The London Festival of Architecture is Europe’s biggest annual architecture festival, and returns to the city this month with hundreds of events exploring ‘memory’. To celebrate the event, we dug into our own memory and recalled five impressive artworks that explore the ideas of shelter and remembrance.
Ghost, Rachel Whiteread’s breakthrough piece, is a plaster cast of a living room, modelled on a typical Victorian terraced house in north London, similar to the one in which the artist grew up. In its melancholic beauty, Ghost is a resonant monument both to the individuals who once occupied this room and to our collective memories of home.
Grayson Perry’s first building, a striking ‘secular chapel’ filled with his artwork, opened only for a limited period. Perry has described the building as the ‘Taj Mahal on the river Stour’ because it tells the (fictional) story of a local woman, Julie, whose husband had the house built as a shrine on her death.
Among Pop icon, Roy Lichtenstein’s last subjects was the image of the suburban American home. The smaller-than-life sculpture House III evolved from Lichtenstein’s large-scale interior paintings of the early 1990s and from work that revived his interest in playing with perspective. Exploring inverted perspective and symbolically complex messages of housing and shelter, the corner of the piece appears to project forward toward the viewer. However, by walking around the work one sees that the corner actually recedes and that the eye has been fooled.
Also known as The Tent, the artwork was a tent with the appliquéd names of, literally, everyone Tracey Emin had ever slept with, but not necessarily in the sexual sense. It achieved iconic status, was owned by Charles Saatchi and was destroyed in the 2004 Momart London warehouse fire. Emin has refused to re-create it.
Exploring the concept of shelter and the familiar notion of housing, José Bechara establishes physical, metaphysical and visual relations to the habitat, creating poetic connections with the interior and the exterior of this place. By reorganising the space with a rigorous method, the artist uses everyday objects as geometric forms and inverts the idea of the shelter by putting objects that relate to the human presence outside of the house.
His abstract photography pieces were just beautiful, particularly Blushes #136 (2014). It was the first time that I saw photography executed in this way. By playing with chemicals and light, he created almost a painting through photography. Another work that drew me in was Tillmans’ luscious and foamy depiction of the sea in La Palma (2014). Very satisfying to look at.
This exhibition at Zabludowicz Collection was the most moving exhibition that I had ever been to, leaving a permanent impression on me.
Upon entering, I was faced with mostly naked men and women, wearing only latex, ripped bodystockings and slathers of paint. They moved in slow motion to the sound of a heavy bass, leaving remnants of paint on the glass installation and footsteps in the sand maze.
I thought that a room filled with naked people would put me on edge, but somehow I felt I could sit in the beautiful chapel and watch the scene with comfort, totally mesmerised by the passing models who seemed totally unaware of my presence.
The show could have been laughable, but Huanca executed it with a certain delicacy and fearlessness which I cannot contest.
Back in the 1950/60s, Hélio Oiticica created the radical series of red, yellow, and orange hanging structures called Relevos Espaciais (Spatial Reliefs). Built from sheets of plywood, they intersect and overlap, leaving gaps through which light can pass. By transposing blocks of colour into space, Oiticica involved the viewers in a personal and immersive way with these three-dimensional constructions.
It seems to me a further step was taken in this direction with Joel Shapiro’s suspended sculptures, which seem to float and defy gravity. Open to several possible interpretations, his continuous study of the dynamics of form and colour confounds expectations and challenges our senses.
What fascinates me about him is his almost unique talent for creative composition, which is really clear in the works shown here. There was less emphasis on his paintings, which suited me because I don’t enjoy them as much! I bought several, of course – they took my cheque.
I loved the way it was set up. It was very interesting to see periods in his life divided by rooms and so much of his work in one place. The last room with digital iPad drawings just showed how talented he really is, that he could adapt quickly to new media.
