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28 May 2011

An outside view from Inna space

(Above*) 'Break a leg' commissioned mural by Korben Dallas in the scene dock at The Brewhouse

After work yesterday afternoon I went to The Brewhouse to see what work several artists had created as a part of 'Inna space'. The festival allowed visiting members of the public access to some of the backstage and other areas in the theatre where the artists had made artworks specifically commissioned for this event. I liked the touch of being given a map to read and find the artwork around the building as a trail you could follow and I started with running up the stairs in the box office to listen to Pennie Elfick's sound/colour installation, which I have to admit didn't hold my attention for very long because if I'm being honest I was more excited about going down into the dark under-the-stage areas where I have never been before. So I dashed back down and quickly headed into the ladies toilets (not because I needed to go) to see Jenny Graham's, 'Garden of Unearthly delights' installation. The most unlikely place to see 'art' and not one that many artists would necessarily be able to do, but expect no Duchampian urinals here. It was great to see a really well put together, kitsch fest in the ladies loo. Imagine taking that flowery toilet roll cover that your nan has and the potpourri and times it by a hundred, then you'd have a rough idea of what this looked like. It was a really fun and seriously zealously and immaculately put together installation and a reminder that art should be fun and have a sense of humour sometimes.
Moving on...into darker places, I proceeded from the loo to the 'under the stage' door where after beginning to adjust to the light I stumbled across Sara Dudman's paintings. Titled, 'Haunting' and in location under the stage and in the dark was a great location for these ghostly paintings of a mysterious figure. The paintings were lit but only enough so you could see the colour and streaks of paint that make up the recognisable painting gestures that Sara uses in her work. As I descended the stairs, alongside the paintings which also went down I quickly came to the biggest paintings of the series placed directly under the stage itself. Being able to hear the footsteps of people on the stage above was an atmospheric bonus to seeing the creepy paintings down below.

Onwards and out back into the theatre itself where you see the sound installation piece by Morag Kiziewicz. A shower curtain surrounding a chair takes centre stage where the participant sits and listens to a soundtrack of what, sounded to me a bit like a shower. I think the whole piece being on the stage made me think of the sound of applause and the idea of being 'showered with affection' from an audience if you are a performer. That idea in contrast with the fact that a shower is somewhere usually private and where you feel at your most exposed which is in complete opposition with the 'show' and spotlight of being on stage. You feel kind of vulnerable yet isolated at the same time. At this point, you're possibly wondering why I didn't read what the artist had to say about the work, and the answer is I didn't, for two reasons. One, I wanted to experience as much as I could in a limited time and two, I'm not sure if I ever really like reading the artists statement often preferring having to work at finding some sort of understanding of it. This isn't always the case; but, if I am being very honest is more often than not how I feel about viewing artwork.
Round the corner now and down the corridor to the dressing room where I am at once greeted with a now bearded but recognisable face. It could only be Sue (who doesn't normally have a beard by the way! -as will become clear). Sue Palmer's piece involved her raiding the theatre's costume department and inviting visitors to create, mix and match their own outfits before having their photos taken outside at the scene dock door. The idea of creating a character as a kind of hybrid of Aslan the lion, snow queen, doctor, feather boa creation is fun and used what was available and in context with the Brewhouse. When I arrived, apart from seeing Sue in a beard, two other visitors were dressed and getting ready to go outside to have their picture taken. This was probably a good idea as it meant anyone walking past could see what was going and and would hopefully be intrigued enough to have a look themselves.

Phew! Nearly at the end of my tour and in the scene dock up a scaffold is Korben Dallas creating a mural on the Brewhouse wall. Two photo realistic portraits sprayed directly onto the brickwork wall. I thought it was great seeing both Sue and Korben actually in the Brewhouse creating work on site, even though the other work was made for 'Inna space' it was a different kind of dynamic and more engaging to have these two artists working when visitors came. Similarly, I recommend checking out the graffiti artists blog (link below) to see his other commissioned work as well.
So overall a really brilliant way to end the day and a very exciting change to have work in different contexts in the Brewhouse other than in the gallery. There was a video piece by Maia Conran and an artistic meets cuisine encounter in the cafe restaurant by artist, Stuart Crewes amongst colour bricks and more happening in the gallery/restaurant spaces too. I'd like to see more unusual exhibitions, paintings in the dark and in unexpected places. Thanks to everyone involved, it was fun! This has been my outside view from Inna space.

(Above) My Inna space map handed to me at the start of my exploration of The Brewhouse

(Above*) 'Haunting' a series of paintings under the stage by Sara Dudman

(Above) 'Garden of unearthly delights' installation in the ladies toilets by Jenny Graham
(Above) 'Try this on, become something other with me' in the Brewhouse dressing room by Sue Palmer.

More artists involved in innaspace include:

Stuart Crewes, Sarah Jenkins, Nicci Wonnacott, Ben Cody and Morag Kiziewicz.

