Monday, 12 December 2011

Breath taking

El Ultimo Grito - Apartments - Photo: Michael Tolke - seen here












I am hoping to get to visit Breath taking: Revealing a new wave in British glass blowing, an exhibition of contemporary glass blowing at Oriel Wrecsam. It is a Crafts Council touring exhibition featuring 17 contemporary makers/artists and five exemplary works from the Crafts Council collection. There have been some really interesting innovations in using glass as a craft/art medium in recent years and this overview of contemporary practice should be an inspiring education in the discipline.

I was lucky to meet one of the contributers, Jessica Lloyd-Jones in Conwy recently, she was one of the commissioned artists at the blinc Digital Arts Festival along with Jake and me in October. Her work is fresh and sharply conceived using glass and light in innovative ways in both public art commissions and art installations.

The exhibition is showing at Oriel Wrecsam until 28 January 2012.

Jessica Lloyd-Jones - Neon Bulb 2 - seen here

Artists Christmas Tree 2011

Steffan Jones-Hughes & Jeanette Orrell
























Every Christmas, Oriel Myrddin Gallery invite an artist to make, design or decorate a Christmas tree for the gallery. This year North Wales artists, Steffan Jones-Hughes and Jeanette Orrell were chosen. Steffan and Jeanette are partners in their home life, but this is the first time they have worked together on a artistic project.

The commission is made from their last years tree which they saved back and then painstakingly covered with pages from old paperback books, the branches have then been decorated with little bottles that have been given new hand drawn labels. The bottles were inspired by a hoard of Victorian bottles that were dug up in the artists' garden, but these particular ones have been collected from antiques shops flea markets especially for the project. The bottles make reference to the idea of glass baubles and the little characters on the labels suggest stories and narratives which are echoed in the book pages covering the branches.

Steffan and Jeanette came to talk to us about making the tree and their life deep in the countryside of Denbighshire. They mused that they would have liked to have a little light in each bottle; as a child Steffan remembers seeing a tree that was lit up by fireflies and their Christmas tree also reflects this enchanting memory.



Coedwig

Masazumi Yamazaki - Rabbits
























We have a lovely Christmas show at Oriel Myrddin Gallery at the moment, Coedwig (Forest) is a mixed exhibition of craft and fine art featuring artists from Wales and beyond. The theme is the forest and forest animals and I think my favourite work in the show is from Carmarthen ceramic artist Masazumi Yamazaki, I like these strange, dark, funny little rabbits. 

Cornish maker, Cornelius van Dop has contributed some of his beautiful metal work pieces, he uses precious metals to construct small, intricately made boxes and brooches.

Eve O'Neill makes exquisitely observed animals and birds from the British countryside in needle felt, foxes, hares, wrens, thrushes...she uses wool found in the fields and hedgerows around her home in Drefach Felindre. The show runs until 31 December.
Cornelius van Dop - ...this close to the house 

Eve O'Neill - Needle-felted animals and birds































Saturday, 3 December 2011

Shelter @ Oriel Mostyn

Kathryn Campbell Dodd - Absente


















I was asked to contribute a piece of work to the newly opened show in gallery 4 at Mostyn in Llandudno, Shelter. The show features the work of over 60 artists in Wales who were asked to respond to the brief set by the originator of the Shelter concept Gareth Griffith

Griffith began by making paintings of a tent in which he went on family holidays and through this exploration started to construct small shelters which he used as maquettes for further paintings. After creating a number of these pieces, he invited other artists to make similar constructions.

We were asked to make a structure 20 x 20 x 15 inches out of found materials or materials to hand. My piece is called Absente and uses the top of a bird-box from the woods by my house, an absinthe spoon, skewers and chopsticks that I found in the kitchen draw and a cover made from scraps of white fabric stitched together to create a canopy.

The show runs from 3 December - 15 January 2011.

Monday, 28 November 2011

News!

