Sunday, 29 December 2013

Life drawing at the NPG

This time it was a lovely drop in life class, with a lovely helpful tutor in contrast to last time.

Did you know some people in London will spend their Friday nights in a lecture theatre in the National Portrait Gallery drawing naked people on a stage? And it's free? I love London. 

I put these here for general lolz and amusement, not because I'm proud of them.

5 minute pose

Drawing with the left hand

Long pose. Look, I didn't have my glasses, alright?

Single line drawing, 1 minute pose. 

The one on the left was drawn with a pen and a pencil in each hand, drawing the two sides simultaneously - pretty impossible, but fun. It is my favourite because with the pear shape, though I was looking at the model inadvertently it's turned into a self portrait.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Sinners 2013

Because it's always more fun to criticise than praise, right? How not to do it... 


Man Ray at National Portrait Gallery 
Now, this was a beautiful exhibition, no question - but like every temporary show at the NPG, they squashed it into this tiny, absurdly hot and crowded space at the back. These pictures are small too, so they were surrounded by a million pushy posh old ladies all shoving you with their elbows. Raargh! Exhibition rage!

This was a victim of its own success. A while ago I wrote about how the Print room at the British Museum never advertised its exhibitions and was underappreciated. They clearly were listening to me as they decided to put on a huge crowd-pulling people-pleasing show about SEX and pay for advertising all over the tube network. There were queues out the door, and timed tickets.

Let's not mess about here, this show was p*rn, though beautifully executed, erotic artistic Japanese p*rn. (As my friend said, it's kind of a relief when you see one without cocks.)The room was packed and despite the English reserve, yes yes we're all grownups, it was all a bit uncomfortable. I wish I could have got to see it during the week without the crowds.

Mexico at the Royal Academy
The RA has mostly been great this year - this wasn't bad, but strangely didn't feature many Mexican artists, more artists who had visited Mexico. Em and I kept bursting into giggles as the captions bizarrely kept repeating about each artist "He never returned to Mexico."

A Journey Through London Subculture: 1980s to Now

This was an ICA "off-site" exhibition at the Old Selfridges Hotel. Oh my god. Take a fascinating, explosive, imaginative period in pop culture, invite all the major players to take part - squash all this imagination and creativity into 100 boring little glass boxes. Excuse me, vitrines. What a wasted opportunity.

Bloomberg New Contemporaries
I saved the best worst til last!  Holy smoke! This is what people think of when they disdain contemporary art.   It was at the ICA and free, we went in a little group from college. It is a competition for art school graduates (cue much debate about why only art school graduates are legit in the eyes of the art world) and honestly, if this is the best they've got...  46 out of thousands of entries... Lacklustre painting, half-arsed sculpture, lame installations, self-indulgent films. Nothing interesting, nothing engaging, nothing well made.

 (I don't want to pick on anyone in particular, but just to give you a sample, that painting was a detail of a Simpsons cartoon painted straight on the wall with condiments like mustard. Worth  £500 grand of anyone's money, surely.)

It would have been depressing except we made up a game where we had bets on which college the artist graduated from (Goldsmiths...? RCA...? Chelsea...? St Martins...? the Slade...? There is an absolutely outrageous bias towards London art schools -  We whooped when Leeds Uni made a surprise last minute entry.)

Poor. Very poor. Poorer than poor. But sort of hopeful and encouraging for us, too.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Art Shows 2013

End of year lists, don't you hate them? So this is not a top ten, it's more a list of Sinners and Winners, to quote that mad man who used to preach outside Oxford Circus.


Paper at Saatchi gallery - Very inventive, interesting and exciting show. This photo doesn't do justice to Han Feng's floating cities (plus I was pleased to see it was also made with fishing line, cough cough). There I said something positive about Saatchi, so sue me.

Floating City
Han Feng Floating City at the Saatchi Gallery
Elmgreen & Dragset - Tomorrow at the V&A.   This was very cool. An installation tucked away in a V&A, it felt like walking into some forgotten, secret part of the gallery where someone had set up residence. You were greeted by a butler as you walked in. It was slightly odd, in a good way, like gatecrashing someone's private apartment. They'd been given the V&A collection to raid to set up it up, which must have been fun. Books, furniture, statues, pictures... The story behind the installation was a washed up architect being kicked out of his luxury family home by his upstart protege - slightly All About Eve. They also gave away a little film script to give you some backstory.

Memory Palace - another corker at the V&A, the idea was the exhibition as a 3D graphic novel. Hari Kunzru wrote a sci-fi story about a futuristic London where "Recording, writing, collecting and art are outlawed". Different artists were given different parts of the story to illustrate. I wish I could have taken photos.  Here is a link to my favourite bit, Le Gun collective's ambulance (Le Gun are our neighbours at East London Printmakers, I'm very in awe of them.)

