Still time to see the Degree and Diploma Exhibition at Sussex Coast College

The Degree and Diploma Exhibition at Sussex Coast College finishes tomorrow. Come along. I will be invigilating between 4.00 and 6.00 today; it would be nice to meet you. We are on the 4th and 5th floor.  Sadly it is unlikely that you will be able to see Julia Mitchell’s  ice sculpture. It was doing fine on Friday, the night of the private view, but even though it must be one of the coldest June on record, not cold enough to keep it from melting.

Julia Mitchell: ice sculpture
Julia Mitchell: ice sculpture

This work was extraordinary because of the way it changed before your eyes. Opaque to begin with, as the melting process started you could see further and further into the ice cubes and see the memorial that she had set inside. I have written about performance art; this was an artwork that did its own performing.

But there is plenty more to see. I particularly like Adam Gibrelli’s drawings.

Adam Gibrelli: drawings
Adam Gibrelli: drawings

We have been blessed with two Adams on the course. I also liked the work by the other Adam,  Adam Fairbrother, a self-portrait.

Adam Fairbrother: self portrait
Adam Fairbrother: self-portrait

Katy Oxborrow’s painting on perspex is interesting in the way that it projects light on to the surrounding walls.

Katy Oxborrow: painting on perspex
Katy Oxborrow: painting on perspex

I really liked Alex Mills’ take on Grimm’s fairy tales; it would be nice to see more of them.

Alex Mills: Little Red Riding Hood
Alex Mills: Little Red Riding Hood

Among the craft students, I was impressed by Phillippa Haines’ strange manikins.

Phillips Haines:7 figures
Phillips Haines: 7 figures

and the glass sculptures by Isabelle Moriaty.

Isabelle Moriarty: glass sculptures
Isabelle Moriarty: glass sculptures

You might also have a look at my work,  shown here is the inside of Orifice 3; there is more about that in the last post.

Sue McDougall: Orifice 3 detail
Sue McDougall: Orifice 3 detail

The Degree and Diploma Exhibition is open to the public between 10.00 and 6.00  on Monday 24 and Tuesday 25 June at Station Plaza Hastings

Degree show at K College

At a time when those of us at Sussex Coast College are preparing our final exhibition work for the FDA Fine Art (Contemporary Practice) degree show, it is interesting to see what other students are up to. On Friday I visited the FDA Fine Art Degree Show at K College, part of the University of Kent. When you have been working with people for two years you know a lot about them and about their work. Visiting the University of Kent show, there was none of that. All you knew was what you saw and the brief artist statements provided in the programme. I wondered whether I would have viewed the work differently had I known the artists personally. For me three artists really stood out.

I was extremely impressed by the photography and imagery in Maeve Buckenham’s strange and enigmatic films, though they were hard to follow. I liked the way she showed different images simultaneously and by her kaleidoscope effects and by the music and narration and yet I had very little understanding of what the films were about. Reading about them in the booklet accompanying the show, I see that they investigate Jacques Lacan’s split subject and the mirror stage theories whereby a child first perceives him or herself as individual subject. All this  is somewhat indigestible stuff; even so they were fascinating to watch – for a time.

A split scene showing the face and the back of a girl in the film by Maeve Buckenham
Split screen in Maeve Buckenham’s film
A split screen effect showing the same girl across the double screen
A scene from Maeve Buckenam’s film

Very different and far more accessible were Kate Linforth’s highly decorative pieces. Linforth’s practice appears to be at the border between fine art and craft. She uses wax to create both works that can be hung on the wall as in the picture below as well as highly desirable  bowls and organic looking objects which have a translucency.  One of these had been cast into bronze which, she showed me made a satisfying noise if you stroked the little finger like protuberances at its centre.

A red painting created in wax by Kate Linforth
Wax painting by Kate Linforth
Spongelike and translucent wax object by Kate Linforth
Translucent wax object by Kate Linforth

Also interesting and also with a professional looking finish were Sarah Rilot’s meticulous drawings  set on spheres and circular perspex. The numerous tiny circles must have taken hours to complete. In the exhibition booklet she explains that she is fascinated by small hidden places and that the painstaking repetition becomes meditative and an important element of the artwork itself – which considering the number of circles she must have drawn is probably just as well!

