Home for Christmas

Another exhibition in London, I found advertised in Time Out Magazine, was Home for Christmas. Just one flight of stairs below Trafalgar Square, although it seemed like miles below, is the Crypts of St Martins. Featured in this unique space was Home for Christmas– an exhibition homing on the reality of missing persons. The images and text tell the powerful story of emotions just in one glance. Stood waiting, the families lean against their front doors, their loving family home right behind them, waiting for that someone to come home. The text below prints their name, time and date of disappearance and a photo of their last known appearance.

It really was an emotional heart felt exhibition and showcased the importance of the permanent structure we take for granted as the family home. It reminded me visually of a piece I saw at the Whitworth in Manchester called Semi Detached John and Ethel Landy by Michael Landy. I found the blog post I made about the piece Semi Detached and it has some real strong connections to the work here by James O Jenkins.

Haim Steinbach at The Serpentine

I made the rash decision, whist writing my essay the other week, to book a trip to London! I decided to go and see an artist’s work I was talking about in great depth; Haim Steinbach. Upon further research I found out he had a show on at the Serpentine Gallery, it was too good of an opportunity to miss. So this Sunday I went to see Steinbach’s incredible show. Although it may have been a little too close to my deadline it was undoubtedly a great decision. Maybe even more so at this time, it felt really good to assure myself that this is what I’m really excited about. Haim Steinbach really hit the nail on the head with everything he was saying and it related so well to my practice. For example the first sentence of  his exhibition catalogue read: “Haim Steinbach’s work is defined by his continued investigation into what constitutes art objects and the ways in which they are displayed. Through the collecting and arranging of objects, he taps into a fundamental human practice that is almost ritualised in its universality.”

It was Steinbach’s use of display that really excited me! In my essay I wrote; “it’s been said that Steinbach turned the notion of display on its head”- and he certainly did that. His almost quirky and playful methods of display not only redefined the way in which an art object can be displayed, it became an integral part of the piece- the object and display worked side by side, complimenting one another. Much like in my own work; I hope the wallpapered plinth and the transformed figurine work together as one. The wallpaper I use includes the object, it brings in the narrative of the object and confirms the home and the domestic. This idea is again spoke of in the exhibition guide: “Steinbach often positions his objects within larger architectural installations, which resemble domestic interiors. Several of these historical installations have been reconceived within the exhibition, where sheets of wallpaper sit on studded walls. These walls also guide the viewers’ navigation through the galleries and highlight the architectural qualities of the space.”

What seemed a really crucial piece for both me and indeed the exhibition as a whole, was a new work created specially for this show. In this work Steinbach invited members of the public to lend their salt and pepper shakers to be displayed within his installation. I enjoyed that Steinbach acknowledged that these objects have a story, a place in time- “By transporting objects that hold their own stories into the gallery, Steinbach’s participatory gesture reactivates them within this new context and makes the connection between the private and the public sphere.” The objects I use within my own practice I believe possess an even more telling story than these salt and pepper shakers; they encourage the viewer to search out their secrets an uncover their own narratives.

There is so much more I could say about this exhibition but I will stop here for now, ending with this extract, again from the guide,it perfectly sums up the notions I’m portraying within my practice: “Through juxtaposing these painting, sculptures, artefacts and children’s playthings, Steinbach uncovers alternative meanings inherent in the objects, while subverting traditional notions of display and the value of objects. In presenting these loan salt and pepper shakers, Steinbach also unites the day-to-day habits of the home with the seemingly more conventional museum-based act of collection and display.”

4th Plinth

The plan with these ornaments, as it was before; I want to place them on plinths, placing art works on plinths is a very “fine art” thing do. This was something that was mentioned when getting feedback on my piece; Untitled (Ornamental Figure), again the titling; a very fine art thing to do. I agreed with the majority that generally I don’t like works being Untitled however for this piece they kind of liked it. It’s very fine art way of titling, yet it was almost emphasizing the setting that the piece was in. They said that it was a statement about being made by an artist- for a contemporary art setting. When I began making the work, the use of the plinth was about taking these figures out of their home context yet bringing back somewhat of their original context by using the wallpaper. This is what I intend to bring through in the next series of  plinthed ornaments.

