The_Beatles, Illustrated Lyrics Revolution (1968) by Alan Aldridge © Iconic Images Alan Aldridge, ph. co. V&A Museum, London

London – “You Say You Want a Revolution?” exhibition positively transforms the approach to the 1996 – 1970 period, at the V&A Museum.

This major exhibition from the V&A Museum, London, is focused on the implication and influence of the late 1960s upon the life of today. From global civil rights, multiculturalism, environmentalism, consumerism, computing, communality to neoliberals politics, the world we live in today has been vitally influenced by five revolutionary years of the period 1966 – 1970.

“You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966 – 1970” explores the turmoil, the strong feeling of freedom, and the legal variations that took place resulting in a deep shift in the attitude of the Western world.

The exhibition “You Say You Want a Revolution?” explores the way that youth culture catalysed an optimistic idealism, motivating people to come together and question established power structures across every area of society. More than 350 objects on all sides of photography, posters, literature, music, design, film, fashion, artefacts, and performance illustrate the way that this counterculture generation shook off the confines of the past, legacy of the Second World War.

“You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966 – 1970” is organised in seven distinct sections, each presenting a different but very distinctive revolutionary environment. It provides a chronological and psychogeographical journey through five amazing years, from 1966 to 1970.

The exhibition starts with an introduction which shows up key events that had begun to challenge the prevailing conservative society of the early 1960s. The hope for a better world has been present throughout history, and at the V&A Museum is illustrated with an original copy of ‘Utopia’, written by Thomas Moore in 1516.

Investigating youth environment in 1966, the first section is dedicated to Revolution in Identity. It explores the world of fashion, style music, art and photography pioneered in Carnaby Street. This was the year Time magazine dubbed London ‘The Swinging City’, thus confirming it as an amazing cultural centre. The flourishing fashion scene centred on new clothing boutiques on Carnaby Street and King’s Road designed for younger generation, illustrated with a Biba minidress, Mary Quant skirt suit, flamboyant striped suit by Mr. Fish, and a man’s jacket from Granny Takes a Trip. The V&A Museum exhibition explores connections between boutiques and art galleries, displaying to art happenings and works by Bridget Riley and Yoko Ono. Costumes designed for Mick Jagger and Sandie Shaw underline the importance of pop music during this time – soundtrack by The Kinks, Beach Boys and Martha Reeves & the Vandellas. The icon of the youthful London look was ‘the Face of 66’, the androgynous teenage model Twiggy; objects including a dress from her eponymous boutique and Cecil Beaton portrait indicate her fame and influence. Photography studios particularly thrived during the period, and works by David Bailey and Terry O’Neill depict figures from Michael Caine to The Rolling Stones, Robert Fraser and the Kray brothers. The main film screened is Blow Up (1966) by Antonioni.

“Section 2: Revolution in ideas” examines how individuals sought to discover themselves through alternative lifestyles, often with the assistance of drugs. Focusing on clubs and counterculture, it explores forms of experimentation, alternative lifestyles and the idea of revolution and it is concentrates on drugs, psychedelia, occult, underground literature and pirate radio. It presents a mesmeric evocation of London’s UFO club, an experimental venue known for combining live music with light shows and avant-garde film, where Pink Floyd were the house band and the UK’s first macrobiotic food was on sale. Audio-visual material including Jerry Abrams’ Be-In (1967) and examples of pioneering liquid light shows are presented against a background of psychedelic music from Cream, Jefferson Airplane and Pink Floyd. Artworks by the most significant graphic designers of the period including Hapshash and the Coloured Coat, Bonnie MacLean, Rick Griffon and Stanley Mouse are also on display. Alternative lifestyles are described through countercultural publications like The Long Hair Times (precursor to International Times) and objects relating to the occult. The significant influence of The Beatles is examined, with an area dedicated to the landmark release of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in June 1967, displaying handwritten lyrics for Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, the suits worn by John Lennon and George Harrison on the album cover, original illustrations by Alan Aldridge and George Harrison’s sitar and 1967 diary.

The focus of “Section 3: Revolution in the Street” is on how political protest increasingly turned violent from 1967, as opposition provoked a backlash from the authorities whether in May 1968 in Paris, in Prague or the Pentagon.

The third section explores revolution on the street, showing how youth cohesion crossed causes and continents into politics, leading to physical protest during the late 1960s. It centres on the 1968 Paris student riots, an explosive period of civil unrest. On display, Atelier Populaire posters pasted on walls during the protests, newsreel footage and music relating to the striking demonstrations. The period was also marked by extensive opposition to the war in Vietnam; propaganda material collected by an American soldier in Vietnam and puppets used in theatrical anti-Vietnam demonstrations in San Francisco are on display. Footage, literature, a wall of protest posters and photographs reveal the variety of causes and calls for solidarity, especially for civil rights, from gay rights to women’s liberation groups, by showing counterculture icons, including Che Guevara, Martin Luther King, the Black Panthers.

