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Prints of Darkness: Goya and Hogarth in a Time of European Turmoil

Already a huge fan of Hogarth’s work, I was thrilled to discover ‘Print of Darkness’ on a recent trip to The Whitworth Gallery in Manchester.

‘Prints of Darkness’ focuses on the work of William Hogarth and Francisco de Goya Lucientes. Both artists used their work as a form of social commentary, drawing attention to poverty, warfare, homelessness, alcoholism, corruption, disease and racism.

Hogarth was initially apprenticed as a silver engraver, having grown up in poverty. He was a talented artist and businessman and soon turned his attentions to printmaking as a way of expressing himself, showcasing his work to a wide audience and making money.

Goya was influenced by Hogarth, having seen his prints at his patron Sebastian Martinez’s home whilst recuperating from illness in 1793. At this time Spain was dominated by the interests of the Catholic Church and Monarchy and liberals like Goya fought for reform. His prints reflect his feelings, and he continued to produce them late into his life despite being plagued by mental and physical illness.

rake's progress engraving print by hogarth

‘The Rake’s Progress’ 1735. Hogarth pioneered the serial print format and called his series ‘progresses’ to reflect the movement of the central characters through their lives in a physical, social and moral sense. This series charts the life of Tom Rakewell. He inherits his father’s fortune but succumbs to materialism and is consumed by gambling and alcoholism, eventually ending up in a psychiatric hospital.

gin lane engraving print by hogarth

‘Gin Lane’ 1751. Alcoholism was a huge social problem in the eighteenth century and in this print Hogarth has created a nightmarish scene full of gin-crazed people. The print shows crime, corpses and diseased people willing to put gin before anything else – the lady in the foreground is willing to let her baby fall to the ground. Infant mortality was another result of the huge consumption of gin.

goya engraving print

As Goya grew older his subject matter became darker. This print is from ‘Los Disparates’, Goya’s final print series made between 1815 and 1823. The series is difficult to interpret, involving dark, grotesque figures in bleak, unrecognisable landscapes; perhaps reflecting the deterioration of  Goya’s own state of mind.

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Artists Commemorate The Suffragettes

Mona Hatoum embroidered Suffragettes handkerchief s

Motive/Motif: Artists Commemorate the Suffragettes at The Vestry House Museum

The Vestry House Museum is marking the 100th anniversary of the passing of the Representation of the People Act with an exhibition inspired by the work of imprisoned Suffragettes.

1918 saw reform in Great Britain’s electoral system in the form of the Representation of the people Act. For the first time, women were entitled to electoral rights. Still, they had to be over the age of 30 and meet certain property qualifications, but the crucial journey towards electoral equality had begun.

The WSPU, better known as the ‘Suffragettes’ had fought for this reform. They were the more militant than previous women’s suffrage groups and their motto ‘deeds, not words’ led then to show their dissent through acts of protest, vandalism and violence. These acts led to many of the women being incarcerated.

The Vestry House Museum’s exhibition was inspired by a piece of cloth which was embroidered in 1912 by 78 Suffragettes imprisoned in Holloway Prison. Most of these women were in prison as a direct result of their actions within the WSPU. The cloth was embroidered in purple and green – the colour scheme of the Suffragettes. Purple signified purity and dignity and green signified hope.

suffragette embroidered cloth

(Detail from the original cloth from 1912 – full image at the bottom of post)

20 contemporary artists were asked to embroider handkerchiefs inspired by this original cloth and the efforts and struggles of the Suffragettes. These artists included Sarah Lucas and Rachel Whiteread.

handkerchief embroiderd by Anila Rubiku
(Anila Rubiku)
embroidered handkerchief by Mona Hatoum
(Mona Hatoum)
The original embroidered cloth offers us a fascinating, yet brief, glimpse into the lives of the women who often put their own lives at risk to fight for equality. The impact of their actions is beautifully captured and reflected upon by the contemporary handkerchiefs, shown alongside the original cloth. 100 years apart but inspiring women alike.
suffragette embroidered cloth Holloway prison
(Original cloth embroidered by 78 imprisoned Suffragettes, 1912)
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William Morris Gallery

william morris gallery

A trip to Walthamstow led to a visit to the William Morris Gallery. I have inherited my liking of his prints from my parents (and I have photos of the sofa to prove it..)

