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Contemporary artists

From painting to performance - discover how contemporary artists take inspiration from the National Gallery Collection.

More from Contemporary artists (21 videos)

  • Colin Wiggins: Alison Watt, the seventh National Gallery Associate Artist, moved into the National Gallery studio in March 2006. Born in Scotland in 1965, she is a painter whose recent work has been devoted to the representation of fabric. She likes to work on a large scale and the folds, gathers, shapes and swirls of the material that she paints become gently suggestive evocations of a living presence.

    When Alison moved into her studio, she asked to be supplied with several reproductions of National Gallery paintings. Amongst these were two portraits of male sitters: Jacques-Louis David’s ‘Portrait of Jacobus Blauw’ and Ingres’s portrait of ‘Monsieur de Norvins’. The sitters in both of these portraits feature that ubiquitous item of male fashion from the Romantic period, the white knotted cravat. And, perhaps taking her cue from this, the first two paintings that she made at the National Gallery – ‘Pulse’ and ‘Echo’ – have, as their defining feature, a large knotted form.

    Alison Watt: I was beginning to become fascinated with the arrangement of fabric around the neck and the shape that that was creating and how the fabric seemed to have an independent movement. It seemed to swell and curve and snake around the neck in a way that seemed to be quite separate from the person that it clothed.

    Colin Wiggins: In 2004 Alison Watt made an altarpiece entitled ‘Still’ for the memorial chapel in Old St Paul’s, Edinburgh. The success of this painting encouraged the National Gallery to make its invitation to the artist.

    Alison Watt: It’s certainly impossible for me to look at the paintings I’ve made in the studio at the National Gallery without being powerfully affected by my surroundings and by what I’ve seen. I had a similar experience when I first came to Old St Paul’s because I felt very, very intensely about the place. I was really struck by the names of all those who’d died in the Great War. And it was very difficult to look at the names and not to start imagining who the people might have been, what they might have become. So for me in this space there is this overwhelming feeling of loss. And it’s carried through into the work in the National Gallery because the paintings have increasingly become about negative space and the difficulty in describing that.

    Colin Wiggins: In Alison’s next painting, the emphatic physicality of the large knotted forms is replaced by a focus this negative space, or point of entry that take the viewer into the picture. The third and largest of the National Gallery paintings, ‘Host’, has at its centre a very pronounced and definite hole around which dramatic swathes of fabric billow and swirl.

    Don Paterson:

    The night’s surveillance. Its heavy breathing
    even in the day it hides behind.

    Enough is enough, and there and then you crossed
    your brilliant room and flung the curtains back
    to catch the night pressed hard against the glass,
    threw up the sash and looked it in the eye.

    But it did not stare you out of your own mind
    nor roll into the room like a black fog
    but sat there at the sill’s edge, patiently,
    like a priest into whose hearing you confessed
    every earthly thing that tortured you.

    When you were done, it reached into the room
    switching off the mirrors in their frames
    and undeveloping your photographs;
    it gently drew a knife across the threads
    that tied your keepsakes to the things they kept;
    it slipped into a thousand whispering books
    and laid a black leaf next to every white;
    it turned your desk-lamp off, then lower still.

    Soon there was nothing in the silent dark
    but one white cup, floating at shelf-height,
    radiant and holy by omission.

    The night bent down, and as a final kindness
    placed it in your hands so you’d remember
    to halt and stoop and drink when the time came
    in that river whose name was now beyond you
    as was, you found, indifferently, your own.

    Alison Watt: This is the painting that I look at every day. It’s ‘Saint Francis in Meditation’ by Francisco de Zurbarán and it’s thought to have been painted round about the 1630s, or possibly later. It shows Saint Francis meditating in a darkened room with the windows closed. In the act of meditation he holds a human skull, which is pressed very close to his heart. And the idea behind this was that it was supposed to impress the horror of death in some way upon the soul.

    It manages to convey the anguish of Saint Francis – and yet his head is almost completely obscured by the shadow of the cowl, apart from the light catching the tip of his nose and this very sensual open mouth. The shape of the mouth is echoed in the gaping hood of the cowl, and the deep eye sockets of the skull, and in the barely seen stigmata on the back of Saint Francis’s hands. Zurbarán’s fabric is fabric that you want to touch, it’s fabric that you want to smell, you want to listen to. It’s almost like a living mass. It’s made a huge difference to me to have a chance to be alone with this painting. That I’m able to have an intimacy with the picture that I’ve never had before. At last, I’m actually alone with the act of seeing.

    Colin Wiggins: The fifth large-scale painting that Alison Watt began at the National Gallery is called ‘Vowel’. Alison chooses titles for her paintings just before they are completed, or else shortly afterwards, and she is attracted to words with an elusive, suggestive implication. She chose the word ‘vowel’ after she recognized that the dark point of entry at the top of the painting was closely connected with the open mouth of Zurbarán’s ‘Saint Francis’. This dark shape is clearly the focus of the picture, which is not about something tangible and real, but is about a void, a negative space that becomes the carrier of something unseen.

    Alison Watt: I usually have a very strong idea of what a painting might look like when I start to work but it very rarely sticks to that plan. The first two paintings that I made, ‘Pulse’ and ‘Echo’, have some sort of root in reality. ‘Vowel’ is much harder to pin down because it’s not something that actually exists. I mean I’ve talked a lot about when I look at ‘Saint Francis’, how it’s the things that are not seen that I’m drawn to, and I think in this picture you have to make up what you can’t see. And a lot of what you can’t see is outside the picture frame.

    Colin Wiggins: The final large-scale painting in the National Gallery series is entitled ‘Root’. The composition of ‘Root’ is similar to that of the previous painting, ‘Phantom’, but focuses on the central aperture, surrounded by curved folds that evoke the sculptural forms of Saint Francis’s robe.

    Alison Watt: To be in the presence of paintings that you’ve loved your whole life is an extraordinary experience. It’s really rare to be in the middle of something, to have an experience that you actually know at the time as it’s happening that it’s wonderful. And I don’t have to look back on this experience and think, being at the National Gallery was a wonderful thing because I’m feeling it now. And I’ve found it very moving to be with great pictures.

    I think before I came here I looked at paintings the way a lot of other people do. I would look at something but always be aware of that process coming to an end. But being here – you suddenly find yourself with all this time in which to look and all this time to think and all this time to imagine. It took a few months for it to start to happen but eventually you actually let go and you give yourself up to the whole looking process. That means you make yourself vulnerable because you allow yourself to feel. A great picture will allow you to feel and allow you to have an emotional response to it. I think looking at a great painting is incredibly demanding. A painting has demands you will never, ever meet, if it’s a great picture.

    Artist's insight

    Alison Watt discusses the paintings that have inspired her art

    About the video:

     

    Alison Watt, the National Gallery's seventh Associate Artist from 2006-8, reveals how she takes inspiration from works in the collection to create her own explorations of fabric and negative space. Featuring a reading of 'Phantom' by the poet Don Paterson.

     

    From the National Gallery DVD, Alison Watt: Phantom

     

    Find out more about the 2008 exhibition Alison Watt: Phantom

     

    More about Alison Watt and the Associate Artist Scheme

    About the video:

     

    Alison Watt, the National Gallery's seventh Associate Artist from 2006-8, reveals how she takes inspiration from works in the collection to create her own explorations of fabric and negative space. Featuring a reading of 'Phantom' by the poet Don Paterson.

     

    From the National Gallery DVD, Alison Watt: Phantom

     

    Find out more about the 2008 exhibition Alison Watt: Phantom

     

    More about Alison Watt and the Associate Artist Scheme

    Read More
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    Artist's insight

    Alison Watt discusses the paintings that have inspired her art

    Movie
  • [Music playing in background]

    R.B. Kitaj: The pictures are inspired by my favourite paintings of all time, which are the three last Bather compositions of Cézanne. The one that I know so well, like the palm of my hand, is in the National Gallery itself, in London. The craziest of them is the one in the Barnes Collection in Merion, Pennsylvania, outside Philadelphia. And the third one, the largest one, is in the Philadelphia Museum itself. So, for a year and a half I’ve been staring at reproductions of these things; I’ve seen them all in the flesh and I never made an attempt to see them again. I’ve just been looking at books and pictures and mainly details of these pictures.

    I have them in all kinds of forms all over the studio. Here’s the London one. I have larger reproductions of it but I know it so well. I’ve had the pages open at other points. Then over here is the Philadelphia 'Bathers'. This is the one that seems the least finished. He seems to have worked on these three 'Bathers', the third one is the one in the Barnes Collection here – we’ll come back to that, because there are some important things that begin to happen for me, that’s the craziest of them.

    He seems to have worked on these three Great Bather compositions for the last 11 or 12 years of his life, from 1895 to 1906 when he dropped dead, and they were found in his studio. He may never have finished them; he may never have wished to have finished them. You have to realise one thing, he was a rich man, so he didn’t have to sell them. He could just paint all day long even though he was reclusive and hated by the art establishment in Paris, and even in Aix. There are books here in my library which are all about that question of Cézanne, finished or unfinished, and it’s fabulous because a part of that unfinished turned the other painters, the succeeding painters, on.

    Artist's insight

    R. B. Kitaj on 'Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses)'

    About the video:

     

    Artist R. B. Kitaj (1932-2007) talks about the profound influence of Cézanne on his work. Includes an insight into the artist's studio.

     

    From the National Gallery DVD, 'Kitaj in the Aura of Cézanne'

     

    Find out more about Paul Cézanne, Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses), about 1894-1905

    About the video:

     

    Artist R. B. Kitaj (1932-2007) talks about the profound influence of Cézanne on his work. Includes an insight into the artist's studio.

