Archive for the 'Art' Category

Auburn addictions


I went three times to his studio, and met him at two evening parties – where I had good deal of talk with him, always excepting the times when ladies with beautiful hair came in when he was like the cat turned into a lady, who jumped out of bed and ran after a mouse. It did not signify what we were talking about or how agreeable I was; if a particular kind of reddish brown, crepe wavy hair came in, he was away in a moment struggling for an introduction to the owner of said hair. He is not as mad as a March hare, but hair-mad.”

Mrs Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865) on the Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rosetti (1828-1882), in a letter to Charles Eliot Norton (25 and 30 October 1859).  The image shown is Rossettti’s painting La Ghirlandata (The Garlanded Lady), for whom the model was Alexa Wilding.  Bridgeman Art Library, London.

Dissident graffiti in Czechoslovakia


In August 1984, I saw a display of cartoons by Jan Bernat, at the Mustek Metro Station in Prague, CSSR.   One cartoon showed a crowd of Western Europeans of various nationalities saying “No”, “Non”, “Nien”, etc, to nuclear weapons, with Ronald Reagan in front of them all with a placard saying “YES.

However, some graffitist had scribbled over this “YES” and written “NO.

The Yirrkala Bark Petition

Australia has just commemorated the 50th anniversary of the presentation of the Yirrkala bark panels as a petition to the Australian Commonwealth Parliament in August 1963.   The panels are an example of visual art as argument, as I noted here.

Related posts on visual arguments here and here.  


Artists concat

Here is a listing of visual artists whose work I like.    Minimalists and geometric abstractionists are over-represented, relative to their population in the world.    In due course, I will add posts about each of them.

  • Carel Fabritius (1622-1654)
  • Tao Chi (1641-1720)
  • Jin Nong (1687-c.1763)
  • Richard Wilson (1714-1782)
  • Thomas Jones (1742-1803)
  • Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849)
  • Caspar David Friedrich (1774–1840)
  • John Sell Cotman (1782-1842)
  • Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858)
  • Thomas Cole (1801-1848)
  • Richard Parkes Bonington (1802–1828)
  • Thomas Chambers (1808-1869)
  • Thomas Moran (1837-1926)
  • Robert Delaunay (1885-1941)
  • Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889-1943)
  • Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack (1893-1965)
  • László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
  • Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912–2004)
  • Agnes Martin (1912-2004)
  • Jackson Pollock (1912–1956)
  • Gunther Gerzso (1915-2000)
  • Michael Kidner (1917-2009)
  • Guanzhong Wu (1919–2010)
  • Carlos Cruz-Diez (1923- )
  • Fred Williams (1927-1982)
  • Donald Judd (1928-1994)
  • Sol LeWitt (1928-2007)
  • Bridget Riley (1931- )
  • Norval Morrisseau (1932–2007)
  • Dan Flavin (1933-1996)
  • Jean-Pierre Bertrand (1937- )
  • Hélio Oiticica (1937–1980)
  • Prince of Wales Midpul (c.1937-2002)
  • Peter Struycken (1939- )
  • Alighiero e Boetti (1940-1994)
  • Cildo Meireles (1948- )
  • Jeremy Annear (1949- )
  • Louise van Terheijden (1954- )
  • Doreen Reid Nakamarra (1955-2009)
  • Peter Doig (1959- )
  • Katie Allen
  • Els van ‘t Klooster (1985- )

100 years ago at the Armory


It is 100 years since the Armory Show, an influential exhibition of European and American visual art that toured New York, Chicago and Boston.   Some 70,000 people attended the New York exhibition (which ran from 1913-02-15 to 1913-03-17), and almost 190,000 the Chicago event.    The viewers included former President Theodore Roosevelt, who wrote a review of the show, here.  Although not a fan of the cubists and futurists, he was surprisingly open to innovation.   An excerpt:

The recent “International Exhibition of Modern Art” in New York was really noteworthy. Messrs. Davies, Kuhn, Gregg, and their fellow members of the Association of American Painters and Sculptors have done a work of very real value in securing such an exhibition of the works of both foreign and native painters and sculptors. Primarily their purpose was to give the public a chance to see what has recently been going on abroad. No similar collection of the works of European “moderns” has ever been exhibited in this country. The exhibitors are quite right as to the need of showing to our people in this manner the art forces which of late have been at work in Europe, forces which cannot be ignored.

