The Moustache that Went Missing – The Censorship of Frida Kahlo’s Facial Hair

We are showcasing a series of blog posts written by our second year students as part of our Engaging Art History module which introduces students to ideas of public engagement in museums and galleries, and how to use the knowledge gained during their studies to speak to a wide range of audiences. This post is by Mollie Martin … 

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) is best known as a feminist icon — a reputation that sometimes overshadows her activities as an artist (her art is pretty cool – www.fridakahlo.org). She also had a pretty interesting, if not turbulent, personal life, involving: a nearly fatal traffic accident (causing temporary paralysis and lifelong pain); a marriage to the very prominent artist Diego Rivera, which ended in divorce; a commitment to communism; and an racy love life involving both men and women. It is no wonder that Kahlo’s life has become a subject of fascination, resulting in her becoming a 21st-century icon feted for subverting typical beauty standards or societal norms surrounding sexuality and marriage.

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The cover of Frida Kahlo’s 1938 Vogue shoot

There is an academic argument that Kahlo the person has somehow become divorced from her artwork. One factor that has sustained this disassociation is the coverage of Kahlo in magazines including Elle and Vogue, which promote a sort of fixation with Kahlo’s ‘exotic’ style. Articles in these magazines draw attention to the artist’s bejewelled hands, her authentic Mexican dress and her famous monobrow, but not her art. Yet, curiously, these celebrations of Kahlo’s identity often censor her image in one key way: by removing her moustache.

 

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Kahlo’s Self Portrait with a Necklace, which shows both her monobrow and a dark moustache.

Kahlo, it seems, intentionally presented herself with a dark top lip: a moustachioed woman. This is evident in many self-portraits and photographs, in which she sports a hairy top lip. I assume that it was a valued part of her personal identity. It is also another kick ass way in which Kahlo destroyed feminine stereotypes of beauty. But her facial hair has been censored throughout history, right from her vogue cover shoot in 1938 and right up to 2018, on the exhibition poster produced by the V&A for their Making Her Self Up exhibition.

I think this censorship is a result of institutions like Vogue, and the V&A, still prescribing to ‘normalised’ ideals of beauty; yes I am a bit of an angry feminist. The ‘moustache’ has always been perceived as strictly ‘male’ body hair. It has been a symbol of masculinity throughout history, right from medieval knights who had special armour to accommodate their moustaches, to the 21st century and the male charitable movement Movember (admittedly for a good cause). The moustache has been a representation of manhood in a way that the monobrow never was.

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The recent poster of the 2018 V&A exhibition Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up, which clearly has censored the dark moustache that Kahlo portrayed herself with.

This association between masculinity and the moustache has become embedded in societal views of what feminine or masculine should be. A woman with a moustache threatens the norm of feminine beauty (especially in the beauty industry which profits on the insecurities of the feminine image). Throughout media coverage of Frida Kahlo her moustache has been erased and censored, it was not just exotic but abnormal, repulsive even for a woman. This is ironic in a society that worships Kahlo as a feminist icon yet takes away her own personal identity. Next time you buy a Kahlo tote bag, or badge ask yourself does this have a REAL representation of Frida Kahlo, moustache and all?

 

Bibliography

Dosamantes-Beaudry, Irma, Frida Kahlo: the creation of a cultural icon, University of California, Los Angeles, 2002.

Lindauer, Margaret., Devouring Frida: The Art History and Popular Celebrity of Frida Kahlo, Wesleyan University Press, London, 1999.

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What You Need to Know About Tracey Emin: A Grand Return

We are showcasing a series of blog posts written by our second year students as part of our Engaging Art History module which introduces students to ideas of public engagement in museums and galleries, and how to use the knowledge gained during their studies to speak to a wide range of audiences. Our first post is by Naomi Bruneel…

‘I’ve always been an advocate of women being able to tell how it feels’ – Emin

Very much to my excitement, Tracey Emin, who first rose to fame in the 1990’s as one of the Young British Artists, made a return to the London art scene since this February with her exhibition A Fortnight of Tears at the White Cube.

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Emin at the press release of ‘A Fortnight of Tears’

After cutting ties with her American gallery in 2016 and retreating to the South of France, Emin has reappeared with her new exhibition ‘A Fortnight of Tears’, held at Bermondsey’s White Cube Gallery. The exhibition features a range of media including painting, photography, film, sculpture and drawing, as well as her infamous neon signs. The exhibition is a big ‘emotional time bomb’ which consists of Emin, as a now matured woman, looking back at her past experiences.

