Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Sandra Winkworth

Sandra Winkworth - Pick Me - seen here

I really like these beautiful book works by Australian artist/print maker Sandra Winkworth. Pick Me is a concertina book of tender drawings showing eight Australian marsupials often overlooked by urban folk. Their imploring eyes look out from the pages which can be arranged in an intense little circle or arranged into a 'leaf litter' pile. Drawn with Biro onto recycled prints and book pages, the piece uses the everyday practice of doodling and sketching on scraps and oddments to draw attention to the everyday wildlife we take for granted.

Another series called Lost and Found uses similar techniques of pen on found papers.

Sandra Winkworth - Lost and Found - seen here

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Patrick Haines - Myth and History, The Bristol Gallery

Patrick Haines - At Rest - seen here

I blogged recently about a small bronze which was part of the Red Shift show hosted by The Collective First Bristol Group. My favourite piece was by sculptor, Patrick Haines, a small bronze of a dead bird discretely placed on a window sill. I read a review (thank you Marcus!) today of an exhibition in The Bristol Gallery called Myth and History in which Haines' work is represented. From the images on the website I found the small, intimate pieces really subtle and beautiful - I am not such a fan of the larger and more literally interpreted pieces.

Patrick Haines - King of All Birds - seen here
I'm very interested in the folk custom that informs The King of All Birds, another version of which is shown here, a wren house from St Fagan's National Museum of Wales near Cardiff.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Emily Speed

Inhabitant - Emily Speed - seen here

One of the speakers at yesterday's seminar at Chapter - The Centre Is Here - was Emily Speed. Emily spoke to us about the way she uses blogging to talk about her practice, but also to raise issues of interest to artists through entries on a-n magazine and her blog Getting Paid.
When I came home I had a look at her work - about which she was very modest in her talk. Fragile, vulnerable, in between existing and not existing, temporary - her work explores ideas about transience and often makes reference to architecture and shelters, hiding places and spaces. Sensitive - almost unbearably so, she makes sculptural installation works, artists books, drawings; more recent work has involved performance also.

Emily Speed - My Humble Abode - seen here

"More a multiple than a bookwork, this piece involved 21 envelopes, each with a different scene inside the window. An exploration of how where we live shapes us as people, each scene sits in the place of an address."

Emily Speed - seen here

Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff

Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff

Chapter Arts Centre has been redeveloped, and reopened a week or so ago. Set up in the 1970's by a group of artists including Christine Kinsey and Brian Jones, the Centre has been an extraordinarily successful and much loved hub for the arts in Canton, Cardiff ever since. It is housed in an Edwardian red-brick school away from the city centre and has always been able to attract a diversity of people through its doors, it has a very particular identity linked to the egalitarian attitude of its foundation. The brief for the redevelopment was to keep the essential heart of the place intact, whilst updating and improving the facilities and raising the architectural spaces to match the ambitions of the organisation. The work has been undertaken by architect Ash Sakula and interior designers Gidden and Rees.
I think it's been really successful, it's a lovely space, and it still feels like Chapter. I went to a seminar; The Centre is Here, (part of May You Live In Interesting Times - a three day Festival of Creative Technology) covering aspects of social networking in the arts community and how artists are using these platforms in their practice - very interesting.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Red Shift - Buying, sharing and living with contemporary art.

On Friday evening I went to a party held in the loft apartment of The Tobacco Factory in Bristol to celebrate an exhibition hosted by The Collective First Bristol Group; part of a UK wide art buying collective initiative.

"The Collective is a new, entry-level approach to collecting cutting edge contemporary art for the domestic setting. It has been running successfully for more than five years, enabling its members to share and enjoy works of contemporary art in their homes and tap into stimulating artistic scenes that have traditionally been open to more wealthy collectors." seen here

Patrick Haines

This interesting initiative started in London and has now grown to include two further London groups, Bristol, Birmingham and Cambridge. Members contribute a modest monthly sum to the regional group fund which is then used to purchase an artwork for the group. The artworks are then rotated to different members to enjoy, on loan, in their home. It is a fantastic idea, a great way for less wealthy folk to enjoy buying and owning art whilst supporting the artists they purchase from.

