Archives for the month of: September, 2013

The pleasure of live performance.
It can have the feeling of a fiesta or a therapy group or a sinister encounter, there is so much to experience.

With Punchdrunk’s ‘The Drowned Man’ it was like being dropped into the middle of a David Lynch film.

Punchdrunk's The Drowned Man

Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man

Bewildering yet sexy and beguiling.

Punchdrunk's The Drowned man

Punchdrunk’s The Drowned man

If there was a linear plot I didn’t follow it. Stories were told through dance and physical theatre with a little dialogue and a fair amount of miming to sultry soundtracks,

The dance was extraordinary, fast and furious as characters appeared, flung each other around and ran off before you could catch your breath.

I spent a lot of time wandering around deserted corridors, entering mysterious rooms labelled prosthetics or suchlike, seeing other masked figures slide into the gloom.

Suddenly a door would open onto a scene, sometimes disturbing, descending into violence as we stood anonymously and silently circling the victim.

Punchdrunk's The Drowned Man

Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man

Through some subtle kettling the audience were amassed in one vast space for the final explosion of dance.

Separated at entry we were able to meet up in the bar with our friends to share impressions and find that we had all experienced something completely different.

I missed a whole floor of this vast space – maybe two even.

It’s running for a bit longer and I would love to go back.

Timepiece from Conrad Shawcross at The Roundhouse was a more controlled affair.

Conrad Shawcross 'Timepiece'

Conrad Shawcross ‘Timepiece’

Seeking to reimagine our experience of time passing through the mechanical movements and shadows passing across the huge dome.

I wanted to try to make the familiar the peculiar again; to turn
time and the clock back into the celestial, primeval experience that it once was
for us all.

Conrad Shawcross

It was kind of meditative.

Siobhan Davies Dance Studio performers responded to the space with a reworking of Rotor.

While wheels and arms shifted above the four dancers mirrored the movements of a clock hand walking in concentric circles.

Siobhan Davies Dance ROTOR

Siobhan Davies Dance ROTOR

The concentration was intense.

There was a follow up wonderful idiosyncratic piece Songbook composed by Matteo Fargion. The performers stood in line making expressive sounds with accompanying physical expression.

1309 Siobhan Davies Dance
Like a human instrument. An investigation into how and why we make sound. It was fun and slightly ridiculous.

The complete giving over to the production of a sound, feeling its shape as it leaves the body.

Much like Bjork sings. Every nuance is felt.

Amazing to see the very last performance of the touring show Biophilia at Alexandra Palace.

Bjork Biophilia

Bjork Biophilia

In a dress that looked like a multitude of breasts, Bjork charmed us with the intense beauty of a performance that makes you cry it’s so perfect.

‘This is kind of without humans and both zooming out like the planets but also zooming in into the atoms and in that way aesthetically sympathising with sound and how sound moves and physics of sound and how notes in a room behave, how they bounce off walls and between objects and its kind of more similar to how planets and microscopic things work.’ Bjork

Each section is introduced by the familiar tones of Sir David Attenborough giving insight into the infinite connections of the biosphere.

With bolts of electricity triggering sound and handcrafted instruments that ranged from a combination fusing the Celesta and the gamelan, a traditional Indonesian percussion ensemble to a giant pendulum contraption designed and programmed by musical robot maker from MIT, Andy Cavatorta, the ancient crafts collided with futuristic  technology.

The spectacle was completed by the soaring voices of her Icelandic choir drumming their bare feet like frenzied maenads.

Bjork Biophilia

Bjork Biophilia

Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson stages large scale durational performances which can become feats of endurance for his performers and audience.

Ragnar Kjatansson

Ragnar Kjatansson

At the Venice Biennale he turns an old fishing boat into a floating stage carrying a troupe of musicians sending plaintive notes across the water. It has a rather comedic appearance as it traverses slowly back and forth across the docks at the Arsenale.  A deflated sort of pomp and circumstance.

A more introspective performance is seen in Tino Sehgal’ s Golden Lion Award winning piece at The Venice Biennale.

Tino Sehgal

Tino Sehgal’s perfomance piece

We witness communication from a new perspective.

Animalistic, primeval it takes us away from our known language of words. The performers were immersed in the dialogue between themselves.

Using song, beatboxing, humming the piece develops freely between the participants like any conversation might.

Tino Sehgal

Lizzie Sells and Frank performing for Tino Sehgal in the Central Pavilion Venice

It was like watching someone being massaged by sound as one body responded in movement to the sounds from the other.

Tino Sehgal

Lizzie Sells performing in Tino Sehgal’s piece at the Venice Biennale

Speaking to Lizzie Sells afterwards she explained how she becomes so involved in her performance that she is unaware of the audience around her, even when they are being loud and intrusive.

