Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Ram it Down

Another highlight from my adventure included the exhibition of Judas Priest costumes and memorabilia at the Leather Museum in Walsall - it seems odd for a veggie to enjoy a visit to somewhere draped in the hides of dead animals but it was genuinely fascinating! of course my morbid curiosity took over and pretty soon I was intrigued by the process the hide goes through to become leather! The Judas Priest exhibit was also top-notch, seeing the costumes go from sketches to actual wearable pieces was pretty neat, and the extra displays of various memorabilia and the design work behind tshirts/posters was excellent, Mark Wilkinson's illustration for the cover of 'Ram it Down' was the main one featured; it was exciting to see the process behind the piece from the initial sketch to the working's out and then the final piece and the various uses of it!!

[Mark Wilkinson's design for the cover of Judas Priest's 'Ram it Down']

Ray Brown's sketches for costumes

More info on the exhibition here.

and more info on Mark Wilkinson here.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Be True To Your Oblivion: Mark Titchner

Image Credit: Mark Titchner

Like I said in a previous post I've been a fan of Titchner's work for a while now, I first became aware of him when he was nominated for the Turner Prize back in 2006, the bold use of text and song lyrics instantly appealed to me, as did the subtle and obvious reference to his love of Heavy Metal. 

The exhibition in The New Art Gallery Walsall was absolutely amazing! The large scale video projection of Napalm Death's Nicholas Bullen was stunning, entitled 'N (I) B' it's a close up of Bullen's mouth as he recites a monologue written by Titchner, the video is completely silent and slowed down so we are left with is the movement of the mouth/lips/tongue as they speak. This silent performance is contrasted with the installation 'Be angry but don't stop breathing' which invites visitors to perform and give their own vocal response to the exhibition via the open mic set up - in turn providing the soundtrack for Bullen's performance.
The juxtaposition of sound and silence is also apparent in the large scale windchimes which are incapable of producing sound due to their size and weight, and a 2 sets of smaller chimes one of which never chimes and the other only chimes at a set time. 

The text pieces were my favourite pieces, Titchner's use of lyrics and phrases culled from popular culture is inspired! Taken out of their original context they become rallying calls to arms, poignant advice or even meaningless statements, very reminisce of Ed Ruscha's work I'd seen in the morning. 
"I'll choose my own fate" is the large scale banner in the galleries front window, lifted from Judas Priests "You don't have to old to be wise", it mimics the visual language of advertising yet stands out against the shop windows and their sale signs you encounter on the way to the gallery. Aswell as the large banners, there's also layered metal relief's in steel and aluminium, reflecting Metal's industrial origins, and text carved into heavy charred wood, bringing to mind the darker and sinister side of Metal, in 'The Other Spring' hand gestures and demonic shadows are incorporated into the piece. 

More Information about the exhibition can be found on the gallery's website, and there's a great mini interview with Titchner on Dazed & Confused's website.

Helfa Gelf 2011: Open Studio

This year I'll be taking part in Helfa Gelf/Art Trail Open Studios event, the event takes place over the whole of North Wales and artists open up their studios and hold exhibitions to showcase their work.
I'm part of a small group 'Gwrych Contemporary Artists', consisting of myself, printmaker Susie Liddle and ceramic artist Wendy Dykes. We will be based at Wendy's house in Abergele, North Wales against the backdrop of Gwrych Castle and it's grounds. We're open on the following weekends in September, 3rd, 4th, 17th, 18th, 24th and 25th.

More details about the group and directions to help find us can be found here.

More information about Helfa Gelf can be found here.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Ed Ruscha

"Music from the Balconies"
Oil on Canvas, 1984

"Hollywood Tantrum"
Pastel on Paper, 1979

"Dirty Baby"
Graphite, Acrylic and Pastel on Paper, 1977

"The Final End"
Acrylic on Canvas, 1992

"Miracle #64"
Pastel on Paper, 1975

Acrylic on Paper, 1998

I saw a great show of Ruscha's work a couple of years ago at the Hayward, and I fell in love with his work there and then [in fact it would have been ideal research material for my degree show work but I only found that out 6 months too late!] I was super excited when I discovered that Wolverhampton Gallery is currently showing an exhibition of his work as part of the Artist Rooms Scheme!

I love the ideas behind his work - the faded glamour of Hollywood and the slow death of an industry, there was a great quote in the gallery info saying that his work responds to to life in "ultimate cardboard cut out town" and deals with the falseness and excess of Hollywood, it's culture/lifestyle, and refers to L.A as the city of signs of bright lights, he also points out the disillusionment of realizing that the famous Hollywood sign is merely held up with sticks...

I like his use of contrast and conflict too: in "Hope" there's the jarring of the words meaning and the dark menacing splatter/spray of black paint which is engulfing the word. There's a similar juxtaposition in 'Music from the Balconies" where the beautiful serene countryside scene is overlaid with unsettling text taken from J.G.Ballard's 'High Rise', the defacement of such a beautiful scene is almost a metaphorical act of violence in itself.

and you've just got to love the inclusion of a rabbit!

