Royal Academy – Abstract expressionism
Abstract expressionism is an umbrella term for the disparate styles of mostly male American artists working in the 20th century. Amongst these, included in the RA exhibition are Jackson Pollock. Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko. Although there were some blockbuster names on display I found these to be the least engaging art works because I got the impression that they were lesser paintings by famous names bought in to draw crowds.
Helen Frankenthaler’s Europa (1957) was created by varying the intensity of colour through the dilution of oil paint, staining the canvas to different degrees, rather than creating heavy expressive marks. ‘Europa’ is inspired by Titian’s Rape of Europa (1560-62), Frankenthaler has focused in on the foreground detail of the bull on the right hand side of the composition and the figure next to it. The painting “hovers between the figurative and the abstract.” (RA Abstract Expressionism, Page 10, Ben Steel) As well as being the artwork I found the most interesting, Frankenthaler’s painting has helped inform my practice because I think the way the artist has responded to Titian is something I would like to try.
Saatchi Gallery – Champagne Life
In the afternoon we went to the Saatchi Gallery to see Champagne Life, an exhibition of works by contemporary female artists.
Suzanne McClelland’s paintings are abstract based but also contain words and text. Domestic Terrorist Kerkow (2014) builds up a linguistic portrait of Catherine Kerkow, who was involved in a black panther hijacking of a plane in San Fransisco. I found it interesting how McClelland was offering a way to ‘read’ her subject matter without seeing an image of them. Perhaps because the artist focuses on public figures, we are already familiar with their faces therefore facts and figures provide us with a different way of viewing.
The final work that I anticipated seeing was Richard Wilson’s 20:50, an optical illusion in which the reflective surface of the oil seems infinite.