The Culture team wanted to demonstrate just how hip they are, by talking about some of their favourite art exhibitions…
We’re an adventurous bunch here at the CD, so going to trendy galleries isn’t that much of a stretch for us.
A while back, we headed down to the Natural Portrait Gallery (to help a very determined History of Art student stare at some Tudor Portraits), and whilst we were there discovered some amazing contemporary exhibitions by some class act Artists.
For time’s sake, we’ve narrowed them down to three distinct exhibitions.
Exhibition #1- Glasses, Luc Tuymans, The National Portrait Gallery
Picture this: an almost bare white room with five small canvases hanging on the four corners of each wall. The room was eerily quiet (granted, there was only three of us in this room), but if anything, the silence made the pictures that much more alluring.
Tuymans pieces are provocative and interesting and we could try to come up with a snazzy summation of his work, but we’d much rather go the National Portrait Gallery’s summary: ‘In this display of his work, the Belgian artist Luc Tuymans has been invited to select portraits on the theme of sitters wearing glasses. Drawing on found images and photographs, Tuymans’ quiet, restrained, and often unsettling work examines history and its representations. It is a constant investigation into how we perceive people and things. The subjects depicted there range from identifiable notorious figures from the recent past to anonymous individuals…‘
If anything, the exhibition really honed in on that freestanding fable ‘don’t judge a book by its cover,’ you often do not what you might find. It was weird, finding resonance with the expressions of the glass wearer in the painting only to read the card and discover that some of these wearers were mass murderers and potential paedophiles. Some were just frail old men, but still it posed an interesting question: how quick are you to make assumptions based on first encounters?
Think you’re a good judge of character? Go visit the exhibition and see how good a judge you are!
Exhibition #2- Fall, Antony Gormley, The National Portrait Gallery
Again, we would like to woo you with our profound artist knowledge, but the greatest introduction to these exhibtions, comes from The National Portrait’s Gallery own mouth:
“The display focuses on work by the internationally acclaimed artist Antony Gormley, and occupies two areas of the Galley. Fall, a selection of drawings made in 1999, is shown here. This installation is accompanied by Object 1999, an iron cast made from Gormley’s body suspended from the ceiling of the Main Hall.
For more than forty years, the central preoccupation of Gormley’s art has been to explore the experience of occupying a human body, and to probe its mysterious relationship with the world. His wide-ranging oeuvre comprises sculpture and drawing, installations in architectural and outdoor settings, major public works such as the celebrated Angel of the North, and commissions that invite participation, notably One and Other, held in Trafalgar Square in 2009.
Throughout his work, a human form is situated in space, creating a charged point of contact between the contained, private world of the body and the surrounding areas that his figures inhabit. In Object, a human form is positioned above the ground, defying gravity, In contrast, Fall comprises of a figure plummeting. Both works explore the question of our place in an unfathomable universe.
Lent, courtesy the artist and White Cube Gallery”
It’s quite difficult to rival the eloquence of The National Portrait Gallery, so we think we’ll just go with a layman interpretation.
The Object can undoubtedly resonate with us all (not that we’ve all had an experience with an iron-clad imprint of our bodies being suspended mid-air in a national gallery), but because we’ve all experience a time when we’ve felt lost: suspended in our own minds, trying to figure out what exactly we’re doing in our lives!
Feelings of destitution and isolation can affect us all at times, and I think to have a physical representation of an internalised and of inarticulate thought is a rather powerful message. It was a poignant reminder of our inevitable humanity, and it was the first installation I saw as I entered the gallery, and was a chilling yet haunting reminder of a feeling we tend to suppress.
The Fall installation was a particular interesting set of illustration due to the overtures in religious relevance it boasts, but more importantly depicted, at least in my mind the evolutionary and discombobulation that comes with human existence.
