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29 July 2012

Battle for the Winds in Weymouth!

WOW!  What an amazing day! Those of you who follow this blog regularly may remember in May I posted the creative goings on during Taunton's Olympic torch ceremony, one of those in particular being, 'The Somerset Journey' which began on May 21st and has travelled around the county visiting schools, nurseries, villages, Musgrove Hospital, Glastonbury Abbey, Langport Festival and more in its mission to 'Sound out Somerset'.  
Yesterday finally saw the spectacular conclusion to 'The Somerset Journey', where our Wind Gatherers, their vehicle, The Big Noise Band and local performers were in Weymouth for 'The Battle for the Winds'! Somerset was joined with, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Cornwall, Wiltshire and The West of England and their wind gathering vehicles and performers in an afternoon procession by the sea followed by an evening performance on Weymouth beach produced and starring 'Cirque Bijou' and 'Desperate Men'. The day concluded in style with 2012 torches being lit on Weymouth beach and carried out into the sea by 2012 people. The whole day had many fantastic delights and spectacles of creativity, performance, music and gymnastics to be seen. Hundreds of local people from the South West, Weymouth and beyond came to watch the performances and even more local people have taken part in the processions, the organising, creating and making that has gone into creating Battle for the Winds.
Being completely useless at sports the Olympics felt like something that wouldn't remotely interest me, however after being involved in the organising of the Somerset Journey and watching communities coming together and celebrating throughout the county might not have changed my opinion of sport (I'm still not that interested in it) but as an event it has certainly done a lot of good in creating outdoor performance and creativity here in the South West as well as a sense of being united. Surely this can only be a good thing in the long term, I think, for inspiring and creating opportunities for future events?  Looking today at the programme for Weymouth's 'b-side' multi-media arts festival looks equally as exciting (see link below) and is another prosperous hope for the continuation of innovative and contemporary arts practice from both local and international artists coming to the South West. I hope that the positive affect that it is having on the arts will continue to have a legacy long after the games have finished.
Below are some images from yesterday's celebrations in Weymouth.
 For more info visit:

The Bridgwater Squibbers on the sea shore in Weymouth marked the end of 'The Battle for the Winds' . *
2012 People lit torches on Weymouth beach last night and walked into the sea.*

Cornwall's Wind vessel, 'The Kernocopia'

The West of England's Wind Gatherer

Our very own Somerset Wind Gatherers, joined here with a performer from Cirque Bijou.

Old Mother Gloucestershire aboard her Wind Vessel.

Somerset's  Big Noise Band during the procession.

Link to Weymouth's b-side mulit-media arts festival site:

23 July 2012

An audience with Antony Gormley

Last week, what felt like nearly everyone in the art community of Somerset arrived at Barrington Court for an afternoon with Antony Gormely. There was little in the way of advertising about this event so it was surprising at how quickly the power of 'word-of-mouth' led to an audience, I'd estimate, of 200-300 people attending the hour talk and presentation by the famous artist in a marquee in the scenic grounds of Barrington Court last Tuesday 17th July. Currently on show (and the reason for his visit) in the manor house at Barrington is one of Gormley's early works, 'Field for the British Isles'.
"Field for the British Isles is an installation made in collaboration with a community in Merseyside. 40,000 hand-sized terracotta figures were produced by old and young alike, the shape of each determined by the person making it.
The installation is an Arts Council Collection Exhibition from South Bank Centre and is one of five artworks on loan as part of the Trust New Art programme 2012."

