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My friend Elisabeth Frink – up there with the greatest

By Sophie Ryder

Liz used to drop her son Lin at my house in Richmond on a Friday night to play loud music with my brother up in the attic. They were best friends and both went to Chelsea Art School.

I had a crush on Lin for years but was never allowed into their den as I was seven years younger than my brother. Lin was so good looking and a lot of Liz’s work was based on him. He was an incredibly talented comic strip illustrator as well as a musician.

When my brother died age 23, I was keen to keep in touch with his friends so I asked if I could go and see Lin in Dorset. It became a regular weekend trip and it was such a special time for me.

It was great to see Liz at work in her studio, an artist who was doing what she wanted to do and was so successful. Liz was very unassuming but at the same time had a special aura.

Apart from her obvious striking head of white curly hair, she was very well-spoken but was not a chatty person, she almost came across as shy. Liz chose her words carefully but I think it was just that she liked to observe people more than to talk, I also think that in later life it actually hurt her to speak because of her illness.

One Saturday morning when Liz went to the market to buy food, I stayed behind to clean the AGA which was caked in oil. Liz came back and was thrilled to see her ‘new’ cooker!

She unpacked a beautiful hand-painted, colourful ceramic bowl that she had bought from a local ceramicist – for £80! And then proceeded to pour the fruit from brown paper bags into it.

There was this beautiful handmade bowl, a work of art, which she immediately turned into something useful by filling it with fruit. I was so impressed and thought to myself that I would like to be able to afford to buy beautiful objects one day.

Like me, Liz worked around the clock but family time was precious. She was so close to her husband Alex and son from a previous marriage, Lin. Alex was also an inspiration for Liz, he was a big strong man. He once walked into the kitchen with his dressing gown, picked me up, threw me over his shoulder, took me outside and threw me in the swimming pool. I was never quite sure why!

Liz made very traditional country food, she was a good cook, lots of casseroles and dishes she could put in the AGA and go back to work.

Liz, Lin and I would go for country walks together with our dogs. One of her big dogs and my lurcher had a fight one day and Lin showed me how to separate big dogs from a fight without getting bitten.

Their dog got his ear bitten and I was so embarrassed and worried for years that the next sculpture of the dog would have a chunk missing out of its ear.

When I finished at the Royal Academy of Arts, age 20, (I was just 17 when I started) Liz told me not to bother going back into education for another three years.

She said: “What do you want to go back to school for? You know what you want to do, and you are already doing it. You don’t follow the trends and you don’t do what your tutors tell you to do anyway, so what’s the point?

“You can just find somewhere to work and start your life.”

Liz put me forward for a residency at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park where I worked for three months, I had such a lovely time and was so grateful to her for putting me forward, as I had no idea she was doing so.

One of my biggest regrets was that Liz had planned to take me with her for Sunday lunch with Henry Moore and then he died two weeks before we were due to go.

At the time I was working at the sculpture park residency on a one and a half times life-size horse and so I called it SON OF YORK after Henry Moore who was born in York.

Liz was actually a visiting tutor at the RA schools for the sculpture students but I was on a painting course so she didn’t tutor me.

She must have used the printmaking facilities at the school because one day I found a huge Goggle Head screen print in the skip with a black cross through it and I rolled it up and kept it for years.

After Liz died I had a ceremonial burning of the print as I didn’t want to show it to anyone since it was a reject of hers.

Picture of Elisabeth Frink and Sophie Ryder
Photo © Sophie Ryder : Harry Scott

After Liz’s untimely death I went to stay with Lin and his family. I walked into the studio and it was eerie, the doors were open and blowing in the wind. Otherwise, the studio was exactly as Liz had left it.

I told Lin he should turn it into a museum to celebrate her life. He said people had asked him but he didn’t feel ready. I felt so sorry for him, they were so close, I really felt his sadness.

Recently a mutual client ours asked my advice on the patination of a Frink horse, I was so pleased to be able to give my opinion and to help restore her War Horse back to its former glory.

I remember once hearing a Radio 4 Woman’s Hour interview with Liz and she seemed a bit disappointed that she was overlooked in the new world of sculpture residencies in sculpture parks.

My conclusion for this was that she was an older, commercially successful figurative artist who made traditional bronzes, they probably couldn’t see a way she could work in a more disposable material and also probably thought that she may not be interested given that she was so recognised.

She was often asked to choose people for competitions, shows and residencies and also judge things.

It’s wonderful that she is being recognised now more than ever for the amazing artist she was. Her work is here to stay, she is up there with the greatest.

She was a wonderful strong woman, mother and artist. Such an inspiration.

