Snippets: United Kingdom, Jun 2013

Salisbury Cathedral is celebrated for its early English Gothic style, a sturdy base with soaring apses, that became a blueprint for future medieval churches. Helaine Blumenfeld's "Messenger of the Spirit" pays homage to this wonderful building, exhibiting 20 sculptures that invoke the spiritual in this still-functioning church. Helaine's marble and bronze works take after fabric, twisting and flowing as if suspended in wind, creations of lightness in the most hardy material. Figurative fragments form the design of angels, where even the relatively shorter 'Souls' in the courtyard, present a strong verticality that soars towards heaven. Describing 'The Space Within', the exhibition booklet provides a poem that suggests, "Where do we find that space within ourselves?"

Helaine Blumenfeld - The Space Within (2007)

Few painters work actively with resin and enamel paint as a medium, and nobody manipulates it as well as Hamidi Hadi. An interesting comparison is Becky Buchanan, represented by Edgar Modern gallery in Bath. The smooth sheen of resin injects the paint with liquidity, on Becky's works that reflect an adventurous exploration of colour, within the context of a traditional now represented by the wallpaper-like background.

Becky Buchanan - Mosaic Muse

The national galleries of Edinburgh possess collections that are small but magnificent, very much like its city centre, which I think is the most beautiful in the world. The Balmoral of a modern art museum is exhibiting "From Death to Death and Other Small Tales", which includes many erotic works such as Ernesto Neto's Lycra installation. Back at the main gallery that boasts a collection with significant works by Sandro Botticelli and Raphael, the castle on the hill is represented by the exclusive room for Nicolas Poussin. The Mannerist is a master at group compositions that are busy but never crowded, occasionally turning up the contrast knob to highlight specific figures. Intellectually sophisticated despite drawing diverse themes over his career, Poussin injects a poetic interpretation into his works, be it Roman myths or religious tenets. 

Nicolas Poussin - The Sacrament of Penance (1647)

London, the final stop of my honeymoon travels, provided a fitting conclusion to the contemporary art trends I observed throughout the trip. Taking advantage of the opportunity to view Christie's and Sotheby's Impressionist / Modern Art auction previews, I find the latter collection noticeably better. Significant works by Claude Monet, Wassily Kandinsky, and Henry Moore were available, among other usual suspects of modern art sales. Pablo Picasso was better represented at the former auction, whose brash brush strokes and cubist perspective, honour 17th-century painterly portraits in the stunning 'Tête d'homme'. Notwithstanding, it is the Salvador Dali from Sotheby's that stirs my heart strings, as the Spaniard combines crimson red with human forms to great surrealist impact.

Salvador Dali - La Musique or L'Orchestre Rouge or Les Sept Arts (1957)

The annual Summer Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts (RAA) featured 1000+ works, with an exceptional Architecture room curated by Eva Jiřičná. Choosing to exhibit sculptures alongside architecture works, the ruthless curatorial effort is rewarded in its brevity, for example when appreciating Susie MacMurray's hose sculpture among miniature models. Extending my thoughts about interior design, it cannot be denied that the unique perspectives of architectural drawings by Mina Gospavic and Ned Scott, are more beautiful than many contemporary artworks. Traversing Kensington Gardens to view the newly opened Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, its wonderful 3-dimensional grid represents a solution that effectively addresses the typical design concerns of space and light.

Henk Peeters - Burn Hole (1961)

Perhaps suffering from museum fatigue, I found nothing captivating at the Tate Modern, apart from a burnt piece of plastic by Henk Peeters. The literal deconstruction of a material's plasticity by hand, contrasts drastically with the machine-woven tapestries at the Gagosian Gallery. Gerhard Richter re-presents his abstract paintings from canvas onto wool, creating a refined reproduction that resembles pixellation on a monitor screen, while casting the smooth quality of blended paints into digital capture. Taking this concept further is Grayson Perry, who translated his television documentaries about Classism, into 6 brilliant tapestries displayed also at the RAA. The artist quotes, "I think that [...] one's social class determines one's tastes." Agreed - although I am more keen to find out how long will it be, before a local artist follows onto this tapestry trend, since Malaysia does have an unheralded textile tradition.

Grayson Perry - The Annunciation of the Virgin Deal (2012)