Editions and Objects : St Jude’s at YSP

autumn-table

Autumn Table – Emily Sutton

It’s impossible to be disappointed by a trip to the jewel that is the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in West Bretton, Wakefield. There’s always something to enjoy and inspire whether it be in one of the many indoor galleries or in the 500 acre outdoor sculpture exhibition. In addition to the many sculptors that YSP has exhibited over the years the park continues to celebrate contemporary artists producing work in a variety of mediums; from painting and illustration to film and instillation art.

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September Dresser – Emily Sutton

On my last visit to the park I was delighted to discover that YSP had partnered with St Jude’s to present a charming exhibition showing some of the best contemporary art and design in the UK. Editions and Objects has flourished from the existing relationship between YSP and St Jude’s, two unique organisations committed to showcasing inspirational contemporary works. Founded in 2005, St Jude’s collaborates with an eclectic range of artists and designers to create and print incredible fabrics, furnishings and wallpapers.

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Scarcroft Allotments – Emily Sutt0n

Located in the main visitor centre at YSP Editions and Objects features the work of 13 artists and designers including Jonathan Ashworth, Christopher Brown, Chloë Cheese, Melvyn Evans, Jonathan Gibbs, Peter Green OBE, Katy Hackney, Mark Hearld, Karen Mabon, Charles Shearer and Terry Shone. It exhibits a selection of limited edition prints and objects including lithographs and screen prints, ceramics and woodcuts, as well as jewellery, scarves and even some new works created especially for the exhibition. My personal favourites were the enchanting watercolours and screen prints created by Emily Sutton and Angie Lewin who co-founded St Jude’s along with her husband Simon Lewin.

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Blue Shed – Emily Sutton

Emily Sutton’s work is heavily influenced by illustrators such as Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious, as well as folk art and 20th century American children’s books. She is inspired by the vistas and creatures of the English countryside as well as intriguing objects she finds in museums and antique shops. Many of the items that she re-homes at her house on a hill in Yorkshire are then depicted within the intricate details of her vibrant illustrations. Being a child of the Yorkshire countryside myself and the proud guardian of my own little greenhouse and vegetable plot I was naturally drawn to her watercolours of the Scarcroft allotments. In particular I loved the lush detail in Emily’s watercolour Blue Shed. From the tangled brambles in the foreground to the historic Victorian building of Scarcroft Primary School winking between the tree branches, I feel as though the piece is positively spilling over with life.

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Island Summer – Angie Lewin

After working in London as an illustrator Angie Lewin went on to study horticulture in Norfolk which prompted her return to printmaking. Her work is inspired by the cliff tops and salt marshes of the North Norfolk coast as well as the Scottish Highlands where she now lives and works for much of the year. These contrasting landscapes are represented in Angie’s prints often glimpsed through delicately detailed flowers and plants native to the area.

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Nature Study – Angie Lewin

Angie’s still life screen prints incorporate a veritable bounty of seedpods, flints, shells and dried seaweed which she collects whilst on walking and sketching trips. Other still lives illustrate Wedgwood cups and tall glass vases containing feathers, grasses, dried seed-heads and flowers in a sumptuous array of pastel shades. My absolute favourite in this collection has to be Honesty Blue which depicts a rather droopy arrangement of purple Scotch thistles, translucent honesty flower seed pods and pieces of broken Wedgewood pottery. I even love the detail of what looks to me like radiator indents softly emerging from the background.

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Syke Sun – Angie Lewin 

Editions and Objects will be showing until 30 October and all the works in the exhibition including many originals are available to buy from the YSP shop as well as a range of prints and exclusive merchandise designed by the Editions and Objects artists. For more information please follow the links below.

http://www.ysp.co.uk/

http://www.stjudesfabrics.co.uk/

http://emillustrates.com/gallery/

http://www.angielewin.co.uk/

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Honesty Blue – Angie Lewin

Amy

 

 

The memory of glass with Gemma Leamy

Ullswater

Ullswater

There’s a quality to glass, pure and tantalisingly precious. Perhaps it’s the element of danger. If you’ve ever watched a glass artisan at the furnace, you’ll know it’s tense, blisteringly-hot work. One false move and the piece could be ruined, but succeed and you’ve created something both beautiful and fragile.

Crooke O Lune

Crook O Lune

Perhaps it comes from our memories. I’m sure almost all of you will have come across a bureau or display case in the past, with glass and crystal treasures locked away for safekeeping. In my own family home there’s a cabinet in this very fashion filled with champagne flutes and whiskey tumblers, assorted trinkets and a collection of colourful glass paperweights. The value of these paperweights is largely sentimental. Some were collected by my mother during her travels to Scotland and Ireland; others were passed down to her through family. In particular I remember three sea-green orbs, oblong in shape and varying in size, with a simple floral design blooming on the inside. They were made by her great uncle Jack who was killed during the battle of the Somme. It’s remarkable how something so delicate can weigh so heavy in your hands.

