We arrived at the National Portrait Gallery on Thursday afternoon. I was excited to visit, I had never been before. We didn’t have lots of time on this visit so decided to check in our bags and go straight to the Gillian Wearing expedition, we paid for our tickets and headed to the exhibition.
In the entrance we saw the newly acquired portrait of Ed Sheeran by Colin Davidson. I’m not a big fan personally, I don’t particularity dislike him either but my wife likes his music. I must admit the portrait is incredible.
As we entered the exhibition I was in high spirits, ready to document my visit for the learning blog on C & N. Unfortunately as I started to take some snapshots as a record for my blog I was rudely approached by a member of staff and told something along the lines of ‘there is no photography in the photography exhibition’ I must admit I was taken aback initially and also contemplated the irony of the statement. I tried to explain I was a student but before I could say anything else, I was told it didn’t matter and I wasn’t allowed to take shots on my i-Phone. For the entire remainder of our visit around the Gillian Wearing exhibition we were followed and observed by staff from the gallery, making us both feel really uncomfortable. I’m not that great socially at the best of times and it took a lot of effort and courage for me just to get to the exhibition in London with so many people but it just made me feel horrible and not welcome in the slightest. I also find when I get anxious I struggle to remember things so the snapshots usually help. The whole experience left me with a bit of a foul taste in my mouth but I tried to take in some of the photographs on display as best I could.
The bad experience had me contemplating what the artist would have thought, what her position would have been and also what my own thoughts would be if I were displaying my work in an exhibition and someone was taking snapshots. I mean, I wasn’t looking to steal the artists work….all of the images are available to view on line anyway if I really wanted to, there are countless images of the exhibition online elsewhere under the hash-tag #wearingcahun. I only wanted to document my visit visually. Was I asked permission to be filmed whilst I was attending the gallery? No, however I was…should I have protested being filmed without my consent? I have now visited a number of exhibitions and I’ve never had a problem with taking shots for my learning log. Some probably think I am making a big deal about this but I feel it’s a really important issue.
I have no other images to support the visit. I viewed the work by Claude Cahun but I was more interested in the images by Gillian Wearing, I was interested to see some of her work as it has been covered in this unit of my degree, ‘Context and Narrative‘.
I enjoyed seeing the Family portraits series Album in large scale print, they just make more sense in person seeing them so big on a wall rather than in my study books. I find the use of masks quite creepy and unsettling but its a really inventive way of doing self portraits. It’s amazing how she takes on the role of the other family members. It questions identity, gender and roles within families but also the links that connect the family chain. My wife observed how the faces looked different yet you can see the link of the same person through the eyes (my wife didn’t initially know about the masks but she spotted the eyes) she said ‘these eyes look like a younger persons eyes’ when looking at the image of Wearings father. There was also a fascinating series of Polaroid shots of Wearing taken over a number of years starting from the 1980’s up to 2005, all compiled together in one display, I found it was good to see the visual development of the artist over a long period of time, they are essentially all ‘selfies’. There were also images Wearing had ‘recreated’ of some of her ‘idols’ again using masks.
I must admit I went into the gallery not really being a fan of the artists work but I left feeling I had a better understanding, appreciation and respect for her work.
There were also some great portrait images on display at the gallery by David Gwinnutt ‘Before we were Men’.
Its definitely worth a visit to see this exhibition, its on until 29th May 2017. I hope next time its a more enjoyable experience.