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.

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Daphne Wright, Emotional Archeology, exhibition at the Arnolfini

23 October 2016- Daphne Wright, Emotional Archeology, exhibition at the Arnolfini. 30 September 2016 to 31 December 2016, curated by Josephine Lanyon.

Daphne Wright, Cacti.
Daphne Wright, Cacti.

I have not visited the National Trust Tyntesfield site, nor do I know anything about the occupants of this property, specifically the Gibbs family, who through their generations lived there between 1846-2001. Apparently, this site and family, influenced the making of these life size (because they were cast by actual dead animals), impressive, marble dust and resin sculptures of dead animals. I am not sure that the history of this property or the people who occupied it, make me feel more or less for these pieces, but I often find this with history.  It can be personal.

I am conflicted by this exhibit. I celebrate the fact that the Arnolfini is exhibiting an expansive solo show by a female artist, and she is local to Bristol (Bristol and Dublin). She also makes large, physical, sculptures, which still feels like a male domain, or at least men are usually in the headliners getting the big solo shows.

The conflict comes with the work of the marble dust sculptures of animals, the sculptures you have probably seen being used for publicity. When viewing this work, I was struck in the same way as I do when watching David Attenborough’s planet earth series, when fledglings are suddenly eaten by a nearby predator, and the mother returns to an empty nest. I can’t help but feel manipulated, or at least that using animals in this way is an easy way to get an emotional response. Hence the title this exhibit, Emotional Archaeology. Why don’t we call the planet earth series, emotional planet earth, or emotional Attenborough. Maybe we should, but I always need to switch the channel.

Daphne Wright, Stallion

What I did like very much where her pieces in the other galleries, in particular Where do Broken Hearts Go? Tin foil cacti. Luminous towers of jolly characters waving hello or so long cowboy, if that is the sentimentality that this work is commenting on.

Another highlight from this show is the photo below of a tin foil sculpture from a budding artist, a child, who had attended one of the educational workshops for children reacting to the exhibit.

Unknown Child Artist, Tin Foil Sculpture.
Unknown Child Artist, Tin Foil Sculpture.

This work is very different from mine, so I cannot comment directly how Wright might influence my work today. But, it is important to attend, participate, and share in what other artists are doing. Also to experience a space transformed by work, and how different that same space has been only just a few months ago.

Brad Downey, Visiting Artist Talk, UWE, Bower Ashton

12 October 2016- Brad Downey, Visiting Artist Talk, UWE, Bower Ashton.

I have become institutionalised! In the way that I am now accustomed to professional academic talks, especially the scientific ones. In this talk I wished that he was introduced to us with a little more information about his background. He also didn’t talk about his education, shows, and residencies, only just how prolific he was via Instagram. Perhaps a failing on my part for not doing research about him prior to the talk. But he is incredibly prolific, and this vigour makes up for what I felt was missing at the start. I felt sympathetic exhaustion at the end of his talk.

I can see that his work would have appeal for its sense of humour and courageousness. But, the way that he described his large family with no artistic roots, made it seem like he was some sort of punk American folk artist. But wait a second, he went to Pratt in New York for his undergrad, one of the best art schools in the US, and then on to Slade in London. Is the clever in his work, something that was taught or had it been molded?

b-downey
Brad Downey. This Para-site-archi-sculpture.

To me, the piece that stood out the most was “Mit allen Wassern Gewaschen” or in English “To be washed with all waters” which was made by attaching wet bars of soap to towels and letting them dry. These pieces were included in “Essentials” at Haus der Kunst, Munich, and showed a slightly different Brad Downey. More mature, but still clever, along with his known aesthetic that makes you smile, until you recognise that he is referencing soap made from human corpses. I think he likes to teeter on the taboo. Simple ideas, until you think about them for a little longer, and you soon catch-on that there is something highly crafted beneath the veneer surface.

Brad Downey, Soap on Towels, Included in "Essentials" at Haus der Kunst Munich.
Brad Downey, Soap on Towels, Included in “Essentials” at Haus der Kunst Munich.

What I admire the most, is his use of tomfoolery or shenanigans in his work. I wish I could do this. I gravitate towards the serious, which can be a bit of a bore. We need more laughter and fun, even when tackling the difficult.