Wednesday, 21 August 2013


I saw this work at the Cork Street Open Exhibition, which gives emerging and established artists worldwide a chance to show in central London, and this year raised money for Crisis, a charity for homeless people. 
The exhibition has now ended but there's a link below.

We all know about chairs. Chairs are solace for sore feet: they make a public statement that this is a spot where we belong; they bring friends together; they consecrate space; they wait patiently in rows while we enjoy ourselves watching or listening. Look at this chair. It's angle is tempting, inviting us to lie back and relax. The upholstery may be leather, which cools our skin in summer and warms us in winter. But remember chairs also transport the very young and the very old,  sometimes to places they'd rather not go.

It's a trap. The people who used this seat were passive, waiting for something to be done to them which they probably could feel but not see. Was this a chair  used not so long ago by dentists whose opening question was 'Gas' or 'Cocaine?'
'Is that comfortable?' they  also  asked and the patient lied back 'Yes'. But comfort is neither here or there.  The image carries the double message of the advertisements for chairs which infest old people's magazines and TV programmes: unfold us, enjoy us and wait patiently for death.

The artist writes 'What I hope to find with my camera is the poetry of organic time - places and common objects in transition, still resonant with memory but broken from their former glory and given new meaning'. 

Wednesday, 14 August 2013


CORK STREET OPEN ART EXHIBITION until August 16th, which aims to : 
   * give emerging and established artists worldwide a chance to show in central London
   * raise money for charity,  this year a project led by Crisis, a charity for homeless people

Subterranea 3, Lino cut  21 x 28cm
As I wandered round this large exhibition what drew me back to this work was the consummate skill  with which Rebecca Coleman had transformed a place which I've used several times a week for years. This work manages to be still, precise, sharp, elegant - and yet at the same time it has the beauty of geometry, the thrill of journeying, of being whisked away at speed, of enjoying a liminal space, twixt and between. It does this without colour or fuss or sentiment.

 Subterranea 1, Lino cut  100 x150 mm
  I love the Underground - it's safe, regular, speedy, and for young and old free. Of course things can go wrong but like the good friend it is, you forgive it.

At first I didn't even see the animal in the bottom left hand corner. The artist has a passion for the natural world, rooted in her childhood in the countryside,. She writes 'I recently had a family of rats living in my garden in Walthamstow - one of whom I named Stumpy on account of his injured tail, and who served as my model for this series. I was rather sad when they disappeared a few weeks ago - possibly (I suspect) at the paws of one of the neighbourhood cats, who kindly left me one of their skulls. I am planning to use this in a future work!'

We have a rat's perspective too in Subterranea 1. This work was awarded the Printmaker Prize at the Cork Street Winter Exhibition in 2013 and the  Derwent Award at the Patchings Exhibition in Nottingham 2013


Enemy no 1 Lino cut 21 x 16 cm

Lastly, the artist is interested in entymology. Here we have a ladybird poised on the edge of a web. The outlook is not very hopeful.

Friday, 9 August 2013


Picture: Alex Lentati, London Evening Standard

'I'm really happy with it,' said Wallinger as he removed the sheet on a warm day last March, when White Horse  was installed on the Mall, outside the offices of the British Council. 'I think the location is beautiful and I like the way the sunshine dapples through the trees. The horse holds an important role in the life of this country, and it's nice to celebrate it a stone's throw from Horse Guards.'

Brave words. There should have been  an  unveiling of a  50-metre-tall white horse towering over Kent. Wallinger won the Ebbsfleet Landmark Project in 2009 with his proposal to have a White Horse as big as the Statue of Liberty overlooking Eurostar trains, busy roads and redeveloped land where the North Downs meet the Thames. It's the place where in Saxon mythology Hengist and Horsa arrived in Britain with the white horse as their standard. But the project has been delayed again and again - in the current economic climate it's too expensive.

It's a beautiful work in its own right, like its neighbour Katherina Fritsch's Cock a stone's throw away  in Trafalgar Sqaure (see previous blog). Unlike the statues around and about - in Trafalgar Square for example - it is unmounted, without tackle, with no one standing beside it to subjugate or show it off. Nor does it exist to tell us about history or improve our souls with a moral tale. It is serene and graceful, poised towards the corner of the plinth, as if free to roam.

