Mystery of Appearance @ Haunch of Venison

Head down to the Haunch of Venison this January and you are in for a treat. Currently in their New Bond Street Gallery they have on display ‘Mystery of Appearance: Conversations between ten British post-war painters.’ This exhibition is essentially a who’s who of post Second World War British artists. The exhibition explores the artists’ works and how they link with one another. Artists on display include Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, Patrick Caulfield, William Coldstream, Lucian Freud, Richard Hamilton, David Hockney, Leon Kossoff, Euan Uglow and Francis Bacon.

Oil on canvas 197.8 x 137.4 cm

The exhibition features large and small scale pieces which focus on the artists’ varied approach to paint and subject matter and the connections between their work. The title of ‘Mystery of Appearance’ comes from a statement by the most celebrated of this group, Francis Bacon: “To me, the mystery of painting today is how can appearance be made”.

These artists are celebrated in this exhibition because they rebelled against the then current appeal of abstract painting that dominated in the mid twentieth century and instead focused their attention on reviving portraiture and landscape painting.

The show takes over four of the spaces in the new Haunch of Venison space. In the first gallery the visitor is confronted by nudes by Auerbach, Coldstream, Hamilton, Uglow and a portrait of Francis Bacon by Lucian Freud. Artworks range from painstakingly detailed to more simple abstracted nudes in this room. The piece by Freud for example appears to be a simple pencil and charcoal study of his old friend Bacon. All pieces involve singular people, people in rooms, models and the artists themselves.

In the next room paintings are presented featuring landscapes and portraiture which demonstrate the group’s experimentation with the materiality of paint.

The exhibition carries on to show the significance of Old Masters’ work in the new works on display. This section of the gallery presents pieces that directly refer to an Old Master painting or to a museum object. Notably Francis Bacon’s haunting Pope I can be seen which he painted after the Spanish Painter Diego Velazquez. This painting by Bacon grips the viewer as soon as they walk into the room. I have always been fascinated with his Pope series. It made me think back to his fabulous retrospective at the Tate in 2008. Close by Uglow’s Massacre of the Innocents a rendition of the original by Nicolas Poussin hangs despite its small scale it demands the audience’s attention.

Oil on canvas, laid on panel

In the upstairs gallery pieces Patrick Caulfield’s pop style can be seen in his Coloured Still Life 1967 whilst there are extensively detailed pieces opposite featuring many characters in the likes of Michael Andrews piece with each individual screaming for attention making it difficult to focus on one part of the image. Next to this piece a large scale image of a naked male on a bed by David Hockney is presented with its dominating bright greens and blues taking up a large proportion of the gallery space. It is difficult to see a conversation between these pieces and it is unclear the reasoning for this layout.

Acrylic on board 56 x 89 cm

Oil and silkscreen on turaphot linen on canvas 213.3 x 213.3 cm

The exhibition aims to link all these artists together, yet the exhibition’s loose, discursive structure also suggests that the group sometimes know as “The School of London” (a term coined by R.B Kitaj in the late 1970s to refer to the figurative trend in British painting) were never really a group in the first place, but instead they were a disparate gang of individuals joined by the common ambition to create art rooted in the texture of everyday life. Each piece seems so distinct that it is hard to imagine them as one solid group. Where obvious relationships in the history of art can be seen in the styles of the Cubist works of Picasso and Braque for example, within this exhibition, such obvious links cannot be seen.

Paintings in this show seem to have been chosen to stress each individual artist’s unique style rather finding a thread that unites them together as a solid group. However, on leaving the gallery it is difficult to separate the pieces from each other. This exhibition allows the audience to credit each artist individually as well as part of a group. It shows how diverse post-War British art was yet at the same time how the artists have been linked together by their close personal relationships. There is a sense of the work of these ten artists being linked together if not visibly, at least spiritually.

This exhibition is great because it shows the importance of British artists, especially as only three of the displayed artists are still alive. This exhibition is  perfect opportunity to see Great British art and is a welcome opportunity for those excited to see Lucian Freud’s exhibition at the Portrait Gallery and David Hockney at the Royal Academy to whet their appetites.

