Jeff Koons at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum

A major exhibition of the work of Jeff Koons (b. 1955) opened at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, on 7 February- 9 June 2019 .

“I couldn’t think of a better place to have a dialogue about art today and what it can be.” Jeff Koons

Until I visited, I couldn’t think of a weirder or more inappropriate place to hold the exhibition. The Ashmolean, attached to Oxford University, one of the U.K.’s seats of learning, holding an exhibition of work that comes over, at first glance, as superficial, overblown and trashy.  Curated by Koons himself together with guest curator Norman Rosenthal, the show features seventeen important works, fourteen of which have never been exhibited in the UK before.

They span the artist’s entire career and his most well known series including Equilibrium, Statuary, Banality, Antiquity and his recent Gazing Ball sculptures and paintings.

Dr Xa Sturgis, Director of the Ashmolean, says: ‘In showing Jeff Koons at the Ashmolean, the world’s oldest public museum where the collections range from prehistory to the present, this exhibition provokes a conversation between his work and the history of art and ideas with which his work engages. I am sure it will also provoke conversations among those who see it.’

The press information describes ‘Jeff Koons as surrounded by superlatives. Since he burst onto the contemporary art scene in the 1980s he has been described as the most famous, important, subversive, controversial and expensive artist in the world. From his earliest works Koons has explored the ‘readymade’ and appropriated image – using unadulterated found objects, and creating painstaking replicas of ancient sculptures and Old Master paintings, which almost defy belief in their craftsmanship and precision.’

        Well that is true up to a point, the work is beautiful the craftsmanship superb, but it isn’t he who has painted or sculpted. As in the tradition of many of the greats, he has a number of artists in his atelier who carry out the work on his behalf and under his direction, and it is his concept, that he oversees.

         Throughout his career he has pushed at the boundaries of contemporary art practice, stretching the limits of what is possible. The Ashmolean exhibition includes important works from the 1980s with which Koons made his name through the novel use of the readymade and the appropriation of popular imagery: One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank 1985; Rabbit 1986; and Ushering in Banality 1988. It also explores Koons’s more recent focus on the art of antiquity and the western art canon where layered images of ancient and modern art meet in Koons’s singular vision.

Balloon Venus (Magenta)

Among the highlights are the spectacular Balloon Venus (Magenta) (2008–12). While evoking the tiny Ice Age ‘Venus of Willendorf’, one of the world’s oldest works of art, Balloon Venus (Magenta) is made with Koons’s signature motifs: monumental scale; the inflated balloon with its intimations of transience and mortality; and the flawless mirror-polished surface which positions the viewer in the work. He has put the figure through a double transformation from limestone sculpture to balloon model and from balloons to his trademark, super-reflective, coloured steel on a huge scale. The artist insisted on the model being made from a single balloon to maximise the sense of a continuous pressure all over.

The tiny Ice Age ‘Venus of Willendorf’

Reflective gazing balls are usually sold in suburban American garden centres, along with birdbaths and water features. The one’s Koons uses are handmade , specifically for him. His preoccupation with them ties in with recurring themes in his work: breath (they are hollow and hand blown) and the presence of the viewer in the art work- it is impossible to look at a gazing ball without seeing yourself and your surroundings.

         “ When I grew up, if you drove through Pennsylvania, people would put gazing balls in front of their houses. There’s a kind of generosity about that. Your neighbour doesn’t have to do that for whoever drives by.” Says Koons.

Shown in the UK for the first time are seven works from the series including Gazing Ball (Belvedere Torso) (2013), Gazing Ball (Gericault Raft of the Medusa) (2014–15), and Gazing Ball (Titian Diana and Actaeon) (2014–15).

“ The gazing ball represents the vastness of the universe and at the same time the intimacy of right here, right now.”