Eskdale

Eskdale

In this same vain, artist and designer Gemma Leamy explores how we connect to place and memory through her recent Deconstruct  series. Gemma grew up in Lancashire, north west England, just a stones throw from Cumbria and the Lake District. This part of the world is well known for its craggy fells and ribbons of rivers that wind into pools of tranquil lakes. Such beauty has captured the imaginations of artists and poets for generations and it’s clear to see that Gemma too holds a deep appreciation of the natural world.

“Growing up close to the Lake District it is impossible not to become immersed in the changing beauty of the land.”

Windermere

Windermere

Through Deconstruct  Gemma has preserved personal memories of these places in her past by transforming their landscapes into sculptural glass forms and photographic prints.

For each individual piece a unique colour pallet was developed through the careful collection of drawings, photographs and film. These were then translated into hand blown shards of coloured glass. The delicate shards were meticulously layered together in Gemma’s vision and in doing so she has created unique portrayals of each landscape.

Tarn Hows

Tarn Hows

These sculptural forms capture scenes of Windermere, Ullswater and Crook O Lune, Hawkshead, Tarn Hows and Morecambe Bay to name but a few. Their radiant colours create depth and structure with each overlapping layer, and the translucent nature of the material gives her work an ethereal quality as if looking into a dream.

Gemma has then used photography to capture her vision, as you might take a snapshot of a special place or moment you want to remember on holiday, and in doing so has created a window in time.

Morecambe Bay

Morcambe Bay

Gemma’s work challenges her craft in that from the moment the glass is blown and manipulated into its desired form it is then irrevocably broken, deconstructed, and the remaining shards reassembled into her spectral sculptures.

She aims to evoke personal memories in the viewers of her work and allows them to interpret each piece in their own individual way. When I look at Gemma’s work I see the undulating landscape of the Peak District and remember with fond nostalgia the crashing of waves against coastal cliffs whilst on childhood holidays in Cornwall.

Hawkshead

Hawkshead

Gemma graduated in 2015 with a first class BA Honours in Glass from Edinburgh Collage of Art. Since then her work has been exhibited in London, Stockholm, Milan, and most recently at the 2016 Berlin DMY New Talents competition.

A number of Gemma’s pieces have been selected by the Edinburgh Collage of Art for a retrospective showcase from 16-18th September this year. The showcase will exhibit a collection of talent which has emerged over the years from ECA Glass programme. For more information on Gemma and the ECA showcase follow the links below.

http://www.gemmaleamy.co.uk/

http://www.eca.ed.ac.uk/

Beacon Fell

Beacon Fell

Amy

Doddington Hall’s Sculpture Exhibition

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I’ve discovered a slice of heaven. If, like me, you enjoy contemporary sculpture and could happily wander around a sunny garden hour after hour, then you need to visit the sculpture exhibition in the gardens at Doddington Hall, Lincolnshire. It’s the third time this biennial sculpture exhibition has taken place, curated by David Waghorne the director of Sculpture Events Ltd. The exhibition features work by over 75 leading sculptors from around the world; showcasing a dazzling 450 original pieces displayed both in the gardens as well as in the new indoor Granary Barn. From the small to the monolithic, a vast array of styles and mediums are displayed, and I just had to see them all!

blue lotus     white

This year’s main featured artist is Rebecca Newham a sculptor and designer from Southbourne in Bournemouth. She works in a wide array of materials, but the pieces which caught my eye in particular were her glass and fibreglass lotus flowers. Poised, pride of place, in the walled West Garden were Rebecca’s Blue Lotus sculptures forming the centre of two tranquil water features. The small glass tiles of these sculptures shimmer like jewels in the sunlight. I was delighted to chance upon White Lotus as I strolled into a hidden corner of the Wild Garden. Engulfed in dense foliage, White Lotus appeared to glow amongst the leaves in shades of green and brown.

torso

Award winning sculptor Paul Vanstone has shown his work at many of the major museums and galleries of the UK, including The British Museum and The V&A. The Indian rainforest marble carved to create Paul’s Indian Torso is just exquisite. The rich colours of the polished rock combined with the veins of minerals running through the marble really bring the form to life. Approaching the Avenue Walk you are presented with the arresting sight of Paul’s immense piece Portuguese Heads, carved from a creamy grey Portuguese marble, perfectly positioned to gaze across this idyllic Lincolnshire countryside.

red v     sealife

In the work of Carole Andrews plant and sea life is enlarged and augmented, dominating the viewer, as if the human were the one under the microscope. Carole uses techniques from origami and embroidery and applies them to unconventional materials such as roofing felt in order to create her organic forms. Inspired by the papery bells of Chinese lantern plants, Blue Franchettii 2 appears as though it’s alien-like seed pod is about to burst at the seams. And the hypnotic form of Red Villosa, conceived by a carnivorous tropical plant, looks as though it might swallow an unsuspecting bystander whole!

