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Category Archives: Exhibitions

Reviews of exhibitions and shows

RCA Secret 2013

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I recently came across a web article about a new exhibition at the Royal College of Art called RCA Secret 2013. It is such a good idea. Basically, the RCA has asked well known artists and graduates who are relatively unknown, to produce work on or the size of, a postcard. The artist signs the work on the back and all the postcards are displayed to the public. ‘So what?’ I hear you ask. Well, each of these postcards is on sale for only £45 meaning that you could get a piece of work by a big time artist at low, low prices. It’s like a lucky dip into the art world! The famous names participating this year include “Paula Rego, Julian Opie, David Bailey, Christo and John Baldessari, Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park, film director Mike Leigh and from the world of fashion, Sir Paul Smith, Orla Kiely and Manolo Blahnik.” I guess some of them like Nick Park and Orla Kiely might be easy to spot if they stick to their well known styles, but with 2700 postcards on display by 1034 artists, it might be harder than I think! The only problem with this is that you have to be there in person to buy. That means going all the way to London (which is not my favourite place to be) and hoping to be there in time before everything is sold 9the exhibition opens to sales at 8am!). You have to register to be able to buy, and you can only buy 4 works at most. If you were in London though, and you like art, and you don’t have access to the Saatchi fortune to spend on random art, it would be a great opportunity.

What would you put on your postcard if you were invited to exhibit? The works can be jewellery and 3D so long as they are the right size. I might make a paper collage, or stitch a tiny bag!

Fears,Foes & Faeries

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I recently went on holiday to Yorkshire and had seen an exhibition advertised at Scarborough Art Gallery called Fears, Foes & Faeries that I though was worth a trip to see. Based around a collection from the early 1900’s belonging to a man called William James Clarke, the exhibition focused on superstition and folk-lore and the amulets and charms that people believed would heal them or keep them safe. As Scarborough is on the coast, there were many items related to keeping sailors and fishermen safe at sea and the superstitions that prevented them going to sea. For example, if a sailor met a pig on his way to the boat, this was seen as a bad omen and he would not sail! However, nailing the skin of a kingfisher to the mast would bring a good catch of fish and owning a feather would protect you from getting struck by lightning!

There was also an interesting room about witches with example of ways to banish witches and expose them. One of these examples was this chair that suspected witches would be tied to. I think this one would have just been used for questioning rather than dunking in the river (One way to tell if a suspect was a witch was to dunk them in the river, if they floated they were a witch if they didn’t they were innocent) I thought this was a really cleaver bit of the exhibition and something that I have never seen before (and hope I don’t again!) because it frightened me half to death! The chair was on a wide sort of podium, and the shadow stretched out to the side, when I looked closer at the shadow, this is what I saw:

Yes, there is the shadow of a person sat on the chair, but no person actually sat on the chair! Creepy! This room also looked into the superstitions about faeries, and they weren’t very good. In the past, there were many types of faeries, some were good and would do odd jobs around the house for you if they were left some treats to eat. Others were bad and it was said that a faery could come in the night and steal your baby and swap it for a faery. To prevent this mothers would make a mobile to hang over the baby’s cot to ward away the bad faeries. Trouble was, they were made out of steel knives and to work effectively, the tip of the knife had to be pointing downwards towards the cot. Not sure if I would try that one myself!

There was also a room about charms and medicines to cure illness. Some I think actually could have worked (such as carrying copper to ward off arthritis) others would have not (like wearing a necklace made of acorns to cure diarrhoea!) I suppose at this time, new medicines were being discovered but people didn’t trust them as they had little understanding of the human body. The guide-book also said that people would often hedge their bets and visit a doctor, apothecary and a wise women making it hard to know which remedy would have really made them better.

I really enjoyed this exhibition and I think it’s a good example of how collections can be made accessible and brought to life with good interpretation and exhibition design. There were many interactive elements for children (and adults!) and information that explained the objects, their origins and why people believed in them. It’s on until the 30th September, so there is still a little time left to see it for yourselves!

A Floating Balloon Bridge!

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Recently I went to Tatton Park to see the Tatton Park Biennial 2012, this year called Flights of Fancy. Tatton is a big stately home with a massive estate and famous gardens (it’s a bit owned by the National Trust) and the biennial was held in the gardens. All the works were sculptures or interactive installations featuring video or sound, there was loads to see and luckily I went on a really sunny day!

Empty Nest by Hilary Jack is a human sized bird nest that wrapped around a tree, allowing you to go up and stand inside and view the gardens. The accompanying text from the guide says that it took inspiration from the last Lord of the estate who lived alone for a long time and died without an air ‘…The work considers the superstition that crows leave their colonies when a childless heir to a fortune dies’  I think that is quite sad and I don’t really understand the thing about crows (when a human dies? when a crow with a fortune dies?) I thought the piece was really well made and I liked being able to see the estate from natures perspective. It would have been good if visitors were encouraged to leave a treasure or something in the nest like a real bird would do!

