Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Anima Mundi exhibition-Claire Curneen and David Quinn-May 2022

 Anima Mundi in St Ives, Cornwall, is showing 8 April to 24th May, Mon to Sat,
Work by Claire Curneen and David Quinn

These exhibitions are free to view on the three floors of this gallery. No one will pester the visitor but any questions are welcomed and information sheets are given out.

David Quinn is an artist who produces very subtle surfaces and repetitive marks on small wooden panels, held on the wall very simply by an invisible nail and without frames. They are in two sizes and two prices- £800 or £2,200. He relishes a meditative daily ritual of working.

Claire Curneen’s ceramic mostly porcelain figures are entitled ‘Through  Living Roots Awaken’.
They are startling in being often intricately made with contrasts  of dark marks on the white or real gold additions. They cost £6,500 and upwards and they make a bold but mysterious impact.
One figure has a chest pierced by a branch, another is with animals and objects that hint at a story, another has a chest with small thimble like indentations that gleam with gold.

It’s a change from all the galleries with beach and sea paintings.

Ceramic Practice as a Medium of Change and Resistance-Leach Pottery Zoom-May 2022

 The Leach Pottery held a zoom event on Friday 6th May with 70 attending, entitled ‘Ceramic Practice as a Medium of Change and Resistance’. It only cost £3 to participate.

What could the title mean?

Libby Buckley, director at The Leach introduced the day and Tanya Harod then presented the various speakers.
There was mention of the politics of work, that self employment can be, ‘a cruel parody of freedom.’
Rita Floyd was shown repeatedly hand-making and discarding porcelain flowers as part of Neil Brownsword’s project to memorialise old processes.
Jarah Das spoke of how Cardew set up a pottery in Nigeria under colonial rule. Community pottery such as that of Ladi Kwali met English studio pottery. ‘Overbearing colonial practices’ were mentioned.
Recently there have been free workshops for black people at Camden Arts centre, prompting me to ask if there could be free workshops at The Leach for the community around it which contains many people on very low incomes.
We have lost a lot of craft courses in UK. How can skills be nurtured? Should exhibitions be free to see? Many questions were posed.

Edmund de Waal then gave a very coherent, moving explanation of some of his work in which he has shown the effects of nazi persecution in Paris on his Jewish ancestors. He uses arrangements of simple porcelain vessels but also has shown a collection of books from 80 countries about migration. I asked what his thoughts were on Palestine and he expressed his deep dissatisfaction with Israeli government actions there but is also involved in making a work in cooperation with libraries in Israel.
There were opportunities  to meet in small break out rooms which meant participants saw and heard a few of the audience. Questions could be put and views expressed in the chat online although hardly anyone used the latter.

The last part was the most jargon ridden and about the political idea of ‘craft as commons.’ I thought and said that more usually used language such as sharing and co operation could better be used. I felt there was a rephrasing of my question to take the word socialism out and replace it with ‘social’ and that there was a good deal of gentle pussy footing around
the politics. However all sorts of questions were put.

If it all sounds a bit strange  I think it was - a very surprising look at ceramics.
One woman summed up the gulf between theory and her experience by wondering how her attempts to make a living by making tableware could possibly change the world.

This was an event full of surprises and ideas and I thought it was worthwhile.


 Photo of Libby Biuckley introducing the zoom event.

Captured Beauty-Black Voices Cornwall selected works for Newlyn Gallery


 Captured Beauty - Feb 19 -18 June at Newlyn Art Gallery.

This show was curated by Abi Hutchinson, artistic director of Black Voices Cornwall, which is an organisation seeking to enable Cornwall to become actively anti-racist.

Members of the group had chosen contemporary art mostly from the Arts Council collection.
There is photography, painting, ceramics and video by black artists.
Some work documents black lives including the experiences of artists.

Oreoluwa Ahmed made a video, ‘Can you see us now?’ 2021 which has subtitles about ‘the black diaspora in Kernow’ and how she can feel like a ‘bocka du’ which is Cornish for ‘bad ghost’.

Catherine Lucktaylor in ‘Ashanti Moon’ 2022 has made an installation using ceramic heads of women and Ghanaian symbols from her father’s country, with meanings of remembrance and protection.

Dentil Forrester shows ‘Witchdoctor’ 1983 which is a large vibrant composition showing figures at a lively musical club. This artist now lives in Truro and has been into the show. I would have liked to hear him give a talk about his work but you can find one on YouTube.

Nectaros Stamatopoulos has paintings of refugees and immigrants from the area of Athens where he lives and observes people, saying that there is no overt message - but by choosing to show them he makes them visible. These were simply presented on the wall without frames and that made me think how this is a good way of exhibiting without the expense of frames and making the pictures so vulnerable and immediate.