One thing you must understand about Emin’s work is that it is very personal and confessional. Her artworks often relate to her troubled teenage years and early adulthood. My Bed (1998) was her seminal piece that explored the raw and emotional period that followed her horrific abortion. She admits that ‘this bed probably saved my life’, after laying there for 4 days.

When first exhibited, the installation stirred a lot of commentary due its provocative nature: the bed included bottles of alcohol, contraception, tampons and underwear stained with bodily fluids. Reconnecting with the installation many years later, Emin states that it is like looking back at a ghost, a ghost of the woman she no longer is.

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You should also know that Emin is a strong advocate of gender equality and female liberation. Emin’s artworks are critical of the expectations of women having to marry and create a family. When Emin first fell pregnant, she was shocked as she had been previously told by a doctor that she would never be able to conceive. Now commenting on the absence of a husband and child, Emin believes that she chose the right path. She worries that she would have neglected her art and in turn resent her family. Emin states that when she does (temporarily) neglect her art, she becomes depressed and her body physically stiffens. Luckily for us (and Bermondsey’s White Cube Gallery), her body is in full swing again!

Since the beginning, Egon Schiele and Käthe Kollwitz have been inspirational figures behind Emin’s art, especially her drawings. In 2015, the Leopold Museum in Vienna exhibited more than 80 of Emin’s works alongside Schiele’s to show the rooted connection between the two artists. Similar drawings feature in ‘A Fortnight of Tears’: pink abstracted representations of the female body create an interesting, but also aesthetic, contrast with the clinical white gallery space.

The exhibition also features an ‘insomnia’ room, which displays 50 close-up bed selfies of Emin at her most wakeful hours – very much #nofilter.

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Make sure you don’t fall asleep and miss the ‘insomnia’ room in ‘A Fortnight of Tears’

Returning to her British roots, ‘A Fortnight of Tears’ explores how over the years, Emin has transformed from a young girl of alcohol and sex, to a woman of wisdom and compassion. Her emotions have remained at the forefront of her artworks and her passion is still their driving force. Even though we no longer see the vulnerability of a young adult, Emin displays her journey of growth, a path to which we can all identity with.

After seeing the exhibition, I’d highly recommend you pay a visit too!

Here are the details:

6 February 2019 – 7 April 201,

White Cube Bermondsey, 144 – 152 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3TQ

https://whitecube.com/exhibitions/exhibition/tracey_emin_bermondsey_2019

Free Admission

My Internship at the Capodimonte Museum in Naples!

FREYA SAMUEL (Joint Honours History of Art and Italian; currently on a Year Abroad in Italy)

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Arriving for the first day of the internship 

As a part of my year abroad, I was lucky enough to work at the Museo di Capodimonte, in Naples, Italy, for three months. It is a beautiful art gallery in the south of Italy, in a city steeped in cultural heritage and ancient landmarks. The museum was originally a residence of the Bourbon family and houses a huge collection of Italian paintings from the fourteenth to the nineteenth centuries, as well as an important collection of ancient Roman sculpture.

During my time at the museum, I had the opportunity to do and see some amazing things. Within my first few weeks, I had watched the arrival and installation of several artworks into the museum’s permanent public collection, including Caravaggio’s The Flagellation of Christ, 1607. I also worked on the renovation of the De Ciccio Collection and got to assist in the cleaning and restoration of an ancient Roman sculpture, the Head of Augustus from 11 A.D. One of the most exciting moments was the first time I went into a deposit – this is where the museum stores all the paintings that are not on display. There are over 5000 works in total and there just isn’t enough space to display them all at once. The deposits are real treasure troves! Seeing the secret rooms filled with beautiful paintings, some of which had never been displayed in public, really made me realise how unique and exciting the experience was.

The installation of Caravaggio’s Flagellation of Christ

Installation of Caravaggio’s Flagellation

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Inside the Museum’s stores

I worked in the Collections Department of the museum. Initially, I began in the deposits creating new inventories to replace the historic archives. However, the focus of my internship changed when the museum proposed the exhibition of the deposits, called Depositi di Capodimonte: La Storia Ancora da Scrivere (The Deposits of Capodimonte: A Story to be Told). The exhibition timescale was just three months (which happened to be the period of my internship) and aimed to display a range of never-before-seen artworks across 9 rooms of the gallery. It was a huge challenge for the whole team, but it was fantastic to see the exhibition develop from the initial proposal to opening.

