Saturday, 30 March 2013

Caught My Eye: Light Show @ Hayward Gallery

I'd heard lots of good things about the 'Light Show' at the Hayward Gallery so I decided to check it out whilst down there, the ticket price and long queue did initially put me off a little but I'm glad I didn't let those factors dissuade me! The exhibition of course celebrates light artists, which admittedly is showing I know very little about, I was dreading it being filled with ex-Christmas decorations and pretentious neon writings that seem to fill very art fair, but once again my fears were completely unfounded!

Visually the show is both stunning and instantly appealing, it's hard not to be both mesmerized and drawn like moths to Leo Villareal's column of dancing white lights, and Cerith Wyn Evans triple pillars of warm glowing light has the same effect! Conard Shawcross and Katie Paterson's works were other hightlights for me, Anthony McCall's installation seemed to have more impact on me in Tate Liverpool, but I think that could be because I experienced it alone.
Two other artists really stood out to me, Olafur Eliasson's water fountain/strobe light installation 'Model for a Timeless Garden' was both eerie and visually stunning, a definite 'experience' [even if it did hurt my eyes] the flashing lights appeared to slow the water down into crystals performing a rhythmic ballet, which gave the light and water a magical quality.

Olafur Eliasson:

Model for a Timeless Garden

Jim Campbell's installation 'Exploded View [Commuters] was my favourite piece, it was subtle, beautiful and clever...

Jim Campbell:

Exploded View [Commuters]

Jim talking about the Installation:

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Caught My Eye: India Dewar

'Primordial Soup' 
Oil on Panel 

I discovered India Dewar's work in the group show 'Transmission: Surface Revive' at the 'Rook & Raven' Gallery just off Soho, I previously blogged about Alexander Stavrou who was also part of the show. India's work took up the entire downstairs space and the atmospheric lighting really made the work come alive! 

India draws inspiration from Scientific knowledge and theories, exploring astrophysics and cosmology, and occasionally bringing in geometry, philosophy and metaphysics. She is intrigued by the few first seconds of the universes existence, the time immediately after the Big Bang.

Aesthetically I was instantly drawn towards the vivid sapphire blue swirls of painting, and the patterns the mixing painting made, but upon looking closer it became quite apparent that there was more lurking beneath the surface. The paintings give the impression of a giant planet, yet also feature close-ups of mountain terrains, and evoke images of cells under a microscope, so many thoughts raced through my brain as I tried to process the imagery! After coming home and research India a little more, I'm even more drawn to her work and its methodology!

I'll let the blurb from her website do the talking:

"‘We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology… This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces’ Carl Sagan.

By revealing the aesthetic or poetic dimensions of science and the underlying geometries of the material world, it is apparent that pattern is pervasive in our universe and that an appreciation of natural phenomena on the cosmic plane often calls for inner rearrangements on the psychological plane.

Physics is an ever self-challenging evidence-based prism through which we can make sense of the world. These discoveries are often encrypted into equations and scientific papers, enjoyed only by the scientists and astrophysicists, whilst we revert to scientific metaphors and concepts to construct our own ontological experience.

Dramatic revelations in scientific discovery however, have the power to drastically reconfigure our own relative sense of ourselves flickering between moments of perceived totality and moments where cracks appear to rupture that constructed sense of the world.

Pattern holds the same seduction as equations, in that one can simplify and simplify and discover that beneath the complexity of the world is something very simple.

We look for pattern and meaning everywhere; we’re even trying to find it where there isn’t any. Mythology, routine and repetition of practical and religious ritual provide a shape to chaotic life helping us to place our actions in a broader cosmological drama.

These are ways in which the human mind protects and comforts itself, in the face of infinity, which evicts the human mind from its secure residence in the house of reason. We therefore seek to distract ourselves, to desperately do anything other than think phenomeno’logically and be thrown into a boundless frightening situation and see our fixities begin to fragment."

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Caught My Eye: Kim Simonsoon

'Girl Baptised in Gold'

Kim Simonsoon is a young Finnish sculptor who lives in Helsinki. His life-sized ceramic sculptures of cute, big-eyed young girls and deer, draw inspiration from Japanese manga comics and questions the role of the child and nature in the modern world. I stumbled across this little girl in the ceramic section of the V&A.

“Authority in its’ many forms fascinates me and in my works I want to reverse the common beliefs by making the weak powerful.” (Kim Simonsson)

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Caught My Eye: Alexander Stavrou

Whilst in London a few weeks back I stumbled across a gallery called 'Rook & Raven' just off Soho and was impressed by the group show 'Transmission: Surface Revive' which consisted of four recent graduates of the City & Guilds BA Fine Arts from the London Art School, the exhibition marked their first show outside of education. 

