HAM

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The Helsinki Art Museum (HAM) is responsible for the upkeep of over 9,000 works of art which are owned by the city of Helsinki – almost half of which are on display in parks, streets, and other public spaces around the city. They also hold exhibitions of modern and contemporary art in their Gallery which is located in the  Tennis Palace, just around the corner from where I was staying so I thought I’d go and have a look at what was on show.

The Tennis Palace was built in 1938 for the 1940 Summer Olympics which were due to be held in Helsinki. They were postponed, for obvious reasons, and were rescheduled for 1952 when the Tennis Palace was used for the basketball tournament. The building was originally intended to service cars during the planned 1940 Games.In 1938 a third floor with large, vaulted rooms occupied by four Olympic tennis courts was added. Today it’s occupied by HAM, a large multiplex cinema and retail units.

There were 3 exhibitions being shown during my visit.

The first I saw featured frescoes painted by Tove Jansson, the author of the Moomin stories who had trained as an artist.

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There were two large frescoes Party in the City and Party in the Country created in 1947  for the Kaupunginkellari restaurant, located in the Helsinki City Hall. They were recued when the restaurant was relocated in 1965.

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A fresco created for the canteen of the electromechanical company Oy Strömberg Ab in 1945 was also on display as well as her sketches of murals for the Aurora Children’s Hospital.

The second exhibition, Air de Paris, featured works inspired by the French capital by Finnish artists, collected by Leonard Bäcksbacka a Finnish art dealer who had lived in Paris and was a big fan of French art.

The artists were all unknown to me and the standard of the work was variable, but there were a number that I liked.

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The main exhibition Graffiti,  occupied the whole of the top floor filling two large domed galleries. HAM’s website tells us

Graffiti, explores the historical roots of graffiti and its present manifestations, with particular focus on the links between Helsinki graffiti culture and the international field.

I have to say that although I like much “street art” that you see around many cities these days, I’m not a fan of traditional Graffiti such as “tags” which are mainly the creator’s name, defacing subway trains, buildings and the like. I guess they can be considered as abstract works but to me they are more about ego rather than as works of art created to please and/or make the viewer think. So the exhibition largely left me cold, although there were a few works that provoked some interest.

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A Visit to the Didrichsen Art Museum

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After arriving in Helsinki late Saturday afternoon, we had a full day on Sunday to explore and do a bit of tourism before my course started on Monday. The weather was rather cold and grey with rain showers so we decided that some indoor rip to activity was the best option. I suggested a visit out to the Didrichsen Art Museum which is a little way out from the city centre on the island of Kuusisaari so we took the metro and bus out and returned via bus and tram. I’d visited during a previous work related trip to Helsinki back in October 2014 when I’d seen an exhibition of works by Edvard Munch.

The museum was originally a private residence owned by enthusiastic Modern Art collectors Marie-Louise and Gunnar Didrichsen. It’s an attractive house in a beautiful setting in the woods by the sea – a Modernist building designed by architect Viljo Revell  in 1958-59 and is . An extension was added six years later to house the owners’ art collection.

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The Museum has an extensive collection of works by 20th Century Finnish artists and works by international artists including Picasso, Kandinsky, Miró, Léger, Moore, Giacometti and Arp.  In addition they have a Pre-Columbian art collection and a collection of Oriental art. There’s also a sculpture garden with works displayed at the front of the house and in the wooded gardens at the back of the house leading down to the sea.

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During our visit the museum had two exhibitions. The main one featured works by two Finnish artists, a married couple, Ahti and Maija Lavonen. One of the rooms in the extension basement was displaying a selection of the main works from the Didrichsen modern collection – The Heart of the Didrichsen Collection. The exhibition is a preview of some of the gems of the nearly 100 works which will be shown at Millesgården in Stockholm during the summer of 2018.

I’ll cover the Ahti and Maija Lavonen exhibition in a separate post but here’s a selection of the works from The Heart of the Didrichsen Collection.

