He Xiangyu at the White Cube

If you knew nothing of Chinese artist He Xiangyu before seeing his work, now showing at the White Cube in Bermondsey, I think it unlikely you would guess that he is just 28. Many artists of that age or indeed younger, have big ideas, but very few manage to realise them on the scale that Xiangyu has achieved. His rise in the contemporary art world has been meteoric; this is his first exhibition in Britain but already he has had solo exhibitions in Beijing, Tokyo, Paris and Bad Ems in Germany and been part of group shows in a host of other countries. The ambition and confidence of his work is stunning; it reminds me of the young Damien Hirst, not so much in what he does, but in the showmanship with which he does it.

Dominating the exhibition in the North Galleries is an enormous leather tank, which gives the impression of having collapsed under its own weight, like a half deflated airbed. It is an extraordinary piece of work; the leather is clearly high quality, luxury Italian, according to the press release, and the stitching and detailing is exquisite. What you cannot appreciate from photographs is the smell; it has that wonderful scent of a top class luggage shop. I wanted a bit of it, the end of the main gun perhaps, as a handbag.

He Xiangyu: Tank Project
He Xiangyu: Tank Project

The amount of sheer graft that has gone into the tank is staggering.  But Xiangyu did not spend hard days in his studio with an industrial sewing machine; instead, he managed to organise a factory of female workers whom he trained and who took two years from 2011 to 2013  to make the work. So he was just 25 when the project started. Hirst incidentally was 26 when he produced the Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living.

I had though initially that the tank might be something to do with the pointlessness of war, possibly a contemporary take on turning swords into ploughshares – turning tanks into luxury leather items. But is seems that the advancement of Western capitalism is an issue which has resonance for He Xiangyu, so here is an element of regret that Western values are being adopted. Those living in Western economies, and luggage manufacturers in particular, might themselves take the view that while trade wars are preferable to real wars, China has no need to  bother with real tanks if it can win economic supremacy with delectable hand baggage.

A further commentary on the effects of Western consumer culture is on show in the Coca Cola Project, though the offering at White Cube can only be described as a taste of the real thing. Xiangyu started the project in 2008. Over the course of a year, he boiled down 127 tons of Coca Cola. That’s a lot of Coke and he was then just 22. He used the resultant black residue in a variety of ways; some he used to make black ink drawings in Song Dynasty style but more dramatically he created huge heaps of the stuff and filled a whole room with it at Sydney’s 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art. At White Cube the black shiny crystalline coal-like substance is set out in three museum display cases, which give the impression they contain something rare and precious.  The residue is presumably at least 90% sugar but it has a very different form; it doesn’t look like the remains of  a manufactured item  but something far more primitive. It is interesting even in such a small  containers but I would have loved to have seen the Sydney display.

The work I found the most intriguing was the more intimate and personal Everything We Create is Not Ourselves.  In a pink room on a pink carpet are a number of small sculptures. Surprisingly it seems, you can enter the room, for it feels like forbidden territory. It turns out that the small objects  lying on the floor are copper casts of sculptures the artist made by trying to replicate the form of his teeth as experienced by his probing tongue.  It was made just last year when Xiangyu was in New York and apparently feeling alienated and lonely.

He Xiangyu: Everything We Create is Not Ourselves
He Xiangyu: Everything We Create is Not Ourselves

 

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I thought these sculptures worked wonderfully well.  It felt very personal; there was almost a sense of trespassing going into the room. Unusually visitors were allowed to touch the teeth, and running your fingers over their surface  gave a real sense of connection with the artist.

In the adjoining room there was another small sculpture with a dental theme. This time displayed by itself in a niche in the wall was a small Chinese pagoda. It could have only been about three or four inches high and had a gold top and base. In the middle,  were four molars; according to the press release they were wisdom teeth belonging to the artist. Now I don’t know why he had them extracted, one hopes for medical rather than artistic  reasons, but I can attest it was not because they were decayed; they appeared a very fine set of wisdom teeth.  They deserved their gold setting. The moral of this, children, is that it is better to boil down 127 tons of Coca Cola than to drink the same amount.

