The Raisbeck Pinfold

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Before we went up to Orton for our walk around the limestone pavements I’d spotted that there was one of Andy Goldsworthy’s sheepfolds not so far away near the small hamlet of Raisbeck.

SHEEPFOLDS is Cumbria County Council’s major county-wide sculpture, landscape and environment project by the internationally renowned artist ANDY GOLDSWORTHY. The project started in January 1996 for the ‘U.K. Year of Visual Arts’ in what was then the Northern Arts Board region. Beginning as part of this programme Andy Goldsworthy has created a body of environmentally responsive sculptural works across Cumbria using existing sheepfolds, washfolds and pinfolds.

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Although each fold is an individual piece, the project should be seen as a single work of art .

The one at Raisbeck is one of the artist’s cone pinfold’s. Pinfold appears to be a northern term for a pound, where stray animals were kept until claimed by their owners who would have to pay a release fee. If unclaimed, the animals would be sold.

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In each of his cone pinfolds, Goldsworthy has built a conical stone structure – hence their name. On the project website he explains how the shape of these structures was inspired by the Nine Standards, stone cairns on Hartley Fell near Kirkby Stephen, and describes how they were constructed. He tells us that

The form is full and ripe – an optimistic expression of the power of growth and that even out of stone comes life. They are strong yet the form appears precarious – not unlike the nature of growth itself.’

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Their are nine cone pinfold cones around Kirkby Stephen, reflecting the Nine Standards

The Raisbeck cone features in a book about the sheepfold project. In it we learn that it was an existing, ruined structure that Goldsworthy rebuilt over a period of two weeks in May 1996 using stone from a redundant wall from a nearby farm. The cone took three days to construct, using limestone and sandstone from local sources.

In the 20 years since it was built a number of trees have started to grow around the structure. So, although it is located very close to the narrow road, we managed to drive right past. But we realised pretty quickly so stopped, parked up on the verge and walked back to take a look

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A short distance down the road, next to a disused quarry, there’s another interesting stone structure – an old lime kiln – a fairly intact relic of a bygone age.

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This leaflet about the limestone landscape on the Orton fells tells us that

There are 23 small quarries and 20 lime kilns recorded in the local area. Most of these were used over the course of the last 500 years for processing lime for agricultural and domestic use.

The limestone, calcium carbonate, was “burnt” in the kilns to form “quick lime” (calcium oxide) which was then used in mortar, to render stonework and decorate walls (“whitewash”), to improve the fertility of acidic soils and to improve land drainage.

Looking at the project website, there’s a number of other Goldsworthy sheepfolds in the area around Tebay and Kirkby Stephen. Another reason to revisit the area.

Julian Cooper at Abbot Hall

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On Easter Saturday we drove up to Abbot Hall to take a look at their latest exhibition – a mini-retrospective of the work of a Cumbrian artist, Julian Cooper.

The paintings on display could be divided into four periods

His earliest works, shown on the landing at the top of the main staircase are quite abstract, although clearly based on vegetation and geological formations. The paintings from the second period, displayed in the first room, were figurative. A number of them based on Malcolm Lowry’s novel Under the Volcano and feature characters from the novel. But dominating the background are mountains, which later became the primary focus of his work.

The work then evolves again into a unique form of representation that is frequently near-abstract in its emphasis on the texture, shadow and irregular surfaces of rock and ice.  these mature period works

These mature period works were my favourites.

The second room was dominated by two large paintings of the Tibetan holy mountain, Mount Kailash which he visited in early spring 2006. One painting shows it’s north face, the other, the south.

A unique mountain, Kailash is worshipped by Hindus, Jain and Buddhists alike as the home of their Gods yet is so remote and difficult to get to that it is visited by only a handful of pilgrims each year. (Art Space Gallery Press Release)

The majority of the other paintings in this and the third rooms are close ups of rock faces, many of them from quarries in Italy, Tasmania and his native Cumbria.

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They are very detailed and standing back they are very realistic – particularly the Cumbrian works. However, they also have an abstract quality particularly when viewed a little closer.