Sophie Ryder is an artist: www.sophieryder.com

See the exhibition Elisabeth Frink: Fragility and Power at Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal until 29 September 2018. More information at http://www.abbothall.org.uk/elisabethfrink

Image © Sophie Ryder : Harry Scott

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Frink’s work: an unflinching expression of the human condition

By Jo Baring, Director of The Ingram Collection

Dame Elisabeth Frink is one of Britain’s best known artists of the twentieth century, producing over 400 sculptures during the course of her career.

Frink grew up in Suffolk during the Second World War, and famously witnessed bombers fighting in the skies above her, or returning to the base in flames. These images stayed with her, and in her work she explored the close and complex connection between heroism and failure.

One of her central pre-occupations was an investigation into what it means to be human. She asked herself fundamental questions concerning human behaviour.  She said that her concern was “not that mankind is any worse that it was; it is just that it is as bad as it was”.

Frink was drawn to the idea of the male as a flawed and vulnerable hero and, when depicting the human figure, she nearly always chose the male. Her work explored human strength, struggle, aggression, fragility and vulnerability.  She saw her work as an unflinching expression of the human condition. Her art was ambitious – it was not simply to look ‘nice or pretty’.

“Nearly all people have a private world. I escape into my studio and put my fantasies into solid form, into sculptural form. I have an ambition to be a good sculptor. I think one has to be ambitious. I want to be able to give the idea, the crystallisation, the satisfactory sculptural form without it being mere forms which look nice. I want it to have an impact on people who look at it without it being dramatic or melodramatic.”

Elisabeth Frink, Riace III sculpture
Elisabeth Frink, ‘Riace III’, 1986 in Abbot Hall Art Gallery. Courtesy of The Ingram Collection of Modern British Art.

One of the most powerful examples of this ambition is Riace III, lent by the Ingram Collection to Elisabeth Frink: Fragility and Power. Frink was fascinated by the discovery of some fifth-century BC Greek bronze sculptures in the sea off Calabria in Southern Italy in the 1970s and she later saw them on display in Florence. She wanted to make new versions of these sinister warriors, finding their ‘thuggishness’ inspiring: “Thuggishness is a bit of a pre-occupation with me. It all hinges on my humanitarian sentiments…making new versions seemed like a marvellous idea, one that I really wanted to tackle.”

Her modern versions of the Riace Warriors are potent & alert vessels of muscle and sinew. There is also a fundamental ambivalence to the figures – they are clearly about to bust into movement, but which direction? They are also neither obvious forces of ‘good’ or ‘evil’ – rather they are humans, with all the associated complexity of character and motive.

Because Frink worked resolutely in the figurative tradition and stuck to the qualities of bronze when other contemporary sculptors were investigating new materials, such as painted steel and aluminium, she has certainly been critically overlooked in the past.

But there has recently been a long-overdue reappraisal of her work, culminating in a number of recent exhibitions. Fragility and Power at Abbot Hall is an important and timely exploration of a celebrated creative output.

See Elisabeth Frink: Fragility and Power at Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal until 29 September 2018. More information at www.abbothall.org.uk/elisabethfrink 

“When things go well, farming is exceptionally rewarding” – Mary Brough

Farmer Mary Brough stars in the Abbot Hall Art Galley exhibition “Tracing the Landscape: Cumbrian Farm Women”.

Focussing on women who make their mark in the male-dominated world of agriculture, the multi-media exhibition has been created by artist Patricia MacKinnon-Day.

Patricia spent a year with five farm women across Cumbria. Aged between 30 and 80, some have managed farms for generations, others are newer to the sector.

One of the farmers, Mary Brough (pictured below), took time from her busy schedule to speak about her life. And share some fantastic images she’s taken documenting her daily work.

Mary Brough 4
Selfie with her sheep: Mary Brough

What does your farm specialise in?

My farm is Chapel House Farm in Uldale. Sheep farming is my main enterprise. The females are sold to other farms for breeding ewes and the males are sold for meat as hoggets at approximately a year old. We also sell wool but that now only covers the cost of shearing. I also rear dairy heifers for my husband and son’s dairy farm and produce a small amount of beef from cattle used as environmental grazing.

Mary Brough 2
Spring is sprung ©MaryBrough

How does it feel to be a woman farmer?

I don’t think of myself as a woman farmer, just a farmer with strengths and weaknesses like anyone else. Maybe this is because I’ve been doing it a long time and earned the respect of my local colleagues.

Mary Brough 3
Wild winter ©MaryBrough

What’s it like being part of an exhibition?

I found participating in the exhibition interesting as I got to meet other women involved in farming. Farming on an isolated farm involves spending a large amount of time with just sheep and dogs for company.

Mary Brough 1
©MaryBrough

What challenges are there to women farmers in 2018?