More information on the exhibition can be found on the gallery's website

Picture Credits: Tate

Sunday, 28 August 2011

I am Iron Man...

Unfortunately I didn't have time to cover all the exhibitions I'd of liked to, I really wanted to get over to Birmingham to the Museum and Art Gallery - they had a nice stack of Black Sabbath related goodies to see :( fortunately I've found this link to Laney Amps blog with lots of photos of the exhibition so at least I've seen part of it...

I did have Sabbath's 'Iron Man' in my head for most of the trip taunting me for not been able to freeze time to fit everything in!

[Paranoid thrown in for good measure]

It did also get me thinking about another gem of inspiration from my childhood that I actually missed off my post a few days ago of childhood influences on my art

- mainly because it doesn't involve a skeleton... it does however involve an outsider and misunderstood "monster" - The Iron Man, not the Marvel Superhero but Ted Hughes' creation:

Like 'Funny Bones', this was another book I begged for at the Schools Book Fair, I loved the story so much that I'd go to bed each night after reading it wishing that I'd wake to find my very own Iron Man to befriend. I used to get upset and angry when I'd read about the townsfolk tricking Iron Man and burying him alive :(
Andrew Davidson's illustrations are stunning and really enhance the book, creating atmosphere and drama with only simple lines... The opening were he rebuilds himself is my favourite part - the descriptions are humorous yet there's a real sense of pathos at his struggle, and of course to a child fascinated with skeletons and how living things are built, the thought of an iron giant rebuilding himself was amazing in itself!!

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Ben Vemon

"Am I Demon?"


"Don't Wake Me Lucifer"

Mr Ben Vemon is the reason I found out about the 'Home of Metal' exhibitions, I stumbled across his work on the excellent blog My love for you is stampede of horses and saw the mention of his work been included in the exhibition programme - it was then I started plotting my trip!

It's not just the fact he uses skulls in his work which appeals to me, I like the fact he's using techniques and methods you wouldn't normally associate with a heavy metal fan [quilting and embroidery] and he's making them his own. I admire his methodology and reasons behind the choices too, he states that he liked the contradiction in Metal of men wearing make up and outrageous costumes looking like strippers, it's at odds with the perceived idea of what a heavy Metal singer should look/act/be like... think about it you've got Ozzy singing about Satan and biting the heads off bats wearing heavy eye make up and rhinestone crucifixes and that's a tame example...
I do of course like the imagery he uses in the work and also the materials themselves - the old tshirts which are a work of art in themselves, all Metal bands tshirts which again jars with the stereotypical image we have of traditional quilts...
I seriously love this guys work, there's a studio visit features on the "My love of you..." blog which deserves a read, and Ben's own blog is also well worth a visit too!

More information on the exhibition can be found on the gallery's website.

You Should Be Living...

The first stop off on my two day adventure was Wolverhampton Art Gallery for the show: "You Should Be Living" [part of the Home of Metal exhibitions] It's an excellent collection of work inspired by heavy metal and the relationship between the aesthetics and the music. For me it was exciting as I've drawn alot of inspiration from music artwork [album covers, tour poster, merchandise etc] and the usage of bones, skulls, skeletons and the like in metal artwork was a big eye-opener for me as a child, so I'd built up some high expectations for this particular exhibition, and thankfully it didn't disappoint! although it was a smaller exhibition than I was expecting - a case of wishful thinking on my part... I've included some photos of my favourite pieces, unfortunately not the greatest quality photos, I was using my old camera which isn't the greatest when it comes to dark environments - naturally it was a black cube rather than a white one ;)

The exhibitions title comes from Mark Titchner's piece, which in turn is titled after lyrics from Napalm Death's 'Scum'... I've been a fan of Titchner's work since his Turner Prize nomination and love the methodology behind his work... I headed over to Walsall Gallery in the afternoon to catch his solo show - more on that later on :)

Mark Titchner "You Should Be Living"

I'd seen Jim Faure's skulls online and also in the promotion for the exhibition, and I loved them in print but seeing them in person was a completely different experience, I was absolutely mesmerized by them, they just appear to float and hover on the ground like a ghost! They have a very sombre almost Religious quality to them, like some primitive sacred artefact - which reminded me of seeing Jake and Dinos Chapman's MacDonald's sculptures... my photos however do not do them any justice *hangs head and camera in shame* you can see much better pictures here at Jim's actual website

Jim Faure [Jim Skull']

Amy Sakrsian's installation had a similar effect on me - the mixture of glittery, shiny fabrics and sequins felt at odds with the subject matter, an uneasy juxtaposition - which is by no means a bad thing [right up my street actually] I was informed by one of the gallery assistants that it should have coloured lights shining onto it to make it look like the blood is dripping as the light catches the different sized beads and glass blobs but didn't happen, which is a shame as Sakrsian has chosen sequins and beads as they remind her of blood cells and of flowing blood... It doesn't distract too much from the overall effect, you still got a sense of movement, and the two dripping heads were theatrical but very eerie!

