Gallery Visit: Zanele Muholi, Autograph APB, Rivington Place 29/08/2017 & Stedelijk 05/09/2017

It was a lesson to see the same body of work (more or less) in two separate places within such a short space of time. The way each gallery lent itself to the images affected it differently. Rivington Place appears less state-sponsored than the Stedelijk Museum (although both receive funding). As is usual in a high-profile gallery, a hushed and reverential atmosphere prevailed in Amsterdam, despite there being a number people in the building at the time. Rivington Place was empty on weekday lunchtime, but felt less staid, less stark, more contemporary; a beautiful, enticing space. For the duration of the exhibition this is Muholi’s gallery, given over to her entirley. The fact it’s on ground level means you walk straight off the street and into a room filled with her extremely dynamic, floor to ceiling photographs. In Amsterdam you must find your way to her, as she is one of a number of artists being celebrated. Neither situation is better or worse than the other. Each approach has something to be said for it. We observe a powerful statement being made when a woman with Muholi’s background, whose mother was a domestic servant in South-Africa, shares a space with other highly revered, European artists; and when we see her face looking out over a park in Amsterdam, which is surrounded by prestigious art institutions. However, the dedicated and immediate space in London made one feel as it we were being invited to exist with, and perhaps even inside, Muholi’s cast of psychological characters. In Amsterdam Muholi’s face is plastered on a high wall outside the museum, and looks down on all the visitors. In London, her large-scale images look directly back at you on the same level. You are intimately surrounded by 12 or 20 foot photographs. You walk in and are faced with an environment that is every inch about her. If you have any experience of South African history, you cannot fail to appreciate the significance.

Zanele Muholi is black, part of the LGTBQI community, and from South Africa. In an informative and beautiful accompanying newspaper produced by Autograph APB, she says, “My practise as a visual activist looks mainly at resistance, existence as well as insistence. Most of the work I have done over the years focuses exclusively on black LGTBQI people making sure we exist in the visual archive. The key question that I take to bed with me is: What is my responsibility as a living being, as a South African citizen reading continually about hate crimes in the mainstream media?” (Muholi, 2017)

Muholi’s images in London are all self portraits, which she makes with the help of her travelling entourage. In Amsterdam we see images of her companions too but I will concentrate on the London exhibition. She dresses up in whatever material and objects are to hand such as bin liners, pegs or wool, although there also are some ready-made objects used for the purpose they were designed, like hats and goggles. She creates improvised ‘costumes’, often consisting of elaborate head dresses, and when you hear she was a hairdresser at the start of her adult life, you can further appreciate the ‘fun’ she is having with these portraits. But it is also a reminder to confront the significance of black hair and how it is a political signifier, rejected and appropriated in various measures by social groups. The images are processed to look extremely contrasty and we are told in the blurb this is deliberate, ‘unashamed’ artistry which enhances the blackness of her skin. In nearly all the images Muholi stares out of the frame, directly at the viewer. I’m not sure the look she has in her images is defiant as such (although we are told it is in the Autograph website). Instead, I wonder if she is merely present, forcefully so perhaps, due to the number and size of images, which in relation to the history of black women in South-Africa (not to mention the rest of the western world) might be read as a defiance. Perhaps it is not her defiance we are seeing since she unapologetically shows us her presence  – although, and this is the point, if  you were born with a concentration of melanin in your skin, which history has stipulated marks you as an ‘other’, being present has proven and continues to be challenging. Is the defiance instead something we project? Because as Munroe Bergdorf recently tried to explain, a structural reality exists (2017) (one which needs to be owned and addressed by society.) In other words, we see defiance if we on some level, no matter how unconscious, regardless of who we are, believe that a black women with this level of presence is strange, alien, unusual. Indeed, any woman with this level of self possession is potentially immensely challenging within the paradigm in which we exist. In relation to race, lawyer, Catherine Craig explains it in a Guardian Opinion column; “… if you grow up in a racist society, through no fault of your own, some of that racism is bound to stick subconsciously. It’s an unconscious conspiracy in which we are all complicit, unless we fight it.” (2017) For many white people in society, this is an uncomfortable idea to take on board. Therefore the very powerful presence so evident in Muholi’s images are read as defiant only because the society in which they are made makes them so. Take away the imaginary, and what you have is a woman dressed up in a series of photographs just being.

