Sunday, 4 August 2019

Helicopter Art ;Another hurling of the silver ball, Allard van Hoorn, St.Ives UK 2019

Helicopter Art:  'Another Hurling of the Silver Ball.'  Allard van Hoorn Sat 22 June 2019 St.Ives

Allard van Hoorn was chosen by Tate St.Ives to come and make a performance work around the town.
The practice of bringing in artists from elsewhere to seize on some, usually obvious and well known aspect of a place and develop work based on it is sometimes refered to as 'helicopter art'
Earlier in the year Anna Boudighuan had been to the town, seized on tin mining and Virginia Woolf and produced installations on these themes. A symposium in Redruth had recently discussed the phenomenon, it's curious characteristics, difficulties and absurdities.

Now a Dutch artist who nomadically makes presumably his living and his reputation by these means came to St.Ives Archive Centre and in one afternoon read about the town's two hundred year old ceremony of the mayor throwing a small silver ball, 

smaller than a cricket ball, for which the children of the place  scramble, returning it in the grasp of a small toddler to claim a prize before the Mayor and Town Councillors throw pennies to the assembled crowd.
Way back this somehow developed from the hurling games that occurr in other towns. 
As I think GK Chesterton said, a tradition is something that happens but no one can remember why.

So van Hoorn decided to make a vastly larger ball 

and in June rather than February, to organise  it's rolling around the town from the community orchard and skate park to the recreation field, through the graveyard and the  narrow streets, across the beach and to the outdoor rotunda  of the Tate St.Ives, where his sound composition was broadcast and can now be heard faintly from loud speakers.
He involved community organisations to help with this physically rather than to conceive the plans. The ball was not manufactured locally but imported from China. Local musicians, disguised in the folk tradition, 'guised' under net curtain veils, played a traditional tune and children were organised in a serpentine dance which others then joined in. However, this music was not recorded in the film made by Alban Roinard, who lives in St.Ives, partly using drones, which forms the subsequent display in the gallery. Rather than this van Hoorn made a background of repetitive sound recorded and manipulated on his digital equipment. The video is projected at large size for 20 minutes and the small silver ball belonging to the town is exhibited in a vitrine. However there is absolutely no explanation of what the whole caboodle is about, which a friend I showed around brought home to me is to leave  a visitor to the gallery who has no knowledgeable guide with them completely baffled.

My first reaction to the project was that these things are fairly ridiculous and rather than arising from the community are imposed on it for the greater glory of the visiting artist and Tate. It made an interesting record of what the town and people looked like in June 2019.

Then, when I attended part of the event I enjoyed it along with a lot of other locals who alerted by leaflets and publicity came out to watch or join in. It made a memorable day although I would say that anything happening in the street that gave occasion to meeting others and enjoying a pleasant sunny day would have been enjoyed equally. No one at the time I was watching knew why the musicians were veiled. Was it a reference to Muslim culture and burkhas I  joked impudently?

Of the video work people have asked if it is the work of Alban Roinard or of Allard van Hoorn? I heard a visitor say no one who wasn't living here would be bothered to watch the whole thing, which people like to do to spot friends or themselves having a brief moment of screen time.

I can't classify this as art involving the community, rather it uses them and entertains numbers of them.
It cost a lot it is rumoured in insurance and I have been told will not be repeated. 
I felt the urge to kidnap the big ball, claim it for the town and roll it next year without permissions, guards and gloved attendants , spontaneously and subversively.

It's an example of art being organised to provide spectacle but devoid of readily grasped meaning. Greater examination of the event I do not believe will reveal  more significance.
Artists are encouraged to spend a lot of time applying for grants or prizes or commissions that require them to move around, like mad tourists glimpsing shots of local culture as light entertainment and responding by manufacturing something rather quickly which is superficial.

I wrote to the local Echo newspaper and volunteered to go to Holland and make something on  a theme of tulips or go to Egypt to give a quick reaction to the pyramids.

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Steven Clayden talk St.Ives July 2019

Steven Clayden talk at Porthmeor studios St.Ives. Cornwall, UK July 25th 2019

Steven Clayden drawn by Mary Fletcher

Steven Clayden, born 1969,  has exhibited widely. He has now moved to St. Just near St.Ives where he has been a resident at the famous Porthmeor Studios, which have allowed artists to enjoy space and time for work since the nineteenth century.

We saw slides of some work, which used a variety of materials, e.g. money in one penny pieces , gold plated camera lense shapes, resin painted to ressemble wood and squid ink.

He used a lot of highfalluting expressions such as ‘the onion skin of materiality’ and ‘an efficacy that extends beyond their materiality’, ‘poetic unknowability’ and ‘the work authors itself wth me as an assistant to it’.

He seemed to know much about many subjects, speaking in a slightly manic way, cutting a Beuysian figure without the clarity on politics. He cultivates ambiguity.

He made it seem as if his work is rather mysterious, compelling and highly significant as he proceeded with what he called a ‘conversation’ although it was a monologue.

