Friday, 13 July 2012

Strangely Contrary Hungers and Kitsch Tat


Yesterday I went off with @almostsenseless to see the Sadie Hennessy exhibition, Strange Hungers at the WW Gallery.

I was inspired to do so (as I so very often am!) by the lovely @clareangela.

I'd seen some of Sadie's work previously at the WW Gallery, during the Diamond Geezer exhibition. Her "Olympic Wanker" cards are both witty and subversive, not just flicking V's at LOCOG, but flipping them the bird and mooning them with spread arsecheeks as well.

So it was with some anticipation I headed off to the gallery, especially after @clareangela's rave review.

At first, my reaction to the art was a bit muted and I was slightly disappointed. The Diamond Geezer exhibition had set a very high standard and was, to my tastes, more overtly amusing.

There were, to be fair, some items which raised a wry smile, such as the "top-shelf" pictures, The Elephant In The Room and MILF Magazine, which combines the most homely of housewifely articles with free hardcore porno DVDs.

Being a more simple-minded soul than some of my art critic friends, and given the brochure quote "... and the (unanswered) mating call, or at least the rallying cry, of the aging woman as she grows old disgracefully", I wondered whether Sadie's collection of penises in the totem and elsewhere were not just someone expressing the desire to see a bit of erect cock, rather than some high-falutin' war of the sexes bollocks? (As it were!)

I also wondered at the implication of "dickheadedness" in the piece called Pornology - a sideways swipe at the old nonsense of phrenology. Looking at the piece, I wondered if she was saying that men who had an interest in pornography (all of us?) were dickheads.

One thing that I did find odd was that the images were collaged from pornography and vintage women's magazines, which it would be very easy to assume were things that Sadie disapproves of, but who knows, really?

The "Lost Art of Keeping a Secret (Porn Eyes)" collages showed demure ladies with their eyes overlaid with the eyes of ladies in porn pictures, an interesting touch as the eyes did not convey anything in their new context. I'm not sure what this says, but it did make me think: what would happen if the eyes were replaced by the eyes of women who were doing something that Sadie approved of? (Assuming she disapproves of porn and women's magazines, of course!)

A Big Night Out was VERY thought-provoking, especially as I get older but don't want to change how I have fun.

And one of the pictures hit me like a punch to the heart (but I'm not going to say which one!) I thought it was largely out of context in the exhibition, but it stopped me dead in my tracks.

When I started writing this review, it was a rather contrary piece, quite negative and damning with faint praise. But as I wrote this, I knew I'd be coming back to it, because it didn't feel finished.

I did find that I had to dwell on Strange Hungers before I fully appreciated it, but it is, I suppose, the mark of something special that you can dwell on it, it is not something that you can just enjoy in the moment and then walk away from.

@clareangela and @almostsenseless think that you should go and see it before it closes on Saturday - and I agree. It provoked some laughs, some thoughts and some genuine emotional pain, which is really quite a good mix for one artist's work.


Less successful to my mind, was Mead Carney's exhibition of Tina Tsang's Psychopomp. Using three identical forms (a sea shell, a body and the Virgin Mary) repeatedly, but decorated differently, the work is very well-crafted but left me completely uninspired.

A lot of effort has gone into detail (both decorative and technical, like the rolling movies displayed behind the transparent face masks, or the different tales that come from the shells) - they are impressive accomplishments, but somehow dead, like some slightly weird and creepy thing you might buy at a gadget shop. Clever, and some of them even pretty (although they were mostly horrendously kitsch) - but art? I didn't think so.

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