Curator, Sir Norman Rosenthal, says: ‘Jeff Koons’s work plays with our memories of childhood and our “educated” cultural experiences as he blends high and low culture, inviting us to challenge the distinction as we gaze at art and at ourselves. Putting his work in the Ashmolean – the first museum in the very heart of academia, Oxford University – we can take his experiment a step further. For those of us willing to share in his visions, Jeff Koons makes art a magical transformation.’

         In case dear reader at the end of this article you think I don’t like his work, this is not the case-I love it. However, I am a great lover of kitsch and I am not sure where we draw the line between high art and kitsch.

A sneak peak at Zandra Rhodes archived knit wear

Dame Zandra Rhodes selected ten, rarely seen, pieces of knitwear from her design archive as an exclusive for the Spring Knitting and Stitching show recently on at Olympia. Many of these pieces will be on show along with her beautiful textile designs and dresses in the exhibition 50 Years of Fabulous at the Fashion and Textile museum later this year. From 27th September to 26th January 2020

Black and Red ‘heart’ jumper Spring/Summer 1987 Venetian Palazzo collection
Black ‘Magic Head’ jumper Spring/Summer 1987 ‘Venetian Palazzo’ collection
Intarsia cashmere machine knit Clan Douglas for Zandra Rhodes

The acclaimed British designer Dame Zandra Rhodes DBE founded her eponymous fashion house in 1969 with a small collection. Her prints were Pop Art-infused commentaries on the world of Sixties Britain; the designer felt that there was inherent structure within the pattern that could work with and enhance the shape and construction of a dress. With this concept as a starting point and with her distinctive approach to cut and form, the house of Zandra Rhodes soon became one of the most recognisable labels in London.

In celebration of fifty years of the Zandra Rhodes’ label, the Fashion and Textile Museum presents Zandra Rhodes: Fifty Years of Fabulous. This retrospective will highlight 100 key looks, as well as 50 original textiles. This comprehensive exhibition will explore five decades of the distinguished career of a British design legend.

Grey jumper with pearl shoulder detail Autumn/Winter 1980 ‘Elizabethan’ collection
Rib machine knit

Black and Gold Lurex Jacket Autumn/winter 1987 ‘Wish Upon a Star’ collection Double Bed jacquard machine knit
‘Magic Head’ dress Spring/Summer 1989 ‘Venetian Palazzo’ collection
Intarsia cashmere machine knit Clan Douglas for Zandra Rhodes
Blue and Gold Lurex coat
Autun/Winter 1987
‘Wish Upon a Star’ collection
Double bed Jacquard machine knit

Interested in high end crafts then Collect is the exhibition for you.

Last week the event known as ‘Collect’ the international art fair for modern craft and design, took place at the Saatchi Gallery in London. You may not have the money to be a collector but this exhibition is well worth a visit. It is a visual feast.

L’ile by Simone Pheulpin made from Cotton and pins

Collect grew out of the incredibly innovative, at the time, Chelsea Crafts fair. CCF was the brain child of Lady Phillipa Powell. She chose the designers/makers who were allowed to show and sell their wares to the general public.

By Inger Johanne Rasmussen represented by Galleri Format Oslo Textiles

It was not a foregone conclusion that you would get in from one year to the next and the standards were very high. Eventually the crafts council took over the show and it outgrew the Chelsea town hall venue.

Collect is still run by the Crafts Council and is much more akin to an an art fair rather than a crafts fair with designer makers being represented by galleries. All crafts are represented textiles, ceramics, jewellery, silver smithing, wood turning, glass blowing etc.

Craft of Writing by Thurle Wright represented by Jagged Art London http://www.jaggedart.com/artists/thurle-wright

The top floor ‘Collect Open’ shows some of the most innovative and exciting work. It showcases individual makers and collaborations, providing them with a platform to break free from the usual constraints of their practise, creatively experiment and present exceptional new work.

