Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Alice Neel: My Animals and Other Family

You don't see much of Alice Neel's work in the large public galleries so it was nice to come across this show in Mayfair. The last show of her work I caught was the retrospective at the Whitechapel in 2010. This is a small show of drawings and paintings capturing the portraits for which she is renowned, but with the inclusion of animals. I really liked the looseness of style of the unfinished portrait (Hartley With a Cat), above from 1969, with the contrast of the stark white background and cool blue stripes of the sitters t-shirt contrasted with the warmth of his pinkish skin tones, and the warmth of the matching cat's stripes.

I thought the harsh overhead lighting effects that Neel captured in this portrait of Eddie Zuckermandel (1948), was just spot on and gives a real intensity to both the sitters and the cats eyes.

This portrait - Lushka, 1974, was another favourite. I liked the way she has captured the background foliage as it reminded of Gauguin's work done in Tahiti. The colours are really rich and lush, and the brushwork is loose and lightly applied to describe the dogs fur.

Alice Neel: My Family and other Animals
Victoria Miro Mayfair
14 George Street
until 19th December

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Self: Bacon Hirst Koons Picasso at Ordovas

This a very small but well formed show consisting of just five pieces of art, and is quite timely with this current craze for selfies. It is always fascinating to see how artist choose to depict themselves and the media in which they choose to express this. On display is the notorious Damien Hirst photograph posing with a severed head in an anatomy museum. it could be interpreted as him literally looking death in the face and laughing. Hirst explains that he was absolutely terrified at the time and this was his way of coming to terms with his own mortality. Death, and medication to prolong life have been themes which were to become a constant in his work ever since. It's a very powerful image.

Self Portrait R., 2008, a series of x-rays above continues Hirst's medical theme.

I really liked the Jeff Koons self-portrait marble bust sitting on those jagged crystalline structures which reminded me of Victorian marble sculptures. There was something very narcissistic, but also meditative about it. It is perfectly and beautifully carved and I liked the way elements of the marble glistened as they caught the light.

The two stand outs in the exhibition though, are the Damien Hirst owned portrait of Francis Bacon and a stunning Picasso preliminary sketch for his 1901 self-portrait Yo-Picasso. It is funny that Bacon loathed his own face and wasn't what most would identify with as being "attractive" in a traditional sense. He still manages to make something that I regard as unique though with his painted self-portraits. The colours and textures/mark-making combine to create a portrait that is beautiful on canvas at least.

It is the first time that the Picasso drawing has ever been exhibited and it is rather wonderful. I was entranced by the painting Yo-Picasso at the Courtauld's Becoming Picasso 1901 show from last year which I wrote about here, and I was similarly entranced by this drawing. It is beautifully sketched with a series of flowing lines about the arms and body, and I like the way he has actually left the face really sparse in comparison with just a few marks to describe the eyes and facial features. I am really fired up to go and see the Rembrandt Late Works show at the National Gallery now to see his self-portraits in comparison to these.

Self: Bacon Hirst Koons Picasso
25 Saville Row
London W1
until 13th December

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Kerry James Marshall: Look See

Kerry James Marshall is an African-American artist whose work I particularly like. I was fortunate enough during the summer to be in Madrid where a retrospective of his work - Kerry James Marshall: Painting and Other Stuff, took place in both the Reina Sofia and Palacio de Velazquez, an outpost of the museum in the Retiro park. That show also featured other aspects of his output such as his cartoon style drawings, prints and video works.
I visited the show on a couple of occasions, (it finishes on 26th October if any of you are able to catch it in Madrid), and really like his take on the African American experience and his depiction of black people where he exaggerates the blackness of the skin, by using only shades of blacks and greys for the skin tones of the figures in his paintings and prints.
This is done purposely in an effort to redress the balance in the way black people have been depicted in art history.

This show at David  Zwirner focuses on his paintings and is a strong one with some real gems in it. There is also a large unfinished painting (below), which gives us a glimpse into his working methods showing how he layers  the paint in blocks to build up the finished image.

The show Look See is about the act of actually observing placed on both the artist and viewer. "Looking" is generally understood to be a removed, detached action, "seeing" involves perception and making connections between elements". In the paintings the figures are either doing things that make them aware that they are being looked at, or are engaged with looking at something within the picture frame, or straight out of the frame at the viewer. I like the image below where Marshall draws us into the drama of an intimate situation involving a young couple, where the young man is about to propose to his girlfriend and holds the ring behind her back, making us complicit in his plan, whilst the young lady remains unaware of the surprise about to be sprung on her.

I really enjoyed this show and it was good to experience the uplifting, intense colours of Marshalls' palette in London's autumnal drizzle.
Kerry James Marshall: Look See
David Zwerner
24 Grafton Street
London, W1
until 22 November

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Alex Chinneck: Take My Lightning

Managed to catch this monumental work by artist Alex Chinneck who specialises in artistic architectural interventions, whilst on my travels. It is entitled Take My Lightning But Don't Steal My Thunder, and takes up a good portion of the piazza in Covent Garden. It another of his pieces that features illusion. This time he has created the illusion that one of the areas historical buildings has broken free of its foundations and is levitating in the air. It is pretty convincing from a distance. There were so many tourists and others milling around and looking on that it made it difficult to get a closer inspection. It is on display until October 24th.

Below is another piece that he created earlier this year called Under The Weather But Over The Moon, by Blackfriars bridge which I cycled past on occasions, in which he creates the illusion of having turned a building upside down.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Dragonfly Tattoos

I wanted to do a follow up post to the recent Butterfly Tattoo post I did in June, and inspired by the recent Time: Tattoo Art Today, exhibition at Somerset House, and a dragonfly piece that I have just finished, here are some more tattoos, this time dragonfly inspired. There are some really nice examples here, and some not quite as successful in my humble opinion. If you're going to make as bold a statement as a tattoo I think it really pays to get the best tattoo artist that you can. The piece above really works in terms of placement, scale and simplicity. The clean lines and monochromatic work of Chaim Machlev, (first two images below), is a real winner also. Great attention to detail and beautifully inked.




Orso Major has a show - Cabinet of Curiosities, opening next week which will feature one of my Dragonfly pieces. I have been made aware that one 'artist' not content with emulating my Butterfly Balls, has now also started making Dragonfly pieces only a year after I debuted mine. Coincidence? Accept no substitutes or pale imitations people!


Monday, 6 October 2014

Burberry's Bloomsbury Collection

The world of fashion and its designers have long looked to the art world for inspiration. This Autumn/Winter 2014 collection by Burberry sees them looking to the Bloomsbury Group - a collection of artists, writers and philosophers which included Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, who were active in the early part of the 20th century.

 A Duncan Grant textile design
A Duncan Grant textile design

A Vanessa Bell textile design

Part of the Bloomsbury Group philosophy was to break down the distinctions between 'fine' and decorative arts, so it is interesting to see how their distinctive style of art with its painterly brushstrokes has been adapted and used on this new collection of clothing for luxury brand Burberry. As you can see from the examples above, as well as being painters, Grant and Bell were used to designing for other media. The large brushstrokes and patterns on this seasons Burberry clothing done in a Bloomsbury style are particularly striking and makes the collection stand out from others this season.

The accessories are pretty fantastic too.


 I like the craftsmanship and technique of this leather bag with blue velvet flocked onto it