Saturday, 22 December 2012

Guilty Secret

I'm reminded of my exhibition 'Responses' where I produced a body of work that 'aimed to capture some of the issues I found and still find myself grappling with; the inconsistencies, contradictions and paradoxes in me and the fact that I move between two very different worlds. The developing and the developed. The fact that I have a self indulgent and superficial side which attempts to remain thus even when confronted by the hugely uncomfortable issues that arise in this unsettled but beautiful continent.'This body of work (which you can see on the past work 2008 page) was inspired by this and the 'realization that often times it is too much to expect resolution, and in those instances, the step to take is to recognize the anomalies and to hold them.' This work was that holding. 

So this guilty secret, the fact that there's a part of me that wants everything in the shop 'VV Rouleaux' in London. They sell the most exquisite trimmings you have ever seen and I am ashamed to say that this self indulgent and superficial side of me could easily spend the rest of my days lying on a bed of VV Rouleaux trimmings drunk on pom poms and dressed in ribbon and tassels. However... it seems obscene spending over R2000 on a tassel. Indeed, the tassels in the middle picure below cost just that! Isn't that a common monthly  wage for many people in South Africa. How absolutely bizarre when you think about it.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Surrealism at the Tate Modern


I really identify with the surrealists' notion of drawing 'upon the uncensored creative impulses of the unconscious'. Something that I never took on board about this movement until now.

I was unaware that Freud played such a large part in the 'raison d'etre' of the surrealist movement. I tend to lean more towards Jung than Freud however as part of the inspiration for my ongoing work I too intend to look to my dreams for direction.

Alberto Giacometti 1901-1966
Born Switzerland, worked Switzerland, France

Hours of the Traces 1930
L'Heure des traces 
Metal wire and plaster

In 1933 Giacometti said that when making his sculptures he reproduced images that 'were complete in my mind's eye... without stopping to ask myself what they might mean'. 

This fragile construction suggests the mysteries of the unconscious, combining space and time, eroticism and death. The cage like structure supports delicate organic forms. The upper shapes have been seen as skeletal or phallic, while the lower suspended form has been interpreted as a beating heart or a clock's pendulum. (Tate Modern)

I identify too with how this artist works. As he put it above; reproducing images that were complete in his mind's eye... without stopping to ask himself what they might mean.  

I don't always have an image that is complete in my mind's eye but I go with my uncensored creative impulses and don't ask myself at the time what they might mean until later. I am always in awe of how the unconcsious speaks and how I can trust it, always.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Suzanne Lacy's Crystal Quilt

Like so many pieces of art work/installations/performances until one actually takes the time to experience it fully and perhaps read the supporting statement it's easy to dismiss what is being expressed.

This was the case for me with this 'peformance'. I originally walked past it and only later decided to go back and see what it was all about. And I'm so glad I did.

Perhaps it is because I am myself dealing with the realities of getting older in a world where youth is idolized and the older you get the less society seems to want to listen to what you have to say. What a terrible waste. What wisdom, insights and stories there are to be heard if only the older person were listened to. This performance featured 430 women over the age of 60 sharing their views on getting older.

'On 10 May 1987 in Minneapolis, 430 women over the age of 60 gathered to share their views on growing older. The resulting performance, The Crystal Quilt, was broadcast live on television and attended by over 3,000 people.
It was the culmination of the Whisper Minnesota Project, a three-year public artwork empowering and giving a voice to older women. The process was consciously guided by a desire to represent diverse ethnic and social backgrounds alongside life experience and achievements, forming an active comment on the representation of older women in the media. Lacy has stated: ‘In some sense The Crystal Quilt was successful politically, in that the work was bigger, it had more social impact in that region, but do one or two events ever change the way people – other than those who directly experience it – see? This raises this issue of whether you can expect art to create social change, and at what point is it no longer art.’
The Crystal Quilt now exists in the form of a video, documentary, quilt, photographs and sound piece, combining the original elements of performance, activism and broadcast in an ambitious work that fuses social responsibility with the power of aesthetics: something Suzanne Lacy has pioneered in her long career as activist artist, writer and teacher.
The Crystal Quilt took place at the IDS Center Crystal Court, Minneapolis, and was broadcast by KTCA television. Suzanne Lacy collaborated with Phyllis Jane Rose, Miriam Schapiro, Nancy Dennis and Susan Stone.'
(Tate Modern)

Thursday, 15 November 2012


 Behold - An exhibition by Kiki Smith

This exhibition blew me away. Below is her artist statement which talks about her influences. So much of it resonates for me and the work itself is really very beautiful and exudes enchantment and fascination. Again the images here don't do the work justice. You just can't see the detail and texture from the photos. I stood for a long time just studying the surfaces.

The exhibition features sculpture, bronze wall reliefs, stained glass, porcelain figures and tapestry.