A great insight into the ethos behind the original Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co and their Continue reading William Morris Gallery

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Royal Academy 250th Summer Exhibition

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

Time for the annual trip to the Summer Exhibition at the other RA ;-)

Not just any annual open-submission exhibition featuring over 1,300 artworks – this one is also the RA’s 250th Summer Exhibition and so it is extra special.

I couldn’t agree more – co-curated by Grayson Perry RA this time the exhibition feels like a celebration of colour and art that truly reflects the current climate. Political artwork sits alongside fun and whimsical art and both look at home here.

I particularly enjoyed Room III with its bright yellow walls and sense of fun. You can feel Grayson Perry’s influence in the intelligent, joyful and poignant work here.

Room III Summer Exhibition

We filled our List of Works with annotations and feel inspired for the year to come. This year’s Summer Exhibition has outdone itself!

Until next year..


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A London exhibition which starts today seeks to combat the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder through the medium of art. A series of artists personally affected by SAD have been commissioned by Studio C&C to create artworks to help combat symptoms of the disorder which affects between 5- 10% of the population.
One piece of work included in the project is a sheet of blotting paper soaked in Vitamin D, which is lacking when we are not exposed to sunlight, whilst others are simply intended to inspire cheer.
Symptoms of SAD are generally caused by lack of sunlight and so are heightened during winter months. Those affected can suffer from depression, lack of motivation and decreased energy levels.
The launch event itself is set to be a kind of escapism from winter and a chance to view the artwork as well as the accompanying ‘SAD Rescue Pack’ book,  which has been compiled by the participating artists.
The exhibition runs from Thursday 19th Feb until Sunday 22nd Feb at Protein Gallery Space, London.
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The Accidental Garden

Abraham Cruzvillegas The Empty Lot
The Turbine Hall is busy.
People are crowding and looking over the balcony. They are looking at soil and the sculpture by Abraham Cruzvillegas is a success.
Cruzvillegas filled small triangular lots with soil from a range of parks, commons and green spaces across London to see what would happen. The Empty Lot.
At the beginning, nobody knew what would happen. Maybe nothing.  It was part sculpture and part agricultural experiment. Nothing was planted by the artist or by Tate Modern. The plants/fungi visible arrived by one of the following means:
– Existing seeds within the soil
– Seeds/spores travelling in the air
– Seed-bombing by the public
At the end of the experiment we can see the results and view the small plants as signs of hope from within a metropolitan wilderness. There is potential.
Cruzvillegas was inspired by his knowledge of ancient agricultural methods used to farm the area that is now Mexico City.
We are lucky that we have been able to bask in the calmness of this accidental garden.

Abraham Cruzvillegas

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‘Blind Spots’ Jackson Pollock at Tate Liverpool

Tate Liverpool will be showcasing the largest collection of Jackson Pollock’s ‘Black Pour’ paintings ever seen together  in the UK for a new show running until 18th October 2015. This is the first exhibition in 30 years to focus on this specific area of his work.
The Black Pourings were part of a significant change in style for Pollock who had been working on his colourful, abstract drip paintings for the previous 4 years. During a difficult period of his life, which began in 1951, Pollock decided that he wanted a change of style and moved away from the ‘drip’ method towards the ‘pour’ method, continuing in his ‘Action Painting’ style. The works use black enamel paint poured onto unprimed canvas. His use of black can be seen as an attempt to defy critics who believed his work to be wthout substance and ‘decorative’. He would work in a barn with the canvas unstretched and spread out across the floor, approaching the canvas from different sides and angles. Pollock was to succumb to his addiction to alcohol, and ‘painter’s block’ followed in 1953.
The exhibition also shows some of Jackson Pollock’s earlier paintings to give the viewer a broad overview of his work and a chance to see the black pour paintings in the context of his career as a whole.
Read more about Blind Spots at Tate Liverpool
Cover Image: ‘Kites’ by Jan Rippingham after Jackson Pollock
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MIF 2015

Manchester International Festival 2015
MIF this year started on 2nd July and will be running until 19th July. This bi-annual festival showcases new art, music and theatre performances by many well-known artists. The festival was the brainchild of Alex Poots following the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games. He saw Manchester as a city capable of holding such large -scale events and also as a major cultural hub. He is well aware of Manchester’s past and it’s forerunning during the music scenes of 80’s and 90’s. He saw the re-invention of Manchester through Tony Wilson’s ‘Factory’ record label.
Poots suggested to Manchester Council a festival which would be led by artists, be completely independent of the council and only showcase new work.


