From Arnolfini to Frome’s Cultural Quarter

I had a great day at the Arnolfini, Bristol recently with fellow SAW Abundance artists and SAW curator Zoe Li seeing new work on show and catching up.  Micheael Dean’s sculpture (see tongue piece below) and Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ performance ‘Maintenance Works’ were inspiring.  Ukeles’ work seeks to overlap activities of ordinary labours of life with artistic labour – a concept she originated in the ’60’s.  Amongst other projects in ‘Touch Sanitation’ she spent months following, talking, participating and shaking hands with New York sanmen – thanking them for their thankless work.  Dean’s textured concrete works are made to be handled, making them far more accessible.

At the Black Swan Art Centre, Frome, I visited Seamus Moran’s exhibition of beautiful, haunting sculptures cast from tree knots.  His work resonated with my own fascination and collection of found objects including tree knots, twigs and roots.

Frome seems to be gathering momentum in the arts.  I went to a meeting about their planned new ‘cultural quarter’ for the area around the Black Swan, Museum, Library, Cheese and Grain, cattle market and river – a potentially very exciting arts complex which will infuse the Mendips with even more creativity – in addition to the Hauser and Wirth Gallery opening in Bruton in 2014.

I’m currently exhibiting a piece in this ‘cultural quarter’ for Loop de Loop – newly converted mini exhibition cubicles, which used to be loos!  The spaces look great lit up at night and will hopefully be appreciated over the Christmas period, starting with the Frome Christmas lights opening by Jenson Button this Friday evening, Catherine Hill artisan market and Super Market on Sunday.

 

Africa, Wildlife and Art

I’m very proud to have roots in Africa.  David Attenborough’s recent BBC TV series has brought the continent to the fore and each film brings tears to my eyes – mingled emotions of sadness, nostalgia, amazement, joy, laughter, despair, pride, love…  Several people have commented to me on the memorable Dung Beetle and Ball episode, as I have an affinity with Dung Beetles.  I make sculptures of them, use one as my gravitas and even won David Shepherd’s 3-d Wildlife Artist of the Year Award (’09) with my Dung Beetle and Ball piece (see below).  Since my childhood, I’ve always been captivated by dung beetles.  Their attachment to dung, the backward ball-rolling, their striking appearance, strength and perseverance appeal to my interest in the extra-ordinary.  Worshipped by the Egyptians, they are also symbols of wealth and power.  My Dad used to (and still does!) enjoy picking up dried elephant dung on safaris (see also my brother’s Andrew Campbell safaris) or driving over it for fun, and I guess the dung thing has stuck.  Hopefully, more people now understand that the beetles roll balls with their back legs and why they love dung so much (nutrition, nest etc..).  In galleries I’ve had to reverse my beetles, after being placed the wrong way round!

This week I managed to catch the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at Bristol Museum before it ends (today).  Wildlife in all its guises – again raising all sorts of emotions with incredible images of nature – closeup, narrative, beauty and horror (mainly due to ‘sick people’ as my son succinctly put it).

My son and I then popped to the Arnolfini’s Worktable event as part of IBT13, passing IBT’s fake moon rising in College Green on our way to the harbourside.  Worktable is a drop-by interactive artwork by Kate McIntosh set in connected shipping containers with microphones to record the antics. We chose an item to use/smash up (rollerskate), which was great fun to do in a room on our own, then had to artfully re-assemble someone else’s trashed object (car) in a shared room with other creative participants, with very basic materials. Equally exciting was seeing the results of everyone else’s handiwork at the end.  Challenging work – good for lateral thinking with no pre-conceived ideas.  Project ends later today.

 

An exciting day at Bristol’s harbour

It’s been great getting to know Bristol’s harbour – I feel quite at home there now.  Over the past couple of months, I’ve been finding my way around the harbourside as a Green Capital Artist in Residence, working occasionally at the Create Centre on a series of work for the Big Green Week (9-17th June), scouring the surrounds for retrieved bits and pieces for my sculptures, exploring new areas with my son and walking my dog there in between it all.  Saturday (9th June) was the culmination of months of preparation.  The final tweaking of my floating Diatoms in the harbour by the Arnolfini, Family Mash Up drop-in workshop at the Arnolfini, launch of our Artists in Residence Exhibition at the Create Centre, Cumberland Basin and Green Week party later in the evening, also at the harbourside.  Huge thanks to the Green Week, Create Centre, Arnolfini and Harbour teams for all their support.

Even parking was bliss!  I was allowed to park in the Harbour car park opposite the Arnolfini, normally restricted to Harbour officials, in order to unload and meet the little boat skippered by Miles from the Harbour team.  We needed to sort out 3 of my floating Diatoms – installed a few days earlier, but which had got tangled, turned uspside down or gone astray in the recent high winds.  It was the first day of Green Week and it was glorious sunshine at last!  With my son and Miles on board, we managed fairly swiftly to secure the Diatoms into position and have a little boat ride before I had to get to the Mash Up workshop I was running in the Arnolfini’s Light Room.  