He Xiangyu is showing at the White Cube  Bermondsey until 13 April

Real and imaginary portraits

There is currently a small exhibition of works by Derek Boshier, Imaginary Portraits, in the National Portrait Gallery nestling above this year’s exhibition of photographs shortlisted for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Prize. I was intrigued by this title as following the completion of Sophia in Striped Socks, I want to undertake more portraits myself. I am interested in how modern portraits can be made to have a contemporary feel, how the method of painting can be developed to produce a result which differs from portraits of the past by more than just the depiction of a different face. There is always that underlying question how can painted portraits achieve more, or something different, than can be achieved by the camera.

For those who have seen this year’s photographic showing, it seems like a tall order. Chosen from over 5,000 entrants there are some outstanding portraits there. Anybody who has visited London recently cannot have failed to notice Spencer Murphey’s stunning portrait of jockey Katie Walsh which is this year’s winner and being used to publicise the exhibition.

My personal favourite was of an African choirmaster standing in front of a blackboard, on which the first verse of the hymn Oh God our help in ages past was written.  What makes this photograph so compelling is the wonderful expression that has been captured. The colours too are just extraordinary; the wall behind him has an almost painterly quality.

Challenging Heights School, Ghana.Challenging Heights School, Ghana.

There was a small, yet surprising portrait of the Queen which I felt to be highly original, when I would have thought that the chance of originality had long been exhausted. It had been snapped in a lucky moment when, at a function, she happened to look towards the photographer.

Despite my huge admiration for the works on show, I tend towards the belief, almost in the face of evidence to contrary, that painted portraiture is in some way a higher art form. But the Boshier works were not the portraits to provide ammunition to support this thesis. Unlike the portraits completed by Bob Dylan (see 10 October) these were not as it turned out portraits of imaginary people rather they were of real people in imaginary situations. So we have a series of drawn self-portraits of Boshier in various situations for instance, naked, and with a future US President, also naked, and David Bowie acting as the Elephant Man. These, while quite pleasing, were in no way revolutionary. I have to remind myself that was perhaps too much to expect. They majority were made around 1980, which for many people is a lifetime away. On the other hand I greatly preferred them to the more recent work on show Black Dog (2009): a large painting which depicts a fragmented figure and represents, according to Boshier, ‘a symbol of self-identification.’

Portrait 2

The exhibition was still of interest however and that was in the chance to learn of Boshier’s take on portraiture. Boshier was closely involved in the development of pop art in the 1960s rather than been known for his portraits. Whereas many artists insist from working from life, still others from photographs, Boshier avoided such information.

“it’s very important for me to paint someone when they are not there, to use my imagination otherwise you paint only a physiological likeness.”

Dominant in the exhibition were two oil portraits on canvas, one of David Bowie, again as the elephant man, which is why his face is portrayed as so lopsided, the other of photo realist artist Malcolm Morley. Achieving a likeness away from the subject is no mean feat,  Boshier certainly achieved it in the case of Bowie. Not being familiar with Malcolm Morley’s appearance I looked up photographs and it seemed to be true in his case as well. Despite being a Bowie fan, I did consider Morley’s portrait by far the more interesting, although I was uncertain it achieved what it set out to do. Two faces are superimposed on top of each other supposedly representing the fact that Morley was part polite, part combative. It was hard to discern much difference between the two, perhaps in the slight downward drop of the mouth in the right hand of the picture there could be the hint of the confrontational, though equally it could be a hint of melancholia, yet I felt it worked extremely well as a painting

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The David Bowie painting appears better in a photograph than it does in reality. Both paintings were the same size 30 inches x 24 inches, both painted in oil on canvas and both used the same impasto technique. While this seemed to work with the Morley painting, in the depiction of Bowie possibly because it was painted at a time when Bowie was still young, the shading seemed crude and the colours worked less well. Malcolm Morely would have been nearly 50 at the time; while the impression is perhaps of an older face, the skin texture still seems more appropriate. Also the background of David Bowie seems too complex compared with the image of Bowie himself; possibly the jungle effect was supposed to be associated with elephants, in a kind of art pun but it seemed to me to give more of an impression of Bowie as Tarzan. Of course that is the way with the imaginary – it can lead anywhere.

