“A method of painting is a natural growth out of a need. I want to express my feelings rather than illustrate them. Technique is just a means of arriving at a statement.” – Jackson Pollock.
‘A Bigger Splash’ (Painting after Performance) – Tate Modern.
This exhibition is about painting and performance since the 1950’s, and includes 13 rooms full of diverse artists from the 50’s to the present day. The first half concentrates on the relationship between performance and painting, and its reinvention; such as artists during the 70’s using the body as a canvas from a feministic, make-up, and drag perspective. The second half concentrates on contemporary artists and groups, and their impact on experimentation in performance.
The exhibition starts off with David Hockney and Jackson Pollock, two of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. Each has one piece, and footage about the artist and process of their work. The curator has placed Pollock’s painting on the ground rather than hung up on the wall; he had created the work on the ground, moving around it in a ritualistic way – dripping, splattering, crossing each foot over the other to get to the other end of the canvas. It makes you feel like you are Pollock, looking down at the work. Above the painting is Hans Namuth’s film of the artist at work, so you can see the creation and final piece at the same time.
There was a nice contrast between Pollocks action painting and Hockneys backdrop painting, creating space and the illusion of inviting you in.
Moving onto the second room, you are introduced to post-war abstract action-painting. It includes ‘Shooting Picture Tirage’, which was a work done by Niki de Saint Phalle. She created action-paintings by shooting sacks of paint onto a vast canvas, which embedded the paint into it and dripped down, creating a vicious wound-like effect. She would regularly have her performance of action-painting photographed and filmed, whilst wearing a white jumpsuit.
Kazuo Shiraga, who is a Japanese painter, uses his feet as a tool for his painting. His method is swinging from rope, and sliding across the canvas with his feet at accelerated speed. The paint creates a flow of violent movements, which is raw with the artists challenge with the paint and canvas itself.
Room 3 was 1960’s Viennese Actionism, which included artists such as Hermann Nitsch, Otto Muehl, Gunter Brus and Rudolf Schwarzkogler. Viennese Actionism was a movement which lasted during the 60’s. It was a short, yet violent movement which was part of the development of ‘action art’.
These Austrian artists used their bodily actions as a new, living form of painting. Their work wasn’t about the paintings alone – but the process of the paintings, which was documented through photography and film. The actions included naked painted bodies, animal carcasses, and blood. Otto Muehl’s work (before he was imprisoned for drug and sexual offences) focused on paintings that were destruction through action, which were “like a psychosis, produced by the mingling of human bodies, object and material, painting not as colouring but as goo, liquid, dust.”-Otto Muehl.
The Viennese Actionism part was rather existentialist. The pieces of work were unique, provocative, individual and shocking, but also had an underlying feel of isolation and hostility.
Viennese Actiomism – Gunter Brus
Other artists work involved was Yayoi Kusama and his piece “Flower Orgy”. It had a pop-art-esque theme of bright fluorescent polka dots, painted onto naked participants. Kusama seemed to engage with American hippy culture. And another artist – an underground filmmaker Jack Smith. He used paint on the faces of his actors as a set to create a flamboyant, ‘queer’ world. You can see he takes influence from Cindy Sherman, whom also has some of her photographs displayed in the exhibition.
All in all this exhibition is a real eye-opener, and very inspirational. It highlights that painting (and Art in general) has possibilities forever expanding, there is no line, and there are no limits.
Following the loud, thundering, rhythmic music in the Turner Prize – you are invited to a solo exhibition performance: ‘Odd man out’. As you enter this section, there are large paper printouts – photocopies – fashioned into a stage set. The large black and white print-outs being of faces and body parts, which has a rather Goya-esque, gothic feel; dark, dramatic and in a realm of fantasy and nightmare. The entrance had large lettering reading: Non-Conformists. This is when you are introduced to the wonderful, carnivalesque work of Spartacus Chetwynd.
She is a British artist, 39, who reworks iconic moments from cultural history. She was born Lali Chetwynd, but decided to adopt the name Spartacus after the Thracian gladiator Spartacus, and she also lives and works in a nudist colony in south London.
The performance of ‘Odd man Out’ is an intriguing one. There are people dressed in leaves – they move around each other, climb over each other, and chuck leaves and twigs at each other. Having such a primitive feel, you can see how this could seem to take a reference from Stravinsky, Diaghilev, and Nijinsky’s ballet orchestral piece – The Rite of Spring; the jarring movements were quite similar to Nijinsky’s choreography, the music was strange and mesmerising and jumpy, and the costumes used on the performers were similar to some of the pagan woodland creatures in the ballet.
The performers then get out this small delicate mandrake-root monster – known as ‘The Oracle’. It was very ritualistic in which the way they moved this puppet around, moving it towards your face in a hypnotic manor. The performers then pick out members of the audience one by one, and guide some to the oracle, and some straight off stage. The chosen people who are guided to The Oracle would bend down and listen to what the Oracle had to say to determine their futures.. I was told “it is time to change your sexual orientation.”
You are then guided off stage through the large paper print outs, where you can stand and watch the rest of the performance by peeping through the holes in the paper. They would get everyone one by one, until no one was standing there any more, and the performance is finished.
In comparison to most performance pieces, this particular one involved and interacted with the audience. Essentially, the audience was a part of the performance. It was a great atmosphere of improvised fun – almost childlike. It was rather like Freud’s theory of scopophilia; in which the way you are gazing and interacting with people without self-awareness. You get absorbed in the moment, and the atmosphere of human behaviour which seems to be determined by irrational unconscious drives. The performers embrace spontaneity. Which seems to bring back childlike feelings.
Upon a little research I discovered a 1947 film noir film which is also called ‘Odd Man Out’, directed by Carol Reed. With the film opening title reading:
“This story is told against a background of political unrest in a city of Northen Ireland. It is not concerned with the struggle between the law and an illegal organisation, but only with the conflict in the hearts of the people when they become unexpectedly involved.”
This actually makes a lot of sense in relation to the performance – as it is based on politics with the “NON-CONFORMISTS” and “VOTE” signs. The audience’s interaction becomes a conflict- many people disliked it and found it invasive and embarrassing, and others found it fun and thought-provoking.
The puppets in both performances of Chetwynd in the Turner Prize looked like they were ready to collapse by the way they are made. They looked very delicate – it shows that art doesn’t have to last forever, but the memories can.
Spartacus states in a video “artists talk” that she would very impatiently and excitedly make a costume, or props, and organise some sort of event because she makes ideas that seem random, but have an undercurrent of questioning. In her works, Spartacus Chetwynd has embraced experimentation, absurdity, amateurism and humour. The performance seemed to be very controversial – it got many mixed reactions. Some people laughed, some people left, some people stayed and immersed themselves within the experience. This is what I think makes great art. I personally found this particular part of the Turner Prize to be quirky, provocative, and fun!
Lubo Clyfford is always fetching things. During our two-hour interview he leaps out of his chair at least fifteen times, rushing off to rummage in one of the many suitcases and boxes that line the walls of his Brooklyn studio. He produces a fist-sized meteorite, a telephone book from the 1930s, a hundred-year-old jar of pickled meat from a polar expedition, and an array of pencil sketches spanning six decades of his life. It seems that an idea need only to occur to him for a fraction of a second before it launches his body into action, frantically searching for the physical object whose image, or name, has barely flickered into his head.
‘Good Vibrations’ by Anouchka Grose, from the Saatchi Art & Music magazine.
This is definitely how I personally want to kick start my summer project – collect a portable archive which shifts my ideas into something new!