‘Cactus Provisoire’, Trinity College, Dublin

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Another work of art in the public spaces of Trinity College, Dublin.  This large metal sculpture is ‘Cactus Provisoire’, created in 1967 by Alexander CalderBest known for his “kinetic sculptures”, this is one of his non-mobile “stabiles

It’s located in Fellow’s square, an open space between the college library used by students and the old library which houses the Book of Kells. The square is on the well traversed route  through the college between College Green and Nassau Street. So plenty of people pass this sculpture every day.

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Sphere Within Sphere at Trinity College

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Last week I had a short trip to Dublin. I was attending a conference on the western outskirts on Wednesday so flew over midday on the Tuesday from Manchester. I had a few hours to spare so decided to use the time to take another look round the recently refurbished Irish National Gallery. Walking over towards the Gallery from the stop where I disembarked from the airport bus, I cut across the grounds of Trinity College. I had a brief wander round the public areas where I spotted a number of works of art. One that particularly took my eye, near the college library, was this rather dramatic broken bronze sphere

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A little research revealed that it’s called Sfera con Sfera (Sphere within Sphere) and was created by the Italian sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro.

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Keith Haring at the Stedelijk

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Although most of the first floor at the Stedelijk was closed for a changeover of exhibitions, there was one work on display. It’s a large canvas work by the American artist Keith Haring (1958-1990) suspended above the stairwell and under the large skylight.

It was created especially for the artist’s solo exhibition at the Gallery in 1986. He painted the design onto a large piece of vellum, measuring almost 40 x 66 feet, using spray paint, in a single day. The pattern is actually a single thick, white line. “A kind of happy dinosaur with an elongated neck”.

A visit to the Stedelijk Museum

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Our flight home to Liverpool at the end of  our short trip to Amsterdam didn’t leave until 8 in the evening, so we had a full day left in the city. We decided we’d visit the Stedelijk Museum  Amsterdam’s Modern Art Gallery. It turned out to be a good plan as it was a grey, chilly, damp day, so not so great for exploring the streets. (I pinched the photo above from the Amsterdam Info website, and it was taken on a much nicer day!)

The Stedelijk is on the Museumplein, next door to the Van Gogh Museum we’d visited during our first stay in Amsterdam.

The Stedelijk building is rather schitzophrenic. The original building was built in the 19th century in  the Dutch Neo-Renaissance style. It was extended in the early 21st Century, reopening on 23 September 2012. The extension, which was designed by Benthem Crouwel Architects., couldn’t be more different that the original building. Constructed of refinforced fibre with a smooth finish and a roof jutting out over the entrance into the square, it’s been compared to a bathtub and I think they certainly have a point. Inside, however, the exhibition space is well designed and roomy.

I liked this “cartoon” on the wall in the central gallery space, drawn by Jan Rothuizen

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The Museum was between exhibitions so the first floor galleries were closed. But there was plenty to see on the ground floor to occupy the morning. There were exhibitions about the De Stijl movement, a two-part installation of videos and objects by New York-based, Colombian artist Carlos Motta and “I am a Native Foreigner” which explores the issue of immigration using works from the Museum’s collection.

Here’s a few of the works I particularly liked from the Highlights of the Collection that occupied a number of the galleries.

A painting of a windmill (very Dutch!) by Mondrian. Not exactly what you expect from him! (There were some more typical works by him included in the De Stijl exhibition).

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(Windmolen c 1917)

One by Van Gogh

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(Augustine Roulin , la Barceuse 1889)

Two by Kandinsky – and probably my favourites from the display

The provenance of this one is currently under investigation as it was bought in (allegedly) dubious circumstances during WWII

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(Painting with houses 1909)

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A Matisse

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(La Odalisque 1920-21)

One by Rothko

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(Untitled Umber, Blue, Umber Brown 1962)

and one by Willem de Kooning

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(North Atlantic Light 1972)

Käthe Kollwitz at the Ikon

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A few weeks ago while I was in Dublin, one of the exhibitions I saw during my visit to the recently reopened National Gallery celebrated the birth 150 years ago of the German artist Käthe Kollwitz. I’d heard that there was another exhibition devoted to her work at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham so while I was in the city on business last week I managed to find some time to visit.

