1. caught in or as if in a tangle
2. involved in an undesirable situation from which it is difficult to escape
If there was an exhibition from which it would be difficult to escape, I can think of worse places to be trapped than the current exhibition at Turner Contemporary in Margate, "entangled" - an exhibition of over 40 international artists who explore materiality, particularly in respect of thread, stitch and fabric, in their work.
The works on show vary in scale from minute grass seed heads, to a ceiling high column made from taut horse hair, but all have something more important to say than their initial forms and humble materials initially suggest.
The first work to grab my attention was Geta Bratescu's Bound Fan - a wooden hand held fan, rendered impotent by being bound tightly shut by a single, delicate thread. There is something intriguing by the notion of the functional being rendered useless by such a gentle intervention. Susan Hiller's Painting Blocks echo this idea of contradiction - oil paintings on canvas, cut and bound with thread into a stacked block, so that the original painting is both present and absent at the same time.
Other notable exhibits include Karla Black's What to ask of others - a large sheet of pale pink polythene, draped and suspended in the gallery space. The work acts as both painting and sculpture, and we are forced to reexamine our understanding and expectation of a familiar, often disposable, material. Stunning.
What do a conservationist, a knitter, a medical college dissecting room, a darning mushroom, a criminologist and a photograph of Judith Scott have in common? All, it would seem, have something to say on the question "What Do I Need To Do To Make It Ok?" - a current touring exhibition curated by Liz Cooper, and more specifically, at the accompanying symposium held at the Crafts Study Centre yesterday.
So, in no particular order, are some of the highlights, favourite images and thoughts from the day (which was fabulous).
Bouke de Vries. Wow. Bouke's practice sits in both contemporary crafts and fine ceramics conservation work. Exploring the changing fashions of repair in conservation - from once ensuring the repair was invisible, to more recent preferences of proudly displaying broken shards of pots embedded in forms made from a neutral material, Bouke takes these ideas to extremes in his own practice. His exploded works appear to rejoice the fact that the original item is broken, and instead of reconstructing (as a conservationist), he uses the same skills to deconstruct (but this time as an artist). The ceramic object has a new status, with new values, and a new narrative that allows the life of the object to continue. And in case you were wondering, Bouke was keen to reassure that he only works with already broken ceramics, or as he said "no pots were damaged in the making of this work!".
Dr Charlotte Bilby, Senior Lecturer in Criminology in the Department of Social Sciences at Northumbria University, raised the question of the impact of the work undertaken by prisoners via the organisation Fine Cell Work. Is prison a place of punishment or rehabilitation (repair)? There is growing recognition of the positive impact on mental health of slower, meditative crafts such as knitting. And I am certainly 'guilty' of sitting down to crochet just one row, only to find myself still snuggled in a comfy corner hours later. To a prisoner, the irony of getting lost in time while mindfully working on a complicated stitched work is not lost, but contradicts the very nature of 'serving time' as punishment.
Before I go any further, I need to thank Freddie Robins for taking me back to warm, comfortable afternoons when time seemed to stay stuck forever. You know the times - when you're not long in from school, shoes off, toes wriggling in socks, tea time smells are coming from the kitchen, there's no homework to be done and Nelly is knitting a ridiculous contraption to solve the latest problem encountered by Noah and the animals in the BBC series, Noah and Nelly. Rather than learning from a mother, aunt, or grandmother, when I heard that it was Nelly who introduced Freddie to knitting, suddenly her practice makes a lot of sense.
“ 'It’s not perfect, but who cares?' Well I do. I enjoy imperfection in you and yours but not in me and mine. I am very attracted to the imperfections, failings, and roughness of the material world. I enjoy the evidence of human hands, the inevitable wear and repair of objects. I love the obviously hand-made. But I suffer from being a perfectionist ... Perfectionism is associated with good craftsmanship, something to aspire to. I aim for perfection in all aspects of my life, my work and myself. It can be very debilitating and exhausting and it is of course, unachievable". http://www.freddierobins.com
After much laughter throughout Freddie's presentation she left us with this simple, yet sobering thought:
"What can you do to make it ok?".
Well, sometimes, you need to accept that you just can't.
So, that's the conservationist, criminologist and knitter covered (albeit briefly)! It's now shoe kicking off time, which can mean only one thing ... Noah and Nelly! I'm off to track down old episodes on youtube now ... I may be some time!
Thoughts, works, adventures and responses from the studio and beyond