Saad Qureshi: “Something About Paradise” at the YSP

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During our recent trip over the Pennines to the YSP (hard to believe it’s only just over 3 weeks ago) we called into the Chapel to take a look at the exhibition by the British artist Saad Qureshi, which was due to close a few days after our visit.

The old Georgian chapel has been converted into a really simple, beautiful and contemplative exhibition space and the YSP have programmed exhibitions that are really suited to it’s ambiance. During this visit, the strong sunlight was streaming in through the windows creating contrasting patterns of light and shadows.

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In this exhibition the artist was exploring “what paradise means in a contemporary context” and the exhibition website tells us that

Qureshi is an avid gatherer of stories. In developing Something About Paradise he travelled around the country asking those with and without faith what paradise means for them. Speaking directly to people allowed the artist space to interpret the descriptions of indistinct and imagined places, as seen in memories and dreams, into physical installations that he refers to as ‘mindscapes’.

The result is a series of fantastic imaginary landscapes of hills, trees and miniature buildings of different architectural styles from around the world.

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One thing that struck me about this “paradise” – there was a distinct lack of colour! I’m not sure what that was meant to say.

Besides the landscapes other works included this building on the moon

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a number of large, ornate Gates of Paradise

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and this ladder (cue Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven“!) , which the artist had very cleverly shaded to make it look as if was disappearing into the ether.

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Kimsooja: To Breathe at the YSP

While we were visiting the YSP the other Saturday, we made a particular effort to go and take a look at the exhibition in the old Georgian Chapel building. It’s a really beautiful, very contemplative, space and the YSP use it for some inspirational installations.

As part of the Yorkshire Sculpture International, the YSP commissioned the South Korean artist Kimsooja to create a work in the chapel. It’s a simple concept – the floor has been covered with mirrors and the windows with a special nanopolymer diffraction film. A recording of the artist breathing, with changing rhythms, was also played.

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The film diffracts the light shining through the windows splitting it into it’s component colours and creating rainbow like patterns on the walls and ceiling which are reflected by the mirrors on the floor.

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The patterns will vary depending on the light coming through the windows and so will change with the weather and the time of day.

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It’s a very beautiful work.

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The YSP website describes it as a

visually spectacular and meditative installation, creating an intimate and shared encounter.

I have to agree!

As with other works we’ve seen in the chapel, photographs can’t do it justice. It needs to be seen and experienced.

Only a limited number of people are allowed in the chapel at a time for this installation, so we had a short wait before we could enter. Visitors were also asked to try to not make too much noise so that everyone could experience the contemplative atmosphere. We were also asked not to touch the floor. Of course, not everyone respected this (sadly) and one family were not just allowing their children to lie on the floor but seemed to be actively encouraging them to do so. At the risk of coming across as a “grumpy old man” (which I guess I am) I sometimes despair at the behaviour and lack of respect of some people. But it didn’t spoil the visit.

There’s another work by Kimsooja on display in the YSP grounds – a 14-metre-high sculpture A Needle Woman: Galaxy was a Memory, Earth is a Souvenir . There are similarities with the installation in the chapel in that the tall. conical, needle like structure consists principally of transparent acrylic panels coated with the nano polymer, and with a mirrored floor. Sunlight shining through the panels is diffracted and split into different colours producing patterns which change with conditions, the direction of the sunlight and the position of the viewer.

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And looking inside the structure at the mirrored floor makes it look as if the sculpture extends deep into the ground.

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It’s not as mind blowing as the installation in the chapel, but an interesting work, nevertheless.

Wolfgang Tillmans – Rebuilding the Future – at the IMMA

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After passing through the Mary Swanzy paintings, which I enjoyed very much, I went to look at the Exhibition of photographs by the German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans which occupied the whole of the East wing of the Gallery.

According to the exhibition guide he’s

 one of the most accomplished and widely celebrated artists working today, recognised for major contributions to the development of contemporary photography in terms of subject matter, production, scale, presentation and methodology.

He doesn’t specialise in one style but his work encompasses landscapes, portraits, street photography and abstract images. They come in different sizes too, ranging from very small to gigantic, as can be seen in this photograph (it’s a little weird photographing photographs!)

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Rebuilding the Future comprises over 100 works and captures Tillmans’ unique way of working. This new exhibition for IMMA mixes works from throughout his career and in numerous formats, installed in IMMA’s galleries in direct relation to the physical spaces and atmosphere of the museum. 

He built in reputation in the 1990’s while he was in Britain with photographs documenting the London club and gay scenes but he’s moved on since then.

One of the first image I saw was this large photograph of the sea looking towards the land. Printed in monochrome and quite grainy, it was almost abstract in nature

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Some of the other works that caught my attention

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One of his portraits – this one of the singer Neneh Cherrie

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A wall of photographs from the London music scene

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A couple of the individual photos

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Alison Watt: A Shadow On The Blind

The main exhibition currently showing at Abbot t Hall at the moment features the work of the Sottish artist, Alison Watt. During our visit last week, perhaps unsurprisingly, it wasn’t attracting as much attention as the tapestries by the much better known Grayson Perry, but we spent some time looking at her meticulously painted pictures.

