Local exhibitions week – Part 5

OK it is really 8 days by now but I only found out about this exhibition after I had been to Leeds last week – it was posted about on Facebook by Stephen Roper , a jeweller . The Leeds Armouries had some actual objects from the Staffordshire hoard (until October 2) as opposed to replicas which will go on a major tour , so we visited yesterday . Apparently this is a hoard of gold and a little silver from Anglo-Saxon times found in what had been the kingdom of Mercia . Many objects were damaged because they were parts of sword & knife hilts and had been wrenched off . Nevertheless the quality of the workmanship is visibly quite extraordinary – especially when you consider (as Stephen pointed out) that they were working without magnification .

Sword pyramids (ends of hilt cross pieces?) in gold set with garnets and red glass

Sword pyramids (ends of hilt cross pieces?) in gold set with garnets and red glass

Sword hilt collars worked in gold filigree

Sword hilt collars worked in gold filigree

There was some information/speculation about the garnets – possibly Middle Eastern and the gold – possibly melted down from Byzantine coins but nothing on the red glass . Red is a difficult because highly fugitive colour in glass/glazes so did they make it themselves or was it broken fragments looted ? Where from ? And why melt down coins when the reddish gold of Saxon England was famous ? And there are an awful lot of garnets from far away in the hoard – traded , stolen or looted & by whom ? We don’t seem to know much about the Anglo-Saxon period in England and of course it wasn’t long .

Finally there was a contemporary sculpture , inspired by the objects , designed and made by the blacksmith Stuart Makin –

ldssclptHe made it from sheet steel painted in gold and red perspex ; it is 2 metres wide and 2.5 tall and takes the form of a dragon pierced screen supported by 4 birds . His website is well worth a look –


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Local exhibitions week – Part 4

Yesterday we went with a Quaker group on an afternoon trip to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park just outside Wakefield . This is always worthwhile because it is so huge . There are usually several special exhibitions in various buildings as well as pieces set in the landscape . Some of these are permanent – so if all else fails one can get refreshed by Henry Moore , Barbara Hepworth , Elizabeth Frink etc ! We only had time for the special exhibition in the chapel , ‘Transparency’ which was a few pieces from the Arts Council Collection , mostly a bit translucent . My favourites were –

Untitled (6 pieces) - Rachel Whiteread

Untitled (6 pieces) – Rachel Whiteread

These were resin casts of the underside of different chairs – not that we guessed correctly ! She is famous for casting the reverses of things – inside a house or cupboard , library shelves and their books facing outwards etc . I usually have no time for YBA’s/Saatchi favourites but her work consistently moves me , as did this .

The other pieces I really liked were by Gary Woodley who teaches painting at the Slade altho’ his own work seems to be more about drawing or sculpture . I can’t find an image of them but they were 3 studies in perspex from 1993 . He draws black lines inside buildings and these seemed to be 3d scale models showing how visible or not the lines would be depending on the viewpoint and opacity of the walls . Here is a 2d plan and an exhibited finished line .

Plan - grey lines indicate walls , black lines are the black lines

Plan – grey lines indicate walls , black lines are the black lines

In this case , white lines !

In this case , white lines !









Outside the chapel was this –

Iron tree - Ai Wei Wei

Iron tree – Ai Wei Wei

I think this was cast in iron (now rusting) in the 3 sections and then covered with iron bolts in square depressions . Overall it looks cruel , perhaps until you realise the tree and bolts are made of the same material . I don’t know what it means if anything and perhaps there is too much temptation to interpret it politically , since he seems to be known more for his opposition to his government than his work . I don’t think I’ve seen anything of his before , certainly not ‘in the flesh’ .

Budha - Niki de St Phalle

Budha – Niki de St Phalle

This was new to me too . I’ve seen loads of photographs of her sculptures over the years but never in real life . Yes I did like it and it did make me smile .

10 Seated Figures - Magdalena Abakanowicz

10 Seated Figures – Magdalena Abakanowicz

Finally these : cast in iron at approximately 1 1/2 times life size they are headless but not identical . Abakanowicz is Polish and lived most of her life under political oppression (repression ?) . The blurb suggested they were figures of authority , I thought they might be a cynical view of a council/committee supposedly set up to help but unable to , hence headless eg something from the UN . I found it interesting that she also chose rusting iron like Ai Wei Wei .

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Local exhibitions week – Part 3

Yesterday I stayed in my new home town and went to York Art Gallery which has just been expensively refurbished yet again ; and , controversially , has introduced entrance fees after promising not to . My York museum pass allowed me in free – but the pass costs , of course .

