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.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Images that attract

Clancy Warner: Whitewashing History (image from here)
I am engaged in a great possessions-downsizing which although steady takes place in fits and starts, and involves different kinds of sorting and disposing.  This morning it has been magazines again.  When dealing with books or magazines or exhibition catalogues, etc. I always flick through them first before putting them into their assigned piles (recycle waste, a friend, keep meanwhile, keep).  This of course makes the sorting a slow process, but a pleasurable one.
Every so often a photograph takes my eye and I have to look up the artist.  I decided to make a note of those artists - especially those whose work I had missed before - on the blog.  Today's works are Whitewashing History (2016) by Clancy Warner and Training Session (detail) 2015 by Mathilde Roussel.
Mathilde Roussel: Training Session detail (image from here)

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Three book immersion

Edward Bawden: Snowstorm at Brighton (image from here)
This is a reading weekend.  Coincidentally three art exhibition catalogues arrived at once and have absorbed my attention.  At first glance they might appear to be too disparate to consume together; but far from having indigestion, I feel well nourished.
Edward Bawden: Autumn Print (image from here)
I chose to read them chronologically, starting with Edward Bawden and the exhibition of his work that is on at present at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London.   The catalogue is an excellent overview of his career, with many illustrated examples of his varied work, including watercolours and portraits where so many other publications concentrate on his graphic work.  My own particular favourite is shown immediately above: an image which I have up on the pinboard in my printing workroom.
Victoria Crowe: Thea Musgrave (image from here)
The second catalogue is from Victoria Crowe: Beyond Likeness, an exhibition at present on in Edinburgh at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.  I have been an admirer of Victoria Crowe's work ever since I encountered a tapestry woven by Dovecote Tapestry Studios from one of her paintings.  It was in an exhibition at Compton Verney in 2012.
Victoria Crowe: Interrupting the dialogue (image from here)
In the portraits I particularly enjoy so many conventionally still life elements combined with the figure to present/represent a whole life - as well as creating an interesting picture no matter if one has a particular interest in the individual person portrayed.  I also find that her compositions please me greatly, drawing me in, providing a calm, but without suppressing curiosity to look closely, more, and again.
Katherine Jones: The Wheat Barn (image from here)
The third catalogue is from an exhibition this Spring at Rabley Drawing Centre: The Precious Hours by Katherine Jones. I first saw a print by Katherine Jones at a Royal Academy Summer Exhibition years ago when I was on a printmaking course myself.  
Katherine Jones: Jurassic Glass House (image from here)
I have been interested to see how her work is developing, and am delighted that the linear qualities which first attracted me seem still fundamental to her work.  It can be disappointing to fall in love with an artist's current work only to find that they develop into something one does not understand or like - even after trying.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Work at hand

Next week the grass tennis season begins for me, and I need a wee pile of work ready to be stitched while I watch.  Today I have been playing with an idea which has been swimming around in my brain for a bit: talking to myself.
I'm hoping that using a photo of paving slabs gives the image a sense of a chat taking place in the sunny outdoors.  Perhaps I'll let it simmer for a bit on the back burner and then if I still like it will print it off ready for Wimbledon next month.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018


Claire Morris-Wright: Holding on to the Horizon (image from here)
Claire Morris-Wright: Hedge on the edge (image from here)
There is something compelling about a hedge, at the edge of a field, on a hillside forming the horizon.  I suppose I first started noticing and paying attention to field hedges when I came to live in England.  Hedges had played a part in my life in Scotland, especially when I went gathering rosehips with my father, but I don't think I considered them aesthetically until my growing familiarity with the English countryside.
Graham Sutherland: Thorn Structure, detail (image from here)
In 1975 we went to Pembrokeshire in Wales for a holiday and saw an exhibition of Graham Sutherland works including much on hedges and thorns.  These are bold, powerful images, evocative of the edge of acceptability, of how naturelife can catch you each way you turn.
Graham Sutherland: Thorn Head (image from here)
Graham Sutherland: Thorn Trees (image from here)
Although I have seen several admirable and beautiful pieces of art inspired by hedges since then, I had not encountered anything that stopped me in my tracks hedge-wise until this last weekend.  The un-illustrated words Hedge Project were enough in the latest issue of Printmaking Today to take me to Claire Morris-Wright's website, and there I was entranced.
Claire Morris-Wright: Holding Lichen (image from here)
Her work does not have that fierceness, menace, and leaping active aggression that Sutherland's work promises.  But there is a complex impenetrable yet enticing presence which repeats without reproducing exactly its barrier qualities: the screen that shows glimpses of what is beyond, but prevents access.
Claire Morris-Wright: Autumn Fruits (image from here)
And yet it is a living benign entity, growing to provide shelter and food.  I love the way that Morris-Wright has used those growing elements: lichen, fruit, and even the soil in her prints.  The etching Autumn Fruits has used those very fruits - elderberry, hawthorn, rosehip, and blackberry - as a monoprint element.

My attraction to hedges has inspired two images which please me as far as they go.  Claire Morris-Wright's work might well eventually spur more ideas. 
The one above, Thorn scherzo has been stitched, but not yet photographed, and Hedge laying has not yet got out of the computer.