What makes the work so especially profound is that many black women, have been and continue to be, in South Africa and around the world, forced into a paradigm where there is only a type of absence (i.e.not a man) on offer as a space within which to ‘be’ . And this is the same for people whose sexuality veers away from what society continues to insist, despite social advances, is the ‘norm’. Even recently on so-called mainstream TV, in a supposed liberal country, someone was invited to discuss a ‘cure’. However, it is harder for me to talk about the LGTBQI aspect, simply due to experience. I grew up in South-Africa in the 70s, and like Areilla Azoulay explains in The Civil Contract of Photography, I ‘belonged’ to the group of dominators through birth, and ‘enjoy[e]d its relative privileges and against my will [am taking part] and took part in dominating and oppressing” people who were not born to that group. (2014, p37) Hence, Muholi’s images are painful to view even though, at the risk of sounding like I’m saying, “I’m not like that!”, (I am part of this society and well aware of moments when unconscious bias surfaces) I am and have always tried to be more than aware. I was fortunate enough to be born to parents who questioned the South African regime’s worldview, unlike a neighbour’s child who had been brought up to believe the nationalist, Kerk-led reasoning for shocking injustices and violence. My father, a white Jewish comedian, used his act throughout the 70s and early 80s to criticise the National Party in South Africa, although in everyday life he shied away from anything deemed less than liberal. A friend and colleague of my mothers, Roy Christie, editor of a Jo’burg based newspaper wrote of him, “…Alan Field[‘s…] acerbic comments were so blunt and divisive […] I was amazed he was never locked up.” (Kindle 40%, 2017) He was white – is a big part of the reason. I live with the guilt and always have done. Consequently, in both Amsterdam and London I felt deeply affected by Muholi’s images, because I saw how subservient black men and women were forced to be when I was there. To see Muholi’s beautiful images, a testament to her existence, her presence, so lacking in excuses is such a powerful contrast to those memories, and takes me to a place that is difficult to describe using words. It feels extremely relevant nowadays to add a brief description of what I recall about returning to the UK in 1986. I naively thought we were leaving racism and bigotry behind. But some of the things people said to me when I was here during those early years were extraordinary. Agreement and praise for the South-African government from a white London taxi driver. Anti-Semitism over the years from people who didn’t know of my Jewish grandparents. Open homophobia normalised and accepted. And even relatively recently, bare-faced racism from a local osteopath who told me as he treated my pain, I shouldn’t send my children to a highly regarded secondary school since it was a bit ‘dark’ down there.  (There was no reason for him to say this. It’s a girls school and we’d established my children are all boys – he just wanted to express his racist views about the school.) Racism like that is easy to see and to condemn. It is the stuff that until recently was hidden which is harder to address. And most difficult is the unconscious racism described by Craig in her column because we white people find it so uncomfortable to own up to.

I would tell anyone and everyone to go and see Muholi’s work. It is extraordinary and profound. She is quoted in the accompanying newspaper, “I’m recalling my blackness, which I feel is continuously performed by the privileged other. Just like our ancestors, we live as black people 365 days a year, and we should speak without fear.” (2017)

 

Ref: (all accessed 13/09/2017)

http://autograph-abp.co.uk/exhibitions/zanele-muholi

http://www.stedelijk.nl/en/exhibitions/zanele-muholi

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/06/white-people-solution-problem-munroe-bergdorf-racist

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vyCl_vPg2Y

Azoulay, A. (2014). The civil contract of photography. 1st ed. New York: Zone Books, p.37.