A number of his paint brushes and palettes give an insight into his method of work. He works on large canvases yet despite this many of his paintings are started “plein air” and supplemented by photographs and then finished back in his studio Working in a large scale he uses large paint brushes with long handles, sometimes extending them to make them even longer.

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It must be something of a challenge to get his large canvases up into the relatively inaccessible locations in the mountains.  I found this interesting article by the artist, describing how he went about painting the holy Mount Kailish in Tibet.

Kaleidoscope: Colour and Sequence in 1960s British Art

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After looking round the exhibition in the old Chapel, we walked across the Country Park, down rast the lower lake and up the hill to the Longside Gallery where there was yet another new exhibition to see! Kaleidoscope: Colour and Sequence in 1960s British Art is a survey of

painting and sculpture from the Arts Council Collection, and augmented with major loans from important UK collections…. (which) …… examines the art of the 1960s through a fresh and surprising lens, one bringing into direct view the relationship between colour and form, rationality and irrationality, order and waywardness.

There’s a good selection of works by 20 British artists including  Anthony Caro, Bridget Riley and William Turnbull. I was familiar with some of them but there were some discoveries (always good!).

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The works on display included examples of Op Art, Pop Art and Constructivism, and

the sequential placement of brightly-coloured abstract units found in New Generation sculpture.

The Longside gallery is another good, airy exhibition space with large windows facing north letting in plenty of light.

Here are a selection of the works I liked

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Blue Ring (1966) by David Annesley

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Slow Movement (1965) by Anthony Caro

 

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Thebes (1966) by William Tucker

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Double Red (1966) by William Turnbull

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Quinquereme (1966) by Tim Scott

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Movement in Squares (1961) by Bridget Riley

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Ilmater (1966-7) by Jeffery Steele

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Holywood Pix (1967) by Anthony Donaldson

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Pelagic II (1967) by Bernard Farmer

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15.5.64 (1964) by John Hoyland

One of my favourites was Suspense (1966) by Peter Sedgely. This was one of a small number of works from the exhibition where photography wasn’t allowed. Another example of Op Art (like the paintings by Bridget Riley and Jeffery Steele, it was painted in such a way that it seemed that the image was out of focus – very clever!

Another good exhibition – worth the walk up the hill!!

[Re]construct at the YSP

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There’s always plenty to see at the YSP so after our first look around the Tony Cragg exhibition we had something to eat and then walked over to the former chapel which has been converted into an excellent exhibition space to see the [Re]construction exhibition which had only opened a few days before.

Selected largely from the Arts Council Collection by YSP, as part of the National Partners Programme, the exhibition questions what we know and understand about architecture, and features work by artists including Martin Creed, Anya Gallaccio and Cornelia Parker.

Walking through the entrance the first thing we saw was what appeared to be a brick wall with a large section of bricks that had melted.

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This was Alex Chinneck’s A hole in a bag of nerves (2017) which was constructed especially for the exhibition. The bricks are made of wax and a section has been melted with a hot air heater.

The centre of the main space was dominated by Cornelia Parker’s Neither From Nor Towards.

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This work comprises weathered bricks from a row of houses destroyed when they slipped into the sea on the south-east coast following the erosion of the cliffs. The bricks are suspended in space, recreating their fall. Like the exploding house we saw at the Whtworth a couple of years ago it was an impressive work.

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This work, can love remember the question and the answer, is by Anya Gallaccio

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Those are real flowers trapped between the glass panes in the mahogany door. The flowers will rot and decay, so the work will change subtly over the course of the exhibition.

There were a number of video works included in the exhibition. I found two of them, Rooms designed for a woman by Emily Speed and Device by John Wood and Paul Harrison – the “ art-world equivalent of Laurel and Hardy” according to the Tate website  showing in the Chapel’s gallery, particularly interesting.

Tony Cragg at the YSP

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The latest main exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a major retrospective of the work of Tony Cragg – a British sculptor who lives and works in Germany. It includes 14 large sculptures (made within the last 10 years) displayed in the grounds, 35 indoors in the Underground and Garden Galleries and 80 works on paper.

