Get ready to sparkle

Adam Closs Magic Eye 3 detail (not part of the exhibition)

Adam Closs Magic Eye 3 detail (not part of the exhibition, but an artwork that evokes circus 🙂

The RWA will launch their new exhibition Sawdust and Sequins on the weekend of 24th and 25th March 2018, and it sounds fabulous. It marks the start of a spectacular exhibition that will run until 3rd June at the RWA Galleries in Bristol.

The exhibition will showcase historic and contemporary art that offers up a sense of the UK’s circus heritage and Bristol’s thriving circus scene.

The exhibition coincides with Circus250 – a nationwide celebration of the 250th anniversary of circus in the UK.

The opening weekend will transform the stately gallery buildings on Queen’s Road with  with performances from Circomedia Academy of Contemporary Circus and Physical Theatre, with aerial displays, acrobatics, aerial displays, have-a-go workshops and creative activities for all ages to get stuck into.

It’ll all be happening on Saturday 24 March 10.30am–3pm and Sunday 25 March 11.30am–3pm. Find out more here.

Got an event, exhibition, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send me an email at judydarley(at)iCloud(dot)com.

Art to make you smile and think

Ironing by Martina Paukova crop

ironing by Martina Paukova, cropped

Artist Martina Paukova has launched her debut solo exhibition Girls, at The Book Club in Shoreditch. Running until 8th April 2018, the show represents an antithesis to the glamorous, air-brushed photos we face daily.

“These domestic environments are little self-made worlds of sort,” says Martina. “Away from the outside world where we are pushed to pose and perform, it is usually at home, within the four walls, where we are at our most natural and non-performing selves.”

waiting by Martina Paukova

waiting by Martina Paukova

The vivid scenes feel like snapshots of real life, with a quirky cartoon feel. The girls are surrounded by the paraphernalia – laptops, phones and coffee cups, but they themselves are unpolished and occasionally 2-dimensional, folding into the angles of the sofas they slump onto.

dining by Martina Paukova

dining by Martina Paukova

The artwork is hyper-simplified, flattening out detail in a way that’s both light and cheery, while underlaid with a faintly foreboding darkness that speaks of our concern for the future of females in a time when artifice is paramount and men still have the upper hand. In Martina’s world, men serve as furnishings or simply hang around waiting to be tried on, while technology wins her girls’ overriding affection.

loving by Martina Paukova

loving by Martina Paukova

Martina Paukova was born in Slovakia in 1983, and has since studied graphic design in London, followed by illustration at Camberwell College of Arts. She now lives in Berlin, doodling people and creating commitions for clients including Pull&Bear, Converse, the Guardian, Google and The New York Times.

munching by Martina Paukova

munching by Martina Paukova

Despite the shadowiness of her underlying themes, Martina is aiming to prompt more smiles than disruption. “I am hoping for a light amusement mixed with some sense of familiarity,” she says. “The scenes I present can be super autobiographical and rather tongue-in-cheek and ideally I’d get some tongue-in-cheek response back :-P”

Find out more at www.wearetbc.com

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley(at)iCloud.com.

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Breath after breath

Waterclour by Liz Butler RWS

Watercolour by Liz Butler RWS

If you visited RWA’s exhibition of The Power of the Sea in 2014, you’ll know how excellent their taste is in choosing works preoccupied solely with one particular element of nature.

This time around the remit was to seek out pieces that scrutinise a more intangible aspect of our surroundings – the very stuff we live in and breathe.

The Balloon over Calais by E. W. Cocks, 1840, oil on canvas, cr Science Museum: Science & Society Picture Library.

The Balloon over Calais by E. W. Cocks, 1840, oil on canvas, cr Science Museum: Science & Society Picture Library.

More than one artist on show creates a sense of substance through the presence of a balloon or several; for others, such as Jemma Grunion and her scattering of oils and resins layered on board, it’s the clouds that transform the unseen into the visible.

Paintings by Jemma Grundon and orbs by Polly Gould

Paintings by Jemma Grundon and sculptures by Polly Gould. Image by Alice Hendy.