Binrat and Niddy showed ‘ Martin Luther, King Mustang Car Bonnet’ 2020- a work donated to Black Voices Cornnwall’ after the murder of George Floyd in USA. Somehow the words being written on the metal car bonnet have more resonance than if they were just quoted on a page.
The quote says ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.’

There is a lot more to see in the show and I was also approached and shown around by Ian, a designated host who was very knowledgeable and keen to discuss the show with visitors that wanted to talk to him.

Comments in the visitors folder showed people had really been enjoying the exhibition and it made them more conscious of the presence of black people in Cornwall - to date only 2% of the population.

I think it’s a good thing to have organised. It’s a pity an entrance fee of £4.10 is charged which will deter a wider audience. (It covers entry to the Exchange Gallery in Penzance during the same week- Tuesday to Sat 10-  5)  There is a delightful little garden cafe for drinks with some deckchairs out on the grass overlooking the sea.

Good to address the issue of race and discrimination - and I hope the gallery will continue to keep the representation of people of all kinds and abilities and classes in mind.

Wednesday, 13 April 2022

Newlyn Society of Artists 'Memory' April 2022

 Newlyn Society ‘Memory’ Tremenheere Gallery  near Penzance , April 9-1st May, (closed Mondays) 11-4 free admission.

I gather from reading a notice that the title is not meaning that all the artists selected tackle that subject head-on- they can send in any current work, but at first I was looking for connections with memory and I think the show could better be entitled less misleadingly ‘ current work by NSA artists.’

As I was enjoying looking around a member asked me if I was going to dismiss the entire show as she thought I did last time I wrote about NSA but if you reread my previous blog on ‘maryfletcher’s blog on art’ I did not do that. I  think artists can stand a few less than ecstatic responses however. Recently someone crossed the street to thank me for a review that wasn’t entirely positive because they found it thought provoking.

Some of the artists have responded to the title for example Sue Bleakley made a brain-like sculpture, 



Delpha Hudson looked back at different caring roles she had experience of, 



Andrew Swan chronicled various remarks from Boris Johnson with implied disapproval.

There are a lot of pictures and some video and 3D work so it takes a while to digest the variety and pick anything out. 

I liked Carlos Zapata’s ‘St Joseph and the golden Child’ which is painted wood.

Leone Whitton ‘Signals from Lyonesse’ is darkly mysterious.


Daniel Turner’s ‘Pikes’ is a fanciful attractive landscape.

Melissa Wraxall’s ‘Charybdis’ is a vibrant expressionist composition.

Charlotte Turner’s ‘Quiet Introspection’ is a very subtle circular abstraction.

So as usual a huge variety and catering to most tastes. 

Sometimes a bit of information or explanation on a label might help the viewer who drops in but one can go to the NSA website for research or ask an invigilator.

Monday, 28 March 2022

Thao Nguyen Phan at Tate St.Ives 2022

 Thao Nguyen Phan at Tate St.Ives, Feb and 5 to 2 May 2022

The booklet issued with admission tells us this 35 year old woman artist, who lives in Ho Chi Minh City, ‘collapses and then redrafts the standardised histories of Vietnam and wider south-east Asia.’

However many of us don’t already have much idea of the history to collapse.

This exhibition will expand our knowledge if I we have the patience for it - because the pace is very slow in the videos and  the paintings are small, pale and exhibited so we can’t see them very easily - many  behind a barrier and at right angles to the walls.

I lack patience and found the rope upholstered seats, which only accommodate about eight people, very uncomfortable. Visitors were taking the time to watch on a wet Sunday afternoon, having paid £12 to enter the gallery.

I watched three videos presented on three screens and taking twenty minutes.
Some of the shots are very beautiful and poetic. I loved the ingenious insect finding lanterns made from tin cans which children wheel through fields.
I absorbed something of the symbolism, of the tragedies of famine and fire, of the smelly thouren fruit, the  patterned concrete sun screens, the busy city and the wide Mekong river.

I was shocked by the words on the screen, ‘they began to sell their children and their wives’ presented so matter of factly and so oblivious of the sexism in the way it says ‘they’ not ‘men’. A patriarchal power structure is conveyed.

A lot of it is acted out artfully, for example children posed with fairy lights in their clothing at dusk.
It doesn’t  come from the artist’s own direct experience and it’s filtered through layers of artistry which to me get in the way.

The whole space seems dimly lit and dominated by the faint sounds from the videos and the delicate paintings which are so hard to examine closely. The atmosphere was very quiet, almost reverent.

