Abstract: Dundee

Reflections on Celts

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I dropped by the McManus to check out what was on and caught the Reflections on Celts exhibit which combined a few of their own treasures with borrowed items from the British Museum and the National Museums of Scotland. You can see my pictures here (along with the other two exhibits on) and read more about it here. I was unable to resist buying things in the shop but mostly kept myself to buying cards to send off to other people and a book on medieval Scotland because that is a woeful lack in my knowledge (and a potential site of new research). As you can see, Duncan’s Riders of the Sidhe has come down from the upstairs gallery to gallop through this exhibit.

Happy Know Year

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Begin how you mean to go on,

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Take up your weapon of choice,

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Fill you heart with joy,

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Summon all your powers,

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And show the world what you’ve got.

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Viktor Wynd’s Wunderkabinett

The last time I was at the Last Tuesday Society it was to attend a night featuring tales of ghost trains and the music of Sarah Angliss. I got to play her theremin, which was enough of a thrill that I finally did have to get my own theremin. I also wrote down the phrase ‘luminiferous ether’ which led to my writing White Rabbit (in concert with a lot of other strange head explosions).

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I had not visited the Viktor Wynd museum, however. Drawn by the occult theme of the week, I decided I really needed to see its ‘largest collection’ of Austin Osman Spare works on public display. The south London artist has long occupied that strange niche between occult and art, cultish devotion and imperious neglect, which makes it difficult to see more than isolated pieces at any one time (cf. the Language of Birds exhibit).

Crowded into the back room of the establishment are indeed several works by the artist which are difficult to get a good look at both due to the lighting and the profusion of other curiosities about (thus the poor pictures here). It would be great to have a proper exhibit that allowed better access, of course. Yet I’m grateful nonetheless for the opportunity to see these. Handily, they had copies of Phil Baker’s bio of the artist for sale so I picked one up.

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The museum itself is a mad jumble of nigh-on Victorian gloom, down a vertigo-inducing spiral stair, full of beasts, freaks, monsters, dandies, dead things, a little occult & magic, and some pulps. The dandies include not only Stephen Tennant‘s ephemera but also Sebastian Horsley‘s red sequined Savile Row suit. There are lots of skulls and bones, fossilised things, an ‘alchemists toolkit’ and all manner of weird and interesting curiosities crammed into a very tiny couple of rooms. It’s all a bit overwhelming. You can’t possibly take it all in in just one visit. So if you’re in Hackney or need an excuse to be, you should drop by.

Courtauld: Georgiana Houghton

Some days I’m very efficient: I hit the Tate Modern, the Tate Britain and the Courtauld in the same day to catch the Georgiana Houghton Spirit Drawings exhibit. If you’ve not been, the Courtauld is a small gallery but has some interesting medieval pieces as well as more modern works. Here’s the description of the Houghton pieces:

Georgiana Houghton (1814-1884) was a Spiritualist medium who, in the 1860s and 70s, produced an astonishing series of abstract watercolours. Detailed explanations on the back of the works declare that her hand was guided by various spirits, including several Renaissance artists, as well as higher angelic beings. In this exhibition The Courtauld Galley explores this astounding series of largely abstract Victorian watercolours and offers visitors a unique opportunity to view remarkable works which have not been shown in the UK for nearly 150 years.

I haven’t quite decided how I feel about this show, so here’s some pictures!

You can see more photos here.

Tate Britain: Conceptual Art

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The only way to travel between the Tates is via boat. The only fun way to travel in London apart from shank’s mare is by boat. You see a different side of the city. If i were to ever win the lottery, I’d want to live on the river (maybe in the next life). But on a warm June day I left the Mod behind and with the Eye of Sauron at my back headed to Millwall.

Though my aim was to catch the Conceptual Art show I decided to veer off into an indulgent lunch because it was a lovely day and I could sit outside. It was the right choice as I had a superb soufflé, lovely salmon and perfect potatoes.

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I associate the Tate B with my first real conversion to modern art, but also with Blake, Turner and the Pre-Raphaelites. Yet I still tend to think of it only after the Tate Mod, admittedly my fave museum maybe anywhere. Nonetheless there’s a consistent surprise in the offerings at the original location (not to mention impromptu amendments in the loo):

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The exhibit was good; I bought the book because I intend to make my senior seminar students create conceptual art (because it requires no trained draftsmanship of any kind). I took an orange from Soul City. I thought about a lot of potential projects. I remembered my timid attempts at conceptual art in grad school. I thought about the vast difference between what we can be and what we are and how that makes people feel.

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And then I watched a dance performance in the main hall with others who happened upon it. Art sometimes needs stealth to find an audience.

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I never know what art will appeal to me; I trust my instincts in general, though sometimes I wonder what it tells me, like I think this Michael Sandle sculpture appeals as much to some inner fascist impulse as much as it does to my drummer side.

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But maybe it’s just the brain responding to patterns…

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In any case, my orange was delicious.

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Tate Modern: June 2016

Tate Modern and the new Switch House with loads of new stuff: see more here.