Thursday, 31 January 2013

Mariko Mori: Rebirth

Last Monday I was given the opportunity to visit Mariko Mori's exhibition Rebirth at Burlington Gardens, part of the Royal Academy of Arts. Other than visiting the exhibition in person you won't find a better description of it than this link to the Royal Academy where you can watch a very informative video about the subject matter plus an interview with the artist.

When I visit an exhibition I try to approach the artwork with an open mind and on a good day I leave a gallery feeling refreshed and invigorated - often I've learned something new. On this occasion I experienced something approaching a meditative state which increased as I passed from one gallery to another. I wasn't fully aware of this until it was time to leave the building and make a decision about how I was going to get home. Having to deal with crossing the road safely and navigate my way round Mayfair was surprisingly challenging.

So now it is the Thursday after my visit and I still feel quite incapable of describing adequately what the exhibition is like. But I do recommend a visit if you happen to be in the area and then you can decide for yourself. It's on until 17 February.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Catherine the not-so-great

Today was the first meeting of the year of the Freelance Media Group. We meet at the Groucho Club, the private hang out of the Very Important People who inhabit Media Land. Sometimes you'll spot a celebrity or two which is all good fun but you must not, whatever you do, engage them in conversation.

Anyway there is fat chance of that happening since we meet in a room up several flights of stairs away from all the schmoozing. Here I found myself sitting next to a journalist who revealed that she covers royal stories and she politely agreed when I pointlessly gushed 'Ooh, you'll be busy when the baby arrives.' Then I asked her what she thought of the Duchess of Cambridge's new portrait by Paul Emsley on display at the National Portrait Gallery which in the last few days has been subjected to a barrage of criticism. She assured me that it looks much better 'in the flesh' than it did in the papers. So I decided to check it out for myself since we were just a short walk away from the gallery.

My first impression was that it is far too big. It is more-or-less 3ft x 4ft. I think it would have had more impact if it had been half that size. I imagine it could be quite terrifying receiving a commission to paint a royal portrait and maybe that is why Catherine has ended up looking a bit lifeless. I much preferred the portrait further along the corridor of Mo Mowlam (a British MP and Labour minister) painted by John Keane in 2001. This portrait is full of life, you can see the brush strokes and although Mo Mowlam is in repose you can get a sense of her vitality. Poor Catherine by contrast doesn't appear to have any vitality. However if you turn your head slightly you can see her engagement photos hanging in a neighbouring gallery where you can see that she is clearly a very lively young woman.

This is just the first official portrait of Catherine and no doubt in time we will be able to chart the progress of her royal life in future portraits in the same way we can with Her Majesty the Queen who appears to have sat for more portraits than some of us have had hot dinners - let's hope they might have a bit more life in them.

Friday, 11 January 2013

A winter visit to Louvre-Lens

Photo: Graham White 2013
The Louvre-Lens is an art museum situated in the former mining town of Lens, in Northern France. It displays objects from the collections of the Musée du Louvre and it opened on 12.12.12.

We visited it barely three weeks after it had opened and were amazed by the number of visitors it was already attracting. This is no palace and quite unlike the ornate warren in Paris. It is a series of single storey buildings with the vast main gallery at the heart of it. It looks a lot like an aluminium shed and if you enjoy spare architecture you will find this very pleasing. The architects who designed it are Japanese, Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa and the design sits well within the landscaped gardens that are still being established.

The art is displayed in a strictly chronological order and there is a time line etched into one of the long walls so you can always check where you are in history. You might find you are looking at an Egyptian statue which is next to a floor made of mosaic from a different civilisation. Since we are generally used to looking at art from the same period or the same school this takes a little getting used to.

You need to allow at least an hour and a half to do this display justice and fortunately there is a café in the entrance hall where you can recharge your batteries. We were most impressed with this museum and plan to visit it again as well as exploring this part of northern France we previously knew nothing about.

Entry is free as is the shuttle bus going to and from the station. There is a charge for the temporary exhibition which is on until March 2013 and the current one is about the Renaissance. Lens is a one hour train ride from Lille.