The RHS Chelsea Flower Show, London’s most iconic flower festival, inspires millions through showcasing the best in garden design and has blossomed on us at Tagsmart too! In celebration of the event, now in full bloom until Saturday, May 27, here are our favourite flower-themed contemporary artworks:
1. Alex Katz’ White Roses 9 (2012)
In a 1968 interview, Katz described his paintings of flowers as an extension of the cocktail party scenes he often painted. He remarked that the flowers are also ‘overlapping volumes’, which cover one another as they advance into the painting’s pictorial space. By selecting flowers as a subject, Katz sought to introduce a greater degree of movement in the work without literally representing something in motion, focusing on the unfolding form of a rose bud. And indeed, White Roses 9 offers a composition of volumes and spaces that dance across the surface of the canvas. Painted rapidly and assuredly, the flowers oscillate between states of awkwardness and grace typically associated with the human body. Katz’s roses, with their fleshy petals and serrated leaves, are aggressive and fierce, contradicting the serene association that flowers typically summon. (Source: Guggenheim Bilbao)
2. Takashi Murakami’s Blue Flowers & Skulls (2012)
Perhaps Takashi Murakami’s most emblematic motif, these smiling flowers came into the artist’s work when he was preparing for his entrance exams for the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts. He then embraced the form over nine years teaching college students to draw flowers, even though as he once said, “I didn’t like flowers.” Blue Flowers & Skulls explores one of the central dichotomies of his art—between joy and terror, his optimistic as an artist and his pessimistic perspective on postwar Japan. This contradiction is symbolised by the contrast of bright smiling flowers and menacing representations of skulls. Both oppositional and parallel, the flower and the skull are reminders of the fragile vibrancy of life and the inexorable passing of time. (Source: Gagosian)
3. Beatriz Milhazes’ Gamboa Seasons Summer Love (2010)
Influenced by the tropical climate and vegetation of Brazil as well as by the urban vibe of Rio de Janeiro, Milhazes combines traditional imagery and cultural clichés with plain geometric forms and structured compositions, creating dynamical and unexpected works. (Source: Galerie Max Hetzler)
4. Michael De Feo's Untitled (Last nude Playmate Kristy Garett by Sasha Eisenman for Playboy, Jan-Feb 2016) (2016)
Inhabiting a space between fine art, street art, and appropriation, Michael De Feo’s (a.k.a. The Flower Guy) iconic flower symbols and graphic interventions began appearing on New York City streets as early as 1993. Re-working fashion imagery from magazine ads to bus shelter billboards by painting cascades of multicoloured petals onto the printed images, De Feo brings new life to his source material in a way that is both subversive and joyful. (Source: Danziger Gallery)
5. Marc Quinn’s The Archaeology of Desire (2009)
Marc Quinn’s monumental Archaeology of Desire is based upon a naturalistic Phalaenopsis, a genus of the orchid family. The fine, papery petals defy the properties of the bronze medium in which they are cast to appear almost weightless and ethereal. The work belongs to a series of sculptures and paintings through which Quinn has explored the concept of ideal beauty achieved, especially, through genetic modification. On an immense scale, the delicate petals take on an ominous presence, resembling the wings of a Phalaena moth from which the flower takes its name; the lower part, in turn, assumes the appearance of pincer-like mandibles on the threshold of inertia, poised to snap shut, pierce and penetrate. The title of the work also hints at the sculpture’s latent sexual connotations; the heart of the flower’s anatomy is its reproductive organ, which lures insects for pollination. So, in turn, does this part suggest the human female genitalia. (Source: Marc Quinn)
Of all the images with which he seduces and confounds the viewer, Mat Collishaw’s Infectious Flowers are probably his most beguiling achievements. On first encounter, we are struck by their exquisite colours and shapes, but closer inspection reveals their imperfections. The petals are not perfectly formed – areas are ravaged by, and almost pulsating, with a disease. In this way, the viewer becomes both seduced and horrified. Collishaw was inspired by the story of a 19th-century dandy who became so obsessed with flowers that he decided to lock himself away in his mansion that was filled with only his plants. His opulence became so much that the flowers became diseased, a parallel to the sickening of his mind.