Even if you have never actually seen a work by Gormley it is undoubtable that most people will have at least heard of or seen images of the now, iconic, Angel of the North or bronze figures on Liverpool's Crosby Beach which arguably makes Gormley one of the most well known and influential British artists alive today. Prior to going to a talk like this, there is always a certain degree of expectation and sort-of pre-conceived thoughts and opinions of what it may/may not be like. Funny, I thought because for every one person that was excited about Gormley coming to Somerset I equally met those who weren't fans of his art work or more to the point, the more successful and 'famous' the artist can sometimes create a real marmite affect of opinions. In my view, this is healthy, as art should always spark debate and my personal view of Gormley's work prior to the talk was very open-ended, I wasn't a big fan and neither was I a loather to his work. I was curious to hear what the man had to say, and I did also wonder what the creator of the Angel of the North would think of Somerset's Willow Man? A question I never asked at the time, but one I’d like to ponder the possible answer to...

By arriving at Barrington dead on time, 3.45pm that Tuesday, we were somehow actually late as when we came to the marquee at 3.44 the place was entirely full! Everyone else, it seemed must have got there incredibly early. No matter, we opted to stand at the back instead of sitting so we had a 'fairly' decent view, or so we thought, until the slide show started...As it turned out it actually paid to be 'late' as our standing at the back of the marquee and well-timed bobbing up and down choreography to see each slide proved to be too distracting for Gormley and he invited three of us to take up the three free seats in the front row! Whoop! Now we were out of the way, the presentation could begin properly. Gormley discussed several pieces of work in his career, from the figurative cast bronze sculptures made from moulds of his own body to his more abstract works such as the fog piece, 'Blind Light'. I think what I initially noted as being interesting was that I had always seen Gormley as a 'sculptor' and hearing him talk about any of his work, the thing that seemed most crucial in all of them was the context, location or space that these sculptures were in. Whether it was the gallery or the beach the important factor was space. This makes sense as whilst all of his work is about the body it is important to remember that we 'know' our body in relation in context to the space it inhabits, or as Gormley put it, 'the body as a place to live'. The body is both a 'place to live' and a place which also lives within a bigger place, 'the body inhabits architecture'. Sorry, I have been reading a lot of Heidegger recently, and the idea of existing, as in 'to dwell' as Heidegger puts it, seems to have a strong resemblance to some of what Gormley was talking about. In this way I began to see him less as a sculptor and more of an installation artist. The labelling might not be too important as they are often one and the same but I found the shift in my thinking about his work to be interesting. The other thing that really struck me as I was listening to this talk was that, this is the man whose image I have seen cast hundreds of times on Crosby Beach, I've stood next to them, leaned on them, watched dogs bark at them, children climbing on them and yet here is the actual person in front of me that those figures have been cast from its a feeling of knowing someone yet not really knowing them at all. Its kind-of a weird feeling. But then, Gormley was all about experience, as he said, ‘experience over representation’ and how it seemed that he felt that the interaction, and sometimes pilgrimage to see his work (namely the figures that appear like mirages on Lake Ballard in Australia) is as much part of the work as the sculptures themselves. The reason for this, is because by making work about ‘the body’ and forcing the audience to interact with that work, it makes them think and engage with their own bodies with that space/in relation to that sculpture. For me, the work that I think best conveys this out of all the pieces Gormley showed us in his presentation were the more abstract pieces where the recognisable human figure wasn’t present instead in its place, a box with four holes in it, or a room full of fog, or a gallery space inhabited by a vortex of wire spiralling around seemed to place the viewer in the work more, for me, than the figurative stuff. It also de-clouded the somewhat cynical viewpoint that Gormley is an artist obsessed with his own image, clearly not true, when you see his other work. Besides, if you are making work about the body then surely there is no place better, than starting ‘close-to-home’ and using yourself?

This was a really interesting artist talk, and whilst not full of the humour that I had previously experienced seeing artists like Grayson Perry and David Mac, it was incredibly articulate and sincere. I am also learning about the depth and the ‘how’ artists talk about their practice, and I think there is a fine balance to be achieved between the thinking behind one’s work and how it is then applied and interpreted. I now also understand and indeed will look/experience his work a little differently in future. There’s a post in there somewhere, on ‘artists’ talks’ that will be coming to a post near you soon!