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I experienced many different areas of the exhibition set-up. Initially, I assisted in organising and digitalising wall plans for the layout of artworks in the exhibition, which was an insightful and creative experience. I went on to analyse and document the state of conservation of paintings, whilst assessing their suitability to be exhibited. I also worked on the translation from Italian to English of the press releases and the titles and captions to accompany paintings. The experience gave me a rich insight into the different aspects of putting together an exhibition, particularly because I was working alongside the Head of Collections, who was the designated Head Curator for this project. This allowed me to work closely alongside the curatorial team to gain a comprehensive understanding of the exhibition process.

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Exhibition selections coming together …. 

My internship at the Museo di Capodimonte was beneficial to me in so many ways. I now have hands-on experience of setting up an exhibition in a national gallery, and my Italian language skills have improved beyond recognition ( … but this was not easy, and it took me a long time to get used to the Neapolitan accent!). Naples is also a great place to live, visiting places like Pompeii and Herculaneum on the weekends, and I am so glad my year aboard gave me the opportunity to experience such a wonderful place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A New View of the University’s Brutalist Masterpiece

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One of the undoubted benefits of the University’s recently completed Green Heart is that it opens up a new view of Muirhead Tower, which is arguably the finest example of brutalist architecture in Birmingham. This is particularly the case since the tragic demolition of the former Central Library in 2016. This week’s fine weather has shown the building in a particularly good light and it is apt that this is the Guardian’s ‘Concrete Week’; of which more later.

Muirhead Tower was designed by Philip Dowson of Arup Associates and completed in 1969. It was Dowson’s second building on the campus; the first being the School of  Metallurgy and Materials building of 1964. Both of these buildings are finely engineered examples of the brutalist style and, in my view, both have more than stood the test of time.

Muirhead Tower actually comprises two offset towers, connected by a linking services stack. Formally the building is a kind of hybrid, in which two steel and glass boxes are encased within over-sized concrete frames that subtly reference traditional ‘pillar and beam’ construction. The floors of the 12 storey tower alternate; four deep concrete ‘beams’, supported by two twinned columns, conceal larger lecture rooms and above each ‘beam’ are two fully-glazed floors of seminar rooms and offices. At ground level, beneath the northern tower, a large lecture hall with a raked underside is suspended (see below), while the southern tower provides the two main entrances and the foyer, now with a coffee bar extension.

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There were several design problems with the Muirhead Tower, some of which developed over time. Many of the rooms were excessively draughty and cold in high winds; the connecting corridors leaked in heavy rain; and south-facing spaces frequently over-heated in sunshine. The Tower also featured a paternoster instead of lifts.  This was a kind of vertical conveyor belt that you jumped on and off as and when you reached the floor you needed. Speaking from experience, it was exciting if somewhat scary to use – but it made movement up and down the building slow and inefficient.

To address these and other issues, Muirhead Tower was repaired and remodelled by Associated Architects, in consultation with Philip Dowson, between 2007 and 2009. The exterior was kept largely intact but the internal spaces were reconfigured and new lift towers installed. On the whole these alterations have been successful. However, the ‘brise-soleil’ that have been erected on the south facing facades obscure the concrete frames and it would have been more satisfactory to have used solar control glass. More problematic are the new lift towers; these have been clad in stainless steel and their polished finish is ill at ease beside the rough concrete of the original structure. ‘Weathering’ steel or Corten with its raw rust-like appearance would have been more in keeping.

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But these are quibbles. There is no doubt that Muirhead Tower, which has loomed majestically over the campus since 1969, is an outstanding piece of architecture. And its 50th anniversary comes at a time when there is, on the one hand, growing appreciation of brutalist architecture and, on the other hand, concern about the environmental costs of concrete production. The Guardian’s current Concrete Week highlights both sides of the argument; you can read more here.

JS

61 Questions with first year History of Art student Jess Bishop

Join first year History of Art student Jess Bishop in the Barber Institute Galleries, responding to 61 rapid-fire questions about studying art history at the University of Birmingham (à la Vogue’s 73 Questions) …. Click on link in the caption below.

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CLICK HERE (link to Youtube)

 

 

THE GOLOVINE’S ‘MUSE’ BREAKS THE RECORD FOR THE HIGHEST PRICE FOR A WORK BY A WOMAN ARTIST IN THE PRE-MODERN ERA

Last week at Sotheby’s in New York, Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun’s full-length Portrait of Muhammed Dervish Khan was sold for $7.2 million, which is a record price for a woman artist working before the modern era which is taken to start in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

For the Golovine, which takes its name from Vigée Le Brun’s enchanting Portrait of Countess Golovine  (one of the most popular artworks in the collection of the Barber Institute), this is a moment for modest celebration. Whatever one thinks about the grossly inflated prices of the current art market, this valuation of Vigée Le Brun’s painting marks another important step in the reassessment of the historical contribution made by women artists.  The Barber Institute acquired Portrait of the Countess Golovine in 1980. It was a far-sighted purchase; Vigée Le Brun had her first major retrospective two years later in 1982 and her reputation has been growing steadily since then.

