I went to Suffolk (Aldeburgh) for the weekend and was charmed by the little seaside town on the East Suffolk coast. One of the highlights for me, was seeing Maggi Hambling‘s sculpture on the beach, called Scallop. Created in 2003 the 4 metre high sculpture made of steel, caused some controversy according to local residents and still does. From my point of view, Scallop is an example of a piece of public art that ticks all the boxes. The sculpture is beautiful, achieving an imposing and majestic figure against the seascape. It also has a fun and playful side, as it’s shape encourages children and indeed those of any age to clamber all over and sit on it, like I did!
Carved into the material, are the words ‘I hear those voices that will not be drowned’, from Benjamin Britten’s opera Peter Grimes. Britten lived and worked in Aldeburgh and he founded the Aldeburgh Music Festival. I have seen a performance of Peter Grimes at the Royal Opera House, London which I felt was a hauntingly memorable and turbulent work. The words are legible only when standing behind the sculpture, looking out onto the sea.
The Moot Hall, Aldeburgh
I was also interested to discover the Moot Hall in Aldeburgh, also situated right by the sea. The Moot Hall was Aldeburgh’s town hall, built during the first half of the 16th Century and it is one of the most important timber-framed public buildings in England. Originally the Moot Hall contained six small shops on the ground floor and a meeting chamber on the first floor.
I enjoyed spotting this chest (below) which dates from 1400 and was found washed up on the beach at Aldeburgh. Of course my imagination thought at once of smugglers!
I also admired the art nouveau style decoration on this commemorative plaque board which was made in honour of those connected to Aldeburgh who fell during the First World War
Finally, I climbed the Town Steps to find the Town Pump!
Unsurprisingly, I am more interested in the Cultural Olympiad surrounding the London 2012 Olympic Games, although I have found myself being caught up in a bit of Olympic Games fever as London are hosting them! I’m pleased that sound art has played its part and here are a few examples that I’ve enjoyed.
All The Bells – Martin Creed
Artist Martin Creed (who won the Turner Prize in 2001 for Work No. 227: the lights going on and off) created a nationwide sound piece for the morning of the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Work No. 1197 involved ‘all the bells in a country rung as quickly and as loudly as possible for three minutes’ according to the website for All The Bells. I took part myself at the designated moment of 8.12am, ringing not a real bell as I couldn’t find one, but instead shaking my mobile phone as I had downloaded a mobile phone bell application which turned my phone into a ringing bell. I really liked the inclusive, celebratory nature of this mass performance piece so that All The Bells really did mean any bell, anyone, anywhere.
Hopefully not too many people were as extra enthusiastic as UK Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt whose bell fell apart as he was ringing it!
Tales From The Bridge – Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir
Eric Whitacre has become an extremely popular composer of contemporary classical music, particularly choral. Whitacre uses social media to build his huge and growing fanbase (which I include myself as part of) and his work became even more well known after a TED talk allowed him to discuss his Virtual Choir project. Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir brings together singers from across the world, virtually. Singers sign up on line and can rehearse the chosen score and join forums online to get tips for working on the piece for the virtual choir. Then when they are ready, singers sing along to Whitacre’s conductor video, recording their voice. The piece is then edited and visuals are also inserted to create a sound art piece. Virtual Choir 3 (below) which I sung in too, included 3746 videos from 73 countries. Again,what draws me to Whitacre’s Virtual Choir project is the way in which music and singing (thanks to the power of technology) is used to unite people as a common language across the world.
Whitacre’s Virtual Choir 3 sound piece, Water Night, was seen and heard in Titanic Belfast: Following the celebrations around the opening of the new building and marking 100 years since the loss of Titanic, the projection of Virtual Choir 3 in the atrium of Titanic Belfast provided a moment of contemplation for the lost souls.
Currently, Water Night by Whitacre’s Virtual Choir 3 can be experienced as part of the world’s largest 3D soundscape in an Olympics installation on Millennium Bridge, called Tales From The Bridge.
Here is an amateur video of the Water Night experience on Millennium Bridge, London from a Virtual Choir 3 participant.
Anthem – Scanner
I have been interested in the work that electronic musician Scanner (real name Robin Rimbaud) creates, for some time. He is called Scanner because of his use of cell phone and police scanners in live performance. I really enjoy the variety of types of music that Scanner makes and the range of opportunities he takes up.
The UK’s top designers and artists were invited to contribute to delivering a world class creative showcase that will play host to some of the most globally influential business leaders during the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics Games at the British Business Embassy. Scanner was commissioned for the only sound work in Lancaster House, on the Mall in central London which is used extensively for government hospitality.
He presented Anthem, a sonic work that expands upon the British National Anthem, now a choral work of ten minutes duration and situated in the lavatories of the building, the only guaranteed room that every delegate and visitor will visit!
Anthem takes the UK National Anthem, God Save The Queen, into a slow moving choral work, filled with empty spaces.
You can hear Anthem by Scanner here
There was also plenty of sound and music featured in the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games including favourite patriotic numbers by Elgar and a musical race through the decades of the best of British music. I thought the Isles of Wonder theme used by Danny Boyle made a fantastic opening ceremony spectacle. Here is a reminder of those beautifully musical lines from Shakespeare’s The Tempest
Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked,
I cried to dream again.
