So after we’d seen Picasso’s Vollard Suite at the British Museum, what then?
I want to produce a series of prints about London so on the Thursday morning I took some photographs to use for the prints. We then adjourned for lunch to the Crypt of St Martins in the Fields near Trafalgar Square, our favourite eating place when in London. (If you haven’t checked it out, do so. Good food at reasonable prices in pleasant surroundings.)
On the way out I took a look at the exhibition in their gallery. It was by Meiso Lai who, according to the information panels, “takes her inspiration from nature and creates striking artworks using different techniques and materials including photographic prints on glass, textile hangings with hand stitching on paper and mixed media on canvas.” If you take a look at her website you’ll have a better idea of what she produces.
This painting used sgraffito to good effect. One technique I particularly like was Meiso Lai’s use of hand stitching on paintings. For example the shadow side of the trees on one painting were actually sewn black thread.
I’d already seen a review of the Bauhaus exhibition at the Barbican so was not hopeful. The review in the Sunday Telegraph started “Well, you have to hand it to the curators: they sure possess a keen sense of irony. How else to explain an interminable, 400-piece exhibition about a movement synonymous with “less is more”?
“It’s the UK’s biggest Bauhaus show in 45 years, but, on this evidence, I found myself rather empathising with the weary, old boy I heard huffing at the exit: “The Nazis would have done us all a favour, if they’d closed the ruddy place down sooner.”” The review ended with “The Bauhaus continues to fascinate – though not, I’m sad to say, in this mediocre exhibition. ”
I always associate Bauhaus with well-designed physical 3D objects, such as chairs. Yes there were one or two such items but virtually everything was 2D drawings, sketches, paintings or photographs.
Marcel Breuer – Tubular Chair – ‘Wassily’ Chair, 1925
I felt that if you didn’t know anything about the Bauhaus before, you probably still wouldn’t at the end.
In view of the previous discussion in “Damien Hirst and Fakes Part Deux“, one piece I particularly noted was Construction in Enamel 1 (EM1) from 1923 by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. This was produced using instructions over the telephone!
“In 1922 I ordered by telephone from a sign factory five paintings in porcelain enamel. I had the factory’s colour chart before me and I sketched my paintings on graph paper. At the other end of the telephone, the factory supervisor had the same kind of paper divided into squares. He took down the dictated shapes in the correct position (it was like playing chess by correspondence.)” —Moholy-Nagy
On the way out of the Barbican we found another exhibition. This one was by Song Dong. I say ‘exhibition’ but really it was one single work/installation called Wu Jin Qi Yong which means Waste Not. The information boards explained the background of the work: “On August 11 2002 my father suffered a heart attack, and in a matter of minutes, he left us forever. My entire family sank into a deep depression. For my mother, Zhao Xiang Yuan, in particular, it came as a great emotional shock, and drastically affected her spirit and behaviour… ‘Art’ was my last hope. As my mother helped me with my art-making, she slowly emerged out of her grief.
“In the Chinese dictionary, the explanation of wu jin qi yong (rendered as ‘waste not’ in English) reads “anything that can somehow be of use, should be use as much as possible”. Every resource should be used fully, and nothing should be wasted. This code served as the basis for my mother’s daily household operations.”
Despite the nature of the raw material of this exhibition/installation, it was the time in the Bauhaus exhibition which was the biggest waste of the afternoon.