The event itself was extremely impressive. The loft apartment at the top of the Tobacco Factory arts venue is the home of one of the Bristol collective and provided the perfect venue to demonstrate the group's ethos. The work had been curated from both the London and Bristol groups and included some heady art-world names - Tracy Emin, Chris Ofili, Wolfgang Tilmans, Peter Doig, Tacita Dean, Martin Creed....

The modest purse of the groups however do not run to any major works, the pieces are mostly prints or very small works. In the big picture, this seems like a sensible strategy, lending some weight and credibility on which to found the initiative. It is also a fairly safe approach, and could render the collection a little bland if not challenged in the longer term. What makes the idea exciting to me is the opportunity to collect emerging artists, to take a risk on a new talent. One would undoubtedly get more bang for the buck, and it would be a fantastic support for the artists in question. No doubt, one would occasionally purchase a clanger - but that must surely be part of the fun!

I imagine those involved are true art lovers in the fullest of senses. It must be a difficult negotiation to choose the work, I believe the Bristol group nominate two members to buy at a time. I am sure passions are stirred and opinions engaged! It must be tempting to strive for impeccable curatorship and vision; a cohesive, savvy, sharp eyed collection. It must also be tempting to bet on the favourites in the interests of financial investment - but I am not sure that this is a good premise on which to collect. Better by far to have a living, breathing, vibrantly jostling set of works imbued with the hearts and spirits of both buyer and artist.

That said however, there were some brave inclusions in the show including a confrontational collection of Stanley Donwood (Radiohead's illustrator) paintings, demonic and frankly terrifying images lined the walls of the entry hall as one stepped from the lift - yikes!

Stanley Donwood

My personal favourite was a tiny cast bronze of a dead bird by Patrick Haines, cleverly shown on a window sill - I didn't see it at first but came across it later in the evening, subtle and kind of heartbreaking, the careful placing was perfect. I also liked a beautifully sensitive print by Andrew Mania called Theo and an exquisite James Ireland print of a tree. Both these artists coincidentally made the prints through The Spike Print Editions 2007 project. Six international artists produced a unique set of limited edition prints for Spike Print Studio in Bristol, made possible through a grant from the Arnolfini Collections Trust. Bristol Museum and Art Gallery have received one of each print for their collection, as part of the conditions of the Award.

Andrew Mania - Theo

Part of the rationale for the show was to bring the concept of the collective to the attention of potential members and new groups- and hurrah to that! What a great, egalitarian project...and what a splendid party!

Grayson Perry - The Walthamstow Tapestry

Grayson Perry - The Walthamstow Tapestry - seen here

Before heading back to Wales, I made a snap decision to visit Victoria Miro Gallery to see Grayson Perry's new work; The Walthamstow Tapestry (one of my art hero's since seeing The Charms of Lincolnshire at the same gallery in 2005). I was surprised to see a tux wearing doorman at the entrance, but went on in anyway. The Walthamstow Tapestry is on the very top floor of the gallery - up a punishing set of steps. As I rounded the corner a little flushed from the climb, I realised I has stumbled into the opening party; hoping to slot seamlessly into the host of illustrious art in-folk, I tried to look nonchalant whilst being secretly thrilled to see Claire in attendance in a fabulous frock.
The tapestry is three meters high by fifteen metres long, designed specifically for the gallery’s architecture it runs the entire length of the top floor exhibition space. It confirms the gallery's claim for Perry as "...a great chronicler of contemporary life, in whose work sentiment and nostalgia sit subversively alongside fear and anger..." and charts the journey from birth to death through the contemporary landscape of brand names and identities. The piece is shown alongside a series of new pots.
Here's a great interview about the show.

Origin: The London Craft Show (part 2)

Grace Girvan - pebble brooch
On Tuesday morning we visited part 2 of Origin at Somerset House. It was the start of the week for the exhibitors so everyone was feeling chipper! I was very pleased to find some of my favourite jewellers there.

