Tuesday, 17 September 2013

This and That

The National Gallery in London has a two years artist residency program that results in a show. The latest artist chosen was Michael Landy, I just saw his final show, Saints Alive, and I thought it was brilliant.
Landy made a name for himself when, in an art performance called Break Down, he catalogued and destroyed all his possessions in 2003. I became aware of him recently for his witty interview in a very inspirational film by Jake Auerbach, The Last Art Film, that I thoroughly recommend.

As a resident artist Landy was given a studio at the Gallery and left free to produce new work that responded to the collection. He came up with six large automata inspired by saints and martyrs depicted in the Gallery's paintings and about twenty works on paper, collages and drawings that integrate and illustrate the moving sculptures.

image from the Telegraph website

     I really loved the innocence with which he approached the residency. He reveals in a video accompanying the show  that he never actually visited the National Gallery as a child, nor as an art student. Like an arty Forrest Gump, he wasn't crippled by the comparison, weighted down by reverence. Old masters painting wasn't relevant for his previous work, but what he did was taking his work into the Gallery rather than the other way round: seemingly in a serendipitous way he found his themes recurring among the masterpieces, as noted by Richard Dorment in the final paragraphs of this article. I think that it is a show that will put a smile on your face, make you take another tour in the gallery and look at the paintings with fresh eyes.


    Landy started his residency by drawing, just drawing, to get acquainted with the works. The idea, the common thread, came out of working, not just sitting and staring. He drew from Cezanne and Degas at first, it was only later that he started noticing how many times St. Catherine wheel appeared, and in that moment he found his starting point.  I think many artists have experienced this, that ideas and themes stem from working, at times just instinctively, and then looking back at the work and finding elements that mattered.

Exactly the same thing happened to me a few months ago. I started one idle afternoon making a small copy of a painting by Artemisia and soon found myself with a large polyptich and a few other paintings.
Looking at the old masters never fails to provide ideas and perspectives. I often remind myself that myths or religious themes were as far from Renaissance as they are far from us now and that artists often transported them in a contemporary setting.

All those reclinig Danaes contain an element of cheekiness, a bit of naughty fun that we sometimes forget about and so I decided for the first time to engage with narrative painting, working in a synthetic way, putting together figures ( sourced from old masters paintings, drawings, models etc.) and ended with my very own Danae, or better the work is called: "Downwind ( Danae) and other beach stories", oil on linen, 125x130 cm.

        I don't yet know if I will continue this series but I have experienced a way of working that has opened new possibillities for me, painting from something else than direct observation for a change ( little plug : I am working in a similar way in my monotypes ON SALE HERE ), and I am enjoying the freedom that this entails.
And now, if you read all the blog post to the end you deserve a prize: only for the next week there is an  introductory 20% discount on my monotypes, type  BLOGREADERS20PC  when prompted for a discount coupon during the check out process and the discount will automatically be added ( offer valid until the 24th of September).


Gary said...

Thanks Ilaria, the putti will love it down here in Australia!

Ilaria said...

I'm sure they will love the antipodes, thank you so much for purchasing, they are on their way !