Friday, 31 December 2010

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!

Kathryn Campbell Dodd - 2010

It's New Year's Eve, and I've been thinking back across the year's's a montage from 2010. Happy New Year to all/Blwyddyn Newydd Dda i bawb!! Here's to a productive and exciting 2011!

Monday, 27 December 2010

Ukraine Floating Barn

Floating Barn - Seen here

This strange structure can be found in the Ukraine, it is supported by a single cantilever. It was apparently once used as a barn for storing fertiliser. The painting below is by Llangadog artist, Julie Ann Sheridan from her recent exhibition at The Last Gallery which she owns and runs with husband, Mick.

Julie Ann Sheridan - Seen here

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Fabio Novembre

Fabio Novembre - ieri, oggi, domani - Seen here

I like these Christmas lights from the 2010 Milan LED Light Festival by designer, Fabio Novembre. The festival features sixty installations by international light designers and continues until 10 January 2011.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Happy Christmas

Denise Brown A.R.E. - Cyclamen

I found a lovely book in the charity shop last week The Housewife Book of House Plants by Xenia Field, published in 1956. It's full of lovely illustrations (like this one) by Denise Brown. Happy Christmas to you all! x

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Nicole Dextras

Nicole Dextras - Green Shirt - seen here

Thank you to a polar bear's tale for introducing me to the work of Nicole Dextras, I like these textile pieces suspended in ice which seem very pertinent in the middle of the big freeze we are experiencing in the UK this year. Here are some more images.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Don Van Vliet

Don Van Vliet - Ghost Red Wire 1967 - seen here

I am sad that Don Van Vliet a.k.a. Captian Beefheart died today. He painted throughout his life as well as making extraordinary music. Ghost Red Wire is my favourite painting, and here is Captain Beefheart's 10 commandments of guitar playing:

1. Listen to the birds. That's where all the music comes from. Birds know everything about how it should sound and where that sound should come from. And watch hummingbirds. They fly really fast, but a lot of times they aren't going anywhere.

2. Your guitar is not really a guitar. Your guitar is a divining rod. Use it to find spirits in the other world and bring them over. A guitar is also a fishing rod. If you're good, you'll land a big one.

3. Practice in front of a bush. Wait until the moon is out, then go outside, eat a multi-grained bread and play your guitar to a bush. If the bush dosen't shake, eat another piece of bread.

4. Walk with the devil. Old Delta blues players referred to guitar amplifiers as the "devil box." And they were right. You have to be an equal opportunity employer in terms of who you're bringing over from the other side. Electricity attracts devils and demons. Other instruments attract other spirits. An acoustic guitar attracts Casper. A mandolin attracts Wendy. But an electric guitar attracts Beelzebub.

5. If you're guilty of thinking, you're out. If your brain is part of the process, you're missing it. You should play like a drowning man, struggling to reach shore. If you can trap that feeling, then you have something that is fur bearing.

6. Never point your guitar at anyone. Your instrument has more clout than lightning. Just hit a big chord then run outside to hear it. But make sure you are not standing in an open field.

7. Always carry a church key. That's your key-man clause. Like One String Sam. He's one. He was a Detroit street musician who played in the fifties on a homemade instrument. His song "I Need a Hundred Dollars" is warm pie. Another key to the church is Hubert Sumlin, Howlin' Wolf's guitar player. He just stands there like the Statue of Liberty-making you want to look up her dress the whole time to see how he's doing it.

8. Don't wipe the sweat off your instrument. You need that stink on there. Then you have to get that stink onto your music.

9. Keep your guitar in a dark place. When you're not playing your guitar, cover it and keep it in a dark place. If you don't play your guitar for more than a day, be sure you put a saucer of water in with it.

10. You gotta have a hood for your engine. Keep that hat on. A hat is a pressure cooker. If you have a roof on your house, the hot air can't escape. Even a lima bean has to have a piece of wet paper around it to make it grow. 

Seen here

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Louise Bourgeois: The Fabric Works

Louise Bourgeios -  Untitled 2005 - seen here

Hauser & Wirth have opened a new gallery in Saville Row, London. I went along to visit the current show before it ends on 18 December.
Louise Bourgeois: The Fabric Works is a beautiful show, spread over the two spaces which make up the gallery footprint. Framed fabric 'sketches' use the textiles Bourgeois collected throughout her life, sewn, woven and patchwork-ed into abstract designs. Many of the works reference her abiding interest with the spider; web-like, geometric patchworks. There is also one of her metal spider sculptures in the gallery; I'm a little ambivalent about these pieces - the first time I saw one in the flesh in the Serpentine Gallery, it was spectacular. It crouched, perfectly scaled and claustrophobic in the space, but the pieces I've seen since have often seemed out of sorts with their surroundings. I was more excited to see two of her room enclosures. 

