Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Treetop walk at Kew

The treetop walk allows an excellent view and there are numerous stopping points for taking a closer look at the trees. It took 9 months to build and was carefully sited so that it did not damage any of the tree roots. It would be beautiful to walk along alone in the early morning and hear the bird song. The day we went it had just opened and there was a steady line of people walking along so it was not peaceful but an interesting experience nonetheless. We also went to see the Sackler Bridge with its innovative uplighting system.

Loop at Kew

Loop have produced this installation of interlocking trees at Kew. Standing by the lake and dwarfed by the real trees around them they provide an interesting structure. The piece is made of interlocking lengths of wire held in place with metal coupling tubes. The grass has grown through the circles of wire at the base to anchor the structure to the ground. A video of Loop creating the sculpture can be seen at

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Art of the Stitch

I went to see this exhibition at Birmingham on 22 May. Although it was well displayed I was disappointed with the work on show. There was little that was innovative and several of the traditional pieces were not well mounted. The pieces I did like included Chris Berry’s Canale Grande, a small paper and stitch construction that could be viewed from many different angles and produced interesting shadows. However, this piece had not been selected for the show and appeared only because the selectors were asked to produce a piece of their own work.

I think my favourite of the selected pieces was 84 hours by Sarah Brown. It was a long bound book form made from 6am to 8pm for 6 days to represent the working week of William Wood, a bookbinder who died in Newgate prison in 1788, after being sentenced for 2 years for pressurising his master to reduce the working week from 84 to 83 hours. Sarah recreated William’s working week and produced a very attractive and evocative piece, which kept drawing me back to look at it and consider William’s life.

Other pieces I thought worked well were Caren Garfen’s Womanual “All done and dusted” referring to the fact that no one sees the effort that goes into traditional women’s work. I also thought Mend of me by Ilaria Margutti and Rosalba Pepi was interesting and unsettling as the woman in the picture sews herself. Search for pouring down by Kyoko Nagasawa also appealed to me with its twisted layers of recycled plastic bags.

The catalogue is good, with a picture of each piece (photography was not allowed). But the descriptions are variable, some authors provided an excellent write up of the themes behind their work while others provided nothing at all – and the works did not always speak for themselves!

Carole Waller lecture

Carole Waller gave a talk about her work on Wednesday 21 May at Farnham to coincide with her exhibition at the Craft Study Centre. She told us she works with the feel of a place to change the atmosphere. She paints on silk organza to make veils of the thinnest possible membrane. Recently she has been enclosing them in laminated toughened glass which includes a UV resistant layer so she can display them in the open air. She works with a fashion designer to make her painted clothes and originally sold them in the USA and Europe at fashion shows. She employs experts to help her with the laminating of her work and has collaborated with several different companies. She also used a sound recordist and film maker to help her with the video and sound recordings made at Paddington station for her present exhibition in the Craft Study Centre.

Friday, 16 May 2008

China Design Now

This exhibition at the V&A has been designed to explain more about Chinese culture and life in the run up to the Olympics. It is based on three different cities in China and aims to describe their cultural landscape. The exhibition opens with a display of graphic design from Shenzhen. One of my favourite pieces was a book made of acetate sheets each one of which has part of a Chinese character on it – is it not until the pages all lie on top of each other that the text can be read.

Fashion designers from Shanghai showed some interesting designs, unfortunately shown on black mannequins which did not show the black dresses to advantage. There were some lovely chiffon scarves and dresses.

The last part of the exhibition focussed on the new architecture of Beijing and include a very effective video aerial tour of the city. The architecture is stunning and much of it very lacelike but not all of it is Chinese – many of the projects are being designed and built by international construction groups. The exhibition was very good and gave a good idea of life in modern China.

