NGI Renovated and Renewed

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During my visit to the National Galley of Ireland I was able to take a look at the older parts of the building that only reopened on June 15th. They’ve been closed for the past six years for extensive renovation works including building repairs, fire upgrading, environmental controls and improving accessibility.

First impressions were that the architects in charge of the project, Heneghan Peng, who were also responsible for the Giant’s Causeway Visitor’s Centre, had done a good job. All the services have been well hidden and the older rooms, which I remember looking tired when I last visited them, have been refreshed and brightened up. Windows in the Shaw room, that were previously covered over to facilitate the hanging of paintings, have been uncovered making it a much brighter space lit with natural light.

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They’ve also created an airy, bright covered courtyard in the space between the between the Dargan Wing and the 1901 Milltown Wing

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At one end of the courtyard there’s a rather beautiful sinuous wooden sculpture, Magnus Modus, by Joseph Walsh, made of olive ash with a Kilkenny limestone base. It was commissioned by the Office of Public Works on behalf of the National Gallery of Ireland.

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Another day, another Minster

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Starting to feel like a prisoner in my hotel room, I drove over to Howden, a small town a five mile drive from my hotel. It’s not more than a village, really, but it’s dominated by a large Gothic church – Howden Minster.

The Yourhowden website tells us

The Minster was owned by monks from Peterborough Abbey in Saxon times, but in 1080 it was gifted to William of Calais, the Bishop of Durham. The Norman church was rebuilt in the early English style in the 13th century and rebuilding work was completed in the ‘decorated’ style around 1340. A small octagonal Chapter House was built after 1388, the last of its kind to be built in England.

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The church survived the Dissolution of the Monasteries as it was not a monastery, but fell victim to the Dissolution of Collegiate Churches and Chantries in 1548.

It was one of the first Decorated Gothic churches in the north of England

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Over the years the church was neglected and started to fall into ruin lack of funds for maintenance. Today, only the nave survives intact, with the quire and chapter house in ruins, but preserved under the guardianship of English Heritage. The remaining, intact, parts of the building are still in use as a parish church.

I had a look around the outside of the building.  This is the octagonal Chapter House.

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A view of the tower from the graveyard to the south of the building.

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The south entrance. It’s clearly undergone some restoration.

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A view of the tower from the north west

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The view from the south. It’s considerably plainer than the Minster at Beverley

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Although it was early evening the entrance wasn’t locked, so I decided to have a look inside.

Looking down the nave with it’s high ceiling supported by characteristic pointed arches.

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The altar.

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The ornate Quire screen.

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A modern series of abstract sculpture by John Maine R.A. was installed outside the minster 2002 –2008, inspired by the four elements.

The churchyard itself represents “Earth”.

This star like pattern made of granite and inlaid into the pavement in front of the west entrance is “Water”. The granite is from the Himalayas.

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Air” is represented by series of truncated columns of various heights, with patterns inspired by the carved columns in Durham Cathedral,

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This is “Fire”, which stands in the north east corner of the churchyard, in front of the ruined Quire.

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Giacometti at Tate Modern

I’d been looking forward to seeing the retrospective of work by Giacometti, a favourite artist of mine, that opened recently at Tate Modern. So when I was down in London a couple of weeks ago, I made time to visit the gallery on London’s Bankside.

Giacometti is a favourite artist – I like his trademark sculptures of elongated figures – walking men and standing women – with their rough, textured surfaces. The exhibition included plenty of those, with works from the Tate’s own collection, like Man Pointing  (1947)

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with other examples from public and private collections. As usual with these paid exhibitions, no photos allowed so the pictures in this post are either photos I’ve taken during previous visits to Tate Modern, or from the exhibition website.

As a retrospective, it included earlier works before the Swiss artist developed his signature style. In particular, his surrealist works from the 1930’s

The first room contained a large table covered with a large number of sculptures of heads in different styles and made from various materials – some quite tiny – covering his career, Being displayed in this way really allowed visitors to see how his style developed – initially relatively ‘lifelike’

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Head of Isabel 1936

they evolved into more abstract, fatter forms, eventually becoming flat and featureless rectangles from his Surrealist period. Then the later sculptures in the style for which he is best known. The heads included sculptures of his family members, friends and some famous individuals, including Simone de Beauvoir.

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Bust of Annette IV (1962)

Moving on through the other 9 rooms was a progression through his career. The next few rooms displaying abstract and Surrealist works – sculptures, decorative pieces (lamps, vases, jewellery and wall reliefs) and sketches in his notebooks.

