Thursday, December 11, 2008

Staff Research Seminar

Jamie Dobson, Course Leader, Graphic Communication and Andrea Gregson, Senior Lecturer Fine Art. spoke about their practice based research.
Jamie spoke of his work with light, engineering and photography. Although he said that there can be a taint to commercial success I was extremely impressed to find that his Robot Trace (left) had been bought by Adobe and reinvented as the Trefoil logo on the Acrobat packaging.
The pieces that I found most interesting were those formed by three lengths of illuminated electroluminescent wire spinning, at varying speeds, from a central point. The idea is a simple one but the effects are myriad and the photographs that record the work are superb.(Below)

Andrea Gregson spoke of her residency at the Garden Museum (formerly the Museum of Garden History) and her 'Peepshow Boxes'. The idea of peeping into hidden worlds has an element of voyeurism about it but we all love being let in on a secret. 'A World Within' (above and below) reminds me of a rough packing case from the outside but the inside is covered with soft buttoned padding which could be interpreted as luxurious upholstery or as the inside of a padded cell from a lunatic asylum. The contents of this piece resemble pieces of fine white broken porcelain the texture of which contrasts wonderfully with the padding and rough timber.
The piece in the garden cemetery (left) fascinated me as the broken ceramics stacked on the internal shelves reminded me of the way bones are stacked in charnel houses when, like the broken ceramics, they are no longer fit for their original purpose. There was also an element of 'grave goods' about the idea of objects inside a wooden box in a grave yard.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Karen Purple - Terre Verte

Karen Purple has built up a personal archive of materials found on hers walks in the Oxfordshire countryside from which she frequently extracts materials with which to conduct her experiments with natural colours.
In her exhibition, Terre Verte, is an impression of her studio with neatly tied bundles of her samples of natural pigments on linen, canvas, cotton and wool fabrics. Alongside these are jars of the ground pigments and samples of what they are ground from, such as Crab Apple on linen shown above left.
Her pictures and their titles, such as 'Of Oak and Iron' and 'Shadow Parcels' (right), evoke the moods of nature and are built up of many subtle layers which deserve time to observe their hidden relationships.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's Underscan, North Terrace, Trafalgar Square, 5pm - midnight. From either end of the terrace two powerful spotlights cast shadows of passing pedestrians onto the pavement.
In theory the motion of these shadows is tracked and interacts with video portrait projections on the floor. On the day that I visited there were obviously technical problems being sorted out, by technicians up ladders, and the video projections were either animated or still as opposed to interactive. The 'sleeping' image shown above should have 'woken up' as the shadow passed over it.

However it was still interesting to see peoples reactions and to watch them try to interact with the video people. Those images that physically reached out to their audience seemed to be the ones that gained most active responses.
To coincide with the installation a retrospective of Lozano-Hemmer's work is being shown in the digital suite at the ICA

National Portrait Gallery

On the way to see the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery I came across the stunning new commission portrait of Zaha Hadid by Michael Craig-Martin. This vivid digital portrait changes colour constantly, sometimes the changes are subtle and almost imperceptible, sometimes almost violent in their mood swings, always mesmeric to watch.
Also on show is Champions: Portraits by Anderson & Low. Striking nude studies of internationally famous athletes that celebrate the physiques of sports men and women at the peak of their careers. Classically posed and shot in black and white, to support the Elton John Aids Foundation, these are stunning photographs that question the vulnerability of even the super-fit to HIV/AIDS.Diver Carlie Gidman is pictured left.
The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize was well worth the visit selected from the entries of over 2,500 photographers were some very moving images set alongside classical portraits and some that asked deeper questions. Of the prize winners my favourite is Bag by Hendrik Kerstens which is being used for the publicity (right)

Claire Morgan: Periphery

Claire Morgan: Periphery is showing at the James Hockey & Foyer Galleries, UCA Farnham until 10th January 2009.
Fantastic Mr Fox looks at mans impact on the natural environment. The 'cage' into which the fox is apparently about to walk is constructed from scraps of plastic, a comment on the way in which man impacts upon the land with his careless disposal of 'unnatural' materials. Just above ground level tiny scraps of meat are suspended, perhaps evidence of the fox's lunch? Foxes, in common with other scavengers are frequently maimed and killed as a result of mans carelessness. Wounds from broken glass or jagged metal are common and ingesting plastic can prove fatal.
Cats & Dogs looks quite different from different angles and deserves to have time taken in observing the play of light and shadow and the different densities of the structures within the work. The way in which the density of the plastic scraps impacts on the appearance of the two glossy black crows is fascinating. Crows are often portrayed as menacing but here among the white plastic scraps they take on a surreal beauty that is echoed in the shadows cast on the walls.

