Clitheroe and Downham

Now I’ve more free time I’ve been thinking about getting myself an e-bike. I used to do a lot of cycling at one time – more than 15 years ago to be honest, but my bike, a decent hybrid, has hardly been out of the shed since then. I’m not sure that the old legs could cope with the hulls around here these days so an e-bike does sound appealing. But they’re not cheap, especially some of the ones I’ve been looking at. The Ribble Hybrid AL e Trail has particularly caught my eye, but it’s expensive, costing £2000 more than the non-electric equivalent. Can I justify the cost? Well I thought I should go and take a look. The company have a showroom on the outskirts of Clitheroe, an hour’s drive away, so it seemed sensible to go and have a look. And given a decent weather forecast we decided to make a day of it. No, not a day in the bike showroom but after sussing out the bike we spent the rest of the day in and around Clitheroe.

First stop was Holmes Mill, aformer textile mill close to the centre of town that’s been convered into a food hall, beer hall, brewery, hotel and cinema.

We parrked up and had a look round the food hall. Lot’s of tasty stuff on display, much of it local produce from Bowland and the Ribble Valley.

The food also serve light meals and drinks so as it was midday and we aere starting to feel hungry so grabbed a table outdoors – it was already starting to get busy – and ordered a couple of “planks” from the menu. They arrived promptly.

Well fed, we drove the short distance into town centre and parked up. The next destination was Clitheroe Castle which stands on a prominent hill surrounded by 16 acres of park land in the centre of town. Clitheroe is a pleasant market town with mainly independent shops and is the home of a certain WordPress blogger! We had visited the Castle before, but that was a long time ago when our offspring were very small and we took them to see the castle. I think the last time I was in the town properly (not counting driving through it or visiting a client on the outskirts) was when I was conducting some research in the Library for a project which investigated the impact of the local cement work’s plan to burn waste solvents to fire the kiln during my studies for my Masters.

On our way up to the castle we passed one of the markers for the Lancashire Witches’ Walk, a 51-mile (82 km) long-distance footpath between Barrowford and Lancaster, opened in 2012 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the trials of the Pendle witches.

The poet laureate,  Carol Ann Duffy, was commissioned to write a poem for the trail and Ten cast iron tercet waymarkers, designed by Stephen Raw, each inscribed with the name of one of those executed (in this case Isabel Robey – who was actually from St Helens but was hanged with the women from Pendle) a verse of the poem the have been installed at sites along the route. This was the fourth marker on the trail,

A short steep climb and we reached the castle

The Norman keep – the second smallest in England – was built in the late 12th century and was garrisoned by a small company of troops to keep an eye ont he strategic route along the Ribble Valley.

On a fine day there were good views all around from the battlements surrounding the kep

Looking towards Pendle Hill
The view towards the Bowland Fells
The hills of the Yorkshire Dales in the distance

There are several other buildings in the Castle grounds that house the town museum It isn’t free entry but decided to visit. As with many local museums it’s exhibits are mainly aimed at children (I bet they have a lot of school visits during the year) but we found plenty of interest, particularly about the history of the castle, town and local industry.

A recreated Victorian kitchen in the museum
A textile work in the museum rembering the Pendle Witches

There was an exhibition of paintings and other exhibits on the theme of cycling (quite relevant given the original reason for our trip over here) in the Steward’s House – this is the building where the landlord’s representative lived.

The castle site remained in private ownership until 1920, when it was sold to the people of Clitheroe for a consirable sum to create a war memorial. We though that the landlord was rather mean spirited, and could have donated the castle and the land to the town, but that’s the landlord class for you. The town raised more than they needed to pay off the landlord so the surplus was used to create the pleasant park.

A very poignant memorial

We returned to the car and decided to drive over to the small village of Downham, a few miles away. It’s a very picturesque, small village at the bottom of Pendle Hill. The properties are all owned by the Assheton family who rent or lease them out and they don’t allow residents to install overhead electricity lines, aerials or satellite dishes. This has made the village a popular location for filming period TV programmes and films, including the BBC One series Born and Bred. More notably it was the main location for the 1961 Bryan Forbes film, Whistle Down the Wind.