 You can visit Gormley's installation, 'Field for the British Isles' at Barrington until the 27th August. Visit: for more info.

Image from:

15 July 2012


It's fair to say that it has been a relatively quiet week for arty goings on, that is, unless you want to hear about my project report that I'm currently editing and writing for my MA...Too bad if the latter appeals to you, because I've decided to dedicate this weeks' post to Blogs and the 'Art of Blogging'. In fact during the SAW blog's two and a bit year history I have yet to write a single blog about blogging!? You might have thought I'm scrapping the barrel for ideas there, and the truth is I am, but who could blame me when I have spent most of my time this week writing, reading and reading books about writing! Blah! Besides, it has been long over due, to step back and reflect on,
Why write a blog?
Who is it for?
What kind of blog's are there?
Whilst this will be a revising of my own blogging thoughts, it will also be an opportunity to show you and highlight some other artists blogs and different approaches they use.
Why write a blog? And, who is it for? Are really questions that have to be answered together, because in a way it starts with, the question of who are your audience? Please note I am keeping this in an art context as to the wider world of blogging in general. Some artists keep blog's almost like a diary, recording and documenting their practice (daily, weekly, monthly -up to you?). Blogging then almost can become like an online sketch book of ideas, tests, imagery and things/words/people/stuff that inspires you, as well as sharing things that work or things that don't. The crucial, and obvious, difference is that it is very much a sketch book that is in the public domain, which has its pros and cons. Benefits include receiving feedback on your work, an opportunity to test some of your work out publicly before committing to showing the work in a gallery context and publicity and great way to advertise yourself and your practice. The cons really come down to how much you intend to post on your blog and deciding how much of your working process you may want to reveal (it is a double-edged sword) as sometimes the less information online about an artist sometimes makes their work more intriguing, you don't want to give too much away.
Other artists blogs are, maybe more like this one and take a reflective approach on writing, reviewing and critically writing on 'the art world as a whole', so instead of focusing on their individual practice, exhibitions, galleries, books, films, music etc. are written about. Another example, is the kind of blog that is set up for just one individual project/residency (examples below) when blogging becomes a way of sharing your findings/research publicly. Therefore, context is everything, when it comes to who you are writing for, if this blog, for example, was the 'Natalie Parsley blog' I think I'd write more about my own practice and work. However, my reasons for writing a blog, the SAW blog, even though it is not 'owned' by me are in fact personal. I think that writing a blog, or indeed writing in general (be it in a sketch book, diary or whatever) as a part of ones art practice is important and rewarding. The discipline of sitting to write at the end of each week is good practice, as it allows me to actually 'stop' and take some time to think and reflect on what I have done/achieved this week. Or writing has often opened up my thinking of a particular exhibition I have seen during the week, and has sometimes led me to understanding the work better or even liking it more. The benefit of writing these thoughts publicly, is the hope, that I suppose there is/are other people that read it who feel the same way or even disagree, which is also pretty useful to know. The practice of writing a blog is also a useful skill, as writing publicly opens up a whole new set of questions, like, 'what style of writing do I use?' Bare in mind that the tone of writing to a blog gives an impression to the kind of artist you are. Some artists blogs are purely creative/visual things as well, it does not necessarily have to be about 'writing' in the word-ly way I tend to like using. You get blogs of poetry, story writing, quotes, photos, plays, conversations, lists and all manner of random stuff. Its great!
Personally I enjoy the writing element that goes with blogging, as (ha ha) I've always got something to say. However, I'm keen to emphasise that not all blogging is about writing or writing lots. In fact a lot of the time it is better to read, as I read this quote from a blog today,