An article by Sarah Bochiccio, published to coincide with the sale, reconsiders the work of Vigée Le Brun. The article ends with an assertion by Professor Anne Higonnet that “she was, in a way, the most radical painter of the period”. A bold claim but one she supports with an intriguing argument; you can read it here

JS

Research afternoon: Speculations, Traps and Interpretations

It is the pleasure of the Department of Art History, Curating and Visual Studies to advertise the below research event, co-organised by Dr Elizabeth L’Estrange and Dr Jamie Edwards. All welcome!!

Speculations, Traps and Interpretations: Networks in 15th and 16th Century Art and Music

Wednesday 23rd January

2.30-5pm

Barber Institute Lecture Theatre

Please confirm attendance for catering purposes (T.B.Roleston@bham.ac.uk)

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Pieter Bruegel, Carrying of the Cross, 1564; Kunsthistorisches, Vienna

Programme:

2.30 Welcome

2.35 Reindert Falkenburg, ‘Speculations on the ‘Book of Nature’ in Pieter Bruegel’s Road to Calvary

3.00 Michel Weemans, ‘Muscipula diaboli: Bruegel’s Triumph of Death (c. 1562) as Trap Image’

3.25-3.50 Discussion

3.50-4.10 Break

4.10 Andrew Kirkman, ‘Visual-Aural Force fields in the Late Middle Ages’

4.25 Jamie Edwards, ‘An Exegetic Image: Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Census at Bethlehem (1566)’

4.40 Discussion / Round table

5.00 Finish

In the footsteps of Walter Benjamin

Jon Stevens (MRes student, History of Art)

In mid-December, I visited Paris. On my first evening, I wandered through the lanes and alleyways of the Marais. Returning to my room, I looked up and saw a street sign illuminated by a single lamp. It read: Passage Walter Benjamin (1892-1940); German art historian and philosopher.

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I knew that Benjamin had written extensively about Paris and that he had lived there towards the end of his turbulent and tragic life. But I was surprised and moved to find him remembered in this way. The passage was very short, perhaps 20 metres, running between the Rue de Rivoli and the Rue de Roi de Sicile. Back in my room, on a website called Les Rues de Paris, I found that Passage Walter Benjamin had only been there since March 2017, when it was renamed by the City of Paris. I also discovered that there was plaque to Benjamin, placed ten years earlier, at 10 Rue Dombasle in the 15th Arondissment, where Benjamin spent what were to be his final years.

All of this set me pondering. I was in Paris to attend an exhibition of the works of Fernand Khnopff and I had allowed a full day for this, including a literary study tour. On my final day, I had been planning to revisit the Musée D’Orsay. Now, I wondered if I might visit Rue Dombasle instead and see where that led me?

On the morning concerned, I looked up Rue Dombasle on Google Maps. It was close to the Convention metro station, so it would be easy to reach. But another destination a few streets away appeared on my screen: this was the intriguingly named Musée de Service des Objets Trouvés. A short Wikipedia piece about it revealed:

(this is) a small museum of articles maintained by the Lost and Found Department of the Paris Police…it contains a number of unusual items that have not (yet) been claimed by their owners…including a lobster found at Paris-Orly Airport…a funerary urn lost in the subway station near Père Lachaise Cemetery…(several) skulls…and a wooden leg.

Surely I had to seek out this strange museum and its bizarre contents. The idea of the lobster, in particular, appealed to me… Could by any chance the lobster still be in residence…Even more absurdly, could it be the very lobster that the mystic poet Gérard de Nerval, who inspired Baudelaire, used to take for a walk on blue ribbon around the gardens of the Palais-Royal in the mid-nineteenth century?

The Rue Dombasle proved to be an unassuming residential street and I soon found the apartment block at number 10. It was six stories high, in a vaguely Art Deco style. The plaque read: Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), German philosopher and writer, translator of Proust and Baudelaire, lived in this building from 1938 to 1940.

