The Singing Ringing Tree

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I’d heard of and seen a few photos of the The Singing Ringing Tree (designed by Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu) and was quite enamoured by the idea of this wind powered sculpture up on the moors above Burnley so took a trip over to have a look on the weekend.  It’s described as a Panopticon which is apparently a structure providing a comprehensive view which it certainly does over the town below and across to Pendle Hill, a twist on the panopticon prison design which has a concept of all prison cells being able to seen by one guard in the middle without the prisoners knowing who is being watched.  The tree is part of a series of similar sculptures around the area including the Halo, Atom and Coloufields.

It’s an unusual structure, individual metal tubes, some with slits in allowing the wind to play sounds.  On the day I visited it was just a faint whisper but I can imagine that it would sound pretty eerie when the wind is blowing.  I liked that as you moved around the sculpture it takes on different shapes and conjures images…. an alien spaceship or a metallic ostrich head were two that came to mind and I particularly liked the way that despite all of the individual pipes being straight the way they have been put together reveals some interesting curves.

Overall I rather liked the Singing Ringing Tree and next time I’m over that way will have to take a detour to see the other panopticons.

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The Vanity of Small Differences

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When I first came across Grayson Perry I have to say I was distinctly underwhelmed, I think because it all seemed to be about him and not about the art.  As I result I ignored him for a while but slowly as I started to come across him more, listen to what he was saying and look at his art my mind was totally changed.  In fact I now think that he is not only one of Britain’s best contemporary artists but he is also one of the best commentators on art, he has an engaging quizzical style that enables him to get across concepts and ideas in a very accessible style.  This perhaps culminated in his Bafta award winning documentary series All in the Best Possible Taste in which Grayson visited Sunderland, Tunbridge Wells and the Cotsworlds and created tapestries depicting a story inspired by art history and the different social groups, classes and tastes that he came across during the visit to the very different regions of England.

Since seeing the documentary I’ve always wanted to see the tapestries so was very excited when I heard that they were coming to Leeds and would be installed for a period in Temple Newsam House.  It’s worth mentioning the curation of the exhibition as I think it was a very clever idea to place the tapestries within a stately home as opposed to an art gallery.  The tapestries themselves primarily deal with issues of taste and class and are full of artefacts that reflect this.  Seeing them hanging on the walls (each one in a different room) of the South Wing surrounded by the changing styles and taste of previous centuries gave them a suitable backdrop that could not be recreated in any art gallery.

perry2(The Agony in the Car Park)

The tapestries tell the story of Tim Rakewell and his rise from impoverished working class Sunderland to nouveau riche stately home owner after Tim’s success as an app developer and his sale of his company to Richard Branson and finally his death after crashing his Ferrari showing off to his new trophy wife.  The Story is “The Geek’s Progress” – a headline that appears on the ipad on tapestry 4 and is a nod to William Hogarth’s “A Rakes Progess” which tells the story of Tom Rakewell and his descent from inherited riches to madness, destitution and death.  Grayson’s modern take on Hogarth’s work is brought into focus in the exhibition which enables you to compare the two bodies of work as all 8 of Hogarth’s pictures are reproduced in the room that houses Grayson’s final tapestry.

perry3(Expulsion from Number 8 Eden Close)

Whilst I’d seen pictures of the tapestries and seen the documentary on the inspiration behind them nothing can prepare you for the stunning colours, vividness and detail of seeing them in them up close.  There is so much detail that personally I could look at each one for a considerable period of time, they hold your eye as you take in all that is going on and in looking at them for a prolonged period my brain was totally engaged in thinking about Tim’s progress and what this tells us about Britain today and who we are.

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(The Annunciation of the Virgin Deal)

Artefacts play out strongly across the tapestries, and this again links through to where they exhibited as you pass through rooms full of artefacts of the period before you get to the tapestries.  From the miners lamp, to the cafetiere, the football shirt to the Cath Kidston bag so many assumptions are made on the clothes and artefacts we wear and surround ourselves with.  Technology and how it has changed is also strongly reflected throughout the journey, from the very first tapestry where the baby Tim reaches out his mother’s mobile phone screen, the huge cranes of the declining shipyards to be replaced by call centres, the tablet computers and app development that brought Tim his fortune.

