Sunday, August 28, 2016

Music For Hedges

St. Beuno, Berriew - 3

Today I made a visit to deepest Wales on a spur-of-the-moment response to a Tweet by one of my favourite artists, Brian Eno.
What could this be about?
Well, it turned out that Eno has composed a piece to celebrate 25 years of Andrew Logan's Museum of Sculpture being housed in the tiny Welsh village of Berriew and that it would be premiered there today.

Andrew Logan Museum Of Sculpture - 3

The piece was intended to be performed from hidden speakers around the village whilst the bells in the church were played but an absence of bell-ringers meant that we just heard the music without the live bell accompaniment, which was rather disappointing, even though the short piece - derived from the sounds of the bells themselves - is rather lovely.

Andrew Logan has been a peripheral constant in my life since I first became aware of him in London in the early 1980s with his "Alternative Miss World". Whilst he is definitely a sculptor, I tend to think of him primarily as a jeweller - rather as I do with Alexander Calder - and his large-scale works are as much about 'bejewelling' as any of his actual jewellery and he makes work which is devoid of pretention: it is full of joie-de-vivre, kitchy, campy and, most importantly, full of fun. It is all the stranger then that I discovered this museum by that chance tweet: it has been open for 25 years and neither myself nor Sally Collins - a fellow fan of his work - had heard of it.

Andrew Logan Museum Of Sculpture - 7

The place itself is quite magical, tucked away in rural Wales and housed in converted squash-courts (I'd love to know what idiot thought that a tiny village with a population of around 1300 needed high-tech squash courts!) and literally crammed with Andrew's work: you have to literally squeeze between the exhibits, passing this enormous egg at the entrance:

Andrew Logan Museum Of Sculpture - 9

In view of my own "Walk Like A Man (Sex Crime)" of a few weeks back, I was delighted to see this little shrine to Divine:

Andrew Logan Museum Of Sculpture - 16

And to learn that Andrew Logan and Divine were good friends.

At the back of the museum was the "School of Noise" who were using some very lo-tech equipment to make some great sounds with anyone who showed an interest...

Andrew Logan Museum Of Sculpture - 4

The man himself was very much present, along with kilometres of mylar:

Andrew Logan Museum Of Sculpture - 21

And he signed my copy of his book:

Andrew Logan Museum Of Sculpture - 20

Andrew Logan Museum Of Sculpture - 22

The School of Jewellery has been invited to come and visit, which is brilliant and I was reminded of one of his works which is local to me, the "Pegasus" on a traffic roundabout in darkest Dudley!

Pegasus Scotts Green island

A fascinating, charming and modest man.

Andrew Logan Museum Of Sculpture - 13

I'll leave this section with a short video about the Alternative Miss World Competition:

I've spent most of the week in the workshop, working on my pieces for "Made in the Middle" and have managed to get quite a lot together. I'm really pleased with how these are shaping up and I've been deliberately letting the materials speak for themselves, free from imposed narratives.

Run Of The Mill - WIP -

Interestingly, this move away from the idea of an imposed ('illustrative') narrative had been formalised in an essay I've been asked to write for a book on Narrative Jewellery which my friend Mark Fenn is writing. More on that later.

Run Of The Mill - WIP - 13

In some ways, these pieces are a development of the aesthetic and philosophy shaping the ultra-minimal nut rings which I make:

Nut Ring With Garnet Cabochon - 1

The garden has been busy, as might be expected and harvest time is upon me. Having only started in late February - when I bought the house - there is not so much of a harvest this year, but I'm pleased to have been cropping these wonderful 'Orca beans', which really do look like miniature whales!

Orca Beans

Orca Bean!

More next week!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Holiday Over

Back to work today and straight into preparations for the coming year, both academically - for the new and continuing students - and in terms of my own work.

The holiday was relaxing and fairly uneventful. On the back of my political fury of the last few months, I had been planning to go to Brighton's "Pride" event, something I've shunned since the early 1990s when the event ceased to be political and became no more than a corporate, money-spinning festival of hedonism and as the years have gone by, any whiff of politics has been squeezed out, leaving a crass event which has previously accepted sponsorship from companies encouraging prostitution. Anyway, I thought that this year, I would go along to show some sort of solidarity with those who have fled persecution in their countries, as a kind of mark of solidarity with those who died, were injured or traumatised in Orlando, as a middle-finger gesture to the rising right both here in the UK and in the world generally.

