Thursday 14 January 2016

Review by Dips Patel of “Pure Presence: Alberto Giacometti” – an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery

Pure Presence: Alberto Giacometti
15 October 2015 – 10 January 2016
National Portrait Gallery

The Artist's Mother: Oil on canvas, 1950 
Of all the artists in all the studios in all the world he has to be the singular inspiration for my own daubs and doodlins. I’ve seen his work both as a collection of just his work and as part of a collection in so many galleries and museums all over the world, but this is the first time I’ve had a chance to see a focus on his portraiture (with some nods to his sculptural work). While, weirdly, his sculptures have had the loudest influence on my (2D) work, it’s his paintings and drawings that have had the deepest emotional impact. 
Woman of Venice VIII: Bronze, 1956
You’d recognise his 3D work straight off the bat (really thin, gaunt figures that scream isolation and emotional disconnect) but the 2D stuff is where the real power lies as that’s where the philosophical heart lies of his vision and it is a vision. The later work is what really got me the first time I came across his work (back during the pre-Cambrian era, also known as my college years) cos it was the first time I’d seen paintings painted like it was a drawing. That’s not very clear (‘clear as mud dip.. bloody nutter’); he painted like he was drawing, so he wielded his paintbrush and used paint like we use a pen and ink and it helped create a singular vision and style which makes him an absolute giant of modern art. 
Diego: Oil on canvas, 1959
There was one piece in particular ‘Figure Grise’ (tete en gris), 1957 that had me spellbound for a good half hour/forty mins, floating, shimmering would be more apt, on the wall and with each forward step taken towards it, it appeared to recede further away into itself, simply withdrawing to the point where up close, and I mean right up close, it’s nothing more than a series of worked and reworked lines of paint. Get too close and invade its personal space and it would simply disappear, maddeningly indifferent to my presence a detached curiosity haughtily asking ‘who are you looking at? me? hmm? Get back there, go on, keep going..’. Only when I stood almost on the other side of the room (a good 15/20 feet away or thereabouts) did it really look like it felt comfortable with me looking at it, demanding I keep my distance and it would play nice. 
Figure Grise (tete en gris): Oil on Canvas, 1957
Like a small child, reticent and reserved in the company of strangers but curious of what they’re doing, a child that runs away at the first sign of your approach but given a bit of time it’ll get used to you – yup, that’s how I felt when I was looking at that painting; and you might feel the same: it’ll come to you, but not before it’s ready.
Self-Portrait: Paper on pencil, c1923-4

About the reviewer
Dips Patel is a graduate in Graphic Design which means he can colour in without going over the lines and when he does he makes it look deliberate, cool and edgy. He much prefers fine art where the art of talking nonsense is finer still allowing him extremely moderate success in introducing his work to a wider audience. Hobbies include reading stuff, watching stuff, commendably misguided attempts at painting stuff and consuming copious amounts of coco pops, clementines, curries, cakes and cocktails, not all at the same time which is frowned upon in polite society.

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