Assessment and Grayson Perry

Art, Ceramics

Last week was the Formative Assessment for my ceramics/3D course, so much anxiety. It’s the only chance to get anything marked and find out how I’m doing before the final Summative Assessment sometime in May. We had to display our work so far, with supporting material and all the research folders, sketchbooks and journals up to date. Now I’m waiting for the feedback…

So while the tutors were in the studios looking at everyone’s work, I went off into Bath with two other students to visit some current exhibitions and distract myself. I really wanted to get to Grayson Perry’s The Vanity of Small Differences tapestries at the Victoria Art Gallery victoria art gallery (on until April), which did not disappoint. So much rich texture, vibrant colours, funny, pointed, knowing… I love his work.

Then to 44AD by the Abbey to catch the end of a collaborative show, artists working with medical practitioners and students. Lots of information, interactive displays etc, some video, paintings and mixed media work (I liked the open boxes, like a cross between dolls houses and old museum displays). And finally the Society of Wood Engravers group show at the BRLSI, also about to finish. Very polished work, highly skilled, some traditional subjects and techniques and some pushing the boundaries more, all held together by the same frames throughout.

And then the walk back up the hill in drizzle to pack away my work before the second year students need the space… here are a few images of what I showed:

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Formative Assessment – my desk and wall with life drawings

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Formative Assessment – my desk, tests and work in progress

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Formative Assessment – display of work with natural objects

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Formative Assessment – work on display

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Formative Assessment – work on display

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Formative Assessment – work on display

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Formative Assessment – work on display

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Formative Assessment – work on display

Leeds trip part 2 -Tetley building, Henry Moore Institute, Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Art, Exhibition, public Art

On the Thursday evening we went to an artists’ talk at the Tetley building, for The Feast Wagon exhibition, after an hour of looking at the work. Two of the four artists were present – Simeon Barclay and Delaine Le Bas, one black British originally from Leeds and one Romani British – plus two people from the gallery and the researcher Irfan Shah, who provided the theme. I was excited to see Romani work in a mainstream setting, and also enjoyed Susan Walsh’s quirky collages and the collection of children’s wagons.

Next day we had time for another foray into the British Art show before our Introduction to Katrina Palmer’s show The Necropolitan Line at the Henry Moore Institute. I liked reading the free newspaper she’d produced, but didn’t enjoy the work as much as many of my peers did. What I really did enjoy was discovering Moore’s architectural plaster maquettes in cases – I really liked the scale, the texture, the surfaces, the shapes, the way they looked like bone, ancient echoes… Far more than his large bronzes.

Finally, a brief visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture park on the way home to catch Bill Viola’s video work. I was not expecting to like this but actually I found it intensely moving. Here’s a link Bill Viola at YSP and I’d highly recommend going if you’re in the area – immersive, hypnotic, technically interesting and highly emotional.

The ground was really soggy after the downpours they’d had, but the weather was fine enough to go for a brisk stroll through the park. We didn’t have anywhere near long enough – I must return!

As usual, here are a few images from my tablet, apologies for the picture quality.

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Delaine Le Bas, British Romani artist who works with found textiles and interventions

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Delaine Le Bas, British Romani artist who works with found textiles and interventions

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Collage by Susan Walsh at ‘The Feast Wagon’, Tetley, Leeds

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Collage by Susan Walsh at ‘The Feast Wagon’, Tetley, Leeds

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Quirky children’s wagons collected and constructed by Susan Walsh and Lubaine Himid at Tetley, Leeds

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Quirky children’s wagons collected and constructed by Susan Walsh and Lubaine Himid at Tetley, Leeds

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Henry Moore study in plaster for architectural bronzes

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Henry Moore study in plaster for architectural bronzes

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Poppies Wave at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

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Looks like Mr Gormley was here… Yorkshire Sculpture Park

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Too muddy to see who this was by, but it certainly caught my eye! Yorkshire Sculpture Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leeds trip part 1 – British Art Show

Art, Ceramics, Exhibition, public Art

A Uni trip to Leeds over two days. We arrived early afternoon and had a couple of hours to visit the British Art Show at Leeds Art Gallery – enough to whet the appetite but not to see everything of interest. Fortunately we had more time the next day to catch up on the rest of it. As there was a lot of video art installation the extra time was needed.