Three spheres are shown, part of of te work by Sarah Rilot
Sarah Rilot’s spheres

Chapman Brother (singular) at Sussex Coast College

“Run for the Hills the Chapman Brothers are coming,” the slightly annoying poster at Sussex Coast college said, annoying because it meant the opposite, just in the way that businesses calling themselves the Secret Toy-shop or referring to themselves as the best kept secret don’t actually want you to stay away. At the due time – 12.00 on Friday – some seventy or more students congregated in one of the classrooms and we waited. The report went round that Dinos was not coming, and we waited some more. Then we heard that Jake was parking and would soon arrive and we waited a bit longer.  Then we heard there were problems on the motorway.  He was not exactly up to the Justin Bieber standard of keeping  people waiting but when you are trying to get work finished  before your final exhibition, you can think of better ways to spend time.

Students at Sussex Coast College getting ready for the Gap,am Brothers
Students at Sussex Coast College getting ready for the Chapman Brothers

At 1.00 some people started wondering whether this was performance art and just about everybody disappeared for a bit to find something to eat. Finally at about 1.20 when most of them had come back, Jake arrived accompanied by some bloke who sat up at the front and didn’t introduce himself. I guess he was a PR. Jake seemed very affable and rather bored and the PR kept talking which was irritating, as we were there to hear Jake.

Jake Chapman and unintroduced bloke talking to art students at Sussex Coast College
Jake Chapman and presumed PR bloke talking to art students at Sussex Coast College

Damien Hirst had been on Desert Island Discs that morning and Jake told us he was a good chap and implied he didn’t much like Tracey Emin because of her attitude to tax and because she was a Conservative supporter, which seemed fair enough. He explained about making a replica of her tent, All the people I have every slept with,” the one which got burnt in the fire at the Momart Warehouse. “We called it  ‘The same only better’ “and went on to say that they had been thinking about making a number of replica tents, which people could sleep in at a music festival. So that sounded quite fun.

A few of us asked questions – I asked about the relationship the brothers had with each other, which he had clearly been asked a million times and then about whether they had ever rejected any idea on grounds of taste and Jake said they didn’t set out to shock – which you might believe, or again you might not;  but it was all quite friendly and jokey.

Zygotic Acceleration, Biogenetic, De-Sublimated Libidinal
Zygotic Acceleration, Biogenetic, De-Sublimated Libidinal : Chapman Brothers

Then one student asked why his work featured pre-pubescent girls, which seemed a fair question but brought a slightly odd reaction. Now anybody who knows anything about the Chapman brothers, must be aware of the fibreglass mannequins which have penises instead of noses. Not everybody will know the name of the work, which is quite a mouthful  – Zygotic Acceleration, Biogenetic, De-Sublimated Libidinal. Instead of answering the question, Jake started prevaricating about which work she was referring to, and then the PR stepped in and said they weren’t human, and Jake said they weren’t pre-pubescent and it was easy to misunderstand, or something like that. Then his mobile went and we didn’t get a full answer and he went off to talk to someone more important. We had had all of 20 minutes.

I reckon if you are a celebrity artist you ought to be able to manage to talk to a bunch of art students without a PR to support you. If you have one,  you really ought to have a ready answer to questions like that. One possible answer might be that he depicts pre-pubescent girls to satirise the way that the media sexualises them. That they are ‘not human’ really won’t do,  particularly when the dehumanisation of women and girls is part of what drives rape culture.

That evening Jake was holding a session at the Jerwood Gallery. I had the offer of a ticket, but I decided I had had enough. Those that went said it was quite good fun. He had people playing Exquisite Corpse, you might have played the game at school. You  fold up paper and then different people draw  heads, bodies and feet and you unfold the paper and – bingo – you have a result.  It sounds as if a reasonably good time was had by all. A group of Sussex College Students almost won the competition for the best drawing. They were down to the final two.   The first prize was a visit to the Chapman Brothers studio. The second prize – you’ve guessed it  – was two visits to the Chapman Brothers studio – actually it wasn’t – I made that bit up.

