years ago,   visiting Ugarit , Dura Europas and Mari , in awe of being somewhere where the ancient past is tangible  and hugely saddened by  what's happening there now .  

Ziggurats of Pastries in Hama
After  treating myself to a delicious lunch at Savoir Faire, I headed off to  the National Gallery  to see the 2  very different seascape inspired displays.   I've long admired the dramatic  paintings of  Maggi Hambling  but I was rather disappointed with these 'Walls of Water' .  Lots of lively marks and use of paint but   for me  all pattern and lacking in content and composition.  Her  monotypes on this theme  like they might be more interesting
Whereas the paintings by Peder Balke  were far more inspiring especially the smaller sketches. I liked how often the waves were suggested quite simply  - it looked like he might have used a painting knife in a similar way as  demonstrated by Susan Gray on my Slapton painting courses.  

On my way home I popped into the National Portrait Gallery  next door to see the Grayson Perry exhibit ' Who are you' .
You could hardly get near his  'self portrait'  City of Days  for people staring intently and giggling. Complex, funny and profound,  like the Reith lectures and  'Tomb of the The Unknown Artist'.
The 'comfort blanket' a tapestry  in the shape of a bank note   was witty but the most powerful pieces were the ceramics  displayed among the Gallery's collections

I spent a lot of time in front of the  beautiful  yet disturbing 'Memory jar', representing memories torn into shards through Alzheimers.

1 comment:

The Idaho Beauty said...

Oh how I wish I could see some of Anselm Kiefer's work in person. A few years ago, I pored through a comprehensive coffee table sized book on his life and art. Just fascinating, and I'm sure much more impressionable in the flesh.