But it is standing outside the British Council offices, the place where a decision has to be made about the future of the Ebbsfield project. It's a daily reminder of what might have been - and still could. Perhaps it's even a protest. 

And if you want someone who knows how to protest, Mark Wallinger is your man.

State Britain 2007 Installation view at Tate Britain Photo: Sam Drake, Tate Photography © Mark Wallinger
In 2007 he won the Turner prize with State Britain. Over the preceding 5 years a peace protester called Brian Haw had built a construction made from banners, messages from well-wishers and photographs, a traffic-stopper which ran along the south side of Parliament Square across the river from Big Ben.  As in a fairy tale - or a Disney film - it vanished as if someone with a magic wand had lifted up the whole construction. Wallinger, who had taken 800 photographs,  with Haw's help recreated the whole thing and it reappeared to run the length of the  floor of Tate Britain's magnificent Duveen Hall. 

www. Great Works: The White Horse (2013) Life-size by Mark Wallinger - Great Works - Art - The Independent,,1990916,00.html 

Friday, 2 August 2013


Trafalgar Square, formerly a mews, has since the 1800s been a public space used for rallies and demonstrations, concerts  and protests. 
Why is Cock there? Because the Square - as well as having Nelson's Column , stone lions, fountains, the National Gallery and the church of St Martins in the Fields - has four plinths. Three carry statues of  notable men from earlier centuries, but then the money ran out. The fourth plinth remained empty until 1999 when a series of specially commissioned artworks began to occupy the space, each  with a tenure of 18 months. Marc Wallinger's Ecce Homo, a life-sized figure of Christ, hands bound behind his back and wearing a crown of barbed wire, was the first to fill the plinth. In 2005 Marc Quin's marble statue Alison Lappert Pregnant was a powerful torso/bust of an artist who had been born with no arms and shortened legs. Yinka Shonibare's Nelson Ship in a Bottle  2010 (4.7etres long) is a replica of Nelson's flagship Victory.

And now a giant rooster (15.4ft tall) has taken up his perch. The photo can't do justice to his size: he's a mini Trojan horse. I'm sure you could get two or three people inside. His grandiose posturing is said to  mimic the military gentlemen and grandees occupying the other plinths. The brilliant Kleinian blue seems to zing through the air and spin through the grey and whitish buildings of the Square, the azure sky (at the moment) and the pale aqua of the fountain pools. Otherwise the only colours Cock can see from his perch are the red of passing London buses and the multi-coloured moving dots as tourists amble beneath him.

 Some have called Cock  'lively and controversial', others 'a feeble distraction'. I think it's fun, it lifts the spirits, you cannot but smile at the sheer audacity of the creature. 

The German sculptor Katherina Fritsch is no stranger to controversy. I fell in love with her work when she had a big exhibition at Tate Modern in 2001. Her sculptures imprint themselves on the mind, as if they were gestalts of things we have seen and experienced before, touching some of our deepest fears, reminding us of myths and cultural history. But she transforms them through colour and material into something open and mysterious.

One of many works which stay with me is Man and Mouse (1991-2). A life-sized man is lying motionless in bed. The man and his bed are pure white. On top of him sits a monstrous black mouse. ‘Mousi’ is a German term of affection for a woman. Is it a reference to Henry Fuseli’s painting The Nightmare (1781) in which a male incubus squats threateningly on a sleeping woman? This time the roles are reversed. Is it a sly bit of feminist fun-poking? Or is it an ironic image of unrequited love? Perhaps someone pinned down by a stalker? Or a more general reference to the fears which weigh heavily on us in the night?

Though massive and monstrous, the mouse is somehow cute and appealing.The artist writes 'the poor fat heavy mouse is sitting on him, with its little eyes open, wide awake, and could actually crush him to bits but doesn't want to...that is an image of a completely unbalanced relationship in which two persons are missing each other completely. It's a terrible image but I find it funny as well'.

Thee is an illustrated catalogue of the 2001 Tate Modern exhibition with texts by Katharina Fritsch, Iwona Blazwick, Bice Curriger, Edward Allington, and Susanne Bieber.