The unexpected “Section 4: Revolution in consuming” explores the consumer upheaval encouraged at World Fairs, Expo ’67 (Montreal, Canada) and Expo ’70 (Osaka, Japan).

Ongoing alongside the new counterculture, revolution in consumerism was fed by a rapid increase in personal wealth and the arrival of the credit card. The 1967 Montreal and 1970 Osaka World Expos presented ideas of a consumer-led future and welcomed tens of millions of visitors to an enormous showcase of mass design and technology products. Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome for the USA pavilion at Expo 67 presented a futuristic architectural vision. Film, sound and still footage from the expos are displayed together with innovative marketing materials. Highlights of this section include a Pan Am air hostess uniform worn both on commercial flights and on Vietnam Service to transport soldiers into the warzone; futuristic furniture and fashion, from Oliver Goldsmith eyewear to a Pierre Cardin dress; and furniture by Eero Aarnio and Olivier Mourgue. This section also analyses the increasing TV ownership and first real-time news coverage of the Vietnam War and moon landings. The space suit worn by William Anders, who took the defining ‘Earthrise’ photograph on the Apollo 8 mission, is on display alongside a moon rock on loan from NASA. A cinema area plays selections from a range of protest and avant-garde films including Yoko Ono’s Bed Peace (1969) to Jonas Mekas’ Hare Krishna (1966).

(To be continued)

“You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966 – 1970exhibition runs at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, from 10th September 2016 until 26th February 2017.

Portrait of Catherine de Medici, François Clouet (1519-1589), 1550 © The Trustees of the British Museum

This exhibition of French portrait drawings has drowned from notable holdings of the British Museum. Pieces of French portrait drawings were chosen to explain the development of this medium from the Renaissance until the 19th century in France. The exhibition also presented some French portrait drawings that have never been exhibited before.

The portraits showcased here offered a short range of personal records of patrons, friends and loved ones. The posers were depicted in informal moments of their lives, which were not always permitted according to the conventions ruling the portraiture at that time.

Throughout its history, the drawn portrait has been primarily an informal medium. It was made to be exchanged between friends and relations of the sitter, rather than the wider public intended for official painted portraits. Usually executed in chalk, pen or graphite, drawings were also more affordable to produce. Artists often turned to chalk or watercolour to depict members of their own families, or to experiment with original concepts of portraiture.

At the British Museum exhibition, portraits on paper have been displayed alongside examples in other more formal media, including medals, enamels and an onyx cameo.

Artists turned to drawing to depict not only patrons but also to their own families and circles of friends. The gradually more democratic nature of portraiture can be seen here, as kings and artists are joined by wealthy travellers, artisans and hedonistic members of the high society.

The exhibition started with drawings by Francois Clouet, which offered an affectionate image of the 16th century French Renaissance court. It closed with Toulouse Lautrec’s vibrant portraits of the Parisian demimonde. Clouet’s drawn portraits of courtiers and the royal family were commissioned by the French queen Catherine de’ Medici, and his portrait of Catherine herself was on display for the first time. The exhibition also included a drawing of Catherine’s husband Henri II, one of the first representations of Henri as king, which formed the basis of his royal iconography.

Other portraits made in chalk or watercolour in the 18th and 19th century offered a uniquely personal glimpse into artists’ personal lives. Jean-Michel Moreau le Jeune used chalk to draw his infant daughter, in about 1772, creating a delightfully naturalistic record of childhood. The piece demonstrates how the drawn portrait allowed for a degree of familiarity and intimacy than that which had been common in portrait paintings from the same period. Another example of family portraiture is by the lesser known 19th-century artist Albert Lebourg, depicting his wife and mother in-law in smoky atmospheric black chalk.

Drawings were cheaper to produce than an oil painting or sculpture and allowed the artist greater freedom for creativity. The flexibility of the form also allowed artists to experiment with unusual effects or innovative forms. In this way both sitters and artists could subvert the traditional notion of portraiture.

Pierre Dumonstier made a playful ‘portrait’ of the artist Artemisia Gentileschi’s hand in 1625. This piece plays with the very notion of what a ‘portrait’ is, through focusing on the quality that makes a sitter unique – not Artemisia’s face, in this instance, but her hand, the source of her artistic brilliance. Another example of artistic experimentation can be seen in Henri Fantin-Latour’s sheet of self-portrait studies from 1876. Here the artist shows himself, rather playfully, from behind a portrait without a face.

