Sunday, June 14, 2009

Archiving the Artist

Archiving the Artist was a study day at Tate Britain that looked not only at how artists work and ephemera are archived but at what is likely to be missing and how these archives are used. Speakers ranged from archivists to artists and biographers to conservationists.
Artist David Batchelor spoke about his studio and how it relates to archival practice. Being surrounded by 'Stuff' and 'Things' are essential to the way he works but much of this 'stuff' has no immediately intended use it's there because it might be useful one day but then again he might throw it out its only value is a value he may or may not place upon it at some point in the future. He evidently considers that his studio would be an archivists nightmare. David's Parapillar 7 is shown left.
Archivist Anna McNally gave a fascinating insight into the work of archiving an artists belongings. Actually laying hands on the material may take years or can be a phone call that says 'if you can collect it by Friday you can have it, if not it's skipped'. Financial constraints, especially of climate controlled storage, often mean that not everything can be kept and the archivist is forced to make value judgements about what to dispose of. The archival Provenance Principle means that everything should be kept in the order in which it arrived - this is usually irrelevant in the case of artists archives but archivists have to be careful about what associations they make in the way that they catalogue the items. It is the cataloguing process and its attendant links that struck me as being the most interesting part of the work as the archivist comes to know their subject intimately.
Artist Jamie Shovlin gained a level of notoriety for his artworks that were false archives. Questioning how information gains authority and how interpretation can be highly subjective. 'Naomi V Jelsih' (and anagram of his name) was a work made entirely on an archive that he had created, Naomi never existed, and was created by an equally fictional curator 'John Ivesmail' (also an anagram of his name). As part of the creation of this work a website was created for Naomi including a Gallery of her drawings and newspaper cuttings about her disappearance. A page from one of Naomi's sketch books is shown above. Prior to the exposure of the fiction behind the work it had gained art reviews in national newspapers that praised its scholarship which shows how thoroughly he had researched the archival process.

Archive Adventures

Archive Adventures at Whitechapel Gallery was the culmination of a project, with local schools and artists, to consider the way in which the area has developed via the Gallery's Archives.
The exhibition shows reproductions of items from the archives juxtaposed with images , taken by the children, of the area today. The multi cultural nature of the area is represented well in it's religious buildings Hawkesmoor's 18th century Christ Church (that was the centre of worship for Huguenot immigrants) is balanced by the German Lutheran Church and East London Mosque.
Images of poverty and unrest such as soup kitchens and the match girls strike are balanced by pictures of hope in the Brick Lane Carnival and happy children at play.
I was particularly taken with the link to continuity that was made with an archive photograph (c. 1900) of school children around the Cairn Stone in Westham Park being reproduced with today's children in the same setting - the clothes, nationalities and means of photography may have changed but children still enjoy a school outing.

UCA Farnham - Graduate Show

The BA students at UCA Farnham have recently held their Degree Shows around the campus.
For me the textile department is always a highlight and this year I was particularly taken with the intricately textured surfaces of Kim Tattersall's leathers. Inspired by skin and yet also created in skin these beautiful pieces are highly sensuous and tactile. At the same time they can be used to invoke questions of identity and ethics.
Joanna Burdett's theme of smoking and lung cancer is a difficult one but she teases out a rare delicacy in many of her pieces. As with the process of detecting cancerous cells these pieces deserve to have time, and attention to detail, spent on them.
Paul Stopler's glass forms carry a great strength of weight and form. Lit from above their depth of colour casts deep pools of fluid colour onto the tables, it would be wonderful to experience these in natural light where the transience of this light/colour would be subject to constant minute changes. Paul's Pond Bowl is shown above
I was also very taken with Emily Percival's delicate ceramic pieces. Each piece is an unrepeatable one-off. The visual delicacy of the porcelain belies it's solidity. There is an impression in these pieces of the capturing, and preserving, of a moment in time but also the notion that they are vulnerable and that with a careless gesture the moment could so easily be lost.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Anna Trina Shoes

My daughter Anna Baxter currently has two bespoke, handmade, shoes from her Anna Trina brand in a London College of Fashion Graduate Showcase, just off Carnaby Street.
To see more of her work visit her website at
On the left is her Franchetti shoe, in pale metallic blue kid with hand made needlelace picots.
Her Salviati sandal, in nude kid with handmade needlelace and beaded embellishments is pictured on the left