Category Archives: Gallery Visits

Exhibition Visit – Caro in Yorkshire

This exhibition was held at The Hepworth and Yorkshire Sculpture Park. I started with some of his works in the open air, ‘Promenade, 1996’ is a large five piece sculpture in painted steel by the lake at YSP. This sculpture is a combination of curved and angular shapes which look very industrial in nature, helped by its utilitarian grey colour. They demand attention by their size, but don’t hold it for me. There is no texture variation, or interesting areas to explore which is what I think is what really holds my attention in a sculpture.

 

Promenade1 Promenade2

Moving on to the Longside gallery it became obvious that the industrial nature of steel forms and their uniform colouration was a theme that runs through Caro’s work. His early work, “First National, 1964” is quite a typical piece, constructed of steel and painted in bold uniform colours, this time in green and yellow. Caro is credited with moving sculpture off the plinth and into the floor, so his work is an important stepping stone from the classical statues on plinths to today’s ‘anything goes’ approach. Both this and the bold colouration of his pieces would have been quite a change in his time, but the pieces do now seem dated. Again, I find that they do not hold my attention for long.

First National

It is interesting that Caro worked as an assistant to Henry Moore, but his style is very different to his, using angular steel rather then Moore’s more organic shapes.

An exception to this style was the work “Xanadu, 1986-1988”, again in steel, but this time it looks like the steel is recycled from a previous purpose with some paint evident, rusted and then waxed. The shapes in this piece are less uniform and the surface has much more texture and pattern. It is interesting looking back on this sculpture to write this blog, my visit was all a bit of a rush so I took more photographs than notes. I remember thinking at the time that I really liked this sculpture but looking at the image of it I took below, as a sculpture this work seems to sit in the room like a jumbled piece of junk. What was fascinating for me about this piece was the texture and patterns, which demanded a closer examination. The re-use of metal shows in the surface pattern and decay, indicating it’s past use. I enjoy the textural marks and these offer potential for me with my work. It would be interesting to view this sculpture again and see if it does work from a distance at other angles. In form it appears much less cohesive than his uniformly coloured pieces.

Xanadu  Xanadu3

The Longside gallery had quite a lot of his later works that featured the use of Perspex sheets. I was interested in their use and how they were joined to the steel pieces, particularly in “Mirror, 2013” where it was slotted through the steel or supported like a shelf. This like a lot of his later works seemed cluttered and lacking in any cohesive form though.

My favourite later works of Caro were the three books “Sans Serif, 2013”, “Turner’s Book, 2011-2013” and “A Long Tale, 2011-2013”, all made from cast and forged steel and stoneware. I’ve no idea how he managed to join together steel and ceramic without it shattering, but the two mediums work well together in these pieces and I’d love to have a go at trying to do this. Again I think it is the portrayal of decay which appeals to me and also the detail and texture variation which invites closer inspection and exploration.

Books1 Books2  Books5

Overall a very interesting exhibition and I feel I can take a number of his methods / use of materials into my work.

References:

Anthonycaro.org, (2015). Sir Anthony Caro – Sculptor. [online] Available at: http://www.anthonycaro.org/ [Accessed 2 Dec. 2015].

Annelyjudafineart.co.uk, (2014). Annely Juda Fine Art | Exhibitions | Anthony Caro: The Last Sculptures (2014). [online] Available at: http://www.annelyjudafineart.co.uk/exhibitions/anthony-caro [Accessed 2 Dec. 2015].

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Exhibition Visit – Henry Moore Institute

The exhibition of Henry Moore maquettes were very interesting. Whilst I am quite familiar with some of his larger figure sculptures, I particularly liked his small maquettes, especially his work incorporating background walls with squares cut out which I hadn’t seen before.

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‘Three Motives against Wall No.1’, 1958 & ‘Maquette for Girl Seated against Square Wall’, 1957

I may steal this idea in a future work!

An exhibition of Paul Neagu was on when I went and this was also interesting, although a lot of the work looked dated. What interested me was that he continually explored a number of themes/subjects over many years, resulting in many different versions and developing the work into weird and wonderful things which have come a long way from their origins. I am doing this myself in continuing my ‘residencies’ work and might extend this to other ideas.

Unfortunately no photography was allowed in this exhibition, but ‘White Cardinal’ was the object which particularly stuck me, a sculptural scene in a suitcase, with the sketch on one side and a maquette of the sculpture in landscaped surroundings in the other – a very effective and unusual display method.