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David Watkinson is driven in his work by the unseen forces that shape our world. His sculptures endeavour to point towards the relationship between the laws of physics and all life on Earth. In David’s kinetic sculptures featured in Doddington’s Wild Garden he pays homage to the evolution of the seed, how they have adapted to be carried by the wind, and in turn create new life and new beginnings. Cast in steel, the seeds are delicately balanced on precision bearings, allowing small air currents to gently twirl the sculptures around. This motion, combined with the sound of the breeze and the light glinting off the seeds is quite mesmerising!

unicorn

A catalogue is available to buy upon arrival should you wish to know the names of all the exhibiting sculptors, their chosen material and the price if available for purchasing. The exhibition is open daily until Sunday 11 September, do check their website below for opening times and admission charges.

http://www.doddingtonhall.com/

http://www.sculpturedoddingtonhall.com/

Amy

 

In constant flux with Greg Harris

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Self Portrait (2015)

For many years Greg Harris refused to define himself as a painter, choosing instead to modestly describe himself as “an average-skilled draughtsman who dabbles in any medium.” It wasn’t until 2012 when he joined an artist’s studio in Leicester that he began to experiment with oil paints and fell in love with the medium. When asked how painting makes him feel four years on Greg’s response is “completely alive and in the moment” although he is still a little reluctant to pigeonhole himself as a painter.

Greg described to me the moment when he felt compelled to completely re-evaluate his philosophy as an artist. It was during his final year studying at De Montfort University when he found himself questioning his beliefs in the purism of abstract art and the sensuous particularity of paint. “I fell so deep into the metaphysics of this idealism that everything lost meaning.” Looking back he describes these beliefs as “pretension” and his paintings “weak” but something tells me that Greg is being overly self-critical again.

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Juice There (2014)

Instead, he devoted his art to “the certainty of the life room” attracted by the simplicity of a visual response to what was before him. Greg’s tutors were surprised by this sudden u-turn in his final year, but he knew it was what he needed to do as an artist. So, by the end of his degree Greg was left with “a poorly bound book of life model studies, and not a great deal more!” Physically that is. Physiologically Greg had discovered the motivation for his art and learnt to trust his inclinations.

“I believe inspiration can come from anyone, anywhere and anything.  It filters into the person you are and that in turn can define what you put onto the canvas.”

arushi with head scarf

Arushi with head scarf (2016)

When Greg graduated in 2009 he spent a number of months travelling in the Far East with his now wife, Arushi. They visited Thailand, China and Japan; diverse countries with their own unique challenges and delights, a smorgasbord of inspiration. “I love the richness of experiences that travel offers. From the societal differences to the landscapes, the food, I love it all. Even going to a different part of my hometown I’ve never been to before can provide the same satisfaction.”

Over the past 4 years Greg has been exhibiting work across the midlands and south of the UK. The current highlight of his career being when he first showed with The Other Art Fair last year in Bristol. “My career took a big step forward after that and the fair has a really great team behind them that work hard for the artists they show.” Greg has exhibited with The Other Art Fair four times now, most recently last month where his piece Lubomyr Melnyk was the first to sell.

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Lubomyr Melnyk (2016)

Greg’s work stands poised between both a literal and non-literal representation of his subjects which he achieves through a clean and freshly finished painting style. Greg sees the world around him as “in constant flux”, “dynamic” and “always shifting” which he conveys through his work using vibrant tones, contrasts and surface textures.

Greg revealed to me how before even putting paint to canvas he methodically decides what colours will need to go where, sometimes accompanied with a quick sketch and bullet points. “If the hair is ochre, cadmium orange and burnt sienna, perhaps the eyes will be cobalt blue, emerald green and lemon yellow. In this way, I try to ensure that there’s an exciting contrast but also a balance.” Eventually this plan dissolves into a weak guideline as Greg is pulled by the painting to adapt with what is before him.

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Clifton Bridge Bristol (2015)

His process starts with a simple drawing before the race begins to paint the whole piece before it dries, making sure not to over blend the edges or go over the same area again and again.  In this way, almost every single mark is visible by the end of the painting. So careful colour mixing is essential, paired with the knowledge Greg has attained in how to create different marks. Yet there is nothing at all rushed or frantic about Greg’s work. The kinetic energy of his paintings feel more like a dance in celebration of his subject or wistful memories of a place captured in time.

