Friday, 30 July 2010

England, My England

Kings Place is the calm cultural haven in which you find Chris Steele-Perkins photography, just one floor down in the very bright and airy belly of the building, but with its grandeur I can’t help but feel the exhibitions correlation has been a little lost.

I choose to turn right and so follow the photographs in an anti-clockwise sequence, and sequence is precisely what I seem to be missing. Firstly a beautiful, if not a little frightening in its realism and grit, a black and white photo of Newcastle football fans, and I must say I’m instantly captivated by Perkins’ work, however the next portrait I go on to look at is part of a series, detailing the ill and their carers. Each photograph is more touching than the last in its simplicity and truth, and I have almost forgotten the aggressive passion I saw moments earlier from the football fans. Each composition evocative in its own way, however, I’m then faced with photographs from Perkins’ personal life, immediately followed by a disturbing image of the National Front movement. Perkins is without a doubt a gifted photographer, and each photograph tells its individual story, I just wasn’t sure about the way the images hung together.

The work ranges in age from the 1960’s to the present day and having always been somewhat nostalgic myself, I must say anything he photographed between the 60’s-80’s I found mesmerising and wish there was more. The range of people, from young to old, wealthy to poor, is another aspect which fascinates me about Perkins work. How was he there when he was?

As I said each photograph tells a story, and the people within them are empowered and beautiful in their own right. The exhibition showcases both his work in black and white and colour, and I always feel more drawn in by those pictures without colour because the artist achieves more depth and character to a picture. Again the pieces used to create this exhibition are worlds apart, a smooth line of thought did not go into its creation, as I wonder round the sprawling gallery floor I jump from era to era and back again, and find some photos appear to have gotten lost on a further floor down, again showing the same random stage presence as their friends upstairs…first a scene of worship in a church, then a game keeper in a field with his 7 dogs…

Now I worry I may have sounded a little negative, each photograph I found myself peering at as if I was terrified I’d never see its beauty again, but when it comes to an exhibition I would like a little chronological order, perhaps a little consistency, and maybe even a little more focus, but what I did see was a taster of Perkins work, which I haven’t ever seen before. This exhibition gave me something that left me wanting more, a knowledge of his work that is open ended enough for exploration.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010


Today King’s Cross is very sunny, very sunny indeed, and so with this uplifting sort of weather I thought it was best to have a little wonder out of the office, right on down to the Gagosian Gallery, where right now they have dedicated their entire space to Picasso’s work ranging from the 1940’s – 60’s.

It’s beautiful. I found myself smiling sublimely at odd paper cut outs of owls and a little chic he’d coloured yellow and put in a wooden box with bars on. In the hallway as you enter there is a collection of sketches devoted to the development of a picture of a bull, starting off as a few lines creating an outline and soon becoming an over-detailed masterpiece. I want these in my hallway.

There was experimental work with sculpture, paper, pottery, sketch and painting and only a handful I felt stared back at you with the mark ‘Picasso’ firmly on them. My idea of Picasso’s work from a young age has been that he’s that guy who paints ugly pictures of women with everything on her face in the wrong place and to liven it up why not paint blue, yellow, green, orange…the list goes on. With this particular exhibition I was truly inspired by the pieces I saw. Picasso really wasn’t a frustrated toddler who struck lucky, he was a very talented artist, and with a good sense of humour too I feel.

One portrait that really caught my attention was something he’d called “Portrait de femme à la robe verte” which I think roughly translates to “Picture of a woman in a green robe” the simplicity of this was what got me, it was a woman, check, and she was wearing a green robe, check…but who was she? And what was so fascinating about her that she deserved to be painted and thus immortalised by this man with such talent?

The moral of my story is please go to the Gagosian Gallery as soon as you can, and wear more green.
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