Last week the RCA opened their doors for the public to view the degree shows. As one would expect it was a mixed bag of styles, standards and end results. It was all fascinating. Here are some of the offerings from students studying in many different disciplines including, print, painting, photography and video, ceramics and glass, and contemporary art practise.
What do you feel is the purpose of art ?
Coming to a show such as this it raises many questions.
Is the purpose of art to hold up a mirror to society?
To open people’s eyes?
To add beauty to a dying world?
To give a new perspective on what exists?
To show skill and craftsmanship?
Here are just a few examples of the work that was on show.
The first artist shown above has developed her practise to show in visual terms what poor mental health looks like. She has made insightful video’s of people on the edge. Her work informs, enlightens and and educates the viewer.
Having lost her partner to a freak accident, and already embarked on her MA, Mirielle’s work explores grief in its various forms and and attempts to to embody a sense of a personal and universal loss. The work considers clouds as feelings and a metaphor for grief.
The work of the artist shown above is about plastic pollution and its environmental impact.
National Portrait Gallery, London 27 June – 15 September 2019
Cindy Sherman’s groundbreaking series,Untitled
Film Stills, 1977-80, is currently on public display for the first time in
the UK, in a major new retrospective of the artist’s work at the National
Portrait Gallery, London. Cindy Sherman, explores the development of her
work from the mid-1970s to the present day. The exhibition features around 180
works from international public and private collections, as well as new work
never before displayed in a public gallery.
Widely regarded as one of the world’s leading
contemporary artists, Cindy Sherman, (b. 1954), first gained widespread
critical recognition for Untitled Film Stills, the series that she
commenced shortly after moving to New York in 1977. Comprising 70 images, the
work was the artist’s first major artistic statement and defined her approach.
With Sherman herself as model wearing a range of costumes and hairstyles, her
black and white images captured the look of 1950s and 60s Hollywood, film noir,
B movies and European art-house films. Building on that layer of artifice, the
fictional situations she created were photographed in a way that recalls the
conventions of yesterday’s cinema. As a result, each photograph depicts its
subject, namely the artist, refracted through a layer of artifice – a veneer of
It is important to realize this is in no way similar to today’s instagram selfies. Unlike those who post themselves on instagram, wanting to be seen and admired, Sherman uses herself as a blank canvas that is hidden, transfigured and disguised. The exhibition sees all five of Sherman’s Cover Girl series, completed when she was a student in 1976, displayed together for the first time. Other key works are from the artist’s most important series including Rear Screen Projections, Centrefolds, History Portraits, Fairy Tales, Sex Pictures, Masks, Headshots, Clowns and Society Portraits. In a revealing juxtaposition, Ingres’s celebrated portrait of Madame Moitessier has been borrowed especially for the exhibition and is displayed alongside Sherman’s version of that historic painting.
‘Centrefolds’ was a commissioned piece by Art Forum magazine in 1981. It was presumed that Sherman would photograph women laid out for delectation of the male gaze, but instead she showed women as a psychologically frail, and with personality. The work was rejected by Art Forum as it showed an opposite impression to delectability, that of vulnerability.
Cindy Sherman is at once disgusted and fascinated by magazines. Between 1983- 84 she was asked to produce some fashion shots of the clothes of Jean Paul Gaultier so she shot them, on her disguised self, looking fraught, depressed and deranged. The irony is, that the more she attacks the fashion industry the more the fashion houses love her work.
Cindy Sherman focuses on the artist’s manipulation of her own appearance and her deployment of material derived from a range of cultural sources in order to create imaginary portraits that explore the tension between façade and identity. She is famous for her use of make-up, costumes, props and prosthetics to create complex and ambiguous photographic images. A range of source material from the artist’s studio is shown in order to provide unprecedented insights into her working processes. Taking a quotation from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 film, Rear Window, which Sherman has cited as an important influence: ‘Tell me everything you saw and what you think it means’ as its central theme, the exhibition examines in detail Sherman’s rich and varied visual language – which draws on cinema, television, advertising and fashion.
Paul Moorhouse, Curator, Cindy Sherman,
says: ‘Cindy Sherman’s art is completely distinctive. By inventing fictitious
characters and photographing herself in imaginary situations, she inhabits a
world of pure appearance. No other artist interrogates the illusions presented
by modern culture in such a penetrating way – or scrutinizes so tellingly the
façades that people adopt. Probing the elusive connection between appearance
and meaning, her work explores contemporary life – and with sharp observation
exposes its deceptions.’
Cindy Sherman is curated by Paul Moorhouse, independent curator and writer,
formerly Senior Curator of 20th Century Portraits and Head of Displays
(Victorian to Contemporary) at the National Portrait Gallery. He is the author
of Cindy Sherman, published by Phaidon in 2014.