Grace Girvan - Pebble bangle
Scot, Grace Girvan showed her pebble and silver pieces, I believe the pebbles are from the Orkney's. I absolutely loved this piece which was also styled as a brooch. There is a pebble in each of the silver settings, on either face of the piece - as a brooch it is designed to have a secret stone which is worn next to the wearer's clothes. Grace was trained in Edinburgh, alongside so many of the very best jewellers currently working.
Beth Legg is another Edinburgh alumni, I had not seen her work in the flesh before and it was much finer and more beautiful than I had realised.

Beth Legg - Six Whins Neckpiece - seen here
We also enjoyed seeing Ruth Tomlinson's exquisite Encrustation and Hoard collections, delicate and weathered, as though recovered from a shipwreck or an archaeological dig.
Ruth Tomlinson - Encrustation collection - seen here

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Flow Gallery

David Clarke - seen here
My next visit took me to Notting Hill to see The Birthday Party at Yvonna Demczynska's Flow Gallery. Set up in 1999 - the gallery is celebrating 10 years of working with the makers and patrons associated with the gallery. The show presents the work of twelve artists nominated by twelve passionate women collectors of contemporary crafts. I was pleased to find the work of exceptional letter cutter Tom Perkins, which had been chosen by Dame Stephanie Shirley.

Tom Perkins - seen here
Other makers have been asked to contribute work alongside the core 12 artists, I particularly liked the work of David Clarke. I've been a fan of his work for a number of years, he uses silver in conjunction with discarded and unwanted pieces to give them a new life and purpose.

Abstract America: New Painting and Sculpture

Guerra de la Paz - Nine

The Saatchi Gallery, now housed in the old Duke of York's HQ in Chelsea, is a grand and impressive place; I went earlier in the Year to visit Collect: The International Art Fair for Contemporary Objects. On that occasion the nature of the show was less conducive to the grandeur of the building, but the current show Abstract America: New Painting and Sculpture works exceptionally well with the architecture of the gallery spaces. The work itself is often large - contemporary re-inventions embracing Abstract Expressionism; its scale and bravado. In truth, it is undoubtedly a lovely space and the work sits within it effortlessly - but it didn't actually engage me - I was more involved with enjoying the aesthetic than the work itself.
My favourite piece was the sculpture by Cuban born collaborators Guerra de la Paz. Using second hand clothing, the pair (Alain Guerra and Neraldo de la Paz) have used their medium to address issues of contemporary culture through the 'silent histories' of the garments they use and with reference to iconic and historic images.

Beating the Bounds

Des Hughes - Waiting for the Miracle - seen here
Whilst in Tate Britain, I had a look at a small show next door to the Turner Prize galleries called Beating the Bounds. Part of the Art Now programme of exhibitions at the Tate, the title refers to an ancient British custom in which a community walks the parish boundaries of their village stopping at certain significant objects (such as a tree or a wall) to beat the ground with a willow branch (or sometimes a small boy!).

It is a quiet show - nothing particularly brash or jarring. It investigates specific artists' responses to the materiality as well as the meaning of their work and our reactions as we encounter them in the space; the '...meeting of matter with matter'.
The work includes painting from Frank Aurbach, Simon Ling, Glenn Brown and Helene Appel; sculpture from Eduardo Paolozzi, Richard Deacon, Brian Griffiths and Des Hughes; film from Emily Wardill.

I liked the idea of the show and the reference to the old custom - although I am not convinced by the concept, the original custom was about re-affirming territory - recreating the reality of place and claiming ownership. This show is more about democratising the tight divisions between disciplines; breaking down of the barriers between craft, process, materiality and art.

Richard Deacon's ceramic sculpture North - Fruit in conversation with Brian Griffiths' monumental smiling Stone Face (Bear) and Glenn Brown's Teen Age Riot, a desk encrusted with paint residue like a giant paint palette. Eduardo Paolozzi's Kardinal Syn sculpture of a gagged/bound head reflecting Frank Aurbach's impasto Small Head of E.O.W.

