Search This Blog


Send Davina your news and comments

29 April 2012

We're all ears!

        Please check out the new blog I'm currently developing (its nearly finished) at:
"A Somerset Journey is a search for the sounds and winds of Somerset. It is a month long performance looking for the song of the wind, seeking out songs and stories, and special sounding places in Somerset. We are also asking people to listen to the county and tell us about their favourite sounds.In the journey a troupe of ‘Wind Gatherers' travel around the county creating a series of special events for people to join in with; exchanging and sharing sounds, songs and stories, creating landscape jams and big sings, story telling picnics, campfire feasts, illuminated journeys, and noisy processions."

           The journey starts Monday May 21st, Taunton Olympic Torch Ceremony! All welcome!

  (above) The Foating Beacon of Sound and Light: This event took place in March on the river outside The Brewhouse and at Bridgwater. The 'Somerset Journey' will be of a similar nature, made by the same artists and will, of course, feature a big horn.

Please watch this space for more details on the 'Somerset Journey- Sounding out Somerset' project. Follow us on twitter @somersetjourney or get in touch with us at

See no evil

Dear Blog, I've missed writing on you these last two weeks, but its fair to say that I've been busy. Walking in the completely wrong direction in the rain, on a recent visit to Bristol being just one example I'm going to reflect on here. Towards the end of March things were becoming increasingly busy with my interim assessment for my MA, Fine Art pending in April and the organising of a project, 'A Somerset Journey' warranting more time. So, I thought I'd escape for the day, to er..'sunny' Bristol to see the graffiti art on Nelson Street (something I'd long been intending to do). Although in my haste to get away and get away quickly I looked online for 'Nelson Street, Bristol' to get an idea of where it was....little did I know until I was half way through to the other side of Bedminster that there are actually TWO Nelson Streets' in Bristol and in my haste to leave I'd found the wrong one. Had I been less stupid, I would have soon realised that the Nelson Street I was looking for was actually pretty much right next to Broadmeads in the centre of the city. Big sigh!
So, don't go making the same mistake as me! Anyway, when I did get there I'm pleased to say it was worth it. For those of you who may not know Nelson Street was home to the 'See no evil' street art event which saw over 70 artists paint and entire street in a few days back in August last year. Created by the street artist, Inkie with support of Council, Team Love and Weapon of Choice, the event attracted over 10,000 visitors. Whether you want to call it street art, graffiti, calligraphy or just painting when its done as well and imaginatively as this one thing you couldn't call it is vandalism of the likes of the pointless scribblings we've all seen at some point under a bridge or in a public space. So whilst I was annoyed that I'd walked in the rain in the wrong direction, got lost and had now, after some time, found the right Nelson Street (and it was still raining) to be greeted by so much colour and wall to wall imagery was just the lift I needed. Without the street art on this street it really would have been a completely grey, miserable, dark and architecturally dull place. I've talked about using empty shops and empty buildings for art exhibitions before, and it seems that using a street is also not that different in terms of taking something disused, abandoned and/or lifeless and using the power of art to give it some life. It might not have the profound content and ideas that my Barriball did in my last post, but you could argue it is doing a lot more good, and touching a lot more people and I for one am glad there is a place for both.
Check out some of what was many, many more photos I took on the day. Definitely pay it a visit, if you haven't already next time you're in Bristol.

                                                      Mysterious Al, London (above)
                                                           Bristol's Acerone (above)
                                                      Shoe from Amsterdam (above)

                                                                Cheba, Bristol (above)
                                                           Nick Walker, Bristol (above)

8 April 2012

Thoughts on the Anna Barriball exhibition at 'The Fruitmarket Gallery', Edinburgh

