Saturday, 26 September 2009

Radu Comsa - Ice Age Chair

Radu Comsa - Ice Age Chair seen here

Thanks to Mandy Prowse on her Feltbug blog for posting about In Praise of Shadows, an exhibition at the V&A as part of London Design Festival. The work uses the EU directive to phase out low efficiency light bulbs to explore designer's ideas for alternative lighting sources and is curated by Jane Withers.

I love this chair by Romanian designer Radu Comsa.

Radu Comsa - Ice Age Chair see here

Thursday, 24 September 2009

The Staffordshire Hoard

Items from the hoard, all images seen here

I woke up really early this morning and turned on Radio 4 for the news hoping it wouldn't be too dour and depressing to start the day. Instead this amazing and enchanting story came through about a major archaeological find, an Anglo Saxon hoard found in a field in Staffordshire over the summer. About 5kg of gold and 2.5 kg of silver artifacts, it is larger even than the Sutton Hoo Ship Burial found in Suffolk just before the outbreak of World War II and of equal or greater significance.

I have spent many hours on many visits to the British Museum to see the Sutton Hoo exhibits which have always intrigued me, so I'm really excited to watch the story of this new find unfold. It seems to be mostly war gear and religious artifacts. Unlike Sutton Hoo it is probably not part of a burial, but rather the spoils from a Mercian raid possibly around AD700. The workmanship looks to be exquisite and intricate. I love these images from The Guardian website that show items still caked in mud from the find.

The story of the find is charming also, an unemployed amateur metal detectorist, Terry Herbert, found the first pieces of the hoard following a particularly deep ploughing of the field this year. This is the first significant thing he has found.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Wren House

Wren House made by Richard Cobb in 1869 - seen here
This lovely folk object is kept in St. Fagan's National History Museum near Cardiff. It is a replica made in Pembrokeshire in 1869 as a copy of another house made 60 years before by the same maker. The original was made for the Twelfth Night celebrations of the area. The box would contain the body of a dead wren and would be carried aloft by four men pretending to groan under its weight. It was part of a ritual involving rhyming at village doors to try to gain entry and refreshment.

I have been fascinated by this object for a long time, and made my own little homage to it recently.

Kathryn Campbell Dodd - Wren House 2009

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Ma Ke

Image seen here
Thank you to Mady Dooijes on her blog Abundance for posting about Chinese fashion designer, Ma Ke and her Wu Yong collection. A hybrid between art and fashion, these extrodinary sculptural garments embrace ideas around sustainability and challenge notions of value, especially in the fashion industry; Wu Yong translates as 'useless'. Ma Ke sees her garments as "things which are the bearers of values for the future."

Here is a You Tube piece about her work at the V & A Fashion in Motion showcase in 2008.

The Wu Yong concept has expanded to a set of truely beautiful photographs by Zhou Mi.
Images by Zhou Mi seen here

Monday, 7 September 2009

Telling Tales: Fear and Fantasy in Contemporary Design

Jurgen Bey - Linnenkasthuis - seen here

I finally got down to London last weekend to see Telling Tales: Fear and Fantasy in Contemporary Design at the V & A Museum. Really excellent show - so glad I have seen it. Split into three themed areas the emphasis is on designers rather than artists, many of them Dutch. The exhibition sits between art/craft/design , and its themes allow for the bizarre and the unsettling to enliven the debate. Curator, Gareth Williams '...explores how more-or-less overtly functional objects – ‘designed’ objects – can be made to carry meanings and associations, or tell tales'. Seen here

My favourite section was The Forest Glade with its allusions to fairy stories and in particular Linen-Cupboard-House (Linnenkasthuis) by Jurgen Bey. Reminiscent of the ginger bread house in Hansel and Gretel, the hybrid 'guest' room is created or amalgamated from old furniture and textiles. The piece on show is number two of an edition of four; with no photography allowed, and no image of the V & A piece available - the image above is a similar piece.

I also particularly enjoyed the giant ceramic tulip vases made by various makers in the Enchanted Castle section and the creepy little taxidermy Moulded Mole slippers by Niels van Eijk in the Heaven and Hell section with their disquieting invitation to consider the use of fur in design and fashion.

Neils van Eijk - Moulded Mole slippers, seen here

Here's a really interesting little film about the show.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Cy Twombly sculptures

Cy Twombly - Untitled - from Tate Modern Catalogue Cycles and Seasons

I'm planning a new piece of work, and all sorts of threads and thoughts are coming together. Today an unexpected reference came to mind. Last summer I went to the Cy Twombly retrospective at Tate Modern, Cycles and Seasons; lovely to see those big works in that space. What I was not familiar with however were his sculptures; they actually had more impact on me for their unfamiliarity.

Lettering has always featured in my work, and much of my own training was with practitioners who were expanding the boundaries of the discipline. I was very much interested in that grey area between the craft of lettering and the practice of fine art. Here was Cy Twombly making paintings with his scribbly, drippy, sgraffito script - I didn't really think about the connection - but subliminally, almost by osmosis some of that sense of materiality and surface seeped through.

Cy Twombly - Arcadia, 1958 - seen here

Discovering the sculptures made me jump though - I felt very familiar with them although I hadn't seen them before; they resonated with my recent work and my own move away from the two dimensional. Now they're tiptoeing lightly through my thoughts again, it's the simplicity I think, the whiteness. It's the use of everyday, reclaimed materials and the deep, implicit connections to mythology and story. Some exhibitions and artists shout at you and demand attention; some steal in quietly and loiter in the shadows whispering, so it has been for me with Cy Twombly.

Piet Hein Eek

Piet Hein Eek - seen here

I really like the Scrapwood range of furniture from Dutch designer, Piet Hein Eek. Simple but incredibly distinctive. It speaks for itself, but here's what he says about the range:
"The scrapwood cupboard from 1990 was my reaction against the prevalent craving for flawlessness. I wanted to show that products that aren't perfect still can appeal to our sense of aesthetic and functionality. I also wanted to design a product that could be made with limited means, material that was abundant. The combination of uncommon material and also uncommon, but simple methods of working became the thread through our work." Seen here

Piet Hein Eek - seen here