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Archive for the 'England' Category

“Arty Wow Moment”: Review of Angels of Anarchy @ Manchester City Art Gallery

 

UPDATE ADDED:  5 March 2012.  Tremendous blog post on Francesca Woodman and her work over at Wayne Ford’s Posterous.   Her tragically short life is put under the microscope and the resulting post is a wonderfully informed and a comprehensive look at her background, work and influences.  Thank you Mr Ford!

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It has to be said I probably attend my fair share of exhibitions, but what doesn’t happen very often is that I enjoy one so much I feel a powerful urge to blog about it.  But the “Angels of Anarchy” exhibition currently in residence at Manchester City Art Gallery really does deserve to be seen by anyone with even the vaguest interest in the visual arts.

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My last real big “arty wow moment” in Manchester was back in 1997 at the David Hockney exhibition, the one with all his photocollage stuff.  OK, well yes, I did also have one seeing the footage of Gandhi visiting Darwen at the Procession exhibition (Cornerhouse, Summer09).  But that doesn’t really count as it wasn’t the art that made me hold my breath with wonder, rather the actual event happening at all and being recorded forever by someone with a movie camera.

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To be truthful, the only reason ‘Angels of Anarchy’ even twitched on my radar was due to the inclusion of some of Lee Miller’s photographs.  I am not really a big fan of Surrealism.  A few years ago, when I got to see some of Dali’s best work up close, I could appreciate the beautiful brush work but I didn’t find myself particularly moved.  It was all a bit too clever for me.

Surrealism emerged in the mid-Twenties, a potent, shifting and bubbling period in the art world.  Most of the celebrated artists and thinkers were male (Breton, Dali, Freud, Magritte, Man Ray, Picasso) and these are the names which are inextricably linked with the movement and whose work we have become accustomed to seeing.

Where the curators of this new exhibition have struck gold is by choosing to limit things to a unique viewpoint, namely the part women played as creators.  This helps to make the work relevant, it introduces a much more human aspect and allows the viewer to better understand and feel the emotion pouring out from the artists work on show.

Exhibition spaces can often feel cavernous, cold and intimidating.  Manchester Art Gallery have got things right here though.  Subdued lighting, warm rich colours and intelligent grouping of images make for a meandering and intuitive journey.

The work takes all forms, from painting and photography through to film, sculpture, books and poetry.  Many of the pieces can usually be found ensconced within numerous different private collections, there are 150  images from the 1920’s through to the 1970’s.

After viewing the exhibition I came away with much to think upon.  Many images deal with the representation of women as sexual objects; beautified, empowered, sad, disconnected, shackled.  Sometimes it felt like a celebration, stumbling into someone else’s party, women united and enjoying each others artistry, support and friendship (Lee Miller’s portrait work).  This is women experimenting and questioning, using their art to examine traditional roles and their place within a wider world and trying to find a voice.

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It is a privilege to have the opportunity to see powerful work such as Lee Miller’s ‘Severed Breast’ (a freshly removed female breast is photographed served up on a dinner plate complete with cutlery on a white linen tablecloth, the was showcased in Vogue the magazine Miller worked for at the time) and Meret Oppenheimer’s wickedly disturbing “Fur Gloves With Wooden Fingernails”.  I really like the work of Manchester-based artist Rachel Goodyear and I believe her images would feel right at home in the slightly gothic and fetish-themed room where Oppenheimer, Penny Slinger and Josette Exandier’s work is displayed. Within this leatherbound haven you will find a fur teacup, a blonde human hair whip (fairytale/Rapunzel?) and bird skeletons.

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Argentinian painter Leonor Fini’s work stands strong and powerful.  A remarkable women, artist, costume designer and novelist.  I was wowed by her “Little Hermit Sphinx (1948)” with it’s subtle colours and exquisite technique, capturing decay and innocence, a guardian for life and death.

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Batting for the British corner I found Edith Rimmington’s painting “The Oneiroscopist (1947)” haunting, weird and beautiful.

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Photography is well-represented in the exhibition.  I mentioned Lee Miller’s work earlier, but there is an abundance of powerful work.  I discovered the images of Francesca Woodman (Kate Bush a big fan apparently).  This US artist took the photograph chosen for the Exhibition poster and “Untitled” (1977) a self-portrait showing her hanging from a doorway really stayed bouncing round my mind long after I had left the gallery.  Using long exposures she generates a ghostly atmosphere, made all the more powerful when you discover she had a troubled life and committed suicide aged 22yrs.