Tom Hammick and Patrick Adam Jones’s Map

About a year ago, Julian Bell, Tom Hammick and Andre Jackowski held what was billed as a joint exhibition  – Dreams of Here at Brighton Museum. In the event the result was more like three separate exhibitions; not only were the three artists in separate rooms but even of the colour of the walls of the rooms were different. So when Hammick and Patrick Adam Jones were invited hold an exhibition together at the Baker Mamonova Gallery  in St Leonards, the two artists were keen that the exhibition should be a dialogue. When I visited Map this weekend, the paintings in the window gave an initial impression that they might have succeeded. Inside  it was clear that whilst the pair might have arrived at the party together, once there, they merely nodded politely at each across the room rather than engaged in deep discussion.

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Paintings by Tom Hammick and Patrick Adam Jones in the window of the Baker Mamonova Gallery

It was hardly surprising; their styles are very different. Tom Hammick’s are the more representational; shacks, gardens and people, particularly his wife and daughter, frequently feature in his works and while the viewer may not immediately understand all the thinking that goes into the painting, they will have a fair idea of what it that they are looking at. In contrast, Patrick Adam Jones works are often layered and the details may be partly obscured so that the complexity only becomes apparent through study.  Hammick chooses bright, bold, vibrant colours – he achieves some wonderful blues and purples; Adam Jones frequently favours shades of white and near white and works in wax which give the works an extraordinary translucency. They come together to some extent in the size of the works and, in this exhibition, there was supposedly the link of the map, though it was somehow rather hard to spot: Adam Jones sometimes uses maps as a base for his works and with  Hammick the works are – well – loosely connected to places – but then aren’t most things?

It was interesting to see how the artists had developed over the last year. Hammick’s works were familiar;  the subject matter and colours were those one has come to expect. They included the woodcut of the Exon filling station and the painting Compound which both appeared at Brighton last year and an extremely desirable print Edgelands, which has also appeared before in different colour combinations – all classic Hammick works. There were also some new paintings, on a smaller scale than I had seen hitherto, including Orchard a simple but beautifully coloured painting of a ladder against a tree and Island Study.

Tom Hammick: Compound
Tom Hammick: Compound
Tom Hammick: Island Study
Tom Hammick: Island Study

Adam Jones had a number of his wax based paintings in the exhibition, such as Inside, shown below. I like the way with these works that you can see different elements in different lights.

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Patrick Adam Jones:Inside

There was  a departure in the highly complex piece,  Of Course, a large mixed media piece, involving a collection of works on paper behind glass on which he had applied a series of digits.

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Patrick Adam Jones: of Course

It was interesting and I was intrigued by the way the digits were more evident against some of the backgrounds than against others; this was a work which needed time appreciate the different elements. I particularly liked the way that the numbers gave the impression of the passing of time.  But, probably annoyingly since it must have taken  ages to create, some of the water colours impressed me as much – there was a  series of nine that worked extraordinarily well together.

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Patrick Adam Jones: Watercolours

There were some of the familiar words which Adam Jones has used in many of his paintings – I could have been a farmer but these little paintings which had clearly been done quickly had a freshness and somehow a sense of mystery which made you want to study them and which I really liked. So it appears do other people; three had been bought already; I predict it will not take long before the others are gone as well.

Map is showing at the Baker Mamonova Gallery in  43-53 Norman Road, St Leonards on Sea, East Sussex  until June 1.

Manet at the Royal Academy

A few months ago I visited the pre Raphaelite exhibition at Tate Britain and then went straight in to see the Turner Prize shortlist which seemed weak in comparison. I had not quite the reverse experience this week but close. I visited the new Manet Exhibition at the Royal Academy and then almost immediately went to A Greater Splash over at the Tate. To my mind A Greater Splash had it over the Manet and seeing the two together provided an object lesson on why art has to keep moving and innovate even if you don’t always like the innovations.  I will talk about the Greater Splash soon. Today it’s Manet.

