It’s nearly Valentine’s day and the world seems to be awash with love stories. I thought I would share with you, some of the loves of my life (aside from the husband and kids). These are my top ten artworks. These artworks spoke to me on such a profound level they have found a place inside of my soul. Plus, as my miss-spent youth in pubs would tell me, everyone loves a list. I thought this would be an easy task, a few jumped to mind instantly but like any top ten, the pressure to assign places to things that sing to your soul is a tricky thing. This was also an interesting exercise in a year I have labelled ‘Identity’. What do these artworks say about me and my tastes? What do you think when you read these? Are there ones that would make your list? Are there any you don’t know?
I would love to hear what would make your top ten ‘Desert Island Art’? Which art works belong to you?
Here are mine:
1. Hammershoi, Vilhem (1864-1916) Dust Motes Dancing in the Sunbeams (1900). Hammershoi is the master of stillness, quietness and nothingness. His empty rooms are so unspeakably beautiful that they stay with you like ghosts. In particular I’m thinking of his exceptional painting ‘Dust motes’ I first came across Hammershoi’s work from a recommendation by a friend, the reproductions I found in books were enough for me to write my Master’s dissertation on the painter and travel to Copenhagen to seek out his work.
2. Rothko, Mark (1903-1970). The Seagram Murals (1958) Like many people I have a special place for these paintings, they were the first paintings that I had a visceral reaction to. The way they are exhibited in Tate Modern excites me to the power of painting as a full spiritual experience. Over the years I have seen them countless times. They have become like old friends, I like to pop in to see them whenever I am in London. Everyone should try to see these paintings once.
3. Olafur Eliasson (b. 1967) The Weather Project (2004). This blew my mind. He filled Tate Modern’s echoing Turbine Hall with a sun. The scale and scope of this exhibition was beyond anything that art had been for me. My young adolescent-self became hooked on what art could be and could do for the viewer. I think this sort of experience comes once in a lifetime and usually when you are least expecting it.
4. Anna Ancher (1859-1935) Sunlight in the Blue Room 1891. This overlooked Danish painter from Skagen (an artist colony in a remote part of Denmark), came to me via my research into Hammershoi. This painting of an interior has a domestic charm that speaks to me as a mother. Ancher has an ability to tell a narrative of domestic life through her painting that makes the viewer want to look. This is a painting I could quite happily live with as it’s just delightful.
5. Hokusai, Katshushika. (1760-1849) The Great Wave (1831). I was given a little book of Hokusai’s work by my dad when I was a teenager. The simple beauty and truth in the images sparked a life long love of that Japanese aesthetic. The clarity of line and the choice of subject matter has informed so much of my artistic pursuits. I still love my little book of Hokusai.
6. Monet, Claude (1840-1926) Water lilies (1914-1926). These three paintings. These installations are about ambition, dedication and a life’s work. I saw them in New York and they nearly floored me, I couldn’t take in the magnitude of his vision. I tried but they left me overwhelmed. These paintings, like Rothko’s, are artworks I need to spend time with, to contemplate, but New York is a little harder to get to then London. Last year The Royal Academy held an exhibition of Monet’s work which would include these paintings. I could go back and finish my unfinished business. This time I would be prepared. I had hyped up these paintings and why they were so epic. The scale, the colour palette, the application of paint. I greedily walked through the exhibition and there were lots of lovely large canvases of the water lilies from his garden at Giverny, but none on the scale I remembered. I thought my memory had played tricks on me, feeling disappointed and slightly confused I walked out of what I thought was an exit. And there, in a gallery all on their own were my Water Lilies, and I nearly cried. I hope I will get to see them again, if only to make peace with them. (* after publishing my post I have found out there are a number of these large scale Water lilies triptychs, my new amended hope is that I get to experience as many as possible...two down...)
7. Wallis, Alfred. (1855-1942) The Hold House (1932) His works are humble and beautiful and speak of a desire to paint. I feel close to him because of his honesty. His work captures the charm of the South West and gives me a sense of nostalgia. They remind me of spending time in St Ives, this is the love of a childhood friendship.
8. Otto Knapp, Silke (b.1970) Single Figure (2005). I first saw her work at Tate Britain over a decade ago. She achieves a fragility with the thin layers of paint that gives them an uncanny sense of depth and narrative, like looking through a haze at your own memories.
9. Wyeth, Andrew. (1917-2009) Christina’s World, (1948). This painting is haunting and lead me into the world of Magical Realism in both painting and literature. And it’s a wonderful world, full of imagination, familiar stories and the magic of the everyday.
10. Whistler, James Abbott Mcneill. (1834-1903) Nocturne: Blue and Silver- Chelsea (1871). Whistler was a complete maverick, he had an ability to think about the whole experience of a painting and his series of Nocturnes speak of the magic of darkness and what this does to our senses. He understood the tactile quality of paint and I could spend hours in the company of his paintings.
There it is, my top ten. The thing is, like real love, it is not a fixed thing and the more experiences I have and the more art and artists I gather up this list will change and grow. Each one offering me a small slice of this interesting world. But I would still like one more chance to see those Water Lilies... I wonder if I ever will… Go and see, open your eyes and your heart, wonderful things will happen.