Memories, fabric and the drawing compulsion

February 14, 2017 by Rebecca Collins   Comments (0)


This week, myself and Jackie Sanderson, in our capacity as AA2A student reps, met up with AA2A artist-in-residence Sadie Christian. Sadie is the third of the artists working at Wolverhampton we have met up with thus far, each one being very different in their practice.

Sadie’s background is in textiles. She completed a degree in textiles at Goldsmiths in the late 1980s and has since her time years teaching and working on art projects. She came to Wolverhampton as she has decided that now is a good time to explore in more depth her fascination in the connection between fabric, memory, drawing and image. Sadie is hoping to spend the year working mostly in print, using fabric and drawing as her inspirations.

We found Sadie busy working in the print room. We were able to sit with her and find out about her practice and look at what she had been working on to date. Most of her work so far has been explorative. She showed us her many delicate drawings inspired by various fabrics and garments in her possession, most of which have some sentimental value to her. There is a delicate beauty to her drawings and a sense of memory and history clearly ran through them. There is a repetitive nature to them, yet also a sense of difference and progression. We also saw some of the prints she has been making.

Drawings inspired by fabric

Sadie has been using the facilities at Wolverhampton to the full and exploring her theme in various ways using different drawing and printing methods, textures and colours. She seems to be an artist who loves the research and investigation phase of an art project or theme. She mentioned a few of her ideas which may be based on interesting printing techniques. However, one of the joys of being able to spend time as an artist-in-residence at an institution such as Wolverhampton is that you are given the freedom to venture in any direction that sparks your interest and spend time delving deep into a topic. There is no pre-determined path to follow. Who knows what the end result may be? It doesn’t matter if you find yourself going off on a tangent and sometimes those tangents lead to something new and exciting.

More drawings inspired by fabric

We look forward to seeing what direction Sadie goes in over the next few months.

When science, art and happy accidents collide – a meeting with Samuel Rodgers, AA2A artist-in-residence

January 30, 2017 by Rebecca Collins   Comments (0)

, , ,

University of Wolverhampton AA2A artist Samuel Rodgers is a musician and an artist. His practice encompasses performance, composition, installation and phonography.

Jackie Sanderson and I, AA2A student reps at Wolverhampton, went to meet Samuel to find out more about what he’s currently working on while at the university. We met him in his adopted studio: the sound proof fine metalwork room (which has an impressive collection of hammers).

The many hammers in the fine metalwork room

Samuel’s academic background, he explained to us, is in music and performance. However, since graduating from his masters he has become increasingly interested in the materials he uses just as much as the sounds they create. He has recently been exploring the spatial and material aspects of sound and listening. He has also been considering material in relation to light and looking. This is Samuel’s second AA2A residency, his previous being at Dudley College, where he worked with glass. He is now looking at metal.

He explained how he sees a parallel with the way that light responds to the metals he is working with and the way that sound responds. He seems to be very much an artist of the many senses.

Samuel told us about his current project. He is currently looking at parabolic metal forms. His aim is to create sound parabolic metal reflectors to use in an installation or installations towards the end of his residency. He’s been making small bowl-shaped metal forms in the fine metal workshop, which he showed us. However, he is hoping shortly to make larger-scale forms as well. He talked us through how the smaller bowls are crafted and what he’s observed about them in relation to sound and light.

These objects may have a function in his work, but they are beautiful objects in their own right.

One of Samuel's bowls

Samuel told us about how he usually works in collaboration with other artists or musicians. We suggested to him, after noting the link between what he is doing with the metal and mathematical theory, that he might consider branching out into working with people from other academic disciplines.

Looking at what Samuel has been doing seems to confirm the idea that art is no longer an isolated practice. Perhaps it used to be more so. Contemporary art encompasses so many different academic disciplines. In Samuel’s case this may be mathematics and physics, but for other ideas it could be biology, genetics, economics, sociology to name but a few. The role of the artist is not restrictive. There is a huge scope for what an artist can do and explore.

