News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 23rd March 2005

Commencing

International Arts And Crafts is the most comprehensive British exhibition on the movement ever staged, and the first to look at it from an international perspective. It shows how Arts and Crafts originated in Britain in the 1880s as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution and its machine dominated production. Led by John Ruskin and William Morris, the movement promoted the ideals of craftsmanship, individualism, and the integration of art into every day life. It became the first British design movement to spread internationally, to America from 1890 to 1916 and continental Europe and Scandinavia from 1880 to 1914, before its final manifestation in Japan between 1926 and 1945. The display comprises over 300 of the best examples of the genre, from simple folk craft to sophisticated objects made for wealthy patrons, including textiles, stained glass, furniture, ceramics, metalwork, jewellery, books, architecture, photography, paintings and sculpture. Highlights include objects by British designers such as Voysey, Mackintosh, Ashbee, Morris, Geddes, Traquair, Baillie Scott and De Morgan; a group of Russian objects that have not been exhibited abroad before; four metres wide stained glass doors by Californian designers, Greene and Greene; and Japanese objects by Bernard Leach and Hamada Shoji. Four specially created room sets emphasise the importance of the movement's interiors: two British sets (one urban and one rural), one American 'Craftsman' room, and one Japanese 'model room' recreated through recently rediscovered objects. Victoria & Albert Museum until 24th July.

The Treehouse, is a turret topped wooden 'fantasy tree village', up to 60ft high, and with 4,000 sq ft of suspended walkways and rope bridges, which appear to float around 16 mature lime trees. It is one of the world's largest and most unusual wooden treehouses ever built for the public, designed to withstand not only moving and growing trees, but trees that will bend and rock in storms. Rope and net collars have been placed around each tree trunk to allow room for natural growth and movement, ensuring the Treehouse, and the trees, are perfectly safe. The structure is entirely made of natural materials, with an intentionally weathered feel to it, giving an impression that it could have existed in the trees for centuries. It offers an opportunity to experience the treetops up close, in a way previously restricted to Tarzan and Jane, plus one of the most unusual cafes to be found, and unparallelled views of the surrounding gardens and countryside. New attractions at ground level include the Bamboo Labyrinth, a maze of pathways created from 500 Chinese bamboo plants to test visitors puzzle solving abilities; the Poison Garden, with over 50 carefully guarded toxic, dangerous and scarce plants, including cannabis, coca, deadly nightshade, mandrake, magic mushrooms, opium poppy and tobacco plants; and the Serpent Garden, featuring 8 interactive mirror polished steel water sculptures, which combine art with hydrostatics, showing the different ways water can be made to move. Alnwick Garden, Northumberland continuing.

John Virtue London Paintings is an exhibition of the paintings created by Virtue during his two year residency as the National Gallery's Associate Artist, when he was given a studio in which to make new work that somehow connects to the existing collection. Virtue described the process thus: "My day consists of getting up early, drawing from the South Bank of the Thames, drawing from the roof of Somerset House, and finally drawing from the roof of the National Gallery. Then I work on the images here (in the studio) from drawings that I'm making every day." There are eleven paintings in all, four representing the London cityscape looking towards St Paul's Cathedral; four of the city from the roof of Somerset House; and three from the roof of the National Gallery looking towards Trafalgar Square and Nelson's Column. Executed solely in black and white, (sometimes using his hands and J cloths as well as brushes to distribute the paint) they are monumental works, the largest of which is over 22ft across. National Gallery until 5th June.

John Virtue London Drawings comprises over 150 of Virtue's preparatory drawings for the paintings, which he describes as "the compost from which painting develops". The display collates the drawings in three groups of multiple images. Shown in close proximity to one another, the studies build up a picture of how Virtue prepares for a painting, and charts his creative process. One of the paintings - an image of Somerset House measuring 8ft by12ft - is at the heart of the exhibition, and offers a compelling comparison with the drawings. Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery, Somerset House until 5th June.

Continuing

Matisse, His Art And His Textiles: The Fabric Of Dreams is the first exhibition to explore the relationship of textile designs to Matisse's paintings. Textiles were a primary source of inspiration to Matisse throughout his life. He started acquiring fabrics from an early age, and accumulated an extraordinary collection, from traditional French fabrics to Persian carpets, African wall hangings, Moroccan embroideries and jackets. The exhibition is a selection of Matisse's fabrics and costumes, together with some 30 paintings, and a number of drawings and prints to which they relate. Alongside a display of brilliantly coloured silk swatches from Bohain are the sober low key still lifes that Matisse produced in his early years as a Beaux-Arts trained painter working within a northern tradition. The fabric that liberated Matisse in the most radical phase of his career was a length of flowered, cotton 'toile de Jouy', seen in many works, particularly 'Still Life with Blue Tablecloth' and 'Portrait of Greta Moll'. When Matisse began painting in Nice, he turned his studio into a private theatre, where models in Arab robes and turbans, silk sashes and harem pants, posed on divans, carpets and cushions in front of screens draped and dressed with lengths of fabric. Later he was galvanised by Kuba fabrics from Zaire, small raffia strips and oblongs woven into geometrical patterns that he called 'African velvets', which lie behind his last great invention, the paper cut-outs. Royal Academy of Arts until 30th May.

