Shirley Baker at the London Photographers Gallery Women, children and loitering men.
Interesting photographs that are inherently polemic but manage to feel impossible in the era they were taken and at the same time echo the continuity of the late Victorian slums.
Went to see the Rising Tide on the banks of the Thames this weekend.
Four sculptures of horses with their heads substituted for the those of oil well pumps sit on the foreshore. Their riders, naturalisticly sculpted, look at the sky, their eyes closed.
The rise and fall of the river results in a dynamic artwork.
Last night I attended a talk by photographer Simon Norfolk who takes very beautiful landscape photos of cities and in particular of Kabal as part of a body of work on war and imperialism.
In person Norfolk was funny and often camp as he talked about his Marxist background and railed against the complacent violence that the British have used in Afghanistan and Iraq. Unlike a lot of these talks he seemed much more energised by the audience questions and was very willing to enter into dialogues.
As part of a work trip I visited Digital Revolution, a fairly haphazard collection of digital culture.
The movement responsive stuff was interesting as ever but the real thing that struck me was the pace of change that saw things going from the big boxes of the Fairlight synthesiser to the iMac in approximately a single decade.
Saw Medea yesterday (first time, and possibly first Greek theatre adaptation). Amazing performance from Helen McCrory as the spurned wife, consumed by rage against her unfaithful husband. She never succumbs to the temptation of melodrama but conveys the shifting feelings of the principal with conviction.
The production is relatively lavish with a large cast and ornate dressing that combines pre-WW2 domestic style with Greek motifs. The use of the chorus is well-thought out with excellent choreography and a mischievous mixture of encouragement, support and horror.
The final scene where the chorus pleads for the gods to save Medea's children captures perfectly the ambiguity of the observers and of the attitude of the Olympian pantheon.
Medea shifting emotions seem to echo mental illness at times but stay within the bounds of ancient Greek cultural values. She is bad rather than mad and before the play starts guilty of defying all the conventions of her world, an individual making herself against the world.
The music is atmospheric and written, I found afterwards, by Goldfrapp.
The mixed ability of the supporting cast is the only blemish in pleasurable but disturbing piece of theatre.
Saw The Crucible at the Old Vic yesterday. Interesting production in the round and actually the first time I've ever seen the play performed.
There was a particularly interesting part during the courtroom proceedings where the girls are perfectly choreographed during their "possession" and the result was extremely uncanny and unsettling.
As a nice touch a set of metal rails ran through the centre of the stage and the rest of the theatre was dressed as a derelict foundry.
During lunch I took the opportunity to have a quick look around the Daniel Blau gallery on Hoxton Square.
The work that particularly struck me was Oliver Eglin's Markings series which documents graffiti on tree trunks.
The extreme tight focus makes the trunks looks almost alien in their organic folds. The writing is a strange mix of the human regularity and the weathering effect of nature.
The personal nature of the carvings is also touching. The contrast of the ephemeral love and acts of devotion and the permanence of its record in the tree is captured elegantly.
Took the opportunity to dive into the National Portrait Galleries 2014 competition exhibition.
The standard of the entries was really high, not really a single duff piece.
Things I learnt:
My favourites brought some humour to their subject. Boris Dobre's self-portrait checked the homage to classics box but was also managed to be subversive. Fergus by Paul Benny doesn't just undermine the self-regard of the genre but the tenderness with which Fergus Henderson cradles the roast piglet is both absurd and utterly genuine at the same time.
Clara Drummond's small colour study was inspired by Tudor portraiture (black background, rich colours) but I liked the vulnerable intimacy of the piece, with the sitter's eyes closed you felt invited to share something.
Visited the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit at Tate Modern. I wasn't really aware of his portraiture which was pretty good. The best work was still Patti Smith and his erotically-charged gay photographs though. A small, intimate picture of a little girl was also arresting framed.
I found Andy Warhol to be less interesting than the curator. One or two shots, yes, but four?
I had been looking forward to the comics exhibition at the British Library for a while and maybe that was an influence in why I felt so disappointed by it.
The subject is interesting but the exhibition is dull and lifeless with terrible flow and some pronounced bottlenecks.
While some of the pieces are rare the majority of the things on display were by living artists whose catalogue is still in print. Putting things in cases therefore not only made it harder to understand what message the curators were trying to convey but left the impression that if you want to understand what happened in British comics in the Eighties and Nineties you would be better off going to a regular reading library and simply reading the collections.
If you haven't read Halo Jones or V for Vendetta then do that before wasting your time on this exhibition.