Friday 28 February 2014

City lives

This exhibition at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery considers city life from various times and countries. Some of the exhibits were related to changes in life in Bristol. James Millerd’s seventeenth century ‘Exact Delineation of the Famous Citty of Bristoll’ depicts the city as a bustling port and contrasted nicely with Jem Southam’s photographs of the declining docks of the later twentieth century and the further regeneration taking place in the twenty first century. Martin Parr had also used modern Bristol as his canvas with two photographs, one of a girls’ night out and the other showing four generations of one family at the local shopping mall. A girls’ night out also featured in Shirin Aliabadi’s images of girls in cars on their way out to parties in Tehran and there seemed little difference between the Iranian and the Bristolian girls all of them dressed in their finest and ready to party. Sarah Dobai and Anouk Mercier had both approached the subject from an unreal, imaginary standpoint. Dobai’s photographs showed stark, stylised urban images, while Mercier had created a reimaging of the Avon Gorge in the style of an old Chinese waterfall. From these imaginary city scapes we were led back to reality by the ‘books’ of Ed Ruscha containing photographs of city life in 1960s America, which like Southam’s photographs of Bristol provided a fascinating glimpse of a lost world.

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Chaos contained: Alexis Rago

This exhibition at the Crafts Study Centre, Farnham, is made up of the large scale, zoomorphic, clay forms of Alexis Rago. They appeared to me like overgrown foraminifera with their tentacles and protuberences, resembling petrified coral. On their own they would have seemed like the contents of a cabinet of curiosities but the lighting in the gallery really brought them alive. Their huge shadows overlapped on the walls and floor giving the whole room a surreal quality. The piece in the image here was lit with flickering light that moved and changed, making you feel you were swimming underwater in dappled light and the forms were marine life swaying in the water currents around you. Another piece was linked to a tinkling sound of broken shards of china which seemed to come from within its structure. That kind of noise – a bit like wind chimes – can be discordant and annoying but here it worked very well and enhanced the immersive experience. Alexis Rago, according to the information panel, wanted to combine science and spirituality and has definitely achieved that – it was enchanting.

Thursday 13 February 2014

Theatre of the imagination

This workshop held in the James Hockey Gallery at Farnham last week allowed participants to collaborate on making installations out of a variety of materials. It seemed very popular, but my eye was caught by the lovely lace-like patterns advertising the experience in the Foyer Gallery outside.

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Banksy’s Paint pot angel

I love Banksy’s irreverent graffiti which can be found on many buildings in Bristol. His Paint pot angel is a reminder of the exhibition he had in Bristol Museum and Art Gallery in the summer of 2009 when he was allowed to stage an intervention overnight in the Museum. The full exhibition was dismantled long ago but this work remains as a reminder of the event, which mocked the pretentiousness of the art world but also celebrated it by producing what has become a more celebrated figure since it acquired its paint pot!