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Upright Interior Form (Flower) by Henry Moore

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Mother and child with wave background II by Henry Moore

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Demeter by Jean Arp

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Nu Debout by Pablo Picasso

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Eglise a Marnau by Wassilly Kadinsky

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a small sculpture by Giacometti

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small reclining figure by Henry Moore

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Curved form with inner form (Anima) by Barbara Hepworth

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The Sandman by Salvador Dali

and the sculpture garden.

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Augustus by Bernard Meadows

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Blueberries by Paula Salmela

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Dialogue by Eero Hiironen

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Watergate by Eero Hiironen

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Crosswork by Mauno Hartman

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Mama Africa by Tilla Kekki

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Mama Europaby Tilla Kekki

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Atom Piece by Henry Moore

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Assemble by Lionel Smit

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Sunflower Field by Eila Hiltunen

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Turbulence by Eila Hiltunen

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Arctic Aphrodite by Laila Pullinen

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Crescendo by Laila Pullinen

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Stele deOfferende by Mario Negri

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Coastlines at the IMMA

 

I could have stayed longer in Galway but I had some work to do in Naas on the Wednesday so on Tuesday I took the train to Dublin followed by the bus to Naas. But I decided to break the journey and call into the IMMA to have a look at their Coastlines exhibition.

Drawing on the paradox implicit in the word ‘coastline’ – for never has a coast followed a linear course – the title of this exhibition throws a line around a 12 month programme of changing displays of artworks and archival material that will explore our sense of place, perception, representation and memory.

The exhibition occupies the majority of the gallery space in the East Wing of the main building. Exhibits include works by a diverse range of international artists including Bridget Riley, Richard Long and Dorothy Cross. I have to say I found the connection with “coastlines” somewhat tenuous in some cases, particularly in the first few rooms. But it was an excellent exhibition with a good selection of art. So here’s a selection of favourites.

The very first room had Op Art works by artists including Bridget Riley on show and also this untitled 3D work by Alexandra Wejchert

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In the next room, a work by Patrick Heron Emerald with Reds and Cerulean (1972)

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Frequency (2004-5) by Anita Groener

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Moon and Hill (1972), one of several works by Gerda Froemel, a sculptor I discovered during a previous visit to the IMMA in 2015 when they had an exhibition devoted to her

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Kilkenny Limestone Circle – unmistakeably by Richard Long

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Land Fall II (2005) a dramatic, stormy sea by Donald Teskey, an Irish artist from County Limerick who specialises in seascapes of the west of Ireland

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By the same artist, a series of sketches from 2004.

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Munla Soghlualste (1972), another sculpture by Gerda Froemel

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Ebb Tide, Lissadell (undated) by T P Flanagan

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Lake and Blue Mountains of Connemara (c1935) by Paul Henry

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The last two rooms in the exhibition really stood out. The Paul Henry painting was displayed in a room where the floor was covered with a large scale map of the Arran Islands (which are in Galway Bay, not far from where I’d just been staying and are also somewhere I want to visit)

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It was difficult to portray in a photo as was the main work displayed in the final room – Tabernacle by Dorothy Cross.  It’s a multimedia featuring a structure constructed from an upturned curach (a type of boat used in the west of Ireland, particularly Galway, the Arran Islands and Connemara) a wooden shed together with a video of the sea shot from inside a cave near the artist’s home.

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I thought it was an impressive work, evoking the atmosphere of the west coast of Ireland.

The exhibition runs until the end of September and I expect I’ll be back to take another look when I’m over in Ireland later in the year.

A few works at Tate Modern

After looking round the Red Star Over Russia exhibition, I spent about an hour having a wander round some of the free galleries at Tate Modern.  I’ve been to the Gallery several times recently, but it’s so big with a massive collection (of which only a fraction is on display at any one time) that I always seem to spot something I hadn’t seen before.

