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.


  1. Tate St.Ives do not allow photos which prompted me to illustrate my blog with my own drawings made there.

  2. I like the drawings Mary, they have great flair. I enjoyed reading your piece, it also sums up very well, my response to this rather disappointing exhibition.

  3. Hi Mary, I was also left disappointed and concerned about the axolotl. I couldn't agree more about the disarray of ceramics. I felt like it was taking the Mick, especially the cat litter tray. The films were just laughable. Maybe it's about who you know ( selection process). I gave feedback to this effect. ( Did I exhibit with you at the women's art show at the community centre in St Ives 1996? Woodblock prints ).

  4. That last comment was from Heidi Green! Need to sort out my profile on here.....

  5. That last comment was from Heidi Green! Need to sort out my profile on here.....