The Cork Street Art Crawl – Barry Flanagan and others

by Katie on March 21, 2010

The end of last week saw me partake of one of my favourite mid week activities – gallery hopping in the environs of Mayfair. The recollection seems hazy now as, accompanied by a fellow art and wine lover, we bumped into old Soho art cronies through the refined streets of W1 and the not so refined, but way more lively streets of salacious Soho, my natural home.

First on our list was a retrospective of sculptor Barry Flanagan’s works (dating from 1966-2008). The pieces on show ranged form his early sand and cloth works to the stone carving and the cut out steel work of the seventies and the bold bronze hares, so synonymous with Flanagan’s name. It was the latter which stole the show ranging from from a myriad of cute smaller pieces to the large scale ‘Harebell on Portland Stone’ and ‘The Boxing Ones’, representations of huge, powerful boxing hares in full fight and flight. ‘Large Leaping Hare’ sprang fully in motion over the metal pylons on which it was mounted. Weighty, powerful and contentious, the hares are always fully expressive and full of vitality. Flanagan has stated, “The idea of the hare as a alter ego evolved. It wasn’t inevitable when I started. But once you abstract from the human like that, it opens a window in the mind, it allows your imagination to roam.”

The only thing that marred the enjoyment of viewing such great works was the over officiousness of the gallery staff to keep clearing a central pathway connecting two rooms ‘due to health and safety’. As The Royle Family character, Jim Royle, would say ‘health and safety my arse.”

Over the road at Flowers gallery, a stupendous range of works by Renny Tait lies in wait for avid discovery. A series of Venetian churches, medieval fortresses and Roman ruins are joined by Lego like grain silos and power stations, each holding their own exacting beauty cast with golden Italian light but concrete in their reality. Their exact mirror images are reflected, showing the artists skill in light and depth. In fact, the reflections are so real as to invite the viewer to touch and partake. The structures feel solid, fallible and unrelenting and yet, they seem to float in a field of dreams, in imagination. Strangely Arcadian, these images draw in the viewer in wonderment as the depth and perspective is Avatar 3D like in feel. A 21st Century take on old masters, these visions are both fresh and stark…visionary, in fact.

Last port of call of the night was in deepest Dean Street in private members club, Blacks, now the habitual residency of several ex Colony Rooms habitues. When one is tempted to a ‘Brief Encounter’ in Blacks with lashings of Hendricks gin on tap, one should really resist as the place is crammed full of dark hideaway spots and even boasts a full size reclining bed for those in the mood.

However, it was Romano Cagnoni’s series of 12 photographs which documented his lifetime relationship with England and Italy that was the focus of the evening. Cagnoni is up there with the likes of Henry Cartier-Bresson and Bill Brandt in defining an age and time. Black and white photographs of British Bobbies, Winston Churchill’s funeral and scenes in Chelsea during the 1960’s mingled with typically Italian photographs of churches in Pietrasanta and town square scenes in Bologna. Like a series of clips from a Federico Fellini movie, the two were spliced together seamlessly showing an innate understanding of humans in their daily lives.

Pics featured: FLANAGAN, Barry; Harebell on Portland stone piers 1983, bronze © The Estate of Barry Flanagan, Rowford Process Ltd and Waddington Galleries. Photography by Prudence Cuming Associates, London.

London (1971) by Romano Cagnoni.

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