Despite the link between mathematics and what he is doing, Samuel told us that his actual performance work tends to be intuitive rather than composed. There may be an element of science in the crafting, but in the performing it is all ‘happy accidents’. It is impossible to know for sure how the material is going to respond to sound (or light) until the performance happens; there are many factors that can influence the outcome. That is what makes this project so interesting. The process begins by being very controlled and dependent on theory and the performance outcome is currently unknown.

Burnt metal

We very much look forward to seeing the end result!






Finding Art in the Everyday - The Projected Kitchen

January 14, 2017 by Rebecca Collins   Comments (0)

I am fascinated with objects, things, stuff. I love the stuff that we are surrounded by. I find our relationship to stuff fascinating, whether it be real stuff, solid stuff, ethereal stuff, ancient stuff, virtual stuff or digital stuff.

'The Projected Kitchen' an exhibition of recent work by Rosemary Terry, one of the fine art tutors at Wolverhampton, currently on show at the Wolverhampton Art Gallery, is about our relationship with real stuff. It challenges our perceptions of real stuff. Specifically, it challenges perceptions of ordinary domestic objects through the manipulation of material and size.


The pieces in the exhibition lie somewhere between dimensions - not quite completely 3D, but also not 2D. The works also sit between media - not quite drawing, but also not quite sculpture. The objects, spoons, pots, cups, pans, are carved out of wood. They loom huge, much larger than their originals, and are placed seemingly randomly around the gallery space either on the walls or on rustic shelves. 

More pots

Walking around the objects I felt a strange sense of my shifting perception. Front on, they seemed significant and solid, side on, they shrank and thinned, losing their sense of importance. I was reminded of scenery on a stage. Front on, they sat majestically about the room, willing me to examine them closely: the texture, the ripples of the wood, and the shadows cast by the sculptural element of the objects. Side on, they looked the other way.

I found the objects quite absorbing and thought-provoking.  

The exhibition runs until 12 Feb.

The Repetition Room - eat, sleep, draw, repeat

January 14, 2017 by Rebecca Collins   Comments (0)

Last week was assessment week for me at Wolverhampton so the culmination of the first semester’s work. For the assessment, I was asked to display a piece / body of work that reflected my current 'thinking and understanding'.

During the last semester I had been researching the concept of repetition. Repetition touches many levels of existence. It can be a comfort and a disturbance; a compulsion and a revulsion. In Western culture, repetition is traditionally condemned as something parasitic and negative. Absolute originality is honoured over imitation. In my research I had been challenging this notion. Repetition may be the act of creating another and another ad infimum, but out of all of the similarity, something new may emerge. Repetition is not a static process, it is a dynamic one.

It isn’t the act of repetition that is important or even the nature of the repetitious events; it is the effects, or vibrations, of the repetitions. The moments between repetitions and the changes that take place are more interesting than the pieces themselves.

My assessment 'piece' was composed of a number of strands which are all interrelated. The 'piece' I called The Repetition Room.

The Repetition Room

The aim of The Repetition Room as a whole was to reflect the disordered, infinite nature of the various repetitious acts I’d been engaged in over the last few weeks. I wanted to see if anything of value could be teased out of the chaos. The question I have been asking with this project is: how can I visually capture the ‘sudden illumination of multiplicity’ (Michael Foucault). Gilles Deleuze states that the aim of the artist is to defeat the chaos by setting up a ‘being of the sensory’. I want to know: is that possible here?

Over the semester, every week I had put posters up around the art building. The point of the posters was to challenge people's assumptions about what constitutes art: can a copy of a pre-existing image and text become art? I also wanted to provoke thought about repetition and show how repetition is omnipresent through following various themes with the posters, such as TV, film and consumerism. Finally, I wanted to be an annoyance through the repetitious nature of the posters. The posters covered a wall and a half of The Repetition Room.

