Sunday 8 April 2012

Is art the new rock and roll?

You would only ever hear me utter those words in jest. Sardonic irony is the best protection against the pretentious broadcasting nonsense by the likes of Andrew Graham Dixon and Brian ‘a lemon stuck up his arse’ Sewell.

We are just back from a couple of days in London. Well actually we spent the night between in Essex, but we’ll gloss over that. Who wants to admit to going to Essex? In London we visited two different art exhibitions. Two very different exhibitions. The first was the Hockney Exhibition at the Royal Academy, and the second Yayoi Kusama at The* Tate Modern.

I work with someone who could organise a piss-up in a brewery. Unfortunately he can’t organise much else. And, in a similar vein the RA can organise an art exhibition but not much else. What a shocking place to go and gawp at art! I never want to go there again that’s for sure. I suppose in fairness the David Hockney exhibition is very popular. I’ve never seen so many people trying to get into an exhibition. Hence the title of this post. We were thankfully lucky enough to have pre-booked tickets, so we strolled in at our allotted time. It was very full inside the exhibition, which made it difficult getting round and seeing the pictures, but it was well worth it. I’ve always liked Hockney’s work although only ever seen relatively few pieces ‘in the flesh’. This exhibition changed all of that for me. There are just so many wow pieces. And some huge pieces. Huge and wow. I love Hockney’s use of colour on his landscape. He has the ability to convey the light like no other artist I’ve seen. He makes blue trees work.

This is very much a mouth wide open experience and with every new room comes more colour. More colour and shapes to absorb. I just soaked it all up like a sponge. Hockney has always been at the cutting edge of technology in art and I particularly liked many of his iPad (other tablet computers are available) creations. They make for very interesting pictures when printed out. The huge ones of Yosemite are just breathtaking. The only pictures that I didn’t care much for, because of the subject I suppose, were the ones of ‘The Sermon on the Mount’. They filled an entire room and were basically Jesus on a giant carrot proselytising to a multitude. Rum do that!

New day and a new exhibition. Up until a month or two back I hadn’t heard of Yayoi Kusama. There was a documentary about her on one of the Beeb channels. And when the lady’s nephew suggested we all go to her exhibition we happily agreed; he’d done his thesis on her for his degree. The Tate Modern does know how to put on a good exhibition. It is always a pleasure going there. Thankfully whilst her exhibition was busy it wasn’t as heavily subscribed as the Damien Hirst one. Rather uncharitably I felt slightly smug as we passed the large queue of Emperor’s New Clothes devotees waiting to glimpse the mediocre. Little did I know what a surprise was waiting for me inside. I’d have felt even smugger. Bad I know.

Yayoi Kusama is big on spots, vivid colours and phallic symbols. Her exhibition is a mix of pictures, sculptures and installations. Yayoi is in her ninth decade, sporting bright red hair and still producing great stuff. Her paintings of the fifties interested me greatly. Some seemed to contain hints of Miro but mostly they are uniquely hers. Spots and twisted shapes feature heavily. When she first went to the states she did a series of canvases painted with white dots and splodges. I didn’t greatly enjoy these, I have to confess, but just about everything else was pretty neat. The latter pieces of her work gave me the most pleasure. One room filled with large square canvases painted in striking colours absorbed me for ages. Paintings with faces, eyes, amorphous shapes, stick people, spots and circles. Prior to that was an installation which was a room furnished like a small flat; the walls and furniture were covered in fluorescent dots of various colours. The room was lit only with a small amount of ultra violet light creating an effect that made the dots stand out and very bright.

Just when you think nothing can possibly beat this you enter the last room and the last installation. Room 14 Infinity Mirrored Room – Filled with the Brilliance of Life. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. I didn’t want to leave. It was a room with masses of small round coloured lights, suspended from wires and then a series of mirrors around the edge of the room. The effect was truly amazing. I found myself a little corner and stayed there for ages. Lights changed colour and the lights went out and each time a change occurred it put a whole new perspective on the room. Infinity Mirrored Room? Infinite possibilities room more like. This exhibition is a must see. This woman, who voluntarily lives in a mental institution in Japan, is a pure genius.

*I’m taking a leaf out of Stewart Lee’s book, sort off

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