Thursday, December 15, 2011

German Art in London

Pretentious Crap - Zhivago Duncan

Just been to London to see the German Art invasion of London - much more interesting than Christmas shopping. I started at the Saatchi Gallery with the Gesamtkunstwerk exhibition. Junk predominates as both material and metaphor. Many of these artists, especially those born in the 1970s, belong to what's been described as the post-po-mo generation.
Duncan’s work 9-foot-by-9-foot cubic vitrine containing a jagged mountain landscape of encircling train tracks, industrial cranes, and vintage airplanes flying overhead. Coming from a series of post-apocalyptic works shown last spring at Berlin’s Contemporary Fine Arts, the sculpture stemmed from the artist’s childhood dream of building a train set. “Being a child is being at the most perceptive and sincere stage in your life,” explains Duncan. “I am a child inside and will always be a child.” It is exactly that element of play that Williams sought to bring forth in the exhibition.
 I also liked the works from the Tobias twins, Gert and Uwe, who create bimorphs in bright colours (which are a cross between work by Klee or Miró) made from woodcuts on very large canvas. The show continues until 30th April so plenty of time to catch it.

Seascape (Sea-Sea) 1970 - Richter
After lunch it was off to the Tate for Gerhard Richter - Panorama. With work spanning 5 decades the exhibition was set to coincide with the artist's 80th birthday. Although I love his early squeegee abstracts in bright colours my favourite work was Seascape (Sea-Sea) 1970 (oil on canvas) based on a collage of two photographs of the sea, one inverted to appear as the sky. This is a super exhibition so get away from the sales in January and see it before it closes on the 8th January. Jackie Mackay

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Galleries Night (Mince Pies and Wine)

Dean Kelland - Performance still 2011
Five of us met up at the IKON to partake of a FREE Art Bus, Guided tours, mulled wine and mince pies. The latter were brilliant but we only managed a tour of the RBSA and The Ikon as time ran out getting from one venue to the next. We decided the Barber Institute would have to wait for another day and also the pub, never did get there.
Travelling from the IKON to the RBSA it was decided that that would be our starting point. Once there and having indulged ourselves of the food and drink available we realised if we were to try and get to the rest of the venues it would take longer than getting the last bus back to the centre of town.
Scrambling on the bus at the RBSA we saw the outside of Eastside , The MAC and the Barber Institute and then returned to the IKON.
The RBSA is exhibiting Pat Landon’s work on the cafe wall until 10th December 2011 and Open all Media in the two upper galleries until 24th December 2011.

The Ikon exhibitions we visited were Dean Kelland’s  Living Room Series (Episode 2): The Desperate Hours which is on until the 5th February 2012
Dean Kelland works with performance, photography, film and appropriation to explore portraiture, producing engaging observations of our collective cultural identities”
and then John Myers’s exhibition Middle England on until 5th February 2012
"This is the first major exhibition by Midlands-based artist John Myers. Comprising black and white photographs made in the 1970s, Ikon’s selection includes Middle England (1970–1974), a number of portraits of individuals and families living in and around Stourbridge and the Black Country”.
View John Myers video about his work on Vimeo

The last exhibition we visited was Stuart Whipps - Why Contribute to the Spread of Ugliness? on until 5th February 2012
Ikon presents an exhibition of new works by Birmingham-based artist Stuart Whipps, a selection of photography and video reflecting on the changing nature of cultural value.
A new two channel video installation, England and the Octopus, Britain and the Beast (2011), focuses on the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog in North Wales, a former quarry town at the geographical centre of Snowdonia National Park. When the Park’s borders were created in 1951 the grey slate waste tips that surround Blaenau Ffestiniog prevented its inclusion, a decision made in part by the eccentric architect of Portmeirion, Clough Williams-Ellis. Whipps shows new film footage of the town teamed with a Welsh-language script sourced from texts written or edited by Williams-Ellis”.

Time to catch the train which was delayed, so arrived home at 10.45pm pub visit was abandoned.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

BMAG is Lost in Lace

Michael Brennand-Wood – Lace the final frontier
Cutting, painting, aluminium, acrylic, wood
The large Gas Hall gallery provides the perfect setting for this exhibition, by 20 leading international artists, of large scale works honouring the tradition of lacemaking whilst pushing the boundaries of the textile. As you enter the gallery you are confronted by design firm Atelier Manferdini's 'Inverted Crystal Cathedral'  created from 1000 steel cables and 1,000 kg of crystal, 600 strands of which have been donated by Swarovsky. Michael Brennand-Wood (an artist very familiar to a couple of jammers) has a striking red piece consisting of patterns developed from cutouts of planes, bombs and soldiers.

