Monday 25 January 2016

2015 & Cornelia Parker - Part 2 at St Pancras & the British Library

This is Part 2 of my journey through 2015 with Cornelia Parker ...
One More Time - Cornelia Parker
(Quick recap - I have already admitted that until 2015 I hadn't really come across Cornelia Parker - and then suddenly her work seemed to be everywhere.  Parker (b. 1956) is known for her large scale, often site specific, installations.  She works in a variety of mediums and collaborates with many bodies and institutions. Part 1 dealt with her exhibition at the reopening of The Whitworth, Manchester)

To continue ... in 2015 Cornelia Parker also had work on display in St Pancras Station, London.  Here as part of the Terrace Wires public art programme, where artworks are suspended from the Barlow Shed roof for a period of 6 months, she had "One More Time".  A replica working DENT clock in black and silver was hung 16m in front of the original station clock.  For arriving passengers, the artwork gradually eclipses the original station clock.  The work is meant to promote thoughts on the passage of time, life and mortality.  The clock was made by DENT, who also made the original (& Big Ben).  Hope they find somewhere in the station for it permanently - even if not serving its original artistic purpose - it's a very nice clock!

Magna Carta (An Embroidery) - detail

Then just down the road at the British Library, I found "Magna Carta (An Embroidery)" which at almost 13m long is a hand embroidered replica of the Wikipedia entry of 15 June 2014 for the Magna Carta (its 799 anniversary). Embroidered by 200 people, it was created to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta and acts as a contemporary interpretation.  (In case you don't know - Magna Carta, which means "The Great Charter", is one of the most important documents in history as it established the principle that everyone is subject to the law, even the king, and guarantees the rights of individuals, the right to justice and the right to a fair trial.)

The piece was displayed flat under glass

To create this, Parker captured the Wikipedia entry on 15 June 2014 and printed it out onto cloth (half panama cotton).  It was then divided into 87 sections and dished out to various people to complete.  The bulk of the text was done by Fine Cell Work, a social enterprise who train prisoners in needlework and provide paid employment for the work they do.  The pictures, logos and emblems were completed by members of the Embroiderers' Guild (EG), the Royal School of Needlework and the embroidery company, Hand & Lock.  The Royal School of Needlework then put it all back together again.  At Parker's invitation particular words and phrases were completed by a variety of people from many walks of life for which that aspect of the Charter had some special resonance.

Doreen Lawrence embroidered "justice", "denial" & "delay"
Jarvis Cocker embroidered "Common People"

It's a fantastic piece of work.  Here are just a few highlights.

1225 Magna Carta issued by Henry III stitched by Ann Carrick & Elaine Dunn (EG - North East Region)
Pope Innocent III stitched by Anthea Godfrey (EG - Eastern Region) - it took 450 hours to complete!
You can even see what it looks like underneath
Jurist Edward Coke stitched by Shirley Smith & Zita Szabo (EG - Yorkshire and the Humber Region)
King John signs Magna Carta stitched by Janet Payne (EG - Eastern Region)
Page from a 14th Century manuscript stitched by Jane Drummond (EG - East Midlands Region)

You really need to see it in all its glory to get the full effect.  It is currently travelling around the country.  If it comes your way do go and take a look, it's well worth it!  And here are all the people who helped make it ...

A masterly collaboration! You can watch a YouTube video about it here.

Tuesday 19 January 2016

2015 & Cornelia Parker - Part 1 at The Whitworth

War,Peace (recto) - Hand embroidered by prisoners in HM Prisons

I have to admit that until 2015 I hadn't really come across Cornelia Parker - and then suddenly her work seemed to be everywhere.  Parker (b. 1956) is known for her large scale, often site specific, installations.  She works in a variety of mediums and collaborates with many bodies and institutions.  Here are some highlights from my year of CP. 

