Sunday, 19 September 2010

Happy New Year! (ish)

September always feels a bit like the beginning of a new year; the end of the summer, darker evenings, back to teaching, meeting new students and trying to be more organised than the previous academic year. The summer seems to have gone so quickly but it has been really productive and I can't believe how much has happened since last September ... conferences, exhibitions, textstallations, book-paintings, travelling and research; a right old textual and material journey where sometimes I came to dead-ends, went backwards and in circles but have moved forwards considerably!

I spent the end of the holidays in Manchester and visted the John Rylands Library for the first time ever. I can't believe I've never been there before as it is the most amazing place ... like Hogwarts but better and filled floor to ceiling with loads of beautiful books dating back from hundreds of years ago all in one place - what more could you possibly want?!
It felt really inspiring to be in there; you can study in the big hall and I can imagine I'd get quite a lot of work done there! There was also a small exhibition called Spilled Milk: A Multi-media Storybook by an artist called Johnny Woodhams there which I thought was really interesting.
I liked the use of strips of text in his work which is something I've been exploring in my art practice and how they were used aesthetically in his canvases as well as to create a narrative.

I also went to the Chinese Arts Centre which I'd never been to before. There was a great exhibition with some beautiful Chinese ink drawings and calligraphy by artists Mary Tang and Cathy Wu. I've been using a lot of found text from different languages in my work and really liked the diagrammatic nature of the Chinese text; how they seemed to be in-between drawing and writing when viewed by someone who is unfamiliar with the language. Some of the pieces were also on a massive scale, which made them seem even more abstract and alien.
There an exhibition there as well by Tasha Whittle called Note to Self which I really liked. The work included a site specific wall-based piece and other smaller pieces which were placed at different levels around a corridor space which led to the lower floor of the building. I really liked how the work was exhibited in a space where you had to travel through it to see the work and that it was always seen at different angles and levels as you passed through.
Obviously, being me, I was also drawn to the amazing tea house there where there is one wall just filled with chinese tea where you help yourself to a pot and they top it up with hot water for you! There were loads of different types of teas ... Rose Bud tea, Lychee black tea, Jasmine green tea ... a top notch mixed bag of Chinese tea delights!

I went to see the MA shows at Margaret Street, BIAD and it's crazy to think it was this time three years ago in 2007 when I was having my MA show there as well. The show this year was a triple whammy as it included the MA shows, an exhibition called When We Build Let Us Think That We Build Forever and also an exhibition of work by current staff in a new gallery space in the building. There was a couple of pieces that I especially liked in the MA shows including the pieces below and an installation on the bottom floor which was like being in a chicken coop!
Claire Thomas, MA Art Practice and Education

Anna Tzini, MA Queer Studies in Arts and Culture

Andrew Dundas, MA Fine Art

The opening of When We Build Let Us Think That We Build Forever celebrated the 125th anniversary of the fantastic neo-gothic School of Art building in Margaret Street which was the first purpose built art school in the UK. It was organised by the university's Alumni Association and twas a rather classy affair including complimentary drinks, canapes and even a string quartet! It also included an opening talk by Professor John Butler, Head of the School of Art who talked about the different courses that used to be run in the building including Stained glass making, Enamelling, Embroidery and Weaving and House Painting and Decorating. Its amazing to think the building has survived two world wars and the courses have developed into its contemporary forms such as painting, sculpture, performance, film and interactive digital work!

All of the work in the show was made by former students and staff, some who studied at the beginning of the century! As I was wondering round, I thought it was nice to see a mixture of different work together and also to finally see the beast in situ. The beast stuck out like a sore thumb against the grey walls and the muted colours of the other works, but I quite liked that it visually made an impact because of the colour! After all ... it is the beast. Not sure what to do with the bad boy now though, anyone want to take it off my hands?! Ill pay you! (No, seriously, I am joking).
The exhibition included some sexy books from the Margaret Street archives which were typographically and aesthetically really interesting because of the fragility and intrictate detail of them.

The new space looked really good and replaced what used to be a small canteen. It was really cool to see the staff exhibit their work and it included pieces from my former tutors and also my DoS.

I spent last weekend working at Artsfest in Birmingham where I worked on the Heart of England Galleries marquee. I worked there representing the Shire Hall Gallery in Stafford where I work as a casual Front of House member of staff. It was an intense weekend and despite really achey feet, it was a great experience and I met some ace people from each of the different galleries. I did a free badgemaking workshop on the first day and there was a young girl who must have only been about 10 who made a badge which said 'I'm proud to be a geek'! I thought what a cool kid, I wish I had the balls to be proud to be geeky when I was 10! I wish I'd taken a picture of it but I did tell her it was the best badge I'd seen all day! Our stand was at the top of the fountain in Victoria Square so we were near one of the performance spaces so we got to see the performances including a cool drum band, salsa dancing and some street dancing where we had a bit of a dance whilst doing the workshops! : )

Also, good luck to Rachel Marsden and RJW as they embark on an intense 4 month art and research-based trip around China! Miss you guys loads!!

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