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30 December 2011

It was a very good year.

As we say goodbye to 2011 and hello to 2012 I congratulate you for surviving another year of cliched blog post titles. Hopefully they won't have put you off reading some of my ramblings which have documented just some of the inspiring artistry that our artists from Somerset and beyond have had to offer.
It has been a very good year, and for those of you who might have missed it (why would you!?) then here is the SAW blog review of the year 2011!
January/February - 'Exhibition of the teenager' at The Brewhouse Theatre and arts Centre, Taunton
Kelly Smith, a merry band of enthusiastic college students and me participated in organising an exhibition, event and project that involved a wide range of the community. The aim of the project was to challenge and make people question/reflect on 'what is a teenager? throwing the stereotype out of the window. After weeks of collecting art work (in the form of some very creative but also darn heavy mannequins), interviewing people, recording vox pops, building an installation of a teenager's bedroom, dance floor and organising several bands to perform on the opening night, the 'Exhibition of the teenager' was born!
March - Opening of The Crescent Contemporary, Taunton
On Saturday 19th of March Taunton's new contemporary art gallery opened with an exhibition of Gordon Faulds' drawings and mixed media paintings. This marked the first of what has been many more exhibitions this year showcasing some of the best contemporary art from local artists and further afield. Look forward to seeing what this gallery space has to offer next year!
April - 'England, my England' at The Brewhouse Theatre and arts centre, Taunton
A beach indoors at the Brewhouse, what fun! Set around the time of the Queen's birthday and the royal wedding, the 'England, my England' festival was a great way to explore all things English and put my beautiful (but deadly) pinwheels all around the theatre.
May - 'Outside space' at The Brewhouse Theatre and arts centre, Taunton
Yet, another offering from the Brew! What can I say? I live in Taunton so the Brew is my most local art facility, if I wasn't involved in what they do then quite frankly then something would be wrong! 'Outside space' saw the theatre open its backstage areas to the public for the first time with a few added surprises from local artists in the form of installations, paintings and participatory works. This was a fantastic project and I remember really enjoying the work on offer.
June - 'Ad Lucem and the end of year shows at Somerset College'
No review of the year would be complete without highlighting the annual end of year degree shows from the illustrious Somerset College. Always a pleasure to see and this year was no exception. Prior to this in May was the second year, Fine Art Show in the Collar Factory in Taunton (watch this space next year!...)
May/June - My regular visits to 'The Somerset Heritage Centre' as a part of the 'Professional Development Opportunity' with SAW
What an opportunity exploring the artifacts in storage in the SHC was! The tools that I found there became the basis for a body of work I made that was to be later shown later in the year during art weeks. Not only access to the tools themselves but to the expertise and knowledge from the curator who works there. Truly inspiring stuff.
July - 'Homecoming' at The Regal Theatre, Minehead
In July I ventured out of Taunton.
After months of suspense and build up, Hannah Bishop's multi-disciplinary, art, music and theatre extravaganza 'Homecoming' finally arrived and it did not disappoint.
July - Willow Cathedral opening ceremony, Longrun Meadows, Taunton
It might have rained but we still had a good time when hundreds of people came out to celebrate the official opening of Taunton's very own willow cathedral. The Albion Horns led a procession from the Oak barn to the cathedral where the festivities continued until the rain came!
July - 'Jamaica Street artists' Open studios, Bristol
August - Pitt Rivers, Oxford
In August, at last, hooray! After years of speculation and failed attempts at getting to Oxford in August I finally managed to see the 'Pitt Rivers' museum! This was still part of the 'Professional development opportunity' I'd begun embarking upon earlier in the year and proved to be far better than I had ever thought it would.
Later in August I had my first solo exhibition in the Hot House Gallery in The Taunton Conference Centre.
September - 'A Night of Light', Hestercombe, Taunton
(Pictured Chloe Brooks' 'Plans for Portals')
I now realise these photos aren't exactly in chronological order, this photo was taken in September, but the 'Night of light' event happened as a part of the end of art weeks of which the photo of that is yet to come in this post. No matter. 'Night of light' (organised by SAW and Reveal)featured several film, light and sound installations from artists such as Michael Fairfax, Sue Palmer, Simon Hitchens, Tim Martin and more.
September - '10 Parishes Festival' -The Recessionists', Wiveliscombe
An exhibition in the dark, with torches! Another innovative use of an abandoned building, the Recessionists group pulled off another cracking exhibition as a part of the 10 Parishes Festival. Pictured above is one of Fork Beard Fantasy's creations.
September - Somerset Art Weeks 2011
(Pictured above, Marte Bless Liland's work at Somerset College)
This year's art weeks took the form of exhibitions and events with around 400 artists participating at around 100 venues, I did my best to visit as many as possible travelling from Porlock to Yeovilton and Wells and a significant number of places in between. SHEDS in Hemyock by Bhaam! (Blackdown hills artists and makers) was definitely one of my personal highlights. It was also the first time I'd exhibited in art weeks on my own which was a really daunting at first, but turned out to be a great experience allowing me to meet a lot of interesting people. More importantly, people who were also interested in tools!
Registration is still open for art weeks 2012, click on the link below for more details:
September - Bath Artists' Studios, Bath
October - 'British Art Show 7', Plymouth
I missed the previous six and would have missed the seventh had the British Art Show not come to Plymouth, which it did, for the first time this October giving myself and many the opportunity to see (what could possibly be my favourite art work of the year), Christian Marclay's, 'The Clock' plus many more contemporary art offerings.October - 'The Big Draw: Street Carpets', Taunton
The weather was fantastic for this event in which I, Helena Haimes, Jo Lathwood and Neil Musson were the project artists on the 'Street Carpets' project in Taunton's High Street. This was a great learning experience for me personally as well as an opportunity to gain some creative and valuable insight into what the public would like to see on the re-development of the High Street. Please click on the video link below for a film that explains the project (filmed and edited by Dan Gale):
November/December: 'The Museum Show Part 2', Arnolfini, Bristol and 'The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman', British Museum, London
This year really has been the year of the museum and artists/curators have responded by creating fantastic shows using the Museum as a site and source of inspiration for making work.
The rest of December has been pretty quiet allowing me to focus on other things like being able to reflect on the year to write this review for example, there are many more exhibitions and events that happened this year, so many that I haven't been able to include them all in this review but have mentioned in previous posts throughout the year in this blog. With one year of my MA in Fine Art done and another to go I'm continuing to learn about art academically and in the 'real' world. A big thank you to everyone who's been following the blog, held fantastically inspiring art exhibitions, organised projects and met me for drinks this year!
I wish you a very Happy New Year, with the 2012 Olympics and a few exciting projects and exhibitions that I'm beginning to hear about in the pipeline it looks like its going to be even better than this one!

