Sunday, December 9, 2007

Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons

Tuesday 4th December, Carols and dinner at Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons. My husband was given a pair of tickets for this event, each year Le Manoir puts on six evenings of Carols at the local church in Great Milton, Oxfordshire. On the evening we attended it was the Winchester Cathedral's Boys Choir singing, they were of course superb. The evening begins with a champagne and canapes reception in Le Manoir with a harpist playing in the main lounge. Log fires are burning and each room has it's own colour scheme for Christmas decorations, all linked with a touch of gold. The short walk to the church is along torch lit paths amongst twinkling lights in the trees. The church has been lit with hundreds of candles and is surprisingly warm. The readings, on this occasion, were by Charles Collingwood and Judy Bennet (Brian and Shula from the Archers). On return to Le Manoir we were seated at large tables of 10 - 12 people for dinner. We were lucky enough to be seated with the Manager and his wife who, like the rest of the guests, were very good company with lots of tales about Le Manoir. Dinner was everything one would expect from a Michelin starred restaurant and the service impeccable, when I said no to wine (as I was driving) I was offered non-alcoholic cocktail instead and fresh peppermint tea was offered as an alternative to coffee after the meal. To say that the meal was pumpkin soup, confit of foir gras, steamed halibut, fillet steak and chocolate desert followed by coffee and pettit fours does not begin to describe the experience.
At this time of year the gardens are not at their best but I intend to return in the summer for lunch and a day spent enjoying the gardens and their sculptures.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Fabrications, Craft in the 21st Century

This symposium was held at the Victoria & Albert Museum on Friday 23rd November to coincide with the exhibition Out of the Ordinary.

Collaboration was one of the recurring themes of the day and how artists 'claimed' work that they had not fabricated, the concept was theirs but they had used the technical skills of others to fabricate the finished product. One example of this was Grater Divide by Mona Hatoum, this 6ft high screen was fabricated at Mike Smith Studios in mild steel, the steel was laser cut and then worked by hand.

It was noted that studio assistants go back a long way, Rembrant had 50 assistants so much of his later work was not by his own hand.

Another area that was covered by more than one speaker was curatorship and how works are displayed - the white room is not a neutral setting but it offers a safe haven in which to test theories in art. The amount of space around an object confers a degree of importance on that object and plinths elevate objects and brings in the tradition of placing sculpture, the logic of the monument. Craft objects are often placed on plinths because of their relatively small size. Hildur Bjarnadottir's Belgian Linen Crochet Cloth was placed on a plinth but the fact that it was allowed to drape over the sides referenced it's 'homely' origins but it was still elevated from the domestic activity.

I was interested in the comments by Sorrel Herschberg of the British Council on the way that many people prefer to call themselves Designers or Makers rather than Craftsmen. In the West craftsmen are still regarded as having a narrow vision and being restricted to one medium or field . Max Lamb has a compulsion to make but calls himself a Designer as that is what he trained as, He works in cast copper and pewter and is based in Cornwall where these metals were once locally produced which adds value to the story of how the items were made. Sorrel commented that design has a power relationship over craft, this is probably based on the more commercial nature of design which always has one eye on the market place.

Paper-cuts are 'in' at the moment and Professor CJ Lim, the keynote speaker, used this technique in some of his work. Kara Walker uses black paper silhouettes to comment on social problems and it is the basis of Paul Chan's video installation First Light (right) which was projected onto the floor at the Serpentine Gallery in 2006

Laurie Britton-Newell, who curated Out of the Ordinary, commenting on the current resurgence of interest in Craft said that people feel out of touch with the origins of things and that previous generations were more familiar with the making process.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Out of the Ordinary

Out of the Ordinary, Crafts in the 21st Century is currently on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
For Everything and Nothing Catherine Bertola has collected dust from around the museum and used it to texture and colour giant paper-cuts based on wallpaper patterns. Dust tells the hidden history of a place and those who use it.

Naomie Filmer is fascinated by the parts of the body that are usually not celebrated, such as the back of the knee or elbow. For Body Map she has cast small areas of the body, such as the heel, in silver. These pieces have been magnified and isolated inside glass lenses making them extraordinary.
The Book of Humanity, the empty book is a stunning installation of hand cut red tissue paper falling from three suspended books by Lu Shengzhong. Each stream of paper ends with a small figure, representing the fragility of man. On the opposite wall are stacked black cases full of hand cut figures, also of hand cut red tissue paper.
Capacity by Anne Wilson is, for me, the most stunning piece in the exhibition. It is a fusion between art and science and captures the moment of the lungs being filled with air. The transparency of glass and its ability to reveal is perfectly suited to the invisibility of the air it portrays.
Anne Wilson has used thousands of fragments of lace in her Topologies installation. There is an important play on scale in this piece which counteracts the preciousness of lace - where one flower is precious, a field full is less so and the same effect is gained here. Showing alongside the installation is a stop-motion video of the piece being installed, accompanied by a soundtrack of the threads, pins and hammers at work.

V&A Entrance Tunnel

The entrance tunnel to the Victoria & Albert Museum is being used for a series of installations. The current work is, The anti room of the Mae Queen, by Simon Periton, who has been working in cut-out paper for the last decade. The delicacy and decorative qualities of these pieces is juxtaposed by the solidity of the metal in which they are worked.

I was particularly taken with this lantern. It is based on disintegrating knitting but looks very like a bobbin lace pattern that I like to distort (Half stitch and net ground). Disintegrating textiles is an area that I intend to look at in the next semester.