Towards Night Exhibition at the Towner Art Gallery

Yesterday I went to see a very engaging exhibition titled, Towards Night at Eastbourne’s Towner Art Gallery . The show  explores the theme of nocturnal and is curated by artist and senior lecturer in Fine Art at the University of Brighton Tom Hammick  (incidentally a former graduate of Camberwell College of Art). Apparently, this exhibition had been in the pipeline for the past three years. You can see why; such an eclectic mix of roughly a 100 pieces of artwork from 60 artists. The artists ranging from the very famous to the relatively unknown and spanning over the past 250 years. I thought the mix of artists made the exhibition much more captivating. It must have been a hell of a job organizing and asking for works by big names such as J.M.W. Turner, William Blake, Hiroshige, Julian Opie, Emil Nolde and Edvard Munch to be loaned out. While reading Hammick’s in-depth reviews on each piece of work in the guide, one particular comment caught my attention, (the passage begins referencing a Hiroshige exhibition) “This exhibition showed the importance of historical work on current practice, and exemplifies one of the main themes in this (now) exhibition; that artists, like writers and poets, so often look back to earlier work as a source of inspiration and aesthetic” Yes! I couldn’t agree more.


A few selected pieces and thoughts :

emil-nolde-the-sea-b-1930Emile Nolde (The Sea B, 1930 oil on canvas). A very dramatic and inflamed seascape. The strength of Nolde’s moving, powerful swirling waves and clouds could be an interpretation of the uneasy political chaos in Europe at that time. I feel that the artist was enduring such loneliness and hopelessness at this time. Worse was to happen to Nolde, in 1941 he was banned from painting, even privately!




J.M.W. Turner (Fishermen at Sea, 1796 oil on canvas). When I think Turner painting, I think of light, dramatic landscapes and seascapes not something dark like this seascape. There’s a lot the viewer is drawn into here, the peril and the fragility of the defenseless fishermen on the boat, the waves at their mercy while the dim moonlight peaks through. While observing, I considered Turner’s process, the days before cameras. The preparatory drawings would be interesting to see too.




Peter Doig (Echo Lake, 1998 oil on canvas). The sheer scale of this painting blows you away. On first viewing I thought it was a scene from a film. I wasn’t wrong though the film I couldn’t detect. Apparently, it’s a film still from the horror film, Friday the 13th. The scene depicts a policeman standing over a lake (Echo Lake) with his hands to the side of his head. The flashing lights of the police car in the background make the narrative all the more engaging. I’m unfamiliar with the film so I’m left wondering what happened before and what is going to happen. What and why is the isolated figure calling out? peter-doig-echo-lake-1998










Julian Opie (View of Moon over Manatsuru Peninsula, 2009 ink on paper).


From historical background, I found out that Julian Opie and Utagawa Hiroshige have something in common. Both artists have celebrated places of walking pilgrimage at night in Japan. This made me consider my own practice in Japan, whilst I haven’t celebrated walking pilgrimages at night, I’ve celebrated old farm houses in the day in Japan with my cyclogeography  series. Here, Opie pays homage to Hiroshige with this lenticular print. I find the reflectionary, tranquil, peaceful surface absorbing.



Michael Craig-Martin (Ashtray, 2015 screenprint).

This iconic image shows that the curator has really thought about the nocturnal visual from every possible angle.  For me, Craig-Martin’s piece conjures up those spaces where life begins at night.The nightclub: neon lighting, movement, liquid and pill consumption, a pulsing beat and smoke. However, the artist has gone against the grain. The narrative doesn’t have any suggestions of smoke nor is a dirty ciggy butt playing central to the composition. What we do see is something clean and ultra-cool  lying static, suspended in negative space. Abstract realism? michael-craig-martin-ashtray-2015

