Saturday, 29 August 2009

Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois Cell VII seen here

J.Morgan Puett Seen here

I'm still thinking about J.Morgan Puett, and how much some of her garment installations remind me of Louise Bourgeois' Cells. They were made in similar time frames too - during the 1990's. I first saw Louise Bourgeois' work in the flesh at The Serpentine Gallery in London in 1999, her Cell pieces were strongly represented. It was a powerful show; the architecture of the gallery was perfect for the work and served to strengthen the impact.

I saw her work again in 2000 in Tate Modern's Turbine Hall and again at her major retrospective there in 2007/08. There are many influences that come and go over the years, but Louise Bourgeois and especially her Cells, remain a constant marker. RESPECT!

Louise Bourgeois by Annie Leibovitz

J. Morgan Puett and Mildred's Lane

Seen here

Hold the front page! I've just been finding out about an American artist, J. Morgan Puett. I am in a little funk of excitement. I had not heard of her before and now I don't know why! Her vision is singularly focused and currently extremely pertinent. This passage from her artists' statement is extraordinary and inspiring to me:

"My career and trajectory as an artist/cultural worker was shaped and determined very early. In 1984 I was attempting to research detailed aspects of working people's clothing from 1900-1930 in the costume archives of the Metropolitan Museum, and I was told that no specimens of these clothes survived. The actual reason for this was a shock to me—the clothes had been worn to dust, altered, patched, turned into quilts, chair backs, and curtains, passed down, and eventually used as rags. It was the fact that everything that was part of early vernacular culture was constantly being re-used, re-shaped, and re-worked—in a continuous act of invention that permanently shaped my practice. Categories shifted—clothing became furniture became architecture and vice versa—this changed my thinking about material culture and the inherent fluid nature of things. I realized that these histories and practices needed to not only be preserved and represented in museums but also activated in contemporary public life. At this moment I realized that I had to find a way to reconstruct historical practices and networks - making products and systems that could activate all the categories of everyday life. Art alone, I found, is singularly lacking in the tools to do this. I strategically came to situate myself at the nexus of art,architecture and principally in the world of fashion".
Seen here
Seen here
In the last 10 years, J. Morgan Puett has been working with her ex-partner to establish an artists' colony at her home in Noth East Pennsylvania. Called Mildred's Lane after the former occupant of the 96 acre farmstead, Mildred Miller. The project provides a space where artists, interns and other folk can come to 'locate their own creativity' in this living, breathing, vernacular installation.
Seen here
Here's a lovely article from 2008 about the artist and Mildred's Lane.
Here's a link to the the artist's gallery, Alexander Grey Associates.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Émilie Faïf

Image seen here

Émilie Faïf is a French artist - a set designer. She works with Paris based fashion designer Isabel Marant making installations and interventions for spaces connected with Marant's collections. This piece and the others in this collection are such an interesting idea; landscape images printed on the inside of the garment. It plays with the function of clothing, especially high end designed clothing. The image can only be seen when the piece is off the body and is made to be viewed when hung from a coat hanger. It turns the piece instantly into an art object in a really simple and direct way. The nature of the image, and especially it's painterly quality underlines the idea. There's also the lovely idea of keeping a secret whilst wearing the clothes; it's a very seductive notion. I love the thought of wearing a landscape on the inside, it's a bit like dreaming. It blurs the boundaries of the real and imagined.

Outside of the conceptual, they are just very beautiful, haunting, dream-like objects. Simple and multi layered at the same time. Clever!

Image seen here

Friday, 21 August 2009

El Anatsui

El Anatsui and two of his pieces Hovor and Adinkra Sasa - Images from Oriel Mostyn

This morning Oriel Mostyn sent out a photo album on Facebook of the exhibition they held in 2003 from African artist El Anatsui, it was apparently their most popular exhibition of all time. GAWU, part of a touring show that visited venues world wide, was an exhibition of the artist's metal installations and sculptures. I didn't see it - but I really wish I had! The pictures on Oriel Mostyn's page are spectacular. I've been aware of El Anatsui for a little while, but only through seeing Internet images. Using recycled materials such as liquor bottle tops, he crafts huge 'cloths' or metal tapestries 'stitched' together with wire. Each installation of the works gives a different form to them; tucked and pinned to the wall they take on incredible sculptural forms.

I've made a mental note to make sure I see one of these pieces in the flesh soon. Let me know if you hear of any being shown in UK!