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Dora Maar’s photographic portrait of an armadillo embryo is freakish, spooky and rather innocent, whereas her “Sans Titre” seashell with a hand is classic surrealism, another of her prints hints at her striving towards a more documentary style and one can understand there is a truth to rumours of her appreciation of Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange .  Maar is perhaps better known as Picasso’s muse, but I would love to see more of her photography.

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A big star of the show is Frida Kahlo, probably acknowledged as one of the more celebrated female surrealist artists, her work is vibrant and pulses with it’s own distinctive style,  symbolism and themes.  I must make an effort to see the film “Frida” based on her life,  she overcame huge odds to create such powerful paintings.

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A new discovery for me was Kay Sage, an American painter working mostly with oils.  She created beautiful, linear landscapes filled with futuristic structures all coloured from a sublime palette.  Sage’s work felt decidedly modern and distinctive, her painting “The Hidden Letter” immediately made me think of Phillippe Starck’s famous iconic lemon squeezer (or am I alone in that thought!).

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This really is a feast, an exciting opportunity to see such a range of high quality work in one place.  The Gallery has made sterling efforts to enhance the experience, with a programme of talks and tours, games and interactive websites.  All part of a quietly terrific marketing and social media campaign, steered by Wilmslow agency Wonder Associates. Fantastic to see an arts organisation making such an effort to find and engage with their audience.

Further reviews of the exhibition can be found at the Guardian, Independent, Prospect Magazine, creativetourist.com and for a queer slant try Chroma Journal. Angels of Anarchy continues at Manchester Art Gallery until 10th January 2010 and was curated by Dr Patricia Allmer, MIRIAD, Manchester Metropolitan University.

UPDATE: Nov 2010.  Just found a well-written piece in The Telegraph newspaper (England) today on Francesa Woodman.  It’s well worth a read, particularly  if you have an appreciation of Francesca’s work and would like to learn more about her (sadly) rather tragic and short life.  It also highlights the fact that some of Francesca Woodman’s work will be on display at the Victoria Miro gallery in London 17 Nov 2010 – 22 Jan 2011 and also in the New Year 2011 a major retrospective will be on show at San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art and then on to the Guggenheim in New York in 2012.

Next year, a major Woodman retrospective will travel to San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art, and on to the Guggenheim in New York in 2012. Before that, though, an exhibition of around 50 of her photographs, including some rare colour prints, opens at the Victoria Miro gallery in London on Wednesday.

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Manchester Artist heads off to “Th’Arctic” …

As ever Kate @ the Manchizzle shows she has the proverbial finger on the pulse of all things interesting and arty in the Manchester region.

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Kate gave a mention to local artist Rebecca McKnight and her mission to explore the icy beauty of “Th’Arctic” (that’s Lancashire for The Arctic in case you were wondering).

A place so cold that the Ocean frequently freezes solid and only the hardiest of animals and plants survive. It is here the Polar Bear, Arctic Fox, Wolverine and Arctic Hare find their natural habitat.  For much of the year things are so unbearable that most living things hide away til the warmth of the short summer gives them a nudge to briefly explode into life. Though, if you are lucky, you may catch sight of the Aurora Borealis to take you mind off the biting wind!

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I got to know Rebecca last year as we both had work displaying at the Chorlton Arts Festival. This was May 2008 and she was already focused, excited and working hard on plans for the trip, so I have seen first-hand how dedicated she has had to be to make this project happen.

The logistics of pulling something like this together requires nearly as much determination and effort as surviving the Arctic elements. Sponsors and funding, website, journal, publicity, technical gear, experienced mentors, involvement of the community, travel plans, flights, visa’s, communications … not to mention a map and route! I’m sure that’s only the half of it.

She is hoping to become one of the first British people to ski up to 300 miles pulling a pulk (sledge) from Resolute Bay to Grise Fiord, the most northerly Inuit community in the Canadian Arctic. So, getting supremely fit prior to the attempt has been one side of the preparation, plus this trip is also a live art project which aims to “explore personal identity in relation to situation and environment.”

The use of the word ‘live’ was not a mistake. Check out Th’Arctic website, which has regular updates from the location, a live tracker map showing the groups progress and there is the ability to send the Team a text or email to keep them all on their toes and gain a real insight into the experience. There are no photo’s on the website just yet but as they have only just arrived at base camp I am sure some amazing work will surely follow.