This does not mean that I in the least accept the view that these men take of the European extremists whose pictures are here exhibited. It is true, as the champions of these extremists say, that there can be no life without change, no development without change, and that to be afraid of what is different or unfamiliar is to be afraid of life. It is no less true, however, that change may mean death and not life, and retrogression instead of development. Probably we err in treating most of these pictures seriously. It is likely that many of them represent in the painters the astute appreciation of the powers to make folly lucrative which the late P. T. Barnum showed with his faked mermaid. There are thousands of people who will pay small sums to look at a faked mermaid; and now and then one of this kind with enough money will buy a Cubist picture, or a picture of a misshapen nude woman, repellent from every standpoint.

In some ways it is the work of the American painters and sculptors which is of most interest in this collection, and a glance at this work must convince any one of the real good that is coming out of the new movements, fantastic though many of the developments of these new movements are. There was one note entirely absent from the exhibition, and that was the note of the commonplace. There was not a touch of simpering, self-satisfied conventionality anywhere in the exhibition. Any sculptor or painter who had in him something to express and the power of expressing it found the field open to him.  He did not have to be afraid because his work was not along ordinary lines. There was no stunting or dwarfing, no requirement that a man whose gift lay in new directions should measure up or down to stereotyped and fossilized standards.”

What with TR’s imperialism and all, it is easy to forget how good a writer he was, being a published author before becoming President.   Like another Nobel-Peace-Prize-winning President.


Theodore Roosevelt [1913]: A Layman’s Views of an Art Exhibition. Outlook, 103 (29 March 1913): 718–720. Reprinted in Roderick Nash [1970] (Editor):   The Call of the Wild (1900–1916). New York: George Braziller.

Transitions 2012

Some who have passed on during 2012 whose life or works have influenced me:

Bird cries from the mountaintop

When the wild bird cries its melodies from the treetops,
Its voice carries the message of the patriarch.
When the mountain flowers are in bloom,
Their full meaning comes along with their scent.

I have remarked twice before that modern westerners, even very clever ones, fail to understand the nature of synchronicity in Taoist and Zen philosophy when discussing the art of John Cage.  If you believe the universe is subject to invisible underlying forces, as Taoist and Zen adherents may do (and as Cage did), then there is no chance, no randomness, no lack of relationships between events, only a personal inability to perceive such relationships.  The I Ching is intended as a means to reveal some of these hidden connections.

In a recent essay on Silence in the TLS, Paul Griffiths ends with:

Another of Cage’s favourite maxims, this one taken from Ananda Coomaraswamy and delivered five times in Silence, was that the purpose of art is to “imitate nature in her manner of operation”, which is almost another way of stating his first catchphrase, since natural objects and phenomena have nothing to say. They are not, of course, saying it. We say it for them. And in our doing so, experiencing their voicelessness and taking it into ourselves, a great deal comes to be said. There is no message in the changing pattern of cloud shadow and reflected sunlight on the sea. It may, nevertheless, thrill us, calm us, and fix our sustained attention.”

But, of course, for a Zen adherent there are indeed messages in the changing patterns of clouds and in sunlight reflected on the sea.   Even more so are there messages in human artefacts such as musical compositions, even those (perhaps especially those!) using so-called random methods for creation.    For Cage, the particular gamuts (clusters of sounds) that he selected for any particular one of his random compositions were selected as the direct result of the spiritual forces acting on him at that particular moment of selection, through his use of the I Ching, for instance.   Similarly, under this world-view, the same forces are active in those compositions allowing apparently-random leeway to the performers or listeners.

One can criticize or reject this spiritual world-view, but first one has to understand it. Griffiths, like so many others, has failed to understand it.


On a railway platform with no trains departing?

Will Gompertz has a London-Tube-style map of movements in modern art, here. I don’t agree with all his expressed or implied linkages, and he evades the challenge of meaningfully classifying most current art by simply calling it “Art Now”, but the chart does provide a good starting-point for reflection and discussion.

