Retrospective of Rachel Whiteread @ Tate Britain

Every time I see Whiteread’s artworks, a famous quote by the mountaineer, George Mallory, pops up in my head – “People ask me, ‘What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?’ And my answer is ‘Because it’s there’.”

Rachel casts because it is there…

And she has been casting a numerous objects in resin, rubber, plaster and concrete over the decades. What she casts is another thing which makes her works most unique and captivating.

Rachel captures what is not there. Or it exists yet it is not tangible nor tactile to us. She traps the emptiness…

Shallow Breath 1988

In this work, she casted the void beneath a bed. The space captured and solidified in plaster and polystyrene represents multiple emotions which are associated with the space under a bed.

In her “Torso” series, she casted the inside of a hot-water bottle…

Again, she was capturing the warmth of a hot-water bottle. The artworks appeared as if she also managed to jog and trap the memories associated with this intimate household object.

Untitled (Amber Mattess) 1992

The cast of the mattress was made from rubber. The manner of the way the artwork leant against the wall resembled how some people abandon a worn-out bedding out on the street. Did she imply discarded intimacy?…

Untitled (Hive) II 2007 – 2008

The interior of a beehive was casted in honey-coloured resin. The visualisation of the space filled with liquid honey.

Ghost Ghost 2008

A doll house was casted in lavender-coloured resin. Behind the semi-transplant mass, details such as a staircase and walls were seen, trapped in a dreamlike manner, and it was hauntingly beautiful.

Sadly her most famous work, House – a temporary public sculpture in East London, no longer exists. I remember how raucously the piece was received by the general public. While some of them, including me, were pro, the rest was aggressively anti and the controversy raged until the artwork was demolished after eleven weeks.

Untitled (Room 101) 2003

This piece reminded me about the aforementioned work. Would the sculpture be spared from being torn down if it were built in a more affluent area of London? Like Hampstead or Chelsea? I couldn’t help wondering.

Stairs 2001

With this piece, which occupied the centre stage of the airy gallery, the artist finally resolved the issue which had been bugging her for eight years. During the BBC programme, Imagine, Rachel was recounting to Alan Yentob how she was left unsatisfied with the staircase of the “House” in 1993. She was not happy with it because the staircase was like a mere imprint on the wall and it did not represent architectural quality she wanted. Then in 1999, opportunity was presented to her in the shape of an ex-Baptist church in Shoreditch which she and her partner bought so they could convert it to a studio/family home. While she rejigged the space, she made the casts of the existing interior, including the staircase.

Untitled (Floor – thirty-six) 2002

In Out-IV 2004 (left), Circa 1610 2012 (right)

A.M. 2011

Due Porte 2016

Line up 2007 – 2008

Drill 2008 (front), Lean 2005 (rear)

While studying her works, the sensations, such as scents, temperatures and touches, I felt while I was making things during my art student days, came back vividly.

Her retrospective show is on until the 21st of January.

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

One Hundred Spaces by Rachel Whiteread @ Tate Britain

“Manifestation of negative space!”

The sentence was repeating in my head over and over while I paced excitedly around the installation “One Hundred Spaces” in the Duveen Gallery, Tate Britain.

The work was by the artist, Rachel Whiteread, who had been my hero since my student days.

“One Hundred Spaces” consisted of one hundred resin cubes, and these cubes were in fact, a direct result of the artist casting the empty space underneath each chair.

Representing what was supposed to be “empty” in such a spectacular way, she pulled our attention to something which we overlook most of the time.

Also, anyone who ever casted resin, including me, will understand how difficult to make these pieces. Synthetic resin – liquid methyl methacrylate to be precise, is notoriously difficult material to work with and can be very unforgiving if it is not done properly.

So each piece was casted in one go as I see no telltale line / lines on any of them…

I could imagine it must have been the hell of trials and errors before finding the right volume and mixture to create the piece of this size.

It is easy to be mesmerised by the end result alone…

However, we appreciate the artworks even more if we are aware of the process the artist experienced and the difficulties she / he overcame…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Life imitating art?

A cat is loose in the National Gallery!

Over the period, I have developed a particular way to enjoy the gallery. Each time I visit there, I have a predetermined theme which I am to look for in the paintings. The theme can be clothing, jewellery, furniture, food, animal, building, weather, etc. 
Of course, I do observe the paintings in a more conventional way too and appreciate their subjects, compositions, colours and styles like everyone else. I especially adore Rembrandt and Gainsborough for their masterful brush strokes and the serene demeanours of their subjects. 

