My painter friend Eryl and I decided to meet up in London for a gallery visit … we thought we might head to Tate Modern to see the new extension and the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition but we settled on the Serpentine Galleries in Kensington Gardens. It was a good decision for a warm summer day as the park was enchanting and the galleries spacious and comfortable… the crowds were elsewhere on the boating lake and probably also at the Tate!
Both exhibitions inspired us.
Quick Light, Alex Katz, Serpentine Gallery
Born New York 1927
This show featured Katz’s portraits and landscapes. I’m focusing here on the landscapes as I responded to them more. His enormous canvases are spectacular. They are about changing light at different times of the day. The colour palettes are clever, both subtle and intense at the same time.
Eryl and I came away wanting to paint big canvases with large brushes and try out some of Katz’s colour combinations such as the midnight blue, black with glances of white in City Landscape 1995.
We both found ourselves drawn to Reflection 7, 2008 and not just because it was a little like the patterned blouse I was wearing. Again this uses a deceptively simple combination of colours; blue, black and pale yellow light. It’s a huge, enigmatic canvas. The title gives very little away but it makes me think cold snow, pine tree shadows and watery sun. I know from my own practice that simplification and abstraction of this kind may look easy to achieve but it most definitely is not.
Eryl and I are plotting a painting get-together. My new big studio shed has got to be the place and this will give me the motivation to clear out the last of the boxes following our move so that we have room to be expressive without walloping each other with a paint brush!
The Weight of the World, Etel Adnan, Serpentine Sackler Gallery
Lebanese American poet, essayist and visual artist
If this exhibition was in Colchester I would go back to it again and again. It includes vibrantly coloured abstracts that give nothing away in the titles but conjure up individual interpretations and visions of mountains, townscapes, views and vistas. And then there are her breathtaking tapestries, screens and a continuous mountainscape in a concertina book… and her writings.
Again I found myself thinking about the use of colour in my own practice and also how much fun it would be to produce a continuous vista in a concertina book – from the top of the hill in Castle Park, Colchester, perhaps? As you turn you take in fields and cattle, woods, ugly office buildings, town houses, grassy slopes and a castle. Working fast with inks maybe?
This was a lovely day out in an energising environment with all kinds of people from all kinds of places to enjoy and watch.
We had coffee in the stunning Serpentine Pavilion designed by Selgascano in 2015.
And as Eryl and I don’t often have a chance to get together we treated ourselves to lunch at Magazine, a stylish restaurant next to the Serpentine-Sackler Gallery, designed by Zaha Hadid. The food was good but the service was dreadful. It was so bad that it became quite entertaining. The staff had clearly been chosen for their statuesque beauty rather than aptitude for table-waiting!
We had a really great day out and I highly recommend the exhibitions, coffee shop and even the restaurant.
Note about Georgia O’Keeffe
Last night I watched the BBC Imagination programme on Georgia O’Keeffe. I’d only come across her flower paintings before and now I realise there is a whole wonderful world of her landscapes, especially the Mexico views. So that visit to the Tate is back on again then!
Serpentine Galleries website: http://www.serpentinegalleries.org/ (accessed 28 July 2016)
Georgia O’Keeffee, Tate Modern Website: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/georgia-okeeffe (accessed 28 July 2016)