Recent exhibitions 1

A list, sometimes annotated, of various exhibitions I have seen over the last while and wish to remember:

  • Masterpieces from the Prado, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Qld.  The exceptional highlight was a 1641 painting by Antonio de Pereda y Salgado (1611-1678), entitled, “Cristo, Varon de Dolores“, of Christ holding the tree trunk that would be the cross.  The bright red of His cloak is reflected in the drops of red blood on His shoulders, blood from His crown of thorns; and the realistic bark of the tree trunk is reflected in the wood of the crown.
  • Casa Brazil:  Somerset House, London, UK.  Billed as recent Brazilian art and design, at least a third of this exhibition was devoted to a glossy sales pitch for the Rio Olympics 2016.  What recent art and design was included owed a strong influence to Arte Povera and traditional crafts.  Was this representative, I wonder?   Disappointing.
  • The Rinpa Aesthetic in Japanese Art:  The Met, NY.  More information here.
  • Sol LeWitt:  A Wall-Drawing Retrospective:  Mass MOCA (only until 2033, so do hurry along).  A wonderful collection of realisations of LeWitt’s various instructions for drawing on walls, many involving the comprehensive exploration of combinatorial possibilities, in manner similar to that of Alighiero e Boetti.   Some superb uses of colour and line, and some reminders in shape and colour of Bridget Riley’s almond paintings.
  • The Old and the New:  Pintupi masterworks from the Collection 1980s – 2000s:  Queensland Gallery of Modern Art.   Among some very moving art, an interesting feature is the optical turn in Pintupi art – the recent use of more abstract and op-art styles, with artists deploying intense repetition, oscillation, and visual effects.  Because Australian aboriginal art usually has mythological, argumentative or narrative denotation (as discussed here and here), these optical effects may be mere artefacts of our western viewership, rather than features intended by the artists.  It would be interesting to know to what extent the effects have been intended.
  • Masterpieces of English Watercolours and Drawings from the National Gallery of Scotland:  Lowell Libson Gallery, London 2011.    Catalog here.    Spectator review here.  This exhibition included a fine Bonington and a superb Cotman:  A Pool on the River Greta near Rokeby (pictured in the Spectator review and below) – as with all Cotman’s landscapes, the proportions of the scene’s components are masterly and well-tempered.

Gallery concat

For the record, a listing of fine art galleries and museums I have visited (AFAIR), in alpha order:

