Black Swan Arts

Exhibitions - Judy Pfaff, Frieze and more by Fiona

In September I attended Judy Pfaff’s talk and the launch of her new site-specific installation ‘Roots Up’ at Messums, Wiltshire.  Having previously researched her online as an artist of great interest to me, it was a real thrill to see her work in reality.  Pfaff sees her installations as ‘painting in 3d’.  ‘Roots Up’ fills the length and height of the huge tithe barn.  On entering, I was taken aback by the immensity of two extraordinary entwined tree root balls, which have naturally melded together clasping man-made stone blocks between their roots.  Monumental in scale, nature’s power is unequivocal.  Steel rods wiggle and writhe – their man-altered forms communing with the architecture and nature. Colourful concentric rings are encircled by 12 hovering vessels, a fantastical mix of green to pink sinuous melted plastic and expanded foam spilling out.  I was reminded of sundials, crop circles, the solar system and celtic patterns. The recognisable influence of Salisbury Cathedral is represented in a fluted architectural column reaching to the ceiling.  Pfaff’s work oozes, spews and flows with energy and vitality, which I love.

Earlier this month I visited Frieze London.  I was overwhelmed by the scale of it; seemingly endless compartmentalised spaces filled with art and hoards of people, which made me quite dizzy by the end!  Gallery Pillar Corrias created an incredible theatrical show of Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley’s work. The floor is integrated into the work as a stage set.  Floor, wall-mounted lightbox portaits and sculptural installations are all treated with the same black and white stylisation of a fictional narrative based on American World War II sailors' lives on a submarine.  I found it compelling.

Lee Bul’s ‘Untitled (Mekamelencolia – Velvet #3 DDRG29AC) incorporates human hair, paint, dried flowers and silk velvet.  Strands of hair furrow through the velvet pile as a drawing, particles of dried flowers embedded in the surface.  I’ve noticed human hair featured in several artworks lately.  There are so many everyday materials under our noses which we can utilise.  I like the unexpected mix.  I am experimenting with grass juice, feathers and ground coal, though hair may be added to the list!

Do Ho Suh’s ‘Main Entrance, 388 Benefit Street, Providence, RI 02903, USA’ is a beautiful, ethereal walk-through sculpture about memory of place.  Made from blue polyester fabric over thin steel pipes, it is immaculately crafted, simple and elegant.  Sarah Sze’s intricate maquette is a miniature version of her planetary installation ‘Triple Point (Planetarium)’.  ‘Her work challenges the static nature of sculpture.  She draws from Modernist traditions of the found object, dismantling their authority with dynamic constellations of materials that are charged with flux, transformation and fragility’ (Victoria Miro).

I've compiled a slideshow of the stages of my interim MA Show installation ‘Matter in Flux’ (which explored connections between line, growth and energy inspired by webs - see ‘Spider Web Safari’ - and other micro phenomena).  A short film taken by Nick Weaver also gives a flavour of the work.  I'm now working on research for my 4th module.

‘Anthill I’ is now happily installed in its new home, purchased at ‘Form and Fascination’, The Courts Garden, where I showed alongside Ian Turnock.  It was a joy to exhibit in such a National Trust gem.

When it came to taking down ‘Cirri’ from ‘Summer Sculptures’ at Glastonbury Abbey, I was delighted to find a lady absorbed in drawing the pieces. Julia from Edinburgh had been with my work two days in a row, finding them a great source of inspiration.

As part of our collaborative exhibition ‘Ephemeral and Eternal’ during Somerset Art Weeks Festival ’17 at Black Swan Arts, Angela Morley and I ran some workshops.  Mine involved participants ranging in age from 3 to adult making pieces using found and reclaimed materials.

1173 visitors came to see our exhibition, and we received some wonderful feedback. If you missed it, our collaborative piece 'Life Form' is still mounted on the Round Tower wall. There were 4 exhibitions at Black Swan Arts, including the beautiful and incredibly moving ‘Hinterland’ show by Gladys Paulus, so it was buzzing.   My ‘Cocoon’, exhibited during SAW Festival at Clayhill Arts, Bridgwater, is still on show to those who visit the centre by appointment.