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Downham

I’ve been there several times, last time a couple of years ago with the offspring, but this was a first for J. We’re both fans of the film and so after stopping for an ice cream at the small cafe / shop, we went for a short walk where I was able to point out the main locations used in the film.

The farmhouse where Hayley Mills and her film sister and brother lived with Worsall Hill behind. The hill features at the beginning of the film when the children are seen running across and down it.
The barn where Alan bates playing the runaway murderer hides.
Pendle Hill seen across the fields during our walk

After returning to the village set off back to Clitheroe where we’d decided to eat out, but as it was a little too early, we decided to drive over to the riverside Brungerley Park where ther’e a sculpture trail. There isn’t a car park but given the time of the day (early evening) we had no trouble finding a place to park on the road close to the entrance to the park.

Here’s a selection of the sculptures, including some by Halima Cassell, who’s work, complex geometric scultpures, I rather like.

Common Comfrey by Halima Cassell
As The Crow Flies by David Halford
Fir Cone by Halima Cassell
Otter by Fiona Bowley
The Ribble King by Matthew Roby
Sika Deer by Clare Bigger

We spet a good hour or so meandering through the park on a mild evening but it was time to go and get something to eat! We’d decided to return to Holmes Mill and eat in the Beer Hall, where it looked like they had a decent “pub grub” menu. They also have a very extensive beer menu, including a range of Bowland beers that are brewed on the premises.

The beer hall – I took the photo during our earlier visit – it was surprisingly busy in the evening when we returnedgiven that it was a Wednesday. I bet it’s heaving at the weekend.
The mill engine that used to power the textile machinery.

The food was pretty good – and very filling. These is the lamb kebabs I ordered

Feeling stuffed after our meal it was time to set off for home. We’d had a very enjoyable and busy day. I think I really out to get out into the Ribble Valley more often.

A visit to Windermere Jetty Museum

Leaving Blackwell we decided to drive over to, another Lakeland Arts site, the Windermere Jetty Museum, a short drive away on the other side of Bowness. We’d visited before, just before the first lockdown, but though we could spend a little time there revisiting the exhibits and enjoying a brew on the lakeside.

As it turned out we spent longer there than we expected as there were a couple of art exhibitions – normally they would probably have been shown at Abbot Hall but with that still be shut for refurbishment I guess Lakeland Arts were taking advantage of the facilities here.

First, though, we had a look around the main displays

One of the exhibitions, shown in the main building in a room with a view over the lake, featured large scale abstract watercolours by Barbara Nicholls, an artist from Cheshire.

Her technique used to create these works involved laying out large sheets of heavy weight
paper on the studio floor, which were then wetted before applying the pigments which would then begin to spread out by capillary action – just like ink dropped onto wet blotting paper. The skill of the artist is then to manipulate and control the pigment. The finished works being made up of sections from several of these sheets cut and then collated to form a whole.

These monumental watercolours emerge from a process of manipulating coloured pigment in large quantities of water. The pigments behave in a variety of ways; some gather in dark, opaque pools, others are translucent, lapping at the paper to form gentle tidal marks.

Lakeland Arts Website

It was quite appropriate for paintings created by the movement of water to be displayed in a room with a view over the Lake.

The second exhibition was in the old fire station that had been relocated from Bowness village to the grounds of the museum

Dovetailing is an immersive installation by Sculptor Juliet Gutch in collaboration with composer and viola player Sally Beamish and filmmaker Clare Dearnaley inspired by luthiery (the making of stringed musical instruments). 

Entering the small building we encountered a darkened room with wooden mobiles suspended from the ceiling with a film being projected onto a screen.