The current big exhibition –

20595-YMT-IWM-Truth-and-Memory-Web-Panel-1280x373-960x280is displayed in 4 rooms and echoes the 1919 exhibition at the Royal Academy of 925 works (!) commemorating the Great War which had ended the previous year . The first room you come to is hung exactly as the main room at that 1919 exhibition and includes both straightforwardly patriotic & slightly unrealistic works like Clausen’s Woolwich Arsenal as well as a Stanley Spencer painting of a dressing station . Apparently an effort was made to include younger & more modern artists stylistically , partly because many had seen action and thus represented a generation who had suffered severely . That this was recognised surprised me a little since the line from our present government is that no one thought WW1 was terrible until certain recent historians and TV programmes had overexposed a few poems by officers who had no idea how patriotic the ‘ordinary’ soldiers really were . Thus the anniversary of the Great War is to be expressly celebrated . This exhibition because it reflects the complexities of artists’ responses then , just does not do that .

I didn’t think I would like it as much as I do but the quality of the work – often early stuff by later very famous painters eg the Nash brothers , Wyndham Lewis , Stanley Spencer – and the intensity of feeling conveyed won me over . Here are some favourites –

Over the Top - John Nash

Over the Top – John Nash

We are making a New World Paul Nash 1918

We are making a New World Paul Nash 1918

Paul was the older brother and had trained at the Slade , John had no (official) training . Both were in the Artists’ Rifles and saw action .

There were also women artists commissioned to work on the ‘Home Front’ –

The L press : Whitworth Works Openshaw Anna Airy

The L press : Whitworth Works Openshaw Anna Airy

This was a munitions works , she travelled around the country to produce 4 paintings of ‘war work’ but they were rejected at first . Too realistic or too modernistic or both ?

Women's canteen , Phoenix Works , Bradford 1918 Flora Lion

Women’s canteen , Phoenix Works , Bradford 1918 Flora Lion

Returning to the battle front :-

'Archies' CRW Nevinson

‘Archies’ CRW Nevinson

Nevinson was much taken with Futurism before the War and produced some joyful paintings of flight – despite the context . He claimed to be the first artist to paint from an aeroplane . Later however –

Paths of Glory 1917 CRW Nevinson

Paths of Glory 1917 CRW Nevinson

This was censored by the War Office because depictions of British corpses were bad for morale at home or words to that effect . It was shown , officially , after the War was over however . I would have thought that by 1917 the British public would have noticed that men were dying at the Front .

I’m sure I’ve left lots of other things out and will certainly go and visit again . Although I thought I knew quite a bit about this War from the literature produced during and after – there is nothing like a visual image to bring it home to you .

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Local exhibitions week Part 2

On Tuesday I was in Leeds so only went to the Henry Moore Institute’ s current exhibition  because the Art Gallery is closed for serious roof repairs . (I used to like the Central Library exhibitions but they now have Room 700 with black painted wall panels   and funny blue discs on the ceiling as an ‘artspace’ for events/installations rather than gallery space for local artists .) Anyway Rebecca Warren’s bronze ‘Untitled (War Commission)’ was outside the Institute –


This was commissioned by several bodies for the First World War Centenary and is by way of introduction to this exhibition “The Body Extended : Sculpture and Prosthetics” as such it was easily my favourite piece . Basically , surviving prosthetics from the 19C onwards from various medical collections including Leeds’ own Thackray Museum were shown alongside 2d & 3d works (or photographs of works) with a tenuous link to the idea of body extensions first as replacements for lost limbs and then as improvements on their original natural counterparts . This was also tied in to WW1 although wooden legs and hook hands were not first invented then nor were ‘bodies fragmented in ways that had not been known before’ – from some of the mass of verbiage accompanying the exhibition ! I would have thought that the most important extensions or replacements resulted from surgical not mechanical advances during and after WW1 . A little historical research might also have revealed the obvious fact that bringing ‘the mutilated body into public life ‘ was not new .

The Art Theory and its strange language use apart ; body extensions should surely include armour , jewellery and clothes  ? Here are finger extensions (L) and ‘moveable shoulder extensions’ (R) by Rebecca Horn . I rather like these but why not include photographs of carnival costumes as well ? Especially the headresses !

fingerextRH .1


moveable shouder extensionsRH

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Local exhibitions week – Part 1

On Monday we went to Scarborough for the day and discovered that 2 places I had heard of – Crescent Arts & Scarborough Art Gallery were shut on Mondays . The other Arty place on The Crescent  – Woodend’s Art & Craft Gallery was open . Woodend , built in 1835 , is the house where Edith Sitwell was born and lived with her brothers before going to London and scintillating as much as the Bloomsbury set . It has been converted into ‘creative workspaces’ ie offices/meeting rooms plus a selling gallery .


