Bound to Bristol Exhibition

Bound to Bristol pop-up exhibition
Tuesday 20th March – Friday 23rd March 2018
F-block gallery, Bower Ashton, UWE

The MA/MFA Curating students produced an exhibit of artists’ books from the Sarah Bodman’s personal collection, which is vast, so to help narrow the field of vision, the focus was on Bristol practitioners or books with a Bristol theme. I was thrilled of course to be included with this group.

As you would expect, it was a contemporary presentation. Works without labels, but a map for visitors to find out which books belonged to which artist. The viewing height and tables reminded me of book fairs, but usually book fairs don’t look this clean and contemporary. They typically are held in tired venues, and usually the tables are covered with black table cloths, so this was a breath of fresh air to experience the books in this way.

This show was inspiring to emulate somehow in the future, as our cohort has a large number of artist bookmakers, but also inspiring that the Curating programme was interested to show the works. It has me thinking about future possibilities when I finish my course next year, and am desperate to continue my studies.

For more information, please visit a write up about it here.

SaveSave

Advertisements

Phantom shapes & ghost events exhibition

Phantom shapes & ghost events

Leslie Mutchler & Jason Urban
6-16 March 2018
F-Block Gallery, Bower Ashton, UWE

These images are works by artists Leslie Mutchler & Jason Urban who exhibited ‘Phantom Shapes & Ghost Events’ in F-Block Gallery, Bower Ashton, UWE, from 6-16 March 2018. This was a must see exhibit for anyone who was interested in print, instillation, the materiality of memory, history, and the documentation of the ephemeral (and more). Bristol’s print girth is slightly rotund, but here we get to see print in a completely new way, one of the reasons why this exhibit is so timely and important. It rearranges our expectations.

A few months ago Paul Laidler planted a seed that was extremely weighty and has formed roots in my thinking when he said the words ‘conceptual screenprinting’. Of course, I fumbled along with some flimsy ways of trying to visually express this, but the work by Mutchler and Urban illustrates this concept perfectly and gave me an aha moment. 

Leslie Mutchler & Jason Urban are making conceptual works related to print, but not making work that we would typically see from printmakers. For example, on their website, you can see images from a project titled ‘UNIVERSAL’, there is one image that shows a rock sitting on a stack of printed newspapers. The rock references the history of lithography printing, and printing from slabs of limestone. Modern plates replaced limestone, and that increased production for the newspaper industry. Today we have print on demand digital print companies, such as the Newspaper Club in the UK, that allows you to print small editions and distribute your own newspapers. I suspect Mutchler and Urban used a similar company, or possibly printed their own small edition of newspapers that we see in this image. The pile of small run newspapers under the limestone rock gives you the history of print without having to show a framed work conventionally hung on the wall.

Babel Unbound and Babel Revisited, is another interesting project that you can see on their website.

The work disrupts our expectations in how we experience book(s). Whether in a library, bookstore, or how we turn the page. On a superficial level, I love how both Babel Unbound and Revisited look. And I can see how this project takes us to their recent project ‘Phantom Shapes & Ghost Events’, in how the instillation of an idea occupies and overwhelms beautifully.

Kim Yong-Ik: I Believe My Works Are Still Valid

Kim Yong-Ik I Believe My Works Are Still Valid

I thought this exhibition was an excellent example of conceptual screenprinting. I know that wasn’t the motivation behind this work, but it has been a concept floating around in my mind, and seemed to come to life in this exhibition. Primarily because of the polka dot motif that seemed to be used throughout his work.  Also, the layering used in his sculptural works. For example, one of his pieces titled Triptych (1970-2015), was a large wall mounted box of layered mixed-media pieces.  Layers of painting, ink on paper, found objects, almost like a shrine, but if you put your eyes slightly out of focus, this could have been one painting, almost in the style of Rauschenberg, but less representational, and more muted in colour. A controversial statement I realise, but there is a similarity I cannot ignore.

