Wednesday, 21 October 2015



YOU weighs 25 tons and is 14.5 metres long. It was unveiled on King Charles Island in  Trafalgar Square in August. It consists of two identical bronze index fingers pointing towards each other. Whenever I pass through Trafalgar Square I'm bound to find some member of the public bring photographed in the space between. 
 The work is part of Contemporary Mexican Sculpture: The Vision of Four Artists, an exhibition of new large-scale sculptures in volcanic stone, bronze, and resin by the  sculptors Yvonne Domenge (b.1946), Jorge Yazpik (b.1955), Paloma Torres (b. 1960), and José Rivelino (b.1973), who together represent four successive generations of Mexican artists.
Nuestros Silencios

I wrote earlier (Blog 49) about Rivelino's majestic Nuestros Silencios in Victoria Tower Gardens on the banks of the Thames, which has now toured the world. Rivelino has demonstrated again and again how intervention in an urban landscape is a fertile way to engage the public, prompting dialogue with collective memory.  What is real and surreal, tangible and intangible? My first glimpse of YOU made me think of confrontation, of guns, not fingers, perhaps because there are passers by who still carry the memory of the terrible Blitz of central London in the 1940s.

 Public space is always the most sincere, challenging place in which to display an artist’s work...In a world that is self-evidently unequal, YOU calls upon viewers to question their attitude towards the highly significant issue of equality between human beings. Rivelino

Wednesday, 14 October 2015


Redfern Gallery, London

Bestiaries started life as early as the 12th century in England, in the form of detailed depictions in words or pictures of all sorts of animals, real or imaginary. They drew on compilations of even earlier sources and  were never meant to be a scientific text. Humour, accurate observation and imagination combined to make  a heady mix. Improving people’s minds and souls was the aim, particularly 'those who have difficulty comprehending with their ears but will perceive with their eyes'. 

Jackson's contemporary bestiary at the Redfern Gallery is superb. It draws on this religious medieval tradition, a desire to stimulate our connection and appreciation of the world around us. Spider crabs, foxes, coley, grasshoppers, a sperm whale, barn owls, pinkish smudges which suddenly turn into elephant hawk moths, red admirals, a tiger beetle - his work is full of surprises.
Two Cape Lobsters, (mixed media on paper, 65x50cm), above, at first glance might be a beguiling abstract painting. Daddy Long Legs, (oil and collage on canvas, 92x92cm), depicts these frail, ghostly, scary, unpredictable, tiny creatures which seem on the point of falling apart and you wish they would go away and do that somewhere else. In life each one is indistinct and negligible. Here a number have gathered together in an almost military formation. Below Wet Buzzard in the Rain, (mixed media on paper 56 x 60cm), has a haunting soulful beauty of its own.

Wet Buzzard in the Rain
There are landscapes and seascapes too.  The Big Basker, oil on canvas, 122x122cm,  shows a vast  familiar blue grey sea, empty until you spot a tiny black triangle, a fin jabbing its way through the water. I have taken many photographs of Cornish seas - never have I given a thought to the life teeming inside them.

Karl Jackson is 'an ambassador for Survival International and frequently works with Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, WaterAid, Oxfam and Cornwall Wildlife Trust'. In his new book (see below) -  A Kurt Jackson Bestiary (2015) - he has returned to zoology, the subject he studied at Oxford University. He combines  stunning imagery with commentaries, his poems, and an account of his working life. It features a Forward by Lord John Krebs and an introduction by Charlotte Mullins.

Saturday, 10 October 2015


THE JERWOOD SPACE, London 6.10.15

Ink and Embroidery on altered found photograph

Julie Cockburn's embellishment of found paintings and photographs by embroidering, painting and reassembling, delivers the images out of redundancy into a meaningful present." - Jonathan P Watts

I have written about this artist's work before ( Blog 158 BOND), but here it is in the shortlist of 58 artists at this year's Jerwood Drawing Prize Exhibition, the largest and longest running annual open exhibition for drawing in the UK. The drawings selected were those "that had the energy of a personal vision, and showed dedication to the medium”.

Julie Cockburn discovers 'worthless' paraphernalia such as printed paper, books, paintings, photographs and ceramics - possibly physically worn out and so familiar as to be invisible - and transforms them into something crafted, unique, mysterious and challenging. One of her strengths is that she allows the found objects to dictate the piece, rather than using them to force an intellectual or political view on us. Her playful creativity draws us into her journey of labour and creation. She challenges the way we see things and visually digest them.

I have a special relationship with conceptual art because of the late lamented  collagist and illustrator, and chief art critic of the Independent, Tom Lubbock. His writings changed my life.  One of his unforgettable essays was about an electric toaster. though I cannot remember the details except that red velvet was involved. 

This is how a contemporary toaster is described by its special features: defrost, reheat, bagel and cancel controls with LED indicator lights, high lift for removing smaller pieces of toast, variable browning control, variable width bread slots with self centering guides for thick and thin pieces of bread...and so on. Tom Lubbock's esssay was also based on various things you might do with a toaster. It was hilarious, thought-provoking, absurd and unforgettable.  Kevin Jackson, in Lubbock's obituary in the Guardian wrote that the artist "could .... be howlingly funny. His essay about conceptual art, based on various things you might do with a toaster, should be mounted in every modern art gallery as a contribution to public sanity".
I will try to track the essay down and pass it on.