The Growing Exhibition at InkSpot for Made in Roath, Cardiff

A week of site specific building, challenging my skills and technique for hand building.
Organising and invigilating an exhibition as part of a local, contemporary arts festival.


We had an amazing opportunity, a seed planted by Natasha’s interaction with Made in Roath and Potclays, to participate at this year’s festival of local arts – Made in Roath.

My work from last year fitted best in the staircase area, not only due to not fitting in the cabinets, but the transitory nature of the space.
At the end I decided to build in there too due to the space being more outdoor than indoor, or something in between, and a space that needed some cultivation.

A small gap next to the stairs was really the only safe, unused space to build on, after clearing some stuff away. I kept a small table without the top in there, to give me some instant hight to the build as well as a shape, a seedling to start with. The shape was really influenced by the awkward space and an object already present. As it creeped through the site, it changed; adapted and explored the environment with the maker and the viewer.

We haven’t had many visitors over the week, and due to the awkward position of my live build and small sculptures, many people missed it.
However, when I was building there I could welcome straight away all the visitors coming, the kids loved how the live build looked like a horse, and few of my small sculptures/glaze test pieces have been stolen (I’m taking it as a compliment).

 

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Serpentine Gallery and the V&A (20, 21)

Straight after our final Field Trip to the North of England, we went to London for the weekend and managed to see briefly yet another 2  exhibitions, giving us another examples of curation, exhibition space, and context.

Serpentine Gallery had very interesting exhibition on Zaha Hadid, completely changing my expectation on presenting architecture within gallery setting.
The gallery is located in the Hyde Park, so I asume that is the reason why there were such surprising number of people. It made me think that park experience must be linked to experiencing art, for majority of people.


 


A very quick visit to V&A, but so valuable  when we found exhibition on changing design and changing world’s ideas: mostly on consumerism, status and globalisation.

Pitt Rivers and Oxford University Museum of Natural History (3, 4)

From chronological art and history, to subject based curation of artefacts across time and culture; as well as presentation of the nature and its history.


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IMG_1712.jpgOur third (and technically fourth) was the Pitt Rivers Museum with entrance through the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.
Again, the collections are owned by the Oxford University and displayed for education purposes.
I found a vitrine explaining principles of Darwin’s Evolution Theory through the extensively bred pigeons of different shapes and colours quite fun and interesting. But the overall feel of the impressive building and giant skeletons towering above us, surrounded by aged wood and glass vitrines, was an experience in itself.

A temporary exhibition displaying big digital prints of micro photography of insect life brought great new and different perspective on the subject of the collection, alongside preserved skeletons and taxidermy.


Entering the Pitt Rivers through the Natural History Museum was a different experience.
Still grand and impressive, but with deeper sense of wonder, as the space is filled with antique displays of not natural world, but the phenomena of nature, humans and all their creations.
The taxonomy and presentation couldn’t be different, not just by grouping the artefacts by subjects (such as toys, musical instruments, religious figures, etc), but by less subject writing and more focus on particular artefact and it’s origin, telling it’s story which creates diverse narrative of individual cabinet, and combined, the narrative of  the whole human world across time and space.
This really evoke bigger sense of exploration and wonder, with more artefacts hiding in drawers underneath.
It felt like real wunderkammer.


It even housed artefacts that I’m very familiar with from my culture.
I would blow and decorate my own eggs, when I was little, and decorated the house with them on Easter.

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Seeing something that I could technically have made, as a cultural ritual, behind a museum’s glass, in an anthropological collection, just made me feel as part of the humanity. Just another way of adapting natural resources around us, in a decorational/ritual way or as a functional object.
It made me wonder what is the most recent object in the collection, as we are still doing the same thing – adapting and changing the material around us, for many peculiar purposes.
It would be interesting how ideas and use changed over the time, how new materials such as plastic changed the visual and practical aspects of objects.
What ideas deceased and what are the new ones, or what improved or what people in past did better?


 

 

Ashmolean Museum Oxford (2)

What a sumptuous start to our first 3 day trip across Souther part of England, in beautiful Ashmolean Museum first opened in 1683, housing treasures of the greatest civilisations across time.


 Ashmolean Museum is the first university museum, which was established after donation by Elias Ashmole of his cabinet of curiosities mostly including antique coins, books, engravings, geological specimens, and zoological specimens.
Its front, classical style building was designed Charles Cockerell and finished in 1845.

The museum now houses prominent collection of artefacts from greatest ancient civilisations such as Greek and Roman, Egypt, Nubia, Iran and Babylon, Persia, Aegean, or Cycladic civilisations, grouped together. In the upper levels, the collection is themed by European cultural aspects such as violin making, tapestry or ceramics (Delftware, Majolica). Art collection includes modern masters such as Turner, Picasso, Cezanne or Pissarro.

