10 March 2013

A Winged Monkey Army

When I first moved to Sydney, I remember visiting the MCA regularly, but since I've been in Manchester, my art gallery visits have significantly diminished, for reasons undiscovered.

But, one place I try to check out every time they have a new exhibit is the Manchester Art Gallery. It's home to fantastic local art and craft collections, and I find their temporary exhibits to be truly wonderful.

Founded in 1824, the MAG is a publicly-owned art gallery, and in the fashion of Victorian paternalism, features an inscription along the side that makes its purposes entirely clear: "For the Advancement and Diffusion of Knowledge."

A few months ago, I went to the First Cut Exhibit, a show based entirely on paper-based artwork, the kind of thing that has recently been popularised by Rob Ryan. The kind of thing that won Kara Walker a MacArthur Genius Grant not so long ago.

Andy Singleton's delicate curving storm spun with the drafts in the room, casting mesmerising shadows against the corner.

James Aldridge's intricate lacey work reveals, on close inspection, lurking sinister creatures.
And today, I went along to see the Raqib Shaw exhibit– it was incredibly beautiful. Part of his exhibit was outside the gallery.

He installed tree branches and plants, daffodils and bulbs, intertwining along the fencing that borders the footpath outside the gallery. Inside the gallery, the greening continued.

His paintings shimmer with stunning enamel and rhinestone. There's a South Asian sensibility here; the influence can be seen not only in the gaudy glittering of the pieces, but also in the depictions of human/animal chimeras, which make up a huge part of Hindu mythology. Hinduism subverted is rare joy to see in Western art galleries– so often, it seems Hindu mythological art is subjected to the Western gaze more uncritically.

That's not an issue with Shaw's work. Irresistibly pretty, they draw your eye in...

And what do you find? Monkey-headed, teeth-loined creatures engaged in bondage situations, vomiting blood onto each other's crotches.

I know. I mean, my word. It hardly bears thinking about.

My friend Geraint and I walked around the entire exhibit, giggling like children and pointing out weird bits of paintings to each other.

"What's coming out of that one's butt?"
"No, wait, that one has a crotch where his head should be and a screaming gibbon head at his crotch??"

There is a goofy childish element to it, but it's also deeply disturbing, sexually charged, weirdly aggressive. I didn't take many pictures of his paintings, partly because pictures wouldn't really do them justice–hint hint! Go see them yourself!– but also because I was just enjoying them.

I did take a picture of one of most horrifying, haunting and mesmerising sculptures I've ever seen. Raqib Shaw's Adam depicts a man with a bird's head, violently held down by a lobster. Geraint and I couldn't agree on what was happening, exactly, but it was unnerving. As I walked around, I kept wondering what I would think about the work if it wasn't slightly removed from me through its whimsical medium & technique... if it wasn't slightly removed from me by depicting chimeras, instead of humans. 


If you made it this far, I should probably also let you know that part of the reason I've been off the blog lately is because I've been spending an awful lot of time lately applying for a job and then preparing for the interview...

Luckily it was all worth it! Starting tomorrow, I have a 6-month contract as Development Producer! I could not be more chuffed and excited and nervous about it... 

1 comment:

  1. assuming 'chuffed' is good.....

    Chuffs all around!
    Chuffday blessings to you and yours!
    Happy New Chuff!
    Thinking of you during these chuffy times...

    but for serious, that's awesome neejeroni!