Last week I mentioned my recent trip to Edinburgh. You may also remember that there was so much to write about in that initial post, that I barely had time to go into any detail about any of the specific exhibitions I saw. So, this week I wanted to give some thoughts on the Anna Barriball exhibition I saw in 'The Fruitmarket Gallery'.
Ok, so first impressions were, 'Wow! What an amazing, large and contemporary art space.'
Followed by, 'Oh...and the first thing I see in it is an entire wall covered in black...somethings...?'
Note the tone of disappointment, but also curiosity, for WHAT were those black squares or somethings covering the gallery walls?
On closer inspection.
'Ahhh, they're plastic, material. Are they bags? Something stitched. Canvas? Wait, I can see faint traces of coloured stripes. Wait! I see, they're wind breakers. Covered pen?'
'And what's that noise? Sounds like the wind blowing, rustling?'
'But its not coming from the windbreaker wall, artwork....'
Looks around gallery.
'Ah, ha! Its coming from in here!' (enters dark corner room inside gallery)
Sees, video projection.
*I have to admit here, I've never been much of a fan of video art, and I was already feeling disappointed at the windbreaker wall. However...
' looks like a fireplace, but with one of those vacuum forming things over where the grill of the fireplace would be...oh...and its moving, in and out. So sometimes one sees a flat sheet covering where the hole to the fireplace is and then, fwoosh, something sucks the flat sheet in, revealing the form of the fireplace grill and space within....'
You, know, that is actually pretty interesting. Not quite a drawing, not quite a sculpture, not quite an event or even a film, but a combination of all of those (image 3.). And then, when you think about the sound of the wind in relation to the windbreakers it seems like a theme is emerging...

The exhibition continues upstairs.

'More domestic recognisable forms, I can see squares. Are they windows? Doors. But they are silver and shimmering. There are cut out, uh.., leaves on the floor. I wonder if I can step on those? But they're in the way of getting closer to the silver shimmering window/squares. I need to step over/onto them to see them closer...'
I tentatively proceed...
'Ok, so they're cut out leaves from a fabric design, they look like from curtains (which would certainly tie-in with my domestic/interior theme). And these window/squares are actually walls, they look like a pencil rubbing of a brick wall, then framed in a window shape.'*

*All of this actually happened pretty quickly, whilst it sounds here, more like I took my time considering and pondering what it all was, in reality it all happened fast and I was desperately trying to search for something that would make it all appeal to me. Isn't that to some extent what everyone looks for, when going to an exhibition? To see something of themselves in the work? Not in a narcissistic way, but in the way one looks for something to relate to in the work.
For me, it wasn't until I saw that the work upstairs and down all had something to do with drawing or traces that I started to look at it all differently.
These windows, or bricks (image 1.) were in fact drawings and rubbings of walls. Just as the door (image 2.) was also a drawing, but I liked the way they, like the fireplace, could also be sculpture and challenged what I thought a 'drawing' to be. If you looked at drawing, as a word, then 'drawing' can mean to 'draw' out in the sense that one 'draws breath' or 'draw blood'. Now, when you look at 'draw' that way it all becomes a lot more bodily and especially the idea of 'drawing breath' seems so appropriate to the imagery of a window or a fireplace which are places where wind, breath and air-flow are part of what makes them functional/needed as a window or fireplace. Barriball herself states,
"I am drawn to the unfixed quality, the destabilising feeling that things can shift or eve disappear; the sense of movement. the rhythm of breathing is echoed in the rhythm of the drawings. Time, air and light become materials in the work, animating either the space or the thing itself."
So, for all its subtlety and minimal appearance I was beginning to find the work was not only a 'drawing out' but it also invited me to look closer and 'drew' me in. In many ways it was more like Barriball was enquiring into surfaces and the fact of whether it was the surface of a door or a brick wall were no more important than acting to unite the work as an exhibition. Unless you consider taking the drawing-in, drawing-out idea a little further and see windows and doors as portals/thresholds between inner and outside spaces. That way, the surface of the drawing up-close and sculptural quality it creates give an illusion of what space might be behind the drawn on surface. As Barriball herself, alliterates,
" [she is] interested in the confusion of being inside or outside, in a liminal space. Thresholds that are no longer ways in or ways out - drawings that hold you in a space while hinting at what might be behind the surface."
'Woah, I'm confused.' I find myself thinking. 'Do I actually like this exhibition or not?'
I'm still not sure. In many ways I hate its minimalist aesthetic that forces the viewer to come up with conceptual ideas or meaning, but then I like the drawing, the surfaces and creating attention to the everyday. It has taken me 25 years to learn to see or even consider a rubbing of a door as art. I think I have for a long time considered a real door as being art in seeing it in the context of a house or woodshop. But seeing windbreakers covered in ink inside a gallery still fills me with some scepticism, like I am looking for some come of proof or validity as to justify its worthyness to be in a gallery context. Outisde a gallery I might see a stained windbreaker lying on a beach and think, 'interesting', but in a gallery I am always expecting someting more. I don't know exactly what that 'more' might be, maybe I think too highly of the gallery as a context. I'm not sure. I do know, however, that I enjoy the debate it raises and having my faith in art questioned is probably what keeps me still doing it; the constant search for meaning. There's a lot of contradiction in that  statement, but something worth pondering longer on another day.
So on the surface of things, I wasn't initially that impressed with Barriball's exhibition at 'The Fruitmarket', but then on retrospect, and thinking about it here, it did definitely raise a lot of interesting thoughts about the nature of drawing and my perceptions of art in general. Which goes to prove what Barriball was perhaps intending to express in the work all along, that nothing can be judged merely on surface value and in fact, surfaces can have hidden depths.
Image 1. (above) 'Mirror Window Wall' 2008 -ink on paper

