144-152 Bermondsey St, London SE1 3TQ
Thursday 7 September 2017
Linda and I walked down Bermondsey Road, past the enormous works which are transforming London Bridge Station, to reach the handsome building which is White Cube.
Vast spaces and white walls were what you could expect from a cutting edge gallery of modern art.
We were less taken with the art on display - well, I was - a sign of encroaching old age, perhaps. The exhibition, Dreamers Awake, is of the works of female surrealists. Never at our best with surrealism anyway, we found the exhibition somewhat sameish and annoying.
You can read what it is about here.
My problem with describing the works is this: if I use the normal words for the subject matter of virtually every painting, drawing, bronze, carving, photograph and ceramic in the show, we shall attract huge numbers of people whose search criteria appear to be set to find such terms. We are still bruised from the post in which I referred to the (less than fully clad) angels in the ceiling of Muchelney Church and we got 9,000 hits.... Roger suggests that I substitute the words BEAST and PENCIL for the most common objects, so here goes.
We first went into South Gallery 2, containing a range of works in different media. Some quite funny pencil sketches depicted men with multiple beasts; some porcelain wreaths and arrangements proved to be bunches of legs and pencils (these were by Rachel Kneebone); a pink ceramic tongue protruded from a wall, possibly for use as a coat peg. There was a series of photographs of shop dummies, face down, some covered with cellophane, one with a snake, which presumably is some kind of Freudian reference. Oh, and this, one of the works we were allowed to photograph, is by Tracey Emin.
We paused before the Bal des Ingrates, a painting of women's heads peeking out from dim-sum type parcels as which were being carried on men's heads; there was one picture which had a very large spider protecting the modesty of the model (Dr Freud again, I suppose)
Another room had some rather disturbing cut out children and birds, blindfolded and trapped between sheets of glass.
In the 9x9x9 room, a cord ran from floor to ceiling with disembodied hands climbing up it. The Leonora Carrington quote on the wall ('I warn you, I refuse to be an object') left us little the wiser, since it all seemed to be objectivising, though presumably in an ironic way. Three Lee Miller photos surprised us, since we had enjoyed her war photos a few months ago. One was a pair of severed beasts on plates, with knives and forks. We also saw a wooden chair with fabric beasts and a large pencil arranged on it. A hanged woman was suspended from a pencil.
So, as you can tell, we found the 'irony, resistance and self expression of these women artists, the object becoming subject and the artist being relocated inside the body', quite beyond us. It was also hard to picture what sort of person would want one of these art works on their wall. But we do know that this is our problem, not that of the artist: as Miss Jean Brodie remarked of the Guiding movement,