This poster from a collection on display from the May 68 events in Paris (50th anniversary coming up soon)  by the Atelier Populaire rather resonated with the exhibition I’d just seen

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I rather liked this 3 dimensional work by Victor Passmore

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Abstract in White, Green, Black, Blue, Red, Grey and Pink (1963)

A pleasing discovery was a number of photographs by the German photographer Werner Mantz.

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Werner Mantz began his career as a portrait and advertising photographer, later becoming known for his architectural photographs of the modernist housing projects in Cologne during the 1920s. His work is linked with the “New Objectivity” Movement in German photography before the Second World War which was concerned with using the clarity and precision of the camera to depict the everyday world in structured and organised compositions.

The photographs again linked with the Red Star Over Russia exhibition as they were similar in many ways with the photographs by Rodchenko.

I particularly liked this image dominated by the shadow of the lamppost

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Detail of Kalkerfield settlement, Cologne 1928

LAND | SEA | LIFE at Abbot Hall

A couple of weeks ago we finally made it across to Abbot Hall to see the latest exhibition Land|Sea|Life which features works from the Ingram Collection, and which was coming towards the end of it’s run. The exhibition include 70 “Modern British” works by over 40 artists , including Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Graham Sutherland and Laura Knight.

The collection has been put together over the last decade by media entrepreneur Chris Ingram. He’s been lucky enough to indulge his passion amassing over 650 works. But he doesn’t simply display them all in his home (probably homes, being a millionaire!). The Collection is currently housed at The Lightbox – a gallery and museum in his hometown of Woking. His taste very much aligns with my own. There wasn’t a work on display at Abbot Hall I didn’t like and looking at the 2 volume catalogue from the Collection confirmed this view.

No photographs, so I’ve restricted this post to images available on the Abbot Hall website, which are only a fraction of the works displayed. This is a drawing by Barbara Hepworth and is clearly a preliminary for a work, the “plaster” of which, is in the Hepworth Gallery collection.

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The Ship by John Piper

Most of the exhibits were 2 D works –  paintings, drawings and prints. But there were a number of sculptures, including this attractive vase like bronze object by Kenneth Armitage which rather reminded me of Barbara Hepworth’s work.

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Although I was familiar with many of the artists included in the exhibition, there were some new discoveries (always good!).  One of these included John Tunnard who had several works on display. I particularly liked his tempura painting, Installation from 1942.

Another discovery was Edward Burra. One of his works Near Whitby, Yorkshire (1972)features in the video introduction to the exhibition (above) by Jo Baring, the Collection’s Director and Curator. The other works on display were probably more typical of his work; caricature like paintings of people, many of them workers. These included Figure Composition No1 (1976) which features a group of ordinary people going about their everyday business on a busy street, and Seamen Ashore, Greenock (1944) which does what it says on the tin!

A sculpture that took my eye was Ghost Boat  (2003) by the Irish artist, John Behan

Three of my favourite works in the exhibition were by an artist I had come across before, Keith Vaughan. They were ink/gouache and ink/watercolour drawings of buildings from the industrial region of the West Yorkshire Pennines – Village in the Hills (1943), Schoolhouse, Yorkshire (1945) and Industrial Landscape III, Morton Mill (1943). They rather reminded me of landscapes by John Piper.

There were plenty others I could mention, but I think that’s enough for now! Although there wasn’t one specifically for the exhibition, here were a couple of catalogues from the collection on sale at Abbot Hall which include the works on display and many more. Images can also be browsed on the Collection’s website .

New Year’s Day 2018 at the Hepworth

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I’m still far from finished writing up our trip to Australia, but I’d thought I’d take a short diversion to report on our trip to the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield on New Year’s Day. It’s become a bit of a tradition for us to drive over a quiet M62 to visit this excellent gallery. Last year we didn’t make a subsequent visit so it’s a while since we were last there – well, 12 months exactly!