The actual trek starts tomorrow (1st April) and the latest weather conditions sound tough (-60oC and blizzards). So best of luck Rebecca and everyone else, what a fantastic effort to bring such a dream trip to life.

You can follow things and send messages of support via:-
Th’Arctic website
Facebook page
artist’s talking a-n website
The Big Screen Manchester

plus there will be a live-link up with the team which is being co-ordinated with the guys at the Cornerhouse on Saturday 18 April.

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British Design Classics on the new Royal Mail stamps

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How very nice to see great British designs getting some deserving attention.  These images are all featured on the current edition of stamps from Royal Mail, you can download a preview pdf from their site.  One little tiny thing, it would be useful to have the year also listed but that’s just me nit-picking.

It is hard to argue with any of those choices.  My fave would have to be Harry Beck’s London Underground map – what an absolute feat of patience and genius.

I am sure I was reading the other day that the City of London is working on commissioning a new eco-Routemaster bus based very firmly on the original design.  Or did I dream that?

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British Airways commission art for Terminal 5 @ Heathrow Airport

All I know about Heathrow’s Terminal 5 is that the launch earlier this year was a total and utter disaster as far as British Airways reputation is concerned. But amongst all the doom and gloom it appears some glimmers of light sneaked in there too!

I have the “plush patterns” blog to thank for my discovery of Christopher Pearson’s work. He was commissioned by BA through Artwise Curators (who coincidentally handled a recent commission for Idris Khan who I blogged about a few weeks ago) along with three other emerging artists to create some site specific art works for Terminal 5.

The installation is certainly an eye-catcher and consists of Pearson’s wonderful studies of the Growing Cycles of the English Oak Tree which were etched into 3 pairs of huge glass panels and now stand in the First Class Galleries Lounge. Each pane is illuminated to reveal the delicate strokes of the original design and it vividly brings the work to life. His website reveals an artist open to experimenting with new technology and innovative methods for displaying and creating forms of art. One to watch for sure and serves as a reminder that artistic work can often by enhanced by careful consideration of how it is displayed.

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“Silent Light” – Update. It’s being shown on Film 4 tomorrow night!

A little late in the day, but I just happened to notice a film I blogged about back in April is being shown in the UK tomorrow evening (Monday 11th August) at 11.30pm on Film4.

“Silent Light” is the latest film by the talented Mexican Director Carlos Reygadas and was given it’s theatrical release in 2007. The pacing is described as “funereal” so it might not be to everyone’s taste, but it is described as “overwhelmingly powerful” by the Guardian.

Below is some information on this award-winning film taken from the Radio Times website, my original post can be found here. I was initially struck by the beautifully composed still images from this film and I vowed to track it down and give it a viewing. Tomorrow evening will provide the perfect opportunity. :-)

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New Designers exhibition, London … winners Kate Laskey & Abigail Borg

I was hoping to get to the New Designers exhibition at the Business Design Cente, London, when I was visiting the capital a few weekends ago. Sadly, the time slot was just too tight and I had to give up on that idea, however on their website is a full list of the winners. It was a two-part show which celebrated the work of over 4000 graduates from around the UK who also competed to win one of the New Designer Awards. It is one of two major platforms for new graduates, the other being the Free Range exhibition over at Brick Lane.

Amongst this year’s award-winning array of talent I really liked the work of Kate Laskey. Her project entered for the ND exhibition was titled ‘Ten stops from home’ and featured a collection of wallpapers, furnishing and upholstery fabrics and cushions that all incorporate images noted from her journey to and from college. Covering the past three years, her sketchbook featured drawings from towns such as Shoreham, Brighton and Eastbourne which were developed to create the finished designs.

Kate is a recent graduate in Surface and Textile Design from Northbrook College and won the Harlequin Award at the exhibition. The judges described her work as “inspirational and highly individual with a very specific style and unique handwriting. Extremely refreshing and versatile”. Together with the prestige and media buzz of winning an award at this exhibition, it also means Kate will spend some time working at Harlequin a highly respected brand known through the world of interiors, they design and sell a select range of classy fabrics and wallpapers.

Also an honourable mention for a student from ‘Oop Norf’ …. hurrah, no I’m not biased at all !! Well done Abigail Borg from Leeds College of Arts, proclaimed the Business Design Centre: New Designer of the Year. I think her drawing skills and colour palette match up quite beautifully and her work could fit comfortably within a number of media from textile design right through to book covers and many in-between.

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