The exhibition had taken over the whole of the gallery. Organised by Hayward Touring at Southbank Centre, 42 artists were chosen by curators Anna Colin and Lydia Yee, and some 26 of them produced new work specifically for this exhibition. It finishes here on Jan 10th, moving on to Edinburgh, Norwich and finally Southampton.

The guide tells us that ‘A central concern of British Art Show 8 is the changing role and status of the object at a time of increasing convergence between the real and the virtual… artists have developed new ways of thinking about, and approaching, materiality.’

Some highlights for me: in terms of video, Mikhail Karikis Children of Unquiet, Rachel Maclean’s Feed Me, and Bedwyr Williams’ Century Egg all caught my attention for an extended viewing. Materially, Caroline Achaintre’s large wall-mounted textile pieces were a big draw, I was also interested in her ceramic mask pieces, for reference with my own work; and Aaron Angell’s ceramic pieces were displayed as tableaux.

Other textile works included Alexandre de Cunha’s Kentucky, constructed of mop heads and taking up a whole wall, Simon Fujiwara’s Fabulous Beasts, and Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin’s tapestry based on forensic evidence from Sigmund Freud’s couch, displayed with a monitor showing the source material. Jessica Warboys’ Sea Painting is a huge canvas that is literally made by the sea as her ‘collaborator’, traces of a ‘performance’, with a new piece to be made for each venue at nearby beaches.

Nicolas Deshayes’ sculptural work Cramps and Vein Section (or cave painting) were visually exciting but produced by industrial fabricators – the artist has the concept but instructs others to make the work… Other sculptural pieces included Magali Reus’ wall-mounted pieces based on padlocks and Daniel Sinsel’s paintings using appropriated material.

My overall impression was that a lot of the art on display necessitated reading the artists’ information displayed on the wall, explaining the thinking behind their work. The viewer is expected to work hard in contemporary art, it is not intended to be simply a sublime experience drinking in the beauty of it all…

It’s impossible to show everything that caught my eye and the camera of my tablet, so here are just a few to whet your appetite:

Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, from Freud's couch

Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, from Freud’s couch

Magali Reus, one of 4 wall-mounted sculptures

Magali Reus, one of 4 wall-mounted sculptures

Caroline Achaintre, large textile hanging (one of 3 displayed)

Caroline Achaintre, large textile hanging (one of 3 displayed)

Caroline Achaintre, ceramic mask, wall-mounted

Caroline Achaintre, ceramic mask, wall-mounted

Caroline Achaintre, ceramic mask, wall-mounted

Caroline Achaintre, ceramic mask, wall-mounted

Nicolas Deshayes, 'Cramps'

Nicolas Deshayes, ‘Cramps’

Simon Fujiwara, one of the 'Fabulous beasts' series - constructed from shaved fur coats...

Simon Fujiwara, one of the ‘Fabulous beasts’ series – constructed from shaved fur coats…

Bedwyr Williams 'Century Egg', a 30 minute video, a narrative constructed around footage taken in the museums of Cambridge. Fascinating.

Bedwyr Williams ‘Century Egg’, a 30 minute video, a narrative constructed around footage taken in the museums of Cambridge. Fascinating.

Alexandre da Cunha 'Kentucky', large wallhanging constructed from mop heads

Alexandre da Cunha ‘Kentucky’, large wallhanging constructed from mop heads

 

 

 

Seasonal Greetings

Art, Ceramics

I’m rather behind on my posts, which I was attempting to do weekly, but Things Happened. Including the death and funeral of a dear friend. But the Uni term has finished, carols have been sung and will be sung again, I fitted in a raku firing yesterday, and before I go out into the blustery grey drizzle I must write…

Where to start? Have I mentioned that I’ve taken up life drawing again? I am so resistant to drawing that I’ve only just got round to attending the (free to all students) weekly sessions in Bath, after several years. But I’m determined to get a good grade this year, and if that necessitates doing all the things I’m resistant to (like using new technology) then so be it.

Serendipitously, the day of my first class I had a poem published online, an old one called From Life, which uses the metaphor of life drawing to describe a confusing almost-relationship. [If you’re interested, you can find it here] Somehow that gave me confidence. I was amazed with my drawings – considerably better than I was managing five years ago in my Art foundation course. Very tiring, huge concentration required, but worth keeping on with; so I went the following week too, and will continue next term. The model is fantastic too.