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(The Upper Class at Bay, Or An Endangered Species Brought Down)

In comparison to A Rake’s Progress which dealt with someone’s descent from riches to rags, The Geek’s Progress charts the successful rise from impoverished background to stately home.  As Britain becomes more and more unequal and social mobility less and less achievable Perry is I think asking important questions on what sort of society we want.  On one of the tapestries Jamie Oliver is depicted as the god of social mobility looking down as Tim moves across to the middle classes, however Tim as Grayson did attended a Grammar School and I wonder if Grayson is making comment here that this is now one of the only ways to achieve social mobility.  In the end though both Tim and Tom lie naked and dead each destroyed by their wealth.

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(#Lamentation)

Across these six tapestries Grayson Perry weaves an extraordinary exploration of British social history over the last thirty years encompassing politics, class, taste, social observation, art history, celebrity culture, changing industry, technology and social media.

It does all of this is a very accessible format, my kids came with me and both said how much they’d enjoyed it partly because they could follow and understand it.  The accompanying booklet is really excellent, there is an app that you can also download and this is available on tablets in the exhibition so that you can explore the tapestries in more detail and look up many of the other historical pieces of art from the 15th century that inspired the work.

The exhibition is on till December 7, I’ll definitely be going again.

Iron Tree by Al Weiwei

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I recently went to one of my favourite of all places, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, primarily to have a look at the Al Weiwei exhibition in the newly converted chapel on the site which I had not yet got round to seeing.  Before I went into the chapel I was mesmerised by the copper tree structure outside it which I had no idea was going to be there.

The sculpture of the tree is made up of numerous casts which capture the intricacies of the bark and the structure of the tree in all it’s glory, the texture and detailing are astonishing which is only heightened by the beautiful weathered copper colour.  When I was talking about seeing this piece a friend said that he had often thought that if trees didn’t exist naturally in such abundance we would have examples of them in museums such is their beauty.  Seeing the Iron Tree I couldn’t help think that he was right.

However the beauty was also tinged with darkness, the Iron is bolted together roughly in places and it appears as though the iron has perhaps encased the original tree killing it in the process.  I couldn’t help think of how totalitarian regimes have done exactly that throughout the generations to the fee creative spirits that have existed within them, encasing them in iron and squeezing until life, creativity and freedom of expression are extinguished.  This of course is what is happening to Al Weiwei himself (and countless others in China) placed under virtual house arrest, passport confiscated and finding it harder and harder to communicate with the world outside the iron grip of the Chinese regime.

A beautiful, stunning and thought provoking piece of art that made me think as much about freedom and creativity as it did about natural beauty.  What’s the point of art or is that art is a conversation I have with my kids on and off, sometimes you come across a piece which for me encapsulates the point brilliantly.  The Iron Tree is one of those pieces.

Summer Photo Fun – 2014 – Memory

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So the summer holidays draws to a close and with it our final theme set by the kids of Memory, a lovely theme on which to close as we look back over the last few weeks and hopefully remember the good times we’ve had, days out, laughs, perhaps foreign climates, adventures, family, fun, good food etc.  This has definitely been my experience of the summer holidays and I hope it has been for you as well.  When the final theme was announced someone said how do you photograph a memory, which is of course a good point but at the same time we use photographs to capture our memories all the time and there are many things that remind us of them, whether that memory is one freshly made or from a lifetime ago.  Smells, colours, clothes, jewellery, places, food, everyday objects, things around the house, stuff stuck on the fridge door etc there are constant reminders all around us of our memories and these have been beautifully captured in the collection of images that came in this week.  Of course whilst many memories are shared they are all personal to us individually and this I think was captured beautifully both by the war memorials and the photographs of children, some who have now grown into adults while others are newly born.  I thought this was a lovely way to end this summers series.