7. Gerald Machona’s The Edelweiss (2013)
One of the most notable aspects of Gerald Machona’s work is his innovative use of foreign currency (particularly decommissioned Zimbabwean dollars) as a medium. Initially, Machona started using the material in an attempt to convey the difficulties of the hyper-inflationary environment that Zimbabweans were living under until recently. But in 2008, it also became an interesting way to explore some of the underlying issues of class, migration and nationalism and the feelings of estrangement associated with the experience of “foreignness” while living in South Africa.
8. Banksy’s Flower Thrower (2003)
This stencilled image may be Banksy’s most famous work. At first glance, it looks like a rioter about to throw a molotov cocktail. However, this ‘rioter’ is throwing a bouquet of flowers instead. By substituting flowers for a weapon Banksy makes us think about peace in a place we wouldn’t expect to find it. The work is surprisingly hopeful and upbeat.
Anya Gallaccio is known for her work with organic materials such as flowers, fruits and sugar. Her installations often change over time as they decompose, sprout new life, or melt. In preserve ‘beauty’ 2000 gerberas are sandwiched between huge panes of glass and left to wither and rot. Gallaccio has described gerberas as a ‘disposable commodity’, mass-produced all year round. preserve ‘beauty’ was first displayed in the window of a London gallery, where it became a metaphor for her perception of the male-dominated art scene. (Source: Tate)
With its roots anchored overhead, more than 2,000 suspended flowers float in a white bubble. As if endowed with a conscience, the flowers rise when the spectator approaches, and then descend once again. Offering a way to restore our sense of unity with nature, the interactive installation takes inspiration from a zen kôan in which a zen priest, in the 13th-century, left his meditative retreat in the mountains to teach the path of awakening. One day, he pointed to a flower in a garden and said: “The Heaven and I come from the same roots. Everything around me and myself is made of the same substance.”
One of the most popular symbols of Easter, rabbits have been depicted by artists for hundreds of years. Dating back at least as far as the late 1600s, the rabbit used to be a symbol of springtime that connected the religious and the secular. According to History.com, the ‘Easter Bunny’ has its origins in a German tradition in which an egg-laying hare called ‘Osterhase’ brings eggs and gifts to children to celebrate the end of the Lent period (in case you’re wondering, originally eating eggs was not allowed by the church during the Holy Week).
Paradoxically though, these furry cute animals have been portrayed in the arts as both emblems of sexuality (think Playboy Bunnies!) and virginal purity. Frequently depicted beside the Roman goddess of love, desire, fertility and prosperity Venus in antiquity, the rabbit was then represented by artists of the Middle Ages and Renaissance as a symbol of virginity and innocence, often portrayed alongside Virgin Mary.
Still, the most famous portrait of a rabbit is probably Albrecht Dürer’s drawing Young Hare (1502). Deprived of any symbolism and a masterpiece in observation, its impeccable rendering served as a benchmark for centuries thereafter. The work is the Albertina Museum’s prize possession, but it’s not often on display. After a maximum of 10-12 weeks, the Young Hare needs 5 years in dark storage for the paper to rest. It was on view briefly in 2014 after a break of 10 years and will appear again for a very short time in 2018 before it goes back into hiding (sounds almost like a real-life bunny, right?).