The mobiles were made up of wooden shapes resembling shavings produced during the planing of the wood used in the construction of a violin or viola. The film, with the soundtrack by Sally Beamish, included natural sounds, the workshop process during the manufacture of a violin and the movement of the mobile forms.

Then it was time for a brew. It was a pleasant day so we sat outside looking over the water (there are good views from inside the cafe too)

I liked the wooden shelters that had been built by the museum staff using boat building techniques

Leaving the museum we weren’t ready to set off for home so we drove into the village centre, parked up and went for a walk along the lake.

There is very little of the east side of Windermere where it’s possible to walk along the lakeside. Most of the land is privately owned and access isn’t possible for the hoi poloi – reflecting the theme of the exhibition we’d visited at Blackwell that morning. The main exceptions are Fell Foot, at the south end of the lake, and Cockshott Point, a stretch of parkland where we were walking at Bowness. Both of these are owned by the National Trust. Cockshott Point was bought by the Trust with the help of a certain Mrs Heelis (better known as Beatrix Potter) who sold some paintings to raise funds for the purchase. Without this intervention it would have been likely that the land would be sold to a private buyer who would have prevented access.

There’s more of a “right to roam” on the west side of the Lake (formerly in Lancashire!), but, again this is due to the intervention of the National Trust. I think a lot of people think the NT is all about preserving manor houses, but their original vision was about opening up the countryside and without them large area of the lake District and other parts of the country wouldn’t be readily accessible.

So our say in the Lakes ended as it started, with us reflecting on how access to the countryside and the lake shores is still limited and how we need to continue to campaign for the “Right to Roam”.

Art and Shadows

Mesh sculpture (1961) – Katsuhiro Yamaguchi

It’s a while since I’ve been to see an art exhibition. Covid resulted in galleries being closed and since they reopened a reluctance to be in an enclosed space with a large number of people meant that I lost the habit. But during May I’ve started to make more of an effort to get back into the habit and I’ve visited both the Manchester City and Tate Liverpool galleries.

Something I’ve always found interesting is how some sculptural works cast shadows which add another aspect to the experience. While I was visiting the Tate there were a number of works where the interplay of light and shadows were part of the artist’s intention. The sculptures were suspended from above, creating effects that changed as they turned and moved due to the air movement. In some cases, the materials used were translucent, allowing some light to pass through projecting an image made of light and shadow light on nearby surfaces.

Linear Construction No. 2 (1970-71) – Naum Gabo
Spatial Relief (red) REL 036 (1959) – Hélio Oiticica 
Lekythos (1962) – Lenore Tawney 
I didn’t note the details of this work – doh!

The Wigan Mining Monument

WordPress blogger Wednesday’s Child has been very quiet in recent months. Not suprising given that she’s a doctor working in a hospital in Manchester. I hope she’s keeping safe and healthy.

I enjoy reading her posts and particularly like one of her themes – statues and monuments in Manchester, Glasgow and other locations. Wigan, being a bit of a cultural backwater, has rather a dearth of public art works, but in recent years the local council and other organisations have made some effort to install some sculpture and monuments in and around the town centre. The most recent, installed last year celebrates the mining heritage of Wiagn.

Despite Wigan once being the “capital” of the Lancashire coalfield, there was nothing to mark that and celebrate the heritage of an industry that used to dominate the town. It took a group of volunteers -the Wigan Heritage and Mining Monument group, WHAMM – a registered charity formed by two local women Anne Catterall and Sheila Ramsdale, which raised the funds to provide a statue in a prominent location in Wigan town centre.

The project came to fruition last year but, unfortunately, the planned unveiling ceremony couldn’t go ahead due to you know what.

The statue, created by sculptor Steve Winterburn, depicts a man, woman and child, probably a family, all of who worked in the pits. They’re wearing the traditional footwear – wooden clogs with clog irons and as the sculpture doesn’t have base or plinth so that they appear to be walking on the cobbled street.

