Tate Blog

Richard Long: A Line in the Himalayas
Work of the Week, 24 May 2010

Monday, May 24 2010  3 comments

A line in the Himalayas, Richard Long

A Line in the Himalayas 1975, printed 2004, Richard Long born 1945, Tate © Richard Long

Richard Long is well known for his interventions in the natural landscape based on epic walks. In the late 1960s, artists began to move beyond depicting the natural world to start to use it as a setting or even a medium for their work. As a student at St Martins College, London at this time, Long was already making works that have been closely associated with this movement – Land Art – like A Line Made by Walking 1967, where he walked back and forth in a straight line through grass and photographed the trail made.

To bring his experience of nature back into the gallery space, he later extended this practice to creating and photographing sculptures using materials found in these landscapes (both at the site itself or in the gallery), creating text works, or later still applying mud in by hand directly to a gallery wall. He has walked many different terrains; both in the UK particularly in the south west of England around his home town of Bristol, and internationally, often in deserted and spectacular wild landscapes.

“…Walking – as art – provided a simple way for me to explore relationships between time, distance, geography and measurement. These walks are recorded in my work in the most appropriate way for each different idea: a photograph, a map, or a text work. All these forms feed the imagination.”

This work, A Line in the Himalayas 1975,  is one of several works that resulted from a walk in the Nepalese Himalayas that Long made in 1975. The photograph records a line of white stones arranged by the artist, which stretch towards the mountain peaks in the distance. With no human or animal presence of any kind, it is hard to gauge the scale of the stones  which appear to encompass a great distance.

The line is a key motif in Long’s work. Lines imposed on the environment are usually the result of processes creating roads – pathways between two points. However, unlike a straight “as the crow flies” line on a map, the paths are affected by the contours of the landscape, taking on a physicality of their own. The straightness of Long’s lines makes them both part of and separate to the landscape, both natural and man-made.

“My work really is just about being a human being living on this planet and using nature as its source. I like the intellectual pleasure of original ideas and the physical pleasure of realising them. A long road or wilderness walk is basically walking all day and sleeping all night. I enjoy the simple pleasures of wellbeing, independence, opportunism, eating, dreaming, happenstance, of passing through the land and sometimes leaving (memorable) traces along the way, of finding a new campsite each night. And then moving on.”

A Line in the Himalayas is currently on display in Landscape and Action, Room 8 at Tate Modern

You can explore more of Long’s work in the past exhibition Richard Long: Heaven and Earth.

Damien Hirst: Away From the Flock
Work of the Week, 17 May 2010

Monday, May 17 2010  3 comments

Damien Hirst: Away From the Flock

Away from the Flock 1994, Damien Hirst b. 1965, © Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst is known as the most celebrated (and perhaps most notorious) of the ‘Young British Artists’ or YBAs.

Many of the YBAs, including Hirst, studied at Goldsmiths College, London in the late 1980s, and while he was still a student there, Hirst curated the exhibition Freeze. This is now often seen as the starting point for this loose grouping of British artists and a new phase in how British art was seen both in the UK and internationally. He was awarded the Turner Prize in 1995.

Away from the Flock, made in 1994, is a sculpture comprising a sheep suspended in formaldehyde in a vitrine. The title conjures religious Christian associations, – “to leave the flock” is to leave behind the protection of the church, and it can be seen in a tradition of British historic art works. In pre-Raphaelite artist William Holman Hunt’s Our English Coasts 1852, (‘Strayed Sheep’) the sheep are depicted straying perilously close to the cliff edge – a clear reference to religious decay.

Hirst himself says about the title:

“Away from the Flock, a flock of sheep. When a sheep gets lost from all the other sheep. Then I suppose that it has those religious connotations … being an outsider, not being connected to something. That was a title that came right at the very end. I don’t know where that title came from … Away from the Flock in a way is like: it is dead, so it is away from the living as well in that kind of way, the flock of living things. All those things, I never really look for a meaning, it is just if it feels right, gives a lot of the right kinds of meaning … And Christ is often represented as a sheep in art.”

Away from the Flock is part of a group of sculptures presenting animals in vitrines, collectively titled Natural History. Hirst began the series in 1991 with one of his most famous works, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Somebody Living – a tiger shark in a formaldehyde-filled tank. Hirst said that with the Natural History he:

“just wanted to do a zoo that worked … because I hate the zoo, and I just thought it would be great to do a zoo of dead animals, instead of having living animals pacing about in misery … I never thought of [the works] … as violent. I always thought of them as sad. There is a kind of tragedy with all those pieces.”