I also created what I called a 'repetition board' which was a piece of wood upon which I drew the same image over and over again during my travels around Wolverhampton and my home town, Shrewsbury. This board came with me everywhere and whenever I stopped, I drew. Immediately after each drawing I transcribed my thoughts during the drawing process. I wanted to ask a number of questions: Would the thoughts be related to the drawing? Would the thoughts be repetitive? What does the act of drawing do to the act of thinking? Do they impact each other? Would I become more conscious of my thoughts as I knew I was going to be writing them down? How much of what I wrote down would be genuine, based on memory, and manipulated?

In the centre of The Repetition Room stands a plinth which is covered with doodles about repetition. I had used this plinth as my sketch pad, to note down all my thoughts and ideas over the semester. I took the plinth home over Christmas and obsessively drew on it over the holiday. It interested me exactly how obsessed I became. It was like my drug.

The walls were also adorned with paintings of the same shape on the repetitious board. Again, these were drawn without reference to the original image (a sheep poo photographed on holiday in Wales), using colours as I found them.

The final element of the room was copies of 'nothing', i.e. holes in the wall. If you can replicate nothing, does nothing exist? Are my copies the positive of the negative? Is there something interesting about the repetition of a void?

In the room, which creates an immersive experience of repetition, I wanted to express the chaos and the rhizomic nature of repetition. The only way I could see to do this, was to saturate the environment with all of my current creative output.

If the aim of art is to find focus in the chaos or rip the fabric of ordinary existence with a ‘genuine encounter’, then I feel that I have been unable to do this so far within this project. I can, at this point, I decided, only reflect the chaos and omnipresence of repetition and hope to convey something of that to the viewer.

There is also a blog for the #FreeRepublicofRepetition: www.freerepublicoforepetition.com.



This year's topic is...

November 10, 2016 by Rebecca Collins   Comments (0)

This is my second year as a student rep for AA2A (the perks of the part-time life). Last year my obsession was balloons. I collected balloons, I drew balloons, I painted balloons. In fact I lived, breathed and dreamed balloons. I blogged about balloons. I was infamous for a while as the 'lady who collects balloons'. I finally made them in bronze. I loved my balloons.

This year, I've turned my attention to something a little more abstract and a little less tangible than the colourful rubber remains I collected off the streets of Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton: repetition.

I've thought a lot about repetition. I've read a lot about it too. There is a huge amount of repetition in our lives, in all sorts of ways: in literature, poetry, art, routine, life choices and food choices. This turned out to be a vast subject.

I devised the #FreeRepublicofRepetition and spread the word amongst my friends and acquitances on social media.


I'm not sure where this project is going yet, but I have become quite obsessed already with the concept. Everything is repeating

I have created a website: www.freerepublicofrepetition.com.

If you happen to find yourself on the 7th Floor of the Wolverhampton School of Art you will see some of my posters. Someone is taking them down. I keep putting more up. The ideas keep flowing. They are repeating, like gremlins.

Duchamp Poster

 Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.

We all liked the winner of the John Moores Prize 2016 - so we are good judges

July 31, 2016 by Rebecca Collins   Comments (0)

, , , ,

There are two art prize exhibitions that I go out of my way to visit: the annual Jerwood Drawing Prize and the biannual John Moores Painting Prize. I love the Jerwood exhibition for its contemporary take on drawing and for pushing the definition of drawing to the edges of credibility. I love the John Moore exhibition for providing an insight itno what people are painting now.

Since the John Moores exhibition started I've been meaning to take a visit to Liverpool. Finally today we decided to take a family trip up there (it is just over an hour by train). I will happily go to art galleries by myself but I do enjoy taking my children and my husband with me too. I like to see their responses and reactions and to compare those with my own.