"Since the early 1980s, Smith has 'used the body as metaphor, drawing upon myth, spirituality and narrative to consider the human condition, its strengths and its frailties'. Smith's work has been concerned with the interdependence of the natural world; her exhibitions and installations express the vitality of an animistic, spiritually charged universe.

Smith's imagery shows the fundemental elements of life; humans in their diversity; animals, birds and other reptiles; flora and fauna; geology and the elements; as well as the firmament with its suns and moons and stars, all in generative and destructive harmony. She creates an idiosynchratic cosmology.

Kiki Smith's work draws upon vast manifestations of creativity throughout history, including Byzantine icons, medieval tapestries and 1930s Hollywood, ancient Greek simplified sculptural female figures known as Korai, and film techniques such as jump-cuts, pixelation and storyboards. The idea of film frames, with their slight, almost uncanny reconfigurations over time, serves as another point of reference for Smith. 

This exhibition explores Smith's interest in narrative and storytelling through sequencing, and the mysteries that inhabit the imaginary and literal space between works. A major theme within the exhibition emerges from the number of works that closely interrelate with or echo each other. Smith is responding to her interest in doubling and sequential repetition, for, as Smith has commented herself "I think there's a spiritual power in repetition, a devotional quality"." (Timothy Taylor Gallery)

 'Guide' Jacquard Tapestry

'Back Porch Wispering' Cast Aluminium with Gold Leaf

 'Nurse Log & Bough' Bronze

'Blue Moon 2' Bronze

Photos by Timothy Taylor Gallery

Monday, 12 November 2012

Harry Randall

Thought this deserved a post all of its own. Even if it's just for me. 
As I was googling my grandfather to back up my claim that as the chairman of the London Electricity Board he commissioned the power station that was later to become the Tate Modern I came apon this blog entry...

'Harry Randall spent the whole of his business career in the electrical supply industry and became the first Chairman of the London Electricity Board. He was more widely known however through his lifelong interest in horticulture. In turn he specialized in roses, fruit, daffodils irises and hemerocallis. Irises were his greatest passion and before his death in May 1967 he had established a world wide reputation as one of the greatest cultivators of irises in modern times...'

& this one 
~ Notable Irisarians:
Recollections of Harry Randall
By George Waters, OR
Harry Randall amoung his irises
Harry Randall amoung his irises. Photo: H.D.J. Cole, F.R.P.S., Courtesy George Waters
This letter is prompted by the recent reading of the Fall '02 ROOTS. In the issue mentioned, Ms Munro makes passing reference to a book by Harry Randall, called Irises (not Iris -- Harry knew the proper, if too seldom used, plural of iris). It is a book that deserves more recognition than is usually given it, for its forthright and personal style. Harry was a man of strongly held opinions unflinchingly expressed. (As chairman of the Central Electricity Generating Board, a position of national importance in post-war Britain, he confronted the striking electricians' union with a few home truths. His remarks were widely publicized by the press, giving great embarrassment to him and the government. The faux pas probably cost Harry the knighthood that customarily follows a term in so responsible a job.)

But that forthrightness, coupled with a subtle sense of humor, made Harry a popular speaker at iris conventions, and during his frequent visits to the US he was often the guest of honor. One of those occasions was an AIS convention in Chicago (perhaps during the 1960s -- I have no handy reference to consult) where a recording was made of Harry's after-dinner speech. A copy was made on an oversize LP disc for Harry himself. The copy was given to me by Mrs. Randall on Harry's death, but is no longer in my possession. Perhaps the person responsihle for making the recording could dig up another copy.

mary todd, seathwaite, tarn hows - three of harry randall's british dykes medalists
3 of Harry Randall's British Dykes Medalists.
Harry's visits to this country were, of course, primarily for the tall bearded irises that he loved and grew well in Britain. These visits became an almost annual event. He greatly admired the work of U. S. hybridizers and purchased large numbers of their new creations, thereby ensuring wide distribution in Britain. My own garden benefited considerably from his generosity.

He was made welcome in this country by iris hybridizers such as Dave Hall, Orville Fay, and Jesse Wills. Neva Sexton, whose iris New Moon earned the Dykes Memorial Medal in 1973, spoke of Harry with particular warmth; when Harry learned that Neva's medal had not arrived from England, he had one of his own Dykes medals (he won four, I believe) re-engraved with her name and sent to her. (Dykes Medals are awarded by the British Iris Society and the American Iris Society recommends a recipient to the BIS, usually each year.)

Irises by Harry RandallIt was Harry's practice to invite a few members of the BIS to his home in Beaconsfield to hear him read recently completed chapters of his book in progress. The guests were expected to offer criticism of the work, but Harry's formidable reputation tended to inhibit comment. My own attempts to meet his wishes on these occasions earned the gift of a carload of recently dug rhizomes. Harry's manuscript was almost complete when he died, and, with final details attended to by Mrs. Randall, George Preston, and other friends, Harry's Irises was published posthumously.