28 November 2011

November Book Review: '100 New Artists' by Francesca Gavin

Behold! The long awaited return of the 'Art book of the Month' review. Quite frankly there was just so much happening in the last few months so a book review wasn't exactly on top of the priority list of things to write about. Now, with the sudden change of pace there is time to reflect and enjoy delving into books like this one!
Don't be fooled by the white, minimal looking front cover because inside this book is 225 pages of glorious colour images featuring the work of the 100 chosen few, contemporary artists working today. I'm always a bit skeptical as to how exactly the editors of these types of books ('Cream' being another example) choose and select a mere 100 artists out of the wealth that is contemporary art today. The author of the book, Francesca Gavin is both a writer and curator based in London and has a CV that includes writing for The Guardian online, Time Out, The Sunday Times Style plus to name a few. She writes,
'The selection of artists in this book emerged as that 'selfish capitalism' spread across the globe. The artworks featured here were made in the self-promoting era of the blog and the Facebook page.'
So we know that the artists featured in this book are 'new' but throughout the whole introduction we never really get to know 'how' the artists are selected. Should it matter? I don't know, but I find it interesting to speculate how certain artists might have been chosen over others. What makes an artist more successful, contemporary, important, new etc. than any other?Anyway, the book is at least true to its statement on the cover, 'Despite moments of clarity there is no 'ism' in this book'. Nice! So that's a no, to surrealism, impressionism, minimalism and post-modernism and others. I couldn't find any 'ism's in the book, but I suppose you could argue that the influences of all those past art movements in some cases are present in the work. What this book does show is new approaches and forward thinking in art practice today or as Gavin writes,
'This is a vital new wave of art -post conceptualism, post-minimalism, post-pop. Not only is it a snapshot of art if the moment, 100 New Artists, is the place to discover the people who will define our aesthetic future.'
What of the artists?! You ask. It has to be said that there is a healthy mix of painting, video, installation, new technologies, print-making, sculpture, photography and performance art in this selection featuring artists from across the globe. A few favourites of mine being; Steve Bishop, Guillermo Caivano, Jompet Kuswidananto, Littlewhitehead, Richard Mosse, Anita Moure, Pim Palsgraaf, Joao Pedro Vale and Aleix Plademunt There are 91 more that you may also find interesting. Its always good to have a parooz through books like this proving that there is still lots of new and contemporary art out there! Enjoy!

20 November 2011

A few things to think about...


