Love the Tate Modern

This is a guest post by Bonnie Golightly.

Yes, I love the Tate Modern in London. It lifts me up and makes my little beating heart sing.

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Alexander Calder, Triple Gong c.1948 Photo credit: Calder Foundation, New York / Art Resource, NY

I went south of the river to see the current Alexander Calder exhibition. I now understand why people say he redefined the notion of sculpture. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful stuff. Trademark hanging mobiles turn slowly and majestically in imperceptible drafts. The lighting is brilliant; each mobile casts a complex evolving shadow on the high white walls and those equipped with mini-gongs let out the occasional calming chime.

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Alexander Calder, Antennae with Red and Blue Dots c.1953 Photo credit: Calder Foundation, New York / Art Resource, NY

I was mesmerised. As were many others. One lasting impression I have of this gorgeous exhibition is the vast Tate Modern rooms full of people, jaws agape, gazing up at Calder’s fabulous works. I would love to re-visit with a reclining chair to rest a while and soak it all up.

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Fernand Léger and his portrait, Photo: Walter Limot. © Limot / Bridgeman images 1934

Room by room, I stepped though the creative history of this fascinating man. He was one original thinker! In the 1920s, he created a toy circus comprising little mechanical people and animals hence his interest in wire and mobility as a medium. He became fascinated by abstraction after visiting the studio of Piet Mondrian. However, his most astonishing early works were his cartoony wire portraits. He described this as drawing in space. It is beyond me how anyone could consistently achieve effective three-dimensional portraiture with only wire. One such portrait is of the painter, Fernand Léger. I love the contrast between the smooth facial outlines, the tightly coiled eyebrows and the stiff little bristly moustache!

Bravo, Tate Modern! I said to myself. Then I thought I would have a look at what else was on show and I found myself in the heart of the building, the enormous “Turbine Room” O….M…..G…..!!!!

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Abraham Cruzvillegas “Empty Lot” Scaffolding and soil boxes, Hyundai Commission 2015

Now the Tate Modern blows me away with two huge scaffolding structures together supporting hundreds of what looks like triangular seed boxes. This is “Empty Lot” by Mexican sculptor, Abraham Cruzvillegas. The soil in each box is taken from parks, commons, healths or other sites all over London. They are watered and lit by a variety of whacky lamps. But not a single seed has been sown. What grows – and in some boxes nothing obvious is growing – is what is simply there. Just like an empty lot! Cruzvillegas has always had an interest in alternative means of building. He is inspired by the popular Mexican “self-construction” approach to home-making. He says “Empty Lot” is about hope and expectation referring to what may be constructed or what might grow spontaneously. The originality, grandeur and vision of the whole concept takes my breath away. I adore it.

I have a hope and expectation that somebody will send a photo of “Empty Lot” to Talking Beautiful Stuff in a few months time. Pleeeeeease!

Love the Tate Modern too!

A Letter to Tracey Emin

This is a guest post by Bonnie Golightly.

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Tracey Emin “My Bed,” Installation, 1998

Dear Tracey,

I know you’ve come in for quite some stick for “My Bed.” Is that really art? Anybody could have done that! How was that shortlisted for the 1999 Turner Prize? etc. etc. I have to admit I was a bit baffled myself. (Was it really worth that much?) But as I tootled happily around Tate Britain the other day, I happened upon “My Bed.” I found myself intrigued, then mesmerised and ultimately quite moved.

The blurb on the wall says “By virute of bringing the domestic into the public sphere without directly representing specific events, the installation is forcefully and compellingly suggestive of personal narratives.” I’ll say! I stood and looked. I walked around. I then realised that “My Bed” was boring into my heart. The mess of the soiled sheets together with the bedside scut of discarded underwear, fluffy toys, well-worn slippers, vodka, cigarettes and KY recalled a whole raft of good, bad, sad and indifferent moments of my life. So many things and times I might – or might not – want to leave behind! And then, to my surprise, I found the sad, saccharine squalor of it all quite eye-watering. In fact, it made my day. So, thank you, Tracey. I hope you’re doing OK now.

Lots of love,

Bonnie

PS I really went to Tate Britain to see the Frank Auerbach exhibition. Not my cup of tea!

PPS As you know, “My Bed” is installed next to two Francis Bacon paintings and a series of your own drawings. I’ve never liked FB’s paintings.

PPPS I need help with your drawings.

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Tracey Emin “I could feel you” Gouache on paper, 2014

Art Genève 2016…. Imagination and Class

This is a guest post by Bonnie Golightly.

Those guys from Talking Beautiful Stuff found me an invitation to the grand opening of Art Genève 2016. “Go and check it out. It was great last year. Write a few lines for us. Just say what you like….. and why you like it!!” For a girl from the country who was “good at art” at school, this was an opportunity not to be missed. So I squeezed into something that was once sleek, piled my hair up, applied scary lipstick and, on worringly high heels, teetered off to Palexpo on the number 5 bus.

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Los Carpinteros “Duo de Congas,” Mixed media, 2015

The first thing that caught my eye was a pair of tom-toms melting on the floor. Brilliant! It made me laugh. I expected some poor percussionist to come running in realising that he had left his source of income on a hot tin roof. But how do you think up something like that? Well, Los Carpinteros are Brazilians!

