Saturday, May 22, 2010

Artist In Residence - UCA Farnham

The Artists' in Residence have been exhibiting in the James Hockey Gallery at UCA Farnham. Amongst the highlights were;
Kirsty Alman, Jewellery, Cluster collection. Inspired by the opulence of the baroque and rococo periods these are elaborate and richly textured pieces designed to make a statement. For me it is the encrusted forms, produced by drop casting molten silver, that make the collection so spectacular.
Nao Fukumoto, Hand Weaving and Natural Dying, The Shell that went Travelling. Nao finds her inspiration in nature, translating the form, pattern and colours into the language of warp and weft. The interplay of vertical and horizontal creating fabrics that are at once simple to understand and yet complex in their endless variations.
Rosie James, Textiles, Shed Series. Unusually for Rosie this piece is of a space rather than people, even so she manages to evoke a sense of movement that implies the active hustle that such a workplace engenders. These detailed drawings in thread on transparent cloth are enhanced by the subtle use of screen printing to give a lightly layered effect.
Tara J Murphy, Jewellery, Best Before collection. Attracted to the transience and impermanence of everyday materials Tara finds beauty in the discarded and cast-off waste of the consumer society. This series of brooches attest to her resourcefulness in turning the unwanted into the highly desirable. These innovative pieces capture the essence of something or someone that has gone before, some even commemorating personal loss.
Emma Yeo, Textiles & Jewellery. Emma is a multi-media designer who creates striking fashion accessories and bespoke interior installations. Her unique combination of technology and craft techniques produces intricately sculpted works that are both architectural and linear revealing an inquisitive approach to line and form.
Also showing work were;
Shiho Kito, Photography
Banu Bal, Ceramics
Jackie Denham, Ceramics
Janice Scull, Fine Art
Shelly Doolan, Glass
Niccolo Fano, Photography

Friday, May 21, 2010

Oxford University Museum of Natural History

I was lucky enough to be part of a 'behind the scenes' tour of Oxford University Museum of Natural History.
The Museum is celebrating it's 150th anniversary this year. The building is Grade 1 listed and considered the finest example of Neo-Gothic architecture in Oxford.
One of the aspects of the architecture that I had never considered is the lack of condensation in what is effectively a vast, metal framed, conservatory at the heart of the building. Apparently there is a built-in ventilation system that creates a continual flow of air throughout the building - amazingly far sighted for the period.
Among its other architectural delights are the columns, nearly all of which are made from a different rock. The one shown left (from the upper Gallery) is of Porphyritic Granite from St Just in the far west of Cornwall.
The Museum houses the University's scientific collections of zoological, entomological and geological specimens. As part of our tour we were taken into the Huxley Room with its recently restored ceiling and cabinets of entomological specimens. This is where, in 1860, the famous Huxley - Wilberforce debate on Charles Darwin's Origin of Species took place.
Among its most famous specimens is a Dodo that still has some of its skin attached. This has been used for DNA testing that showed it to be a relative of the modern pigeon. As part of our tour we were also shown some of the museum's collection of Birds of Paradise. Sir David Attenborough will be giving a talk on these fabulous birds as part of the anniversary celebrations.
The museum is very popular with children as it displays a number of dinosaur skeletons. School visits are encouraged and trails are provided for other visits with extras activities scheduled for weekends and school holidays.
Embedded in the grass in front of the building are casts of the footprints of the bipedal carnivorous dinosaur Megalosaurus from 168 million year-old limestones in Oxfordshire.
This is also a good spot from which to watch the swifts wheeling and screeching around the main tower, where they nest. When the birds return each spring cameras are activated to allow the public to view the nests.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Susan Collis