Christie, R. (2012). The Mocking of Apart-Hate ‘Loving and Laughing in the Shadow of Injustice’. Amazon Services, London, p.40%.(Kindle Edition)

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Gallery Visit: Edward Krasiński, Stedelijk Museum, 5/9/2017

 

“What I do is very real, to disgust. The blue line ‘reveals’ the wall – God forbid it does not build it nor does it create it, but it reveals it exactly, exposing the reality of the ‘unnoticed’ wall.” Edward Krasiński, 1925-2004 (Gorządek, Photography & Visual Arts, 2016)

I did not know of Krasiński’s work before seeing a retrospective at the Stedelijk Gallery in Amsterdam earlier this month. However, I am very pleased to have learnt about him. His work is described as made in a “constructivist tradition with Dadaist humour” (Gorządek, 2016). It is theatrical, humorous, albeit with serious intent, exciting and constantly surprising. When I walked round the corner from another exhibition into the space where his work began, I gasped audibly because it was so surprising and enticing, which is not something one normally does nowadays in a gallery. Or at least, not something I do often. We saw several rows of suspended mirrors with Krasiński’s trademark blue line of scotch tape placed at the height of 130cm, which he started using in 1968, running across all of them, as it does on everything he made from that date onwards. And I do mean everything. In fact, it is even on objects and walls in his studio which is now known as The Avant-Garde Institute in Warsaw.  Seeing how other visitors reacted to the work, especially when you could see them in the mirrors, was terrific. We all became immersed in and part of the art we had come to see. Although the blue line reveals a structural wall (no wonder Krasiński is relevant now, with the current obsession society has with walls of all sorts!) it also overcomes it for us – enabling or even forcing a form of communion, no matter how brief, though the work.

untitled-2008-2

Krasiński makes use of sculpture, photography, drawing, repurposed objects of all kinds, and is described on the Stedelijk webpage as follows, “The exhibition presents spatial installations by Krasiński in which he paired photography and sculpture” (2017) I was most interested to see a series of performance photography where a number of images, all at the same height, with the blue line running across them, hung on a single wall. The photography was black and white, square format although mounted and framed as portraits (with more space above and below than to the side of each image – perhaps just a bit bigger than A4). Seeing these made me think about how I present my own current work.

Performance was an important part of Krasiński’s oeuvre and I am particularly interested in The Sea Concert, which was part of an artists’ three week long meeting titled the The Panoramic Sea Happening. “The happening started with The Sea Concert, during which the painter Edward Krasińskistood on a dais partially submerged in water a few metres away from the beach, and conducted the waves of the sea. While performing this concert he was dressed in a black tailcoat and had his back to the audience sitting in deck chairs. It is he who can be seen in the famous photograph by Eustachy Kossakowski.” Do click on the famous painting, it’s terrific and makes us consider how utterly futile and mad we humans are, with our hubristic fantasy that we can be in control of everything through our symbolic language, including a potentially overpowering and indifferent nature.

As well as photography and the blue tape, there are plenty of objects made with blue lined type materials  – wires, cables and string in various shapes. We are told on the Photography & Visual Arts website, “At his shows in the ’60s, at the Krzysztofory and Foksal Gallery, Krasiński placed these lines in space, built unexpected structures out of them, curled them, and allowed them to live autonomous lives, thus surprising the viewers by their sudden appearance in a completely unexpected place.” And, “Items entangled in the blue rope have been deprived of their original functions and meanings, and gained new, poetic references. An important aspect of Edward Krasiński’s work is his poetics of irony which creates a distance to reality by giving lightness to apparently serious intentions.” (Gorządek, 2016)

I wish I could go back to the museum easily as this is the sort of exhibition I would like to revisit several times. I know there was an exhibition earlier this year at Tate Liverpool and I do hope that means this work might make it to London at some point so I can spend some more time with it. It also makes me wish I could just stop everything and go to art school properly, with more time to experiment beyond photography but incorporating it as I have seen here. I was reminded about my reaction to the Richard Hamilton retrospective at the Tate a couple of years ago when I suddenly started to broaden my horizons considerably. (Finally, I do think Micheal Colvin, OCA Level 3 student would gain a lot from seeing this work as he grapples with his triangles).

Image (c)SJField 2017

Refs (All accessed 12/9/2017):

http://www.stedelijk.nl/en/exhibitions/edward-krasiski

http://culture.pl/en/artist/edward-krasinski

http://www.stedelijk.nl/en/press/press-images/installation-views-edward-krasinski

http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/edward-Krasinski-five-things

http://culture.pl/en/work/panoramic-sea-happening-tadeusz-kantor

Gallery visit: Cathedral of the Pines, Gregory Crewdson, TPG, 26/08/2017

“With this series, produced between 2013 and 2014, Crewdson departs from his interest in uncanny suburban subjects and explores human relations within more natural environments. In images that recall nineteenth-century American and European paintings, Crewdson photographs figures posing within the small rural town of Becket, Massachusetts, and its vast surrounding forests, including the actual trail from which the series takes its title. Interior scenes charged with ambiguous narratives probe tensions between human connection and separation, intimacy and isolation.” (TPG, 2017)

I was not overly enthusiastic about heading to Crewdson’s exhibition. I am never entirely sure whether my ambivalence for his work is because there is so much hype surrounding his name, which always makes me take a step back, or if I genuinely don’t really experience much of a connection to his images. However, I was asked by my eldest if I would take him and a friend to The Photographer’s Gallery, and since I knew Cathedral of the Pines was something I ought to see, off we went.

Almost immediately I saw the photographs were very much like paintings from an art history book but with a modern take, and that the exhibition seemed almost like a conversation with the past, with painting, and therefore inevitably with photography as it has been up to now. And I am pleased to see that the blurb above (which I’d not read before today) tells us his work intentionally recalls nineteenth century art. In fact, when I went along recently to the Van Gough Museum and saw their temporary exhibition, Van Gogh, Rousseau, Corot: In the Forest,  I immediately recognised and connected the tropes, as did my 13-year-old son, so striking were many of the similarities.

However, there were some obvious differences as one would expect, not least of which is the fact these are made with lens technology. Another notable difference were the naked figures. And I use the term naked, rather than nudes, deliberately. The people in Crewdson’s images are not like the lush, idealised, in the main women, which we see staring out at us from within their frames, dotted throughout western art’s history. Nor are they the challenging bodies we might see in work by modern artists who stridently dare us to look at bodies as they were not usually seen in art. Instead they are caricatured in the opposite way; still, distant, disconnected from the viewer, flaws rendered hyper-real via highly intricate and extensive post-production techniques, unromantic. Where there is more than one figure, they stand disconnected from each-other too, in an atmosphere that seems oneiric but without resorting to full-blown surrealism. You can see the Lynch influence clearly, not only in subject matter but colours/hues/styling which are reminiscent of early episodes of the original Twin Peaks series. Like Lynch, Crewsdon explores and makes visible the disturbing underbelly of reality in American culture. The overriding sense from these pictures is one of unease, isolation, a lack of connection.

What also struck me was that the pictures, large, framed and on a wall in a gallery – across all three floors no less – made them make sense as art. I have struggled to get this when viewing his work on a computer screen. I was not entirely sure why, as I’ve seen plenty of other photographers’ work online before seeing it in a book or a gallery, and not had that issue. In fact, as much as I love owning Larry Sultan’s Pictures from Home due to the fact it’s one of my most favourite series’, I felt a much stronger connection to that work when I first viewed it online than when I looked through the book. Perhaps because I’d studied them so much by the time I bought the book, or perhaps because seeing them first online had allowed me to project a great deal of my own ‘stuff’ on to his images and the book sort of diminished that, because there is so much well-written context which inevitably changed the reading for me. Ultimately, when seen in a gallery, Crewsdon’s work makes sense, almost if they are ‘paintings’, perhaps even with some of Benjamin’s aura, albeit paintings made with cameras and all the well-documented accoutrements of a Hollywood film set (is it the link to cinema and all that means for us which contributes to this sense of awe?). But there is a lot of contemporary photography which seems to have left that paradigm behind somehow, and moved on to something different. Which is perhaps, in the end, what I struggle with here, even though I found the work compelling, interesting, and obviously impressive.