Paul Klee and the Art of Experimentation

One of the great disadvantages of looking at reproductions of works rather than the original is that, even if you are diligent enough to read a painting’s dimensions, you tend to get no real  impression of size.  This is particularly so when an artist such as Paul Klee, currently subject of a major exhibition at Tate Modern, Making Visible, is popular among the producers of posters. Small wonder when an image is reproduced in six different sizes in order to fill differently sized gaps on bedroom walls that you come to expect the original to be poster sized, although perhaps if I had first seen the Tate’s rather fetching offering of tableware, I might have expected them to be mug-sized.  As it was, Making Visible was the first time I had seen original Klees. I was surprised at the outset how small many of the paintings were and at the same time how despite being small, they were so powerful.

The Tate has assembled over 130 of his works which are intimately hung in 17 rooms making it easy to study them and appreciate the fine draughtsmanship, the intricacy of the works and Klee’s amazing sense of colour. Klee was obsessive in keeping records and numbering his paintings, and in all he created over 9,800 works.  While this does not equal Picasso’s achievement of an estimated lifetime achievement of 50,000 works, it is still a huge number of paintings. It shows he was working consistently and fast. He started his diary and numbering system in 1911 and kept it up until his death in 1940, meaning that over the 29 years of his productive life he was averaging 338 works a year, close on one a day. If the art student can take just one single thing away from this exhibition it is the virtue of keeping working.

So, 130 paintings represent only a tiny fraction of what Klee achieved, but it still seems like a lot. As a number of reviewers have reported, it is too many to study at once and there is a danger of so much richness becoming indigestible. The Tate has assembled his works in chronological order; this allows you to see how the artist developed and how experimentation with colour, materials and form was at the heart of his practice.  It also shows how varied his practice was at any one time. At the same pont that he was producing exquisite abstract watercolours, in other paintings he could also be incorporating representational elements. He could be working on cardboard, on board, on burlap – quite possibly on anything that happened to be at hand.

The early works are mainly etchings and satirical drawings, he applied unsuccessfully to be a cartoonist on the satirical magazine Simplicissimus in 1906. It is interesting to see the effect of circumstance on his work. The early works are small by necessity as he was working without a studio and therefore had the inconvenience of being forced to paint in the living room or kitchen. Over time we see his paintings gradually grow in size until the year before his death and suffering from illness, they became quiet large.

Extraordinarily, seeing that colour was to become so important in his work it was absent until 1910. And even then in a fairly subdued way.  But the playfulness that characterises so much of his work is present from the outset. It was in 1902 when he was 23 that he returned to Bern to live with his parents and discovered some of his childhood drawings in his parents’ attic, he described them to sculptor Lily Stumf who was to become his wife as “the most important thing” he had done up to that point. This element of childlike wonder continues to be a major influence.

It can be quite clearly seen in works such as a Young Lady’s Adventure, created twenty years’ later in 1922. This is a somewhat strange work. The young lady’s face has a cartoonlike quality. Whilst predominantly in profile, there is the suggestion of a second eye or possibly ear. Her body is oddly proportioned with a wasp waist and just the merest suggestion of feet. In the background the shapes can resemble fish, or birds. While some have considered that the work was a portrayal of a fashionable lady, the more common interpretation is that it is erotic and the adventure she was seeking was sexual; the arrow is thought to be phallic. It is possible that it does not have this connotation, in Bauhaus where Klee taught, the work was known as the English Miss. Red arrows feature in a number of his other works apparently without phallic intent.