     

    From the National Gallery DVD, 'Kitaj in the Aura of Cézanne'

     

    Find out more about Paul Cézanne, Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses), about 1894-1905

    Read More
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    Artist's insight

    R. B. Kitaj on 'Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses)'

    Movie
  • Transcript

    Ben Johnson:

    I’m Ben Johnson, I’m a painter and I’ve been using architecture as my subject matter and starting point for my paintings for maybe 40 years now. But approximately fifteen years ago I decided to move from individual pieces of architecture, to the broader view and cityscapes.

    Canaletto had always been in the background, but the painting that I’m making at the moment, which is the view from the roof of the National Gallery, has really been fifteen years in the making. I was invited by a curator to look at the view from the roof of the National Gallery, and I spent probably ten days going up, looking around, different weather conditions, and it is an extraordinary view. It’s a very privileged and special view. But all the time I was up there, and all the time I was making drawings or taking photographs, I kept on going back to the same spot. And from this spot I kept on thinking, there’s something underlying this view that reminds me of something not far from here. And I went down into the Gallery and I looked at ‘The Stonemason’s Yard’, and I started to analyse the geometry of the Canaletto painting, and I analysed the geometry of my photographs and there was an extraordinary set of coincidences happening.

    What I did was to take the postcard of the Canaletto and I started to put in the geometry, the underlying structure: the bones of the painting for me. I took my photograph that I’d taken, or a series of photographs which I stitched together, of the view from just over the Sainsbury Wing, and I started to get this structure coming in.’ Big Ben’ replaces this church perfectly. We then go to a further stage where I’d started to put in Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column, and you can see that it lines up perfectly with this large church. And all of this is coincidence.

    But is it coincidence? Or is it an innate sense of the geometry. And for me, I’ve always analysed paintings on a geometric basis; I’ve always started with a ruler and a compass. This is the canvas; it’s 6ft by 9ft, roughly 2½ m by 3¼ metres, and this drawing – as we’re looking at it now –is the by-product of about six months drawing. Now, I work with assistants because this is a studio, it’s a workshop, and that’s a very important part of my process.

    I’m very proud to work with very talented draughts people. Each one of these buildings was drawn separately; the most complicated drawing here being this, and this took six weeks. There are drawings back here that perhaps only took a day, but a building like, well let’s take ‘Big Ben’ –because it’s a nice easily recognised object –that’s about a week’s drawing. And these individual drawings are made on computer, but the computer is purely and simply a tool, the drawing process is a drawing that was really established in 1500.

    And the reason I work with the computer is because I use a spray-gun, and to contain it you use a mask. The mask I used to cut with a scalpel and masking tape; nowadays I use vinyl, which is a self-adhesive film, and we have to cut holes in that film. We could do it by wearing a magnifier over our eyes and cutting with a scalpel, but it would probably take us 20 years to make this painting. Because we work on computer, and we work with a vector-based program, which is a mathematical program, we can then send that drawing file down to a cutter, which will cut the stencils out.

    This is the drawing that was made for this dome. I’ve got to think how I’m going to paint this so I have to analyse how many colours I might use; and to do that we continue to work on computer, and we produce this. Now this drawing becomes my guide for painting. So what we have here is that dome with all the elements coloured in, and these are the number of stencils.

    There are approximately 35 stencils going to be cut, and each one of these squares represents a different colour. Sometimes paintings take a long time to mature in one’s mind until you reach a point when you know you’ve got to make them. But not until I’d started the drawing, and I was fully-committed to the painting, did I discover that Canaletto had stood on the first floor of Richmond House some 300 years ago; looking up to what is now Trafalgar Square and what is now the National Gallery, and in the middle of both of our views is this dome. Art can be timeless.

    When we’re cutting on the machine downstairs we can cut to 0.4 of a millimetre. You have to look very hard and catch the light to be able to see where the machine has cut into it. Here’s part of the roof coming off …... behind the dome …... and then we have to start looking for the really fine pieces. These are the flagpoles that sit on top of the building …... and these are the ties that will anchor the flagpole down.

    And then these are some of the small elements like the air-conditioning unit on the roof, and, wherever you’re seeing white now, that’s where the paint will go through. Although it’s self-adhesive you can float it over the surface at this stage and just approximately place it, one butterfly matching the other. Now you’ve got to move clockwise. Clockwise … clockwise … clockwise … whoa! And this registration mark should come into place … yes. Hopefully that one is in place … that one. This is the critical stage again where you have to make sure that you don’t remove any of these very small elements that are just floating. They’re islands. You can almost hear the glue pulling away, and you can sense when you’re going to be lifting a piece of the stencil that you want to have remain on the surface. Thank you. Elements do move but they can be adjusted so that here this flagpole there should be a fine wire that’s holding up the flagpole, and the element here has moved. So we just shift it over to create a thin line; that thin line will then be sprayed.

    I’m very organised in the foundations of the painting, but increasingly, as time goes on, and I get further into a painting I’m acting faster and faster on intuition. The foundations are so firm I can take risks. So just now, for instance, I've chosen a colour, which instinctively I know is going to fit in with the rest of the painting; it's going to work because I've started to establish rules as I've got further and further. And my knowledge of the painting has grown. So the painting almost makes itself but also the painting, as it grows, becomes more and more independent and tells me what to do.

    Some of the changes I make in colour are very subtle and they're so subtle a lot of people would say, I can't even see those changes. And then I start to ask myself, Does it really matter whether other people can see them or not? Because the thing is, I'm making the painting for myself. But obviously, especially if one is making a painting in public as I'm going to do in Room 1,you inevitably do get engaged with the public and the question; what the hell are you doing? And it makes you question your own values. And you go back into the studio and then you rely on what you've been doing for the last 20, 30, 40 years, which is just operating off instinct.

    What I've done is to experience something outside in the world of so-called reality, I’ve then come back and for 12 months I've reflected on that in the studio and I have meticulously constructed and reconstructed every building, every window until I've actually divorced myself from the physical reality of this location. This is paint on canvas. I’m not a metaphysical painter in the sense that I don't have an agenda. That I want to make a metaphysical painting; I want to make paintings that transcend their subject, through materials, to become something else.

    A quotation occurs to me over and over again, on a daily basis within the studio, and it’s from Tennessee Williams. At the beginning of ’The Glass Menagerie’ the narrator says,’ I am the opposite of a stage magician. The stage magician offers you illusion in the disguise of reality. I am here to offer you reality in the pleasant disguise of illusion.’

    Exhibition film

    Ben Johnson: Modern Perspectives

    About the exhibition film:

     

    Join artist Ben Johnson in his studio as he reveals the intricate process involved in creating his cityscapes. He demonstrates how he painted London’s Trafalgar Square based on the rigorous geometric composition of the National Gallery Canaletto, The Stonemason's Yard, about 1725.

     

    Find out more about the 2010–2011 exhibition Ben Johnson: Modern Perspectives

    About the exhibition film:

     

    Join artist Ben Johnson in his studio as he reveals the intricate process involved in creating his cityscapes. He demonstrates how he painted London’s Trafalgar Square based on the rigorous geometric composition of the National Gallery Canaletto, The Stonemason's Yard, about 1725.

     

    Find out more about the 2010–2011 exhibition Ben Johnson: Modern Perspectives

    Read More
     thumbnail10:00

    Exhibition film

    Ben Johnson: Modern Perspectives

    Movie
  • Transcript

    Colin Wiggins: Clive Head is a painter of cityscapes, who is based in Scarborough in Yorkshire. Like Canaletto he is a painter of space, and carefully manipulates that space and the viewer’s experience of it.

    Clive Head: The spaces, essentially, of moving through the world, our experience of the world, our engagement with the world, is our engagement through, and about, space.  And the painting is about finding some kind of coherent unity, in which all that space can be presented as one.

    It’s not a mimetic kind of space, it’s not a trompe-l’œil, it’s not an attempt to fool the eye. So it’s not about us physically wanting to enter this painting; it is about us mentally wanting to enter the painting...

    Colin Wiggins: And exploring it…

    Clive Head: … and exploring that painting. So that what’s presented on the other side of the canvas is a world, and an entire universe in fact, that we can actually begin to explore. But I think that is what Western painting has been about. In essence, it’s about creating an alternative reality on the other side of the picture plane, and if that’s going to work the space has to be convincing; it has to be believable.

    Colin Wiggins: The first connection you make is photography. You see this as almost like being a painted photograph, but when you start to really analyse the spaces you realise that it’s actually an impossible viewpoint. But you do use photography?

    Clive Head: Yes, I think one of the problems is that we don’t really have a way of discussing this kind of painting. We do have a way of discussing previous forms of Realist painting and photography, which is essentially about standing in one place and having a fixed vision, and we see photographs as being very convincing, as being very believable.

    So I think when viewers of these paintings see them as being convincing they make that equation with photography – it’s a sort of shorthand. The problem is, of course, that this really is completely the opposite to photography, because photography enforces that idea of a very single, perspectival structure.

    Now, what if we want to take on the problem of making paintings that deal with the movement through time, the movement through space? Now we know that there is a forerunner to that in Cubism, in Futurism, but the problem that they had is they were not really concerned with resolving that as a conceivable, coherent single entity. Their answer to the problem was that it can be fragmented; we can keep moving from one space to another and the fragments, the divisions in those spaces, become part of the language of painting – part of the language of Modernist painting.

