Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Mexican Miracle Paintings, Charmed Life, Wellcome Collection

Went to see the Infinitas Gratias show at the Wellcome Collection for our group project. It was a collection of Retablos, paintings on metal sheets that are given as offerings to Saints as thanks for 'miracles'. People would commission a specialist illustrator to paint their story for them. 

It was really interesting to see how the tradition of painting has died out, and how people now give valuables as their offerings, for example their wedding dress. Interestingly all the retablos seem to follow the same format, picture at the top, text at the bottom, always the text seems quite simply and straight forwardly worded. The modern offerings were much more of an outpour, some like an internal monologue. Hand written on notepaper etc. Maybe this was from having to have somebody else paint your retablo (with the old ones, so are more detached). Also what was interesting was in the twentieth century when new technologies started coming in, some retablos began to mix photography and painting, for example will have a small photo of the person offering the retablo in the corner. What was very strange was the presentation of the modern offerings, they had sort of recreated a church wall in the gallery which was covered with modern day offerings. I was wondering did they get permission from the church, the people, did people agree and know about the exhibition, did they make it all up? There were photographs and letters and weddings clothes and clothes and baby clothes. 

What was also really interesting was that I learnt that Frida Kahlo and Diego Riviera were greatly influenced by the retablo paintings, and were some of the first people to collect them. This would have been right at a time when Mexico was forming it's identity so very interesting. 

Quite a few of the retablos are thanking saints for curing illness after or through an operation. There was just one lady, who had cancer of the face, who thanked the Doctors as well as the Saints.  Really really interesting to see how events effect individuals. 

Bats invaded Carlota Valdez's house and flew over her bed at nights and they filled her with nightmares and their dreams. She feared they could be vampires and would suck her and her cats' blood and they would be converted into the living dead for all Eternity. Very worried, Carlota prayed to Saint Quiteria for protection. The saint worked a miracle for her, the bats left to live somewhere else, and Carlota gives thanks with this altarpiece.

(image and text from poesygalore.blogspot.com)

Also on was the Charmed Life exhibition.  Really great! Had a big glass top display full of interesting charms.

“It seems that the soul... loses itself in itself when shaken and disturbed unless given something to grasp on to; and so we must always provide it with an object to butt up against and to act upon.” Michel de Montaigne, 'Essais', 1580 

"I found itinerant hawkers of curios selling the hippocampus, tied in bundles of three with red worsted. These were sold for luck, a poor survival of a very old and grander legend...[in Venice] I found that the wives of fishermen, nursing babies, kept a dried sea horse on their breasts to facilitate the flow of milk... I am very much inclined to believe that the curious white metal prow of this remarkable boat [the gondola] is evolved from the sea horse." Edward Lovett, 'Magic in Modern London', p. 87

Pink glass sea horse, used as a charm.
Courtesy Pitt Rivers Museum [1985.51.541]

Hazelnut with copper mount and wire link at the top for attaching to a chain or similar.
Courtesy Pitt Rivers Museum [1985.51.195]
(image and text from wellcome collection website.)

For both exhibitions, there was this really nice thought of people placing their faith in objects. The feeling that this retablo, or charm, will DO something for you. Interesting our relationship with objects, I imagine people would get very attached to their charms or amulets, but the retablos are given away as objects- I wonder if people form some sort of attachment to them during the time they own them. I think people pilgrimaged to different areas of the country that were representative of the saint that they wanted to thank, and then gave the retablo offering, so they couldn't really go back and visit it afterwards. Almost like the notion of graffiti, leaving your mark somewhere, you have put your story into the world and others will see it but you wont again. Even weirder then the idea that people collect them- though truth be told i'd happily own some retablos because I think they're amazing. 

Pitt Rivers

So so so many great things at the Pitt Rivers! I could spend months in there and still not have seen everything. Something like 20000 items in one room? `!!! Really liked the model ships.

So many great little ceramics animals.

Two Temple Place

Went to see the William Morris exhibition at Two Temple Place. It was great! Am doing ceramics at the moment so was really interested to see his tiles especially. It was really good to see how he constructed his images, and how they were transferred through to tapestry, tiles, wallpaper.... the setting of Two Temple Place was perfect for the exhibition.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Museum of Childhood

I really like him.

Automaton - Jean qui Pleure

  • Date: late 19th Century (manufactured)
  • Place: France
  • Artist/maker: Vichy

Geffrye Museum and Alex Blum

We went to the Geffrye museum, had a talk from Alex Goddard, curator of collections.