Apologies for not having written on here in the last two weeks, my Internet is running at the speed of a snail but I have managed to upload most areas of the SAW blog for now. I will be running upstairs to do some painting in between as I wait for different pages to load up. Anyway, I thought I'd take this opportunity to fill you in on a few things:

Firstly - SAW is now on Youtube! Click on the link below to see several videos of recent SAW projects and please keep an eye on it as we will be loading more videos to it in the future.

You can also access this page, anytime by clicking on the youtube link on the left hand side of the SAW blog.

Secondly - Registration for Art Weeks 2012 are now open! This year is an 'Open Studios' event and runs from the 15th until the 30th of September. Deadline for entries is 31st January. Visit for more info

And Finally... On Thursday 8th December SAW are holding a networking event for emerging artists and/or artist led-projects at the SAW Hub in Langport 6.00-7.30pm This is an ideal opportunity for any artists who have just 'emerged' (or graduated) or artists who have ideas to develop a project for art weeks 2012 that are not necessarily intending to sell work but wish to explore their practice further and gain some experience in professional art practice. As usual click on the link below for more info:

Thank you. That's all the house-keeping done for now. I'll be back soon with some more art book reviews, gallery visits, SAW projects and more (internet speed permitting!).

3 November 2011

The pilgrimage to London and the power of making

I have been saving writing this post all week in anticipation of my long over due visit to London. So yesterday I finally got the chance to go, I awoke at 6.30 to catch the bus then after a few tube stops and a walk later I had, at last, made it to The British Museum. Hooray!

Ironically I had made the pilgrimage to see 'The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman' exhibition by Grayson Perry which is pretty fitting to the theme of the exhibition in which a lot of the content has come from Perry's own pilgrimage on a motorcycle (which features in the exhibition) around Germany with his childhood teddy-come god Alan Measels. The exhibition itself is a combination of the personal and imaginative works (which isn't just the ceramic pots he is well known for) created by Perry alongside artefacts from the British Museum collection. I've written a bit about this before in my last post as I am a particular fan of all things art and museum related, however it was great to go and see the exhibition and what I thought was particularly clever and successful about it was the way it was sometimes difficult to tell apart the museum pieces from Perry's own work. That's not to say that Perry had tried to make his work look too deliberately 'old' the works he has made are much more about borrowing some of the craft and style from the museum artefacts. The result is that from afar they look like museum pieces but on close inspection they are made up of very contemporary themes or imagery. Those of you who have seen his pots will know what I mean. Perry himself describes, "There is also a mystical resonance to the word craftsman. He is crafty. A trickster, a sorcerer, an androgynous shaman communing with the spirit world, a member of a secretive guild holding his alchemical secrets close to his chest."

Based on my own experience of working with a museum, I found reassurance in what Perry had to say about how he selected which museum objects to put into the exhibition by choosing ones that visually appealed to him. He asserts his role as an artist and not a historian so he did not choose things which had a prestige to them because of their historical significance, as 'an expert in looking' he choose the things which had a resonance with him. I find this reassuring because I had a similar decision to make where I was learning and finding out about the people and history connected to these wonderful tools I was looking at, but I was more interested in what the tools looked like,i.e their form/shape/texture. Those qualities are what drew me to certain objects over others, I only wish I had had more conviction in asserting this reasoning in my work instead of trying to search for meaning for meanings sake. I think that what this exhibition gets across really well is that it is ok to 'just be an artist' without all the complicated conceptual tags and Duchampian waffle; that you can just do what I always thought an artist was meant to do, 'make things' and in this case make them very well. Not to say that the show is a void-less un-meaningful thing because its definitely not, its easy to make the connections between the style of the museum pieces and Perry's contemporary counterparts which are full of personal meaning and narrative to Perry's own imagination.

I'm really pleased I went to see this exhibition it has reminded me not to become carried away into research or searching for meaning in my work and should stick to what I know is more important and that's the making.

