Thursday, 21 February 2013

Art time

I've been slacking a little this past week with posts, mainly because what I wanted to fill my little space on the internet with needs some time devoted to it - and free time isn't something I've found myself with much of in the past few days. I've dedicated this week to getting out and seeing some art exhibitions, something that I spent so much time doing during my degree I've been getting slight withdrawal from it. Although at the time we probably complained at half the shows we had to go to and analyse, it's really nice to spend some time in a quiet space (how many of those can you find these days?) and really think about what you're seeing. I'm starting to write this post on the train home from London (although it will likely take me more than an hour!) as London was my second art destination. The first, however, was Bristol.

A city I haven't always loved, Bristol has grown on me over the past couple of years, and I now really enjoy spending time there - especially since a couple of my best friends live there.

The lovely Jen and I hit Bristol Museum and Art Gallery to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, and were glad we did. It was very busy considering it was a weekday (admittedly it was half term) but we managed to get a reasonably good look at all the photographs on show. As a couple of serious animal lovers we did a fair bit of 'aww'ing over the wildlife, but cute animals were not all that was on offer. There were some fantastic landscape shots, a couple of which I've shown below:


as well as the human side of the wild world. Some very stark photographs put into perspective the effects of our lives on those of majestic and complex creatures:


The importance of portraying this relatively unknown side to the world's wildlife is enormous, I feel. So many species are endangered - or worse, extinct - because of the way humans have taken over their habitats, infiltrated their food chains and unsustainably farmed them.

It's not all doom and gloom, though! Here's an adorable Japanese macaque to cheer you up :)


There were several other galleries journeyed to that day, but I wasn't so taken with the other shows. So on to London, where I spent Wednesday getting round a couple of the exhibitions I've been eager to visit for a while now, and they did not disappoint. The first, Death: a Self Portrait at the Wellcome Collection on Euston Road.

Unexpectedly, it turned out to be a large collection of death-related work (I was expecting it to mainly showcase Goya), beginning with many of James Ensor's etchings, which I have always loved:


This set the tone for the rest of the ground floor of the exhibition - skeletons and lots of them. My favourite pieces were a series of etchings by french artist Paul-Albert Besnard. It is pretty apparent to anyone that has seen my own work that I love small, detailed pieces, and Besnard's 'Elle' etchings had just the right amount of skill, freedom and wit that I find to be the recipe for the perfect piece:

These images led us through to the next room - the home of the eagerly anticipated collection of Francisco de Goya works. If you're into art and have never heard of him or seen his paintings, I urge you to do some research. I couldn't do the man justice in this little post! A few of the pieces on show can be seen below:

All images from the Richard Harris Collection. My friends Sinéad, Vic and I were captured by just how camp and free the human skeleton appears in the vast majority of the pieces at the Death show. The humour brought to such an unpleasant subject is, to me, what makes it so fascinating to study. While Goya's pieces focus on the horrors of war, the bony grin of the skulls in the other artists' works gave a sense of humanity and jovial childishness that managed to bring out the giggles in three fine art postgrads (cue scowls from other gallery-goers). That's really what I enjoy about the skeleton motif - its ability to simultaneously represent the most terrifying concept of life, whilst reminding us that we are all, under our clothes, skin and hair, just a bunch of bones rattling around.

I did mention that there was another show we visited in London, but I'll keep that for another post, since this one has got rather long already! Plus I am in desperate need of my first cup of tea of the day. At quarter past three that is quite disgraceful if you ask me.

The Wellcome Collection show is on until this Sunday, and the Wildlife Photographer of the Year is now closed in Bristol, but on at the Natural History Museum in London until the 3rd of March. Let me know if you manage to get there or if you've already been - I'd love to hear what you think!

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