I managed to visit a few other SAW venues.  I was particularly inspired by SAW's Muse project (artist responses to South West museum collections).  At Wells Museum Sean Harris' revealing, clever animation machines respond to the collection of ancient bones found in local caves including the Hyena Den.  Dorcas Casey's elevated crocodile at Bruton Museum is an amusing take on the collection's animal shaped jelly moulds. ‘Gather-ing', Somerset Rural Life Museum and Cotley Barn made use of the history and architecture of tithe barns.  They are such evocative spaces.

I am delighted that my Log Cast has been selected for the Black Swan Open, Frome, starting next week.

Time to move forwards with new ideas for my final MA year!

Autumn news by Fiona

My part-time MFA course at Bath Spa Uni continues to challenge and broaden my art practice, taking it in new directions which I am finding exciting!  Recent work has resulted in an immersive installation piece (images above) for the MA Degree ShowBath School of Art & Design, Sion Hill, Bath, BA1 5SF, 23 – 27 Sept, 10am-5pm.  Private View 22 Sept 6-9pm.  This will be an interim show for me, being my first year of two.

I have been installing several other exhibitions that run simultaneously this autumn in very different venues.  I was invited to show a selection of my outdoor sculptural pieces in ‘Form and Fascination’ at Courts Garden National Trust alongside Ian Turnock’s work.  Both inspired by structures in nature, our work is set in the beautiful gardens that feature water, intimate, formal and wild areas:  Holt, Nr Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, BA14 6RR, 9 September – 15 October (closed Wednesdays; last entry to garden 5pm).

Somerset Art Weeks Festival is coming up soon, this year themed ‘Prospect’.  I am showing with Angela Morley in 2 venues spanning East and West Somerset.  We have transformed the Round Tower Gallery, both inside and out, for ‘Ephemeral and Eternal’ (Venue 3), Black Swan Arts, 2 Bridge St, Frome, Somerset BA11 1BB.  Our exhibition has already started (a week earlier than SAW): 16 September – 7 October, 10am–4pm, Mon to Sat, (open Sun 1 Oct); Preview Fri 22 Sept 6-8pm.  At Clayhill Arts, Clayhill Farm, Charlynch Lane, Bridgwater TA5 2PH our large outdoor sculptures will be on display in the landscape to launch their new centre, 23 September – 8 October, 11am-6pm, Wed-Sun.

As part of Somerset Art Weeks we will be running workshops:

Black Swan Arts: ‘Organic Forms’: Wed 4 Oct, 1-3pm (Angela Morley); Sat 7 Oct, 10am-12noon or 1-3pm (me); book via www.eventbrite.co.uk

Clayhill Arts: ‘Organic Forms Found Materials’ Sun 8 Oct, half day or full day (me); or ‘Organic Forms Willow Weaving Sun 8 Oct, half day or full day (Angela Morley), or combination of each: book via www.eventbrite.co.uk

Summer Sculptures, Glastonbury Abbey grounds, Somerset, BA6 9EL, continues until 1 October (normal admission applies)

I hope you can visit some of these exhibitions!

Exhibitions: Black Swan Arts, Fresh Air and 50 Bees by Fiona

Just a brief update on a few exhibitions and events that I’m taking part in this Spring.  I hope you will be able to visit some of them. ‘The Future Can’t Wait’, recently opened in the Long Gallery, Black Swan Arts Centre, 2 Bridge St, Frome, Somerset BA11 1BB, 18 March – 5 April (see attached poster/invite).  A show of exhibits from 30 Bath Spa MA postgraduate students across four disciplines - ceramics, fashion and textiles, fine art and visual communication.

I’ve been involved in linking this up with BBC’s get-creative-weekend.  On Saturday 8 April, from 2-4pm, Black Swan artisans will be offering drop-in taster workshops for adults and children over ten years old, and MA artists will work with young people offering activities for children of all ages, exploring concepts of their current exhibition.  I will be doing one of the workshops.

I’m still working on my piece for Fresh Air ’17.  Too large now for my studio, I am making it outdoors.  Spring weather is helping a lot!  Quenington Old Rectory, Quenington, Cirencester, Gloucestershire GL7 5BN, 11 June – 2 July, open daily 10am-5pm, (£5 Adults, children free).

I’m also making a small sculpture for Fifty BEES: The Interconnectedness of All Things, at ACEarts, Somerton, 1-22 July, open Tues – Sat, 10am-5pm.  The topic is close to my heart.

Have a lovely Spring!