I also made more large(ish) pots, using crank clay and also white St Thomas, which handles quite differently. The first ones have now been bisque fired, and I’ve put them on the shelf for stoneware reduction firing next.

Some of the head-masks were modified (eg sand-blasting – great fun!) and fired in various ways, including a couple using the raku method. Now I have to decide which techniques and styles to focus on next term for the Graduate Show work. Two tutorials gave me quite different advice, so I have a lot to think about over the holidays, and plan.

Here are a few pictures to illustrate the range of my recent work.

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bisque fired hand built pots in crank clay; waiting for stoneware reduction firing next

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new large pot with oxides and Mendip mud hand prints

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new large pot with Mendip mud and slip (different building style)

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one head-mask slipped and sandblasted; the other with oxides, slip and reduction firing

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head-mask raku fired

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I love the crazing you sometimes get with raku…

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Little Gritty God raku-fired. Love this one. I’m keeping it!

 

 

Qwaypurlake, and surfaces

Art, Ceramics, Exhibition

Two topics to report on this time – the Hauser & Wirth Bruton exhibition Qwaypurlake and my latest experiments in the studio, plus group crit feedback. Let’s start with my visit to the gallery, for a Director-led tour on Saturday 28th November.

The young Assistant Director Lucy MacDonald took us through both exhibitions – the other is a Don McCullin retrospective – pointing out particular exhibits and filling us in on the background to the shows as well as particular pieces. After the tour I just had time to go round for a second look before the gallery closed. The information sheets are also very useful to get more context – and context is needed. This is Contemporary Art. You need to know what the ideas behind each piece or the collection as a whole are about, otherwise you will definitely wonder why beautiful delicate Hans Coper vessels are displayed in the same show as a lump of Bruton clay or some half-burnt candles in the shape of ox bones.

This is H&W Bruton’s first group show, curated by local (Frome) artist Simon Morrissey, and with a title which references the historical landscape of this town. Quaperlake Street is the road to Frome from Bruton, but Simon has re-imagined the Somerset landscape after speculative fiction, creating eerie narratives from the juxtaposition of photographs, sculpture and installations. I was particularly interested in the work of Heather and Ivan Morison, their use of a wide range of materials, the way they are displayed, and the titles of their pieces suggesting an unknown story.

As to my own work, I wasn’t shot down in flames at the Group Crit, but was clearly told I need to start focusing on surfaces and textures for my heads. They seemed to like the new work – large coil-built pots after Sarah Purvey, with oxides and white slip scraped over the exterior.

I have discovered we have a sandblaster in a corner of the kiln room, and had an induction at the end of last week, so I’m looking forward to playing with its possibilities. Also I’ve been ‘drawing’ – a thing I avoid as much as possible due to frustration and anxiety – so far mainly with ink, brush and stick. I have told everyone, including myself, that I’m going to the life drawing sessions on Wednesday afternoons. Scary stuff, but I have to make myself do it. It’s so much easier to be the model…

So here are a couple of the Morisons’ previous works I found, and images of my new pots.

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A text piece by Heather and Ivan Morison, 2010. Reminds me of one of my poems.

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‘Anna’ by Heather and Ivan Morison, 2012, at Hepworth Wakefield. They displayed a similar ‘egg’ at H&W Bruton with a different title.

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large coiled pot after Sarah Purvey, via Linda Starkey… with oxide and slip surface

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large coiled pot after Sarah Purvey, via Linda Starkey… with oxide and slip surface

 

 

The process

Art, Ceramics

Another week of self-doubt. If I wasn’t doing a course I would give up – that’s why I put myself through academic courses. Once started I always finish. Otherwise I’d abandon the project and switch to something easier or new. Current negative thinking mainly focused on comparing myself unfavourably to others, particularly as regards technical skills.

It did help to go to a lecture by two Royal Academy students, in which they spoke clearly about their confusion and doubts as to ‘what is art?’ and whether what they are doing is art, and if so, why. Even much further on in an art career, the self-doubt is paramount and needs to be worked through. One of them referred to not-knowing as the ‘generative force’.