"I always forget the name of those!
Those windows that slide...
Sash windows.?"

(image wikipedia.com)

She mentioned Pullman Court- listed block of flats in Streatham, by Frederick Gibberd. Modernist.

(images streathampulse.com)

Was really interesting to hear that the museum is alms houses from 1714. I have been a couple of times before but it is always interesting to hear how and why things are curated. Alex explained that the different rooms in the museum show the trends of the time they represent- suddenly all the rooms made loads of sense!

Also had a talk straight after from artist Alex Blum, who had been drawing on a constructions sight in Dalston. Nice drawings. alexblum.co.uk. Think i'd like to sit on some scaffolding and draw all day. As long as there were cats around.

Richard Billingham, UWE

"MUM that gorilla's eating it's own sick!"
I hadn't noticed, I thought it was an orange.

We went to see Richard Billingham talk at UWE in Bristol with Molly and Zoe. It was really interesting to hear how he talked about his work. I can't remember everything but some good stuff like the photos are images not documentary and getting composition from painting (he originally began taking photographs at home to use to paint from), experimenting with flash, cheap cameras,  how people to react to a camera, how people react to photography in the art world. At times it felt like he was describing someone else's work as he had quite a strange manner of talking, he seemed like a super nice guy just a bit shy, and maybe bored of giving talks about his work. Very bizarre for me to sit in another university in a different class and have a lecture. 
I really liked his work on zoos, he filmed the animals for ages and exhibited the films. Reminds me of my seahorses project. He also said "I looked at other artist's work to see what I didn't want to do." which I thought was practical. He showed us some new work of landscapes which was really interesting. Always always value going to see what somebody actually says about their work rather than filling in the gaps your self from things you can read online or in books.

Grayson Perry- Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman

Went to see the Grayson Perry, it was really interesting but seemed a lot more Grayson Perry than unknown craftsman. Well I guess it was his solo show. Was very well structured and tight and led you through the exhibition well. Had imagined it bigger but it was quite nice and intimate instead. These aren't photos from the actual exhibition, just photos of different artefacts of the same groups as was shown, to show a rough idea of what I saw. 

“Deep in the mountains of my mind there is a sacred place where there is a monument to skill.”

Asafo Flag.

Egypt 11th Dynasty Soulhouse

“The Rosetta Vase” 2011

“Craftsman Hero in the Digital Age”, “The Cult of Modern Art”

“The Artist- veiled existential thoughts, legacy of childhood, curiosity, play, hubris, autobiography, fantasy world, humor…”

“The Frivolous Now” 2011

(photo steven white)

Boli Figure, Bumuna, Mali


“A modern artist can also be a bit of a magician, having the ability to transform ordinary materials into something significant.”

Nail with magical symbols ROMAN. 

Siberia, 1850 pine + ivory
“Models of Summer camp and a dog sledge”


Sarakatsam Costume Greel, from Alexandraoupolos, Thrace 1900s


Paintings illustrating the story of Harischandra. Karnataka, Southern India, 1850-1950 goache.


Map based on Bungan’s ‘Pilgrims progress’, W.Jeffery’s. british 1800. Hand coloured etching.

Image of Conficus. Chinese, Qing Dynasty, Paper Rubbing.

Relics of the Holy Roman Empire kept in the church ot the Holy Ghost, Nuremburg. German 1470-80. Hand coloured woodcut. –interesting presentation of a collection of items?

Figure of a saint’s head, Goa, Southern India, 1600s Ivory

“The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman” 2011
-“This tomb is a memorial to all the anonymous skilled men and women who have crafted the wonders of history. A site of pilgrimage where we might celebrate the fluency and loving care with which they embroidered on costume, carved a chair, painted a vase or built a temple. It takes the form of an iron ship sailing into the afterlife; it is hung with artifacts mainly from the British Museum collection. The bottles represent offerings of blood, sweat and tears. In the central reliquary is an example of the original tool which begat all tools, a flint hand axe 250,000 years old.”

--“Craftsmanship is often equated with precision but I think there is more to it. I feel it is more important to have a long and sympathetic hands on relationship with materials. A relaxed, humble, ever-curious love of stuff is central to my idea of being an artist. An important quality of great art of the past was the pure skill in the artists use of materials. In celebrating craftsmanship I also salute artists, well most of them.”