Unlike contemporary abstract paintings, old masters artworks are a great source of information on social and cultural history of the time when the paintings were produced. Dutch still life is a prime example of how daily life was conducted in the 17th century Netherlands. It is fascinating to see how the people loved one another, mourned the losses and nourished bodies and minds as well as all the artefacts which assisted and enriched their everyday life. Some of the artefacts are no longer so prevalent in our present daily life. However, furry friends, dogs and cats who graced the canvases of old masters, are still a permanent fixture of our daily life. And last Wednesday, I wanted to see how they were depicted centuries ago.

Diana and Actaeon by Titian…

A small spaniel type dog is yapping at the intruder, Actaeon. The way the dog is having a go at him with its ferocious yapping reminded me how Mr.B would respond to a door bell.

A Warrior adoring the infant Christ and the Virgin by Vincenzo Catena…

A grey dog by the side wall may be small but the meaning of it being there is no small matter. Dogs in old masters artworks could carry a number of implicit messages. They may represent a symbol of fidelity or purport the contradictions such as sexuality and promiscuity. I guess this small puppy/dog stands for fidelity as a future protector of the infant Christ?

Happy Union by Paolo Veronese…

A female in the middle who are about to receive a crown is Venus, the goddess of love. And the dog on her left with a gold chain represents marital fidelity.

The Virgin and Child with Saints and Donor by Gerade David…

A whippet type dog lying down nearby the infant Christ may represent a dog from Book of Tobit. The dog in the story was a companion and a protector of the young Tobias who went on to an adventure with the dog.

During the second half of the Renaissance, dogs had become an independent motif of art. This elevation of their status was initiated by the trend of the European royalties and magnates, starting to own dogs for their pleasure, such as hunting and companionship.

The Family of Darius before Alexander…

On the large artwork, the dogs grace both end of the canvas. On the right, there is a hound type dog which appears to be accompanying the Alexander. And on the left, two spaniel like dogs are clutched by a short man who looks like a court fool.

The Vendramin Family by Titian…

Dogs have always been boys’ best friends no matter when the ages are, haven’t they?

A Lady teaching a Child to read by Caspar Netzcher…

And of course, they have been so to girls too.

Mr and Mrs Andrews by Thomas Gainsborough…

Even if they are grown ups, dogs are still their faithful companions.

John Plampin by Thomas Gainsborough…

Or Mr.Plampin might perhaps love his dog more than his wife?

A Homage to Velázqueze by Luca Giordano…

I found this depiction of the spaniel rather unusual. Instead of appearing to be restrained by being on a leash or held in arm, the dog was jumping off the step and dashing forward.

However, some of the canines are not treated with all due respect. The unfortunate ones appear to be employed as a mere infill to occupy spaces which otherwise would look awkward if they were left vacant.

Pharaoh with his Butler and Baker by Pontormo…

You know what I mean, don’t you?

Joseph sold to Potiphar by Pontorno…

The composition sits better because the dog acts as an anchor.

The Milbanke and Melbourne Families by George Stubbs…

I am sure this pointer like dog is a companion of the rider. But also, he helps the composition to be perfect too.

The part which the artists imposed upon dogs may have been for the latter’s convenience, but it didn’t stop the painters to observe and portray the dogs with affection.

A Young Man and Woman making Music by Jan Miense Molenaer…

Two Men with a Sleeping Woman by Gabriel Metsu…

A Musical Party by Jacob van Velsen…

Four Officers of the Amsterdam Coopers’ and Wine-rackers’ Guild by Garbrand van den Eeckhout…

An Officer dictating a Letter by Gerard ter Borch…

I like the way the painter captured the glint in the dog’s eyes. It makes me imagine how the dog would jump to his feet and ask me to play if I whistled at him!

Comparing with the ever so obedient and docile dogs in old masters, the cats seem to be always cats and nothing but cats, mischievous, sneaky and…natural.

A Woman and a Fish-pedlar in a Kitchen by swollen van Mieris…

A Sleeping Maid and Her Mistress by Nicolaes Maes…

The Effect of Intemperance by Jan Steen…

The cats are not always just an opportunist but also a giver & receiver of affection. 

A Boy and a Girl with a Cat and an Eel by Judith Leyster…

A kitten in his arm doesn’t look so overjoyed about its predicament though.

But a cat is a cat as a leopard can’t change its spots. It’s always up for a mischief.

The Graham Children by William Hogarth…

The cat definitely makes this already charming family portrait even more enchanting.

You will be happy to know that not all the canines behaves like their typecast.

A Merry Company at Table by Hendrik Pot…

Marriage A-La-Mode by William Horgath…

Their naughtiness is more endearing than their counterparts who behave like a saint. For the same reason, I did not like Lassie very much because she always behaved impeccably.

