Friday, November 13, 2009

Catherine Hyde

My first encounter with Catherine Hyde's work was a print of of ‘Between Earth and air’
The hare is a female symbol in fertility and the stag, which also makes frequent appearances in Catherine’s work, is her male counterpart.

I recently heard Catherine speaking about her work at a Telling Tales study day at the V&A . It was particularly interesting to hear about her illustrations for The Princess Blankets by Carol Ann Duffy. The Oceans Blanket is shown above.
She currently has an exhibition at the Lighthouse Gallery in Penzance. Much of the work is based on The Nine Powers by Robert Graves. My favourite piece from the exhibition is ‘Soft Night Descending’ a fabulous barn owl coming in to land or catching prey, depending on your sensibilities.
‘The Barley River’ (right) is one of many paintings that focus on tension points where things such as land and water meet. The moon represents time, fullness and the female.
Another creature that often features in Catherine’s paintings is the crow which has a duality representing both ill omen and knowledge

The Nine Powers

Not of father nor of mother
Was my blood, was my body.
I was spell bound by Gwydion,
Prime enchanter of the Britons,
When he formed me from nine blossoms,
Nine buds of various kind:
From primrose of the mountain,
Broom, meadowsweet and cockle,
Together intertwined,
From the bean in its shade bearing
A white spectral army
Of earth, of earthly kind,
From blossoms of the nettle,
Oak, thorn and bashful chestnut
Nine powers of nine flowers,
Nine powers in me combined,
Nine buds of plant and tree.
Long and white are my fingers
As the ninth wave of the sea
By Robert Graves

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Clare Knox

Secret Second Life: new work by Clare Knox has taken the idea of using normal, throwaway, materials and turning them into something precious - necklaces, earrings, brooches etc. These vibrantly coloured 'scribbles' in EVA have a graphic quality to them that is at once innocent and playful yet also has a slightly uncanny side as the necklaces respond to body heat and mould themselves to the wearers form.
Clare's large drawings have been created especially for the window spaces at The Hub. Again produced with extruded EVA these drawings act as contemporary lace curtains for the stairwell. Ranging from skulls and octopuses to caricatures these pieces have huge commercial potential for those who are looking for something unique to keep prying eyes at bay.

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home: an exploration into the subversive elements of the domestic is this years title of The Hub's annual exhibition of work by UK Graduates in Craft & Design.
For me the highlight of the show was Rebecca Fairman's ceramic quilt; Cold Comfort. Usually associated with warmth and comfort this quilt of cold, hard, unglazed ceramic segments was at once beautiful yet disturbing. The absence of the body in conjunction with the unyielding nature of the materials requires the audience to fill in the blanks and correct the misinformation from their own experiences.
As a lacemaker I was naturally drawn to the patterns of lace that had been impressed into the surface which had often left accurate enough images to identify the construction method of the piece.

Charlotte Agius uses discarded objects to evoke emotional responses, her source material are rooted in domestic culture. I had been drawn to the mop made from real hair in the Hub's newsletter but in reality it was it's counterpart brush that I was more attracted to.
Yuvinia Yuhadi's Not-so-ubiquitous Knitted Chairs amused me; cardigans for garden chairs and keeping Granny out of mischief were the thoughts that came to mind rather than the uncanny. However having recently become aware of the skull under the Princess Chair, by Tord Boontje, I would have dearly liked to unbutton the front of this chair to see if had any interesting secrets hidden beneath its innocent exterior. I was also amused by her blog.
Although for me Megan Randall's installation of tiny porcelain vessels didn't work in this setting I could see that, as suggested, placed on cliffs or in abandoned factories they would be fascinating and quite uncanny. Her website is still under construction but what is currently there gives a good insight into her work.
Beatrice Baumgartner is showing an animation and the miniature house in which it was filmed. La Maison OubliƩe is a delightful film, inspired by Gothic fairy tales, that peeps into the world of decay that takes over the house as it gradually returns to nature. Normally I don't like to hear the soundtrack of a film while I'm looking at other pieces of work but the tinkling jewel box and occasional soft clanking that accompanied this piece were not intrusive but conversely invited the audience to consider looking again at either the film or its accompanying house.

