An elegant sufficiency

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Brum with Paulene

Earlier in the week, an email dropped into my inbox with an irresistable invitation - "I'm going to be in Birmingham on Saturday and fancy going to the Art of the Stitch Exhibition - want to come?"

You bet I did.

I met Paulene in New Street Station this morning and we spent a fun day looking at art of all kinds in the warm - no, HOT! - sunshine.

We started as planned, at the City Art Gallery with Art of the Stitch, which kept us occupied until lunchtime. Fascinating to see the trends and what's catching the selection panel's eye this year and all the better to have a like-minded friend to mutter a few thoughts and opinions to! Surprisingly, no wearable art this year with almost all of the exhibits being wall-hung. We found that machine stitched drawing is hot right now (Andrea Cryer's "Kath". Suzanne Gregg's "Vases", Rosie James "Durer Stitching" amongst others), especially with the loose ends dangling. In my (our?) opinion, Shizuko Kimura still had the edge though with her hand stitched sketches executed in the studio ("Studio View. And the cat came too!) Colour was generally subdued and restricted to neutrals (all of the above, plus Ilaria Margutti and Rosalba Pepi's "Mend of Me", Beck Knight's "Drunkard's Path" and Kyoko Nagasawa's "Search for Pouring Down", for example), although there were the exceptions of course (Eleri Mills' "Yr yr ardd" and Zara Merrick's glorious "Queen Berenice's Hair" along with a few others) - those were most noticeable when standing at the far end of the gallery and looking back - could the exhibition hanging panel have done this deliberately to conceal the colour?

Another trend seemed to be that of stitching into a digital image of stitching. It's interesting to see how technological advances create opportunities for artists to explore pathways which open up as a result - and how many similar concepts bubble up at the same time independently of one another.

Just one or two more three dimensional pieces, including one of our favourites, the stunning "Grandmother" by Gintare Pilypaite, gorgeous Ruffs by Jill Flower and the staggering "84 Hours" by Sarah Brown which revealed tenacity beyond belief.

Of course, no photographs, so you'll have to make do with the links and the gorgeous tiles in the lobby.

..and another wall poem. Seems to be quite a trend for those this week.

We headed off towards Brindley Place in search of lunch but were distracted by several large groups of ladies wearing uniforms of some kind - they were heading for the UK Womens Barbershop competition and oh my goodness, some of their uniforms were.....well, striking!

We admired the matching manicures sported by this group and wondered if the Stuart Singers might be tempted by this idea? Jade green nails might be just the thing in Minchinhampton next year!

Lunch was delicious. We sat outside the Ikon Gallery and enjoyed a cool glass of sangria and some tapas nibbles whilst our paella was prepared. The 50 minutes needed for that soon passed since we had plenty to chat about, of course.

A second jug of sangria was called for...

and sadly the paella didn't last long enough to be photographed, but it was delicious!

Inside the gallery, there were exhibitions by J├╝rgen Partenheimer and Ruth Claxton. I didn't quite "get" Partenheimer's work so was glad to have Fine Art student Paulene with me to discuss it with. I was rather more taken by Ruth Claxton's "Lands End" and enjoyed the dynamism of circles and mirrors, especially the last room which contained a huge number of densely packed spirals, circles and mirrors creating a wondrous view of pattern and shape whichever way one looked at it - great energy and flow and a superb installation with which to finish our visit.

On the way downstairs, we got another view of the IKON gallery window, which I thought rather fun.

A walk along the canal, by the Gas Street Basin and a few photos of reflections inspired by Sue's photographs of Clevedon this week.

Through the Mailbox via another gallery and along a busy road ( amongst traffic for the first time today) to get a glimpse of the new Bullring.

I hadn't noticed these bricks in the wall before.

We ended our afternoon in Selfridges, having ogled the dotty exterior first. Inside, we had time for a quick view of Dale's new E-PC too - though they didn't have pink ones there! As always I looked up in slight dismay, for though I love the exterior of the building, I question some aspects of the interior - the ceiling in particular.

Finally, back to New Street Station, across the road, from where our trains were leaving in ten minutes.

Thanks Paulene, for a great day! We must do it again sometime...

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  • Thank YOU Gill! A great day and a wonderful intro to Birmingham for me. (although I was hoping you wouldn't tell everyone about the SECOND jug of sangria!)

    By Blogger Paulene , at 11:47 am  

  • Great description, Gill - one day I really must try and see Art of the Stitch!

    A lot of those places sounded familiar from when I took the kids to Brummy a few months ago. Especially the canal bit.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:58 pm  

  • I came away with mixed feelings about this exhibition. I went with my City & Guilds tutor and colleagues so we couldn't stop talking, as you can imagine!

    There were a couple of pieces that I really was surprised to see in this national exhibition, work that didn't seem to excede the quality of work I've done with young people and I don't readily criticize other artists' work.

    There was work I loved. "Mend 0f Me" was a fabulous example of collaboration between painter and embroiderer.

    Maria Ryan's "Skaland Bedehus" was a great drawing with stitch, I was intrigued by the story she was telling, I loved the expressions on the faces, the hat of feathers. She's a new artist for me, I shall find out more about her.

    Yes, Gintar Pilypate's "Grandmother" was beautiful! We nearly all associate knitting with our grandmothers, and for me it was a very clever way of marrying old with new.

    Sarah Brown's "UK" was very touching, and a history lesson, a reminder of how people have struggled and how far we the human race have come (in some parts of the world, anyway!). I love bookbinding and bookmaking, I wonder if I could work 6am - 8pm for 6 days though!

    An exhibiton worth visiting, and there's always a lot to see in Birmingham. I enjoyed looking at Ruth Claxton's instillation. I'm interested in work which takes the usual and does the unusual with it.

    Yes I went to Make Do and Mend in Stroud last Sunday, Gill. I thought it was a succesful collaborative instillation, showing how many ideas can come form a group of artists working together. I didn't think there was any one piece of a particularly high artistic standard, but I don't think this reflects the artists. I think they achieved what they'd set out to do, it was inventive and interactive.

    I loved Anna King's work in Museum In The Park. I came across her a year or so ago in Pushing the Boudaries at MAC. (I think it was caled that, anyway). You'd be interested in her work if you haven't come across her, she's a bookmaker amongst other things.

    By Blogger lizzie g, at 6:22 pm  

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