It seems Thao Nguyen Phan is ambitious in scope and presents a lot of work but I found it frustrating and bewildering.
An attendant advised a second visit but most people won’t be going twice.
Maybe I should have bought the book about it from the shop.

I encourage people to see for themselves - and be prepared to make an effort to respond.

Camp - Plymouth based artists' organisation - funday in Redruth

 CAMP is an organisation of artists based in Plymouth.

They had a free drop in 12-4 workshop at Back Lane in Redruth which I attended as a member but anyone could go. Sat 24th March 2022. Others will follow in various locations.

I enjoyed the day and especially a delicious vegan free lunch that came included.

I was a bit nervous about it being a crowded occasion re covid but there were only about twenty people.

Everyone was friendly.

We began with reading a three part play that had been collaboratively written during lockdown with each contributor only seeing the work of the previous one.
There was a great scope of ideas and styles of expression about making and exhibiting and having a private view. People shared the reading and then went down to the charming little public garden to play with recording voices and sounds with equipment brought by soundart radio who will be broadcasting the results.

Chatting went on non stop through the lunch hour.

Then we engaged in a playful production of painting and drawing that was passed from person to person. Images and text were combined and the results immediately exhibited on the wall. No one tried to obliterate the work of others.

Next was a sound recording session using a voice distorting app but I had had enough for day and missed it. I was lured away to the many fleshpots of Redruth’s excellent charity and secondhand shops.

I suggested they seek feedback- maybe a zoom discussion.

What I think is that maybe the purpose of the day could have been clearer.

Personally I would have liked the meeting other artists to be the focus instead of squeezed into the interstices.
Maybe activities that required small groups to co operate and discuss could be used in future.
Name labels would aid making contacts.

Nevertheless a fun day for artists makes a welcome few hours recreation and I thank all the organisers for it.

Tim Shaw at Anima Mundi 2022

 Tim Shaw at Anima Mundi, St.Ives, Cornwall, UK.    February 18 to April 4th 2022

Tim Shaw’s exhibition is called ‘Fag An Bealach’ which in Irish means ‘Clear The Way’.
He is a sculptor who has shown in San Diego, California and he had a year long residency in Bonn, Germany, which is probably why the ‘Breakdown Clown’, an animatronic large figure which one encounters here, speaks some words in German.
It’s quite a scary experience to meet this large personage, described in the gallery notes as androgynous but appearing to me as male, deep voiced and with moving eyes. Would he suddenly strike out with his arms or lurch forward more than the few inches that he does as he addresses the room with a melancholy and menacing impact, intoning about the purpose of life, about being a shape-shifter and inviting a response?

I was told at the preview this figure reacted to visitors but it was not working as well by the second day. It’s made of some probably ecologically unsound polystyrene like material and unattractively naked except instead of genitals it has a curious curved crescent appendage.
It calls itself a clown and strangely says that we never left the garden of Eden.
It’s a menacing figure, the machine workings partly visible and yet still seems lonely and grim.
The meaning is ambiguous.

On the next floor up are two smooth blue bronze heads -  the same but one small facing the larger. They are accordingly priced by size at £6,500 and £50,000.

There are also figures based on Northern  Irish Mummers that the artist has seen perform, now in safer times than when as a child Tim Shaw experienced a bomb going off in a cafe. He later made ‘Mother the air is blue. The air is dangerous’ an  installation shown at The Exchange , Penzance, a few years ago which was very powerful as the viewer was plunged into the experience using moving images.

That piece had a reality and impact not matched by this show, in which Tim Shaw uses mythic figures and refers to shamanic ritual which must mean a lot to him but is not part of most folks’ way of dealing with the modern world.

In Cornwall we do have continuing traditions such as Montol, the meaning of which was once part of society in a way that our reconstructions are more enthusiastic gestures to a mysterious past set of beliefs than rituals used as a way of dealing with present crises.

On the top floor another large figure stands in the middle of a circle of charred wood which on its own would resemble a Richard Long. This piece is this artist’s  way of responding to Gilbert and George’s recent cursing of the Royal Academy, of which Tim Shaw is a member, when their latest work was rejected. Plans are to burn Shaw’s wooden construction at the end of the show - at an outdoor  location.

Tim Shaw lives in Cornwall and here we get a rare opportunity to see premiered the work of a local contemporary internationally known artist.

I respect his intention to deal with serious contemporary issues but I find the results although memorable and thought provoking rather sidetracked by his love of archetypal symbols that are outrageously out of tune with contemporary life and that I find are ultimately taking refuge in grotesque imaginings.

Mary Fletcher.