Its main ethos is to educate the public, however some efforts to innovate is evident with the interesting open room close to the entrance showing objects together, across different cultures and time, with a piece by Barbara Hepworth introducing the ensemble.IMG_1576.jpgIMG_1575.jpg


Although the collections and exhibition were rather classical and conservative, it was done especially well, with the sheer number of great quality artefacts almost mesmerising.
I particularly enjoyed the display of Lekythoi, with may examples of decorations and narratives, with good explanation of its ritualistic purposes and the stories illustrated. As well as method of production, and it’s construction with a broken example revealing its interior. IMG_1599.jpgIMG_1605.jpg


Musical instruments and tapestries, not normally seen displayed together, enrich each-other’s narrative and history.IMG_1632.jpg


One of the more modern collection I found was English Delftware from 18th century.
Commemorative plates mostly showing royalty in rather naive and simple style, with it’s stylistically disproportioned faces and bodies makes you laugh.
They depict a very messy and complicated royal relationships, which could explain it’s fast approach to decorating?
They make me happy because I feel I couldn’t paint with majolica any better and more realistic. I would like to try and quickly create and illustrate narratives on plate like this. I feel such style would just give more humour, lightness and expression to ideas and stories.

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Cardiff Contemporary – Site Specific work by Roman Štětina

Peculiar experience visiting casino for the first time, while exiting a site specific work by Czech artist Roman Štětina; part of the Cardiff Contemporary biennale, exploring the theme of ‘communication’.


 

SHAVE AND A HAIRCUT – TWO BITS from Roman Štětina on Vimeo.


The incredible experience started immediately, by entering a long corridor winding it’s way in between the shop-floor spaces; a backstage corridor leading to a backroom in the city centre.
At the end of the corridor, a wast darkened room with aggressive and opulent reds and gold, giving casinos’ suggestions of excitement, opportunity, profit and luxury.
However, now the space was dystopian and empty; with only old CRT televisions showing still footage, and photographs in light boxes, mirroring back the space.

Referring to the theme of the festival, Roman is exploring ‘one way communication’ within TV and radio media. “The speaker doesn’t know if they are heard, or who hears them, and the listener is unable to respond”.

I certainly felt lonely and abandoned, only at the receiving end. The same feeling continued when I entered the real casino through the backdoor, only observing the number of people engaged in the casino’s games.

I wonder if certain spaces are influencing and stimulating people to observe ourselves within, to reflect and meditate.

Penguin Donkey

Visiting the Ken Stradling collection and choosing our catalysts for our projects.
My eyes were drawn to a small 1963’s book case on 4 legs, filled with orange book-spines.
The extraordinary story of this small piece of furniture took me on a journey through the world wars, revolution in book publishing, architecture and all the ambitious ideas of modernism.


The ISOKON manufactured and designed by Ernest Race in the 1963 – ISOKON PENGUIN DONKEY MARK 2, displayed within the Ken Stradling collection was the starting point for me.

The father of the original Penguin david-tatham-donkeyDonkey was Egon Riss. As a Bauhaus-educated architect from Vienna, relocated to the UK, he started to experiment with new exploration within plywood bending and its possibilities.
His purpose build piece of furniture was commissioned by then very new, but a very rapidly successful paperback publisher Penguin Books. They revolutionised the easy of consuming our books and made it available to masses; by having best classical and modern works of literature produced in small, portable and cheap paperback format.
The new purpose build holder needed to reflect the easy and new way of reading; the books being close, always available within an arm’s reach from a chair, compare to conventional storage of great library like bookshelves.
The Donkey was manufactured using thin birch plywood, which became unavailable due to the outbreak of the Second World War, and all the plywood was directed for war purposes.
With only 100 pieces manufactured, the production ceased to halt.

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ISOKON tried to revive the forgotten and never manufactured in a larger scale design by commissioning Ernest Race to create a modern version of this highly functional piece of furniture. The form changing drastically, loosing its early modernist curves for cold and sharp minimalists angles. The top is flattened to serve another function, as a coffee/side table, but still keeping its middle gap for magazines and newspapers.

This object caught my interest most from the Ken Stradling collection because of its minimal, functional design, purpose built for another object, as well as the white neutral colours giving prominence to the bright colour sleeves and ideas of display and containment.
However, it is the original curvy design and the story surrounding it and its makers and processes that I want to expand on.

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In 2003 The Donkey saw another redesign by Shin and Tomoko Azumi, bringing back the curves, but still keeping some of the right angles. I feel it’s a nice fusion of the two designs, bringing extra functionality by the side handles and completely closing the top to function as a small table.

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