Louise Bourgeois - Bullet Hole 1992 - seen here

There's a fantastic catalogue that accompanies the show; all I can do is covet it for now at £65 - one for the Christmas list...

Monday, 13 December 2010

Buddug & Jessie - The Shop

I went up to east London on Saturday and had a stroll along Columbia Road, it's full of lovely little independent shops, but my favourite is run by Buddug Wyn Humphreys and her friend Jessie Chorley. We have been stocking Buddug's work in the shop at Oriel Myrddin Gallery for a while, and this year she is also part of our Christmas show, LUX. Using vintage finds along with her distinctive enamel work, Buddug makes quirky jewellery and housewares often with words and phrases in both English and Welsh. Although based in Hackney, Buddug originally comes from north Wales. 

Buddug Wyn Humphreys

Jessie Chorley is also from Snowdonia in north Wales, influenced by old books and  text, she combines stitch work with paper and found objects to make jewellery and housewares along with hand-made books and journals. Their shop (158a Columbia Road, London E2 7RG) is open on Saturday 12 - 4 pm and Sunday from 9 am - 4 pm, and during the run up to Christmas on Wednesday from 5 - 9 pm.

Jessie Chorley - seen here

A few doors down is Ryantown, the shop showing the work of paper cutting artist Rob Ryan. His beautifully intricate work has become incredibly popular lately with designs available as greetings cards, ceramics, skate boards, scarves...

Rob Ryan - seen here

I continued on to Brick Lane on my wander with the intention of visiting a few shops and galleries, but got caught up in a fantastic event - SantaconI had no idea why there were hundreds of Santa's gathered for a carnival-like parade in the street - but I found out later it is a worldwide semi-spontaneous gathering of folk dressed as Santa intent on having a good time and spreading cheer and goodwill...excellent!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Stéphane Rolland

Whilst at the V&A we were scooped up in an event that we hadn't planned to visit, but turned out to be an exciting addition to the day. Fashion in Motion is a series of live catwalk events at the museum, the featured designer at today's event was Parisian, Stéphane Rolland and the event took place in The Raphael Gallery. The couture dresses we saw were incredibly beautiful; sculptural, architectural - but exquisitely elegant and feminine.

The gallery attendants were all wearing little hats made especially for the museum - I think by milliner Steve Jones (please correct me if anyone knows differently!).

Shadow Catchers: Camera-less Photography

Floris Neusüss - Shadow Catchers - installation shot - seen here

The V&A has been on my list to visit, there were two things in particular that I wanted to see, Shadow Catchers: Camera-less Photography and Mat Collishaw's Magic Lantern zoetrope installation in the crown cupola of the museum's architecture. I timed my visit to make sure I was there after dark and got the most from the installation, billed as '...hauntingly beautiful...a beacon of light brought to life by fluttering moths...', I was disappointed. If I had not already read about the piece, I am not sure I would have noticed it, and if I had, I think I just might have assumed there was a strobe light on the roof. There was also a smaller piece installed in the garden to compliment the work, but I was informed that it was not working today.

Moving swiftly on, Shadow Catchers was an enchanting exhibition, focusing on the experiments of five artists, Floris Neusüss, Pierre Cordier, Susan Derges, Garry Fabian Miller and Adam Fuss in making images on photographic paper without the use of a camera. Various techniques had been used which manipulated light or used chemical processes to capture people, objects, abstract patterns and textures. 

It is interesting that these techniques seemed to lead the artists to muse on spiritual and philosophic questions about the nature and matter of the universe. Maybe the techniques themselves and the quasi-scientific element to the processes influenced the contexts. The often ghostly, ethereal quality of the finished works certainly hint at the more meta-physical aspects of humanity. 

Pierre CordierChemigram 8/2/61 I, 8 février 1961 - seen here

I particularly enjoyed Chemigram 8//2/61 1, 8 fevrier 1961 by Pierre Cordier, it suggested to me the other-worldly presences of the ancestors seen in the palimpsest rock paintings of aboriginal Australia. 

Susan Derges - Vessel No. 3 (1) - seen here

I liked Susan Derges tadpole series, with all the memories it brought of childhood wonder at the process of transformation. Floris Neusüss' photogram Homage to Talbot: The Latticed Window, Lacock Abbey 2010 was absolutely beautiful. Adam Fuss' Shaker ladder was exceptional, and for me brought a little humour to the otherwise quite serious content of the show. 