Susan Collis, Since I fell for you, at the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham.
The exhibition begins with with what appears to be an empty 'white cube' gallery awaiting redecoration. For those who know Collis's work this is an instant invitation to explore every scuff of the paintwork and every hole in the wall. The reward is 'nail holes' of garnet or black diamonds and screws made of hallmarked white gold and a white Sapphire set into rawlplugs of solid turquoise. These apparently mundane marks of life, 'little nothings', become something special, something worth noticing.
Collis likes the 'idea that meaning is yo-yoing back and forth; it's precious but it doesn't look it.'
Untitled (Tony Amore), 2009, (left)looks like any other plastic laundry bag until it comes under close inspection. Pencil grids, on paper, have been coloured in in biro to create the illusion of fabric, every stitch has been carefully added to the three dimensional constructions that mimic these most mundane of objects. What is precious about them? It is the time expended in their creation, time that cannot be reclaimed or recycled but that is recorded so intimately in these apparently worthless objects.

I'm particularly keen on some of her older work, such as White Lies 2006 (left), a wooden stepladder splattered with 'paint' of opals, pearl, diamond and moon stone. It is the element of duality that appeals to me, the look of carelessness that has been so painstakingly and slowly crafted.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Janet Leach Vase

Having recently seen the Janet Leach Retrospective at the Leach Pottery I was intrigued to see a piece being offered at auction by David Lay of Penzance (Lot 1071).

Described as a 'small stoneware vase of rectangular section, with cylindrical neck, pan rim and angular body. The black ground with a slip trail. Height 5 1/2ins., personal and pottery seals.'

The auction takes place on May 6th with an estimate of the vase of £250 - 350.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Janet Leach: Her life and work

The current exhibition in the cube at the Leach Pottery in St Ives features Janet Leach.
This retrospective on the life and work of Janet Leach is curated by her long term friend and assistant Joanna Wason
Janet arrived at the Leach Pottery in 1956 and managed the daily running of the workshop.
During her time at the pottery she also made her own extraordinary pots, the results of many experiments with different clay bodies, working methods and firing techniques. The lack of trees in the area were lamented as she liked the wood-firing process.

Shown left is part of a stunning group of Janet's stoneware vessels from the 1970's. Gas fired in saggars, wrapped around with seaweed, wood and charcoal. (Private Collection) The variation in colour and surface texture achieved in these pots belies the simple elegance of the forms themselves.
Her interest in texture can also be seen in the surface treatment of this stoneware dish which incorporates stone and ash glaze with black and white glaze pours. (Crafts Study Centre)
This bottle is one of a number of examples on display of Janet's work with grogged porcelain. It has a pale, almost transparent, body glaze and dark glaze pour. (V Manussis collection)

This large pot, circa 1975, is a superb example of her later work. In red stoneware with a white glaze pour it is beautifully proportioned and strikingly modern with its dramatic decoration of poured white glaze.
The final shelf of pots in the exhibition houses a group of seven, relatively small, slab-built pots in black stoneware with white pour glaze. These are the last pots that Janet completed and make a fitting statement as to the level of sophistication that she attained in her work.

Not So Fast!

Not So Fast! is an exhibition by twenty one textile artists and designers who bring together a range of contemporary artworks and functional textiles at the historic Octagon gallery in Bath. The show is curated by Carole Waller.
Each individual artist uses textile as a material or source for his or her own discipline, with intriguing techniques and results, producing vibrant colours, sumptuous fabrics, tactile surfaces imbued with meaning, depth and function.
Each exhibitor has a story to tell. The work ranges from individually designed clothes and accessories, to small and large scale textile hangings, and to interpretations of the metaphorical meaning of textiles through sculpture, installation and new media. This cross-over between the functional and conceptual is shown in one of Bath’s most iconic buildings: the 18th century Octagon.

