This week’s create date was an art gallery visit. At the instigation of The Daughter, I finally got round to visiting Newport Street Gallery, Damien Hirst’s gorgeous gift to London.
The first thing you meet is a room full of beautiful topless or barely bra-ed women. And then another. Some of them are mirrored or doubled, some have their facial features obscured. They have blobs and flurries of abstract expressionist brushstrokes all over them.
The titles are thought-provoking and amusing. “A Difficult Set of Instructions” where geometery meets violence; “My Favourite Terrible Ideas” two topless women with brightly colored hair; “And I Cursed the Sun for Rising”, is a giant dinner party, “The Bullet Screams Past” two female faces, one on top of the other, fingers to their mouths in shock.
And their arrangement, is intriguing. The gallery notes say Copeland is fascinated by “any arrangement that involves interaction between the figures” and this interaction within his canvas is amplifed by the studio arrangment.
I didn’t know anything about the artist before going along and I didn’t twig that it was a man. Sure, the pictures are sexy in a conventional, Playboy sort of way, but they are also awash with ambiguity.
As one painting reflects off another, our gazeis drawn away from the first, facile sexual interpretation to look again.
The Brooklyn-based artist describes the content of the canvases as a ‘starting point for a conversation or a digression… like a riddle or a bit of a poem [that] raises questions that aren’t really answerable’.
This certainly describes what I think is my favorite picture, and the biggest picture in the show, “And I Cursed the Sun for Rising”, is a giant dinner party, a play on all those feasts we’ve seen in all those grand master paintings.
More than fifty figures sitting around a set of tables, leaning, talking, eating but something’s not right. Are they just old folks? Or mentally ill? Homeless? I found myself looking at it for the longest time and still thinking about it today.
Your hell is also my heaven, perhaps?
All in all, I preferred the room where people had their clothes on but, naked or not, there’s more to Copeland’s painterly spectacles than first meets the pre-conditioned eye.
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