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Monthly Archives: May 2013

As an ex-printmaker I’m always drawn to experts in the field, impressed with the creativity and skill of artists as wide-ranging as Tracey Emin, Edward Hopper, Goya, Paula Rego and Chris Ofili (amongst many others). One of the most recent demonstrations of expertise which I was lucky enough to catch was Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration at White Cube Bermondsey. Don’t feel bad if you missed it; this show occupied the main gallery for little over six weeks.

Most of you will be familiar with the hyper-real, photographic-quality portraits which Close prints and paints of himself, his friends and acquaintances. He’s certainly done the rounds over his long and acclaimed career. Many admirers of his work must recognise that there is something in Close’s perfection which they won’t find elsewhere, something so total and encapsulating. I remember visiting the Saatchi Gallery as a teenager, when it was still on the Southbank, and being utterly entranced and non-believing that the work in front of me could be anything other than a high-quality photograph. His skill is unquestionable and his works unique (though often imitated), qualities which are becoming increasingly hard to pinpoint within the contemporary art world.

Chuck Close, Self Portrait (Yellow Raincoat), 2013, Archival watercolor pigment print.

Chuck Close, Self Portrait (Yellow Raincoat), 2013, Archival watercolor pigment print.

The show at White Cube focused on the artist’s prints and the path he follows in obtaining the finished pieces. Anyone who has been involved in printmaking before will understand the methodical, process-led approach which is crucial to achieving successful results, and also the small degrees of experimentation in perfecting a plate or a block along the way, the small changes which make the difference between a good print and a great one. The display here showed prints at various degrees of completion, illustrating each stage of a woodcut, for example. These groupings of works were testament to the amount of time poured into the steps of the process. Close, of course, doesn’t work on his prints alone; he has a team of assistants and experts collaborating on each job, and this was explored throughout the exhibition.

More often than not I feel that painting and photography, the big, ATTENTION grabbing siblings of more modest methods of art production, get more than their fair share of coverage in exhibitions in the UK. When was the last time you recall being to a show purely based around printmaking or drawing? White Cube successfully opened up the secret world of design and error in creating Close’s prints and in doing so hopefully sparked a real curiosity in the minds of the visitors. Printmaking is an ancient art; it’s the medium of press, political process, critique and exploration, and one which such be given a proper showcasing by the galleries of London. If you ever get another chance to see Close’s engravings, woodcuts, linocuts, aquatints, etchings, tapestries or mezzotints up close, do take that opportunity.

Chuck Close, Lucas, 2011, Jacquard tapestry.

Chuck Close, Lucas, 2011, Jacquard tapestry.

http://whitecube.com/exhibitions/chuck_close_prints_process_and_collaboration_bermondsey_2013/

Nicknamed the “Ville Rose” in France, this charming red-brick City is nestled charmingly along the banks of the River Garonne and has plenty of architectural, cultural and historical gems to discover. The top three museum sites to make a visit to are…

1 – Le Château d’Eau

Has to be my favourite purely because for all the countries I’ve travelled to, and gallery sites that I’ve visited, I’ve never seen a museum building quite like this. It’s a converted water tower make from the red brick synonymous with Toulouse. According to a local, the tower was never sufficiently large to meet the needs of the whole City so it’s never really been utilised for its intended purpose. In 1974 the building was turned into a photography gallery, and its curved surfaces have been graced with images since that point. Today there is a second gallery underneath the body of the bridge which allows for two simultaneous exhibitions to be running.

If you head down the windy spiral staircase to the bowels of the building you’ll be able to see some of the original fittings and fixtures, including the water wheels and piping. The Gallery publishes simple paper exhibition guides in both French and English and the staff seemed very friendly on my visit. What’s more, le Château d’Eau participates in the annual Toulouse Art Festival organised by le Printemps de Septembre, acting as one of the host sites for the touring exhibitions. Small, round and perfectly formed.

http://www.galeriechateaudeau.org/

Lower floor interior views of Le Château d'Eau

Lower floor interior views of Le Château d’Eau

2 – Les Abattoirs

Another unusual building which has been reclaimed as a site for culture vultures in the City, this contemporary arts museum was founded on the site of a slaughterhouse (as the name suggests). Parts of the permanent collection were on display across the second floor during my visit, in a slightly haphazard hang which saw the works of Louise Nevelson in a room next to Robert Rauschenberg. These works formed part of the collection of gallerist Daniel Cordier, the singular taste accounting for the high proportion of surrealist and abstract works.

