Paula Rego- Old meets new

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Today I visited Casa das Historias Paula Rego in Cascais by Lisbon, a museum dedicated to Portuguese born (1935) artist Paula Rego. I feel very lucky to be here ,as she is one of the artists mentioned in this chapter of “Intimacy” of the course.

She studied at the Slade School of Fine Arts in London 1952-56, and divided her time between London and Portugal, and has exhibited widely internationally. In Portugal she is definitely one of the most known contemporary artists. Last weekend in Porto, I had a peek in the Art section of a bookstore and found no less than 5 books about Paula Rego’s works.

The building of the museum is very impressive- it looks huge, like a massive adobe building with two towers, reminding me of adobe villages in New Mexico, or some Incan temples. It is actually concrete, just painted an adobe red, with a big green lawn around. I was surprised how small the museum felt inside. The museum has a very vast collection of Paula Rego’s paintings, most of which have been donated or lend by the artist herself, but there is only a small amount on display at a time.

The name of the museum “Casa das Historias”- the house of stories seems very fitting. Every painting and etching tell intricate stories of moral and social dramas or  about human relationships, with elements of fantasy and imagination. The current exhibition is called “Old meets new” and is based on stories from the novels Cousin Bazilio (1878) and The relic (1887) by the Portuguese author Paula Rego admires the most: Eca de Querios (1845-1900). The artists recreates the scenes with models in her studio, develops backgrounds and dresses them up, and then paints the scenes.

Most of her works were huge drawings on paper mounted on aluminium. Having just experimented with the mixed media exercise, I was discovering how Paula Rego does just that. Her huge drawings are often made with a mix of oil pastels, acrylics, bronze powder with dry goache, felt pens. She is also mixing different styles of drawing, like very detailed intricate patterns , with parts of the drawing just scribbled. Often there are surprising differences in sizes too, like far too huge a pattern on the wall paper , or some figures much bigger than others. There always seem to be a lot of different stories going on in every painting, with human drama in the center. “Cousin Bazilio” is a story about seduction and then being used, abandoned and then blackmailed. There are also often various creatures or fantasy animals present.

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There was also a room dedicated to etchings from the series “Abortion” 1999-2000) and Female Genital Mutilation (2009) with strong dynamic scenes about these traumatical surgical themes. “Paula Rego has used the techniques of engraving and lithography in order to express her critical voice that is often biting and socially intervening”, describes curator Catarina Alfaro in the exhibition catalogue. These were very strong moving works, with horrified, painful expressions.

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The human drama and relationships were very strongly expressed in every work, so it was very moving to see this exhibition. So much pain and misunderstanding. There seemed to be a dark undertone and often some sexual connotations in most stories. Technically, the perspective was often “off”, hands and feet were scribbled in a way that would have made me use an eraser 100 times, there seemed to be a speed and spontaneity to the drawings that contrast to the pictures of the artist carefully crafting and staging the scenes in her studio.

In the bookstore, I was surprised to see that the artist has illustrated several children’s stories and books in a humorous way.

Unfortunately it was not allowed to take pictures of the paintings, but only of the architecture. So these are some pictures of older painting and drawings from Paula Rego that are published on her website:

 

Fullsix portugal. 2016. Casadashistoriaspaularegocom. [Online]. [24 July 2016]. Available from: http://www.casadashistoriaspaularego.com/en/paula-rego-and-victor-willing/paula-rego/group-exhibitions.aspx

 

 

Giorgio Griffa b.1936

This weekend I had the beautiful opportunity to visit an exhibition by the Italian artist Giorgio Griffa in the Serralves Museum in Porto, Portugal.

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Here some information about the artist from the exhibition panels:1(..)

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It was interesting for me to see painting as a performance , and the use of the raw unframed canvases. They had a lot of wrinkles from folding and I asked the staff if it is possible that the wrinkles were there since the 60’s. The canvases are folded again every time they are transported to a new exhibition, so the wrinkles are transforming and a little bit different every time.

The exhibition showed Griffa’s work in chronological order with the first canvases being mostly monochromatic with a simple repetitive and sometimes interrupted pattern of strokes or sponge impressions.

