Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Damien Hirst - Tate Modern

19th July 2012

I navigated this show on my own after the Munch exhibition.  Declining any audio and turning my friend’s offer of reading any captions, I wandered around and only got a bit lost in the Butterfly Section. 

Whatever your views on Conceptual Art or installations in general, the Damien Hirst show is an experience for visually impaired people with a cane.  The beginning reminded me of shapes and boxes much in the style of Boetti.  There was an early work which illustrated some aspect of a physics lesson: a hairdryer turned up with its draught supporting a ping pong ball, a precursor to the physics demonstration of the hovercraft and “frictionless” travel.  I liked a corner piece with what appeared to be colour boxes and which reminded me of some 3D Frank Stella work. 

There were a lot of polka dot pieces which have long been fashionable from repetitions elsewhere such as Kusama and Richter (squares) . Some of the polka dots were quite large and on closer inspection they were saucepans laid out in a line, resembling an upmarket kitchen fitted with Le Creuset ovenware.

There were also a lot of fish specimens which were mounted in showcases.  In the centre piece was a shark in a glass case.  At this point an American Guide asked me what I thought.  I had been recognised! (Thank you Dr J) The good Dr J has been exchanging emails with me over portraits and has made a special study of an Edinburgh born (Stockbridge) artist.  

I then got slightly lost but passed large sections of wall covered in reflective squares which gave a kinetic effect on movement.  I found the cows and calf in a pickled state and moved into an upgrade of the hairdryer demonstration.  This was a large beach ball being supported by variable wind currents.  I was sorely tempted to use my cane to ‘shift an equilibrium’ of the installation.  Near this was a large revolving wheel and what appeared to be a more static wheel. 

I then entered what appeared to be a High Street pharmacy chain: drawers and large flasks of coloured liquids, a service counter and pay point.  My cane detected some footstools on the floor arranged in a square.  I asked a guard what they were and he replied “honeycombs”.  He was standing next to an airlock which led into a tropical room with butterflies.  In the centre were bowls of a sugary substance (I assume) for attracting the creatures.  Several butterflies passed by and I could feel them beat their wings and move into my field of vision. 

It was time to rendezvous with my friend, who had arranged to meet me at the exit.  Several installations were revisited and I found many areas of wall cordoned off with some reflective patches on them.  The last room had 3 Gothic arched windows with tiny stained glass window effect.  There was a white statue of a naked woman who had sprouted wings.  Is this religious symbolism at the end of the retrospective of this enfant terrible (and rich) artist?

At this point my friend spotted me and I indicated to ask he wait a minute in order to buy postcards.  I approached one of the staff in the gift shop inside the show and asked for help in getting postcards of what I could remember.  She was very helpful and I managed to get 4 postcards from my descriptions and I bought 2 more (there is a 6 for 5 offer!).   

I have no idea of what I saw regarding some of the items I described.  This is my own impression and I have asked a friend to type up the details of the postcards.

In the case of the Munch exhibition I had gone with a friend and had obtained the room guides and picture labels in advance.  Marcus from access had arranged this.  This exhibition, however, was pure self indulgence on my part and though my friend thought I had finally flipped, I enjoyed it.  It also goes to show that one should never be snobbish about what is or is not art.

The postcards are as follows:

Arg-Glu 1994
Household gloss on canvas
58.4 x 53.3 cm
Mayfair Oeuvres d’Art Ltd

Beautiful, amore, gasp, eyes going into the top of the head and fluttering painting 1997
Household gloss on canvas
213.4 cm diameter
Astrup Fearnley Collection, Oslo, Norway

Boxes 1988
Household gloss on cardboard boxes
Dimensions variable (the piece is intended always to be fabricated new each time it is exhibited; it is a fixed number of boxes that may take any form)
Collection of the artist

Loving in a World of Desire 1996
Painted MDF, steel, air blower and beach ball
74.5 x  249.5 x 249.5 cm
Prada collection, Milan