Monday, August 1, 2011

Anna Baxter MA - Fashion Footwear - London College of Fashion

It was a real pleasure to be at the Festival Hall to see Anna and her fellow students receiving their Masters degrees, congratulations to them all.

Extra special thanks to Ruth and Johnny (and their families) who helped make it such a special occasion.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Over Here by Shane Waltener at Jupiter Artland

Over Here by Shane Waltener at Jupiter Artland introduces contemporary lace as sculpture in a familiar form - a giant knitted web.

Waltener describes the web as "Trapping the essence of the place and framing an ever changing imprint of it". The technique references traditional Shetland lace and the material (fishing line) hints at the the net as a means of capturing prey, a strange mixture in theory but very effective in this situation.

The thread is quite transparent when viewed against the light but, as with a rainbow, viewed at the right angle that the colours become apparent. It would be great to see this with a backdrop of autumn leaves but sadly I have no plans to be in the area in the fall.

The knitted structure of the work only becomes apparent at close quarters but reminds me of a comment that I once heard; 'women knit - men are continuous loop construction engineers'. Either way this is a work that successfully brings knitting / lace / textiles to the attention of a wider audience. Perhaps not one of his most adventurous pieces but powerfully effective in this setting.

Firmament by Antony Gormley at Jupiter Artland

For me Firmament by Antony Gormley was one of the most fascinating pieces at Jupiter Artland, this vast steel sculpture has distinct connections with the research that I an doing with archives and with contemporary lace structures.

View from the right angle the form of a person kneeling, with their head to the ground, can be distinguished. This connection of man with earth is elemental to our being but it is the sky showing through the work that dramatically emphasises the tenuous nature of this connection.
As a contemporary lacemaker much of the appeal in this piece is in considering it as a piece of lace - the voids being an integral part of the work without which it would be a very different, and in my opinion less effective, piece.

My lacemaking is about making connections and giving form to voids which is what this sculpture does in three dimensions.
Taken out of context images of the work can appear wonderfully random and formless but in reality every strut and joint is an essential element of the overall form which is only revealed at a suitable angle and distance from the work.

One thing which surprised me about the piece was the presence of an annotated numbering system for the elements which gave it a direct link to the accession numbers that I have been working with in the Birmingham Museum archives and collections.

Jupiter Artland

Jupiter Artland sculpture park is just west of Edinburgh, it can be a little difficult to find but is well worth the effort.
'A Forest' by Jim Lambie is an installation on the rear wall of the entrance shop and gallery. The mirrored surface of the chrome panels reflect the surrounding woodland but this natural harmony is interrupted by the apparent peeling away of corners of the mirrored surface to reveal glimpses of brightly coloured layers beneath. The effect is at once beautiful and unsettling, natural and unnatural. As the light and the seasons change this piece will change with them and I suspect that in due course nature will also play its part in the evolution of the work by beginning to colonise the nooks and crannies with plant life.

'Suck' by Anish Kapoor is a very solid rendering of the archetypal black hole that absorbs all light and matter, to the dark places within, a sink-hole delving into the bowels of the earth - for most of us the stuff of nightmares. The iron clad hole at the centre of 'Suck' is surrounded by a 17 foot high cast iron cage which poses questions of whether the hole has been captured and neutralised by being caged or we if are being kept at a distance to ensure our safety?
Cornelia Parker's 'Landscape with Gun and Tree' references Gainsborough's 'Mr and Mrs Andrews' in which Mr Andrews stands, beside his wife, beneath a tree, with a shotgun. The scale of this piece is in keeping with the potential for violence inherent in the weapon, loaded or otherwise. The menace is no doubt amplified in winter when the trees are stripped bare and the wind whistles through the branches.

I've seen numerous images of Charles Jencks' 'Life Mounds' but actually being able to walk amongst and on them is a quite different experience. This is especially true in the pouring rain when the surface of the water becomes highly textured by huge raindrops that disrupt the normal stillness of the pools.

