The luxury of viewing art in Europe is a special bonus on any trip. One of the first things I did on reaching Holland, was to check on the exhibitions that were on this summer. Its not that I am an artist or understand a whole lot about art, but there is a visual connect that lightens the heart.
And so, a trip into Amsterdam to see ‘The Oasis of Matisse’ at the Stedelijk was on the cards. The Stedelijk is the museum of contemporary and modern art and has an impressive permanent collection. My bother Ananth and I had made a leisurely visit on an earlier trip to browse through the permanent collection. It is housed in a modern building on the periphery of the Mueseumplein, which also has the Rijkmuseum and Van Gogh museums.
Henri Matisse, one of the French Greats, went far beyond paintings and experimented with a wide variety of mediums. This beautifully curated exhibition had samples of his paintings through various phases of his evolution as an artist along with works of contemporaries who either influenced him (Picasso, Pissaro etc) or were influenced by him. It showed the various other media that he worked with, such as stage costumes, bronze sculptures and the famous ‘cut outs’. He lived to the age of 85, but after his surgery for an abdominal cancer in 1942 he was wheelchair bound. He had assistants who made the cut outs and he conducted their placement and colors, like a conductor with an orchestra. These are enormous in scale and the colors and composition allows your imagination to soar.
I have already written of my visits to the Mauritshuis and Panorama Mesdag in The Hague. But as I wandered from the first to the second place in the Hague, through a typical Dutch City Cetraal, I passed a series of art studios. And I could not resist visiting these – it seems apparent that the Dutch art tradition is alive and kicking. I remember, a few years ago taking a similar stroll through the end of Haarlem that had the art studios – also packed with local artists. And in one of these, Smelik Stokking, there were these pieces in bronze of birds – absolutely exquisite!! I almost bought one, but the weight dissuaded me. I can close my eyes even now and see the life and song in the group of birds…….
England has its own strong art traditions. And a fairly robust tradition of supporting art in many forms, with museums, public installations etc. So, one of the items on my agenda during a short 5 day visit to West Yorkshire, was a trip to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. This is located just south of Leeds, 500 acres of rolling English country side in what was the grounds of the 18th century designed Bretton Estate.
It has a treasure house of great works by the British artists, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Roger Horns, Elisabeth Frink, William Turnbull, David Nash and others besides works by International artists.
Although my response to sculpture is not as warm as to painting, this open air display was stupendous. It is, I learn one of the largest open air permanent exhibitions and rated by many to be the best in the world. It charges no entrance fee and a minimal parking fee, encouraging large number of visitors. On this warm sunny day, families were picnicking, elderly couples were sun bathing, kids were playing while the sheep lazily went grazing around them. I cannot think of a greater way to promote art or appreciation for the arts. And there were no ‘Do not touch’ signs anywhere.
And of course, as was expected of English weather, after 4 sunny days, Monday morning was wet and miserable. So we took off to the village of Soltaire, a model village built in 1951 by Sir TItus Salt. It has been a World Heritage Site since 2001 and the mill has been retro fitted to house a theatre, art galleries and shops. The interiors are magnificent and gallery displays large number of works by the famous English artist David Hockney, who belongs to this area.
An exhibition of iPad generated art by him was on an interesting theme – the same lane as seen by him through the changes of the seasons. Colors were startling and ver pleasing, the ideas was appealing – but the pictures did not affect me in any way! It got me thinking – you do not need to master the art of the brush stroke any more! Or is it that only those who have mastered it can get away with an iPad?? Does it matter what medium is used?
And I wonder, where is art going? The mediums will evolve and change – but as long there is color and imagination and the results do that ‘something’ when I see it, it is art that I like.