Probably the most Surrealist of the works in the exhibition was the rather grusome Woman With Her Throat Cut (1932)more of a weird insect than a human being

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After WWII, he returned to Paris where he began to produce the elongated figures for which he is best known. These dominated the final 5 rooms

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Three men walking (source: Wikipedia)

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The dog (1951)

This is what I’d come to see. They’re simple, almost like 3 dimensional versions of L S Lowry’s ‘matchstick men’ in their complex simplicity

The thin figures that emerged like wisps of smoke out of Giacometti’s conscience in the second part of that murderous decade seem barely to exist. They are not so much statues as mirages of people glimpsed far away, shimmering on a horizon of ash. The human form, starved, bereft, but somehow standing tall. (Guardian)

There were paintings too. Again, he has a distinctive style. The figures are made up of a series of lines which merge to form an image rather like the dots in a Pointillist painting

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Seated Man (1949)

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Caroline (1965)

This was a marvellous exhibition that didn’t disappoint.

Nelson’s Ship in a bottle

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This giant ship in a bottle can be seen near the rear entrance to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. It’s by the Anglo-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare MBE.

The ship is a model of Nelson’s flagship, Victory, but with the sails made of the Dutch Wax printed fabrics (African style fabrics) he uses extensively in his work.

Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle’ was the 2010 Fourth Plinth Commission, and was displayed in Trafalgar Square, London, until January 2012.

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.

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!

Clougha Pike

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Last Sunday promised to be a fine day so we decided to get outdoors. We decided against heading up to the Lakes and, instead, tackle Clougha Pike which is a hill on the edge of the Forest of Bowland Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty which overlooks Lancaster. Having climbed it’s neighbour, Ward Stone, in the past, I knew that we were likely to have some good views on a fine day and I’d recently discovered that there was a sculpture by Andy Goldsworthy up on the moor, having read about in a post on Beating the Bounds. All in all it seemed a good bet for combining a walk with some art and less than an hour’s drive up the M6.

We parked up in the car park on Rigg Lane near Quernmore and set off on a route that would take round the back of Clougha Pike and past the Goldsworthy sculpture, then over Grit Fell across to the summit of our main objective. The hill and surrounding moors are part of the Abbeystead Estate owned by the Duke of Westminster and it’s been “cultivated” for grouse shooting. Access to the heather clad moorland was jealously guarded until the recent past, but with changes in legislation it’s open access land outside of the shooting season.

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There is plenty of evidence of the grouse shooting with grouse butts and parking spaces dotted across the moors and there are bulldozed tracks to allow the shooters easy access. Our route followed one of these roads (only suitable for 4 x 4 s) for almost half the distance, and although they could be considered to spoil the look of the moor to some extent, they do make for easy walking over what would otherwise be very wet and boggy peat, and we had to endure that for much of the second half of the walk.

We set off and followed the track along to the quarry near to Cragg Wood.

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It wasn’t long before we encountered the first grouse of the day!

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The Red Grouse is only found in the British Isles, and, in England, mainly in the North West.

A flock of sheep were keeping an eye on us.

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Reaching the quarry we joined one of the shooters’ tracks and started the climb up the moor.

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Visibility was good and great views over to the Lake District mountains and the Yorkshire Dales soon opened up.

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I shot panoramas of the Lakeland Fells

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and the Three Peaks (Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent)

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Looking to the west over Lancaster and Morecambe Bay to the Furness peninsula

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We passed weathered formations of Millstone Grit

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Eventually we arrived at the former quarry where Andy Goldsworthy had constructed three structures where we stopped to take a look and to have our dinner.

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A local resident was keeping an eye on us!

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Carrying on along the track we passed Ward’s Stone, the highest hill in Lancashire (since the boundary changes of 1974 robbed us of Coniston Old Man!) on our left

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before turning off the track on to a path crossing the moorland towards Grit Fell

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It was wet and muddy and swampy (so no chance of keeping our boots clean)  and hard going in places.

Eventually the summit of Clougha Pike beckoned

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We stopped for a while for a bite to eat and to take in the views. Then we set back down following the path along Clougha Scar

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We missed the path which cuts back to the Rigg Lane car park and ended up part way up the shooters’ track we’d come up on.

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We retraced our route back to the car park. The diversion resulting in a slightly longer walk than planned. A good day, nevertheless.