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Benjamin came to Rue Dombasle in early 1938. He had left Berlin in 1933, no longer able to live there safely following the rise of Hitler and the National Socialists. He led a peripatetic existence for several years but he now decided to settle in Paris, even though many of his friends were urging him to escape to America. He resumed work on his magnum opus, the Passengenarbeit, which he had been wrestling with for over a decade. (I knew it as The Arcades Project but the reference to ‘passages’ in the German title seemed particularly apt). I stood outside the entrance and I imagined Benjamin setting out each day to work at the Bibliothequé Nationale or to visit friends and colleagues or to attend exhibitions. Then I thought of his belated flight from Paris in June 1940, as millions of refugees fled south before the Nazi invasion of France. Eventually he reached Marseille and, in late September, he tried to cross the Pyrenees into Spain but, on being told the border was now closed, he was stranded. A day or so later, in despair, he committed suicide.*

On that sombre thought, I left the Rue Dombasle and walked to the nearby Rue des Morillons, where the Musée de Service des Objets Trouvés was officially located. However, when I arrived at the given address there was no museum to be seen. Perhaps the museum of lost objects had itself been lost? I imagined that Benjamin would have enjoyed the irony of this! Then I saw a small notice posted on a door opposite; this informed me that the entrance to the Bureau des Objets Trouvés was in an adjoining street. Round the corner, I joined a group of people seeking to collect their lost or stolen belongings. Having filed past security, I climbed to the first floor of a shabby building: over some double doors was a time-worn sign:

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I entered a large waiting room. At the far end was a queue of people in front of a desk, behind which was a kind of conveyor belt that contained hundreds of sets of keys. I joined the queue, which moved quickly. When I got to the front, I asked the young woman behind the desk if I could visit the ‘museum of lost objects’, which I understood was open to the public by appointment. She looked a bit flustered but she appeared to know what I was talking about. She picked up a phone and rang another member of staff. She talked for some time but, when she returned to me, she said, “Hélas monsieur…the museum is no longer open to the public”.

Later in the day, I returned to the centre of Paris and I decided to have a final look at Passage Walter Benjamin and to follow it into the old Jewish Ghetto in the heart of the Marais. Benjamin’s ‘passage’ leads directly onto Rues des Ecouffes (of which it was originally an extension). At the end, it strikes the main thoroughfare through the Ghetto, Rue des Rosiers. Edmund White, in his enchanting book, The Flâneur: A Stroll Through the Paradoxes of Paris (which I had to hand) writes that in this neighbourhood can be still be found:

shops selling the Torah and Hannukah candelabra, kosher delicatessens, the remains of an old ritual bathhouse and two synagogues… (it is) a gathering place for eastern European Jews with their poppy seed cakes and strudels as well as North African Jews with their gooey baklavas and charred falavel…on a warm day the Rue des Rosiers is so crowded with flâneurs that cars can barely push their way through.

And so it was at lunchtime when I visited.

But when I doubled back I found myself in a quiet square, with a school on one side. On the far side I saw a street sign: Parvis des 260 Enfants; pupils of L’École des Hospitalièrs Saint-Gervais deported and murdered because they were born Jewish.

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The harsh reality of the Paris Ghetto and of Walter Benjamin’s fateful flight from the city came sharply back to me. According to a press cutting I accessed, 260 Jewish children had been deported from the school in two raids in July 1942. Of those 260 children only four survived. One of whom, Samuel-Milo Adoner aged 93, had been present at the dedication of the courtyard by the Mayor of Paris, which had taken place a few weeks before my visit.

On my return from Paris, I decided to capture my modest experiences following ‘in the footsteps of Walter Benjamin’; hence this account. It has also stimulated me into to delving further into Benjamin’s work and, in particular, his writings on the city. Graeme Gilloch, in his book, Myth and Metropolis: Walter Benjamin and the City, which I have just started to read, writes:

For Benjamin, the great cities of modern European culture were both beautiful and bestial, a source of exhilaration and hope on the one hand and of revulsion and despair on the other…the city for Benjamin was magnetic: it attracted and repelled him.

In a small way, my expedition across Paris (with a detour of my own) gave me an insight into both Benjamin’s ‘exhilaration’, as he wandered the streets of the city, and into the profound ‘despair’ he felt as darkness enveloped Europe leading to his suicide and to the slaughter of the children from L’École des Hospitalièrs Saint-Gervais.

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*The details in this section have been supplemented by information from Chapters 10 and 11 of Howard Elland and Michael Jenning’s, Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life.