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Michael Geertsen “Mantelpiece,” Earthware, 2012 / 2015

The second thing that hit me was the people. Thousands of people! And not just ordinary people! This was moneyed Geneva out in force. More silicon and silken mouchoirs than you could shake your Jimmy Choos at! A tidal wave of little black dresses on long tanned legs! Somehow, Geertsen’s “Mantelpiece” caught the mood. It smacks of something domestic, seemingly superfluous and discarded but nevertheless oozing a luxury beyond any homeware that I’ve seen.

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Beat Zoderer “Lotbild,” Acrylic and wood on canvas, 91cm x 91 cm, 1998

I adore this “painting” made of coloured wood blocks by Beat Zoderer. I wanted to run my nails on it. Visually, it’s surprisingly homogenous; like an overblown pixellated photograph that’s been rained on. Chunky! Soothing! Clever! I was beginning to enjoy “contemporary art.”

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Joly Alexandre “Magnetic fish” Mixed media (including preserved Diodon Hoioanthus, piano wires and piezo speakers) 2015

A nice man with a spotted tie spotted me spilling champagne in astonishment when I spotted a dried, poisonous, spikey puffer fish pierced with piano wires each ending with a brass disc. Mesmerising! More so when said nice man invited me to lean in close to the suspended beast. Out of its mouth (the fish’s mouth, that is) came calming tinkly music!!! What a whacky clash of concepts all ending up with something that I found more than intriguing and strangely beautiful.

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Kehinde Wiley “Portrait of Jose Alberto de la Cruz Diaz,” Oil on canvas, 183cm x 152cm 2016

I guess my tastes are more or less conventional which is why I admire the realism of Wiley’s’ “Portrait of Jose Alberto de la Cruz Diaz.” The portrait itself is faultless and honest but what frys my taters is how Wiley has incorporated the subject into the lushy verdure of the wall paper design that should, but doesn’t really, serve as background. Uber cool!

Art Genève is huge and rather intimidating at the point of entry. What I expected was stuff that claimed to be contemporary with little aesthetic appeal; you know, soiled sheets pinned to the wall, half-burnt photos of children, broken glass in old boots etc. What I found was imagination, technical accomplishment and aesthetic appeal by the bucket. Like the clientele, Art Genève 2016 is very classy. I would even take my mum along. And I think she would enjoy it!

Abdul Rahman Chughtai

This is a guest post by Alexandra Karoun Eurdolian.

Abdur Rahman Chughtai

This brought a smile to my afternoon. Took a coffee break in the East Lounge where I was struck by a beautiful watercolor that I had not seen before. The plaque next to the painting indicated that it was a gift from Pakistan (1954), and was painted by an artist who shared the same last name as my friend Alia. A quick message to her and I learned that they are indeed related, her grandmother’s cousin. What are the chances? She shared a few family memories about his life.

According to Abdul Rahman Chughtai’s wiki page, he was “the first significant modern Muslim artist from South Asia.” I was happy to discover his work today. Love the serendipitous, randomness of life sometimes.

Alicia Martin at OpenArt, Örebro

This is a guest post by Claes Karlsson.

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A huge ball of books? That’s what I stumbled upon on my way to work a few weeks ago!

“Conciencia” (Awareness), by Spanish artist Alicia Martin, is without a doubt one of the most popular items at this year’s OpenArt in Örebro. It evokes curiosity in old and young. People gather around and examine it minutely. The pages rustle and turn in the wind. Once close, I can smell that familiar scent of – ah, yes – the library stacks.

Google tells me that Alicia has attached thousands of books to a sturdy metal-core covered in chain-link fencing. Most of the books have been donated by the people of Örebro and the City Library (Örebro Stadsbibliotek). How clever!

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Being a librarian, the installation makes me reflect on the cultural connection between the physical book and the library as an institution. At work, I am sometimes confronted with the assumption of the Holy (physical) Book. “Do you actually THROW BOOKS AWAY!? You’re kidding me, right?” Well… Purchasing thousands of new titles every year requires quite some space. But I always find the reaction interesting, suggesting that the physical book is something quite remarkable that people actually feel about, an artifact, or as Alicia puts it “Books represent consumption objects with a universal anthropological load that conveys knowledge – the book is, thus, the symbolic mirror of human culture.”

Alicia’s work also helps me remember the libraries of my childhood. Big buildings, tons of books and an incredible information retrieval system based of cards made of paper! Libraries today, on the contrary, contain both physical books and electronic resources, of which the latter continue to expand on the former’s expense. Maybe one day the physical book will be no more. Of course I wouldn’t dare saying that to my patron (fearing to burn in some kind of library hell!), but we actually survived moving from clay tablets and parchment rolls to the codex and the book.

While the book as a medium can be described as a simple conveyor of beautiful stuff (stories and knowledge, fiction and facts), I can’t help but thinking that the physical book really is a fantastic thing. No need to charge it. No need to update. No constant flow of notifications popping up, fragmenting the reading experience. Virtually no risk of hardware or software failure – just keep it away from fire! Adding to that, easy and efficient organization of bookmarks as well as an integrated seamless note-taking system by using another great invention – the pen. Surely an artifact that well designed won’t give in easily! Or maybe I’m just old. Books and e-books aside, Alicia Martin’s “Conciencia” is my favorite piece of OpenArt 2015. Go see it. It’s brilliant.

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