The temporary exhibition programme looked lively and different, not the usual re-hashed fodder which can circulate in some of the drier, more established type of museum. The building itself has also been stunningly and sympathetically altered from its original use, the domed central atrium area is almost Cathedral like. It seems like a good move to have made, from a factory of death to a place of display for modern art.

http://www.lesabattoirs.org/en

Louise Nevelson, Untitled: part of the Les Abattoirs collection.

Louise Nevelson, Untitled: part of the Les Abattoirs collection.

3 – Musée des Augustins

If you can make it past the trés rude lady on the reception desk you’ll have discovered a hidden gem in the form of this museum. I went on a Saturday afternoon, normally one of the peak times for any cultural institution like this. I was expecting to be tripping over chic parents with stripey-attired children in tow and arty looking cigarette-slim types, but it was largely empty.

The collection itself is a bit-hit-and-miss but features some weird and wonderful things such as gothic epitaphs, wonderfully expressive gargoyles and some accomplished 19th century paintings. My favourite part, I confess, had to be the central courtyard garden, giving a glimpse of what life might have looked like from the viewpoint of one of the 14th century Augustine monks who used to live here. The location, the tranquillity, the sights and scents of the garden were all perfect. Worth a visit if you have a couple of spare hours to fill.

http://www.augustins.org/

Gargoyles from the church in the Cordeliers' monastery (13th or 14th Century), on display at Musée des Augustins.

Gargoyles from the church in the Cordeliers’ monastery (13th or 14th Century), on display at Musée des Augustins.

What is the one thing that your life is missing? The one thing that could make easy or more pleasant something that is labour intensive, much like the electric iron altered ironing for our grandmothers, or the wheel revolutionalised life for everybody? Perhaps if you’re a big burger fan, it would be a coating on the inside of your ketchup bottle which eases glide and doesn’t waste a single drop. Or maybe you’re a reluctant runner and could do with something to help make those arduous jogging trips a little less tedious…maybe a game where zombies chase you!

Well, these are just two things which are already in existence and make up part of the wondrous Designs of the Year 2013 exhibition at the Design Museum. Contained within there are things you can imagine, and much more besides. Every single object in this show is either brilliant, beautiful, inventive, ground-breaking, iconic, or a combination of all these qualities. The first thing you’ll see as you enter the space is the gorgeously constructed black creation worn by Keira Knightly in the recent Anna Karenina adaptation, designed by Jacqueline Durran. Slightly further along is ‘Kiosk 2.0’, a 3D printing cart which resembles a hot dog kiosk. Where else could you find such contrasting items given equal weight in one display?

Zombies, Run! App. Designed by Six to Start and Naomi Alderman.

Zombies, Run! App. Designed by Six to Start and Naomi Alderman.

Keira Knightley wearing the Anna Karenina Costume designed by Jacqueline Durran.

Keira Knightley wearing the Anna Karenina Costume designed by Jacqueline Durran.

Whilst every single entrant is worthy of admiration, there are a few designs which I felt stood out. The artist in me was most swayed by the delicate and subtly stunning hand painted porcelain plates, vases and cups by Scholten & Baijings & 1616 Arita Japan. The child in me loved ‘Zombies, Run!’ by Six to Start and Naomi Alderman, and the surprising critters which sprung forth from the ‘English Hedgerow Plate’ when activated by a tablet computer. However, by far the most moving were the hugely positive products created by fantastic minds in the pursuit of helping those worse off than them, of which there were many.

Colour Porcelain. Designed by Scholten & Baijings/1616 Arita Japan.

Colour Porcelain. Designed by Scholten & Baijings/1616 Arita Japan.

Child Vision Glasses. Designed by The Centre for Vision in the Developing World and Goodwin Hartshorn.

Child Vision Glasses. Designed by the Centre for Vision in the Developing World and Goodwin Hartshorn.