MIF has previously seen new work unveiled by the likes of Bjork, Damon Albarn and Kenneth Branagh.
This year’s festival includes Richter/ Pärt. This is a project which took years to plan and can be attributed to Alex Poots’ introduction of artist Gerhard Richter and composer Arvo Pärt. This creative partnership has inspired both parties to create new work with and for each other. Richter has produced 4 new works alongside Pärt’s Drei Hirtenkinder aus Fátima.
Tickets to Richter/ Pärt are free and this show will run at The Whitworth Gallery until 19th July.


More information about Richter/Pärt




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Damien Hirst at Tate Modern 2012

For The Love of Damien Hirst. (Right) 
Damien Hirst at Tate Modern 2012. 4 April – 9 September.
I’m feeling positive. I knew that I would be a fan before I set foot in this major retrospective of Damien Hirst’s work – not because I was as knowledgeable about his work as I would have maybe liked, but because I had seen so much coverage of the the exhibition and I still wanted to go. Even so, there were surprises. There was plenty I had not yet seen and I found his work to be engaging in a way that I had not necessarily expected. It reminded me of visits to The Science Museum where one is involved in activities and encouraged to join in. The crossover with science is something that Damien Hirst very much intends and it is found right across his work. This, however, is art. Art because Damien Hirst has intended it to be so, because vast numbers of people are visiting the Tate gallery every day and the gallery is staying open late just so that we can all see what he has created. One of the main things that I noticed upon visiting the exhibition was the level of noise. Not the quiet, reflective mood so often found in galleries, but the distinct sound of chatter. His work provokes reactions and ones that can’t wait until you are outside the gallery.
The exhibitions begins with Damien Hirst’s earliest work, some of which is familiar, but to see it in real life has the added benefit of revealing the unevenness of some of his pieces. ‘Boxes’ 1986 is an example when viewed closely, as is his first spot painting ‘Spot Painting’ 1986. They help to show the progression from art student and the days of ‘Freeze’ to his status today, and glimpses of some of the themes which recur throughout his career.
The scientific element to his work soon becomes clear. Damien Hirst takes a ‘scientific approach to painting’ in his attempt to control colour.  In his spot paintings, the spots are a uniform size, precisely the same size as the distance between each spot, and arranged within a precise grid structure on the white canvas. The increasingly scientific names reflect the approach – from “Spot Painting’ and ‘Row’ (1988) to later works ‘Anthraquinone – 1 – Diazonium Chloride’ (1994), and ‘Calciferol’ (1996).
‘A Thousand Years’ (1990) is also in an early part of the exhibition. The first piece by Damien Hirst  to be bought by Charles Saatchi, it was also his first major animal installation. The rotting cow’s head, the (unseen) maggots, the flies, the dead flies, all elements that would seem exceptionally unsavoury, and yet inside their vitrine, and under the artist’s label, do not disgust but rather intrigue. I have heard much of the smell, and was only on the receiving end of a small whiff when standing right in front of the vent. I heard many comments from people to this effect, almost disappointed, as if they wanted to smell it. I think we want to know that this is real, to be disgusted by it, otherwise we are admiring something which we would usually consider appalling, and our inability to look away means that modern art has won.
Another thing that struck me in the first 3 rooms is the humour which accompanies some of Damien Hirst’s work, particularly evident in the titles. I had to chuckle at the fish specimens, preserved and mounted on shelves, entitled ‘Isolated Elements Swimming in the Same Direction for the Purpose of Understanding (Left) (1991), and was rather pleased to find that on the other side of the room was ‘Isolated Elements Swimming in the Same Direction for the Purpose of Understanding (Right) (1991). I admit that I didn’t see too many people smiling at this, and found myself wanting to point it out. I also took my time looking at ‘Sausages’ (1993) from Hirst’s own collection. A string of sausages suspended in formaldehyde with a description card which made for entertaining reading ‘Acrylic, silicone, manofilament, stainless steel, sausages, formaldehyde solution’. As one of the lesser known pieces it attracts limited attention, but there’s something about the sausages in formaldehyde not creating as much of a fuss as the dead sheep or cows that’s worth noting. Sausages already hide a multitude of things from us, and here I think they may be shielding us from certain realisations regarding what we are prepared to tell ourselves in order to make things palatable. Sausages don’t provoke a reaction.
