Opening tomorrow An exhibition of the work of pioneering Abstract Expressionist artist Lee Krasner (1908-1984)
30th May -1st
September at the Barbican
Joy oh joy this exhibition is fabulous. What a coup for the Barbican the first European exhibition for over 50 years of the work of, American artist, Lee Krasner. The exhibition will then tour to Frankfurt, Bern and Bilbao.
Colour features nearly 100 works-many on show in the UK for the first time –
across her 50year career, and tells the story of a formidable artist whose
importance has often been eclipsed by her marriage to Jackson Pollock.
Jane Alison, Head of Visual Arts, Barbican, said ‘We are thrilled to be staging Lee Krasner: Living Colour. Despite featuring in museum collections around the world and being one of the few women to have a solo show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, in 1984, Krasner has not received the recognition she deserves in Europe, making this an exciting opportunity for visitors here to experience the sheer impact of her work.”
The exhibition celebrates Krasner’s spirit for invention –including striking early self portraits, a body of energetic charcoal life drawings; original photographs of her proposed department store window displays, designed during the war effort, and her acclaimed ‘Little Image’ paintings from the 1940s with their tightly controlled geometrics.
It also featured collages comprised of torn-up earlier work and a selection of her most impressive large scale abstract paintings.
Krasner was determined to find new ways to capture inner experience. As playwright Edward Albee commented at her memorial at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in both her life and her work ‘ she looked you in the eye, and you dare not flinch’.
The work is accompanied by rare photography and film from the period, in an elegant exhibition design by David Copperfield Architects. There is a very nice fully illustrated Thames and Hudson book to accompany the exhibition £35 www.barbican.org/artgallery
I was lucky enough to attend The Royal Horticultural’s Chelsea Flower show this week. I got there at 8am, opening time and headed for my favourite section The Artisan gardens. I am not going to write about the large corporate sponsored gardens as so much has been written by others about them. Instead I am going to talk ARTISAN
Three gardens particularly stood out, The Finnish Summer Garden that was inspired by the biodiversity of Finnish Meadows and Woodland. The garden was designed by Taina Suonio a Finnish landscape designer, horticulturalist, environmental biologist and researcher in the Fifth Dimension- Green Roofs in Urban Areas research group.
The garden comprises clear Nordic lines and includes a 100 year old weather beaten barn wall made of granite. The cascading water feature reminds visitors to the garden about the relationship the Finns have with their roots in the country and the much-cherished respite by their countless lake-side, riverside and seaside cottages. The garden included many Finnish forest flowers and herbs.
The Donkey Sanctuary Garden celebrated the 50 years of transforming the lives of Donkeys. The designers were Annie Prebensen and Christina Williams.” We have a real fondness and appreciation for these hard The working animals, so were delighted to be asked by The Donkey Sanctury to design an Artisan Garden to explain ‘why donkeys matter’ The garden demonstrates how owning a donkey means access to clean, fresh water for some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in the world. Set in an arid location a shelter near a well provides some shade. A dripping bucket hangs above the well and colourful planting surrounds it. The planting in the garden includes plants typical of dry regions, including Eryngium bourgatii, Iris germanica and Lavendula angustfolia. The colour palette is claret, purple and silver
The Camfed Campaign for Female Education won the Artisan Garden Gold Medal.
The designer of the garden is Jilayne Rickards
‘ I wanted the garden to reflect CAMFED’s strong commitment to supporting girls in eduction and the vibrancy of rural communities in Zimbabwe. It is a powerful message of how, by educating girls, we can tackle gender inequality and poverty, and break the cycle of poverty for good.’
At the heart of the garden is a classroom which is surrounded by plants and trees and edible fruit, leaves and roots that provide vital nutrition, particularly for mothers and school children.
The crops, which have been developed by scientists backed by UK aid, are also enriched with key vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A and iron, to tackle “hidden hunger” in developing countries.
The plants include bio fortified varieties of maize, beans and sweet potatoes and are in a garden which, unusually for Chelsea, evokes a rural Zimbabwean school yard – complete with dusty red earth, a black chalkboard and orange trees.
If like me you are interested in craft and design there are some first class designers showing in the artisan section of the show. There is a Dyers Studio set up by ex RCA student Lola Lely. She uses plants and natural materials to create dyes, pigments and paints.
Charlie Whinney Wood & Steam celebrates what is possible using locally sourced green wood and eco-friendly steam-bending processes to create beautiful works that enrich your life.
Ceramic artist Corrie Bain is a British ceramicist based in Barcelona . she studied ceramics at Edinburgh college of Art. Her ceramics are inspired by microscopic imagery of seed pods, pollen and fractals. They are made from hand built porcelain clay.
Botanicla, Applique Artist Natasha Hulse creates handmade fabric artworks for interior products such as bedheads lamps and cushions. She celebrates the beauty and phenomena of Flora found in British Woodlands, English gardens and the effect that nature has on us in our home.
As well as the artisan sections, one of the other visual joys of the show was the Alitex green house styled by Selina Lake. She always designs her spaces to feel like somewhere you want to spend time.
My all time favourite, innovative and very comfortable seats in a variety of designs by Cacoon are on sale. Every season their chief designer Nick McDonald comes up with new designs, so watch this space.
As I finish writing this piece, I must not forget the Chelsea Pensioners who are still very much in evidence in their smart red uniforms.
The show is still on and the weather is good. so if you can get in, do go and visit.