    Now if we wind on 100 years from that point we come back to the same problem:  how do we paint the movement through the world? There is a Realist resolution to that but we don’t really have a language to discuss that yet. Because this is not to do with looking back towards photography, it’s looking forward to a new way. The camera is a way of me collecting information, things that I see along the way. Through that journey the camera is a very useful tool as is the sketchbook. And I shouldn’t underestimate the importance of drawing, even if the chaos in the city only allows you to make a five-minute drawing, that drawing is crucial.

    Colin Wiggins: Well, there’s a lot of the photographs here, aren't there – of the ones that you took for this particular painting… and the man in the yellow jacket. His friends have gone and a bus has arrived, which I imagine might have been in another photograph. You can see how each one of them connects with a particular part of your painting, but there’s no way that you could photograph this view, is there?

    Clive Head: What the photographs demonstrate really is how limited photography truly is: it can focus on one thing; it can only have an exposure of one area of the scene; it can’t deal with movement in time. So it really is quite a limited way of recording the world. We’ve entrusted lens-based media to be the final word in Realism, but in fact it is far from it.

    Colin Wiggins:  Then there’s the actual facture, the actual making of them, because close to the paintings are marks and brushstrokes. You obviously really enjoy the medium, the actual viscous quality of the paint as you lick it in to the canvas.

    Clive Head: The painter creates space through the physical mark. I do things to reinforce that; I’m very particular about the quality of the brushes. I’m using good quality sable brushes and once the spring of the brush has gone, it no longer delivers the right kind of mark. I deliberately use lead-based white which actually reinforces the thickness of the paint, it slows the brush down, it makes sure that each brushstroke is delivered properly. There’s no blending going on, there’s no attempt to destroy the painted language.

    This is nothing to do with trying to say this is like the surface of a photograph, or it’s like the surface of a window. I think my paintings are very much rooted in Western painting traditions and that includes Canaletto, and Canaletto dealt with the city. What Canaletto shows us in terms of that mixing of space is that an artist, even though they may use optical devices – and we know that Canaletto certainly did use optical devices to record things in quite a topographical way – that when it came to constructing those paintings, at that point he became creative and began to manipulate, change and alter things to create these idealised worlds. If you do some of the similar things to an earlier artist, you actually stumble in, you actually begin to understand what Canaletto is doing if you confront those same kinds of problems. Canaletto is not a topographical painter and we need to be very clear about that. He’s not interested in recording the city for documentary purposes, that's an interesting and fascinating by-product. He’s interested in making idealised worlds – these are Rococo paintings. 

    They have all the traits of other paintings around that time that are talking about the aesthetics of light and space in a very particular way. Canaletto is a master of economy, a master of fluidity – a recognition that this isn’t about labour that makes painting, this is about creativity, invention, intuition, a certain speed of delivery. And we see that in abundance in Canaletto. And if you look at ‘The Stonemason’s Yard’ does that mean when you leave the National Gallery and you wander up Haymarket and find this crumbling, rather unappealing arcade in reality that when you begin to paint it you realise that it’s such rich subject matter, just in terms of texture apart from all the spatial potential that it offers? I’m not looking for the seedy side of things but you actually look for the visual richness in some of these areas of London which are perhaps conventionally regarded as less appealing, and Canaletto saw that everywhere in his work.

    Colin Wiggins: And your painting looks utterly convincing and it’s very familiar to people that know this part of the city, but when you try and reconstruct it on a camera it’s utterly impossible.

    Clive Head: I think the difficulty with painting is that paintings can remind us of the world – they can show us what the world looks like. Paintings can be just illustrations of the world. For a painting to become a work of art, to achieve that status of being an artwork, it has to create a credible space which although familiar to us is actually unique. It has to create an alternative reality.

    Colin Wiggins: You like arches. This is something we often find in your painting – the idea of moving from one space to another – so this little arcade is a Clive Head trademark, as it were.

    Clive Head:  There have been arcades… and clearly the London Underground paintings also have arcades, and these bits of architecture which often spill out on to the street and link the inside with the outside. And in the café paintings, going near windows also begins to have a complexity of space, and often spaces of different kinds: internal, external, lower spaces, upper spaces and so on.

    Colin Wiggins:  And another thing which you really seem to be attracted to in painting is grotty surfaces, peeling paint, urban decay, and again that makes me think of Canaletto.

    Clive Head:  What’s extraordinary is that the painting of Haymarket appears to be very attractive. People are drawn to it, they enjoy occupying the space. It becomes completely different to the space we’re standing in now.

    Colin Wiggins: Which is kind of horrible and sticky underfoot and a bit smelly.

    Clive Head: One doesn’t mean to be critical, but it’s not a place you would necessarily want to be for any length of time. I think we also become really aware, which is another reason for choosing this kind of subject matter, of the flux of the real world. This is a noisy place; we have traffic moving around; we have pedestrians moving around. This very much brings the idea of the world in a fast pace, almost in chaos.

    Colin Wiggins: There might be people with a certain cast of mind that read this as a social commentary, with the road sweeper outside, the rundown condition of the public transport system…

    Clive Head:  It is a fallacy to think of issue-based art. Issue-based art is illustration; it returns us to this world and that clearly is not art. I’m certainly not thinking about any of the social implications of any of this stuff. It happens to be there; I happen to look at it. Artists have no special insight into the world at all. Their special insight is to create paintings, is to create works of art.

    Colin Wiggins: Well, it’s inevitable looking at this that you do start making narratives and connections; like I see the woman standing there looking slightly kind of tense, and you see that she’s focused on the sign of the little man on the fire escape sign who’s running as if she wants to suddenly run and scream. And then you’ve got, ‘I am Batman’ written up there. All of these things have got loaded messages.

    Clive Head: I think there are certain things that I do to try and detract from iconic readings. Because I paint so much – I include everything – no one object really stands out and takes on iconic importance. So the meaning of the painting is not the Union Jack, or the figure, or the road sweeper, or any of this detritus in the window, or the Underground, because everything becomes the subject matter. So what is the subject matter? Well, the subject matter is my engagement with space, my engagement with the world.

    Exhibition film

    Clive Head: Modern Perspectives

    About the exhibition film:

     

    Colin Wiggins joins Clive Head in his studio and on the streets of London to discuss his work. His 2010 exhibition at the Gallery coincided with the exhibition Venice: Canaletto and his Rivals. In Canaletto, Clive Head finds an artist who, like himself, reinvents the urban landscape, creating paintings which resemble the real world without simply repeating it.

     

    Find out more about the 2010 exhibition Clive Head: Modern Perspectives

    About the exhibition film:

     

    Colin Wiggins joins Clive Head in his studio and on the streets of London to discuss his work. His 2010 exhibition at the Gallery coincided with the exhibition Venice: Canaletto and his Rivals. In Canaletto, Clive Head finds an artist who, like himself, reinvents the urban landscape, creating paintings which resemble the real world without simply repeating it.

     

    Find out more about the 2010 exhibition Clive Head: Modern Perspectives

    Read More
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    Exhibition film

    Clive Head: Modern Perspectives

    Movie
  • Tina Barney: This is a painting by Hans Memling, a Netherlandish painter.

    A man named Donne commissioned it. He wanted Hans Memling to paint the painting of his family and the saints. What draws me to it are the formal parts of putting this painting together, because that's what I struggle with so much – is how to create space, how to draw the viewer in. What excites the viewer to come in and say, 'I'm going to look at this painting instead of all the other paintings that are around in this fantastic room'?

    I look at the tile floor that has many patterns, and that I've used in my own work, that bring your eye to the back of the painting; that bring you in and make you want to look at the painting more. The landscape with all the wonderful little things happening, and I think there's a funny kind of strange scale play going on that doesn't seem correct, it just seems abnormal.

    Also, what's wonderful is the light in this painting. It seems as if there's been a light that's almost been placed outside on the left side coming into the room that doesn't seem quite right. It's not really that sunny a day. Maybe, that's what makes the painting so mysterious, is these things that sort of seem wonderful, but they just don't seem real. And the jewellery; that beautiful little necklace.

    Also, the wonderful thing that I love is resolution; in other words, focus. And when you look at this necklace here, you see this fabulous resolution which, again, is sort of disappearing, but I use a view camera, for instance, because I love the crispest, most detailed resolution that you can find.

    So, let's go look at the family then. For instance, the baby sitting on the Virgin's lap looks as if, very much like in my photographs where I would direct somebody in order to show a narrative. It's almost as if Hans Memling had directed that little baby to grab that apple while the mother's holding the baby on her lap. How much was directed here? How much was planned? How much did Hans Memling say, for the woman in the left here, to 'Go like this' with her hand? I mean, can you imagine? Did he say, 'Go like this'? Or, 'Go like this'?

    My work is known for the fact that I started directing the people in my photographs at a time where that was very unusual and, actually, historically, a very drastic thing to do. Beforehand, photographs were candid. They were street photographs. In the beginning, when I first started directing people in my photographs I would say, 'Well, why don't you start talking about something?', because there's usually more than one person and their family members in my photographs. And, funnily enough, what would happen is that a lot of the family members would start talking about things that were fairly personal, and then I'd take the picture.

    And now, sometimes I also wanted someone to look into the lens. And I'd say, 'Look into the lens', or something to that effect. But then the other person would do something very impromptu. And, to me, I always call that a gift. And that's when I think it becomes very interesting, because then there's that fine line about how much does the artist direct, and how much does the subject do what they want to do? As time has gone by, and I've gotten more confident, I've let the subjects do more that they want to do than I did 20 years ago.

    See this little space here, between the baby's hand and the hand of the angel showing that apple? There's a little green space with the grass behind it. That, for me, is very much the kind of thing that was very interesting to me in my photographs, because I wanted to say that's too much space. I want you to be closer. I want those two hands to touch. So that's very, very much part of my love of making photographs, and then also looking at paintings like this.