I particularly liked Des Hughes Waiting for the Miracle; objects resembling a knight's chain mail boots, gloves and helmet cast from old woolen clothing in resin and iron. There was something vulnerable and dislocated about these items shown on separate plinths; something painfully absurd.

The Turner Prize 2009

Lucy Skaer - Leviathan Edge and Black Alphabet

I enjoyed my visit to Tate Britain to see the Turner Prize 2009 nominees. The selection has a clear focus on materials and craft this year. It demonstrates a satisfying synergy between object, concept and making. The artists: Lucy Skaer, Richard Wright, Enrico David and Roger Hiorns (video here).
The documentary video pieces at the end of the show help enormously to contextualise the work, processes and practices of the artists. The Turner Prize..."is awarded to an artist under fifty, born, living or working in Britain, for an outstanding exhibition or other presentation in the twelve months (before the selection)", so I appreciate the opportunity to understand wider contexts for the show.
I was so enchanted by Roger Hiorns Artangel installation, Seizure in a condemned flat near Elephant and Castle in London this year (I haven't visited - but the images are incredible). Filling the space with copper sulphate, over a period of time the process he used left the walls and floor coated with twinkling blue crystals. His work in the Tate is less of a spectacle, but the atomised aircraft engine dust creating a topology on the gallery floor has an apocalyptic feeling, a portentous overtone. We felt frustrated, however, by the curation - we wanted to be able to walk around the piece which was shown against the wall on one side.
Roger Hiorns - Seizure - seen here
Lucy Skaer's work was strong, although perhaps a little over represented - too many 'things'. I liked her delicate monochrome drawing shown curved against the gallery wall in the first room. Black Alphabet - a sculptural piece created from compressed coal dust and making reference to Brancussi's Bird in Space was formally beautiful - I couldn't shake a visual connection to missiles or warheads, but I am not sure this was intended. Leviathan Edge, is installed behind slit panels, a massive sperm whale skull is visible only through the apertures - it causes the viewer to stop and consider the awesome size and structure, as if drawing it, studying it - to me this is a physical representation of the discipline of drawing.
I felt Richard Wright's intricate gold wall painting didn't quite live up to the hype. It must be quite a challenge to make a piece like this on the walls of such a prestigious space, steeped as it is, in the art histories of the Tate. Wright's previous work is exquisite and nuanced, subtly working with the architecture to transform and re-define environments. I just felt that this particular piece did not achieve the same level of integrity with the space.
David Enrico's strangely staged installation was actually more successful than I had expected. A surreal, neurotic stage set of the artist's mind and thought processes, the humour was well placed and welcome alongside the seriousness of the other contenders. I liked the central object - a misshapen black, sewn doll figure sprawling awkwardly and impotently across the set - an embodiment of the condition of neurosis.

Basketry at Origin 2009

Lee Dalby - Bamboo walkway

Origin 2009 has featured contemporary basketry alongside the main craft fair. A series of interventions both inside and outside of the pavilion provided a showcase for makers working within the discipline and aimed to expand perceptions of the craft.
A workshop hosted by Hybrid Basketry was taking place within the show and allowed visitors to try their hand and contribute to a woven sculptural installation.

Hybrid Basketry workshop

Laura Ellen Bacon - installed on the external faces of the Origin pavilion

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Origin: The London Craft Fair (part 1)

On Sunday afternoon, I went to week one of Origin at Somerset House - a showcase for exceptional contemporary craft organised by The Crafts Council. The fair runs over two weeks with a change over of makers on the middle Monday.

Helga Mogensen
My favourite maker of week one was Icelandic Jeweller, Helga Mogensen. These tiny chairs were placed on the floor of the stand against the back wall - very subtle and intriguing. Helga's jewellery is equally intriguing using found materials such as driftwood and panels of fish skin which has qualities very much like leather. Beautifully made and subtly conceived.