You’ll see sculptures representing curls of sky and swooping birds, anamorphic landscapes by Polly Gould, clouds created on tracing paper through the art of rubbing out, a glass trombone and an avian flu molecule. There’s even a depiction by L.S. Lowry of early 20th century air pollution – it’s clear that air resonates with countless possible interpretations – from freedom to sound.

L. S. Lowry, A Manufacturing Town (1922), oil on panel, 43.2 x 53.3 cm. British Council Collection. Photo © Art Image Library LTD. © The Estate of L.S Lowry. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2017

L. S. Lowry, A Manufacturing Town (1922), oil on panel, 43.2 x 53.3 cm. British Council Collection. Photo © Art Image Library LTD. © The Estate of L.S Lowry. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2017

The exhibition itself is beautifully laid out, allowing space to meander and contemplate as light streams in through the main galleries’ lovely and very appropriate skylights. Through four centuries of work, there’s an overriding sense of humanity marvelling at the things that soar so high above us, and of the desire to enter, investigate and conquer this nebulous territory. Artworks focused on flight abound, and a colourful windbreak made from shredded plastic by artist Freya Gabie wafts gently in the breeze.

Windbreak made from shredded plastic by Freya Gabie. Image by Alice Hendy

Windbreak made from shredded plastic by Freya Gabie. Image by Alice Hendy

Other works offer an altogether more intimate examination of our relationship with air, not least in Capacity by Annie Cattrall, made in part using exhalations of human breath. Just knowing that gives me delighted chills.

Capacity by Annie Cattrell. Image by Alice Hendy

Capacity by Annie Cattrell. Image by Alice Hendy

For me, the sky has always seemed to be our very best art gallery, offering up colour studies, sunset silks and endlessly reconfigured sculptures.

To host an exhibition concentrated on this extraordinary theatre of the atmosphere is an act of audacity that I applaud.

Jeannette Kerr voyaging through the Arctic

Jeannette Kerr voyaging through the Arctic

As an added bonus, you’ll find Arctic Air, an exhibition by Janette Kerr PPRWA RSA (Hons), made in response to three weeks on a ship sailing up the coast of Svalbard, Norway. The works are compressed with layers of wonder, representing Janette’s awe at encountering icebergs and glaciers, and thinking of “the hundreds, even thousand, of years locked inside, suspended in tiny air bubbles.”

Ancient Air by Jeannette Kerr

Ancient Air by Janette Kerr

Just like the exhibition in the upstairs galleries, this is a contemplation of a part of our planet so otherworldly that it almost feels off-world…

And yet this element is what enters our body and fuels all our vital internal churnings. Without it we could not exist, let alone create and appreciate art.

Air: Visualising the Invisible in British Art 1768-2017 is on at RWA in Bristol until 3rd September 2017. Find details at http://www.rwa.org.uk/whats-on/air-visualising-invisible-british-art-1768-2017. All images in this post have been supplied by RWA.

Ceramics in Flux

Binary by Yurim Gough

One of my favourite artists-to-watch, the brilliant Yurim Gough, is having something of a busy year. Having just finished exhibiting in The RWA’s Drawn exhibition in Bristol, she’s also been selected to show works at the Flux Exhibition in London this July.

FLUX exhibition is on at Chelsea College of Arts, London, from July 12-16th July 2017.

Binary by Yurim Gough

Binary by Yurim Gough

“The ceramic pieces which I will be exhibiting at Flux are much larger than any I’ve created before, but follow on in development from the bowls I’ve made previously,” Yurim explains. “I had the idea that by setting the bowls in relief into a much larger vase, I could display more than one of my individual as part of the same piece.”

It’s a unique method, bringing together Yurim’s beautiful, provocative artworks into tangible series. “It means that I can have a theme for each piece.”

Loves by Yurim Gough

Loves by Yurim Gough

Her first work in the series is a vase with a single concave face in the side, “like a bowl set into it.” The next in the series has two faces, and three and so on up to the sixth piece, which has six faces (would have loved the surprise here of seven faces, but that’s just my contrary side). “The pieces with one, three, four and six faces have been completed and will be exhibited,” Yurim says.

