Hamburg, Paris and My Exhibition
After a week back in Bremen, making a few new works in preparation of my exhibition/presentation at the Bremen Parliament (which I get to in the second half of this post), I went adventuring around Europe a little; I figured, I couldn’t come all this way and not try see more cities and art, even if I come home totally broke. So, off I went:
First to Hamburg for a day, Germany’s second largest city, where I went their Kunsthalle . The Hamburger Kunsthalle was very similar to the one in Bremen, but on steroids; it was much bigger. It was good though, navigating and enduring the sheer number of rooms filled with great art was training me for my adventures to come. I was lucky enough to be briefly taken around the city. It definitely felt bigger than Bremen, and had a very ‘vibey’ environment, I would love to spend more time there. I went up in their brand spanking new concert hall, which apparently cost obscene amounts of money. It was really amazing and had wonderful views but, anything that is that expensive, and I am talking hundreds of millions of pounds, seems totally unnecessary. After a day in Hamburg I was off to Paris for four days where I spent pretty much every moment of every day looking at art until my feet felt like they were going to explode. Finally, I had one day (2 nights) in Zurich. Now, I am back in Bremen at my residency where I intend to stay for the remaining 3 weeks before heading home. It was all an experience of a life time, but was none stop. So I am actually really enjoying slowing down and being confined to my studio and ‘not doing anything’ for a few weeks.
I was going to write the majority of this post about my experiences in all these amazing museums in Hamburg and Paris, and some experiences in Zurich, but I have decided to only dedicate a small portion. This is mainly because every time someone starts talking about their holiday overseas and going to fancy museums, like the Louvre, I normally just switch off and my eyes glaze over. It’s not that I am not interested, because I really am; but it’s one of those things that unless you have been or have experienced anything close to it, it has little relevance, it is simply unimaginable. I will say that the museums were mind blowing and HUGE, one could easily spend an entire day, more than a day actually, in just the Louvre, let alone all their other museums. So, instead of writing at length about my experiences, with in-depth explanations and descriptions, I have complied a few, more than a few, points from my Paris visit.
I ate baguettes and croissants every day (I had to, I couldn’t help myself, and let’s be honest, who wouldn’t), and they really were the best I have ever had.
I had the best hot chocolate ever, in many different restaurants and bakeries.
People really do wear beret’s there, well some girls do, I thought that was hilarious.
The Mona Lisa is behind bullet proof glass, behind barriers and more barriers, and loads of people with their phones, with two security people guarding it. It’s impossible to get near to, and honestly I thought there were far more interesting works to see anyway. It, the Mona Lisa, is larger than I had imagined; everyone says how surprisingly small it is, which obviously affected the size I imagined. It’s between A2 & A1 in size.
There are so many works which were much MUCH larger then I had imagined, like Théodore GÉRICAULT (Rouen, 1791 - Paris, 1824) work titled Le Radeau de la Méduse. It is massive...and I mean massive.
Pablo Picasso’s Still life with Chair Caning is much smaller then I imagined. And while I am on the subject of him, Piccaso often dated works with the exact day he made them. Seeing that made his work a little more personal, one can almost imagine him on that particular day working in the studio making that exact work. I didn’t feel any emotional attachment to any of his work, which was surprising to me, but I appreciate what he achieved.
The Louvre has an obscene amount of art, and all the ‘important’ historical works, which was amazing, but… interestingly enough I think what will stick with me the most is not a particular artwork (perhaps this is because there are so many, at some point they all start blurring together) but the breath-taking ceilings. The Louvre was originally a palace and has the most incredibly lavish ceilings, I spent a large part of my visit just looking up. If you ever get the opportunity to go, do me a favour and don’t forget to look up. http://www.louvre.fr/en
The Pompidou was a refreshing break from the other Museums which focus on ancient-modern art. The Pompidou’s focus was more postmodern-contemporary art.
French people, or at least the ones we met, aren’t rude, and do speak English.