“I remember a friend viewing Bris Straum, a painting of a ginger bearded chap I did, and he didn’t realise I’d snuck green everywhere into the piece. It was in his beard, his hair and on his skin. When I told him, he was shocked and looked at the painting anew. For a moment, I was proud of my deceitful accomplishment.”

bris straum

Bris Straum (2015)

Greg’s work to date reads like an autobiography of his life filled with the people and the places that have inspired him along the way. Later this year Greg plans to add more narrative into his work by composing pieces around concepts that he’s been contemplating for a while. I look forward to witnessing this next chapter in his career!

Greg’s next exhibition will be at The Other Art Fair in London from 6th October to the 9th October. Follow the links below for details.

out of the cave

Out of the cave (2015)

http://www.greg-artist.com/index.html

http://www.theotherartfair.com/site

Amy.

The elephant in the room: Cause and Effect at the NCCD

annie 1

Meandering through the streets of Sleaford lined with quaint old shops and eateries I came across the National Centre for Craft & Design perched on the banks of the River Slea. There aren’t many museums or galleries I know of that you can opt to reach via a tiny bridge. Even fewer with a rooftop gallery and two outdoor observation decks, from which you can enjoy almost 360˚ views of the town. We were visiting to see the current Cause and Effect exhibition my mother had raved about the week before and how kind the staff were for taking leaflets for our touring theatre company.

Cause and Effect  explores eleven artists’ responses to adversity. The selected artists in this exhibition (including Neil Brownsword, Luke Jerram, James Maskrey, Claire Morgan, Paul Scott, Julian Stair and Emma Woffenden) take inspiration from personal tragedies, international disasters and unfortunate events, sometimes of a more light hearted nature.

leak 2     leak 3

The first piece which caught my eye was Emotional Leak  by Jeffrey Sarmiento and Erin Dickson. Like the elephant in the room, this tall, black monolith of a sculpture refuses to be ignored. 291 pieces of waterjet cut float glass appear to emanate from the ceiling, undulating and pooling on the gallery floor. Jeffrey and Erin share a fascination with cultural and emotional connections in architecture which they explore through their personal perceptions of space and the philosophy of home. In this sculpture they have visualised what might happen if an ‘emotional leak’ were to burst in the architecture, releasing a bubbling surge of glass; a physical manifestation of the ominous atmosphere within the room.

  leak 1     annie 3

Standing silently nearby were the two ethereal forms of Memory I & II  by Annie Cattrell. Annie is drawn to the poetry of where art and science meet. She works closely in dialogue with specialists in neuroscience, meteorology, engineering, psychiatry and the history of science. Memory I & II  were made using brain scan data which relates to the anatomy, shape and location of the hippocampus and amygdala, the structures that support the functions of emotion and memory. The sculptures were cast in a creamy-white aggregate that resembles onyx; peering inside the forms we find the hippocampus and amygdala surfaced with silver. This silvered quality reflects the light and it appears as though memory and emotion are glowing with life. 

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With so many striking installations and sculptural pieces around you it’s forgivable that you may not immediately notice the sweet melting ice creams of Anna Barlow winking at you from the corners of the room. Anna Barlow uses moulds, slab building techniques and glazes to create what she calls “visual edibility”. She is fascinated by the rituals we have developed around food, particularly celebratory or indulgent treats and the way they are assembled, displayed, then eaten. And there is no more momentary dessert than ice cream. Yet here, these melting dreams have been frozen in time, allowing us to recall our own fond memories of a cooling ice cream on a hot summer day, incite our desires for a naughty treat and perhaps even remember the misfortune of when the sweet temptation is lost, never to be enjoyed.

barlow 2

Cause and Effect  will be exhibiting at the National Centre for Craft & Design in Sleaford until the 18th September. The centre also hosts a whole array of courses and workshops for both children and adults so do check out their website!

http://www.nationalcraftanddesign.org.uk

barlow 1

Amy

 

Building dreamscapes with David Umemoto

Landscape (23)

David Umemoto admits he was forced to burn many bridges with his past in order to build himself a career as a sculptor today. David worked as an architect for a firm in Montreal, Canada, before going freelance for the best part of 10 years working mostly on 3D computer graphics and architectural design for institutional projects such as schools and hospitals. The work was extensive, pedantic and would often take years before a project was completed.

 “I can’t really say exactly what drew me into architecture as you are quite young when you have to make that decision. At the time I was also considering arts and mechanical engineering, so I guess it was some kind of compromise… Art gives you much more freedom for creation because of course you have less constraints and rules, but also because you can be independent. You can fully realize what you have in mind without spending hours and hours dealing with budgets, contractors, committees…”

In 2010 David gave up the freelance work and spent a year travelling in Indonesia, southeast Asia. Whilst there he worked with foundries casting in aluminium, bronze and glass. It was the catalyst that inspired David’s transformation from architect to artist.