Kathryn Campbell Dodd - Three Rings














I've had a very busy few months making and showing work. First of all I was invited by Mission Gallery in Swansea to be their Maker of the Month for September. I made a few new pieces including these wrapped rings.

Kathryn Campbell Dodd and Gemma Copp at Milgi Lounge
















In October I showed work with TactileBOSCH at Milgi Lounge in Cardiff as part of Moist: The House that Balthus Lived. I was really pleased with the way my pieces had been curated; everyone's work rubbing shoulders together. Gemma Copp's film was being projected from beneath one of my chairs into a long mirror in one of the rooms which worked really well. During the same week Jacob Whittaker and I showed a piece of our collaborative Absent but not Forgotten work in Milkwood Gallery in Cardiff as part of the Made in Roath Festival 2011.

Absent but not Forgotten at Blinc Digital Arts Festival

















It's been a very busy time for Absent but not Forgotten, in October we were commissioned by Blinc Digital Arts Festival to make a piece of work for a stunning Tudor town house owned by CADW, Plas Mawr in Conwy. We were invited to film and record inside the house to create a triptych of films and a series of sound works which were shown in the courtyard of the house during the festival. 

Here are some images from the event.


Absent but not Forgotten - The Seventh Room

















Following on the heels on our project in Conwy, we installed our new work The Seventh Room in The Studio at Aberystwyth Arts Centre. The piece was funded by The Arts Council of Wales and included as art of Abertoir Horror Festival, a six day event. We also made a documentary series of interviews about paranormal happenings in Aberystwyth which was shown in The Box in the arts centre at the same time - you can see them here. It was fantastic to have the opportunity of the film festival to really think about the aspects of our project which reference horror film and TV, we found ourselves constantly drawn back to some of the stunning early examples of the genre from the silent era as well as many other influences. I was really excited that Abertoir screened a film that has been very influential for us, Fall of the House of Usher, a 1928 film of the Edgar Allan Poe story directed by Jean Epstein with live piano accompaniment. 



Here are some images of the project and our link to our new catalogue.




Thursday, 8 September 2011

Tjibbe Hooghiemstra

Tjibbe Hooghiemstra - Bos met blauw paaltje - seen here






















During the recent exhibition at Oriel Myrddin Gallery of painter Roger Cecil we were visited by a couple on holiday from Holland who had specifically sought out the gallery. They loved the show and told us about a number of painters in Holland who reminded them of Cecil's work. My favourite of their recommendations is Tjibbe Hooghiemstra,  a Dutch painter, he has strong links with Ireland, especially Ulster where he has taught at the university and exhibited widely. 

Tjibbe Hooghiemstra - The for Miles and Miles Only Wind I - seen here


















This makes a lovely, natural connection with our forthcoming exhibition at Oriel Myrddin Gallery which opens on Friday at 7pm. The Dutch Collection - an exhibition of contemporary Dutch design curated by Pembrokeshire's Freshwest Design.

Tjibbe Hoogheimstra - Maanlicht - seen here

































Monday, 5 September 2011

Difference Engine














I went to Ireland last week to visit Wexford Arts Centre, we are hoping to take an exhibition currently showing there for Oriel Myrddin Gallery and I went to have a look and discuss the details. Difference Engine - Manifestation IV is an artist curated collaborative show including artists Gordon Cheung, Mark Cullen, Gillian Lawler, Jessica Foley and Wendy Judge.

They have an interesting space at the arts centre, on the ground floor the gallery is punctuated by the historic pillars of the building with an unusual black floor, upstairs a smaller wooden floored space; calm and classic with large windows, the exhibition was installed in both spaces.

The show has travelled through other venues before coming to its 5th manifestation in Wexford, it has been 'rearticulated' in each location taking into account the different challenges and opportunities each venue offers. The concept uderlying the project is to '...elaborate upon the dual meaning of the term jamming – in one sense it signifies stasis or rupture, and in another, opposite sense, it signifies a kind of fluid and shifting improvisation between players...for each exhibition, the artists, through their works, must rearticulate themselves or risk stasis...'