Finally, here’s a picture of my Olympic rings fairy cakes that I made!
Over the weekend I went to see two exhibitions of Italian 20th Century art. These were Alighiero Boetti: Works on Paper at Sprovieri and Giuseppe Cavalli: Master of Light at the Estorick Collection. You can read my review of Alighiero Boetti: Works on Paper here and the review for the Cavalli exhibition here. It was useful and interesting for me that I had already seen the exhibition Alighiero Boetti: Game Plan at Tate Modern, so I had a broad understanding of Boetti’s work in the full range of mediums that he worked with.
Above you can see a photograph I took of a plaque which is on the outside of the building where Sprovieri Gallery is situated. I enjoyed discovering this art, popular culture and music link. The plaque was put up to mark David Bowie’s iconic creation, Ziggy Stardust. It marks the 40th anniversary of the release of the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars, which featured a photo of Bowie, taken in the Soho street, on the front cover. It was shot by Brian Ward in January 1972, five months before the album came out.
I am now writing as an exhibitions and museums reviewer for One Stop Arts which is an online guide to London’s arts events including listings and reviews.
Do read my review of Dennis Severs’ House in Spitalfields which can be found here and my author profile on the site is here. I look forward to seeing many exhibitions and museums in the future and writing more reviews for One Stop Arts.
You may know by now that I am interested in non gallery spaces and unusual spaces for showing art. I love buildings that are historic, hidden, or just different because you might not expect an art gallery there. Perhaps because I am just short of 5ft myself, I also have an affinity to small things. So altogether, this means that I am drawn to small and strange gallery spaces. In this post I am going to explore three small and strange gallery spaces. These will be: a gallery in a subway kiosk, a gallery in a taxi cab and a gallery in a filing cabinet.
The SUBWAY GALLERY born on the 6th of June 2006, is situated below Edgware Rd / Harrow Rd crossing in a W2 pedestrian subway underneath landmarks such as Paddington Green, Marylebone flyover and the Metropole Hilton Hotel. Conceived by artist Robert Gordon McHarg III, the space itself is a 1960’s kiosk with glass walls which creates a unique showcase for art, interacting naturally with passers by, visitors and the local community.
I like the fact that this gallery is underground so it’s a bit hidden and I am also interested in the concept of a glass fronted gallery, which the wonderful CHELSEA space also is. A glass front means that passers by can see everything that’s going on including the installation of exhibitions so that the curation of shows itself is a much more open process.
The SUBWAY GALLERY is currently showing The Rock & Roll Public Library, a testament to popular culture, springing directly from the enormous personal archive of Mick Jones. It is apt that the Joe Strummer Subway on London’s Edgware Road will lead you to the latest edition of The Rock & Roll Public Library at the SUBWAY GALLERY. This exhibition is of interest to me since I love music and also since I enjoy working with libraries and their collections, which you can read more about in this post that describes my work with a sound artist in the Old College Library at Chelsea College of Art & Design. Another connection to note is that CHELSEA space put on an exhibition of The Rock & Roll Public Library in 2009 and more can be read about that here.
The Cab Gallery was a project curated by London art dealer Paul Stolper, and London taxi driver and art collector Jason Brown.
As a working London taxi the art was to be installed in the spaces usually reserved for advertising. Each artist was sent a package with views and dimensions of all the spaces available on the taxi. They in turn sent back proposals and ideas for work they felt would be appropriate for a particular part of the taxi; be it inside the tip-up seat displays, an audio piece, a work to be placed on the outside body of the taxi, or a free standing work. http://www.cabgallery.com/0_menu/cabg_frameset.html
This innovative use of space brings together a love of London, its streets and art. You can read this CHELSEA space blog post which describes how a special CHELSEA cab was made for the gallery. With all this talk of taxis, it’s a good moment for me to show you a picture that was just sent to me by a family member. This photograph shows my dad’s psychedelic taxi from 1968/9 and that’s my late grandmother in the picture. The taxi was featured in a 1960’s UK film called ‘Cry For Help’. It must have been a lot of fun going around in this car and if the taxi was still around now, who knows – maybe I would have my own cab gallery!
Finally, turning to the Bisley Gallery which is a gallery in a filing cabinet that was made by three female BA Fine Art students at Chelsea College of Art & Design. I went to see it recently with Donald Smith, Director of Exhibitions at CHELSEA space. We were very impressed with what we saw.
BA Fine Art Student Jheni Arboine was given the filing cabinet and decided to set up the Bisley Gallery with two female course friends. The project and the principle objectives are for Jheni (in her own words) ‘to learn about curating, collaborating and exhibiting in the real [small] world’. The inaugural exhibition at the Bisley Gallery was called Everyday Biz the gallery was divided up into different ‘floors’.
Work from each of the three artists was placed together on the various floors. I love the idea of scale that is played upon here. For example, imagine if this was a real sized gallery and the visitor was walking underneath and between the sections of that yellow sculptural piece.
The three artists told me that it was a more difficult job than one would imagine, to curate the exhibition in the gallery and indeed they faced all of the curatorial and logistical issues that need to be dealt with when putting up an exhibition in a gallery of any size. I look forward to seeing the Bisley Gallery’s next exhibition.