S Mark Gubb – made me smile :)

This week our speaker was S Mark Gubb – an artist who uses a wide variety of media – primarily sculpture – in order to make his point. And what is his point?  Mark says that his work does not come from any deep philosophical place, he is just investigating stuff that takes his interest.

He traces his particular interests back to the fact that he grew up in the 80s which he thinks was pretty bleak (the politics, the world situation….) – however I have to take issue here, I grew up in the 70’s – we had 3 day weeks, strikes and everything was brown.   In fact in order to research just how bleak the 70’s were, I went on a trip down memory lane…..  This is what I had to play with in the 70’s, at least computers had been invented by the 80’s!

Anyway…. Mark’s work is interesting and varied, from wondering if he could find where Evel Knievel took off for his attempt to cross Snake River Canyon (he did), to musing about the similarity between making a Pot Noodle and the 4 Minute warning.

Many of Mark’s works are fairly lighthearted and enriching, but not so his performance piece about the killing of Peter Fechter in 1962 I was shocked by how deep and moving it was.   How incredible it sounded to recreate this hour as he did, blurring the lines between the performance and the audience, I wonder what they thought of the experience…. read more about it here.    Other darker pieces reference the bullet that shot President Kennedy and the Iraq War.

I learnt a great deal from Mark about how to research a project, how to follow your nose when something interests you….  It was also interesting to learn how seemingly insignificant events and contacts have led to some pretty big work – and how sometimes if you just go all out for what you really feel like doing, you get the chance to do so.   Like a 10m high lightening bolt in Cardiff City centre for instance!

Most of all I loved Mark’s sense of humour and obvious sense of fun in the things he does. And the fact that he told me to relax and enjoy my work and most of all play!

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Trav’ller In The Dark – Hard Interchange, Portsmouth 2011-2015

Trav’ller In The Dark… I passed this hundreds of times and was very sad when it was taken down recently as part of the rebuilding of the Hard, but I didn’t realise it was done by Mark!

After the talk, I researched Mark’s work further and came across the text pieces he’s done, especially at Aspex Gallery.   I was struck by the similarity with some work I am preparing for the Graduate Show in May and also understood why Mark had such pertinent comments to make about some other text work that I showed him.

All pictures shown by kind permission of the artist – find out more at smarkgubb.com and History is written by the winners photo gallery.

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Audience participation – but how?

Had a great talk from artist Bruce Williams last week – it was (as all these talks are proving to be) very inspirational and thought provoking.

Bruce Williams – art in the real world

Bruce makes impossibly huge pieces of art – and it was so interesting to hear the mammoth research that goes into each piece.   I am guessing that most people will pass his pieces in Brighton, Portsmouth, Havant, Wimbledon or Swindon (to name a few) and not even notice them, let alone realise the great care that went into the sculptures’ conception.

I think the piece that struck me the most was the new school.   Bruce went to the empty field before it was even built and took photographs of the flora and fauna there.   He then abstracted and pixelated those plants and made huge colourful windows for the school.  The windows are incredibly beautiful, enough for some, but how much more to realise that the colours and patterns are based on plants that once grew in that field?

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I also loved his curvy fences from Havant – I almost want to drive over there and have a look!

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Bruce puts in so much effort into each proposal – I put a great deal of thought into my first one at Portsmouth Guildhall, and hearing his methodology confirmed to me why I won that exhibition.   Keep it local and relevant.  Care.

See more of Bruces work here: http://www.brucewilliams.net/

Being present

I was lucky enough to discuss my MA project with Bruce and he had some very pertinent input.   My project is about liminal spaces and about using mindfulness to cross those difficult spaces in our minds.    He pointed out that firstly I wasn’t being very imaginative with my hanging plan (and I wasn’t!) and that it would be so much better if I could have some participation.    He said that:

“Something should happen when your audience are present”

I loved this idea immediately – the pun on being present is superb (I am only miffed I didn’t think of it myself) so I have been thinking about how I can achieve this.

I have been researching pressure sensitive mats and infra red motion detectors, looking at Raspberry Pis and LED screens.  A whole new world but I think I have the kernel of a good idea that I am taking forward (with the assistance of a very kind Geeky Husband!).

Mindful painting

I also had an idea that I would like to do a painting performance and spent a fun couple of days playing with pouring acrylic paints.    I love this idea, but it is not proving practical.   I will continue and see if I can get one good painting for the exhibition but I have given up on the idea of doing one a day – that would have been 15 paintings!  The cost of that would have been astronomic and it would have been messy too, they take too long to dry.  But still, the effects are gorgeous and really speak to me.   There is something very mindful about setting out your paints carefully, mixing each one methodically and then setting about pouring the colours and seeing them mix.   To me it was a little like a Japanese Tea Ceremony, something that was done with reverence and love.

The featured image above and the one below was done in one of my pouring sessions.  More to follow I hope!

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Calder’s Sculptures and a Sunny Afternoon

I went to see the exhibition at Tate Modern yesterday showing Alexander Calder’s performing sculptures.  I had no expectations of what it would be like but I left Tate Modern very excited about what I had seen.

I loved his work – the delicate way he managed to abstract the human body with his wire sculptures was perfect.   The sheer simplicity of how he had bent a few wires and so accurately captured the curve of the body – male or female – was masterful.   One of the things that caught my eye the most was how these sculptures threw interesting shadows on the wall behind.   It added immensely to the interest of the pieces.   (See Calders website for more here >)

I got so animated at one gorgeous sculpture and was gesticulating so enthusiastically that the guard had to come over and ask me to stop as I had set the alarms off!   I hadn’t even heard the beeping!

The other part I admired the most was the simple abstracted moving mobiles.  (His friend Marcel Duchamp coined the term ‘mobile’ in 1931 – Calder had called them ‘kinetic abstractions’) Their delicate, almost other worldly floating discs were surprisingly ‘moving’ and left me feeling something deeply emotional that is still hard to put my finger on.

There was a great deal of work in the exhibition that showed the various avenues Calder had ventured down, some more successfully than  others – in my opinion the very simple abstracted shapes worked best, some of his pieces were overly fussy – I just don’t think he needed to add the extra details.     There were sketches, test models, paintings and sound sculptures.

A whole room was dedicated to highly coloured sculptures with painted panel back drops which was innovative and intriguing, but most of all, reminded me so much of the later work of Matisse (the gouache cutouts of the 1940’s) – I am sure he must have been an influence.    Calder was influenced by Mondrain also.   The pictures below don’t reflect the bursts of wonderful colour there were.

There was some wonderful work…. one notice explained that when an exhibition came to New York, Einstein is said to have gazed at a single mobile for 40 minutes, lost in thought.  I wonder what new ideas came from that reflection?

Half way round the exhibition, I had an epiphany of sorts – I use abstraction in my work, but I am not going far enough and being simple enough, I over complicate my work, especially the colours – I love colour and tend to bung in too many for good measure!

It will be interesting to see how this affects my future choices, but for now I am very pleased I went to see this exhibition.

Sunny Afternoon – The Kinks

After the Tate we saw the musical about the early life of the Kinks – it was brilliant!  Like so many bands they had their ups and downs but the music was superb and even though we were in the very back row of the Gods looking straight downwards, it was a great show.   Although after one particularly provocative dance number my husband leaned over and asked if we could be nearer the front next time!   Worth catching if you love 60’s music.

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Featured Image

Today’s image is part of a series I did when I was abstracting the fate of HMS Grafton for the Democracy Street Project.