I’m glad I went along. I appreciated the work. I learnt from the visit and now feel less ambivalent about this series than I might have done. His work is obviously immensely significant and the production values awe-inspiring. And although I have seen the work criticised for being too perfect by some, I think that misses the point. I am not sure I’m going to find time to revisit, although if the opportunity arose, I would gladly take it. I very much enjoy the dialogue he introduces with art history through this particular work, but at the moment I don’t find it as inspirational as I do more experimental artists, such as Edward Krasiński, who I will talk about next. He used photography, along with lots of other mediums too. I realise it is completely unfair to compare the two as they are so, so different but I think am merely making the point that a mixed-media approach perhaps feels more relevant to me and my own journey, which I think might be a bit of problem actually, and I will discuss this elsewhere in time.

Refs (all accessed 11 September 2017):

https://thephotographersgallery.org.uk/content/gregory-crewdson-cathedral-pines

https://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en/whats-on/exhibitions/past-exhibitions/van-gogh-rousseau-corot-in-the-forest

http://larrysultan.com/gallery/pictures-from-home/

http://www.stedelijk.nl/en/exhibitions/edward-krasiski

 

 

Gallery Visit: Benedict Drew, The Trickle-Down Syndrome & A Handful of Dust, Whitechapel 2/8/17

Benedict Drew  – The Trickle-Down Syndrome

I was grateful to see The Tricke-Down Syndrome, as it was not the reason I had gone along to the Whitechapel, but it did chime with a conversation I had been having earlier with my fellow exhibition visitors (both OCA graduates) and much of what I have been thinking about recently.

The exhibition begins with the following:

“I am interested in the feeling of submersion in social and environmental despair, being overwhelmed by images, confused by the shifting status of objects, disoriented by layers of history, trying to generate a state of being where you can escape, and seeing escape as a form of resistance, ecstatic protest.”  Benedict Drew. 

The title is derived from a conservative financial theory/belief (excuse) – enabling the rich to keep making large profits stimulates economic activity which filters down to the bottom of the pile, maintaining a healthy economy for all. As the blurb on the Whitechapel website states, this policy doesn’t seem to be holding up to scrutiny at the present time, as we have seen the use of food banks increase exponentially, and ‘austerity’ leading to massive cuts across all services, (perhaps as an underhand excuse to implement a comprehensive reduction of state?)

The work consists of several large-scale, bold, graphic prints, and a series of surreal installations which include video, sound and music as well as strange and/or recognisable objects in odd combinations that make might us look again at their original purpose. Colour is critical in all the different sections. A single hue often dominates. Some of the graphic paintings are extremely large covering whole walls. One can’t help but be immersed in the work as you wander through and you cannot escape it, although at the same time its sense of fun offers an escape from ‘reality’ outside the gallery  – it is metaphorically loud, present – perhaps countering the way in which the truth of the trickle-down effect is presented by those who promote its validity.

It seems that society is re-evaluating itself at the moment, especially in relation to Europe’s imperial past; not to mention the long-held model of relating between those in power and the people and even animals that they have ruled over. We live in a confusing time. The work seems to be exploring that reality – disorienting visitors with scale and deliberate alienation effect. However, it is also avoids being didactic and is successful at prompting questions and consideration without suggesting easy, over simplistic answers.

A Handful of Dust

Drew’s exhibition downstairs at the Whitechapel is an appropriate accompaniment to David Campany’s curated collation of photographs of dust upstairs. The mood in each section is very different and there is little in the way of ‘escapism’ here. A Handful of Dust is hallowed, darker, quieter, traditionally presented, hushed.

