April 2016

Elizabeth Price at the Ashmolean

April 24, 2016 by Rebecca Collins   Comments (0)

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After visiting the Andy Warhol exhibition at the Ashmolean I took a trip to the top of the building to watch Elizabeth Price's video piece about the collections at the Ashmolean and the Pitt-RIvers Museum which is the culmination of her time spent in Oxford. She had been commissioned to create a piece about some aspect of the museums' collections. The work was two years in the making.

As I dip my toe in video art I'm a bit of a fan of Elizabeth Price and much admired her Turner Prize piece about the fire at Woolworths called The Woolworths Choir of 1979. I love the style of her work in which she is seemingly able to match rhythm with images effortlessly. I know how much work actually goes into getting this effect.

This new piece did not disappoint. It is a 18-minute long video called A RESTORATION shown over two large screens in a darkened room. I found it utterly compeling and engaging. It shares with the Woolworths video that sense of a perfect matching of audio and visual and a beat which keeps the viewer watching. It is intellectual and thought-provoking. It is fast paced but not too much so. It builds up. It takes you with it. I felt it in my stomach. It has a narrative and narratives within that narrative. I won't give too much away: it is very much worth a visit.

I loved the mix of contemporary (almost science fiction) audio with imagesthat were reminiscent of Victorian obsessions with collecting and archiving. The visual text reminded me of the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy (the bit with the Babel Fish). The voice was synthasized but just had something about it that was odd but somehow completely appropriate.

The video has so many messages played on many levels as well, about collecting, colonization, posession, obsession, history, our relationship with objects and civilization. I haven't stopped thinking about it a week later.

I am currently working on a video for my The Museum of the Lost Balloon project and this has given me a lot of inspiration just when I needed it, when I was stuck in that all too familiar pit of artistic angst.

Anyd Warhol at the Ashmolean

April 24, 2016 by Rebecca Collins   Comments (0)

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Last weekend I found myself in Oxford and, while I was there I paid a visit to the Ashmolean (it would have been rude not to). The Ashmolean is currently running an exhibition of the art of Andy Warhol.

Until recently, I didn't feel particularly inspired by Pop Art as a movement generally and the art of Andy Warhol in particular. I admired the philosophy behind Pop Art but didn't feel the emotion of it.

However, a few months ago I came across a story about Andy Warhol that sparked my interest in him, as an artist and as a person. This was the story of Andy Warhol and 25 cats name(d) Sam which I came across completely by chance while googling idley on the Internet. I wrote a blog about this amazing story, and ever since then I've been on a quest to obtain the book he and his mother created about Sam and Sam, Sam and Sam etc. (I haven't been able to yet as it isn't very cheap.)

I appreciate anyone who is quirky. I love quirkiness. And this story showed me that Andy Warhol was quirky. I knew he was quirky but quirky with cats? In my mind, that is someone to admire. I love cats. Artists who love cats are like-minded souls.

Visiting this exhibition, which displays pieces from a private collection and contains an eccelectic mix of video, print, drawing and painting, made me realise that Andy Warhol was a true 'Renaissance' man. What I mean by that is that he was able to dip and delve in all sorts of areas and take advantage of moods and themes of the age. He was a man who loved to play (and he was quite shrewd in what he chose to play with too). He was an entrepeneur but also, and first and foremost, an artist. He was opportunistic and constantly alert (open, and willing) to new ventures. He could morph from artist to printmaker to video maker and film maker.

Art for him didn't just happen in the studio. It happened in undefined social spaces. He helped move art from the studio to the community. He was an observer of society and that is what I think I also have in common with him (besides cats). I would decscribe myself as an observer too. I wish I could have met him (perhaps in a lift somewhere).

The exhibition is well worth a visit. I found much to be inspired by (especially the weewee paintings) on display. The exhibition runs for another month so if anyone reading this finds themself in Oxford with a few hours to spare over the next few weeks, I recommend a trip to the Ashmolean.

Andy Warhol weewee paintings

Walking through the art in Aberystwyth

April 10, 2016 by Rebecca Collins   Comments (0)

Last week, during a short break on the Welsh coast, we paid a visit to the Aberystwyth Arts Centre. Every time we are close by I insist on a day there. It is a fabulous venue with book shop, cafe, cinema and art galleries. I can easily spend a few hours there. Last summer I was much influenced by an exhibition of photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe to the extent that I devoured Just Kids by Patti Smith that summer.

This time we came across a one-off interactive sculpture by Jenny Hall called 'Hollow'. This sculpture consists of a raised platform with a mirrored floor and a huge cave-like construction made up of cuboid cardboard boxes attached together by magnets. The cave-like construction was created to mirror a copper mine and the purpose of using cardboard boxes is that they represent displaced objects or ideas. The aim is to explore the creative destruction that is caused by construction.