Research by Fiona

My MA continues to absorb me.  Research is a main focus this term, I have never got through so much literature in such a short time!  I am looking at the 'expanded fields' (Krauss) and blurred boundaries in drawing and sculpture, doing alot of thinking, writing, visiting exhibitions, listening to talks and making samples.  I love the alchemy.  Inspired by artists such as Eva Hesse in the 60's who defied categorisation, Cornelia Parker (exploded shed; melts down and ‘draws’ the object/s (eg a lead bullet) into wire), Monika Grzymala (see image below: theatrical explosions with tape and paper), Chiharu Shiota (immersive stretched installations) and critics/philosophers e.g. Rosalind Krauss and Peter Osborne, new ideas are slowly formulating. Monika Grzymala, Freeing the Line, 2010

This month, I will be taking part in the Quartz Visual Arts Festival ’16, ‘Outside In’, 15-22 December at Queens College, Taunton TA1 4QS.  This involves a collection of work based on the rural landscape and natural world from over 40 artists and makers in the South West.

quartz-visual-art-exhibitionquartz-visual-art-exhibition-2

I’ve been involved behind the scenes at Black Swan Arts, Frome.  The winter exhibition ‘30 Years/30 Artists’ is now running until 24 Dec, our final 30th anniversary celebration of 30 years at Black Swan.  Postcard artworks have returned to the Gallery (displayed on a strange pink/silver/pearl tree I cobbled together), this time in secret envelopes at just £10 each - Christmas bargain!

I am also working towards a large piece for ‘Fresh Air ‘17’ in Quenington, Gloucestershire.  More news on this later.

Very best wishes for a happy festive season!

Collaboration by Fiona

'Flock in Flight' All Hallows Prep School group work Each project brings with it new challenges. Sometimes several projects run alongside each other and the art of juggling can be a challenge in itself. Some of my roles overlap or interlink. This can be a good way to function, 'killing 2 birds with 1 stone' (though I hate killing), easing the problem of having too many things on the go, but isn’t so straightforward if you don’t want to compromise the work, and it can create a bottleneck time-wise, amongst other complications. I’ve enjoyed working alongside other artists/makers of all ages. I like collaboration - at its best, combined effort multiplies output and result, it's more fun and creatively, one can learn so much from working with others.

The past month has been full-on. With a bit of time to reflect now, here’s a look at what went on in my little creative world (in the bigger world - all I can say in a nutshell is PLEASE CAN WE UNITE AND STOP KILLING).

Teaching, Workshops, Talks, Demonstrations

On 12 June I spent a day at the Hidden Garden Art Show (Maureen Michaelson Gallery, Hampstead), part of Chelsea Fringe Festival where my sculptures were on show with other selected artists, demonstrating my work process, running a drop-in workshop and giving a talk about my work to visitors.  Although it poured with rain all morning, the sun brought a magical shimmer and quite a crowd in the afternoon, including Tim Richardson - founder of Chelsea Fringe.

Drop-in workshop at Hidden Garden Art ShowWorkshop participant's beetleMe talking to Tim Richardson (leads Chelsea Fringe)

I teach 2 evenings a week at All Hallows Prep School and as I've been involved in the Secret Swans Art Trail (one of Black Swan Arts' 30th anniversary events and part of Frome Festival), I devised a project to involve the children in the Trail.   We created a flock of flying swans in wire, which were installed on the exterior wall of Black Swan's historic Round Tower.  Inspired by my recent trip to Sophie Ryder's exhibition at Salisbury Cathedral, we used her 'scribbly' technique to add more black areas.  It was an effective solution given time constraints.  The final lessons getting the work completed was a mission as some children were absent due to end-of-term activities.  Thankfully others stood in (special mention: Ellie West and Nick Somerville!). The swans looked like faint drawings, quite lovely and ethereal, though visitors had to look hard to see them.

Student's work in progress - making the All Halllows swansStudent's work in progress - making the All Halllows swansMy contribution to 'Flock in Flight'Installation on Round Tower, Black Swan Arts Centre

Preparations for Priddy Festival included some 'birdy notes' as we called them.  A team of Mendip Creatives made them from wire and paper, for marquee decor.  A large willow hog was also made, led by Angela Morley.

I worked with a couple of schools recently (Bishops Wordsworth & North Town) making wire figures and mini creatures.  Bishops Wordsworth was a 2 day slog over to Salisbury in a hire car (my truck was broken) giving 4 x powerpoints/making sessions to 128 children in fairly swift succession. The short sessions of 2 hours per group had limitations, but it's amazing what children can do when focused!