The exhibition “French portrait drawings from Clouet to Courbet” was at the British Museum, London, from 8th September 2016 until 29th January 2017.

Ogre, Kelantan, Malaysia; hide, wood; mid-20th century© The Trustees of the British Museum

London – It has been an interesting exhibition “Shadow puppet theatre from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand” at The British Museum. This exhibition has drawn on the British Museum’s unique Southeast Asian shadow puppet collection, unique in London and the world. The shadow theater is an ancient form of folk show. It is made by projecting of two -dimensional, hide puppets figures on a matte screen, semi-transparent, illuminated rear to create the illusion of moving images. The puppeteer simultaneously conducts the orchestra.

This form of entertainment is common in many cultures. In present days, shadow puppet companies works in over 20 countries in South Asia, and also in the rest of the world. Shadow puppet is an important religious, social, political and artistic medium in South Asia.

Shows are usually commissioned and performed at major life events, such as weddings or funerals, in celebration of the harvest, and in fulfillment of vows, but they have also been commercialised as entertainment in some areas. Therefore, in present days shadow puppet imagery and stories are used in other context, for example, in paintings, sculpture, comic books, and even videogames.

Puppeteers can have 200 or more puppets in their collections. Some of these puppets are not specific, while others symbolise particular characters. A few are considered to be sacred, such as the clowns and the holy man figure, and they are used in rituals or for divination and people wear protective medallions with it.

The figures are made especially for animal skin, primarily buffalo or cow, but also bear and deer. Since last century, puppet makers are also using plastic sheeting. Any fur is removed once the skin has been cleaned, stretched, and dried. A puppet figure is outlined and then the hide is cut and punched. Then after, they figure is painted and fitted with rods or chopsticks.

The shadow puppet theatre is very popular even nowadays. The shows are presented during ceremonies in sacred temples, functions in private and in public places in villages. A show can last all night, sometimes until dawn. They normally are in temporary stages in villages and pavilions in royal palaces. The stage has a screen of stretched white cloth. It has a lamp on the top a banana tree logs at the base. Spectators come and go all night and can watch from both side of the screen.

The stories of the shadow puppet theatre use sources from mythological and moral tales, which often represent the battle between good and evil. The narrative is composed with many different kinds of stories, including the Ramayana and Mahabharata epics that originated in India but were reinterpreted in Southeast Asia. There is also a specifically Southeast Asian narrative cycle based on the adventures of the legendary Prince Panji. Puppeteers have realised new stories that develop earlier narratives and explore the ups and downs of modern life, with new characters such as bandits, military figures, bureaucrats, airplanes, and mobile phones, are now also features in shadow theatre.

This British Museum exhibition presented Javanese puppets of the Raffles collection from circa 1800 (the earliest systematic collection of puppets in the world), puppets from Kelantan, Malaysia made by the puppeteers Pak Hamzah and Pak Awang Lah in the mid-twentieth century, Balinese puppets gifted to Queen Elizabeth II, and a set of modern Thai shadow puppets from the 1960s and 70s that display contemporary fashions and aspects of global pop culture. These puppets provide examples of local inspiration. Using comparative displays, the exhibition in London explored the relationships between these traditions, and also examined the stories, characters, and performance styles found in the region. Shadow theatre’s fame and spiritual associations in Southeast Asia have resulted in the reuse of shadow puppet imagery in other media, such as sacred manuscripts and protective charms.

There was an interesting and exhaustive 4’ minutes video installation. Divided in four main parts, it screened performances coming from Malaysia, Indonesia (Java and Bali) and Thailand.

The exhibition at the British Museum, London, further demonstrated that shadow puppet theatre is a living art form that still is relevant in contemporary times. Aspects of 20th century life, such as flare trousers, plastic, electricity, and sound amplification, play a part in shadow theatre, demonstrating its capacity to adjust to social change. Mass media has made some puppeteers into local celebrities, and the internet is sometimes used to broadcast performances. Earlier this year, wayang hip hop puppets representing the sons of the main Javanese clown figures were purchased and are on display in this exhibition for the first time. The museum’s collection is expanding to record these changes.

The exhibition has been curated by Alexandra Green, from The British Museum, London.

The South Asian exhibitionShadow puppet theatre from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand” was at The British Museum, London, from 8th September 2016 until 29th January 2017.

Girl in a Liberty Dress by Clara Drummond, BP Portrait Award 2016 First Prize winner © Clara Drummond, ph. co. National Portrait Gallery.

London - Clara Drummond was the winner of the BP Portrait Award 2016 at the National Portrait Gallery. In its 27th year of BP’s sponsorship, the esteemed first prize has been awarded to Clara Drummond, a 38-year-old Cambridgeshire-based artist, for “Girl in a Liberty Dress”, a striking portrait of her friend and fellow artist Kirsty Buchanan. Clara Drummond won £30,000 and a commission, at the National Portrait Gallery Trustees’ discretion, worth £5,000.

