I treat galleries that have free admission in pretty much the same way as buffets: so long as I don’t have to pay I will go back again and again as much as I can. My boyfriend mostly disagrees with this stance but last month when I went to visit him in London we crammed in a trip to the Tate Modern before a friend’s housewarming party. He complained that we’d already been there once (in our lifetimes!) but I hushed him and pushed him and both parts of the evening turned out delightful.
Anyway, one of my favourite things I saw there were the sculptures of Germaine Richier:
At the time I was really struck by the vast difference between Richier’s figures and the gentle roundness in certain Picasso portraits of women, especially this one which was one of my other favourites from the same trip. I don’t know if this says something about how male and female artists approach female bodies but I think there’s a real sense that while those admittedly gorgeous Picassos are the work of someone looking at a body, Richier’s work suggests the effort and stress of owning your own body. Putting aside ideas like size and beauty, I don’t think many people would visualise a part of themselves as smooth and tranquil because we all know our own histories. Obviously we romanticise ourselves and our experiences but again, that’s something we do to present to someone else.
Richier incorporates lots of found pieces into her sculptures which I find especially cool because a) it made for a lot of cool little stories on the plaques at the gallery and b) it supports my idea of her sculptures representing the body as seen by its owner, because we all have pieces of ourselves that seem to come from the outside (genetics, luck, trauma, etc). Oh, and c) I just really like surrealism and collages and stuff.
What made me want to write about Richier’s sculptures today though is the unseasonably horrible weather we’ve been having at the moment (in the UK and I think Spain too?). The cold is so cruel right now that maintaining a physical body does presents challenges. These sculptures show the beauty of endurance and experience and I think they’re weirdly cheering to look at when I know I have to go out soon and the wind is going to freeze my face off. I mean, we can only spend so long sitting inside, hiding from it and eating soup. Let’s all admit to feeling like lounging Picasso babes when we’re indoors and regal, angular Richiers when we’re outdoors.