Monday, 2 August 2010

Anthony Gormley 6 Times

I'm looking forward to tracking down all six of Anthony Gormley's statues along the Water of Leith. Unfortunately, I'm still convalescing from a hip op, so the steps down from SGOMA are beyond me as yet. The only one I've seen in the flesh (cast-iron) is the waist deep one on the pavement outside SGOMA. What? Why? It's nowhere near the river. I can't see the rationale. Good for balancing handbags on, or leaning on when you take a stone out of your shoe - as I saw people do the other day. He wants people to interact with his work, he says.

However, I'm sure the others are atmospheric going by the photos in the Scotsman. There had to be stories of members of public phoning police to report a nude man, or possibly a potential drowning one, of course.

I do feel a bit ambivalent about the whole thing - the Water of Leith is a well-kept secret to Edinburgers and now the World (well, art lovers) will invade it tho....possibly they'll amble along, and it makes it safer if there are more people on this rather deserted, isolated river walk. Maybe I'm coming round to it.

The last figure (or first depending on your direction of travel) looking out to sea in the port of Leith looks deeply significant tho - AG seems to have a thing about figures (himself) looking out to sea (the Crosby Sands near Liverpool), or to open spaces (the figures on top of New York skyscrapers) the Angel of the North - tho the latter is supernatural and the others scaled down to human size. .

Not the Impressionists, AGAIN

Actually, I enjoyed 'Impressionist Gardens', the other main 2010 Int Edinburgh Festival's offering As Michael Clarke, the new Director of the National Gallery said at the Members' preview event we went to the other evening, if you were putting on operas you'd have to include Verdis and Puccinis as well as other stuff, so why not the Impressionists again, but this time with the added bonus of gardens. (And why not, say I, especially for those like me who love gardening for colour.) Surprisingly, he said, this theme has not been put on before.

The early section, precursers to the Impressionists looks fascinating - especially the botanical sketch books and engravings of early private and public gardens - and conservatories, where assignations took place. I say, 'looks' - impossible to get more than a taste with the crush of the Edinburgh Great and Good there but the beauty of being a Member and living here, is we can revisit as many times as we want for no extra cost.

The other section I will go back to are the rooms on the Post-Impressionsts or movements that came out of the Impressionists such as the Luminism which was new to me. I was particularly stunned by Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida's The Garden of Sorolla's House, 1920 where the colours were indeed luminous.

There's all the kitsch you could possibly want. (The Fragrant Air by Leon Frederic is probably the worst example but good for sales on tea-towels, cards, mugs and notebooks in the shop no doubt. )But there are also more subtle works such as the lovely dappled light of Manet or Berthe Morisot. The usual suspects (Renoir, Manet, Monet, Sisley, Bonnard,Van Gogh, Gauguin, Klimt) but other lesser known, or at least to me, such as the Belfast John Lavery's My Garden in Morroco, the Scottish , James Guthrie's Midsummer, or the German Fritz von Uhde's The Artist's Daughters in the Garden. All with a wonderful atmospheric light. ‘Mood' Impressionism I gather it was called in late 19th c Germany and Austria (Stimmungsimpressionismus- what a word. I just love German.))

As a gardener, I was delighted to see that there is an attempt in the catalogue by the curator of the exhibition, Clare A.P. Willsdon to identify some of the plants. In the shop a book on Monet's plants in Giverney looked rather tempting. I'll put it on my Christmas list. Happy memories too. I persuaded my Hub to visit Giverny on a day-trip from Paris on our honeymoon. Gone are the days I can drag him round gardens! Surprisingly, he enjoyed this exhibition too. So it's not just for kitsch lovers or gardeners.

Exquisite Corpse, and Bodies in Suitcases

'Another World' , on the Surrealists, is one of Edinburgh 2010's festival offerings.

On top of the brilliant Penrose collection already housed at the Dean (opposite the SGOMA), the curators have amassed works from all over. Packed rooms, with sculptures on plinths or in glass-topped cases and walls lined with hundreds of paintings and prints against dark walls, rather like being in a Victorian library or Freud's study in Vienna. One could spend hours there, recognizing old favourites (one of Duchamp/Mutt's urinals is there natch) and discovering new.

One of my favourites is the 'Exquisite Corpse' based on a game invented by Breton and others. We played this game as children and called it 'Consequences'. Draw head, fold, pass to neighbour, who draws the body, folds, passes on, who draws the feet. Unfold the whole thing to reveal your peculiar result. You can do it with poems or stories too. Write a line etc. The Surrealist version below is probably a bit more professional than we ever achieved.

My other favourites, which were new to me, were two boxes, one was filled with engravings, letters etc with random bits of information that could be read in any order by Duchamp. One is called La Mariee mise a nu par son celibataires, meme 'Boite verte' ( 'The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even 'The Green Box') .The aim is to bypass the intellect (like most Surrealist work.)The other was Boite-en-Valise (Box in a Suitcase) where the contents are mini- reproductions of his own work, apart from one on a transparent piece of plastic which is an original.

You may have noticed the Mona Lisa in there. No, not Duchamp passing it off as his own work - the repro is moustachioed by him.

Duchamp is the Grand-Daddy of it all. 'Is it Art etc?' No one's bettered him really. A pity so many contemporary artists seem to be unaware it's been done before, but I guess 'epater le bourgeoisie' still has its place.

The Boite-en-Valise reminded me of 'dramas in a suitcase' which I first saw in Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis , Minasota (USA) where, in-between the main show, members of 'In the Heart of the Beast' Mask and Puppet theatre company gave performances to one or two people, sitting on the grass. Inside the suitcase were miniature sets and characters or even just objects which they manipulated like puppets. Show over, they would wander off and perform to a new small group.