The Sibyl’s gaze, Museu do Oriente

Today I visited the exhibition “the Sibyl’s gaze” at the Museu do Oriente in Lisbon. The theme of the exhibition is the transformation of the body, with the figure of Sibyl as a metaphor therefor. The exhibition has been created by 6 different art institutions coming together and unites works in many different media- drawing, painting, sculpture, installations, video work and written word. It is widely advertised all over town.

I guess my expectations were too high, especially as it seemed to fit my studies of the human figure so perfectly, so I was very disappointed at the exhibition.

First of all I had a really hard time finding a connection between the theme and most of the art. I guess “transformation of the body” does not have to mean the human body, at least not in any recognizable form.

Here I will write about a few works that deal with the human figure, as that is what interested me.

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These drawings in oil pastel and graphite on paper are by Portuguese artist Joana Villaverde. I do not really appreciate how abruptly they end and the limbs missing, but a good reminder to explore the “unfinished drawing”. Despite always liking an unfinished element , I always fiddle too much and finish my own drawings.

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This is a cloth sculpture called “when you wish upon a star” by Joao Pedro Vale, the nose of the figure continuing into this mass, Pinocchios lies neverending maybe.

Two small oil paintings by Vieira da Silva, the right one a self portrait of the artist. I was happy to see these paintings here as Vieira da Silva is an artist I have been wanting to discover for a while. I will look closer at her work in the portrait part of the course.

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This oil painting called “Heaven” by artist Gemuce from Mocambique touched me. There is such a contrast between the heaviness I associate with the burkha and the lightness of the sky and the movement of the figure on the swing. The pose is still contained and careful, but there is the flying sensation of being weightless too.

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This photograph on a light box by young Portuguese artist Rita GT is a strong image too. All the focus of the image is led to the centre, between the legs of the model where she is collecting wrapped candies. An image that can tell many different stories.

Lastly I include this painting, as it was the most clearly dealing with the theme of transformation, although I am not sure about the body here- it looks like a beast or maybe a Kafka transformation, but I guess that can open up a lot of musings about what the body is and means…..

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Jose de Almada Negreiros

Jose de Almada Negreiros ( 1893- 1970)- ” A Way of being Modern”

Today I had the pleasure of visiting a beautiful exhibition called ” A Way of being Modern” by the Portuguese artist Jose de Almada Negreiros at the Calouste Gulbenkian foundation in Lisbon.

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I was discovering this artist for the first time, but Almada is one of the most famous Portuguese artists and is considered the main catalyst for the artistic avantgarde of the 20 th Century here, so the exhibition was incredibly well visited!

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This is the most well known painting by Almada- a portrait of the writer Fernando Pessoa. There are in fact two of the portraits, mirrored, as a copy was commissioned and Almada chose to paint the second one mirrored and slightly bigger.

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The writer Fernando Pessoa was himself an icon of modernity. The name of the exhibition ties into  the French poet Rimbauds motto from 1873- “one must be absolutely modern”. Almada followed this to the letter, stating that it is the artists responsability to make modernity happen. He was not only creating art, but a network of artists and architects, filmakers and writers, working  across all disciplines. He was himself an autodidact working as a painter, writer, creating tapestries, glass windows, articles, movie scripts, scene decorations, tile designs and many of his public works are still to be seen all around Lisbon.

I realized that I was driving past one of his huge murals  almost daily while here -on the building of the daily newspaper Diario das Noticias .

“Almada’s autodidactic research sought a universal and intemporal language common to all visual language and prior to words- with a focus on two-dimensional geometry, in particular the relationship between circle and square.” (exhibition panel)

The exhibition showed many of these abstract paintings, or research between the human figure and the abstract form like below. This was an interesting way of looking at the human figure.

Some of the drawings and paintings from the 1940’s made me think of Picasso, by this approach to the human form with geometrical shapes:img_4802

Of the incredible amount of art works on display here I found the vast series of self portraits the most interesting. Although most were in graphite on paper, there was an incredible and inspiring amount of different styles and approaches to the self portrait- all with the eyes as the exaggerated main focus.

This is a three dimensional version with the eyes and eyelashes in wire standing out from the canvas- a fun idea.img_4786This is a self portrait with Alamada’s wife in oil- an interesting difference in sizes, that reappeared in other whole figure paintings of the couple.

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I particularly liked these two tender simple portraits in graphite with a beautiful range of tones of grey and soft expressions:

Almada, like Picasso and other artists of their time, had a period painting the Saltimbanco- street artists and acrobats, and being fascinated by the circus. I enjoyed looking at the expanded possibilities of seeing the human figures and picked up some ideas about varying the shape of the canvas, but in all this was a whole room of paintings that did not really appeal to me as much as the subtler graphite works.