North Town Primary students making Giacometti-inspired figureNorth Town Primary student making Giacometti-inspired figureGiacometti-inspired figureGiacometti-inspired figureGiacometti-inspired figureWire Fish by Yr 7 pupil - Bishops Wordsworth School Wire Dragonfly by Yr 7 pupil - Bishops Wordsworth School Wire Seahorse by Yr 7 pupil - Bishops Wordsworth School Wire Crane by Yr 7 pupil - Bishops Wordsworth School Wire Woodlouse by Yr 13 helper - Bishops Wordsworth School

Volunteering Roles

Secret Swans badge (illustration by Belinda Brownlee)

I continue to be very involved in the Black Swan Arts centre as a trustee, especially this year, with its 30th anniversary.  We have held several special exhibitions/events to mark the occasion, which have so far been a 'resounding success' (Christina Oswin), with great feedback, overwhelming support from the public, serious funds raised, heightened the BSA profile and engaged the community. 1000 Postcards attracted over 1000 postcard-sized artworks (including 2 of mine) for a massively popular exhibition with over £10,000 of sales so far and visitors galore.  Unsold postcards can still be bought online.  Preparations for the Secret Swans Art Trail, which followed straight after, grew more intensive.  30 artists in 30 venues around Frome.  I made a piece, 'Resurrection', (using reclaimed steel, copper wire, tar, rope and scrim) and sited it by the river.  It only recieved slight damage, easily rectified and many positive comments, so am grateful to most Frome residents for their respect!  In addition I worked on the All Hallows piece, helped Nick Weaver with the organisation and was largely involved in the PR for these events.  They are great examples of a huge team effort by Black Swan volunteers.

Sketches for my Secret Swans work'Resurrection' - ‘Black Swan’ is a metaphor for the impossible becoming possible. This piece is about hope, endeavour, yearning, striving for truth, purity (‘we will never know everything’), freedom from constraints, environmental pollution. Swans represent love, which ‘conquers all’, symbolised by the crucifix. 'Resurrection' - ‘Black Swan’ is a metaphor for the impossible becoming possible. This piece is about hope, endeavour, yearning, striving for truth, purity (‘we will never know everything’), freedom from constraints, environmental pollution. Swans represent love, which ‘conquers all’, symbolised by the crucifix. 'Resurrection' - ‘Black Swan’ is a metaphor for the impossible becoming possible. This piece is about hope, endeavour, yearning, striving for truth, purity (‘we will never know everything’), freedom from constraints, environmental pollution. Swans represent love, which ‘conquers all’, symbolised by the crucifix. 'Resurrection' detail 'Resurrection' detail Secret Swans piece (detail) by Edgar PhillipsSecret Swans piece by Tessa Farmer (detail) Secret Swans piece by Alicia Merret Secret Swans piece by Angela Morley - detail Secret Swans piece by Annie Fry

I've been involved in various Somerset Art Works meetings, a couple for an exciting new project that might come off next year with Anna Best, and for Somerset Open Studios '16 (17 Sept - 2 Oct).  As Rep for East Mendip, I'm keen to make sure we do Somerset proud.  I'm part of a cluster group in my area called The Mendip Triangle; we have a specially designed map (by Michel Linthorst) to help direct SAW visitors to our lovely rural Studios in September.  Looking forward to seeing this year's SAW guides being delivered next week!

SAW flyer 'The Mendip Triangle' by Michel LinthorstSAW flyer (back) 'The Mendip Triangle' by Michel Linthorst

New Work, Exhibitions

I made a new Nest and Mini Dung Beetle & Ball for the Maureen Michaelson Show, in addition to existing work.  'Resurrection' will be sited at the Devon Recycled Sculpture Trail, Teignmouth seafront from 23 July - 4 Sept, and I am now curating our forthcoming step in stone exhibition touring to Salisbury Art Centre (18 Aug - 24 Sept), with Amanda Wallwork's help. 2 of my main outdoor pieces will be on show.  If you missed any step in stone artscapes last year, try to visit!

Nest detail'Cirri' created for step in stone, installed at Westdown Quarry, found and reclaimed steel, copper, aluminium, twine, wool, netting, rope, plastic. Photo by Duncan Simey

The garden and studio get quite a battering after big projects, so it's time to tidy up!   My good intention of simplifying life, with less to clutter the brain is still in the development stage - I hope it will happen one day.  In the meantime, the juggling continues!