Helga Mogensen - Fire and Ice - seen here
I enjoyed seeing Naori Priestley's work again too. Naori had three pieces in Oriel Myrddin Gallery's Crafted - Contemporary Craft and Fine Art show earlier in the year. She had a few new pieces, witty and eccentric - I liked her embroidered shoe/socks - but alas I have no image!

Naori Priestley - Garda's Red Shoes - seen here
Oriel Myrddin Gallery will be a curating a show in spring 2010 which will include work from ceramic artist Mizuto Yamashita. Her charming, miniature scale townscapes and tiny ceramic buildings, cars and gardens are delicate and understated; reminiscent of invented childhood fantasy worlds.

Mizuyo Yamashita - seen here

SHOWstudio: Fashion Revolution

On Sunday morning I visited SHOWstudio: Fashion Revolution at Somerset House. I've had a page on for a few years now and I really enjoy its energy and vibrancy. Headed up by legendary fashion photographer, Nick Knight, SHOWstudio "...has pioneered the most imaginative and exciting forms of fashion for the Internet. These have both informed and inspired the current fashion revolution. In championing the new medium of fashion film in particular, has harnessed the potential of new technology and the Web to completely reinvent the fashion image and the way we experience it."

By democratising the processes of fashion and opening the forum to all comers, Nick Knight has challenged the notions of exclusivity in the fashion world. In utilising digital platforms, embracing and experimenting with the new technologies, the business of fashion photography has expanded to incorporate performance, film, music, art - SHOWstudio has pioneered a 'richer landscape' for the fashion universe.

Close Encounters of the Frillip Moolog Kind

Kirsty E. Smith - seen here

I went on a London odyssey last week, my main objective was to visit Origin, The London Craft Fair at Somerset House - but had an agenda to visit a few other shows en route. Firstly I headed to Westbourne Grove Church Art Space in West London to see Close Encounters of the Frillip Moolog Kind by Kirsty E. Smith - unfortunately it was closed for a birthday party so I could only peep in to the foyer through the door. I have been quite intrigued by the images and concepts from the show.

"Fascinated by the idea that objects might have a life of their own and inspired by previous narrative surrounding the found objects and textiles used in their making, Kirsty E Smith creates sculptures which resonate on a deeply emotive level and that people readily engage with. Frillip Moolog is the name which she has given to this place. Smith draws on sources as diverse as Mid-Century Modern architecture and interiors to Hollywood show biz costumes." Seen here

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Eve Dent

Eve Dent - Fireplace 2000 seen here

I am really interested in the transfer or projection of identity from people to their possessions and their spaces, the idea of the 'ghost'; the way the object can be both infused with identity and subsume identity. There comes a point where the distinction between the the object and the user becomes unclear. In my own recent work I try to find and express the essential poetry of this relationship.
I have recently read the book White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi, a Gothic tale in which the family house becomes a malignly intentioned narrator and the spirits of its matriarchs begin to subsume their young descendant. It made me think about the extraordinary work of Cardiff based performance artist Eve Dent. 'Eve Dent installs her own body, hiding herself in the very fabric of buildings, going between the walls like a ghost, hovering between the spaces of the real and some other world that lies just behind it..." Sara Rees - seen here.
Eve Dent says of her own practice, "...I attempt to fit my body into the nooks, crannies or internal holes or cavities that exist with the architecture...This act of living entombment and incarceration I find both deeply fascinating and disturbing, mirroring my artistic concerns: the housing of the body in site; the rite of disappearance and loss; a vision of the sanctity and strangeness of bricks and mortar, anchored and mediated through a human presence, animating the hidden poetic life of a space" seen here.

Eve Dent - Anchorage 2002 seen here

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Event Horizon

Louise Bird - Event Horizon (installation - Rhondda Heritage Park) seen here

Louise Bird's Event Horizon project continues. Having recently been accepted as a member of Fibre Art Wales, she is exhibiting with the group at Rhondda Heritage Park in the Welsh valleys. Made up of hundreds of black crocheted pods, the piece explores the science/art themes that inform Louise's practice. This installation includes a DVD of the pods being created. In Crafted - Contemporary Craft and Fine Art at Oriel Myrddin Gallery earlier this year, Event Horizon appeared without the film.

