Sunday, July 24, 2011

Spain (part 9)

Martin De Vos, "Juicio Final (The Last Judgement)"

The Museo de Bellas Artes in Sevilla was one of the most welcoming and wonderful museums in the time and attention that they offered me. I really enjoyed looking around the museum, originally a convent, with a large collection of painting and sculpture that once belonged to the church. Museum Educator Clara was very friendly, knowledgeable and helped me to recognise some of the recurring themes and symbols in religious art, which increased my understanding of many images as my travels continued. I also had the rare opportunity to visit the conservation area of the museum where I was able to hear the conservators talk about the process of their work and see paintings being cleaned and restored, including extending the canvas of a large crucifixion by Zuburan so that Christ’s hand would not be hidden by the frame. The museum holds a particularly strong collection of paintings by Valdes Leal, Murillo and Zuburan. 

“Sant Tomas de Villanueva Dando Limosna

I was in awe of Murillo’s work, particularly his painting “Sant Tomas de Villanueva Dando Limosna (distributing alms)”, which displays an amazing command of anatomy and light, especially in the kneeling beggar, and an interesting flow of expressions and gazes in the surrounding figures. It was appropriate to see the majority of Murillo's works displayed in the room that was once the convent church, complete with elaborate frescoes.

Of the 19th century paintings I was intrigued by Rafael Martinez Diaz's "Escena de Familia," which I found attractive in light and colour, while eerie in mood. The almost oppressive stillness of the scene is contrasted by the slight movement of the curtain and the subtle, but abundant texture in the surface of the paint - particularly in the background where the air seems to vibrate.

Rafael Martinez Diaz, "Escena de Familia"

Cathedral, Sevilla from La Giralda

The Cathedral in Sevilla was beyond belief, legend has is that the aim was 'to build a Cathedral so large and beautiful that people who saw it would think us mad.' It certainly was enormous in scale and yet so intricate in detail. Highlights for me were the Chapter house, a small beautifully designed elliptical room with an “Immaculate Conception” by Murillo and the tower, La Giralda, which offered an amazing view of the city. Observing the city from such a high vantage point really allowed me to appreciate the buildings and streets as interesting, abstract arrangements of colour and shape. 

Sevilla from La Giralda

When I visited Iglesia San Salvador in the late afternoon the sun was streaming in through the stained glass windows, adding to the glorious effect of the stunning gold and polychrome carved altarpiece. 

Iglesia San Salvador

The Alcazar in Sevilla was my introduction to Mudéjar architecture - the influence of Islamic art and continued work of Moorish craftsmen in the period after the Christian rule conquered the Moorish rule. The unique approach to geometry, pattern and design was extraordinary and evocative, especially this beautiful domed ceiling (below) inspired by the night sky.

Alcazar, Sevilla

Alcazar Jardins, Sevilla

The garden of the Alcazar was glorious and the nearby Park Maria Luisa and Plaza Espana were also truly grandiose outdoor spaces. 

Guadalquivir River

 Across the bridge (on the other side of the river from which Christopher Columbus set sail to discover America) is the Triana district and the Isla de a Cartuja once home to the Cartuja Monastery, then converted to a famous ceramics factory and now is the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo. As you can see below it was a fascinating environment with contemporary artworks constantly juxtaposed against the various histories of the architecture - the characteristic interior of the monastery and strange towering ceramic kilns in the courtyard.

part of the exhibition "Without Reality There is No Utopia"@ CAAC

Zhou Xiaohu, "The Crowd of Bystanders" @ CAAC

A favourite work at CAAC was Zhou Xiaohu's "The Crowd of Bystanders"a clever combination of sculpture and animation - moulding detailed clay scenes based on real events (sometimes with fantasy elements), filming the short claymation narrative in black and white, then firing, colouring and displaying the sculpture and video together. The collection of narratives often sourced from news stories, both everyday and catastrophic events presented side by side, was a humorous, but powerful critique of the media and our role as spectator.

Jessica Diamond, "I Hate Business"

Jessica Diamond's large, confident "Wall Paintings" also resounded with me - funny, but true, I hate business too.

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