The Abbot Hall website tells us:

Her work first came to public attention in 1987 when she won the National Portrait Gallery’s coveted annual award, and in the late 1980s and early 90s she became known for her paintings of figures, often female nudes. In the late 1990s her focus shifted away from the figure and she began to explore the possibility of painting drapery as a surrogate for the human body.

They were mainly monochrome trompe d’oiel images of relatively simple objects – mainly plain fabrics and electrical flex. They were very convincing, particularly when viewed from a few feet away. Simple, but very effective. They really need to be seen “in the flesh” to be properly appreciated.

Alison Watt: A Shadow On The Blind from Lakeland Arts on Vimeo.

Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art

As would be expected of the second largest city in Greece, there are several museums in Thessaloniki. As our time in the city was limited (and as the weather was nice we wanted to enjoy being outdoors in the sun) we only visited one of them. I would have liked to have had a look round the Macedonian and Archaeological Museums, but expected they would require a lot of time and concentration, so, on our last day, we decided on visiting the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art. There’s also a National Contemporary Art Museum, but that was a little way out of the centre whereas the Macedonian gallery was not far from the White Tower.

There were two exhibitions to see. On the ground floor there was a display that was part of the Thessaloniki PhotoBiennale 2018, which is spread over a number of venues across the city.

There was a really interesting selection of photographs. It’s not easy to photographs photos, especially when they’re in frames with reflective glass, but here’s a few of my favourites

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This wetted my appetite to see more of the biennial, but time and energy were running out.

The upstairs gallery and some of the spaces downstairs were devoted to an exhibition of contemporary works from the Gallery’s own collection, that had been donated by Alexandros Iolas. Iolas had something of an interesting life. He was an ethnic Greek born in Alexandria in Egypt. He studied music in Berlin, became a ballet dancer and went to New York and when his dancing career was cut short due to injury, he became involved in dealing in contemporary art, founding galleries in New York and Europe.

Some of the exhibits were a little “fruity” and probably reflect his sexuality, but here are some of the works I liked
A Modigliani

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Still Life (1981) by Christos Tzivelos

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Alexander the Great (1981) by Andy Warhol (unfortunately the photo is badly affected by reflections in the glass)

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I didn’t note the name of the artist who created this one

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Street Trombone by Novello Finotti

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Palindrome 1 (1982) by Nikos Zoumboulis-Titsa Graikou

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The collection included works by both well known International artists and others from Greece who I’d not come across before. It was particularly interesting to discover the latter.

We spent a couple of hours in the Gallery and both of us felt it had been a worthwhile visit and a good choice. Not too large so we became “arted out” but with enough interest.

Eduardo Chillida in the Rijksmuseum Gardens

This year, the sculpture exhibition in the Rijksmuseum gardens features the work of the Spanish Basque artist Eduardo Chillida (1924-2002). He was originally a footballer, playing in goal for Real Sociedad, San Sebastián’s La Liga football team, but serious injury cut his career short.

He studied architecture before becoming a sculptor, and some of his works certainly have an architectural quality.

His work combines modern abstraction with traditional artisanal techniques for working materials, in particular forging iron. He frequently made his numerous and celebrated public works from large-format steel, using the material in a bold and spectacular fashion, with utter disregard for its innate constraints. Chillida believed that ‘To construct is to build in space.’ (Exhibition website)

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Studio Drift – Coded Nature at the Stedelijk

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One of the temporary exhibitions at the Stedelijk Museum was dedicated to the work of Studio Drift, Netherlands-born artist Lonneke Gordijn and her British/Dutch partner Ralph Nauta, who use modern technology to produce some imaginative installations and videos.

The first work we saw was Drifter, a massive ‘concrete’ block that  floated mid-air, tilting and moving around the room as if of its own accord.

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In the next room, Ghost Collection consisted of a number of transparent plastic chairs with ghostly forms created by air bubbles trapped inside the Perspex and illuminated by light.

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This sculpture, Fragile Drift, was created by three-dimensional bronze electrical circuits connected to light emitting dandelions. It contains real dandelion seeds, that were picked by hand, and glued seed by seed to LED lights.

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In Flylight , lights suspended from the ceiling responded to the movement of visitors to the gallery creating changing patterns of light, inspired by the movement of flocks of birds.

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Other works on display included an interactive 3D installation, video works and videos of installations they’d created.

The final work, Tree of Ténéré was a large-scale LED artwork in the shape of a tree that was originally installed at the  Burning Man festival in Nevada in 2017. It was created in conjunction with American artist artist Zachary Smith.

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The project is named after an acacia tree that once grew 400 kilometres from any other tree in the Sahara Desert, which was used as a marker on caravan routes but allegedly mowed down by a drunk driver in 1973.

It was an excellent exhibition and worth the the entrance fee to the Museum on it’s own.