Away from the Flock is currently on display in Room 27 at Tate Britain. It forms part of a collection of international contemporary art called ARTIST ROOMS, created through one of the largest gifts of art ever made to museums in Britain.

The gift was made by Anthony d’Offay in 2008, with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, The Art Fund and the Scottish and British Governments. ARTIST ROOMS is jointly owned and managed by National Galleries of Scotland and Tate on behalf of the nation.

Who’s your design hero?

Thursday, May 13 2010  12 comments

Van doesburg Counter-composition

Counter-Composition VI 1925, Theo van Doesburg 1883-1931, Tate, Purchased 1982

It’s the last week of Van Doesburg and the International Avant-Garde: Constructing a New World at Tate Modern and so we’ve been looking back over the show before it leaves us.

Since van Doesburg had a hand in or link to so many seminal movements of the early-twentieth-century (De Stijl, Dada, Constructivism, the Bauhaus), his influence has a contemporary reach, not only in visual art but in the wider visual field, including typography, design and architecture.

Reviews of the exhibition have focused on this influence on our contemporary visual world.

Charles Darwent in the Independent on Sunday said:

“…the extraordinary impact Van Doesburg had on European art in the 1920s … was all to do with boundary-crossing and line-blurring, things so revolutionary that they still resonate today.”

while Simon Mawer in the The Guardian commented:

“Painter, poet, critic, architect, of all the dimensions of his short life the most important one was … the influence that he had among the avant-garde of the 1920s, an artistic movement that has shaped our own world.”

Even Alastair Sooke in the Telegraph, who didn’t much like van Doesburg’s austerity, recognised his impact:

“Moreover, the influence of De Stijl on a number of disciplines, including film, architecture, design, and even typography is painstakingly spelled out.”

Van Doesburg is clearly a giant of design, but who is your design hero?
Who has influenced your design practice or work?
Who do you think has made the most impact on your visual world?
Do you look back to one of van Doesburg’s contacts or rivals?
Who working today do you think will be the van Doesburg of the 21st Century?

André Derain: The Pool of London
Work of the Week, 10 May 2010

Monday, May 10 2010  2 comments

Andre Derain Port of London

The Pool of London 1906, André Derain 1880-1954, Tate © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2002

Work of the Week this week is André Derain’s The Pool of London from 1906. Derain is best known for his association with the “Fauves” (along with Henri Matisse). Painted with free brush strokes, this painting is characteristic of Fauvism, creating a vivid effect through bold non-naturalistic colour.

In 1905 Derain had travelled with Matisse to Collioure in southern France where they had experimented with this brilliantly-coloured style – Matisse painted a portrait of Derain, and Derain one of Matisse. They tried to create dynamic compositions using  complementary colours, such as red and green, which appear most intense when placed together. Rather than using Impressionist techniques of attempting to render light effects naturalistically, Matisse and Derain adjusted their colours to obtain the maximum intensity.

When they showed their works in the 1905 Salon d’Automne in Paris, critic Louis Vauxcelles used the phrase “Donatello au milieu des fauves!” (“Donatello among the wild beasts!”) to contrast the startling paintings with a sculpture that shared the room with them. The name Fauve (wild beast) stuck.

After this show, Derain’s dealer Ambroise Vollard sent him to London to update, in Fauve style, the popular Thames views painted by Claude Monet a few years earlier.

Derain said:

“This picture [The Pool of London] is of 1906. It was one of a group of pictures which I made for M. Vollard who had sent me to London at that time so that I could make some paintings for him. After a stay in London he was very enthusiastic and wanted paintings inspired by the London atmosphere. He sent me in the hope of renewing completely at that date the expression which Claude Monet had so strikingly achieved which had made a very strong impression in Paris in the preceding years.”

Monet had painted series of canvases of the same three motifs – Waterloo Bridge, Charing Cross Bridge and the Houses of Parliament but Derain worked at a number of points along the Thames from the Houses of Parliament to as far east as Greenwich.

The Pool of London however, with its bustle of shipping, evidently held special appeal, as he painted at least four other works, showing this part of the river Thames, with Tower Bridge in the background.

The Pool of London is currently on display at Tate Modern on Level 3: Material Gestures in Room 4: Expressionism