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Exhibition Visit – British Art Show 8

A collection of work by 42 current British artists using wide ranging mediums should have given a lot of options to excite and inspire me, but resulted in an exhibition which I found thoroughly underwhelming.

Although I only dipped into the films, these mostly did look interesting, beautifully shot and pared very well with very intense soundtracks, which were often aimed at distorting reality. However, the other work seemed dull and pointless. A few examples below:

Anthea Hamilton’s plastic covered billboard type images with a built in ant farm – what? There was no evidence of craftsmanship in these pieces and as far as I could tell, it didn’t mean anything either.

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Nicolas Deshayes sprayed expanding foam to look like intestines – why? They looked like someone had randomly sprayed expanding foam, presumably exactly what he did to produce them. I guess I rebel against this type of work for two reasons, firstly the initial impression it gives is one which is slightly revolting (similar to if he has used actual intestines), secondly, the lack of physical moulding/sculpting/craftsmanship. I’m sure that to get this simple shape he probably had to practice different ways of spraying expanding foam until he achieved what he wanted, but there is a lack of involvement in the work (letting it form itself) which I find lazy. Maybe I feel that if the artist can’t be bothered to get stuck into the creation of a sculpture, why should I be bothered to view it?

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Jessica Warboys image was a similar theme, this time using natural phenomena to produce her work. She used pigment on sea-soaked canvas and allowed the waves and wind to determine the resulting image. This was an interesting idea, but the photograph actually makes it look better than it was and overall it just looked a little drab.

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If you hold the opinion that ‘modern art is all rubbish’, then this exhibition will do nothing to change your views. Overall, nothing really grabbed me in this exhibition and it was quite disappointing. There seemed to be a lack of imagination as well as a lack of skill/talent in its production. The best bit for me was overhearing a question to one of the staff there “Is this art, or is it just tissues?” – The reply was that it was art, but I could understand why it was questioned!

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Land Art research continued

Yorkshire Sculpture Park exhibition – Uncommon Ground : Land Art in Britain 1966-1979

My overall impression of this exhibition was that it was very 70’s! Making pictures by burning card with a magnifying glass for 5 hours (Roger Acking “Five hour cloud drawing, 1980”), filming the lighting of fires in grids (Anthony McCall “Landscape for fire, 1972”), photographs on walks (Richard Long & Hamish Fulton), etc. It would be interesting to know how many of these artists are continuing with similar work today or whether they have moved into new fields.

Andy Goldworthy’s images (e.g. “snowball, 1979”, “Black (soil covered) snowball, 1979” or “Forked Twigs in Water – Bentham, 1979”) are very distinctive and obviously his work. Whilst they do show his style, they do seem less perfected / beautifully photographed than his later work.

Tony Cray “New Stones – Newton’s Tones, 1978” is a surprisingly beautiful work given that it is made out of plastic debris, but the colour arrangement (in the approximate sequence of colours in the spectrum of white light) and the arrangement of the items in a perfect rectangle make the piece work well. He is also making an obvious statement of ecological concern by using plastic rubbish sources from along the banks of the Rhine neat to his home.

I also particularly liked John Hillard’s “Across the Park, 1972” which is a series of 8 photographs framed in pairs one above the other. The top photograph of each pair is the same section of a photograph of a man walking, the bottom photograph of the pair reveals more of the scene below, to the right, above and to the left of the man. The overall effect of which was very clever and brought a smile to my lips!

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Hepworth Gallery

I went along to the very interesting Leeds study weekend run by Gerald Deslandes. I think I am still absorbing the vast amounts of information he went through on the influences of artists over the ages, so I am not going to review those lectures here. What I was going to look at here was our visit to the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield on the Sunday.

What was very interesting to me about this gallery is that it was more about the working processes and models than the final works, due to the Hepworth family gift of Hepworth’s plasters to the museum. As someone who wants to get into making sculptures, this was fascinating. There was a great focus on texture in her work, especially on work line “Figure (Archaean) 1959”, but even on the more “mechanical” work like “Winged Figure 1961-2”, where texture has been added to sheet aluminium using Isopon, a polyester resin filler (used in car repairs by the looks of it).

Most of Hepworth’s sculptures are designed to be viewed from all angles and often provide discoveries of new elements as you move around the piece. Many of them are reminiscent of standing stones or ancient sculptures or water-worn rocks – they all seem to have a great age.