A Young Lady's Adventure 1922 by Paul Klee 1879-1940 

Ghost of a Genius completed a year later when he was 43, is similarly playful. The painting is thought to be a self-portrait and is clearly slightly self-mocking. It was produced by an interesting copying  technique which he developed, a bit like carbon paper, by which he painted black oil paint on the underside of a drawing and then used a stylus to transfer some of it onto board  or canvas. The black marks in the painting show where his hand rested.

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Fish Magic completed in 1925 is also fundamentally a light-hearted work but here the richness of the colour is what makes the painting so arresting.

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This importance of colour really started in April 1914 when just four months before the outbreak of war he spent time in Tunisia and was deeply struck by the colours of the landscapes.

He wrote in his diary “colour possesses me. I don’t have to pursue it. It will possess me always I know it…. I am a painter.” The exhibition shows the way that Klee used different permutations of colour in different works, experimenting day by day, sometimes with pure abstracts, sometimes more figuratively but always achieving a richness which is immensely enjoyable. What I find particularly interesting is the way that Klee never settled on one style. He was constantly changing his approach and yet all his works undoubtedly bear his touch so that we can recognise them as his. We know from his numbering system which order he painted them and so we see Static Dynamic Gradation a work which is pure abstract painted immediately before Assyrian Game.

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Whilst many of Klee’s works are light, enjoyable and perhaps warrant that dread term decorative, there was a darker side. Klee was drafted into the army but benefited from Germany’s unofficial policy of keeping successful creative people away from the front line. With friends not so similarly lucky, the tensions become visible in his art. Organisation is one of the painting that comes from this time. There is the playfulness that we associate with Klee, but the zigzag lines, the staring eyes and the partial heads, surely allude to the horrors of war.

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Worse was to come. While Klee had emerged from the First World War with an enhanced reputation, with the rise of Hitler,  he became subject to Nationalist Socialist attacks and was condemned as degenerate; he and his wife Lily decided to take refuge in Bern. It was personal ill-health rather than injury which was to cause him the most suffering. He was diagnosed with Schleroderma, an auto immune disease which causes thickening of the skin and which in extreme cases, of which he was one, can also affect internal organs.

Over the years Klee’s paintings had gradually been growing in size, perhaps reflecting better studio space, more funds to buy paint and materials, perhaps growing artistic confidence. Schleroderma brought a step change in scale. With his hands too stiff to undertake the small, intricate paintings of his youth, Klee took to working large-scale, using canvas and oils rather than paper and watercolours, the works became bolder, though as can be seen in this detail of one of his most iconic works Rich Harbour, many of the motifs which had been seen in his work of earlier years remained.  Klee died in June 1940  from heart failure associated with the disease.  In the final year of his life he produced 1300 works.

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It is perhaps one of the most impressive things about Klee – his sheer determination to keep experimenting right to the end so that the freshness remains.

Ana Mendieta at the Hayward

The power of repetition is a well-known phenomenon in art; just think of  Antony Gormley’s casts of himself, Warhol’s screen prints of Mao,  the works of Eva Hesse, or even Carl Andre’s Equivalent VIII. A single brick would hardly have had the same impact.

With Ana Mendieta’s works, now showing at the Hayward Gallery, the power of repetition acts in a different way.  Mendieta, who was born in Havana in 1948, moved to America in 1967 where she studied painting at the University of Iowa before going on to study mixed media and performance in the Intermedia Department of the university. There she became diligent in documenting her work, a habit to which she adhered for the rest of her life. Across the hundreds of photographs, films of her performances, prints and sculptures, many of which are on show at the Hayward, the same kind of themes and images keep appearing and the effect collectively is progressively to draw you into her strange,  ritualistic, magical, disturbing world.