Talking of 'making', no trip to London would have been complete without a visit to the V&A and specifically to see the 'Power of Making' exhibition.
Now, if I was a design student then this exhibition would be so brilliant, so inspiring and so useful. I cannot stress how good and important it is that anyone studying in any of the design fields goes to see this exhibition. Why? This doesn't represent craft from a commercial point of view far from it, it is much more creative, personal, social and cultural in demonstrating how great design and high quality craftsmanship can have an impact on everyday things. Some of the pieces in the show are fun and seemingly ridiculous, for example a brilliantly made life size crochet model of a bear, a lamp shade made in the shape of the owner's fingerprint, a six necked guitar, to a high-heel guitar (that plays a tune when the wearer flexes their leg). The majority of the pieces in the exhibition throw the idea of 'form following function' out of the window. They are pieces of art in their own right. You don't need to know anything about fashion for example to know that Susie MacMurray's pin dress (yes, a dress made entirely out of pins) is not meant to be worn (it would be far to heavy and probably slice its wearer to pieces just trying to put it on), it's an artwork. Titled 'Window Dressmaker' there is much to be admired at the skill involved in making or winced at from merely looking at the piece, but there is also meaning to be read into what a dress entirely made of pins has to say about femininity to give one example. And that is the nature of the entire exhibition, it is full of the weird and the wonderful, familiar objects reinvented using new materials and techniques. The traditional techniques of craft are given a contemporary twist, so the materials present in the work remain largely the same as what they always were but the tools in which they are moulded have advanced, for example 'Bloom' (a ceramic) by Michael Eden is a complicated form of interlocking lines that cross over and make the form of the pot to such a density and complexity that the most accomplished ceramicist could not make it by hand using traditional methods, but with the aid of computer technology new possibilities are opened up as to what can be achieved. It's exciting! Anyone for a surfboard made from cardboard? A ceramic eye patch? Or how about an embroidered surgical implant? Its this sort of innovation and creativity that the arts, in the broadest sense of the word, are all about and I think this show really celebrates that. Craft isn't only about function or purpose; it's about skill and creativity as well. The objects on show here might not be the most 'practical' in their physical usefulness, but what they have to offer in the way of usefulness in how they make us think, question and relate to materials, people, world around us and objects is priceless. And that truly is the power of making. Plus you'd have to be an emotionless cyborg not to be impressed at the skill it takes to carve the letters of the alphabet in the lead on the tip of a pencil (as in the image below, by Dalton Ghetty).

24 October 2011

The Museum of Museums

In Taunton, 'The Museum of Somerset' (previously Taunton Museum) has just re-opened after a 6.93 Million re-development. In Bristol 'The Industrial museum' has been revamped into what is now called 'The M Shed' and in Bath The Holburne museum (see fifth image below) has also had a massive 13.8 million pound transformation in the form of a glass extension to added onto the original building. With all of these re-vamped and modernised re-openings of museums in the South West as well as the exhibition titled, 'The Museum Show' now open at the Arnolfini gallery in Bristol it definitely feels like museums really are 'the flavour of the month'. Two weekends ago I popped down to the Arnolfini to find out if this was the case...

Featuring the work of over 40 artists this is no small show and to my delight included some old favourites and some fantastic new ones. I was not disappointed. Susan Hiller's 'After the Freud Museum', Duchamp's 'Boite-en-Valise' (the retrospective of the artists work in a suitcase) and Peter Blake's 'A Museum for Myself' are three museum inspired pieces on show in this exhibition that I have previously seen before, however it was fantastic to see them again without having to have made the pilgrimage to London and in the context of a show of museum inspired art. What is quite unusual about an exhibition of museum inspired work is the context, i.e normally a lot of the work on show in this exhibition would be in an actual museum where as here you have almost the opposite. The element of surprise of seeing work by an artist in a museum is part of the point of using the museum as a context to make work and play with interpretation. In the Arnolfini show having all of those museum inspired art works in an 'art context' of the gallery brings the viewers attention to the work in a different way again or as the Arnolfini describes the show as, 'a museum of museums'.

The museums on offer include: 'The Museum of Failure' by Ellen Harvey, 'The Museum of Safety Gear for Small Animals by Bill Burns (which I recommend you looking at the website for, The Davis Museum (a.k.a the smallest contemporary art museum in the world), 'Museum of Contemporary African Art' by Meschac Gaba, 'Moon Museum' (which sees the first-and most smallest works of art to land on the moon)by Forrest Myers, 'Voting Booth Museum' by Guillaume Biji (proves you can learn so much about a countries politics from the style of their voting booths) and 'The Museum of personality testing' by Sina Najafti and Christopher Turner to name but a few! It really is a mix of the ridiculous and the sublime.

A personal highlight for me was Herbet Distel's 'The Museum of Drawers' which holds 500 miniature artworks collected during the 1960's and 70's. Yes! So we have, David Hockey, Andy Warhol, Sol Lewitt, Joesph Beuys, John Cage, Claes Oldenburg, George Rickey, Cy Twombly, Roy Lichtenstein, Larry Rivers, Jasper Johns, Jim Dine and many many more all in little 2.25" wide and 1 11/16" high spaces within 20 drawers. Looking at the collection and the list for ages all I could think was how many cool artists were there in the 60's and 70's! And on a serious note the idea of drawers and collections in art generally is something that appeals to me as a person, maybe because I naturally without trying seem to collect lots of books and strange what can only politely be described as 'bits of tat', but whatever the reasons I thought this work was great.