Leaves suspended inside the Foyer Gallery continues into the outside spaces as if passing straight through the glass wall
At first glance a beautiful trail of crisp autumn leaves, closer inspection reveals not only dead leaves but also the remnants of dead birds posing the question why is a dead leaf beautiful and a dead bird not?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Surface Matters

Surface Matters: Machine Drawings by Tetsuo Fujimoto at the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation. Encompassing the macro and the micro the large wall hangings flow and undulate as almost three-dimensional landscapes when viewed from across the room, however when view at close quarters they can be almost overwhelming and force the viewer to really concentrate on the macro of what is before them.
On Friday 14th November I was fortunate to be able to attend 'Tetsuo Fujimoto in conversation with Lesley Millar', a wonderful experience. Professor Fujimoto spoke at length in English and, with the help of digital images, provided delightful insights into the background to his work. He took questions from the floor (translated for clarity by his son) and responded generously, imparting gems of knowledge in English. His wonderfully gentle sense of humour shone through when he spoke of his work as 'just sewing', we all knew that it is so much more. After the main talk we were treated to a demonstration of his working methods. With the larger pieces taking three months to make, the layer on layer of stitching gradually builds to a richly textured surface that deserves to be given the honour of time spent viewing it - the more you look the more in tune with it you become. I shall continue to take great pleasure in viewing his work every time I enter our library at Farnham.

Salisbury Arts Centre

Housed in an old church Salisbury Arts Centre has a regularly changing series of exhibitions, events and performances. The current exhibition, Hang it!, focuses on non painted wall hung works.
Maike Barteldres is a jeweller who works with non-precious stone such as slate. When incorporated into jewellery the intrinsic details of the stone become apparent and take on a preciousness of their own. For this show Maike is showing larger pieces of slate that incorporated jewellery. She says that 'nothing can exist in isolation, by working jewellery into a larger wall piece I give it a context when it is not being worn'. 5 part wall piece from slate holding one silver ring (above left).

Carol Farrow works with hand made paper which she works onto with linen thread, acrylic paint and wax. She often combines pieces for an almost sculptural quality and allows her colours to flow freely. The top surface of wax can produce an almost leather-like quality that, visually at least, turns the vulnerability of paper into the toughness of hide. Curve, 145 x 94cm (above)

Grants for the Arts Funding Seminar

I attended the Arts Council England (ACE) Grants for the Arts Funding Seminar at Salisbury on 13th November. Led by Paul Goddard of the South West Region it gave a fascinating insight into the way applications are processed and assessed.
One of his main points was that there is no hidden agenda, all of the criteria that they work by are available either in the application pack or as information sheets downloadable from the website, these information sheets are well worth looking at if you are considering applying for funding.
It is also worth reading carefully who is not eligible, for instance as a textile student I am not eligible for funding for anything to do with my textiles course including an exhibition of my work. Touring overseas is also a problem as their main priority is to benefit people living in England.
Getting in touch with your local officers was advised as they like to have an idea of who you are and what you do before you apply, this is seen as part of your planning process. Not applying for funding too close to the deadlines or asking for a sum too close to the £5,000 cut off point are also seen as good planning.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Cecilia Heffer

I met Cecilia Heffer by chance at the ICA. She has used traditional lace as a design source, working from the collection at the Powerhouse Museum in Sidney and being mentored by historian and lacemaker Rosemary Shepherd.
She had with her a panel of her contemporary lace that was shown in her solo exhibition Laced in 2006. The circles are cut from silk organza, hand printed with traditional Venetian lace braids. These are then machine stitched together to form the wonderfully translucent panels.
She also showed me a picture of the contemporary lace curtains that she designed, for Government House in Sydney, as part of the 'To Furnish a Future Programme'. The lace was actually woven in Scotland on a 100 year old loom linked to a CAD system - a wonderful link between tradition and technology.
Cecilia is currently participating in a Residency at Central St Martins in London.