Louise Bird - Event Horizon (installed in Oriel Myrddin Gallery) seen here

Friday, 2 October 2009

Bottle Tree Ranch

Elmer Long's Bottle Tree Ranch on Route 66, image: Ken Rockwell, seen here

Finding out about Elmer Long's Bottle Tree Ranch this morning has reminded me that this is a wonderful world! A beautiful piece of roadside art. Taking up welding after his retirement, Elmer started his project with his father's bottle collection and it has grown and grown from there. Here's a You Tube piece about him and his creation.

I found this image too, which is a similar project by Winter Zellar (Zero) Swartsel in Ohio.

Winter Zellar (Zero) Swartsel, Bottle Farm - seen here

The Bottle Farm no longer exists, but there is a plaque to mark its location - here's the text:

"A direct descendant of original settlers in Jackson Township, Winter Zellar (Zero) Swartsel was born in 1876. Throughout his life he was a natural born showman, teacher, eccentric, anarchist, and “possibly the grandfather of American Pop Culture.” At a young age and tired of the routines of Farmersville, he declared that, “He would live by his wits while his brothers lived by the sweat of their brows.” He and a friend bicycled first to New York City and then turned around to head west and eventually the world. Later his home would overflow with items collected while traveling the world. Outside was a similar story. While chiding the American people for their wastefulness and abusing their environment, his 22 acres of farmland became his artist's canvas filled with the thousands of items he collected from the “wasteful.”

Winter Zellar (Zero) Swartsel's farm property became a field of glass as he adorned it with sculptures and “art” using glassware of all kinds, bells, bed frames, wood, and other discarded items. His finest works, fashioned from bottles titled “Kindly Light” and “Full Measure” created the popular Farmersville Bottle Farm. The farm also provided interesting listening experiences. In addition to the bells and twinkling glass that rang out in the wind, residents in town could count on hearing “The Old Rugged Cross” played on loud speakers on Sundays. Bells on grazing sheep added to the “noises” he described as restful. The farm attracted visitors from every state in the nation except Delaware. Dying in 1953, Swartsel bequeathed his land to the community to become the Farmersville-Jackson Township Joint Recreation Park to be used for the pleasure of children."

Thursday, 1 October 2009


Jonathan Anderson - Ground, seen here

The publicity for Oriel Wrecsam's programme of exhibitions came through the post today and this image really caught my attention, it is the work of Swansea based artist, Jonathan Anderson . It will be part of a group show called Ground which has been curated by Swansea artist and Senior Lecturer at Swansea Metropolitan University, Tim Davies. He has chosen 5 young artists from Swansea for the show. I like Jonathan Anderson's work very much, I enjoy the materiality of his pieces, he has an acute sensitivity to the process of making, but also to the archetypes and deep symbolism of his images.

Curator, Tim Davies has been an influential figure in Wales, the book Process: Exploration of the Work of Tim Davies published in 2002, documents his work and practice, through which "...he forges a balance between conceptual responses to political issues and a visual language which is essentially informed by an adherence to the semiotics of materials and experience " (seen here). Having been less visible lately as an artist, he now has a major solo exhibition due to open at Glynn Vivian Gallery in Swansea, Between a Rock and a Hard Place.

Eva Bartussek

Eva Bartussek - Horse House, seen here

I'm looking forward to seeing the photography exhibition, Horse House by Eva Bartussek at the Glynn Vivian Gallery in Swansea, it opens on Friday 9 October.
Here is the gallery information:
Eva Bartussek is an emerging Swansea based photographer who seeks to expand notions of documentary portraiture through her work. Horse House is the documentation of an extraordinary, local, domestic situation: a mansion that for some time was simultaneously a home and stable. By photographing this 'world' extensively, Bartussek sought to foreground its dreamlike, even surreal aspects. In this piece, she creates a portrait of a person without photographing them directly and in doing so the portrait becomes that of a home, its contents, a house, its history, a situation, a space and so on.