Friday, 18 March 2011

John Wrights...just alright

I went to see John Wright's Double Bill of Baby Boomers and The Confetti Maker at the New Diorama Theatre. After working with numerous collaborators who have previously work shopped with John Wright my expectations are high, unfortunately the shows did not live up to the hype surrounding his work.

Baby Boomers is a heart warming story of an old women's journey back to her youth and the unfolding of her tragic past which has plagued through her life. There are moments of pure joy and magic, from the balloon figures, bubbly characters and the simple sentimental moments of humanity. The beautiful characterisation of Nick Ash's 'elderly woman' is a wonder to watch, as you can see the detail of work that has gone into making her live through Ash's body and mask work. Unfortunately the same cant be said for Becky Kitter's 'elder gentleman', in which her youthful energy and womanly features creep through her characterisation, and you believe no longer in the character.
For me the performance and story really came alive in the darker moments, where the use of mask and silence really played and worked well together, I just wished there were more riskier moments like this, which really played with the audiences emotions.
Balloon work and the 'magic' design of these balloon images are outstanding and a joy to watch. Overall an OK performance.

The Confetti Maker was presented in a completely different style and tempo, much to my relief. Frank Wurzinger's solo performance is a joy to watch, his relationship with the audience is engaging and exciting. I was drawn from the beginning of the performance, and only from small moments where the action dragged and the story became lost (mainly with the baby and wide side storyline), overall I was capitulated with Wurzinger's performance, combining slap-stick, puppetry, improvisation and great comical timing to that of Chaplin. This was an underrated performance, (with a little work) will be an amazing show.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Clowning Drag at the RVT!

Went to see Dickie Beau's one man show at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Walking into the mysterious RVT unexpected what I will see, I am greeted by... a clown? a woman? a man?...Dickie Beau in white face drag on top of a steel ladder in the middle of the stage.
I quickly sit down by the bar daring not to buy a drink until the safety of the interval in this intimate venue setting.

Still not too sure what was going to take place, I watched the show with interest and started to realise how clever this performance is. Dickie Beau crosses discplinines; at times clowning into mime into drag comedy, which I was surprised actually worked. Challenging perceptions of drag lipsynch he cleverly makes bold choices of when to mime in synch and when not to, often opening up further questions about the work he is doing. Using visual media tools to divide his show up seemingly flows from one act to another both visual and live performances compliments and support each other.
Using simple devices and techniques; like 'opening the curtains and sweeping away the stage space' promptly clears the air (as it were) to draw a line under the raw issues conversed in his act.
Still trying to understand the big 'queer theory' world, I am stunned by the impressive Dickie Beau's show by the interdiscplinary elements of his act, cleverly staged and well thought out.

Drag clown is the way forward!

Friday, 11 March 2011

What is our cultural Identity?

The main question asked on the National Portraits guided tour exploring 'cultural identity' by Liz Rideal.
What I like about these meetings at the Gallery is that every curator and guide has a different take on the themes being explored, and their own view of the portraits. We were took on a whirlwind blitz of over 12 portraits in the gallery from the 16c to contemporary photograph portraits. Exploring and questioning what it means to be 'British', from the sitters to the artists.

Starting off in the Eighteen by Twelve Print exhibition, looking at black and white portraits from M.I.A to the Princes William and Harry, gave an idea at the vast range of famous sitters housed in this exhibit. When considering the sitters Tracey Emin and the two Princes and what we could value to be true British actually when delving into their heritage reveals mixed nationalities in their backgrounds. So who is a true Brit?

Moving onto the Michael Landy sketch portraits supports the statement that most artists who study in London, aim to make work designed to stay in London, via varying shifting populations.

Looking at one of my favourite pieces in the Gallery; portrait of Zaha Hadid by Michael Craig- Martin, comprised via an LCD monitor/ computer with integrated software. It cunningly changes colour whilst you watch this portrait, cleverly and subtly done, made me believe that my sight was deteriorating. Asking whether line and colour can effect personality, as it is believed that Hadid's personalty is of a bright, colourful and vibrant nature, so then this portrait's style has represented her character perfectly:

Looking back at non British artists in the Gallery, it is funny to then come across German artist; Hanz Holbein's massive portrait of one of Britain's most famous iconic figures; Henry VIII. Questioning is this a British portrait?

Liz Rideal further questioned when thinking about our multicultural society, "How do we arrive?" Sometimes not war, or extradition makes us move, but merely population shifts-travelling etc.
Which led the group to the final portrait that is causing excitement and hype for the fact that this portrait goes against the Galleries main criteria for housing its works. This is of course the portrait by Benjamin Robert Haydon of Napoleon Bonaparte with Duke of Wellington (companion portrait)alongside, some calling this the 'struggling heroes'.

The galleries criteria is based on that the artist/sitter must have been a resident in the UK or have given something to the British society they live in. Of course, we know, Napoleon did neither!

Monday, 7 March 2011

Late night Hidden Histories

Went along to another late night shift at the National Portrait Gallery for the Gallery talk on Hidden Histories. Looking at a selection of portraits from the gallery, and a delve into their past, secrets and stories behind the sitters and artists of that time. Led by Sarah Ciacci she chose 3 very different portraits ranging from the 1500 1800s, and elaborating of the hidden story behind each one.

Firstly looking at the oil based canvas the portrait by unknown artist of Sir Henry Unton, in which portraits like this aren't usually seen in the Galleries collection, but because of it unique design and composition has been house at the National for quiet a few years. A rich tapestry of Unton's life includes past and present scenes from his life, with notably his portrait displayed openly at centre of this scene. The scenes from right to left displays moments in his life that correspond, or tells the viewer of the life that Upton had and the kind of gentleman he was. Importance's (of the time to status) such as, (wealth) at birth, studying at Oxford, travelling through Europe, studious, musician and publican.
The detail in this painting is incredibly rich from intimate faces to hand gestures, and the clearly marked essence of the passing of life into death, much to why this painting was composed in this way, and to me very notably but subtly the symbols of day into night at the very corners of the painting.

Thomas Howard portrait (Earl of Arundel), an oil on canvas by Peter Paul Rubens. Rubens chose to represent Howard realistically, compared to other portraits of this period where such paintings produced would have been edited and made to look much better than the actual sitter, were common. Rubens delivered exactly what he saw in this non idealisation of Howard's portrait, making this work interesting in its authenticity. This portrait valued here at the National in recognition of Arundel who was considered important for bringing new contemporary European art to London, and later setting up the Arundel House. A very dark but beautifully mysterious portrait.

Portrait of Mary Jane Seacole by Albert Charles Challen. This is a treasure of a portrait (and my favourite) only 9 1/2 in. x 6 1/4 in size and just discovered in 2002. Mary Seacole is best known for her nursing work in the Crimean War, although didn't really become known or famous for her duties and work until her autobiography was publicised. Her work is compared to that of Florence Nightingale, but obviously Nightingale being the more noted and pictured in art and history of the too nurses. With a recent new publication of her autobiography and the recent purchase of this portrait by the National in 2008, her reputation and work has now finally be reunited and valued. Beautiful portrait.