A place for my printmaking and related work
Over the holiday period I visited an exhibition, From Death to Death…, which I had been looking forward to for some weeks. It took all my available time to see the work on the ground floor (the urge to linger was strong) . Fortunately it is on for some months yet and I can return to complete my viewing with the upstairs rooms. I always find it more satisfying to revisit in any case, as something changes in my response during the time between visits and then I want to return and check out my recollections against the reality.
There is exciting work, including Sarah Lucas’s Bunny Gets Snookered #10 (installation, 1997) and the set of tiny Francesca Woodman photographs that featured in the NGS exhibition Four Women Artists in 2011. They are a set of self-portraits with a narrative theme and are each surrounded by wide pale mountboard and pale framing, which create a distancing effect that I feel adds to the narrative power. I lingered near a large installation in which the bases of fabric columns were filled with copious amounts of aromatic spices but then noticed my eyes beginning to sting and moved swiftly on. A striking work by Helen Chadwick was her Self-Portrait, a photographic transparency in a light box, featuring a brain resting on similarly infolded fabric and framed by a pair of hands. These are just a fraction of the range and interest of what I saw. I expect I will want to post again once I have seen the rest of the exhibition.
It was interesting to find Surrealist works, be reminded of the stimulating exhibition of 2011, and also to be able to follow through from there to more recent and contemporary work (not that the exhibition is arranged chronologically, the unexpected juxtapositions are part of the fascination). I find this approach exhilarating, a display of work in a full range of media, playing with concepts and unconventional means of expression. It challenges me to stop and look harder, and strive to relate to it.
I see it as an expression of a culture with everything questioned, in contrast to art which is of its culture and is a channel for transmission of taken-for-granted values. It occurs to me that the kind of work on show in From Death to Death would be unlikely ever to be described as “sublime”. It is suited to a post-modern age, as evoked by the title of Milan Kundera’s novel “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”, in which the climate is no longer propitious for the sublime.