Luncheon on the Grass
Déjeuner sur l’Herbe: the version you want to see is in Paris

The retrospective of Manet’s portraits Portraying Life  has been trumpeted by the RA as “singularly important” and  “unmissable”.  According to the Sunday Times 45,000 tickets were pre sold, more than those sold for Van Gogh at the same point, so getting there early in the run seemed like a good idea. Unfortunately, it is  the paintings you probably most want to see that are missing. There is no Olympia, the  Musée d’Orsay in Paris keeps it safely behind their walls and doesn’t let it go; there is only a small and rather miserably fuzzy Déjeuner sur l’Herbe borrowed from the Courtaulds, that pesky Musée d’Orsay has hung onto the big, bold, superbly painted one and the curators  had not even managed to persuade the Courtaulds to lend them the The Bar at the Folies-Bergère.

Music in the Tuileries Gardens: normally on show in the National Gallery

True there was the Music in the Tuileries Gardens, though this is normally hanging in the National Gallery, so not worth a special visit, the Railway and Berthe Morisot with a Bouquet of Violets which is currently plastered over posters on the underground. But they were diluted by what the RA described as status portraits, in other words portraits designed  to make their subject feel important. While wandering around this exhibition it was possibly intellectually to appreciate the loose brush work  which was to make Manet the father of  modern art, but I found it  impossible to feel emotionally why he was so revolutionary.

Indeed, for the most part, the paintings appeared decorative, safe and a little boring. They provided a glimpse of 19th century Parisian life, interesting if you recognise the spot where Music in the Tuileries Gardens were painted.  It was also instructive to note  how he used a dab of light to suggest noses or expressions and how well he could paint eyes. He had his failings too, which is encouraging for all artists whose work does not always go as planned.  I noticed, for instance, that he did not really enjoy painting hands. Of course he could if  he put his mind to it – he was Manet. But when he was doing portraits in a hurry either to satisfy rich clients or simply because he wanted to get on to the next canvas, you will see that hands get hidden more than the law of averages suggests  should happen. They were tucked in pockets, or in muffs,  behind backs or just below the bottom edge of the canvas.

Manet: Portrait of Georges Clemenceau
Isabelle Lemonnier with a muff
Manet: Isabelle Lemonnier with a muff

He was also not great at  horses, Look at the Cavalier (Equestrian Portrait of Mr Arnaud) the horse’s head has a slightly cardboard cut out feel. Apparently the x-ray evidence shows the portrait was completed by another hand – maybe it was the horse’s head that was painted by someone else – or  its hind legs, or ……well actually none of it is very good.

Manet : The Cavalier (Equestrian Portrait of Mr Arnaud) apparently finished by another hand

There were of course several superb paintings there, and ones which are not so easy to see without travelling further afield than Paris. The Luncheon painted in 1868 is particularly intriguing.

manet luncheon
Manet: The Luncheon – the young Leon looks past us with a haughty expression

Look at  the rather haughty  and bold expressions of the young man Leon, who might or might not have been Manet’s son. It  is similar to  the expression of the young prostitute staring boldly out of the picture in Olympia and also that of the nude in Déjeuner sur L’herbe . Whereas both the woman looks at us in the other two pictures, Leon’s gaze goes beyond us, looking at something or somebody he sees over our right shoulder but it still has the boldness, the quality of taking stock, that is part of what makes  both Déjeuner and Olympia so arresting.

I enjoyed seeing the Luncheon; I also liked the portrait of Georges Clemenceau, shown above; and Berthe Morisot with a Bouquet of Violets, though I had seen it so many times in the publicity for the exhibition, it was hard to summon up more of a reaction to it than – ‘oh yes, there it is.’ I now know more about Manet than I did before I went, but overall there just weren’t enough of the most celebrated pictures there to be satisfying. It was as if the Musée d’Orsay had put up a virtual sign at the exit saying, “you’ve seen the rest, now see the best.” I went as a guest of a member, but I can’t believe you wouldn’t feel a bit short-changed if you were paying the full suggested £17 entry fee. There was something else too. Without the best, the works seemed so strongly rooted in another time. Manet may have been the father of modern art, but at the Royal Academy, in this exhibition, you could really feel the generation gap.

