Art I have enjoyed in 2014

This year I have tried to take every opportunity to see an exhibition if it is in an area I am visiting. I am recording here some of the exhibitions and art I have seen and enjoyed in 2014.

January

In January I started exploring rhizomatic learning for research purposes. Through this I have discovered lots of drawings related to the idea of the rhizome.

Blog 1

When I used this wonderful drawing in a blog post the artist Mark Ingham commented:

The Image you are using from:http://socialdigitalelective.wordpress.com/groups/rhizomes/ is a drawing I made in 1999-2000 and is a multiple mapping of 12 of my Grandfather’s (The mathematician who supervised Alan Turing, A E. Ingham) transparencies. I call it ‘Boy Pool Rhizome’. More can be seen at my website http://www.markingham.org

More rhizome images that I have discovered in this research can be seen in this Prezi presentation.

February

Blog 2A trip to Denmark with friends. We visited (clockwise from top left) the Johanne Larsen House and Museum in Kerteminde, the Copenhagen Art Museum, the Round Tower Exhibition, and the Copenhagen Design Museum.

 

April

The wonderful Sensing Spaces exhibition at the Royal Academy in London

Blog 3

This prompted a long blog post:

Sensitive Learning Spaces: what architects can teach us

And also in April

Textile 21 at the Macclesfield Silk Museum with Frances Bell and Ailsa Haxell. There was a wonderful exhibition of fashioned silk dresses

Blog 4.2 June

Henri Matisse – The Cut Outs, live streamed from the Tate Modern http://www.fact.co.uk/matisse-live-from-tate-modern . I saw this exhibition in Preston. It stimulated me to write two blog posts: Matisse: life-long researcher and Learning from those who have gone before

Blog 5

And…    The BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery in London, which was a real treat.

Blog 6

And also in June ….the Silverdale and Arnside Art Trail in my local area.

This involves spending the day walking from small studio to small studio (usually in the artist’s own house) or to a slightly larger venue such as a village hall or a hotel. There is an amazing amount of artistic talent in this area of the UK.

Blog 7

July

Visit to Amsterdam and the stunning Rijksmuseum  (Rembrandt and Vermeer) and… the Van Gogh Museum

Blog 8

Rembrandt is one of those artists you just have to see for real, i.e. see the original paintings, in a gallery.

August

Art in the Pen, Skipton, Yorkshire. Over one hundred selected artists transform cattle pens into miniature galleries from which they sell their original works of art.

Blog 9

And …….

Mondrian at the Liverpool Tate. This had me thinking a lot about the relationship between horizontal and vertical.

Blog 10

September

A trip across Europe took in visits to museums and galleries in Zurich, Innsbruck, Vienna and Venice.

ZurichThe Swiss National Museum – a real treasure trove and the Chagall windows at the Fraumünster church.

Blog 11

 Innsbruck – the Cathedral, Imperial Palace and the Maximilianeum Museum

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 16.25.01

Blog 13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vienna – Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt at the Leopold Museum 

 

 

Venice – Like Vienna, Venice is a work of art in itself; the architecture, the museums, the galleries, the churches and the Architecture Biennale.

Blog 14

 November

Ai Weiwei at Blenheim Palace, with Frances Bell

Blog 15

Edinburgh – The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art  Blog 16

http://www.inglebygallery.com/artists/alison-watt/

December

Rembrandt live streamed at Fellinis Ambleside  from the National Gallery, London and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Blog 17

A fitting note on which to end my visits for this year.

Matisse: life-long researcher

Source of video: http://www.artfund.org/news/2014/04/16/video-henri-matisse-at-tate-modern

The live streaming of the Tate Modern exhibition of 120 of Henri Matisse’s cut-outs, created during the last 10 years of his life when he was at his most frail, did not disappoint. The streamed exhibition was an exuberance of colour, dance and music, with explanations of how the exhibition was mounted and insights into Matisse’s latter years.

I found myself thinking of Matisse as a researcher. Perhaps all artists are researchers. His life was devoted to exploration and discovery.  He looked to nature, music and dance in his life-long exploration into how to express himself.  It is interesting that some of the quotes attributed to him can be thought of in relation to an approach to research. For example:

To look at something as though we had never seen it before requires great courage.

An artist must never be a prisoner. Prisoner? An artist should never be a prisoner of himself, prisoner of style, prisoner of reputation, prisoner of success, etc.

The artist must summon all his energy, his sincerity, and the greatest modesty in order to shatter the old clichés that come so easily to hand while working (Henri Matisse)

But Matisse did not take a scientific approach to his work or start with a question. Rather questions emerged through immersion in his work. He recognised the complexity of the real-world. If we think of his work as ‘research’, then he took an approach similar to that which Stephen Downes discussed in his recent presentation – Digital Research Methodologies Redux – which I reported on in a recent post.

Of course as Peter Checkland has explained, a scientific approach to research has served us well for centuries and will continue to do so. In his work on systems thinking, Checkland writes about the 3 Rs of hard sciences – reductionism, repeatability and refutation.

‘We may define that method [the method of science] in terms of three characteristics: reductionism, repeatability and refutation. By means of it a continuously refined account of the universe is built up. This account is a successful guide of many kinds of action.’  (Checkland, 1999, p.13).

