Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Flying pigs and angry schoolmasters

Today I visited the V&A Museum's Pink Floyd - Their Moral Remains exhibition and despite spending three hours in there, it wasn't really long enough.  The exhibition tells how the band started in the 1960s and continued for a further five decades.  Along with the music the exhibition tells the story of the art (album covers, programmes, stadium shows) and the people who put together what began as "Happenings" and became stadium experiences.

The inflatable pig (famous for escaping its tether when photographed above Battersea Power Station) was not on display but a smaller version above a set made you feel it was really high above you.  But I think the schoolmaster puppet was the real thing.  The two giant heads from the Division Bell were real - and huge.  

And because I like to find the textiles in the exhibitions I visit, (if inflatables aren't textiley enough), they also had a pink man who seemed to have been sewn together.

There was lots about the music (obviously) - including how the band added in sounds of ordinary objects along with early experiments in electronic technology.  I was particularly impressed with this drum set - which perhaps should be part of the British Museum's latest exhibition on Hokusai.

There was also lots about the art work - for the album covers but also for the concert programmes.

Interestingly too after years of visiting exhibitions where there is a "no photography" rule - this exhibition not only let you take photos but also use flash - unfortunately I did not realise until the very end that that was permissible which is why my images are rather dark.

Another element I really liked were the old fashioned telephone box - each one had a collection of books, imagery, words etc relevant to the different decades.  It set everything in context.

More than an exhibition this was an immersive experience and well worth the visit.  Even taking the time we did it was impossible to take in everything so we plan to go back, perhaps at the end of the summer if tickets are still available then.

Pink Floyd - Their Mortal Remains is on at the V&A Museum, London until 1 October 2017.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Following a Thread - until 24 June 2017

My work is now on display as part of EAST's latest exhibition Following a Thread.  The exhibition is at Braintree District Museum, Manor Street, Braintree, Essex, CM7 3HW (UK).  Today was our private view and it was lovely to see everyone's work on display.  The exhibition will be on at Braintree until 24 June 2017 then move to Snape Maltings in Suffolk (29 June to 5 July 2017).

My work relates once again to my interest in the archives of the Foundling Hospital with six beaded hearts - one for each of six foundlings.  During the time the exhibition is open I will post the story behind each one.  However here is my display - though the photo does not really do it justice as there is just too much glass and reflection.  Also I probably should have got much closer in so I will try and take a better photo over the coming weeks.

For more information about EAST - www.easttextile.co.uk

Friday, 14 April 2017

Threads of Light

No textiles in this post but instead some threads of light.

This sculpture fills a large portion of the 300 feet space of the 
Duveen Sculpture Galleries at Tate Britain in London.

Viewed at different points the sculpture changes its patterns which are apparently inspired by Japanese Noh theatre amongst other things.

Visiting the Tate to see Hockney (which is phenomenal), this was an extra bonus.

And a quick word about the Hockney exhibition - he should be compulsory viewing for anyone interested in art.  Partly because of his use of colour but also because of his stressing the importance of drawing as a way of looking.  

Unfortunately even though I know it's important I don't do enough drawing.

Forms in Space ... by Light (in Time) by Cerith Wyn Evans is on display until 20 August 2017.  
Hockney is on until 29 May 2017 - both at Tate Britain.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Embroidered Tales and Woven Dreams

Embroidered Tales and Woven Dreams is a free exhibition at the Brunei Gallery at the School of Oriental and Asian Studies (SOAS), on until 25 March 2017.

Many of the people living on the Silk Road have had to move and resettle either for political or economic regions, but they took their traditions, in particular their textile skills, with them.  Passed down from mother to daughter, they are records of social customs and folk tales, but also representations of identity.  This is an exhibition that tells some of that history.

This embroidery (above) is apparently typical of Afghanistan but there are also pieces from areas bordering the Indus, Yemen, Turcoman, Sogdiana and the Near East.  There are some absolutely stunning Indian embroideries and some beautiful lengths of presumably silk cloth.  My time was limited so I only took a couple of photos (with permission), but I will definitely return for a much longer look.