Ways to Remember: Shrouds of the Somme

As the pressing concerns of intern(ation)al politics once more dominate the media, the centenary commemorations of the end of the First World War are now fading from memory. However, a short-lived but compelling installation in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London offered a fitting and moving end to this anniversary.  Shrouds of the Somme, the work of the artist Rob Heard, represented the 72, 396 British and Commonwealth servicemen killed at the Battle of the Somme who have no known grave, and whose names can be seen engraved on the Thiepval Memorial in Northern France. Heard hand sewed tiny articulated figures – reminiscent of Action Man – into little white shrouds which were then placed on the grass in the Olympic Park, in front of Anish Kapoor’s helter-skelter Orbital sculpture.

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The fact that the figures bound by Heard were articulated, meant that each one was individualised, and laid down on the grass with the head, legs and arms bent or straight, twisted or not, in whatever position the manipulation of the figure by sewing of the shroud had created. Many of the figures placed at the edge of the field had been given poppies or flowers by visitors and the effect of the rows and rows of tiny white bodies on green grass with dots of red recalled the lines of white crosses in the war cemeteries in Northern France and Belgium.

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Those graves, however, mark the bodies of soldiers that had been found: Heard’s figures represent those men whose bodies were never recovered – and in just one battle in 1916 and from just one nation. As visitors walked around the grass, the names of ‘the missing’, their rank and age, were read out loud by a volunteer over a loudspeaker.

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In addition to the 72, 396 figures laid out in rows, a second part of the installation included tiny wooden crosses commemorating the number of British and Commonwealth service men killed on each day of the war, accompanied by a shrouded figure. These too were adorned with poppies, little wreaths, and in some cases photos of relations that visitors had placed next to the particular day on which a relative had died. While there has debate in some circles about whether the Armistice should continue to be commemorated, now that we have reached 100 years on, the Shrouds of the Somme made present in a very poignant way the enormous tragedy of that conflict. It is hard to see how such loss cannot continue to be commemorated.

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Lying on the autumn grass, the white shrouds of these figures had started to soak up the mud; around some, red and brown autumn leaves had gathered…it was as if the pure white shrouds, perhaps representative of the idealised notions of the war, and the innocence of its ‘doomed youth’, were beginning to change, the stains and the damp evoking in miniscule the horrors that the soldiers underwent in the trenches; the figures themselves were sinking into the earth, like the men they represent who lie unfound in the fields of France and Flanders.  EL’E

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http://www.shroudsofthesomme.com

 

Frieze Sculpture 2018: Stumbling across art in Regent’s Park

Hannah Binns (Joint Honours History of Art with English Literature)

I visited London to interview somebody for my dissertation a few weeks ago and spontaneously decided to walk back to Marylebone through Regent’s Park. On my way, I discovered Frieze Sculpture 2018, an installation of sculptures by artists from around the world, curated by Claire Lilley. The first Frieze Sculpture was a resounding success last year and Lilley hoped this year’s exhibition would “give pause for thought as well as great pleasure.”

As someone who was not aware that this exhibition even existed, I was very excited to stumble across the twenty-five artworks. There were a couple of works that really stood out to me: Kathleen Ryan’s il Volatile (2018) and Haroon Gunn-Salie’s Senzenina (2018).

Kathleen Ryan_s il Volatile (2018)

Kathleen Ryan’s il Volatile (2018)

Ryan’s work depicts two bronze birds cast from clay sitting on a stainless-steel security bar and blends solid materials with delicate textures. Her work has been described as “weightless” and I totally agree. The softness with which Ryan has handled the materials gives the impression that one is witnessing a moment that might soon change when the birds fly away. While the public is forbidden from touching these works, nothing is stopping real birds from interacting with them which is particularly interesting with Ryan’s sculpture where the natural and the man-made birds sit side-by-side.

Gunn-Salie’s work shows a group of life-size crouching figures representing the Marikana massacre where police opened fire of a group of striking mineworkers in South Africa. The artist used police footage of the workers shortly before the police opened fire to create this sculpture that is an eerie memorial for the lives lost. Despite the fact that the artist has chosen to create figures without heads or hands, they seem very human which only adds to the ghostly feeling that the work has.

Haroon Gunn-Salie_s Senzenina (2018).

Haroon Gunn-Salie’s Senzenina (2018)

If you happen to be in London next time this show is on, I highly recommend having a look around. Exhibitions like this are such a wonderful way of making art accessible to people who don’t get to interact with it on a regular basis. I am really glad I decided not to take the tube that day or I would have missed out on seeing some fantastic art in a beautiful setting.

More information on Frieze Sculpture 2018 can be found here.

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