Wednesday, July 18, 2018

An art exhibition inspired by the writings of Virginia Woolf

Wilhelmina Barnes-Graham: Rocks, St Mary's, Scilly Isles (image from here)
This travelling show is at the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester at present.  I had been curious to see what the show would include, and why, and was impressed with the ground that is covered - both of the writing, and of the art gathered for the exhibition.
The paintings, sculpture, fabric designs, photographs, videos etc. do not only come from contemporaries of Woolf, but also from all the way up to contemporary artists.  The categories covered are Landscape and Place, Still Life, Home and 'A room of one's own', The Self in Public, and The Self in Private.  It was all most thought-provoking.
Wilhelmina Barnes-Graham: Blue Stone El Golfo (image from here)
The works which struck me most in the first section: Landscape and Place were paintings by Wilhelmina Barnes-Graham, of whose work I am already a great fan.  These three sang across the years with to me as much impact - if not more - as anything contemporary.
Wilhelmina Barnes-Graham: Cliff (image from here)
In the Still Life, the home and 'a room of one's own' galleries I was delighted to find fabric designed by Enid Marx, Vanessa Bell, and Marion Dorn
Vanessa Bell: Pamela fabric design (image from here)
Vanessa Bell: Maude fabric design (image from here)
Enid Marx: Fishnet fabric design (image from here)
Barbara Kasten: Untitled 13 (image from here)
I was intrigued by photographs by Barbara Kasten.  She made models - sculptures in fact - and photographed them.  I have seen several sculptures made of perspex in the 20th century but which now are frankly quite 'manky' looking.  It was great therefore to see one as the artist who had just made it wanted it to look - even if that is not in three dimensions.
Barbara Kasten: Untitled 11 (image from here)
Of course Kasten made these in the 1970s, so I persuade myself (remembering that decade well) that perhaps the models might still look reasonable.

The Self in Private included much feminist art which did not attract me, and with an exhibition encompassing so much diverse work I tend to focus on what attracts, delights, or intrigues me.  Certainly the two works by Hannah Wilke in this gallery seduced me.  Each is a vintage postcard with added kneaded eraser sculptures.
Image result for hannah wilke atlanta city boardwalk
Hannah Wilke: Atlantic City Boardwalk (image from here)
Image result for hannah wilke sea wall
Hannah Wilke: Sea Wall (image from here)
I just love the way they look - but I have no idea why I am so smitten.  Having looked at her website, there are only one or two other similar assemblages which I'm drawn to in her work.

Lili Dujourie: Passion de l'ete pour l'hiver still from video (image from here)
In a gallery between The Self in Private and The Self in Public there were video screens.  One drew me close, and made me think. Lili Dujourie's video did not have headphones, and I was quietly mesmerised by the simple presentation of a woman at a window, moving gradually round, with a dog lying nearby.
Earth, Standing Stone, Wiltshire, Avebury, England
Michelle Stuart: Earth, Standing Stone, Wiltshire, Avebury, England (image from here)
Ridgeway near Overton Hill, Avebury, England
Michelle Stuart: Ridgeway near Overton Hill, Avebury, England (image from here
In the same room there are several neat intriguing works by Michelle Stuart which I thought should have been with the Landscape works.  The pieces on view are beautiful encapsulations of labelled samplings, evidence from magical prehistoric areas of England.  The earth from the area is presented below photographs, rather like sheets from a Victorian collection.  I'm not sure if the illustrations above are ones in the exhibition, but these are similar.  They very much reminded me of the work that Debbie Lyddon has being doing with pigments from the Norfolk coast.

Gwen John: Self portrait (image from here)
The Self in Public included many portraits, and my head already being full of too much thinking I was drawn only to an old favourite: Gwen John's Self portrait.  This makes a great top and tail to the exhibition, as I love Laura Knight's woman by the sea which is the first room of the show.  Both images are taken from this blog post of the exhibitionHere is a review of the exhibition when it was at the first venue of Tate St. Ives.
Dame Laura Knight: The dark pool (image from here)

Friday, July 06, 2018


I have recently received my first copy of Pressing Matters - their fourth issue - having found out about the magazine through Annie Bissett's blog.
Also my 'handbag' press has arrived, and after Wimbledon I'm hoping for cooler weather so that I can explore using it.  Too sticky for stitching, my activities are reduced to tennis watching, reading, and most intermittent animation required for gathering fruit to make into frozen yoghurt.  

