Welcome to the SAW blog review of 2012 with me, Natalie Parsley. Here’s a chronological look at the art exhibitions and events of the year proving that Somerset and beyond had a lot more to offer than just the Olympics this year...
Between 24th February and 4th March the SAW commissioned Maximum Exposure project, ‘Stop Line’ by Illuminos which saw pill boxes along the WW2 stop line projected on each night. I felt that this project failed to really ever capture my imagination in the way that I hoped it would given the hype surrounding it, but then that is possibly because regrettably I missed the opportunity to watch any of these events live because feedback from that those who attended these evenings was positive.
Moving onwards to March for the Open West, at Gloucestershire Cathedral. This was the first ‘Open West’ I’d ever been too and perhaps in a similar way to ‘Stop Line’ it was all about context, for what really made this was seeing contemporary sculpture, painting and film in the grounds of the cathedral. From the catacombs to arches and the courtyard, it was a real, ‘lift’ to see and discover the artwork in this setting. It also introduced me to some new artists that I have then recognised since at Liverpool Biennial and other places, such as Jarik Jongman (painter), Rob Olins (mixed media) and Lucy Strachan (sculpter). http://somersetartworksblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/thanks-for-lift.html
It was a great year for artists’ talks! David Mac at Taunton School and later I’ll be mentioning Gormley at Barrington Court, but it would not have been complete without a mentioning Alexis Harding’s visit to Someset College. The John Moores winning painter from London gave an hour’s talk about his painting process at the college in March. An amazing painter, if you haven’t ever seen his work please check it out: http://alexisharding.com/
May now and I cannot really neglect to mention the Olympics here somewhere in the review of 2012, and in Somerset it was at least a year to prepare for the torch day which involved hundreds of school children, colleges, performers, artists and musicians in its delivery. Despite the tacky-ness of the official Olympic sponsorship, the local talent was the highlight of this day and showcased the county in style at The County Cricket Ground.
If last year was all about Tithe Barns then this one was all about factories. If you weren’t exhibiting art in an old factory somewhere then, what were you thinking?! At a former glove factory in Yeovil the collaborative art partnership, Barber Swindells housed the installation, ‘One to Twenty’ at its centre a massive inflatable fireman’s glove that viewers were encouraged to bounce on. Alongside this the history and its artefacts from the glove factory were on display and gave the more interactive piece to the exhibition more (quite literally) grounding and contextualised the work. This was in June, it later went out on tour and was part of Art Weeks in September. http://somersetartworksblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/theyre-bouncy-trouncy-flouncy-pouncy.html
After months of preparation a project that was personally very dear to me (admittedly because I was working on it), ‘Battle for the Winds’ came to the fair shores of Weymouth. Seven South West counties and their spectacular, windy, whirling contraptions came together for a massive outdoor performance that went on into the night. This was an exciting departure for me away from the visual arts and into performance and music, which both in their own way also happen to be very visual. Seeing so many different skills and talents come together was very rewarding and fun. http://somersetartworksblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/battle-for-winds-in-weymouth.html
Another event in July and as already mentioned above, this year saw Antony Gormley’s ‘Field for the British Isles be installed temporarily in Somerset’s Barrington Court. To top it off the artist himself also came down to give a talk on his work. Have a read of my post to see what I thought of the day: http://somersetartworksblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/an-audience-with-antony-gormely.html
One of my personal art exhibition highlights of the year, (possibly of all time) Jenny Saville at Modern Art in Oxford. I went to see this in early September when I should have probably been worrying about handing in my Masters Project Report. The good news is that I did both and wouldn’t have missed this exhibition for anything, it was a knock-out! Have a read of my review if you need convincing. http://somersetartworksblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/in-flesh-jenny-saville-at-modern-art.html
In August SAW’s involvement with the Great Crane Project worked with local artist, Lucy Lean who made a contemporary art installation consisting of origami paper cranes (loads of ‘em!) which were then exhibited alongside other SAW artists work at the WWT Slimbridge Wetlands Centre. Every year the Great Crane Project delivers exciting new artworks and I recommend you checking out their blog page: http://greatcraneart.blogspot.co.uk/ which also includes details of a new SAW commission for an artist to work on the project.
No SAW review of any year would be complete without Somerset Art Weeks. This year was an Open Studios event and as ever had me running (not literally) up and down, left and right and all over the county looking at what Somerset’s artists had to offer. I was not disappointed and met lots of great artists and admired their work and studios. Visited 44 venues in total this year with two particular highlights mentioned here, Fiona Hingston at Cheese Yard Studios (pictured above) Nr Wells and The Red Brick Building in Glastonbury (and would definitely be on my ‘one to watch’ list if I were to do such a thing). http://somersetartworksblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012_09_01_archive.html
Another Art Weeks mention goes to the specially curated exhibition at Somerset College, ‘Thread’ featuring the colleges arts (Fine Art, Graphics) graduates. http://somersetartworksblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/hanging-by-thread.html
Post Art Weeks I was still keen to see more art and made haste to a favourite place of mine, Liverpool for the Liverpool Biennial 2012. For the first time in my life, I was convinced at this year’s Biennial that the process of viewing art gets better with age (not that I’m that old mind you!). Maybe the making of it becomes trickier as the risk taking and inhibitions of youth become less but the more I learn about art by seeing and experiencing it the more I love it. Have a read of some of my highlights on the post I wrote: http://somersetartworksblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/welcome-to-liverpool-biennial-2012.htm
More recently in November the Blackdown Hills Artists and Makers aka Bhaam (Liz Father's work pictured above at Simonsburrow House, Hemyock), exhibited in several locations in the Blackdowns for the first phase of a two part project titled, ‘Skills Unearthed’. I look forward to seeing what these artists do next year.
Later in November SAW also hosted workshops on curatorial practice/curating details of which I recently wrote about here on the SAW blog. http://somersetartworksblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/the-art-of-curating.html
That’s just about it really, thank you to all the artists, performers, musicians and audiences who have made this year’s events, shows and exhibitions as diverse, original and exciting. Happy New Year to all and let’s see if we can do it all again next year!