Exhibitions – Judy Pfaff, Frieze and more

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!

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…

Launch of ‘step in stone’

Time for reflection has been very thin over the past few months.  It has been the busiest ever period of my working life (possibly not to be repeated)!Installing work at GROW London for Maureen Michaelson’s Gallery stand in June proved successful, with some great feedback and an offer of a Chelsea Flower Show commission next year.  Happily, I sold a couple of Nest and Cocoon pieces at The Hidden Garden Art Show (also with Maureen Michaelson Gallery, Hampstead – part of Chelsea Fringe).

A full load for GROW London GROW London

I ran a couple of 2-day workshops at Kings Hall School and Farmors School, resulting in a great dragon and large insects with Yr 7 students.  A fortnight ago I set up my Giant Nest in Black Swan Arts Centre, Frome.  This will remain on show there for a couple of months.
Dragon in the making at Kings hall School, Taunton
However, most of my time continues to be absorbed by my project step in stone‘.  Co-ordinating, curating and making are quite a challenging combination, but so far things are going well and last week was the big opening of ‘Step 1’, after months preparing and publicising with stands, presentations, interviews, leaflets and other forms of PR.  Installing artwork, arranging signage, running a school workshop, leading a guided walk, making a sculpture in a day, holding a press launch and organising the official opening at Somerset Earth Science Centre has been a whirlwind of activity! Thanks to the massive support of Nick Weaver and other members of the team, I’ve survived.4 of us spent 2 days setting up artwork inside and around the grounds of SESC.  My artwork for the project includes both new work inspired by features of the quarries (for Steps 2 & 3) and pre-existing work (for Step 1) that reflect how the quarries resonate with my interest in life forms.  The installation of my floating pieces involved adventures in a boat.   2 helpers were enlisted from Moons Hill quarry to assist with this.  Slightly perturbed by the strangeness of it all to start with, they were soon singing rowing songs – delighted by the novelty once they’d relaxed into their new roles and we floated the first ‘Diatom’ in the water.   My other installations meant climbing up tall ladders, and wrapping ‘Lichen’ round a tree with helper Nigel.  Duncan Elliott dragged his heavy stone pieces up the road on a trolley, and built huge scaffolding frames to hoist up his ‘Age of Stone’ – a back-aching job, but worth the effort – it is magnificent!  I met Tessa Farmer from the train laden with her intriguing boxes of insects, miniature evil fairies, worm casts and bell jar – the intricate work taking her hours to install – and Christina White set up her beautiful multi-exposure photographs in the Centre against limestone walls.

Some of this process was documented by Duncan Simey (see ‘wild-landscapes’ photos below) and filmmaker Jack Offord, for our final documentary film.

Installing DiatomsOne of my Diatoms, floating at SESC Installing Lichen with Nigel Help from Moons Hill Quarry worker Lichen being installed Duncan Elliott's 'Sleeping Beauty' - detail 3 men in a boat One of my Diatoms Lichen - detail Tessa Farmer installing her work Christina White installing her work Me up a tree Tessa Farmer's 'Out of the Earth'
‘step in stone’ opened on Wednesday 8th July, and we’ve already had a wide range of visitors of all ages engaging with our work, including 2 school groups through Somerset Art Works’ inspirED programme and some guided walkers through our collaboration with Somerset Wildlife Trust.  My half day workshop was with Yr 7 pupil premium students from Selwood School.  In small groups they created wire pieces based on silver birch seeds.  Suzie Gutteridge’s workshop the next day resulted in felted balls using locally sourced wool.  Both sets of work will be exhibited as part of the Trail at Halecombe Quarry from Step 2 (15th Aug) onwards.
Guided Walk in collaboration with Somerset Wildlife Trust Participant doing rubbings Guided Walk
Our first week culminated on Saturday with us making Charlotte McKeown’s sculpture with her in just one day.  This was her award for winning the ‘Under 20’s Sculpture Design Competition’.  A bit like scrapheap challenge, our small, dedicated team worked hard to create the Kinetic Structure in a day.  Despite having prepared materials and got some parts together in advance, it was still a little daunting.  Our team included Charlotte, Lucja Korczak, who won the under 13 year-old design competition prize, Duncan Cameron (step in stone artist and Strode College tutor to Charlotte), Nick Weaver (step in stone Partner) and me.  Perhaps the best thing about the day was how everyone worked together so well to make it happen and with such aplomb!    A slight rush to finish before the arrival of press and guests for our official opening at 5pm, the sculpture was installed near the Centre entrance.  Sarah Jackson from Mendip Hills AONB kindly did the honours to ‘open’ the event, and we all celebrated the start of an exciting few months ahead!
Creating a sculpture in a day Creating a sculpture in a day Creating a sculpture in a day Creating a sculpture in a day Creating a sculpture in a day Official Opening Trying out the Kinetic Structure Press Launch and Official Opening
Do please come and visit Somerset Earth Science Centre (SESC)  – open to public Weds 9am-4pm & special events.  Artists exhibiting at SESC for Step 1 are: Duncan Elliott, Tessa Farmer, Christina White, Charlotte McKeown (young sculpture design competition winner) and me.  Step 2 follows on 15th August.