Mother Earth by Yurim Gough, part of her Elements artwork

Mother Earth by Yurim Gough, part of her Elements artwork

Each vase is a study in compare and contrast, with several opposing and complimentary opposites, Yurim tells me, “such the inverted faces and the pointed tops of the vases, like male and female, yin and yang.”

Birth by Yurim Gough

Birth by Yurim Gough

The first piece, pictured directly above, is titled Birth. “It has one face, showing unity, the sperm and the egg.”

The second piece, shown in the first tow images in this post, is Binary, and is shaped into two concave breasts, or buttocks, with the artwork highlighting these feminine body parts so hyper-sensualised by modern ideals of beauty and fashion.

Wind by Yurim Gough, part of her Elements artwork

Wind by Yurim Gough, part of her Elements artwork

The fourth work, Elements, offers Yurim’s take on water, fire, wind and mother earth, while the sixth vase, Loves, reveals six different kinds of love.

“I began adding colour to my work at the end of 2015, and found this enabled me to take a new direction with my art,” says Yurim. “When I began carrying out my life drawings on the ceramics, I saw that the pictures in it prompted me to think about the shapes of the human body and how these reflect on the potential of our lives.”

Water by Yurim Gough, part of her Elements artwork

Water by Yurim Gough, part of her Elements artwork

To explore this idea further, Yurim went beyond her life drawings to sample and blend in images sourced from the internet “to bring the stories I imagined to life.”

It’s an exciting project set to stir intrigue and recognition in viewers to the show. See them for yourself at FLUX exhibition from July 12-16th July 2017, at Chelsea College of Arts, London.

Find full details at fluxexhibition.com and yurimgough.com.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judy(at)socketcreative.com.

Open eyes and minds

Maenads Series by Tim Shaw pic cr Jack Offord

The RWA 164th open exhibition is currently on at the galleries on Queen’s Road, Bristol, populated by strange creatures, wondrous landscapes and portraits with soulfully intriguing expressions.

The open exhibition is always a highlight, showcasing a wonderful breadth and variety of artistic talent. Narratives whisper and wriggles on every page, canvas board and plinth.

The Maenads Series by invited sculptor Tim Shaw (shown at the top of this post) exudes a wonderfully satisfying sense of joy as they cavort, drum and wave their arms in the air, filling more space than their few inches in height would have you expect.

Fuelling Up by Jason Lanes photo cr Jack Offord

Fuelling Up by Jason Lanes

Other works prompt laughter and smiles, such as Simon Tozer’s Mermaid screen print and Fuelling Up by Jason Lanes. Jean Crosse’s A Bowl of Eyes is exactly what its title suggests – a ceramic bowl with eyes on stalks, which led us to remembering old teddies with cataracts and myopia or a single off-centre orb offering the impression of a sly wink.

Tabula Rasa (Elsie 1914) by Ruth Wallace photo cr Jack Offord

Tabula Rasa (Elsie 1914) by Ruth Wallace

Quieter, meditative artworks take their place on the edges. Self-portrait as Icarus by Richard Twose depicts the artist conducting a flock of pigeons on strings, as though they are marionettes or kites, while the Tabula Rasa (Elsie 1914) by Ruth Wallace gazes steadily back at the viewers, unfazed. Grey Rouge by Rhiannon Davies, is a miniature portrait in watercolour and gouache, well worth crouching down to see.

Yurim Gough with her Heart Chakra -> Ego bowl at RWA annual open exhibition 2016 photo cr Jack Offord

Yurim Gough with her Heart Chakra -> Ego bowl at the exhibition launch

Heart Chakra -> Ego by Yurim Gough looks to me like a new take on her elegant life studies on clay, with a serene face imposed over the model’s own and a perimeter of dreaming figures kneeling at the bowl’s rippled edge.

In a trio of paintings by Karen Bowers (Flood and Willow, Sue’s Field, Late Autumn, Late Afternoon and The Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Garden), autumn mists catch in trees and halt us with their atmospheric beauty. These are artworks that present a moment in which to pause, exhale and renew your strength – how fitting for this time of year.

Quite simply, this is an exhibition where humour, contemplation, landscape and memory are offered up in an exceptionally wide-ranging array of works. Escape there for an hour or two, and you’ll inevitably emerge refreshed and inspired.