When I began thinking about the plinth some more I remembered the 4th Plinth; situated in London’s Trafalgar square. The plinth was originally intended to hold an equestrian statue of William IV, but remained bare due to insufficient funds. Since 1999, the plinth has become a home to temporary contemporary art works. Contemporary artists are commissioned to make works for the plinth. Some of these artist include Antony GormleyYinka Shonibare and one of my faves Rachel Whiteread! Her piece Monument is pictured above. The newest addition is Katharina Fritsch’s: Hahn/Cock. The big blue cockerel also pictured above. I really like the idea behind the 4th plinth and I think it relates really well with what I’m doing here with my wallpapered plinths.

I found some really interesting articles about it too: This one about Rachel Whiteread: http://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2001/may/27/features.magazine47

and this one about the latest Fritsch’s Hahn/Cock where it says; For Fritsch, colour is what transforms a sculpture from a naturalistic ornament into a symbol. “It evens it out, makes it abstract – like a visual sign, an icon. That is important: my work is always on the borderline between a detailed sculpture and a sign.  http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/jul/24/katharina-fritsch-fourth-plinth-cockerel-sculpture

Barnaby Barford

Was given this fantastic reference yesterday by Andy; one of the lovely technicians at uni. I checked out the artist last night and was amazed by the work. I also realised that I had actually seen one of his works at the Laing Gallery when I went up to Newcastle a couple of years ago.  Barnaby works with ceramics and porcelain figures creating a narrative and addressing contemporary life within that narrative. These works are a great reference to my current works! I’ve picked a few favourite works to show above, I think have a lot of relevance to my work currently, there’s a lot more to look at on his website: http://www.barnabybarford.co.uk/image_gallery/galleries 

Alex Lowery

Trying to get back into it all again today, which is all I seem to do at the moment! I really did enjoy everything arty way back in 1st year. I’ve just been reading through my old note books. I just need to do more, make more, even if it’s rubbish! I also found this artist Alex Lowery who paints “flattened spaces, simplified forms.” Windowless houses basically. I really like these images! They relate to the piece I did in 1st year “Private Viewing” the painting I placed along side the piece I realise is a bit like Rachel Whiteread- a house you can’t see into. I was really concerned with this idea of privacy then. Considering the images of our homes, how they become available on the internet, for all to see, when our house is up for sale.

Show and Listen

During a show and listen a piece is exhibited in a exhibition environment and unlike in a public exhibition where I would generally get next to no feedback, here I am allowed to take a step back from the discussion and listen intently to what my course mates think about the piece; receiving an in depth critic of the work. It is so useful when moving forward with a piece and allows you to see what others think about the work without them having any prior knowledge of what your practice is about.

For this show and listen I wanted to show a more resolved piece and as I said in my previous blog post I wanted to re-work the piece I had exhibited in The Classroom Gallery- My 34 Lillieshall Road. Having already set up the piece before this gave me a chance to re-work the piece with more confidence. In the show and listen I changed the setup to a contemporary home setting. Someone remarked that it was “like a scene from IKEA.” I enjoy the modern reference made here to the furnishings chosen. During the classroom show the furnishings had been a mix of eras which I think suited that space however the contemporary feel here established the correct era I had had my experience with house. One of the tutors posed the most intriguing question for me as she wondered; Why not more? Why not wallpaper etc? This was something I myself had questioned in the setup; whether or not it needed more. She reflected that my choice of furnishings was just enough to help trigger the imagination but not too much so that the viewer’s imagination was controlled. The home setup triggered the imagination but the text itself was where the audience created their story.

One main point that was mentioned during the show and listen that I really kicked myself for not thinking of was tuning the light off in the room and only displaying the work at lamp light! The piece could have been more intimate to the viewer this way! It could have created a cosy atmosphere and even played on the idea that when I visited the house it was dark outside. In the photos you can see that I have experimented with this afterwards. Whether or not this then becomes a little too creepy is another thing.