So in my not-knowing and total lack of technical expertise last week, what I did was to mix dry iron oxides with wet crank clay straight from the bag; and to sieve mud from a cave under the Mendips and apply it to bisque-fired test tile and head-mask. But that’s not what the following pics are – these are the tests from mixing locally-sourced plant material with clay, and from applying oxides mixed with water directly onto raw clay heads.

And I wasn’t happy with my bronze glaze tests either. Applied it too thinly, perhaps. A re-glaze in the kiln now. Ah well, there’s a Group Crit on Thursday. I’ll either get endorsement for the direction I’ve been taking, or be shot down and redirected. Who knows?

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fir and beech leaf test tiles (ground up plant material mixed with clay)

forsythia and hydrangea test tiles (ground up plant material mixed with clay)

forsythia and hydrangea test tiles (ground up plant material mixed with clay)

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yellow ochre on head-mask slightly inspired by Peter Hayes, pre-firing

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yellow ochre and black iron oxide sponged and painted onto head-mask, pre-firing

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yellow ochre and black iron oxide painted onto ‘mediaeval’ head mask

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more ‘little gritty gods’ – twisted and grumpy, apparently

 

Recent exhibitions in Bath

Art, Ceramics, Exhibition

I didn’t manage to get round to blogging last week, so will have to do two in quick succession. First up is about some exhibitions in Bath I’ve been to recently – as per the title – then I’ll post separately about my ongoing work.

Last Thursday I found myself at the launch of War and Peace at the BRLSI. I’d stayed on after Uni to attend a lecture there (on Mesolithic archaeology, another of my interests) and walked into a party, celebrating Deenagh Miller and Brian Goodsell’s work. Brian’s watercolours are inspired by natural elements and geology, while Deenagh’s was the War side of things, with large paintings of images taken from photographs in the media. They were fundraising for Medicins Sans Frontieres with a speaker from the organisation, and in the light of the following day’s events in Paris I hope this continues to make people think, feel and donate to those in need. Event poster here.

Then on Tuesday this week I went to see two ceramic artists currently exhibiting, as recommended by my tutor Kate. Sarah Purvey has a selection of her large textured (and dare I say again, ‘elemental’) pots in the exhibition Hallowed Ground at David Simon Contemporary (website). She graduated from Bath Spa with an MA in 2009 and has had many exhibitions since, focusing obsessively on a particular form and making practice with different finish effects. Gorgeous work. Find more of it here.

At Beaux Arts Bath (website) I discovered Jane Muir’s work, ‘idiosyncratic hand-painted figures’ hand modelled with delicate glaze finishes, quirky and accomplished. I particularly liked the figures in boxes. Find out more about her here and some of my photos below (I asked for permission at the gallery to take these).

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Brian Goodsell’s work at BRLSI

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Brian Goodsell’s work at BRLSI

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Deenagh Miller’s work at the PV, BRLSI

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Some of Sarah Purvey’s large pots at David Simon Contemporary, Bath

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Some of Sarah Purvey’s large pots at David Simon Contemporary, Bath

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Jane Muir’s work at Beaux Arts Bath

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Jane Muir’s work at Beaux Arts Bath

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Jane Muir’s work at Beaux Arts Bath

 

Back to the studio

Ceramics

Last week I had a car problem so only got in to Uni on two days, one of which was a day-long group crit. The joy. But I’ve been making heads (again) using a different technique – my tutor told me to stop making them as pots and try a building technique using torn triangles of rolled-out clay, placed into a hollow form cut from foam. So I did my own version, which turned out to be torn strips of rolled-out clay, placed over newspaper forms. While working through some issues around my childhood dyspraxia and autism spectrum stuff. It was wildly uncomfortable, but I did read art books to calm myself, especially ‘Naked Clay‘ by Jane Perryman which gave me some pointers towards surface decoration (or lack of).

Those first heads in the new style seemed to hit the spot at the group crit, so this week I carried on, using various clays and mixtures.

I also have this idea for displaying them using sound triggered by motion sensors – a consequence of learning to use Soundcloud during the Richard Long week. So I’ve also been researching how this might happen.

Here are a few of the new heads at the pre-bisque stage. I’m also continuing a range of small figurines called ‘Little gritty gods’, as play, and to have some small items to sell in a local gallery. I intend to experiment with a bronze glaze on these.