    Artist's insight: Tina Barney

    Take a close-up view of Memling’s triptych with the photographer

    About the video:

     

    How do artists direct space and subject matter? Join contemporary artist Tina Barney as she explores the dynamic elements of Memling's mysterious and highly detailed group portrait, 'The Donne Triptych'.

     

    The artist’s photography, which features in the exhibition Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present, examines the interrelationship between the figures in portraits, captured in crisp resolution.

     

    About the artist:

     

    Tina Barney is a photographer who lives and works in Rhode Island. Her large-scale portraits of family and friends depict modern affluence in a candid, documentary style.

    About the video:

     

    How do artists direct space and subject matter? Join contemporary artist Tina Barney as she explores the dynamic elements of Memling's mysterious and highly detailed group portrait, 'The Donne Triptych'.

     

    The artist’s photography, which features in the exhibition Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present, examines the interrelationship between the figures in portraits, captured in crisp resolution.

     

    About the artist:

     

    Tina Barney is a photographer who lives and works in Rhode Island. Her large-scale portraits of family and friends depict modern affluence in a candid, documentary style.

    Read More
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    Artist's insight: Tina Barney

    Take a close-up view of Memling’s triptych with the photographer

    Movie
  • Transcript

    Jools Holland:
    There is one of your paintings in our studio and all the musicians who come look at it. And the ones who have come back again, you’ll often find them looking at it and looking at it again, because you can just keep returning to them and finding something else in them.

    Which I think is also true of great pieces of music; you can come back to them years later and the good ones they really were good, they were even better than I thought; and there are other ones when you think, well, actually I’ve moved away from that now.

    But I think it’s that thing of when you first see something, or when you first hear a piece of music, you can be drawn to it. 

    Sometimes you have to look further and further but it’s that initial response of,

    ‘Oh, that’s great, that sounds great, that looks great, I’ve got to look at it more and more.’

    And I think this painting has that, it’s very exciting. And I think that anyone who sees this, if you see it across a room it makes you – they draw you in, so you’re drawn towards them.

    It’s almost like the transitory atmosphere of landscape is in these – of a cityscape – which changes as the light changes, as the weather changes. You’ve managed to capture a moment, which couldn’t be captured in a photograph – it couldn’t be captured in a film somehow. You’ve captured it, you know.

    To write a song or to do music you have to go over the same thing again a few times, because you’re mystified or you love it, or you’re trying to figure it out, and I think that’s the same with painters.

    I think you can see that when they first start; they’re trying to figure it out. And to do the simplest thing but to get it just right is the other thing that I think musicians and painters have.

    Some things infuriate them; somebody will hear something and say,

    ‘Well, that sounds great what you did there, or that painting looks great’ but to the person that’s made it, ‘No, that’s not quite right!’

    And it’s that determination to get that right and the fact that you can never quite figure it out that that’s what’s great. You know, Keith Richards said to me once,

    ‘When I play I thought I was sounding like Chuck Berry, but I don’t’.

    But the fact that he sounds like him (self) is what we all love. And I think that in painting nobody else will make a painting that looks like your paintings.

    It’s very interesting that your paintings should be next to the Canalettos because I think they do have a very strong atmosphere, and they are also London in a different time.

    Curiously enough they withstand the tests of time because you can still look at them and see more and more in them. On the other hand, I think that comparisons are bad because you can never really compare anything with anything.

    Of course Canaletto didn’t have to have to deal with anything like surfaces like chrome or vehicles or electric lights.

     Also, his people were very small, weren’t they? (Laughs).

    In conversation

    Musician Jools Holland chats to the artist Clive Head

    About the video:

     

    What does Jools Holland see in the juxtaposition of Clive Head’s works with those of Canaletto, whose works featured in a coinciding exhibition?

     

    Find out more about the 2010 exhibition Clive Head: Modern Perspectives

    About the video:

     

    What does Jools Holland see in the juxtaposition of Clive Head’s works with those of Canaletto, whose works featured in a coinciding exhibition?

     

    Find out more about the 2010 exhibition Clive Head: Modern Perspectives

    Read More
     thumbnail02:54

    In conversation

    Musician Jools Holland chats to the artist Clive Head

    Movie
  • Ori Gersht: What I particularly like about this painting is the modesty and humility; the simplicity of the composition on the one hand, but on the other hand, the painting is so exquisite and so exuberant in its attention to detail.

    Zurbarán created this dialectical tension between the simplicity and this virtuous equality. I like the way the spacing of Zurbarán's painting has been compressed by using the very dark background and relatively narrow ledge for the foreground, bringing a very particular tension. It's almost breathless and deadly, and yet there is something so alive in the painting.

    There is something about the mathematical arrangement of the elements trying to reach perfect balance between those very few elements, and within this perfect balance, we reach a distilled composition – this idea of equilibrium, which can be associated with death or the end of things.

    When I look at this painting, it seems the process is so introverted in his engagement with the surfaces, with the subject, with the beautiful and delicate relationship of the flower that is just hanging in balance and the proximity of the petals to the edges of the cup, the way the lines dissolve into this void of the plate. Also, you look at the circular shapes through the painting, and you see how many circles exist on the plate and each of the petals. The handle of the cup, the top of the cup; it's a circle within a circle and in the same token one can look at the triangular relationship that exists between the three elements and how those geometries are holding the tension in relation to each other.

    For a work of art to come to life, it's about those relationships that exist in between attraction and repulsion, and there is something about this painting that, on the one hand, is so modest and pure, and on the other hand, you realise the energy, time and almost show-off qualities that are coming to life in the reflections of the surfaces that are just so exquisite. The abilities of the painter are way beyond any other still life painting throughout the history of painting, and I can say this without exaggerating.

    I think that there is something so beautiful just in engaging and looking and allowing those elements that are present there on the surface. When I make work it is somehow in conversation with the Old Masters, where the starting point is that those pieces will resonate over a long period of time, and one day something will come together somehow in a way that I cannot really pin down. I'm not sure in a hundred years or 200 years from now if any of my work will survive and if somebody will encounter it, how they will interpret it then. What I really would hope is that the experience will be a more formal one, and through looking.

    Artist's insight: Ori Gersht

    Hear the photographer’s take on a stirring Zurbarán still life

    About the video:

     

    Breathless and deadly: contemporary photographer Ori Gersht examines the attraction and repulsion of what is, for him, the most masterly still life in art history.

     

    The artist explores still life in works that feature in the exhibition Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present. In these photographic and film pieces, classic floral arrangements are frozen and then blown up, leaving only shattered fragments.

     

    Watch an extract from the artist’s film Big Bang 2, 2007

     

    About the artist:

     

    Ori Gersht is a London-based artist who uses photography and video to investigate the relationship between violence and beauty, war and exile, and life and death.

     

    Hear more from the artist himself on Friday 11 January

    About the video:

     

    Breathless and deadly: contemporary photographer Ori Gersht examines the attraction and repulsion of what is, for him, the most masterly still life in art history.

     

    The artist explores still life in works that feature in the exhibition Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present. In these photographic and film pieces, classic floral arrangements are frozen and then blown up, leaving only shattered fragments.

     

    Watch an extract from the artist’s film Big Bang 2, 2007

     

    About the artist:

     

    Ori Gersht is a London-based artist who uses photography and video to investigate the relationship between violence and beauty, war and exile, and life and death.

     

    Hear more from the artist himself on Friday 11 January

    Read More
     thumbnail04:04

    Artist's insight: Ori Gersht

    Hear the photographer’s take on a stirring Zurbarán still life

    Movie
  • You know, one thing about paintings is there’s no set time to how long you look at them, that you can… you bring the time to it yourself so, you know, you can literally see a room at a glance, or you can spend your whole life looking at just one thing.

    Obviously as a painter one hopes people will spend a lot of time looking at things, and I think inevitably, you know, you get more out of something the longer you look at it. In my own work I try and actually play on that. That almost becomes part of the subject; that the more you look, the more you will get and that it’s… there’s a slowness to it.

    This painting’s perfect example of this for me because I’ve been looking at it for over 20 years. One thing that fascinates me about this painting is that Degas kept it all his life, and that it was in his studio and I think he worked on it over many, many years. He had it around and perhaps reworked it a couple of times, over decades, but it’s a painting that I’ve always been drawn back to, again and again and found… always find more. So I was really fascinated that he kept it and almost as a
    leitmotif, I think.

    The composition is so extraordinary of, you know, the girls on one side, the boys on the other. It’s very mysterious, what exactly they’re doing. Okay, so it says they’re sparring, but it almost seems to be a coming-of-age painting. It’s very much, you know, youths on the verge of adulthood. I was struck by how timeless it was when I was even in the park last summer, and I was thinking about this painting.

    I’d been looking at it in the... a reproduction in the studio and I saw these bunch of teenagers mucking about and the girls sort of going up and hitting the boys and running away and I thought, it’s just the Young Spartans, 21st Century. It is hard to explain a group of naked pre-teens in the landscape. I mean, in a way, you feel like that’s what the classical figures in the middle are doing. They really put it at a polite distance, almost, by saying, this isn’t now and this happened a long time ago, therefore it’s not risqué. But I also feel that there’s such a tension between the boys ad girls that you do feel it’s the girls that make the boys seem straight. The thrust of her pulling the action into the centre of the painting and the boys, their faces, the range of expressions is extraordinary. They’ve always reminded me of the angels in the Piero della Francesca Nativity; that sort of slack jaw, open mouth, this almost erotic expression on the second boy’s face. But there’s almost this sort of faux arrogance. You feel that it really captures that, you know, boys that… they’re trying to be more confident than they really feel. You know, they’re sort of, they’re mocking, but you feel that they’re actually intimidated in that way that boys are with girls around that age. There always seem to me to be too many legs for the number of figures.