Gillian Lawler






















The show includes sculpture, film, animation and sound work. I particularly liked the paintings of Gillian Lawler, atmospheric, architectural constructions, a little claustrophobic and dystopian, alienating and ultimately impossible. 

Difference Engine manifests in Carmarthen in Spring 2013.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Yr Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru 2011

Bedwyr Williams














The National Eisteddfod was in Wrexham this year and I am really glad we made the journey up from Carmarthen to see it. The general consensus amongst us was that Y Lle Celf was the best we had seen for a few years, there was a real sense of cohesion in the curation. I felt this particular show avoided some of the traps into which it has fallen in previous years, it was considered, fresh and forward facing - unequivocally Welsh but looking outwards to the wider art community.

Bedwyr Williams























The Gold Medal this year went to Caernarvon based Bedwyr Williams with a series of works, some of which were editions of works showing concurrently at Oriel Davies in Newtown. I particularly liked his modified Wellington boots, standing on white plinths and stuffed with straw, they are carved with stylised rural images - like a lino cut. Familiar, nostalgic and daft they encapsulate something particular and contrary about living a contemporary life in a rural community.

Peter Bodenham - What we are at home with























The Gold Medal for Craft and Design was given to Peter Bodenham for his ceramic work What we are at home with, Peter is Head of Ceramics of Coleg Sir Gâr, Carmarthen. Two other craft medals were awarded to London based Cary Davies for her ceramics and Sean Vicary for his animated film Re-told a mythical response to the building of a supermarket in Cardigan. Sean is a little curiously placed in the Craft and Design category, but his working process using built models and stop frame animation is undoubtedly painstakingly 'crafted', so perhaps it makes more sense than one might assume. I wrote to congratulate Carys on her win as we stock her work in our gallery shop at Oriel Myrddin and she told me she bought a pair of hand made clogs at the Eisteddfod to celebrate her win which she calls Clogiau Goffa Wrecsam / the Eisteddfod memorial clogs they've been causing a bit of stir at Brixton tube station apparently!

Antonia Dewhurst - Gimme Shelter

















Other work I enjoyed in this years show included a series of Penny Hallas drawings, Antonia Dewhurst's Gimme Shelter series of drawn and constructed huts,  Jonathan Anderson's Coal Dust Mandala's and concrete houses, paintings by Andreas Ruthi and Neale Howells and Roger Lougher's bilingual road signs which discuss 'the sublime'.

Without Words / Heb Eiriau

Within Y Lle Celf, an installation entitled Without Words / Heb Eiriau, featured the photographic work of Geoff Charles a Wrexham press photographer who died in 2002 in his 90's. The work was selected from a collection at The National Library of Wales by Peter Finnemore and Russell Roberts. Specifically re-printed for the show, they are extraordinary images - exhibited without explanatory titles they capture now-forgotten events, situations and people - read more here.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Bedwyr Williams - Nimrod

Bedwyr Williams - Nimrod 2009 - Courtesy Ceri Hand Gallery

















Oriel Myrddin Gallery took a trip north last week to visit the Eisteddfod in Wrexham. We stopped in at Oriel Davies in Newtown on the way to see the Bedwyr Williams solo show which includes the installation Nimrod (after which the show is named), a scaled down airport with lit up air strip, control tower, adverts and muzak. Overhead a surreal squadron of craft are coming in to land constructed from skateboard decks and walking sticks.

Throughout the exhibition Williams sharp, observant, neurotic humour is at play and the work is comprehensive and accomplished, every bit worthy of Williams growing international reputation. The show continues until 31 August.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Henry Krokatsis

Henry Krokatsis - Dantalux, 2010 - seen here























I went along to Chapter Arts Centre last week and had a quick look around their new show A Fire in the Master's House is Set, curated by Simon Morrissey. I didn't have time to fully explore on this occasion, but I was immediately struck by two fantastic works by Henry Krokatsis which use found mirrors cut up and rearranged to fit together into one hybridised piece. The way the mirrors are placed serves to fragment the reflection so that a full image can never quite be seen. I didn't know about this artist so I'm intrigued and excited to find out some more.