I don’t think the challenges I face are any different to men doing the same job. As most of the population is now divorced from the land, a lack of understanding of how food is produced and how the landscape and farming are intertwined, are the biggest problems we face. Also misinformation spread by activist groups is a huge problem.

Mary Brough 5
©MaryBrough

How does summer farming compare to the winter?

Farming is busy year-round and each season has its own jobs. But for me personally the constant battle with the wet and cold in winter and spring are the biggest problems.

What message would you give to young people (and especially girls) becoming farmers?

My type of hill farming is physically and mentally demanding. Anyone starting off should be prepared to work long hours and give it their all. It is a lifestyle not a job.  When things go well it is exceptionally rewarding. I put up with a lot for those special magic moments.

Mary Brough 6
©MaryBrough
Tracing the Landscape: Cumbrian Farm Women, is on at Abbot Hall Art Gallery until closing time on Saturday 9 June 2018.

There’s an app for that! Kaleidoscopic pictures of Blackwell

 

We’re using a free app, KaleidaCam, to play with pattern and symmetry at Blackwell. You can download the app before visiting Blackwell or sign out an ipad at the front desk to create your own kaleidoscopic patterns. The activity is inspired by Di Mainstone’s Time Mirror, a movable sculpture that captures many-mirrored views of the house and landscape. The Time Mirror will be at Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House from 18 May to September 2018 as part of Lakes Ignite 2018.

 

 

The KaleidaCam app has a live camera feature that turns your phone into a kaleidoscope and transforms everyday items into beautiful and complex patterns. Blackwell is full of decorative details that come to life when you look at them through this lens. We hope that visitors will explore Blackwell from floor to ceiling as they hunt for patterns in the stained-glass windows, hand painted tiles, peacock frieze and hand carved woodwork.

This app can also be used in the gardens to create patterns from nature. Blackwell’s architect, Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott brought people closer to nature through organic designs. His tombstone reads ‘Nature I loved, and next to nature art’.

More about the KaleidaCam app:

  • The live camera feature alters what you see on your screen as you are taking a picture. You can also alter images you have already taken.
  • The app has four different kaleidoscopic designs you can choose from.
  • You can touch the screen to zoom in, rotate the angle or increase the lines of symmetry.

 

Download the free app here

Share your images of Blackwell with us on Instagram @BlackwellArtsAndCrafts, Twitter @LakelandArts and Facebook @BlackwellArtsAndCrafts

 

“There’s an intensity to their round-the-clock work” – Patricia MacKinnon-Day on farm women.

Abbot Hall Art Gallery’s exhibition Tracing the Landscape: Cumbrian Farm Women looks at an often invisible workforce.

Women who make their mark in the male-dominated world of agriculture are the focus of the exhibition.

Artist Patricia MacKinnon-Day spent a year with five farm women, interviewing them about their experiences. The resulting exhibition is a multi-media art installation that explores their lives.

Here Patricia answers questions about the exhibition:

Women Farmers 7

What was the inspiration for the project? 

Tracing the Landscape evolved from a previous project in 2013, Rural Voices, working with 12 Cheshire women farmers. The inspiration evolved after discovering the strength and tenacity of women farmers and whose everyday lives were challenging. I was inspired by how they dealt with isolation, poor resources and economic hardship. Working closely with the Cumbrian farm women for a year gave me the opportunity to probe deeper and produce artworks that aimed to make visible their contribution to agriculture.

Why multimedia?

Tracing the Landscape at Abbot Hall Art Gallery consists of five sheds and a soundscape. Each shed shares a narrative, personal portrait that focuses on the infra-ordinary and the minutia of the farm womens’ everyday life (installed within the sheds are a range of ordinary agricultural and domestic materials, film clips with animation, interviews, photographic / print montages.)

I use the word ‘palimpsest’ to describe these sheds presenting an artistic process of excavating and investigating multiple layers of farm women and farms over a significant time-period. The element of time in Tracing the Landscape is crucial: as the materials examine the historical to the contemporary using a process of researching and embedding myself within their worlds.

How did you secure the trust of the women to let you spend time with them?

When I visited the women farmers I arrived without any pre-conceived ideas about the artwork I was going to make, spending hours, days or even months around the farm with the women simply trying to understand how they worked, and all the routine events going on around.

Making empathetic connections to women is central to my practice and helps develop an intimate knowledge and trust. Empathy is key to my research, as learning how it feels to be part of that community and becoming completely embedded as an artist on site is crucial to the success of the artwork. This process of developing understanding over time helps me to access complex meanings within a place, identify special codes, rules and the symbolic meanings of things: semiotic clues as to what is going on.

What was it that surprised you most about the time you spent with them?

As a city dweller I was previously ignorant of the intensity of their round-the-clock workload and of the everyday physical, emotional and economic demands. The biggest shock was to discover that their input has historically been largely unpaid and unrecorded. I was always humbled by their warmth and welcome even in the midst of crisis and during their relentless work schedule.