For me, each position in the illustration reflected a different life stage and intellectual development in human existence. From our absolutism and simplistic understanding of the nature of the world and misguided rationale when we’re young. To the whirlwind and challenging truths we face in our teenage years. Each illustration spoke to me about the different emotive sentiment I’ve undoubtedly experienced in my life thus far and as someone with little to no artistic setting, it proved to be an incredibly poignant reminder.
I don’t think I can share in the relative doomism that comes with the title Fall. I didn’t associate the evolving understanding and enlightment each illustrated spoke to me about as negative, if anything, it was great to see my thoughts actualised in pictorial form.
If the Fall collection suggested anything, it’s that its okay to be dethroned form our pedestal of superior human understanding. It’s wonderful that our oft-misguided absolutism is undermined and changed the older we get and the more we learn about the world. Perhaps, that is the greatest demonstration of what it truly means to be human.
In short, before I bore you with more of my pretentious rusings, I highly recommend that you attend the Gormley exhibitions. They’re great and perhaps you’ll become more self-aware looking at the illustrations too!
Exhibition #3- The Art of Resilience, The US Embassy in London
Yes, we did say that we would be talking about exhibitions at the National Portrait Gallery, but The Amnesty’s Editor In Chief Augusta (aka the big cheese), was invited to attend the grand opening of a very special exhibition at The US Embassy in London. She had this to say:
“One of the greatest things about my time as a Young Leader for the US Embassy, are the many opportunities I’ve had to learn about US Foreign and diplomatic policy, but also the amazing invitations I’ve received to attend enlightening events like The Art of Resilience Exhibition.
The Exhibition was inspired by five contemporary Syrian artists, who contributed to the 25 pieces on exhibition at the Embassy. For the entire month of January, citizens were invited to review the pieces at the embassy and learn about the ongoing Syrian crisis from Syrian natives.
I must be honest, I am no art connoisseur, but looking at paintings which revealed a lot about the destitution and misery the Syrian people suffered was incredibly provocative and emotive. If I learnt anything from the exhibition, it was amazing way that Art and Politics can intersect and resonate with a lot of people.
Some amazing people were in attendance, and Ambassador Barzun gave a brief, but heart warming introduction to the exhibition before his time as Ambassador came to an end. It was a great event, and I’d happily attend more.”
We would have love to have featured some of Augusta’s pictures from the event, but unfortunately she wasn’t allowed her phone in the Embassy. We did, however, find some of the pictures from the Embassy’s official Flickr page, and Augusta shared her thoughts on some of her favourite pieces:
“What I’m sure quite a few people didn’t realise, is that the exhibition was organised in conjunction with Mosaic Institute. They work to provide education to the more than 6 million Syrian children displaced within the country. I got to a chance to ask one of them what their motivation for organising this Institute was, and they simply replied “the hope, that despite all the instability within that region, children can still learn”. I thought that was an incredibly beautiful hope, and I greatly admired his honesty.”
(If you look beyond the ear of the fella on the right, you can see our Editor talking away)
“Only one of the Artists could make it to the Grand opening (because most of them were busy being incredible Lecturers, Artists and Post Graduate students), but Tarek Tuma was there. I watched on as he spoke to make curious attendees, he was incredibly receptive and understanding that people had A LOT of questions… it’s funny how people assume that because you’re from a war-torn nation, that you somehow double up as a foreign policy expert!”
“By far my favourite piece the copper and soft browns of the palate and the mechanical and clockwork feature on the wider piece reminded me just how fickle time was. The photograph doesn’t it do it much justice. It was stretched on an overwhelming large canvas, and staring up at the painting really made realise just how humbling and human you were. It was great, and I could stare at it for hours”
If the exhibitions featured in this piece tell you anything, it should reinforce just how powerful art can be as a medium for change. Tackling these incredible and grand existential issues, through creative forms can achieve just as much resonance with pieces, as pretentious and obtuse statements and interviews.
Perhaps it’s time we get some perspective and really give exhibitions the attention they deserve.