New style head 1

New style head 1

New style head 2

New style head 2

New style head 3

New style head 3

New style head 4

New style head 4

New style head 5

New style head 5

Richard Long Masterclass Project (Lines of Desire), outcomes

Art, public Art

I’ve had a full day of rest and an extra hour’s sleep as the clocks went back, so I’m now ready to report and reflect on the last two days and the outcomes of this intensive week-long project, in which Art and Geography students worked together to ‘map’ the Newton Park campus, informed by the work and approaches of Bristol-based artist Richard Long. Phew.

So Thursday was our day to go off and work in groups, mapping or intervening (artistically) on campus, with tutor support and gatherings by the media wall at 9.00 am and 1.00 pm. I’d brought in scissors, glue and the printed-out photos sent in after the first day (four each), plus the word sheets from Wednesday group work. A lot of material, how to organise it? I’d been hoping to find someone else to share this work but it seemed I was on my own – collaborative in that the raw material came from the whole group, but alone in terms of what I did with it. More anxiety.

The morning passed with soothing cutting-out of the photos, and placing them onto the word sheets in any way that seemed to make intuitive sense. By lunchtime it was obvious that I had far too much material and I’d need to edit ruthlessly. I wrote all the words into a list and divided them by type – concrete nouns, emotions, verbs – ah, verbs! The Doing of art, a link with Richard Long’s process.

A long roll of paper meant I could write out my verb list (in an order that pleased my poet-self) and put various photos next to the words, not to illustrate but more to inform or comment on… I had a vision. To make a poem-thing using words and images that could fill the media wall. Could it be done?

Google slides, said Richard. I’ve never used Google slides. Could I do something in PowerPoint and transfer it? Yes. OK, so I got to work on my old clunky laptop, finding, downloading, re-naming the relevant images from Flickr and putting them into the slides I created with the words. It took a very long time. I’m not very IT literate. The last two hours of this were done at home by which time I was utterly exhausted, and spent a restless night wondering if it would work. At 2.00 am I had an idea for Plan B, another (low-tech) way of using the source material, which I refined on the drive in on Friday morning.

The tutors were amazing. Sue Lawty and Richard White spent hours working on how to translate my presentation into a format readable by the media wall, for a long time it looked as if we’d only get a small image up on there. Meanwhile I cut up the letters for HERE out of the original word sheets, laid them out as compass points and surrounded them with a circle of the photos, plus a line… Plan B in action. I reached crying point in the IT frustrations and Sue sent me off for a walk, so I caught up with what some of the other groups had been doing and had a proper breakfast, then there was a lot of hanging around and preparing what I’d say in my 1-minute spiel at the end. Finally Glenn the IT wizard from Sion Hill cracked our problems, my image appeared full-size, and I could relax and celebrate.

I would do it all very differently if I was doing it again, but given the time constraints I think it was sort of OK. I loved seeing and hearing what the other groups and individuals had been doing – and there was wine and nibbles for our celebration. I have learnt how to use Soundcloud and Flickr, expanded my boundaries enormously in terms of my own practice, and made some good contacts. It was all worth it. Really. But phew, glad it’s over!

Plan B, the low-tech response...

Plan B, the low-tech response…

Plan B, the low-tech response... from the balcony

Plan B, the low-tech response… from the balcony

Tutors and Sue Lawty working hard on my Plan A... with much appreciation!

Tutors and Sue Lawty working hard on my Plan A… with much appreciation!

Other groups' work 1

Other groups’ work 1

Other groups' work 2 - the view through the green screen

Other groups’ work 2 – the view through the green screen

Other groups' work 3, Andy Goldsworthy influence here

Other groups’ work 3, Andy Goldsworthy influence here

Other groups' work 4, Andy Goldsworthy influence here

Other groups’ work 4, Andy Goldsworthy influence here

Other groups' work 5, an intervention on an existing sculpture

Other groups’ work 5, an intervention on an existing sculpture

Other groups' work 6, one of Viv's tiny interventions - this one is 'A Bird knows No Boundaries'

Other groups’ work 6, one of Viv’s tiny interventions – this one is ‘A Bird knows No Boundaries’

Plan A finally worked! My po-art thing. Not brilliant, but a first attempt at something and a huge amount of work

Plan A finally worked! My po-art thing. Not brilliant, but a first attempt at something and a huge amount of work

Ooh, is that for us?!

