Event: the New Immortals

Last week, I went to an event based on The New Immortals exhibition, an exhibition exploring ideas about immortality in an age of scientific miracles, curated by Judith Alder. The display brings together the work of ten artists, and the event drew in scientists, medics and artists to respond to the work. It was really interesting to be in a room full of people committed to the crossover between art and science, and great to get a range of views on the exhibition. It made me think about the module I did last year on utopian fiction, and the idea that utopia is in many ways an impossibility: one person’s utopia imposes unliveable rules on another. The idea of immortality, whether living forever, or living for two hundred years or a thousand, as experts quoted at the event suggested might become possible, all come with downsides. If you think globally, the planet couldn’t sustain a population where no-one dies: would we have to stop having children too? On an individual basis, at what point would life become dull, or can we continue to have new experiences, new challenges and enthusiasms forever? What would be the challenges of living with a body that was existing way beyond its sell by date? One speaker asked, ‘What would tiredness fell like when you are 200?’.

The older  get, the more willing I am to consider death as a welcome ending. As a teenager it seemed terrifying, now, midway through life, I can envisage the need for everything to stop. As another speaker said, ‘I don’t want to be here when the sun explodes, so I must want to die, but I just don’t know when’.

There was some interesting art on display, and I’m going back this weekend for another look if everything goes to plan!

The New Immortals runs until 20th March at the Phoenix, Brighton. Find out more: http://www.phoenixbrighton.org/events/the-new-immortals/

 

 

Review: David Jones and Pallant House

Last weekend I went to see the David Jones exhibition at Pallant House in Chichester. At the moment I seem to have the habit of only getting to exhibitions in their last few weeks … but you have until 21st February to visit, and it’s well worth it. The gallery has much more to it than I ever imagined, Chichester is lovely, and the David Jones exhibition is fascinating.

David Jones (1895-1974) is a modernist writer and artist. I first came across his somewhat impenetrable book, In Parenthesis when researching WW1 writing for my dissertation. In Parentheses, for all that some of it is difficult to read, does an amazing job of conveying written trauma, of addressing the impossibility of writing war experience in a linear and coherent way without diminishing the event. Jones has a breakdown after completing the work which was published in 1937.

Some of the exhibition focussed on Jones’ war art, but there was much else. In his early work, which was much more realistic, he depicted homes, people and animals. Some of his later works are fascinating word pictures, mixing Latin and Welsh, scratched crayon or chalk, and different fonts. This one, right, translates as ‘Truth is the best muse’.

Another expression of Jones’ later work is the much less realistic drawings he did. Many of these involve flowers and trees that seem to grow across the canvas, mixing pen, pencil and watercolour in a crazy compilation of images.

The exhibition took us from Jones’ very first drawings – an impressive lion, age seven, through to the end of his life. It was beautifully curated, and everything that I’d hoped for. Had that been all I’d seen I’d have been happy, but we noticed that there was a tour at two o’clock as well. We stayed at the gallery for lunch in the restaurant (£14.95 for two courses, excellent food, and there is also a café. Go there in warmer weather and there is lovely outdoor seating.)

The curator took us round some of the exhibits from Pallant House’s extensive collections, many of which have been donated to the organisation. The majority of works were by British artists from the last century, with some European work.

 

Cat, by David Jones

There was a gallery of portraits, including a self portrait of Lucien Freud, one of landscapes, and some of late twentieth century works. The person leading the talk knew plenty to keep us interested, and explained how Pallant House has been transformed from grand home to council offices to art gallery, and how in 2006 the large modern extension was built.

 

Alongside the works by well known and lesser known artists there were works from students and recent graduates from the art degree at Northbrook College. These works drew inspiration from the surroundings. I loved the ceramic hyacinths, placed alongside the hyacinths in the Lucien Freud portrait, and the fabric cushions and bird, inspired by the ostriches at the front of Pallant House.

If you do have a spare day at a weekend or over half term, do try and take the time to visit Pallant House.

 

 

Lucien Freud early pencil self portrait

Works by new artists emerging from Northbrook College

One of my favourite pieces, The South East Corner, Jerusalem, by David Bomberg

 

Find out more about visiting Pallant House.