Art School in the Room

Readers of this blog will know that I have little patience with the “is this or is this not art” debate. I am quite happy to accept if an artist says, ‘it is art’ then that is what it it is – next question.  The real issue is whether it is good. Even so, when before Christmas, artist Annie Davey called for volunteers at Sussex Coast College  to help undertake a project about art schools, which would involve collecting  photographs of the old Hastings art college, I found, despite myself, that I was having the subversive thought,”this isn’t really art at all.” After going to a couple of meetings I dropped out. The results of the project are now on display in the Room Gallery outside the college. I went along to see the results.

The idea was t0 examine the way that 20th century art schools have been historicised and  romanticised through photographic images and stories. The team, who comprised Celeste Barker, Marie Ford, Barbara Mullen and Dan Dowling,  became interested in the move of the Hastings Art School from the old Victorian building to the current site in Station Plaza. They also looked at the way contemporary art schools combine freedom and experimentation with rules and bureaucracy.

Displayed on the wall were a series of found photographs from the old art school.

A series of photographs of the old Hasting Art College pinned to the wall
Found Photographs of the old Hastings Art School

They were not posed or artistically taken shots but included the mundane detritus that is left when a building is closed.

chairs are piled on desks at the old hastins Art College
Found Photograph of the old Hastings Art School
A filing cabinet in the old Hastings College
A filing cabinet in the old Hastings College

A slide projector showed images of the new building which had been made deliberately blurry to  distance the viewer from the present time.

A blurry photograph showing a bench with sink at Sussex Coast College
Slide Projection of studio space at Sussex Coast College – it has been deliberately blurred

On the walls, were a selection of the instructions that we receive, whilst on a loop, course leader Patrick Jone’s voice intoned the aims of the modules as set out in the student handbook.

A photograph of a sheet of paper with instructions to students at Sussex Coast College
Student instructions Sussex Coast College

Matching the modern instructions were actual notices from the old building.

A sign saying drive in thie bay only do not reverse at the old Hastins Art School
Signs from the old Hastings Art School

Strangely, and despite my misgivings, it all actually worked. I accepted it was even art. The photographs collectively were more interesting than you might have thought and pointing a spotlight on the mundane, particularly that which is separated by time has the effect of making it look special. Also, the instructions, which must be similar to those posted on many student notice boards,  looked unique and worthy of attention. The aim of the show was to “present a series of small gestures that cross wires and destabilise our perception of the past, whilst implicitly asking questions about what might be ideal for an art school now.”  Even so, I suspect that it would be of most interest to those people who experienced, which I did not, the old art college in Hastings.

Art School is on display in the Blue Room Gallery outside Sussex Coast College today 25 January 2013

Cass Sculpture Park and the importance of position

I had the privilege to visit the Cass Sculpture Park near Chichester last week. It was bitterly cold and, as the park is not open to the public in winter, hardly anybody else appeared to be about in the 26 acres of woodland that make up the grounds. Coming across marvellous sculptures among the trees was an extraordinary experience. It also got  me thinking about the importance of putting sculptures in the right  place and the difference the setting  can make to our perception of a work. While there were obviously some that I liked better than others, I was also struck by the fact that some of the works seemed much happier in their woodland surroundings than others. It was difficult to work out why. It was not to do with form; you might think that organic shapes and materials would work better than more geometric  pieces, or sculptures which had been created out of steel, plastic  or glass would work less well than those made out of granite or wood. That did not appear to be the case. Nor did it appear to be necessarily position in the park, though works on the periphery, where they were not juxtaposed against others, appeared to have some advantage.

The Cass Foundation was set up in 1992 by Wilfred and Jeanette Cass with the aim of supporting new and emerging artists. The Foundation has commissioned some 400 sculptures over the twenty years all of which have been for sale. Prices are substantial ranging from a few thousand pounds  to £750000. At any one time there are about 80 sculptures on display; they are often far larger than could possibly be housed in a gallery.The one stipulation the Foundation makes to the artists that it commissions is that the works should not be site specific; they need to be able to be sold and therefore transportable. This constraint is entirely understandable in the context of the Foundation’s mission, but it does remove what could be a glue which could bind all the works into an aesthetic whole. The Foundation had thought very carefully about such matters as directions – the suggested way through the woods was marked by these rather fetching yellow arrows. The buildings holding the lavatories and the benches were all of interesting designs.

