Saturday, 2 April 2016

Like A Magpie... in a Garden

Yes, that's me at an exhibition. Not the slow, stately walk along one wall following the crowd, then along another wall, moving at the pace of the slowest person further along. No.  I'm here, there and everywhere and back again. If there's a queue to see a painting why wait your turn when you could see another great painting on the opposite wall?

There's a strange dynamic about exhibitions that I've noticed loads of times and that is that the first few rooms are always busy and then the crowds slowly start to spread out in the later rooms. Why is that? Shouldn't the rooms all be equally crowded as people move through the exhibition? There are probably studies into this strange phenomenon.

I went to see the 'Painting The Modern Garden' exhibition at the Royal Academy again on Friday evening - the Royal Academy stays open until 10pm on Fridays so it's a good to avoid crowded weekends and see exhibitions after work. I've done that a few times in the past and it's great to stroll round the venerable old galleries while London comes alive on a Friday night. Except, guess what? The exhibition was totally sold out so it might as well have been peak hours.

It is an excellent exhibition and it's only on for another three weeks so go along and see it if you can. So many artists painting gardens and flowers, so many styles and so many different interpretations of what a garden looks like and how it can be painted. I loved it - it'll take a lot for any other exhibition to top this one this year. I first saw it in February and I'm tempted to go a third time, it's that good. So many paintings by artists I know and those I don't know, some I'm very familiar with and some I've only vaguely heard of but all on the theme of gardens. It's clearly a smash hit. A palpable hit.

There are, of course, many paintings by Claude Monet, that great old man of painting who refused to leave his home during the First World War and kept on painting his beloved gardens and ponds and bridges and trees, sometimes joyful and sometimes sorrowful. I've seen his enormous paintings of his waterlily ponds in the Musee de L'Orangerie in Paris and those are an astonishing and moving sight, Monet's gift to Paris, celebrating peace. There are many painting of waterlilies in the exhibition but this one really caught my eye, 'Corner of the Waterlily Pond'

This photo really doesn't do the painting justice, it's too light, but it at least lets you see what got me so excited. The thick oils merging and twisting to create new shapes and colours to try to capture the texture of the scene, the lush plants with hundreds of greens and the odd flower here and there. A serene view and a storm of emotion. Monsieur Monet was having a good day when he finished this painting and overloaded it with creativity and vibrancy - he threw everything at this one and I like to imagine him smiling in satisfaction as he put his brushes away and left it dry at the end of the day. You really need to see it to glimpse it's beauty and power. I went back to gaze at it three times.

In one of the final rooms is a set of large blown up photographs of many of the artists in the exhibition and some film footage of them too, so I can say I've seen M. Monet painting. There are lots of photos of Monet in his later years with his bushy beard and floppy hat but have you ever seen Wassily Kandinsky digging in his garden, wearing shorts and with a cigarette in his mouth. Well, here he is:

You may not be able to jump into the paintings or smell the blooms and feel the breeze but you can gaze at some of the most marvellous paintings and share the vision of some of the greatest painters the world has ever seen. Visit this exhibition while you can. It's gorgeous. And say hello to Claude and Wassily for me.

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