Later they had more colours and more intricate pattern. The arabesque became e recurring element, as well as numbers and some text.

I loved the beauty in the simple harmonious canvases . For me it was a remarquable study in mark-making. One art work looked very very similar to the very first exercise in mark-making of  the first chapter of Foundations drawing:

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It was a revelation to see the beauty in this simplicity. I was also very touched by the quotation of Griffa here above: “the difference between colour and line is illusory because it depends only upon the width of the brush and how the brush is applied to the canvas.”

A very interesting thought as I am now navigating between still life in tone and line.

 

Pinakotek der Moderne

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Just beside Museum Brandhorst with the Cy Twombly exhibition is the Pinakotek der Moderne for Art, Graphics, Architecture and Design from this Century.

I visited the Modern Art floor- divided into Classical Modernism with works by amongst many many others Francis Bacon, Kandisky, Nolde, Matisse, Munch, Braque , Picasso, Dali, Magritte and Miro- and Contemporary Art with works by Warhol, de Kooning and Twombly etc.

Exploring ” Intimacy” now in Part 2,  I was particularly happy to discover three small still life by Georgio Morandi from 1959/60.

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The motives were all some various shapes of bottles in a quiet, calm composition. Although the composition is very simple with a plain background and foreground, Morandi still managed to convey a sense of much depth. The colours are earth tones and almost monochromatic, with one of the objects standing out gently in  another colour. No clear outlines, only a shift in tones between object and background or between objects.

One interesting discovery when seeing the paintings I know from reproductions online live is how the differences in size work, often I had no idea of the real size of the paintings. If the Cy Twombly were working massively by their sheer huge size and the Morandis were inviting to a quiet intimate contemplation by being small, I was surprised and a little disappointed at how small Paul Klees works are.

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Having just researched Cubism I was delighted to see both Pablo Picasso’s “Woman with Violin ” from 1911, and George Braque’s “Woman with Mandolin “from 1910 hanging beside each other. I definitely have to have another go at drawing a Cubist drawing- the flower i drew captures just a small part of the idea- the multi perspective by the cubes- but the repetition of the same lines reappearing all over the canvas multiplying the same objects is a key. Also all the cubist paintings displayed here have a quite specific earth tone- brown yellow ochra colour palette and were darker , less colorful than I had thought.
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From Henri Matisse, I saw only Still life with Geranium from 1910. I am hoping to see some more works by Henri Matisse later in France, hopefully some of the later paintings  or cut outs.

Rene Magritte’s “the Key of dreams ” from 1927 is an interesting still life. The canvas is divided into four parts depicting four objects on black background with captions or titles- a bag with the text “le ciel” ( the sky), a knife with the text ” l’ oiseau” ( the bird), a leaf ” la table” ( the table) and a sponge with text ” l’ eponge” ( sponge), so out of the four only one is associated with a word same as the object depicted. The painting of a leaf is not a leaf just as the word leaf is not a leaf. I liked the little jump the mind takes looking at this. Something to possibly explore more in the still life assignment as well.

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A whole room was dedicated to Georg Baselitz huge paintings with explosive motives in explosive colours looking like if they hang upside down.  I felt only overwhelmed here but possibly by being generally oversaturated by the amount of art I had seen previously this same day- so i will take another look at Georg Baselitz work online before writing more.

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Cy Twombly was represented with two older paintings than the ones I just saw in Museum Brandhorst:” Bolsena “from 1969 and “New York City ” from 1968. Lots of seemingly random scribbles of letters and geometrical symbols on white or black background, many layers, painted , overpainted with white or black. Compared to the later works I just saw, it looked a little like the backgrounds only. The colourful more illustrative elements were missing and the running paint.

This was a very full and beautiful day seeing so much art in originals- I felt exhausted and happy and just so inspired to do and explore and experiment. I am always a little wary of coming back to Europe and feel like a fish out of water- but the possibility of seeing all this art is so tempting now. I will visit some museum or gallery everywhere on my route and am very excited about all the possibilities!