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David describes the essence of his sculptures as a kind of primitivism” taking inspiration from the ancient arts and architecture of the Americas, Polynesia and Africa.

“I like the way they used arts as a language, a scripture, a code, a way to communicate with the nature, the outer world, or whatever unknown. Their sculptures were tools, their buildings machines. Their composition uses very basic geometry and symmetry and repetitive patterns. I would like to think that anyone, anywhere, with simple tools and local basic materials could build my structures.”

When David returned to Canada he no longer had access to foundries “at a reasonable price” and so he began experimenting with other materials. The benefits of working with concrete soon presented themselves; not only as a universal medium, but also as a very precise material as concrete doesn’t warp or shrink like metals during the casting process. Aesthetically concrete has a tangible texture that both captures light and intensifies shade. The beautiful simplicity of this humble material allows the sculptures to speak for themselves without the need for shock and awe devices.

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David approaches his sculptures in a very similar process to how he would begin his architectural projects.

“I always start with a constructive grid, then I sketch plans, elevations and sections. I work a lot with elevations, trying to keep a good balance with the proportions of shapes and openings. My work being very monochromatic, light and shadows are really important.”

The choice of concrete similarly resonates with the architectural profession, most famously during the Brutalism movement of the 1950’s to 1970’s. But there is so much more to the movement than the hard, soulless structures of governmental and institutional buildings. Brutalism was inspired by leaders of the modernist movement such as Le Corbusier; a Swiss born French architect and artist who aimed to create better living conditions and enhance society through pioneering new housing concepts.

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“For me, he was the most influential architect of our time. He had a unique way of creating works that were equally rigorous and poetic.”

In David’s ongoing series of sculptures he creates an Artificial Landscape using geometric cubes and modular infrastructures which can be reorganized and reused to create new works. Photographic prints of some of these combinations create the illusion of an abandoned city on a real-life scale, like ancient Babylon or London’s banking district on a weekend. These structures invoke a multitude of emotions in the viewer; from an ignited curiosity to a sense of isolation, observing in an almost hypnagogic dream state.

“In my work, I try to create spaces and objects that can be view halfway between natural and manmade, in construction or in decay, futuristic or ancient…”

Interior_03

In David’s forthcoming series, he aims to delve further into the creation of artworks suspended between nature and man by approaching landscape design in the spirit of Japanese rock gardens.

“Their idea is not to imitate nature, but to get the essence of a natural environment and create contemplative landscapes that can serve as an aid to meditation.”

A selection of David’s work can be found at the TRNK showroom in NYC. He is also developing a new collection in collaboration with Hub in Australia that is scheduled to be exhibited in their showrooms of Melbourne and Sydney in 2017.

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http://davidumemoto.com/

http://hubfurniture.com.au/

https://www.trnk-nyc.com/

Amy

Spaces in the chapel : Rachel Whiteread at YSP

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I love Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Every time I visit there is something new to explore, more treasures to discover. It’s impossible to see the Longside, Chapel and Underground galleries, park centre and 500 acre outdoor gallery nestled in the south of Wakefield in a single day. Even more impossible to write about it all in a single sitting!

During my most recent visit on a temperamental summer afternoon we sought shelter in the park’s Chapel gallery where we discovered the new ‘Transparency’ exhibition, supported by the Arts Council Collection’s National Partners Programme.

trans

The subject of transparency was inspired by the 18th century chapel itself. Built in 1744 and dedicated to St Bartholomew, the chapel served the families and workers of the Bretton Estate before it was de-consecrated in the 1990s. The exhibition is designed to consider the multiple meanings of transparency, from the transition of light and clarity, to truth and freedom from deceit. It comes at a time when the need for clarity from politicians, corporations and the like is in high demand, not only in Britain but around the globe.

The collection includes work by Garth Evans, Hiraki Sawa, and Yelena Popova; but the exhibit which grabbed my attention the most was by Rachel Whiteread. I’ve been aware of Rachel’s work for some years now; her sculptures were held up as an extraordinary example of contemporary art during my school days.

rach

Rachel Whiteread studied painting in Brighton and sculpture in London from 1982 to 1987. She has described how the pivotal moment of her career as an artist began with a spoon. It was cast in sand which she then poured molten lead over. The spoon lost it’s “spoon-ness” and by casting in this way the object was completely changed forever. Rachel “fell in love with that process”.

