Inspiration at the National Gallery I

Yesterday I wrote about the Bronze exhibition at the Royal Academy which was the main reason for our trip down to London. Unfortunately, we seemed to be there at change-over time for some exhibitions. We want to go down again to see the Mughal India exhibition at the British Library which started two days after we came back home.

There were two exhibitions at the National Gallery which I wanted to visit. While they were separate exhibitions, they had the common theme of ‘inspirations’. It reminded me of the old joke format: “I am firm; you are stubborn; he is pig-headed.” Regarding other artists and their works of art, I am influenced, you borrow, he steals. Consciously or subconsciously, every artist approaching a new work is influenced by what has been created before.

Richard Hamilton was involved in the planning of his Late Works exhibition at his death last year. I’m familiar with Hamilton’s early work, particularly his collages.

Richard Hamilton, 1956 collage ‘Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?’

The information leaflet states “Hamilton was an early and influential exponent of computers and digital printers. Much space in his studio was given over to whirring high-tech machinery. … In recent years traditional designations of media like ‘oil on canvas disappeared from his vocabulary to be replaced by such terms as ‘oil on Fuji/Oce Lightjet on canvas’ and ‘Epson inkjet on Hewlett-Packard RHesolution canvas’. Hamilton always referred to his practice by the traditional name: painting.”

One of the works on display is ‘The Passage of the Bride’. The right hand part is painted while the main part appears to be a digital print.

With other pieces though I couldn’t see the “oil” bit, and it seemed to me that Hamilton had merely exchanged his scissors and glue for Photoshop. I’ve played with Photoshop many times but I’ve never declared the result to be art.

While I couldn’t appreciate his techniques, I did find content more appealing. As with anything, if you’re familiar with something you can recognise it in another form. The Saensbury Wing, for example, shouted Old Dutch Master’s Church Interior as soon as I saw it, thought the spelling puzzled me. The information leaflet explained that “in a variation on a painting of a church interior by the Dutch 17th-century master Pieter Saenredam, he depicted a female nude wandering alone through the Gallery’s Sainsbury Wing.

The Saensbury Wing

In a similar way, Hamilton’s ‘Descending Nude’ is an easily recognised reference to Duchamp’s ‘Nude Descending a Staircase’. It forces me to ask myself how many other references did I miss simply because I didn’t know the original works? Probably 80-90%.

The exhibition was free (I’m a Yorkshireman!) and it was fairly small (I don’t think I’d appreciate too much of his work in one go). I read that Hamilton appeals more to the brain than the heart and I have to agree with this. Clever work but not soul-stirring stuff.

The Management and I then headed off through the Sainsbury Wing (no nudes in evidence!) to see the Seduced By Art exhibition.

About notes to the milkman

I'm a printmaker based in the North West of England, living in Bolton and printing at Hot Bed Press in Salford. Please visit my website
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7 Responses to Inspiration at the National Gallery I

  1. Were we what? Wandering around the Sainsbury Wing in the nude? 😉

  2. mobius faith says:

    I agree with artists building on what came before. Like a classic quote, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” (Bernard of Chartres)

    • I thought the quote was by Isaac Newton and was a reference to his rival Hooke’s small size. Either way, the essential thing is that “building on” or “seeing further” must take place otherwise it is just copying, plain and simple.

      • mobius faith says:

        Newton is often accredited for the quote but it is actually traced back to Bernard. And yes, the essential thing is as you said – knowing the inspiration and taking it to the next level. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Encompass Collective at St Georges House | notes to the milkman

  4. Pingback: From Saensbury Wing to Sainsbury Wing | notes to the milkman

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