Reflections on 2013

This year has been one of contrasts for me, including plenty of achievements, interesting new directions and records set.  With over 20 exhibitions, it’s been a busy one.  I plan to focus on fewer but bigger shows next year.

One of my more challenging projects was the SAW/NGS Abundance commission work, which engrossed me for months.  For my ‘Garden of Eden’ I created 3 new works including my largest to date – ‘Lichen’. Although the site-specific installations were only on exhibition to the public at Esotera for a fortnight, I moved some of the work on to my next show at Walcot Chapel Gallery, Bath for further airing.  A blog and catalogue about our Abundance work has been published to ensure some legacy for the project.

My involvement with Somerset Art Works has developed into a new role as Rep for East Mendip, which is leading to interesting new work relationships and projects with other artists.   Somerset has a lively creative community with some amazing talent and innovation going on.

A few other commissions, numerous workshops and teaching have also kept me hard at work.  I made a piece for an indoor architect-designed space, which was novel for me.  I was surprised at how comfortable my work sits in a more urban, glass-panelled interior setting.

Amongst other sales I sold my longstanding steel ‘Man’ piece this year.  He has been with me to many events, homes and shows over the years and nearly sold several times.   He now resides in a lovely NGS garden with a diversity of wildlife to keep him company.   Coincidentally, the real thing came along in my life around the same time.

Over the Christmas period I have a piece in one of Frome’s Loop de Loop spaces, by the Black Swan Art Centre, which you may like to visit.  They have an unusual history…

I’m looking forward to seeing family in Kenya for Christmas, where it will be deliciously hot!  Sketchbooks will be fully utilised.

Thanks for your interest and BEST WISHES FOR A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!


The Garden of Eden

The last fortnight has been a rather mad whirlwind leading to Somerset Art Weeks Festival opening, managing both my SAW venues between other day-to-day commitments, testing my sanity.  Miraculously, the Garden of Eden (SAW Abundance Garden Trail) came together on time.  With the support and help of good friends and a few late nights finishing off, I managed to complete my 3  installations at Esotera (Foddington, Somerset TA11 7EL), set up at Thornreed Studio, Godney (venue 94), get to the Abundance micro feast at East Lambrook, do a talk and workshop on the first Saturday and thoroughly enjoy chatting to visitors for the past week.  Thanks to Pauline Watson and team, the Harveys (owners at Esotera) and Hicks & Don (wine sponsors) for their hard work, food and drink contributions to the private view, it was a lovely event.

I asked a photographer (from 35mil) to take some pics of the work.  We re-scheduled 3 times due to poor weather and it was third time lucky when the sun finally broke through after a dull, cold day.  Dappled sunlight heightens the enchantment on the largest piece – lichen-inspired work set in a copse of silver birch trees.  What’s really needed now is more sunshine to do its magic over this last coming weekend to encourage a wider, more abundant audience.

I’ve received many appreciative, insightful comments about the Garden of Eden and yesterday was a particularly good day at Esotera, with a large range of visitors of all ages.   A friend even made a visit from above in a glider.  Grass is starting to grow through my main installation, and although I regularly collect some of the leaves/debri that fall onto the work (especially after high winds last week), they almost enhance it.   The work is settling into the site – perhaps it should remain a permanent feature!   Gengis the resident cat/leopard is enjoying the extra attention and Scruffy – one of the free-roaming chickens – has an odd habit of pecking at visitors’ feet/legs!   Ahh sweet!

I am feeling positive about the whole experience, apart from poor weather at times bringing less visitors (and a few recoiling when faced with the NGS entrance fee).   It has been hard work, challenging, great fun, addictive even – and I think, successful.

Please see my Abundance post for further details about this project

Spring

February has flown by for me, thankfully, with an intense period of making new sculpture, installations, exhibitions, commissions, teaching and workshops.  I’m very glad Spring is in the air at last!

Our Gallery4Art exhibition ‘Art at Blackmore’ ends tomorrow (Sunday) at 5pm, whilst ‘All Wired Up’ at Walford Mill started yesterday and continues until April, featuring my work.

I installed two pieces at Lanhydrock National Trust Estate, Cornwall yesterday, as part of ‘Art in the Garden’ – running until October.

Two days of wire workshops this week via Spaeda at Preston Primary School resulted in some great insect sculptures by Yr 6 pupils.  I was also really pleased that some of my students at All Hallows Prep School gained scholarships to their next schools and won awards at Black Swan Arts’ Young Open, Frome. On Monday I went on an art trip with some of these pupils to see the Rain Room and Light Show in London – two fantastic shows!

I’m very excited to have been selected for the Somerset Art Works/NGS ‘Abundance’ commission, which will entail a garden trail of sculptures by seven artists installed in various beautiful gardens in Somerset during Somerset Art Weeks later this year.  Ideas are brewing…

Next week I will be installing some work at The Magdalen Project as part of the Scraptors‘ Scraptorzoic Era. This will be the last trail for me as part of the Scraptors group, although I will of course continue individually as a scraptor – working with recycled materials, as ever.

And now it’s nearly Spring, people traditionally turn their attention to gardening and perhaps a sculpture or two…