The 164th RWA Annual Open Exhibition is on until 27th November 2016. Find details.

All photography in this post is by Jack Offord, provided courtesy the RWA.

Real and Imagined

Long Shore Drift-Low Tide  by Lydia Halcrow-photo by Alice Hendry

Long Shore Drift (Low Tide) by Lydia Halcrow, photo by Alice Hendy

I’m drawn to the idea of imagined landscapes. A sense of place is vital to my writing, and often I take inspiration from real places, but alter them to suit my own preferences and needs. In the RWA‘s Imagined Landscapes exhibition, on at the galleries in Bristol until 12th June 2016, artists have create works from places they’ve known and dreamt.

Severn Waterscape for Owain Jones by Iain Biggs

Severn Waterscape for Owain Jones by Iain Biggs

 

One of my favourites, Severn Waterscape (for Owain Jones) by Iain Biggs, melds digital photos and ‘cancelled’ maps with the artist’s own marks to explore a tidal landscape. I’m a hit-and-miss map readers, but a lover of maps for their own beauty, and feel that Biggs has imbued his diptych with both a hint of his own personality and a sense of the energy of the place it represents.

SomeWhen by Jethro Brice and Seila Fenandez Arconada

Some:When by Jethro Brice and Seila Fenandez Arconada

Other strong pieces include Some:When by Jethro Brice and Seila Fenandez Arconada, a collaborative art project that responded to the severe flooding of the Somerset Moors and Levels. The piece on show takes the shape of a handmade boat called a Flatner, built from reclaimed and new materials.

Imagine Landscapes, photo by Alice Hendry

Imagined Landscapes, photo by Alice Hendy

In the adjoining galleries you’ll find Inquisitive Eyes: Sade Painters in Edwardian Wessex, 1900-1914. This exhibition offers a rich insight into the lives and delights of some of England’s best loved painters, including John Everett and Augustus John.

The Blue Pool by Augustus John

The Blue Pool by Augustus John

The final gallery holds a more modern interpretation of our surroundings, as Simon Quadrat explores the social awkwardness and built beauty of cafes, buses, and greenhouses. While not every painting features figures, their presence is always suggested, and most that do appear look decidedly at odds with the place they inhabit. In Cafe Garden, only the waitress seems relaxed – every other person present is apparently on the brink of bickering.

Quadrat’s paintings wriggle with narrative, making them ideal writing prompts. I urge you to visit the RWA, soak up some inspiration, and see what tales emerge.

Simon Quadrat exhibition at the RWA

Simon Quadrat exhibition at the RWA

The three exhibitions seem to flow into one another, each capturing the atmosphere rather than the mirror image of a place, and creating an impression of setting that’s all the more evocative for that.

Imagined Landscapes, Inquisitive Eyes and Simon Quadrat PPRWA are at the RWA until 12th June 2016. Ticket prices apply. Find out more at www.rwa.org.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/.

A meeting of minds

Dario Fo exhibition cr Judy DarleyI’m an ardent admirer of the inspiration one art form can fuel in another. Occasionally these prompted pieces can take the form of a dialogue with the original works, adding meaning and verve to those earlier pieces.

At the Santa Giulia museum of Brescia, a duel exhibition is performing just this feat, showcasing 35 works by 1997 Nobel prize winner Dario Fo created in direct response to the work of his hero Marc Chagall.

Rather like a duet of piano and cello playing out to exquisite effect, with one passage of notes echoing and building on the other, the exhibition features celebrated pieces by Chagall reflecting moments from his youth and early adulthood, with dreams and impressions woven into the paintings and sketches, many of which have never been displayed before.

Marc Chagall sketchbook

Marc Chagall sketchbook

I entered this gallery first, accompanied by dozens of members of the Italian press, all jostling for a closer look and a quote from curator Eugenia Petrova and artist Dario Fo.

The images, which include stunning early works from Chagall’s childhood in Russia, resounded against the walls of the narrow space, presenting scenes of farmland against portraits of Jewish workers – this is the artist whose painting The Fiddler inspired the musical Fiddler on the Roof, a detail I rather love, and which demonstrates the visceral energy of his work.