The Nature of the Beast

The Nature of the Beast is the title of Goshka Macuga's exhibition for the Bloomberg Commission at the Whitechapel Gallery. April 2009 - April 2010.
Macuga began her research for this exhibition in the Gallery's archives. Here she found details of the showing of Picasso's Guernica at the Gallery in 1939 and the political debate that was held around it. Ever the political creature Macuga was fired into action and the exhibition revolves around the tapestry version that usually hangs outside the United Nations Security Council chamber. As this area is currently closed for refurbishment the gallery has been able to borrow the tapestry for the duration of the exhibition.
Universally adopted as an anti-war symbol the tapestry is once again used as a backdrop for debate as the centrally placed 'round table' is available for the public to hold meetings and debates.
The blue curtain behind the tapestry references the blue curtain that was used to cover the tapestry when US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, gave his now infamous press conference effectively calling for war against Iraq. Ostensibly the plain blue was to allow better television coverage but it was widely seen as an admission that he could not be seen to be calling for war in front of such a symbolic icon of the horrors of war. Colin Powell is represented in a bronze statue that pays homage to the Cubist style of many of Picasso's sculptures.
Across the room from Colin Powell a series of films are shown, rotating on a monthly basis, each of which has some form of anti-war message. This also has a connection with Guernica; when the original painting was shown in the Spanish Pavilion at the 1937 International Exhibition in Paris it was accompanied by a series of anti-war films.
This exhibition is a highly charged piece of politically driven art that questions man's inability to learn from past mistakes.

Venice Biennale

This was my first visit to a Biennale in Venice, although I had visited the city several times before. There were four artists work that I particularly wanted to see and thereafter I was happy to browse and see what I chanced upon.
I have been looking at the work of Goshka Macuga at the whitechapel Gallery and so wated to see the piece that she has in Venice. Plus Ultra is a classic piece Macuga's of politically driven work. Depicting the members of the G20 smiling down on the rest of the world it takes the form of a gigantic banner wrapping itself around the pillars of the Arsenale as if they were the Pillars of Hercules and it is about to bring the whole world crashing down around itself. Very powerful, moving, piece. Tteia I,C by Lygia Pape represents her ambitious work on three-dimensionality. These square forms of carefully lit gold thread are said to represent cosmic immateriality. Certainly as you move around this huge piece the visible areas change, with some sections appearing to hover unattached in mid-air. Delicate yet powerful this was perhaps the piece that I most wanted to see and I was not disappointed.
Tomas Saraceno was another artist who's work I wanted to see, again it is three dimensional lace by any other name and again I was not disappointed. Galaxies Forming along Filaments, like Droplets along the Strands of a Spider's Web may not have been the most succinct title in the Biennale but it was certainly descriptive of the work. One of the highlights of this piece was the way that people were interacting with it, it was possible to walk around the edge of it to the next room but most people chose to work their way through the piece, occasionally catching the elastic cords and causing a ripple of movement through the work.
An unexpected delight for me came when examining my photos and discovering that the black covered cord was in some way reflective. I rarely use the flash on my camera, and often find other people's flashes distracting, but before leaving this gallery I had taken a few photos using flash and found that it had bounced off the cord giving a totally different impression of the piece - almost eerie.
I looked at the work of Tim Noble and Sue Webster at the start of my MA and this was the first chance that I'd had to see their work in the flesh. The incoherent pile of pieces of scrap metal on the floor of this semi-derelict building gave absolutely no clue as to what they would reveal when correctly lit. Fornicating Rats seemed oddly appropriate to the state of the building which must surely have seen its fair share of uninvited small furry inhabitants.
In the same building I was delighted to come across the work of Jamie Shovlin. Notorious for his ficticious archives; Naomi V Jelish, Shovlin is again working with ideas linked to archives. The framed pictures on the walls appear to be press cuttings of various world leaders.
Closer inspection reveals them to be pencil studies of press cuttings that show the quality of his traditional artistic skills as well as the playfulness of his manipulation of his audiences perceptions. A detail of 40th Incumbent is shown right.
Amongst the other works that I was particularly taken with were Library by Woojung Chung.

Moon Dust (Apollo 17) by Spencer Finch at the Arsenale.

In Ethics in Dust Jorge Otero-Pailos has used latex to clean one of the walls of the Doge's Palace. In doing so it becomes a repository of the pollutions and degradation that has affected the exterior of the building over the centuries.

The reverse of the work shows how detailed this information can be.
Kukulkan by Guatemalan Dario Escobar, also at the Arsenale.
Although Maria Grazia Rosin's work is primarily about her glass I was fascinated by the video projection, Buco d'aqua, that was part of her installation.

