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Art has long inspired art and artists, and a new exhibition at the National Gallery explores how Ovid's Metamorphoses inspired some of Titian's paintings. These in turn have produced a collaborative exhibition between the National Gallery and the Royal Ballet.
Metamorphosis (Picture Courtesy of the National Gallery Website)
The three paintings featured as the basis of the presentation are Diana and Actaeon
Diana and Actaeon (Picture Courtesy of the National Gallery Website)
The Death of Actaeon
The Death of Actaeon (Picture Courtesy of the National Gallery Website)
and Diana and Callisto
Diana and Callisto (Picture Courtesy of the National Gallery Website)
These works of art are the entry point, and it is up to the visitor to choose the route they take from here. In all you will be able to see Chris Ofili's painted responses to Titian's works, as well as the costumes and sets he has designed for the Royal Ballet's Metamorphosis. Costumes and sets have also been designed by Mark Wallinger and Conrad Shawcross. In addition there is Shawcross's Trophy, where he imagines Diana as a robot examining her trophy: an antler that represents the dead Actaeon.
The exhibition presents short filmed excerpts of the Royal Ballet's choreographers working with the dancers as they perfect the various routines inspired by Titian's paintings. The viewer also has an opportunity to transgress just like Actaeon. The object of our gaze is not Diana and her nymphs, but a woman in a bathroom. We enter a darkened space with a locked room in its centre and are able to catch glimpses of a naked lady in a modern bathroom as she performs her ablutions. There are vantage points and spy holes and it's up to the voyeur to watch what they can, just as Actaeon came upon Diana bathing in the forest.
Finally there are also filmed responses to Ovid's poetry, written and read by contemporary poets.
This is an intriguing and fascinating experience that demonstrates how art begets art and that we, as viewers and voyeurs, only differ from Actaeon in choosing to visit the National Gallery.
The exhibition runs until 23 September. There are many related events that include music, poetry and talks and the ballets will be performed between 14 and 20 July at the Royal Opera House. They will also be screened live in Trafalgar Square on Monday 16 July and at other venues across the country as part of the BP Summer Big Screens series.