Meri Wells - The Wakelin Purchase Award

Meri Wells - The Wakelin Purchase Prize winner 2011






















This year's recipient of The Wakelin Purchase Award is the mid-Wales sculptor, Meri Wells. The award allows a selection of work by a Wales based artist to be bought for the Glynn Vivian Gallery permanent collection in Swansea. The selector for 2011 was Andrew Green from the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.

Meri Wells lives and works near Machynlleth and has been quietly making her extraordinary, ceramic, anthropomorphic creatures for many years. I remember seeing a show of her work in The Tabernacle in Machynlleth some while ago which exhibited some of the larger scale pieces she makes, including strange characters from the Mari Lwyd folk tradition.

Meri Wells 























The creatures she makes are uncanny, archetypal and perhaps slightly mournful. They strike a deep chord and their earthy, salt-glazed finishes make them seem to be from the most fundamental part of our psyche. Liminal beings half-in and half-out of the mythical and the imagined. For me her work has a very powerful quality, an otherworldliness that somehow imbues these sculptures with a supernatural presence. I feel very pleased that she has received this recognition for her work and hope to see more in exhibitions and collections in the future.

Meri Wells

Second Star to the Right and Straight on Until Morning

Ben Rowe - Second Star to the Right and Straight on Until Morning
















I finally got to see Ben Rowe's solo show, Second Star to the Right and Straight on Until Morning at Mission Gallery in Swansea this weekend, it closes on 24 July  so there is only a week left to catch it. 

The craftsmanship involved in the making of his MDF recreations of futuristic machines from iconic 1980's films is incredibly impressive. There is an obsessive focus involved in his working process, it can take him many months to create one of his sculptures in all its minute detail. 


The blandness of the material is unsettling, Rowe uses it to speak about the futility of escapism - the fictional machines he references often involve some kind of travel, but the uniformity of their construction in his hands and their ultimate uselessness denies the fantasy. The effect is somewhat dystopic, it does not bode well somehow for our society. Ultimately we have to stand face-to-face with the existential reality of ourselves in our world with all the frustrations and yearnings that involves but with little control over its mechanics.

Perhaps this is the purest kind of gesture an artist can make (and perhaps it is only artists that CAN make such a gesture) in confrontation with this unbearable futility of being.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Structure and Material at Spike Island

Karla Black - What to ask of others (2011) - photo: Jonty Wilde seen here

















I like the look of this exhibition, Structure and Material which is open from today at Spike Island in Bristol. Works from the Arts Council Collection by Claire Barclay, Becky Beasley and Karla Black consider current sculptural practice in Britain.

Becky Beasley - Infirme - seen here


















The exhibition looks at the materials that the artists use, and draws parallels through "...instability, ambiguity and fragility." The show runs until 4 September.


The National Museum of Art - Cardiff



The National Museum of Art in the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff opens its doors to the public tomorrow. A project that has taken 10 years to complete and an investment of £6.5 million comes to fruition in an integrated series of 6 new galleries which will house the complete art collection of The National Museum from Tudor to modern works.

A temporary exhibition, I cannot escape this place opens the gallery wing with work from Welsh artists such as Shani Rhys James and Carwyn Evans (above) alongside leading British and international artists including Lucian Freud, David Hockney and Rachel Whiteread.

Friday, 8 July 2011

¿AreWeNotDrawnOnwardToNewEra?
