As any photographer will tell you dust is a constant bane and something most of us spend time trying to remove or keep at bay, one way or another. But here we are faced with studies in dust – from the mundane stuff that sits on window sills to more horrific examples, such as evidence of modern warfare  – dust on people in the weeks and days after the nuclear explosion in Hiroshima, or following the collapse of the twin towers. The exhibition is less about dust itself than it is about our modern history and therefore fits wells with Drew’s work which looks at how that history has led to now – a confusing melee of conflicting historical narratives, changing power paradigms, as well as  dissolving and evolving boundaries.

Last year I watched a video by John David Ebert which discusses Rothko’s work. He explains how Rothko’s paintings can be read as successfully connecting to a ‘melting of reality’, collectively experienced by humanity at the time of the nuclear bombs being dropped by the US on Japan. As I wandered through the exhibition I was reminded of this online lecture, and was especially affected by the caption below a photograph of a woman by photographer, Shomei Tomatsu. “You came here to photograph me, right? So hurry up!”

SHOMEI TOMATSU | Hibakusha Tsuyo Kataoka, Nagasaki, 1961

I was also minded to think about the review I had read of The Civil Contract of Photography by Ariella Azoulay (a book I have since ordered but started yet). Azoulay deconstructs what is means to record horror through photography and suggests that despite contentious and at times deeply difficult relations, the ‘civil space in which photographers, photographed subjects, and spectators … [exist, nevertheless leads to a] … a recognition that what they are witnessing is intolerable” (p18) Seeing this collection and the quote below the Tomatsu image gave me more to think about as I shift the position I have had about photography and people in recent months. The dropping of those bombs in Japan seems to have been a pivotal place in our modern history, a point of singularity towards which our history marched, and from which it has advanced since (or perhaps arguably not advanced, in some regards.) If Rothko’s paintings, as described by Ebert, expressed something of human existence for that moment, then perhaps A Handful of Dust gives us a form of photographic notation pertaining to and leading back to it.

In the blurb instances of the word ‘dust’ are referenced  – “From dust to dust”, for example, is a well-known metaphor describing our existence, and of course this sense of us, of history, being nothing more than particles, the stuff which, when not coalesced into form, will be swept up and thrown away; the stuff we are constantly trying to keep out of our house, but which will always inevitably win, is never far from our minds as we explore the images. Not mentioned, A Handful of Dust is also the title of Evelyn’s Waugh’s 1934 book. Although the book ostensibly relates to the anguish Waugh felt after his divorce, it is also interpreted as an allegory about the tatters of Empire – a closing chapter in history written prior to the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombs (and one which we have been reminded lately, still has not quite ended). Waugh took his title from The Waste Land by T S Elliot which is (if I recall correctly) mentioned in the exhibition. Although written in 1922, the stanza from which the title for Waugh’s book and the exhibition are taken describes a desolate world where there is little or no relief to be had,  a post-apocalyptic landscape.

“What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”

 

A Handful of Dust combined with Drew’s Trickle-Down Syndrome added to an ever-growing  thought/awareness for me; about our modern society struggling to make sense of an emerging paradigm, one which is no longer dressed up in the finery provided by religion, perhaps for centuries held in place (violent though it also was) by signs of absolute power, as modernity fragments and becomes dismantled.  And science, the same science that led us towards a weapon which decimated entire cities in seconds (godlike power), also provided us with the ability to record ourselves/our actions/our history through image making, and much more besides. Areilla Azoulay in The Civil Contract of Photography tells us we shouldn’t look at photographs, instead we must watch them, as their meaning evolves in relation to the changes occurring in the ‘non-fixed’ world. Considering all that is happening in our world at present, as I watch the images in this curated collection, which triggers so many thoughts about war, science, and history, I can’t help wondering what we will see, and what photographs might be added to the collection, in years to come.