We didn't spend a great deal of time walking around the exhibition, which is always held at the Walker Gallery. It is quite a small selection and very well-spaced out. However, shortly after we started looking around we all agreed on our favourite (or, at least, on the painting to feature in the top five of our family favourites) and this happened to be the winner of the prize: Squint (19) by Michael Simpson. We all loved it. There was something disquieting about it. Was it the staircase that doesn't quite reach the window? Was it the odd window? Was it the simplicity of the image? Was it the size of the painting? Was it the contrast of the yellow and black against the bland background? Was it the almost pop artiness about it? Or was it just the whole package? We didn't know what the image was of. There was no information in the gallery (or in the catalogue) about it. In fact, I've only just found out what it is of and what it is about but I don't think that matters. What is important is that it appealed ot all of us, from the age of 6 to 44. We all loved it. We didn't know why. We couldn't quite articulate what it was about it that we liked. We just liked it. Perhaps we are just getting good at this exhibition visiting lark, or perhaps we are good judges.

There were a lot of other paintings in the exhibition to get inspiration from. Including Mandy Payne's No Ball Games Here. I like this piece for its unusual painted surface: concrete. I admire people who go against the norm in some way, whether it be in medium, subject, style or material. I am attracted to apparent 'ugly' Bauhaus style 1960s architecture (I study in one of the best examples of Bauhaus architecture in the West Midlands - see below). It amuses me that this building depicted here is a Grade II listed building, and rightly so. To me, it has deep beauty.

John Stark's Beasts of England II was amazingly well-executed and full of atmosphere. I stood and stared at it for a long time. Selma Parlour's The Side-ness of In-Out was just plain weird. I love weird. The world is too full of normality. We need more inexplicable weirdness.

I felt very inspired today. Painting is far from a dying art. It complements this current age of the blurring of the real and unreal. It is on the up.

The watched are watching

July 17, 2016 by Rebecca Collins   Comments (0)

, ,

Last week, while in London with a few hours to spare, I decided to take a trip to the Royal Academy to see the Summer Exhibition and the David Hockney portraits.

I first came across David Hockney’s work during my A levels, in the late 1980s. In fact, one of my favourite paintings of all time is a Hockney: Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy. When I went on a school trip to London in 1988, I came across this painting and fell in love with it straight away. There is something about that painting that hypnotised me: the light, the cat, the quirkiness, the perceived ease the figures have in each other’s company, the way they are looking out, the sunshine and the happiness infused in it. I love it.


So I was quite eager to see this new body of work. I don’t like all of David Hockney’s work but I was intrigued to see this exhibition as he had recently returned to portratiure after a long break from the genre. One thing that I have in common with David Hockney is a determination to champion the basics of art: for me, drawing and still life; for him, still life, portraiture and landscape. I admire his determination to do what he wants to do, even if it goes against the tide of fashion.

Entering the galleries housing the 82 portraits and 1 still life was like entering a jewelled Aladin’s Cave. The walls are bright red, the backgrounds of the portraits are mostly greens and turquoise, contrasting brilliantly with the bright red walls and the skin tones in the faces. The paintings are all the same size and orientation (except for one) and are spaced equidistant around the gallery rooms.

It felt simultaneously like entering a private space and a place of exposure (oddly it reminded me of how it might feel to live in the Big Brother house). The faces in the portraits are solemn, the eyes are sometimes piercing, something blank, sometimes staring, but they all look out at the viewers as they wander slowly around. Most of the portraits are sitting in the same or similar pose to each other. They are mostly in the same chair and in the same space. I felt stared at. I was staring, they were staring. There was a lot of staring.

This exhibition acts as an epic still life of many people (and of one grouping of fruit). Life has been arrested by the painting of these portraits.

I like anyone who uses subtle humour in art and David Hockney is well-known for doing that. He hasn’t been quite so quirky for a while but these portraits were definitely humourous. I loved the addition of the still life, painted as a result of the non-attendance of one of the sitters. What else was he to do with his unexpected free time? There’s something majestic about the fruit posing on a bench in a gallery full of people. It felt as if they are speaking out: ‘We are just as valid as all of these people so please appreciate us just as much as you appreciate the organic objects here.’

