Wednesday, 12 April 2017

An Axolotl and Art at Tate St.Ives 2017

Tate St.Ives April 2017

Our Tate reopened with a huge number of people attending the occasion. As usual there was more excitement in the roar of the crowd and opportunity for brief conversations with friends and acquaintances than in the art, many people promising to return for a better considered look another day. The bar serves a very delicious white wine.

I was a bit worried about the salamander in a tank alongside a huge ceramic dog's head. Others were afterwards anxious and obtained information designed to reassure that Aaron Angell, the artist the axolotl belongs to, was ensuring it was cared for but some thought it is unacceptable to subject live creatures to being art exhibits. I returned to try to work out why it was part of the show and it seems to be just a whimsical notion, rather than a trip to Rio. Other artists have made other ceramic tank furniture that may be exchanged with the dog's head and these are on show nearby. Children were taking  a great interest in the axolotl while I was there and one of the attendants clearly knew a lot about its care. I couldn't help thinking since these animal inclusions are always controversial that it might be a bid for fame. I walked round everything again and had to admit it was the most interesting item, but I still wanted to make a ripost to it, which I will exhibit at the Crypt in the Taking Space show from April 29 toMay 5th, perhaps my own attempt to gain notoriety without any living beings being used.

Aaron Angell


The first room of the show has a nice selection of Leach ceramics, notwithstanding the existence of the Leach pottery museum up the hill. It's all very beautifully made, elegant and functional and there is also a lively ridge roof tile in a room with a film of how to make a teapot and a group of attractive examples.

Leach roof tile

This pottery is an absolute contrast with the ceramics from California and  London, which are said to be art not craft, being non functional and more thrown together. These are shown rather en masse with a lack of different height stands and with the names and titles on separate borrowable large laminated sheets like they have in museums . The effect of these two sections was like a school  ceramics show  I had seen in Kalamata in Greece, excellent and interesting to find there but to see similar stuff in Tate St.Ives was baffling and made me see how brilliant Grayson Perry's work is in comparison. The display is of many random objects by many different people and has no coherence.

Malcolm McClain 'Chamber of spheres'

Tom Salt 'Mushroom Cloud'
Jessica Warboys has been throwing paint on canvas into the sea to make large attractive marks, hung ceiling to floor in the curved gallery. This is described rather ridiculously as collaborating with the sea. She has other objects and three films. I watched two and they were largely handheld wobbly images of places in Wales and Cornwall. Sometimes a red square construction appeared wedged into space between two stones of an ancient quoit. It was the sort of thing my MA tutors would have torn to shreds as woolly unfocused rambling. Of all the artists in all the world why has Jessica Warboys come into my local Tate?

In the roofed in clay play area two nicely dressed children were rejecting the opportunity to play with clay, to the distress of their Dad. I felt a bit like them, invited to enjoy two shows and all I could do was feel concerned about a salamander, ungrateful and bolshy.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Porthmeor Programme -end of year show.

Porthmeor Programme

This one year programme at the Arts School in St.Ives provides students with time to explore and ends with an exhibition displayed by their tutors, who are varied and it seems open to all sorts of media. One of the students told me she found them encouraging rather than indulging in the stereotyped notion of arts school tutors, mostly in my experience male, who feel it essential to tear into students to test their confidence, and traditionally leave a trail of tears.

The Crypt and Penwith back gallery have recently shown been transformed from their usual quiet display of paintings into rooms giving each artist an individual space, some incorporating use of video and performance. Each has statements on the wall which help to give a way into understanding their intentions.
To me it felt refreshing and interesting. 

Kay Lynn had performed in her space but having missed this I was left with the gestural painted surface indicating movement. This raises the question of whether a video of the performance would have been a good idea or at least some photographs.

Mandi Stewart uses video in ‘R is for Rose, R is for Refugee’ In her installation she contrasts the safety with which roses are transported with the dangers for refugees. This unusual juxtaposition brought fragility to mind and the horror of war in a quietly emotive way.

Seona Myerscough had a video discussing the pros and cons of changing from lawyer to artist in a zany way and paintings of the landscape that captured a crepuscular atmosphere.

Brian Macshane has been interested in motorway signs, reproducing them on mirrors to ‘create an unwelcome dialogue’.

Claire Voss-Bark quoted from Shakespeare ‘Like as waves make towards the pebble’d shore.
So do our minutes hasten to their end..’ 
from sonnet no. 60. This gave her quite a task to match the imaginative simile from our so famous poet with her more literal photographs however beautifully made.

Mary Trapp expressed intense personal experience about being in water.

Helen Falconar had used fungi to make prints emphasizing pattern and sublety.

 Bridget Roseberry had large experimental landscape inspired drawings hung from bullgog clips. 

Many of the artists were using paint in largely abstract marks applied with a lively insoucience, refering to their own life experience in various ways, incorprating memory and observation. Perhaps this is largely the theme of the course? Maybe it reflects the painting background of many of the tutors and the art heritage of St.Ives, still dominated by modern gestural abstraction related to landscape?

Caroline Darke

Lucia Jones 'Sake at bar Vitelli'

Seona Myerscough

It is in some ways a terrible injustice to visit such a show for a short while when the artists have clearly been working intensely and seriously for a year, some engaging in a second year.

I would be glad to read comments from others who saw the show or participated in the course as tutors or students.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

CMR 'Everything is F**ked' Feb 2017

Fred McVittie made a proposal to have this theme for a show and there were several weeks beforehand when cmr members could go into the building in Redruth, Cornwall, and be in residence to work on it.
Fred had given a talk about the idea for cmr. He and Mary Fletcher and Jacqui Orly arranged to go at the same time on some Mondays so there was some discussion and working alongside one another and I found it helpful to focus whilst there and to also continue ideas in my studio.