She employs casting methods and materials that are more commonly used in the preparation of sculptures rather than for the finished object. Concrete, plaster, rubber and resin, have all been used in the past. Rachel makes sculptures of the negative space surrounding everyday objects, and is famously known for her more monumental public sculptures such as ‘Ghost’ (1990) and ‘House’ (1993-94) for which she was awarded the Turner Prize in 1993.

rach

In the past Rachel has said “I’m always looking for ways of representing the body but not actually physically putting it there.” Sometimes this can appear anthropomorphically as the sculpture takes on human form or characteristics. At other times her sculptures “stand for the absence of a body”.

In ‘Untitled (6 Spaces)’ (1994) now showing in the Chapel gallery at YSP Rachel has created six resin casts of the voids found underneath six different chairs. Each cast is unique both in form and colour; like a neat display of precious jewels, or a delicious row of sweets waiting to be devoured. They instantly captured my attention, before I was even aware of their author.

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In their context here the sculptures are not only visually semi-transparent but emote a feeling of absence or loss with their invisible chairs and sitters. In the setting of a chapel it transforms into an absent congregation; perhaps a reflection on state of faith today, both in religion and faith in humanity. But that’s the wonderful thing about Rachel’s work; she doesn’t aggressively explain or label it. The audience is allowed to make their own interpretations based on their personal feelings and experiences.

‘Transparency’ will be showing in the Chapel at YSP until 4th September 2016 from 10am to 5pm daily. I thoroughly recommend visiting, both this exhibition and the many other delights the park has to offer. Stay tuned for more YSP features on the Pocket Gallery blog in the coming weeks!

transparency

Amy

Images courtesy of Yorkshire Sculpture Park & Jonty Wilde

http://www.ysp.co.uk/

 

 

My date with Vincent

with grey felt hat

“Self portrait with grey felt hat” (1887)

 In the spring of last year my friend, Sarah, and I embarked upon an impromptu trip to Amsterdam in search of culture, coffee and crêpes. We took the ferry from Hull to Rotterdam overnight; battled seasickness and an hour long coach commute before reaching civilization. We found the nearest crêperie and revelled in both sweet and savoury delights before grabbing a coffee to go and exploring the city. Amsterdam is a beautiful place, full of quaint boutiques, iconic Dutch architecture and a labyrinth of streets and tranquil canals. We could have wandered those streets for hours, had it not been for the impending coach trip back to the ship, and I had a date with an artist…

Before long we were entering the gleaming glass entrance of The Van Gogh Museum. My excitement grew with every millisecond as we inched closer and closer on the escalator until, finally, I came face to face with the man himself, Vincent Van Gogh. We were standing in the first level of the museum, the collection of Van Gogh’s self portraits. The bold strokes of colour in “Self portrait with grey felt hat” (1887) stimulated my mind with its pointillist-like halo radiating from the artist. The bright, unblended colours of  the artist’s face in “Self portrait as a painter” (1888) appeared to intensify the prominent wrinkles on his forehead and under his eyes; intimating towards the mental and physical exhaustion Paris had caused Van Gogh during the two years he was living in the city.

as a painter

“Self portrait as a painter” (1888)

We were then taken on a journey through the life of Vincent Van Gogh as we explored each room of the museum. From his dark days in Nuenen painting scenes of peasant life; and the two years spent in Paris where he found inspiration in Monet and Japanese prints; to Arles and ‘the yellow house’ painting workers in the wheat fields; before his hospitalization in Saint-Rémy following the ‘ear incident’ and Van Gogh’s eventual suicide. With child-like zeal I dashed from canvas to canvas, pausing momentarily to drink each piece in.

During his time at the yellow house Van Gogh produced some of his most iconic works; 5 large canvases depicting sunflowers in a vase. Using just three shades of yellow in “Sunflowers” (1889), Van Gogh was able to create an elegant, expressive image full of verve and variation. Time was slipping by, so I couldn’t afford to politely stand back and allow others space to ponder. I greedily investigated each painting, my nose hovering just centimetres away, aching to touch every line and ripple. The work Van Gogh produced during this time of great mental instability is, in my opinion, his greatest work. It was after he admitted himself to the asylum in Saint-Rémy that Van Gogh discovered how colour could be used to express intense feelings.

sunflowers

“Sunflowers” (1889)

When he learnt that his brother’s new born son was to be named Vincent after himself the artist painted “Almond Blossom” (1890) as a gift for the child. A branch of white blossoms, symbolising new life, boldly outlined against a bright blue sky. In the accompanying letter to his brother Van Gogh wrote “I’m making the wish that he may be as determined and courageous as you.” Standing before this painting it is impossible not to feel the love and promise of joy emanating from the canvas.

almond blossom

“Almond Blossom” (1890)

It is through Van Gogh’s letters that we are able to understand more about the artist himself and his inspiration for these great works. Visitors are able to hear translations of a number of these letters in the museum’s dedicated section ‘A life in letters’. There is also a section in the museum for other artists Vincent Van Gogh subsequently inspired, as well as a separate wing to the opposite side of the glass entrance building which hosts temporary exhibitions throughout the year.

