SWISS CHINESE ARTIST ANGELA LYN’S REACTION TO THE LATEST ‘THE PILL’ (VIMEO ABOVE) ON HOW THE ROYAL INSTITUTE OF BRITISH ARCHITECTS MADE A MISTAKE BY AWARDING THEIR GOLD MEDAL TO ZAHA HADID’S IS INTERESTING. I AM SAYING THIS BECAUSE SHE CONGRATULATES THE CURATOR OF ONE OF FRANCIS BACON’S EXHIBITION FOR ALLOWING THE VIEWER TO SEE HOW REPETITIVE AND COMMODIFIED THE ART OF THE BRITON CAN BE. HER REASON FOR THIS IS HIS ‘LACK OF WILLINGNESS TO ENGAGE’ BUT…WHAT DOES SHE MEAN BY ‘WILLINGNESS TO ENGAGE’? THIS COMES AS A SURPRISE FROM AN ARTIST LIKE LYNN WHOSE WORK COULD VERY EASILY BE QUALIFIED AS REPETITIVE AND DISENGAGED. THE CONVERSATION BEGINS…
ANGELA LYN SAYS:
Just watched your pill- with great interest. Whilst watching I had to recall an experience I had at the retrospective of Francis Bacon at the Beyeler museum some years ago. As a young painter I was sucked in deeply by Bacon and had read with avid hunger, anything I could find on his work. It was only later that i begun to find his images somehow fell short of the ideas he spoke about. It was in the retrospective that this came into focus. In the exhibition, there was an amazing small self portrait by Rembrandt. It had been for Bacon, one of the mile stone inspirations of his journey as a painter. It was in that Rembrandt portrait that I suddenly saw all the gestures that Bacon had addressed, in particular in his conversations with David Sylvester, but which in his own work had ultimately become a sort of illustration. A description of something happening rather than something happening within itself. Rembrandt’s handling of the paint through his relentless enquiry into seeing evoked participation: an experience that led one into the existential reality of being. I recall the temporality of the meat on the cheeks, still breathing and present. A level of observation that was almost unbearable. Next to this, the credibility of Bacon’s gestures and unmeasured amounts of paint, suddenly seemed pale and superfluous. As if they were simply trying to get attention, paradoxically lacking a willingness to engage. It was a tremendously enriching experience to witness this. A priceless bit of curating.
The experience came to my mind again whilst listening to your astute mention of the power of the Berlin Holocaust monument drawing the visitor in on an existential and experiential level- evoking participation – and how this puts the spectacular effects of Zaha Hadid to question, certainly when asking what is the point of all her gestural excessiveness.
I remember feeling grateful to the curator of that Bacon retrospective: to have facilitated the possibility to experience the difference in those portraits. That is when art criticism and cultural institutions are contributing something I thought to myself. I had a similar feeling this morning, following your argument about Zaha Hadid.
All the best,
IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN MY INTERVIEW WITH ANGELA LYN, THIS IS YOUR CHANCE