Cindy Sherman 27 June – 15 September 2019 at the National Portrait Gallery, London www.npg.org.uk
Tickets without donation: Full price £18, Concessions £16.50
Tickets with donation: Full price £20, Concessions: £18.50
Free for Members and Patrons
Cindy Sherman is sponsored by: Calvin Klein
Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place WC2H 0HE, opening hours Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday: 10.00 – 18.00
(Gallery closure commences at 17.50) Late Opening: Thursday, Friday:
10.00 – 21.00 (Gallery closure commences at 8.50pm) Nearest Underground:
Leicester Square/Charing Cross General information: 0207 306 0055 Recorded
information: 020 7312 2463 Websitewww.npg.org.uk
As part of the Weavers of the Clouds exhibition there is a section on
the weaving of the women who make up Awamaki, a
non-profit organization that connects artisan women in the Andes to global
Here is some of the work designed and made by 21 weavers in the community of
Each of the 21 weavers took images from
their daily life and wove a piece that illustrates them, images include llamas,
alpacas, birds, ducks, bats, turkey, deer, condors, houses, cornflowers, stars,
eyes, foxes, native plants, mountains, lagoons, parrots, dogs, Andean geese
Huallata, hummingbirds and owls.
Awamaki was formed in early 2009 to support a cooperative of 10 women weavers from Patacancha, a rural Quechua community in the Andes of Peru. Awamaki’s founders, Kennedy Leavens, from the U.S.A, and Miguel Galdo, from Peru, had worked together at Awamaki’s predecessor organization with the weaving cooperative for two years. When the predecessor organization floundered and finally collapsed, Miguel and Kennedy formed Awamaki to continue their work with the weavers. The organization grew rapidly to include programs in health and education, as well as other artisan cooperatives and a sustainable tourism program. In 2011, Awamaki spun its health program off into an independent sister organization, and made the strategic decision to focus on income improvement and market access through fair trade artisan cooperatives and sustainable tourism.
provides training in product development, business skills and leadership.
Artisans have the opportunity to share their culture and sell their crafts to
tourists through Awamaki’s sustainable tourism program. They collaborate with
international designers to make contemporary handmade accessories throughout
Awamaki’s guiding principle is that
income in the hands of women is the best way to help families be self-sufficient.
In the rural Quechua villages where Awamaki is established, men leave to work
in the tourism economy, while women stay in the village to care for farms,
homes and children. Although highly skilled in traditional crafts, most women
do not read, write, speak Spanish or have anyway of earning money.
as the rural economy has shifted towards paid labour, traditional textile arts
such as spinning, plant dyeing and weaving have experienced a decline. Awamaki
was founded to give these women the opportunity to earn a living while
encouraging them to continue practising traditional crafts.
the majority of artisans who have been in the program for at least seven years
earn the same or more than their husbands. They invest in the health and
education of their families, and are building a prosperous, sustainable future
for Quecha villages in Peru.
Awaki is based in Ollantaytambo, Peru, in
the heart of the Sacred Valley of the
Inca. It welcomes volunteers, tourists and other in support of its work.
At the end of Chelsea Flower show and the
opening of many Gardens under the International Garden Scheme it seemed like a
good time to visit Kew gardens. If like me, you choose a bank holiday Monday,
go by public transport as it is near impossible to find a place to park. Having
said that, once you are in the gardens they are so vast even with the large
numbers of visitors it feels tranquil and not crowded.
had two reasons to visit, beside all the magnificent plant specimens, the first
was the Hive the 17 meter high Installation and the second was to see the work
of glass artist Dale Chihuly in the natural surroundings for which it was
From a distance the hive looks like a swarm of bees, as you get closer you can see the honey comb structure. The hive is made up of 169,300 pieces of aluminium and steel. You can climb up and see the sky through the hole in the top of the structure or look down through the glass floor beneath your feet.
The Hive, a symbol of UK creativity and
innovation was commissioned by the UK Government for 2015 Milan Expo. It was
created by Wolfgang Buttress, Simmonds Studio, Stage One and BDP. It gives a
glimpse into the life of a bee colony.
bees communicate through smells and vibration, different pulses translate into
different messages. Installed in the hive are 1,000 LED lights that connect to
one of Kew’s bee hives. The illumination of the lights represent the bees’
‘communications’ and the vibrational changes occurring within Kew’s hive.
the dazzling display is a beautiful
symphony of orchestral sounds performed in the key of C – the same key that
bees buzz in.
Chihuly is one of the most daring and innovative artists working in glass. You may already know his work, as his Chandelier ice Blue and Spring hangs under the glass rotunda at the entrance to the V&A museum in South Kensington.
Chihuly’s dazzling sculptures transform Kew Gardens and glasshouses into a contemporary outdoor gallery space.
Unique art installations are situated across the grounds, including the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art. Here you can see his Drawings and Rotolo series – the most technically challenging work Chihuly has ever created – and Seaforms, undulating forms that conjure underwater life.
One of the highlights is the film that is shown in the
Shirley Sherwood Gallery. it includes Chihuly’s progression as an artist , his
working methods and how each piece is conceived made and installed. His
ambitious site specific projects include
Chihuly over Venice, Chihuly in the light of Jerusalem and his current work in
There are many outstandingly beautiful pieces to see.
The celestial vibrant blue masterpiece Sapphire
Star welcomes you as you walk through Victoria Gate.
The Temperate House is home to a brand
new, specially designed sculpture inspired by the cathedral space it
inhabits until the end of October.
Kew is decidedly family friendly and amongst other things there is a Family trail following the art works with a booklet for children. The Chihuly exhibition runs until 27th October 2019 kew.org
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.
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.