Saturday, September 30, 2017

Venetian Texture

Venice is one of those cities,
that seems to have been art-directed down to the square inch
to evoke the romance of faded splendour.
When Bill and I walk around in Venice
we find gorgeous details everywhere.
These often involve erosion
pipes and plaster
door signs
and windows,
everywhere -- amazing windows.
It takes a special kind of neglect   
to allow splendour to fade
so that it can blossom.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Lisa Reihana in Venice

Bill and I found lots of interesting art at both sites of the Venice Biennale this year.
At the Arsenale site we were thrilled by New Zealand artist Lisa Reihana's astonishing panoramic video: Pursuit of Venus [infected], 2015-2017.
The projected image fills an 85 foot-long screen. It depicts an idealized South Pacific landscape which slowly rotates -- the images slides off the screen to the left, as a new landscape swings into view on the right.
Reihana digitally inserts "live action" performers into her "painted"landscape.
 Each "scene" is an independent narrative vignette.
 We witness the landings of Captain Cook and his crew and the landings of two French explorers Jean-François de Galaup La Pérouse and Louis Antoine de Bougainville.
 We witness their encounters with a melange of Pacific Ocean islanders --
including, as stated in the catalogue: Nootka Sound, Hawai-i, Tahiti, Tonga, Cook Islands, Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand.
We may as well mention, quoting the catalogue again, that Reihana is of Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hine and Ngāi Tū descent.
 She did a superb job of working with a variety of local actors, 
 and indigenous musicians
 and dancers.
Altogether it is a touching, entertaining and intellectually spiky experience.
Lots to think about while watching and much to digest afterwards. 
An overwhelming achievement. For more information here is a link to a short New Zealand TV news program about the work's premiere at the Auckland Art Gallery in 2015.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Phyllida Barlow in Venice

When John and I visited the Giardini site of the Venice Biennale we were looking forward to seeing the British Pavilion because it was featuring the work of Phyllida Barlow. We saw an installation she did in the courtyard of the Tate Britain three years ago and it was love at first sight.
 She has called her Biennale installation Folly suggesting both a type of traditional garden architecture and a jest.
She surrounded the entrance to the pavilion with colourful, loosely shaped spheres on poles.
Barlow likes to use common materials like timber, fabric and concrete in her pieces.
In our experience she likes to dominate any space that her sculpture occupies. When we entered the first room we encountered huge, rough columns that seemed to be too big for the space.
The room also contained tall red standing sculptures -- one topped by a cardboard box!
Barlow's sculptures are strangely familiar
have a hand-made quality
but their gigantic size in the restricted space can be unnerving.
We also found the work humorous. This sculpture in the next room looks for all the world like a huge toilet roll to me.
It shares the space with a rack of brightly painted canvases that looked like a display of wrapping paper. 
The next room is narrow but very tall and hard to take in. 
It features a colourful wall with what appear to be spikes or sharp plinths looming above your head.
The rear room is long and narrow with another "slapped together" wall -- this one with a lumpy balcony.
There is a wonderful sloppy feel to her surfaces and painting. No wonder that her work has been described as "messy". We love that aspect of it.
Yet another room features a huge object named "piano/anvil".
The last room in our circuit before returning to the entry space is filled by yet another tilted wall
hiding a precariously hanging pair of lumpy forms behind it.
Phyllida Barlow, the septuagenarian art-superstar is our choice for Best-in-Show of the Giardini site and a true inspiration to us both!