"What a relief to have nothing to say, the right to say nothing, because only then is there a chance of framing the rare, or ever rarer, the thing that might be worth saying.” Gilles Deleuze
After years of subscribing to a-n magazine, I have only just recently gotten round to looking and using their website (the truth is that I was always somewhat overwhelmed at the amount of information and stuff on there, that it felt too much to take in). Anyway, it turns out that it is really useful and I am just getting my head around their 'Artists Talking' page, which is basically like a community of arts-based blogs except with the universality of the template or design of each page all looking the same. The good thing is that it is much easier to find an artist or art project on here than it can be trawling through numerous Google Internet searches. I have already read some interesting posts that cover everything from artists residences, public art commissions, reviews, diary-based studio entries and more.
The link above, takes you to my blog on a-n, which is basically a doubling up for the SAW blog, so a lot of the posts will be the same however I think its good to have a presence on both sites. I think it would be a good idea for any artist or member of a-n to set up a blog on here, its another really  useful way of staying in touch with what's going on whilst also networking and publicising what you're up to as well.
(above) Artists' blog: Fiona Campbell, Fiona has her blog connected to her website, so you have the formal web page and the blog which gives a more chatty approach to telling people about her work, what she is doing and what inspires her.
(above) Likewise, Michael Fairfax links both his blog and website together.
(above) I think this started off as a blog once, but then turned into the artist, Paul Hurley's website.
   (above) An example of a project blog.
(above) Another example of an Art project blog, but also of a gallery and exhibition space.
If you write a blog, and would like a link to it to appear on the SAW blog then please get in touch at: All the blogs mentioned in this post and many others can already be found on the right hand column of the SAW blog.

8 July 2012

What's the word?

For those of you who don't have time to read some of my longer posts, then this week is FOR YOU!
A few things I have learnt this week...

Somerset's best kept secret!
Antony Gormley OBE RA talks about his artwork at Barrington Court
Tuesday 17 July, 3.45 - 4.45pm
In the marquee on the south lawn, Barrington Court, Somerset, TA19 0NQ.
Please book by email only:
Stating number of tickets required and full names please.
£2.50 per ticket, payable on the door.
Field for the British Isles is at Barrington Court until 27 August.

Poetry is awesome!
It has been a great couple of weeks to be interested in all things poetic or creative writing. After going to the excellent John Cooper Clarke performance at The Brewhouse in June and then getting the opportunity to perform my own poem and listen to lots of others at The Tacchi Morris' 'Page is Printed' writing competition. It is an inspiring time to dust off the typewriter, brush off your quills and fountain pens and just get writing!

Wales based artists 'Rhod' exhibit at The Brewhouse
(pictured above - Dave Shepherd's 'Ron's Boat')
'Sam Aldridge, Kathryn Campbell Dodd, good cop bad cop, Jason Pinder, Anthony Shapland and Dave Shepherd, a mix of established and emerging talent, use a diverse mixture of media from performance, film to sculpture. They have in common ‘Rhôd’, an annual exhibition in rural west Wales that aims to site contemporary art in a rural landscape creating a dialogue between urban artists and artists who work in rural settings.'
On until 11th August
(pictured above -Jason Pinder 'Balanced Chair 3')
I didn't go to the PV but I did check out this exhibition the following day during my lunch break. The chair piece seen here, definitely reminded me of Fischli and Weiss as well as Simon Lee Dicker's School Room desks that were in his exhibition, 'Show and Tell' which is an observation and not a criticism because I like this style of work and its clever balancing acts. Its playful. The whole of the exhibition, 'Take the M4 East Then the M5 South' is playful and intriguing. Sam Aldrige's cardboard sculptures of traffic cones and construction site helmets are fantastic trompe l'oeil replicas of their originals and remind me fondly of Claes Oldenburg's 'soft' and 'hard' sculptures of toilets, lipsticks and everyday things. Similarly, Dave Shepherd's work (one pictured above) is both playful and inventive. As ever, with Brewhouse shows, it is not a mass of things to see (as its a modestly sized gallery space) but the work is interesting if you're interested in something that will make you think and smile at the same time then its well worth a look.
Andro Semeiko at The Exeter Phoenix
Yes, it has been another eventful week of seeing art exhibitions across the county, and unfortunately by the time you read this post this exhibition of Semeiko's paintings, titled, 'Le Grand Charmer' will have ended at The Exeter Phoenix so you won't be able to catch it. However, I can give you a link to his website (below) and quick review and burst of info that may inspire you.
'Drawing on techniques and motifs from both the history of painting and its more recent past, Georgian born artist, Andro Semeiko's paintins-based practice extends into drawing, sculpture and installation. Constructing multilayered visual narratives, these elements operate as props for a Mise-en-scene and are often site-specific, referencing the history, legends and architecture of the place he is exhibiting.'
Well, I don't know, these paintings weren't exactly my 'cup-of tea', there was something about the colours and kitsch-ness that they along with the imagery and worm-like paint drips created that didn't appeal to me. I like the local connection the work has to the river Exe and its history and the cartoon-y/dreamlike quality of the images was also very interesting. Maybe the reason it did not appeal is that it felt a bit 'safe' as it wasn't completely abstract, nor realistic, it had a local connection and was contemporary without being too conceptual. It ticked all the boxes, when I would have liked something more challenging or confrontational.

