Saturday, 31 January 2015

The Means and the Instruments - Michael Mulvihill - Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, Sunderland

Last week artist Michael Mulvihill gave an artist talk and spoke about his current exhibition, The Means and the Instruments at Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, Sunderland. At the weekend I visited the exhibition.



"Mulvihill is fascinated by the Cold War, and tells the story of when he was growing up as a child in the Eighties, running home from school to see whether he could beat the 'four minute' attack warning that would signal nuclear annihilation. He failed, it took him 6 minutes. This biographical anecdote is used to focus his attentions on broader geopolitical narratives of that era. 


The exhibition features a number of delicate pencil drawings based on the Vulcan XL319 aircraft                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

By appropriating the iconography of the Vulcan aircraft and reframing it through his typically delicate pencil drawings, Mulvihill conflates global histories with a more personal tenor."



Although I had seen good quality images of Michael's work through his artist talk, the intricate details on Michael's postage stamp sized works cannot be viewed properly unless you are looking at the work first hand.



I am curious about how Michael's decided to position the individual drawings over two walls. They were fairly evenly spaced, with no dense or sparse areas or direction to the flow of images. There did not appear to be any guidelines determining the positioning of the images. Sometimes highly detailed images were at the top of the walls, preventing the viewer from admiring the drawing.



http://www.ngca.co.uk/exhibs/default.asp?id=216&prnt=18

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Ball pool for adults opens in London

Because being an adult is rubbish and all anyone really wants to do is thrash around in a soft play area, a bunch of heroes have opened a pop-up ball pit in Hammersmith.

The pit is free to visit and contains 81,000 balls, which can entertain up to 30 people at one time.

It is the brainchild of creative agency Pearlfisher, who will donate £1 to the charity Right to Play for every person that visits.


 
 
 
They've shunned the traditional multi-coloured balls, instead going for a nice calming, utopian white.

The installation follows a similar one from Turner prize-winning artist Martin Creed last year, who filled a room with white balloons.

Adding more layers - lime - medium blue - lime






Wednesday, 28 January 2015

More layers in the bedrock sequence

I continue to follow the order of the geology of the Cheeseburn as indicated on a bedrock map. The colours of each layer of plaster relates to the colour of the rock as per the key on bedrock geology maps.




Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Critique of SEMI at BALTIC 39

This morning we met up with the Northumbria University MFA students at BALTIC 39. 

On Thursday evening I had attended the preview of their exhibition; SEMI, and today we participated in a group critique of the work in the exhibition. 




The work is varied in form and content, including sound work, performance, video work and painting by the following students

David Bilbrough / Alex Brunt / Jamie Ellis-Clark / Tim Croft / Rachel Errington / Alex Harmon / Alexandra Hughes / Joanna Hutton / Ricky James / Gethin Wyn Jones / Phil Larry / David Longwill / Dan May / Lily Mellor / Markos Sotiriou / James Watts






I look forward to meeting the group again, this time at Newcastle University, for a critique of our forthcoming exhibition in February.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

First pour in the angular mould

With this cast I am going to use the colours depicting the different rock types from the bedrock geology of the Cheeseburn area.


Rather than simply pouring the plaster in straight layers, I am going to alter the angle of the mould with each pour. My reason for doing so is to prevent the sculpture from being too predictable.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Time for the layers of colour

After a couple of weeks spent making the moulds, and preparing the outside surfaces of the sculpture, it was finally the time to add the initial layers of coloured plaster into the mould.

My choice of colours is being determined by the colours used to depict the different layers of rock in bedrock geology.

I have investigated the geology of the Cheeseburn Grange region, and will follow this pattern for these casts.



Coloured layer 1

Thursday, 22 January 2015

A playful day at the museum

Can and should museums be playful places? Anna Bunney and Charlotte Derry believe so,  and In a recent essay for Arts Professional, they reflect on their mission to discover how best to create the right conditions for play.

