17 April 2020
Hello the MLE,
Like me, have you ever wondered the meaning of that French painting Gabrielle d’Estrées and One of Her Sisters (ca. 1594)?
The woman with the light hair is Gabrielle d’Estrées, mistress of King Henry IV of France, and the other with her dark hair is her sister, the Duchess de Villars. They turn half towards the viewer as they sit in a bathtub lined with silk. The hand of the woman on the left pinches the nipple of the woman on the right, her index finger and thumb forming a perfect “C.”
What is going on here? Well, there are three interpretations…
1) A sexualized queer and incestuous scene
- In France during the 16-century, lesbian relationships were not completely unknown.
- We can assume the presence of female viewers as well as male, queer as well as straight.
- Throughout history the painting has been received as though it depicts a lesbian relationship (eg, the 19th century, for instance, a Louvre museum official reportedly covered up the “lewd” painting with a sheet).
2) A coded announcement of a royal pregnancy
- The fingers wrapped around Gabrielle’s nipple symbolizes her fertility, an allusion emphasized by the presence of the figure sewing baby’s clothes in the back of the painting.
- Most art historians interpret the painting as an announcement that Gabrielle is pregnant with the King’s illegitimate son.
3) A male hetero erotic fantasy
- The emphasis on the erotic possibilities between sisters.
- Gabrielle’s status as a mistress.
- Gabrielle sexualized and stripped even when relaying a pregnancy announcement.
- The boring fact that depictions of something resembling lesbian arousal is often in the eventual service of male heterosexuality.
So there you go! Have a nice weekend!
16 September 2019
Hello the MLE,
I left the exhibition and stopped to watch all the people everywhere, each with their own particular identities, their own particular façades, each looking like a Cindy Sherman character… One of those special moments when you can really feel that art has slightly changed your outlook on the world (as cheesy as that sounds).
I was lucky to catch this major retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery here in London, that covered the development of Sherman’s work from the mid-1970s to present day. Sherman is famous for her use of make-up, costumes, props and prosthetics to create complex and ambiguous photographic images. She invents fictitious characters, photographing herself in imaginary situations, inhabiting a world of pure appearance.
My sister commented about how she always likes to imagine what the artist behind the work is really like as a person. Would she like to be friends with them? But she had no idea what Cindy Sherman would be like, judging by her art. And that is the point. Her art is “a lesson in throwing followers off a trail, keeping up a legend and putting on a disguise, hiding in plain sight and going undercover.”
My favourites were the series called, “Socialites,” a series of well, ageing socialites (a few featured here). I found the description particularly funny that it was a bit of a sensitive issue, as these characters could easily resemble some of her art collectors!
7 June 2019
Finally saw this exhibition! It was one of the best I've seen in ages. I have never seen so little change over time in an artist's work or life - and the fact that it works is incredible.They met at Saint Martin's School of Art in the 60s, and have been a couple ever since.Since meeting, they have also worked together as "Gilbert and George" ever since.They have been living in the same house on Fournier Street in London since the 60s as well.They've been wearing nothing but tweed suits for the past 50 years.They have been going to the same cafe for breakfast at the end of my street for about the past 20 years. (I've seen them there! The owners told me that once Madonna surprised them for breakfast, as she really wanted to meet them and this caf was one of the least likely places anyone would expect to find her).
They have also been going to the same Turkish restaurant in Dalston for dinner everyday for about the past 20 years.Finally, the medium of their art has been pretty much the same for the past 50 years as well: huge pieces make up of many squares, almost always very bright colours featuring red, and almost always featuring the pair, looking directly at the viewer. You can be in a room with a different artwork from a different decade on each wall, but they all blend seamlessly together. And often you cannot tell when the piece was even made. So little change.I often say that, living in London, I never have to change, because change is happening so quickly all around me, all the time. Sometimes it is a struggle to hang on, so Gilbert and George feel reassuring...
Top image: 1977
Middle image: 1984
Bottom image: 2013Suzan
1 March 2019
Last night heard London's Gentle Author, of the famous Spitalfields Life site, speak to artist Doreen Fletcher. Really interesting, amazing and refreshing to listen to the sincere passion both have for East London.
You can read the details at the links mentioned here, but very briefly, Doreen had been painting East London from the early 80s to the early 2000s. She then stopped when she started working a more secure 9-5 job. As she said in the talk, "I did not want to be just a Saturday/Sunday painter." The Gentle Author then discovered her and was amazed to find that she still had dozens of paintings hidden away in her attic. Well, she is now finally gaining the reputation she deserves - in fact she has now converted her attic to a studio and has started painting again.
Her retrospective is at Bow Arts until March 24th, 2019.
Above are just a few paintings that I really like, if only because they are only one minute from my house! I walk past each of these places almost every day.
15 February 2019RICHARD PRINCE joke seriesHi MLE, How the written word can be used to convey a message, not only literally, but also visually, as always been a bit of an obsession for me. Religious calligraphy, dada poetry, even people’s handwriting… So, when Richard Prince’s “Early Joke Paintings” came to London, at the Skarstedt Gallery, I had to check it out.Spanning the period from 1988 - 1992, the format for each joke it always the same. Each joke is isolated on a large canvas, painted in plain block letters against a field of colour.On a canvas in a gallery, they seem strangely out of context. The jokes get repeated, reframed. They go from funny to not funny to annoying.As Time Out's Eddy Frankel said, "Maybe the joke’s on us. And if it is, then it’s absolutely hilarious."I noticed that one of these paintings sold recently for $2.5 USD. If I had the cash, I would definitely invest.Have a nice weekend!Suzan