Stuart Blackmore had volunteered to curate and put in a lot of work. He and I both learnt that communication over this was best done by phone not e-mail and that the boundaries of how curating is to be done would be best agreed at the start of a group show.

Alice Mahoney ably put together and produced a booklet showing images and words from each of the ten artists involved which in retrospect needed more time to be available to buy during the show but will be afterwards. Since the show was only on Friday evening and Sat and Sun this documentation is especially valuable. 

Personally I would have liked our names on the poster, and posters to be available for members to put up to invite visitors from Redruth and elsewhere. There was online publicity and on source fm radio and I sent something to especially local paper in St.Ives. The Echo,  about my part in it, which was printed and had everyone’s names.

Opening Night at CMR
The names of artists by the work and titles, and the handouts about it were rather discreet to the point of being difficult to locate and the instructions for my participatory anti bullfight postcards to take and insert in postcard racks in Spain were printed in a font so tiny that a magnifying glass could have helped. The idea of selling work was mentioned as a possible line in the handouts but I did not see any reference to it . All these facets of showing work were not discussed by the group and I think we could benefit from doing this. 
What are the reasons for keeping publicity mostly to the cognoscenti, playing down sales opportunities and minimising use of the artists' names? Is it de rigueur in  alternative art anti commercial circles to be so carefully good taste about this? Is there a nervousness that the local population might be a problem if we succeeded in attracting the in ?

However, the show looked well presented, sharing preview night with Back Lane West residency brought in more people I think and a lively sense of walking up and down to visit both shows. It became a parallel world just behind the Redruth's thoroughfare.

139 visitors were recorded over the three days.

Performance by J.Orly
The opening night warmed up to a buzzing atmosphere, dramatically silenced by the appearance of a woman, naked apart from a head obscuring headdress, feeling her way outside into the cold                                                                                                                                                                                                                      evening to empty out water from a container, returning inside to sit in the window under a dripping  tin of black treacle and then donning a wetsuit. The audience was entirely respectful and attentive and no doubt un phased by this performance art but the attendance of two youths who were passing by chance added a less art schooled reaction as their amazement, consternation and politely controlled nervous laughter in the face of adult seriousness, particularly when the artist's bottom was seen to have brown stains on it, presumably from the treacle, were authentically apparent.
audience react
 I suppose every watcher has their own reaction. Jacqui Orly's performance was certainly memorable, puzzling, brave and done beautifully. It had a title 'everything is not black and white' and  somehow related to her room with photocopies of cloth in black through to white tones and shells with amplified sounds.
I think J .Orly is one of those artists whose work evolves through surreal half conscious associations which are inexplicable but leave a strong albeit bewildering impression.

Alice Mahoney

Other works were on video. Alice Mahoney had a complex montage of high end consumerism entitled ‘I’d rather have a lot of shoes and bags than having animals’.

Stuart Blackmore showed the frustration of a tangled Newton's cradle. He had also made the entrance to the show dramatically dark with flashing words in lights.

 Mary Fletcher had caught two pigeons in mating behaviour on the wall at the back of cmr, which seemed to invite the audience to identify with them and aptly fitted the theme.
Her other work included a subversion of the show's title by adding 'NOT' in red with a red wedge recalling 1917 Russian revolution art, a drawing recalling her abandoned suicide attempt as a young woman when struck by tragedy and grief, her anti bull fighting piece and two images about the refugee crisis. She had a list of 'positive verbs for action in the world' which was a new take on Serra's verbs for action which applied to his work in sculpture

Mary Fletcher
Fred McVittie had been out on the hillside as a scientist despairingly arriving from a great distance away to hold up a misspelt sign about the state of everything, which coinciding with the title of the show was not a surprise but brought over a desperate, sad appeal to the unknown watchers.
Also he had transformed himself into a swastika as which he impotently struggled to be able to move or to be terrifying in an inadequate space. The tv monitor was set in a dolls house reduced scale domestic interior which I think made the piece, with a hint from its title, about the absurd horrors of domestic violence.
Fred McVittie
Fred also had some embroidered baseball caps, such as 'make America good again' and' make Redruth great again'.
I was a bit disappointed to find the Trump substitute grunting pig I had seen when I had been in residence there earlier had been edited out, but a whole wall of collaged cuttings and ideas gave some idea of the range of peoples' sources.

Merryn Tresidder had three paintings with implied interconnections and complex titles.’
The Solution to “Brexit” explained with rope,
 1.CTRL[and Seize the means of Production]
2. ALT [Ownership of Land and Property]
3. DEL [Any Remaining Framework Allowing Existence of the Bourgeoisie}

David Axtell

 David Axtell had a range of collages and montaged puns and comments referencing, viagra, 
Trump and Farage and other things including a rewriting in less optimistic mode of a work from Yoko Ono.

Liam Jolly had a mystifying combination of curved and straight bananas with a canvas representation of a computer screen and a website address reference that needed technology to make sense of.

Liam Jolly
Tim Prykke had altered two chairs so that they would only function where they were placed and made some eloquently absurd photographs using bricks, grapes, eggs and concrete which seemed to be metaphors for impossible situations.

Tim Prykke
Jonathan Hayter had a whole room installation and used fluorescent paint and ultra violet lighting to great effect so that his expressionist anguished imagery using images of war, of religion and phallic sculpture made a powerful glowing experience once you committed to going through the curtain to be immersed in it.

Jonathan Hayter
I think the show was lively and left people with memories and images that might embody something of our difficult  times and showed artists grappling with how to express some things that were questioning and painful.

Please keep in touch with CMR, the artists's collective in Redruth, for information about future shows.