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We drove over earlier this week, braving the long term roadworks on the M60, to take a look and were well impressed!

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Tony Cragg was born in Liverpool and initially worked as a lab technician for the National Rubber Producers’ Research Association. He enrolled on the foundation course at Gloucestershire College of Art and Design in Cheltenham in 1969 when he was 20 and then went on to study at Wimbledon School of Art and the Royal College of Art. He won the Turner Prize in 1988 and represented Britain at the 42nd Venice Biennale in the same year.

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Initially he was associated with the Land Art movements, concentrating on site-specific installations of found objects and discarded materials. This early part of his career wasn’t particularly covered in the exhibition other than a small selection of works and photographs  in the Project Space in the Underground Gallery, including this one

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New Figuration (1985) – made from plastic objects washed up along the Rhine.

This is another relatively early work, in this case made using heavy-duty metal industrial components

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Minster (1992)

The majority of the larger sculptures on display, however are from his later Early Forms and Rational Beings series.

Cragg started creating his Early Forms in the late 1980s.  They’re based on various types of vessels, such as laboratory test tubes and flasks, jars and bottles which he has “morphed” to form abstract shapes and forms, but with an element of the form of the original object still present. They rather reminded me of plastic or rubber mouldings where the production process has gone wrong resulting in a deformed shape. I’ve seen similar mishaped mouldings when I’ve been visiting rubber and plastic production sites during my work.  No doubt Cragg saw similar things when he working in the rubber industry which gave him some inspiration for this series.

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The starting point for the works in Cragg’s Rational Beings series are profiles of the human face or, sometimes, body. But they’re overlaid and manipulated so that it’s initially difficult to make out the origin of the complex forms he creates from overlaid discs of wood or other materials, in some cases left as wooden sculptures, in other cases casting them in bronze or other metals.

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Look closely from the right angle and the profiles of human faces or figures can be seen

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Other works included examples from his Hedge series

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and a couple of sculptures from the more recent Skull series

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This sculpture has it’s surface entirely covered with dice

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and this one, the surface covered with letters, is reminiscent of the work of Jaume Plensa

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Manipulation (2008)

The Garden Gallery displays concentrated on smaller sculptures and works on paper

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including pictures of test tubes inspired by his time working as a lab technician.

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I particularly liked a couple of smaller sculptures made from glass

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This is a superb exhibition and will definitely benefit from a second visit. We’re already planning one for July!

Institutional Ghost at the IMMA

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The Courtyard Galleries at the IMMA are currently showing an exhibition of work by the Brazilian artist Jac Leirner. The IMMA website tells us that the exhibition

comprises of exciting recent and new work made in response to the architecture of IMMA

and that

Since the mid-1980s, Leirner has collected the temporary and incidental products of everyday life, tapping into what she has described as the ‘infinity of materials’. Stickers, rulers, plastic bags, business cards, cigarette ends and even bank notes make their appearance in her work, removed but not entirely dislocated from their original function.

I saw a work by her during my visit to Tate Modern in JanuaryLevels (2012), a simple work consisting of eight differently coloured spirit levels lined up end to end. A case of “Modern Art? I could have done that” – the answer, of course, being “but you didn’t think of it”. The same points could certainly be made about the Dublin exhibition.

This work displayed at the IMMA is also constructed from spirit levels – 32 of them.

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Another spine (2017)

There were also three works made from rules. This one was my favourite

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Tools (2017)

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I rather liked these simple squares  made from 297 cigarette rolling papers stick directly on to the gallery wall.

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Skin (Rizla Liquorice), 2013. Cigarette rolling papers

Attached by their edges they were loose enough to flutter due to the air movement in the room.

This work consists of a long length of electric cable with a plug at one end and an electric light bulb lit by the main current at the other. It’s looped up and down to form a large rectangle on the gallery wall.

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Special Light (2017)

This was probably my favourite work, though – Cloud (2017),

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which is made from airport luggage tags – the title of the work no doubt referencing their previous use on bags stored in the holds of aircraft.