Hill farming in particular is a tough life and not financially that stable. Were the women committed to farming or was it the only way they felt they could make a living?

That despite the hardships and challenging lifestyle, they are passionate about their work but made clear to me that it wasn’t a job, but a way of life.

You’ve said the role of women in farming is overlooked but couldn’t you argue that, as women and children have always pitched in when there’s work to do, it’s actually one of the more egalitarian industries?

This exhibition offers a discourse to make visible the farmer’s wife who remains one of the most elusive figures in agrarian history. Women and children are always on hand to contribute to the workings of the farm but this labour has been largely unpaid and unrecorded. Although historians have acknowledged their role no attempt has yet been made to scrutinise in detail the whole range of tasks usually undertaken by them and the value attached to this work.

Does the rest of the country and particularly those who live in cities appreciate farmers’ contribution to our food security?

As a city dweller before beginning this research I envied the tranquil pace of rural life without any knowledge and understanding of the reality of farm production. This exhibition brings to the fore the historic, political, psychological, physical, social and personal endeavours of farm women who bring food to our table. The sheds offer to the viewer narratives that examine the diversity and complexity of their work which includes the battle with supermarket over quality and price.

Tracing the Landscape: Cumbrian Farm Women is on at Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, until 9 June 2018.

 

Magical Monet inspires visitors

“An unforgettable experience. I could look at it forever.”

Monet’s Haystacks: Snow Effect has wowed audiences in Kendal since January – but its last day on display is this Saturday (28 April 2018).

Monet blog

The painting, dated 1891, has been on loan from the National Gallery of Scotland. It will return north of the border at the end of the month.

Reaction from visitors to this painting has been remarkable. We’ve been delighted to bring such an important work to Cumbria and the feedback from audiences has been wonderful. 

Our visitors’ book has been full of emotional comments from people who have struck a bond with the painting.

Comments from visitors include: 

  • “My first Monet experience. I live in Kendal. It’s so good to have this on my doorstep.” 
  • “The most amazing experience to view this beautiful painting in my home town. Thank-you so much.”
  • “To be able to appreciate it in such calm surroundings is wonderful. Up close the brushstrokes and colours are so vivid.”
  • “I moved forward and viewed the work from just a few inches away. The painting had me spellbound. After hours sitting with this painting I seem to be even more aware of the shifting pattern of colour and light in the sky. Thank-you Monet.”
  • “Our students were able to view and sketch the Haystacks uninterrupted and value the artwork while assisting their GCSE coursework. Very privileged. Thank-you.”
  • “In the presence of a master. I was quite nervy. But in a good way.”
  • “What a treat to see Monet’s work in such a peaceful setting and with chairs from which you can enjoy the experience.”
  • “I absolutely love art and this experience has made me love art even more.”

More details about Haystacks: Snow Effect: https://www.abbothall.org.uk/exhibitions/claude-monet

Los Angeles, Paris, Kendal – the homes of Haystacks

monet
Claude Monet, Haystacks: Snow Effect © National Galleries of Scotland

Twenty-five works from Monet’s Haystacks series are held at some of the world’s most prestigious art galleries.

In January 2018 Abbot Hall Art Gallery joined the likes of Musée d’Orsay in Paris and the Getty Center in Los Angeles to show off a Monet Haystacks painting.

Monet’s Haystacks: Snow Effect has been on loan to Abbot Hall from National Galleries of Scotland.

Thousands of visitors have enjoyed spending a moment with Monet in our gallery – but time is running out to see this masterpiece. The last day this painting will be on show in Kendal is Saturday 28 April 2018.

The Haystacks series is among Monet’s most notable work. The arrival of Haystacks: Snow Effect in Kendal was a major coup for the region and the very first time a Monet has gone on show in Cumbria.

Monet, the founder of French Impressionism, is the most consistent and prolific practitioner of the movement’s philosophy.

He worked at different times of day and season to capture the affect changing light had on their form.

The largest Haystacks collections are held at the Musée d’Orsay and Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris. The Art Institute of Chicago has six.

Other museums that hold Haystacks paintings include the Getty Center in Los Angeles, the Hill-Stead Museum in Connecticut, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Kunsthaus Zürich, and the Shelburne Museum, Vermont.

The remaining Haystacks paintings are in private collections around the globe.

Monet’s Haystacks: Snow Effect, is on show at Abbot Hall, Kendal until April 28th.

What is haystack exactly? Farmer Maria Benjamin explains.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/264476805″>Farmer Maria marvels about Monet’s Haystacks Snow Effect painting – on display at Abbot Hall until 28 April.</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/lakelandarts”>Lakeland Arts</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>