New display at Blackwell

The below blog post has been written by our Leicester University student placement, Corinna Leenen.


Detail from a skylight window at Blackwell

At first glance they seem like an unlikely trio: Gordon Baldwin’s dark, sculptural vessel, Bodil Manz’s meringue-light, transparent bowls and Lawson Oyekan’s slender and brittle terracotta pieces. The new display ‘Containers of Light and Darkness’ looks at ceramics from a different angle: keeping the art historical context, artist biography and details about the working process to a minimum, the grouping has been arranged to explore the poetic and metaphorical dimensions of the clay form. It is light and darkness, and their aesthetic and metaphorical qualities, which is at the centre of the display, uniting the works of these three artists and their investigations into the clay form of the cylinder, the ‘wounded’ terracotta surface and the vessel.

Light and darkness as a theme connects well with the architectural language of Blackwell’s interiors with its large windows, stained glass and great fireplaces, which Baillie Scott regarded as ‘substitutes for the sun.’

The display materialises impressions of distant places through distinct moods of light and darkness: from the hot Nigerian sun which dries up the clay of Oyekan’s early pieces to the long hours of light and darkness in Denmark where Bodil Manz produces her work, and the grey place of stones in Wales which has been a continuing influence for many of Baldwin’s vessels.

Meeting Emilie Taylor

Emilie Taylor in her studio 

Making our way over the ‘Snake Pass’ to Sheffield, we meet contemporary craft artist Emilie Taylor, who occupies a top-floor space in the Yorkshire Artspace studio. We need some time to find the proper entrance, walking past the large graffiti work by Kid Acne, which spells the sentence ‘You’ll thank me later’ over the car park.

This meeting with Emilie Taylor is a prelude to the future plans of Lakeland Art’s engagement strategy, with aspirations to embrace current thinking and museum practice which promotes art as something that can be socially relevant, enhancing our wellbeing and happiness, and even changing lives.

Emilie Taylor’s work embodies these ideas. As a trained art psychotherapist Emilie has worked with people who use drugs and alcohol, with people experiencing metal health problems, and with people who are homeless, collaboratively producing work which is inspired by and engages with their individual stories, personal fates and experiences.

It takes someone approachable and charismatic to do this kind of work, and Emilie is all that. We meet her in her studio, drop our bags on the sofa so we don’t accidentally knock over any of her work which is spread out over windowsills and tables. There is a small set of soup bowls made for Grizedale Arts on the windowsill, and two large pots on the table near the door, which Emilie points out were too heavy for her to lift out of the kiln single-handedly.

’Soup Run’, 4 of 6 earthenware soup bowls, made for Grizedale Arts, 2011
’Soup Run’, 4 of 6 earthenware soup bowls, made for Grizedale Arts, 2011

Pinned to the wall above are photographs of Verrio’s painted ceiling in Chatsworth house, where she has been artist in residence until a month ago. Emilie is interested in the Renaissance figure grouping, studying and sketching the ceiling as inspiration for her artwork.

The figures currently populating her objects are local youths from the streets, sometimes wearing gilded deer antlers on their heads, for no apparent reason, dressed in hoodies and roaming the streets. Emilie’s work takes her out into those streets, approaching the individuals of the groups she chooses to work with, in their own surroundings, which both fertilises her work and is accommodating for the people she works with, many of which, as Emilie tells us, might not feel comfortable coming into a gallery space.

Kyle and Danny I and II
Kyle and Danny I and II

This blog post has been written by Corinna Leenen, a work placement student from Leicester University.


Hepworth is on the horizon

It’s that exciting part of the year when the gallery gears up for the changeover into our summer exhibition. This year our exhibition is all about Barbara Hepworth and more specifically how she thought, felt and spoke about the landscape. Hepworth was born in Wakefield and the rugged rural landscape etched itself on her subconscious. In her seminal work, The Pictorial Autobiography, Hepworth said “Perhaps what one wants to say is formed in childhood and the rest of one’s life is spent trying to say it.” The Hepworth Wakefield, which opened in 2011, brings the artist back home to the place she often referred to both in her art and her words. It is a must-visit for any Hepworth fan.