There are queues within the gallery to look at specific pieces – to walk between ‘Mother and Child (Divided) (2007). A queue that everyone seems willing to participate in to glimpse controversy first hand.
The exhibition moves on to focus on the areas of Damien Hirst’s work inspired by the pharmaceutical industry. ‘Lullaby, the Seasons’ (2002) showcases rows of pills on gleaming shelves in Hirst’s recurring museological fashion. The title refers to the association between songs used to lull children to sleep and the often sleep-inducing effects of pharmaceutical pills. The eye is drawn to the bright colours, the shine, the possibility of recognising a drug that we are familiar with. I heard a girl exclaim ‘That looks like a Nurofen!’ as if she had spotted someone famous nearby. Drugs hold a certain power over us, and Hirst forces us to acknowledges this. Arranging them like the jewels that will come later to show how we prize these elements of modern medicine. It is something that we may be lucky enough to have access to and hold in such high esteem, but for all our faith we must recognise that it can only do so much. Damien Hirst says ‘ You can only cure people for so long and then they’re going to die anyway.’ It is worth noting that the pills are facsimile, but striking nonetheless.
The full comment on our worship of the pharmaceutical industry is in the clinical setting of  Damien Hirst’s earlier work ‘Pharmacy’ (1992). It is like a church, presenting us with our self-appointed subject of worship. The four bottles of coloured liquid represent the four elements, reminiscent of those found in old apothecaries. The small stools usually used to reach things from higher shelves are instead topped with bowls of honey. The insects are lured to the pharmacy by the honey and then killed by the insect-o-cutor (reference to A Thousand Years). Hirst says that this symbolises our faith in medication even though we will all die in the end, our futile attempts to stave off death. Hirst draws strong parallels between religion and science as systems of belief, saying in 2005 ‘ There [are] four important things in life: religion, love, art and science. At their best, they’re all just tools to help you find a path through the darkness. None of them really work that well, but they help. Of them all, science seems to be the one right now. Like religion, it provides the glimmer of hope that maybe it will all be all right in the end…’
The ‘iconography of medical science’ continues in Room 10 of the exhibition. In ‘Still’ and “Doubt’ (1994) and ‘Lapdancer’ (2006) Hirst extends his comments on medicine beyond the pharmaceutical and into the realm of surgical instruments and related objects. These are arranged in clinical fashion in stainless steel cabinets. These reminders of the more invasive aspects of medical treatment, and the idea that there isn’t always an easy fix make one feel uneasy. I almost longed to be back in Hirst’s pharmacy, which seems an almost comforting environment by comparison.
Religion and scientific themes are again brought together in ‘The Anatomy of an Angel’ (2008). A white marble sculpture of an angel in a traditional style which appears complete and perfect when viewed from one angle and worthy of the pages of an anatomy book from another. Part of the ‘skin’ is cut away and internal organs revealed in a powerful reflection on the struggle between religion and science.
If I had to pick one piece from the exhibition that I found unpleasant it would undoubtedly be ‘Black Sun” (2004), made the worse by me having gone right up to it before realising what it was. This huge surface is densely covered with dead flies. It provides a striking contrast to some of the earlier butterfly-themed work which carry connotations of life and beauty, and religious associations with resurrection. The association here is with death and decay. Damien Hirst has said that he enjoys dualities ‘Life and Death are the biggest polar opposites there are’.
The following room captures this theme too. On the right hand side is ‘Judgement Day’ (2009), replica jewels line shelves in the manner of ‘Lullaby, the Seasons’ and on the left, cigarette butts are arranged in the same fashion. The pills and dazzling jewels seem to capture priorities often cited, ‘health and wealth’, while the cigarette butts have connotations of disposability and death, the ever-present nemesis.
Damien Hirst has said ‘In an artwork I always try to say something and deny it at the same time.’ Room 14 contains ‘Remembrance (2008). It is the last of Hirst’s spot paintings to be shown in the exhibition, and, as if to perfectly oppose everything that his earlier work in spots told us about his love of colour, the spots here are white.

