Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Part I Liberating day out in London

Worrying that I would miss my alarm at 4.30 am in the morning, I lay awake in bed from 3.00 until then, turning my alarm off minutes before it dinger-ringed. Got the train from Penrith, catching flies most of the way down and arriving at Euston just after 9.00 - four hours door to door - not bad at all. I did, however, require frequent cafe lattes to keep me going!!

Anyway, I managed to go to the National Portrait Gallery and see the BP Portrait Awards, Road to 2012 as well as a load more amazing portraits in their collection.  Moving on to the Tate Modern, which despite its size and prominence, I struggled to find ending up at Tower Bridge.   I tell you, they could do with improving the tourist attraction signs down there!! It was a beautiful walk and I morphed in to a tourist easily, although the difference being I was one of the few English!!

The Tate Modern as a venue is like nothing else I've ever been to.  It is just mind-blowing.  The sheer scale of the building and use of space is brilliant.  I managed to see a few of their permanent exhibitions and I particularly liked the 'energy and process' hall. The Exposed exhibition was the highlight of the day, hands down.  After yet another cafe latte on their wonderful balcony overlooking the sights of London I continued my journey by foot (I'd had enough of tubes).  I was by this time, a little delirous and bush-wacked!!   

My final exhibition was the Sally Mann exhibition at the Photographers Gallery which is tucked down a little lane behind Oxford Street. Compared to the vacuous scale of the Tate Modern, the Photographers Gallery is 'tres bijou' but very popular.  They had three of Mann's projects exhibited of which two I liked and the third of decomposing bodies I could leave.  But she, like myself, has three children, and for many years has used them as her subjects.  Her print processes are intricate, time-consuming and thoughtful and this in addition to her photography skills differentiates her work.  One particular collection of close-ups of her children's faces were nothing short of beautiful. 

The only slight disappointment of visiting the galleries (and they are not unique in this) was how characteristically sterile gallery halls are.  I know the impact has to be from the images or paintings without any distractions but there is something very formal and reserved about this environment. I imagine this to be contrasting to the spaces the artists themselves are likely to have inhabited to create their work.

Another observation is that photographic exhibitions are at a major disadvantage compared to other forms of art such as modern art, sculpture etc.  It is essentially two dimensional, with no texture or tactility to drawn you in. I found a number of pieces at the Tate in the Energy and Process hall that were rich in natural fibres, materials with vibrant colours, which were indulgent in scale, size and depth.  This appealed.  Photographs are currently two dimensional and many are presented small. But it did make me think if (or if I'm being really positive) when I exhibit some of my work, there are several things I would want to consider: the environment in which my images are exhibited (although I suspect my influence over this would be limited), the scale of the work (I found myself looking for differentiation in terms of size of the image), processes used - silver gelatin prints were by far the most popular, and also whether technology can create three dimensional images (although whether this would enhance or not I'm not sure).

Moving on and to prevent this post scrolling down to the floor I am going to write a second post which discusses more specific observations.

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