Here's a lovely YouTube video about one of his pieces, Between Heaven and Earth

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Anna Lorich Jewellery

Anna Lorich - Pillow Rings - seen here

I like these rings by American Jeweller, Anna Lorich. Her work has a freshness about it, a sense of innate authorship. She states that her practice is an exploration of her emotions and identity; she views her pieces as keepsakes or mementos of that process. There's a hint of irreverence about the work which brings a lightness of touch to her craftsmanship. It's a difficult modern conundrum that visual work is required to justify itself with a 'statement' of the artist's intent. It feels like these pieces are part of an instinctive process - a visceral thing; not a word thing.

'Narrative' has become a very well used phrase recently, but these pieces really do feel like they are shaped by, and integral to the maker's experience. They are not illustrative of the story, they ARE the story. In this sense they naturally straddle the art/craft divide.

Anna Lorich - 'Ring Family' Group Shot - seen here

Friday, 14 August 2009

Clootie Wells

Photo: Angus Clyne - Clootie Well at Munlochy, on the Black Isle in Scotland
seen here

In Scotland, clootie means a piece of cloth or strip of rag, it can also mean clothing and cloth for patching. The custom of tying rags to trees and bushes, raggedy bushes, near a well is known across Britain and Ireland. Usually a votive healing ritual - the cloth is dipped in the well and tied to the tree; when the rag rots and falls from the bow, the ailment is cured. There's something strange and atmospheric about the Clootie Well in this image, something slightly spooky but also mournful. It's such a direct intervention. I think it's the simplicity and democracy of the gesture that is compelling to me.

I've been thinking about this for quite a while now. The function and ritual of it, but also the aesthetic. The Mummers plays that are performed around New Year in the UK often include strips of cloth and rags in their costume too.

Mummers performing in Firle in Sussex - seen here

My more recent work has incorporated rag strips and other everyday materials used repetitively.

Kathryn Campbell Dodd - Snowfall 2009

Kaarina Kaikkonen

Kaarina Kaikkonen - seen here

Still musing about things Finnish, I have found this beautiful image of an installation by Kaarina Kaikkonen. Using everyday worn clothes she makes large scale works that take on monumental proportions. There's something about the ghosts and resonances of the individuals who wore the garments alongside ideas about the power of people as collective beings - community. There's also just a exceptional beauty in the work, I was unsurprised to read that she began life as a painter.

Anu Tuominen

Anu Tuominen - Hammock - seen here

The Chairman of the gallery Trustees popped in today and told us he was off on a holiday to Finland and Latvia. I thought that sounded fantastic and I've been in that frame of mind all day. Tonight I found images by an artist that is new to me, but really appeals - hope to find out more.

Finnish artist Anu Tuominen's work is conceptual, but expressed in a crafted way through collected objects, homely and familiar things - I like the pieces she has made through patching together mittens and socks.
Seen here

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Manon Gignoux

Manon Gignoux - Photo: Eric Morin for Interiors magazine

I was flipping through some back issues of Interiors magazine the other day and I came across an article I had book-marked about French artist/stylist Manon Gignoux. I remember being really drawn to the images at the time (February 2008).

Recently, on a trip to London we visited Egg, the exceptionally lovely shop in Kinnerton Street, Belgravia (there are now two shops opposite each other). The lovely lady in the shop let us have a look in the store room when we told her we were from a contemporary craft gallery, amongst the linen and cottons there were fabulous ceramics from Rupert Spira and others - but also some gorgeous textile necklaces and intriguing little domestic objects 'dressed' in fabric. Some things send a frisson of electricity through you when you see them, they sing against your nerve endings. I have just twigged that this was Manon Gignoux's work left from an exhibition she had at the shop. I wish I had been able to see it!

This is how she describes her practice: "I create fabric sculptures, dressed objects, clothes and accessories – each piece is unique. My work lies between art and fashion".

Manon Gignoux - Photo: Eric Morin for Interiors magazine

Monday, 10 August 2009

Djurdjica Kesic

Djurdjica Kesic - Transition - seen here

I found out about this maker today. Djurdjica Kesic makes jewellery and crafted objects, born in Yugoslavia she is now based in Australia. I really like her series of work from 2008 called Transition. Conceptually succinct and articulate (deconstruction/process/re-appropriation) the images on her website tell the story beautifully.