The exhibition begins with her early work; photographs of her naked body distorted by the way that she pressed a sheet of glass against herself. Mendieta was of course a student at this stage but this seemed to me very much student stuff. I remember photographer and artist Andy Moran telling me, perhaps in a less than politically correct way; ” in every year there is a fat girl, who ties pieces of string around her thighs and photographs that; it is supposed to be a statement about society’s views on obesity.”

ana mendieta glass

In 1973 shocked by the brutal murder of a student nurse  she set out to draw attention to violence against women. The reconstruction of the murder scene in Rape Scene, in which she created a tableau of the crime in her own apartment using her own body, I found  distasteful and, in a way, almost exploitative. While her intention  was  to heighten awareness of the problem, I wondered how the victim’s family would have felt about the way that their daughter’s death was appropriated to become an artistic statement. Similarly, I felt there was a gratuitous grotesqueness about Chicken Piece in which a dying cockerel sprayed her naked body with blood .

These misgivings gave way to admiration when Mendieta moved on to use her body in more symbolic ways.  Body Tracks is a simple concept in which she dipped her arms in blood and then slowly sank to the floor leaving the red stains on the walls or on paper. The images themselves, though created in  a matter of minutes,  are powerful and in a way beautiful.

Ana_Mendieta,_Body_Tracks_(Rastros_Corporales),_1982,_blood_and_t Her obsession with blood continued with portraits of herself  as though the victim of violent assault but I found myself really engaged when she started  on her land work pieces, the Siluetas, in which, like Gormley, she used the shape of her own body.Whereas Gormley produced a solid enduring image of himself, with many of Mendieta’s  works the  body itself is absent; it is outlined in water, by mud,  or in grass; the impressions can be  created by fire and  fireworks. The work itself would have been fragile and transitory, so reflecting life. Any single one of these photographs would have been interesting but the accumulation, suggesting ritual, magic and obsession is fascinating.

Ana-Mendieta_fire

 The hollows and mounds she created cannot help but remind you of graves, but you are also conscious of her vibrancy; she herself while recognising the importance of death also saw her work as life affirming, “through my art,” she wrote, ” I want to express the immediacy of life and the eternity of nature.”

A recurring theme  among her works is a simplified female figures which she created over and over again, on bark, on mud, on leaves,  once again referring to birth and death.

Although the majority of Mendeita’s works were made outside, they differ greatly from the land art of artists such as Richard Long; they are far more personal and introverted; they are often small-scale giving the impression that she created them primarily for herself.

By 1984 Mendeita was changing direction making works in the studio from wood, often carved by the use of gunpowder to create powerful totem-like sculptures.

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Where her work would have developed from here we will not know. In 1985 she fell from the 34th floor of her Manhattan apartment which she shared with her husband Carl Andre. Andre was tried but acquitted of her murder. Her friends said at the time that suicide would have been impossible; her career was just taking off. Strangely the Hayward provides no information about the circumstances of her death. Clearly,  they want visitors to focus on what she achieved, rather than speculate about how she died. Even so, that knowledge gives an almost unbearable poignancy to some of her early work, which appears strangely prescient. Mendieta is already well-known among  aficionados of performance art.  This major exhibition must have the effect of bringing her work to a wider public. Maybe it marks the beginning of a process that will see her name as well recognised as that of Andre who still survives her.

Traces is showing at the Hayward Gallery until December 15 2013

It’s Just About Over Now, Baby Blue

Earnest Hemingway once said, “as you get older, it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary.” I agree with the first bit and am fortunately not so sure about the second. Three years ago, at the Hop Farm in Kent, one of my sometime heroes, Bob Dylan, rather spectacularly dropped off the plinth on which I had placed him. I had been really excited with the prospect of seeing him live and suddenly there he was croaking away on the stage; or I assumed it was him; the songs that I had loved when I was a  student first time round were unrecognisable. He himself was unrecognisable because he did not allow any camera to show a close-up, so all one could see on the big screens was that there was someone there, somebody playing a guitar and making a noise.