The exhibition is like a ‘This Is Your Life’ of David Hockney. The sitters are friends, family, friends of friends, colleagues, office staff, other artists, curators and gallery owners, and the odd child (my favourite being the rather important-looking Rufus). They comprise an eclectic mix of personalities. Some of them sit, determined to express something of themselves via their choice of clothes, glare or pose, others sit nervously dressed more soberly and some sit in the expected pose in their best dress, feeling lucky to be someone chosen to be painted by a master artist.

The common element throughout are the size of the canvas, the chair, and the background colours (with some small variations). It works extremely well. I spent a long time in the exhibition (probably longer than I should have). Sometimes I sat and stared back, willing them to blink. Often I just walked around, and around again. I also stood, and studied the paint, the brush work, the tones, the colours. I went around more than once, more than twice, even.

By the time I decided to leave, I felt calm and relaxed. This contrasts to how I had felt leaving the Summer Exhibition galleries an hour or so before, when I’d felt chaotic, energised and inspired. Leaving this exhibition, it felt different. I felt in balance.

I had studied and been studied.


A flicker of raw optimism at the Royal Academy

July 16, 2016 by Rebecca Collins   Comments (0)

, , , , ,

Last week I had to go to London for a two-hour long meeting at Bloomsbury Publishing. The meeting ended at 2.15pm so this gave me the opportunity to see some art before heading home. There was no contest as to where to go; it had to be the Royal Academy for the Summer Show (and also the David Hockney portraits). 

As soon as the meeting finished, I walked over to the Royal Academy, dodging the rain drops. It cost me £20 with my Art Fund card to buy tickets for both exhibitions. To my horror I only had half an hour between them and the Summer Show had been booked first. 

Half an hour is not even close to long enough to see and absorb everything in this amazing, compact, chaotic, overflowing exhibition. This was the first time I’d ever seen a Royal Academy Summer Show and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I'd seen a short video on the Internet so I expected to see a lot. However, the video didn't fully prepare me for the sheer volume of creative output that constitutes the Summer Show 2016.

My main response was awe. Awe at the draftsmanship and quality of painting that I saw, as well as quality of the idea. I think I expected more abstract expression of idea and less focus on detail and realism. The ideas were indeed there but the quality and subtlety in the expression of those ideas was something I wasn't quite prepared for and something worthy of admiration. 


I tried to make the most of my half an hour. It wasn't nearly long enough. Walking through the vast rooms filled with art, it felt as if my sense were straining under the pressure as the artworks were jumping off the wall screaming 'notice me!' 'No, notice me!' There was so much to see. My eyes flittered about from image to image to sculpture. Eyes followed me, faces stared, all willing me to feel an emotional response. I did feel emotional responses and it was hard to bear. It was a sensory overload.


The overall impression I felt was one of faint, almost intangible, optimism in a floundering world. I can't say that I felt great happiness walking around. The faces, the figures, the shapes, the colours, the buildings, the land- and cityscapes were all struggling and decaying. They seemed to be on the point of giving up, but not quite willing to. There was a real feeling of 'We are well into the 21st century now, but what is the world doing to us?'


My favourite piece was a silent video work by Peter Fischli and David Weiss called Büsi. The video was simple. It showed a cat lapping milk from a saucer, while bathed in bright light. I have no idea what it means. I cannot tell you what the intention is. It is slightly peculiar, and definitely quirky. When we are struggling to deal with reality, often we look for the absurd. It was a still life of sorts. A still life of a moment of a cat’s happiness. Or perhaps a moment of the cat’s greed? Whatever the meaning, I can tell you with more confidence about my response. I'm not sure whether this is something that everyone perceives or whether it is a synaesthetic response but when I see a soundless moving image, my brain 'hears' the noises that it imagines exist. This happened while I was watching this video. My brain could 'hear' the cats lapping and the cat's movements. Later, when I re-watched the video on my phone, I kept putting the phone to my ear to check whether there was indeed no sound and it was my brain playing tricks on me. It seemed to be. This interests me. I would like to know whether the blending of the senses is felt to different degrees by different people. Do I have more blending than others? I have letter-colour synaesthesia so I am perhaps prone to sensory blending.


