Thursday, May 23, 2013

Yinka Shonibare - Nelson's Ship in a Bottle

Nelson's Ship in a Bottle by Yinka Shonibare appears to have sailed down the Thames to take up a new anchorage at the National Maritime Museum Greenwich.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Beauty is the First Test

Beauty is the First Test explores the influence of mathematics in craft. The exhibition shows work from established artists Michael Brennand-Wood; Suresh Dutt; Janice Gunner; Lesley Halliwell; Lucy McMullen; Janette Matthews; Peter Randall Page; Ann Sutton and Laura Thomas. Five case studies have now been added featuring the work of Gail Baxter (that's me), Carol Quarini, David Gates, Stella Harding and Margo Selby. The case studies are all displayed on specially commisioned furniture by David Gates. The exhibition is curated by Liz Cooper.
Beauty is the First Test is at the National Centre for Craft and Design at Sleaford in Lincolnshire, until 30 June. It tours to the Bilston Craft Gallery in Wolverhampton from 7 September to 2 November and then the Platform Gallery at Clitheroe from 16 January to 19 April 2014.
Taster images below - much better to see the real thing

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Japanese Textiles at the Ashmolean Museum

Threads of Silk and Gold: Ornamental textiles from Meiji Japan
Ashmolean Museum Oxford until 27th January
A stunning exhibition of 40 sumptuous pieces from the newly acquired collection of the Kiyomizu-Sannenzaka Museum in Kyoto. Tapestries and embroideries from the Meiji period (1868-1912)
Stormy with Seagulls is a superb example of the use of silk for shading and the colours, and mood, of the piece apparently change as the viewer moves past it and perceives the light from different angles. Like many of the pieces this was undoubted made for export, Japanese artists and designers having become aware of the popularity of seascapes with Western audiences.
Screen depicting the four classes of Edo Japan is thought to have been produced for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. The figures are worked in padded silk, not dissimilar in technique to the European stumpwork but far more detailed and expressive. They offer not only an insight into the hierarchy of the Edo period but also a glimpse of the trades that were valued such as basketry, braiding, ceramics and paper making.
  Screen with peacock and peahen was almost certainly made for an exhibition with its spectacular design, outstanding execution and complimentary border of peacock feathers on the lower edge of the lacquer frame. The black background to the silk and metal thread embroidery gives the whole piece the lustrous effect of lacquer ware. It is thought to have been produced by the leading Kyoto silk manufacturer Nishimura Sozaemon.
 Whilst the peacock is obviously the centre of attention the object of his attention, the peahen, is no less exquisitely worked with the jewel like colours of her feathers showing that she is a worthy recipient of his efforts, even if she does appear to be more interested in the nearest dandelion.

The loan textiles are enhanced with pieces from the Ashmolean's own collections including
Cranes, Cycads and Wisteria which hanging is thought to have been purchased in 1908 by Sir Herbert Ingram on his honeymoon. Cranes were symbols of longevity and so an ideal subject for newly weds. The trailing wisteria cleverly disguise the joins of the four panels that make up the work but it is the attention to detail on the black wingtip feathers that are perhaps the most impressive aspect of the workmanship.
Also from the Ashmolean is this Okimono (ornament) in the form of bamboo leaves with a cicada made of iron with silver and gold inlays. (approx. 9x34x21cm)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Lace:Here:Now - Nottingham Castle

Nottingham Lace - contemporary works inspired by Nottingham Lace shown alongside examples of traditional machine-made Nottingham lace at Nottingham Castle.
Joy Buttress - Worn, 2012
Joy is interested in the capacity of lace to be both beautiful and repulsive, particularly when it becomes stained, brittle or discoloured with age.

In this installation she uses lace motifs embroidered onto vintage women's undergarments. These are mainly suspended above head-height to encourage the viewer to look within rather than just at the exterior surface.
To this end Joy states that she wants 'the viewer to be challenged to search for unseen and concealed interventions on the inner surface of the garments, suggesting intimacy, secrecy and suppression'.

Nicola Donovan - Still, 2012.

Lace machine parts suspended in time and motion by a criss-crossing of threads that mingle with the shadows to form a 3D lacework echoing the mysteries of this lost industry.

Timorous Beasties - Devil Damask lace
This stunning panel of white lace hangs the full length of the main staircase at the Castle casting great shadows onto the wall behind

 It costs £75 per metre from I'm very tempted by their 'Spring Blossom', 'Bamboo' and 'Silver Birch' lace all of which would fit in well with the bamboo that grows outside my window.

One of the traditional pieces on display is the magnificent Battle of Britain panel from the Castle's collection.
I have details on these panels in my files and will write about this at a later date.
Overall a show well worth travelling to see.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Anna Baxter MA - Fashion Footwear - London College of Fashion

It was a real pleasure to be at the Festival Hall to see Anna and her fellow students receiving their Masters degrees, congratulations to them all.

Extra special thanks to Ruth and Johnny (and their families) who helped make it such a special occasion.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Over Here by Shane Waltener at Jupiter Artland

Over Here by Shane Waltener at Jupiter Artland introduces contemporary lace as sculpture in a familiar form - a giant knitted web.

Waltener describes the web as "Trapping the essence of the place and framing an ever changing imprint of it". The technique references traditional Shetland lace and the material (fishing line) hints at the the net as a means of capturing prey, a strange mixture in theory but very effective in this situation.

The thread is quite transparent when viewed against the light but, as with a rainbow, viewed at the right angle that the colours become apparent. It would be great to see this with a backdrop of autumn leaves but sadly I have no plans to be in the area in the fall.

The knitted structure of the work only becomes apparent at close quarters but reminds me of a comment that I once heard; 'women knit - men are continuous loop construction engineers'. Either way this is a work that successfully brings knitting / lace / textiles to the attention of a wider audience. Perhaps not one of his most adventurous pieces but powerfully effective in this setting.

Firmament by Antony Gormley at Jupiter Artland

For me Firmament by Antony Gormley was one of the most fascinating pieces at Jupiter Artland, this vast steel sculpture has distinct connections with the research that I an doing with archives and with contemporary lace structures.

View from the right angle the form of a person kneeling, with their head to the ground, can be distinguished. This connection of man with earth is elemental to our being but it is the sky showing through the work that dramatically emphasises the tenuous nature of this connection.
As a contemporary lacemaker much of the appeal in this piece is in considering it as a piece of lace - the voids being an integral part of the work without which it would be a very different, and in my opinion less effective, piece.

My lacemaking is about making connections and giving form to voids which is what this sculpture does in three dimensions.
Taken out of context images of the work can appear wonderfully random and formless but in reality every strut and joint is an essential element of the overall form which is only revealed at a suitable angle and distance from the work.

One thing which surprised me about the piece was the presence of an annotated numbering system for the elements which gave it a direct link to the accession numbers that I have been working with in the Birmingham Museum archives and collections.