Sunday, 22 January 2012

Contrasting exhibition experiences

Nottingham is playing host to two exhibitions at the moment both by artists which I thought I had to see and whose work needs no introducing.

Firstly at Nottingham Castle the main exhibition hall is showing work by Anish Kapoor.  For more information have a look at his website, and that of Nottingham Castle. I have been to a couple of his larger pieces, such as the one in the turbine hall at the Tate Modern in 2002 -2003 and Nottingham has a permanent Sky Mirror in front of the Playhouse. So I was expecting to be presented with a sense of the broad spectrum and impact that his work usually creates in the viewer.
Unfortunately not.
In any exhibition there will be pieces which you find more affecting or impressive than others, that I expected. I was disappointed however with the lack of sense of who Anish Kapoor is and the importance of his work in the world today. I suspect that if a visitor knew nothing about him before, they would not be inspired to learn more or to seek his work out at other venues, a shame.

By contrast I went from Nottingham Castle to the Djanogly Centre at Nottingham University to see the Lowry exhibition. And thank goodness I did.
Obviously this was all wall based, 2D and much more traditional than Anish Kapoor, but the effect of the exhibition on my understanding of Lowry and his work was immense. A huge number of works from all periods in his life, sketches, development drawing and very good information at the side of each picture discussing the piece, Lowry's life at the time, how the pieces were constructed etc. etc. in clear, informative language.

It was interesting that the Castle was quiet, relatively few people at the exhibtion whereas the Djanogly centre was heaving, they had over 1000 visitors on the day I was there and have extended their opening times for the last few weekends of the exhibition!

Now I know there are other factors here - it costs £5.00 per head to get into the Castle and contemporary work is often less popular than the 'traditional' names, but some of it must surely have been word of mouth about the breadth and quality of the Lowry show.

So I am now looking forward to the next exhibtion at the Djanogly which is going to be works by Edward Burra (starting on 3rd March).

Monday, 16 January 2012

Matthew Harris and 'end gaming'.

At the Beetroot Tree we have been hosting an exhibition of the paper and textile works of Matthew Harris.


Though the exhibition has finished now, I wanted to share with you the talk about his work which he gave to a packed audience on the final day of his exhibition.
We couldn't video the whole event (and I am quite sure that you wouldn't want to watch it in full), but here is a taster, with many thanks to David and Nell for creating it:



I know from the comments in the visitor book, from the distances travelled to see the exhibition, conversations with some of you, views on You Tube and, very importantly, the vote of confidence and support your wallets gave to Matthew through your purchases how popular he prooved to be .
I found his talk interesting particularly as it correlated very well with a favorite hobbyhorse of mine in relation to avoid what I call 'end gaming'. Matthew obviously goes to great lengths to prevent himself from making all of the decisions about a piece before it is made, including working on the reverse side of his papers and fabrics to a large extent. We can all find our own methods to prevent ourselves from 'end gaming' and to allow us to 'go with the flow'. Perhaps it is also something to do with basic aspects of our personality, some find it easier to be improvisational and others find it harder, but whichever you are, it is absolutely key to being creative.
I think that it was interesting that Matthew's processes were very controlled and deliberate in order to push him away from a known outcome. Even so, as one attendee commented, the disonance and interuptions that Matthew is aiming for still in his case result in beautifully aesthetic, calm works. I could imagine that another maker using similar techniques might create wild, strident and discordant results. That would be an interesting idea to pursue - take a group of makers and the working process of one artist, the same starting point, and watch the development of the pieces ... probably not an original idea, but it would still be worth doing at some point.
Finding ways of keeping in touch with a piece as it develops is critically important to the success or otherwise of the outcome. Practice and find your own strategies, then share them with us here. I look forward to hearing your ideas.