 “My intention is to construct a’ military lace’ emblematic of conflict and the annexing of resources and territory. Imagery for the roundels is drawn from 3 sources; lace, weaponry, and the Rorschach (inkblot) test. The visual field of the work echoes the instructional, pricked, diagrammatic papers on which bobbin laces are constructed – in this case a fusion of Islamic and Western geometry” Brennand-Wood

Chiharu Shiota – After the dream
Site-sensitive installation – wool, cotton, paint
Another work which appealed to me was by Chiharu Shiota. The Japanese Berlin-based artist has ensnared everything from the wedding dresses seen in the 2009 Walking in My Mind exhibition at the Hayward gallery, to a grand piano and childhood toys. In one of her sleeping performances, you might even find Shiota herself ensconced beneath layers of mesh. Here, white dresses are encased in the random scrawl of the artist’s characteristic woven black strings.

“My installations with clothes always refer to the clothes as a second skin, which carry the memories of the people who wore those clothes” Shiota

The free exhibition runs at the Gas Hall until 19th February 2012 so if you don't like crowds you can see it after the Christmas and New Year chaos is over. Jackie Mackay

Friday, November 25, 2011

Degas at the Royal Academy

The Dance Class (La Classe de Danse),1873–1876, oil on canvas, by Edgar Degas
On Tuesday I travelled to London to visit the exhibition at The Royal Academy of Edgar Degas (known in his lifetime as the painter of dancers). Despite the cancellation of all trains to London from Solihull and the pronunciation of Degas on the audio description being very different to the familiar use of the name the visit was really enjoyable.
Having never seen any of Degas work in reality I so was surprised at how faded the colours were. The sculptures were my favourite, particularly the little dancer, standing no more than 98.4cm it is a painted bronze with muslin and silk. The sketches made of the different poses were remarkable, mainly drawn whilst the dancers were practising or waiting to dance. These sketches were shown alongside photographs taken at the time. Very interesting exhibition. Maureen Toomey

Earlswood Coffee and Critic

 Three of the jammers met at Earlswood (one of our associates was on the high seas eating more in three weeks than most of us are capable of in three months) to partake of coffee, lunch and crit my work.The work in question was a piece in progress. It is still in progress and yet to be finished after Steph and Avril gave me some positive feedback on the way forward.The work is mixed media on canvas with a textural finish.

I also had another piece which having had long discussions about I have decided to completely revamp.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Jam in Israel

Wadi Nisnas Street Art
Last week, after visiting the compulsory tourist attraction of the Bahai World Centre in Haifa with its beautiful gardens, I walked the streets in search of the art I had been told about. Wadi Nisnas in the Arab neighbourhood is awash with it and the following link will give you an idea of the feel of the area

At the Haifa Museum of Art the current exhibition is Formally Speaking. Inspired by the artist Richard Long and his 1967 photograph of the impression made from his walk on the grass, the exhibition features works containing manifestations of lines and walking. The MidnightEast blog has a good overview with images from the exhibition.

Finally I found (after many Shaloms and asking directions) 'The Chagall Artists House' which held an exhibition of assemblages called Desert Generation by Victor Lipkin - a Russian immigrant to Israel - mainly constructed from wood. Most of his graphic and assemblage works are inspired by biblical themes but unfortunately my lack of Hebrew made deciphering the text impossible - there were no English handouts which, being British, I obviously expect in every country. Jackie Mackay

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Canal Work

Following on from our day visiting the Birmingham canals I have worked up many sketches and now generated the first canvas on this theme. The picture below shows three stages of how the canvas was developed from the rough idea and then pared down to the essential elements I thought typified the landscape we walked through – simplifications of the reflected arch of the bridge, factory, chimney, with wooden panels and bushes scratched through the many layers of acrylic paint. Some of the glazes were worked using KY Jelly mixed with the acrylic as suggested by artist John Myatt. Two more canvasses are now on the go.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Weekend Gallery Visits

Rig: untitled; blocks - Polystyrene, fabric, timber, cement
Overall installed dimensions: 720 x 1190 x 1040 cm / 283 1/2 x 468 1/2 x 409 1/2 in
Another visit to London this time to see the work of Phyllida Barlow, at Hauser & Wirth.  Barlow is inspired by everyday objects of the city and in this exhibition she has created a group of works that brings the cacophony of the gallery’s external surroundings inside.