Something which was a huge concern for the audience was their torment in whether this was fact or fiction. This was something I hadn’t even considered. To me the piece was obviously completely real. I had been to the house; this was my experience there. There was no doubt in my mind. They however kept coming back to the question “Do you think she actually went to the house?” This was something I thought of as a negative, as though I hadn’t quite convinced them, however perhaps this just adds to the mystery, adds to the notion of the private v public. Why would someone want to know so much about one house? In terms of proceeding with the work, people suggested visiting other peoples homes, my experience there, other writers, artists etc. One person commented saying the work could benefit by the work being more personal to me; so visiting homes of my past. To me though there is no interest in either of the two. No one would care about my history in a house more than a history of a famous person’s house. This piece to me was more concerned with the layering of lives in a house, any house; this just being the example of one. This finalized the piece for me. I don’t want to carry on creating similar versions. I want to carry on making work that carries with it the sense of a past of a layering of lives in a home.

There’s No Place Like Home.

28th February- 14th March 2013

The Classroom Gallery is an up and coming art space in Nottingham. A newly established gallery on the 1st floor of Hopkinson. There was an open submission for a response to the exhibition title No Place Like Home. When I saw the exhibition title, I thought- perfect! This exhibition is right up my street! – excuse the pun. My current practice revolves around the home; I ask what it is that makes a house a home? I explore the layering of lives within a home, the lives that have touched those walls and the repetition of memorable moments that have taken place there. I found it hard to chose a piece to select for this exhibition however my newest work My Lilleshall Road lent itself well to the notions of home, in particular the layering of lives within one house.

The piece is something I have blogged about before here; https://rachelfenwick.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/34-lillieshall-road/

My Lillieshall Road is a response to a book I read by Julie Myerson, who herself is from Nottingham; the text of the work explains the book briefly- She tells the stories of all the people who ever lived in the 130 year old house she lives in, in Clapham, London, She re-tells the personal stories which went on there and her voyage to find them. The piece is my experience and my impact on the house, my very short history I now have there. The frames I have used are widely used in most modern homes which emphasizes the time I have had my experience with house and also plays with the notions of home, the use of home furnishings which we use to frame our memories.

When it came to installing the piece into the space it became something more than just the idea in my head. I had been wanting to display this work in an exhibition environment for a while. I wanted to create a home atmosphere/setup around it, I had thought about adding a lamp to highlight the text, as well as play with idea of the home. It was very easy to add extras to the piece surrounded by the vintage furnishings at Hopkinson. I used a vintage corner table to hold the frame of the text, brought a touch lamp from home, then to contrast with the modern lamp, I used a 70’s style lamp shade for it. I had intended the entire piece to reflect the era in which my short history of the house had occurred, however playing around with these furnishings I began to like that the furnishings reflected an array of eras that the house had undergone; a sort of mish mash of fashionable furnishings. I also felt that because the idea had developed from it’s original contemporary plans to a much more quirky intention, that the piece could benefit from including the book itself. Invite the viewer to look at the book, flick through the pages, look at the photographs and see my underlining of notes.

The next move for this piece is to exhibit at Uni in a Show and Listen this Thursday. I am going to see how displaying the piece using modern furnishings affects the audiences perception of the piece.

 

Enter Rachel’s Mind

Really wanted to write because for the first time in ages I’m feeling positive! Mostly because of an uplifting conversation I had with a lady I’d never met before today! Get to that in a minute though. Over the last few days, I’ve been in Bristol with a lot of time to myself. I’ve been watching lots of home programs- one in particular Home Stories- I’ve learnt a lot about gentrification in London (Up and coming areas and the impact this has on house prices) and the consequences this has on the poor. I’ve been thinking a lot about the home and developing ideas that have been sprouting over the last month. Before Bristol I began my get up and go attitude by starting the wallpaper piece I had been going on about doing for months! I found an old piece of wood in the studio, hammered that into the wall in my studio space and began to make that studio space mine. I have brought in my table from home, placed my little ornamental house on it as a mascot and began to feel a bit more settled.