    You know, there are ghosts of legs, there are extra legs, they’re faded, they’re drawn over each other; you know, the sense of this scuffle going on. You know, there’s a possible fifth figure in there. I just love this… the suggestiveness of it and the way that… you know, this feeling of not quite knowing what you’re looking at.

    I still find it completely compelling and that, you know, you go away from something and come back and with the passing of time, you know, I’ve changed but the painting also seems to change.

    Cecily Brown on 'Young Spartans Exercising' by Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas

    Following their discussion at the 2012 Frieze Masters, National Gallery Director Nicholas Penny invited artist Cecily Brown to the Gallery to talk about some of her favourite paintings from the Collection.

    Here she talks about Degas's 'Young Spartans Exercising.' Find out why Brown has been coming back to the painting for more than 20 years and still finds it 'completely compelling'.

    British-born painter Cecily Brown has gained international acclaim for her gestural reworking of traditional imagery and subject matter. Brown has held solo shows at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington and the Museum of Contemporary Art, The Hague, amongst others.

    Following their discussion at the 2012 Frieze Masters, National Gallery Director Nicholas Penny invited artist Cecily Brown to the Gallery to talk about some of her favourite paintings from the Collection.

    Here she talks about Degas's 'Young Spartans Exercising.' Find out why Brown has been coming back to the painting for more than 20 years and still finds it 'completely compelling'.

    British-born painter Cecily Brown has gained international acclaim for her gestural reworking of traditional imagery and subject matter. Brown has held solo shows at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington and the Museum of Contemporary Art, The Hague, amongst others.

    Read More
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    Cecily Brown on 'Young Spartans Exercising' by Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas

    Movie
  • One of the problems of painting figures – and this had probably already started in Degas’s time – was where they are and what are they doing. I mean, a contemporary artist... that’s a big question always.

    If someone said tomorrow, you know, you’ve got to choose, you’re only allowed a couple of colours, this would be my palette. This is the palette I veer towards naturally and this palette seems to encompass everything that one wants to say, in a way. There’s just… even though it’s very hot, it feels like it’s… there’s a range of emotions and associations with it. There’s very, you know… the warmth of it, but also there’s a violence to it.

    Combing the hair was this fairly loaded subject, partly because you were never supposed to comb your hair in front of anybody. I mean, obviously it’s different when it’s a child having their hair combed, but it’s this really intimate act. But apparently, at the time, there were all sorts of ideas around combing the hair. They didn’t think you were supposed to wash your hair, so people would go out and air their hair. Ladies would go and comb their hair outside, which was supposed to be very healthy.

    There’s this tension under the surface of, not even really under the surface in this. I mean, the tension in the girl’s hand, you don’t really feel like it’s a sweet moment between a… I don’t know if it’s a mother and daughter but, or… I expect it’s probably the maid, but I feel that it hints at, sort of, sadism, the cruelty behind closed doors. There’s just a suggestion of something not quite right going on, the way she’s being pulled back, almost. You don’t really feel that there’s… it’s a particularly pleasant experience for the girl. One gets the feeling of the paint rushing to describe something, but sometimes, sort of, move too fast for what they’re describing, almost as if… I think it’s a very effective way of sort of capturing that sense of a glimpse of something, of trying to get that feeling of something seen quickly, and almost making physical that effort to see something and remember it
    and hold it, but it’s already gone.

    The use of the black is so extraordinary, of just echoing things at just the right moment. There seems just enough of it to bring it into focus. I always think her nostril… you know, talk about punctuation in a painting. That nostril is like a full stop. You know, I’ve often mentioned this thing of… idea of punctuation in paintings, but this almost makes it literal, for, starting with this sort of black on the left, these almost hieroglyphic marks.

    There’s this menace, this latent menace and violence, which I feel Degas is the king of that, actually, in sort of seemingly benign scenes. And I can’t look at it without thinking of Francis Bacon, I mean, I know he loved Degas.

    Cecily Brown on 'La Coiffure' by Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas

    Following their discussion at the 2012 Frieze Masters, National Gallery Director Nicholas Penny invited artist Cecily Brown to the Gallery to talk about some of her favourite paintings from the Collection.

    Here she talks about Degas's 'La Coiffure'. Find out why Brown feels the painting gives us a glimpse of something which is 'not quite right' in a seemingly benign scene.

    British-born painter Cecily Brown has gained international acclaim for her gestural reworking of traditional imagery and subject matter. Brown has held solo shows at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington and the Museum of Contemporary Art, The Hague, amongst others.

    Following their discussion at the 2012 Frieze Masters, National Gallery Director Nicholas Penny invited artist Cecily Brown to the Gallery to talk about some of her favourite paintings from the Collection.

    Here she talks about Degas's 'La Coiffure'. Find out why Brown feels the painting gives us a glimpse of something which is 'not quite right' in a seemingly benign scene.

    British-born painter Cecily Brown has gained international acclaim for her gestural reworking of traditional imagery and subject matter. Brown has held solo shows at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington and the Museum of Contemporary Art, The Hague, amongst others.

    Read More
     thumbnail03:14

    Cecily Brown on 'La Coiffure' by Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas

    Movie
  • Exhibition insight

    Ben Johnson: Modern Perspectives timelapse

    About the video:

     

    For the exhibition 'Modern Perspectives', the artist Ben Johnson completed his painting of Trafalgar Square live at the National Gallery.

     

    Watch the painting build, as 47 days are compressed into less than a minute, and Johnson and his team use spray paint and elaborate acrylic stencils to complete the cityscape.

     

    Find out more about the 2010–2011 exhibition Ben Johnson: Modern Perspectives

    About the video:

     

    For the exhibition 'Modern Perspectives', the artist Ben Johnson completed his painting of Trafalgar Square live at the National Gallery.

     

    Watch the painting build, as 47 days are compressed into less than a minute, and Johnson and his team use spray paint and elaborate acrylic stencils to complete the cityscape.

     

    Find out more about the 2010–2011 exhibition Ben Johnson: Modern Perspectives

    Read More
     thumbnail00:54

    Exhibition insight

    Ben Johnson: Modern Perspectives timelapse

    Movie
  • Michael Landy: Saints Alive

    The Language of Drawing

    Michael Landy, National Gallery Associate Artist, reflects on his work alongside fellow artists Michael Craig-Martin and Sir Peter Blake - himself a former Associate Artist.

    Find out how Landy follows his 'destructive phases' with 'rebirth' and his opinion on copying. The culmination of his residency features in the Gallery's 'Michael Landy: Saints Alive' exhibition, a series of large-scale kinetic sculptures and paper collages inspired by paintings of saints in the National Gallery Collection.

    Michael Landy, National Gallery Associate Artist, reflects on his work alongside fellow artists Michael Craig-Martin and Sir Peter Blake - himself a former Associate Artist.

    Find out how Landy follows his 'destructive phases' with 'rebirth' and his opinion on copying. The culmination of his residency features in the Gallery's 'Michael Landy: Saints Alive' exhibition, a series of large-scale kinetic sculptures and paper collages inspired by paintings of saints in the National Gallery Collection.

    Read More
     thumbnail03:21

    Michael Landy: Saints Alive

    The Language of Drawing

    Movie
  • Patience Agbabi: I was mainly inspired by the 'Diana and Actaeon' painting, but also by 'The Death of Actaeon', because the two paintings mirror each other. In 'Diana and Actaeon', Actaeon’s in the corner looking down at her; in the other painting, it’s the other way round. So I think that’s what inspired me, principally. I wanted to write a poem that incorporated both paintings, but mainly focusing on 'Diana and Actaeon'.

    Initially I wanted to write from a sort of distance, third-person perspective, but the more I got into the painting, the more I wanted to step inside and actually be one of the characters. I was particularly interested in the maid as a black woman and also as a peripheral character. I thought she’d have an interesting perspective on the actual drama. But also knowing that Diana was goddess of the hunt and goddess of chastity – that she’d made all her attendants swear this vow of chastity – I thought it would be very interesting to have the maid having desire for Actaeon. So, that’s something I wanted to incorporate into the poem as well.

    I think the fact that there’s a huge legacy behind the paintings, for the poetry as well as the artistic side, was really, really good for me. In a way I had the challenge to try to do something different with it, to take it off on another direction, and my direction was very much about looking at the water and the idea of the two paintings, 'Diana and Actaeon' and 'The Death of Actaeon', mirroring each other. So, I chose to write in a specular form, where the second half is exactly the same as the first half, but in reverse order. I was using a visual form to try to mirror the visual aspect of the paintings.

    In this pine-sweet grove, you turned
    from man to horned and dappled stag: sentenced.
    Look how your fate reflects itself in water.

    Look! How your fate reflects itself in water
    from man to horned and dappled stag, sentenced
    for looking. In this pine-sweet grove, you turned.

    I hope my poem has provided an exciting, accessible way to look at the painting. My poem is very much about the gaze and about looking and the power of the gaze. So, I’d hope that for somebody just looking at the painting and then maybe reading or hearing the poem, it would give them a completely different perspective, and bring them closer, enable them to step inside the painting, too.

    Inspired by Titian

    Patience Agbabi

    About the video:

     

    Leading contemporary poets have been invited to respond to three Titian paintings inspired by the Diana myth.

     

    Hear Patience Agbabi describing her creative process and how she drew inspiration from the artist.

     

    Hear Patience reading from her poem 'About Face'.

     

    Find out more about the exhibition Metamorphosis: Titian 2012.

