Two Paintings

During our visit to the Courtauld Gallery the week before Christmas, two paintings particularly caught my attention. They were of a couple of my favourite buildings in north London.

The first was this painting of Hawksmoor’s Christ Church in Spitalfields by Leon Kossoff. It’s one of several paintings he created during the 1980’s and 90’s of this beautiful white church designed by the eccentric English Baroque architect.

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Christ Church Spitalfields, Early Summer (1992) by Leon Kossof

It’s painted in his characteristic style, like that of his friend Frank Auerbach, with the paint applied very thickly and in a way so that the form of the building and details of the picture can only really be appreciated by standing back.

London is where Kossoff, the son of a Ukrainian immigrant, was born, grew up and worked in the capital, and scenes from the city are one of the main the main themes in his work.

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The second work was by Auerbach – born in Berlin of Jewish parentsin 1931 who fled to England in 1939. Although it only showed a small section of the building, again with thick impasto paint which meant it was difficult to perceive detail, I immediately recognised it as the Art Deco former Carreras Cigarette Factory on Mornington Crescent

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Carreras Factory at Mornington Crescent (1961) by Frank Auerbach

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A Winter’s Day at the YSP

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New Year’s Day being a Sunday, Monday was a Bank Holiday. We decided we’d drive back over the M62 to Wakefield, this time to combine art with some exercise at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. (and try out my new camera!)

We set off reasonably early, arriving about 11 o’clock as we wanted to make the most of the short hours of daylight. Parking up on the old car park we walked up towards the Underground Gallery and YSP centre, passing an old favourite, Barbara Hepworth’s Family of Man.

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The Ultimate Form

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It looked like the family had been given something of a makeover and in November it  had been d re-sited further along the Hillside, away from the now mature trees, in order to give an unobstructed view of the work and to protect the tree roots. The work had also been cordoned off, meaning it was not longer possible to get in amongst the individual pieces which could now only viewed from a (albeit short) distance.I hope this is only temporary while the newly laid turf beds in.

After some dinner, we set off for a walk down to Longside and back. A decent circuit taking in several notable art works on the way. It was a fine day. Cold, but sunny with a clear blue sky.

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We headed across to the old Georgian chapel.

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The current exhibition We Listen for the Future features four pieces of “sound art” by a South African artist, James Webb.

At one end of the chapel there was a large bank of speakers playing intermittent sounds made by fists banging on a door – Untitled (with the sound of its own making), 2016. It’s intended to

reference ancient law of religious sanctuary, as well as the current refugee crisis

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I rather liked another of the exhibits – All that is Unknown, 2016. This comprised a pair of speakers facing each other across the length of the room in the upstairs gallery, which played the sound of a heartbeat very faintly so it could only be heard by putting your ear very close to the speakers.

While we were inside the chapel strong sunlight shining through one of the windows created an interesting pattern of light and shadow on the facing wall.

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Leaving the chapel we set off down the hill, passing this work by Henry Moore

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and further down the hill, Shadow Stone Fold by Andy Goldsworthy was occupied by a flock of sheep.

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We crossed the bridge over the river at the bottom of the lake. Looking back we could see two works by David Nash49 Square (49 Himalayan birch trees, which, planted in seven rows of seven), and a collection of charred wood stumps, Black Mound.

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We started to climb the hill towards Oxley Bank, via another work by David Nash,

Seventy-one Steps climbs from the lake up to the top of the bank, connecting the two sides of the valley and the four galleries. Seventy one huge oak steps, carefully charred and oiled, follow the lie of the land on the hill. The steps are completed by 30 tonnes of coal embedded between the steps to create a stunning installation that will erode and change over time.

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These tree roots aren’t actually real

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they’re another work of art. Speed Breakers by Hemali Bhuta are the roots of a fallen beech tree, cast in bronze and installed on the path up on Oxley Bank

Then another work by Andy Goldsworthy – Hanging Trees, three enclosures built into one of the estate’s historic ha-has

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with sections of trees incorporated into the walls

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Further down towards Longside, in the woods, another Goldsworthy – Outclosure. A round stone enclosure, the walls too high to peer inside.

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Approaching Longside, looking back across the valley towards Bretton Hall.

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We passed a field of rare breed sheep

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The Longside Gallery is currently closed so we set off across the fields back towards the main part of the Estate.

Reaching the Lake, a closer view of the old Hall

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The two lakes were both partly frozen

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We passed Anthony Gormley’s One & Other

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Setting back up the hill we passed several works including  Ten Seated Figures. by The Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz

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The bright sunshine really brought out the rusty red colour on the  rough surface of the bronze sculptures

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Crawking one of Sophie Ryder’s giant hare/human hybrids

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And then back up towards the Underground Gallery passing Barbara Hepworth’s Square With Two Circles

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This was the last day of the Not Vital exhibition we’d seen earlier in 2016. That had been a dull day, but  Monday’s bright sunshine brought out the best of  the stainless steel sculptures displayed outdoors

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We took the opportunity to have a final look around the works displayed in the Underground Gallery

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We also saw some of the paintings by Kate Daudy on various walls around the Park for her work This is Water. The images are scattered around the park and it would have been interesting to seek them out, but unfortunately with limited hours of daylight time didn’t permit.