Its good to talk
I don't go to EVERY Artist Dialogue session at The Brewhouse (they're the first Wednesday of every month) and when I do its usually because I like to meet new artists and catch up with friends and talk about what we're all up to. Whilst I didn't go this week with the intention of talking about my own work, we somehow ended up talking about it anyway. Which in the end, despite my inhibitions to talk about my practice publicly, actually helped a lot and I enjoyed it. Would recommend you come along to the next one, which will be in September.

Most frequently searched word that links to the SAW Blog
This is a bit random, but in looking at the stats for the SAW Blog, you can see which words are most searched on Google that then link to your blog page. For the SAW Blog the word that most searches linked it through to was 'BOX'. Hrmm, strange. I am pretty sure I do not refer to boxes that often if hardly at all on this blog, but there you go? I did mention a box once last year, in a post appealing for artists to, 'think outside the box' which I expect is where the link came from, but still, of all the words, 'box' is the most popular?!

That's all for this week, see you soon for some more Somerset Arts News!

1 July 2012

Art Book Review of the Month: June

And... the art book I'll be reviewing for June is...

'Imagine - How Creativity Works' by Jonah Lehrer

Although I did not mention it by name I did very briefly refer to this book in last weeks’ post. I had only read the introduction at that point but it was already having a profound effect in my thinking about creativity especially in relation to my own experiences (but more of that later). The book is aiming to answer and demystify the kind of myths that surround creativity, what it is, where it comes from and how it works. When I say, 'myths' I mean the kind of preconceptions that 'creativity is something that only creatives do'. But who are these 'creatives'?! The very idea that there is such a thing as creativity that is separate and bestowed only on certain people who are then deemed to be creative, is rubbish and most people know better, that anyone who has ever made a cake, potted a plant, created a joke, sang a song, written a letter, solved a crossword, or demonstrated any kind of problem solving is creative. In fact sleeping, something which everyone does, is one example mentioned in the book where the act of dreaming is both very creative and highly imaginative. Imagine then what you could do when you’re awake! Lehrer refers to Kirkegarrd who says, ‘Sleeping is the height of genius.’ Zzzzz.....So, anyway, by no means is this book a patronising look into the stereotype of creativity, in fact if anything it almost read more like a self-help book on the highs and lows of trying to force or use creative thinking to solve a problem,

‘Every creative journey begins with a problem. It starts with a feeling of frustration, the dull ache of not being able to find the answer. We’ve worked hard, but we’ve hit the wall. We have no idea what to do next. When we tell one another stories about creativity, we tend to leave out this phase of the creative process. We neglect to mention those days when we wanted to quit...instead we skip straight to the breakthroughs. We tell the happy endings first.’

