Visual art exhibitions and events with a platform for critical writing
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By: Natalie Parsley
These are the musings and artistic adventures of Natalie Parsley!
# 5 [2 August 2012]
WOW! What an amazing day! Those of you who follow this blog regularly may remember in May I posted the creative goings on during Taunton's Olympic torch ceremony, one of those in particular being, 'The Somerset Journey' which began on May 21st and has travelled around the county visiting schools, nurseries, villages, Musgrove Hospital, Glastonbury Abbey, Langport Festival and more in its mission to 'Sound out Somerset'. Yesterday finally saw the spectacular conclusion to 'The Somerset Journey', where our Wind Gatherers, their vehicle, The Big Noise Band and local performers were in Weymouth for 'The Battle for the Winds'! Somerset was joined with, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Cornwall, Wiltshire and The West of England and their wind gathering vehicles and performers in an afternoon procession by the sea followed by an evening performance on Weymouth beach produced and starring 'Cirque Bijou' and 'Desperate Men'. The day concluded in style with 2012 torches being lit on Weymouth beach and carried out into the sea by 2012 people. The whole day had many fantastic delights and spectacles of creativity, performance, music and gymnastics to be seen. Hundreds of local people from the South West, Weymouth and beyond came to watch the performances and even more local people have taken part in the processions, the organising, creating and making that has gone into creating Battle for the Winds. Being completely useless at sports the Olympics felt like something that wouldn't remotely interest me, however after being involved in the organising of the Somerset Journey and watching communities coming together and celebrating throughout the county might not have changed my opinion of sport (I'm still not that interested in it) but as an event it has certainly done a lot of good in creating outdoor performance and creativity here in the South West as well as a sense of being united. Surely this can only be a good thing in the long term, I think, for inspiring and creating opportunities for future events? Looking today at the programme for Weymouth's 'b-side' multi-media arts festival looks equally as exciting (see link below) and is another prosperous hope for the continuation of innovative and contemporary arts practice from both local and international artists coming to the South West. I hope that the positive affect that it is having on the arts will continue to have a legacy long after the games have finished. Below are some images from yesterday's celebrations in Weymouth. For more info visit: http://soundingoutsomerset.blogspot.co.uk/http://www.battleforthewinds.com
# 4 [23 July 2012]
Last week, what felt like nearly everyone in the art community of Somerset arrived at Barrington Court for an afternoon with Antony Gormely. There was little in the way of advertising about this event so it was surprising at how quickly the power of 'word-of-mouth' led to an audience, I'd estimate, of 200-300 people attending the hour talk and presentation by the famous artist in a marquee in the scenic grounds of Barrington Court last Tuesday 17th July. Currently on show (and the reason for his visit) in the manor house at Barrington is one of Gormley's early works, 'Field for the British Isles'.
By arriving at Barrington dead on time, 3.45pm that Tuesday, we were somehow actually late as when we came to the marquee at 3.44 the place was entirely full! Everyone else, it seemed must have got there incredibly early. No matter, we opted to stand at the back instead of sitting so we had a 'fairly' decent view, or so we thought, until the slideshow started...As it turned out it actually paid to be 'late' as our standing at the back of the marquee and well-timed bobbing up and down choreography to see each slide proved to be too distracting for Gormley and he invited three of us to take up the three free seats in the front row! Whoop! Now we were out of the way, the presentation could begin properly. Gormley discussed several pieces of work in his career, from the figurative cast bronze sculptures made from moulds of his own body to his more abstract works such as the fog piece, 'Blind Light'. I think what I initially noted as being interesting was that I had always seen Gormley as a 'sculptor' and hearing him talk about any of his work, the thing that seemed most crucial in all of them was the context, location or space that these sculptures were in. Whether it was the gallery or the beach the important factor was space. This makes sense as whilst all of his work is about the body it is important to remember that we 'know' our body in relation in context to the space it inhabits, or as Gormley put it, 'the body as a place to live'. The body is both a 'place to live' and a place which also lives within a bigger place, 'the body inhabits architecture'. Sorry, I have been reading a lot