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I thought it was an imaginative use of the used tags to create an effective sculpture.

Lucien Freud at the IMMA

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At the end of last year the Irish Museum of Modern Art opened an exhibition featuring fifty works by Lucian Freud which have been lent to the Museum’s Collection. The loan, from a number of private collectors, includes thirty paintings and twenty works on paper comprising nineteen large-scale etchings and one early drawing. To house these works, the IMMA have set up a new Freud Project in the Garden Gallery, which has previously been used for temporary exhibitions.

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The IMMA’s website tells us that

During this unique five-year project IMMA will present a series of different and exclusive Lucian Freud related exhibitions, with a new programme of events and openings each year.  All 50 works will be on display across this first year. Subsequent exhibitions will include works and new commissions by other modern and contemporary artists in response to Freud, and will reveal exciting new perspectives on this major artist today.
As I’m back in Ireland working this week, I caught the late morning fast ferry from Holyhead so I could spend a little time having a look at the exhibition.

As with most temporary exhibitions, especially those featuring loans from private collectors, photographs were “verboten”. Here’s one from the IMMA website, though, a self-portrait.

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Reflection (Self Portrait) (1985) (IMMA website)

The exhibition occupies all three of the public floors of the Garden Gallery. Paintings on the ground and first floor with prints displayed in subdued light in the basement.

The exhibits are mainly later works from the from 1970 onwards, and so reflect his style from that period. Like many artists his approach changed over the years so the exhibition doesn’t give a full reflection of his work. Also, although Freud is well known for is paintings of nudes (which pull no punches painting people as is rather idealising their bodies), there are only two in the exhibition. (I felt a little uneasy that one of the nudes was one of his, albeit grown up, daughters).  In both cases this is because the exhibition is made up of loaned works and so is limited by what the owners had available and were prepared to lend to the IMMA.

The majority of the works included in the exhibition are portraits. Freud painted people he knew and the subjects in the exhibition are family and characters from around London. They included his daughters and grandchildren, the “Big Man” – a bookmaker from Ulster and his son, a Covent Garden newspaper salesman, an antiques dealer and former jockey. “The Big Man” appears in several paintings His son, appears with his father in Two Irishmen in W11 (1984-1985) when he was 19 years old and then a few years later in Head of an Irishman (1999).

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Two Irishmen in W11 (1984-1985) Source Wikiart

Another Irish character, Pat Doherty, is the subject of Donegal Man (2006), a later, companion piece: Profile Donegal Man (2008), a portrait fragment and an etching (and the plate for the etching is also on display). There were also paintings that featured animals – whippets and horses. Probably related to his “interest” in gambling – also reflected in his portraits of the “Big Man”.

One of my favourite portraits was Man in a Check Cap (1991). The subject is Mick Tobin, a retired boxer who sold newspapers outside Covent Garden underground station. He has an interesting “lived in” face which I think Freud captures really well.

There are two unfinished works on display which provide an insight into how Freud began his work,

drawing in the forms in charcoal and moving outwards from a central area, often the eyes. (exhibition guide)

During his later period he used a thick “impasto” to create the texture of the skin. looking closely at the paintings I could see  indistinct blobs of thickly applied paint with a relatively limited palate – white, grey, brown and fleshy tones. The exhibition guide tells us

Freud’s choice of palette was always muted and earthy; he never used saturated colour, considering that it conveyed an overtly emotional significance that he wished to avoid.

As my son once said when looking at some of Monet’s later paintings – “close up they look like a mess” but stand back and they merge into a coherent whole.

Another aspect of his work is that they are not completely naturalistic. Proportions are not always accurate. This is particularly noticeable in The Pearce Family (1998) of portrait of his daughter Rose Boyt and her family where her husband’s body, particularly his arms, are out of proportion. He also adopted some “multiple viewpoints” in some of his paintings including the portrait of the Pearce family.

I’d never seen some many paintings by Freud collected together in one place and this was a really good opportunity to gain a better understanding of his work, albeit covering only a limited period. It will be interesting to see how the IMMA develops this project over the next few years.