The Whitworth

It began with the reopening of The Whitworth in Manchester in February (quick aside - well worth a visit - do go and until the 31 January there is an Art Textiles Exhibition which I would love to go to!).  Cornelia Parker was one of the opening exhibitors.  Here's a taster ...
Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View 1991 - Cornelia Parker

Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View 1991 (detail) - Cornelia Parker

This is a shed and its contents that was blown up by the Army School of Ammunition in Banbury using semtex.  All the pieces were then collected and reassembled with the smallest pieces closest to the light and the largest pieces furthest away.  The title of the piece and the installation itself are an attempt to formalise an explosion in a pseudo-scientific way.  The choice of an explosion came from the constant threat of IRA bombs in London and the violent comic strip imagery of the 1980s and 90s.
Love, Hate (verso) - Hand embroidered by prisoners in HM Prisons

Here words with opposite definitions have been embroidered on the same piece of linen such that you have to read the mirror image of one meaning to get the full picture.

War Room - Perforated paper negatives left over from production of British Legion Remembrance Poppies
War Room (detail) - Perforated paper negatives left over from production of British Legion Remembrance Poppies

The rows of empty spaces in War Room, created from a left over remnant from the 45 million remembrance poppies made each year, echoes the endless symmetry of war graves.  The two layers of paper hung closely together create a double negative effect.
Composition with Horns - Cornelia Parke

Flattened by a 250-ton industrial press the objects appear folded in on themselves giving a new symmetry.

The Distance (A Kiss with String Attached) - Auguste Rodin's The Kiss, a mile of string

The shed is fascinating, the embroideries and War Room thoughtful and the instruments, interesting however I'm not sure that the mile of string couldn't have been better used elsewhere - you may disagree.

Part 2 at St Pancras (One More Time) & the British Library (Magna Carta - An Embroidery) coming soon ...

Monday 11 January 2016

Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy, London

For those of you who missed Ai Weiwei at the RA in London ...
Tree - Ai Weiwei 

In "Tree", sections of dead trees from Southern China are pieced together to make eight artificially constructed trees - a comment on the geographically & culturally diverse peoples brought together to form the state sponsored "One China" to protect China's soverignty.

Grapes - Ai Weiwei

The work "Grapes" is made from 27 Qing Dynasty stools, becoming "a useless object" but still appealling.

Straight - Ai Weiwei
Straight (detail) - Ai Weiwei

On the 12 May 2008 a severe earthquake hit the province of Sichuan in China.  Twenty schools collapsed and 5000+ students lost their lives.  Ai Weiwei and his team set about recording the names of all of those who had died - something the authorities were not willing to reveal.  The schools collapsed as a result of the being badly built.  This was attributed to corrupt local officials sanctioning the use of substandard building materials for personal gain.  After the earthquake Ai Weiwei collected 200 tonnes of the twisted rebar (the steel reinforcing rods from the concrete structures) and had them straightened to their original form at his studio to make "Straight," a memorial and reminder of what had happened and why.
Straight (detail) - Ai Weiwei
Names of all the victims of the schools that collapsed in the Sichuan earthquake
Bicycle Chandelier - Ai Weiwei
Bicycle Chandelier (detail) - Ai Weiwei

The Bicycle Chandelier brings together two elements seen in Ai Weiwei's work - light and bicycles.

Ton of Tea - Ai Weiwei
Ton of Tea (surface detail) - Ai Weiwei

"Ton of Tea" is one of the cubic metre series - objects of the same size but with different properties and textures but each with a Chinese identity.

Free Speech Puzzle - Ai Weiwei

The hand painted porcelain pieces above bearing the slogan "free speech" in Qing Dynasty imperial style form a map of China and highlight the lack of freedom of speech in China.

Fragments - Ai Weiwei

"Fragments" is constructed using architectural salvage from temples and furniture from the Ming & Qing Dynasties. The assemblage forms a map of China and Taiwan when seen from above and its skeletal structure hints at the fragility of the "One China" policy.  The ability of the visitor to walk through the stucture reflects the freedom tourists have to move through China in a way that Chinese citizens do not.
Cao - Ai Weiwei

Cao (detail) - Ai Weiwei

"Cao" is a marble scupture of a pushchair and grass.  It is made from marble from the same quarry as that used in the Forbidden City and Mao's Mausoleum in Tiananmen Square which gives the work a "monumental" quality while still being domestic in scale. Cao means grass but is also used as a swear word.

Only a small section of the exhibition is illustrated here.  It was really interesting and thought provoking - hope you've enjoyed the whistle-stop tour.