Comhghall Casey’s Toy Caravan, a small still-life in oils, also caught my eye. Contemporary still life features largely in my artistic practice. I am interested in how still life is able to highlight the relationship between the organic (us) and the inorganic (things). The organic and inorganic, an animate and inanimate, are not as separate as was traditionally supposed. There is a blending. There’s something very moving I think about an object in isolation and an object stilled. Still life traditionally means the arresting of decay, and one of my interests is in how this arresting of decay can be applied to things and our current relationship to a thing. The real life is decaying, but in the still life is persevered in a moment. There is silence and calmness in that stilling.


I also noticed Jock McFadyen’s Pink Flats 2. Again, the theme of decay and arresting decay is evident here. To me, still life can include the larger object (in fact it could be argued that all representational art stills life). This painting made me want to know more about the object: what is its story? Who lives there? Why was it painted such a happy colour yet allowed to decay so badly? Does anyone love this building? What is its future?

Finally, I was impressed with how much of the artwork was in a raw state. It wasn’t over worked or over thought. By that I mean, raw making, painting and especially raw drawing. Drawing often gets lost under the radar of fine art and I don’t think it should be. Drawing is vital. Drawing doesn’t necessarily have to be just sketching. It isn’t just the starting point to something great. It can be great.


The art made me tingle, but that is good. Despite the overall pessimism I felt, with the odd flickers of optimism, I came away inspired. This exhibition made me realise how much creativity there is and how we should be celebrating it and fostering it but sadly, we aren't doing this nearly enough (in schools, at least). The demise of enthusiasm and importance given for the arts in education is a travesty that probably cannot be reversed now.


The only way is forward, as that flicker of optimism shows.



Jerwood Drawing Prize 2016 - punching above but why not?

July 7, 2016 by Rebecca Collins   Comments (0)

, , ,

Yesterday I drove from my home, Shrewsbury, to Aberystwyth and back. I dropped something off, and then had lunch on the beach, and then drove back. I arrived back home in time to pick up two of my children from school at 3.10pm (with a little bit of beach attached to my elbow).

I didn't go to Aberystwyth just to sit on the beach for two hours, I went to drop off a drawing at the Aberystwyth School of Art as an entry for the annual Jerwood Drawing Prize. It was a long way to go but it had been a choice between Cheltenham and Aberystwyth and Cheltenham doesn't have a beach so Aberysthwyth won.

I have long been an admirer of the annual Jerwood Drawing Prize touring exhibition. I was first introduced to it by my tutor at SCAT, Matthew Wood, who showed me the exhibition catalogue in 2013. Since then, I have only missed the annual touring exhibition when I missed it being close-ish to me by two days.

I dabble in lots of areas of art: photography, painting, drawing, video, sculpture. But my favourite medium by far is drawing. I love to draw whenever I can. I live to draw. I campaign to get more recognition for drawing. I think everyone should draw. Drawing amazes me. I've always been able to draw. Put a pen in my hand, and I will draw. Make me go to a meeting and also put a pen in my hand, and I will draw. I recieved detention at school for drawing (drawing teachers). Drawing isn't simply limited to pen or pencil. You can draw with sound, food, ice, steam, wood shavings, dance, scratches, moving images, sweat, grease, blood, cat fur, anything. This fact, fascinates me.

Last year, I contemplated entering the Jerwood Drawing Prize but I didn't have anything to enter and I ran out of time. This year, I decided to give it a go. All I had to lose was half a tank of petrol and a day's wages. That's quite a lot but I can make up the day's wages in the evening and at the weekend if necessary being a freelancer.

So that brings me back to yesterday and my drive to Aberystwyth. This year, I had a drawing to enter. It's nothing special. It's just what I wanted to do at the end of term. It's just something I created over a week. This is it. It is a bit scruffy. It is a bit scuffed. It is just a drawing.