Cy Twombly- Museum Brandhorst

When I wrote some research on Cy Twombly for Part 1 just a couple of months ago I ended by wishing to see some of his works live some day. And see- unbelievable – I travelled through Munich yesterday and had the opportunity to visit an incredible Cy Twombly exhibition in Museum Brandhorst.Museum Brandhorst

It was a truly beautiful experience. The size, the vibrancy, the depth of his paintings, the colors- what a difference to be able to stand in front of the actual paintings and not only seeing reproductions.

The huge room containing his 12 paintings “Lepanto”  from 2001 inspired by a naval conflict touched me the most. The motives seem so lightly hastily scribbled, covered by white, scribbled again, paint dripping along the canvas, layers and layers, some words and patches of explosions of colour.


Sadness, fear, anxiety, marvel, admiration- all coursing through me. So light and so deep, so clear and so covered- so hastily almost carelessly painted and then such a perfect just incredibly beautiful painting. Also the play between some calmer blue paintings with the shapes of the boats more recognizable and some dominantly red and orange where the boats are maybe seen from above- colours explosive in red and winered  and orange.

Another room displayed the two huge paintings Bacchus- fiercely red and active, a swirl, a fiery dance. I marvel at the strength of my emotions following the swirls the power, the dance the fire – just sitting between these canvases and letting myself react.

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And then- huge roses! Beauty! Colours so intense and vibrant, and some words like poetry in between. So very very beautiful, also so many layers , the backgrounds alive with words crossed out, painted over, filled in again.

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I want to try and play more with the back grounds of my next sketches in this way, using words and creating layers.
All in all what an inspiring experience- i want to sketch and paint and start right now!
And also read the book ” ” by as I am stumbling at a loss for words here to describe this experience.

All photos of artworks by Hayday Koyupinar and copyright Cy Twombly Foundation from http://www.museum-brandhorst.de/en/collection-brandhorst/cy-twombly.html

Edi Markas: Contrast

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Today I visited a solo exhibition by Edi Markas called “Contrast”, at the ARMA Museum in Ubud, an exhibition that was recommended during the figure drawing class.

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Edi Markas, born in Surabaya in 1968 is one of the most famous Indonesian painters today. He is painting very traditional scenes of Indonesian village life: fishermen, village children riding a buffalo, legong dancers, women carrying fish, but the paintings have a clear personal style and interesting colour combinations. The scenes are almost always monochrome, with the outlines of the figures in a bright contrasting colour, like a highlight. It is unclear if it is sunlight, moon light or a lamp , which adds a sense of magic or mystery to these scenes out of ordinary life. Edi Markas is said to have developed this very special personal style , that he calls minimalism and impressionism combined, 13 years ago, according to the exhibition catalogue published by Agung Rai.

 

 

 

The backgrounds were often painted with thin paint blending to a smooth surface with vertical lines and then thick strokes on top for some details or the outline in contrasting colour to the background :

 

One canvas had a special detail: little attached speech bubbles with a conversation about Whats app.  They were simply cut out in carton and attached to the surface of the canvas.

Another interesting detail was the dates of the canvases, some from the past and some from the future- dated 2027 etc. The artist hereby showed the connection between the modern world and these very traditional scenes.

I really enjoyed this exhibition as one of the most original I have seen here- the artist clearly has a special personal technique and style. The magical or mysterious atmosphere of these daily scenes was beautiful, the use of contrasting color combinations bold and different.

((Every visitor received a catalogue and I was thrilled thinking I would thus have some good material for this blog, but the text seems completely incomprehensible all through for me. I guess getting used to the art world jargon is part of these studies.:)

“His painting creation is born from his appreciation of taste and art value attitude that will never stop, moreover it continues to flow with full rhythm in the middle of this dynamic scenery. His findings are the principles of visual disclosure with his typical personal character that pushes the quality of his artistic value. His creation not only offers the artistic touches or merely a tool to satisfy the artist’s personal ego, but presenting some peaks of his accomplished achievement with a new breath along with the innovative touch that came from a long and complicated creative process. We wish this rare momentum will make an aesthetical dialogue process more exciting in this world” etc etc etc for many pages……….)(????)