‘For The Love of God’ (2007). Down in the Turbine Hall, this work draws the crowds you would expect. The dark surroundings, almost palpable security and small visitor groups, not to mention the dazzling contents, cannot fail to bring the Tower of London to mind. It is dramatic, it is exciting, it is exactly what you expect, but even sparklier. The darkened room and lighting add to the already great allure of 8601 flawless diamonds and the 52 carat ‘Skull Star’. Hirst asked himself what would be the maximum that he could pit against death, and this is his answer. ‘I just want to celebrate life by saying to hell with death’.  It is Damien Hirst’s ultimate memento mori, complete with optimistic twist.
by Lauren Rippingham
Tate Modern – What’s On – Damien Hirst.
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Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Sydney

The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia reopened to the public on Thursday Mar 29. The new gallery is clean and open and provides the perfect space in which to showcase its vibrant collections. Following two international design competitions, years of planning and months of construction, it has a new building, with extended floorspace to house its collections as well as a rooftop cafe and sculpture terrace.
The terrace features Hany Armanious’ commissioned sculpture ‘Fountain’, an intertwined marble and blown glass creation atop a bronze sculpture ‘table’.
The Museum of Contemporary Art has reopened with 2 major exhibitions, Volume One: MCA Collection and Marking Time.
Volume One: MCA Collection
A retrospective showcase of work by over 170 Australian artists collected by the Museum of Contemporary Art over the last 20 years. Much of the work has been in the Museum’s archive for many years so this is a real chance to reflect on the breadth and diversity of Australian contemporary art. It aims to show the development that has taken place as new media such as film and video have become mainstream as well as the emergence of diverse cultural voices. The new art galleries serve this collection well, and they take full advantage of the new screen space and resource room.
Marking Time
This collection of work explores the way in which artists visualise time and its passing. It features work by eleven Australian and international artists, representing time across diverse media including drawing, watercolour, sculpture and installations.
There is also the opportuntity to view Christian Marclay’s ‘The Clock’, a groundbreaking 24 hour video work which beautifully depicts the passing of time usng thousands of short extracts from cinema history – each corresponding to the actual viewing time of your visit. The scale of this work is truly staggering.
Here are some of my favourites from their collections:
Katie Paterson
100 Billion Suns
confetti cannon 3261, pieces of paper
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
Contemporary artist Katie Paterson has created this work which focuses on brightest explosions in the universe, called gamma ray bursts- events which took place millions of years ago, and are now only visible from telescopes on Earth.
There have been 3261 gamma ray bursts photographed since their first sighting in the 1960s. The same number of brilliantly coloured discs are ‘exploded’ by MCA staff from a small pop gun, twice daily, to realise Paterson’s work for this exhibition. Despite the number of confetti discs, the explosions themselves are quite small and uneventful. Instead, it is the slow cumulative process that gives the work its life force. Like a growing pile of leaves, the confetti builds up day by day, leaving a colourful mound of paper at the exhibition’s conclusion.
Robert Macpherson January 1982
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
Contemporary artist Robert Macpherson explains his piece in the following words:
I see a can of paint as a painting unpainted the paint fills/covers the interior surface of the can I see the can of paint is a painting I see the can is filled by a machine operatedby the machine operator who is employed by the paint manufacturer who is the painter the paint the machine the operator the manufacturer or me for seeing this I see the outside surface of the can has a printed design the manufacturer’s brand directions for use maximum coverage etc I see this as a painting I see the can unfilled as a painting who is the artist the paint the machine the operator the designer the manufacturer or me for seeing it
Rebecca Baumann
Automated Colour Field 2011
100 Flip-clocks, paper 
130 x 360 x 9cm 

Duration: 24 hrs
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
A kinetic sculpture consisting of a vast wall-mounted grid of 100 flip-clocks, each with their numbered panels replaced by paper cards in a variety of colours. The battery-operated clocks keep their own time, turning the paper cards on the minute and the hour, to create a kaleidoscopic field of colour.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia is situated in The Rocks, Sydney, NSW.