I was amazed at the turnout for the workshop – a constant buzz of people actively engrossed in creating their own floating sculptures sparked off by some of my resources, various reclaimed materials I had compiled and their imagination.  There were loads of children – even some toddlers – making pieces.  Some families brought their own recycled stuff to use.  I had lovely helpers via the Arnolfini, who gave up their time voluntarily that sunny afternoon.  Looking out of the Light Room Window, we could view the Diatoms below in the harbour and relate it to the workshop theme of organic structures (and a bit of sci fi thrown in).  The results were wonderful!  (See article in Ecojam).

Across from the Light Room is the Reading Room, where my sketchbooks are currently on display, so I took a peak at them in their new special setting.

From there, all packed up, it was a neat dash to the Create Centre upstream to celebrate the opening of our Green Capital Artists in Residence Exhibition.   The overall Exhibition looks great, I think – a good mix of work by 8 artists working in very different media –  linked to eco ideas in some way.  With a couple of hours to kill before the evening doo, I wondered back down to the Arnolfini harbourside.  It was brimming with people out in the late sunshine, ballons flying above; boats and Diatoms floating in the water.  Bristol looked vibrant.   Later, we (Green Week Artists) met up at the Secret Green Pass Party at Jack’s Pavilion, Harbourside for the official Big Green Week launch.  Milo Newman, one of the Green Week Artists, was awarded a prize for his beautiful seed encrusted photographs.  I was very pleased that my work was highly commended.

Arnolfini Reading Room

Some friends, Michael and Geva, who came to visit me whilst I was sculpting at the Create Centre suggested I ask if I can display some of my sketchbooks in the Arnolfini Reading Room to tie in with my floating Diatoms, which will be exhibited in the harbour by the Arnolfini during Bristol’s Big Green Week.  I did, and the Arnolfini would like to show them.  So 3 of my sketchbooks will be on exhibition in the Reading Room from 6th June – 1st July, open every Wednesday – Sunday, 11-6pm.   It’s a foot in the door anyway!

Big Green Family Mash Up

The Big Green Week programme is now out and it’s packed with exciting events in and around Bristol from 9-17th June.  In addition to my Green Capital Artist in Residence Exhibition at the Create Centre that week (with 7 other artists) , I’ll be running the Big Green Family Mash Up at the Arnolfini – a workshop using recycled materials to create colourful floating sculptures in line with my series of giant Diatoms, which will be floating in the harbour next to the Arnolfini that week as part of the Festival.   The drop-in workshop runs from 1-4pm on Saturday 9th June.  Bring some of your recycled items such as mini wheels, hubs, twine, bottle tops, plastic bottles, buttons, netting, wire etc… and create something fun!

For results of this workshop see:  ‘An exciting day at Bristol’s Harbour’

Green Capital Residency – Bristol’s Big Green Week

It’s been great focusing on one main piece for the past few weeks.  I’ve tried to avoid distractions (like social media sites/blogging!) to get ahead with a major piece I’m making for Bristol’s Big Green Week.  Selected as one of 8 artists-in-residence – all working in different media around sustainability – I’m now set up with a small but prominent space at the Create Centre, Bristol, and have officially started my 3 month residency as a Green Capital Artist.  I met Bristol’s Harbour Master on Tuesday, who has agreed to my Diatom sculptures (see info below) being floated in the harbour at Bush corner, by the Arnolfini, for Bristols’ Big Green Week in June.  I’m very excited about this!  I have decided to log the progress of the work I’m producing for the Green Week Exhibition (9-17 June) as it develops below.  (See links: Sculptsite article; Bristol BiennialArtists at Create)

‘Man models himself on Earth, Earth on Heaven’ will be approximately 4.5 metres tall.  Created mainly out of recycled steel components and copper wire, the piece relates to my interest in nature’s cyclical persistence and the network of threads weaving through all things.  The sketchy stretching human form, reminiscent of a tree, emerges from its cocoon, reaching upwards.  It represents the vital forces in nature and re-birth of humanity in a new, purer state.  We are all of the earth.  The piece is constructed in 3 separate pieces, which bolt together.   The concept was inspired by a Taoist line, echoed in the title.  Still in the making, here are some images of it so far (the last 3 were taken at Motorcade/Flashparade’s documentation day earlier in the week):

To help formulate my ideas, I made several studies of trees which have a similar sense of the inner cocooned trunk with wispy extensions – here are 2:

‘Diatoms’.    The idea of recycled floating diatoms stemmed from a design and prototype I made for a Scraptors’ project at an eco farm called Magdalen, inspired by Ernst Haeckel’s wonderful illustrations.   ‘Diatom I’ includes some tentacles added by fellow Scraptor Rachel Macleay, but was rejected due to its plastic content – unsuitable for the farm’s strict sustainability guidelines.  The rest are experiments from new designs.  These ideas will be adapted and explored further in new pieces for Magdalen using appropriate materials.  The sculptures will float on orange life buoys in the harbour beside the Arnolfini.  They will be approximately 1 – 1.5 metres in diameter, made of recycled steel, wire, plastic and other found materials.  Diatoms are microcosmic organisms, which are now sadly becoming endangered, yet essential to our survival – producing over 35% of our oxygen supply.  Beautiful, primal structures originating from the Jurassic era, to me they symbolise nature’s cyclical persistence, though threatened by man’s intervention.

