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Victoire

December 8th, 2021

A Trip into the 21st Century Art World at the Hayward Gallery

0 comments

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Victoire

December 8th, 2021

A Trip into the 21st Century Art World at the Hayward Gallery

0 comments

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

London doesn’t lack museums.

There are the classics : the National Gallery, full of timeless masterpieces; the Natural History Museum for science lovers; the British Museum to delve into the past… But if, like me, you are curious about what artists have to say about our world today, you should probably love the Hayward Gallery and its current exhibition: Mixing It Up: Painting Today

The title of the exhibition is both self-explanatory and equivocal. Painting Today: yes, the gallery hosts contemporary artists – some of them only a few years older than you! – whose paintings both reflect and reflect upon the world we’re living in. Mixing It Up: why? Don’t expect this exhibition to be homogenous! There is really something to suit all tastes, from figurative portraits and landscapes to the most abstract artworks made of household products and waste. Put together however, it all makes sense! 

Focusing on my favourite artwork 

The artwork that struck me and appealed to me the most is probably Smoke and Mirrors painted by Lisa Brice in 2020 (so contemporary!). I don’t know if I was drawn to this painting because of its size (it was basically occupying a whole wall), its warm colours, the outstanding sense of perspective that the mirrors create, or because of its content and message. I guess it aroused my feminist sensitivity though. Lisa Brice recreated the bustling and languid atmosphere of an early-twentieth-century artist’s workshop, with models buzzing around or resting between poses. In this painting, Lisa Brice frees the models from the male gaze of the artist they might have been posing for but also that of the viewer in Hayward Gallery. The figures even seem to show contempt for the gaze of the viewer, which they blatantly ignore. They are not submissively and passively waiting but are shown as active and self-assertive. Brice empowers them. On the left, a woman is looking at herself in the mirror. She is the owner of the gaze. She takes back control over her body: hers and no one else’s. Or at least that is the way I interpret it. 

Lisa Brice, ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ (2020). Image from the Hayward Gallery website.

My interpretation was certainly shaped by the way this painting interacted with some of my readings – Laura Mulvey and John Berger in particular – as well as my own experience; and I think that is one of the strength of this exhibition: the way it resonates in you, challenges you, makes you think and establish links between you and the world you’re living in. 

I think that the words of one the artists exhibited at the gallery perfectly sum up my experience:

It’s important for an image to be problematic, otherwise it satisfies you and you’re left with nothing.

– Caragh Thuring (Belgian artist born in 1972) 

If you want to visit the gallery yourself, here’s everything you need to know. 


What? 

Mixing It Up: Painting Today

Where? 

Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, 

Belvedere Rd, London SE1 8XX (A 20-minute walk from campus!)

When? 

Until 12 December, 2021 – Hurry up!

About the author

Victoire

Hi I'm Victoire! I’m a French GO LSE exchange student who likes Victorian literature and classic rock.

Posted In: London life | Off Campus | Study Abroad

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