     

    More about Titian, Diana and Actaeon, 1556-9

    About the video:

     

    Leading contemporary poets have been invited to respond to three Titian paintings inspired by the Diana myth.

     

    Hear Patience Agbabi describing her creative process and how she drew inspiration from the artist.

     

    Hear Patience reading from her poem 'About Face'.

     

    Find out more about the exhibition Metamorphosis: Titian 2012.

     

    More about Titian, Diana and Actaeon, 1556-9

    Read More
     thumbnail03:38

    Inspired by Titian

    Patience Agbabi

    Movie
  • Jorma Puranen: My work is based on thinking of past and present and somehow the juxtaposition of past and present concerns.

    I've been photographing portrait paintings in different art museums for about 20 years now, and when I meet the painting in art museums, I feel like what I'm doing is knocking at the wooden frame of the painting, and asking, 'Is anybody there?' For me, the thing is about trying to create some kind of living context to reconsider the lives of these people once being portrayed.

    Perhaps the first time when I see the painting I'm interested in, is when I look at the eyes of a person once been painted – that's what most attracts me. And that's always the starting point. I move down to see all these medals and decorations all over his chest, but basically, it's eyes.

    I'm very keen on this painting really. It's fascinating how the face is very, very realistic; a naturalistic way of painting. And then suddenly, all these medals are very... with these brushstrokes and all these details are painted in a very rough way, almost like an Impressionist's way, and this contrast is very fascinating to me.

    But, also, I like all these very subtle cracks on the surface of the painting, because I like this idea of a kind of biography of a painting, that it has a history of its own. As a material historical object, it has a history of its own.

    From 20 years on, I've been interested in light, different ways of using light and reflections and shades and shadows, etc. When I was photographing the 'Wellington' piece, I was trying to place the work in a way that there was a very strong reflection of daylight on the surface of the painting. I was very interested in all these medals and decorations. I was looking at the material painting and material surfaces of this particular painting; Goya's brushstrokes and flow time and, of course, light, because I think that light is something, it makes the world visible and photography possible.

    I've been doing this series called 'Shadows and Reflections', and it's all based on portraits; historical portrait paintings in different European art museums where I have worked. If you think of those paintings, like paintings from 17th century – early 17th century, probably – so there was no electricity and the paintings were in somebody's living room, and it was very often dark, etc. So, you have to learn to look at the paintings when it's dim, and when it's almost no light at all. And they speak, and in another way, differently to you, in darkness.

    That's when the paintings and these people, become really live and present, and they start to move and talk to you over the centuries; somebody who has been living three, four hundred years ago. And that's a very moving experience, trying to imagine the lives of these people. What I'm looking for is that, I hope that finally, in my photographs, that the persons being portrayed, that they somehow hover between beyond and behind the material layers of the very painting itself.

    Artist's insight: Jorma Puranen

    Get the photographer’s perspective on Goya’s portrait

    About the video:

     

    ‘Is anybody there?’: contemporary photographer Jorma Puranen traces the figure hovering beyond and behind Goya’s portrait, 'The Duke of Wellington'.

     

    The artist’s work features in the exhibition Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present and investigates the juxtaposition of past and present, capturing Old Master paintings in a new light.

     

    About the artist:

     

    Jorma Puranen is a Helsinki-based photographer whose diverse work spans ethnography to experimentation. His more recent interests include historical painting, portraiture and landscape.

    About the video:

     

    ‘Is anybody there?’: contemporary photographer Jorma Puranen traces the figure hovering beyond and behind Goya’s portrait, 'The Duke of Wellington'.

     

    The artist’s work features in the exhibition Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present and investigates the juxtaposition of past and present, capturing Old Master paintings in a new light.

     

    About the artist:

     

    Jorma Puranen is a Helsinki-based photographer whose diverse work spans ethnography to experimentation. His more recent interests include historical painting, portraiture and landscape.

    Read More
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    Artist's insight: Jorma Puranen

    Get the photographer’s perspective on Goya’s portrait

    Movie
  • Michael Landy: Saints Alive

    In the Studio

    The Gallery's Associate Artist Michael Landy allows Alison Watt (former National Gallery Associate Artist 2006-2008) a sneak preview of his work in progress as he prepares for his exhibition 'Michael Landy: Saints Alive' - the culmination of his residency at the Gallery.

    Saints Alive is a series of large-scale kinetic sculptures and paper collages inspired by paintings of saints in the National Gallery Collection.

    The Gallery's Associate Artist Michael Landy allows Alison Watt (former National Gallery Associate Artist 2006-2008) a sneak preview of his work in progress as he prepares for his exhibition 'Michael Landy: Saints Alive' - the culmination of his residency at the Gallery.

    Saints Alive is a series of large-scale kinetic sculptures and paper collages inspired by paintings of saints in the National Gallery Collection.

    Read More
     thumbnail03:53

    Michael Landy: Saints Alive

    In the Studio

    Movie
  • Seamus Heaney: I felt either you do this immediately or you won’t do it at all. It will be too slow, and you’ll get anxious and it will build up. So, I plunged in with the Actaeon I knew, basically [The Death of Actaeon]. I worked on a free range, so to speak, on a blank canvas almost. I think if you actually stayed with the picture beforehand and dwelt with it, if I did, it might hamper me more than anything else, because it’s so absolute and so much itself that I don’t know what else you could do with it.

    I think the tumult of bodies in the other two, 'Diana and Callisto' and 'Diana and Actaeon', that kind of terrific, vivid, living congregation of flesh and pattern at the same time, beautifully, draws Ovid out far more. I suppose all the nymphs get a half a line or so in Ovid – she’s with her nymphs – but in the Titian the nymphs are very much part of the story, thoroughly present. Titian turned it to his own needs, obviously.

    I read much more about the paintings since I wrote the poem, and coming to the National Gallery after that kind of absorption in the material gave the paintings a different kind of purchase and added much more sense of occasion going to see them. So, it will make me attend to Titian much more elsewhere, everywhere, you know. He wasn’t a painter that I inhabited, but he now inhabits me a bit more, definitely, yes. They’re great masterpieces.

    Inspired by Titian

    Seamus Heaney

    About the video:

     

    Leading contemporary poets have been invited to respond to three Titian paintings inspired by the Diana myth.

     

    Hear Seamus Heaney describing his creative process and how he drew inspiration from the artist.

     

    Hear Seamus reading from his poem 'Actaeon'.

     

    Find out more about the exhibition Metamorphosis: Titian 2012.

     

    More about Titian, Diana and Actaeon, 1556-9 and Titian, The Death of Actaeon, about 1559-75

    About the video:

     

    Leading contemporary poets have been invited to respond to three Titian paintings inspired by the Diana myth.

     

    Hear Seamus Heaney describing his creative process and how he drew inspiration from the artist.

     

    Hear Seamus reading from his poem 'Actaeon'.

     

    Find out more about the exhibition Metamorphosis: Titian 2012.

     

    More about Titian, Diana and Actaeon, 1556-9 and Titian, The Death of Actaeon, about 1559-75

    Read More
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    Inspired by Titian

    Seamus Heaney

    Movie
  • Transcription Michael Landy: Saints Alive

    Background Tour

     

    ML: When I first entered the national gallery I became very aware of St Catherine, because she appears in the half the paintings. So I have been reading the golden legend.

    The saints kind of remind me of my weeds – you can tell a weed by its flower head as with the saints you can tell them by their attributes.

     

    ML: Nice to see you.

     

    JS: My name is Jennifer Sliwka -  I am a specialist in Italian Renaissance Art and I have been involved with the Gallery for quite a few years now. And in my personal research I have been very much interested in the lives of the saints. I have spent a lot of time in Italy in the archives, a lot of very close looking. And I am also quite interested in the idea of relics and bodies of saints – remnants of their clothing and how people respond when they are in the environment of a relic.

     

    I just thought of the other attribute that you often get with Catherine is her ring.

     

    ML: Oh, her ring – okay

     

    JS: Because of her mystic marriage to Christ

     

    ML: Oh yes her mystic marriage to Christ. Is that Saint Catherine of Alexandra and Saint Catherine of Sienna?

     

    JS: It’s both

     

    ML: They both had mystic marriages to Christ – was that something to do with Christ’s foreskin? Or is that completely different. I am getting all my stories mixed up.

     

    JS: That’s a different story.

     

    JS: Here’s the Jerome drawing by Durer that you were reminding me of, I couldn’t picture it in my mind, the light is so important here and that kind of early morning light, well to me that looks early morning.

     

    ML:  And why did he go to the desert in the first place, just to kind of get away from everyday life?

     

    JS: Yeah, take himself out of the every day.

     

    ML:  He seemed like a very apt Saint to begin with because he has so many different sides to him - he is an old man with a beard, but he has a six-pack. He’s a hermit, he’s a scholar, he’s a doctor of the church, he’s angry, he kind of flagellates himself and he starts. He has sexual hallucinations about the dancing girls in Rome so he starts to beat his chest with a rock. I think that I was reading last night that some artists introduced a rock at a certain point in time. So he beats his chest and kind of bloodies his chest.

     

    JS: There are some interesting passages from authors writing in the 15th century who describe, I mean alternatively you have descriptions of Jermone as this sort of  very meek and skinny man. Or as an athlete of Christ.

     

    ML: Oh really, because most of the paintings I see in the collection of Jerome he is always quite looks physically powerful. He has got huge legs and very powerful chest and arms.

     

    JS: So something to suggest the heroic I think in that case.

