Afternoon Dust

Legacies: JMW Turner and contemporary art practice

New Art Gallery Walsall’s current exhibition Legacies: JMW Turner and contemporary art practice brings together 16 works by Turner from the Tate collection with a number of examples of contemporary art that respond either directly to Turner or to the major themes of his work. There’s a lot of interesting stuff here, but I’d like to focus on a couple of highlights. The first is a series of sketches from Turner’s Whalers Sketchbook (c.1845), and the large painting Rough Sea with Wreckage from around the same time. What is striking about these works is their focus on colour, reduced forms, and perceived flatness (little or no illusion of three-dimensional space) that to this art history nerd immediately suggests a much later moment in the history of painting, that of Abstract Expressionism.

Faisal Hussain — Suspect Objects Suspect Subjects

Faisal Hussain - Muslamic Raygun, silver toy raygun with the word 'muslamic' written on it in stylized script.

Centrala have been nudging themselves into the heart of the artists’ colony of Digbeth for a couple of years now, but their new upstairs gallery and performance space has taken things to the next level (no pun intended). The large open room provides ample space to make a substantial statement, and Faisal Hussain is the latest artist to take advantage of the opportunity. His new show Suspect Objects Suspect Subjects brings together a number of sculptural objects reflecting themes of misrepresentation, prejudice, and suspicion, each accompanied by a text panel explaining the concept behind the work.

Jack Lavender and Joanne Masding

Joanne Masding - Plaster Ghost Finger Cast, irregular white plast sculptures on the walls and floor of a gallery space

Jack Lavender’s solo exhibition ‘Stones’ at Recent Activity’s delightfully awkward, misshapen space consists of a number of wall drawings in rich, earthy colours. Apart from the bones outlined on the side of the raised ‘stage’, the drawings consist of odd, irregular shapes and lines, as if more regular shapes had somehow been squeezed, squashed, and deformed by subsidence, tectonic plate movement, or the pressure of an ever-growing stratigraphy of sediments. In the context of the space, the drawings mirror the roughness and irregularity of the décor and architecture; forget about the context, and you’re no longer sure whether what you’re seeing is decades old, millennia old, or brand new.

Seecum Cheung — The Dutch Window

Seecum Cheung's The Dutch Window, large projection screen in front of a wall of orange curtains

Anyone who spends much time in the gallery of Birmingham visual arts space Grand Union inevitably falls in love with the windows that line the full length of two opposing walls, and many artists who exhibit there choose to make use of them in some way. Serendipitously, windows form a central theme and metaphor in British-born, Netherlands-based artist Seecum Cheung’s solo exhibition The Dutch Window, for which blinds and curtains have been installed to bathe the gallery in a soothing orange twilight.

On looking back in anger

I love the discussions at my barber’s, where I learn a lot more than I do from national media. As I sat waiting for my turn this morning, the guy currently occupying the barber’s chair made a very good point: he couldn’t understand why Manchester United fans at their mid-week match were singing ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ in response to the 22 May Manchester Arena bombing, when anger would seem to be an entirely appropriate human response to the violent murder of children. He was of course absolutely right: I couldn’t imagine not feeling angry if someone attacked my friends or family, and I wouldn’t want to be the sort of person who wouldn’t feel anger towards the aggressor in such circumstances.

Poem for Heath Bunting

These sounds come from China.
So does this tea.

Sometimes the world is a vast inescapable system:
        one's only recourse
        is to various circumventions, errancies,
        and detours, to multiplications of
        identities; you spot the opportunity
        to play a certain role and you
        seize it, only to realise that's all
        anyone else is doing, though perhaps
        less consciously.
Sometimes the world is riven with elsewheres,
        tiny holes
        through which you look but shall not
        pass, the tunnel you back out of.

Artist Heath Bunting spoke about his work at VIVID Projects, Birmingham as part of the exhibition Dot.Art, which runs until 27 May 2017.

Wind in the marram

Marram grass on the dunes at Newborough / Niwbwrch

Some more new sounds from me on

Aber Falls / Rhaeadr Fawr
Wind in the massam at Newborough / Niwbwrch

As ever, best enjoyed with headphones or good speakers.

Nottdance 2017: Dancing in public

A couple of weekends ago I was in Nottingham for Nottdance, a biennial festival of new dance. If I had the time I would write about everything I saw, because it was all brilliant, but things being what they are I’m going to have to focus on what were probably my favourite performances of the weekend, Rosanna Irvine’s Ah Kissing and Odori-Dawns-Dance’s Forest and Clearing.

Winter colours

On New Year’s Eve I went walking up Crookrise Crag on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park with my dad, who wanted to photograph the sunset. Given that it was the middle of winter and quite a dull day, I was expecting quite a grey and muted landscape. Imagine my surprise, then, upon finding a black earth carpeted with mosses of vivid green and red, and stones covered in multicoloured lichens.

Brightly coloured green and red moss

Brightly coloured blue and red lichen on a rock

Looking back, looking forward

It seems like everyone’s complaining about how awful 2016 was, but on reflection it wasn’t such a bad year for me personally. Here are a few highlights, along with some things I’m looking forward to in 2017.

I really enjoyed They Are Here’s ‘Precarity Centre’ residency at Grand Union in the spring. Although the content of the programme was interesting, it was really the ethos of open participation and conversation that I connected with the most. I hope more artists and curators adopt this approach in 2017.