Andy Goldsworthy's 'Stone Coppice' was the highlight for me, possibly helped by the spectacular thunderstorm raging around me, and the fact that everyone else had sought shelter so I had the copse to myself. The boulders are left over stones from 'Stone House', another Goldworthy structure at Jupiter Artland. The limbs of the coppiced hazel are sturdy enough to hold the boulders and will slowly grow to trap and enclose the stones in a vice-like grip, fusing plant and mineral as one piece. The area will continue to be managed for coppicing and the addition of further boulders (in 10 to 15 years) is a possibility. Slow art but well worth waiting for.
'Clay Tree Wall', in the Gallery, is also by Andy Goldsworthy. Coppiced branches were fixed to the wall and then covered in wet clay, mixed with human hair. As the clay dried the cracks appeared making it look as if the branch was caught in a dried up river bed. Goldsworthy refers to it as exploring the surface that forms the divide between 'above' and 'below' ground, transition points are often contested and here it is the cracks that make the 'below' ground visible that are so important to the visual effectiveness of the work.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Platanthera Orchids on the Caledonain Canal

A pleasant day walking along the Caledonian Canal with great views of the north side of Ben Nevis was given a real boost when I came across an orchid that I'd never seen in the wild before. I'd seen lots of common spotted orchid of various colours in the hay meadows in Glen Nevis and there were both pale and dark ones along the canal side but a white one caught my eye and on closer inspection I realised that it was quite different. Looking it up it appears to be a Platanthera (Butterfly orchid) but I'm not sure if its the greater or lesser variety.

Traigh golf course

It's not very often that I can be persuaded to walk a golf course but the views from this one at Traigh were just stunning (the sunshine helped of course)

It's situated in a tiny bay just south of Mallaig on the west coast of Scotland. The journey from Fort William (Ben Nevis) to Mallaig is beautiful and can be done by train as well as by car but by train you don't get to stop in places like this. The islands in the distance are Eigg, with its basalt cliffs, and Rum.
As we crossed the tidal burn at the 5th I noticed that mother nature had been trying her hand at a bit of contemporary lacemaking. In fact its dried weed that had been washed out of the burn on a particularly high tide and left in the sun to dry - a bit like paper making but with very long staple fibres.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ospreys and red squirrel near Keswick

The Lake District is a great place to watch birds and just north of Keswick the pair of breeding Osprey are rearing two chicks. The Osprey Watch Project have set up two viewing points on the side of Dodd Wood, just above MireHouse where they are providing scopes and binoculars as well as information on the progress of the nest this season. This morning the chicks were provided with a fish at 10.30 and then the female sat watch on the side of the nest for most of the morning. Unfortunately this year the Ospreys have decided to nest where the project can't get a camera on the nest but they should have some great photo's on the website soon as the chicks are due to be ringed any day.

The lower viewing point also has a bird/red squirrel feeding station which is very well attended.

Two young greater spotted woodpeckers, two jays and a red squirrel put in prolonged appearances while I was there today.

An otter was also reported as having been seen in the pools at the end of the lake this morning.

Antony Gormley - Another Place

This week I finally got the opportunity to visit Antony Gormley's installation Another Place at Crosby on Merseyside. It was fascinating to see not only the scale of the work but also the effects that time and the sea are having on the individual pieces.

Most of the pieces that I saw were standing in their own pools of water where the eddying tides had scoured away the sand from around the bases on which they stand but a few, closer to shore, had become partially buried in the sand.

It was also interesting to see how the proportions of the bodies had changed as they have become colonised by seaweed, barnacles and muscles.

I think that what struck me most was the way in which despite being a real 'presence' the statues were dwarfed by the wind-farm, just off shore, and the vast ships moving in and out of Liverpool docks. This was perhaps enhanced by watching them being rapidly engulfed by the incoming tide.

Despite this the most enduring memory will be the haunting sense of absence/unknown - why are they looking out to sea; are they guides waiting hopefully for something/one to return or are they sentinels standing as a forlorn reminder of those who will never return - I fear the latter.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Anna Baxter - MA Fashion Footwear

Anna Baxter showed a collection of men's footwear at the London College of Fashion MA Showtime Exhibition. This is a finely crafted footwear collection that subtly redefines classic designs with a contemporary twist. Design detailing includes brass sole inlays, tufted and hand shaved fur. The range moves from formal, midnight black, evening shoes through to light, casual, daywear.
Black evening shoe in leather with pony skin tongue and brass sole inlays (below)

Day shoe in taupe leather and brown pony skin with brass inlays to toe and heel tips (left)

Day/evening shoe in metallic bronze leather with dark brown hand shaved kangaroo fur
Asymetric shoe with rex rabbit fur detailing

Leather and suede, concealed wedge with rex rabbit seam detailing
This is a range designed to appeal to the fashion savvy man seeking edgy statement pieces

Johhny Chin - MA Fashion Footwear

Johnny Chin showed a superb collection of men's footwear at the London College of Fashion MA Showtime Exhibition.