The most exciting new experience the museum now offers is ‘Feeling Van Gogh’. It’s an interactive tour and workshop created for the blind and visually impaired but can also be enjoyed by friends and carers in groups of up to 10 people. The workshops aim to focus on the other senses of touch as well as sound and even smell. Specially trained guides talk about the collection and participants are able to physically feel his brushstrokes using high quality 3D reproductions or relievos. Amazing!

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Sarah enjoying the sights of Amsterdam (2015)

The next time I visit the wonderful city of Amsterdam I will be sure to plan for a longer trip, and take a bigger suitcase for all the books I am bound to buy in the gift shop.  The Van Gogh Museum is also open from 7pm to 10pm every Friday evening for cocktails, music and free guided tours. Sounds like a winning combination, you can count me in!

Amy

Still waters run deep with Vicki Smith

(TS said) Poetry 48x60 oil on canvas

(TS said) Poetry (2016)

For Vicki Smith, it was never a question of if she should become an artist;  it was simply a question of when.

Art was always a natural part of my lifeI was praised and encouraged as a child, and the art room was where I was most comfortable in school.  I didn’t really understand what an artist was, but I never doubted that art was my path.”

From 1977 to 1981 Vicki studied Fine Art at the Ontario Collage of Art in Toronto, Canada, spending her final year studying abroad in Florence, Italy.

“Being in art school allowed me to live and breathe art.  It was a very indulgent time with unlimited potential.  Having the luxury of time to experiment was the best part.  In the late 70’s OCA was a less structured learning environment than it is today.  There were organized classes but the philosophy was very open and free, and practical theory wasn’t a priority.  I had to work independently to take advantage of the incredible resources that were available at the college.  I found my greatest passion in the drawing and printmaking departments.”

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Just under the surface (2009)

The one thing the college wasn’t able to prepare Vicki for was how to make a career as an artist.  There were no seminars on how to create a business plan or market your work; no advice on how to set up your own studio or approach a gallery.  And so after graduating from OCA Vicki went onto work for a textile company in Toronto, and stayed working for the business for 12 years whilst producing her own art at night.

I always assumed that an artist got a job to support their family and made art to support their soul.  It took me a long time to understand the business of fine art.”

With the help of her husband, a generous supporter of the arts, Vicki has been able to focus on her paintings full time for the last twenty years.  Her work has been exhibited in galleries across Canada and she is currently represented by the Bau-xi Gallery in Toronto, Vancouver and Seattle Washington.

“It’s enlightening for me to see how a body of work hangs together, and how the paintings relate to each other.  A deadline for an exhibition is always challenging, and an opening is overwhelming because it is such a frenzied social event, but it’s great to get feedback and see the work through other eyes.  Over the past year, since my last show, I have produced some remarkable pieces that will never see the public light because they have gone into private collections as soon as they were finished.  I’m grateful that the work sells whether I have an exhibition or not.”

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Barely A Ripple (2009)

In 2009 Vicki had an epiphany.  She was watching her daughter swimming in a lake in Northern Ontario when she observed the exquisite fluid movement of her limbs slipping in and out of the water, unconstrained by gravity or boundaries, just “pure poetry”.

“The water became the solution for where to place my figures.  Also, because water and swimming are universal, it allows the viewer to bring their own story to the painting.  I’d been searching for this solution for a long time.”

Over the following two years Vicki produced a series of paintings entitled Surface.  There is a darkness to the water in this series and a seemingly ominous relationship with the figures; their faces blurred by ripples or hidden from sight.  Perhaps an unconscious act by Vicki, as she has never learnt to swim.

I’ve never put my head under the water.  I’ve tried, but I just can’t do it.  To me the paintings aren’t actually about swimming.  The water is an excuse to paint the figure suspended, without gravity or boundaries.”

Gathering Calm 2014 oil on canvas 30x36

Gathering Calm (2014)

In 2013 Vicki began to experiment with a brighter, more vibrant colour palette, and produced her most recent Pools series.  This second series of paintings depicts a far more harmonious relationship between the figure and the water.  My personal favourites are Blowing Kisses and Radiant Heart; these paintings captured my imagination, propelled me into a warm pool of nostalgia, and prompted me to look into more of Vicki’s amazing work.  Even in the paintings of figures swimming in natural pools such as Quietude and Gathering Calm there is a lightness to the rippling water, which was absent in the previous Surface series, and the figures are painted in gloriously colourful bathing hats and costumes.

