When he was talking about his sculpture “The Walking Man,” Rodin comes up with the wonderful quote: “It is not my Walking Man in himself that interests me, but rather the thought of how far he has come, and how far he has yet to cover.”
“The Burghers of Calais” being paraded before the public.
This quote I feel applies both to the recent British Museum exhibition “Rodin and the art of ancient Greece,” which examines the influence of the sculptures from antiquity, in particular the Parthenon, on Rodin, and also Rodin’s own philosophy that enjoyed the effect that time has on sculptures (the lack of limbs, heads and general knocks that they have taken over the millennia), and makes a feature of it in his own work.
The Elgin marbles in the British Museum never really grabbed my attention before, but this exhibition made me have a truly great respect and admiration for the sculpture created by Pheidias. The man was a genius in how he could transform and manipulate the cold hard and heavy marble into living flesh, and to make it look as if it weighed hardly anything.
Apart from the drawing at the top of Rodin’s “The Burghers of Calais”, for which I found a convenient seat, it was too crowded in the exhibition to be able to draw anything comfortably, so I took myself off to the Parthenon Gallery within the British Museum to view the remnants that didn’t make it to the exhibition, and here I managed to draw this horses head, originally one of four that was pulling a god’s chariot from out of the waves.
Jumping out at Russell Square tube station, I noticed these doors at the end of the platform and was immediately drawn in by the arrangement of the security seal tape, and it’s constant removal and replacement along the vertical openings of the doors.
There is something paradoxical that the seals have been put in place and removed so many times. The cabinets being broken into, and then taped over again and again, as if some drama, a crime thriller is taking place with the repeat button firmly pushed down.
The vertical arrangement also reminds me strongly of the “Hanging Soap Women, 2000” sculpture by the Polish artist Miroslav Balka, of which, I believe, half of it is in the Tate Modern collection, and half of it is at the White Cube Gallery, after the original length was cut in two. This beautiful sculpture made of a large quantity of used bars of soap in lots of different colours and strung up along a metal cable is well worth hunting down to have a look at. It does have an underlying message as well, which has got absolutely nothing to do with what is going on in Russell Square, but perhaps you can see the connection.
Back to the mystery of what is going on behind these doors!
What makes it so worthwhile for somebody to break in so many times, risking capture, torture, possibly even death, and yet still persist?
I was inspired to draw / paint this after visiting the Rachel Whiteread exhibition at Tate Britain last weekend. She had cast quite a few “Torso’s” by filling up hot water bottles with various materials, plaster, resin etc. and then, presumably, removing the outer rubber “skin”. It’s alright Jock – I wouldn’t dream of doing that to you!
I must admit, if you did lop off the head, arms and legs of somebody (please don’t try this at home, or anywhere else for that matter!), then yes – you can see the resemblance to the inflated insides of a hot water bottle.
Rachel Whiteread likes turning your mind inside-out and back-to-front with casts of stairs, windows, sheds, baths, bookshelves (I liked these!), and rather infamously a complete terraced house (sadly now demolished under rather controversial circumstances). It is the voids, the spaces inbetween that she captures so well.
The papier-mâché shed end exhibited here took me back to seeing the inside-out shed installed in the grounds of Houghton Hall in Norfolk that which we visited last year. In particular, I liked the cast detail of the bolt from the inside of the shed door, especially as a caterpillar was crawling up the side (bottom left of the right hand picture). It made it seem so real!
Lastly, I have to share this with you. This is Rachel Whiteread’s “Untitled (One Hundred Spaces)” from 1995, which filled one of the main Duveen Galleries at Tate Britain. Each of the 100 pieces is a cast in various coloured resins of the underside of a found chair. Really beautiful!