Thursday, April 1, 2010

Changes in My Taste

The best exhibition I went to in Wellington was the not-so-big show of Milan Mrkusich's big paintings at the City Gallery of Wellington. I've been noticing a shift in my taste in paintings for the last little while, preferring modern and abstract, triggered probably by Simon Schama's BBC series "Power of Art" episode on Rothko.

Mrkusich's paintings were colorful. On some you could see the canvas, and particularly the pre-2000-ish work contained so much nuance in the subtle light and dark parts it was like looking at clouds and seeing whatever you wanted to see. I couldn't believe how much I enjoyed the exhibition, walking back and forth, sitting on the gallery floor, sitting on the bench.

In comparison, old sketches, etchings and watercolors from travels in the 18th and 19th century we saw at, I think Te Papa, were shocking. And the shocking part was my reaction: these used to be my favorite kind of art, fine, fiddly, photographic depiction of places artists found fresh and different. This time I walked in and walked out. I felt there wasn't much to discover in them. I surprised myself.

The Pompei exhibition at Te Papa, one of the main reasons for going to Welly, was a disappointment. Artifacts were placed in old-fashioned wood-and-glass cases. There were badly done paintings depicting "scenes" from the day, but not much to bring the 79AD life to ... life. There were very little photographs over all, and in particular, of modern day P0mpeii. There was multimedia kiosks and a 3D film but they were there to use the technology more than to really show or teach anything. And not much at all about tiles, which I was looking forward to.

The blurbs were good. The cast of people and the dog brought home the horror of the aftermath. Still, not as interesting or as big an exhibition as I had expected; and the exhibition had the atmosphere of being done on the cheap. Not recommending; you might be happier with a good novel.

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