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But there were no sculptures that made use of the trees themselves; I wanted to see cats’ cradles linking trees together,  defining the space between them or creatures slithering up things or down things, or unseasonal leaves suspended from bare branches, or bark apparently peeled back to reveal … what? I don’t know.   This is a quibble; here are the ten works I liked best,  in no particular order,  which seemed to me to work well in their surroundings. You can see how varied they were.

1. Seven Gregory: Fish on  bicycle

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Steven Gregory: fish on a Bicycle

Near the entrance and far smaller than the majority of works was this rather whimsical piece by Steven Gregory which I though might look even better in an urban setting, perhaps near other bicycles. I like the look of quiet determination on the fish’s face; it obviously finds the bicycle useful, giving lie to the old saying.

2. Stephen Cox: Lingam of a Thousand Lingams

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Stephen Cox: Lingam of a Thousand Lingams

This huge phallus by Steven Cox worked superbly well at a point where the paths crossed. It seemed to form a natural landmark in the woods and the granite from which it was made had weathered in a satisfying way. cass 050

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Sean Henry: Folly

3.Sean Henry: Folly

This sculpture took me entirely by surprise: as I mentioned I thought I was alone, though I half expected somebody else to be wandering down the paths. Then, suddenly, I came round the corner and saw what appeared to be this relaxed man standing on a pavilion and then I realised I was looking into an interior. Apart from the absence of walls there is the surreal touch of a chair on the ceiling. It is a thought-provoking piece as it leads the viewer to realise how little we know about the lives people lead when in their own homes. To a greater or lesser extent it is something about which we all speculate. Here we have an voyeur’s insight.

4 Tony Cragg: Tongue in Cheek

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Tony Cragg: Tongue in Cheek

This was one of my favourite pieces; I loved the way the coils worked in the setting.  Looking into the piece. the patterns changed and worked together. I liked the way the hard metal contrasted with vegetation  and the mud but at the same time seemed to share some of the same qualities.

5 Awst and Walther: I miss you

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Awst and Walther: I miss you

I thought this jar was really fun and again it worked really well in the space capturing different views through the circular hole at its centre.  This is one I might have thought would not work in a rural setting but in fact it did. The contrast between the tree trunks framed by the jar and the modernity of the materials was interesting.

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Rob Ward: Gate

6. Rob Ward: Gate

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Taking a photo of Rob Ward’s Gate

Of all the sculptures in the park this was probably the one I liked the best. I thought it would work well in any urban setting as well. As you can see the surface is highly reflective and this created a strange illusion of looking into another dimension. The name gate seems well-chosen. The first photograph shows how it appears as you come across it along the path.  The second is a photograph of me taking the photograph, looking as though I could, if I chose, step through a gateway into a different world.

7. Diane Maclean: Encampment

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Diane Maclean: Encampment

Here was another sculpture which despite its modern chrome and metal materials, I felt worked well in the woods suggesting a settlement, which on closer inspection turns out to be an illusion.  I liked the way that the tent structures had been divided into two, so that there was a clear path between them. Two camps you might say, though this was only visible from certain directions.

8. Danny Lane: Stairway

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Danny Lane: Stairway

This stairway I could also imagine could also work very well, perhaps even better,  outside a  building reflecting the staircases within.

9.Philip King: Sun’s Roots II

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Philip King: Sun’s Roots II

I was surprised that Sun Roots worked as well as it did.  I might have thought that the colours and materials would jar but in fact it looked extraordinary. The splash of colour brightened up the winter woods.

10. Jon Isherwood Passages and Circumstances

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Jon Isherwood: Passages and Circumstances
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Passages and Circumstances detail

Finally this piece by Jon Isherwood was intriguing in the way that you could both get inside it, but also see through it so, it according to your position it framed different vistas or slivers of the countryside.

The Cass Sculpture Park is open 0n Saturdays from January 26  to  23 March between 10.30 and 4.30. The new season starts on 29 March 20123 when it is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10.30 to 4.30