L'ebreo in Rosa by March Chagall

L’ebreo in Rosa by March Chagall

 

Fo, you may recall, is most celebrated for his work in the theatre (as a playwright, set and costume designer, director and even composer) explaining in part, perhaps, this match made in heaven.

Many of Chagall’s works speak of love, too, which is also an enduring theme for Fo.

Blue Lovers by Marc Chagall

In a separate hall, I strolled amid the 20 works by Dario Fo, each created especially for the exhibition. Accompanied by 15 preparatory paintings, the companion pieces draw from Chagall’s work but also Fo’s own life.

Dario Fo exhibition

They fizz with vigour, revelling in their colour-saturated canvasses. Even pieces depicting traumatic events (such as this one by Fo showing the new-born Chagall being plunged into an ice-cold bath to shock him into breathing), are packed with humour.

Dario Fo birthThere’s a wonderful sense of Dario’s personality imbuing the pieces, a wry wickedness and a glint of mischief. This is, after all, the man who muddled together European languages to create a brand new theatre experience.

Dario Fo cr Judy DarleyWhile Dario (pictured left) claims to have learnt storytelling from fisherfolk and glassblowers, his passion for the work of Chagall means much of his mark-making has been influenced by the artist described by Pablo Picasso as “the only painter left who understands what colour really is.”

It’s a legacy that lifts both segments of the conjoined exhibition, along with a passion for the fantastical and surreal.

Dario Fo was born in March 1926, and discovered Chagall’s work when he was only in his twenties.

It’s such a happy and harmonious union that I can only wonder that this collaborative exhibition didn’t happen earlier, and be glad that it happened at all.

Dario Fo's signature

Marc Chagall. Russian years 1907-1924: with a story in pictures by Dario Fo is on at the Santa Giulia museum in Brescia until 15 February 2016. I can’t think of a more delightful excuse to flit over to this beautiful Italian town than an exceptional spot of culture. Find out more about Brescia at www.bresciatourism.it/en/

A Chagall-inspired writing prompt.
A Chagall-inspired play.

Explore ideas of identity with an exhibition in Bath

Map of Days by Grayson Perry, etching 2013-detail- cr Grayson Perry and Paragon-Contemporary editions Ltd

Map of Days by Grayson Perry, detail © Grayson Perry and Paragon Contemporary Editions Ltd

What makes us who we are in the eyes of others? Is it our outer appearance, our inner turmoil or the objects and actions we surround ourselves with?

Portrait artists have been exploring these concepts for centuries, as a new exhibition at the Victoria Art Gallery in Bath reveals.

The free exhibition Portraits and Identity has been curated around Grayson Perry’s Map of Days etching, which was acquired last year for the Gallery’s permanent collection.

“The piece is an unusual self-portrait in the form of a walled city, the streets and buildings inside the wall representing aspects of the artist’s personality, whilst outside the walls are the things that did not penetrate the defences,” explains Jon Benington from the Gallery.

Map of Days by Grayson Perry, detail showing Bradley Wiggins

Map of Days by Grayson Perry, detail showing Bradley Wiggins

The river of imagination flows past a walled city made up of streets with names such as ‘Intuition’, ‘Revenge’ and ‘Churning Insecurity’.

Other portraits in the exhibition include works by artists as diverse as Hogarth, Dürer and William Nicholson.

H M the Queen (Victoria), by William Nicholson 1897

H M the Queen (Victoria), by William Nicholson 1897

It’s an intriguing insight into the ways artists used visual props, such as books or the tools as their trade, to impart us details of a sitter’s life. Other examples offer more subtle clues, such as this lithograph of Queen Victoria walking her dog in the gardens of Kensington Palace, and described by the artist as looking like ‘an animated tea-cosy’. It reveals her formidable character alongside her love for her affection, and, through this, for her people.

Then there’s the work of caricaturists, which are far more direct, with Gillray transforming naturalist Joseph Banks into a showy butterfly after receiving the Order of the Bath, while William Hibbard depicts the Bath Corporation with symbols of their businesses for heads.

