Bright Yellows, Soft Oranges And Reds (dig up the carrots and plant flowers instead)
I am enjoying two books which seek to extol the power of art. The first is Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery by Jeanette Winterson. In it she tells us how she moved from being totally disinterested in the visual arts to becoming an ardent lover. For the artist, it is chock full of sentence after quotable sentence, which shocks in recognition. She talks about true artists, in preference to great artists. The difference being in the act of connection.
“We have to recognise that the language of art, is not our mother-tongue.” A useful analogy which sees art as a conversation between the artist and the active partaker, between the art object and the surroundings, between the participant observer and their own self. Once the novice stage has been passed in the learning of the language there is, with sufficient time, insight, rapture, transformation and joy.
The second book Seeing Slowly: Looking at Modern Art by Michael Findlay also foregrounds connection as the way into art. Here we are guided into noticing how a work of art makes us feel, what it makes us think. It is so refreshing to move on from the “But is it art” debate and instead turn the question onto the person encountering the art object. I love the suggestion to imagine that this work has been made for you. Art, of course, is only a key – the real gateway is attention.
”Why is it art?”Gerald asked, shocked, resentful. “It conveys a complete truth,” said Birkin. “It contains the whole truth of that state, whatever you feel about it.”
DH Lawrence, Women in Love
And I am returned for a moment to my seventeen year old self, who knew about the potential of art, but did not yet know how to keep that potential alive.
“You are also asking me questions and I hear you,
I answer that I cannot answer, you must find out for yourself.”
Balm, 2017, Oil on Canvas
The day in December when I choose my must-see art exhibitions for the coming year fills me with so much expectation and hope. Here are my picks for 2018…
- Tomma Abts at The Serpentine Sackler Gallery, 20 June – 9 September 2018. Abstract oils, what’s not to like! She often uses non- words for titles, which turns the viewer back to the painting for reference.
- Virginia Woolf: An Exhibition inspired by her writings at the Fitzwilliam Museum, 2 October – 9 December 2018. This exhibition, on tour from Tate St Ives, promises works by over 70 artists including Carol Bove and Tamara Henderson.
- Actions. The image of the world can be different at Kettle’s Yard, 10 February – 6 May 2018. This will be their opening exhibition after a lengthy redevelopment and with Helen Frankenthaler on the list of artists it will surely not disappoint.
- Art Capital: Art for the Elizabeth Line at Whitechapel Gallery, 13 March – 6 May 2018. This exhibition will show unseen material from all the artists contributing to the Crossrail Art Programme. Watch Chantal Joffe talk about her piece here (look out for the oozy paint on her table!)
- The Court Of Redonda – Stephen Chambers at Heong Gallery, 24 February – 20 May 2018. 100 Portrait paintings of inhabitants of a mythical kingdom where creativity, diversity and tolerance reign.
- Sixty Minute Spectrum by David Batchelor at the Hayward Gallery, now until March 2018. This colour clock is an attempt to rescue urban colour from advertising and the artist says he can accurately tell the time with the piece, give or take five minutes. Starting and ending each hour with red, if you get to know the colour sequence it should be more than hue o’ clock!
- Minjung Kim at White Cube, Mason’s Yard, 26 January – 10 March 2018. The artist describes her work as ‘a visualisation of Zen and Tao’, see some of her work here.
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves…” Rainer Maria Rilke
“I think good paintings actually don’t give you an answer. I think paintings should block you off so you should be seduced into them but … they should push you back out again. They pull and push you all the time.”
“From out of this state of lowered, unfocused yet moving attention, there may be a second when thoughts fleetingly brush against each other and a new meaning appears.” Juliet Miller in On The Tracks Of Richard Long