We also went to a smaller contemporary gallery called Galerie Openspace, where I saw Sainer’s exhibition, Chaotic Harmony. Sainer is a Street Artists/Muralist, that I have been a fan of for many, many years. It was this exhibition that was the catalyst for going to Paris. And it did not disappoint!
I have officially caught every means of public transport available (other than taxis, or uber). I Bussed to Denmark, caught a ferry. Flew to Paris, caught the underground metro. Bused and trammed around cities, caught a train to Switzerland and flew back to Bremen. It has been incredibly fun, all of it.
Going to all these museums simultaneously inspired me and made my really depressed. Definitely left me with a little existential crisis. What more could any artist today add; it all seems to have been done, and with a ridiculous amount of skill. Everything today will just be mediocre variations of what has already been achieved (I am sure this isn’t true, but certainly feels like it). I think I need to resign myself to the fact that I will not add more value to the art world in my life time, but instead I need to settle with allowing art to at least add value to life time. Or get out now and try make buckets of money and spend it all just appreciating what others have done.
My Small Presentation/Exhibition at the Bremen Parliament Building
The day I got back from my adventuring I had to put up some of my work at the Bremen Parliament building for a small exhibition/presentation. It is an exhibition in the sense that some of my works are being exhibited (publically displayed), but it gets called a presentation because, well this is my assumption, the aim of it is for presenting the fruits of the grant to the public, the media and the funders. As it is not in a gallery and was on the walls of their offices/entrance way, in the Parliament building, what could be displayed was restricted. I am sure for subject matter too, but in my case it’s because of the fragility of my art. Not that my work is always fragile; I consider my sculptures, surprisingly, robust. But, compared to a wood, steel or bronze sculpture I can understand. And, I can’t always clean grubby finger prints off my sculptures and papercuts so in an unsupervised space the restriction is probably necessary. Space was also limited. It was decided that I would display 6 of my 2-Dimentional works.
Now, I seem to constantly make my life difficult. Presentation of even my 2-dimentional work is complicated. One can’t just attach it to the wall like one could a single print, because all my works are made up of multiple pieces of paper. In the end, I opted for borrowed frames. Although not necessarily how I would intend to frame the works, they did the job; they were presentable kept my work protected and they were installed without a glitch.
The event was really great. Except that I had to be the center of attention; when it comes to my work this is possibly my worst thing in the world. A necessary evil, I know, in the art world, but if I could make myself as small as possible and disappear into mist at events like these I would, and believe me I was trying sooooo hard to. But, other than that, a lot was said, as usual I didn’t understand much, being limited to only really understanding English, but I trust it was good. And the feedback was positive, honestly it isn’t often that the feedback isn’t positive, and that’s not because the work is always good, people are mostly just very polite; which is probably good in a situation that already has enough pressure. But, while I was standing in front of all those people and things where being said about my art, the grant and my career, and having just gone on a trip to all these countries, an experience of a life time, I became a little emotional. I managed to keep it at bay until I was asked to say a few words. And then to make my immense embarrassment worse, I just gushed out my gratitude for this incredible opportunity… and with this, gushed out tears… oh lordy! (Side note: I am not a pretty crier, my face turned into an actual tomato, I couldn’t see it but I could definitely feel it). But honestly, I have been out of the country before but only to our neighbours like Swaziland and Mozambique. I know I am privileged, even to have done that, a huge population of South Africa have never even left their home town because they don’t have the means to. But to travel half way across the world and be given the opportunity to see all the art I have learnt about and studied in real life, experience different places and ways of life, and, most importantly, be given the space and time to make art, has just been a dream come true. I have seen more art in these few months than I have in my life leading up to this point. I feel incredibly humbled by the experience, and I would never have been able to do it without this residency. It really has been a dream come true.
Here is a little write up about the exhibition/presentation: www.schwachhausen-online.de/nixon
It sounds a little like I am leaving already, but I am not! I still have a few more wonderful weeks here and intend to make the most of it. Whether that is exploring more of what Bremen has to offer, or getting my head stuck in a few more works in the studio before shipping out.