Friday, 23 June 2017

Garageland visits the Venice Biennale

Kirsty Buchanan acts as Garageland tour guide for this year's Venice Biennale, where she trembles at the Irish pavilion and joins a whale hunt in the arsenale. 

Huguette Caland's sensual line drawings and wearable dresses

This year the theme of the Biennale was VIVA ARTE VIVA a title which excited me with its bold and simple exclamation. 

In the Arsenale there seemed to be a focus on earth conscious, hippy world art such as Bonnie Ora Sherk’s work about the Crossroads Community or Ilana Halperin’s video documentation of what appeared to be a forest community of women holding hands in a circle. I particularly enjoyed these video works as they had a nostalgic feel to them.

The biggest problem with the Arsenale is the layout, it is long and dark and rammed full. It can feel like a jumble sale, especially accentuated this year by the overabundance of loose threads and scraps of material which also seemed to be a theme. There are so many artworks all crammed in and it was a shame to see Karla Black’s tender, powdery pink sculpture cordoned into a corner opposite a clashing tapestry. As a fan of Black’s work I almost didn’t recognise it, and was both sad and irritated that it couldn’t be exhibited with more consideration.

Whale Hunt, Kananginak Pootoogook

My absolute favourite discovery was eighty-six year old, Lebanese artist Huguette Caland, with her beautiful sensual line drawings and witty and wearable dresses. I also enjoyed being submerged in the large watery Whale Hunt drawings by Kananginak Pootoogook. His drawings record the transitions of Inuit life in the Canadian Arctic with particularly delicate colours. In exhibitions like this I always seek out drawings and cling to them like floating buoyancy aids in a plane crash of clashing colours and ugly debris.

Before I went to Venice I was excited to see the Irish Pavilion, which was located in the Arsenale this year. Jessie Jones’ exhibition, entitled Tremble Tremble was hypnotic and exhilarating. Tessa Giblin describes Jones’ work as a commemoration of sorts for the generations of women persecuted, tortured and murdered as witches through time and a ‘tremble tremble’ between generations, linking them to us in the present.

Giacometti, Flora Hubbard

In the Giardini, I found the Swiss Pavillion entitled Woman of Venice, named after Giacometti’s famous sculptures, particularly interesting as it touched on the forgotten women and their complex relationships with male artists (one of my favourite topics). The exhibition included a bust of Giacometti by his lover Flora Hubbard. There was also a video about Flora by Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler. Sadly I didn’t manage to watch the whole video, but it has given me a thirst to discover more. Interestingly, Giacometti refused to exhibit in the Venice Biennale as he didn’t agree with its inherent nationalism, and his brother Bruno Giacometti was the architect for the Swiss national pavilion.

Philip Guston in conversation with the masters.

Elsewhere in the city, the Philip Guston exhibition located at Gallerie dell'Accademia was wonderful and I would strongly recommend seeing it; a celebration of painting and drawing with a focus on Guston’s ongoing conversation with the masters. And you can visit those masters themselves whilst you are at the Gallerie dell'Accademia, which I recommend.

I was lucky enough to see the Intuition exhibition at the Palazzo Fortuny, (there was a queue around the block to get in) the last of the exhibitions curated by Axel Vervoordt and Daniela Ferretti, directors of the Palazzo Fortuny. It really is on a completely different level. I would try and explain why it is amazing but it is hard for me to not sound too gushy. Every time I turned a corner I was blown away. The theme this year was Intuition and it was such a fascinating survey of artists who employ intuition in their work, from Neolithic menhirs to Hilma of Klint's spirit paintings. I think it might be the most perfect exhibition.

Hilda of Klint at the Palazzo Fortuny

Like last time I was In Venice, there was a full moon which, combined with the electricity of lightning in the distance, seemed to cast a strange spell over everyone and everything, including the surrounding water of the lagoon that flooded​​​​ Saint Mark's square.

Kirsty Buchanan

The 57th Venice Biennale runs 13th May - 26th November 2017

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