Starting Over

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Rachel Whiteread:Drawings

Also at Tate Britain was a small exhibition of drawings by Rachel Whiteread. Whiteread's sculptures are some of my favourite contemporary works, subtle, even in large scale, and deeply poignant.

This exhibition was interesting as a means of revealing Whiteread's work in practice, showing initial ideas through to detailed plans for a range of work, from the late 1980s to the present. They reveal themes of domesticity, memory and loss, and of the idea of empty space. Rather than technical, detailed studies the drawings shown concentrate on revealing her creative inspirations and mapping out of these into ideas and plans.

I arrived in London too late to see Whiteread's 1993 work House and it was fascinating to see studies from 1991 and 1992 showing ideas for this work, in which she cast an entire Victorian terraced house in East London that had been marked for demolition. I was struck too by some of her postcard studies shown, in which she perforates spaces within architectural vistas with punched holes of various sizes, emphasising the open spaces.

For anyone who likes Whiteread's works this is a worthy journey to explore her work in more depth and understanding.

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Eadweard Muybridge

Tate Britain has a number of interesting exhibitions on at present... including the photographs of Eadweard Muybridge. Although most of his work was done in the US and South America Muybridge was born and brought up in the UK and learnt his early craft here.

The exhibition included an overview of all of Muybridge's work, including landscapes. stereographs, panoramas (particularly of San Francisco) and the work for which he is most well known, his stop-motion photographs of animals (and humans in motion).

Muybridge's work is interesting in its own right but what struck me about this exhibition was the commercial and marketing aspects of his work. As a working photographer Muybridge made no claims to 'art', but was a highly adept promoter of his own work. The curators suggest that he had learnt much from his early work in the book trade, but after achieving fame Muybridge proved successful in gaining the attention of the international press, in obtaining the attention of patrons (though his relationship with Stanford became strained and broke down) and in sustaining public interest in his work through the press and a regular programme of illustrated tours.

Visually, the use of stop-motion photography reveals how animals (including people) actually move, and also creates aesthetically interesting images. It is perhaps no surprise to learn that Francis Bacon used a number of Muybridge images as visual reference points. The exhibition included a brief acknowledgement of the impact of Muybridge's work on other artists, in particular a sculpture by Degas, but this was minimal and could have been made much more of.

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Thursday, January 06, 2011

Matthew Bourne's Cinderella

We started the year with Matthew Bourne's dance-theatre piece Cinderella, at Sadler's Wells. Bourne as always presents a spectacularly visually exciting and enjoyable work, basing his version of Cinderella in London's Blitz (the time in which the score was written). Choreography, direction, dancing and set and design all fit together to make for a superb production.

Cinderella isn't one for those looking for experimentation or boundary pushing dance (though Sadler's Wells does plenty of this elsewhere in its programme) but is instead a perfectly formed Xmas season entertainment, which works well as dance both telling a story and producing a spectacle.

Bourne is loyal to Prokofiev's score, and while making a few small cuts and revisions, leaves the third act complete. Setting the dance in the 1940s reveals the darker heart of Prokofiev's score and the dramatic tension within the music. Bourne also pays intelligent homage to classic film about and of the period - Powell and Pressburger's A Matter of Life and Death, the classic Brief Encounter, and the actors Cary Grant, Fred Astaire and Joan Crawford.

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Barbara Kingsolver - The Lacuna

Dominic bought this book and I read it arond Xmas and our travels then. I'd previously been goven and read her non-fiction work Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, an interesting if somewhat self-aborbed example of the 'year of' genre... in principle I think its great to promote seasonal and local food but it is very much a position that is denied to many who don't have access to their own land or to other sources of local food.

But, to The Lacuna, a much more satisfactory book, using the central character, Harrison Shepherd, to describe events in the US and Mexico, including the household of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, the assassination of Trotsky, and the operation of the Commitee on Un-American Committee. Both a pleasurable and absorbing read Kingsolver provides rich detail of life in Mexico,Trotsky's exile from the USSR, US anti-Communism etc without falling into a lecturing tone. Instead this rich detail is revealed through the strong characters and narrative, Shepherd, being a deeply believeable character moving along with the path of history.


Welcome back

This blog has been inactive for many many months, in which time I've moved house twice, got married, had both parents die and much more besides.

So to begin - or to begin again - the intention is to note and reflect on my cultural life in London - whether books read, art exhibitions seen, films, dance, theatre... here goes