George Bellows at the RA 
George Bellows
Beautiful painting and print exhibition of this artist I hadn't heard of, he died at 42 but left behind these vivid pictures of early 20th Century New York, street scenes, boxing matches and children swimming in the Hudson.

Daumier at the RA - I remember Daumier from studying Art History, even 20 years ago he had reputation as a funny cartoonist but I think people are coming around to seeing what a real artist he was. He had that leftwing, firebrand streak, which I like. And apparently he never drew from life, just from memory, which makes me want to cry.

I loved this picture so much, it reminded me of the Fine Art course when we all walk around and look at each other's work in the studio. The sense of camaraderie but slight competition too. The etiquette of looking at someone else's work...

A travers les ateliers - Fichtre!.... Epatant!..... Sapristi!.... Superbe!.... ├ža parle!...

Hmm, I realise the sinners may have to wait until the next post. Just reading this back makes me exhausted - maybe my new year's resolution will be to cut down on the art a bit.

And the rest... 

 Jules de Balincourt "Itinerant Ones" at Victoria Miro
We went to see this as a group with college, I was prepared to hate this fantastically hip and successful French painter based in New York who is my age, but take my hat off to him, he really really can paint and we spent hours looking at them. 

Pop Art at Christies
Like opening a time capsule. Great stuff. Film stars, optimism, cereal boxes, space race, glamour, girls in bikinis.

Isabella Blow, Somerset House
For anyone who doesn't know that clothes can be art. A bit heartbreaking, considering Alexander McQueen and Isabella Blow are both no longer with us. Thankfully Philip Treacy is still alive and well.

White Cube Mark Bradford Through Darkest America by Truck and Tank
Another college trip, because he's our tutor's favourite artist. For anyone who thinks that modern art is rubbish, these would blow your mind. Mark Bradford picks up billboard posters and recycles them into these huge pictures which are sort of road maps which he carves into. Would very happily have one of these on my wall. If I lived in an enormous warehouse with the wall space.

The Show is Over Gagosian - the end of painting - painting made with neon, plastic, carpet, steel - what makes a painting?

Becoming Picasso at the Courtauld

Australia at the Royal Academy - it was big, but nothing really registered. It is cavalier to dismiss an entire country's art, I could hear Robert Hughes growling at me in my head. We liked the Aboriginal work better than the Western art - the first settlers who went out and painted managed to make the bush look like a nice English garden in Surrey.

Original Print Fair at the RA This is a selling show but it's lovely to see printmaking heroes' work live and direct

A rare out of London trip - Curiosity at the Turner Contemporary in Margate

Klee at the Hayward "Art does not reproduce the visible - rather, it makes visible."

Cheapside Hoard at the Museum of London - a literal time capsule of Elizabethan London.

Guildhall Victoriana - The Art of Revival- modern artists being inspired by the crazy Victorians.

Hauser & Wirth Onnasch Collection - fabulous collection of fabulously wealthy German art collector "Pop Art, Fluxus, Colorfield, Assemblage, Minimalism and Abstract Expressionism from the New York School of Art, many of which have never been presented before in London."

He wouldn't miss just one little Rauschenberg, would he?

Sunday, 15 December 2013

New zine

Over the last year I have made a 180 degree turnaround on Peter Blake, from thinking he was a lucky sod who was in the right place at the right time, to realising in fact he's a genius, an amazing artist and popular just because he's really, really good.

I bought his illustrated book of Under Milk Wood, which has been a lifelong project (I'm really hoping the exhibition in Cardiff will travel to London eventually, though he says when the exhibition is over he might carry on working on the pictures afterwards - it really is a lifelong project).

It is beautiful.  and it made me think about Laugharne and all the place we used to visit in Wales. It gave me an idea for a little artist book/comic/zine, which I'm going to make and maybe even try to get someone else to publish.  One of the things I like about his work is the way he mixes it up, with collage, painting, printmaking, photography, bricolage... Whatever works goes in the mix.

This is my first image - it's Dylan Thomas' house in Laugharne seen from the beach, brush & ink.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Drawing day 6 - The other side of the river

and Texting
Very quick - coming to the conclusion that I am not yet Picasso and they need time to produce anything of quality.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Drawing day 4 - Hardhats

This took about 5 minutes. I know, they look like a 5 year old drew them, but I am finding them fun after the hard work in class (a while ago we drew pieces of paper on the floor for 5 hours. Sometimes the tutors like to torture us.)

With added watercolour.

Here is a lady I found on Flickr, I love her cranes book.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Drawing day 4 - Lips

Look, I know this is a poor excuse for a drawing. What can I tell you? I had a beautiful but very busy day. The man opposite me on the tube was asleep with his head tipped right back, which was perfect, but I'd just started when he woke up. Tsk, pesky models waking up at the wrong moment.

Will try and do better tomorrow.