Nemours and Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware showed odious gun-nuts what the 3D printer should really be used for by designing ‘Exoskeleton ‘Magic Arms’’ which support children with muscular disorders. As each child gets older new bespoke arms can be printed for them to ensure they can grow together. Amazing ‘Child Vision Glasses’, designed by the Centre for Vision in the Developing World and Goodwin Hartshorn, utilise readily available water to set the prescription for each individual. These can also be altered to fit the needs of each child as their eyesight alters with age. The product category winner makes use of the empty space in Coca Cola crates and the formidable soft-drink supply chain to dispense diarrhea medical aid pods to children in remote locations. These are the real reason we need design, for truly life-altering solutions.

Make the visit and contrast these brand-new cutting edge designs with the currently showing permanent collection items on the floor above. This is an eye-opener in just how quickly designs, products, clothes and architecture evolve, and how swiftly the newest of the new become outdated. Be prepared for a lot of debate (perhaps about the overall winner?) and a warm feeling of pride at being human when you leave.

Morph Folding Wheel. Designed by Vitamins for Maddak Inc.

Morph Folding Wheel. Designed by Vitamins for Maddak Inc.

On display until 7th July 2013.

http://designmuseum.org/exhibitions/2013/designs-of-the-year-2013

We’re drawn to light, I think, in a primordial way. Before man captured and harnessed the power to illuminate at will imagine how consuming and defining the darkness must have been, how much space it would have occupied in the human psyche. Light represents life, hope and longevity in a unique and instinctive way.  With all of our invention and modern sensibilities we still originate from those first people ever to huddle around the flames of a fire, pulled into the flickering and brightness.

Light Show at the Hayward Gallery exploits this very human curiosity with luminosity. Twenty-two artists display twenty-five works which utilise the power and vivaciousness of light in many varied forms. There are the familiar commercial LED word messages of Jenny Holzer, the flouro sculptures of Dan Flavin, unpredictably no Tracey Emin neon but plenty of other surprises. The opening piece is a glittering, blingtastic tower of multi-faceted moving light, shimmering patterns of silver light in an endless changing display. Leo Villareal’s Cylinder II is as irresistible as fireworks, I wanted to pick it up and deposit it in my living room. Further along is one of the poster images in the shape of Chromosaturation by Carlos Cruz-Diez. Three interconnecting white spaces are flooded with blue, red and green light. Visitors move through the space and are bathed in each colour in turn, altering the perception of the space and each other in an instant.

Lots of the pieces require the viewer to move around, to actively search out different viewpoints, explore the shadows and the way light dances across our bodies. Anthony Mcall’s You and I, Horizontal is a room with a prism of light and artificial haze. You effectively walk into a film projector beam, becoming a star of the work and at the same time altering the sculptural form. To reach Olafur Eliasson’s Model for a timeless garden you walk down a dark tunnel and are cast into a techno dream comprising strobe lights and a series of water fountains. The liquid is set as a series of crystal chandeliers frozen in the flicker; you will never have seen anything quite like it. The most haunting work was Katie Paterson’s Light bulb to Simulate Moonlight. It tells the story of a city in which we are bathed in the glow of man-made radiance, of light pollution. The moon becomes a myth; this room is self-contained museum exhibit.

Everywhere are the animated faces of adults. Expressions of delight were evident in every single person I saw. It was like being in a playground with a bunch of excitable, excited children. Purists will write this exhibition off as populist, lightweight and frothy. They are way off the mark. The greatest lesson to be learnt from this show is the power that light has in transforming our moods and our ideas of space. Light has the power to create architectural forms and alter the way we negotiate a room. Light can unearth secrets, make us dizzy and disorientated, create antisocial behaviour or pull people together. Light can be warm and comforting, sexy and thrilling, or threatening. It can be a combination of many things, but it will always be compelling.

Katie Paterson, Light Bulb to Stimulate Moonlight (2008)

Katie Paterson, Light Bulb to Stimulate Moonlight (2008)

Curated by Dr Cliff Lauson. On display until 6th May 2013.

http://www.haywardlightshow.co.uk/exhibition/

There is SO MUCH happening this month: many great exhibitions are closing and opening, whilst Museums at Night is also back! Click on Best on Show this month! in the top toolbar for more information.

Create Studios promotional image commissioned by Culture24 for Museums at Night 2013. Concept & Photography: Kevin Mason.

Create Studios promotional image commissioned by Culture24 for Museums at Night 2013. Concept & Photography: Kevin Mason.