For more about Inna space please go to:

*Thank you to Korben Dallas and Sara Dudman for permission to use their photos

22 May 2011

From the Tate Britain

'From the Freud' museum and other works by Susan Hiller came together in a retrospective of the artists work at the Tate Britain this spring. Running for sixteen weeks I managed to catch this exhibition just before it closed on the 15th of this month. The exhibition features the artists postcard works of the 1970's up to the more recent mixed media installation and video projection works. Prior to seeing this show I didn't really know much about or had either seen any of Hiller's work, which is sometimes much better because it meant I had no pre-conceptions of what to expect. Some of the best shows I've seen in fact have been 'better' because I've gone into them blind and not knowing anything about the artist or the artists work; Annette Messager's exhibition at the Hayward being another example of this. So, the question beckons then, 'why, then exactly did I go to the Susan Hiller exhibition if I didn't know anything about the artist or her work?'
Answer: I did go specifically to see the 'From the Freud museum' piece (in the image below) because of my recent project working with the Somerset Heritage Centre (a.k.a The Museum of Somerset) for art weeks and Hiller's work was mentioned as an interesting example of how an artist has worked with museum forms of presentation responding to ideas of the collection and archiving. I have to admit, I did enjoy exploring this piece of work and how everyday and banal bits of 'tat' from toy plastic animals, records and bars of soap sat labeled and like 'precious' artifacts in their respective cardboard boxes. It was intriguing and invited you as the viewer to look at it with a different pace to that of which I'm used to. For example, in my own work I have always opted for the more iconographic, 'boom, in your face!' kind of approach as to a more subtle one that lures you in and quietly asks you to read and inspect it. When you learn of Hiller's background as an anthropologist you can see where the interest in objects and collections comes from, but more importantly I suppose for Hiller its the significance of the objects in the piece that she is more interested in and playing with the context the objects are in and how that creates alternative meanings.
However, this piece was just one of the many delights of this exhibition as a whole and for me the piece that really surprised me was 'Witness'. To briefly describe it, 'Witness' is a sound installation about people's encounters with UFOs or extraterrestrial phenomena, in which recorded dialogues from people all over the world are played all at once out of different speakers hanging from the ceiling (see second image below to get an idea). Anyway, the result is this room full of chatter of which none of it makes any sense until you walk in amongst the hanging speakers and pick up the sound of a language you understand (obviously in my case, I am pretty limited to English with the occasional bit of French or German). It is then that you hear someones story of their 'extraterrestrial experience'. Its not so much the content of what they're saying that's interesting, but the overall feel of being an individual in a space trying to make sense of things. In this case the you as the viewer, trying to make sense of one story/voice over all the other voices but in a way I think its trying to allude to the bigger metaphor of how we are all one voice of many voices all chattering at the same time and how we wander through our busy lives trying to make sense of things amongst all the other noise; sometimes picking out bits that resonate and speak to us as individuals or otherwise missing other things that pass us by. In a way 'Witness' is a perfect example of how one can be surrounded by hundreds of people yet feel completely alone. That, and the way in which all the cables/speakers picked up the light as they were hung in a dark room kind of made me think of stars/space or even UFOs, making it also visually interesting. As you can tell, I was pretty impressed with this piece and it once again reaffirms my ever increasing belief that installation art is up there in the way it creates experience and 'moves' you more often than painting does. I say that, however, the act of painting certainly has the same affect for me, its the end product from that which I'm not sure if it has the same affect as the making of it.
That was just the start of things, this exhibition had a whole lot more and I haven't touched upon some of the video projection pieces, like 'Psi girls' as well as a postcard project and a Joesph Beuys style piece that consisted of hundreds of labelled bottles of water in a glass case (to put it very simply). So all very exciting and coming from four decades of the now 70 years old artists career, making this a diverse and surprising show. I say surprising because for an artist that, in a way has become famous from categorising everyday objects, I wouldn't however, really know how best to categorise her. She's not really entirely conceptual, minimal, feminist, anthropologist, surrealist, installation, mixed media, photographer, film maker, found-object, Dada, Duchampian anything-a-ma-bob. That's why I like it, because like the nature of anthropology and humankind, we are a polysemic, organic and forever changing and re-writing of the same things. The diversity of the work in Hiller's career really reflects that.

(Top) 'From the Freud museum' 1991, (Middle) 'Witness' 2000, (Bottom) Auras: Homage to Marcel Duchamp 2008.

Susan Hiller at the Tate Britain has now ended but you can check out more info/images of her work at:

12 May 2011

It was Ms Scarlet, in the Pear Tree with the coffee grinder!