On a completely different tone, the 'World Agriculture Museum' shown off site as part of the Arnolfini exhibition, is a much more global and thought provoking affair. The museum, curated by Asuncion Molinios', is set in what was previously Bristol Police Station. Inside the museum feels more like a theatre or stage-set in the way it is quite dimly lit and in the empty and dusty space which is quite haunting and creepy (its a creepy old police station not a smart shiny new one) there are cases of hundreds of different seeds and information on the doomsday vault in the North Pole (supposedly that contains seeds from all plant life on Earth). Anyway, it is an interesting collection and touches upon ideas in agriculture from food production to folklore. With news stories of the world's rapidly increasing population over the last few years which is set to rise even higher; all of which will put greater pressure and need on food production and how we grow food, this whole piece feels incredibly topical as well.

Whether we have museums being used in art or having art in museums are two ways in which these artists have used the concept of 'The Museum' in their work. There are many more variations of this all throughout art history and the history of how we collect, curate and display art works, artifacts and history and anthropology. It is, however, very exciting to see how artists take the museum as an institution and use it, parody it or interpret it in different ways of which this exhibition represents that diversity of what can be done with museums in a very successful way.

This is only part one of what is a two part exhibition (the second part to come in December) so I really recommend you paying this a visit.
For more details visit:

I think my own recent bias (see image above of one of my pieces of work influenced by museum collections) working with the collection of agricultural tools at The Somerset Heritage Centre could have had a distinct influence in my interest in writing this post.
But, I'm not alone in this either, Jon England (see image below) has also worked with a museum, 'The Fleet Air Arm Museum' in Yeovilton on his recent project, 'Operation Chameleon' which can be seen until December. I have written on this blog before about what I believe to be just some of the benefits of an artist working with a museum and how the presentation of that research can make certain artifacts in museums collections more accessible to the public or present new interpretations of existing collections to new audiences.

(below) The Holburne Musuem, Bath

Finally, if you are still not convinced that museums are 'where its at' then look no further than the also very recent exhibition by Grayson Perry in The British Museum, 'The tomb of the unknown craftsman' (image below) where the artist has made his distinctive styled work in the form of ceramics and tapestries and then looked to the museum collection to find pieces that are similar, or in the artists own words, 'All I could do was choose the things that fascinated and delighted me.' The result is an exhibition that combines the two old and new side by side. Perry is no stranger to working with museums and has used artifacts alongside his own collections before in the piece 'Charms of Linconshire'. I've yet to visit this exhibition and I think it goes without saying that I'm obviously going to visit it soon, but I wanted to share it with you here as it fits so well with this post. Some of Perry's observations I've read in news articles that talk about his experiences working with museums and their curators has been particularly poignant for me recalling my own experiences working with the curators in the Somerset Heritage Centre. He says, 'Curators seemed to like nothing better than showing off the treasures in their care. Their profound enthusiasm I found infectious and endearing.' So true. As you walk around these massive and often quite cold 'warehouse-like' storage spaces where all the artifacts are boxed and catalogued, there is nothing better than to be in those spaces than with someone who knows exactly where to find the thatcher's whimbrel you're looking for, or the collection of gloves maker's tools and then can tell you all about those things. It really is wonderful and that's coming from, me, someone who never studied or really liked history.

So, with lots of attention on all these newly opened museums there's a lot of opportunity to discover and re-discover some remarkable objects, people and stories. Museums don't necessarily always hold the truth, with a lot of theorists believing that history has always been a matter or interpretation and who has been doing the interpreting. This leads the way nicely for artists to make their own interpretations or accept existing ones and how we may then choose to use that knowledge in our own work or to say something about our own time.

That is where things start to get really exciting.

For more details on 'The Tomb of the unknown Craftsman' click on the link below:

20 October 2011

Join us tomorrow for the BIG Draw!

Hi, I haven't abandoned you, dear SAW blog. I've merely been out visiting exhibitions (details of that coming to a post on here soon) and preparing my canvas for the Big Draw: 'Street Carpets' event happening in the High Street tomorrow and Saturday. Yes, this is an unashamedly blunt plug, but if there's a better way of letting lots of people know about it at short notice then I'd like to know how, besides you'd enjoy it if you chose to come along and take part! Its going to be fun!

Look out for artists in red tomorrow and Saturday! We'll be in Taunton's High Street with four different fun activities for you to try.
There's a digital photography projection piece to be involved in making, two different drawing activities and a weaving activity with lengths of coloured tape as well.
All of the work is for the Big Draw 2011 but in Taunton we are also specifically using the opportunity to collect your ideas, thoughts, memories and experiences of the High Street. The responses we collect in the form of drawings, words, text, photos etc. will then be used as a creative resource to help inspire and provide input into the architects new designs for the High Street when it is re-developed.
We'll be there from 11.00 to 2.30pm tomorrow and Saturday! We'd love to see you.

