An excellent exhibition seen with an excellent timing and an excellent friend. True, the circumstances in which I’ve seen it make this slightly biased a review, but had ‘Love Is Enough’ been not as good I wouldn’t have such a good memory of it. I went to see this exhibition at Modern Art Oxford at its very opening (6th December 2014) with my friend Ruth, which made it all the more special. The concept of it is drawing connections between William Morris and Andy Warhol, two artists you wouldn’t necessarily put together first thought. But Jeremy Deller does, and does it brilliantly.
The exhibition brings the two artists together, in their ideology and aesthetics, their techniques and subject matters. And, as you find out work after work, there is so much the two of them share, from their concept of fame, to the use of textiles, to the patterns of their works and the series production. They were both artists, designers, writers, and engaged with their own times, Morris with Socialism, Warhol with Pop Culture. Something that got stuck in my mind was the commercial approach to art, which in both cases, in spite of them being so distant in time, is indeed prominent. Morris and Warhol also share the idea that art should belong to everyone, and should be as accessible and wide-spread as possible. This is something that is still controversial in our society: on the one hand the purchase of art is still a prerogative of those few who can affort it, but we’re seeing a gradual interest in the knowledge and appreciation of art in gallery and museums. A second thought I had was that, especially the Piper Gallery (for some reason the first we went into), there is a special pleasure one can get out of works displayed, and that is when paintings and prints are simply beautiful. Seeing patterns of flowers beautifully arranged and vibrant colours in prints is good and appreciable in its own right, and worth beeing seen. So the exhibition is not only thought-provoking, but also aesthetically pleasant, which to my mind is a great combination to find in an exhibition.
The only thing I was not entirely clear about was the title: why is Love Enough (and is it really)? The answer is given by the title of the following poem by Morris, which celebrates the live-giving power of love, but we could well apply to art too.
Love is enough: though the World be a-waning,
And the woods have no voice but the voice of complaining,
Though the sky be too dark for dim eyes to discover
The gold-cups and daisies fair blooming thereunder,
Though the hills be held shadows, and the sea a dark wonder
And this day draw a veil over all deeds pass’d over,
Yet their hands shall not tremble, their feet shall not falter;
The void shall not weary, the fear shall not alter
These lips and these eyes of the loved and the lover.