Other pieces were much more minimal, like the Untitled paintings from the 1990s. These are large works, maybe 7 feet x 7 feet, with large coloured dots the size of your hand.  These made me think more of zoomed in dots through an overhead enlarger from primary school. The way they were painted soft, like a memory, nostalgic.

I think one of my favourite parts of this exhibition was his sense of humour. He left handwritten notes in pencil beside some of the works.  It was a real treat to find these.  Often conceptual work can be very serious and inward thinking, cerebral and difficult, empty and pretentious, but I really admired his sense of play.  Without knowing his work, I can’t help but make a huge assumption that it is the artist’s age that has allowed him to relax. Imagine if we all started that way!?Spike Island, Bristol, 30 September to 17 December 2017

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Tessa Lynch: L-Shaped Room

IMG_4595

Tessa Lynch’s L-Shaped Room at Spike Island are primarily sculptures, some obvious everyday domestic environments like a kitchen sink in Ikea yellow, and other pieces felt more abstract and seemed to be memories of urban spaces, such as Tunnel 1/4. This piece could be an upside down skateboarders half pipe, or what looked to me like a shelter at a bus stop, but made with portrait canvas, so wouldn’t keep you dry from the rain. Societal suggestions found in her work makes this exhibit a portrait of our times.

The bright pink L shaped piece, Building per hour/bin shelter, was the most powerful in the way that it allowed me to attach my own meaning to it. It was painted in horizontal gradation, that looked like a sedimentary scene of pink, and triggered the idea that this L is a sample of an Anthropocene of gender.

IMG_4596

I feel slightly guilty that this work seems to speak to me. The domestic scenes. The pink. The metaphorical bus shelter implying, in waiting. These are historical female themes. And as much as I hate the themes that these pieces are hinting at, I still find her work appealing.  It is a conundrum. Is it like secretly enjoying a romantic comedy? This work is far from Bridget Jones.  This work feels like Tessa Lynch in drag walking the streets at a flâneur’s pace through a disapproving lens.

IMG_4594

Her work at first glance appears simple and playful, but when you take the time, rich meaning is revealed. Similar, I suppose, in how many of us are initially judged, especially if you are female.

This exhibition was on at Spike Island in Bristol from 8 July to 17 September 2017.

SaveSave

Giles Round: They bow. Curtain. No applause.

50 years ago the film The Graduate was made. Dustin Hoffman’s character Benjamin Braddock was given some advice about his future, “plastics” was whispered into his ear. Plastics was the future.

Plastics is the lens in which I approach two exhibitions at Spike Island in Bristol featuring the work from Giles Round and Andrea Luka Zimmerman. These two artists are curiously brought together, and why I’d like to metaphorically wrap their work together with a sheet of plastic. These shows feel rather poignant given our current social/political climate.

Round’s work at first glance seems rather playful. There are low hanging cumulus steel structures, artificially lit, with what looked like to me safety lighting used in large construction projects. A sky blue curtain with an image of a tower block style building made from chain, like the kind that keeps flies out of your local butcher, hangs amongst the steel clouds.


The curtain is the perfect link to Andrea Luka Zimmerman’s film Estate, a Reverie (2015). The film painfully shows that we should have been investing in people rather than plastics. It reminds me of Ken Loach’s depictions of England that our government(s) try to ignore, but the people in Zimmerman’s film are not actors.
Insincere objects with people left to rot. Pliable and brittle. Are we ready to be kinder to one another?

Round also invited artist Alex Cecchetti for an evening performance in collaboration with his work. I was reminded of a scene from The Karate Kid (1984) of Mr Miyagi trying to teach Daniel son muscle memory by making him wax his car and painting his fence. Wax on, wax off, wax on, wax off… Cecchetti’s version involved the clitoris, well, an imaginary one, but still it was a group tutorial.