An oasis of calm.

Illusion, as in the romantic notion, suggested in Ibsen’s play The Master Builder, of building ‘castles in the air’ as a refuge from reality is something I am trying to capture in new work.

I have not settled on a title yet but the work involves an urban roundabout scene and a tear through reality to a paradise behind.

The first few prints from a collagraph are not very successful as the plate must settle and mature so I have used one of the unsuccessful prints to test the tear.

1309 roundabout tear

These tiny dogs, examples of Victorian taxidermy, were on display at Hall Place in Bexley, Kent.

There is something so appealing about the miniature, but it questions our expectations when scale is distorted beyond what feels natural.

1309 Victorian Taxidermy (1)

Although there were attempts by the Victorians to breed such minute specimens these particular ones are fakes. An X-ray proves a lack of skeleton.



These strange little creatures were an appropriate taster for the exhibition ‘Beastly Hall’, inspired by the resident  topiary of the Queen’s Beasts.

The Queen's Beasts

The Queen’s Beasts

Originally carved in stone to commemorate the Queen’s coronation in 1953, these living sentinels are based on real and mythical creatures.

Artists had been selected for the exhibition who explored all aspects of what might be considered something ‘beastly’.

HyungKoo Lee works in reverse to the Victorian taxidermist – he creates a fake skeleton.

Hyungkoo Lee 'Ridicularis'

Hyungkoo Lee ‘Ridicularis’

Transporting Goofy from popular culture to natural history.

Carsten Holler’s Red Walrus has a cartoon appearance with its plasticised body and unnatural colouring.

Carsten Holler 'Red Walrus'

Carsten Holler ‘Red Walrus’

It has however been given human eyes which gaze out from within a fabricated world.

Joana Vasconcelos takes a kitsch ornament and adds another skin, a layer of decoration.

Joana Vasconcelos 'Flibbertigibbet'

Joana Vasconcelos ‘Flibbertigibbet’

We were told when we got our cat – it is not an ornament, don’t expect it to behave like one.

Thomas Grunfeld has created a whole series of ‘Misfits’ through mixing species.

1309 Thomas Grunfeld 2

Thomas Grunfeld ‘Misfits’

Questioning our manipulation of nature.

1309 Thomas Grunfeld 1

Thomas Grunfeld ‘Misfits’

Creating a modern mythology.

Thomas Grunfeld 'Misfits'

Thomas Grunfeld ‘Misfits’

Exploring the fear of genetic engineering and what it might create.

Polly Morgan doesn’t always deal in horror but in ‘Blue Fever’ the melding together of so many bodies through a thrashing of wings creates something disturbing.

Polly Morgan 'Blue Fever'

Polly Morgan ‘Blue Fever’

An entity that cannot breathe, suspended in continuous flight with no escape.

Tessa Farmer explores flesh under attack.

Tessa Farmer 'A wounded Herring Gull'

Tessa Farmer ‘A wounded Herring Gull’

Her trademark tiny skeletons in league with the insect world bring down a much larger life force.

Tessa Farmer

Tessa Farmer

Claire Morgan’s installation of blue bottles suspended in flight creates  a geometric order from an association of disgust, germs and disease.

Claire Morgan 'Heart of Darkness'

Claire Morgan ‘Heart of Darkness’

Damien Hirst puts the visceral into the kitsch.

Damien Hirst 'Sacred Heart (with hope)'

Damien Hirst ‘Sacred Heart (with hope)’

Hope and treachery are preserved in perpetual limbo.

I really liked Rachel Goodyear’s delicate drawings of spirits escaping earthly vessels.

Rachel Goodyear

Rachel Goodyear

Her drawings incorporate 3D paper cuts which flow out from and off the page.

Rachel Goodyear

Rachel Goodyear

Her organic ceramic pieces hold strange images, transitory moments like worrisome memories best tucked away.

Rachel Goodyear 'curling up into more comfortable positions'

Rachel Goodyear ‘curling up into more comfortable positions’

The spiritual theme is continued with Jodie Carey’s funeral flowers bleached of colour.

Jodie Carey

Jodie Carey

These flowers are made of plaster, chiffon and ground up bone,

Throughout the exhibition there is the uplifting sound of birdsong.

It comes from Matt Collishaw’s truncated tree trunks where LP’s mimicking the age rings of trees spin and fill the space with the sounds of woodland.

Matt Collishaw 'Total Recall'

Matt Collishaw ‘Total Recall’

The birds recorded are actually mimicking chain saws. With this knowledge the jolly suddenly becomes sinister.

