Given that it has been raining cats & dogs for over eighteen hours now there’s plenty of opportunity to get on with the work! So I have at last finished at least one piece to my satisfaction. It derives its title from both the context in which it has been produced (on the waterfront here in Scalloway) and a poem by the late Peter Redgrove entitled On Losing One’s Black Dog. The view from our French Windows reminds me a little of the time when, albeit briefly, I knew Peter as a student at Falmouth where he was, luckily for us, the Complementary Studies tutor. He was very finely attuned to the Cornish environment and spoke eloquently and imaginatively about the ‘Black Dog’ in its several senses, one of which (not the one referred to directly in the poem) concerned the melancholia that descends on all things Cornish in the winter months. After today’s performance here (see photo below) during August one can only imagine what mid-winter brings to the folk here on Shetland!
I returned home yesterday from a jolly trip out with my pal Simon. We had been enjoying a visit to one of our favourite haunts, the Hepworth at Wakefield, and, as usual it didn’t disappoint. One might have thought this venue wouldn’t or even couldn’t change a great deal being dedicated substantially to the work of Barbara Hepworth but full marks to the team there for re-inventing the context in which her work is situated on a regular basis. On this visit Henry Moore inhabits the first of the handsome spaces, small maquettes and early carvings and some very interesting documentation (esp. photos of works long since missing in action) the second before you enter a bigger gallery current given over to the Independent Group. This is topical as well as thoroughly interesting as, of course, Richard Hamilton is an integral part of it – reminding one of his current retrospective at Tate. One of the most fascinating exhibits for me was an extraordinary film shot in 57 I think – sadly by an artist whose name I didn’t recognise (nor write down!) that seemed to presage Gilbert & George’s escapades in the East End fifteen years later – by featuring Paolozzi and Michael Andrews (go figure!) wandering around the East End and being jeered and taunted wherever they roam. On through the huge Hepworth plasters room and into the space where a local artist Albert Wainwright (1898-1943) has been given a mini retrospective. These are in the main rather illustrative works of some charm but of relatively minor importance but, and with a canny use of new digital technology, it is his sketchbooks from the period 1928 to 1937 that are absolutely intriguing. The use of two tablets enables you to not only see some open pages from the books but leaf through them in their entirety. And it is what these documents reveal that is very interesting today…firstly Wainwright was gay at a time when obviously he could never openly declare his sexuality…and secondly he was enthralled by a passion for Germany and all things German…right up until there is a dawning realisation of what Nazism is enviably leading to. The books are full of lively sketches and short anecdotal remarks…and they deserve a wider audience…but full marks to the Hepworth for this one. In the remaining galleries space is given over to a substantial retrospective of the American photographer, Philip-Lorca Di Corcia. This show cemented the view I already had of his work that the really strong body of pictures were those he ‘staged’ in his Streetworks. A lot of the earlier pictures seemed to me at least to reprise ground that a lot of recent American photography has covered and the more recent photographs had that rather deadly ‘Crewdson’ directorial stance that frankly there’s rather too much of about nowadays. The Streetworks though are extremely interesting and intriguing pictures that repay some close study. Across the way from Hepworth proper its worth mentioning The Calder, a space for more experimental work that is proper handsome too and acts as a really strong ‘value-added’ attraction. The current show by Erika Vogt is a melange of sculptural objects interspersed by five video screens running collages of material…it reminded me a little of being at the Whitney Biennial!
So all in all plenty to see and a good lunch too (though I managed to tip half my bottle of Peroni over my companion!) and a call in at Yorkshire Sculpture Park on the way back.
So far so good…but when I got home I felt quite poorly, so much so that I immediately cancelled my teaching session for today…and it’s good I did as this morning I felt in no condition to travel…or to teach. However a good few doses of pills and a day at home resting is doing the business. And every cloud…I have managed to properly start researching for a big project I have in mind for this autumn following on from Deadly Delicious last year. Until I’m sure of it I’m keeping it under wraps (apart from my friend who is already providing some good input whilst we are out and about) but it’s starting to take shape and today has been a goodly part of the process. In addition since lunchtime I’ve had some time to do some more updating of archive material. Three Sales is a part of that ongoing task…something I produced at home at the very start of the summer holiday when I was 17. I’d forgotten about my three experiments with sheet polythene (the other two were significantly smaller pieces) but it is just another of those enquiries that I get started with and then abandon…maybe I’ll pick this one up again…rather in the manner of the Cornish Coastal works…