In the interests of objectivity I will report that the reviews of Dylan at the Hop Farm were mixed; some people apparently liked it.  As you can tell, I did not and I was not alone; unreported in the reviews was the fact that quite a few people left early. You can see why; he didn’t talk to the audience at all; he gave every impression of being miserable so that one wondered why he was doing it. Challenge the audience, yes but give them something of what they want. Compared with Ray Davies of the same vintage and at the same venue who sang songs we all recognised and  seemed to be having a wonderful time, Dylan’s performance seemed mean-spirited. It wasn’t his age;  I saw Leonard Cohen when he was 75 and he managed to enchant an audience with his exuberance and charm despite the driving rain.

I tell this story to explain why I somewhat half heartedly went to look at Face Value, a collection of his drawings now showing in the National Portrait Gallery. I wouldn’t have made a special journey to do so, but, as the Gallery is near Charing Cross where I get my train to Hastings, I thought I would take a look. It is fair to say they were not bad. I mean that in the literal sense rather than that they were quite good.

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There are twelve portraits in all; each has a made up name such as Red Flanagan or Skip Sharpe and the first thing that strikes you is how remarkably similar they are. They are all the same size; they have the same sort of swirly smudged backgrounds, are broadly the same colour – tones of grey with the addition of some earth colours. There are three women among the twelve but oddly their faces do not stand out from the others. All the works are drawn full face. As, unlike most pictures in the National Portrait Gallery, they are not of specific people but of more generic types it is not surprising that the features particularly the eyes have the same intensity. Of course because they are imaginary, they reflect more about Dylan than they might if they were trying to portray the essence of some particular individual.  They are quite crudely drawn; members of most A level groups could do as well. Despite that, there is certainly an energy to them. The effect of the twelve faces around the wall was a striking demonstration of the power of repetition. If I hadn’t been to the Hop Farm concert I might have said stick with the evening job; actually I think – stick with the art. Leave the music alone and let us remember it as it used to be.

Sophia Writing in Striped Socks

It was Paul Valery who  wrote “a poem is never finished only abandoned” except of course that he didn’t write that at all, for the very good reason he was French and he also liked to write things longer and more flowerily.* But Auden said that he said it, and agreed with him that it was right, and put it in the forward of his Collected Shorter Poems in 1966 and helped make it famous.  Picasso said the same thing about painting, possibly quoting Valery or possibly Leonardo de Vinci, who might have said it in the first place.  As I was fussing about her portrait and fiddling with it and wondering whether to stop, my daughter quoted it to me, though she couldn’t remember where it came from, which as it turns out was hardly surprising.

So I think, if not finished, it is abandoned, at least for the moment – and that is something of  a relief to both of us. She was getting fed up with my staring at her whenever she adopted this pose, which is quite a lot of the time. Sophia is a writer, her Romanitas trilogy is published by Gollanz and Mars Evacuees will be published by Egmont in February – read it; it is brilliant. Whereas many people when they write, including me, are in a hurry to get down words, and then spend ages changing them, she writes slowly and spends more time looking at the screen of her laptop than actually tapping away at the keys. When she is thinking, she nearly always has her hand to her chin; she didn’t know that until I painted her.

She also found it a bit disconcerting to find me staring at bits of her – “you wouldn’t like it either,” she said and demonstrated. She was right I didn’t. All the same, now that I have stopped, she says she likes the painting.

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I am relieved to stop because it had come to the point where I cannot change the things that I feel are wrong without basically starting again. That is the best reason I can think of to call it finished or abandoned.

What I like about this painting is that it undoubtedly looks like my daughter; it is a most characteristic pose. I think I have captured the concentration that she shows when writing. I also rather like the way that whilst a woman lying on a couch has been depicted by artists across the centuries, she is clearly a modern woman and lying in  a quite unclassical way. I am not going to tell you what I don’t like about it: who knows, you might not notice the faults.

