Tight rope walk – after abstraction review

Yesterday I visited White Cube gallery in Bermondsey for the first time. Obviously I was aware of the history of exhibitions there, but had never yet visited.   I started by having a delicious coffee in the hippest cafe over the road (“F**kcoffee”- I gather they’ve had trouble with their sign!) before heading in.
White Cube is like nowhere I have been.  A vast white and grey space divided into three galleries.    Huge, bare, minimalist, beautiful and awe inspiring.   It makes Tate Modern look cuddly.
I had been recommended that I visit this show as part of my education around abstraction.   What happened to figurative art after abstraction?   In short, it became a lot more interesting.   I’m glad I went, I got the message the show was trying to convey but I confess the actual show left me and my companion cold.
I knew from reading beforehand that there were some major artists here but when I saw the show, there is nothing to assist the viewer, no names, no titles, no background, no clues.   My daughter was bemused, with no arts background at all it meant nothing to her – I wasn’t that far behind and I have, although no formal training, at least had a keen interest in modern art that goes back a decade or so.    She wondered whether the art was meant to speak for itself?   I have trouble with that concept because a piece of art is so much more than the aesthetic of the piece in front of you.   That’s where the “I could have done that” attitude comes from.
A piece of art is partly the aesthetic, but it is also the artist, the time it was done (there is a massive difference between a piece labelled 1915 or 2015) and the title.  And every art piece has a back story.  All these things form a jigsaw that gives a piece it’s magic.  (I’ve talked about this in a previous post…)
Most of that was missing here and I can only assume that these exhibitions are put on for insiders.  People who can recognise a Lucian Freud or a Picasso – actually, I can, but I missed the Tracy Enim and I loved some other paintings but have no idea who they were by or the history of them.  It all adds up to being very frustrating and exclusive and what I mean by that is that my daughter and I were excluded.    Art should be for everyone and if that means that people in the know have to give a helping hand up for the rest of us then so be it.
My daughter quickly retreated to the Gilbert & George exhibition that was in the third gallery space – more her thing!
But I am glad I went, I got the point that Barry Schwabsky was trying to make about the increased freedoms that abstraction brought to figurative art and I enjoyed some of the pieces – but I could have got so much more from it if only there had been some narrative.
And I bought the beautiful book that accompanied the exhibition and shall enjoy reading it, but that does not make up for lack of info with the paintings.
(And unlike the John Hoyland exhibition that I will review in my next blog, they wouldn’t let me take pictures so this blog is rather lacking….)
My favorite picture was the one below – Yellow Nude 4 from Gary Hume – I am grateful to be introduced to his work, it amused me that the one I loved best was the most abstracted of all!

Yellow Nude 4 – Gary Hume (2014)

Image from: www.instawebgram.com/tag/yellowbanana
The Featured Image is one from nearby on the Southbank where there was a lovely festive market 🙂
The exhibition is on until 24th January 2016.

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  1. Pingback: Mark Anstee – living in the moment – Ailsa Brims – Peppermintsea.com

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