Archive for March, 2010

Little people care about science and their universe

10/03/10

I just came across http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/pluto/mail-flash.html via one of Penny’s tweets Definitely tugs at the heart strings.

Madeline's Pluto Letter on PBS' NOVA
Madeline’s Pluto Letter on PBS’ NOVA

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Making Marks: Lutz Becker’s "MODERN TIMES responding to chaos" at Kettle’s Yard and the De La Warr Pavilion

09/03/10

Karoline Bröckel: Ohne Titel (Schnee) (2005)
Karoline Bröckel: Ohne Titel (Schnee) (2005)

There’s only five days left to see the exhibition put together by Lutz Becker at Kettle’s Yard called MODERN TIMES responding to chaos before it heads off to the De La Warr Pavilion. It’s a marvel: a vibrant, exciting, and exceptionally varied collection of modern (mostly abstract) drawings.

The exhibition is also a wonderful opportunity for the that’s-rubbish-anyone-could-draw-that brigade. I’ve been along three times now and each time, alongside the devoted modern art fans, there were visitors guffawing at the work. One of my favourite pieces in the exhibition, Cy Twombly’s Untitled from 1971 attracted some of that criticism. One group of young Italians were having a great time rubbishing the work. I couldn’t help feeling that although Lutz’ taste in art differed from theirs, he’d given them a fun half hour regardless!

Cy Twombly: Untitled (1970)
Cy Twombly: Untitled (1970)

For me the Twombly work shows wonderful child-like exuberance. It’s like one of those exercises artists sometimes do to overcome fear of the blank page, or calligraphers do to loosen their hands before working. Unfortunately I found out from one of the guards (guides?) that Twombly practised for ages to get the strokes just right, which lessens the piece for me. I’d prefer it were visceral and explosive to prissy and precise. There is however some beautiful precise careful work in the exhibition too. Take Katharina Hinsberg‘s piece Nulla dies sine linea 4. As with her earlier piece below, Nulla dies sine linea 4 is a stack of paper. On the first sheet Hinsberg carefully draws a straight line, with a ruler. Then she lays the second piece and carefully traces the line freehand through the paper. This gets repeated over and over again hundreds of times until, like a game of Chinese Whispers the line has drifted far from its original path.


Katharina Hinsberg: nulla dies sine linea (1999)

I said the exhibition was mostly abstract, but there were a few figurative pieces, for example Rachel Howard‘s Untitled Drawing 5 below. I was a little surprised by this. Compared to, say, Emma Dexter‘s Vitamin D: New Perspectives in Drawing where figurative, or drawings with figurative elements, play a strong part. Similarly cartoon-like work is not represented, though I’m being unfair expecting a survey of modern drawing; the exhibition is billed as drawings and films which "explore the urge towards abstraction and its ongoing dialogue with figuration, and the conversation between the geometric and the gestural".

Rachel Howard: Untitled Drawing 5 (2007)
Rachel Howard: Untitled Drawing 5 (2007)

Several recent topics of interest for me came together in this exhibition, several that Tracey Rowledge‘s work had first got me thinking about. Stuart and I have been talking with Tracey recently about possible joint projects around the future of paper and the future of the book, so I’ve been thinking about her work a lot recently.  Rowledge is not represented in the exhibition but she easily could be. Take her recent automatic drawings done on an Crafts Council supported trip in 2008 to Disko Bay like No. 11 from Arctic Series 3 below. Tracey took paper, infused it with arctic water, and then used kid’s felt-tip pens hung under the chair in her shared cabin to record the constant rocking of the ship Cape Farewell

Tracey Rowledge: Arctic Series 3 No. 11 (2008)
Tracey Rowledge: Arctic Series 3 No. 11 (2008)

Included in the exhibition is another finespun automatic drawing, William Anastasi‘s Subway Drawing of 1967. Anastasi completes the piece by resting two pencils, one in each hand, on a piece of paper while he completed a subway journey.

William Anastasi: Subway Drawing (1993)
William Anastasi: Subway Drawing (1993)

Julije Knifer‘s piece Meander from 1982 also reminded me of Tracey’s work. Though Knifer clearly intends the work as an exercise in geometric abstraction, the thick layer of graphite could act as a mirror (were it not behind the glass of the frame) in the same way as Rowledge’s wonderful piece Notes for a Future Work: a huge graphite covered gesso board, which acted as an imperfect almost ghostly mirror in Siobhan Davies dance studio

Julije Knifer: Meander (2003)
Julije Knifer: Meander (2003)

Tracey describes her layer of graphite on a gesso ground as a "graphite drawing" but it was another term I’d heard her use that rung in my head as I walked around the exhibition: "mark making". When Tracy mentioned her fascination with mark making I could see what she meant. The painstaking work required to render a seemingly fluid abstract stroke in gold on leather on one of her book bindings is awe inspiring. And mark making is a clear theme in her fine art work too. Take, for example, the collaboration Thrown with Clare Twomey and David Clarke where lead and silver pieces by Clarke were thrown onto sheets of carbon paper laid over gesso covered paper. I assumed "mark making" was an artists’ rarefied term, and this seemed confirmed when Lutz uses the phrase in the exhibition catalogue (though I cannot find it now!). But chatting to Kate on the way home it turns out to be a commonplace term in early years provision.

For me the exhibition is at it’s best showing the diversity of abstract responses to drawing, from the process driven subtle work of Katharina Hinsberg mentioned above, through the delicate constrained Agnes Martin work mentioned below, and taking in explosively creative works like the Cy Twombly, or this Mark Tobey.

Mark Tobey: Night Celebration III (1971)
Mark Tobey: Night Celebration III (1971)

Agnes Martin: On a Clear Day (1973)

The Modern Times exhibition is also an exciting pointer to an exhibition coming up from May to July in Kettle’s Yard of Agnes Martin’s work. There’s one untitled piece of hers in the Modern Times exhibition, similar to "On a Clear Day" on the right.

[N.B. The exhibition catalogue has lovely reproductions of all the work in the exhibition, plus some interesting essays, but the exhibition web page does not. So to illustrate this blog post I’ve scowered the interweb for gallery pictures of either the works on display, or similar works often from the same series. If you click on the image it should take you through to the page I found it on.]

My homage to Unhappy Hipsters

01/03/10

The Florey Building

Whenever Harry indulged his passion for modernist interiors he was careful to wear his invisibility cloak.

(My homage to Unhappy Hipsters, photo by Steve Cadman on flickr.)