Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Last Week

I got no work done last week . On Monday Buddy K and his wife, Susy Sue, drove Patsy123 and me down to Wokingham in their car and we spent most of the week with them.

Wokingham's relatively handy for London, but the rail fare's a bit of a bugger, so my new Senior Rail Card came in handy. It made it less painful to travel into town to take a look round Tate Britain and later, to see the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.

The show being hyped at Tate Britain is Hockney on Turner Watercolours. It's a bit of a come-on, actually, in that only one room of the show has been curated by David Hockney and there's nothing much to say why he chose the watercolours he did. But as I'd read that in a review previously, and because it's always a delight to look at Turner's watercolours (especially the recently purchased "Blue Rigi"), I didn't mind.

Hockney has some giant watercolours of his own associated in an obscure sort of way with the Turners (the "association" being that they both used watercolours), but not signposted in any way that I could see. It was only as we were leaving, having discovered a lovely Prunella Clough retrospective, that we noticed the Hockneys hanging on the walls of a stairwell off to one side.

There are five of them, each composed of several panels, depicting the same wood at different times of the year. I still have difficulty with Hockney's very strong, almost strident colours (especially his reds and greens of course), but after a short while I warmed to these pictures.

There's an even bigger Hockney painting in the Summer Exhibition. It takes up one end wall of Room III and is painted in oil on 50 canvases. Up close, it looks a bit iffy. It's of a wood again, the trees without leaf, and there are obvious discontinuities between one canvas and the next, both in terms of branches and their colour.

Once you get to the other end of the gallery, however, those imperfections become irrelevant, and the work takes on a genuine grandeur. I realise that scale plays a large part in this kind of effect, but I think Hockney has made a remarkable piece here.

As for the rest of the show, it was mostly very enjoyable. There are always things that I don't like - I failed to be moved by newly-elected Academician Tracey Emin's neon squiggle, for example. In fact I thought it quite pathetic, but really it's not fair to single her out on the basis of her unwarranted celebrity status.

And as for Gavin Turk's "Dumb Candle" ... A candle carved from a sawn-off piece of broom shank. This was given the Charles Wollaston Award of £25,000 for "the most distinguished work in the exhibition." Distinguished? It is to laugh.

Bill Woodrow, who chaired the judging panel, apparently said: "Dumb Candle is an imaginative work with subtle undertones that pick up on several significant art historical moments. The simple candle form is one of the oldest symbols of life.''


But these are minor grumps. There are more than enough good, interesting paintings, prints and sculptures to make up for the Usual Establishment Suspects.


jafabrit said...

I would agree with your bollocks.

marja-leena said...

Though you didn't get any work done, you got to see lots of art, so you pass! Might even be good for you...

Mr Zip said...

Jafabrit - I also saw the Candle described as "witty." Oscar Wilde was witty. This is ... well, bollocks.

Marja-Leena - I was selective in what I looked at this time, and I think it helped me to sharpen my focus when I got back.

Anna said...

Hockney could make a bomb by knocking off the 50 canvases separately.

Interested to read your opinion of the Bigger Trees, reviews have been mixed, I'd like to see it very much Is it clear where it will end up?