In the end, I didn't go. The website is resolutely politics-free. It is sponsored by a corporate finance company, several drinks manufacturers, a manufacturer of underwear... The whole thing is one enormous fiasco, designed to extract the maximum cash from a minority who have had their life(style) commodified and rendered a lucrative income stream by a clever sleight of social engineering.

While I don't hold with the Anarcho-syndicalist politics of the originators, I was delighted to see this poster a few days later:

Gay Pride Riot

I was not so happy to see that someone had attempted to rip it down, that it had already been ripped down in other parts of town, almost as if people want to airbrush this away from history, as if it is in some way raining on their sybaritic parade.

The holiday was very quiet with, as usual, a lot of time spent in churches. This year's crop included the amazing modernist masterpiece, Coventry Cathedral - which is more like an art-gallery than a church, featuring the very best work by all the main players in late 1950s British art and design - and by far the best thing Basil Spence ever did.

Coventry Cathedral - 9

Coventry Cathedral - 8

The cathedral continues this role as gallery and I was pleased to see that one of my favourite  bands, Mogwai, will be playing there very soon.

I had gone to Coventry to see for myself, the work of one of my heroes of modernism, William Mitchell (of whom I have written perviously, here). His murals for the "Three Tuns" pub in the city centre, which is now a fried-chicken restaurant, are incredible:

Three Tuns Murals - 3

Three Tuns Murals - 2

I'm pleased to report that these are now listed. Coventry is full to bursting of modernism, from the earliest, 1950s styles to the above late-bloom of brutalism.

High Modernism

Ely Cathedral - and Ely itself - present a very different face to the modernist, dynamic, multicultural Coventry. I've wanted to visit Ely Cathedral for years to see the painted ceiling and remarkable octagonal lantern, dating from the 1300s:

In Ely Cathedral - 5

In Ely Cathedral - 8

The cathedral itself is a fantastic mashup of Norman, Ornamented Gothic and Victorian architecture and the detailing of the Lady Chapel is marvellously bizarre:

In Ely Cathedral - 7

There is also a fine painted ceiling in the main nave:

In Ely Cathedral - 1

The other remarkable church we visited was Saint Peter ad Vincula in South Newington which is pleasant enough from the outside:

Saint Peter ad Vincula - 1

Inside, however, is a very different story... Featuring several wonderful Mediaeval wall-paintings, including a "Doom" over the nave:

Saint Peter ad Vincula - 20

Saint Peter ad Vincula - 8

Saint Peter ad Vincula - 10

Well worth a visit.

We also got to East Kent for one of my regular visits to Dungeness and Folkestone, albeit on different days. Dungeness was misty and cold - not my first choice for a visit, but the fog made the place really atmospheric:


Power Station and Lighthouse

Folkestone, on the other hand, was brilliantly sunny and hot and I made one of my usual trips to Cursley & Bond Gallery to see Nicola and Chris. This time, they were exhibiting work by Jimmy Cauty...

Jimmy Cauty - 2

Folkestone is changing all the time. Nothing is static and it is nearly a year since I was last there. Now the old harbour arm has opened up as a place to visit with bars and cafes. I was also there to collect an artwork from Russ, aka. The Dirty Pen.


This owl is to commemorate my move to Birmingham - when I moved here, the place was covered in giant owls, decorated by various local artists and organisations. I'm planning to have it tattooed onto my leg very soon.

Back in Birmingham again and it is on with my work for the Made in the Middle exhibition and preparing for the completion of my collaboration with Jeff Zimmer for the ACJ anniversary show, 20:20 Visions next year.

1694: An Eye For Optical Theory - WIP - 6

This is the computer model for the piece, "1694: An Eye For Optical Theory", of which I wrote last year in this post.  Today I received an exciting parcel from Jeff with his part of the contribution to it:

The recycled spectacle-glass lenses, polished and with a painted and enamelled plate behind.

More soon!