“My work is very autobiographical.  Not consciously so, as I rarely set out to expose myself, but when I look back at the trail of paintings I’m shocked to realized how telling it all is.  The subconscious manifests itself in the paintings without me even knowing.  Life is very open and light right now.”

The figures in her work are a combination of both self portraits and models; the models being close friends and members of her family.

“I’m very particular about using models.  I could never hire a stranger.  It’s important that I can recognize myself in the other person.  The figures in the lake paintings have been a close friend or my daughter, both willing to jump in cold water for me.  The majority of the pool images have been selfies.  I set the self-timer on my underwater camera, prop it up on a step, and then try to get back and appear weightless.   As you can imagine this is a very random process.  Even if I’m photographing someone else swimming, the best I can do is hold the camera below the surface of the water and point in the right direction.  There are a lot of photos of the sky, and odd limbs.  Out of 100 shots I might get one or two with potential.  By that time, I’m a prune.”

Quietude 48x54 oil on canvas 2016

Quietude (2016)

The next stage of Vicki’s process is very intriguing; she scatters prints of the photographs with the most potential across her studio floor and “lives” with them for days or even weeks until eventually a few begin to resonate with her.

“I start the painting with a pencil drawing, which is a real joy for me.  I love drawing the figure.  I usually work on 3 paintings at a time that relate to each other in palette and emotion.  Oil paint takes a long time to dry, and I can easily make mud if I don’t move along, so a series of three seems to be the most efficient, as one painting will inform the next in the push and pull.  I use the photo for initial colour and detail reference, but eventually I put it aside, try to get out of my own way, and just let the paintings develop.  A lot of the work is sheer chance.  I try to clear my mind and just let it happen.”

The artists that have influenced Vicki the most in her life produce what she describes as “slow art”.  Reinhardt, Rothko, Agnes Martin… Their work doesn’t tangibly tell a story; they are quiet, introspective pieces and their waters run deep, much like Vicki herself.

“You can only appreciate a Reinhardt if you give yourself permission to stop and wait for your eyes to adjust to the black, and when they do there is so much beauty to see in the darkness.  Agnes Martin’s grids are the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to visual meditation.  A Rothko is so powerful that the noise and energy of a crowded gallery slips away and leaves me suspended and timeless.  These are artists that need to be experienced in person, reproductions are mere reference. I’m also influenced by writers.  When I can paint as an Anne Carson verse reads, I will have reached the end of my journey.”

BlowingKisses 30x40 oil on linen

Blowing Kisses (2015)

Vicki’s Pools series can be found at the Bau-xi Gallery in Toronto where her art is readily available both in the gallery and on their website.

http://bau-xi.com/collections/vicki-smith

http://vickismith.ca/

https://www.instagram.com/vickismithstudio/

Amy.

Art in the heart of Bawtry

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When I made the decision to write the Pocket Gallery blog, I had no idea that a major move for art and culture was about to take place at the very heart of my hometown. Bawtry is a small market town in the south of Yorkshire, full of quaint boutiques and a thriving nightlife, surrounded by a tight-knit community.

For the past three years Ruth Warsman, curator of Limited 2 Art, has been quietly planning to transform the iconic old town hall into one of the largest independent galleries in the north of England. After weeks and weeks of blood, sweat and tears the gallery celebrated the move this morning with a P.R. spectacle, before opening for business on wednesday, and I was honoured to have been invited to attend the event.

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At 11:15am friends and family gathered outside the old premises of the gallery in Bawtry’s courtyard and formed a human chain across the centre of town to the doors of the new Limited 2 Art gallery.

Small paintings and sculptures were then passed along the human chain, attracting the attention of many curious locals and visitors alike. Once every item was delivered into the gallery’s open arms Ruth invited us inside to see the fruits of her labour and I know everyone I spoke to was completely blown away by the transformation.

The imposing glass frontage revealed a large ground floor gallery space with striking black walls and strategic spotlights leading to a screening area, framing space and private viewing area at the rear. A staircase leads up to the mezzanine area of the gallery displaying more fantastic contemporary artworks, many un-seen by Limited 2 Art regulars until now.

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The vastness of the space has allowed the gallery to branch out and discover new art as well as display even more work by the talented artists it already features. I was particularly drawn to the vibrant cityscapes of Nigel Cooke, the soft nudes of Adam Hornsby, and the energetic waves of David Chambers’ ships at sea.

Ruth gave an emotional speech thanking her amazing team; Rob, Lindsey, Sue and Nicky, not forgetting her ever supportive husband and all who came to celebrate the opening.

There are several exciting events in the pipeline for the gallery including a Q&A with artist Chris De Rubais! Keep your eyes on www.limited2art.com and the gallery’s facebook and twitter pages for event details. The official opening of the gallery will take place on Saturday 23rd July. I’ll see you there!

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Amy