Sunday, 13 April 2014

'The Great War in Portraits' at the National Portrait Gallery and the RI of Painters in Watercolour exhibitions

 When I visited the Bailey 'Stardust' exhibition a few weeks ago I didn't really have time to see the first world war exhibition and they have very different moods.

The National Portrait Gallery's literature says that, 'In viewing the First World War through images of the many individuals involved, The Great War in Portraits looks at the radically different roles, experiences and, ultimately, destinies of those caught up in the conflict.'

It's an interesting and thoughtful exhibition of drawings, paintings, photographs, film and a piece of sculpture. The sculpture is Jacob Epstein's Rock Drill - man and machine, 'the Frankenstein monster that war has made us'.  It sits at the entrance with its chopped off arms and shows the way in.

The skillfully painted, traditional portraits of royalty and heads of state set the scene and show some of the international players at the start of the war when Franz Ferdinand was assassinated and before empires crumbled.

Then the exhibition moves on to show the ordinary men and their leaders.   Work by William Orpen, war artist, is well represented and again its good, traditional portraiture.   The compasisonate, pastel images of facially mutilated solidiers by Henry Tonks haven't been shown before.  He was working at a hospital in Cambridge doing documentary work at first but became interested in his subjects and their difficulties and continued painting them.  The pastels are shown near the films of the Battle of the Somme.   One film produced by the British and the other by the German government for propaganda purposes.

Still photographs were displayed to show personal stories e.g of an underage soldier who lied about his age, signed up and died more or less immediately.

The German Expressionist paintings by Kirchner, Max Beckman and Lovis Corinth created a stronger emotional impact, in many ways than the restrained traditional pieces.

After a break, I went on from this exhibition to see the soothing Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour exhibition at the Mall Galleries.   A wide range of skilled work was on show.  I particularly liked Ann Blockley and Shirley Trevenna's loose textural and vivid paintings.

Royal Academy Summer Show 2014 - for judging in round 2

I delivered 2 framed etchings to the Royal Academy for round 2 judging.  I'd only been back from Sweden for a day and got my framed pieces out and re-read the paperwork for what to do.  

The framer hadn't provided 'soft protective frame corners' as he'd promised so I rang round local places to try to get some.   I ended up making a last minute dash to Birmingham, Lion Framing, to get some.

Then I turned to the labels.   2  tag labels to  hang on the work.   2 more to stick on the back of the frames.   Also, bar codes to peel off and stick on the labels.    I filled them in and was ready to stick them on when I dropped one set and they slid under my plan chest!   After an attempt to prize them out with a ruler I gave up.   The plan chest is much too heavy too move,  so I printed some more off.   Attached everything and wrapped ready to go.

Friday morning I set off early by train and arrived at the RA Burlington Gardens entrance at about 10am.  It was wonderfully quiet.   I was directed into the building, and then accompanied to a place to unwrap my pieces and to another counter to have them scanned in.

TV reporters were interviewing a man who had travelled a very long way to deliver his piece which was of the North Sea.  He was combining the delivery of his piece with a holiday and the chance to see some exhibitions which he's here. 

I felt really light and ready to see an exhibition or two myself....

Ice sculpture at the Ice Hotel, Jukkasjervi, near Kiruna, Sweden

The Ice Hotel was freezing cold inside ...obvious I suppose, but it was literally freezing outside and breathtakingly cold inside.   I had thought I might do some sketching so I had my sketchbook with me but it was just too cold.   I decided to keep my gloved hands in my pockets!    The tenacity and skill of the sculptors was very impressive and here are a few of the rooms I saw.I am glad I visited when I did.   It's the warmer end of the season but 2 weeks later and the whole place will be melted down...disappeared.

Going into one of the rooms in the Ice Hotel.