Two of the audience had been impressed by his shows but it was impossible to grasp their content at this distance.

After 45 minutes I had had enough and luckily he finished then, battering us into a dazed state of puzzlement and making me wonder if those who, like him, speak of authenticity have the least of it.

Talk about Barbara Hepworth July 2019

 Talk about Barbara Hepworth,[1903-75],  Porthmeor Studios, St.Ives, Cornwall, UK  25th July 2019.

Sara Matson drawn by Mary Fletcher

Sara Matson gave a lively illustrated talk to a crowded room at the renovated Porthmeor studios, near to the famous Hepworth Garden of sculpture and the Museum now in the house where the sculptor lived.

The Hepworth marble sculpture ‘Magic Stone’ which belongs to the Penwith Gallery in her beloved St.Ives, is being lent to the Rodin Museum in Paris for a large show of her work from November this year to March 2020.

It seems Hepworth’s reputation is gaining much interest worldwide as a pioneer of Modernist, abstract, direct carving, unlike Rodin, who used modelling and casting.

We saw slides of the plans for the show and were invited to see Hepworth’s place in art history and her work’s special qualities as it developed.

Shirley Beck, in the audience, who knew Barbara, was able to tell us how Hepworth campaigned successfully to stop the St.Ives’ cobbled Fore Street being tarmacked and to stop the Island promontory of grass and rocks being entirely made into a car park. Hepworth welcomed children climbing on her sculptures, which are now usually protected from touch except where, as in St.Ives, they are out in public spaces as Barbara gave two to the town.

These aspects of Barbara Hepworth as local to St.Ives and yet known globally were interestingly juxtaposed.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Hope and Sewing

‘Skirts of Hope' - Sewing with Purpose.

I hadn't sewn anything for about fifty years but I was drawn somehow to this group via a Facebook
post from 'Doing what we can'.

The idea about the skirts came from some post WW2 activity that women began in Belgium.
This recent incarnation of it is in Penzance, Cornwall, UK. So far all women, a dozen or so meet
in a hall or this time in the open air bandstand in the attractive Morrab gardens.

Three hours sitting in a circle sewing, using appliqué or embroidery, everyone absorbed in making
something meaningful and personal. Some are using inspiring quotations, some utilise fabric that
has significant memories for them.

Whilst working one or two women have brought poetry by themselves or poets they admire, to read
to everyone, which is enjoyable. Otherwise there is all sorts of companionable chat.

One woman has come prepared to tell us about an organisation she is involved in, the
Extinction Rebellion movement that recently held large demonstrations in London to raise
awareness of the crisis of climate change. It seems a town nearby has 150 members and regular
meetings at which 40 are likely to attend. One of their objectives is to use a technique used in
Ireland which resulted in abortions being legalised. This is 'citizens' assemblies'. It's not quite clear
how these are selected. It sounds as if the climate change concerns are provoking a new wave of
involvement in communities.

The whole event is peaceable but despite its hippy look, or maybe even because of it, also
teetering on the edge of rebellious action.

The previous meeting had tea and cake and also a more spiritual dip into a guided fantasy started
with a Buddhist brass bowl sound produced by an implement passed round it's rim. This time some
cards are randomly selected and read out, all emphasising love and hope.

There's no discussion of what happens or the way it's done, it's like a tradition has been
established by core members and the rest of us fit in with it.

A future exhibition of the 'Skirts of Hope' is mooted.

Two policemen arrive, a very rare sight normally, to check us out. Maybe they were out to enforce
the ban on drinking alcohol in the gardens, which I noticed being cheerfully disregarded by two
young men with bottles of beer as I came in. We joke about having dangerous needles and pins
and scissors.

So, are these sorts of gatherings of mostly women meeting all over the world to engage in
therapeutic slow decorative sewing with political and social intent to improve the world?

It's a fascinating phenomenon.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Symposium on Art, Community and Social Change, Redruth, Cornwall , UK.

Common Place
A Symposium in Art, Community and Social Change. July 5th 2019

This was organised by artist Sovay Berriman via the arts organisation Cultivator, with various
funders including the EU, that meant attendance was free with food and drink also. It was in Redruth, Cornwall, UK.

A local female Cornish speaker, only introduced as Pat, gave a bilingual introduction and then left having made this gesture recognizing Cornwall as a place with an identity separate from England since ancient times.

Sophie Pope,

Owen Griffiths,  

 Rose Hatcher  

and Anthony Schrag 

gave short presentations and
after lunch we could choose two workshops with two of them. 3  of the 4 came from outside Cornwall.

Questions about the politics and ethics and practice of community art were raised and
inventively played around with using placards, maps, a fanzine, a card game, inventing a
disastrous project to highlight its opposite desirable features.etc.
Conflict was accepted as necessary in society rather than something to avoid it at all costs.