                                              Image 2. (above) 'Door' 2004 -pencil on paper
Image 3. (above) 'Draw (firepalce)' 2005 -video projection

"Anna Barriball (b. Plymouth, 1972) makes work that blurs the boundaries of conventional art disciplines. She uses traditional materials, but her actions test the limits of how materials can be made to behave, so her work often transcends its original medium: drawings are also sculptures, sculptures are drawings and films are drawings and sculptures."

Ann Barriball Exhibition 21 January - 9 April 2012, The Fruitmarket Gallery. Text in Italics taken from exhibition phamplet. Images from postcards bought at The Fruit Market Gallery.

2 April 2012

Adventures in Edinburgh!

Greetings from Edinburgh! Well, sort of, I'm not actually writing this in Edinburgh, but its not been long since I got back to sunny Somerset. That's right, this time I've travelled all the way to Edinburgh to report back just some of the many cultural highlights on offer (lucky you!). From Wednesday 28th to Saturday 31st, I made it my mission to see as much art, hilltops, bagpipes and whisky as humanly possible. Now, without further ado and without trying to sound too much like I'm writing for a Scottish Tourism blog, here we go...

                                          (above) Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Edinburgh's answer to the Tate Modern, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art of which the building itself couldn't be more different than the Tate's Bankside power station. However, the inside is equally and unsurprisingly as modern. It is a much smaller gallery than the Tate, but comparisons aside its quality not quantity that counts. Currently showing is until the 24th of June is 'The Sculpture Show', and whilst I'm stubbornly adamant that I am NOT a sculptor, I'm increasingly finding the work that is most influencing my predominantly 2D practise is sculptural. But what is sculpture anyway? That is one of the questions which this exhibition seems to challenge and if David Shrigley's sculpture of a sheet of paper (in the exhibition) is anything to go by, then it really is questioning the distinction and similarities between the 2D picture plane in art and the assumption that all sculpture has to be 3D. Although if, unlike me, you find it difficult to get excited about a sheet of paper that isn't really paper then maybe a giant super realist sculpture of a new born baby by Ron Mueck should definitely ignite your interest, if not a feeling of 'woah!'. What I particularly enjoyed was the amount of work by contemporary artists such as Jim Lambie and Karla Black instead of just the Jacob Epsteins, Picasso's and Henry Moores that are more familiar in sculpture exhibitions. Although the 'sculpture' that I will be taking away as being the most resonant for me personally, was ironically more 2D. On the second floor there were around six mirror paintings of mechanical car parts and engines (silk screened onto mirrors) by Michael Pistoletto. The Italian artist has been going since the 1960's, how could I have missed him until now?! Anyway, thought these particular works were amazing.         
Whilst this gallery only has two floors, just opposite a large green area (dotted with, you guessed it, more sculptures) is the sister gallery, making it Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art: One and Two.                         
(above) Julian Opie. One of the many sculptures inbetween the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art     one and two.
                                                     (above) The Collective Gallery
An artist run organisation established in 1984, The Collective Gallery! Currently featuring an exhibition of work from Sun Xun, Fiona Jardine and James Hutchinson.
"Sun Xun’s ephemeral wall paintings and hand-drawn animations are erased after the duration of an exhibition or in the filming process, questioning the value of drawing and the art object, while James Hutchinson’s crates consider the implications of globalisation of works and movement of ideas and finally Fiona Jardine’s research project looks at how we hold and share knowledge." -taken from
Firstly, this is a great space and location right in the centre of the city and not far from the tourist honey pot that is the 'Royal Mile' (see I told you this was going to sound 'touristy'). It is a very small space, and reminds me of the shop front 'pop-up' galleries that you see in cities and during the Liverpool Biennial, but for me this time the exhibition didn't get me particularly excited being of the conceptual kind where you have to read a page of writing to gain any understanding of the work. That is a bit harsh, and doesn't so much apply to Sun Xun's wall paintings but at the point in the day when I came to this gallery I think I was just about too arted-out to have to read anymore. It does, however, raise an interesting debate for me and I think one that many artists are aware of, which is, how much writing is too much or too little in contextualising a piece of work? Unless the work is writing..but that's a whole different thing altogether.
                                              (above) Scottish Parliament building
This post was never going to be all about art galleries. Not when you have remarkable and dare I say, 'odd' buildings like this one in amongst what had otherwise been very classical, spires and chimney topped buildings along with cobbled streets. This building is just so many shapes! You can tell the architect must have had fun designing it!