Last Saturday I popped in on g39 in Cardiff to say goodbye to their current venue. The three storey town house in Mill Lane has housed the gallery for the last 13 years, and in that time Cardiff has changed around it, it now sits slap-bang in a prime spot near the new shopping centre. The new venue has not yet been announced but, as the palindrome that creates the title for the last exhibition in the venue suggests ¿AreWeNotDrawnOnwardToNewEra?  it's not an ending, but a transition. Here are some images from the day.


Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Homage: New works by Roger Cecil

Roger Cecil - Untitled 2011






















We are delighted at Oriel Myrddin Gallery to have opened our current exhibition of paintings by Abertillary artist Roger Cecil. We were very lucky to have a show of Roger's work at the gallery called Cariad in 2006, and now, 5 years later a completely new body of work has been created especially to show in the gallery. 

The progression in Roger's work in those 5 years is self evident in this cohesive collection of works, more minimal and less 'worked' than previous paintings, the artist often allows the board on which he works to become part of the composition. These are resolved and confident works from one of Wales' best painters working in the mature years of his career. It is inspiring to find an artist continuing to push his practice and develop his work at this stage of his life when it might be quite easy to rest on one's laurels.























Roger was at the opening on Saturday 25 June, but with customary modesty left the building when Meg Anthony, the Gallery Manager spoke about him and his working processes, he is a down-to-earth man who finds superlatives uncomfortable.

We are very proud that this show is being exclusively shown in the gallery, it continues until 27 August. If you are at all interested in contemporary painting, don't miss this exceptional show!

Laura Ford - Beast and Other Works

Laura Ford - Beast & Espalier Girl - seen here















The Glynn Vivian Gallery in Swansea is currently showing Beast a work which has been purchased for the permanent collection from sculptor, Laura Ford. The piece is on show in the foyer along with a brand new work called Mummers (2011) and Espalier Girl (2006) until 4 September

Beast was shown as part of the Venice Biennale in 2005 and again in 2006 at Glynn Vivian Gallery as part of the Contemporary Sculpture series, it has been a very popular work with audiences which has led the gallery to include it in the permanent collection. 

In recent years Ford has used textiles to make strange and uncanny figures, often life size, they have a familiar tactile quality whilst also carrying a sense of impending menace. They have the unsettling qualities of '...a bad dream or a spooky story...' and invite the viewer to concoct imaginary narratives. Beast sits bulkily on a too-small stool, he is made of sack cloth, undeniably human but with suggestions of animal features - a tail, a possible beak. It feels like he may be incarcerated...a prison, a military establishment, a secure hospital? He asks us questions about the projections we use to unburden our own sense of psychological discomfort. 

Mummers is another extraordinary and truly 'uncanny' work, life size figures of boys engaged in some kind of school boy game suggest at first a playground scenario - it becomes clear however that one of the characters is lying prostrate on the ground surrounded by his peers - one of whom is holding an iron rod. All the figures wear a shaggy costume of fabric strips reminiscent of a 'Mummers' play, a traditional folk performance usually enacted ritually each year which acts out a story of the death of a mythical king. The figures have a extraordinary sense of suspended life, it is a tableaux that is frozen at a moment of horrible realisation and touches on issues about the moral boundaries of children which are exceptionally disturbing.

Upstairs in the main gallery space is an exhibition of three international film works which examine themes of love in particular cultural contexts. I Know Something About Love part II features work by Yang Fudong (China), Shirin Neshat (Iran) and Christodoulos Panayiotou (Cyprus). The themes of the show seem to mark something of a refreshing change of focus and curation - an investigation of this most unstable and powerful of states and the cultural restraints that define its unfolding.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Venice Biennale 2011 - Roundup























Three weeks after my trip to The Venice Biennale all the little thoughts and the sensory delights are beginning to settle into place. Here is a fragmentary summary of a few of my favourite shows and works.