The woman, carrying a sieve or screen, would have been a “Pit Brow Lass“, one of the women who worked on the surface (women being forbidden to work underground by the Mines and Collieries Act 1842) at the coal screens on the pit bank (or brow) picking stones from the coal after it was hauled to the surface or loading wagons.

Coal has been mined in Wigan from at least the 16th century, and the industry grew to dominate the town, peaking around the end of the nineteenth century. According to local history records, in the 1840’s there were over 1000 pit shafts within a 5 mile radius of Wigan town centre. 

Source: Wigan World

The Northern Mining Research Society has compiled a list of colleries in the area that were opened in the 19 Century. There aren’t any left now – the last pits in the Borough and Lancashire coalfield closed after the big strike of 1984.

Over three centuries, more than 750 million tons of coal were mined from the vast Wigan coalfields, which over time had over 1000 pits, large and small. It would be difficult to overestimate the contribution of the town to the industrial revolution and the wealth it brought to Britain. However, this was achieved at great cost to local people. Hundreds of people died in accidents, and countless thousands were maimed or left with diseases caused by the working conditions. Two huge mining disasters are still remembered and commemorated more than a century after they occurred. In 1908, 75 men lost their lives in the Maypole pit near Abram.

WHAMM Crowdfunder website
Unemployed Wigan miner in the 1930’s Source: Wigan World

There are few traces of the industry around the town these days. So the monument is a very welcome addition to the town to remind us of a proud heritage and tradition, and, more importantly as a tribute to the thousands of local people – men women and children – who laboured in awful conditions in the pits

Cemaes

After our walk around Parys Mountain we decided we’d drive a little further along the north coast of the island to the small resort of Cemaes – the most northerly village in Wales. Originally a fishing village, particularly for herring, and a port for the export of bricks, today it very much relies on tourism with it’s sandy beaches and pretty little harbour.

We drove into the village, missing the turn for the car park down by the beach but managed to find a large car park up the behind the main shopping street. I was amazed to find that parking there was free. Makes a change!

It’s quite a small place and it didn’t take long to look round. We walked along the main street, which had a only a few shops (some of them shut down, sadly), and then down towards the picturesque harbour. the tide was out so the fishing and pleasure boats were all stranded in the mud.

There was still some evidence of fishing and we saw a couple of men loading up crates of lobsters into their van. None for sale locally, though.

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Then on to the beach

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There were signs up making it clear that dogs were only allowed on a resticted section of the beach during the main season (which hadn’t finished). But what did we see. Yes, several dog walkers ignoring the instruction. It illustrates the problem that if you implement meaures people are required to follow the message must be clear (it was in this case), reinforced and enforced. Just the same with masks and social distancing at the moment. (Rant over!) Having said that, there were very few people on the beach and the promenade. It was very quiet and peaceful.

We were intrigued by this structure standing on the beach

A little research revealled it to be “St Patricks bell“. It’s one of several bells located at coastal locations around the UK by the Time and Tide project to celebrate the connection of local communities between themselves, the land, the sea and the environment. In Cemaes the bell celebrates the local legend that St Patrick was shipwrecked on the nearby island,Ynys Badrig, where he founded a church in 440 AD, introducing Christianity to Britain.

The bell is rung by the high tide, and is meant as a reminder of rising sea levels caused by global warming. Gillian Clark, a favourite poet of mine, composed a poem for the dedication of the bell and read it at the installation ceremony

Mewn gwynt a glaw,
gwyll neu oleuni,
heulwen, lloergan,
pan fo’r tonnau’n taro
ar y traeth dan dynfa’r lleuad,
bob dydd, adeg y penllanw,
swn y tonnau,
sain y gloch yn canu.

And in English:

At the turn of the earth,
heartbeat of the deep
under the wind’s breath,
as the sea stirs in sleep
under the moon’s gravitational pull,
when the tide’s at the full,
at the twelfth hour
the bell will toll.

