Monday, 25 May 2015

An Impressionist Art Walk

Would any of us today reject art just because it was 'new' as the Paris and London of the 18th century rejected the work of the Impressionists? 

Thank goodness, then, that the National Gallery opens 7 days a week to allow us to discover and rediscover art, including the art of the unfamiliar. Every visit reveals new things. 

During a recent art walk I headed not to Inventing Impressionism: The man who sold a thousand Monets (see below) but to Room 43 and Monet: The Water Garden at Giverny.

Claude Monet built his water garden in order to study the way light changed over time on the surface of the water. This is The Water-Lily Pond (1899).
  

Nearby is Monet’s earlier work celebrating water, The Petit Bras of the Seine at Argenteuil (1872). Did anyone ever paint shimmer quite so well?



Camille Pissarro’s portrait of Paul Cézanne (1874) shows Cézanne bulky, bearded and bundled up against the cold. He was 35 years old and had not yet succeeded in his own eyes – although his tutors, including Pissarro, had no doubt that he would. 


Paul Cézanne’s own self-portrait (about 1800–1) was painted 6 or 7 years later – an older man who seems to have lost weight (and hair) but whose thoughtful expression speaks of the intellectual effort applied to analyse the subjects he painted. Here he analyses the geometric planes of the human skull. He would soon use the same technique to paint his landscapes.

Edouard Manet’s The Execution of Maximilian (about 1867–8) is startling to the eyes even today. Observe the rigour and formality with which the artist paints the scene. You can read the story behind the painting here.
 


The Execution of Maximilian was cut into sections soon after Manet painted it. Some pieces, including the figure of Maximilian himself (except, poignantly his hand, holding that of General Mejía, who, with General Miramón, also faced the firing squad), have disappeared. It was Edgar Degas who tracked down as many of the pieces as possible and with equal rigour patched them together onto a single canvas to give us the 193 x 284 cm painting we have today.

I ended my art walk with two female figures and one female artist. Whether the sitter in Manet’s Woman with a Cat (about 1880–2), the artist’s wife, is thinking of her needlework, her correspondence, or the fact that it’s high time she got dressed for dinner, we don't know. Any cat lover will recognize the accuracy with which the artist has captured the reluctance to politely but firmly dislodge the cat from her lap.

Berthe Morisot (married to Manet’s brother Eugène) painted Girl on a Divan (not pictured) around 1885. The painting is on loan from the Tate: it seems to me to epitomise what we take the word impressionism to mean, leaving an interpretive space that allows the viewer to enter. Paul Durand-Ruel bought 22 of her works.

The exhibition celebrating Durand-Ruel's work to support the emerging artists of his day is ticketed (see the Art Pass link below), and now has extended opening hours. It finishes at the National Gallery, on Sunday 31 May.

Photos: The National Gallery

The National Gallery
Trafalgar Square, London WC2
Free Daily 10am–6pm
Friday 10am–9pm

National Art Pass

Note: since some staff at the gallery are engaged in strike action, please check the latest news before visiting.


Thursday, 7 May 2015

I really hate to think of Paul Schwer's new artworks the first the German-born artist-sculptor has exhibited in the UK leaving London.

Paul Schwer, 04-08/14, 2014, pigments, silkscreen lacquer
on PET-G, 106 x 88 x 67 cm, image courtesy of the artist
and Pi Artworks
I am giving his work an extra mention (see also the post below) in the hope that an institutional buyer might snap it up before the exhibition closes on Saturday 16 May.

The Shape of Things to Come is a depiction of the city of Istanbul where translucent brightly painted sculptural half-human shapes seem to cower, cringe, and hide from the glare of the sun.

They shelter in a pergola, a roofed space the city has set up specifically for the purpose. Are they 'people', vagrants perhaps, forced to seek shelter from this blinding light?

The shapes have actually been forged in an industrial oven: fed in as sheets of plexiglass (PET-G) and spun, folded and twisted out of (or into) shape. What were two-dimensional plexiglass paintings, screen prints or a map (there is a street map of the city now resembling a sheet of crumpled paper destined to be hurled into space by some giant).

Schwer's sculptures inhabit the gallery space in a manner that almost displaces the viewer. For, using aluminium rods and fluorescent tubes, the artist has employed the gallery ceiling, walls and floor to construct a three-dimensional frame. Unaware, the viewer has ventured into that space; is held in the frame, and has now become part of it.

Curated by Stephan Berg..

Pi Artworks London

55 Eastcastle Street, London, W1
Nearest underground station: Oxford Circus
london@piartworks.com
Pi Artworks
Opening hours:
Monday–Friday: 10:00–18:00Saturday: 11:00–18:00

STOP PRESS: Paul Schwer will discuss his current exhibition at Pi Artworks London, his recent practice and thoughts on contemporary painting on Thursday 14 May at the gallery. For further information, please contact: Neil Jefferies (nj@piartworks.com or +44 207 637 8403).


Friday, 1 May 2015

Three Shorts

The architect as art star
see Tate Britain, now complete with Millbank entrance reopened, at Millbank, London SW1
The Architects

The Gallery

Imagine you're in the sunny centre of Istanbul
see Paul Schwer at Pi Artworks, 55 Eastcastle Street, London W1
The Artist

The Gallery


Find out what sort of person you are
see Pascale Marthine Tayou at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London W2
The Artist

The Gallery