The Brunei Gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday 10.30am to 5pm (late nights on Thursdays until 8pm) but closed Sundays, Mondays and Bank Holidays.  It can be found in Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London, WC1H 0XG.  There are a number of (free) public lectures by some internationally renowned speakers - see the gallery website for details.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Bits and Pieces

This blog is a mixture of small exhibitions either textile or with a textile link starting with one I think I will miss as it closes this week:

The Museum of the Order of St John is a small museum in Clerkenwell, which as the name suggests, tells the story of the Museum of the Order of St John.  Most people might recognise the order for its links to St John's Ambulance.  Despite being on since October I only learnt about a week ago that they had a small (free) exhibition relating to Caravaggio's The Cardsharps, called Caravaggio: Fashion and Fabrics.  Actual textiles are displayed alongside the painting bringing the artwork to life in a very real way.  The exhibition finishes on Tuesday 31st January 2017, but mention it in case some else may do so.

However last week I did manage a visit to a modern textile exhibition by a group Texere at Gallery 50, Craft Arena, Barleylands in Billericay.  Texere  is a textiles education working group, working within European Textile Network (ETN) who have a programme of events and activities across Europe.  Although the exhibition is small, there were some excellent pieces of work on display including some weaving and embroideries.  Texere: celebrations - 25 years of Texere continues until 12 February 2017.

I was also very fortunate to be able to be invited to the Private View of Life in an English village at Braintree District Museum, Braintree in Essex.  This is an exhibition of print and drawings by the internationally famous Bardfield Artists.   I went with my friend and fellow EAST member, Susan who knew a lot about the artists and Bardfield.  Susan had used the work of Bawden and the village of Bardfield for the inspiration behind her contribution to EAST's Threads of Time project made for the millennium and now part of Braintree Museum's collection.   The collection will be the subject of a talk EAST are giving later this year at Chelmsford Embroiderer's Guild.   (Thanks to Susan, as well as Claire at the museum, for permission to use the image at the top of this page.)

Life in an English Village continues until 15 April 2017, and really shows what a beautiful county Essex can be.  It was also interesting to learn a little more about the Bardfield Artists and their wider community.

Friday, 20 January 2017

An African adventure

I have to admit, I visited South Africa: the art of a nation at the British Museum because I was between a meeting and an evening function in the Bloomsbury area, but it was an exhibition I had been meaning to visit.

The exhibition is, as the title suggests, about the art of South Africa, stretching back to some of the earliest art in existence, if not the earliest "found" object, up until the present day.  Amongst everything else there are several textile and many beaded pieces of modern art work.

The very first room includes some cave painting that dates back to 1-3,000 years old, juxtaposed with an art work from 2015 - an embroidered applique work.  Both from the same cultural group the textile piece is by the "First People Artists" from Bethesda Arts Centre and shows the Creation of the Sun.  So a modern work with an ancient legend.

In the next room was a piece of art I had only seen previously as a drawing - the Makapansgat Pebble dates back 3 million years.  It was surprisingly bigger than I expected.  Although naturally created it appears to have a human face on each side and it was originally discovered in an area different to where it originated.  It is thought to have been picked up because of its human like features - and there was me thinking Duchamp had "discovered" found art.

Throughout the exhibition there a great diversity of art works but also themes.  The works showed how the problems of colonialism, post-colonialism, HIV/AIDS and apartheid have all influenced South African culture.  This also included work that combined traditional techniques with contemporary themes - particularly in the beadwork of which there was a fair amount.  A wedding cape and train and a wedding blanket from the 1970-80s had patterns similar to those of the car (seen above), but it was particularly interesting to see a tie and collar in beadwork.  Forced to wear western clothing, this had been made in the spirit of dissidence.  There are also several beaded figures - traditional and modern in style.