     

    ML: I think he had quite a wild time – well relatively wild time – for a saint when he was a young man. He kind of reminisces about the girls dancing so when he gets sexual thoughts he has to beat himself Also I like it because obviously artists they beat themselves, I beat myself up the whole time, I used to hit myself and bang my head against the wall or something just as a way to get through frustration, and I like the idea of being a hermit so you can just go away with your own thoughts and think about your art, not email anybody, you know it’s a nice kind of thought to be able to lock yourself away in a cave and make art and beat yourself up at the same time.

     

    ML: Because that is the interesting thing about Saints in a sense as an artist what can you do with them. There are certain given things like it is an interesting thing you were saying that the rock is an invention by artists and so it is like that kind of thing – what else can you do with it? Apart from what has been handed down to you by other artists and what is a given in a sense.

     

    JS: yes artistic licence

     

    ML: Because artists are always trying to find another way into it or another interpretation. So it is interesting how different artists tackle it.

     

    JS: and once there is a more or less established iconography then you feel less able to be flexible

     

    ML: Yes once there are a set kind of rules of what one can do and what one can’t do.

     

    JS: How are you to recognise a saint without certain attributes?

     

    ML: Yes completely – how are you going to introduce a whole new set of attributes people would be confused. I notice that there is some shepherd’s purse here as well.

     

    JS: This is very impressive.

     

    ML: I know shepherd’s purse because I have made etchings and the first etching that I ever made was of Shepherd’s Purse because it was round where our council estate it used to grow. It is very good at growing in the little cracks in the pavement.

     

    JS: Exactly

     

    ML: Exactly as it is now.

    Michael Landy: Saints Alive

    Background tour

    In this short film, the National Gallery's Associate Artist Michael Landy talks to Jennifer Sliwka, specialist in Italian Renaissance art about the Gallery's collection of artwork depicting saints - and how these subjects and their attributes have influenced his own work.

    The film was shot in May 2012 shortly before his 'Saints Alive' exhibition opened at the Gallery.

    In this short film, the National Gallery's Associate Artist Michael Landy talks to Jennifer Sliwka, specialist in Italian Renaissance art about the Gallery's collection of artwork depicting saints - and how these subjects and their attributes have influenced his own work.

    The film was shot in May 2012 shortly before his 'Saints Alive' exhibition opened at the Gallery.

    Read More
     thumbnail05:06

    Michael Landy: Saints Alive

    Background tour

    Movie
  • Transcript:

     

    The provisional title for the show is Saints Alive - I am not sure I will stick with that. So that is what I am kind of interested in - is making the saints come alive basically.

     

    Which painting is this taken from again I can't remember?

     

    That's the Cima

    That's the Cima yeah, well that's all the Cima that's his arm, that's his chest.

    It's come like you find these parts in a scrap yard, and all these wheels are going to be kind of sixties and seventies kind of era wheels yeah it's a clinky clanky kind of sculpture.

     

    He is essentially extracting bits of different very important paintings,

    he's pulling them all together, animating them in three dimensions and monumentalising them, for something that was teeny tiny he is suddenly blowing up times ten and I think it's going to make people feel in a whole new way, so I think what he is doing in his own project is pulling people into the paintings and getting them to ask very important questions about the paintings.

     

    We are going to go MDM in Herne Hill who basically fabricate sculptures and all sorts of things for artists, so we are going to go and visit them and see how far they have got with the St  Jerome sculpture, to just give me a kind of idea what its going to look like and the finishing touches we have to give it.

     

    It is just much bigger than I imagined...

     

    It's the size you drew it

     

    Oh I know that. Drawing them on little bits of paper and then actually seeing them in real life is completely different.

     

    That is the reason for doing the full size  mock-up.

     

    Effectively it will be pivoting here and coming down and striking the chest with the rock here.

     

    So it is the butt end of the rock will hit the chest.

     

    I didn’t discuss with you - are we going to cast the whole thing and then make that kind of incision

     

    The back of it you will be able to see the wheels and the working mechanism.

     

    We will go beyond this broken line

     

    We will probably cast the whole thing

     

    Yes, I think that is sensible -

     

    You can then chose where you want to smash it away or break it off

     

    Yes, I think we should do that.

     

    So we went to Sunbury antiques market yesterday – I was there at half past six  in the morning to buy wheels. The only problem with wheels is that they are normally attached to other things . We might keep parts of some of the mechanism, but it is predominantly looking for wheels

     

    Next we continue the on-going search for bits and pieces, components and mechanical things from various places. That is ongoing.

     

    The sculpted elements as you saw upstairs will be finished probably next week and then they will start to be cast out in the right materials and then painted.

    And the construction of the mechanism itself will start next week as well – We should have enough stuff together by then and it will slowly come together

     

    The cast elements will be out the following week and we can start actually assembling it.

     

    It will be great.

    Michael Landy: Saints Alive

    Sculpture development

    This film follows the National Gallery's Associate Artist Michael Landy's journey to produce one of the sculptures for his 'Saint's Alive' exhibition. Follow him from the conception of his ideas, to their development and animation, focusing on how he transforms saints from paintings into large-scale kinetic sculptures.

    Michael takes Jennifer Sliwka, specialist in Italian Renaissance art through his ideas, and then visits MDM studio in south London to see the production of one of his sculptures for the exhibition, 'St Jerome' in action.

    This film follows the National Gallery's Associate Artist Michael Landy's journey to produce one of the sculptures for his 'Saint's Alive' exhibition. Follow him from the conception of his ideas, to their development and animation, focusing on how he transforms saints from paintings into large-scale kinetic sculptures.

    Michael takes Jennifer Sliwka, specialist in Italian Renaissance art through his ideas, and then visits MDM studio in south London to see the production of one of his sculptures for the exhibition, 'St Jerome' in action.

    Read More
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    Michael Landy: Saints Alive

    Sculpture development

    Movie
  • Dave Brown: 'The Ambassadors' | Contemporary Artists | The National Gallery, London

    Imagine how Holbein's contemporaries felt upon looking at his political masterpiece, by studying a modern depiction. Recognise and chuckle at the modern characters and iconography within Dave Brown's satirical cartoons. With Miranda Hinkley, Dave Brown and Cathy FitzGerald. Read about the painting, learn the key facts and zoom in to discover more at the National Gallery website. http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/hans-holbein-the-younger-the-ambassadors

    Imagine how Holbein's contemporaries felt upon looking at his political masterpiece, by studying a modern depiction. Recognise and chuckle at the modern characters and iconography within Dave Brown's satirical cartoons. With Miranda Hinkley, Dave Brown and Cathy FitzGerald. Read about the painting, learn the key facts and zoom in to discover more at the National Gallery website. http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/hans-holbein-the-younger-the-ambassadors

    Read More
    Dave Brown: 'The Ambassadors' thumbnail05:48

    Dave Brown: 'The Ambassadors' | Contemporary Artists | The National Gallery, London

    Movie
  • Minna Moore Ede: One of the fantastic things about the project is that we’ve ended up with three very different artists and three extremely different responses.

    Conrad Shawcross: This room is spectacular; to see them in this room together is really beautiful. The two paintings I respond to is 'Diana and Actaeon', the first painting and 'The Death of Actaeon', and particularly 'The Death of Actaeon' is the formal composition in which I’ve arranged my vitrine. So you’ve got Diana on the left and Actaeon on the right. Diana very large and powerful, dominating the picture, Actaeon falling backwards, submissive, smaller, compromised, vulnerable, and the idea is that I've arranged the vitrine in the same dynamic. That was really the formal gestation of the piece.

    Minna Moore Ede: I particularly wanted an artist who had an almost architectural take on space and he’s an artist whose work tends to be underpinned by mathematical or scientific ideas. So automatically you’ve got an exciting possibility of someone who will really push Titian in a totally other direction.

    Conrad Shawcross: The exhibition has been really well laid out but I knew about where I was from quite a while and I purposefully have arranged the objects in the vitrine so it’s very much like 'Death of Actaeon', when you’re looking at the painting its stage left and Actaeon is stage right. We’ve done all this very subtle lighting to create the reflection of the light off the surfaces, like Titian does so well.

    Mark Wallinger: In Ovid, Actaeon is with a hunting party in the woods and he loses his way and he surprises the goddess Diana and her nymphs bathing, once seen forever smitten. And her gesture is somewhere between protection, not exactly a coyness but there’s something that’s about to turn vengeful and very ugly here. And with this blast of light across these female forms suddenly the light makes them vulnerable and I guess that was the moment that fascinated me and drew me to make the 'Diana' work.

    Minna Moore Ede: I love the idea in Mark's work, he often just turns subjects on their head, and that really fresh perspective was something I really wanted for this project.

    Mark Wallinger: We live in a world of endless titillation if you like, and I guess we also... in the last century cinema and TV has turned voyeurism into a spectator sport. I mean we sit in the dark collectively and watch films and in a way we are being put in the position of the voyeur. If we live somewhere and the lights go on in the flat opposite we look, we want to see what’s going on. So things don’t change, it’s the vehicle by which we get allowed to see a human being naked and vulnerable is perhaps different, but it's about trying to reimagine that encounter and make the viewer momentarily a little uncomfortable.

    Minna Moore Ede: We had to have a painter because Titian was a virtuoso painter. So it was always very important to have that legacy and I realised the he was an artist that could go on a really big scale. He’s also an artist who is not shy of looking at narrative subjects, Biblical subjects and that was very important because, you know, that’s quite rare actually with contemporary painters.

    Chris Ofili: There was a period when I was trying to think 'Oh, what's the Olympian world like? What would these people actually look like?' I had a little bit of help from a friend in Trinidad who studied Classics in Holland. So he was able to just tell me like the basics of it and that actually there’s nothing special about it. Humans don’t change, we just change our look but we're pretty much do the same things as they did all those years ago, right? So then I was able to exhale and think 'OK, it’s alright, I can just kind of make some of this stuff up'.

