Wednesday, 28 April 2010

In Search of the Perfect Figure

Now this was never an intentional or the definitive hunt, however when I raided London earlier this week, I couldn’t help but check out the perfect figures I found on W1’s streets. For women such Jenny Saville and I (perhaps for other reasons;) never seem to be satisfied in their quests to find beauty in their natural forms. Acclaimed artists such as Jenny Saville, Sir Anthony Caro and others, are presently exhibiting in house-galleries off-the-museum-beaten-track around New Bond Street.

In this setting, Saville’s talent in proudly shown off, where it is not over talked, but the beauty of her ability to capture the human form is voiced with perfect clarity and umph. The pleasure is found in unearthing her there in Davies Street, and in discovering a new character and certain confidence in her drawings. Even the art novice, knows and recognises the beefy bulges and significant strokes of flesh in Jenny’s brash, brazen paintings - They are physically established, expressive, but static paintings. Her drawings from the ‘Reproduction’ series are a different matter. They still have evidence of the power of the artist’s hands, and they are still busy with visual activity – but the drawings buzz. They buzz with movement, with translucent layers of process.

These drawings wholly convinced me of her great skill with the contours of the body, that which she describes as “essential…having flesh as a central subject, I can channel a lot of ideas.” Drawings have the power to expose artists and their reliance on trial and error. Saville’s work is intuitive naked talent, so evident in slick composition and faultless animate mark making. Each part of the mother, and the child’s body is undeniably correct as well as beautiful.

For a different reason Ilona Szalay’s painting series ‘Naked’ is beautiful: her broad ranging and incredibly exciting technique. She uses paint to experiment with the human form. The paint bleeds beyond the control of the Saville’s graphic contours. Yet the figures do not dissolve into nothing, they are powerfully present. There is energy almost comparable to Cecily Brown. There are marks made, and then there are marks that have made themselves. This is perhaps most beautiful in the right breast of Nude in Profile (image above), where the mid, light and dark tones have helplessly bled into one very deliberate form.


Nude in Profile by Ilona Szalay

Reproduction I by Jenny Saville

Until May 15, Jenny Saville’s ‘Reproduction Drawings’ is at the Gagosian Gallery

Ilona Szalay’s work stays until 14 May at Whitfield Fine Art Gallery.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Céleste Boursier-Mougenot at The Barbican

If I told you that, on Wednesday I watched a bird play a Gibson les Paul, would you think me sincere? And if you did think me truthful, would you conclude that I was at an art exhibition, or like I did, assume it was a computer stimulated April fools from Bill Oddie.

This is the real life surrealism of contemporary instillation art.

We waited for longer than I’ve ever queued for an exhibition, during the mid-afternoon of a Wednesday during the Easter Holidays. Ambling slowly closer to the metal chain curtain I had no idea what to expect behind it. I’d read about birds ‘creat[ing] a random and captivating soundscape’, but to be honest, in disbelief and over art-education, I almost thought this was solely metaphorical, and certainly not ‘live’. I had seen teens appear from behind the curtain anxiously checking each other for signs of debris, whether it be feathers or excretion (neither which they had acquired.)

It wasn’t like an aviary at all. Despite being populated with zebra finches, which outnumbered the specified twenty-five visitors, this exhibition space felt like an exhibition (…perhaps I’m just getting more used to this experimental stuff). It was like any other exhibition, in that you stood and carefully observed art. You stood and looked, and waited until you thought you’d seen enough. What was different however was that this performance art had strayed from the individual waiting to find meaning to it, instead, the individual waited to be sufficiently entertained. This was experiential art. Yet it seems to be that the artist cared not so severely about how it makes you feel, but how the art sounded.

Once you realised that the poor fist-sized creatures weren’t going to be electrified, and yes they were being fed and watered, there was little shock to the concept. The experience was just surprisingly. Initially even enigmatic. It was a particularly enchanting experience watching these tiny birds form nests around the volume controls of the basses, or even in my bag (-the real need for a cloakroom in an art gallery.) I had become Mother Hen.

So what did I get out of this exhibition? That I’m not exactly sure. I’ve got bored of questioning the qualifications of an artwork. I can’t even seem to be able to analysis this exhibition in the same way I would every other exhibition…It was the most extraordinary exhibition I have ever been to.

A must see – open in the exhibition space: The Curve at the Barbican Centre until 23 May