Ooh, is that for us?!

Richard Long Masterclass Project, Day 3

Art, Context, Exhibition, public Art

The whole project is actually called ‘Lines of Desire‘, but was billed to us as a masterclass. What this actually entailed was a group visit to Richard Long’s retrospective at the Arnolfini on Tuesday, plus going to see Boyhood Line on the Clifton Downs; and an invitation-only lecture by him on Wednesday at the Uni, which lasted slightly under an hour.

It was my second visit to the exhibition, and I did get more from it, especially as we had an introduction to each gallery with more background information on the work. Basically, his art begins and ends with walking. To some extent, the walking IS the sculpture. Photos of interventions in the landscape using found materials are another form of the artwork, and his text pieces are about the concept, the idea. When he was studying and starting work in the Sixties and Seventies, avant-garde artists were attempting to move away from art as objects in galleries, making work that was harder to buy and sell. They were focusing on the ideas of art rather than its commercial value, and wanted to make the viewer do some work, using the imagination.

Richard Long is that rare beast, an internationally-acclaimed artist who still lives and works were he grew up – in Bristol. He uses specific materials in his gallery work, such as River Avon mud, or stones from two particular quarries. His mark-making palette consists of circles, lines and crosses, used by humanity for millennia and situating himself in the landscape.

The upstairs vitrines showed samples of his book works, and I learnt about his print works in the gallery bookshop. Then we set off to find the recent piece Boyhood Line, which took a lot of wandering around on the Downs in the glorious sunshine. Oh, how we suffer for our art.

Wednesday started with Reflections, various questions we had to answer individually and in groups towards devising our collaborative responses. I liked the text pieces we produced and decided to work further with these texts and the photographs we’d all submitted from the first day’s campus exploration.

I took two pages of notes from the lecture and found it interesting to hear his own perspective on his work, as opposed to where others would place it. He emphasised the walk as the sculpture, saying that he is an opportunist, producing work in the moment and enjoying the freedom to do so. His works are often ephemeral, he will sometimes scatter the materials used after documenting with a photograph, but other pieces are still extant after twenty years. He does not signpost them and is not bothered whether they are seen or not, preferring them to be anonymous. He is interested in alignments and measurements, and stresses the fact that his art is not conceptual as the works are real physical acts or events.

Lots more to think about. An intense few days so far! In terms of my own work, perhaps less of a focus on things, making objects – I have indeed worked out how to record with my tablet, and save to Soundcloud. I may be working on my first GoogleSlide show to go up on the Media Wall in Commons building… I have plenty of ideas as to how to incorporate these new ideas into my practice this year, but for now, a few photos to end with.

Richard Long at the Arnolfini - text piece documenting a walk - or an idea.

Richard Long at the Arnolfini – text piece documenting a walk – or an idea.

Richard Long at the Arnolfini - a text piece referencing Bob Dylan, as several do. It may look like a concrete poem, but it definitely isn't one - he said.

Richard Long at the Arnolfini – a text piece referencing Bob Dylan, as several do. It may look like a concrete poem, but it definitely isn’t one – he said.

Richard Long at the Arnolfini - the group exploring gallery 3

Richard Long at the Arnolfini – the group exploring gallery 3

Richard Long at the Arnolfini - how walking is sculpture, in Artspeak

Richard Long at the Arnolfini – how walking is sculpture, in Artspeak

Looking for a white line on the Downs... and finding plenty 1

Looking for a white line on the Downs… and finding plenty 1

Looking for a white line on the Downs... and finding plenty 2

Looking for a white line on the Downs… and finding plenty 2

Looking for a white line on the Downs... and finding plenty 3 - Found it!

Looking for a white line on the Downs… and finding plenty 3 – Found it!

Boyhood Line, Richard Long, Clifton Down... this one has a plaque

Boyhood Line, Richard Long, Clifton Down… this one has a plaque

The stones are already disappearing into the grass

The stones are already disappearing into the grass

Group work towards Lines of Desire outcomes... I want to edit it further as a poem...

Group work towards Lines of Desire outcomes… I want to edit it further as a poem…