As part of saying 'hello' to the new MA students and 'goodbye' to the finishing MA students UCLan's Art & Design MA students were invited to go on a day trip to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. As I've never been and have always wanted to go there I jumped at the opportunity to join them and it was well worth it. Not only is this park stuffed full of fantastic sculptures, has some interesting indoor exhibition spaces but we had a fantastic warm autumn day with all the tree turning colours. It was a real pity that we were there only for four hours. I am certain that there were many pieces dotted around the place I missed but here are my highlights from the trip:
Tony Cragg: A Rare Category of Objects
It was a real treat to see his sculptures within the context of the landscape and setting of the YSP. Admittedly, I have not really been aware of his work even though he's been around for quite some time. I prefer his tall sculptures that reach into the sky to his more 'earthbound' sculptures such as these two: Elliptical Column (2012) and Points of View (2017) as their references to the human head are less obvious than the ones found in Cragg's Ration Beings family of sculptures.
That said, the sheer size of the piece and volume of distorted faces found in Versus (2011) creates a real impact on there viewer.
I am still not sure what to make of Craig's Outspan (2008) sculpture. It is a real intriguing piece that definitely stands out and engaged us all even though we may have different reactions to it. I don't like its colour nor its finish. It is good to be able to look through the gaps into its inside and see its imperfections there where the yellow colour with which it was sprayed only partially reached. It humanises this sculpture a bit. The intriguing aspect of it is that it is difficult to figure out its planes. I can relate to the swoop and the movement but also find it rather cold and off-putting. Intriguing!
Occasional Geometries at the Longside Gallery
This exhibition was curated by Rana Begum and showed a variety of words which, according to the literature, are "all concerned with line, shape and order...The selection here celebrates the geometry of art and life." I am not totally sure I understood this connection between the works on show nor did many of the exhibits make sense to me. Admittedly, I didn't read the descriptions that along with them. However, I looked at them without any preconception and this way I could find my own way to some of them. I actually really enjoyed some of the pieces especially those which challenged my own of act of perception by playing tricks on me either through movement or means of distortion.
For example, Single Line (1976) by Norman Dilworth totally confuses the senses of what part is foreground and what is background. Looking at it from certain angles messes with your visual perception. Even though you can understand its basic construction I couldn't understand why it had this effect on me. In a way, it makes me question my own visual perception and certainty.
A similar effect has Two Units, One In Grey (1975) by Noel Forster which when seen close up (two photos above) shows an ordered grid made of paintbrush strokes. However, seen from afar the the grid confuses visual perception (even of the camera) and creates a lively surface - not unlike some of the paintings by Bridget Riley.
Brief Alphabet - Triptych (1966) by Richard Smith also played tricks on perception - even though in a much more subtle way. His triptych is three dimensional. However, the clever use of colour and contrast between light and darker shadings give them a sense or hyperrealism, i.e. their 3-dimensionality seems exaggerated. Whereas the two pieces before made me feel very restless this had the opposite affect.
The two last examples from this exhibition are also very calming. Backdrops (2015) by Charlotte Moth appears to very simple, i.e. a mirrored table against a blue patch on a wall. However, the blue print with its white patches seems to extend into the surface of the table. This changes in accordance the the position of the viewer as do the round reflections of light on the wall, which also are mirrored in the table top.
+ and - (1994) by Mona Hatoum is possibly the piece within this exhibition with the most immediate appeal, probably because of its sheer simplicity. The two arms continuously go around in a circle: one creating the lines in sand, the other smoothing them out again.
Sculptures found within the grounds of the YSP
As said, I probably have missed seeing some real gems during my first visit. But I really liked how one would just stumble upon different works by very different artists without being forewarned by the use of large signs or so. It makes for a much more natural encounter with art than in a gallery.
The first ones I cam across was the The Family of Man (1970) by Barbara Hepworth. It is a great collection of sculptures with strong geometric shapes and lovely colours. I like the level of abstraction and despite cold material they are made from or their scale they retain a sense of personality and humanity.
Also made from metal and on a large scale I don't really like these lady-hare figures by Sophie Ryder. Maybe their lack of abstraction or the combination of animal head on human body leaves me with a sense of the uncanny.
So why did this mouse appeal to me? Maybe it was it's setting, which seemed to me as if it was temporarily dumped in the scrapyard close to the Longside gallery and not part of the park's real exhibitions.
These warrior like figures of Black and Blue: The Invisible Man and the Masque of Blackness (2016-17) by Zak Ové instantly drew me in - as it did with nearly everybody else who walked by.
I was hoping to see a sculpture by Niki de Saint Phalle and wasn't disappointed. She's been one of my favourites as I grew up with one of her Nana prints, which my parents owned.
This Buddha (2000) figure displays some of the qualities which appeal to me in her work: bright colours, rounded form, pattern, sensuality and a sense of iconic naivety. This is not my favourite but it was great to see a figure made by her in person. I prefer her dragons, trees and Nanas.
What a great day out and a sad good-bye to this year's graduating MA ceramic students.
(Oh, and so photogenic! Sorry... hi,hi,hi)