Enfilade

Exhibition | From Life

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on December 9, 2017

Thomas Rowlandson, Drawing from Life at the Royal Academy, (Somerset House), hand-coloured aquatint by A. C. Pugin and Thomas Rowlandson published in Ackermann’s The Microcosm of London, 1 January 1808. 20 × 26 cm (London: Royal Academy of Arts).

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Press release from the RA for the exhibition:

From Life
Royal Academy of Arts, London, 11 December 2017 — 11 March 2018

Curated by Adrian Locke

The Royal Academy of Arts presents From Life, a special exhibition project taking place across two distinct spaces: the Sackler Wing of Galleries and the Tennant Gallery. From Life examines what making art from life has meant to artists throughout history and how the practice is evolving as technology opens up new ways of creating and visualising artwork.

Drawing from casts of Classical and Renaissance sculpture and life models was long considered essential training for any aspiring artist, and was once a staple of the RA Schools, Britain’s longest established fine art school. Beginning with a display of historic paintings and works on paper drawn from the RA Collection, From Life explores the practice of life drawing, from the origins of the Royal Academy in the 18th century to the present day, whilst also looking to the future. Historic paintings by artists such as Johann Zoffany are followed by works in a diverse range of media by contemporary artists, including Jeremy Deller’s Iggy Pop Life Class (2016), Cai Guo-Qiang’s film One Thousand Youngsters Drawing David (2010), and Jenny Saville’s Entry (2004). From Life also presents work by Royal Academicians who continue to interrogate the practice of working from life, among them Antony Gormley, Chantal Joffe, Michael Landy, and Gillian Wearing.

Liane Lang, Casts Series (Royal Academy), Ars Equina, 2006–07, c-type photographic print.

For the first time the Royal Academy is working with artists exploring emerging technologies, which presents them with new ways to both observe and represent themselves and the world around them. Farshid Moussavi RA, Humphrey Ocean RA, Yinka Shonibare RA, and Jonathan Yeo have experimented with virtual reality technologies, creating new artwork for the exhibition using virtual reality platform HTC Vive, Tilt Brush by Google, and artistic software programmes, including MakeVR Pro. Farshid Moussavi’s VR experience transports visitors into masterpieces of ecclesiastical architecture, which they can adapt and transform themselves, while creative technology and content studio Happy Finish have worked with Yinka Shonibare to develop a three-dimensional rendering of a neo-classical painting, featuring a cast of Venus dressed in Shonibare’s trademark batik fabric. Meanwhile, Humphrey Ocean invites audiences to create their own three-dimensional sketches within a playful virtual environment centred on the artist’s fascination with chairs.

From Life reveals the creative process in making these new artworks, as well as opening up the exciting potential of future artistic applications of virtual reality. HTC Vive has supported the development of these works, which will also be available for audiences to experience at home on Viveport, HTC’s global VR app store. Artist Jonathan Yeo has collaborated with Google Arts & Culture to create the first physical free-standing sculpture in metal made by using Tilt Brush, his creative process is captured in a VR film to be published on Google Arts & Culture Youtube channel. The visitors’ experience of the virtual reality element within the exhibition will depend on availability. As each virtual reality artwork can only be experienced individually, access cannot be guaranteed.

Tim Marlow, Artistic Director of the Royal Academy of Arts said: “This is an experimental project that explores everything from artistic process to technological evolution and creative collaboration. In a sense, From Life embodies what an artist-run academy was, is and might become.”

Sky Arts have commissioned immersive content studio Factory 42 to produce a documentary entitled Virtual Reality: Mystery of Creativity, which explores creating art in a virtual environment and how artists use these cutting-edge technologies to explore the limits of traditional artistic methods. There are also a series of short films across the Royal Academy’s online platforms, as well as available via the Sky VR and Google Arts & Culture apps.

To coincide with From Life and as part of the 250th anniversary celebrations in 2018, the Royal Academy is offering free life drawing classes for 250 people of all abilities in the historic Life Room in the RA Schools [dating to the 1860s]. Each class is for a particular group that has a special relationship with either the RA, drawing, or the human body, from members of the Royal Academy’s outreach programmes to nurses and architects. The guest tutors will not be revealed until the life drawing class begins. The project will be documented by online features and videos. The RA is also inviting the public and Friends of the RA to participate through an open ballot to win 50 places at the following free classes, led by guest tutors who will be revealed on the day. Enter the ballot here.
13 December 2017 (10.30am–1.30pm), exclusive to Friends of the RA
24 January 2018 (10.30am–1.30pm), open to all

Sam Phillips, ed., Artists Working From Life (London: Royal Academy, 2017), 160 pages, ISBN: 978  19103  50904, £22.

From Michelangelo’s marbles to photographer’s self-portraits, artists have always been fascinated by their creative encounters with the human body. Often a key part of their early training, drawing and sculpting from life go on to inform their later work in unexpected and inspiring ways. This illuminating publication brings together interviews with over 19 artists from all disciplines, including painters, sculptors and conceptual artists, working in a variety of different media. Through in-depth conversations with them, the authors explore the many ways artists work ‘from life’: from Jeremy Deller’s open life class with Iggy Pop as model, to Jonathan Yeo’s innovative use of 3D scanners and virtual reality. The interviews are written by contributors including Caroline Bugler, Martin Gayford, Laura Gascoigne, Angela Kingston, Adrian Locke, Ben Luke, Sam Phillips, and Michael Prodger. The book is introduced by an essay on the history of life drawing by Annette Wickham, the Royal Academy’s Curator of Works on Paper.

Sam Phillips is editor of the Royal Academy of Arts Magazine.

 

 

 

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