Whilst the name Scarlet von Teazel may conjure up flamboyant or promiscuous persona's of the likes of Miss Scarlett from Cluedo, I can assure you murder was not on the agenda at the recent private view of the Somerset based artists solo show at the Pear tree art gallery, East Reach, Taunton. The opening of which happened Monday evening this week.
And of course, as ever, I was there to see if I could unravel the mystery...
The Cluedo analogy isn't completely far removed from Scarlet's work, as truth be told, there is in fact always a little mystery involved in which the work features carefully selected everyday objects transposed alongside abstract bleached, soaked and stained paintings. An odd single child's shoe, worn and wrapped in paper lies amongst a box of old photos, books and assorted curiosities; whilst in another corner coffee stained paper books are rustling as someone walks past; sewn and stitched cocoon-like sculptures sway from the ceiling taking on an other-worldly-ness and all around you the room is warm, and glowing from the rich sepia colours that conjure up ideas of nostalgia and associations with history and archaeology. There is something about the way all these different oddities, tactile surfaces and objects come together that lures you in and invites you to explore and try and unravel the mystery of how they came to be. Or in some ways, what I think it does is allow you to create your own narratives as to where the objects came from and who they might have belonged to.The artist herself says,

"When I work, I am following instincts and distant echoes, leading a dialogue with the unconscious to try to achieve a deeper understanding of our world. My art is an extension of my search for answers and through it I try to connect with other people who like me feel at times a bit lost..."

Exactly, and there is something really honest about bringing 'stuff' together, as an artist whatever your preferred media that is really about trying to find answers and I personally like the fact that such everyday banal things such as envelopes and old receipts (in Scarlet's work for example) can undergo an alchemical transformation and be turned into something 'other'. Whatever that 'other' is exactly still remains a mystery and I think I like it that way.

Scarlet von Teazel's exhibition, 'Exposed' can be seen at the Pear Tree Art Gallery from now until the 10th of June.

For gallery opening times and details please go to:

For more of Scarlet's work please go to:

Taunton's willow cathedral is growing!

Yes, your eyes do not deceive you, that is a massive (in fact 30metres by 16 metres -8 metres high!) willow made structure springing out from the ground in a field situated between a college, a supermarket, a river and a park in the middle of Taunton in Somerset. Further more, for those of you interested, yes, that is me looking at it in the top photo and proudly so, because anyone living in Taunton/Somerset or interested in sustainable buildings/art or fantastic spectacles of human and natural processes working together in harmony should be excited and should find themselves a spot down there to have a look at this for themselves. It really is the first willow cathedral to be built in the UK, the only other cathedral of its kind (I believe) is to be found in Germany. The cathedral is has been designed by local artist, Stephan Jennings who is also building it with fellow artist, Sophie Courtiour. Here's what Stephan has to say about the project:

Stefan comments, “Creating the cathedral is a serious test for us due to the dimensions involved and the nature of the materials used. The opportunity to create this type of structure is something we have both been working towards for a number of years and as far as we are aware nothing of this scale has been made before in the UK.
“It’s locality near the banks of the River Tone in a fresh new public space seems right for Taunton. Longrun Meadow is a really expansive green space close to the town centre, which is proving very popular with local people. I believe that the structure will fit perfectly into the landscape and will offer a connection with nature and the life of the river.”

-taken from Somerset College's Genesis webpage

Those of you with excellent memories may recall me mentioning Stephan before as I first had the pleasure of meeting him on the 'Routes, river, rail' project in which I was the assistant artist on back in 2010. We were talking to Stephan about the routes along the river, specifically in relation to the wildlife that lives there and ways in which people can interact with these environments sustainably. Back then, we hoped that the willow cathedral proposal was going to go ahead and obviously now the reality is that it was both successful and is under construction as we speak. It aims to be finished by the end of May when it will continue to grow eventually turning mush more green than in these photos. However, the purpose and potential opportunities for the cathedral have yet to be decided with some suggestions for public gatherings to performances and celebrations. Personally, I really like the fact that it is so open to debate as to what its function should be because the construction of it being built and that it will continue to grow and become a part of the floodplain landscape in which it lives in are as if not more interesting anyway.

I cannot begin to tell you how exciting it was to come across this structure whilst I was out walking, its impressive in its sheer size but worth a closer look too as you can see all the different colours of willow within it and how the whole building has been woven together, its quite beautiful. It reminds me of the seeing the Eden project just when it opened and was more like a massive man-made hillside or quarry in these two giant domes with very little growing in it to begin with and then a year later and, whoosh! Everything was huge and it no longer looked like a building site; as any person who spends time in a garden will tell you, about how rewarding it is to see something living grow and transform well its the same with this cathedral. I'd recommend seeing it now and then watching it change as it shoots and turns green.

Thank you Sophie Courtiour for permission to use your photos.
If you 'like' what you've read here and want to follow further willow cathedral updates please 'like' the Willow Cathedral page on facebook by clicking below:
We'll keep you updated about when its due to officially open to the public, however anyone can go visit anytime now whilst its being built so please go check it out!