May Diary

I haven’t been to as many exhibitions as usual in May because of so much art seen last month in Germany, so I’ll include some more Cologne & Dusseldorf art in this diary.

Back in London we went to the Victoria Miro Gallery to see a show called ‘Surface Work’ – its title from a quote by Joan Mitchell who said ‘Abstract is not a style. I simply want to make a surface work’. The handout says the exhibition reflects the way in which women have been at the heart of abstract art’s development over the past century. I particularly liked Helen Frankenthaler. There were so few women artists In the 60’s and she was one I became aware of when I was doing my fine art degree at Coventry School of Art. In our final year we followed, & were influenced by, Abstract Expressionism and in particular the New York School of painters. So in this exhibition it was a shame only one of Frankenthaler’s was on show, done in 1959 & called ‘Winter Figure with Black Overhead’. She was known for her soak-stain technique of painting – pouring thin paint directly onto raw unprimed canvas laid on the floor, this eventually to be known as the Colour Field School of painting with such artists as Morris Louis & Kenneth Noland (see images with this month’s diary).

The next exhibition we had particularly wanted to see, a favourite artist of ours – Christian Boltanski at the Marion Goodman Gallery. Called ‘Ephemeres’ (Mayflies), we entered through a printed veiled passage called ‘The Crossing of Life’, about his personal memories.Then into a room of torn suspended veils documenting the fleeting lifespan of the mayfly. In the downstairs galleries were two beautiful film pieces, reminding me & giving me a similar feeling I get with Bill Viola’s films – such peace and quiet and an inward feeling of how transitory one’s life is. The first video installation called ‘Amitas’ (Blank), made in a bleak snowscape of Ile d’Orleans, Quebec. The other, ‘Animitas’ (Small Souls), created in the extreme conditions of Chile’s remote Atacama Desert. Anima meaning soul and animitas the Chilean meaning for ‘roadside shrine’. Each video showed hundreds of small Japanese bells with plexiglas tags attached to tall stems planted in the ground, the chiming bells creating eulogies for lost human souls. Upstairs an extremely large video installation called ‘Misterios’ showed the rocky uninhabited coast of Bahia Bustamante in Patagonia. Three colossal trumpets generated a sound similar to that of whale song when the sea winds pass through them. I preferred the two smaller installations.



Also visited that day Sadie Coles Gallery. How strange to see an artist Wilhelm Sasnal using similiar historical art reference to me. Born in Poland, he mixed present day reality and memory with art history.

Art from German museums that I loved but did not show in my last diary:

Ludwig Museum, Cologne                                  Duane Hanson

Donald Judd                                                          Kenneth Noland

Jackson Pollock                                                     Franz Kline

Robert Rauschenberg                                          Anselm Kiefer

Fernand Leger                                                      Rene Magritte

Giorgio de Chirico