    Titian made it up too. What I did notice quite quickly was that my approach to the painting changed. That’s when it started to get a bit tricky because I didn’t know if... where I was or where I was going with the work was any good, wasn’t tried and tested. But once I relaxed with that and let go then I was able in the tenth painting to get to this state of just kind of more loose and relaxed.

    Minna Moore Ede: It's very much part of what art does, it looks back and it responds, but that response always yields something new or should always yield something new. And that says something about the original source work so it shows you what very rich paintings those Titians are.

    The Artists on the Artist

    Three contemporary artists take inspiration from one Old Master

    About the video:

     

    Contemporary artists Chris Ofili, Conrad Shawcross and Mark Wallinger explore the three Titian paintings at the heart of the exhibition Metamorphosis: Titian 2012, which inspired their own creative production for the show.

     

    Hear from the artists and exhibition curator Minna Moore Ede as they discuss the production and display of their original works – 'Trophy', 'Diana' and 'Metamorphoses'.

     

    Find out more about the artists, poets and choreographers involved in the Metamorphosis project, a unique collaboration with The Royal Ballet

    About the video:

     

    Contemporary artists Chris Ofili, Conrad Shawcross and Mark Wallinger explore the three Titian paintings at the heart of the exhibition Metamorphosis: Titian 2012, which inspired their own creative production for the show.

     

    Hear from the artists and exhibition curator Minna Moore Ede as they discuss the production and display of their original works – 'Trophy', 'Diana' and 'Metamorphoses'.

     

    Find out more about the artists, poets and choreographers involved in the Metamorphosis project, a unique collaboration with The Royal Ballet

    Read More
     thumbnail05:42

    The Artists on the Artist

    Three contemporary artists take inspiration from one Old Master

    Movie
  • Miranda Hinkley (in the studio): Leonardo da Vinci’s work has influenced many artists down the centuries.... among them contemporary British painter, Jenny Saville. Fascinated by the body and the flesh, Saville is best-known for her outsized paintings of female nudes... and last year, exhibited a series of three drawings – collectively entitled 'Reproduction' – depicting multiple impressions of mother and child. The works were directly inspired by Renaissance nativity scenes, and in particular, a highlight of the current exhibition. Leonardo’s 'The Virgin and Child with St Anne and John the Baptist' – also known as 'The Burlington House Cartoon' – depicts the Virgin contending with a lively Christ-child. Colin Wiggins caught up with Jenny after her visit to the show, and began by asking how long Leonardo’s 'Cartoon' had been important to her.

    Jenny Saville: Since I can’t remember, actually. It was in my parent’s house – a reproduction of it – and I moved house quite a lot in my childhood and that drawing... for some reason my parents used to the paintings up, or the reproductions of paintings up, first, wherever we moved to and so this drawing would reappear somewhere, and I literally used to go and visit the drawing on my way to school so it was the last thing I saw before I left the house. And eventually it became such a thing that my parents actually used to hang it in the lobby on the door on the way out because they knew how much I liked to look at it. And I didn’t really acknowledge the subject matter that much... what it was, it was the revolving forms. I couldn’t work out which leg belonged to who...and this sort of endless movement, which seemed to have an internal structure that I didn’t understand – and the poetry of it...

    Colin Wiggins: So you’re a child and it has a kind of talismanic importance to you?

    Jenny Saville: Yeah, and when I was learning to drawn... I mean his anatomical studies, I used to copy those a lot... I’ve done endless copies of his hands... I mean when you’re interested in drawing the figure, there’s no one better to go and have a look at.

    The hand works because the flesh sits on a structure and most artists don’t understand that structure. And it’s the combination of that scientific view, mixed with a very poetic view that makes him quite astounding. And I don’t think anybody in art history, probably, has studied to that kind of level really. But these interlocking legs – you see this in Michelangelo... I mean this dictates the next sort of 20 or 30 years of art. Even the climbing forms of Michelangelo come out of this sort of drawing. Because I noticed when you do multiple forms one on top of one another, new forms emerge, just by themselves – and that’s when it gets interesting... how come this form? How come that form? And then you’re on a ride that’s internal to the drawing. That’s what makes it so fascinating because it’s not about the external world, it’s about the internal world of the drawing itself, so it’s to do with the making and that’s what I think he was tapping into at that time.

    Colin Wiggins: And the whole show – what was your reaction when we first dropped you in this amazing exhibition with hardly anybody in there, before it’s open to the public?

    Jenny Saville: I think what I got off it that I didn’t expect was the level of exquisiteness – it’s unbelievably exquisite – and I think it’s so profoundly poetic and the drawings, I think are... I find the drawings more forgiving because I can work out what’s going on. And I think it’s a treat to see 'The Virgin of the Rocks', both versions of that – you’re never going to see that again – even Leonardo didn’t see that so it’s an unbelievable treat. And to see the 'Cartoon' at a better height for my viewing is really brilliant. But I love his curiosity – I mean he lives an artist’s life, like a real artist’s life, in terms of this endless child-like, not child-ish, but child-like curiosity and that desire to see – and the only way to understand is through seeing and the importance of sight – is just always with me.

    Someone told me at art school, if you’re going to have heroes, make sure they’re very good. So I’ve always lived with that. I always like artists that are the really great ones (laugh).

    Miranda Hinkley (in the studio): You've been listening to an extract from the National Gallery Podcast. You can subscribe to the monthly show by visiting www.nationalgallery.org.uk/podcasts

    Artist's insight

    Painter Jenny Saville on the influence of Leonardo on her own work

    About the podcast clip:

     

    Contemporary British artist Jenny Saville, famous for her large-scale paintings of female nudes, tells Colin Wiggins how she takes inspiration from Renaissance nativity scenes and The Burlington House Cartoon by Leonardo da Vinci.

     

    From the National Gallery Podcast: Episode Sixty Two (December 2011)

     

    Find out more about the 2011 exhibition, Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan

     

    More about Leonardo da Vinci, 1452-1519 

    About the podcast clip:

     

    Contemporary British artist Jenny Saville, famous for her large-scale paintings of female nudes, tells Colin Wiggins how she takes inspiration from Renaissance nativity scenes and The Burlington House Cartoon by Leonardo da Vinci.

     

    From the National Gallery Podcast: Episode Sixty Two (December 2011)

     

    Find out more about the 2011 exhibition, Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan

     

    More about Leonardo da Vinci, 1452-1519 

    Read More
     thumbnail04:51

    Artist's insight

    Painter Jenny Saville on the influence of Leonardo on her own work

    Movie
  • Wayne McGregor: What’s fantastic about being in this room, of course you are again overwhelmed by the Titians and them all being in one place, but more than that, I think what is incredible about the room is you have these apertures where you see alternative worlds that these paintings have stimulated and resourced.

    Jonathan Watkins: I love the fact that it was created so long ago and it’s still inspiring.

    Will Tuckett: It’s been a real gift to work on something that allows you to look at paintings and read something in a way that you never otherwise would have done. You'd never have looked at it in that detail and thought about how you feel about it and how you want other people to feel about it.

    I think for me the thing that was interesting actually looking particularly at Diana, was working with Marianela [Nuñez]; she’s goddess of the hunt and to have somebody embody that, who most of the time is not required to have that fierce fury. I think Marianela managed to embody that beautifully.

    Wayne McGregor: I think what still strikes me about the actual paintings is still the power relationships and they’re more vivid in the paintings now that I see them at scale and human size.

    Kim Brandstrup: Conrad was very interested in this diagonal between the big figure in the front and the little one in the back. And that it shifts from being first Diana and then Actaeon is the 'victim' as such. There is a beautiful softness, even as powerful as Diana is. And I think my take on it is this sensual softness that comes out of these paintings.

    Alastair Marriott: Something that Titian is dealing with in the paintings is a similar thing to what as a choreographer we deal with, which is how you portray women.

    Obviously when this was painted all those years ago it was probably painted with the idea that men would be looking at it, and so this is a man’s idea of how he wants you to see these woman. In the same way we do that with women at the [Royal] Opera House: we build ballets around them. Especially being a feminine art form, that usually the woman is at the centre of a ballet, but it’s often a man who creates the image of the woman.

    Wayne McGregor: No art form is ever finished, even if it’s fixed on paint, and I think one of the fantastic things about Titian is that it’s in this constant state of flux. And so I think that in 500 years it will also be used again as the beginning of something else.

    Titian in Dance

    Hear how choreographers were inspired by Titian to create new ballets

    About the video:

     

    Join leading choreographers as they discuss the three Titian paintings at the heart of the exhibition Metamorphosis: Titian 2012, which inspired the production of three new ballets performed at the Royal Opera House in July 2012.

     

    Featuring interviews with choreographers Will Tuckett, Wayne McGregor, Jonathan Watkins, Kim Brandstrup and Alastair Marriott, and behind-the-scenes footage from the ballet rehearsals.

     

    You can also watch extracts from the ballets performed at the Royal Opera House.

    About the video:

     

    Join leading choreographers as they discuss the three Titian paintings at the heart of the exhibition Metamorphosis: Titian 2012, which inspired the production of three new ballets performed at the Royal Opera House in July 2012.

     

    Featuring interviews with choreographers Will Tuckett, Wayne McGregor, Jonathan Watkins, Kim Brandstrup and Alastair Marriott, and behind-the-scenes footage from the ballet rehearsals.

     

    You can also watch extracts from the ballets performed at the Royal Opera House.

    Read More
     thumbnail03:45

    Titian in Dance

    Hear how choreographers were inspired by Titian to create new ballets

    Movie
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