Hotel Futuro is the first solo show in the UK of recent film-works by Finnish artist Mika Taanila, and includes the premiere of his latest piece 'Optical Sound'. Taanila's works are collages of archive materials, found footage of amateur films and documentary, combined with electronic music. A common theme is his fascination with science fiction, and the futuristic ideas and utopias imagined in the recent past, focusing on the technological dreams of the previous generation. 'Futuro - A New Stance for Tomorrow' explores the history of an icon of space age design, the 100% plastic Futuro House, an egg shaped, prefabricated portable building designed by Matti Suuronen. 'The Future Is Not What It Used To Be' is about the scientist and artist Erkki Kurenniemi's 1960s avant-garde music and film, and the early history of microcomputers. 'A Physical Ring' is based on fragments of found footage, documenting physics test that took place in the 1940s, transformed into a visual fantasy steeped in hypnotic effects, accompanied by a minimalist soundtrack. 'Optical Sound' is based on a live performance of the Symphony for 12 Dot Matrix Printers by the Canadian artist duo [The User], intercutting close ups of the mechanical parts of the printers performing the piece, taken from surveillance cameras placed inside the machines, with images of the ASCII files's score being played. Spacex Gallery, Exeter until 30th April.

Rupert Bear, Punch And Much More: The Art Of Alfred Bestall is a survey of the work of the man who drew Rupert Bear for nearly fifty years. From 1935 to 1965 Bestall wrote and illustrated the daily strip that appeared in the Daily Express, and contributed to the famous annuals that began in 1936, and continue to this day. Although Mary Tourtel was the original creator of Rupert, Bestall played a significant part in his development, among other things, changing his jumper from blue to the now famous red, and adding new characters in over 270 adventures. He is particularly known for the specially drawn double spread vista endpapers in the annuals. The exhibition not only shows a wide range of Bestall's Rupert material, but also his earlier incisive cartoons that appeared in Punch, the dreamy watercolours he created for The Tatler, and illustrations for many other magazines. Cartoon Art Trust Museum, London until 30th April.

Knit 2 Together: Concepts In Knitting celebrates knitting as an end in itself, without the usual need or expectation to produce something with a practical function. It brings the domestic craft of knitting into the 21st century, with a snapshot of how contemporary knitting is used as a medium for art practice - no scarves or cardis here. With exhibits ranging from knitted sex adverts and subversive toys, to giant cobwebs and knitted interiors, it proves that there is more to knitting than just sticks and string. By exploring tradition, history, process, skill, materiality, individuality and future technologies, the show celebrates the creative potential and contemporary appeal of this craft tradition. It highlights the work of 15 international artists who are pushing perceived boundaries within knitting, and features a range of innovative and experimental work created with both new and traditional techniques, with work ranging from the lyrical to the eccentric. Exploring the process involved in knitting, and highlighting the skill of the medium, are Janet Morton's knitted furniture, Ruth Lee's lacy, ephemeral 'Spirit Dresses' and Susie McMurray's 3D hangings, which have been French-knitted from human hair. In recognition of the obsessive side of knitting, and the current fashion for knitting groups, is the collaborative work of Francoise Dupre and the guerrilla knitting of the Cast Off knitting club. Equally quirky are Donna Wilson's rebellious creatures and Kelly Jenkins's edgy wall pieces based on adverts and cards from the sex industry. Crafts Council Gallery until 8th May.

A Tale Of Two Cities is actually a misnomer - it's two exhibitions about one city at two different times, contrasting the Edinburgh of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries with the city of today. John Kay was a barber with a shop in Parliament Square, but it is his 900 witty caricatures of the great and the not so good of Regency Edinburgh for which he is best remembered. Here are sharply observed portraits of the real Adam Smith, Deacon Brodie and Admiral Duncan among others, together with local types such as The Daft Highland Laird and Jamie Duff The Idiot. Twenty eight etchings, a group of watercolours, an oil and a sketchbook take the viewer back two hundred years. These are contrasted with twenty three laser prints by Iain McIntosh, a contemporary graphic artist, whose Edinburgh characters have entertained the readers of Alexander McCall Smith's recent novel, 44 Scotland Street. Based on a 'daily novel' published in The Scotsman (like Armistead Maupin's Tales Of The City) this is set in a fictional building in a real street of multiple occupancy flats, in which real life characters such as Ian Rankin, Gavin Hastings and Tam Dalyell, rub shoulders with today's Edinburgh archetypes. John Kay's satirical etchings inspired Iain McIntosh, who uses both traditional and digital techniques, and the two exhibitions, arranged side by side, pay tribute to a city and its characters. Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh until 8th May.