A visit to the Stedelijk

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The final day of our short break in Amsterdam and our flight didn’t leave until just before 10 p.m. Son and daughter wanted to visit the Van Gogh Museum and had bought tickets online. We’d been before and decided to let them explore without us and, instead, we went to have a look around the Stedelijk Modern Art Museum, next door. We’d been before, in February, but they were between exhibitions, so thought it was worth another look round. They’d also redesigned the exhibition space for the permanent collection since our previous visit.

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There was a lot to see and in this post I’ll concentrate on some of the works from the permanent collection that caught my eye (excluding those from my post from the February visit).

Kitchen Gardens on Montmartre by Van Gogh

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Double Portrait of the Artist and his Wife by Max Becker

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La Montserrat by Julio Gonzalez, a sculpture that represents the fighting spirit of the Catalan people during the Spanish Civil War

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Apartheid by Keith Haring

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Radioactive Waste by Sigmar Polke

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Some posters from the Museum’s collection of Soviet art works

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There were also quite a number of Modernist photographs, many taken by photographers I hadn’t come across before, so I’ll have to follow up with some research when I have the time (so much to see, find out and do – so little time!!!). The photos don’t come out too well in my snapshots due to reflective glass, unfortunately.

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Chiharu Shiota: Beyond Time in the Chapel at the YSP

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As well as the sculptures on show around the magnificent Country Park, the YSP has a number of really excellent indoor exhibition spaces. One of our favourites is the old Georgian Chapel building which is a really beautiful space and the YSP use it for some inspirational installations.

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The current exhibition features a work created by the Berlin based Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota. Many of her works are large scale webs of threads, often filling entire rooms, that frequently incorporate everyday objects such as keys, , dresses and shoes. . The main work in the Chapel is one of these. Beyond Time is a web of white thread almost filling much of the space from floor to ceiling, (2,000 balls of thread were used to construct it),  and incorporating photocopied pages  of sheet music from the YSP’s archives.

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The artist usually uses crimson or black  thread, but in an interview for the Studio International website explains why for the Chapel white thread has been used

“For purity. And death.” White is the colour of mourning in Japan, which seems appropriate, given the simple gravestones and marble memorial slabs embedded in the site. But it also represents renewal.

Visitors can walk around and through the installation and view it looking down from the seats in the balcony

Photographs can’t do it justice. It needs to be seen and experienced

Giuseppe Penone: A Tree in the Wood at the YSP

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Last Sunday we decided to drive over to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. A new exhibition had opened the previous week that we wanted to see and it’s always nice to combine seeing good contemporary art with a walk through the Country park, especially on a sunny day.

The new exhibition is devoted to the work of an Italian artist, Giuseppe Penone. I’d seen an exhibition of his work in the gardens of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam a couple of years ago so was familiar with his work. Rather like David Nash, much of his work is created from trees, often integrating with other natural materials like rocks and marble. Like Nash he also casts trees and wood and bark in bronze.

As usual with the major YSP exhibitions, works were displayed both outdoors around the park and gardens and inside the Underground Gallery.

Pathway 6 (1986) – a bronze work of a human like figure made of bark growing out of a tree

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Bifurcation (1991) – a bronze sculpture of a tree trunk with a handprint from which water flows – I’d seen this one in Amsterdam

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Stone veins between the branches (2015), another work I’d seen in Amsterdam. A bronze tree trunk supporting a large granite block which has two smooth faces while the other two bear the drill marks made during the extraction of the block from the quarry

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Lighting Struck tree (2012) – yet another work I’d seen  in Amsterdam

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One of the first works we saw in the Underground Gallery was  In the Wood (2008). Here the artist had taken a block of wood and cut into it, carving back to a single tree ring so it appears as if a young sapling is emerging from the block.

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The centrepiece that straddled the three rooms in the Gallery, Matrix (2015)was a large pine tree split in half along it’s length and then with the middle carved out following a tree ring. The two halves facing each other.

Other works in the first room were two marble works. Body of Stone – Branches (2016) has bronze branches that seem to be growing out of the stone

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In a companion piece – Body of Stone – Grid (2016), the marble is covered by a metal grid which appears to eat into the stone

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The works in the second room included With Eyes Closed (2009), a picture in which the artist’s eyes are rendered in thousands of acacia thorns.

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Moving into the third room, the back wall was dominated by To breathe the shadow (2008) consisting of a collection of laurel leaves held in a mesh cage, with a bronze sculpture of a branch and an impression of the artist’s face in the centre

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The left wall was covered with a drawing, Propogation (1998/2018) with an enlarged impression of the artist’s fingerprint at the centre

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Another marvellous exhibition. We’re never disappointed by all of those we’ve seen at the YSP since our first visits about 10 years ago. And there was more to see (and write up!). The days always seem to disappear when we’re there. I’m certainly not a Telegraph reader, but looking at the review on their website I have to agree that

It all adds up to perhaps the best day out in British art.