All are welcome to come and draw on my map of the High Street! Pens provided, just bring yourselves!
You know you want to, why else would you be reading the SAW blog unless you were interested in something arty?

More details can be found on:

10 October 2011

British Art Show comes to Plymouth!

The first six British Art Shows really passed me by (understandable when you take into account that the first two happened before I was born) in fact I hadn't really heard of BAS at all until this year. So, when British Art Show 7 literally came to town there was no way I would be missing it this time round!

Here's the info: "Held every five years across four cities nationwide, British Art Show comes to Plymouth for the first time in the city's history. British Art Show 7: In the days of the comet features work by 39 artists and artists' groups working in the UK today. It is exhibited across five venues -Peninsula Arts : Plymouth University, Plymouth Arts Centre, Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, Plymouth College of Art Gallery and the Slaughter House: Royal William Yard"

Brilliant! And as I am down in Plymouth at least once a week studying for my MA it has been pretty convenient to go and see all the art on offer which is all mostly in walking distance near each other....except for the Slaughter House (which is walkable but only if you like a thirty minute power walk, for those of you that don't its very easy to get a bus there). Any who, the show as a whole, for me, was one that got better with age. I've made it my mission to go visit the exhibitions in their venues more than once, and have found the second time round I enjoyed it all a lot more. There's a mix of sculpture, installation, video work, photography and painting. I found that the painting side of things to be quite disappointing and won't dwell too long here on the ones I found to be shockingly bad, which is a shame because it doesn't reflect a lot of the interesting painting I see happening elsewhere. Two of the best pieces for me were video works. Elizabeth Price's 'User group disco' (see image below) shown in Plymouth Museum in which extreme close-ups of kitchen utensils and other miscellaneous objects are whirled around to A-Ha's 'Take on me' whilst philosophical text is scrolled across the screen. The work is about archives and taxonomies (even more appropriate when you consider that it is being shown in a museum) and how we classify objects. I could relate a lot of my current thinking and work to this piece and I liked its energy and pace which made it an engaging piece to watch. The second video is one that I think virtually everyone who visits the BAS enjoys is, Christian Marclay's 'The Clock' (see image below), in which a 24 hour series of cut scenes has been edited from films where there is a reference to a specific time so that when edited all together you have an entire video that tells the time: a clock of clocks, watches and time from hundreds of movies. This can only be best explained with an example, so, you go into watch the film at 2.45pm and on the screen is the famous scene from 'Safety Last!' with Harold Lloyd. Time moves on and there is a scene from Raging Bull etc. etc. that mirrors real time. Totally brilliant! I love movies and I could have sat there all day watching to see what films would come up next.

They might have been my favourite two pieces but there is still plenty more to see with work by Sarah Lucas, Wolfgang Tillmans and Roger Hiorns. The list almost reads like a Turner Prize nominees retrospective. It was also worth checking out Karla Black, Mick Peter, Brian Griffiths and Karin Ruggaber who for different reasons also had elements to their work that appealed to me (interestingly they are all sculptors/installation artists).

There you have it. Not that I have any previous years to compare it to, but I can say that the BAS7 is a real marmite mix of a show, there's a lot to love and a lot to hate, but in a way that's what makes it great. What could be more British or more contemporary than so many contradictions: art that makes you mad, art that makes you think, art that makes you feel, art that makes you laugh, art that shouts, art that inspires and art that just bamboozles you!

Glad I didn't miss it this time.

BAS7 at Plymouth College of art
BAS7 at Plymouth Art Centre

BAS7 at Plymouth City Museum and Gallery

Mick Peter - 'Moldenke fiddles on' 2008-09

Elizabeth Price - 'User Group Disco' 2009 (still)

Christian Marclay - 'The Clock' 2010 (still)Brian Griffiths - 'The body and ground (or your lovely smile)' 2010

British Art Show 7 is on until December 4th 2011 in Plymouth. For more details visit link below:

2 October 2011

They said it changes when the sun goes down...

Over the river going out of town you'll find Hestercombe gardens, the venue for a special Art weeks event:

"A Night of Light' presents an evening journey through Hestercombe Gardens as darkness descends. By subtly highlighting these historic gardens and their place in the history of garden design it features the work of 14 artists and projects that respond to either landscape or make artworks for very specific contexts. Light, in its many forms, is used here to heighten the viewers' awareness of differing aspects of the landscape and gardens be they historical, ephemeral, botanical, social, zoological or geographical."