I felt especially touched by this small ink drawing that looked a little lost among all the more expressive works:

img_4877I love how the figure is just hinted at and stands out from  the flowers in the background. This is something I want to draw! Detailed vegetation or a pattern in the background and the transparent elusive figure .

Thinking of the dynamic figure drawing exercises coming up soon- i took a closer look at these ink drawings of couples- the fluid merging forms creating a single dynamic pose:

All in all this exhibition was a very rich and inspiring experience and I am so happy to learn some more about Portuguese artists, as I am spending more time in this beautiful country now. I was also pleasantly surprised to discover how very popular and well visited an exhibition like this is, although it did make seeing some works a little difficult.

 

Robert Rauschenberg

A 2 day stop-over in London – and yesterday I scheduled my meeting in the Cafe of Tate Modern to have a chance of seeing the Robert Rauschenberg exhibition there. (I am finally getting my priorities right 🙂 ) Just stepping into the massive Tate Modern with a light and sound installation by Philippe Parreno, “Anywhen”, was an overwhelming and incredible feeling.

Robert Rauschenberg  (1925-2008) was truly inventing many new forms of art-making and moving freely between media and methods. The exhibition is organized in rooms each presenting a new approach and new media or form- from traditional painting to sculptures in scrap metal and a bubbling mud bath in a basin.

The first art work that really caught my attention was the Erased De Kooning from 1953. De Kooning was already a recognized abstract expressionist artist, who consented to give Rauschenberg one of his drawings to erase.  So both a collaborative and a performance piece-  Rauschenberg’s erasing a drawing that was unarguably recognized as a piece of art was creating art. He then framed the erased drawing in a gold frame and labeled it. For me a beautiful reminder of the art as a process.

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This is a picture of Rauschenberg beside the erased De Kooning . ( From Phaidoncom. 2017. Phaidon. [Online]. [14 January 2017]. Available from: http://uk.phaidon.com/agenda/art/articles/2013/march/01/how-robert-rauschenberg-erased-a-willem-de-kooning-and-created-a-landmark-of-postmodernism/

A whole room was dedicated to transfer drawings- a technique I am curious to explore, so this was definitely my favorite part of the exhibition. Rauschenberg illustrated 34 cantos of Dante’s Inferno with a series of transfer drawings full of different layers, media and symbols.

He also transfered magazine images and photographs onto cloth hanging loosely like objects.

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I am very inspired to try out these different techniques and layers of information and believe this chapter of figure and head is the perfect subject for that.

What I especially soaked up in this exhibition was the joy of experimenting and the fluid moving between media – anything can be used! It was also clear how much Robert Rauschenberg worked in collaboration with others and how one art form supported the other- as in his collaboration with dancers, choreographers and engineers for different art works.

 

 

PICASSO Portraits

During my touch-down in London last week- I visited the exhibition Picasso Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery.

The clearest impression of the exhibition is Picasso’s incredibly, restlessly diverse approach to any subject. These are two very different portraits of Picasso’s first wife Olga:

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The right one is from 1923, showing Olga’s classical beauty in a formal classical painting that reminds us of Ingres, one of Picasso’s favorite painters. The left portrait of Olga, from 1935, is Picasso’s very personal vision of her. Although the face is twisted and de figured, her expression with the huge dark eyes and the little pinched mouth are still clear.

After 1930, Picasso emphasized the models psychology in his portraits, the likeness to the sitter became less and less important. I found it very precious how the exhibition combined portraits in different techniques to show this. For example in a trio of female portraits ,every one was matched to the style of the sitter. One in soft blurred tones, almost translucscent to show the lightness and delicacy of the woman. Another visually striking in bolder ink with patterns, a third one with angular shapes.

Picasso painted numerous self’ portraits and took many many photographs of himself , often with his own paintings in the background.

Here are three very different selfportraits that were exhibited:

The left one is a classical charcoal and chalk self portrait from 1899, the middle one an almost primitive oil painting from 1906 and the last one crayon on paper from 1972. It is fascinating to see the wide spectrum of techniques and styles that all carry Picasso’s really specific language.

I am working on the human proportions for the course right now , and it was interesting to see the development from Picasso’s huge plump figures and especially hands , sometimes bigger than the heads, to the more and more changed features into almost diagramatic figures, never becoming totally abstract though.

 

 

The information for this text from the National Portrait Gallery and images from:Pablo-ruiz-picassonet. 2017. Pablo-ruiz-picassonet. [Online]. [22 January 2017]. Available from: http://www.pablo-ruiz-picasso.net/theme-olga.php