Alex Cecchetti’s performance (and ours) was thrilling, in the way that it was unexpected and spontaneous. Love, feminism, toe nail clippings, Noah’s Ark, swarms of herons, mating animals, the holding of a foot, a whisper in an ear, and a face massage. It was fascinating how we completely surrendered our trust to him. Giles Round’s work set the perfect stage for this performance, and the performance added another dimension to this already thick veneer that protects the meaning behind the works in this exhibition.

This work is definitely not an Anti-Climax Climax. It was wonderfully generous, insightful, and rich with layers of meaning and complexity, oh and funny. Applauding the bow, the curtain, the words, the ladder, the clouds, the thunder, the climax, the letterpress text, the furniture, the carpet, the darkness and the toxic light.

Do Ho Suh: Passage/s

Victoria Miro, London, until 18 March 2017.

Entrance, Unit 2, 348 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011, USA, 2016

Bristol’s Museum and Art Gallery had shown Do Ho Suh in 2015, I hadn’t heard of him before, and was very surprised by the exhibition. I was looking forward to seeing his work again, but anticipated it would be similar to what I had seen before. Did I necessarily need to see it again?  There are so many shows to see in London, perhaps I should go to one of the others on my long list of, try to see.

It is almost like seeing the x-rays of architecture, but not in a scientific way, more ephemeral.  We were reminded by the fleeting delicacy of this work by the gallery attendants, as we were herded through the fabric structures of brightly coloured polyester.

Do Ho Suh: Passage/s

It was intensely busy for a commercial gallery, and perhaps this work would be better suited to a permanent collection, as people want to experience it. If there is an afterlife, I am sure this is how the buildings would look. And perhaps that was the appeal, like moths to light.

Do Ho Suh: Passage/s

I was not expecting to see works on paper, and these were just as inventive as his structures.  Thread drawing, gelatine sheet embedded on STPI handmade cotton paper. These were pressed architectural details of apartment entrances which you might find squished in the middle of a book, like one does with flowers.  Much too large for a book, roughly 150 x 100 inches.

fullsizeoutput_754

fullsizeoutput_75a

fullsizeoutput_75b

fullsizeoutput_75c

Architectural replicas of memory, place and questions of identity. If these pieces weren’t so beautiful, you might get a better sense of displacement. Just passing through. Even the delicate structure hints at the lack of anchored structure one desires from a shelter. The steel structures themselves are very reminiscent of tenting.

Equally as beautiful and technically competent, was a drawing titled, My Homes. This showed an almost metamorphosis of three dwellings. Were they actual places in which he lived?  I am not interested to debate that actual question, but they were empty spaces, just like his fabric structures. Perhaps more reflective on time, like snake skins.

Lubaina Himid, Navigation Charts, Spike Island

I knew before visiting Lubaina Himid’s exhibition, Navigation Charts, at Spike Island, that it wouldn’t directly relate to my own work, but an important show to see and support, as it isn’t often that a black female artist has a gallery all to herself.

Her work is strong, colourful, illustrative, and certainly nods to her past as a set designer, especially the large life-sized painted figures on woodcuts titled Naming the Money (2004). Her almost naïve painting style, bold colour, and flatness remind me of picture books for children from the 70’s.  This isn’t a criticism, rather the opposite, as I am a big fan of picture books from this time, and one of the reasons I recently purchased Stephen Fowlers book titled, Rubber Stamping: Get creative with stamps, rollers, and other print making techniques. Perhaps there is a twig of sentimentality in the deep folds of my brain that latches on to this painting style, reminiscent of visuals seen in my formative years.

img_3847

Sound recordings could also be heard in the gallery to go along with the figures, such as:

My name is Walukaga

They call me Sam

I used to chase wild boar

Now the dogs do it for me

And they have the meat

fullsizeoutput_71a

The layers of imagery, sound, colour, pattern, cutouts, flat painting, made me imagine how this could work in stop motion-esque animated films. I couldn’t help but wonder what a collaborative project between Lubaina Himid and William Kentridge might look like. I certainly wouldn’t want to include a white male to give her legitimacy, she can do that on her own, but it was more the style of Kentridge’s films that triggered this thought. Along with, his own telling of a colonial past.

fullsizeoutput_726

At one point it struck me how odd it was to watch a bunch of white people move amongst the sea of Hamid’s life-sized figures. It seemed almost as if she was recreating an auction style preview to see who to bid on. These are the moments when my skin colour is disappointing. The weight and history it reflects.