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After a strong shot of caffeine via a “flat white” we took a final stroll along the Lower Lake

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getting a closer look at David Nash’s Black Mound

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and 49 Square

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Reaching the end of the lake

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we set up back up the hill towards the YSP Centre. It was only 4 o’clock but the sun was beginning to set behind this work by Henry Moore.

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A final look at the Not Vital sculptures in the garden by the Underground Gallery

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and it was time to go back to the car, change out of our boots and set off back home after another good day at the YSP.

The Hepworth Prize for Sculpture

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The main exhibition taking place at the Hepworth in Wakefield at the moment is devoted to the work of four artists who were nominated for the inaugural Hepworth Prize for SculpturePhyllida Barlow, Steven Claydon, Helen Marten and David Medalla.

The award recognises a British or UK-based artist of any age, at any stage in their career, who has made a significant contribution to the development of contemporary sculpture.

The winner was Helen Marten who then went on to win the 2016 Turner Prize. In both cases she decided to share the prize money with the other nominees.

Personally I actually preferred the works by the other three artists more than Helen Marten’s!. I’m certainly out of step with the judges of both competitions who know a lot more about art than I do. But then art is a matter of personal taste at the end of the day.

My personal “winner” was Philippines born artist David Medalla. His Cloud Canyons certainly attracted a lot of attention from visitors. A series of hollow tubes through which a foam of soap bubbles is extruded as long columns which bend and twist shedding  “snow” until they completely sucumb to the force of gravity, breaking off and falling to the base of the base of the sculpture, only to be replaced by another tendril.

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A continually changing kinetic sculpture.

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The work was accompanied by a poem printed on the gallery wall. This was one of several panels on which it was written.

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The next room was principally occupied by A Stitch in Time.

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The gallery was filled with “hammocks” made of what looked like net curtains. Needles and cotton were provided and visitors were invited to sew anything they liked on to the fabric. The walls were covered with lengths of fabric with stories printed, sewn and painted on to them.

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There were receipts, tickets, sweep wrappers, business cards, scraps of newspaper, drawings and various other bits and pieces, even a couple of dollar bills.

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We contributed by sewing on a receipt, a packet containing a couple of earplugs I happened to have in my pocket left over from a recent factory visit, plus a train ticket with a timetable

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I liked the way the objects attached to the partially transparent fabric cast shadows on the floor below the hammocks.

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There were three works by Phyllida Barlow but the gallery devoted to her work was dominated by the massive construction – Untitled: Scree Stage. Sloping down from one end of the gallery to the other it was covered with roughly painted wooden boards and pillar like structures. It’s difficult to get a feel of the size and bulk of this sculpture without seeing it in-situ.

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Underneath there were more pillars hanging down like oversized stalagmites, many of them touching the floor. I heard one visitor compare it to a coal mine – quite appropriate for the former mining town of Wakefield – but to me it was more like a cavern or the Bronze Age copper mine on the Great Orme we once visited.

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Visitors were permitted to walk into the “cave” and there were a number of children who were, not surprisingly, enjoying themselves walking and crawling inside.

The gallery devoted to the work of Steven Claydon was lit by a series of fluorescent tubes attached to one of the walls creating a harsh, cold light. There were UV curtains over the doors to stop the UV light “leaking” into the adjacent galleries.

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I quite liked these two tall, slim structures

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This sculpture which looks as if it is carved from a tree-trunk  and the “wooden” figures sat on it, are actually made from polystyrene.

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My favourite of Claydon’s works was this wall that looked like a picture of the night sky. It was covered with a magnetic material and the “stars” are actually pennies which stick to it due to the steel content of the copper alloy coins.

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I asked the invigilator if any of the pennies had been stolen. She told me that that hadn’t happened but some had been moved and that some 20 pence pieces had been stuck onto the wall!

The winner of the prize Helen Marten. Her work – examples below and the photograph at the beginning of this post, combines 3D structures, painting and “found objects”

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She is very much the “flavour of the month” attracting a lot of praise from the critics. But her work just didn’t click with me. I found it difficult to make sense of it and it didn’t engage me emotionally. However, I do admire her for her decision to share the prize money with the other three artists. Very egalitarian. Winning the Hepworth prize and the Turner prize shortly after means that she’s not going to be short of a bob or two, so it’s a good, unselfish gesture to share out her winnings.

New Year 2017 at the Hepworth

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The first day of 2017 we drove over the Pennines to Wakefield to visit the Hepworth, just as we’ve done on New Year’s day for the past few years. It was a while since we’d last been over to the Hepworth and there had been a few changes.

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In Gallery 1, there was an exhibition – A Contemporary Collectionfeaturing a sample of works from the Wakefield Permanent Art Collection.