Djurdjica Kesic - Transition - seen here

Friday, 7 August 2009

Ruthin Craft Centre

Ruth Duckworth exhibition at Ruthin Craft Centre

To round off our north Wales odyssey, we visited Ruthin Craft Centre. This was my third visit and it gets better each time. The newly designed building was opened in 2008 and is a serious space for showing international craft and applied art of the highest quality. The show in the largest of the three gallery spaces was a 90th birthday tribute to sculptor Ruth Duckworth. The curation was exceptional. This exquisite modernist work in the light, airy space of the gallery was really refreshing and the use of a large, wall-sized image of the works in the artist's house brought colour and personality to the formality of shapes. My photograph is a poor representation of a beautiful show.

In the third gallery space were a series of Mary Lloyd Jones pieces on fabric from the 1970's. I was really taken aback by their freshness and energy. I particularly liked this piece for the rough pleating detail in the centre.

Mary Lloyd Jones

We also met Becky Adams who is the artist in residence at Ruthin for the summer. I liked the sewn and collaged book she is working on.

Becky Adams

Becky had also been working with Ruthin children to produce a book of drawings and collages of their town - I loved this drawing.

Chairs at St Fagans

Chairs at St Fagans: National History Museum

Looking at Angharad's chairs has prompted me to post a picture from my visit to the National History Museum at St Fagan's, Cardiff last weekend. It's one of my favourite places to visit. This picture was shot on a long exposure through the smoky interior of Abernodwydd Farmhouse.

Angharad Pearce Jones

Angharad Pearce Jones
Whilst visiting the Eisteddfod, we also went to the Welsh cultural centre Canolfan Cywain in the park opposite the festival site.

Blacksmith/sculptor Angharad Pearce -Jones has been working on education projects with Oriel Myrddin Gallery recently and I saw some photographs of the giant chairs she was making for the Centre. I was very pleased to get the chance to see them in situ. They were surrounded by beautiful wild flowers covering the little twmp where the chairs are installed.

Angharad Pearce Jones

Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru 2009

David Nash Cracked Box

I went to the National Eisteddfod of Wales in Bala, Gwynedd in north Wales yesterday. The sun was shining, which was a bit of a novelty this summer. I went with Meg and Mary from the gallery to see Y Lle Celf (Arts Pavilion) selected this year by Iwan Bala (Artist and Curator), Jane Gerrard (Ruthin Craft Centre), Adrian Plant (Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery).

This year there was a conspicuous lack of craft; it was disappointing - I felt the show's vitality suffered in its absence.

The David Nash sculptures in the first section were lovely, especially Cracking Box. The film of his wooden boulder project was delightful too. I remembered seeing his work at the fated Centre for Visual Art in Cardiff in 2000 which was a beautiful show.

Jools Johnson God is in the Detail

I came away impressed by three very modest works by Jools Johnson called God Lives in the Detail; tiny constructions that suggest architecture or city spaces. The works are made of recycled computer parts. I liked the scale of the work, the understatement, the memory it provoked of childhood ingenuity. I loved the slightly 'Star-Wars' feel of it. It was also a little bit sinister.

I enjoyed the a chrefft stand too in the main exhibition hall - Particularly Steffan Jones-Hughes' little mussel shells with tiny prints inside.

Steffan Jones-Hughes seen here

When I looked on Steffan's website I also found this image which I really like.

Steffan Jones-Hughes seen here

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

The Jen Jones Welsh Quilt Centre, Lampeter Old Town Hall

19th C. flannel quilt from west Wales

I went to the opening of The Jen Jones Welsh Quilt Centre last Friday evening at the converted Town Hall in Lampeter, Ceredigion in west Wales. Having been to the shop run by Jen in Llanybydder recently, I was really interested to see the collection. There were many people there to celebrate the fruition of this long term project which has taken ten years to realise.

The Centre was opened by the Mayor of Lampeter and a short introduction to Jen's collection was given by the V & A textile curator, Sue Pritchard, currently researching and compiling the large show planned at the museum in 2010 Quilts 1700-2010.

The Centre is going to be an astounding addition to west Wales' cultural resources. Jen has over 300 exceptional quilts in her possession many of which will find a home at the Centre.

I was fascinated by many of the single colour pieces, intricately sewn and patterned, but my favourites were the rustic, functional quilts with their imperfections and unusual combinations of colours and textures - many have been rescued from barns and animal sheds where they had been relegated to make way for machine produced newcomers.

I feel excited about the groundswell of interest in textiles in west Wales, along with the National Woolen Museum in Drefach Felindre and the number of working mills such as Rock Mill in Capel Dewi that still produces, there is a strong local tradition and history.

Click here for a BBC news piece about the Centre.