I’ve started the piece, only painted a tester tub of magnolia on there, put started it none the less. I am slightly worried about using this thin mdf wood because for this piece I intend to layer, layer upon layer of wallpaper over one another. I know from past experience that the wood will probably curve under the pressure. Ideally a plaster board would be my best bet- something to improve on. Layering the layers of wallpaper I hope to narrate the past histories of a fictional home. I want to make this piece as authentic as possible, having done a similar thing before I know the mistakes of not thinking everything through. https://rachelfenwick.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/layered-paintings-2/ (Strange to see how similar my wording is a year on from the previous post and I’m still having the same thoughts!)  I want the fake wall to be based on a living room- so only living room styles and the layers need to be in era order. So the fashions of the 70’s for example need to be before the fashion wallpaper of this era. Once the wallpapers have been layered up. I then intend to scrape into the piece to reveal “a hole in the wall” so to speak, revealing the layers of lives that have gone on in this fictional home. This piece is going to be very much an “on going” project. I have placed an ad on free cycle and already collected one free roll and then coming back to the lovely lady I met today- Lynn, I bought a real vintage wallpaper roll from her at Hopkinsons today. It is much harder and more expensive than I first anticipated but I think it will all be worth it! To increase authenticity I also have been thinking about the collection of dirt on the walls, smoke collecting and leaving frame marks- all things I’m thinking about! An interesting piece could be creating these forgotten frame marks. I think it would really emphasize the point of “a time gone by”.

Whilst I’m on a roll here about sharing my ideas. Reading George Perec’s- Life as a User’s Manual. One of his short stories quoted; “Soon the old flat will become a charming pied-a-terre, two recpt. + bedr., all mod. cons., open outlook, quiet. Gaspard Winckler is dead.” Although that might not make a lot of sense not read the whole story however the point here is that this man Gaspard Winckler died and he’d lived in that a house, had memories in that house. Then those memories are striped and the home becomes a sale, just a bunch of words that make the house sell-able. This notion was brought back to me as I spoke to someone really close to me about a relative who has passed away recently. The family have now began to remove his possessions and redecorate the house. It seems so sad to come in a gloss over those memories; wipe them away with a thick layer of magnolia. Just as when someone new moves into a home they want to put their stamp on the place eradicate the previous owners. I want to do a piece in response to this create a room setup only of magnolia furnishings, walls and coverings.

34 Lillieshall Road

Whilst In London I just couldn’t resist paying a visit to the HOME I’d been reading all about in the book I mentioned earlier by Julie Myerson. It seemed an odd thing to do, but I had to see it for myself. I got on the tube to Clapham Common like so many of the past residents of 34 Lillieshall Road would have before me. I Google mapped from the tube and I found it! I found Lillieshall Road! I was so happy to finally see it, the houses where smaller than I had imagined. I walked up the road; it had got to 5 o clock by this time so it had gotten dark, maybe unfortunately. I couldn’t see the house in its full light. As I got nearer to the house I walked down, following the numbers, 12- I’m on the right side of the road then. 32… It must be the next house! There it was, the lights were on, someone was home. Was it the writer? I had no idea but without hesitation I rang the doorbell. (Well I took it all in first, got a few photographs.) I didn’t question myself before I rang the bell though, I just did it. A little boy came running to the door and I could hear his mum say ask who it is first. I explained he didn’t know me. His mum came to the door, all a bit flustered. I was flustered too I apologised for just knocking on her door like this, but I was in London and I had read the book. She knew about the book but explained the writer no longer lived there. I have to say I was a little disappointed that the writer was no longer there. I would have loved to have met her, and I know she would have invited me in no questions asked. As it was, the women who lived there was pleasant enough but explained she was just making tea, well I think she said dinner, so didn’t feel like inviting me in. In a way I didn’t want to go in. I had got my glimpse of the place. I saw that the hallway wasn’t the bright pink that the writer had described in her time at the house. I saw the colourful stripy carpet going up the stairs and the lower level kitchen down at the end of the corridor, which looked modern and white. It was strange because after I rang the bell, I didn’t want to go in. It was this families HOME. Their private place.