of Heidegger recently, and the idea of existing, as in 'to dwell' as Heidegger puts it, seems to have a strong resemblance to some of what Gormley was talking about. In this way I began to see him less as a sculptor and more of an installation artist. The labelling might not be too important as they are often one and the same but I found the shift in my thinking about his work to be interesting. Gormley talked a lot about the 'experience' the audience had viewing the work, as he said, 'experience over representation' and how it seemed that he felt that the interaction, and sometimes pilgrimage to see his work (namely the figures that appear like mirages on Lake Ballard in Australia) is as much part of the work as the sculptures themselves. The reason for this, is because by making work about 'the body' and forcing the audience to interact with that work, it makes them think and engage with their own bodies with that space/in relation to that sculpture. For me, the work that I think best conveys this out of all the pieces Gormley showed us in his presentation were the more abstract pieces where the recognisable human figure wasn't present instead in its place, a box with four holes in it, or a room full of fog, or a gallery space inhabited by a vortex of wire spiralling around seemed to place the viewer in the work more, for me, than the figurative stuff. It also de-clouded the somewhat cynical viewpoint that Gormley is an artist obsessed with his own image, clearly not true, when you see his other work. Besides, if you are making work about the body then surely there is no place better, than starting 'close-to-home' and using yourself?
# 3 [15 July 2012]
If I may set the scene... Interim assessment for the MA Fine Art was rapidly approaching at the end of April. Previous attempts to secure a gallery space we (the other MA students) can all use have come to no avail. Enter, the illustrious, sizable, elegant and affordable, Crescent Contemporary in Taunton. Throw in a very good friend of mine who also happens to own it, plus a whole bunch of determination and enthusiasm (comes as standard). The result? A one day only, pop-up gallery space opportunity in my home town, that I'd have to be an idiot to turn down (or indeed a spanner).
(Fig. 1) First wall of work that greeted you in the, 'small but perfectly formed' gallery space. Two label pieces on the left and some carbon paper drawings on the right. Large drawing in the centre being made with carbon and a hammer(explanation to follow). My previous tool attempts have been of the very visual nature, i.e. concentrating mostly on what tools look like/shape/form etc. Previously never explored a bodily related approach to using tools/tool use so wanted to create a drawing using a tool, in this case namely a hammer....drawing as an embodied experience vs. using a hammer as an embodied experience...the created affect from hammering away at a pile of carbon based coal on a sheet of paper for five hours is, what you would expect: a lot of circular hammered marks radiating out from the centre getting lighter the further away from the centre you get. However, I soon started to make connection between the abstract image that was appearing and the likeness it had (at least in my mind) to something cellular/organic. Wanted to take this idea further and draw into my drawing/make it more obviously readable as being something cellular/bodily so took an image of a cross-section of inside the human lungs to draw from. I then adapted the hammer into a drawing tool even further by turning it into an eraser (fixing rubber onto head of hammer) which I could use to draw back into my already hammered drawing. Further links with carbon used in drawing and carbon in the human body and carbon, as in CO2, associated with the lungs and breathing being additional ties that were my attempts to link the work together conceptually. Whether how much of that is actually reflected back into the work is what I wanted to find out during this opportunity to have the work in front of a different audience. After that feedback I think it might be trying too hard to say too much, when actually exploring different kinds of drawing with different tools (and not trying to make it 'look' like anything) might be a more simple and direct way of getting the same idea across. Well, that's certainly what I am planning on pursuing next anyway.
(Fig. 2) In my mission to explore different ways and means of answering the question, 'what is a tool?' I looked at taking a very categorised approach and made labels (in the form of drawings/close-up photocopies/text/stains etc.) of every hand tool in my house. Think there were more than 75 different tools, each with around four or five labels showing different visual aspects of the tool. Yep, definitely ticked the 'obsessive' box but was a little too systematic for my liking and touched upon the 'visual' aspect of tools but told little in the way of the 'lived experience' of how it feels to actually use a tool. So useful but left me wondering how to resolve it more.