Creating moments of nonsense at the Museums Association Conference in 2012
At Manchester Museum we are currently involved in a project to shape a series of principles, based upon our real experiences, loosely called ‘The new rules of the playful museum’. The project has evolved from experimentation and engagement over the past four years with playful ideas and practice in our museum space.
Our current project emerged from our Happy Museum Playful Museum project which enabled us to commission training for visitor-facing staff with playwork experts. Staff learnt from innovative work in the playwork sector and embedded new, creative ways of working which helped develop their understanding of play and provide more playful opportunities for visitors. They were encouraged and supported to challenge perceptions about play and space, try out playful nonsense, observe children and adults’ playful movements.
Our gallery staff have coined the term 'relaxy staffitude' as one of the key ingredients in creating the right conditions for play
With continued support from The Happy Museum, we are producing a rulebook, a sustainable resource which shares our learning and thinking, and a vehicle through which we hope to start a rich discussion within the sector about what a playful museum or gallery could look and feel like. The idea for the rulebook came about when we read a small booklet ‘The New Rules of Public Art’ produced in 2013 by the public art organisation Situations. Its 1940s ministerial pamphlet format is juxtaposed with challenging provocations and wisdoms gleaned from practice. Its rules prompted us to think differently about public art and encourage commissioners to think more about developing works with emerging, fluid and multiple meanings which can be created between artist, artwork and viewer/participant. The concept of a traditional-looking framework incorporating contemporary ideas struck a chord with us, as Manchester Museum is a traditional Victorian museum, but we like to experiment with our practice. We liked the playfulness of the contrast between the instructive dogmatism of a rulebook and the openness of its content. This has inspired us to play with the rules within our own rulebook, much as children and adults create their own rules for play when they take games in different directions according to the players and their environment.
With the format decided upon and a designer on board to steer and mesh our ideas into a coherent booklet, our next challenge is to consider how we will develop content that is resonant with all, so that the sector receives something of real value. We did not simply want to write a guidebook about “this is how you do the playful museum thing” so we are in the process of co-creating the content and the on-gallery team are playing their part in creating the initial rule ideas. They have now participated in three sessions to develop the core elements of the book, and the themes that have emerged include:
  • Creating the conditions to enable play to happen - whether through a smile, a wink, through flexible resources set out in the gallery, or by communicating something witty or playful.
  • Getting the support you need from across the organisation - to be able to experiment and try new things, whether it is giving permissions or initiating playful happenings.
  • Being able to fail and keep trying.
  • One size does not fit all – not all staff want to be playful and everyone’s position must be respected and accommodated.
A playful museum is an attitude of people and the environment. Our museum is a living organism and our gallery staff have coined the term ‘relaxy staffitude’ as one of the key ingredients in creating the right conditions for play.
And so the challenge now is to represent our themes and ideas through language and illustrations which can be universally understood and personally interpreted by staff at every level within museums and galleries. To do this we plan to pilot our ‘rules’ in other venues including the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Edinburgh Museum and Derby Museums. Their feedback will help us form our final version which we will be launching in the spring.
Anna Bunney is Curator of Public Programmes at Manchester Museum and Charlotte Derry is the project lead and an independent play and museum consultant.
www.museum.manchester.ac.uk

Moulds for new casts

Over the last couple of weeks I have been busy working in the wood workshop and the casting workshop making a couple of moulds for new sculptures.

Moving on from my previous casts, I wanted to explore new shapes and on a larger scale. Continuing with my interest in play, games and building, I am using tetris shapes.


This mould is for a plaster sculpture that will be grey on the outside with coloured layers inside. 



I begun by going round the perimeter of the mould and creating walls of grey plaster. Each face needed to be made separately, and so the plaster was mixed in batches. I had mixed the correct amount of pigment to be able to cover all the surfaces  in order to maintain a consistent colour. 



I have built inside the mould with clay so that when I pour the plaster inside the mould, there is a space where the plaster cannot fill (where the clay is). Once the plaster is dry and I remove the clay, the negative space will be revealed and the layers of colour will be visible.





Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Sound Strata of Coastal Northumberland by Susan Stenger

Recently I've been looking at bedrock geology, and on Tuesday I visited the Natural History Society of Northumbria, to view, amongst various other items, a beautiful scroll showing the bedrock geology of Northumbria from Cullercoats to Croclin. I was able to identify the geology of the Cheeseburn Grange area, and am planning on using this information to inform the colours that I choose for some of my casts.


Susan Stenger, Sound Strata of Coastal Northumberland, 2014. Photo Colin Davison, courtesy of AV Festival 14

In relation to the bedrock map, it was suggested that I look at Sound Strata of Coastal Northumberland, a work by Susan Stenger that was at the Laing Gallery as part of AV Festival 2014. She produced a sound installation based on a cross-section diagram of coastal geological formations. The diagram covered the area from the River Tyne to the Scottish border, and was drawn by the local mining engineer Nicolas Wood in the 1830s. Stenger used the diagram as a graphic score, and transformed the geologic into the sonic in a 58-minute work that travels from the coal seams of Tyneside to the porphyritic rocks north of the Tweed, layering instrumental sounds, melodic patterns and signature rhythms extracted from traditional Northumbrian music and dance. 


Susan Stenger, Sound Strata of Coastal Northumberland, 2014. Photo Colin Davison, courtesy of AV Festival 14

"Responding to history, culture and place-names as well as the drawing’s structures, she combined surface detail of fiddle and Northumbrian smallpipe patterns with deep shifting seams of brass band harmonies, voice, Border and Highland pipes to create a unique portrait of place."

http://www.avfestival.co.uk/programme/2014/events-and-exhibitions/susan-stenger-sound-strata-of-coastal-northumberland

Monday, 19 January 2015

Visit to the Great North Museum archive at the Discovery Museum

This afternoon we had a class outing to the Discovery museum where we met Dan Gordon, Keeper of Biology for Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums. 


Dan gave us a fascinating tour of the archives...



"Several extinct and endangered species are represented, including great auk, moa, dodo, huia, kakapo, blue-wattled crow or kokako, Inaccessible Island rail, passenger pigeon and the only surviving specimen of the extinct British race of the capercaillie.


The bird mount collection numbers around 2,000 specimens and a comprehensive range of British species, including the only known juvenile specimen of a great auk, the only surviving specimen of the extinct British race of the Capercaillie and at least one 18th Century type specimen. Other Extinct species, or those on the verge of extinction, are represented by the Huia, Kakapo, Blue-Wattled Crow, Inaccessible Island Rail and Passenger Pigeon, and there are many specimens of other rare and endangered species.


The study skin collection (around 12,000 specimens) is divided, for the purposes of cataloguing and storage into Palaearctic (the bulk of Eurasia and North Africa) and non-Palaearctic specimens. It is especially strong in material from the British Isles.


The collection of non-Palaearctic study skins includes 4,050 birds collected in Assam, Sikkim and Tonkin during the 1920s, areas which have suffered major environmental deterioration in recent decades. It also include a type specimen of Dickinson's Falcon, Falco Dickinsoni (donated 1863) from Zambia.
The historic egg and nest collection, housing around 28,000 specimens is predominantly British in origin, and provides comprehensive coverage of the national fauna. A small number of exotic specimens include eggs from Siberia.



The museum also holds several historically important marine collections, including the Alder Hancock collection of nudibranchs and tunicates, and George Brady’s ostracods. The marine specimens are complimented by 50 models of sea anemones made by the Bohemian glass-worker Blaschka in the late 19th Century: originally bought for scientific purposes, they are also superb examples of the model-maker's art.



A whale head!




Poisoned spears




The Great North Museum’s botany collections include over 79,000 specimens from a variety of taxonomic groups, including algae, bryophytes (mosses and liverworts), tracheophytes (flowering plants and ferns), and fungi, including lichens. Many of the specimens are from historically interesting collections, some of which are almost 200 years old. Local and national species are well represented.


Insect collections




The insect collection incorporates a large array of Lepidoptera, Coleoptera and Ditptera specimens. All include a large British component, and the Lepidoptera collection is strong in material from the Oriental region, containing a birdwing butterfly collection."


Butterfly collections