Blog

Dance of Death
The Seagull
Kumu - Art Museum of Estonia

I was lucky enough to visit Tallinn, Estonia last week. Amongst many fascinating things that I experienced, a visit to the extraordinary Kumu, was one of the most thrilling. Kumu is the headquarters of the Art Museum of Estonia and houses both classical and contemporary art.

The complex itself is a work of art - a modern architectural masterpiece. Curves and sharp edges mark out a copper and limestone structure, which is built into the side of a limestone cliff set within Kadriorg Park. It is simply breath taking!

Of the art on display, The Soviet era exhibition (Conflicts and Adaptations. Estonian Art of the Soviet Era (1940–1991) was particularly engrossing. However, The Seagull by Villu Jaanisoo, an installation, featuring 87 sculpted heads from children to Joseph Stalin via Estonian folk heroes was utterly compelling. There were archive recordings of interviews with the subjects played simultaneously for a maximum, metaphor-heavy cacophony! It was a strange experience to sit in the room alone with heads and voices.

Finally, St. Nicholas’ Church, which houses the Niguliste Museum and the famous Danse Macabre, (painted by Bernt Notke at the end of the 15th century) made an equal impression on me.

The Dance of Death theme is often encountered in late medieval art and literature. One impetus for this was the Black Death that ravaged Europe in the middle of the 14th century. Skeletal figures personifying Death dance alternately to mortals, as a memento mori (reminder of earthly perishability). Mortals are ranked in a hierarchy, starting with the worlds mighty – pope and emperors – and ending with the peasants, the fool or the infant. It was a sobering and humbling moment to stand before it!

Tallinn was a visual joy :))

Pin-Ups: Toulouse-Lautrec and the Art of Celebrity, Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh. Sunday 18 November 2018.

I love this exhibition. It is very evocative, fabulously bohemian, innovative and inspiring.

Cool title too with its nod to David Bowie!

It is on until Jan 20 2019.

Gold Is The Loaf-Kneader, Gold Are The Keepers Of The Loaf & Wage Is Rent

Probably the best words an artist can hear!

“We are very pleased to inform you that your application for the ‘Apply Within’ exhibition has been successful.”

My three works on paper will be shown as part of the 2018 Syn Festival in the Filmhouse during the Edinburgh Greek Film Festival.

The exhibition:
A decade ago the global financial crisis left a prominent mark in Greece by inheriting a debt crisis that torments the country to this day. Many lost their jobs and thousands have left the country in search for a better future. The exhibition reflects on a basic right: the right to work, to be financially independent. It focuses on all those who left their home countries to build a new life in the United Kingdom and explores the numerous challenges faced in the new environment in pursuit of a more stable life.

My Response:
The 3 pieces are to be hung in sequence: Gold Is The Loaf-Kneader, Gold Are The Keepers Of The Loaf and Wage Is Rent. They are an oblique response to ‘Apply Within’ and represent an initial idealised vision of work with a final cynical piece that sees work as a grim reality for many in western economies.

The loaf-kneader is the salt of the earth, the provider of a staple in life. The keepers of the loaf are the guardians and dispensers of this basic and both are thus ‘gold’.
Their work is golden and valuable.

By the 3rd piece, work is toil and exhaustion the result of working to secure another staple (a roof over ones head). The 3rd work also shows a Memento Mori on a TV screen, a reminder (through a medium that has, and still has a hold over millions) to live a life in balance, not to live to work. Finally, the 3rd work also has a voice from the Victorian past expressing melancholia, the precursor to depression and the inevitable result of work that is not ‘golden’. We often seek the first 2 but more often find the 3rd.

Apply Within, 24th November - 11th December 2018, Edinburgh Filmhouse, 88 Lothian Rd, EH3 9BZ

Many thanks Davide and Syn Festival :)