Playing With Space

I visited the Venice Biennale last month and loved it.   Of course, Venice is beautiful: the canals, bridges, crumbling textured walls, astonishing architectural details.. and so much art.  The Arsenale is an awesome building.  Originally a naval dockyard, it is now filled with international contemporary installations, some more impressive than others.  My favourites are Yee Sookyung’s huge ceramic sculpture and Ernesto Neto’s woven tent with hanging pods, both filling vast spaces.  At the Giardini, Phyllida Barlow’s ‘Folly’ for the UK Pavilion greets you with huge bauble/lollipops, monumental towers jostle inside like gigantic elephant legs stretching upwards and pushing out of the building confines. ‘Folly’ is a playful maze challenging our perceptions of art.  I also loved Geoffrey Farmer’s water piece.  The Canadian Pavilion is unfinished, so his work utilises the space with a refreshing outdoor piece.  Steel structures camouflaged as wood planks with holes spray water into the air, playfully catching sunlight and casting rainbows.  In the Japanese Pavilion Takahiro Iwasaki has created incredible tiny 3d thread architectural constructions in unexpected places within the room.

I have been making my own glass tendrils with Sonja Klinger’s help.  I hope to use them within an ongoing installation (see bottom – work in progress).  My new interest in glass led me to the Glasstress Exhibition, also in Venice.  Ai Weiwei’s ‘Blossom Chandelier’ dominates one room with white glass swirling forms, a fusion of exotic flowers and his anti-authoritarian motifs.  In contrast, Josepha Gasch-Muche’s ‘T.30/12/07’ comprises fine slivers of transparent glass packed into a box-like structure.  Jagged but delicate, the edges become abstract drawings.

I’ve been inspired by Judy Pfaff’s work, which ‘seems to zoom into the organic then zoom out to the planetary.’ (Tim Higgins).  She creates installations and assemblages that fuse collage, drawing, painting and sculpture, a flamboyant mix of glass, tree branches, fluorescent lights, tar, melted plastic, expanded foam, plexiglas, steel, styrofoam, plaster and resin.  A recent TV series ‘The Art of Japanese Life‘ touched on the use of Ma in Japan: the spaces and lulls between things are as important as positives, often suggesting peace, silence.

Now in a temporary new massive studio at Sion Hill, Bath Spa Uni, as part of my MFA, I am enjoying the liberating space and opportunity to really go for it in my quest to explore line as form on a larger scale, drawing in space, treating line as object, taking lines ‘for a walk’ (Klee).  While still referring to the connection between line, growth and energy, I am trying to allow the work to unfold, working in a more immediate way and introducing unfamiliar materials to see what happens…

Secret Swans

I am currently working on a new piece for Black Swan’s Secret Swans Art Trail.

In celebration of the Black Swan Art Centre’s 30th anniversary, the Trail will be part of Frome Festival and Open Studios, running from 1-10th July.  A free event, it involves 30 swan-themed artworks in various media and styles.  Sculpture, drawing, textiles, ceramics, light and other surprising forms will be on display at venues around Frome, such as shops, cafes, public buildings and outdoor locations.  An opportunity for families, art lovers, school groups and adventurers to discover and buy intriguing collectable pieces by selected artists, ranging from silver jewellery, etched and linocut prints to large willow, steel and glass garden pieces.  Visitors can make secret auction bids for the work at each trail venue and the winning bidders will be notified at the end of the festival.  Badges will also be available for everyone who identifies all 30 artworks and there will be the opportunity to enter a prize draw at the Black Swan.  Artists involved include Tessa Farmer, Edgar Phillips, Ian Marlow, Bronwen Bradshaw, Chris Lee, Alicia Merrett, Nina Gronw-Lewis, me, Nigel Evans, Caroline Walsh-Waring and Angela Morley.   I will also be working with pupils from All Hallows School on a group wire piece for one of the trail artworks.   
The Secret Swans Trail hopes to raise much-needed funds – sales being split between the artists and Black Swan. Trail leaflets will be available from Black Swan and Frome library during the festival.  Organiser Nick Weaver says: ”It’s been wonderful to see the variety of interpretations of the swan theme and the quality of work by some great artists.  Visitors are in for a treat!
Hope you can come and visit!
Secret Swans poster


One of the upshots of this year’s Somerset Art Weeks for me was making new contacts – not only with clients and potential ones, but with like-minded artists who visited my exhibition.  I didn’t have a chance to get out and view other artists’ studios during SAW as I was open daily myself, but this week I was invited to visit the studios of two very different, talented sculptors who are both fairly local to me.

Peter Osborne has made his mark with some amazing mixed media public, private and commercial pieces, often large in scale, using a tactile juxtaposition of metals, concrete, glass and wood. He has developed a range of unusual surface texturing, finishing and material processing methods, gained from his experience in the crafts tradition and commercial world of contemporary industry.  Peter’s understanding of materials and ability to form, join and meld them together is very impressive.  A blacksmith, sculptor and craftsman, his work and approach reflects his love of our world, its natural forms and rhythms, sometimes extracting ideas from ancient codes and ages.  Peter’s wonderful ‘Mallet’ piece, recently installed on Tesco land in Shepton Mallet (and funded by Tesco) is a radical social comment, with some strong connotations about the town’s history, corporate land ownership, and its connections to the present commercial paradigm.  It asks us to respectfully consider the effects this is now having both on humanity’s development and other life forms this wonderful planet also nurtures.  His passion about life and art is infectious.  I was smitten by his studio and feel inspired to get on with evolving my own studio and practice.

Anthony Wilson’s mad (his words), lyrical sculptures – to me, reminiscent of Miro’s work – take over his massive garden and house.  Peering out from corners, wild and more topiaried hedges and trees, hub caps and car bonnets with bulging eyes greet you.  Owls, space men and writhing, battling kings all watch as we mere mortals wander through their land.  Gnarled wood, chimney liners, bin lids, coloured glass and silicone are teamed up to play a major part in the show that grows in Anthony’s grounds.  I love the way these materials and substances – which seem an incongruous combination – work so powerfully together.  The surreal experience was abruptly ended, when Anthony’s dog escaped onto a busy A road – luckily rescued by a kind driver!  I hope Anthony’s plan to locate a suitable wood to house his creative menagerie will come to fruition soon.

Time to get down to the heady business of creating again…  A trip to London Museums and Gloucester Cathedral’s Crucible Exhibition next week will also, I hope, help to fuel new ideas.