It was interesting to see how she colours the plasters by painting them in the colours of the patina she wants in the final bronze casting. Interestingly, reading the Tate interview linked to above, this was also done to highlight blemishes before sending them away to be cast, or to colour them for exhibitions.

I also like the way that the sculptures often show her working methods, the impressions of her fingers, the lines from her files, etc. These marks are part of the sculptures and they wouldn’t work the same if they were perfectly smooth. Others in comparison such as “Two Forms 1937” carved out of marble are very smooth.

Trophy (Flight) 1965

Trophy (Flight) 1965

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Yorkshire Sculpture Park OCA Visit

Unfortunately the OCA study visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park was scheduled on a thoroughly wet and miserable day! Due to this, we spent time in the underground gallery looking at the Miró exhibition and at the Longside gallery looking at Anish Kapoor, but didn’t get chance to look at the sculptures in the grounds (or take any photographs). Gerald Deslandes guided us around the exhibitions and Jim Unsworth discussed the sculpting process and results.

Miró

Miró was a surrealist who concentrated on the allusiveness of nature. He found that the shapes found in one area of nature, seed pods for instance, can also be found in the human form, or other forms of nature. He had a connection with Gaudi in using organic forms and strong distinct areas of colour.

He worked in drawing, painting, collage and printing, but it was not until later in his life that he produced sculpture.

The sculptures are interesting, but I only like a small number of them. Gerald questioned whether Miró was actually a good sculptor and I agree. They seem to fall into a few categories, firstly the assembled pieces from found objects (subsequently cast in bronze), which don’t do much for me on the whole. Then the “blown up” smooth bronze sculptures which seem to work better in their model form than in the enlarged final form. Finally the more organic sculptures (not exhibited here) which look like children’s models. Maybe I don’t understand them enough, but none of them moved me and I could see a lot less in them than I could in his paintings.

Due to time constraints, I didn’t get chance to study many of the sculptures in great detail. One which did catch my attention though was a bronze cast wooden plank with shoes on it and something on top (I forget what now and unfortunately I didn’t note down its name and cannot find it on the internet). The sculpture as a whole didn’t grab me, but some of the detail did. Presumably at the wax stage of casting, the “plank” had been hollowed out from within one of the shoes, so on looking into the shoe you were looking into the whole sculpture. It was an unexpected discovery and I think that is the kind of sculpture which appeals to me, ones which have things to discover about them, questions unanswered, meaning unknown but open to the viewer imagination. That hole may have had meaning to Miró (or maybe the idea just tickled him as it did me), but I don’t feel I need to know what it was, only that I like it.

Anish Kapoor

Anish Kapoor uses pigments to create brightly coloured sculptures or areas of very dark dense colour, and also highly polished reflective metal sculptures.

The pigment work references Indian culture in the way pigments are displayed in their markets. They also reference the female human body and the notions of opposites (solid/void), and also illusion and display (the shiny sphere appearing like fairground mirrors).

The sculptures I liked of his were “Adam” and “Void” for their interesting visual effects and the ability to get lost in their depth. “Adam” is a void in a large sandstone block which is coated in a dark blue/purple/black pigment. This absorbs all the light falling on it so you cannot tell if it is a void or not. Despite there being nothing to see, it was a sculpture you could stand and stare into, and for me it was reminiscent of the monolith in 2001 a space odyssey, having a similar sense of power and mystery.

As for the others, the bright colours in “White Sand, Red Millet, Many Flowers” & “Red in the Centre” were very bold statements, but I didn’t get the overall feeling they aimed to impart.

The reflective sculptures didn’t evoke any feelings for me and “Turning Water into Mirror, Blood into Sky” was a clever science trick, but the mechanics of the motor spinning the container and the annoying noise coming from it took away any message it was trying to convey.

An interesting general sculpture comment from Jim Unsworth:

When looking at art, you need to shift your perception from being a connoisseur, to looking at how it was created, how it makes you feel, and how those feelings have been portrayed in the medium.

I think I am starting to do this in terms of how it was created, but not in the feeling side of things yet.

Overall

A very interesting day out, and worth another visit (in the sunshine!) to spend longer examining some of the sculptures.

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North Yorkshire Open Studios 2012

Spent a very full couple of days this weekend visiting the studios of artists around North Yorkshire. Discovered some fantastic artists working in many different mediums. Below are my sketchbook notes from these visits.

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