Thomas Banks: Britain's First Modern Sculptor marking the bicentenary of his death, is the first ever exhibition of work by the man Joshua Reynolds hailed "the first British sculptor who had produced works of classic grace". A gifted sculptor and one of the most influential artists of his time, Banks's work ranged from exquisitely carved bas-reliefs of historical and poetical subjects, to dramatic neoclassical compositions of the epic class, which reinvented the male nude in dramatic compositions that pushed marble to its limits. His greatest works had such emotional power that they reduced onlookers to tears, but his radical political beliefs secured his position as the scourge as well as the toast of the English art establishment. Banks spent seven years working in Rome in the international circle of artists there, and then became sculptor to Catherine the Great in St Petersburg, before returning to Britain, where he produced some of his most original and influential sculptures as church monuments. Regarded by fellow artists as 'a violent democrat' Banks was arrested on suspicion of treason, and the last work he finished, a bust of Oliver Cromwell, was ordered removed from the Royal Academy exhibition as 'an improper object'. Colour photographs, specially commissioned for the exhibition, which present Banks's finest church monuments afresh as works of art, accompany eleven works that are part of the permanent collection. Sir John Soane's Museum until 9th April.

Concluding

The View From Manchester: Don McPhee is the first solo exhibition of work by the Guardian photographer, covering his 33 year career at the Manchester office of the newspaper. McPhee recorded Manchester life over the decades, whilst using the city as a base to capture defining moments in Britain and around the world. His photographs demonstrate a gentle humanity as well as technical accomplishment. McPhee started work on local newspapers in Stockport, Southend and Norwich, before joining an agency in York that supplied pictures to the Guardian. In 1970 he joined the Guardian as a staff photographer and has worked there ever since. There are around fifty photographs in the exhibition, most of them black and white. Subjects include a striking miner in a toy policeman hat confronting a line of policemen, pensioners lying on Blackpool beach fully clothed (including raincoats and caps) and Nelson Mandela campaigning for election in South Africa. McPhee's work has taken him all over the UK and much of the wider world, including India, South Africa, America, Israel, Hong Kong and Moldova. He has always relished the freedom to look at the world from an individual angle, and often been canny enough to ask the obvious question the reporter forgot. Manchester Art Gallery until 3rd April.

Iron Ladies: Women In Thatcher's Britain is the first exhibition to consider the impact of 'Thatcherism' on British women in the 1980s, and to look at the ways in which Margaret Thatcher's presence as a role model affected women's lives. Cold war ideology, political and social protest and the changing status of women in the workforce are all examined, alongside consideration of Margaret Thatcher's experiences as Britain's first female prime minister, and her subsequent legacy for women and the women's movement. Using a wide range of original material, including previously unseen visual and archival documents, recordings, photographs, posters, leaflets, badges, memorabilia and clothing of the period, the exhibition addresses central issues from this defining period of recent history. Artifacts used conjure up representations of the Eighties include a gym outfit with leg-warmers beside a Jane Fonda video, a red and white polka dot baby-doll dress beside The Sloane Rangers' Handbook, and of course, one of the legendary handbags. An extensive programme of talks, study days and events accompany the exhibition. Women's Library until 2nd April.

Andy Goldsworthy: Passage is an exploration of the possibilities of a relatively new Norman Foster designed private gallery, whose proportions and 11,000 sq ft floor space, give Tate Modern's Turbine Hall competition. Goldsworthy has produced numerous site specific works all over the world, and specialises in bringing the outdoors indoors. In the 24 ft high Gallery 1, he has deposited an 18ft high stone tower, formed of granite pieces transported from a beach in Scotland (the largest weighing one and a half tonnes) that rely on purely their density and a system of sanded cavities for their balance. Timber enclosures surround the granite, but allow the bold visitor into its core for a more intimate inspection of the natural joints. Survivors can move on to Gallery 2, a 150ft long low ceilinged space, housing a 40ft long winding clay piece, created by applying mixture of hay and human hair soaked with slip to bind clay around tree branches. The walls are lined with photographic images of icicles, stalks, branches, leaf sculptures and a 3km long moonlit chalk path. Finally, in the more intimate Gallery 3, Goldsworthy has created a series of 6ft long wooden boxes at floor level, for visitors to examine snaking and rounded forms of sweet chestnut leaves, held together by thorns. All good 'what I did in my autumn half term holiday' stuff. Further information can be found on the Albion web site, via the link from the Galleries section of ExhibitionsNet. Albion, London until 31st March.