America's offering Gloria, features work by Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla. Every now and again a deep, ominous rumbling and squealing can be heard across the Giardini, in fact it is a piece of performance that takes place at set intervals outside the American Pavilion. An upturned desert tank sits with its massive caterpillar tracks in the air; affixed to them is a running machine on which an olympic athlete, in American colours begins to run. As he does so the tank tracks begin to turn and grind. It's an uneasy sight - surprising and funny, but then the clean-cut perfection of the athlete is uncomfortable - in a Leni Riefenstahl way. The tank makes blunt reference to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it is rendered impotent, animated only by this American fantasy of the strong, healthy, clean-living winner running to go nowhere.

Inside the show two further performances take place. Sculptures of aircraft seating, made by cutting-edge rapid prototyping techniques, stand in the gallery spaces, at regular intervals highly trained gymnasts perform meticulously controlled set pieces using the sculptures. These references to  9-11, these fragments of aeroplane - is this an act of reclamation? Or is it an act of futility? A film in another room shows a series of vertical poles in open landscapes against which more of these superb athletes hoist themselves horizontally like human flags. It is a seriously thought provoking exhibition and has stayed with me nagging at notions of national pride and atrocity.

Hew Locke - Starchitect















Artsway's New Forest Pavilion in Dusoduro showed some memorable work. The venue partners with other galleries in the UK to create residencies and the works on show are the results of these projects. The artists represented this year are: Gayle Chong Kwan, Dave Lewis, Hew Locke, Mike Marshall, Christopher Orr and Sophy Rickett. 

I particularly liked Hew Locke's Starchitect installation which transforms the space into a fantastical grotto of kitsch sculptures constructed from all kinds of cheap treasure and objects. Mike Marshall's beautiful and poetic film piece A Prism Splits Light shows Vietnamese migrant workers picking olives in Cyprus. Christopher Orr's works explore the Romantic and the Sublime in painting utilising a deliberately anachronistic style. Sophy Rickett's The River shows an installation of documentary style film and sound pieces which record an evening spent with people who are waiting to see of the 'Severn Bore' - a little tidal wave that sweeps the Severn River each year, a surprisingly warm and distinctly British gathering.

David Casini























Upstairs from Artsway in the stunning Palazzo Zenobio there a series of five works by artist David Casini, installed in one of the superbly elegant rooms. Casini's delicately constructed sculptures sit underneath glass domes like Victorian specimens, spindly architectural forms grow out of and yet set up a contrast with natural materials such as coral. These delicate little structures have quietly impressed themselves on me and I keep conjuring them in my mind's eye in their exquisite setting.

Hans Op de Beeck - Location 7















One of a Thousand Ways to beat Entropy, supported by the Courtauld Institute shows the work of four artists. I particularly liked the work of Hans Op de Beeck, Location 7 a suburban home has been reconstructed in full detail as an installation, but every object, including the garden which can be seen through the window is made of dark grey concrete, even the rumpled bedsheets are solid. An evocatively sad piece of music plays and a stultifying pathos imbues the scene. It is a remarkable piece of work.

Grayson Perry - The Walthamstow Tapestry














Penelope's Labour:  Weaving words and images is a must-see for anyone at all interested in textiles and especially weave. This beautifully curated show is in the San Giorgio Maggiore Exhibition CentreAlongside the finest historical tapestries and carpets new work, often made on high-tech state of the art looms is on show. You can see Grayson Perry's stunning The Walthamstow Tapestry and Mark Quinn's ultra contemporary weaving which reference flowers and flora. I was utterly fascinated by a delicate yellow silk wrap which had been entirely woven from the spider silk of the Golden Orb spider. This is a sophisticated and beautiful show. There is a lovely catalogue to accompany the show - I'm kicking myself that I didn't invest!

Venice Biennale 2011 - Penelope’s Labour: Weaving Words and Images from ikono tv on Vimeo.


Here is a link to my Flickr set of images from The Biennale.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Chiharu Shiota - Memory of Books

Chiharu Shiota - Memory of Books
















On the opposite side of the canal from the Wales Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in Castello, Haunch of Venison has commissioned Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota to install a site specific work in the Gervasuti Foundation building. A dense web of suspended threads envelope the books which the artist found on site. I've seen Shiota's work many times online so I was delighted to get an opportunity to see a piece in person, especially in such an evocative space. 