Second Life

Textile Futures Research Group now have an island in Second Life. The island is an experiment in staging a collaborative exhibition in a virtual gallery.
It is possible to walk (or fly) around the island to visit the exhibits and view them from any angle (or height). Alongside each exhibit is an information point (spinning 'i') that takes you to the artists website for further information about the work. The works that I visited included pieces by Rachel Wingfield, (pink column, above left) Polly Kenny, Kay Politowicz and Francis Geesin.
The island can be visited at various times of day and it is interesting to see how different some of the exhibits look in different lights.

Textile Futures Research Group

Textile Futures Research Group - What Future for Living Textiles? Friday 24th October.
The Friday session focused on textiles within architecture.

Slow Furl by Mette Ramsgard Thomsen is a wall of textiles that is very slowly moved by hidden armatures. It is 'self touching' in that when certain wires cross they activate responses.

Richard Bonser of Central Biometrics at Reading University spoke on the way that nature uses fewer materials in more intelligent ways than we do. I knew that self cleaning windows and paint existed but Richard explained how they work by imitating the surface of a Lotus leaf which is incredibly rough so that dirt finds it easier to bind with water (rain) than the surface of the leaf.

Browsing the V&A

It's a long time since I've been for a general browse around the V&A, as I usually go with an adgenda of things that I want to see.
Swarm by Mona Hatoum is an installation of Swarovski Crystals in the main entrance (I usually use the tunnel entrance). Had I not seen picyures of the installation I would have been surprised to find it composed of dark crystals rather than the usual sparkilng 'diamonds'. The title puts me in mind of Bees and I found myself listening for a humming sound. The picture (left) also picks up on the play of light on the filaments by which the cyrstals are suspended adding another layer to the etherial quality of the work.
Whilst looking for different angles from which to view Swarm I ended up in the metal work gallery and found Lehti (Leaf) by Finnish silver smith Maria Jauhianinen. It is made from photo-etched, powder coated, sheet brass. It was the lacy shadows that really made this piece look so delicate and unlike the metalwork that surrounded it.
The British Galleries may not be the obvious place to look for lace but actually there are some really interesting pieces on show including this length (1650 - 1680) which was probably dyed with cochineal.

C.J. Lim

The installation by CJ Lim and Studio8 Archetects (see July Blog) in the underground entrance to the V&A has been updated and now has red 'roses'.

Textile Futures Research Group

Textile Futures Research Group - What Future for Living Textiles - Thursday 23rd October
Oron Catts of Symbiotica talked, via Skype, about tissue culture and the possibilities of growing leather or steak by seeding polymer scaffolding with the appropriate cells.
Manel Torres of Fabrican introduced us to his spray on fabrics. Not yet on the market, this product can contain cotton, linen, silk or manmade fibres. It's possibilities for use in fashion are fairly obvious but it could also be used in health work as medicines could be carried in it similarly to nicotine patches.
Suzanne Lee of Biocouture is working with growing fabric. Nano fibrils of cellulose grow in a vat of liquid and eventually float to the surface where they form a layer of 'fabric' that can be lifted off and dried either flat or over a form.The fabric can be coloured with fruit or vegetables. The jacket shown above is coloured with oxidised metals.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


The Contemporary Czech Glass at the Craft Study Centre is from three artist/teachers, born in the 1970's, and their students, born in the 1980's.
My particular favourites are the playful Pony and Rocking horse from Michal Silhan. The elegant, simple, shapes of these forms belies the technilogical challenges involved in their casting. The way in which they are placed allows the pieces to interact with each other and for new shapes to be formed between them.
Pillow and Lowair from Zuzana Kynclova are equally playful but quite different. The subtleties of the contours and the density of colours make these pieces highly tactile. Visually these pieces entice the viewer to believe that they will be soft and yielding even though they know that they are formed from cold, hard, glass.
Veronica Cerna is showing two blown and cut glass vases, reminiscent of dividing cells, the depths of which harbour rich fluid colours that draw the viewer inwards.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Heimo Zobernig and the Tate Collection

Heimo Zobernig and the Tate Collection has not been particularly well received locally perhaps because of its disjointedness. The accompanying booklet states that 'Through Zobernig's idiosyncratic choice and presentation of the Tate Collection and through the dynamic juxtaposition with his own works, the artist radically challenges the gallery context to produce an exhilarating and unorthodox display' - he certainly succeeds in the latter.
This is an exhibition that I will need to revisit a number of times if I am to stand any chance of 'getting a handle' on where its coming from. At the moment I'm not getting beyond seeing works that I am instinctively drawn to such as Naum Gabo's Construction: Stone with a Collar, 1936-7 version (T06975)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Knitting & Stitching Show, Ally Pally

Thursday 9th October was spent stewarding the Westhope stand. A very rewarding, if rather exhausting, day spent talking to students, teachers and the creative public about the possibilities of contemporary lace.
Directly opposite was Ruth Issett's stand of superb banners. On the outside wall of her stand were these wonderful concertina fold hangings. The photo fails to show the subtleties of the colour changes along the lengths, or the changes within the contrast stripes but it does show the beauty that can be attained by the apparently 'careless' interaction of the pieces as they intertwine at floor level. I've no doubt that this arrangement took long hours of very careful experimentation to arrive at it's current formation.
One of the highlights of the Knitting and Stitching Shows has always been the Graduate Showcase and this year was no exception. Debbie Lyddon (right) and Jackie Langfeld (below) were two of the highlights. Debbie's long seascape was superb and incredibly evokative of so many miles of our coastline. Her use of drawn threads to depict movement in the water was excellent and her use of mulitonal colours imbued the work with a sense of the changing light.
Jackie's larger than life figurative sculptures formed from willow, steel,stitched cardboard and acrylic paint were set against a superb painted backdrop that reminded me of Kurt Jacksons underground paintings, rich, deep and full of feeling. The figures themselves have elements of the skeletal about them, ancient bones with scraps of flesh still clinging to give hints of the original form.

Light:craft Symposium

The Light:craft symposium, on Wednesday 8th October, was organised by the Crafts Study Centre and was part of the ongoing Urban Field series.
In his introduction Bob Martin, Visual Arts Officer (Crafts), Arts Council England South East, spoke of his ongoing interaction with light through ceramics, glass and shadows. One of the images of shadows that he showed was Dail Behennah's Perspex Cube with Pebble Sphere, 2006 (right). I just love this piece, the play of light, the tones within the pebbles, the shapes formed by the shadows, the spatial relationships of the pebbles, the fact that the shadow is an integral part of the piece, there's so much there that appeals to me.
Laurie Lea took us on a tour of her long term interest in how light affects form and form affects light. She began with the single human form and gradually abstracted it down to squares and circles. Transparency allowing light to flow through a piece and imperfections that allow light to escape offer many possibilities for exploration. Her latest works (above) are of voids in cast glass that are then lit with brightly coloured fluorescent light. Photographed in the beach-side ruins of an old hospital they are highly evocative of time and place.
Peter Freeman is a creator of light sculptures and installations which have a high level of resonance for me. This beacon is situated on the Weston-Super-Mare junction of the M5. Comprising thousands of LED lights it is date sensitive and goes up in 'flames' on Bonfire Night, plays Space Invaders on Halloween and displays pink hearts on Valentines Day. It is always a point of interest to see what it is doing as we drive past on our monthly trips to Cornwall.
Another of Peter's installations is the lighting in the window of the Exchange Gallery in Penzance where the 60 meter long glass facade can be illuminated, with a barometric sensor controlling the changes in the light colours. The gallery becomes a place to be visited even when it is officially closed at night.
Poole Arts Centre has a cooling system that senses the build-up of CO2 and opens flaps to ventilate the building.
Peter took a feed from these sensors to control his exterior lighting. The illuminations are subtle and 'quiet' when the building is empty but become bright when it is full of people.
Tine Bech is a visual artist working with installation, sound, sculpture and drawing. Originally from Denmark she now lives and works in London. On the left is one of her experimental, mark-making, drawings. She likes to work with materials such as graphite and charcoal and then place them in the rain to get interactive marks and fields of tone that are often extremely subtle but at other time can be quite harsh.
Purple Membrane, (right), was designed as an installation to be experienced by people who don't usually go to galleries. The lit mist hovers over a swimming pool and as the light outside fades the colour of the mist intensifies. The purple of the mist is set against a really deep orange to heighten the contrast.
Tine is currently involved in Tracing Light as part of Farnham Creates. This will include a trail of lights through the town and an interactive illumination of the bridge to Farnham Maltings which will be triggered by people crossing the bridge. There will also be workshops at the Maltings including 'Drawing with Light' which can later be downloaded from the Tracing Light website.