has been keeping me from here for very nearly a week… I had hoped to post a considered reflection on the current Ikon Gallery exhibition As Exciting As We Can Make It, Ikon in the 80’s that in a very modest way I made a contribution to but it seems now that the moment has gone. However as a tiny contribution to the celebration the picture above is the only image I have of the major Sean Scully show we mounted in 1980/1 – just a pity that it is so murky. The catalogue for the show has quite a number of my pictures taken at the time and full credit to their team for cleaning them up to make them acceptable for publication! The current show was quite a nostalgic occasion, meeting old friends and colleagues and being re-acquainted with work I hadn’t seen since back then. Some pieces stood up remarkably well – a sculpture by Shelagh Cluett and a beautiful drawing by Ron Haselden flanked by a huge Terry Shave canvas; a lovely Bert Irvin (who turned up at the event still a sprightly 92!): the imposing Dennis Oppenheim piece that dominated the large rear gallery on the top floor. Overall it’s well worth a visit – and I say so not simply because I was a very small cog in the machine from 1977 to 1981.
Paul mails me from Australia to say “have you got a picture of Ron Haselden‘s paper roll machine from his exhibition at the Ikon Gallery in the late 70’s” and of course I have! In fact I’ve four of these…though sadly I’ve none of the drawings that accompanied it – and that were rather beautiful. Ron’s idea – like many good ones – was rather simple…could he make a machine that would make a paper cone (similar to something you might roll by hand) and how far might the scaled up roll project? Of course scaling up isn’t so easy – it’s the paper thickness thats the problem. We used newsprint first and that just didn’t cut the mustard. A heavier cartridge worked better…but still not that well though we had the excitement of the moment of collapse as it faltered and toppled. So then the idea was arrived at to coat the paper as it rolled out with a varnish… In all honesty the enterprise was rather a noble failure (it did project but never in the way you can make a small cone do so in your hand – you can see there was quite a bit of spare gallery space going!). But it was great fun and the image shot down the roll is – to my mind – exceptionally beautiful.
Oddly enough I was reminded of this project only a couple days ago when I saw an article about Anish Kapoor installing a huge show of his in Berlin. It included a new machine that shoots his now trademark red wax across the gallery…a machine that reminded me of Ron’s…
Ron now lives and works in France…and mostly seems to show there. He’s one of our unsung heroes of UK contemporary art in my view…much more worthy of a major celebration at Tate than some of the YBA’s or the latest ‘sensation’ from abroad culled in a lazy stroll around the Venice Biennale or some such!