The National Gallery — Level 2, 1700-1930

The last of The National Gallery‘s Level 2 collections, starting with Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun’s Self Portrait in a Straw Hat. I took far too many photos and edited far too many and trying to write about the art at a commensurate level of ill-discipline is — probably for the best — not happening, so I’m just making quick notes on some I liked. This one because it’s a woman artist, and museums do such a weak job of representing us on either side of the canvas, particularly once we get to the 1700s, plus she was talented as her self-portrait evinces, and looks like fun.

Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo’s The Lamentation at the Foot of the Cross reminds me of Master of the Saint Bartholomew’s The Deposition, also brutal and moves the setting back to the Middle East. His father, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, has The Banquet of Cleopatra nearby. As with many of the Italian artists doing large works, it owes a heavy debt to Veronese, including having a little person in the scene.

William Hogarth’s Marriage A-la-Mode: 4. The Toilette is kinda grotesque and mainly I included it for that, and not in a praiseworthy way.

Giovanni Antonio Canal, or Canaletto as he’s better known, makes a solid appearance. I first saw him in the Gemäldegalerie and sometimes I feel a little ashamed for liking him so much, but I like Fast & Furious, so what do I know? There’s several of his, Venice: The Upper Reaches of the Grand Canal with S. Simeone Piccolo, The Feast Day of Saint Roch, and Campo S. Vidal and Santa Maria della Carità (‘The Stonemason’s Yard’) with a woman working stone in the sun. Following him is Pietro Longhi, who I thought was Canaletto at first — same time and place. Exhibition of a Rhinoceros at Venice for the strange masks, and the Rhino.

The National Gallery has all these works online, and Wikipedia has most of the artists, so I’ve been repeatedly wondering why I committed to so many photos and words. I think it’s because this is my experience of a museum or gallery I visit, and blogging serves as a kind of external memory. As well, in editing the photos I spend a long time looking at them all, revisiting my trip, looking at details, reading about the artists. So what was a short afternoon in the Gallery while heading airport-wards becomes days of looking at art as I do the editing and writing. This is for me what visiting a museum or gallery is, what being an audience in these places is, how I experience art. Perhaps too, long periods of unemployment combined with a tendency to get very involved in a task lead me to currently enjoy visual art like this. To be clear: it’s work. It’s not always fun, sometimes it’s to be endured, or I get through by persevering. I don’t know ‘what it’s for’ except for itself.

广东实验现代舞团 Guangdong Modern Dance Company at Venice Biennale

The 广东实验现代舞团 Guangdong Modern Dance Company will be performing for the first time in Venice this month at la biennale di venezia, which gives a brief but good – though with a significant number of inaccuracies – rundown on the company and its choreographers.

The Guangdong Modern Dance Company also arises from a renewed climate of exchanges and cultural convergence. Following a journey to the United States which brought him [actually Yang Mei-Qi is a woman] into contact with the most innovative American dance, in 1986 Yang Mei-qi nurtured the idea of officially founding the first professional company of modern dance in the People’s Republic, an idea which he succeeded in bringing to fruition, overcoming the obstacles and resistance of the government and managing even to obtain the support of the Province of Guangdong. Supported by the Asian Cultural Council and the American Dance Festival, in 1987 Yang Mei-qi launched the Guangdong Modern Dance Company, comprising 18 members selected from the best dancers of the whole of China, taking them from ballet, popular dance and Chinese classic dance. American and European teachers are regularly invited to teach in order to supply the pupils with the necessary instruments for the creation of a contemporary yet autonomous choreographic language, which takes into account its own cultural roots without imposing or overlaying the model of European or American dance upon the Chinese elements. The company, currently directed by Chengming Gao and Liang Xiang, has presented its shows in Europe, America and Asia at major events, including: the India International Dance Festival, the Macau Arts Festival, the Singapore International Dance Festival, the Montpellier Dance Festival, the Beijing International Dance Festival, the Swiss International Dance Festival, the Hong Kong Festival of Asian Arts and the American Dance Festival.

It’s great for the company to be touring again, as SARS and a bunch of other things pretty much kept them in their own studio theatre for the last to years. The works they are performing however are pretty old, and not indicative of the very cool things going on there at the moment. Choreographer 龙云娜 Long Yunna whose work Linglei is the pick of the works being performed is without a doubt the most radical choreographer in China today, but unless you get to see zaikuan or 别爱人 bieairen you won’t be seeing the cutting edge of Chinese avant-garde contemporary dance.