Monthly Archives: August 2013

The power of the Every-Day: part 2

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‘The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper‘  W.B. Yeats

A quote from the Exposat 2013 exhibition in South Kensington (Imperial College), London, currently showing.  Here is what it is about –

Exposat: The theme is based on pieces and images suggesting how time and space can be re-presented. The title ‘EXPOSAT’ is an acronym of the phrase ‘EXploring Perceptions of Space and Time’. This is also a Catalan word meaning ‘exposed’ and is linked to ‘exposar’ – expose (reveal, uncover) which is a nice coincidence. The pieces are intended to portray one or many moments in time and space. These images or sequences are intended to reflect events, structures and processes and our perception of them. The objective is to provide experiences that link to the model of events in space / time that the pieces are intended to suggest. The intended mood of the exhibition is to portray interesting and perhaps novel ways of achieving this. The theme allows for exploring different techniques to capture moments in time and space and to record and present them and the linking of these to create a dynamic process of perception and re-perception.

The photographs and video installations show how we’re caught up in our everyday lives not knowing what we pass through.  The quote at the start of this article comes from the set of photographs produced by Kayode Disu, as does this quote:

‘There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception’ Aldous Huxley.

His set of photos show this brilliantly – people immersed in their own bubble and yet part of a whole.  Here is one of his many superb photos – this one shows the bubble of the underground – many private worlds in one public world:

Perspective

It is so easy to form a decision about something or how someone is and yet it would be easier to leave our imagination open:

‘The moment a person forms a theory, his imagination sees in every object only the traits which favour that theory’ Thomas Jefferson.

Let us turn to Liverpool Cathedral where the expressions of the divine are certainly not caged in!  The striking sculpture on the front of the cathedral has not been made within any framework – there is no theory and because of this, it can be seen through the eyes of anyone:

Christ

Christ

and provokes individual repsonses such as the one inside of the cathedral:

I felt you and knew you loved me

I felt you and knew you loved me

Whether the quote is religious or not, whether the man on the front of the cathedral is Christ or not, when approached openly, the viewer is the one to benefit.

The power of the Every-Day: part 1

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The current Lowry exhibition at Tate Britain in London is brilliant and moving.  The title of the exhibition is ‘Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life’ and I had no idea just how modern his works are.  They are timeless because sadly, the struggles of people that he paints are still present.  I guess it is down to the individual as to how they interpret these paintings but it is hard to see them within their own time only – they go beyond.  They show working class people on their way to work, events such as a football match, or children coming out of school.  They don’t show intricate detail but the paradox of this is that they show it all: less is more.  Lowry saw drama in the everyday – in crowds and people together.

Early Morning

Early Morning

In the picture above, people are leaning forward to show they are on a mission to work – not unlike today.  What you get with Lowry is the backdrop of the poverty in the North of England at the time which you might not see so easily in the paintings that are being done today of a city in Britain but it doesn’t mean poverty of spirit is not there.  Let’s face it, when you smile at someone on your journey to work these days (especially in London), how often do you not get a look in return that looks positively puzzled? – unfortunately communicating nicely is not the norm these days and we know that years ago – at the time of the two world wars – people had less, but there were fewer choices and somehow sticking together seemed easier.  You were equal to the next person – these days it is all about being better.

In 1845 in ‘The Salon of 1845’, Charles Baudelaire says ‘the heroism of modern life crowds in on us…We are stifled by our true feelings, therefore cannot recognise what we they are…The painter, the true painter, will be the one who can seize from the life of the present its epic dimension, and make us see and understand, in colour or contour…’

If I didn’t know this comment came from 1845, I would have thought it was of now.  Yet, Lowry’s paintings show the results of industrialisation and modernisation.  It did move forward life in many ways such as creating housing for people but this revolution in particular folds in on itself in Lowry’s lifetime, in the 1970’s – it is then temporarily repaired with the boom of the 1980’s…and then this folds in on itself again in the bust of the 2000’s.  We would do well to read what John Berger in ‘LS Lowry: New Society’ (1966) says:

‘These paintings are about what has been happening to the British economy since 1918, and their logic implies the collapse still to come…Here is the recurring so-called production crisis: the obsolete industrial plants: the inadequacy of unchanged transport systems and overstrained power supplies…the shift of power from industrial capital to international finance capital…’

Yes, Lowry’s paintings are gloomy – they are beautiful but the beauty shows us the problems and suffering in society.  We rarely see details and Lowry was not interested in communicating sentiment but his paintings show peoples’ struggle in life whether he wanted to show this or not.  His paintings are life as it is and his landscape paintings are not unlike the war paintings of Nevinson and his contemporaries – Lowry’s landscapes show stark chimneys and mills – buildings which have overtaken the people that operate them.  There are all sorts of parallels you could draw with his work and the work of the Vorticists who were part of the anti-Futurist movement and believed that the technological machines of the war were the indication of what was to come.

On the theme of war, Lowry’s painting of the The Cripples reminds us that the legacy of war bites hard into society.  This is a rare painting where he shows the fear in his peoples’ faces – his ‘matchstick men’ now inhabit the pain of everyman:

The Cripples

The Cripples

…and is as meaningful today as then.