Camouflage stoneware enamel screen printed canvas by Simone Perrotte
Macrogauze Linen with steel rods byhttps://www.oxfordceramics.com/artists/34-peter-collingwood/works/ Peter Collingwood Oxford Ceramics Gallery

The other great pleasure for me was seeing the work on sale of one of my old tutors, Peter Collingwood. Although originally trained as a Doctor he changed career paths became a weaver and taught woven wall hangings at Camberwell School of Arts.

SWINGING LONDON a lifestyle revolution Terence Conran –Mary Quant

Fashion and Textile Museum from 8th February to 2nd June
If you are interested in post war British design from fashion to furniture and beyond, then this is a ‘must see’ exhibition.

Tucked away in Bermondsey Street not far from London Bridge Station is The Fashion and Textile Museum. The brainchild of textile designer, Zandra Rhodes.  It is small purpose built and for anyone with an interest in textiles and fashion it is a Must See. You can’t miss it, a bright orange and pink building designed by the Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreh

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I have been to most of their exhibitions since the museum opened in 2003 and this particular exhibition is their best yet, and the very clever Fashion and Textile Museum have stolen a march on the much larger V&A museum who have a Mary Quant exhibition starting in April.

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 07: New exhibition, Swinging London: A Lifestyle Revolution, featuring the work of Terence Conran, Mary Quant, Laura Ashley and more at The Fashion and Textile Museum on February 07, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Fashion and Textile Museum)

         We often think of Swinging London having started in the late nineteen sixties but it was between the late nineteen forties and the mid nineteen sixties that the real changes took place. It was the young who, in the aftermath of the destruction and devastation caused by WWII, were determined to bring about a new, fairer and certainly more fun approach to life than had previously existed.

         In Britain the ‘Pop” revolution was led by the ‘Chelsea set’ a loosely connected group of young designers, artists, musicians, fashion models and intellectuals. Their social activities were centred on the Kings Road, at the time, a somewhat shabby street in Chelsea. The people who made up this set, are featured in this exhibition. Mary Quant the fashion designer who opened her first boutique, in 1955.

         Quant asked Terence Conran to design her second boutique, Bazaar. Much of the design was influenced by the style of Italian designers such as Piero Fornasetti and Gio Ponti. In 1963 Quant went mass market and the fashion brand ‘Ginger Group’ was born. She also worked for J.C.Penny in the USA; and designed dress patterns for Butterick.

Mary Quant is credited with inventing the mini skirt although variations of it had been around before, though perhaps not as short as hers. What happened was, when she looked for clothes she wanted to wear she couldn’t find any so she designed her own, and the rest they say is History. Mary Quant did invent tights to wear under the mini skirts. This was a great improvement on stockings and suspenders that were worn by every woman up until this point.

Terence Conran was designing furniture and fabrics from the early 1950’s. He was interested in modernist ideas and the architecture of Mies Van Der Rohe.

He was heavily influenced by the food and lifestyle of the continent, particularly France. He promoted the work of food writer Elizabeth David, who was bringing the best of continental cooking to Britain. He opened his lifestyle store Habitat in 1964.

There are small room sets, featuring Conran designed furniture, fabrics and home accessories. A special section of the exhibition features the work of textile designer Natalie Gibson.

A treat is to see the early work of Bernard and Laura Ashley who from 1953 -1960’s produced furnishing ‘art’ textiles from their kitchen table in Pimlico. Yes this is the same Laura Ashley who had us all dressed as Victorian Milk Maids in the early nineteen seventies. 

Don’t miss this exhibition. It is fun, informative and you are bound to find something you have either worn, sat on, or used in your own or your mother’s kitchen.  