A final canine of the gilded frame is,

Portrait of Don Justino de Neve by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo…

There was no explanation about why the dog was wearing a bow. However, the love for the canine companion from its owner and the painter were more than evident. 

I hope you enjoyed the paintings as much as I did…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

 

Offprint London

I thought it was the Bloomsbury Ephemera Fair which was happening last Sunday, but I had a hunch that the date may be wrong. ‘Can you go to their website and check the date just in case?’ I yelled at Hubbie from the bathroom. 

Alas, my hunch proved right and it turned out that the fair would be held during the next weekend. ‘Oh no, not again!’ I was disappointed because I would miss another one again by not being around London then. 

‘There is another art book fair at Tate Modern today. Do you wanna go?’ Hubbie asked as he munched on our brunch of vegetarian sausages, baked beans and toasts. His suggestion lightened my heart like a ray of sunshine. Oh yeah!

Wow, the Tate’s new extension project had come a long way…

Last time we stood at the same spot was when we were about to visit the Sonia Delaunay exhibition last August. Then, the concrete walls were still exposed to the elements with lines of the brackets,  which resembled dotted lines and were yet to receive cladding. Now, all the walls were armoured with beautiful brickwork which complemented the existing ex-power station. 

Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall…

I can hardly wait to see humongous artworks, alike of The Weather Project or Marsyas, to be displayed in the Turbine Hall again once all the construction works are over.

The fair was occupying the east end of the Turbine Hall…

Offprint London was a book fair which exhibited and sold publications which featured art, photography, design, experimental music, open culture and activism. 

The venue was so full and busy…

The items on sale were mainly books in new or vintage, posters and artworks…

Amongst them, some oddballs, cassette tapes! Are they still in use?!…

I found them at the booth of Parallax. The girls who were manning the stall told me that cassette tapes as the medium of music were making a quiet comeback. I was so intrigued by the idea and the content of the tapes but I had no cassette player. The machine was no longer in production and therefore, it would have to be sourced from secondhand market if I wanted one. Momentarily, I even contemplated about asking my mum if she still owned the player, thinking she must have had one as she was a bit of a hoarder. In the end, I asked for their name card and left the booth even though I was still very much taken by the idea of owning the tapes.

A performance based art project was happening in the middle of the fair…

People watching was another fun of visiting this kind of events…

We did find a few intriguing books but we went home empty-handed. Since we paid for a new boiler and a refurbishment of the bathroom this month, we were rather cash poor, and therefore, on economy drive. *Sigh*

Still, all is not lost…

Georgia O’Keeffe‘s show is on its way! I am so looking forward to it…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

William Eggleston 

According to an Italian restaurant chain, Carluccio’s, MOF MOF is the abbreviation for “Minimum Of Fuss, Maximum Of Flavour”, I chirped to Hubbie who was fiddling with his Leica as we waited for our early supper at Carluccio’s by Tate Modern, Bankside. ‘World is full of abbreviations nowadays, isn’t it?’ I tried in my earnest to get his attention but the effort appeared to be futile. Then, a cheerful (& handsome) waiter approached our table with a plate of aranchinos which we ordered as a shared starter. Since Hubbie’s attention seemed to be miles away, I decided to amuse myself with playing with Hipstamatic on my iPhone…

Hmmm… The image reminds me the works by William Eggleston, I mused before sticking my knife and fork into the delectable balls.

William Eggleston is an American photographer and my all time favourite. He is the pioneer of colour photography and the influence of his works still resonates strongly, especially in fashion photography. 

These are some of the images from William Eggleston by Herve Chandes, the director of the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain.

In this book, his atmospheric works depict moments of a mundane life in the 70s America. However, it is more than just a sociology study of the Post War USA.

On each print, the hue, which is deliberately over saturated, acts like a trigger-point. The trigger-point to induces an inward journey of its beholder to search for a fragment of personal memory, a strangely vague but definitely “I had been there” kind of dejavu feeling.

I was fortunate enough to visit his retrospective exhibition at Hayward Gallery in 2002. The show exhibited more 200 of his work between the 60s to the 80s. It is a great shame that none of the major galleries in London hasn’t hosted any retrospective show of that scale ever since. I love London but I would rather live in NYC or Paris when it comes to photography…

‘Who has ordered Seabass?’ I was pulled back to the reality by the waitress. ‘Oh it’s me!’

And Hubbie’s risotto…

Then, we wrapped up our supper by sharing meringue with raspberries…

I wish if I were basking in the hazy sunshine of William Eggleston’s 70s California, I ruefully glanced at the grey sky behind the window pane of the restaurant. What has happened to our sprummer!!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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