But, he then goes on to say that it is not a successful guide for all kinds of action and particularly not for the study of living and social systems and their ‘real-world’ problems. This is the point also made by Stephen Downes in his recent presentation.

In a similar vein, Ronald Barnett writes of the necessity for students to  ‘live with uncertainty’ and ‘to come to a state of self-criticality’ ,  explaining that ‘…..this criticality is achieved in the context of the spirit of research’. He goes on to say:

‘Such a spirit – the spirit of research – supplies a tentativeness not just to the student’s enquiries, but also to her profferings, her claims and her actions.’ (Barnett, 2007, p.127)

Matisse, Checkland, Barnett and Downes all seem to have a similar world-view, one where life is full of uncertainty and complexity. As Checkland has been heard to say many times …..

‘Let the situation talk to you’.

…. don’t try and pre-empt the situation by framing questions in advance. Immerse yourself in the situation and open yourself up to uncertainty and emergence. And

Iterate, understand the situation, enhance your understanding, visualize, act on it, and iterate again.

There isn’t a problem situation. There is just a situation, a context, a system, and we’re improving it continuously. (Checkland quoted in IASummit Conference Library)

What I learn from this is that a researcher who strives to do all this and keep an ‘open’ mind, in every sense of the word ‘open’, needs courage, as Matisse so insightfully recognised.

I also learn that research is not a one-off project. It is a life-long endeavour of inquiry, exploration and discovery. It is a way of life.

References

Barnett, R. (2007). A Will to Learn. Being a Student in an Age of Uncertainty. Open University Press.

Checkland, P. (1999). Systems Thinking, Systems Practice. John Wiley & Sons.

Further links

Hilary Spurling. 29th March 2014. The Guardian. Henri Matisse: Drawing with scissors

The Tate Blog: http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/blogs

Jon-Ross Le Haye. 4th Ocobter 2013. Cut and paste: Designing the Matisse poster

 

 

Learning from those who have gone before

Next week I will be going to the cinema to see the Matisse exhibition live streamed from the Tate Modern in London.

matisse exhibition

I live in the North of England, miles away from London. Occasionally I do get to London to see an exhibition (I wrote about the Royal Academy’s Sensing Spaces exhibition on this blog not so long ago), but the recent advent of live streaming exhibitions (as well as theatre, ballet and opera) has made such a difference to those of us who live ‘out in the sticks’.

My first experience of viewing an exhibition via live streaming was the Manet exhibition streamed by the Royal Academy last year. I saw this in Ambleside in Cumbria.

Manet exhibition

This streaming provided inside information about how the exhibition was mounted and in depth close-up information about most of the paintings in the exhibition. The experience is not quite the same as being there in person, but it comes a very close second.

In the run up to seeing the Matisse exhibition live streamed I have watched a short BBC4 programme in which the musician, actor and artist, Goldie, introduces the Matisse exhibition from a personal perspective.

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 23.57.12

I have watched this on the same evening that I have read a comment on Cristina Costa’s blog post – The web and the academic divide – which suggests that somehow the older generation do not have the experience needed to understand the younger generation and by implication, that the experience of the older generation cannot be taken seriously. But it seems to me that we are still learning from Matisse many years after his death.

Goldie starts his personal tour with a look at Matisse’s cut out – The Bees (1948).

The Bees

It’s interesting that he talks about this cut out in terms of Matisse splicing and editing ‘in his own head’. He talks about how the cut out relates to graffiti, movement, video and brings method to the madness in the chaos of nature.

Goldie also talks about Matisse being ‘far ahead’ –  the paintbrush comes along and everyone is using the paintbrush – but all of a sudden Matisse comes along and says ‘let me just use a pair of scissors’ – the equivalent of aerosol use by graffiti artists. Two Dancers (1937-8) is a great example of the use of scissors.

Two Dancers

In Creole Dancer (1950) Matisse brings order to chaos by balancing colours – ‘he balances the two oranges in the middle here, he has the two pinks here, he has these two blues here and he has this black weighing in with the blue there – it is so balanced – that is a real artist that can do that’.

creole dancer

Of Blue Nude IV (1952), Goldie says:

This was his colour, this was the colour that made him feel safe, this was the colour that made him feel at ease, this was his resonance, this was his ‘hum’ – the sound that a musician finds, it vibrates so much that it stays still, it makes you feel at peace with yourself. Goldie calls this the humming bird effect – that beautiful vibrant blue was Matisse’s humming bird.

Blue Nude

And finally in A Thousand and One Nights (1950) we see Matisse ‘elongating his life’ – telling the story over and over again in a thousand and one cut-outs, which have become bigger, bolder and larger with his advancing years.

a thousand and one nights

All this confirms for me the value of experience. We can learn a lot from the past and the experience of those who have gone before us – those who have learned to achieve balance in their lives and uniquely express themselves with confidence, without worrying about whether the paintbrush is a better tool than scissors or vice versa.

Update 31-05-14

I have been told by a friend that the point of this post is not clear. And on reflection, I see that perhaps it is not. The point I was trying to make was that Matisse, four years before his death in 1954 was using scissors to make these cut-outs, when the received wisdom of the era was that ‘art’ should made with a paintbrush. Sometimes the older generation are ‘far ahead’ (to quote Goldie) of the younger generation, despite their advancing years.