Anyone with an appreciation of the sea will love the Power of the Sea – Making Waves in British Art 1740 – 2014 currently showing at the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol. http://www.rwa.org.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/2014/01/the-power-of-the-sea/.
I was lured in by an enthusiastic member of staff who showed me the exhibition catalogue and I was not disappointed.
The exhibition, which spans over 200 years of artist’s sea interpretations was stunning. I enjoyed the realism, drama and shipwrecks of some of the early artists like John Constable on loan from other galleries. But for me the dramatic shift from realism to more stylised paintings and abstract works was where I paused. I quite liked the hypnotic small wave machine, and the bronze “Wave Tunnel” by Maggi Hambling was beautiful. I took a picture from the front to capture the texture but realised afterwards I should have taken a shot of the side showing the inside of the wave, the “wave tunnel”. There are also two interesting films in this exhibition, Rona Lee’s ‘Ama’ is a strange, moving film about the limits of observation (I think) shown through deep sea investigation and narrative of Amant Marine: De Friedrich Nietzsche read in Braille by blind performer Anna Cannings. I sat through the entire 10 min performance. It wasn’t the narrative which captivated me, it was the calm, soothing rhythmic flow of the Anna Canning’s voice, the steady sway of her elegant hand as she moved through the pages of the Braille imprinted onto artist’s paper, her upright figure dressed in black against a backdrop of underwater footage. A mesmerizing performance, I will certainly look out for more performances by her. The exhibition is co curated by Janette Kerr and it was her painting ‘Holding my Breath’ which captured how I experience the sea with all its drama, power, unpredictability, excitement, romance and beauty.