Adam Fuss - seen here

Threads of Feeling - The Foundling Museum

Textile token of foundling 12058 - seen here

I finally got to see Threads of Feeling at The Foundling Museum in London today, an exhibition of textile tokens left with the babies given up for adoption to The Foundling Hospital in the mid-eighteenth century. Little snippets of ribbon, fabric, garments, embroidery, cockades and top knots which were kept with the details of the child's admission as a means of identification should the mother find herself able to reclaim her child at a future time.

I found it an emotional experience. It is hard to imagine another gesture that so clearly evokes the power invested in an object as the giving over of these harrowingly inadequate scraps. Each entry is recorded meticulously and anonymously, although sometimes the scrap is accompanied by a letter or is marked or sewn with a name and other personal details. The fabrics look as fresh and vivid as the day they were pinned to the billet in many instances which brings one up short. Not fragile, dusty relics of history, reassuringly distant and time-worn but bright, tangible reminders of the real people and the real stories that they embody.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

On Collecting: Transactions in Contemporary Art

Sorcha Dallas Gallery - Alex Pollard - Collaborations - seen here

I went to a symposium at The National Gallery of Wales yesterday On Collecting: Transactions in Contemporary Art. The event was Chaired by Gordon Dalton from art agency Mermaid & Monster, facilitated by g39, and was part of the Contemporary Art Society's National Network programme for their centenary year. The purpose of the event was to '...investigate the market for contemporary art in Wales.'

Wales, like many regions and cities in Scotland and England has a lack of buyers and collectors. It also lacks the infrastructure to encourage such. There are remarkably few prestigious commercial galleries, Martin Tinney Gallery in Cardiff being a marked exception, although his approach is a very traditional one.

We heard from a number of engaged and inspirational speakers, Sorcha Dallas who has a contemporary gallery in Glasgow; Karsten Schmitz, German collector and founder of the Stifitung Federkiel, a foundation for contemporary art and culture; Ute Volz, Managing Director of HALLE 14, an arts centre in Leipzig, Germany which was founded and is supported by Karsten Schmitz; Ellen Mara De Wachter Exhibitions Curator of the Zabludowicz Collection in London. We also heard from Nicholas Thornton, Head of Modern & Contemporary Art at the National Gallery of Wales about their collections policy.

I went along to hear some ideas about building and encouraging an art buying ecology in Wales. There is no lack of talent, we are particularly well  endowed with creative folk and have many exceptional initiatives and organisations working and innovating. We are beginning to build the critical culture we have been lacking through gallery publications, essays and arts press. Undoubtedly however, there are some missing links.

As Gordon Dalton mentioned in his introduction, a vibrant and well respected art school network is an important ingredient, and it was ironic that the previous day, CSAD in Cardiff had announced the closure of its well respected sculpture department. Last year it scaled back the Time Based Studies element. 

It has been an issue of debate for a very long while, that Wales is not traditionally a visual culture but a literary one. There is not the depth of cultural attachment to the visual image. This has been addressed through various surveys, including Peter Lord's definitive trilogy of books. I think that the newer generations of artists have embraced the issue wholeheartedly and transcended the stereotype, we have many top class artists here who can easily hold their own on the international stage.

This symposium has opened the debate, but I actually left feeling a little disheartened - the amazing projects we heard about seem a long way away from Wales. Sorcha Dallas asserted and reinforced the fact that there is not a collecting culture in Glasgow either, which I found surprising; the ingredients would appear to be in place in a historical city which has a highly respected art school and was the European City of Culture in 1990. 

As Chris Brown from g39 said in his closing statements, it is not wise to try to adopt any model wholesale, there have been a number of notable failures through that approach in Wales. The important thing is the collective will, enthusiasm, persistence, innovation and energy of those working in the arts in whatever capacity, we must all take our part in valuing and promoting our artists and bringing them to the attention of curators, collectors and buyers on the international scene as well as on our own doorsteps.

Made by Hand - Tredegar House

Julia Parry Jones - Embellishments - seen here

I went to visit Made By Hand, a brand new craft fair for Wales at Tredegar House in Newport today. Organised by the same folk who bring us The Contemporary Craft Fair at Bovey Tracey in Devon, it's  fabulous to find so many of Wales' and the UK's top makers showing their work under one roof. Definitely worth a visit if you can make it this weekend - it's on until 5 December, excellent opportunity to support the exceptional work of our craft community with your Christmas purchases. Congratulations to weaver Laura Thomas for being awarded Best Welsh Maker at the fair yesterday, and Cardiff's Ruth Harries for collecting Selvedge Magazine Award for Textiles - both members of Fibre Art Wales.