That does sound very familiar (and is therefore also very reassuring) and I am sure I am not alone in thinking that either, but it does explain why creativity is often hidden in the ‘eureka’ moments throughout history, where the big ideas and solutions seem to literally just fall from the sky out of nowhere, like a light bulb being switched on so that as if by magic, suddenly, the answer is revealed. That’s not to say that anyone doesn’t have spontaneous ideas, but usually even the seemingly spontaneous idea has actually come from something else, something you may have experienced/heard/said that has eventually led you to coming up with the ‘eureka’ moment. What Lehrer argues is that the brain may be doing all of this subconsciously so that the ‘insight experience’ follows a revelation. John Lehrer is a popular science writer, so I initially expected this book present an overall very neurological approach which might forensically examine what 'creativity' is. Whilst Lehrer does include this kind of scientific content early on in the book, in relation to dopamine in the synapses and how it can cause a kind of 'quick-fire' set of responses in neurons helping the brain to solve problems and process information quicker, it is always presented in context of a particular case study or anecdote which makes it all a lot easier to understand. In the first chapter, for example, creativity is discussed in relation to Bob Dylan, his process of song writing and how it was affected during the height of his career, at his most famous in 1965 when he had to stop creating, song writing and playing music in order to reinvent himself again later. In the first half of his book, Lehrer talks about creativity in individuals, so Auden’s poetry, Milton Glaser’s typography, Dick Drew’s invention of masking tape and many more are used as examples of how individual people have used creativity. In the second half of the book, Lehrer looks at how creativity is used in group situations and group thinking and how it can be used to solve problems and is an essential asset in any business or industry. I think that’s where it starts to get really interesting for me because it has a resonance to my own current circumstances. I am soon to be completing an MA in Fine Art, but I do not necessarily think I want to become an ‘artist’ as a full-time occupation, but see the potential skills that having an arts degree has taught me being important in any number of working environments or occupations, as the second half of this book goes on to prove, citing examples such as Pixar Studios, Apple, Google and even the group Talking Heads (you’d have to read it in context to know what I mean). In reference to a school in New Orleans, ‘The New Orleans Centre for the Creative Arts’ (NOCCA) the debate for a creative form of education is presented and Lehrer argues how ‘working/thinking/problem-solving by doing’ can have arguably more benefits than the current educational system.

‘Most NOCCA graduates won’t become professional artists. Nevertheless, these students will still leave the school with an essential talent, which is the ability to develop his or her own talent. Because they spend five hours a day working on their own creations, they learn what it takes to get good at something, to struggle and fail and try again. They figure out how to dissect difficult problems and cope with criticism. The students will learn how to manage their own time and persevere in the face of difficulty.’

I know that is referring to the specific example of the NOCCA, but it could equally apply to any arts degree. Without dwelling too much on my personal feelings towards this book, I find that very reaffirming and true to my own beliefs about the positive benefits of an art education. Or arts degree aside, if you put any group of people together to solve a problem then creative success is more likely and quicker than sometimes what can be done alone. That’s a bit tricky to explain without the specific examples in the book, but hopefully you get the idea none-the-less. Lehrer presents the case why cities are created, how that the creation of a city is often the result of group creative thinking and then in turn that city lends itself to more creative thinking and the process gets bigger and bigger. All of a sudden the book has shifted from science to human geography and sociology! That is why it is such a rewarding read, as it does cover a lot of ground. I found that in some places the anecdotes and stories took up a bit too much of the writing and as a result the structure of the book became a little bit formulaic and predictable in places. However, that was only a minor detail in what was a very accessible, reassuring and enlightening read. By the end I wasn’t sure if Lehrer was any surer of what creativity was (and he never really did get into the subject of imagination much/or point out the differences between the two) but creativity has always been an elusive thing. This book presents some great ideas as to where it may come from, but as is often the case the wondering is more important than the answer.