Friday, April 06, 2012

Degas to Dali - Auckland Art Gallery

The Degas to Dali exhibition on at the Auckland Art Gallery, brought lots of surprises.  It was my first visit since the opening of the new gallery.  It is an incredible facility of international standards, showing its uniquely New Zealand niche.  The architecture is stunning!  Nikau trees created in warm woods; a fabulous external sculpture of giant ikebana proportions; a wonderful modern art exhibition, the box of mirrors; a children’s creativity centre and Degas to Dali.

Check out the links to see the images of the works I talk about in this post.  All of the images on display were on loan from the Scottish National Gallery.

The exhibition was a series of discoveries for me, blowing apart pre-held perceptions of what I might see.  The works of Edgar Degas were greener in colour than the images of the dancers that I know; and I was surprised to see pastel works as well as oil paintings.

I was intrigued by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s graphic work on paper; Jane Averil.  This intrigued me because I found him comparing Jane to Eve through the symbology of a snake wrapping itself around her dress.  I like the ‘flat’ style of the female form – although we are used to this way of presentation, for its time it was new.

I enjoyed Salvador Dali’s, Raphaelesque Head painted in 1951.  It’s a play on Raphel’s Madonna.  The inner skull is the interior dome of Rome’s Pantheon.  I liked it a lot, loving the colours, the detail … I could have this in my home and not tire of it.  I didn’t expect to really like the surrealists, but I found I did, and probably more so than any other part of the exhibition, except for a couple of the modernists.

Other surrealists that I enjoyed include:  The Birth of Venus, Edward Baird, a Scottish painter again playing on the original painting of the same title by Sandro Botticelli.  The allegories are the same, both painted for weddings; venus emerging from the sea.  I know nothing about surrealism, but looking at this work, it seems that perhaps incorrect proportions are a feature of this style.

The collage work by Eileen Agar (1899 – 1991), called Fish Circus caught my eye and drew me close to study it.

With the Modernists, I discovered a work completed in 1938 by Alexander Calder called The Spider.  This is, I think, the first time I’ve ever seen Kinetic Art (art that moves).  The spider spins, and the art is created on the wall behind, as if the spider is crawling over the wall.  Really fantastic.

I hadn’t realized that a Joan Miro from 1925 would be included – black chalk on canvas, exploring symbols; making marks.  The last modernist I loved was the illusion of movement created in black and white lines in 1931 by Bridget Riley.  We think in our uneducated wisdom that these things are new in our world, but here, this work is already 80 years old!