Joana Vasconcelos: Beyond at the YSP

It seems forever since I took a week off work but it was only 3 weeks ago. Such a lot has happened since then. The weather at the beginning of that week hadn’t been so great but by the Thursday things had brightened up and we decided we’d drive over to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, A new exhibition had just started and we wanted to see how J’s name had weathered on the new “Walk of Art”.

It was bright and sunny when we arrived, but very windy. It continued like that for most of the day, and it was very muddy underfoot, so we didn’t spend as much time as we’d have liked walking around the grounds (in fact, the paths around the lake were closed off due to the strong wind). However, there was plenty to see in the Underground Gallery and the more sheltered areas close to it.

We parked up by the new Weston Gallery, Restaurant and Shop so we could take a look at the Walk of Art. The plates installed last summer had weathered and oxidised, blending in with the ones that had been installed earlier that year.

We set off battling against the wind across the muddy fields of the parkland over towards the old chapel and the Underground Gallery.

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We called in to the Chapel to look at the exhibition Something About Paradise by Saad Qureshi, that was due to close a few days after our visit. More about that in another post

The new main exhibition, which had only opened a few days before our visit, features works by the Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos. As has been the case several times during visits to the major exhibitions at the YSP, I hadn’t heard of this feminist artist. The exhibition website tells us that she

creates vibrant, often monumental sculpture, using fabric, needlework and crochet alongside everyday objects from saucepans to wheel hubs. She frequently uses items associated with domestic work and craft to comment from a feminist perspective on national and collective identity, cultural tradition and women’s roles in society.

I think that sums up what we saw very well.

The first of her works that we saw as we walked across towards the main visitor centre was this giant ceramic cockerel Pop Galo [Pop Rooster] (2016) which was inspired by the image of the Portuguese rooster.

The sculpture is over nine-metres-high and is covered by 17,000 glazed tiles. It also includes 15,000 LED lights which are illuminated at dusk while a composition by musician Jonas Runa is played. As we’d left well before dusk we weren’t able to see and hear that – perhaps we’ll have the opportunity towards the back end of the year – assuming we’re let out by then!

The large scale nature of this, and many other of her works, means that they’re necessarily a collaborative effort. The role of the artist is more of a designer than craftsperson – rather like that of an architect during the construction of a landmark building.

Moving inside the Underground Gallery the first works we saw this statue of the godess Diana covered by a cotton crotchet

and three ceramic animal heads, similarly adorned.

Moving into the first gallery there were several large works including this giant pistol made of 168 old style telephone handsets with the sound of a modern electro-acoustic composition by Jonas Runa playing. A number of the works in the exhibition incorporate music.

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Call Center (2014-16)

In the next gallery you couldn’t miss these gigantic high heel shoes made of stainless steel saucepans. The work was created for the Milan fashion show

Marilyn (2011)

and hanging from the ceiling was this massive work, inspired by the Valkyries of Norse legend, made from fabric and crocheted panels

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Valkyrie Marina Rinaldi (2014)

Another large crocheted work in the 3rd gallery

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Finisterrra (2018)

Moving outside, there were a number of large scale works on display.

This massive mask, constructed from Baroque style mirrors, was on the lawn facing the Underground Gallery.

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I’ll be Your Mirror ~1/7 (2018-20)

I wouldn’t mind a tea pot as big as this one! Although being made of wrought iron “lace work” it wouldn’t be so good for holding the tea.

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Pavilion de The (2012)

and, similarly, this jug wouldn’t be so good for storing your wine

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Pavilion de Vin (2016)

This gigantic ring, perched at the top of the lawn above the Underground Gallery, is made of hubcaps with a diamond made of whiskey glasses is a statement on consumerism and the greed for material possessions and wealth.

Solitario (2018)

The final work outdoors, sited near to Barbara Hepworth’s Family of Man, was this oversized ice cream cone constructed of plastic sand moulds of apples, pears, strawberries and croissants.

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Tutti Frutti (2019)

As is usually the case with exhibitions at the YSP, this one merits another visit. Unfortunately the park is closed now for the foreseeable future.

Musée d’Art Contemporain – Nîmes

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Nîmes is blessed with a number of museums and art galleries, including one devoted to contemporary art. It’s located in the Carré d’Art – the modern building designed by Norman Foster that’s opposite the town’s Roman temple. the Maison Carré.

My time in Nîmes was limited, but I managed spend an hour before I caught the bus to the Pont du Gard looking at the works on display from the gallery’s permanent collection. They have a good collection on display in a serious of light, spacious rooms on the first floor of the building. It’s not massive so an hour was enough to have a good look round. The following are some of the works I particularly liked

Bleu d’aout (1961) by Jacques Villeglé is a collage made from torn posters – with one poster pasted over another is torn so that part of the one underneath is revealed. It’s a technique for which this Breton artist is well known

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Next to it was another collage made from poster, La Rouille de la Tour Eiffel (1967-71), by François Dufrêne (1930-1982), who actually started out as a poet before turning to visual art.

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Villeglé and Dufrêne, together with another artist, Raymond Hains, specialised in creating collages from posters and were known as the “Affichistes”. There’s an article about them, in French, here. Their work can be described as Décollage

the opposite of collage; instead of an image being built up of all or parts of existing images, it is created by cutting, tearing away or otherwise removing, pieces of an original image.

François Dufrêne – image via Notbored

This painting lapis lazuli II (1994) by the German artist Sigmar Polke is painted using only one pigment – the semi precious stone of the title.

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The swirl of monochrome colour reminded me of a stormy sea or the patterns produced by a crystal of copper sulphate dissolving in a beaker of warm warm water where the colour is carried through the liquid by the convection currents.

I believe that this painting was one of about 20 that the artist created especially for an exhibition of his work held in Nîmes in 1994. So perhaps it is meant to represent the indigo dye used to colour “cloth de Nîmes” (better known as denim) swirling in the dying vat.

This painting by Simon Hantai, Sans titre (1967), has also been created using one colour.

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Abstract paintings created using a single colour were definitely a theme in the gallery. Here’s another one,  Romi (1993) by by Bernard Frize.

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Although it’s an abstract work it reminded me of a Chinese landscape painting and looking at it the shapes reminded me of hills, rivers, lakes and villages.

The gallery were also showing some works by Gerhard Richter, including this large scale abstract canvas Abstraktes Bild, (1989). It rather reminded me of a late period Monet.

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In a darkened room in the corner of the gallery there was an installation where lights shone on  various objects that were being rotated, producing moving shadows on the wall. Shadow Installation (2005) by Hans Peter Feldmann. It was probably my favourite work in the gallery. The picture really doesn’t do it justice.

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The following Youtube video of another of his works gives a feel for how it looked.

The Carré d’Art have built up a good collection of contemporary, which shows you what can be achieved by a Local Authority with a little imagination and a lot of determination. And its brave too, as it’s all too easy to go for the lowest common denominator and buy populist pictures. I didn’t like everything on display, and why should I? But I did discover some artists that I can explore further in the future.

The gallery also hold temporary exhibitions on the second floor. These have featured some major contemporary artists in the past. The current exhibition consists of works by the German artist Vera Lutter, who now lives in America. She takes photographs using a giant pin hole camera, printing off large scale negative images. There’s an entrance fee for the temporary exhibitions and given my time constraints I wasn’t able to have a proper look around. I did manage to get a quick peek at some of the pictures .