[Please see corresponding gallery photos for credit and full varietal information.This article is reprinted from ROOTS, Vol. 17 Issue 2, Fall 2004. Read an excerpt from Irises on the 'Irises of Note' page for the story of Snow Flurry]

William Kentridge at the Tate Modern

The Tanks at the Tate Modern are the converted oil tanks of the former Bankside Power Station in London. They held the fuel that powered the turbines that generated electricity for a large part of the city. Here's my claim to fame... My grandfather commissioned the power station that was later to become the Tate Modern

So down in London now. I spent yesterday visiting galleries along the South Bank. An enormous amount to take in so I'll spread some of what I saw over a number of posts. 

I know it is impossible to put across the impact an exhibition can have on a blog. In order to experience the full impact of this 'piece' one had to really spend some time in the room. Well actually, not a room, one of the tanks at the Tate Modern. Amazing, vast and raw spaces dedicated now to exhibitions.

The exhibition is by William Kentridge and is called 'I am not me, the horse is not mine'. Haven't completely got to the bottom of why he is exploring 'the formal inventiveness of Russian modernism and the calamitous fate of the Russian avant-garde...' with traditional South African music interspersed with the main soundtrack ... Is he applying this to modern day South Africa?
' His work tracks a personal route across the fraught legacy of apartheid and colonialism through an innovative use of charcoal drawing, prints, collages, stop-animation, film and theatre'.

Here is an earlier video by William Kentridge that gives you a feel of the 8 videos that were running simultaneously on show in the tanks:


Visually, aurally and atmospherically this was amazing. Here are some stills of the eight videos that were running simultaneously.

Here is an interesting clip of William Kentridge talking about an aspect of his work

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

A lot can happen in a few days

Left the walkabout on the last morning of my exhibition and headed straight to the airport as Izzy's shoulder replacement was scheduled to take place 48 hours later in London... leaving Karen and Claus to take the exhibition down! Me leaving everything to the last minute again...

Completely over excited to see that my exhibition got into SAA's inflight magazine, Sawubona. I should have had a diva fit and insisted on an upgrade!

Landed at Heathrow, my mum and Izzy met me. Lunch at Bella's then a walk in the local park, known locally as 'dog poo park'.

Me with my sisters and Ma. So amazing to be with them again

The following morning Izzy has her operation. A very long 5 hours later she emerges with a state of the art, custom made shoulder...

She's in hospital for a week during which time I turn into a vegetable. Daytime TV and junk food. Lots of magazines and visitors.

...including coffee with Karen & Claus's daughter Gill. So wierd, I was with her parents half way across the world only days ago

I stumble upon this article in Harper's Bazaar

I want to find out more about Kiki Smith and her work. I need to re read the article on her, so much to take in and think about but having read the article a couple of times, I'm fascinated. The book 'Women Who Run With The Wolves' springs to mind. Got to read this again too. Check out this link. 

Kiki Smith 'works in both two and three dimensions, in fabric, bronze, glass, wax, ceramics and paper'. She is classified, it seems, as a feminist artist but for me the mythology and story telling which seem to dominate in her work and speak of ' the psyche of the individual to the universal female experience' is what fascinates me. She talks too of 'calling to be connected to the larger whole'. I'm guessing here that her deep ecological concerns are wrapped up in this.

Another wonderful quote by her:
'Where you can go with art and what you can explore is infinite. The Universe is larger than your idea'

And guess what, she says 'I love the Leonard Cohen lyric: There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in' Can you believe it. Goose bumps.

Thursday, 11 October 2012


I've been working on this mosaic the last couple of weeks, since the exhibition has been up. It's pretty much ready to be transported to its new home. Just a little more background to do and when it's been mounted on the wall it will be grouted. You can't really gage the size of this piece from the photo. It's a fair size, 1 x 1.5 metres. The front aloes are ceramic as are some of the leaves and then I've mixed glass and different sizes and types of mosaic tile and ordinary tiles as well as broken antique china to give the piece different textures. Originally there were going to be more sunbirds but it I gradually took them away and settled for one. Any more than this detracted from the aloes.

Thought about tidying this image up but my feet give a sense of scale

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Last few days

Well we near the end of the exhibition. Another couple of days and another walkabout on saturday and then the show comes down. I'm really pleased with how it has gone and there are some new and exciting possibilities that have come out of it.

Here are some photos from the last walkabout with Estelle. Thank you Lara

The walkabout beginsEstelle starts her talk


 Moving into the Installation 'room'

 Norman, Estelle,myself and Paul

Hayley Bull