Off then to visit the Saatchi gallery and have lunch before going to Shoreditch, quite a contrast to Sloane Square, but buzzing with lots of small gallery’s and quirky shops. Well worth a visit to speak to artists there and get to know more about the art scene in London. Its great visiting well known gallery’s but equally inspiring to visit the lesser known spaces.

Rugby Art Gallery and Museum, have a very inspiring group show The 43 Uses of Drawing. From a doodle on the phone pad to a hastily drawing of a map and directions, the contemporary drawing practice looks at the work not only of fine artists but of those with no drawing experience.  I was impressed by a selection of drawings by a surgeon detailing the procedures of various operations he had performed. The exhibition on until 29 October and is well worth a visit, followed by coffee and cake at a quirky vegetarian coffee house  Summersault . Avril Elward

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Watercolour, Stone and Glass Exhibition

Last week we made a trip to the Art Barn at Preston Bagot to see the work of Graham and Ian Blaine and the stone carving of Nick Bragg a cathedral trained stonemason. Graham had filled the walls with his watercolours which sit well on the old stone walls and Nick had his ’Glasses Krew’ set up in a group on the mezzanine area of the barn. We thought the Krew looked like some characters from the Muppet Show. Both Ian and Nick were demonstrating their working methods outside in the glorious sunshine. We then adjourned to the Crabmill for lunch and critique with Avril blending very nicely in her lime green attire with the grape vine behind her. Maureen Toomey

Monday, September 26, 2011

Painted Gorillas in Bristol

Little Fluffy Clouds
 An exciting few days finding as many of the 60 painted gorillas as possible, only to find there was one at Birmingham Bus Station! The ingenuity and diversity of the artists' designs was brilliant.
A selection of the colourful life-size gorillas have swung off to London and are returning to Bristol to be auctioned off for charity on 29th September - check out the Wow! Gorilla website.

I fell in love with Blackbeardorilla, can I smuggle him into my garden? Steph

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Jammers do the Saatchi

Folkert de Jong - The Dance

Today the jammers went to London and back for £2 on Chiltern Railways. We began our art jaunt at the Whitechapel Gallery where Cornelia Parker had made a selection of over 70 works from the Government Art Collection. The place is laid out like a rabbit warren and we had to ask twice in order to find the café.  It was an eclectic mix, grouped in colour ways, with my personal favourite being the very funny Print for a Politician by Grayson Perry – it showed civil servants being hung.

We were mesmerised on the tube journey over to the Saatchi Gallery by a man on his laptop concentrating so hard his tongue had taken on a life of its own. The exhibition here was The Shape of Things to Come – a selection of work from 20 international artists. It is playful, witty and colourful with the emphasis on the traditional sculptural concerns of form, expression and how we interpret the human body - great to see this as a move away from the piousness of some latter-day conceptual work. Coffee and critique (with much people watching) followed in the Duke of York Square, Kensington. Jackie Mackay

Monday, September 19, 2011

Oundle Exhibition

Last Friday evening I went to the opening of an exhibition of two midland artists Taz Lovejoy  and Mark Biddulph.  The title of the show Colour meets Monochrome, held at The Yarrow Gallery, Oundle. A fantastic space which the two artists filled with different bodies of work: Taz who is concerned with colour and how it affects and changes our environment, and Mark who is concerned with creating visual environments.
At the end of the evening they sold about 7 pieces of work and had a commission for another which was fantastic, especially for contemporary work which seems harder to sell. 
The Yarrow Gallery is part of the Oundle Public School, and if any one wants to book this space they are taking proposals for 2013. Avril Elward

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Pitmen Painters

We saw this great play the other evening and I would recommend it to anyone. From an artists point of view it really informed of how actually we as artists do think and react to our ideas and inspirations.  
The play is set in 1934, where a group of Ashington miners hired a professor to teach an art appreciation class.  The miners soon became an active group and abandoned the theory for practice. 
It is an hilarious, deeply moving and timely look at art, class and politics, and is on at the Belgrade Theatre until Saturday 17 September. Avril Elward

Monday, September 12, 2011

Groundwork on the Birmingham Canal

Today we battled against gale force winds for our inspiration day on the canals in central Birmingham. We took photos because it was not a day conducive to sketching, and there was much discussion over lunch at the Malt House. We agreed the date in a few weeks to show each other work/ideas developed from today's meet.

We also called in at a couple of galleries. The Castle Gallery in the ICC was showing work by Daisy Boman which got a thumbs up - unlike the work by ex art forger John Myatt whose 'Monets' looked decidedly crude. By the way pieces from the Staffordshire Hoard are in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery until December if you haven't seen any of it yet. Jackie Mackay