Portrait and Identity is on at the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath, from 20th August until October 4th 2015, and runs alongside the Jane Austen’s Bath exhibition.

Art in nature

Art Forms in Nature1 Part of Wundergarten der Natur, 1932 © Estate of Karl Blossfeldt, Courtesy of Hayward Touring

Part of Wundergarten der Natur, 1932 © Estate of Karl Blossfeldt, Courtesy of Hayward Touring

This beautiful photo is by Karl Blossfeldt and is part of the Karl Blossfeldt: Art Forms in Nature exhibition currently on at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.

If you ever meander through a woodland or botanical garden, you may have noticed how intricately detailed the plants are – like entire universes in miniature form. Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) was one of the original enthusiasts of these small worlds – using the relatively new form of photography to capture and define the scenes that drew him in.

Art Forms in Nature3 Part of Wundergarten der Natur, 1932 © Estate of Karl Blossfeldt, Courtesy of Hayward Touring

Part of Wundergarten der Natur, 1932 © Estate of Karl Blossfeldt, Courtesy of Hayward Touring

Karl Blossfeldt trained as a sculptor but became entranced by nature’s own artworks. Understandably, he was (and is) celebrated by plant-lovers, photographers and artists, particularly early modernists and Surrealists, as his images revealed the intrinsic beauty of natural forms, their extraordinary textures, as well as how strangely alien they can seem.

Art Forms in Nature4 Part of Wundergarten der Natur, 1932 © Estate of Karl Blossfeldt, Courtesy of Hayward Touring

Part of Wundergarten der Natur, 1932 © Estate of Karl Blossfeldt, Courtesy of Hayward Touring

It’s an unexpectedly powerful collection. Seed heads, petals and stems seem barely to contain their energy, suggesting an underlying fizz and crackle waiting, like a thunderstorm, to explode.

Karl Blossfeldt: Art Forms in Nature is on at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery until 13th September 2015.

Art Forms in Nature2 Part of Wundergarten der Natur, 1932 © Estate of Karl Blossfeldt, Courtesy of Hayward Touring

Part of Wundergarten der Natur, 1932 © Estate of Karl Blossfeldt, Courtesy of Hayward Touring

A touch of English Magic

William Morris, enragedA little bit of gritty glamour is currently in residence at Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, as Turner Prize awarding-winning artist Jeremy Deller presents his critically acclaimed exhibition, English Magic.

The show, which includes additions especially commissioned in response to the museum’s permanent collection, offers a curious look at the country we live in, with juxtaposed imagery, surreal responses to our tax angst, and some exquisitely political murals.

Set in galleries over two floors, part one invites you to sit for a few moments on a bench repurposed from a crushed Range Rover and watch a film intersecting scenes of owls and other birds of prey with scenes of vehicles being destroyed, set to a soundtrack of a steel band playing. Glance up and you’ll notice illuminated examples from the museum’s taxidermy collection gazing thoughtfully as though you may well be the next titbit on the menu.

Archive photography of Ziggy Stardust on tour is interspersed with scenes of the violence of workers’ strikes, troubles in Ireland and more.

I want to be invisible

Upstairs, the past is superimposed by present and future – with truths matches to surreal but infinitely possible imaginings. Vast murals take precedence – wry, simmering works that seem to demand “had you noticed…?” Directly inside gallery five, painted buildings billow with flame-edge smoke – a portrayal of what could happen if civil unrest over tax evasion resulted in rioting in St Helier, Jersey: “The event quickly gets out of hand; protesters overwhelm the local police force and burn the town to the ground.”

A Good Day For Cyclists

At the far end of the space, a gigantic mural titled A Good Day For Cyclists shows a hen harrier carrying off a Range Rover, providing a visual protest against persecution of the powerful against the seemingly powerless.

I won’t list all the exhibits here (though the drawings by prisoners, “many of which are former soldiers” merit a mention), so will leave you with my favourite, shown at the top of this post. The mural shows the rise of Victorian artist and socialist William Morris from the waters of Venice to restore the view he so loved – colossus, visionary and champion of the common, everyday people – not all that unlike Jeremy Deller.

English Magic is at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery until 21st September 2014. Find details here.