One of the last art works, and one of the largest, was a work by Mary Sibande called A Reversed Retrogess: Scene 1 (2013).  Two life size figures stand twisted, opposite to each other - one representing the artist's mother and grandmother in an outfit similar to that worn by women in domestic service. However its full blue skirt and long train made it completely impractical as a working outfit.  The second figure in purple was much more fantastical in purple with additions and flounces of net.  Around this figure organic felted "creatures" are supposed to be a protective force. The purple colour refers to the 1989 Purple Rain protests when protesters turned the police water cannon back on the authorities - because the water in it was dyed purple, the police were covered with "purple rain".  Is this what Prince's song referred to?  For an image of this work and more information clinic HERE.  This links to an article by Apollo Magazine about the exhibition.

All in all an interesting and thought provoking exhibition - it continues until 26 February 2017.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Medieval marvels and psychedelic sixties

Recently my studies have kept me busy, but I have still managed to visit a few exhibitions.  I thought I would try and catch up and post some information about three that have not much longer to run. The first is the one with the most textiles and that is the one I shall start with.

Opus Anglicanum looks at a type of embroidery that dates to the medieval period.  Such was the expertise in England that all over Europe those who wanted the best came here for quality workmanship.  Sadly the re-using threads and jewels, as well as the dissolution of the monasteries meant that very few survived, and many that do are the ones created for elsewhere.  Because of their fragility it is unlikely some of this work will ever by seen in England again and it really needs to be seen slowly and up close.  

This is not a huge exhibition but the work is absolutely exquisite.  My friend and I spent quite some time trying to understand some of the stories they portrayed and I realised that my art history course had not gone to waste!  Quite a lot of the works include the life of the Virgin - not just the story of Mary but that of her mother Anne as well.  The Tree of Jesse also features quite regularly.  The very last piece includes the pall of the Fishmongers Guild - the mermaid is looking at her reflection in the mirror and both are worked in Opus Anglicanum.

The Butler Bowden cope shown above is one of the items on display (image courtesy of Wiki Commons from the V&A).  The Syon Cope is another.  However one of the most beautiful sets of fragments comes from Iceland.  

Definitely worth seeing if you have any interest in embroidery, this exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum continues until 5 February 2017 - so not long to go.

After a spot of lunch my friend and I then went on to a completely different exhibition at the same museum - You say you want a revolution?  This looked at a very different and much shorter period of history.  It looked at the politics, culture and in particular the fashions and music of the years 1966 to 1970.  Dresses worn by Twiggy, the Beatles (including their Sgt Pepper suits), Jimmi Hendrix and many others are included in this exhibition.  I even spied a jacket made up from a piece of Warner fabric, with a space ship design - a sample of the same fabric has been on display in the Warner Textile Archive.  

This is a noisy, busy, frenetic exhibition - especially after the calm of Opus Anglicanum.  You are bombarded with images, ideas, and music.  It showed how this period of time wanted to be one of possibilities - almost Utopian.  But there were negatives too, to some of the ideas of the time.  It was really interesting, thought provoking and sometimes quite challenging. 

The last exhibition I mention has only a very small piece of embroidery included and but it does have an interesting history.  It is part of Bedlam at the Wellcome Collection.  This exhibition looks at history and attitudes regarding mental health asylums and is another thought provoking exhibition.   There is also a whole section on art works made by former asylum inmates.  

The textile pieces included are two sampler pieces stitched by a Mary Frances Heaton admitted to Wakefield Asylum in 1837 where she lived for 36 years.  Her illness was described as a combination of epilepsy and 'delusions' about an affair she had with Lord Seymour, whose children she had taught music.  She stitched complaining about her confinement to none other than Queen Victoria.   I do not know if Queen Victoria ever saw them or what she thought about them, but they are an intriguing piece of social history.  Unfortunately this exhibition finishes on the 15 January, but it is free to visit so if you are in the area you could just visit to see the stitching - personally I found the whole exhibition quite fascinating.