I’d never been to the Ikon before. It’s in a converted Victorian neo-Gothic building which was originally a school and is Birmingham’s gallery for contemporary art. The equivalent of Manchester’s Home, I guess.

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The works on display are from the collection of the British Museum with a small number of loans from a private owner and The Barber Institute of Fine Arts at the University of Birmingham. It’s a relatively small exhibition, with some duplication of the prints I saw in Dublin, but a worthwhile visit.

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The vast majority of the prints displayed were early works from before WWI, and included three prints from Ein Weberaufstand (A Weavers’ Revolt) series completed in 1897 and  a full set of prints from the Bauernkrieg (Peasants’ War) series completed in 1908.

The first room was devoted to her self-portraits and covered a wider period from 1901 to 1937 when Kollwitz was in her fifties. This meant it was possible to see her using different print making methods and how her technique developed.

This is a detailed Lithograph from 1904 showing a strong, determined woman

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This is an etching from 1906 – a less detailed, more impressionistic portrait

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In her later years Kollwitz turned to producing woodcuts  and this self portrait from 1924 is typical of this style

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There were a number of other portraits of  working class women who Kollwitz came across in Berlin, in some cases her Doctor husband’s patients perhaps, or just neighbours from Prenzlauer Berg, the poor area where she lived. Not so remarkable today, perhaps, but that was certainly the case at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. The Bust of a Working Woman With Blue Shawl was a particularly attractive image –  I think the Guardian review’s description of it as

a Madonna for the industrial age

is certainly appropriate

There were four copies of a single print, a harrowing work, Woman with a dead child (1903). Each finished in a different way – with various washes, graphite and charcoal with a kind of restlessness.  The models for the etching were Kollwitz herself and her younger son Peter, who was to die eleven years later at the beginning of WWI so a rather prescient image f- or Kollwitz herself but also many, many other mothers from Germany, France, the British Empire, Russia and the other countries involved in the war that was to begin 11 years after the image was created.

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The two print series portraying workers’ struggles – A Weavers’ Revolt (1897) and  the Peasants’ War series (1908) end in tragedy and can be viewed as pessimistic with respect to the potential for workers to overcome their oppressors. The Carmagnole, a print from 1901 based on Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities (1859), shows a group of mostly women dancing around a guillotine and is, perhaps, more optimistic.  In the story the scene depicted took place in Paris, but in the print Kollwitz  has transposed to Germany street scene.

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Die Carmagnole, (1901) Etching and drypoint

So, another excellent small exhibition of prints by Käthe Kollwitz. I really must get back to Berlin to visit the museum devoted to her work.

The Garden of Good and Evil at the YSP

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The latest main exhibition in the Underground Gallery at the YSP had opened on 14 October, the day before our visit last weekend. It’s devoted to the work of a Chilean artist, Alfredo Jaar – “a pioneering practitioner of socially critical art” (Claire Lilley in the Exhibition Guide).

It’s a very different type of exhibition to those normally shown at the YSP as the works on display are not sculpture in the usual meaning of the word, but “installations”, film and photography.

Describing himself as “an architect making art”, Jaar constructs spaces and intricate light systems to navigate the ambiguities of what is represented and misrepresented in photographic and other media. (Exhibition Guide)

Unlike most of the major YSP exhibitions, there is only one of his installations outside the Underground Gallery (Tony Cragg’s sculptures sited outdoors from the previous exhibition are still there and will remain in place until March). This is a new work which will become a permanent exhibit in the grounds once the exhibition is over – relocated elsewhere as they won’t leave it in it’s present location immediately in front of the gallery. This work – The Garden of Good and Evil  (the exhibition is named after it) – takes the form of a grove of  101 trees sited in tubs along the length of the Underground Gallery open-air concourse. Inside this mini forest there’s a number of steel cells, of different sizes,  which are meant to reference ‘black sites’, the secret detention facilities around the world operated by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Visitors could wander through the trees discovering the individual cells – all different but all with a one-metre square base.