Friday the 30th of September, and the event 'A Night of light' is finally here! Myself and my best friend, Jess were not going to miss the opportunity to see light, sound and site specific art works in Taunton's Hestercombe gardens in the dark. It just sounded too cool to miss! In fact we almost didn't get in, as tickets had completely sold out! However, we were lucky this time as there were a couple of volunteering opportunities to be taken up that meant we could get in and see the show after all.
The event as an experience was really good fun, like 'Sheds' you were given a map of the gardens showing the locations of the artworks along the way. I think the success of this event was being able to discover and follow the route on the map around the gardens with 13 artworks spaced at good intervals along the way allowing you to pause and enjoy the scenery on the way to the next artwork location. The atmosphere created by the large numbers of people visiting made it also a lively and entertaining evening which was heightened by the excitement of people's children who were, possibly as excited as me, to be running around Hestercombe gardens in the dark!

The art work on show is where I am more torn in my opinion, from loving some pieces like Mark Anderson's 'Kinetic flowers' and 'Woodpecker' pieces which really lived up to my expectations of 'A Night of light' in the way that they used 'light' and lots of it! The piece, 'Woodpecker' really made use of the space of the trees in Hestercombe, drawing your attention to the architecture of the trees as the green lights jumped from one tree to another along with the sound of a woodpecker which made you think about the wildlife within the gardens as well as drawing your attention to the garden itself. Similarly, Simon Hitchen's piece, 'Soul shadow' (a large mirror standing at the edge of the lake that had been lit on one side creating a long 'shadow' of light) was quite subtle but also beautiful as it was in context with its surroundings of the lake where you had similar reflections of light hitting the surface of the water. The continuity of this then followed by Tim Martin's graphic animation, 'Temple' on the Tempe Arbour in Hestercombe (the building is up quite high above the gardens)which also reflected back down onto the surface of the water.

Given the dramatic spaces that are on offer in Hestercombe I think the disappointment for me, in 'A Night of Light' came from the use of too many videos shown on television screens with several being shown in buildings/covered areas in the grounds of the gardens. The actual videowork being shown was ok, but I think given the context it was disappointing to have them shown on flat TV screens in rooms. Why was there not more use of projectors onto the outside of the buildings or gardens, for example? There is so much opportunity to use the space, but instead we are viewing videos in rooms and in tunnels behind metal bars(even if the sound was amplified by the tunnel as a space, why not just have the sound and no images?). To be fair I have no technical skill or expertise in any of the mediums that were on show during this event so I can only speculate at the sorts of things I would like to have seen happen without really knowing how technically possible it would be to make a reality. At the same time though, I found a lot of the art that was on show almost too subtle, slick or conceptual. All of which, are things that, if I am being honest, dislike in art as a rule (I don't mind it in moderation, sometimes...). Interestingly, the longer I spent with some work the more I did come to appreciate it, for example Chloe Brooks' piece (pictured below) became more endearing and less like an MDF stage set the longer I spent with it in the space. It was actually my friend that noticed the reflection the archway made in the pond (pictured in the photo below) and it did conjure up images of Indian architecture in relation to the space(and what the artist intended to do). I'm pleased that I was encouraged to look at the work for a sustained length of time as it was worth it and also a learning experience in terms of fighting with my own impatience in viewing art work and the benefits of staying with a piece of work for longer periods of time.

The show was definitely contemporary and despite my personal dislike of some of the work I acknowledge that having all kinds of art in Somerset is a very healthy thing. As someone said to me during the evening, "I'm a maxamalist not a minimalist." So true! I would have had gardening tools hanging from all the trees and bushes, I'd have planted some spades covered it in paint and lit it all up with fireworks! I am of course exaggerating to make a point and maybe that's because I like theatrics or am a little bit tacky, but if I had a canvas like Hestercombe why hold back? I would have loved a little bit more.

(above) Chloe Brooks' 'Plans for portals'
"Plans for portals' is a remaking of the India Gate, New Delhi on a domestic scale, and made with modern building materials. Sir Edwin Lutyens designed the original monument about 10 years after his additions of the Orangery and Dutch gardens at Hestercombe. Remaking the 'Gate' and positioning it within the environs that it references almost brings it back full circle. And yet, having undergone this double displacement, in this context the structure seems somewhat awkward, forcing a re-evaluation of both the place it inhabits and from where it came."

(above) Meg Calver and Tim Martin's 'These walls have ears' (sound installation in the Orangery)

(above and below) In the day and in the night photos of Mark Anderson's 'Kinetic flowers'
"Mark Anderson's work covers a broad spectrum, communing sound, light, kinetics, fire, pyrotechnic elements and frequently involving specially designed 'musical' apparatus, to create installations and performances for site specific outdoor events. Kinetic flowers was originally commissioned for Power Plant, an international touring sit specific show, of sound and light installations."