Update – 7/6/12

Yesterday was the big day – installing all the work, both in the Create Centre and Arnolfini harbour.  As always, it took longer than imagined.  Floating the Diatoms took some organisation.  The Harbour team (Miles and Arabella) were a great help, but the weather was grim and it was hard to manoevre in the big Mariner boat, so placing the Diatoms was a struggle!  After a cold, wet 4 hours, all 9 are in situ!  As Miles (from Harbour team) said, they look a bit primordial floating there randomly.  Will need to take better photos when the sun’s out and we’ve managed to adjust their positions in a smaller boat – this Saturday, hopefully.  (See latest post: A constructive day at Bristol Harbour)

 

Exhibitions 2012

This list has been added to over the months, together with images of the exhibitions:

‘Precious and Primal’ Solo Exhibition at Casespace, Bruton Museum, 26 High Street, Bruton Somerset BA10 0AA  1-29 February (Open Tues, Wed, Fri 11-1pm; Sat 11-3pm)

Black Swan Open Art 2012 Exhibition, Black Swan Arts, 2 Bridge Street, Frome, Somerset BA11 1BB  11th February – 31st March (Private View 10th Feb, 6-8pm)

Mercedes Pop-up Art Exhibition, Mercedes Showroom, Taunton  10th/11th March

Environment Exhibition, Hawthorns, 8-12 Northload Street, Glastonbury BA6 9JJ  21 – 29th  April (in support of the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation – raffle to raise funds)

Delamore Arts, Cornwood, Devon PL21 9QT  1 – 31st May 2012

Showborough Sculpture Garden Exhibition, Showborough House, Twyning Gloucestershire GL20 6DN 3rd May – 17th June (open 10.30am – 4pm; Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun & Bank Holiday Mon)

Swans of Wells, Bishops Palace moat and surrounds, Wells May – September (decorated ‘Candela’ Swan for sponsors All Hallows Prep School)

Art in the Garden 2012, The Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Hampshire  19th May – 27th October

Summers Place/Sotheby’s Auction, The Walled Garden, Stane St, Billingshurst, W.Sussex RH14 9AB 18th – 24th May

Green Capital Residency Exhibition, Create Centre, Smeaton Road, Cumberland Basin, Bristol BS1 6XN   6th June – 27th July and harbour by Arnolfini, Bristol   6-17th June

Reading Room, Arnolfini, 16 Narrow Quay, Bristol BS1 4QA 6th June – 1st July (sketchbooks)

Woodland Sculpture Trail, Goblin Combe, Cleeve BS49 4PQ 15/16/17th June

NGS Open Garden & Art Exhibition, East Burford House, West Compton, Pilton, Somerset BA4 4PA 24/25th June, 11-5

ArtsLink Summer Show, Newland Gallery, Old Hall, 101 Newland, Sherborne, Dorset DT9 3DU 29th/30th June

The Bishop’s Palace Summer Exhibition 2012, Wells, Somerset BA5 1UN  July – Sept

The Blue House Sculpture Exhibition (part of Frome Festival), The Bridge, Somerset, Frome BA11 1AP  6-15th July

Rubbish Art Project (work displayed on London waterways until the end of the Olympics, including Regent’s Canal Festival, Shoreditch Festival, Barbican, Angel Canal Festival, London Pleasure Gardens and London Wildlife Centre) 13th July – Sept   (For further details see London Canal Festivals post)

Devon Recycled Sculpture TRAIL, Teignmouth seafront, Devon 18th July – 2nd September

Sculpture in the Gardens 2012, Godinton House & Gardens, Godinton Lane, Ashford, Kent  TN23 3BP  21st July – 12th August, open daily 2-5.30pm

Binham Grange Summer Exhibition, Nr Minehead, Somerset TA24 6HX  11th August – 2nd September, open daily 10.30am-5pm.   Wire workshop Thursday 16th – for details see Gallery4Art website & to book contact me: (01749) 880394

Somerset Art Weeks Open Studios, Laundry Cottage, 13 Cooks Lane, West Cranmore, Shepton Mallet Somerset BA4 4RH  15th – 30th Sept

Quartz 2012, Queen’s College, Trull Road, Taunton TA1 4QS  26th Sept – 6th Oct

Black Swan Arts SMALL Exhibition, 2 Bridge St, Frome, Somerset BA11 1BB  1-24th Dec ’12

Ginger Fig Gallery’s 5th birthday themed exhibition ‘The birds and the bees’, 1b Bath Place, Taunton TA1 4ER  25th Jan – 9th Feb ’13

Scraptorzoic Era by the Scraptors, at The Magdalen Project, Magdalen Farm, Winsham, Chard, Somerset TA20 4PA   2013 onwards