Spent a bit of time in and around London at the weekend which I don’t get chance to do much since adopting Arty from Battersea Dogs Home. So I made the effort to refill the inspiration reservoir and made a bee-line for 2 exhibitions that went on to blow my tiny mind.
After a pleasant stroll through Hyde Park complete with occasional leaf kicking and squirrel chasing, I arrived at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery for ‘Come and See’ - the latest exhibition from the infamous Chapman Brothers.
More nazi infested visions of Hell that are on a scale so huge that you cant help but be in awe of the amount of detail and work that must have gone into these immense models. Every single square inch seemed to have something going on.
The introduction of dinosaurs just added an extra level of madness that tipped my childhood excitement over the edge, forcing me to seek out the toilet before continuing.
The gallery was full of these chaps, adding yet another level of unease.
As well as the incredible model work, there was a series of sinister organic like pencil drawings and oil paintings of pretty folk.
The scale and atmosphere of the work in this show totally floored me. Immersing yourself within the huge model scenes you could almost smell the shit and filth and the sounds of shouting and screaming was constant within my head. You can always rely on the Chapman Brothers to drag you kicking into the darkness, a reason they’ll always be up there for me in terms of inspiration.
The following day was the Candice Tripp and Giles Walker show 'I’m Never Shopping Here Again’. I’ve focused mainly on Candice’s work to keep me from rambling too much. Similar to the Chapman exhibition, lots of immersive scenes in both 3D and on canvas that weren’t as savage as the Chapman’s visions of Hell, but still dark and haunting in their own way.
Beautifully created animatronic characters moved and whirred into life from dark corners.
And Candice’s Sally Dolls seem to scuttle from room to room, tiny sinister voyeurs watching the strange scenes play out through gaps in their fingers or busy creating mischief of their own whilst your back is turned.
I didn’t have my 'proper’ camera with me at this one so I couldn’t get any decent photos of the full canvas in the low light of the space but the beauty is in the detail. Candice paints sinister woodland scenes always inhabited by masked children either up to no good, leaving the scene after being up to no good, or shamefully ignoring some no-goodness being played out by fellow masked tribe members.
Like beautiful yet dark fairy tales, the oil paintings have such strong narratives running through them and the scenes are painted and inked with a lovely precision as Candice weaves her stories and leaves you to come to your own conclusions as to what the shit is going on. And it’s usually not very nice whatever it is. They always make me think of Guillermo Del Toro films when I look at them, even more so since buying and reading his Cabinet of Curiosities book that treats you to a peak inside his infamous notebooks. I’ll probably do a proper post on this later as it’s a beauty of a book.
So one thing I’ve taken from both exhibitions is that my work - especially my most recent paper work - doesn’t have as much narrative as I’d personally like. And I’m really drawn to these works that have such detailed and intriguing scenes and environments that just draw you in and capture your imagination. Definitely something to think about with my own work for the year ahead.
I’d really recommend checking both of these shows out if you can. You can get full info on both by clicking the links below.
Jake and Dinos Chapman: Come and See at Serpentine Sackler Gallery ★★
The Serpentine Gallery has staged an exhibition of work by the Chapman Brothers to put their new Sackler Gallery firmly on the map. Featuring new material alongside past collections, the show contains some highly original pieces. Overall though, it feels like it’s trying too hard to be shocking, and the results are rather mixed.
The overcrowded nature of this exhibition stifles the individual pieces by forcing them to compete for attention. Putting Ku Klux Klansmen in rainbow socks and Birkenstocks is a great way of poking fun at the vile organisation, but endlessly repeating the concept throughout the exhibition makes it look like they’d run out of ideas. Similarly, the 83 framed illustrations tightly mounted together are one of several examples where the exhibition feels like a lesson in quantity over quality.
It’s free and worth a look, particularly if you’re passing through Hyde Park, but probably not worth a special trip. Also, while some of the images are unsettling to grown-ups, it’s really not as bad for kids as you might think.