Memory of Books: a short film with Chiharu Shiota from Haunch of Venison on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Mike Nelson in Venice























One of the things I was really looking forward to at The Venice Biennale was the opportunity to see the work made for The British Pavilion by installation artist, Mike Nelson,  I, Impostor. I queued for an hour and a half as only a few people are allowed in at a time, luckily it was well worth the wait. Nelson has gone to work on the classic interior of the pavilion with incredible attention to detail to alter the building beyond recognition. 

Nelson has taken as his starting point a piece of work he undertook in 2003 for the Istanbul Biennale, The current work re-imagines the former piece and reconstructs it using salvaged materials from the original site and from Venice. He makes parallels between the history and trade function of the two locations. 




















It took him and a small team three months to construct the installation. He has created a dark and sleazy interior, a backstreet workshop in a Turkish city. He sets up the space with claustrophobic rooms, stairs and corridors. The first room suggests a workshop perhaps repairing crystal chandeliers...this could just be a front though; as you venture further it starts to feel less legitimate. Dingy, dirty...someone lives here or at least sleeps here. Upstairs there is a workshop strewn with tools, a portable TV hisses white noise, detuned. Corners are stacked with junk machinery and salvaged scrap. 
















A darkroom glows red, a forest of developed photographs hang on washing lines drying in the roof. You can smell the chemicals -it feels obsessive...why all these images, why so many? What is being sought or being recorded? Who is the imposter ofthe work's title? This is at the core of Nelson's work - he sets us up with a living, breathing space and invites us to imagine what has happened or what might happen there, we create our own story. His meticulous attention to detail right down to the fixtures and fittings helps us suspend our disbelief. He makes copious reference to films and books to help us recognise the language of suspense and the building narrative.


Sunday, 26 June 2011

Karla Black - Scotland + Venice
















The Venice Biennale is a lot like the most fantastic sweet shop, one is horribly spoiled for choice. It takes some while to digest the fayre and come to a sensible conclusion about what one has seen and experienced.  Possibly my favourite confection was sculptor, Karla Black at the Scottish Pavilion. I'm using that analogy for good purpose, because the work itself actually does have the feeling of confectionary or 'Lush' cosmetics.














I had trouble finding the Scottish Pavilion, it is placed in a confusing little maze of streets and on my first attempt I found it just as the door was locked for the evening. Undeterred, I headed back the next morning and it STILL took me ages to find it...and then climb the endless stairs. I wasn't feeling terribly well disposed for a positive experience, but even before I reached the door I could smell the artwork - fizzy, fruity, soapy cosmetics. Walking in to the show I was confronted with an absurd and lovely landscape of pastel colours, towers and bulbous paper forms, powdery sugar like pigments, oversized cellophane wrapping and drapes of plastic. The network of little rooms either side of the main gallery space housed paper works suspended in space and fields of brown soil populated with big sculptural blocks of soap.













Karla Black calls these works 'almost objects' and considers them to be '...caught between thoughtless gestures and seriously obsessive attempts at beauty.' They are unashamedly about material, physical stuff - they are thoroughly sensual and tactile. The main space at the 15th Century Palazzo Pisani which houses the show is decorated in unusual ice-cream colours, I asked the attendant if Karla Black had responded to this with the work, but she assured me that the connection was purely serendipitous. If so, it's a lovely, playful exchange.




















The show made me happy...is that ok??  Playful, honest joyfulness is relatively thin on the ground in the artworld - it feels almost wrong. I was delighted with the femininity of the work - feminine not feminist, it manages to transcend the angst of feminism and the issues of being a female artist, it is effortlessly confident and assertive. On a deeper level Black is using ideas about psychology and quantum science, and these concepts are perfectly realised in the work but cleverly balanced with its pure materiality.