Who knew that Art could be so exhausting? We’ve had a day of it and we are both pooped.
We arranged to meet friends at the National Portrait Gallery this morning to see the Giacometti portrait exhibition. Joan and I arrived at Trafalgar Square early giving us time to poke around a little before our rendezvous.
Our first diversion (after coffee and a snack) was St. Martin-in-the-Fields. We had both been before; long, long before. When we walked in, we were confronted with the huge east window, which, even with the dull light of an overcast day, was striking. We thought that we would have remembered it if it had been in place on our previous visits. Through the miracle of the Internet, we discovered that the window was relatively newly installed . . . 2008.
Joan and I thought it was stunning in its simplicity and elegance but we have since discovered how very silly, perhaps culturally immature, our reaction was. According to a review in an April 2008 edition of “The Guardian,” the artist’s “gynaecological reworking” of the ultimate symbols of Christianity and modernity, the cross and the grid, throw the Church of England’s “slowly shifting conservatism towards matters of race, gender and sexuality into sharp relief.” Oh, my goodness, do I ever feel stupid.
We were jolted out of our uneducated admiration by a warm-up blast from the huge pipe organ. Someone was rehearsing. Fun, if loud and startling.
Back onto the street and into Trafalgar Square proper. A tip of the hat to Lord Nelson before turning our attention to the latest “Fourth Plinth”* sculpture, a photo of which appears at the beginning of this blog: A skeletal horse with a bow, which has the stock exchange values running around it, on one leg. It, too, makes quite the commentary on modern life and the disparity in economic situations, I’m certain. I just don’t have the mental energy to find out right now. I liked the fact that the skeleton balanced the other equestrian statues in the square so nicely and in such an interesting way.
Our rendezvous with H & J went without a hitch and, before we knew it, we were in Giacometti’s world. I don’t think he was a very happy guy. His early portraits were lovely and loving; his later portraits very dark and kind of haunting and haunted and much more challenging to the viewer. Some I didn’t care for at all but others were strangely compelling.
After lunch, H & J walked us over to the National Gallery before saying goodbye and heading home at which time Joan and I plunged into another artist’s development as a painter of portraits, Goya.
Although we were exhausted by the time we made our way through the Goya exhibition, it was good to have seen both shows on the same day. They were so different in almost every way except that both artists’ works transformed so much over their lives. Sometimes I wonder what drives artists to create and what it is that changes their vision of the world and the place of their art in it. But most times I don’t. And that is why I would never see a window in a church (however explicit) as a “gynaecological reworking” of anything.
*Plinth: The king of words, according to Miranda Hart.