Amy Sarkisian "Bloody Amy Sarkisian"

Seldon Hunt's piece amazed me on first glance as I thought it was a woodcut plate and couldn't believe the crisp lines, then I read that it was digitally etched which explained the perfect quality! it doesn't mean I like it any less of course, I still think its a stunning piece of design, I especially like the two crows and the symbolism used, and the wood is beautifully contrasted with the matt black...

Seldon Hunt "Etched Skull Series" 2011
Digital Etching on Wood

More information about the exhibition can be found on the gallery's website

Thursday, 25 August 2011

We Are Adventurers....

It was a couple of months ago I stumbled upon info about a series of exhibitions and events taking place across the Midlands to celebrate Heavy Metal entitled: 'Home of Metal', and I've been excited ever since plotting, planning and daydreaming about going across and having a gander... Well I've just gotten back from my adventure and added a day round the Liverpool galleries to the trip! I've come back truly inspired and eager to get into the studio [although might be a while before that happens - damn day-job and life!] I've got a fair bit to share so I'll get posting over the next few days :)

Monday, 22 August 2011

Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails...

Following on from yesterday's post about thinking back to when my fascination with bones and skeletons began I decided to put together a 'mood board' of inspirations and influences from my childhood, with the focus squarely on popular culture:

I absolutely loved 'Funny Bones' when I was little! I can remember nagging my Mam for the book from the school's book fair, and within a couple of days I had it memorized!! The cartoon of it was also a firm favourite, especially the opening, and the fact I could then watch the Welsh language version was a huge bonus!!

He-man was my all-time favourite cartoon when I was growing up, and I'm still nursing the wounds of my Mam giving my He-man figures away :( Skeletor was a kick-ass villain, neon, over-the-top, vicious and part skeleton what more could you ask for!?! Castle Grayskull was actually my dream house as a child and I still wouldn't mind living there now....

Another childhood staple: Thundercats, although Mumm-Ra isn't technically a skeleton he's still got than skeletal/bones/mummy look going on...

Again Venger from Dungeons and Dragons isn't really a skeleton but his pale face, and Devil like appearance fascinated me, as did his evil looking horse....

The thing I love most about the Munsters is the fact they don't consider themselves any different to their neighbours even though they're "monsters", which is of course where most of the comedy stems from... this simple concept has been a huge influence on both my work and my methodology, especially with the 'Doll Parts' series, I don't consider them scary or monsters, just normal dolls who happen to be skeletons :)

Again The Addams Family appealed to me because of the interaction between the family and the rest of society, the difference here been the humour is more subversive. I also like the fact the family are considered sadistic with a dark streak, but are actually a loving family unit - almost like a gothic version of the Waltons...

I cannot actually describe how excited I was the first time I ever saw 'A Nightmare before Christmas', I was already a Tim Burton fan thanks to Edward Scissorhands' and 'Beetlejuice' and the idea of residents of Halloween Town producing their own version of Christmas seemed like the most genius idea!! Again similar to the Munsters and Addams Family you have monsters and ghouls presented in a sympathetic light, this was a big revelation to me as a child, and I became even more drawn towards things that were "other"....

To me Edward Scissorhands is like a modern Frankenstein, the classic tale of a "monster" attempting to fit in but betrayed and forced out :( Even though I was familiar with the story of Frankenstein when I first saw the film, it was the scene of the Inventor coming up with the idea to make Edward that kick started my fascination with the idea of man playing God and creating another human... and I still like to believe that snow comes from Edward carving ice sculptures ;)

The first Tim Burton film I ever saw, and I love it! ghosts, death, ghouls and possessions! the colours and style of the film were also a big inspiration on me growing up, it introduced me to the idea of mashing dark and bright together...

Like most other kids my age I became very obsessed with 'Jurassic Park', not just because of all the clever marketing hype and special effects, but because it was a genuine masterpiece! and also because it introduced me to fossils and archaeology - which of course led to skeletons!
I used to collect a magazine about Dinosaurs which had a piece of a T-Rex skeleton in it each week, so over time you'd build up it's full skeleton [which I loved!] however it was a glow-in-the-dark skeleton and I frequently used to wake up in the night and see it glowing in the corner of my room, then freak out until my Dad came in to cover it up...

A few of my friends elder brothers and sisters were into more alternative music than my brothers, and I very quickly became drawn to heavy guitars and screaming vocals, I always wanted my own brothers to be more like my friends siblings so I could I borrow their records but alas that never happened... thankfully my older neighbour shared this taste and I used to sit outside in our front garden and listen to Black Sabbath, Metallica and Iron Maiden drift out of his bedroom window... When I first encountered Iron Maiden's mascot Eddie, it was on the poster for 'Number of the Beast' hanging on my cousins elder sister's bedroom door, I instantly latched onto the image of Eddie controlling the Devil! from then on I became hooked on sneaking peeks at various album covers in record shops and browsing the poster racks, stood in awe of Derek Rigg's artwork... by then I was already well on my way over to the darkside :P