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The collection was founded in 1923, and housed in Wakefield Art Gallery from 1932. The Hepworth website tells us that

Wakefield Councilman Alfred Carr stated that the purpose of the collection was ‘to keep in touch with modern art, in its relations to modern life’. In its first decades, the collection acquired works of art by important British artists of the early twentieth century who had championed art as a reflection of contemporary experience.

A very enlightened approach which allowed the Borough to accumulate an excellent collection of Modern and Contemporary art.

Some of the works on display in the exhibition included Construction in Space with Rose Marble Carviing (Variation 2)  1969 by Naum Gabo

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and paintings by John Piper (Entrance to Fonthill)

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Roger Fry –  Boats in Harbour (1915)

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and Ben Nicholson –  1933 Piquet (1933) which is similar to a painting owned by Manchester City Art Gallery

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I liked this painting, Painting 22.3.1969 (1960) by an artist, John Hoyland, I’ve not come across before. Always good to make a discovery!

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I also liked a couple of paintings of Cornish tin miners by Graham Sutherland done during his time as a War Artist. Quite similar to the pictures by Henry Moore of coal miners and people sheltering in the Underground during the Blitz and very different than the Surrealist paintings usually associated with the artist. Unfortunately they were displayed by a reflective glass that made it impossible to take a half decent photo. (There’s an example of one of his tine miner works here.)

Gallery 2 was still showing works on loan from Kettle’s Yard that we’d seen during our visit in June.

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 Gallery 3 was also still featuring works from the Cambridge gallery but since June the exhibition had been “reimagined” by by 2016 Turner Prize nominee, Anthea Hamilton,

an artist renowned for her art-pop, culture-inspired sculptures and installations that incorporate references from the worlds of art, fashion, design and cinema.

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The combination of old and new works, reorganised and displayed imaginatively made for a very interesting and enjoyable exhibition

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The main exhibition was devoted to the Hepworth Sculpture Prize. There was a room devoted to each of the four shortlisted artists Phyllida Barlow, Steven Claydon, Helen Marten and David Medalla. Again I hadn’t been sure what to expect but found the exhibition very interesting. There was quite a lot to see and it deserves it’s own post, I think.

Bank Holiday Walk from Grasmere

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With Christmas day being a Sunday, Tuesday was a Bank Holiday. The weather forecast sounded reasonably promising so we decided to get out for a walk up in the Lakes. We drove over to Grasmere and parked up. It was a fine sunny morning, although it was expected to turn cloudy during the afternoon, but it was still good to get out on the fells.

With the hours of daylight short at the end of December we weren’t going to attempt anything too ambitious so decided we’d climb Silver How and then head over to Loughrigg fell at the south end of Grasmere.

Setting out from the village we could see our first objective – Silver How.

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It’s a relatively easy, gradual climb with a few short steeper sections. Generally easy going.

We passed Allan Bank, a former home of Wordsworth.

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Looking back to the Fairfield horseshow with Helm Crag on the left

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Looking over to Easedale

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The light wasn’t as good when we reached the summit of Silver How but there were still good 360 degree views

Looking down to Grasmere and Rydal Water

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Looking over to Loughrigg (our next objective) with Windermere in the distance

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The Coniston Fells

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Crinkle Crags, Bowfell and the Langdale Pikes

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Over to Fairfield and adjacent fells

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After taking in the views and having a bite to eat we set out towards Loughrigg. There were clear paths over the undulating moorland, many of them not marked on the OS map.

Looking back to Silver How

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Looking down Great Langdale

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We eventually reached Loughrigg Terrace, a well used path overlooking the south shore of Grasmere and at the foot of the fell. It was then a short steep ascent up to the summit.

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The view from the summit over towards Windermere

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Looking over Great Langdale and Elter Water towards the Coniston Fells

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Over to Lingmoor Fell and the Langdale Pikes. Cloud covering the tops of Crinkle Crags and Bowfell

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Starting to descend and looking over Grasmere

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with Silver How and the Langdale Pikes visible tot he left

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We took the path through the woods

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and then followed the road back to Grasmere village, arriving with about an hour of daylight left.

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Time for a well earned brew before setting off for home.

At Tate Modern

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There’s just too much to see in one visit to Tate Modern. Here’s a few works that captured my interest during our recent visit

From Louise Bourgeois’ Artist’s Room

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From the Living Cities exhibition

Untitled (Ghardaïa) 2009 Kadar Attia. A city made of cous cous (I’ve seen this one before in Tate Liverpool)

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You can walk on this map of Beiruit

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Mogamma, A Painting In Four Parts: Part 3 (2012) by Juli Mehretu

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Back over in the “Boiler House” (as the original building is now called)

Abstract in White, Green, Black, Blue Red, Grey and Pink (c1963) by Victor Passmore

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Quarante Huit, Quai d’Auteuil (1935) an early abstract work by Winifred Nicholson

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Holes (1954) by Shozo Shimamoto

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Guano (1958-62) by Judit Reigl

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Pictures of Spatial Growths – Pictures with Two Small Dogs (1920-39) by Kurt Schwitters 

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