On arrival in the gallery, we were advised that so long as we were shoe-less, we could walk on the mirrored platform and enter the centre of the sculpture. The only restriction was no climbing on the boxes. We were told that we could, however, play with the huge pile of boxes to the side of the mirrored platform. These boxes represent the 'ore' from the mine. So my three children and I threw our shoes off with relish and took this opportunity to explore an art work. We walked around, in, around and in and out of it. We loved it. The interesting effect for me was how vertiginous one of my children felt walking on the mirrored surface. As the large box-construction was reflected in the floor, to him it felt as if he was walking on a glass plane above a large drop of boxes on top of each other. He didn't like it and the only way he could move around confortably was on all fours.

Oooh don't fall

What I liked about this exhibition was that it only contained two pieces. We didn't feel saturated by art. We only had two things to look at and explore in a huge art gallery. So as a consequence, we spent almost an hour in there walking around, looking, thinking, and building. The interactive nature of the artwork meant that we felt much freer than we might otherwise feel in an art gallery. We were able to relax and explore. Also, the act of taking your shoes off enabled this further. It felt slightly rebelious at first but then it felt normal.

Interactive art

Art should be about the reaction of the viewer, and in this case, the participant. I wanted to ask whether the staff had noticed any patterns with the way that different genders reacted to the pile of boxes they could move around. My three boys built a building, an igloo and then a wall.

So if you find yourself in Aberystwyth - go to the Arts Centre. There is always something there to see.

I also like to look at what is called 'The Box' which shows a piece of video art, and it shows something different every day.

Wolverhampton is full of creative people

April 6, 2016 by Rebecca Collins   Comments (0)

One of Keith Gilbert's sculptures

Last weekend I managed to persuade two of my children to come with me to the I AM ____ Contemporary Art Fair at the Newhampton Arts Centre in Wolverhampton and we found much there to be inspired by. There was an eccelctic mix of art and artistic activity to view and participate in, from the doddles and scribbles of Emily Scarrott to the distorted human scupltures of Keith Gilbert (which my children particularly admired for how odd they made them feel).

My personal favourite was the art and, more so, the artist statement, of Jimmy Lannon which talked about how an artist should just do what comes naturally and not feel that they have to be influenced by or follow a style or movement. His passion for persuing his instinctive need, urge, or compulsion, to create was, ironically, very inspiring to me.

Although the art fair is now over, it is worth checking the Newhampton Arts Centre and the Asylum Gallery websites to find out more about the artists who have exhibited there (and who will be exhibiting in the future - including me!). There are so many creative people around, with lots to say.

An ongoing project we learnt about at the art fair which I will be keeping an eye on is the knitters and crocheters of Woolverhampton who are understaking an ambitious project to knit the whole of Wolverhampton. What a fabulous idea! I told them that they simply must include the Wolverhampton School of Art. I eagerly await the final result.

I AM_____ Contemporary Art Fair

April 1, 2016 by Rebecca Collins   Comments (0)

If you are looking for something to do this weekend then I would urge you to pay a visit to the I AM ___ Contemporary Art Fair that is taking place at the Newhampton Arts Centre, Dunkley Street, in Wolverhampton. Mental Spaces CIC in conjunction with the arts centre is presenting a three-day long art fair which will showcase a diverse and eclectic range of local artists' work. There will be all sorts of things to see including live performances, dance, installation, photography, film and sculpture. There will also be various workshops and other activities to take part in. I think it is well-worth a visit, especially if you are a local artist or art maker. It will provide the chance to mingle, get inspiration and enjoy many creative activities.

The theme of the Art Fair is an exploration of identity in the current ever-changing multi-cultural world where identity is a fluid concept. How can we be sure of our identity in such an uncertain world? How does identity change? What is the nature of our innermost identity?

The small part I am playing is to explore the narratives and emotional connection we have with objects through my ongoing balloon project. There will be balloons at the Art Fair and each one will be attached with a label which offers the owner of that balloon the chance to take part in my exploration. The questions I have been asking include: What happens to a balloon once it has been inflated and given to someone? Is that person just the temporary custodian of the balloon? How long will it live? If it does have a long life, what happens eventually? What emotional attachment is given that balloon? Will it be loved? As someone who actually fears balloons and would not want to possess one, this topic interests me. How do we feel once the balloon has been lost or once it has burst? How long does it remain in our consciousness? Can it have more than one owner? 

I look forward to logging the results of this experiment on my balloon blog and exploring them in my art: www.burstballoons.co.uk.

All the balloon bits