Cast in bronze, the colour of the metal changes due to the action of the environment – air, water and salt.

I notice that one of the bells was installed last year on the Stone Jetty in Morecambe. I’ll have to go and have a look some time.

We didn’t stay very long but after strolling along the beach set back off to our accommodation, stopping at the sizeable Co-op in Amlych to pick up a few supplies. We then finished off the afternoon by walking down to Lligwy beach. Unfortunately the little cafe was closed 😦

Mungrisdale sheepfold

One of the main impacts on my lifestyle due to this damn virus (besides working from home) has been that we’ve been unable to get out and about visiting galleries and exhibitions. So this blog has become a little more one dimensional than usual focusing almost exclusively on my walking. However, during my walk from Mungrisdale a couple of weeks ago I remembered reading somewhere that there was one of Andy Goldsworthy’s Cumbrian sheepfolds near the village. Luckily I had 4G reception on top of Souther Fell and a quick internet search took me to a site that revealed that there was indeed not just one, but two, in fields near Redmire Farm. So, as I expected to get back down to the village mid afternoon and was in no hurry to drive home on a fine day, I decided to see if I could find them. As it transpired, I wasn’t entirely successful.

Reaching the car I decided to dump my walking poles in the boot as I didn’t think I’d need them crossing the expected flat terrain. Following the directions on the website I walked about half mile walk down the road and then turned off down a farm track, and climbed over a stile to take a path across a field. Looking ahead I could see that there was a small herd of cows with their claves standing halfway across the field right on the route of the path. Well, cows might seem fairly docile most of the time but can get aggressive if they think their calves could be threatened and there have been some incidents where people have been injured when charged by the beasties. I decided to be cautious and veered off the route of the path to maintain my distance from them. They looked at me suspiciously as I crossed the field and as I drew level with them they all suddenly started to charge in my direction. Now I was wishing I’d kept hold of my walking poles! As it happened they ran past me stopping at the other side of the field.

Reaching the drystone wall I climber over the stile and there was the sheepfold.

Unlike the others from the project that I’d seen, it was relatively plain – a perfectly round structure, built using traditional dry stone walling techniques, with a narrow entrance.

The instructions to reach the second sheepfold were not so clear but I carried on across the fields to look for it. I’d read that this work appears to be just a heap of gathered stones but that it contains a finished sheepfold concealed among them.

I saw this pile of stones in the next field, overgrown with vegetation. It looked a little underwhelming.

But when I checked the project website on returning home I discovered that I hadn’t gone quite far enough – it was a little further on in the next field. Ah well, at least I managed to find one of them and enjoy the opportunity to get a “fix” of sculpture and tick off another one of Goldsworthy’s structures. I’ll be up that way again, and hopefully there won’t be cows in the fields next time I decide to try and find it!

(I had to cross the field of cows again retracing my steps. They kept their eyes on me again, but this time they stayed put)

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.

Louise Bourgeois in the Rijksmuseum Gardens

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Spider (1996)

If you’re scared of spiders, it’s probably best if you keep away from the Rijksmuseum Gardens at the moment! For the last few years there’s been an exhibition of works by a noted sculptor in the gardens, and this year they have works on display by Louise Bourgeois, who is well known for her bronze sculptures of giant spiders,

When we’d looked around the Tassel Museum we wandered along the canals, grabbed a bite to eat and then made our way to the Rijksmuseum. We expected that there would be an exhibition in the gardens and we knew we’d have time to have a look before we got the train back to Haarlem. And, unlike the main part of the museum, entry is free! We hadn’t checked out what was on but as soon as we spotted the first sculpture, we knew who the artist was! Luckily spiders don’t scare me, as several of the arachnid monsters are on display! !

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Crouching spider (2005)

The gardens themselves are very attractive and popular on a sunny day – and the sun kept breaking through the cloud while we were there.