Mystery of Appearance: Conversations between ten British post-war painters @ Haunch of Venison, New Bond Street runs until 18th February 2012

(Glass) Blown Away – Chihuly and the Halcyon Gallery

After deciding that Christmas shopping was causing me emotional and physical pain I stepped away from the hell hole named Oxford Street and decided to take a stroll down New Bond Street. This street boasts some of the most famous West End Galleries dealing with the pricier end of Art; here we are talking thousands of pounds of art for sale.

This blog will look at one show I found incredible. I found myself in The Halcyon Gallery, a gallery so grand it could easily be a public institution. The Gallery displays and sells work of contemporary artists as well as more established artists. This broad mix ensures that the Halcyon always has its finger on the creative pulse of art.

The show I went to see was that of iconic artist Dale Chihuly. This artist has revolutionised the perception of blown glass as an art form worldwide. If you are unaware of his work, next time you are in the V&A look up at the 27 foot high snake chandelier in the main foyer, this he made for his landmark show there in 2001.

Chihuly – Persian Wall

Chihuly has experimented with glass for many years he became obsessed with glassblowing in the 1960s. This exhibition acts as a retrospective of his impressive career.

This exhibition does not only feature his incredible and colourful glass blown sculptures, it also features paintings and drawings the artist has created throughout his career.

Chihuly has truly made this glass blowing technique his own; he has stuck to it and developed it meticulously throughout his career. He has manipulated and magnified the potential of this medium making this exhibition a mesmerising experience in colour. The dramatic installation adds to this mesmeration, the Halcyon has become a welcome home for his work.


Chihuly – Dusky Sky Chandelier and Cranberry & Clear Chandelier

 

 

 

What makes these pieces incredible is the way they interact with their surroundings. People are pulled in close and orbited around the pieces. I found myself trying to find imperfections in his incredibly smooth and finished pieces but found none. I found myself walking around each chandelier again and again seeing how the light was taken in and reflected off each piece of glass. I was entranced with how the sculptures projected and transformed light sending it in different directions.

Like the V&A, the Halcyon displays chandeliers made of snakes, elsewhere however they had grand shells, and various other shapes. Each of these chandeliers is an assemblage of hundreds of individually made glass elements, showing how detailed and meticulous each piece is. Each piece seems as if it could be a beautiful glass monster.

Chihuly – Waterford Sconces

A running technique in Chihuly’s work comes in the form of his use of the ‘lip wrap’. This technique is a traditional rim-strengthening method borrowed from historic Venetian glassmaking, this technique has become one of Chihuly’s trademarks.

The glass pieces seem to explode naturally from their surroundings, almost organic, they belong to the space. This can be seen best in the basement behind the cell like doors. In these rooms, glass sculptures seem to burst from beds of glass ice like plants bursting through the dirt of a carefully constructed garden. It feels like a garden, yet at the same time, it feels as if you could be viewing these pieces underwater as they slowly wave in the current. Chihuly has created a true sense of movement in his static pieces.

Chihuly – Sapphire and Sky Blue Fiori

His passion for glass can be seen throughout the main space, the basement and the side rooms, but where it truly bursts in to full bloom is in the Gallery’s Mezzanine space. When you enter you are confronted with the largest burst of colour I think I have ever encountered. In this room the 24 foot long Mille Fiori garden dominates. This piece was made especially for this exhibition, truly proving that Chihuly still has a great passion for his medium. This piece is made of many different shapes which can be seen individually in the Gallery’s other rooms, here however they form one complete piece that is completely overpower and intriguing. I felt like a bewildered child finding it difficult to take the piece in all at once, it was chaotic yet controlled. It was a true delight.

Chihuly – Mille Fiori

Head down to this show to witness Chihuly’s passion for yourself. With all the bright colours and dancing light it will set you in a good mood to face the cold and the horrible task of Christmas shopping.

Chihuly @ Halcyon Gallery – 5th December 2011 – 29th February 2012