Five artworks I’m missing
Emily Breedon, Learning Assistant
There are many things I’m missing at GoMA right now, including my colleagues, the visitors, the school visits and the amazing collection of artworks we host. Having been working from home for around five months now, there’s a few artworks in particular I’m missing. I’m going to share with you my thoughts on some of my favourite pieces in our collection and why they stand out for me. Maybe you had the chance to see them all before lockdown, but if not, hopefully this post will inspire you to visit them once we’re back open.
David Hockney, Photography is Dead, Long Live Painting – TASTE, Gallery 2
This piece by the renown Pop artist has always stood out for me, ever since my first visit to the gallery. The painted sunflowers, undoubtedly referencing Van Gough, have a vibrancy that contrasts them against the digital image of the photographed sunflowers. The title of Hockney’s 1995 piece is interesting as it suggests condemnation of photography by the artist; this, however, is misleading as, throughout his career, he experimented with both mediums. Although Hockney is denouncing photography, the work ironically relies on the camera for its execution. By exploring both techniques in the same piece, the Bradford-born painter highlights both their beauty and differences, demonstrating how photography and painting can complement one another.
The get-well-soon card refers to Jonathan Silver, Hockney’s close friend who was in his final stages of cancer during the summer of 1997. Hockney flew back from L.A. to Yorkshire so he could visit him regularly in hospital. For me, this is what is beautiful about the piece; at first, the artwork appears uplifting with its bright colours, but once you understand the story behind it, this piece becomes more intricately layered. Like the title, we can’t just take our initial impression of this artwork at face value, as Hockney clever demonstration that things don’t always appear as they seem.
Jane Evelyn Atwood, Kissing a Friend and Shaving – Domestic Bliss, Gallery 4
From the photo essay Jean-Louis: Living and Dying with AIDS
These two photographs paired together offer a raw and intimate glimpse into the final few months of Jean-Louis’ life. The French gay man agreed to let photographer Jane Evelyn Atwood document his life as it was coming to an end in 1987. This resulted in the publication of this collection of photographs in leading European magazines, winning a World Press Photo Foundation the following year. Jean-Louis was actually the first person with AIDS in Europe to be photographed to appear in the press.
These photographs are remarkable when you consider the context of when they were produced; the 1980s was a time of heavy stigmatisation towards people with AIDs, with the AIDs crisis beginning in June 1981. The publication of these photographs is therefore an unapologetic challenge to this social injustice, highlighting the unconformity of both the artist and subject.
Kissing a Friend feels particularly potent right now as all of us have experienced going through a time where we’ve missed loved ones. This piece reminds me of a time when it felt normal to embrace someone, and I’m looking forward to this being the norm again.
Aaron Angell, Popular Peacetime Saw – TASTE, Gallery 2
This colourful clay sculpture has always been intriguing to me, possessing such a high level of craftsmanship that truly demonstrates the skill and talent of the English artist. The artwork is intricately crafted with bursts of colour, transporting the viewer to a magical garden.
This imaginative piece certainly encourages my mind to wander. This is also one of my favourite artworks to show children who are visiting the gallery; they are always fascinated by the different patterns and shapes of the mushrooms and have great fun creating their own clay sculptures.
Aaron Angell works across a variety of media, ranging from sculpture to backpainted glass. He founded London-based Troy Town Art Pottery, a radical workshop that offers resources for artists to use ceramics as a sculptural medium. At GoMA, we utilise our collection to push boundaries and broaden our mindset, an aim that is made easier when we have these innovative artworks that challenge you to expand your imagination.
Kate Davis, Reversibility (Militant Methods) – Domestic Bliss, Gallery 4
It is striking to me how in this artwork Davis effectively questions how we bear witness to the complexities of the past. This screenprint is displayed alongside the original 1908 pamphlet by activist Christabel Pankhurst, daughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, who is best remembered for organising the UK suffragette movement. It’s a transcription of a speech made by Christabel which details the National Women’s Social and Political Union’s need for and use of militant approach in order to achieve their aims. The artist discovered this pamphlet in Glasgow Museums’ archive and was shocked by its damaged state.
The reason I find this 2011 piece so fascinating is due to Davis’ ability to convey through drawing every detail of the defaced portrait. This intimate yet disturbing reclamation is framed by the text from the pamphlet’s cover – with its original font and layout- and displayed as a large-scale poster. From this approach, Davis invites us to review a historical point of conflict and how it relates to us as an audience today.
Personally, I’m very passionate about both history and feminism and so this piece always captivates my attention. I enjoy the topics of discussion this artwork creates with visitors, and I find it interesting to hear their opinion on whether contemporary art holds a space in promoting ideas and agendas, such as feminism and women’s rights. What do you think?
Hal Fischer, Boy- Friends – Gay Semiotics, Gallery 3
This 1979 series consists of ten photo-text portraits of men the American artist interacted with over a period of four years between the mid to late ‘70s. I never get bored looking at this collection of photographs as I love to read all the personal stories that accompany each of them. By inviting us in, it’s almost as if the artist trusts us with the intimate details of these interactions, especially when you consider the context that these works were produced in; during a time when homosexuality was still illegal in many US states.
For me, the openness of Boy-Friends really highlights that we all have these stories of intimacy that occur throughout our lives, a notion which is very human and personal. I love this sense of connection I feel towards this collection of photographs and they hold such a spirit of energy and timelessness, as if these memories will always have permanence.
Writing this piece has definitely made me realise how much I miss not only working at GoMA but also being amongst our amazing collection. Although many people may perceive contemporary art as invaluable, pretentious or lacking skill, I truly believe that it has the power to inspire not only us, as individuals, but also change in the world.
On that note, comment below on which artworks you’re looking forward to being reunited with once we’re back open!