I found Pascale Marthine Tayou's installation rather hard going, due to being somewhat under the weather, but thought the video projections onto a disgorged out-falling of rubbish were absolutely stunning

Lace in Translation

Lace in Translation is showing until April 3rd at The Design Centre, Philadelphia University. Three contemporary art/design studios have drawn inspiration from the Quaker Lace Company collection, held at the Design Centre.
Demakersvan, the Dutch design studio have created a lace fence for the drive at the Centre. It is one of their classical lace designs that owes much to the floral tradition of European bobbin lace, most notably Brussels and Chantilly. Seen here against a backdrop of trees the flowing nature of the pattern stands out particularly well.
Cal Lane is an internationally know sculptor who uses her welding torch to challenge the traditional male/female conventions. Here she uses it to cut lace patterns from oil tanks, contrasting the femininity of the lace with the masculinity of the industrial, metal, containers.
She has also employed her welding torch to burn doilies into the grass. Reminiscent of the lace doilies spray painted onto the grass for Kantlijnen in Brugges Lane's burning takes the process one stage further with the removal of sections of the turf to provide a strong positive/negative contrast.
Tord Boontje has returned to the traditional methods of lacemakeing for some of his pieces, taking a traditional pattern and reinterpreting it on a larger scale and in unusual materials - grass and raffia. This hair piece, in grass, is part of an ensemble that can be seen in a video of a girl walking in the woods.
Raffia has been used to create this curtain for one of the windows in the Centre. Like much traditional lace it has been fabricated in section by different people and then assembled to create a larger whole. I was lucky enough to hear Tord Boontje talking about the work for this exhibition and see the video at a talk accompanying the Telling Tales exhibition at the V&A.
The piece from this exhibition that I would most like to see is his Lace Sofa, a wondrous web indeed. My interest in this piece is partially due to my desire to work in fully three dimensional bobbin lace and partially my love for truly 'Wild lace'.

Telling Tales

Telling Tales: Fantasy and Fear in Contemporary Design at the V&A looks at how fairy tales have influenced designers. The exhibition is divided into three sections; The Forest Glade, The Enchanted Castle and Heaven and Hell.
In The Forest Glade are several pieces by Tord Boontje including his fabulous Fig Leaf Wardrobe. Wardrobes have been used in fairy tales as the gateway to other worlds and the camouflage that this one would in a forest adds to its sense of danger. Each enamelled leaf has been hand cast and decorated and has its own specific place on the skeletal canopy that forms the frame. Priced at £350,000 it's a real luxury piece that would have fitted equally well in The Enchanted Castle.
On the opposite side of the Forest Glade sit three of Boontje's chairs including the Princess Chair. This beautiful white chair with its flowing skirt of white tulle is not as innocent as it at first appears for on the underside of the seat swab is hidden an image of a skull embroidered in red silk. As with so much in the forests of fairy tales there is a darker side that is hidden.
Moving into the Enchanted Castle the focus becomes opulence and a sense of 'over the top' prevails. To the right the walls and floor are mirrored giving a sense of mad glitter and glamour (see above).
Heatwave radiator by Joris Laarman is based on scaled up Rococo scrolls which provide a large surface area for the convection of heat. In its setting here it is almost lost amongst the reflected madness but in a normal home would be a major statement piece.
Also in this setting are a series of furniture pieces in black and gold by Studio Job. Designed for the Robber Barons; based on ruthless 19th century American industrialists who amassed vast fortunes these pieces are designed to appeal to today's power-hungry leaders. The use of cast bronze in these pieces references not only the heavy industry in which so many made their money but also the great tradition of patronage of the arts, especially European sculpture. Robber Baron Table is a particular favourite of mine.
Moving into Heaven and Hell the story turns to the awareness of, and anxiety about, death. Works look at life and death, heaven and hell judgement and salvation, some are beautiful others designed to invoke fear or loathing. Damned .MGX by Luc Merx is a modern chandelier that takes its inspiration from Peter Paul Rubens's the Fall of the Damned at the moment of the Last Judgement.
Storm Chair by Stephen Richards looks as if it is an explosion that has been frozen in time and motion. Formed from a variety of different timbers it references the violence that so often accompanies death and the splintering and fragmenting of families and communities that accompanies natural disasters in which so many lives are lost.