This is a drawing made on a found peice of wood, of my favourite pieces from my balloon collection. The title is Balloons: A Collection. I created it using colour biros, my current favourite drawing tool.

I don't have much hope of being selected but the experience of trying is worth a lot to me. I am always telling my children that a lot of the competition game is about luck and timing but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try and keep trying.

At the weekend my middle son and I entered a 'paint the day' competition at the Newhampton Art Centre. He won a runner up prize. He wone this becuase his piece was different, eye-catching and pretty damn good. He had recently missed out on being selected for a different competion: a design a book jacket competition, so he was feeling quite down. At the time he told me: 'I'm never going to enter anything every again, I'm useless, I can't draw'. Of course I told him that, yes, he would enter somethign again. No, he was not useless. And, yes, he could draw. Two months later he has proved all of that.

So even if I don't get selected for the Jerwood Drawing Prize (I won't), I've given it a go. I will enter again next year, and the year after that. And I might even enter some other competitions. It is a little bit addictive.

And I did have a lovely lunch on the beach.

The artist looking out to the artist looking in - Francis Bacon and Maria Lassnig in Liverpool

June 12, 2016 by Rebecca Collins   Comments (0)

, ,

Last weekend, the weekend before the final show at Wolverhampton and a likely week of stress, I decided that a family trip was required. I needed to see some art and get away from home for a while so I dragged my three children up to Tate Liverpool to see the Francis Bacon exhibition which I’d seen advertised.

Before we got to the Bacons, we stumbled across a retrospective exhibition of the work of Maria Lassnig. I hadn’t come across her work before, except in passing, so it was interesting to view her work without any preconceptions at all. I’d vaguely heard of her and I knew she was a little eccentric but innovative, but that was all.

Her work consists mostly of painting and video. What I admired about the work on display was the consistent sense of a twisting of reality in her paintings and animations. Nothing was quite right. It wasn’t completely abstracted either. It was almost as if it was challenging the viewer to find a place for it between abstract and representation. It was hard to place. Her paintings, especially, seemed to blend different known states or concepts without showing either in full: organic and inorganic, human and object, abstract and reality. Nothing was as it seemed and everything was just on that edge of disturbing. I was intrigued.

I also had a very strong impression that she was looking out at the viewers from the paintings and the animations. She features in a lot of them. And she has very solid features and very steady, serious eyes. I felt watched as I walked around the gallery, her eyes following me. It is an odd sensation, a hair-on-the-back-of-neck-standing-up one.

The highlight for me came at the end of the exhibition in the form of a video called Kantate or The Ballard of Maria Lassnig. My six year old son was particularly transfixed by this. This video is a 7-minute long part animation, part real video of Lassnig’s life from birth to old age sung in verse, and sung in German. It was compelling viewing. It was sad, yet funny. It was serious, yet light. It was full of irony and gentle satire on the art world and the people in her life. It was a fitting tribute to the life of a very interesting personality who I regret not having come across before.

Then we moved on to the Francis Bacons. We walked straight into a room full of Bacons: gaping mouths, twisted faces, and painful and contorted limbs. We were suddenly surrounded by bodies locked in frames, bodies against vibrant angry colours, and bodies trapped in colourful suspension. It was like stepping from the happy madness of the artist looking out (Maria Lassnig) to the hysetrical madness of the artist locked within (Francis Bacon). I had moved from being stared at to staring at. It was disturbing. I found the Francis Bacon exhibition an uncomfortable place to be. I admire the work of Francis Bacon for his ability to convey  strong emotion through composition but it is just too intense to be around en masse. I feel anxiety in his paintings, and loneliness, and I guess that was his intention (or part of it). But a room full of Bacons? It was just too much and I had to leave.

Having said that, I would recommend a visit to anyone reading this. Both exhibitions had an impact on me and I'm still thinking about them a week later. I would like to find out more about both artists, who probably never imagined they'd be put together and have anything much in common. Oddly, they do.