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There had quite been a few changes with new exhibitions in four of the galleries and a temporary exhibition of work by the Polish artist Alina Szapocznikow which was coming to the end of it’s run.

Gallery 1 featured a range of works from the Wakefield collection, including the beautiful elm sculpture by Henry Moore shown above and works from Barbara Hepworth, and Nuam Gabo,

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The next two galleries concentrated on works by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, both born locally in Castleford and Wakefield respectively.

In the first room, works by henry Moore included this unusual (for Moore) bronze head Open Work Head No. 2 (1950)

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some of his drawings of miners from local pits during WWII

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and a series of lithographs of Stonehenge that he had personally donated to the Wakefield collection.

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The next, large room, was a comprehensive survey of Barbara Hepworth’s work including sculpture, drawings, prints and even her library of books

 

We had a brief look around the next two rooms which  explore Hepworth’s working methods and display examples from the Hepworth’s collection of her plasters as they’re on permanent display and we’ve seen them many times before. But the next two rooms had new displays – more works from the Hepworth’s collection

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and an exhibition Daughters of Necessity by British artist Serena Korda, featuring some of her own works displayed together with ceramics from the Hepworth’s collection. The Hepworth website tells us

Working with ceramics for several years, Korda combines her experimental approach to the material with her interest in the acoustic properties of objects. For The Hepworth Wakefield, Korda has created a new work, Resonators, comprising five large, richly glazed vessels with openings at each end. Visitors are invited to interact with the work by placing their ears to each vessel to hear a range of bass-like tones.

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The exhibition also features a new presentation of Korda’s ceramic sound installation Hold Fast, Stand Sure, I Scream a Revolution, which was premiered at Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art in 2016. This work is made up of 29 individual porcelain mushrooms suspended from the ceiling, which will be played as bells in public performances during the Ceramics Fair in early May 2018.

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I really liked these works which were a combination of art, science and music.

There were some beautiful ceramic pieces selected by the artist too

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The temporary exhibition Alina Szapocznikow: Human Landscapes was an extensive survey of the work of this Polish artist and

highlights how the artist’s work developed from classically figurative sculptures to her later ‘awkward objects’, which are politically charged and overlaid with Surrealist and Pop Art influences. (Hepworth Website)

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 features more than 100 works created between 1956 and 1972 including drawings, photography and sculpture, incorporating Szapocznikow’s characteristic use of cast body parts, many of which she transformed into everyday objects like lamps or ashtrays.

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Hopefully, I’ll find some time to write up more about this.

Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly Series

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I had an hour to spare before our tour of the Parliament building in Canberra so I took the opportunity to pop into the National Gallery (only a 20 minute walk from Parliament) to have a look at the iconic series of paintings by the Australian artist Sidney Nolan of the legendary bushranger, Ned Kelly.

The Gallery’s website tells us

Sidney Nolan’s 1946-47 paintings on the theme of the 19th-century bushranger Ned Kelly are one of the greatest series of Australian paintings of the 20th century. Nolan’s starkly simplified depiction of Kelly in his homemade armour has become an iconic Australian image. Highlighting these works makes the point that Australian art is part of the world, with its own stories to tell.

Ned Kelly was a controversial character; a violent criminal to some, including the establishment, but a hero to many. Nolan, who, like Kelly, had Irish roots, clearly fell into the latter category.

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There are 25 paintings, displayed in a dedicated room with some related works, which tell the story of Kelly – the events that led him to become an outlaw, his exploits as a bushranger, the battle with the police that led to his capture and trial. They’re painted in a simple, colourful, naïve style, using house paints rather than oils. Kelly is depicted in his armour, in a simplified way, but it is as if the armour is part of him. His helmet becoming his head and the eye slit going right through.

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The paintings are also noted for the way they depict the Australian landscape

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They’re fantastic paintings and I’m glad I managed to find the time to see them. The whole series can be seen on the Australian National Gallery Website.

We would come across Ned Kelly again a few more times during our holiday, while we were in Melbourne.