The World of Tim Burton Exhibition

The World of Tim Burton

This Christmas I was fortunate to have my family stay in Tokyo with me over the festive period. One of the events pencilled in was The World of Tim Burton Exhibition at the Mori Arts Centre Gallery in Roppongi Hills, Tokyo. I read about this exhibition about 5 years ago when it was held in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition was attended by record breaking crowds and it received top reviews. Like many artists with extensive careers, Burton has been involved in so diversely different projects in genre and context. I wouldn’t say I am the biggest Tim Burton fan but there are some projects which I have been drawn to purely because of the concept, subject matter, character design or theme. We planned to go Saturday, December 27th. For an exhibition that started November 1st, I felt and hoped there would be no record breaking crowds and that Tim would not be in attendance. However, we still had to queue for over an hour to get in! I should have learned by now; never go to events at the weekend in Tokyo; it’s very likely that 10 million people will be in the queue with you! Below: Tim Burton exhibition entrance and poster. Notice the expressionistic interior entrance.

Tim Burton Exhibition Entrance.jpg Tim Burton Exhibition Poster.jpg
The exhibition was very extensive and was divided up into sections.  The artwork exhibited spans over four decades. I was amazed by the amount of drawings and illustrations exhibited. Burton has been so proactive, I thought.  Each section was based on a theme or project which customized the spectator’s viewing preferences. For me, I mainly wanted to view his early work, influences, inspirations, horror drawings, doodles on napkins and the work which learned heavily on German Expressionism influences (i.e. mise-en-scenes of Edward Scissorhands and Batman).  Below: Alice in Wonderland and Edward Scissorhands sketches.

Alice in Wonderland (2009) Edward Scissorhands Sketch

From his early work (16-26 yrs old), you could see how his future projects would take shape. Clowns, monsters, horror characters and bug-eyed people are predominantly his main interest. The children’s book writers Rohald Dahl and the cartoonist Dr Suess (Theodor Geisel) are noticeable early influences, especially the use of anapaest style of poetry; a very characteristic element of the Dr Suess children’s books which Burton mimics in his early work. Below: The Boy with Nails in his Eyes and The Queen of Cydonia

The Boy With Nails in His Eyes The Queen of Cydonia

Some of my favourite work is The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories. The illustrations are a mix of satire, black humour and misunderstood characters in the form of a monster/alien-like creatures. Viewing these original drawings on scraps of ripped paper, complete with smudging, scribbles and construction lines, I found all very engaging. I got a lot from this exhibition, even his unrealized projects. A wealth of art which didn’t even make pre-production. Great exhibition and a nice way to round off the year.

Daniel Rozen’s The Wooden Mirror/’Kirishin’ Exhibition-Nobuyoshi Araki

After scanning the Tokyo Metropolis Arts and Entertainment guide last Thursday evening, I didn’t see much in the way of exhibitions which caught my attention. Then, I noticed that I had just missed an exhibition at the Bunkamura in Shibuya which featured a piece of work (The Wooden Mirror) by Daniel Rozen. I had noted him at The Digital Revolution for his innovative piece called Mirror Number 10. The Wooden Mirror follows similar themes to Mirror Number 10. See below:

Anyway, I decided that as I had not been a photography exhibition for a while, that would be my aim. Finally, I came across an exhibition by the photographer and contemporary artist, Nobuyoshi Araki. I’m familiar with his work which to some is considered extreme and disturbing, I suppose it depends on how you interpret his work. He’s collaborated with quite a few famous artists over the years. I recall a collaboration with the musician, Bjork back in the 90s. His current exhibition is called ‘Kirishin’. There isn’t a direct translation for this word but the nearest is something like cutting photos with sentimentality. Basically, a play on words but as I later found out, the artist had been recently diagnosed with retinal artery occlusion that has caused the loss of his right eye. This explained the title of his last exhibition, ‘Sagan No Koi’ (Love in the left eye) and connections to his current exhibition. The 30 photographs printed from slide film and then cut and pasted together. Most of the images depict urban areas, daily life and humour. The awkwardly cut images suggest his state of mind from the loss of his eye. I wasn’t awestruck by this work but what I did get out of it was how the emotional narrative was clearly evident in Araki’s work and the methods he used to convey his state of mind.

Image from Kirishin exhibition by Nobuyoshi Araki