Trine Messenger by Brass Art (a group of three artists) was basically a giant inflatable in the shape of a human face with wings attached. Apparently the face is made from measurements of the artists faces and then the proportions taken from an average of those measurements. Inspiration was taken from the god of sleep and the Surrealists. I think if I was the god of sleep, I would definitely choose this lakeside area to have a nap in (it’s so beautiful and calm) and that’s what gave the surrealist element. To walk into a beautiful natural spot like that, and then see across the water a giant 7 meter inflatable head, well it’s just a bit unexpected isn’t it!

My favourite piece by far was Pont de Singe by Olivier Grossetete. As you can see it is a rope bridge suspended across the lake by three giant white balloons. The text explains it really well ‘… An almond-eye bridge suggests the power of daydreams and their ability to transform reality. There is no way on or off the bridge, which is held aloft by three helium-filled balloons. Instead the work is offered as a meditation for those who wish to contemplate an impossible journey.’ I could have looked at it all day is was so amazing! Although I did think it looked like something you would see in a Studio Ghibli film and I kept imagining a Totoro walking over it!

It was such a good exhibition, something for everyone I would say and it’s on until 30th September, so you’ve still got loads of time to see it!

Visiting the Furniture Show

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Today I went to Manchester Central (the GMEX to us locals!) to visit the Manchester Furniture Show. It was really a trade show for furniture retailers to buy their stock, but I went to see the stand that some of my friends from college had. They were showing chairs, tables and lamps and compared to all the commercial furniture, (loads of pine things, do people still buy pine furniture?) their stuff looked really fun and interesting! As it was a trade show, nothing as yet had been sold, but lots of business cards changed hands and there were a lot of compliments and interest in the recycled aspect of their pieces. In the right shop, I think people would pay a lot of money for one-off, up-cycled furniture pieces so I hope it works out for them! You can find out about the quirky tables from Doorabletable here, the lamps from Oddware here and the chairs by Agatha Blue here.

End of year show

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I can’t believe my college course is over. That year has gone so fast! last week it was the end of year show and we had to set out our stands with all the products we had been making. There was talk of being able to sell things, which would have been good, but that didn’t happen in the end. However, I’m quite glad about that as I now have a bit of stock to set up a new Folksy shop and start applying to craft fairs.The last day was quite sad and I’m just worried that my memento will stop and I’ll end  up not using all the motivation and skills the course has given me. That said, I have already signed up for a fair, not a craft fair, but a vintage fair, so that will be fun. One of the last tasks for college was to create a blog about how we made our products and our design process. You can read mine here! I think that when you make things, it’s hard to imagine that people would want to buy them and they think your ideas are good (it is for me anyway!) At the end of year show, I overheard some ladies saying how my products were the sort of things you would buy in a shop! That really boosted my confidence in my products and that’s why I really don’t want to stop, I want to keep going and make the most out of my skills. (If I don’t post about anything business or signing up to craft fair related, you will have to poke me and tell me to stop messing around and get on with it!)

Pest of British

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I haven’t posted for ages! I’ve been really busy lately with stuff for college, but I took a weekend out to go to the BBC Good Food/Gardener’s World Summer exhibition at the NEC. There wasn’t as much food there as usual, but the plant stalls were really amazing and I got some really good bargains! One of the show gardens I liked was called “Pest of British” here is a picture:That’s right it is a knitted vegetable garden! It was made by Creative Moments craft group and people in their local area. Apparently it took 70 volunteers, 16 weeks and an estimated 8,000 hours of knitting! (I would not have the patience) Basically it was made to educate children about their food and gardening, but it also shows a range of garden pests (such as knitted slugs and aphids) and other animals and insects that protect the garden from pests (ladybirds, bumble bees and chicken) A lady from the craft group said they had been given an award and that they were the most photographed garden there! I’m not surprised as it was really well made and very inventive. My favourite were the little bumble bees, toad and tortoise. So clever!

Cotton: Global Threads at the Whitworth Art Gallery

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 During my half term break from college I went to the Whitworth Art Gallery (the website of which this photo is from) to see their new exhibition Cotton: Global Threads. Now, the Whitworth gets mixed reviews, some people think it’s boring but I love it there. It has a really relaxed atmosphere and you can wander around without feeling like you’re going to get pounced on by a room attendant for standing to close to a painting. I’ve also worked there when I was volunteering for the Manchester International Festival in 2009 at a Marina Abramovic performance exhibition (she gave me a hug!) However, I wasn’t too excited about this exhibition. Yes, there was something for everyone, video, sculpture, prints, clothing and historic textiles, moral messages and children’s area, but I didn’t come away feeling I’d seen anything amazing or learnt anything new. The exhibition looks at the uses of cotton in all the art forms mentioned above and how cotton has been a part of history in many countries around the world. Being in Manchester which was once the center of the global cotton industry I thought there could have been more focus on this, as it is always easy to understand something when you have a local reference. The cotton based art of other countries might then have had a more personal impact because I  could relate its production with my local area. Overall there were a few interesting pieces, but I probably won’t go back for another look. Please don’t just take my opinion though, go and see it or read about it for yourself here.