I’ve actually put one of my photos at the top this week, I’ve never done that before so I hope you’ll forgive me indulgence.  For me music is an important part of my life and acts as a trigger to so many memories some momentous and important others mundane.  For example whenever I hear The Whole of the Moon by the Waterboys I am transported back to a wet and cold evening standing waiting for a train on London Bridge station !  I’ve been a fervent gig goer for many years even if now it’s only on occasion that I go to see a band as opposed to the several times a week when I was younger.  Ticket stubbs get stuffed in pockets and left on the side somewhere but I ended up sticking lots of them in an envelope, where many still are, but a few years ago I got a picture frame and put a collage of some of them up on my wall.  It might not be to everyone’s taste but each ticket contains a powerful memory.

As always huge thanks to those of you who play along interpreting the kids themes, sending in your photos and making it all so much fun, we really enjoy and appreciate it.  As ever click on the gallery to open it and you can see the photos in full.  Do let us know which ones you liked.  So that’s it for another year, we have done three years of this now and it’s always been great fun.  We will I expect continue to do the other holidays – half term photo fun; christmas photo fun etc and will occasionally just throw in a random weekend photo fun so if you like the idea and want to join in just follow me on twitter (@ianstreet67) which is where the themes get announced.  I’ve also toyed with the idea of doing some sort of exhibition of themes and the whole photofun idea, not sure if I’ll ever get round to that but it could be good fun I think.

Summer Photo Fun – 2014 – Texture

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The kids chose Texture as the penultimate theme of this weeks SummerPhotoFun which was a great theme I thought.  I like it when the themes they choose can be interpreted in so many different ways depending upon how you see the world and texture is a classic sample of that, everything you see or touch has an element of texture to it be it part of the built environment or something natural.  What could me more natural than an animal and the photo of the octopus is surely an amazing example of the variety of textures contained with the animal kingdom.  Texture can also bring out the absolute beauty in the simplest things that we take for granted, brick, slate, wood, plastic, sand, wool, stone and plastic all look amazing when looked at as they are and then of course they change again when constructed into something, the incredible shape and texture of the bullring in Birmingham or the sand sculpture of Einstein for example.  I really enjoyed this weeks theme and as always huge thanks to everyone who contributed.

Click on the gallery to open it and you can see all of the photos individually in full size, there really are some crackers this week.  Apologies if I’ve missed anyone out, if I have just let me know.

 

My Grand Depart

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A bit like Alice in Wonderland, I emerged blinking back into the world wondering if the surrealness and madcap antics of the Grand Depart had been real and reflecting back on one of the most incredible experiences.  When Yorkshire won the right to host the depart I was of course hugely excited but after going to the launch event I was worried that we would mess it up as that was a truly dreadful event.  Fortunately everyone involved clearly bucked their ideas up after that and put on a truly stunning Grand Depart.

Running the Yorkshire Festival in the build up was I think key to creating such a great atmosphere as it got all sorts of creative people and enterprises doing stuff linked to the tour who may otherwise never have got involved. The result was a huge range of art and cultural activities across the region, big and small, high art to utter madcap which helped the region raise a collective eyebrow and take an interest in what was coming over the horizon.  The Festival also, in my view, acted as a catalyst to all sorts of other events as communities got well and truly into the spirit of it all.  The result was that countless individual acts, which on their own would have been meaningless, became part of a huge patchwork quilt of yellow, green and polka dot covering the whole of the county.  A perfect example of this was the knitted yellow jersey put on the Black Prince statue in Leeds that had been knitted by 70, 80 and 90 year olds that you can read the lovely story of here.