  • 21er Haus, Vienna Austria
  • Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin Germany
  • Altes Museum, Berlin Germany
  • Altonaer Museum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Altona, Hamburg Germany
  • American Folk Art Museum, New York City NY USA
  • Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki Greece
  • Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
  • Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada
  • Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago IL USA
  • Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, San Francisco CA USA
  • Asia Society Museum, New York City NY USA
  • Ateneum, Helsinki Finland
  • Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney Australia
  • Australian War Memorial, Canberra Australia
  • Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham UK
  • Barbican Gallery, London UK
  • Belvedere Museums, Vienna Austria
  • Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool UK
  • Bolton Museum and Art Gallery, Bolton UK
  • Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, The Netherlands
  • BOZAR – Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels Belgium
  • Bribie Island Seaside Museum, Bribie Island, Moreton Bay, Queensland Australia
  • British Museum, London UK
  • Bury Art Museum, Bury Lancashire UK
  • Colegio del Patriarca, Valencia, Spain
  • Communist History Museum, Moscow RF
  • Coptic Museum, Cairo Egypt
  • Courtauld Gallery, London UK
  • Cycladic Art Museum, Athens Greece
  • Dia: Beacon, Beacon NY USA
  • The Drawing Center, New York City NY USA
  • Drill Hall Gallery, Canberra Australia
  • Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, London UK
  • Ethnological Museum of Berlin, Dahlem, Berlin Germany
  • Frank Lloyd Wright Gallery, Chicago IL USA
  • The Frick Collection, New York, USA
  • Frida Kahlo House, Mexico DF, Mexico
  • Fundacio Joan Miro, Barcelona Catalonia Spain
  • Galleria Borghese, Rome Italy
  • Galleria d’Arte Moderna di Milano (GAM), Milan Italy
  • Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome Italy
  • Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane Australia
  • Gallery Seomi, Seoul, Republic of Korea
  • Gardiner Museum of Ceramics, Toronto Canada
  • Gemaldegalerie, Berlin Germany
  • Glypotek Museum, Copenhagen Denmark
  • Guggenheim Museum, New York City NY USA
  • Hayward Gallery, London UK
  • Hofburg Palace, Vienna Austria
  • Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong PRC
  • Hyde Park Barracks Museum, Sydney Australia
  • Insadong-gil galleries, Seoul RoK
  • International Slavery Museum, Liverpool UK
  • Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin Eire
  • Izumo-taisha Shinto Shrine, Izumo-shi, Shimani Prefecture, Japan
  • Jewish Museum, Prague Czech Republic
  • Kiasma – Museum for Contemporary Art, Helsinki Finland
  • Kronborg Castle, Helsingor Denmark
  • Kunsten – Museum of Modern Art, Aalborg Denmark
  • Kunsthalle Hamburg und Galerie der Gegenwart, Hamburg Germany
  • KunstHausWien, Vienna Austria
  • Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna Austria
  • Lady Lever Gallery, Port Sunlight, Wirral UK
  • Lafcadio Hearn House, Matsue, Shimani Prefecture, Japan
  • Lancaster City Museum, Lancaster Lancashire UK
  • Leopold Museum, Vienna Austria
  • Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek Denmark
  • Luton Hoo, Luton Bedfordshire UK
  • Manchester City Gallery, Manchester UK
  • Marc Chagall National Museum, Nice France
  • Martin Gropius Bau, Kreuzberg, Berlin Germany
  • Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MOCA), North Adams, MA USA
  • Matthew Flinders Art Gallery, Bribie Island Community Arts Centre, Bribie Island, Qld, Australia
  • Mauritshuis, Den Haag, The Netherlands
  • Mayakovsky House, Moscow RF
  • Memento Communist Sculpture Park, Budapest Hungary
  • Merseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool UK
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City NY USA
  • Modern Art Oxford Gallery, Oxford UK
  • Moravian Museum of Bethlehem, Bethlehem PA USA
  • Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris France
  • Musée du Louvre, Paris France
  • Musée Matisse, Nice France
  • Musée national Picasso, Paris, France
  • Musei Vaticani, The Vatican
  • Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon Portugal
  • Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna (MAMbo), Bologna Italy
  • Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico DF, Mexico
  • Museo de Bellas Arts de Valencia, Valencia, Spain
  • Museo di Strumenti Musicali dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome Italy
  • Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), Barcelona Catalonia Spain
  • Museum Bahara – National Maritime Museum of Indonesia, Jakarta Indonesia
  • Museum of Asian Art, Berlin Germany
  • Museum of Australian Democracy, Canberra Australia
  • Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago IL USA
  • Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney Australia
  • Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, Cairo Egypt
  • Museum of Islamic Art,  Cairo Egypt
  • Museum of Modern Art, New York City NY USA
  • Museum of Popular Musical Instruments, Athens Greece
  • Museum of Portuguese Music, Casa Verdades de Faria, Monte Estoril Portugal
  • Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester UK
  • Museum Nasional Indonesia, Jakarta Indonesia
  • Musical Instrument Museum, Brussels Belgium
  • Musikinstrumenten Museum Berlin Germany
  • National Archeological Museum, Athens Greece
  • National Gallery, London UK
  • National Gallery of Art, Washington DC USA
  • National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Australia
  • National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Australia
  • National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare Zimbabwe
  • National Jewish Museum, Budapest Hungary
  • National Maritime Museum, Greenwich UK
  • National Museum of Australia, Canberra Australia
  • National Palace Museum, Taipei Taiwan RoC
  • Neues Museum, Berlin Germany
  • New Italy Museum, nr. Woodburn NSW Australia
  • Palace Museum, Forbidden City, Beijing PRC
  • Pergamon Museum, Berlin Germany DDR
  • Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Australia
  • Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow RF
  • Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane Australia
  • Questacon – The National Science and Technology Centre, Canberra Australia
  • Rose Seidler House, Wahroonga, Sydney Australia
  • Royal Academy of Arts, London UK
  • Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon Aerodrome, London UK
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco CA USA
  • Science Museum, London UK
  • Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh Scotland UK
  • Seattle Art Museum, Seattle WA USA
  • Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC USA
  • Sonoma Gallery of Shona Sculpture, Sonoma CA USA
  • State Historical Museum, Moscow RF
  • Sudley House Gallery, Liverpool UK
  • Tate Britain, London UK
  • Tate Liverpool, Liverpool UK
  • Tate Modern, London UK
  • Tenterfield School of Arts, Tenterfield NSW Australia
  • Trotsky House, Mexico DF, Mexico
  • Unhyeongung – Unhyeon Palace, Jongno-gu, Seoul, RoK
  • Victoria and Albert Museum, London UK
  • Vikingeskibs Museet, Roskilde Denmark
  • Walker Gallery, Liverpool UK
  • The Wallace Collection, London UK
  • Whitechapel Gallery, London UK
  • Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City NY USA
  • Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester UK
  • Wiener Secessionsgebäude, Vienna Austria