*Thank you very much to Jess Thorne who gave permission to use her photos on this blog post.

29 September 2011

There's still time to know your roots!

Thank you to Lyn Mowat who has contributed a review of the exhibition 'Roots' for this post (in italics):


"Corporate Sponsors of SAW, King's College, Taunton, have kindly hosted Venue 97 in this year's Artweeks. The exhibition which has been carefully curated by the artists consists of the high quality work of four artists who compliment each other in every possible way. Two artists work in wood, Trevor Salway-Roberts' formal carving is exquisite and is a lively contrast to Emma Duke's wood constructions that use driftwood and have a sense of the wild and free. Samantha Gilbert's printmaking has the feel of textiles and sits well with the beautiful installation by Lucy Lean who's work seems to go from strength to strength.
King's College generously hosted a Friends' Event and prizes for the lucky winners of the two recent Friends' Prize Draws were presented. The Friends Committee is enormously grateful to Julia Thompson who has given a silver pendant to a delighted Audrey Roux and kind Jo Luxstead has given a beautiful angel to Shirley Lomas.
Art is uplifting and inspiring and forging partnerships like the one with King's College, Taunton is a wonderfully positive experience for everyone. Thank you one and all."

(above) Lucy Lean -mixed media/installation
(above) Emma Duke -driftwood sculptures

(above) Samantha Gilbert -printmaking

(above) Trevor Salway-Roberts -woodcarving

This week I went to visit 'Roots' myself and I agree with what Lyn has written about how the four artists' work has come together really well in this exhibition. There are similarities and comparisons to made of the textures, materials and surfaces that the artists have used. Whilst they are similar in their use of natural forms/materials the exhibition also demonstrates a variety of techniques (from wood carving to print making) and ideas that the artists have used to make the work (and if you talk to them they will tell you lots more about it all). The gallery at Kings College is small but perfectly formed and makes this an intimate and thoughtfully curated exhibition.

For more details please go to: or venue 97 in the SAW catalogue.

You still have three days of art weeks to go! There's still lots to go and see!

Curiouser and curiouser....

Whilst I was in Bath visiting the Artists Open Studios I also stumbled across this exhibition off the main high street in the city centre.

The exhibition, titled, 'Wunderkamer' from the German, 'Cabinet of curiosities' is an Off-site exhibition curated by the Bo Lee gallery at The Octagon Chapel, Milsom Place.
Featuring, Sarah Ball, Mat Collishaw, Angela Cockayne, Jayne Dunsmuir, Tessa Farmer, Patrick Haines, Marcelle Hanselaar, Melanie Jackson, Alexander Kozer-Robinson, Cornelia Parker, Robert Priseman, Dawn Lippiatt, Ione Rucquoi, Rose Sanderson, Rebecca Stevenson and Viktor Wynd.

I seem to be making a habit of seeing art exhibitions in abandoned buildings of which 'Wunderkamer' is another to add to that list. Whilst I do not have many photos here showing the impressive exhibition space you might get a rough idea from some of the images below that it is very grand looking and certainly a lot smarter than some of the other empty buildings I've seen exhibitions in recently. A quick search online reveals that the Octagon Chapel (named so because it is in fact octagonal inside) was designed as a church in 1767. Anyway, it has to be said that this a very cool show, and because of my own personal interests in all things cabinets/sheds and curiosities I found it to be particularly useful. Insects in bell jars, bones in boxes, x-rays, taxidermy, cases, sculptures made from unusual materials meant that the work in this show read like a natural history or science museum meets elements of the surreal and mystical. There was much to be curious about with most pieces requiring close inspection to see what was either in them, or what they were made of. In ways the show was also slightly macabre and Gothic which was probably helped to some degree by the period location it was hung in, I half expected to see the Patrick Haines' raven to spring to life and swoop down crying, 'Never more'. Luckily, this didn't happen and I continued to wonder around the exhibition exploring the different work on offer. The whole show was a really great surprise as I hadn't expected to find such a surreal and intriguing exhibition on the main shopping street.

The show is still on until the 1st of October, please check it out if you're out in Bath.

(above) -Tessa Farmer, artist

(above) -Ione Rucquoi, artist

"These collections of dead insects, objects from the bottom of a river and sea urchins are housed in cabinets, boxes, shelves and rooms that are recognisable as 'museum-like' and familiar, yet are encountered on the street or in the gallery." -Duncan Cameron, artist

For more info on this exhibition and future bo lee exhibitions/artists please see link below: