Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fashion & Lace Museum, Calais

Having heard that there is a new lace museum in Calais I thought that I would look it up on the web to see how easy it would be to get there.
I was dissapointed to find that the website is only available in French and has very few images.
However there was a good map of how to get there and access appears to be easy from the ferry port.
For me the most interesting section was the English language Press Release which contains good images. I was highly impressed with the facade of the building (right) which takes its decoration from the punch cards used for early machine made lace.
I am looking forward to visiting the museum and discovering where they have placed the emphasis in their displays. Putting Fashion first in the title is likely to attract more visitors than the Lace would so perhaps there will be high levels of fashion on display. Within any lace display it is always interesting to see what the balance is between the types of handmade lace and between the handmade and machinemade laces.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Oxford Summer School

Oxford Summer School is an annual art event featuring short courses in art, craft and music. This year I attended the Plaited baskets with willow bark and New Zealand Flax course taught by Joanna Gilmour
Initially we worked with the wonderfully fragrant willow bark that Jo had prepared for us in the spring when her crop of willow was ready to harvest. Mastering the basic plaiting techniques and a selection of finishing methods was my prime concern with any product being a bonus so I was really please with the small container pictured above.
Although I enjoyed working with the willow bark it is not a material that I have easy access to so I concentrated on working with the New Zealand Flax which I can crop easily from my garden.
The 'pin-wheel' knot was one of the first things that I mastered with this material, going on to produce this fun vessels that everyone calls my pineapple.
Jo had a display of interesting pieces that she had made and I was fascinated by the use of pin-wheel knots to form pentagonal voids (rather than their natural squares). The pentagons meant that the work would not lie flat and constantly twisted and buckled into interesting forms which produced wonderful shadows. My, still rather green, version is shown left.
Some of Jo's very lacy, sculptural pieces can be seen on the Projects section of her website at

MA Graduate Show - Farnham

Hard to believe that the two years of the MA are almost over.
Really looking forward to seeing everyone's work in the final show. Love the images of Ros's ceramics on the invitation, very subtle.
A selection of images from the interim show are now available under the 'Events' tab on

Ghost Tree Studio

I have finally created a website so that my work can be viewed on line. shows a selection of my contemporary work accompanied by the background to each piece.
What I really need now is for people to search for "Gail Baxter" on Google (or any other search engine) and click into the site from there so that the search engines know that it is a site worth listing.

Richard Long

Richard Long 'Heaven and earth' at Tate Britain is a retrospective that covers a rage of mediums used by this resourceful artist. I've always preferred the physical presence of the mud paintings and rocks to the photographs which leave me with a slight sense of loss for the places I will never see.
I'm not sure how I got to this image (left) but it was via the Tate Britain site which gave you the opportunity to explore works in greater detail ( must go back and note how I did it). The 'splatters' are such a lively element of the works, delicate details that are so different from the force of the main work.

I found some of the stone circles more interesting than others, they always put me in mind of burial mounds. The flint one was superb and reminded me that I would like to revisit Grimes Graves (Neolithic flint mines) next time I'm in Norfolk.

'Stone Line' 1980 is a classic piece that I can look at for hours, there is something fascinating about the juxtaposition of the regularity of the works outlines and flat plains with the irregularity of shapes from which it is formed. The negative spaces in this are also interesting, an aspect that attracts me in many of his works.

Walking in my mind

Walking in my mind at the Hayward Gallery was an amazing experience including some monumental works. Before arriving at the gallery the work of Yayoi Kusama was encountered on the river bank in the form of wrapped trees. It interested me to see how many people had interacted with these artworks by leaving messages on the white spots.
Her main installation (left) was of giant inflated shapes in red with white spots set within flooring and ceiling of the same design with mirrored walls and ceiling. Although this gives a sense of continuity, of going both forwards and backwards in space and time it can also be very disconcerting and quite overwhelming at times.

I loved the idea of Thomas Hirschhorn's 'Cavemanman' I wasn't totally convinced by its execution. Again slightly disconcerting to walk through, the cave made of cardboard and packing tape just didn't quite cut it for me. The idea of covering the walls and floors with graffiti as a link to the past and the caves of Lascaux seemed rather flippant but the idea of the junk that litters our minds for which we have no use and no means of disposal was very accurate of today's multi sensory world.