                                     (above) International Newsagents on The Royal Mile
What's black and white and red all over? This cool looking newsagents. I did warn you things might get a bit weird, but I feel it is my duty as a visual person to point out these wonderful looking places, that are art without even trying. Plus this could be a handy bit of info if you ever needed to buy a foreign newspaper whilst in Edinburgh.
                                         (above) The Fringe Shop on the Royal Mile
                                      A great looking shop front for what is also a great festival.
                                                  (above) The Camera Obscura Tower
This was my first experience of a camera obscura and was a fantastic way to get to know the city. Essentially, for those of you who may not know, a camera obscura is a bit like a bigger version of a periscope in which you can view a 360 degrees view projected upside down inside the top room of what is usually a tower. What is exciting from an art perspective (pun intended) is the possibilities and ways the camera obscura could be used to create art. Low and behold, when I arrive home from Edinburgh to find my A-N magazine waiting for me, what do I see? An artist using a camera obscura! Namely Zoe Leonard at the Camden Arts Centre. Had I previously not experienced a camera obscura this would have probably escaped my interest. If I'm in London before the 24th of June I'll check it out!

(above) Scottish National Gallery
And finally! This post began with an art gallery so it will end with one as well. Although actually not the Scottish Gallery as above, but the Royal Scottish Academy which is the building opposite the National pictured here. In particular, the New Contemporaries exhibition on at the moment, or also known as the RSA:NC. In the same way that the 'Bloomberg New Contemporaries', Liverpool features the work from new graduates and emerging artists the RSA:NC is the Scottish version with graduates in Fine Art and Architecture. This was without question the best exhibition I saw during my trip and it is unfortunate I couldn't take photos because I would want you to see the work. In a nutshell, 62 artists with a variety of art styles made up of installation, sculpture, photography, painting, mixed media, architecture, illustration and potatoes! It was just so refreshing, a few names of artists that I enjoyed if you want to take the time to search them up online; Claire McDonald, Manuela De Laborde, Claire Flatley, Andre Mason, Jonathon Cottrell, Eva Ullrich, Heather Pugh and Abigail Benouaich.

There really was so much to see in only three days, I haven't yet even mentioned the 'Fruit Market' gallery, but I'm thinking of saving that until next week when I can review the current exhibition by Anna Barriball more thoroughly. Or if you cannot wait until then please click on the link If you want to know about all the equally amazing but arguably more tourist-type stuff like Edinburgh Castle, zoo and views out over on Calton Hill then I'll have to start writing a travel blog!