Carole Waller showed a range if beautifully crafted garments alongside her vibrant, sculptural glass pieces (left).
Amy Houghton's interactive installation Made in Edinburgh invites the audience to sit down at the desk and engage with the out moded manual typewriter and record their comments, thoughts or stories to be archived later by the artist as part of the work. The hand written letter, projected onto the desk, come from the Bate Archive for the Dovecot Tapestry Studios. The animation of the letters is only activated when the typewriter is in use, at this point the words gradually leave the page and disappear as if lost in time.
Anna Glasbrook uses the effects of layering, transparency and the travelling line to create free standing screens with a lace like quality. Her textiles vibrate with vivid colours and movement enticing viewers to stop and look more closely.
Liz Clay showed large hangings and functional accessories in exquisitely hand made felt. The hangings rely entirely on the inherent beauty of the materials' natural textures for their elegant effects. Her boas, wraps and scarves are carefully created from cashmere, merino, alpaca and silks. They have featured in the collections of Stella McCartney and Givenchy as well as being stocked by Harrods.
A superb hanging by Tim Parry-Williams was suspended from the balcony of the central octagon and I very much regret not having a picture to remind me of its subtle beauty.

Walls Are Talking: Wallpaper, Art and Culture

The Whitworth Art Gallery's major exhibition of artists' wallpapers includes work by Andy Warhol (Mao, right), Thomas Demand and Catherine Bertola.
The rolls of paper in this exhibition provide an unprecedented insight into a bold and progressive contemporary art form. Wallpaper has long been thought of as a backdrop to the main event. With so many prominent designers and artists using the medium as their primary method of expression, this exhibition provides a timely exploration of the possibilities and power of print.
Zineb Sedira uses wallpaper patterns to illustrate social inequalities and gender difference from her French-Algerian Islamic perspective.

Une Generation de Femmes, 1997, (above) is a hand screen printed geometric grid referencing the patterns of traditional Islamic wall tiles.
Closer inspection reveals hand written French text hidden within the trellis pattern.
Thomas Demand is one of the foremost conceptual artists working today. His Ivy wallpaper, Efeu, covers the entire South Gallery in addition to being shown in the main exhibition. Based on intricate pieces of paper cut out and photographed to make up a lifelike work of imprisoning beauty so dense that it is suffocating.
Catherine Bertola's Beyond the Looking Glass appears, from a distance to be just that, a frameless mirror on a plain wall that is reflecting patterned wallpaper. Approaching closer reveals the 'looking glass' to be a window onto another room. Beyond this illusory frame a room full of three dimensional wallpapers peels away from the wall as if coming to life and making a bid for freedom.
Accompanying text explains that the work is inspired by fictional wallpapers from classic novels, visualising for the first time wallpapers previously unseen except in the readers imagination.

Gustav Metzger - Flailing Trees

Gustav Metzger's Flailing Trees is set in the forecourt of the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester.
A commission for Manchester International Festival the 21 willow trees set in concrete reflect Metzger's long standing concern with the environment. The upside-down-ness of the trees emphasises their precarious position in relation to the busy Oxford Road. With their heads plunged in concrete and roots in the air the artist's act of inversion opens up a myriad of possible meanings within the piece.

Gail Baxter - Arkheion

Arkheion is the title of a new series of work that I have begun as part of my practice based PhD studies.

My current research considers the manifestation of gaps and absences with archives.

As a lacemaker I can relate the known gaps in an archives to the deliberately constructed voids in traditional lace and unexpected archival absences to the incidental spaces between the stitches.

In Arkheion hand made paper is used to reference the sedimentation process by which archives are formed. The accumulation of paper fibres on the irregular grid system mirrors the way in which papers are gathered into an archive. Certain areas will naturally be more densely populated whilst other remain sparsely covered. This natural variation combines with the voids to create a complex three-dimensional labyrinth of light and shadow.
The shadows themselves speak of the hidden stories that lay buried within the subtexts of the archive awaiting discovery by those who are willing to delve deeply enough.

Constructed Space

Constructed Space, at The Sunbury Embroidery Gallery, is an exhibition of work by four artist/makers who met whilst undertaking MA studies at UCA Farnham. They work in different materials but each is concerned not only with the construction of the work, but with the negative spaces that result, and how these spaces contrast with, accentuate and highlight the made objects. The 'spaces' allow light to permeate so the shadows become part of the architecture of the pieces.
The exhibitors are;
Gail Baxter - Contemporary Lace, Carol Quarini - Contemporary Textiles, Ros Perton - Ceramics & Tracy Nicholls - Glass.
Gail Baxter uses hand made paper to reference the sedimentation process by which archives are formed. The dramatic impact of her installation of paper lace cubes comes not from the delicate white tracery of the lace itself but from the effective use of lighting to draw new patterns on the walls. The angled lighting highlighting the different impression that is obtained according to one's point of view.
Carol Quarini's work examines the familiar becoming strange and the slippage between the animate and inanimate and the familiar turning on its owner. Her delicate net curtains reveal a subtly more menacing side when one takes the time to look closely at what the curtains are saying. Taking on a voice of their own and engaging in whispered conversations these apparently innocent nets know a secret or two. . . 'Appearances can be deceptive'
Ros Perton uses porcelain and other coarser clays to exploit the distinctive textual relationships between materials for visual and tactile effects. Here she shows a range of ceramics from translucent porcelain orchid pots to stacked vessels that showcase a variety of ceramic materials.
Tracy Nicholls completes the lineup with her fused and slumped glass panels. Visually these remarkable pieces are very strong and yet the knowledge that they are made of glass constantly reminds the viewer that they are also very fragile.

Archives; A Panel Discussion at Whitechapel Gallery

A Panel Discussion: The Archive at the Whitechapel Gallery was chaired by Lisa Le Feuvre, an independent curator and writer. The discussions brought insights from Melanie Manchot, an artist who has worked with material from archives as instigation for her own work, from the gallery’s Archive Curator, Nayia Yiakoumaki, and from Marysia Lewandowska, an artist who is currently creating an online archive of recorded material from the 1980’s.
For her project Celebration (Cyprus Street) Melanie Manchot utilises the photographic archive at the Whitechapel Gallery for inspiration. She draws on traditions of group portraiture at public street parties, and her work explores individual and collective identity through photography and film.
The film is shown alongside a new series of photographs made with the residents and a display of archive footage of street parties, such as peace parties in 1919 and 1945. Celebration (Cyprus Street) is part of the Gallery’s Education Programme, which commissions artists and explores the relationships between the Gallery, public spaces and community.
Nayia Yiakoumaki has recently completed her Doctoral studies Curating the Archive: Archiving the Curator. Her insights into the formation, content and future of the Gallery's archives was fascinating.
Mayysia Lewandowska spoke about her creation of The Women’s Audio Archive which was established in 1985 when she moved from Warsaw to live and work in London. From an obsessive process of recording which marked the first engagement with cultural life in a new context and acted as a form navigational procedure performed for a personal use, she decided that the closed collection should be made publicly available. This involves negotiations with various authors securing the new terms of use open to all. The project consists of taped conversations with women involved in different aspects of cultural production as well as recordings public lectures and conferences between 1983-1990 in England, USA and Canada.
The archive is hosted at the Library and Archives of
Center for Curatorial Studies Bard College contains over 50 hours of material featuring amongst others Susan Hiller, Judy Chicago, Mary Kelly and Donald Judd. The movement from Private to Public domain of this archive has not been without its problems and the thorny issue of copyright has proved a stumbling block on more than one occasion.

Diana Harrison Quilt at V&A

Diana Harrison's Box is a two part installation of quilts based on discarded cardboard boxes.
The larger of the two (left) is wall hung and the edge panels are allowed (or possibly even encouraged) to curl as they would naturally do on a damp, discarded box.
The subtle colouring of the layers of dyed and bleached cloth is enhanced by the stitching lines that add to the sense of wear and tear that such a box would have seen.
That the second piece is shown on the floor as if randomly strewn there is very apt. For me this is the most exciting piece in the exhibition.
Based on a box lid its similarity of shape to so many of the bed quilts on show is unmistakable. Again incredibly subtle in its colouration and stitch detail it is the rendering of the marks left by parcel tape that sets this piece apart as being so outstanding.
Close inspection reveals the bands of sticky marks to be rendered as lines of immaculate tiny holes that allow the deeper, darker, layers to show through.
I would highly recommend watching the video of Diana talking about the inspiration behind the making of the quilts on the V&A