Two artists really stood out to me, the first I'm blogging about here [the second will follow shortly] Alexander Stavrou, whose work reminded me of 80's cartoons and sci-fi artwork, was full of subtle colour shifts and textural intrigues. He describes his work as a reflection on the dynamics of natural process and the transformation of energy into mass and form. He is fascinated in how processes such as a cosmic explosion or a cracking glacier occur, a hefty dose of chaos theory, drawing inspiration from such events and the implications they impact onto the world. He goes on to state that " I view paint as a chaotic substance with the potential to become ordered within a painted system. Paint’s continuous structure and surface lends itself to depicting a presence which evades finite categorisation, while existing in reality."

Friday, 22 March 2013

Caught My Eye: Death: A Self Portrait

'Death: a self portrait' was my main reason for a recent London trip, it ticked all the boxes for me interest wise, and after some of our youth group from the gallery went down to see it [after giving a presentation at Tate Modern!] and came back full of excited tales I rushed down to see it for myself!

Even though it's dealing with a heavy subject, there is a lot of humour and satire woven into the show, humour after-all has been proven to be a fine coping mechanism for grief and the inevitability of death.
It was also fascinating to see a wide range of styles, time-frames, media and nationalities all dealing with the same theme, sometimes using similar motifs but reaching a different outcome. It was a pleasure to experience and hopefully Richard Harris' wonderful collection will continued to be shared!

Marcos Raya 
Untitled (family portrait: woman in yellow dress)

Dr Luis Crucius
Antikamnia Calendarts

Metamorphic postcard (c1900-10)
 'La vie et la mort, Leben und Tod' (Life and death, life and death). 
Photograph: Wellcome Images/The Richard Harris Collection

Marcos Raya
Untitled [Family Portrait: Group]

Anonymous photo. 
The Richard Harris Collection
Otto Dix 
Wounded soldier - Autumn 1916, Bapaume, from the series Der Krieg (The War)

When Shall we Meet Again?
c. 1900. 
Photograph: Wellcome Images/The Richard Harris Collection

Jodie Carey 
In the Eyes of Others 
Picture: © Jodie Carey

Artwork photographs by: Photos by Happy Famous Artists.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Kate MccGwire: Lure

It was a stroke of  luck that I caught Kate MccGwire's exhibition 'Lure' whilst I was in London, I only noticed that it had been extended by accident whilst browsing twitter about 3 hours before I was due to leave London, so I raced across town to make it to All Visual Arts before they closed, and I was not disappointed!

I first saw some photographs of Kate's installations a couple of years ago online, and I was instantly transfixed, the initial 'wow factor' of the work was supported by the subtle use of symbolism of both the material and concept. Bird's fascinate me, and the associations and connotations that they have with death, life and humans has been a big influence on my own practice - especially the work I'm producing at the moment, so it was inspiring for me to finally see Kate's work in the flesh, as the scale of pieces cannot be impressed upon you in photographs, and upclose the feathers take on a sinister feel, the sheer amount of them used in even the smaller works suggest a huge flock of birds, and conjure up nightmarish visions straight out of Hitchcock. There are also very obvious sensual and sexual overtones, with flowing forms and curves being the predominant shapes.

Here's a mini essay from the exhibition which beautifully sums up the themes of the show:

The title Lure is a dual reference to the ring of feathers used by a falconer to call and command their birds, and to the siren-like call of the work itself. It evokes the combination of our fascination with the iridescent, exotic specimens on display and the desire to look closer in spite of the disquieting atmosphere they create. MccGwire’s work uses the language of nature’s forms to construct impossible creatures, pitting the beauty of a bird in flight against our instinctive revulsion to these unnatural forms in close proximity. Their feathers are both alluring and abject, and appeal to our subjective experience as we confront the breathless, convoluted structures. Her sculptures exist in the periphery between the living and the dead, challenging our perceptions of the authentic and the imaginary.

MccGwire’s working process is a continuous cycle of collection and construction that manifests in the objects she creates. We take pleasure in the painstaking process of their development, apparent in the layers of carefully aligned feathers and in each swirl of oilslick plumage. This creative process is central to MccGwire’s work, allowing the organic materials to suggest their own form and following their patterns to evoke movement and musculature in the sculptures themselves. Taking natural materials and reimagining their forms, MccGwire’s works take on an anthropomorphic quality; a brooding, predatory physicality that at once attracts and repels the viewer.

