Staring at art from the Tate's collection and thinking about it

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Stonehenge X - Henry Moore OM, CH

Henry Moore OM, CH, Stonehenge X, 1973, intaglio print and lithograph on paper, 455 x 294 mm, Tate.

More Moore, this time a print from his Stonehenge series. (Is Stonehenge on a moor, or is it a tor?  Gore, Waugh, drawer, floor... I could go on.) There's a lot of time in the image.  The stones have stood out there for over two millennia, exposed to the weather and Victorians with chisels.  Moore, a man with a vested interest in carved stone, has obviously also spent a fair amount of time looking at them.  The close cropping of the image means that you could almost be looking at the weathered bark of ancient trees, or the legs of an elderly elephant.  Ok, maybe not the elephant.
   The cropping also creates the illusion of the stones being right next to each other, when in fact they would be separated by a few feet, possibly with a third stone resting horizontally on top. (But then you know that.)  Henganatics could, no doubt, identify the stones from the contours and markings alone.
   Moore captures the sheer monumental solidness of the stones so well that he makes me want to go and feel them.  Except they won't let you do that anymore.  Moore.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Five Sisters Bing - John Latham

John Latham, Five Sisters Bing, 1976, books, 190 x 622 x 457 mm, Tate.

Here Latham uses his regular medium of book to echo the contours of a derelict land site in the Midlothian and West Lothian area.  The plan was to build book-shaped monuments on them, but I'm glad that never happened because it would probably end up like some late-Claes Oldenburg awfulness.  And besides, libraries do the job of publicly celebrating the written word so much better.
   I enjoy this, however.  That you can get a sense of the contours a large outdoor space from this simple cropping and arranging of everyday items is a neat piece of shamanism.  Curiously, the Tate's exhaustive cataloguing tells me that one of the books used is by top comedy writer David Nobbs, creator of Reggie Perrin.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Pool V - Tim Scott

Tim Scott, Pool V, 1971, steel and plastic, 940 x 1994 x 686 mm, Tate.

Here we return to the moronic activity of looking at sculpture via a photograph.  Scott, part of the 'New Generation' of sculptors who followed in the wake of Anthony Caro and explored the new materials and methods of manipulation that modern industry made available, a decisive break from the stone carving and bronze casting of Henry Moore . Here steel is rendered floppy, so it resembles leather, or handwriting, or some sort of musical notation hanging from the bar line.  Possessing aesthetic weight, whilst itself being witty and light, looking at this it seems a shame that the 'New Generation' were usurped themselves so quickly by the 'New, New Generation' of conceptual sculptors such as Richard Long and Gilbert and George.

Monday, 2 September 2013

A E I O U - Joe Tilson

Joe Tilson, A E I O U, 1970, printed papers on screenprint on paper, 740 x 489 mm, Tate.

More from the Tate's collection of Joe Tilson screenprints, which is so enormous that if laid end-to-end, would comfortably wrap around the world several times.  Here, Tilson provides us with some sexy vowels, as in the noises a lady might make when touched by a young, virile pop artist, with the shapes of the letters mirrored in anatomy.  Whereas most of the points of similarity are obvious, there are some subtleties here, witty in a swingin' sexist sixties way.  The 'e' of the woman's nipple, for instance, does not reflect the capital letter below it, but the absent lower-case, while 'U' is tied to the black hairs of the male palm that explores the female body.  And what's going on in the top half of the image?  Failed attempts to write the letters, or a map of particularly touchable areas of skin?
   It's easy to write this off as dated, Austin Powers nonsense, but there's an analytical detachment in Tilson's work that suggests he's exploring the semiotics of the body, that is, how it is presented in the media of the day, rather than simply fiddling about with one.