Open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 11am–6pm

Thursdays until 8pm
Sundays, 11am–5pm
Last admission 45 minutes before closing
Closed Mondays

TICKETS
£9.90 adults / £8.80 concessions / £7 students

Children under 12 are free

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SCRAPS an Exhibition of recycled textiles

Sorry you’ve just missed it, as it closed the 14th January. Palm Springs art museum held a fabulous exhibition SCRAPS: Fashion, Textiles and Creative Reuse. I am posting this now as I feel it is so important that we understand the world has finite resources, and those that recognise this and try to do something about it should be applauded and publicised. The exhibition featured the work of three women, from three continents, who put recycling at the heart of their design process. Luisa Cevese from Italy, Christina Kim from Los Angeles USA and Reiko Sudo from Japan all share a profound respect for scraps as repositories of raw materials, energy. labour, and creativity. Inspired by the long tradition of using handcraft to give new life to scraps and cast-offs, each takes an entirely different approach to contending with textile waste.

Christina Kim the founder of the Los Angeles-based fashion brand Dosa, has always drawn inspiration from traditional textile cultures around the world. Working with local artisans, she provides sustainable livelihoods by engaging in long-term collaborative relationships and paying fair wages. Her longstanding reverence for hand woven cloth led her fifteen years ago to jamdani

-the gossamer cotton saris worn in Bengal, India and Bangladesh became the fabric for her 2003 collection. Recognising the cultural history and human creativity embedded in the cloth, Kim collected the cutting-room scraps and had them pieced and appliqued into a wholecloth by skilled embroiderers in Gujarat, India. A second generation of clothing was cut from the re-engineered fabric in 2008, and the scraps gathered from this collection were made into tikdi, or small dots, appliqued on silk scarves until all the scraps were used. Equally important to Kim’s zero-waste approach is her intent ‘to help keep different traditions alive… investing the human hand with more or as much value as the material itself.”

         Reiko Sudo is Japanese she was born in 1953

She has been transforming how we think about textiles for the last three decades. She is the principal designer and managing director of Nuno, founded in 1984 and known for combining Japanese handicraft tradition with textile technologies to create extraordinary futhe silk cnctional textiles. Always conscious of the impact textile production has on the environment, Sudo has recently explored the creative potential of silk waste. Since 2007, her primary focus has been kibso – the outermost layer of  the silk cocoon that protects the delicate silk underneath.

Retrieved before the silk reeling process, kibiso is too coarse for industrial weaving, but working in collaboration with the city of Tsuruoka, Sudo has converted kibiso  into finer yarn that can be machine woven. During her kibiso experimentation, Sudo discovered another silk waste, ogarami choshi, a residue that sticks to the spinning shaft and has to be cut away. When the layers of the tightly curled material are peeled apart, they can be pressed together to create a translucent patchwork paper.

Sudo takes kibiso  fabric scraps and machine embroiders them onto a water soluble mesh that is then dissolved to give an open lace-like effect.

Luisa Cevese was born in Italy in 1955

In India there is very little wasted, used saris are cleaned, repaired, and sold on the second hand market. Luisa uses the waste  from the sari refurbishment – damaged borders that are cut when the saris are re-hemmed. One of her ongoing fabrics since 2009 is Muticoloured Taj textile  scraps of sari embedded in polyurethane.

Installations made from recycled waste featured at Maison des Metallos during Paris Design Week

As part of Paris Design week the Maison des métallos held an exhibition of recycled art. The first exhibitor is Sophie Helene. She uses recycled plastic and netting to create her installations many of which are photographed in natural surroundings. The piece above is made from cartridge wrappings.

The work below is made from piecing together Tetrapac that have been opened up and flattened

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The work below is made from different coloured rubber gloves

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This hanging is made from the bases of drinks cans

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Dadave makes art works from recycled computer components.

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New Interior Trends For 2019

This feature first appeared on the blogazine www.magpieonline.co.uk

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Creativecolour.org’s Juliet Bawden has been to the design shows in London and Paris and has come back with what’s hot to trot for the coming months in interior design.

Want to be the first to know next year’s trends? Well you have come to the right place. I bring you news of all that is new and desirable from Paris Design week and the enormous trade fair known as Maison et Object and London Design week including Decorex,  Design Junction and 100% Design.