In the exhibition leaflet/programme about this work, there is a passage about how slaves are portrayed in European paintings:

“Depictions of African servants are found in paintings of high society figures from the 17th Century where they are typically isolated and shown in the margins of the image, there to signify the wealth of their masters and mistresses”. On the backs of the painted life-sized wood cutouts, there is a description of the person, for example Dog Trainer, and their African name, as well as the name they have been given, along with a stated monetary value, which was zero, no value. Also on the back were little zip lock bags, tiny, like evidence bags, and each one had what looked like fragments from a painting, or tapestries. I wondered if Himid was placed the pieces of the 17th Century artwork where she may have seen these slaves before, in the corners of paintings, but recreated them, and gave them life, rather than in the margins, she has given them life.

fullsizeoutput_729

Finally, Bristol seems to have some momentum representing the large West Indies and African communities in its major exhibitions featured in the last year. Situations produced Theaster Gates’ Sanctum, John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea was at the Arnolfini, the RWA curated Jamaican Pulse, and now Lubaina Himid’s exhibition at Spike Island. I am sure there were others that I have missed, but I sure hope the trend continues.

fullsizeoutput_724

Louise Bourgeois: Turning Inwards, Hauser & Wirth Somerset

Louise Bourgeois, The Smell of Eucalyptus (#2).
Louise Bourgeois, The Smell of Eucalyptus (#2).

Louise Bourgeois was a varied, prolific, and accomplished artist. Artist in every sense of the word, she owned it. She had around 75 years to hone her craft. I am not sure we will get to see that duration of art production again.

I am probably more aware of her sculptural work, such as the large bronze Spider, 1996, that got her a lot of publicity, especially in 2007, when she showed Maman at Tate Modern, London.

Louise Bourgeois, Spider.
Louise Bourgeois, Spider.

What was very timely for me to see were her lovely minimal etchings. In her 90s, only a few years away from her death, and she was still producing such relevant work.

Louise Bourgeois, Swaying.
Louise Bourgeois, Swaying.
Louise Bourgeois, The Fall.
Louise Bourgeois, The Fall.

I do wish that this show had some of her artists’ books. I have only seen these online, and am very curious about them as objects.

The gallery also has a ‘book lab’ that gives space to print and books and the importance they have on arts practice. I was somewhat underwhelmed, but I think I have missed something here, otherwise my bookshelves at home might prove to be more interesting.

79th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Wood Engravers, 44AD Art Gallery, Bath.

1 Nov 2016- 79th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Wood Engravers, 44AD Art Gallery, Bath.

I attended this exhibition from the recommendation of Ben Goodman, who taught the typesetting workshop last week, and is also in the show. His portrait titled Margit, is a wonderful display of contemporary wood engraving. I also was fortunate enough to meet artist David Robertson, the partner of a fellow MAMDP student, Leonie Bradley. There seems to be a new generation carving out from tradition.

79th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Wood Engravers Exhibition Catalogue.
79th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Wood Engravers Exhibition Catalogue.

Ben Goodman will be doing a workshop in the new year, that I am really looking forward to. I am not sure that it is the best suited medium for me, but I am so curious.

I love the work of Christiane Baumgartner, who makes amazing woodcuts that feels like you are viewing an old TV or computer monitor, therefore has the mystic of the machine/technology.  Her abstracted work is also exciting for me to see, as my brain is still trying to process the idea of the sharpness and angularity needed to cut away the surface of the wood, but she makes soft organic shapes that seem to float.

Christiane Baumgartner, Cosmic Fruits – Wild Cherry  2016.
Christiane Baumgartner, Cosmic Fruits – Wild Cherry 2016.