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

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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.

img_7184 and Skin of Graphite (2012) where graphite has been used to reproduce the pattern on the surface of the artist’s skin. Inspired by a visit to a Yorkshire coal mine in 1989, the work was produced by taking an impression directly from his skin, projecting the pattern formed onto a larger canvas and tracing over it, so magnifying the pattern.

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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. 

The Garden of Good and Evil at the YSP

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The latest main exhibition in the Underground Gallery at the YSP had opened on 14 October, the day before our visit last weekend. It’s devoted to the work of a Chilean artist, Alfredo Jaar – “a pioneering practitioner of socially critical art” (Claire Lilley in the Exhibition Guide).

It’s a very different type of exhibition to those normally shown at the YSP as the works on display are not sculpture in the usual meaning of the word, but “installations”, film and photography.

Describing himself as “an architect making art”, Jaar constructs spaces and intricate light systems to navigate the ambiguities of what is represented and misrepresented in photographic and other media. (Exhibition Guide)

Unlike most of the major YSP exhibitions, there is only one of his installations outside the Underground Gallery (Tony Cragg’s sculptures sited outdoors from the previous exhibition are still there and will remain in place until March). This is a new work which will become a permanent exhibit in the grounds once the exhibition is over – relocated elsewhere as they won’t leave it in it’s present location immediately in front of the gallery. This work – The Garden of Good and Evil  (the exhibition is named after it) – takes the form of a grove of  101 trees sited in tubs along the length of the Underground Gallery open-air concourse. Inside this mini forest there’s a number of steel cells, of different sizes,  which are meant to reference ‘black sites’, the secret detention facilities around the world operated by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Visitors could wander through the trees discovering the individual cells – all different but all with a one-metre square base.

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The work was inspired by a poem, One Square Metre of Prison,  by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. Without being aware of this the work is perhaps an interesting curiosity, but knowing the inspiration it certainly made me consider and think about how people are imprisoned for their beliefs and hidden away from public view by governments, terrorist organisations etc. And with clandestine prisons, in practice illegal or only of borderline legality, themselves hidden from view by governments so that they can be ignored by the citizens – out of sight, out of mind.

Inside the gallery there are three major installations and a small number of other works. No photographs allowed, but the nature of most of the works meant that this was not that appropriate.

The first of the major works is The Sound of Silence (2005). Visitors enter a steel cube and sitting in the dark watch a video work telling the story of a South African photographer, Kevin Carter, leading to his image of a young victim of the 1993 Sudanese famine. The photographer stood and observed a young starving child being watched by a vulture, waiting for the appropriate moment to snap his photograph. A shocking image resulted which drew global attention to the famine, leading to aid being sent to help the victim. But the image raised serious questions about the role of the photographer and raises serious ethical questions. He did nothing to help the individual but, on the other hand, the picture may have contributed to aid saving the lives of others. The suffering of one saving the lives of many others?  This clearly troubled Carter himself and he later committed suicide.

The second of the major works, A Hundred Times Nguyen (1994), has 100 images of a little girl the artist met while visiting ‘refugee detention centres’ for Vietnamese boat people in Hong Kong in 1991. Jaar who photographed her five times at five-second intervals. He took four of the images altering the order in which they are shown using all possible combinations to make 100 pictures which are displayed on the walls of the gallery.  In this work the artist addresses “compassion fatigue” and

articulates the importance of the individual through many of his installations, rather than focusing on the mass of victims of the devastation and oppression he has witnessed. (Exhibition website)

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The third major work Shadows (2014) uses images taken by photographer Koen Wessing over a single day, early in the 1978 Nicaraguan Civil War, following a farmer’s murder. Entering a darkened room six of the images are displayed on the wall. Visitors then move through to a second darkened space where the seventh image is projected onto the entire back wall of the room, which shows two women grieving after the death of their father, shot by Somosa’s National Guardsman and left by the side of the road. The image alters as it is observed, the two grieving daughters being isolated from the picture and then altered and turned into a bright white silhouette.  The room then goes completely dark and the image is retained on the retina, gradually fading away after several seconds.

I’m not sure what the artist’s intention was, but I felt that it is easy to put aside the shocking images of suffering but here it wasn’t quite so easy to forget and perhaps that’s what we all need to do.

Although I’m sure many visitors will grumble about the “unorthodox” nature of the exhibition – not “proper art” will no doubt be heard – this is the second video based exhibition we’ve seen in the underground Gallery. The other being the Bill Viola exhibition we saw at the beginning of last year. That was intended to be “a sensory experience with space to pause and make time to reflect and enable an emotional or even transformational experience”. However the current exhibition is quite a different experience. Unsettling and thought provoking in a different way and making political points about cruelty and suffering and the role of the artist.