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The work was inspired by a poem, One Square Metre of Prison,  by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. Without being aware of this the work is perhaps an interesting curiosity, but knowing the inspiration it certainly made me consider and think about how people are imprisoned for their beliefs and hidden away from public view by governments, terrorist organisations etc. And with clandestine prisons, in practice illegal or only of borderline legality, themselves hidden from view by governments so that they can be ignored by the citizens – out of sight, out of mind.

Inside the gallery there are three major installations and a small number of other works. No photographs allowed, but the nature of most of the works meant that this was not that appropriate.

The first of the major works is The Sound of Silence (2005). Visitors enter a steel cube and sitting in the dark watch a video work telling the story of a South African photographer, Kevin Carter, leading to his image of a young victim of the 1993 Sudanese famine. The photographer stood and observed a young starving child being watched by a vulture, waiting for the appropriate moment to snap his photograph. A shocking image resulted which drew global attention to the famine, leading to aid being sent to help the victim. But the image raised serious questions about the role of the photographer and raises serious ethical questions. He did nothing to help the individual but, on the other hand, the picture may have contributed to aid saving the lives of others. The suffering of one saving the lives of many others?  This clearly troubled Carter himself and he later committed suicide.

The second of the major works, A Hundred Times Nguyen (1994), has 100 images of a little girl the artist met while visiting ‘refugee detention centres’ for Vietnamese boat people in Hong Kong in 1991. Jaar who photographed her five times at five-second intervals. He took four of the images altering the order in which they are shown using all possible combinations to make 100 pictures which are displayed on the walls of the gallery.  In this work the artist addresses “compassion fatigue” and

articulates the importance of the individual through many of his installations, rather than focusing on the mass of victims of the devastation and oppression he has witnessed. (Exhibition website)

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The third major work Shadows (2014) uses images taken by photographer Koen Wessing over a single day, early in the 1978 Nicaraguan Civil War, following a farmer’s murder. Entering a darkened room six of the images are displayed on the wall. Visitors then move through to a second darkened space where the seventh image is projected onto the entire back wall of the room, which shows two women grieving after the death of their father, shot by Somosa’s National Guardsman and left by the side of the road. The image alters as it is observed, the two grieving daughters being isolated from the picture and then altered and turned into a bright white silhouette.  The room then goes completely dark and the image is retained on the retina, gradually fading away after several seconds.

I’m not sure what the artist’s intention was, but I felt that it is easy to put aside the shocking images of suffering but here it wasn’t quite so easy to forget and perhaps that’s what we all need to do.

Although I’m sure many visitors will grumble about the “unorthodox” nature of the exhibition – not “proper art” will no doubt be heard – this is the second video based exhibition we’ve seen in the underground Gallery. The other being the Bill Viola exhibition we saw at the beginning of last year. That was intended to be “a sensory experience with space to pause and make time to reflect and enable an emotional or even transformational experience”. However the current exhibition is quite a different experience. Unsettling and thought provoking in a different way and making political points about cruelty and suffering and the role of the artist.

 

A warm October day at the YSP

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Sunday was forecast to be an unseasonably warm day in advance of the remains of Hurricanee Ophelia hitting us on Monday. We decided to make the most of it. I’d considered driving up to the Lakes but the forecast for there wasn’t so good so we decided to head over the M62 to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park where a new exhibition – Alfredo Jaar: The Garden of Good and Evil – had just opened in the Underground Gallery. Driving home late afternoon we learned that there had been an accident on the M6 near Kendal leading to both sides of the motorway being shut for several hours. Turned out to be a good decision then.

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It was a good decision in other ways too as it was a beautiful sunny day for a walk around the grounds where we saw some new works on display, plus we caught one exhibition that had just opened in the Underground Gallery and one that was due to close in a few days in the Longside Gallery. Both were very good. More about them in future posts.

Here’s a few photos of some of the new works in the grounds.