Thursday night saw the team presentation.  I did not buy a ticket for this in the arena and was pretty miffed that the organisers had taken this approach instead of the normal free show so I decided to use the money that I would have spent on a ticket for a train fare to London on the Monday.  However there was no real need to go to the presentation as the teams did a presentation ride through the city centre, the huge crowds that lined the route giving a flavour of what to expect of the the next few days.  Some of the riders looked a bit bemused by it all but most were smiling, acknowledging the crowds and interacting, with Ion Izagirre high fiving my daughter as he road past.

I took the Friday and Monday off work, determined to soak up the atmosphere and take in as much as I could and of course to see each of the three stages taking place in the UK.  The sun had been shinning all week prior to the start but there were numerous glances at the forecasts as rain was expected on the weekend (which if it had materialised would have certainly changed the whole vibe of the event).  I mooched about on the Friday, took in the Yorkshire bike show and marvelling at the vast media empire that was swinging into action and loving all the different accents I was starting to hear around town.  It was fun catching up on tweets and glimpses of the teams riding around the area, included the lovely touch by Giant-Shimano who organised a tweet up ride in North Leeds.  It’s amazing how the nature of social media has changed the game enabling me to catch up on all that was going on while supping on a pint of Magic Spanner at a pop up bar in the old police cells.

Saturday I wanted to see the start in Leeds, but even though I knew a lot of people would be coming into town I was still taken aback by the sheer volume of people, the whole city centre was heaving and people were standing 5 deep from about 8.30 in the morning.  I was lucky in that an organisation that I know were based right on the bottom of the Headrow in a perfect spot and so I found myself hanging out of the second floor window ready for the start (see photo at the top).  The crackle of noise that swept down with the riders will live with me for a long time, the riders looked pretty startled I thought by the sheer volume of people and noise that greeted the roll out.

Sunday I’d decided to head out as early as possible on the first train to Mytholmroyd and walk up Cragg Vale (the longest continuous climb in England).  There was again a huge sea of people and another fantastic atmosphere as thousands of people walked and cycled up the hill chatting and smiling with the local residents who were getting set up outside their houses, parties getting started and kids selling drinks, home made buns and loom bands on the roadside.  This time I managed to see the breakaway and of course the peloton sweep through treating the long drag as if it was a flat road.

London beckoned on Monday and it was strange really as after the huge party across Yorkshire I arrived in the capital to no visible sign that the tour was going to be in town.  This time I headed out a little bit and was fortunate to see the two strong breakaway on their last legs before the peloton steam through at full tilt, the sprint trains getting organised.  Quite incredible to see the speed at which they were riding.

After each day I watched the stage on the tele and marvelled at how brilliant it all looked.  There is of course a reason that Yorkshire looked so amazingly green as we get a good chunk of rain up here but the rain held off until London, if fact the sun shone brilliantly across the weekend and Yorkshire came out to party.  My abiding memory was that I’ve never seen so many people with a smile on their face and enjoying themselves.  A truly memorable and magic weekend.

 

Malaga Graffiti

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Graffiti is I completely appreciate a controversial art form (and there will some who will not view it as art but simple vandalism) but for me there has always been a place outside of the organised art spaces for other creativity to break out.  When I was in Malaga recently as well as visiting some fantastic galleries I couldn’t help  but notice, and be blown away, by the graffiti that was all around the area I was staying in.  At first I just noticed the odd piece but then began to realise there was more and more of it.  I loved the piece at the top, an unknown artist painting on a Jackson Pollock.  Look at the pot of paint which contains his Pollock paint, I couldn’t help but smile at this.

I came across skulls, lizards, rats, random bits and pieces, some small and some huge taking up the entire side of buildings.  Lots os the shops that had shutters down in the evening had taken up the graffiti theme and had their business spray painted on the shutters.  Check out the cheeky barber.  After I’d been in the city a couple of days I was walking back to the hotel when I looked up and saw this incredible Raven like bird on the side of a building out of which flew a host of smaller birds flying across the neighbouring wall.  I was completely transfixed by this, totally amazing.  Whilst I’m sure some people will disagree with this, for me this graffiti art added a real flavour to the city and there was some amazing talent on display.

 

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