(Fig. 3) Tools on a wall. Tool prints on a wall, courtesy a la Lisa Milroy's paintings of everyday objects which she keeps inside the rectangle of the canvas frame and groups together in sets giving the impression of shop windows/cupboards.
(Fig. 4) Its a tool chest! (I could say more, but I'm not going to)
(Fig. 5) More proof of the label making madness that consumed me for two months.
Thoroughly grateful to have had such an opportunity that particularly allowed the benefit of having feedback from the artists and people whose opinions I respect in Somerset being able to see it.
# 2 [8 July 2012]
Wales based artists 'Rhod' exhibit at The Brewhouse
(pictured - Dave Shepherd's 'Ron's Boat')
'Sam Aldridge, Kathryn Campbell Dodd, good cop bad cop, Jason Pinder, Anthony Shapland and Dave Shepherd, a mix of established and emerging talent, use a diverse mixture of media from performance, film to sculpture. They have in common ‘Rhôd’, an annual exhibition in rural west Wales that aims to site contemporary art in a rural landscape creating a dialogue between urban artists and artists who work in rural settings.' -http://www.thebrewhouse.net/exhibitions/1380/take-the-m4-east-then-the-m5-south
On until August 11th!
I didn't go to the PV but I did check out this exhibition the following day during my lunch break. The chair piece seen here, definitely reminded me of Fischli and Weiss as well as Simon Lee Dicker's School Room desks that were in his exhibition, 'Show and Tell' which is an observation and not a criticism because I like this style of work and its clever balancing acts. Its playful. The whole of the exhibition, 'Take the M4 East Then the M5 South' is playful and intriguing. Sam Aldrige's cardboard sculptures of traffic cones and construction site helmets are fantastic trompe l'oeil replicas of their originals and remind me fondly of Claes Oldenburg's 'soft' and 'hard' sculptures of toilets, lipsticks and everyday things. Similarly, Dave Shepherd's work (one pictured above) is both playful and inventive. As ever, with Brewhouse shows, it is not a mass of things to see (as its a modestly sized gallery space) but the work is interesting if you're interested in something that will make you think and smile at the same time then its well worth a look.
FOR MORE OF 'WHAT'S ON' THIS WEEK PLEASE VISIT:
# 1 [8 July 2012]
Review of 'Imagine- How Creativity works' by Jonah Lehrer
Although I did not mention it by name I did very briefly refer to this book in last weeks' post. I had only read the introduction at that point but it was already having a profound effect in my thinking about creativity especially in relation to my own experiences (but more of that later). The book is aiming to answer and demystify the kind of myths that surround creativity, what it is, where it comes from and how it works. When I say, 'myths' I mean the kind of preconceptions that 'creativity is something that only creatives do'. But who are these 'creatives'?! The very idea that there is such a thing as creativity that is separate and bestowed only on certain people who are then deemed to be creative, is rubbish and most people know better, that anyone who has ever made a cake, potted a plant, created a joke, sang a song, written a letter, solved a crossword, or demonstrated any kind of problem solving is creative. In fact sleeping, something which everyone does, is one example mentioned in the book where the act of dreaming is both very creative and highly imaginative. Imagine then what you could do when you're awake! Lehrer refers to Kirkegarrd who says, 'Sleeping is the height of genius.' Zzzzz.....So, anyway, by no means is this book a patronising look into the stereotype of creativity, in fact if anything it almost read more like a self-help book on the highs and lows of trying to force or use creative thinking to solve a problem,
'Every creative journey begins with a problem. It starts with a feeling of frustration, the dull ache of not being able to find the answer. We've worked hard, but we've hit the wall. We have no idea what to do next. When we tell one another stories about creativity, we tend to leave out this phase of the creative process. We neglect to mention those days when we wanted to quit...instead we skip straight to the breakthroughs. We tell the happy endings first.'
FOR THE REST OF THIS REVIEW PLEASE GO TO...
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Graduated 2009 with a BA Fine Art from Somerset College. Works as a bookseller, artist and blogger in residence for SAW.