Knee length Derby boot with white horsehair tassel - I must admit that its the flow of the horsehair tassels that makes these for me, at this length they might not be too practical but that's not really what an MA collection is about and they certainly are a sensuous statement.

Pull-on boot with crane embroidery - Traditional Chinese emblems in traditional cross stitch but worked on leather, now that's an interesting twist!

Military boot with unicorn embroidery

Derby Shoe with cloud embroidery - Love the idea of different colour clouds

Oliver Ruuger - MA Fashion Artefacts

Oliver Ruuger showed a range of artefacts at the London College of Fashion MA Showtime exhibition. The umbrellas with exaggerated curled handles and super long horsehair tassels were truly things of beauty that would be a joy to own. A briefcase and bicycle saddle might seem unlikely companions in a display but both were exquisitely crafted and showcased Oliver's range of talents. The briefcase is covered in 'Sam Brown' studs that offer ornamentation as they catch the light but also act as protection for the fine leather skin of the case. The saddles also have a rim of 'Sam Brown' studs and in both cases appendages, which look like black fangs, can be added to the studs completely changing the look of the item.

Hanwen Shen - MA Fashion Artefact

Hanwen Shen showed her collection of 'nape pieces' as part of the London College of Fashion MA Showtime Exhibition.
As a jeweller she has noted that there is a tendancy to focus on forward vision and the wearing of jewellery on the front of the body rather than the back. To challenge this she has created a collection of nape pieces in which the sinuous curves blur the distinction between front and back, neck and hair.

Shown left is; 24k gold collar neckpiece.

Shown right is; nickel and black nickel nape piece

Wei Wang - MA Fashion Artefact

Wei Wang was one of a number of Fashion Artefact students showing at London College of Fashion MA Showtime Exhibition.
Whilst handbags are not exactly an unusual item of focus among Artefact students Wei Wang's innovative use of ceramics most certainly was unexpected. Her use of subtle Chinese crackle glaze gives these bags a visual element of fragility that belies the nature of their solidity. For me these bags are not only unique but also highly collectible.

Saida Bruce - MA Fashion and the Environment

Saida Bruce displayed a subtle range of garments from her Trace-in-Time range at the London College of Fashion MA Showtime Exhibition.
The philosophy behind the work is based on 'Object Interviews'. To quote from the web entry 'Trace-in Time mirrors and accentuates the attributes that people come to love about their clothes. Meaningful detailing and considered silhouettes are formed with strategically placed layers of printed fabrics, intending to portray the physical aging, to communicate the wearers' life experiences. The evolving piece offers surprises that mature and age in time with the owner, thereby creating a direct point of reference to the life of the garment.' - a beautiful way of saying the we should cherish the clothes in which we have been happy and allow them to continue to nurture us as we and they fade and soften with age.

Jennifer Rothrock - MA Fashion Curation

Jennifer Rothrock was one of the participants in the recent MA Showtime Exhibition from London College of Fashion. Although the Fashion Curation students had a very minimal presence at the exhibition Jennifer's statement was fascinating and so I followed it up on the web.
Her research on Mourning, Memory and Memento looks at the significance of mourning in the lives of Victorian women. The outcome of her work is the design for a three room exhibition to create an experience of Victorian mourning through dress curation. Knowing nothing about professional exhibition curation I found the room plans as interesting as the theory behind the work.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Peaceful start to another busy day in Tokyo

On the way to breakfast we passed this entrance way, sandwiched between two tall buildings. The sun was illuminating the courtyard and chair and it looked so calm and inviting, the perfect place to contemplate the coming day.
After breakfast we headed south to the Zojo-ji temple. I hadn't expected to find such an imposing entrance right on a busy junction.
I now begin to understand what they mean when they say 'Temple complex' on Time Team. There is a main temple building but there are also lots of smaller sub-temples and shrines within the boundary walls. I assume that the main bell is only rung on major ceremonial occasions, hopefully one day I shall hear one of these amazing features in action.
Having enjoyed the peace and tranquility of the minor shrines I was rather taken aback by how ornate the central area of the main temple was, very beautiful but I simply hadn't expected all of the gold and ornate decorations.
One of the surprises for me in Tokyo has been the amount of greenery, mature Ginko trees lining so many of the roads were not what I had expected. Many of them are relatively old and some were dropping huge leaves. This multi-trunked one in the temple grounds was especially beautiful with the sun on its canopy.
Today I finally got the hang of the subway system. Alternate track side signs have the station names in English. We were starting from Daimon and the arrow meant that the next stop on this track would be Shimbashi so you could tell that you were heading in the right direction.