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Park pavilion

Our trip up to Hyde Park provided quite a selection of treats.  Not only the two exhibitions at the Serpentine galleries, the Mastaba on the lake, and also the annual Summer Pavilion.  This year's architect is Frida Escobedo, and the reviews here and here built up our expectations.
Arriving before it was open to the public I took a few snaps while it was empty. 
After we had seen the Mastaba and the Tomma Abts we returned to have a coffee before visiting the Christo and Jean-Claude exhibition.  We were disappointed to find that the space is so limited that only four tables with four chairs each were provided for sitting to drink our expensive coffee and enjoy the ambience.  The reflecting roof is fun, but also makes the space feel even smaller, and the pool of water rather resembled a puddle - or a designer dog water bowl (that's a bit harsh on my part - the dogs appreciated it!).  
As a pavilion for a private garden it would make a lovely cool space on really hot days like this week, but we did not think that it works as a public space.  Brilliant use of concrete roof tiles, however!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Barrels of delights

(image above from this article)
On the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park in London at present there is a floating pile of barrels, a Mastaba by Christo and Jean-Claude.  
The artists' work has intrigued me for many years, but I have never experienced one for real until now.  What a fun intervention, a thought-provoking piece of public art, a temporary delight, with elaboration in an exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery.
We arrived early, before the galleries opened in order to walk around the Serpentine before the heat and the crowds arrived.  People were already swimming, and of course the waterfowl were out in force, many with young.
When going round the exhibition, looking at Christo's seductive sketches: combined painting, mapping, photography, and his models, and his other works with barrels, I was struck by the symbolism of the barrel.  Not only the overwhelming image of the importance of oil, and transporting oil and other goods; but also I had a sudden vision of similar importance of amphorae transporting olive oil and fish sauce round the Roman empire.  And of course dear Diogenes! - how relevant he is these days.
Christo and Jean-Claude's great ambition has been to build a similar barrel Mastaba in Abu Dhabi, and I hope that not only is this achieved, but that for once it will remain a permanent piece of public art.  There is a scale model of this proposed Mastaba in the Serpentine exhibition, showing minuscule insignificant people at its base. (image above from here)
Christo and Jean-Claude's work has divided opinions, and this review is not favourable (although it does also contain a positive review of Tomma Abts' exhibition I wrote about in my last post).  I have always thought of the work as admirable: fun, thought-provoking, and cost-free to the public.  And I have always greatly admired the preparatory works which are sold to finance the projects.  
(image above from here)

Monday, June 25, 2018

Enigma variations

There is a Tomma Abts exhibition at the Sackler Serpentine Gallery.  First, it is great to have a reason to revisit the gallery which we find an uplifting space even if empty.  The architect was Zaha Hadid, and it is the adjacent restaurant which received most of the attention .  The core of the gallery was an artillery magazine built of brick, with barrel roofs, and this meditative space is surrounded by a gallery with a roof of window.  It is now a gallery both dark and meditative, and light and enlightening.  
A space apart, and the Abts exhibition fits the space perfectly.  For me her work is an enigma: I'm not completely clear about what attracts me.
This is the second exhibition of Tomma Abts' work we've seen; the first was the Turner Prize show at the Tate in 2006.
But I certainly enjoyed spending time looking at this retrospective.  The image above buzzes about in the mind, almost like a Bridget Riley painting.  But not quite.  I find that the life-enhancing joyous aspects of Riley's explorations and examinations are not quite there for me in Abts' paintings.  But they intrigue me nonetheless.
The colour, the movement, the intriguing directions, the mysterious almost invisible lines of the under painting (not visible in the size of the illustrations here), a kind of journey on canvas.  But for me without a destination.
(all images from here)

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Welcoming Summer in Somerset

I had been looking forward to our outing to the Alexander Calder exhibition at Hauser + Wirth Somerset, and the day we had picked was glorious.  The road there is a main holiday route, but luck was with us and somehow had removed most of the traffic.  Glorious weather and no traffic - and a splendid exhibition of work by a favourite artist.  
The exhibition includes many pieces we had not seen before, including household objects and body adornments (see the film on the H+W website.)  There are paintings too, and a couple of painted wood sculptures.
I find Calder's work appeals directly to my emotions first before the brain has had time to engage.  I find it fascinating to discover which artists' work starts with the emotions and goes on to intrigue the intellect, and vice versa.  If both are not engaged, then largely I am not engaged for long.  With Calder the first reaction is joy, delight, ... and then intrigue about the engineering.
The exhibition is both outdoors:
and indoors:
Many of the mobiles are too fragile to be allowed to move much.  This was slightly disappointing as their full life force depends on being able to respond to the faintest passing air.  But Calder's exquisite delicacy of touch, his multi-aspect vision, the humour, the elegance were everywhere to be appreciated.  The lovely multiple shadows cast almost made up for their fragile pause.
Our outing was rounded off with a stroll round the gardens.
I'm afraid that my snaps don't do any of it justice.