However Hepworth is most readily associated with the picturesque St Ives in Cornwall and last summer I was fortunate enough to visit St Ives with Hepworth at the forefront of my mind. It was a beautiful sunny day when I arrived and after the long drive from Cumbria, I was glad to head down to the seaside and take in some fresh air.

Hepworth at St Ives

Posing with Epidauros II, 1961 by Barbara Hepworth in St Ives

You don’t have to be in St Ives long to see why Hepworth decided to stay here. The idyllic seaside town is filled with cobbled streets to explore leading to breath-taking views, not to mention the delicious Cornish pasties you get to enjoy are you wander along. As I watched the wave’s crash against the land I imagined Hepworth seeing the same things and being inspired to create her iconic works. The sculpture I thought about the most was the twisting, swishing shapes of the sculpture most familiar, Oval Form (Trezion), which sits so comfortably outside Abbot Hall.


Men-an-Tol, near Morvah, St Ives

After seeing the beautiful coast I headed up to the hills behind the town. This is not something I had done before, but for anyone visiting the area I would recommend it, perhaps just for peace and quiet after the bustling streets. I visited the ancient standing stones, Men-an-Tol and Chun Quoit, that Hepworth spoke about and even named sculptures after. This experience gave me a greater understanding of how Hepworth saw sculpture in relation to landscape, how in the later years she imagined in rising out of the ground in a mysterious and magical fashion. This is the kind of learning you can’t get in books but so essential to understanding Hepworth.

All these thoughts and feelings have fed into the exhibition at Abbot Hall. It’s just a few weeks away until the sculptures start arriving and all this planning comes to fruition. I hope what I learnt in St Ives shines through in the exhibition and provides our visitors with an interesting interpretation of the works.

Remembering Venice

This year’s Venice Biennale has been packed away, the pavilions have been emptied of their wonderfully creative works of art, the panini stands dismantled and the mammoth ticket queues have subsided and so I’d like to reflect on what was a brilliant biennale. Venice Biennale is a magical event split over two main venues, the Arsenale and the Giardini, with other satellite venues which often drag you in off the street full of intrigue. During my four days there I was introduced to an array of artists and enthralled by their artwork so there is so much I could say but here are just a few of my favourites…

Coming from Lakeland Arts and being privileged enough to live in such a beautiful part of the world, I often look out for artists who tackle what is one of the most familiar subject matters, landscape. To give the theme of landscape a fresh twist can be difficult but the fantastical drawings with an astounding level of detail by Chinese artist Lin Xue captivated me.

Lin Xue, Untitled (detail) 2013

One of the most poignant installations was in the Republic of Serbia’s exhibition, Nothing Between Us, which featured the work of artists Vladimir Perić and Milos Tomic, and was a 3D wallpaper called Mickey Mouse Pattern, 2013. From a distance its ordered layout makes it seem as though you are looking at 2D wallpaper however on closer inspection it becomes evident the items are individual, owned by individuals but telling a collective story. The artist collected these toys over 20 years from flea markets and their collection and presentation is almost monument-like to the people who owned these toys in the 1960s who most likely died in civil war, fled to another country or died in poverty. What was at first childlike and innocent, through a consideration of history, becomes moving and melancholy.

Vladimir Perić, Mickey Mouse Pattern, 2013
Vladimir Perić, Mickey Mouse Pattern, 2013

Finally, one of the most memorable experiences of the Biennale was boarding the bright orange boat, which was the Portuguese pavilion, and discovering the breath-taking working of Joana Vasconcelos. Bearing in mind this was after 6 or 7 hours of looking around the Giardini, with a little bit of art-fatigue, Vasoncelos’ fantastic crocheted and knitted creations both unnerved and excited. Exploring her installation was a perfect finish to the day.

Joana Vasconcelos, Trafaria Praia, 2013
Joana Vasconcelos, Trafaria Praia, 2013

The funding for this visit was provided through the Jonathan Ruffer curatorial grants administered by the Art Fund. I would like to thank all those at the Art Fund for supporting my application and for colleagues at the British Council for their help and advice.