Assertiveness is a typical British quality, as the icon of the bulldog well represents. It was the third time, in fact, Drummond presented a portrait painting of her friend Kirsty Buchanan. Drummond was selected for the BP Portrait Award in 2013 and 2014 for portraits of the same sitter, having previously been selected for the exhibition with different sitters in 2006 and 2009.

When Kirsty sat for Clara for this portrait she wore a vintage Liberty dress inspired by the fact that both artists were working on an exhibition at the time with the William Morris Society Archive. The judges were impressed by the portrait’s skilful execution and its subtle and enigmatic qualities.

The second prize of £10,000 went to Chinese artist Bo Wang, 34, for “Silence”, a portrait depicting his grandmother lying on her hospital bed a month before she died. His portrait depicts his grandmother lying on the hospital bed a month before she died, while she was in the terminal stages of cancer and losing her ability to speak. Chinese artist Bo Wang is a lecturer at Suzhou University of Science and Technology in Jiangsu. He studied at the Ilia Repin St Petersburg Academic Institute for Painting, Sculpture and Architecture and has exhibited at the National Art Museum of China, in Beijing, and the Xinjiang International Exhibition Centre.

The third prize of £8,000 went to artist Benjamin Sullivan, 39, for “Hugo”, a portrait of the poet Hugo Williams painted in the study of his Islington home. Grimsby-born, Benjamin Sullivan lives in Suffolk. He gained a BA (Hons) in Drawing and Painting from Edinburgh College of Art. His portrait of Hugo Williams was painted in the study of the poet’s Islington home and Sullivan says the sittings were ‘accompanied by, very loud, Elvis and early Cajun music’. The artist had been an admirer of Williams’s poetry, especially his Billy’s Rain collection, and after being introduced to him at a private view in 2014 by a friend, the poet Stephen Romer, Williams agreed to sit for a portrait.

The BP Young Artist Award of £7,000 for the work of a selected entrant aged between 18 and 30 has been won by British artist Jamie Coreth for “Dad Sculpting Me”. Jamie Coreth, 26, was born in London but brought up in Dorset and Wiltshire. He won for a portrait of his sculptor father, Mark Coreth, painted entirely from life over the course of a month in his sculpture studio. Jamie Coreth undertook a BA (Hons) degree in archaeology and anthropology at Keble College, Oxford before studying at the London Atelier of Representational Art and the Florence Academy of Art. His work has been seen in group exhibitions in London. As an ex-officer for the Blues and Royals, Mark Coreth is seen wearing his old tank boiler suit, which is covered, says the artist, in ‘great flecks of plaster from previous sculptural adventures’. Coreth says: ‘My father has influenced me greatly in my work and given that it is a relatively strange thing for a sculptor to raise a painter, I thought it could be an interesting father–son project to make portraits of one another at the same time.’

The BP Travel Award 2016 was won by Lithuanian artist Laura Guoke, who has been awarded £6,000. She presented a proposal to travel to Lesbos, one of the refugee camps in Greece. She plans to use sketches, photographs and filmed material to create large-format portraits of the most vulnerable refugees from Syria and the volunteers helping them.

Also on display was the work of the BP Travel Award 2015 winner, French artist Magali Cazo. She won for her proposal to travel to a community of bronze-smelters in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, West Africa. There she lived with and represented the artists, apprentices and labourers whose lives revolve around the foundry. Magali was inspired by the vivid colours of the landscape, the architecture and the clothes on a previous visit to Bobo-Dioulasso and has used the sketches made on that trip to develop a series of portraits on wood.

Taking decisions from original paintings, the Panel of Judges of the BP Portrait Award 2016 was formed by: Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London (Chair); Christopher Baker, Director, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh; Alan Hollinghurst, writer; Sarah Howgate, Senior Curator, Contemporary Collections, National Portrait Gallery, London; Jenny Saville, artist; Des Violaris, Director, UK Arts & Culture, BP.

The BP Travel Award 2016 was judged by Paul Moorhouse, Head of Collections Displays (Victorian to Contemporary) and Senior Curator of 20th Century Collections Curator, National Portrait Gallery, London;  Richard Twose, artist and BP Portrait Award Second Prize winner in 2014, and Des Violaris, Director, UK Arts and Culture, BP.

The BP Portrait Award 2016 received 2,557 entries from 80 countries. Judged anonymously, 53 portraits have been selected for the exhibition.

The BP Portrait Award 2016 has been at the National Portrait Gallery, London, from 23rd June until 4th September 2016.