Ref (all accessed 10 September, 2017):

http://www.whitechapelgallery.org/exhibitions/a-handful-of-dust/

https://www.timeout.com/london/art/benedict-drew-the-trickle-down-syndrome

Catherine Banks – informative OCA blog post about the exhibition: https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/45334828/posts/1582567085

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47311/the-waste-land-56d227a99ddeb

https://i0.wp.com/erickimphotography.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/TOMATSU_0393501.jpg?resize=1000%2C707

http://erickimphotography.com/blog/2016/08/12/5-lessons-shomei-tomatsu-has-taught-me-about-photography/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Handful_of_Dust

Azoulay, A. (2014). The civil contract of photography. 1st ed. New York: Zone Books, p.18.

 

Exhibition: Giacometti at Tate Modern June 2017

I have long been intrigued by Giacometti’s tall thin sculptures and was excited to see that his work was being celebrated at the Tate.

The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones’, in his review, talks of Giacometti’s exploration of a common humanity, and says post WWII the surrealists’ art looked like it was for another time, whereas Giacometti took up the the challenge of looking at our world through a post war lens; “The human form, starved, bereft, but somehow standing tall”. He goes on to say, “Only Giacometti rose to the moment with stark, severe sculptures of people who seem to have lost everything – and yet who keep walking, pointing, speaking.” (2017)

One of the things that I admire most about Giacometti is his sense of compassion for others, and a realistic pragmatism concerning his art, which is reflected in a comment quoted on Tate’s website, “I am very interested in art but I am instinctively more interested in truth […] The more I work, the more I see differently” (2017) I understood this sentiment from having listened to him talk about who he works with most often and why, in a film which is shown as part of the exhibit. He wants to work with people he knows and loves over and over again because he can never really get to the nub of them.

He refuses to trust his senses and tests them repeatedly, “the longer he looked, the more his different impressions proliferated […] Depending on his relative position to an observed figure,its size, shape and appearance all changed, raising questions about the veracity of what he was seeing” (Giacometti, Fritsch and Morris, 2017;p80)) This lack of certainty in what we see is echoed in an article about photography and our perception of reality titled Ask No Questions  – The Camera Can Lie. “In the future, it seems almost certain, photographs will appear less like facts and more like factoids – as a kind of unsettled and unsettling hybrid imagery based not so much on observable reality and actual events as on the imagination. This shift, which to a large extent has already occurred within the rarefied precincts of the art world*, will fundamentally alter not only conventional ideas about the nature of photography but also many cherished conceptions about reality itself.” (Grundberg, 1990) It is well to remember that despite being an obvious medium for doing so, photography is not the only space exploring our changing reality and a growing lack of belief in absolute truths, nor is it particular to now.

As a photographer I am always intrigued by how someone can look completely different from frame to frame. And Giacometti, we are told in the the Tate book, “refused to rely on what is known by his subject. Rather his portraits record his ever changing sensations of a living presence”. ((Giacometti, Fritsch and Morris, 2017;p80)

I was so enamoured by the exhibition I plan to return again very soon and may write further afterwards.

*There are plenty of popular TV programmes exploring the nebulous lines between fiction and truth. Of course, most obviously reality TV, but also series’ such as Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s food sitcom/travelogue.

Ref:

Tate. (2017). Giacometti. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/giacometti [Accessed 22 Jul. 2017].

Jones, J. (2017). Giacometti review – a spectacular hymn to human survival. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/may/08/giacometti-tate-modern-london-review?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+main+NEW+H+categories&utm_term=225097&subid=11118875&CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2 [Accessed 22 Jul. 2017].

GRUNDBERG, A. (1990). PHOTOGRAPHY VIEW; Ask It No Questions: The Camera Can Lie. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/1990/08/12/arts/photography-view-ask-it-no-questions-the-camera-can-lie.html?pagewanted=all [Accessed 22 Jul. 2017].

Giacometti, A., Fritsch, L. and Morris, F. (2017). Giacometti. 1st ed. London: Tate, p.p80.