Eduardo Chillida in the Rijksmuseum Gardens

This year, the sculpture exhibition in the Rijksmuseum gardens features the work of the Spanish Basque artist Eduardo Chillida (1924-2002). He was originally a footballer, playing in goal for Real Sociedad, San Sebastián’s La Liga football team, but serious injury cut his career short.

He studied architecture before becoming a sculptor, and some of his works certainly have an architectural quality.

His work combines modern abstraction with traditional artisanal techniques for working materials, in particular forging iron. He frequently made his numerous and celebrated public works from large-format steel, using the material in a bold and spectacular fashion, with utter disregard for its innate constraints. Chillida believed that ‘To construct is to build in space.’ (Exhibition website)

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Studio Drift – Coded Nature at the Stedelijk

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One of the temporary exhibitions at the Stedelijk Museum was dedicated to the work of Studio Drift, Netherlands-born artist Lonneke Gordijn and her British/Dutch partner Ralph Nauta, who use modern technology to produce some imaginative installations and videos.

The first work we saw was Drifter, a massive ‘concrete’ block that  floated mid-air, tilting and moving around the room as if of its own accord.

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In the next room, Ghost Collection consisted of a number of transparent plastic chairs with ghostly forms created by air bubbles trapped inside the Perspex and illuminated by light.

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This sculpture, Fragile Drift, was created by three-dimensional bronze electrical circuits connected to light emitting dandelions. It contains real dandelion seeds, that were picked by hand, and glued seed by seed to LED lights.

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In Flylight , lights suspended from the ceiling responded to the movement of visitors to the gallery creating changing patterns of light, inspired by the movement of flocks of birds.

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Other works on display included an interactive 3D installation, video works and videos of installations they’d created.

The final work, Tree of Ténéré was a large-scale LED artwork in the shape of a tree that was originally installed at the  Burning Man festival in Nevada in 2017. It was created in conjunction with American artist artist Zachary Smith.

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The project is named after an acacia tree that once grew 400 kilometres from any other tree in the Sahara Desert, which was used as a marker on caravan routes but allegedly mowed down by a drunk driver in 1973.

It was an excellent exhibition and worth the the entrance fee to the Museum on it’s own.

A visit to the Stedelijk

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The final day of our short break in Amsterdam and our flight didn’t leave until just before 10 p.m. Son and daughter wanted to visit the Van Gogh Museum and had bought tickets online. We’d been before and decided to let them explore without us and, instead, we went to have a look around the Stedelijk Modern Art Museum, next door. We’d been before, in February, but they were between exhibitions, so thought it was worth another look round. They’d also redesigned the exhibition space for the permanent collection since our previous visit.

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There was a lot to see and in this post I’ll concentrate on some of the works from the permanent collection that caught my eye (excluding those from my post from the February visit).

Kitchen Gardens on Montmartre by Van Gogh

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Double Portrait of the Artist and his Wife by Max Becker

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La Montserrat by Julio Gonzalez, a sculpture that represents the fighting spirit of the Catalan people during the Spanish Civil War

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Apartheid by Keith Haring

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Radioactive Waste by Sigmar Polke

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Some posters from the Museum’s collection of Soviet art works

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There were also quite a number of Modernist photographs, many taken by photographers I hadn’t come across before, so I’ll have to follow up with some research when I have the time (so much to see, find out and do – so little time!!!). The photos don’t come out too well in my snapshots due to reflective glass, unfortunately.

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Ken’s Show: Exploring the Unseen

While we were visiting the Tate in Liverpool on Sunday we managed to catch the last day of the free exhibition “Ken’s Show: Exploring the Unseen”. Tate Liverpool opened in 1988 so last year was it’s 30th anniversary. As part of the celebrations the Gallery gave their chief Art Handler, Ken Simons (one of the back room staff who set up the exhibitions) and who has worked at Tate Liverpool since it opened (having previously worked in the London Galleries) free reign to pick 30 works to go on display in his own curated exhibition.

On display are a selection of Ken’s favourite artworks from the Tate collection alongside artists who had their first UK showing at Tate Liverpool. Highlights include Joseph Mallord William Turner, Dame Barbara Hepworth and Mark Rothko.