Clerkenwell design week is one of the most anticipated design events of the year. It is a bit of a misnomer as ‘the week’ only lasts for three days.
Each year the design practices, interior companies and product designers open their doors for visitors to enjoy what is new and engaging in the design industry. Every year Clerkenwell Design Week presents new design projects and street spectacles, commissioned specially for the festival and featured prominently around Clerkenwell. Inviting some of the leading pioneers in the creative industry, these projects aim to push the boundaries of design, in terms of concepts, process and material capabilities. They are created to challenge visitors’ perception of design application, as well as to inspire and entertain them. Previous participants include Cousins + Cousins architects, Studio Weave, Gruppe, Assemble, Monotype, OKAY Studio, Johnson Tiles, Grimshaw Architects, Sebastian Cox and more.
Once Upon a Time draws on the rich and sometimes dark historical tales of EC1. Working in collaboration with UAL Chelsea College of Arts, BA Graphic Design Communication students, stories from 6 locations were brought to life by a series of graphical installations. Below are three of them.
This modern memorial honours the 66 Martyrs who were burned alive at the stake for having protestant beliefs. Displaying the names of all 66 Martyrs killed in the Smithfield this design echoes the geometric style of the church’s stained glass windows.
The House of Detention has a very rich history with tales of failed escapes and destruction. In 1867 an attempted escape went tragically wrong as a bomb ruptured a nearby gas main killing 12 people. Known as the ‘Clerkenwell Outrage’ this design uses geometric illustrations to represent the explosion in a modern way.
The winning concept for St John’s Gate responded to the theme of history and heritage by proposing a new structure that subtly draws on the historic form of the St John’s Gate arch whilst bringing in materials and geometries that reference the design culture of Clerkenwell today.
concept plays with the idea of space and enclosure, by inserting a densely
built timber structure within the void of the archway. This is then
carved away to allow a route through and to frame the historic features of the
site. The timber frame is filled with moments of colour that intensify
towards the top of the arch, drawing visitors’ gaze upwards towards the
historic architecture. This colour is created by using recycled materials
and fabrics, that reference the design identity of the area.
While on the site, the pavilion highlights details of the archway and draw parallels to the 10 year anniversary of Clerkenwell Design Week. When moved to a new location, the pavilion will take with it the geometry of the archway to act as a casting of the original site.
Another inventive, and close to my heart, installation was Bottle House. Designed and constructed by WSP Design studio, BottleHouse is made from disregarded plastic bottles and applies skills in architectural design, engineering and construction to transform an empty bottle into a building block-forming a unique shelter.
Herman Millar presented Aeron Hockey – a fun, fast paced sport played on Aeron Chairs. Not sure your boss will be too delighted if you decide to play this in your office.
The House of Detention housed some of the artisan designer makers and start up companies. These included BLWM by Nia Rist prints, a collection of monochrome hand printed home wares celebrating all things pattern.
A new innovative company is Spitfire they have a range of very nice felt covered lamp shades and furniture.
My conclusion, a great show yet again, and I have only touched on a fraction of what was there. If you missed it this year make sure to put it in your diary for next, it is well worth a visit.
Her work is currently on show at Tate
Modern. Tanning is one of a number of unjustly overlooked female artists whose
work has been reassessed in recent years.
The show’s curator, Ann Coxon, says that Tanning not only suffered from the sexism of the Surrealist movement but also from her own resistance to being labeled as a feminist artist. This meant that she, in effect, excluded herself from the feminist exhibitions of surrealist art in the late 1980’s and 1990’s.
Her time has now come, as she fits in well with the Tate’s mission to display the work of twentieth century female artists.
At the start of her career Tanning was a surrealist painter. She was totally hooked on the idea after seeing the groundbreaking exhibition ‘Fantastic Art, Dada and surrealism at the Museum of Modern Art. This prompted her to visit Paris in 1939, a trip that was cut short by the German invasion. Tanning was able to meet many of the surrealists, including her future husband Max Ernst, when they fled the Nazis for New York.
Tannings 1940’s work is surrealist but also includes a great deal of dramatic gothic touches. The painting that has been used as the exhibition’s poster is amazing and much smaller than you expect it to be.
Eine Klien Nachtmusik (1943) has two girls
in Victorian dress fighting a giant tentacled sunflower along a hotel corridor.
As with many of Tannings paintings there are a number of doors- inviting you
the viewer in.
Alyce Mahon, the exhibitions co-curator says ‘ The door is a talisman for the power of art over the spectator’.
In the 1950’s and 60’s Tanning moved away from Surrealism towards abstraction. Her paintings showed entwined figures which appear to loom out of a blue grey fog.
Her work is usually accompanied by amusing titles, sometimes in French sometimes in English. This woman had a sense of humour! As well as paintings and sculpture Tanning also designed for the theatre.
One room in the exhibition is named Maternities. Tanning did not have children but spoke of maternity in a broader sense and sometimes likened artworks to creative offspring. Some of her drawings from this time remind me very much of the raw, minimal vital drawings of Tracy Emin.
The last section of the exhibition shows Tanning’s move into soft sculpture. It is important to remember that she was a pioneer in this method of creativity way ahead of her time and prefiguring the work of Sarah Lucas and Louise Bourgeois. The Installation Hotel du Pavot : chamber 202, is magnificent and shocking all at the same time with its organic shaped forms, bodies?, bursting through the walls.
Dorothea Tanning is at Tate Modern until
June 9th 2019. A great Exhibition not to be missed.
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.
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
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.