 

A warm October day at the YSP

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Sunday was forecast to be an unseasonably warm day in advance of the remains of Hurricanee Ophelia hitting us on Monday. We decided to make the most of it. I’d considered driving up to the Lakes but the forecast for there wasn’t so good so we decided to head over the M62 to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park where a new exhibition – Alfredo Jaar: The Garden of Good and Evil – had just opened in the Underground Gallery. Driving home late afternoon we learned that there had been an accident on the M6 near Kendal leading to both sides of the motorway being shut for several hours. Turned out to be a good decision then.

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It was a good decision in other ways too as it was a beautiful sunny day for a walk around the grounds where we saw some new works on display, plus we caught one exhibition that had just opened in the Underground Gallery and one that was due to close in a few days in the Longside Gallery. Both were very good. More about them in future posts.

Here’s a few photos of some of the new works in the grounds.

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This stunning work, standing seven metres high on the south shore of the Lower Lake is Wilsis  by Jaume Plensa. It’s one of his series of portrait heads depicting young girls from around the world, with their eyes closed in a dreamlike state of contemplation. (Like Dream on the former Sutton Manor Colliery site in St Helens – which we’ve still never got round to visiting – although we’ve seen it many times from the motorway on the way to Liverpool)

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Wilsis is a fascinating exploration of perspective through the flattening of form, an idea that grew out of Plensa’s desire to understand what happens on the other side, on the reverse of things with which we are familiar, such as letters printed on a page, or a portrait head on a coin. From the front the head appears realistic, yet from the side it is an extremely flattened relief.

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Further along the lake we came across Bruce Beasley’s Advocate IV

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The sculpture is a collection of cubes stacked in a way so they look like a precariously balanced tower.

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We walked up to the Longside Gallery to see the exhibition  Occasional Geometries, curated by Bangladeshi-born artist Rana Begum with works selected largely from the Arts Council Collection. After we’d looked round we set off back down towards the Lower lake via the east side of the park, passing some favourite works by Andy Goldsworthy.

Walking along the north shore of the lake we spotted this sculpture by the Swedish sculptor Jørgen Haugen Sørensen  (well, he had to be Swedish with a name like that!).

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Then further on we passed Diario by Mikayel Ohanjanyan.

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A series of marble blocks bound by steel cables lying on a table.

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Looking closely we could see writing carved inside the fissures in the blocks –  listing the names of all the people the artist has ever met.

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Close by was Six Mourners and the One Alone  by Amar Kanwar.

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Made from timber from the 19th century Chapel organ that was dismantled due to irreparable damage. The seven pipes represent the six mourners, who count the
dead and the one alone, who gathers and memorises testimonies of the living.

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Anthony Gormley’s One and Other isn’t a new work, but it looked particularly good silhouetted against the blue sky

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Black and Blue: The Invisible Men and the Masque of Blackness was attracting a lot of attention. An army of identical two-metre-tall figures by the British-Trinidadian artist Zak Ové

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The figures are based on a small dark wood sculpture given to him as a child by his father,  the filmmaker Horace Ové, in the 1970s.

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Passing a new work by Julian Opie: People 15

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we came across Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads (2010) – 12 bronze animal heads representing the Chinese Zodiac

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Ai reinterpreted the 12 bronze heads representing the traditional Chinese zodiac that once adorned the famed fountain-clock of the Yuanming Yuan, the imperial summer palace retreat in Beijing. Ransacked in 1860 during the Second Opium War by the British and French, only seven of the original heads have been returned to China – the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, horse, monkey, and boar. The locations of the other five – dragon, snake, goat, rooster, and dog – are still unknown.

Cast in bronze and standing three-metres-high, the sculptures each weigh 363kg. Through the re-interpretation of the heads on a larger scale, Ai comments and encourages debate on the politics of ownership, cultural history, repatriation and authenticity. The artist also wanted the work to be playful and accessible to the general public.

Matthew Day Jackson’s Magnificent Desolation, created by , directly references one of Auguste Rodin’s most famous sculptures Les Burghers de Calais.

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According to history, King Edward III offered to spare the town if they sacrificed six of its most powerful leaders. Rodin chose to capture the heroic expressions of the six volunteers who were to be executed to save their people. Day Jackson has taken these figures of heroic self-sacrifice and, through using a computer generated 3D model of a map, has placed them on a moonscape as subtitute astronauts. Named after Buzz Aldren’s autobiography and first-hand account of landing on the moon, Magnificent Desolation is cast in bronze, a material often used for memorials, and combines the fated heroism of both Les Burghers de Calais and the risks of space travel.

A new Henry Moore (new to YSP, that is) – Reclining Connected Forms

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Finally, I don’t recall seeing this work by Willaim Turnbull before

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Queen 2 was

inspired by his knowledge of ancient cultures and their artefacts; revealing the sculptural potential of utilitarian and functional objects.

This was only a fraction of the art works we saw during our visit. It’s always worth a visit to the YSP, a chance to look at first class art while taking a walk through a pleasant country park. Especially pleasurable on a war, sunny, autumn day.

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!