Retracing Nature is a two person show opening on the 8th of February at Make Hauser & Wirth Somerset, I am showing a new series of vessels alongside utensils with Ceramicist Adam Buick.
“Stuart Cairns is a contemporary metalsmith using the forms of silversmithing objects, of dining and ritual, as places to explore materials and tell stories. The visual language created emerges from his immersion in landscape whether through walking, wild swimming, photography, drawing or gathering. Utilising found objects and materials collected on walks through his local landscape, combined with steel and patinated silver, Cairns creates unique, small forms, intimate in nature, translating elements of this personal journey. With this collection, conceived for Make, Cairns returns to vessel forms, set alongside the shapes of utensils and tools, acting as physical representations of a lived landscape, alive with memory.
Objects are drawn out of the natural lines of grasslands and wetlands…
Last evening, my husband and I were lucky enough to hear a talk from Norman Ackroyd at the Pallant House Gallery, Chichester. We are both great admirers of his work, but even if we had not been, we would have marvelled at this octogenarian so full of energy and enthusiasm for the wild and wonderful places he visits each year to study and draw, using watercolour and sugar lift printing in situ.
Born in Leeds in 1938, the son of a butcher, Ackroyd went to Leeds College of Art before enrolling at the London College of Art in 1961. He was elected Royal Academician in 1988 and Senior Fellow in 2000. A CBE was awarded in 2007 for Services to Engraving and printing.
Rather than talk about his work or methodology, Norman took us on a guided tour of many of his favourite places, depicting them with examples of his work. He spoke, not about his own incredible achievements – see www.normanackroyd.com – but about those others who had influenced and impressed him – the Poet Douglas Dunn and the writer F H White to name but two. He was such an engaging, intelligent and warm man – we felt we could have listened to him all evening. With tales of climbing, jumping, sailing, zooming around in helicopters, he is a superhero in so many ways! His passion for his chosen scenic places, the birds, the history of place were all very evident. You can view Norman talking about his work on You Tube by following this link.
If you, by chance, are not already aware of his work, here a couple of my favourites:
I’m sure I’m not the only one who sees landscape all around them – but concealed within objects rather than the obvious views around us. My eyes are just drawn to these beautiful miniatures.
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As I live near the coast, these are often captured on boats, but also on buildings, traffic bollards, windows, washed up beach strandings and elsewhere – why not get your eye in while you are walking around – you’ll see so much more!
One of the most common finds while I walk along local beaches is rope and twine. Often this is knotted and in varying degrees of perfection – I have a whole bag of them now.
I decided to start experimenting using knots with some of my found pieces. I had the idea of using found times which had holes in them and knotting through or around the holes. I knew that this would be a laborious, repetitive business but was interested to see how this slow repetition would affect my thoughts as I worked. I had read that undertakings boring tasks allowed the mind to wander and become more creative: Read more about this here – Harvard Business Review – two studies found a strong link between boredom and creativity. In short, people who were subjected to monotonous, repetitive, or otherwise uninspiring tasks then asked to think creatively or brainstorm ideas far outperformed those who were not subjected to the drudgery.
When our minds are bored, they seek inspiration. The studies’ authors “suggest that boredom boosts creativity because of how people prefer to alleviate it. Boredom, they suggest, motivates people to approach new and rewarding activities. In other words, an idle mind will seek a toy.”
And so, I started my first project without any end goal, just to see what would happen. I worked with a rectangle of found metal, calico and found twine from the beach.
I am never this neat on the reverse!
Knots through found metal
Next, I decided to try bristles from a found brush in combination with a piece of found metal mesh. The mesh was delicate and, by the end, had started to break up. Like the first task, this took me several days. I am still working on how to present it.
The next project is a little bit “out there”! I recently found a tea strainer and decided to see what developed if I started to knot through the mesh of this. It is very hard work and I am having to use a magnifying lamp to see the holes.
Tea strainer found at Selsey
Beachcomber twine is added
This one may not be a keeper – we will have to see.
What has been interesting, thought, is to see how my mind wandered during the long hours of knotting. I started to think about the people in times gone by who spent their days making fishing nets. This seemed to strike a chord and link back to the beach where I had found my objects – a research project beckons ….
A friend and I decided to visit this last week, lured by the introduction of the Gallery’s website:
“The notion of the found object as artistic material, content and subject-matter provides the inspiration for The Everyday and Extraordinary, an exhibition presenting a Wunderkammer of modern and contemporary artworks drawn from the Arts Council Collection. The show brings together a fusion of materials, processes and innovative ideas, celebrating the physicality of objects in this predominantly digital age.
Found objects or ‘objet trouvé’ provide infinite inspiration for artists. When, in 1913, Marcel Duchamp used a found object in his work, he introduced the term ‘ready-made’ to art. Whether modified, presented in a new context or left unchanged found objects have had an enduring impact on artistic practice, with artists appropriating and transforming objects in many ways to communicate particular ideas or concepts. Surrealists used ‘the everyday’ as an invocation of humour and satire whilst Pop Artists directly appropriated items from popular culture. Techniques of the ready-made continue to engage and inspire contemporary artists today.”
We both like to use found objects in our work so thought this exhibition would be right up our street.
Anya Gallacio’s installation Preserve (Chateau) shown above in its original form, has been deliberately allowed to rot and is now looking very sad. The frame is somewhat misted up and the flowers have died and are dropping out of the base. Stated to be a sombre meditation on the passing of time, it consists of 100 red gerberas sandwiched between the wall and a pane of glass. Preserve Beauty was the paradoxical title of a work in which no attempt is made to conserve the wilting flowers.
I liked Mona Haltom’s sculpture + And – but, like many other exhibits, it does not incorporate found objects. A wooden box is filled with sand. Like a clock, it’s two hands rotate. The serrated hand draws concentric rings in the sand and these are then obliterated when the smooth hand follows. There is something soothing about this repetition.
The above work by Tony Cragg was made in 1978. This does use the found – hundreds of pieces of plastic. As a regular beachcomber, I identified with the fact that there is a horrendous amount of such items to be easily found upon our shores and I can only suppose that forty years ago this work was saying something new. Today I found it too simplistic to be considered a piece of art.
I did like the following exhibits which I photographed together with their notes:
but, overall, my friend and I both considered the exhibition disappointing. Too few exhibits featuring the genuinely found and those that did, were not particularly inspiring. Do let me know what you think!
And finally, we walked along the seafront where we saw two of the five new beach huts installed recently and available to hire. As art installations, I enjoyed them. You can read more about them and view the others by following the link above: