Sometimes living in hipsterville has its benefits: September Gallery is definitely one of them. They only opened last year but they’ve already won a fan in me with this show. Witches brings together a variety of powerful works by women. Marjorie Cameron‘s name drew me in, but there were other pleasures to enjoy. It was wonderful to see her drawings up close and marvel at her fine lines and free compositions. Stunning and powerful.
Her work was surrounded by contemporary artists animated by the same questing spirit. Laurel Sparks describes her work a kind of sigil magic, overlaying a dizzying array of colours, textures and materials in her Magic Square series. They sparked some ideas in me. Rosy Keyser’s work likewise mixes materials and colour but in a more abstract way. I loved her Terrestial Mime which hangs materials on a wooden grid with wild layers of paint. It feels like the work behind a painting made visible, a sort of swirl of anarchic energy summoned.
Marianne Vitale’s Very Fine Gander has a whimsical charm, like toys made giant — but charred, too. So there’s also a feeling of something horrible gone wrong. There’s a great description of it in the exhibit essay by Susan Aberth (who wrote that fabulous book on Leonora Carrington — but argh! ‘The Burning Times’ and the Middle Ages are not synonymous. The height of the witch hunts was the 16th-17th centuries: the Early MODERN era).
I was absolutely bowled over by Anna Betbeze’s untitled sculpture of burnt objects on a rug. It felt like an artefact from the past, like a fire that consumed the witch who summoned it or what was left of the village after a curse. Like her piece Howl the literalisation of burning anger feels great.
“Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.” ― Maya Angelou
Best of all, the show culminated in a performance night last Saturday. I arrived to find the place in darkness as it had already begun (so much for being fashionably late). Melinda Kiefer led the audience in an opening ritual “to create [a] sacred yet wacky” atmosphere. Then the fabulous Pam Grossman (who probably alerted me to this show via her blog Phantasmaphile) gave a short version of her talk on the image of the witch in art. She was the organising genius behind the Occult Humanities Conference and exhibit last year that’s still resonating loudly in my head. I was glad we had a chance to chat afterward.
Shanekia McIntosh gave a wonderful performance with amazing code switching in a story about her family and the power of premonitions. There was an interesting Sonic Sigil piece, an invocation and prayer to Hecate by Sarah Falkner, Rebecca Wolff and Jonathan Osofsky (I liked the use of flags). The band Dust Bowl Faeries performed and wow! I was sharing pictures from their show with the Folk Horror Revival group because I knew people would dig it:
They’re playing Helsinki Hudson on the 7th of May. Be there!
Laurel Sparks wrapped up the evening with a performance that had us back in the dark while she paced a circle around us, reading from huge slabs and then painting herself in dayglo colours with a kind of ritual precision that managed to be both humorous and compelling without ever giving in to the over-seriousness that performance pieces can fall prey to. All in all a fantastic evening.
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.
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):
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.
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.
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.
But maybe it’s just the brain responding to patterns…
In any case, my orange was delicious.
Tate Modern and the new Switch House with loads of new stuff: see more here.