Being old enough to not need a job I didn't share the tortuous need for statistics on age, ethnicity, sexual orientation etc. to satisfy funding providers, but it's instructive to hear how the trends in projects in art are going and how tiresome the hoops for jumping through can be.
What hasn’t been surveyed is whether visitors like or dislike being asked to categorise themselves. 

Community art has left its previous low status to become an Arts funders' priority.

Some were aware that the usual suspects tend to get the work and it might be better to widen the
selection pool. How to do this was uncertain although I suggested using anonymous applications
and selectors from elsewhere that wouldn't recognise the cvs.

The likelihood that only impoverished communities are offered improving projects, often
condescendingly, sometimes by parachuted in strangers was deplored, but the often impoverished artists appreciate any opportunities. They are being encouraged to divert their interests to fit in with current administrators’ interests.

Personally I felt it was good to be seen to be on the scene and feel myself part of a community of
arty people who aren't just trying to sell a commodity to the more affluent in society, even if it's only
replaced by selling their services to the most able art administrators, who are also on the treadmill of pursuing favour. 

Why has social engagement become so popular with the authorities, unless its bread and circuses to divert the masses from their austerity burdened exploitation?

These occasions give the organisers employment and the artists enjoy convivial contacts but
I always notice in meetings whose paid to be there because I'm not.
The physical shape of the beginning and end was of a row of paid speakers facing rows of
participants, some of whom, maybe half, were attending as part of their paid roles. I felt a curved
arrangement would be better for feeling more equal even though we are really in very different situations.

Art that is about contemporary life and seeks to involve people is going on despite all the difficulties
and absurdities that accompany it.  

Mary Fletcher

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Unusual Forms

Unusual Forms

Andile Dyalvane has been in residence at the Leach Pottery in St.Ives, Cornwall, UK and his work is seen there from. 29 June to 11 August before he returns to South Africa.
He was at the private view, resplendent and expansive,shaking hands with everyone and wearing African looking face paint.

His pots resemble him in being robust and dark with surprising vibrant touches of blue or red.

The forms included folded vessels, layers of clay, lumpy additions, an applied little house, a drawn water bird. 

There are frills, cuts, textures, all heavy looking.
Also a surprise were the prices from £350 to over £10,000

Down in the town from 15th June to 19th July there is a Trevor Bell solo show at Anima Mundi the artist having sadly died in 2017 aged 87.

Here the paintings are surprising in not being rectangular. These abstract compositions could be inspired by places or weather or simply from intuitive painting with titles added later.

The artist liked purples, greys and sandy yellows with matt surfaces. The gallery assistant tells meTrevor Bell experimented with paper shapes to determine the forms and arrangements. Then canvas is stretched on a wooden framework.

Here also the prices are substantial, from £5,400 to £64,800.The works are large, impressive in the bare gallery spaces.

There is also music by Jamie Mills and dance by Sarah Fairhall and Lois Taylor related to the paintings and shown on video.

Trevor Bell is one of few painters to reject the rectangle.
I met an ex student of his who claimed to have given his tutor the idea from their own experiments. However, if so, once voiced or shown in art ideas are everyone's and Trevor Bell certainly used this in lively ways right until the end of his career.

Sunday, 2 June 2019

BA Fine Art, Falmouth 2019

There is work from about 86 students in the catalogue, which is without page numbers.
I take an hour and a half to see it plus a performance after lunch. No prices are next to the works.

I start to notice what there isn't, no overt politics, scarcely a mention of feminism, no climate
change, very little autobiography, nothing about Falmouth.

I go through the catalogue later, trying to classify the work. The largest category is work with
abstract use of materials. Then it's nature, surrealism, myth, nostalgia, and calm mood.

One mentions social ills, one is luridly sexual, two relate to sport, there's a tiny bit of science and
technology, the body, self understanding.

One is very like Basquiat, several have unintelligible bullshit in their statements.

Are today's high fee paying intake less rebellious? from a different sector of society as the poor
don't get enabling grants?

One of my favourites is a short performance by a Hongkong student, Darren Chung in which he
introduces five of us to the Cornish names of various colours, getting us to guess which is which,
pointing out that to make for example the Cornish for pink you put white and red together -
gwynnrudh. It's lighthearted, interactive and links to Cornwall.

A student called Oak Matthias has made an enormous finely crafted wooden egg which I find out
later it is possible to sit within as an experience of being alone in the world.

Maria Manini has a kitsch room with 50's music and tv clips, huge squishy pink animal cushions
etc. It's fun, it's not tackling life's problems, more decadent sugary escapism.

Bianca Cocco has made a project connected to the pearl making industry but links it to ideas like
the possibility of an irritant being a productive part of society. She has a booklet which makes this
clearer and uses video, diagrams and various materials in her environment. She is my favourite
because her scope is wide, her intention to question the way things are.

I emerge with my senses awakened, noticing stuff, thinking and feeling more vividly.

It's hardly surprising young students aren't very clear - there’s a sense of trying things out. 
How many can possibly make a living through their art? 

Nvertheless the years at art school will have been of value.