Wednesday, 6 July 2011


Royal Academy Schools Show

 I confess it was not love at first sight when I came across Chimera. So I stayed still and waited. It was the context, the sum total of the room itself which won me over. Walls the colour you see in the sky on the happiest and most perfect of summer days, the floor and the other exhibits  nothing but stark white.  It was fun to be there.

I looked at Chimera more closely. In legend it’s meant many things, including a fire-breathing monster with a lion’s head, a goat’s body and a serpent’s tail. In essence any animal made from two or more species. 

Although such creatures don’t exist we have taken the word over for a very modern purpose: a person who has an implanted heart valve that came from a donor pig is a chimera.  And in the future many of us may be very grateful to biotechnology for mixing human and animal cells or organs, to find new ways of tackling conditions which are at present beyond our reach.
What's this Chimera made of? I thought I’d check. Is it pedigree or mongrel? As I copied the answer laboriously by hand using a pencil and a notebook with  Roy Lichtenstein’s 1963 Whaam! on the cover, someone joined me with a camera the size of a postage stamp. He got what he wanted in a split second, but the answer was the same for both of us: card, wood, Styrofoam, polystyrene, concrete, expanding foam, chicken wire, clear acrylic tube, papier mache, foam coat, white fur, paint, varnish, glue, plaster and milliput(putty). A glorious mixture of traditional materials and some pushy newcomers, one of which I had to look up

Back to the studio and here is just one more example of Vicker's work. Provider has a glass vitrine at the top stuffed with cosy cotton wool balls squashed together so there’s no breathing space. The bowl on the shelf half way down is full of pebbles, painted white of course.  The proportions are perfect. Vickers had created a space I was reluctant to leave. It sounds pretentious but I’ll risk it: it’s as if the air, the space itself is another sculpture.

I also especially liked the work of Nicholas Hatfull and Ha Young Kim (a prize winner in 2010) , and would I’m sure have liked Amy McDonough’s video had it not been placed in a room I took to be a corridor. My mistake. 

John Vickers won one of the British Institution awards in 2010 (as did Ha Young Kim). I don’t know what’s happened this year. › RA Schools -

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