The current exhibition is an open show , “Moors & Coast” on from 1 August until 30 September featuring work in 2d & 3d from North Yorkshire artists . It is extensive and gives a real sense of the distinctive landscape . There were literally too many works to note down every good printmaker/draughtsperson (and no catalogue alas !) so you should just see it if you can . There was some striking textile work –


This is ‘Waterdress’ by Joan Murray (£470 – & think how much can be spent on wedding dresses !) , knitted in raw silk , cotton and fine wool . The photograph shows the blue a bit too bright . The front/overdress is more tweedy incorporating navy , grey , brown and purple . Part of it is another wheel like the one forming the clearer coloured underdress at the back . There is a Youtube video explaining how she came to use dancers to model her clothes , some of the resulting videos can be seen on her website http://www.joanmurray.co.uk

The other fascinating textile piece was by Carol Coleman –


‘Cliffhanger’ is part of a series on the cliffs below the castle at Scarborough , now dangerous because they are crumbling and will disappear into the sea not that long into the future . Anyway this is actually embroidered all over . The effect was of moss stitch but that is a hand stitch and would have taken years ! She explains that it is in fact machine ‘free’ embroidery so  would only take hours/days . I have never done this sort of thing so densely or with so many closely related colours . You really can’t get the effect properly from a photograph I’m afraid although there are some more detailed banners on her (still being built) website http://www.fibredance.com






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New home , new workspaces

We have been in York now for about 6 weeks and predictably there are still boxes all over the place , although not as many . I need space for drawing/painting/collage/calligraphy , for ceramics and for textiles . The house was chosen with this in mind – balanced out by needing less space for other things .

The 2d stuff can be done in the conservatory/sunroom even in winter (it is heated) .

2016-07-25 17.23.292016-07-25 17.20.51

As you can see there are big windows on 2 sides with plenty of inspiration to see through them . I also have a big easel – currently missing pegs – which I inherited from my mother , one of my A3 portfolios & my calligraphy board stored against the non window , non radiator wall .

The textiles will eventually be done on the front room floor and machined on a folding table Habib plans to design and make for me when he has the time . Until then it will be back to the dining table as before (but with more space) .

The ceramics will be done in my share of the double garage now cluttered with boxes etc.

2016-07-25 17.15.55

2016-07-25 17.14.20

My section will be against the brick wall to the right of the window and to the left of the full width garage door . There will be plenty of room for shelving (our Ikea Sten – alas no longer available) and an electric kiln . My work which is properly packed in boxes will go in the crawl space above the rafters – and help insulate the place . The opposite wall already has the washing machine and chest freezer so will eventually have a toilet & sink so that I will have water for pottery and any dyeing of textiles . I haven’t decided yet whether to have a wheel or not .

Unfortunately it also looks as if I will have to store my beautiful Art books here !


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Claughton Pellew exhibition at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery

We were in Norwich for a day after visiting my sister who lives nearby and discovered this post WW1 artist some of whose work had just gone on temporary exhibition in the galleries  devoted to artists with Norfolk connections (Crome , Cotman) . His full name was Claughton Pellew – Harvey and he lived from 1890 to 1966 . The most detail on his life and work I have found online at https://www.scribd.com/doc/117326171/Claughton-Pellew-1890-1966-Artist   .

Here are some of his works that we saw :

m&chcp-h This was what I first saw at a distance and it pulled me into the room . It is actually a watercolour , “Mother & Child” (and much more orange overall) from 1920 although it is very similar in style to his wood engravings and there was one based on this hung on the other side of the only oil painting ;


Pellew-Harvey, Claughton; View from the Studio; Norfolk Museums Service; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/view-from-the-studio-228911

View from the Studio 1930

He didn’t seem to have done many oils , favouring pen-and-ink with watercolour washes . His wood engravings are wonderful eg The Entombment .

?the entombmentcp-h

The exhibition was mostly of his prints and included an original wooden plate to show off his technique . I love woodcuts anyway but had not seen work of this emotional intensity done in the medium before . I did not find his work ‘romantic’ which term I think was used because so much of it is spiritually inspired . He was a Roman Catholic convert and conscientious objector to military service in WW1. Apparently there were enough of them to have their own organisation . Perhaps his religious reasons prevented his Slade friends in the process of becoming ‘The Bloomsbury group’ from having much sympathy . He actually spent time in Dartmoor when many of his more famous ‘conchie’ contemporaries were never imprisoned anywhere !

His wife Emma – Marie Tennent or ‘Kechie’ was also ex-Slade and primarily a wood engraver . Unusually there are 2 examples of her work on exhibition as well – but not enough for me to have an opinion . Her work was praised as being Japanese and Pre-Raphaelite in inspiration which I think could go for both . His work overall reminds me of Samuel Palmer in its feel (not technique) .

I don’t know how long the exhibition is on for because it does not say anywhere , not even on Norwich Castle Museum’s website . Apparently there is work of his also in Cambridge’s FitzWilliam Museum and Manchester City Art Gallery among others , but maybe not on display ?

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