When 100% design started in 1995 it was the first organisation to promote design throughout London. It lost its way for a while and became too big and unwieldy, there was a changeof venue and ownership and now it is back on course and this year has exceeded expectations with the promotion of new young talent and innovative design. For the first time the design team have the input of Barbara Chandler the Design Editor of Homes and Property in London’s Evening Standard. She has always championed new designers as well as being a great photographer in her own right. She has curated 100% Forward. This section of the show that spotlights seven emerging design talents each of whom has been chosen by an established designer who launched their own career during the first decade of 100% Design.

The designers are Simon Pengelly a furniture designer who has nominated Daniel Schofield, industrial and product designer. Michael Marriot furniture and product designer has nominated a furniture designing team Dominic Postlethwaite and Will Dyer. Chris Eckersley a furniture designer has nominated weaver Majeda Clarke and they have collaborated on some projects together. Philip Watts interior designer and designer maker has nominated Light Up North, makers of creative neon. Ella Doran surface print designer has nominated Kyla McCallum whose work Foldability + Northern is beautiful and intricate. Jocelyn Warner who launched her own wallpapers at 100% design haschampioned Stoff Studios who design furniture and textiles .Samuel Chan furniture designer has nominated Moe Redish a multidisciplinary designer currently creating glass ware made by blowing into a wooden mould.

Here are the key trends for 2019.

Dulux colour of the year for 2019 is Spiced Honey and it is a warm comforting tone that will go with most of the key looks for next year, but it is the colour green that is very much in evidence everywhere. As a colour and as a life style concept of bringing the outside in itis a very strong trend. Sometimes it is shown as a flat colour at other times it is mixed with foliage and flowers.

Lighting has been influenced by the popularity of steam bent wood and laser cutting. There are many lightshade made using both these techniques and the result is fabulous patterns on the walls when the lights are on. Laser cut screens and wall treatments are being used on exteriors of buildings on balconies and fences. They are used as indoors as room dividers and screens.

Awareness of the environment, means that designers are finding new ways of using up waste, and recycling materials such as coffee grounds, paper and cardboard. IKEA have made some elegant dining chairs from that come in both black and white and are made from recycled plastic. As we are using less and less plastic bags we need replacements. Baskets are still popular either in natural straw and hemp weaves or in bright woven plastics. Stretchy string bags in a variety of colours are popular too. Bamboo, a fast growing sustainable wood is very much in evidence used in a variety of ways from flooring to fabrics and bowls.

The craze for wall papers that look as though they are made from something else be it aged wood or three dimensional ceramic tiles doesn’t look as if it’s going away any time soon. Florals and bright colours including fluorescents are still popular. Using a multi mix of patterns with one another is a trend in soft furnishings that echoes that of the fashion industry. Rough textures on surfaces such as walls, interesting finishes and weaves on fabrics and anything ‘natural’ or ‘eco’ friendly is going to be everywhere over the coming year. Felt is a very strong look in interiors. Concrete is being used more and more unusual and innovative ways.

Nineteen fifties or Mid Century Modern furniture and accessories are hugely popular, as in the original or as inspired by. The Vintage furniture pop store took place in Galerie Joseph. Paris had a pop up selling original furnishings and accessories from the nineteen fifties and early 1960’s. Baskets are very popular still and stretchy string bags. If you are considering building a house or replacing your front door you could do no better than looking at the work of Urban Front who design and make the most desirable enormous steel reinforced hardwood doors.

Another section of the show is 100% Futures a feature that shines a light on the most cutting edge designs and innovations under the theme ‘designing for cities’. Design Fresh showcases the talent of the very best designers who graduated this summer. Here are links tosome of their web sites:

www.phoebedeeprose.co.uk -textile designer printer and illustrator

www.lucygrainge.com – image maker/designer
www.giggyandbab.co.uk – designer who has re-designed the fold up kitchen stool
www.lizziehillierstudio.com – artist and designer, surface designer
www.niaristprints.com – surface designer

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