Friday 19 September 2008

Nobel textiles in St James’s Park

In this project five designers from Central Saint Martins have been paired with five Nobel prize winners. The idea was that they would collaborate and the designers would produce a collection reflecting the research undertaken by the scientists. The work was on show in five greenhouses in St James’s Park. This was a good venue because the work was secure yet accessible to the general public and catalogues and information had been left in the greenhouses for further information. I thought the most interesting display was that by Rachel Wingfield which involved a series of structures and solar cells. I also thought the biodegradable garden furniture by Carole Collet pictured here was a clever response to the subject of apoptosis. The five projects are listed below.

Philippa Brock collaborated with Sir Aaron Klug (Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 1982) to produce a collection of Jacquard weaves that explore the methods of transforming 2-dimensional weaving approaches into 3-dimensional models. Carole Collet collaborated with John Sulston (Nobel Prize for Medicine, 2002 with Sydney Brenner and Robert Horwitz) to create a collection of garden furniture based on the principles of programmed degradation. Rachel Kelly worked with Tim Hunt (Nobel Prize for Medicine, 2001); she has designed a collection of transparent wallpapers and paper lanterns in response to his discovery of cycling proteins which appear and disappear. Shelley Fox collaborated with Peter Mansfield (Nobel Prize for Medicine, 2003), and has created a fashion collection based on the MRI mapping of the body fat of six volunteers. Rachel Wingfield collaborated with John E Walker (Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 1997), to create architectural scale textiles that explore urban food production, in response to John’s work on ATP synthesis.

St Martin-in-the-Fields

The church of St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square is being restored. It was designed by James Gibb in 1726 and the restoration aimed to return the church to its original state. Floors added in Victorian times have been removed and the coloured glass windows put in after bomb damage in World War II have been replaced with clear glass, similar to the original. The aim has been to maximise the amount of natural light coming into the church and to bring it closer to the original Baroque design. The decorative plaster work on the ceiling has also been restored and the golf leaf has been renewed. The new East Window is beautifully simple and is shown in the photo here.

Hadrian: Empire and Conflict

This exhibition at the British Museum is a celebration of the life and times of the Emperor Hadrian who became emperor in AD 117. The exhibition was quite general. One area discussed Hadrian’s origins in Spain and the trade links with Italy. There was a large area devoted to the Jewish revolt in present day Israel. The section on architecture was probably the most interesting with models of the Pantheon in Rome and Hadrian’s residence near Tivoli, which was the size of a small town. Hadrian took an active interest in architecture and is also most famous in Britain for his wall in the north of England. The exhibition was well produced and not as crowded as the First Emperor, which we saw earlier in the year, this made it much easier to appreciate the items on view and even to sit and admire the photographs of the remains of the residence at Tivoli.

Knitting and Stitching Show

I helped to set up this exhibition on behalf of the Westhope Group of lacemakers at the NEC for the Knitting and Stitching Show. My piece ‘Memories are made of this’ is in the far right hand corner; it consists of three panels showing the degeneration of memory and is made of bobbin lace and silk paper. As well as helping to set up the show I also stewarded for a day. The response from the public was enthusiastic and we had plenty of visitors. Many of them were students who were interested to see what could be done with lace techniques. The exhibition will tour with the Knitting and Stitching Show to Alexandra Palace, London, and Harrogate.

Sunday 7 September 2008

Medicine Now

This exhibition at the Wellcome Collection contains a range of artistic responses to the themes The body, Genomes, Malaria and Obesity. As a biologist who also produces artworks I found the exhibition fascinating. One piece I particularly enjoyed was Origin a DVD by Daniel Lee. In it, a fish like a coelacanth is gradually transformed into a man, but it is done so subtly you can hardly see the changes as they occur. I also thought Julie Cockburn’s Anagram was effective. Based on the Human Genome Project she has taken a paint colour chart and cut out the DNA base letters from it to form groups of words. I found Andrea Duncan’s piece, 23 pairs, amusing. She has used 23 pairs of socks to represent the chromosome pairs that make up the human genome in a witty display. Susie Freeman and Liz Lee had worked together on an interesting installation called Veil of tears which represented the problems of malaria in Africa. A series of mosquito nets hung from the ceiling and contained the drugs needed to fight malaria. Altogether an interesting and thought provoking exhibition

Skeletons: London’s buried bones

This exhibition at the Wellcome Collection contains skeletons found in excavations during the redevelopment of various parts of London. They come from the Museum of London’s collection which contains 17,000 skeletons covering 16 centuries. Each skeleton reveals its own story and it is quite amazing how much empathy one can feel for a skeleton. The marks on their bones show how they lived and what they died from. One particularly poignant skeleton of a young woman also contains the skeleton of a small fetus. The skeletons are well displayed, each in its own case but when we went it was difficult to read the labels as there were so many people looking at each case. It would have been better if the cases had been labelled on each side rather than just one. However, it was encouraging to see so many people interested in history and medical archaeology.

Christina Kim exhibition

We came across this exhibition in the Music Museum in Bologna. Unfortunately there was no catalogue or any explanation of the exhibits but they seemed to deal with identity and clothing. There were several ‘dresses’ made of lace and see through material mainly in white and ecru, some hanging on hangers, others suspended from the ceiling and some hanging in front of patchwork hangings. There was also an interesting installation based on a Mexican custom linked to shrines and amulets. In Mexico they sell small sewn hearts individually in boxes and call them miracles. In the installation these amulets and others were pinned on to different ‘shrines’ depicting ‘saints’. This was similar to the amulets we had seen at various shrines in the churches. Unfortunately I was not allowed to take photographs and there were no postcards. This photo was taken on the staircase just before we entered the exhibition and depicts small amuletic shapes hanging from the ceiling.


We spent some time in Bologna as part of our summer holiday. It is a beautiful city with numerous churches and museums as well as good food and shopping. The porticoes are magnificent and make walking round the city a pleasant experience in the hot sun. We were amazed by the height of the twin towers, even more so when we saw a model in one of the museums of the town in the Middle Ages when there were hundreds of them and every house seemed to have a tower. The churches were most impressive with so many different styles and decoration. I was also fascinated by the reliquaries containing the relics of various saints.

Paper lace and light

This paper making workshop with Jean Mould Hart was part of the Oxford Summer School programme. On the first day we revised paper making and made textured paper. We also overlapped paper, embedded scrim and used biscuit cutters to remove part of the paper to leave openings. On the second day we made the lace paper that was what interested me most. This is done by getting a thin layer of paper pulp on the screen then placing lace and open meshes over the pulp and applying a fine mist of water over them. This disperses the paper to the edges of the holes forming a lace like texture. The paper is then left to dry on the screen. It is an interesting technique and one that could be combined with lace to produce interesting effects. The samples are all in my sample file.