His taste is clearly similar to my own as I liked just about every work that he’d selected, and I felt it provided quite a good introduction to Modern Art.

The works on display included

Snow Storm – Steam boat off a harbour’s mouth (1842) by Turner

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A mud painting by Richard Long Untitled (1991)

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Winged Being (1961) by Jean Arp

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Figure (Nanjizal) (1958) by Barbara Hepworth

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Howard Hodgkin’s Rain (1984-9)

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Life In Motion: Egon Schiele/ Francesca Woodman at Tate Liverpool

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Last Sunday we decided to visit Tate Liverpool to catch up on their latest exhibitions. The main show at the moment is devoted to the work of two artists who lived at the opposite ends of the 20th Century  – Egon Schiele the American photographer Francesca Woodman. As usual for the paid exhibitions at the Tate, no photographs allowed inside.

Lately, Tate Liverpool has had a tendency to have joint exhibitions, trying to show connections between different artists. In this case, the Tate’s website tells us that

Both artists are known for their intimate and unapologetic portraits, which look beneath the surface to capture their subjects’ emotions. Schiele’s (1890–1918) drawings are strikingly raw and direct. He had a distinctive style using quick marks and sharp lines to portray the energy of his models. Woodman used long exposures to create blurred images that captured extended moments in time. Her photographs can be surreal, humorous and at times painfully honest.

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The close encounter between these two exceptional artists offers an intense viewing experience and a new perspective on their personal and powerful works.

Most of the reviews I’d seen before our visit questioned the relevance of this pairing and I have to say that it was difficult to see what the justification was. They both had short careers, dying young (Schiele from Spanish flu in 1918 when he was 28 and Woodman taking her own life when she was only 22) and their works concentrated on portraying the human body. But there were more differences than similarities. It wasn’t so much that the media they worked in  – Schiele created paintings and drawings while Woodman was a photographer – but the nature of the work. Woodman’s photographs almost always take her own body as the subject while although Schiele painted and drew some self portraits, particularly early in his career when he couldn’t afford to hire models, these were a minority of his oeuvre. And the biggest difference for me is that Schiele’s work is intensely  erotic while although Woodman is naked in her photographs they are not in the least sexual.

Still, that didn’t spoil if for me. I guess that mentally I saw it as two separate exhibitions that just happened to be intermingled with alternate sections devoted to each artist. I’d seen an exhibition devoted to Schiele at the Courtauld 3 years ago and so although it was interesting to see another large selection of his work I particularly enjoyed discovering Francesca Goodman’s photographs.

There was a large selection of drawings and paintings by Schiele, covering his entire career. He was

A master draughtsman, he is known for his erotic depictions of women and himself. He depicted his subjects in unconventional poses, with expressive faces – ranging from anguished to climactic – and with an emphasis on the hands, which were often greatly exaggerated. (exhibition guide)

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Even today his drawings and paintings are quite shocking – some of the works included in the exhibition were very explicit. It’s hard to appreciate just how controversial they must have seen when they were first displayed. In my post about the Courthauld exhibition I commented that although his work is technically brilliant, I felt some unease about their subject matter in the explicit way he portrayed his female models. I felt the same at the Tate.

This is one of his milder sketches

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I was interested to see how his work started to change towards the end of his career. He still concentrated mainly on drawing naked women, but his style became more naturalistic, less angular and more rounded, with bodies sketched out with just a few strokes of his pencil.

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I wonder how his style would have progressed if he hadn’t died so young.

Francesca Wood man was a very prolific artist, mainly taking small scale black and white photographs featuring her naked body. But, as I mentioned above, they were not intended to be erotic or sexual. She used long exposure times and soft focus and many of the pictures incorporate blurred figures. She incorporated objects such as furniture, wallpaper and plants, concealing parts of her body,

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and sometimes used materials such as sellotape and clothes pegs to distort her body.

Her compositions were clearly influenced by the Surrealists and some of the photographs in the exhibition reminded me of the work of Man Ray.

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As is too often the case, she wasn’t commercially successful during her tragically short lifetime, her photos being rejected by galleries and she failed in an attempt to get involved in fashion photography. This combined with the failure of her personal relationship, and, no doubt, other issues, led to her committing suicide when she was only 22, on 19 January 1981.

 

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.

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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