The exhibition takes the form of a wunderkammer of uncanny specimens and images; coiled, bound and cased in antique glass cabinets. In particular, the voluptuous Orchis manipulates this familiar museum display to enhance the sense of its exoticism and lifelike form. Beneath a glass dome, it hangs limp between the teeth of a scientific clamp, appearing to have been temporarily coerced into submission. The case gives the work the impression of authenticity and familiarity as a specimen of some unstudied creature, isolated within the familiar framework of natural history. Similarly, Cleave, a work in white pigeon feathers has been constrained within a glass cabinet. Challenging our impulse to perceive pigeons as diseased and parasitic creatures,Cleave explores the purity and sensuality of form to attract our gaze. Delving into and out of itself over and again, we fall prey to its allure and undulating physicality. MccGwire’s preoccupation with natural fibres and their creative potential, in particular with hair, is enacted in Splice.The intricately plaited magpie feathers reference MccGwire’s enduring interest in the mythological significance of hair. Placed in this context the meaning twists from girlish plait to something knotted, visceral, anguished and dark.

Dominating the space is the monumental presence of Gyre, a large installation piece bringing together MccGwire’s enduring themes through its gestural obsidian form. Formed from a vast collection of crow feathers, the piece refers to the cultural mythologies of crows as devious creatures, omens of bad luck when seen in pairs and closely associated with death due to their unbidden presence on battlefields and graveyards. These unconscious associations are inscribed in the silken black surface of the structure, and intensify as Gyre’s sheer scale causes it to exceed the boundaries of the cabinet, viscerally invading the formal space of the gallery. The piece appears organic, almost umbilical as its tendrils entwine with one another, wrapped closely to the structure evoking the primal dependence of both mother and child, and the parasite.

MccGwire’s avian structures appear rooted in the aesthetic of natural history, taking on its associations of intellectual dominance, decadence and display. The pieces adopt the qualities of their material – appropriating the abject signification of bird feathers to create hybrids. Lifeless wings seem poised to take flight yet remain tethered, their momentum restrained, giving the sculptures a seething, serpentine quality. The culture of display is also key to the works, exploiting the perverse attraction to possess the abject and unfamiliar creature, and to frame it within a culture driven by aesthetic hierarchy. As MccGwire describes her pieces, they represent something ‘both sensual and deviant in equal measure’.

Lure’s seductive yet unsettling collection of hybrid forms and expansive sculpture causes us to look more closely and to examine our relationship to such quotidian materials. Though they appear disturbing and unfamiliar at first glance, there is something strangely recognisable about their form – their creases and crevices seem somehow bodily, allowing us to identify some small part of ourselves in the sculptures. This unexpected familiarity is at the heart of the work, allowing us to recognise the parasitic, wounded and traumatic dimensions of works such as Stigma and Host in which feathers cling to surfaces or appear to tear lesions in the surface of the lead. MccGwire’s work recontextualises natural materials, creating an impossible menagerie of writhing forms that expose both the beauty and darkness of nature, and reflect our own fears and vulnerability in their swelling shadows.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Caught My Eye: Conor Harrington @ Outsiders

I previously saw one of Conor's solo shows at Lazarides a few years back, and I'm always eager to catch his work, fortunately my recent trip to London coincided with his most recent show: 'A Whole Lot of Trouble for a Little Bit of Win'  at Outsiders. Consisting of a collection of his 'Morning Glories', we catch a glimpse into Conor's process as he paints them daily, first thing upon arrival at his east London studio as a warm up, you can see the evolution of marks and forms as you move around the exhibition, it's a rare peek behind the curtain of a paintings progress. You can catch some more images of the exhibition on Arrested Motions Blog
These particular studies were painted during Conor's work on the painting 'A Whole Lot of Trouble for a Little Bit of Win' and the series holds concerns with the transition of power from the West to new superpowers in the East, specifically China - with the Chinese flag used as a powerful motif. You can see more of this painting and it's conception HERE. And there's a brief video of the photoshoot for the painting below thanks to João Retorta 

Monday, 18 March 2013

Brontë Life Drawing @ Royal Cambrian Academy

 I taught a masterclass in the Royal Cambrian Academy last month, for A-Level students, so I was excited to be asked back this week to one of the weekly life classes. The current exhibition is of the sculptor Diane Lawrenson, whose bronze sculptures draw inspiration from both the landscape and the human form. The centre piece of the exhibition is the bronzes of the Brontë Sisters, so I was asked to use this as the focus of my class. Since I've done clothed life classes before I decided to run with the Brontë theme, and the wondeful Pea Restall came along to model in period costume, as you can see from the photos she fitted right in with the sculptures!

Diane Lawrenson 
'The Brontë Sisters'

I want to say a huge thank you to Pea for being such a brilliant model and a gold-mine of resources, and to Wendy Couling for having me over to lead the class, and of course to everyone who came along to draw!