Category Archives: Exhibitions

A Portrait of An Artist

Today’s blog is a hymn in praise of Grayson Perry, the Turner Prize winner potter,  sublime artist, transvestite and up there for most interesting person alive award.  He is warm, engaging and completely brilliant.

Who are you?  Grayson and his alter-ego Claire is himself  the perfect metaphor for how we all have our different sides to project to the world

Who are you? Grayson and his alter-ego Claire.  A living metaphor for how we all have our different sides to project to the world; that we are all our own works of art

I can not get enough of him, his art and his ideas.  His ability to articulate high concepts to a layperson in his series of Reith Lectures on Contemporary was extraordinary.  He is a natural teacher.   If you didn’t hear the lectures you can download them from the BBC website.

His Channel 4 documentary last year on taste and class was so revelatory.  He looked at working, middle and upper class in turn and through meeting members of the public and observing them in their home environment examined how we use objects to identify which social strata we belong to and why.    That he managed to do this without judgement, his questioning, probing but always with the utmost sensitivity, was remarkable.  We might have moved away from a “know your place society” but those social-economic fault lines run deep in the British psyche still today.    That he was able tackle this fascinating but potentially very tricky subject without putting a foot wrong says everything about Grayson himself.  How he communicates his thoughts and ideas is so thrilling it feels like my mind lights up as I drink in his words.  It may sound a little far-fetched but I can almost feel my synapses buzzing and fizzing with excitement.  The very definition of mind-expanding.

He is now tackling identity in modern Britain with the same humanity.    In the past two episodes he has created portraits of his subjects using several different disciplines. (They are currently being displayed at the National Portrait Gallery until March).  As you would expect from this thought-provoking artist, he is tackling a very broad array of individuals and groups.  From a recently released from prison Chris Hulme; a White British girl who converted to Islam (hers was a tapestry hijab showing her life story); a transsexual depicted as an Peter Pan like African statue in bronze; a Christian collective; a gay couple with a mixed race child;  and last week so movingly he dealt with a couple whose husband was suffering with Alzheimer’s .  How who we are are is so wrapped up in the lives and memories of other people, especially in our nearest and dearest,  and what happens when that starts to disappear.  It was profoundly touching and when the wife saw the pot where Grayson had depicted their lives and memories with the family photos cut into shards she said you have got it exactly right.

It seemed that night the whole of Twitter were in tears, there was an outpouring of admiration, love and praise for Mr Perry.  If he wasn’t already a national treasure before he certainly is now and it delights me that a man of his many abilities and intelligence is curating our multifaceted modern lives for future generations with such empathy.

If you haven’t heard or watched him yet please have a look, I promise time with Grayson Perry will enrich your life in so many ways.  The third episode of Who Are You? is on Channel 4 on Wednesday 10 pm

and if you live in Leeds The Vanity of Small Differences, the set of 6 tapestries he created in conjunction with his look at British aesthetics is being displayed at Temple Newsam until 7 December.

Miro Miro

Unfortunately for Nina we didn’t go and see Mirror Mirror this afternoon. Instead we went to see the Joan Miro exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a lovely day out.  An excellent walk in rolling Yorkshire hills punctuated by works of art of outstanding beauty and  it does have to be said, some sheep poo.  But it just adds to the charm.  There were even lambs flocking around the car as we went to park this afternoon.   We have been many times and with diverse sets of friends and every time we find another previously undiscovered corner to enjoy as well as visiting all the old favourites.  The park is the perfect combination of nature and art.

But today we were there for the Joan Miro exhibition.   After a quick trip to some of our favourite pieces such as the rusted iron HA HA bridge, a bridge of rusted iron with the letters HA HA cut out of both side, and the beautiful smooth granite egg sculptures.  I am afraid they are both so tactile the children love to climb on them despite the signage asking you to desist.  In our defence the signage is quite obliquely placed, it is so subtle and far away from the corresponding sculpture it took us a few visits to even notice they were there. In some cases it is also rather misleading.  This is our favourite:-

Hand on my heart I can promise we have never had a climbing picnic there.

A little further and we were into the Miro sculptures.  They were amazing.  Very elemental. I know nothing really of Joan Miro except he was from Spain, was working around the time of the Spanish Civil War, and that his paintings were very colourful with those broad black strokes and his use of primary colours and shapes.

The inspiration for his work comes from the earth.  His experiences of his family’s farm south of Barcelona had a profound influence on him.    He said himself “It is contact with the earth that enables me to fly”.      And he wanted his work to be shown outside.  I think he would have approved of this exhibition.  I wondered if there was another place on earth so suited to show his work.

The definition of cultured... looking at this sculpture without seeing Wall-E

There were about 10 to 15 pieces outside.  They were unpainted bronzes.  The figures abstract but always appealing.  The children could see similarities to much loved Aardman and Pixar characters.  I am sure to an art connoisseur this is tantamount to blasphemy but thought it said much for the universal appeal of his work.

There was an extensive collection inside includes some of his most famous pieces, the Sun and Moon Birds.   The bronze looked more like wood, it looked like it should be warm, it was hard not to reach out and touch.  Many of the bronzes looked like me in a bad mood sniggered Nina and Harry and this became a great game to compare the abstract forms in front of them to a cross me.

Me before my Yorkshire Tea in the morning apparently.

But reading about the themes I was stuck by the perception of the children’s remarks.   Miro dealt with male and femaleness, with fecundity and creating life.  Miro would also describe his sculptures as “phantasmagorical monsters”  so I think those descriptions of me before my tea in the morning were really rather accurate!

There were some of those world-famous paintings there too.  Seeing them on a wall half hour’s journey away from my house nearly made me cry, it was so thrilling.

The final room of the exhibition went into his working life and techniques.  I was very taken with a quote about life under the Nazis.  He thought he was “done for” that he would only be able to draw in the sand or make pictures with cigarette smoke.   An evocative image in itself and I was a little jealous too if I am honest, jealous of a creativity that would find a way or method of expression, no matter how enormous the obstacles put in its path.

The exhibition is on until January 2013 and I would heartily recommend it.