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This stunning work, standing seven metres high on the south shore of the Lower Lake is Wilsis  by Jaume Plensa. It’s one of his series of portrait heads depicting young girls from around the world, with their eyes closed in a dreamlike state of contemplation. (Like Dream on the former Sutton Manor Colliery site in St Helens – which we’ve still never got round to visiting – although we’ve seen it many times from the motorway on the way to Liverpool)

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Wilsis is a fascinating exploration of perspective through the flattening of form, an idea that grew out of Plensa’s desire to understand what happens on the other side, on the reverse of things with which we are familiar, such as letters printed on a page, or a portrait head on a coin. From the front the head appears realistic, yet from the side it is an extremely flattened relief.

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Further along the lake we came across Bruce Beasley’s Advocate IV

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The sculpture is a collection of cubes stacked in a way so they look like a precariously balanced tower.

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We walked up to the Longside Gallery to see the exhibition  Occasional Geometries, curated by Bangladeshi-born artist Rana Begum with works selected largely from the Arts Council Collection. After we’d looked round we set off back down towards the Lower lake via the east side of the park, passing some favourite works by Andy Goldsworthy.

Walking along the north shore of the lake we spotted this sculpture by the Swedish sculptor Jørgen Haugen Sørensen  (well, he had to be Swedish with a name like that!).

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Then further on we passed Diario by Mikayel Ohanjanyan.

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A series of marble blocks bound by steel cables lying on a table.

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Looking closely we could see writing carved inside the fissures in the blocks –  listing the names of all the people the artist has ever met.

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Close by was Six Mourners and the One Alone  by Amar Kanwar.

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Made from timber from the 19th century Chapel organ that was dismantled due to irreparable damage. The seven pipes represent the six mourners, who count the
dead and the one alone, who gathers and memorises testimonies of the living.

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Anthony Gormley’s One and Other isn’t a new work, but it looked particularly good silhouetted against the blue sky

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Black and Blue: The Invisible Men and the Masque of Blackness was attracting a lot of attention. An army of identical two-metre-tall figures by the British-Trinidadian artist Zak Ové

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The figures are based on a small dark wood sculpture given to him as a child by his father,  the filmmaker Horace Ové, in the 1970s.

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Passing a new work by Julian Opie: People 15

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we came across Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads (2010) – 12 bronze animal heads representing the Chinese Zodiac

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Ai reinterpreted the 12 bronze heads representing the traditional Chinese zodiac that once adorned the famed fountain-clock of the Yuanming Yuan, the imperial summer palace retreat in Beijing. Ransacked in 1860 during the Second Opium War by the British and French, only seven of the original heads have been returned to China – the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, horse, monkey, and boar. The locations of the other five – dragon, snake, goat, rooster, and dog – are still unknown.

Cast in bronze and standing three-metres-high, the sculptures each weigh 363kg. Through the re-interpretation of the heads on a larger scale, Ai comments and encourages debate on the politics of ownership, cultural history, repatriation and authenticity. The artist also wanted the work to be playful and accessible to the general public.

Matthew Day Jackson’s Magnificent Desolation, created by , directly references one of Auguste Rodin’s most famous sculptures Les Burghers de Calais.

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According to history, King Edward III offered to spare the town if they sacrificed six of its most powerful leaders. Rodin chose to capture the heroic expressions of the six volunteers who were to be executed to save their people. Day Jackson has taken these figures of heroic self-sacrifice and, through using a computer generated 3D model of a map, has placed them on a moonscape as subtitute astronauts. Named after Buzz Aldren’s autobiography and first-hand account of landing on the moon, Magnificent Desolation is cast in bronze, a material often used for memorials, and combines the fated heroism of both Les Burghers de Calais and the risks of space travel.

A new Henry Moore (new to YSP, that is) – Reclining Connected Forms

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Finally, I don’t recall seeing this work by Willaim Turnbull before

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Queen 2 was

inspired by his knowledge of ancient cultures and their artefacts; revealing the sculptural potential of utilitarian and functional objects.

This was only a fraction of the art works we saw during our visit. It’s always worth a visit to the YSP, a chance to look at first class art while taking a walk through a pleasant country park. Especially pleasurable on a war, sunny, autumn day.