As a result of the work, I have also got to know this painting by Mary Cassat; Mrs Duffee reading on a striped sofa. My painting was not inspired by it; I found it after I had started, when I did an internet search on paintings of striped sofas as I wanted to see how other artists had handled stripes. The answer is you get on and paint them.  It is interesting that she, like me, was interested in the different stripes; she has Mrs Duffee sitting in a delicately striped dress; whereas I have Sophia in her striped socks.

mrs duffee

Her painting was done in 1876 and it is quite possible that our sofa dates from the same time; it was bought by my mother-in-law at an auction back in the early 1950s but it was already old by then. Certainly there are similarities. It is interesting to look at it and to think of the different  people who must have sat on it. If both it and the painting survive another hundred years or so, will the clothes my daughter is wearing look as alien to their time as Mrs Dufee’s do to ours? Will the cord on her laptop  seem as old technology as the sight of Mrs Duffee struggling to read by lamp, or even candlelight, seem to us?

*Un poème n’est jamais achevé — c’est toujours un accident qui le termine, c’est-à-dire qui le donne au public. Ce sont la lassitude, la demande de l’éditeur,— la poussée d’un autre poème.

 

Boxed in at the Linchpin Gallery

The Linchpin Gallery in Eastbourne is continuing to prove itself adventurous: whilst many small seaside galleries concentrate on the purely commercial,  the Lynchpin tucked away in a mews off the Willowfield Road has a more experimental side. Established by Irene Runayker in December 2011  the gallery shows established artists in the upstairs room  but uses the ground floor for a variety of changing exhibitions. Currently showing is work by 9 artists, all of whom have created works which in some way are linked to boxes. Although I am one of the artists included, I was surprised to discover that so many people were working with boxes but then, perhaps it is not surprising; boxes  do have the inherent advantage that they provide  a natural constraint forcing the artist and the viewer to concentrate on the contents. Then there is the  sense of mystery; it started with Pandora and has even included audiences of some television quiz, the name of which I have mercifully forgotten; everybody wants to see what is in the box.

The works are extremely different. Among the work there, I particularly liked Cat Ingrams’ Sketch Box. If you ignore the reflection of me photographing it, you can just make out that the dimensions of the door are written on the to wall above it.

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Sketchbox by Cat Ingrams

Joyce Corbett’s assemblages took a variety of throw away objects, bottle tops,  can-pulls and rearranged them to create something different and deceptively simple.

Assemblage: Joyce Corbett
Assemblage: Joyce Corbett

Elizabeth Claridge’s  Fetish Objects have a decided sexual symbolism.

Fetish Objects by Elizabeth Claridge
Fetish Objects: Elizabeth Claridge

I also liked Paul Bartholomew’s series  A Flowering which reminded me of Moorish tiles, but also of a logic puzzle

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A Flowering: Paul Bartholomew

Of course I have to show you my work:  Suitcase. The case belonged to my father; I remember it being used when I was a child. The contents which are painted red (I don’t need to explain the symbolism) come from a variety of sources; my daughter was not too thrilled to find that a pair of her shoes had become part of it.

A suitcase is open showing the possessions inside which are all painted red
Suitcase: Sue McDougall

Sadly one of the most interesting of the works by Julia Mitchell had melted by the time I got to the exhibition. Photographed here reflected in the window it comprised three blocks of ice.  Jules explained “The  base level contained a letter my grandmother wrote to me when she was dying. The middle block shown contained photos of people that were mentioned in the letter. The blocks also contained lavender, something of which she always smelt and which in turn made the ice  smell lovely. It was an auto-destruct memorial of which the viewer could only see  a part,  as most of the photos were not seen until it melted. The photos were strewn in the car park it was like finding discarded treasures.”

A stack of three ice blocks reflected in the window of the Lynchpin Gallery in Eastbourne
Memorial: Julia Mitchell

Art in Boxes is showing at the Linchpin Gallery 67a Willowfield Road, Eastbourne BN228AP  until September 20. The Gallery is open Wednesday to Saturday from 10.30 to 3.30.