Blood on Paper

This exhibition at the V&A features books made by several different artists ranging from Picasso to Damien Hirst. The photo shows the entrance to the exhibition with Charles Sandison’s new commission of projected light entitled Carmina Figurata in which words move about the space supposedly at random. The large work in the foreground is by Anselm Kiefer entitled The secret life of plants. It recalls the outlines of constellations, the earth’s beginnings and the eternal process of transformation.

A video shows how Cai Guo-Qiang made his book entitled Suicide fireworks, by painting with gunpowder and then setting the book alight. The book is not particularly interesting in its case, it is only when one is surprised by its manufacture that it becomes interesting.

I also particularly liked the works by Anthony Caro, which unfortunately were shown closed rather than open, and those of Anish Kapoor entitled Wound which had been made by laser cutting through several layers of paper.

Chisato Tamabayashi

These lovely cutwork books are in the V&A shop. Chisato Tamabayashi uses 18th and 19th century lace to explore the labour intensive processes of handicrafts and the transient nature of shadows. Inspiration came from Junichiro Tanizaki’s In praise of shadows. Making the cut paper pieces is a form of meditation. There were two books in the shop one of straightforward lace patterns and the other this book of lace trees.

CJ Lim at the V&A

In the entrance tunnel to the V&A CJ Lim has built a subterranean garden based on the tale of Alice in Wonderland entitled Seasons through the looking glass. Working with Barry Cho and Studio 8 Architects he has built a structure of twigs out of honeycomb paper with rolled recycled garments as the roses. The structure is mirrored in a panel opposite the entrance.

21st century textiles symposium

This symposium was held as part of the Stroudwater festival on 10 May 2008. Marie O’Mahony talked about hoe she collaborates with architects and builders. She described her latest project Hitec- lotec and described various projects including the Sydney camouflage project using ‘lace’ curtains; a dress made using fermented wine; and a new synthetic fabric made from mouse connective tissue and human cells. The new flexibles was the title of Sarah Braddock Clark’s talk and she showed us samples of new materials. Rebecca Earley discussed textiles and the environment and described the development of upcycling to rebrand recycled clothes.

Sally Freshwater described her site specific work. She works with tensile membranes and fabrics under tension. She told us about some of her projects including the arrivals concourse at Gatwick and the Poole Lighthouse. She collaborates with Architen based in Bristol who make the tensile fabric structures for her and hang the pieces. She gave lots of advice on what to consider when working on a collaborative project in a public site.

Jennifer Shellard talked about artists who use light in their work, including James Durell, Dan Flavin and Antony McCaul. Jennifer uses weave structures for revealing and concealing. She incorporates transparent fluorescent yarns into her work and uses UV light to excite them. These projects are difficult to document so she has been learning how to video and film them.

Memory and touch

This conference was held at RIBA, London, on 7 May 2008. The exhibition Haptic: awakening the senses was on show at the same venue. Kenya Hara who put together the exhibition opened the conference by described some of the exhibits in the Haptic exhibition: lanterns made of washi paper with silk and hair attached to them; small paper images like water boatmen with a magnet in them that lie on the surface of the water and rotate in unison; and his own paper pin ball machine that uses water instead of ball bearings.

Janis Jefferies and Robert Zimmer discussed their project Tatu developing a system for museums that simulates the feel of the artefacts. Frances Geeson described her electroplates textiles. Thinking as drawing explained how Trish Bould and Kathy Oldridge had collaborated on a project through drawing. June Hill discussed how feelings are conveyed and the role of materiality in conveying these feelings. Mary Schoeser talked about cultural memory and how our past defines us.

Fiona Jane Candy talked about clothing’s influence on the way we feel. She showed a photograph of her first day at school and described how her new clothes made her feel. She also discussed the different responses that picture elicited in her and her parents. She had also studied the relationships that women with rheumatoid arthritis have with their clothes. Masayo Ave told us how she developed her haptic dictionary. Kate Baker and Belinda Mitchell described their work analysing buildings and people using space through observing and experiencing dance movement in architectural space.