The group of members who went to the British Museum on Tuesday enjoyed seeing Hokusai : The Great Picture Book of Everything and gathered afterwards to chat over coffee.
18 members of the Exhibitions and Galleries Group visited Tate Britain to see the work of the extraordinary Portuguese-British artist Paula Rego, still working in her Camden studio at the age of 86. Many of the paintings made for uncomfortable viewing, depicting graphically the backstreet abortions to which many Portuguese women resorted prior to reform of the law in 2007. There were also paintings showing the horrors of torture under the repressive Salazar regime, colonialism and racism in countries such as Angola and Mozambique, and FGM and trafficking of women to bring Rego’s activism up to date. An underlying characteristic of all Rego’s work is its narrative quality, showing her lifelong fascination with stories ranging from British and Portuguese fairy tales to classics such as Peter Pan, Snow White and Alice in Wonderland. Prior to the exhibition, most people watched the documentary made by Rego’s son, Nick Willing, Paula Rego, Secrets and Stories. Broadcast on BBC Four on 10 August, it is still available on iPlayer for a very limited period.
Fifteen members of the group ventured to the wonderful Whitechapel Gallery to see the Eileen Agar – Angel of Anarchy exhibition. We enjoyed and were inspired by a trail blazing artist ahead of her time in so many ways – challenging gender stereotypes and refusing to be anybody’s passive muse. Agar brought ideas from Cubism and Surrealism to England in the decade before the Second World War and continued creative experimentation for over seven decades, influencing later artists in ways that have yet to be acknowledged. Whitechapel Gallery is celebrating it’s 120th birthday this year. Art and political activism have long been connected in this part of London and Picasso’s Guernica was shown at the Gallery in 1939 on it’s tour to raise awareness and funds for the Anti Fascist forces in the Spanish Civil War. It’s a beautiful building, dripping in history and the coffee is really good too!
A small group of gallery goers saw the beautifully curated Becket exhibition at the British Museum . Jonathan Jones in his review for The Observer on 14 May described it as a “gore-fest” recalling in graphic images the horrific murder of Becket on the instructions of King Henry II in Canterbury Cathedral on 29th December 1170. The exhibition includes manuscripts, a striking stone font from a Swedish village, gold and enamel caskets made in Limoges and four of the stained glass windows from Canterbury Cathedral depicting aspects of Becket’s life and gruesome death, as well as the miracles which resulted in his canonisation as a saint in 1173. It also includes manuscripts of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and the defaced manuscripts resulting from Henry VIII’s attempts to expunge Becket from history in the 16th Century. As usual, we gathered after the exhibition for coffee and conversation.
Eighteen members of the Exhibitions and Galleries Group gathered in small clusters at Tate Modern on 9 June for the first post-lockdown visit to the Rodin exhibition, followed by socially distanced coffee in the strangely empty 3rd floor café. The group included some new members as well as old-stagers, and it was a great pleasure to meet at a gallery again despite the logistical complexities of organising a visit in compliance with COVID rules, the constraints of one-way systems at Tate and within the exhibition, and most of all being masked throughout the journey and in the building.
The exhibition is almost entirely composed of plaster casts owned in the main by the Rodin Museum in Paris. The central gallery is a replica of the pavilion which Rodin designed for the 1900 Universal Exposition in Paris. There too, Rodin exhibited plaster casts. Plaster allowed Rodin to alter and revise work easily. He built up a collection of limbs, hands, feet and modelled heads which he used in different configurations, drawing inspiration from fragmented Greek and Roman statuary which he believed heightened expressive power.
Plaster casts as well as a few marble and bronze versions of Rodin’s greatest sculptures such as the Burghers of Calais, The Thinker, The Kiss and the monument to Balzac show why Rodin is regarded by critics as the first modern sculptor, whose work marked a significant departure from classical sculpture. His is a warts and all depiction of human bodies rather than the idealised beauty created by earlier sculptors. It is also interesting in showing the imprint of the sculptor and his assistants with finger and palette knife marks clearly visible.
Our Visits in 2020
A return to atmospheric 2 Temple Place, this time for Unbound: Visionary Women Collecting Textiles. We were delighted by the varied exhibits, both antique and contemporary, and impressed by biographies of the visionary women, some of them skilled designers and needlewomen who created beautiful artefacts which are now in major collections. Seeking coffee afterwards in Somerset House set us in competition with the more numerous and in some cases rather younger patrons of the Connect exhibition on there, but experience and thirst prevailed and we colonised our corner.January 2020
Anselm Kiefer : Superstrings, Runes, The Norns, Gordian Knot at the White Cube, Bermondsey
A small group of members visited the White Cube Gallery to see Anselm Kiefer’s huge, beautiful but tragic post-apocalyptic masterpieces and to wonder at the breadth of his culture and vision.
Bridget Riley : Colour at the Hayward Gallery
Members of the Group admired Bridget Riley’s skill with line, shape and colour at the Hayward, from her early figurative paintings through to her use of softer colours in her most recent work.
Our gallery visits before 2020