Well, what about rabbits in contemporary art? These furry animals have been present in several contemporary works, in a variety of meanings which are still sometimes related to its iconography, albeit loosely. Here are some of our favourites:
Jeff Koons’ Rabbit (1986)
In 1979 Jeff Koons made Inflatable Flower and Bunny (Tall White, Pink Bunny), the seed for so much of his future work. This sculpture features a flower and a pink bunny that sit on top and in front of four square mirrors. Seven years later, Koons created Rabbit. The switch from the word “bunny” to “rabbit” is intriguing. The bunny is cute and floppy; the rabbit is quick and sharp. The carrot in the rabbit’s paw is wielded like a weapon, and the vinyl shell of the bunny has been replaced by stainless steel, reflecting everything surrounding Rabbit and deflecting any allusions to the sculpture’s interior. (Source: The Broad)
Dieter Roth’s Bunny-dropping-bunny (1968)
The playful and decidedly inedible ‘chocolate’ rabbit titled Bunny-dropping-bunny (Karnickelköttelkarnickel) mimics a chocolate Easter Bunny. However, it is made of rabbit droppings and straw, giving the work a humorous visual onomatopoeic quality. 😝 (Source: MoMA)
Tracey Emin’s Rabbit (2015)
One of Tracey Emin’s great virtues is her extraordinary delicacy. The grace and elegance of her lines capture the unique, untamed character of wild animals such as the rabbit in a very strong and personal manner.
Joseph Beuys’ Chinese Hare Sugar (1974)
Joseph Beuys identified personally with several animals, most notably the rabbit. He always carried its foot or tuft of fur as a talisman, and jokingly cited the pointed shape of his ears as proof of his close relationship with the creature. Beuys found sugar and the rabbit combined in a wrapped lump sugar at Documenta 5 in Kassel (1972). Both were already significant images in his work, and he subsequently produced three Hare Sugar multiples, the first in 1972, American Hare Sugar in 1974, and this work in 1979 from a sweet wrapper found in Shanghai. (Source: Tate)
Paloma Varga Weisz’s Rabbit Man with Egg (2004)
One of the enigmatic characters of Paloma Varga Weisz’s watercolour paintings, Rabbit Man with Egg resembles a scene from a fable in its conflation of myth, mirth and sexual ambivalence.
Sarah Lucas’ Pauline Bunny (1997)
Sarah Lucas stuffed variously coloured pairs of tights with cotton wadding to make ‘bunny girl’ forms, whose limply dangling arms and legs provide a representation of abject femininity, in thrall to the arena of male virtuosity as suggested by the snooker table. Pauline Bunny, in its black stockings, corresponds to the highest value snooker ball. The black stockings are also the most traditionally alluring of the selection of colours, connecting this representation of a woman to the image of a seductress. Any suggestion of power this might carry is subverted by the passivity of the floppy, stuffed body, which is clipped to an office chair, providing an emblem of secretarial submissiveness. The title of the installation, Bunny Gets Snookered, reinforces the reading of disempowerment: to be snookered, in the language of the game of snooker, means to be prevented from scoring. This bunny girl is trapped by her femininity, only to be knocked against her fellow bunnies in a game of masculine skill. (Source: Tate)
Frederick H. K. Henrion’s One Rabbit Has at Least 12 Young in a Year; 45 lbs of Meat (1941)
One of a series of WWII propaganda posters for the British War Office/Ministry of Food, encouraging the British home front to raise rabbits at home on a diet of kitchen scraps… and then eat them. 🙄
Masaya Matsuura’s Vib-Ribbon (1997-99)
Vib-ribbon’s code has been written to take into account the player’s choice of music, and any can be used to set the pace of the game. White lines form sketchy drawings of the environment and a rabbit named Vibri. As Vibri, the player walks along a string-like road filled with obstacles, their frequency generated by the soundtrack. Pressing the correct buttons at the right time will let Vibri pass unharmed; the faster the beat of the song, the quicker the player must react. If the player is continuously unsuccessful, Vibri devolves: she will change from a rabbit to a frog and then to a worm. If the player is successful, she is elevated to a fairy princess. (Source: MoMA)
Would you know any other artworks depicting these cuddly furry Easter favourites? ❤️🐰
With the arrival of spring, we felt like celebrating the upcoming launch of our new Smart Tag by asking some of our team members what are their favourite works on canvas when thinking of the new season.
The vast array in style demonstrates the wide diversity of taste in art amongst us. Nonetheless, one thing remains the same for all: there is plenty of enthusiasm and excitement for the days to come!