For me the masterpiece of the show was Chiharu Shiota's 'After the dream'. This is 3-dimensional lace at its best! I find the ghostly white dresses, rather than the enclosing black threads, rather sinister but am not sure why. It's uncertain whether the dresses are trapped or protected by the web, if they are trapped is it to prevent them from getting out and harming the audience or to hold them against their will for unknown purposes? Walking through the web tunnel was a wonderful experience, not at all oppressive, the depth of the web was also deepened by the soft shadows on the walls. I find it strange that she uses wool which is not a traditional Japanese material, I wonder if there is a significance that I have missed?

Tate St Ives - Summer 09

7 rooms - 7 artists, a really mixed bag.
I never cease to be amazed by how many Hepworth pieces I have not seen in the flesh, the rotunda gallery (above) has many old favourites and a few that are new to me. I always love to see them in this setting, the light is wonderful and the curve of the gallery seems to echoes so many of the forms.

Carol Bove (below) is an artist I've not come across before but I love her work. I'm especially taken with the way that she elevated the old, broken and battered to the status of works of art. The net hanging at the left hand end of the gallery looks just like an ordinary fishing net that's been washed up on the beach but it is actually made from very fine silver chain. This chain is a common link in many of the pieces here, suspending a pale 'sand-dollar' and a delicate piece of driftwood, surrounding a portrait and a second net at the far end.
The Breath-taker is the breath-giver' is an installation of video projections by Bojan Sarcevic that must be driving the attendants insane. Nothing to do with the images, just having to stop each visitor and warn them of the glass 'pavilions' that project into the darkened gallery space (left). I was particularly taken with the slowly rotating images and beautifully lit stills of the wooden box and sand that were accompanied by specially commissioned Turkish music. 'A poetic exploration of sculptural space' was the catalogue entry - a perfect description.

Amanda Wallwork

Lost Ways was the title of Amanda Wallwork's exhibition at the Belgrave Gallery in St Ives.
Worked in oil, graphite and plaster on board. The surfaces had been scratched back and eroded to show hidden layers that are reminiscent of the geological processes that reveal the hidden layers of archaeology. Based on the surrounding area which is full of pre-historic settlements and trackways her work captures the essence of long forgotten tracks and meeting places.
Stone Map (above) references the many burial cairns and standing stones that are found in the Penwith area.
Boundary Path (right) has echoes of the many ancient trackways that are still in use today. Open and exposed on the high moorland but at lower levels sheltered by stone field walls that date back to the Bronze Age.
Tinners Cross (left) is a particularly beautiful piece that benefits from being given a generous amount of time to contemplate. As you move around the piece different layers catch the light and the mood shift. Tin has been worked in the area since the before the Bronze Age and exported all over the world. The Tinners Way is a footpath that works its way along the spine of the peninsular, keeping mainly to the high ground, towards the old ports in Mounts Bay on the south coast.
Lonely and windswept, shrouded in swirling mists or scorched black by the heat of a moorland wildfire - Amanda has captured these places in all their rawness.


Anna Briony Baxter B.A.

Wonderful day at Anna's graduation ceremony which was held at the Central Methodist Hall, Westminster.

Getting at 'first' from University of the Arts London (London College of Fashion) is no mean feat as they still require a minimum of 85% for a first.

Not surprised to find that the trim on the LCF gown is their trademark colour of bright pink!

The Uncanny

The Uncanny was the theme for the Part-time Foundation students at Abingdon College this term. This wide ranging show, from mainly mature students, covered a variety of media including paint, photography, video, textiles and cast paper.

Janet Hewson had extended her drawing skills, via manipulation in Photoshop, to produce some wonderful images of family. Barely there, in some cases, but full of memories and evoking the essence of the family but in unfamiliar guise.
Helen Young tackled the theme of 'life imitating art', focusing on the acting family Redgrave/Richardson. Her haunting prints on fabric were based on collaged newspaper clippings. The collages looked at the way the families film/theatre roles overlapped, sometimes tragically, with their real lives.