Susie MacMurray filled a room with peacock feathers echoing the crowds drawn to watch the spectacle of the coronation.

Susie MacMurray 'Spectacle'

Susie MacMurray ‘Spectacle’

These fragile remains of the male peacocks display act as an unexpected barrier.

Susie MacMurray 'Spectacle'

Susie MacMurray ‘Spectacle’

The idea of the voyeur is further expressed by Francis Alys in his footage of a fox let loose in The National Portrait Gallery.

Francis Alys 'The Nightwatch'

Francis Alys ‘The Nightwatch’

Trapped and confined to relentless meanderings the fox is exposed to the sort of CCTV surveillance that we are subject to as we traverse the city while similarly unaware of our voyeurs.

Peter Blake’s ‘Tarzan Box’ from 1965 expresses a clash of cultures and clichéd fears of what the exotic might hold.

Peter Blake 'Tarzan Box'

Peter Blake ‘Tarzan Box’

The exploration of dark spaces could reveal fantastical creatures of horror.

Charles Avery 'Duculi (The Indescribable)'

Charles Avery ‘Duculi (The Indescribable)’

There were also lots of artists showing at the Venice Biennale who engage in fantasy and myth.

Levi Fisher Ames sculpted his fantastical creatures in wood and displayed them as specimens in glass cases.

Levi Fisher Ames

Levi Fisher Ames

‘Animals Wild and Tame – Whittled Out of Wood – Nothing Like It Shown Anywhere’

Levi Fisher Ames

Levi Fisher Ames

Ames took his collection on tour around Wisconsin in the 1880’s telling outlandish tales about his creatures to his audience while simultaneously  carving more figures.

Severely autistic Shinichi Sawada has created a very personal mythology with his clay figures.

Shinichi Sawada

Shinichi Sawada

These beasts look like they come from a ritualistic and totemic past, but are recent creations, combining spiky defence in a fragile form.

Domenico Gnoli’s beasts also ‘hail from a vast storehouse in the human imagination’.

Domenico Gnoli

Domenico Gnoli

His series of drawings ‘What is a Monster’ from 1967 place surrealist creatures into everyday settings.

Anna Zemankova is growing flowers that are not grown anywhere else.

Anna Zemankova

Anna Zemankova

Produced during frantic early morning reveries she allowed her mind to flow freely recalling cultural influences entwined in her fantasies.

Ivan Morison also loves to create myths. His talk at the Whitechapel Gallery was peppered with stories of the fantastical, almost believable sort. Is there really a village in Italy that strings goats up from a tree and shoots at them? Was the world’s biggest dinosaur really the victim of arson?    Storytelling is part of the work and has been formalised in the traveling puppet theatre of Mr Clevver, based on a character from the post-apocalyptic novel, Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban.

Heather and Ivan Morrison

Heather and Ivan Morrison

Another of the Morrison’s escape vehicles. They travel through rural landscapes setting up camp unannounced and putting on a show to whichever locals turn up..

Heather and Ivan Morrison

Heather and Ivan Morrison

Telling stories that blend factual recall with fiction, merging information into a narrative that builds on the mythology of their own lives and also the lives of people they encounter.
Out of its time, part medieval part futuristic, Mr Clevver is an evolving work about the coming together of different people in differing places.

'Mr Clevver' Ivan and Heather Morrison

‘Mr Clevver’ Ivan and Heather Morrison

Kay Harwood showing at Simon Oldfield Gallery also deals in mystery and suggestion.

Kay Harwood

Kay Harwood

Exploring iconography and mythology her paintings have a wonderful pure surface, like porcelain. The muted and restricted palette gives a timeless quality.

Kay Harwood

Kay Harwood

These men look like contemporary apostles in meditation on some spiritual truth.

The quest for inner retrospection. A solitary wanderer.

I wanted to capture something of an enchanted wood in these images.

These are screen prints with sublimation inks transferred onto polyester. I printed 3 layers separately onto paper and then heat-pressed them on top of each other blending the colours.

1309 woods

Layering the shadow of a rose garden on organza over the grey woods.
I have been thinking about whether to add a figure in the woods.

Also have been working on one ‘return of the forest ‘ collagraph, cutting sublimation printed organza onto the collagraph.

The forests disappeared under the advancing ice and then reappeared as the ice retreated.

Going back to a time before civilization, before religion. Right back to the beginning to see where the first dislocation took place, looking back for the myth of living in harmony with nature in some idyllic context and the start of nostalgia.

1309 return of the forest

Thinking about fantastical creatures and myth has been helpful for the new work I am planning about beasts of the forest.