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Louise Bourgeois grew up in a suburb of Paris, in a family of antique tapestry dealers and restorers. In 1938, following her marriage to the American art historian Robert Goldwater, she emigrated to the United States. It took a long while before her work was acknowledged, as it was quite different from the type of art popular in America at the time. and she only started to become popular in the 1970s when she was in her 60’s.

Her work often represents aspects of her life. the spiders, for example, are influenced by her protective mother who, although she didn’t spin webs, was a weaver and by the familie’s tapestry repair business.

I came from a family of repairers. The spider is a repairer. If you bask into the web of a spider, she doesn’t get mad. She weaves and repairs it

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Spider couple (2003)

This was probably the only one of the 12 sculptures on display I wasn’t so keen on. It rather reminded me of the monsters that used to appear in Doctor Who in the 1970’s – perhaps that’s why!

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In and Out #2 (1995-6)

This was the earliest work on display. It’s quite different from the others and rather like the works of Brancusi. It’s apparently meant to be a self portrait of the artist surrounded by her 3 children.

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Quarantania (1947-53)
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Welcoming Hands (1996)

This rather moving group of bronze sculptures displayed on rough stone pedestals, represent friendship and solidarity. They were originally displayed in New York on a site with a view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, where immigrants first arrived in America, although they are now normally sited in the Tuilleries in Paris. Their message has a contemporary resonance with all the movement of people trying to escape war and poverty, looking for a better life. Some people show friendship and solidarity to them. Sadly, in these cruel times, too many don’t.

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This sculpture of a child’s hand was particularly touching (emotionally, that is, of course)

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Fountain (1999)
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Untitled (2004)

These two high-gloss aluminium sculptures of Untitled (2004), hanging from the branches of the great wingnut tree, refer to her father’s habit of storing chairs by hanging them on roof beams in the attic of their home

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Inside the museum entrance atrium there were four seats in the form of giant eyes

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Source: https://www.azquotes.com/author/18216-Louise_Bourgeois

Basketry in Ruthin

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Last week we were in North Wales where we’d booked an apartment in Anglesey, on the coast between Menai Bridge and Beaumaris for a family holiday. It’s only a couple of hours drive from home (or a bit longer during holiday times as the A55 gets chocker with traffic at the weekend) and we couldn’t get into the apartment before 4 o’clock, so we decided to break the journey by visiting the historic town of Ruthin, in the Vale of Clwyd. We parked up by the Ruthin Craft centre where we had a bite to eat in the excellent little cafe before taking a look round the current exhibition.

The Craft Centre is something of a hidden gem. Located in a modern building on the outskirts of the town centre (on what used to be the site of the railway station before the line was closed back in the 1960’s) it has craft studios, gallery exhibition spaces, restaurant, craft library and, of course, a shop. Most of the craft studios seemed to be unoccupied (due to economic factors, no doubt) so it’s not really a place to see craftspeople at work. But it has a good, airy display space and they always seem to pull together a good programme of exhibitions which straddle the border between “craft” and “art”

The latest exhibition – Basketry: Function & Ornament with works on display by 30 “creators”, had opened the day of our visit and was a good example of how “craft” and “art” are not necessarily different categories, but part of a continuum. The Craft Centre’s website tells us that the exhibition

brings together functional vernacular work from various parts of the country, alongside pieces that are sculptural and ornamental. It is a survey of a craft that has been somewhat sidelined in times of great technological advances, yet offers a sustainable answer to so much of our modern day throw-away habits.

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Some of the works were traditional baskets and the like, all beautifully made,

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Baskets by Mandy Coates
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Baskets by Mandy Coates

but many of the works were artistic, sculptural forms that were decorative rather than utilitarian. There were some exquisite pieces – works of art created using traditional craft techniques.

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Piece made of willow by Lizzie Farley
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Piece made of willow by Lizzie Farley
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Piece made of willow by Lizzie Farley
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Three pieces by Mary Butcher
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Burden baskets made of carbon steel wire by Stella Harding
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Nests made by Joe Hogan

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.