Etel Adnan + Alex Katz - Serpentine Galleries, July 2016
Entrance to Etel Adnan: The Weight of the World (Serpentine Sackler Gallery)
I had read about this exhibition opening on Artnet or maybe The Art Newspaper and was really excited about it because I immediately loved the colours but did not know the artist at all.
As my mom is currently visiting me in London I thought this would be a great time to see the show and we were both pleasantly surprised.
Adnan is a Lebanese artist, poet, essayist who grew up in Lebanon, Syria, France (Paris) and the US (California). Her father fought in the Ottoman army and she was very much influenced by the colours and the different landscapes that she saw growing up. As soon as I read that she had moved to Berkeley (Cali) in the 1960s I expected her colour palette to match Diebenkorn’s and to exhibit some similarities.
Etel Adnan, Untitled
Etel Adnan, California Coast I
Take a look at the two oil paintings above. Whilst the technique and the colour saturation is different for those familiar with Diebenkorn’s work it is easy to draw connections and associate the two with the Californian colours and Berkeley vibes.
Adnan is also impressive because of her wide range of works and techniques. The first photo, taken at the entrance, shows two of her weaved pieces. Similarly she works with ceramic, as illustrated by the two panels below. The panels themselves feel extremely light and could be mistaken for canvases if it weren’t for their reflective glaze.
Finally her calligraphy, her stories, the poems she recorded and her memoir on the Ottoman empire falling and her memories of Ataturk rising to power are beautifully contained in journals with splashes of illustrations in watercolour. One of these reminded me of Kandinsky and his colour symphonies.
Now whilst I am now in love with Adnan’s work and will be sure to study her in greater detail, Alexander Katz’s exhibition in the other Serpentine Gallery was less impressive.
Briefly, before turning to Katz, I wanted to mention this year’s Pavillion by Ingels. Unlike last year’s with its nauseating smell of hot plastic and its kindergarten qualities, this pavilion is stunning. The rectangular open bricks create beautiful illusions as you walk around the exterior and the interior. It’s also a great place to relax, grab a coffee and read because it has a great combination of natural light and shade.
Back to Katz now. I knew him as an American artist, from New York, who had experimented with abstract landscapes and had been attracted to the idea of stripping landscapes of the minimum required to convey the information necessary. Whilst the paintings in themselves are not lacking in colour, they didn’t speak to me as much as I thought they would.
The canvases are massive and the colours are bright, in a way this ties them with Adnan’s show across the bridge, but the brush strokes and the subjects were somewhat lacking in something distinctive.
At any rate it was an enjoyable day, walking in Hyde Park and discovering new artists is never time badly spent.
Practical information: Alex Katz and Etel Adnan’s shows will close to the public on the 11th of September whilst the Pavillion will remain until the 9th of October.
The Serpentine Gallery presents the work of late American sculptor Duane Hanson in his first survey show in London since 1997. Throughout his forty-year career, Hanson created lifelike sculptures portraying working-class Americans and overlooked members of society. Reminiscent of the Pop Art movement of the time, his sculptures transform the banalities and trivialities of everyday life into iconographic material. The exhibition at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery presents key works from the artist’s oeuvre. (via Serpentine Galleries)
To enjoy more of his artistic background, click here
“Centered around an augmented and appended version of the new multi-screen video work Ribbons, Atkins’s exhibition transforms the Serpentine Sackler Gallery into a submersive environment of syncopated sounds, bodies and spaces. This is his largest solo exhibition in a UK public institution to date.
Ribbons (2014) will have its UK premiere at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in a site-specific adaptation. Presented alongside installations of text and images, accompanying videos and tourettic interjections, the exhibition will underscore the ambivalent relationship that exists between real and virtual objects; between real and virtual conditions.
I visited the Serpentine gallery on a recommendation from a friend and was glad I did. A truly inspiring and captivating show that demonstrates the artists unique ability to combine issues of individual and national identity and global consumption.