Tuesday, October 16, 2007

FRIEZE ART FAIR http://www.friezeartfair.com


Well we all went, didn't we? It was a crush, it was not the best place to see good art, but it was fun. Unfortunately I did not get to ogle any celebrities.
London hasn't changed, has it? The fairs and pleasure gardens of 18th century London must have been a bit like the Frieze. People watching, buying big, putting on the ritz.
Overpriced entrance tickets (a rip-off if you booked in advance on the internet) and the food/drink facilities were slow, slow, slow and also overpriced. Nowhere to sit down.
Next time I go, I will have to make time to see the sculpture outside, but on the whole I do not think I missed much by not looking carefully at everything. There was a lot of tatty stuff. Some lovely photographs. A nice Sam Francis for mega-bucks.
Of course it is not an exhibition, it is not a curated show.
Possibly I was expecting too much, having seen three great exhibitions beforehand, the Paula Rego, the Georg Baselitz and the Louise Bourgeois.
Art Fairs are a mishmash of things that the galleries are hoping to sell just to collectors who want to find a home for their wealth, which might - they fondly expect - increase in value. And I include the Tate in this heading.
The gallery owners are not interested in art for arts sake. I get the impression that anything can be sold, as long as enough people subscribe to its value. You start looking at alarm bells and fire extinguishers, or baby buggies, and half-expecting that they are part of the display.
Obviously I am not the person who is a valued attendee at Art Fairs, I am not going to buy anything. I presume that if you really are one of the big spenders, you get the full treatment, VIP lounges, courtesy cars and a big massage for the ego.
It must be exhausting for the stall-holders at this, one of London's biggest street-markets.



I was not familiar with Louise Bourgeois before I attended a talk at Kensington and Chelsea College with the photography lecturer, Manon, who showed us slides of her sculptures, including "Filette". Manon's enthusiasm encouraged me to take an interest in this artist. So I was glad to go along and find out more.
We are lucky in London to have so much fine works to see, this autumn.
This is another blockbuster, the life-work of a woman now nearly 95.
In particular, I was moved by the large 'rooms' that are on display in the middle of this exhibition, where objects from Louis's past have been incorporated, her clothes which have been sewn and reformed. And red objects. Old doors are the walls, or wire cages.
I am not sure how to read the significance of these exhibits, I know very little about the art movements in New York during the years when they were made. They are, I guess, under the heading of 'installation' or 'scupture', and I have been looking at painting most of my life. Paint is familiar to me, not metal or found objects.
Obviously other artists have influenced her. She was in the heart of things, married to an art critic.
There is little here to suggest any link with France or French artists. Although there are many photos of her as a girl and young woman at the exit. She left France in about 1938.
Some early drawings of the housewife, half house, half women, brought back memories for me of the writings of women and the theme of being paid to do housework. I suppose this was in the 1960s, when I got very interested in the 'womans movement'.
There are beautiful objects here too, as well as sharp, agressive shapes and dirty bits of metal. By the window is the glossy bronze, the Arc of Hysteria, suspended from the ceiling. An exquisite thing.
Also exquisite is the view from the window across to St Pauls. On that day, it was all greys, the lines of the city buildings receeding in layers, the light from the river, and just to seal it in perfection, a drift of smoke falling towards the sea, blowing across the greyness of the sombre ancient heart of London.

Paula Rego - some more

I made notes about the exhibition for my own interest, and also bought the book in the Museum shop.
She makes quantities of etchings, lithographs and uses aquatint with great competence. In particular I liked the Pendel Witches series. Lots of the prints are in book form, and published as limited editions as 'artists books'.
Some of her drawings are on display, showing them squared up for transposition onto paper or board.
The Abortion series shows women in a dark, almost abstract background, maybe a two colour background, like a Spanish portrait. Black, green. The women are different ages, lookout out at you. She does not need to add anything to the figures, to enhance the message. In one I noticed a black bucket, which she uses in other paintings.
Interesting that she comes from Portugal, where I presume the law preventing abortion might be still in force. I do not know. In any case she comes from the generation, like me, that can remember when abortion was illegal in England - before the Pill!
Her earlier pastels seem less violent than the lastest ones. In particular we both liked The Fitting, from 1990, showing a young woman in a blue crinoline, in a dream-like setting, with two figures fitting her, and odd other figures, tiny by comparison, at the side.
These works make you think, they stay in your mind, they prevent you sleeping at night - or they did me.


The big retrospective of Paula Rego is one you should try and see. It is at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, in Madrid from 26 Sept to 30 December 2007.
The link for museum is www.museoreinasofia.es
We went along twice because first time, we were en route to Toledo, and the museum is near the Atocha RENFE station. Then coming back after Toledo, we had time to spend much more time.
Once again, the work that Paula Rego has produced in impressive because, first it is creative and challenging, and secondly she works on a large size, with a difficult medium, pastel. Sheer physical effort is needed in quantity to do these pictures.
From reproductions, you do not realise that these are pastel. Reproductions do not do them justice, because the medium has a texture and sensual quality, a lustre and sheen, that makes you want to touch it. Of course they are all under glass.
The subjects are very often distorted, heads larger than life, grotesque grimaces on faces, animals in odd juxtapositions to humans.
She has recurring objects, such as an orange high heel shoe, she uses the same models and the same faces crop up over and over again, aging the while. Jane Eyre for instance, is a woman not in the first flush of youth!
There is a huge triptych "Marriage a la Mode", interesting to me because I like Hogarth, and have done my own version of some of the Rake's Progress, as etchings.
These are in pastel and are again disturbing, without the title you would not recognise the relevance to Hogarth.
The most frightening things are drawings in ink and watercolour called Misericordia, of old peoples homes, showing them, among other things, being hit, or wiped after the toilet. Really I found these drawings hard to look at. Also Rego has done drawings of faces with different emotions, showing Repugnance, Disgust, Scorn and Embarrasment.

Millais - is it worth going?

I have seen several exhibitions and three art fairs since Millais. I remember the exhibition as being huge, I remember the critics being fierce on him. This exhibition demonstrates what can be achieved if the object is to show a life -work of a remarkably gifted, prolific artist who produced his work in England/Scotland, and most of them stayed in these countries. Some works must have been borrowed from abroad. There are so many, it is indigestible. They are in general, in good condition, except for some which are badly cracked.
For a comparison, it would be necessary to take an artist who started work at 16 or 17, carried on all his life to his 70s and who was so popular that his output included landscapes, portraits and narative works. I can think of nobody who could be used as a comparison, who is painting today. In this way, Millais is quite extraordinary.
Having said that, I can remember most clearly the works which he painted under the influence of - probably - Velazquez. Two portaits in particular. one of a young woman in a black dress embroidered with flowers, and one of a girl, also in a black dress, I think.
If you are very busy, don't go. But if you want to marvel an sheer hardwork, go along for a couple of hours!
www.tate.org.uk/britain/ exhibitions/millais/default.shtm