Luke Kang, Production and Fulfilment Manager & Artist Lois Dodd’s Self-Portrait in Green Window (1971)
When I think of spring, nature immediately comes to mind. I feel that this piece by Lois Dodd is an embodiment of the season. The painting catches my eyes due to the use of off-green colours she uses and which I find rather curious given that the artist is known for her depiction of life and landscapes.
She portrays herself in a darker, shadowy green, giving her an undead appearance, the colours used on her self-portrait evoke a slightly sickly appearance. Yet, altogether the subject matter reflects opposing feelings, of fecundity, abundance, fruitfulness and life. I feel Dodd is making an ironic statement here possibly hinting back into the ideas of zombies and reanimation.
I also appreciate how confident she is with her painting style. She might mix paint before hand, but she doesn’t mix many colours one they are laid out on the canvas, instead opting for a flat and bold application of paint.
Freddie Powell, Product Assistant Alice Browne’s Powder (Poised) (2015)
I searched ‘the best things about spring’ and the first answer to pop up was 'because it brings the hope of some sunshine for a least a few days in a row’. I immediately thought of Alice Browne’s Powder (Poised) in which the colours of the season seem to be waiting to burst through. It’s not hard to be attracted to the almost fragrant selection of green, red and yellows on view, getting a sense for the lighter and longer days just after the clocks come forward.
Browne’s work focuses on her own fictional and imaginary architectures, shown here through connected blue lines and the works growing layered spaces between. Perhaps here she has painted spring itself, no longer just a season but a physical space for the viewer to explore and (finally) enjoy!
Annalise Brocklehurst, Business Development & Client Services Executive Damien Hirst’s Midas of Phrygia (2007)
Damien Hirst’s Butterfly Colour Paintings remind me of spring because it is the time when trees blossom, a new life begins and our world becomes more colourful again. His piece with butterflies positioned in a circle suggests an idea of a cycle, with the passing of winter and the celebration of spring and life. Although some believe the piece could be interpreted as morbid and evoking death, as butterflies live on average for only a month, I believe the opposite. I see everything flourishing and it makes me feel uplifted and alive.
Julia Ferreira de Abreu, Marketing Manager David Hockney’s The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire (2011)
This monumental 32-canvas painting forms one part of a 52-part work by David Hockney. The first time I saw this gem was at Hockney’s A Bigger Picture exhibition at the Royal Academy. It was February 2012 and I had had enough of winter. Spring seemed to be too far away and this artwork made me yearn for warmer weathers, brighter skies and flowers coming into bloom. It felt as if Hockney is inviting me to slip right inside the painting and walk along that lovely path under the trees!
The Arrival of Spring’s vibrant colours scream spring and represent the change of seasons with the same enthusiasm as mine. The rich reds and greens make me anticipate what’s to come and reflect on nature’s cycles, the passage of time and the small but significant changes that unfold daily before our eyes. Conveying the beauty and grandeur of nature’s transience and the warmth of the new season, it sets us on a journey to the rediscovery of the landscape.
Anastasia Aya Aroukatos, PR & Marketing Executive Hope Gangloff’s Late Night (Olga Alexandrovskaya) (2015)
Recently everywhere I look I amazed by the sprouting colours all around me, shocked that in a city like London such vibrant colours and flowers actually bloom. Maybe I have never paid enough attention? The sensation of feeling overwhelmed by the beautiful weather and nature that envelops me during spring makes me think of this painting by Hope Gangloff.
I feel like I draw some parallels between his work and that of Gustav Klimt, who is one of my all-time favourite painters. I especially love the intricate details and colours in the clothing and room decor. These patterns remind me of that time of year that I wait for in anticipation to go into our storage and pull out my spring wardrobe which is filled with an array of colourful prints. At the same time, there is a lack of light and life in the colours, reminding me that summer is not yet here, but around the corner!