Exhibition – Get Up, Stand Up Now (Somerset House)

Exhibition – Somerset House, London, 12th June – 15th September 2019
Get Up, Stand Up Now – Generations of Black Creative Pioneers 

(Header shot: Fashion Shoot Brixton Market 1973 © Armet Francis)

Last week saw some inspiring new installations arrive within the Neoclassical walls of London’s Somerset House; Get Up, Stand Up Now is a collection that not only forms an important documentation of black creatives in Britain but also provides a vibrant treat for your eyes and ears.

Introduction from press release:

‘This summer, Somerset House celebrates the impact of 50 years of black creativity in Britain and beyond, with a landmark exhibition showcasing art, film, photography, music, literature, design and fashion. It is the first time that this distinguished group of approximately 100 artists are represented together, with their work articulating and addressing the black experience and sensibility, from the post-war era to the present day.

Historic artworks and new commissions sit alongside items from personal archives, much of which has never been seen by the public before. Through these original photographs, letters, films and audio clips, the exhibition connects the creative, the personal and the political, reflecting how artists have responded to the issues of our times.’

From the series ‘We are the Same’ © Campbell Addy

Get Up, Stand Up Now is curated by visual artist Zak Ové and begins close to home with work by his father, Trinidad born Horace Ové, who is widely credited as being the first black British feature film director (Pressure, 1975). Along with a group of his Windrush generation peers, Horace broke down barriers that encouraged younger multicultural artists to develop their own creativity and voices. Screenings of a selection of his films will form part of the exhibition. Amongst his contemporaries also exhibited are social documentary photographers Armet Francis, Charlie Phillips and Vanley Burke, often referred to as ‘the Godfather of black British photography’.

Still from Neneh Cherry, Kong 2018 © Jenn Nkiru

Elsewhere in the exhibition you can find exquisite stills and film from visionary artist and director Jenn Nkiru and stunning shots from high fashion photographer and film-maker Campbell Addy, photographer and visual activist Ajamu and Benji Reid, who describes his work as ‘choreo-photolist’, where theatricality, choreography and photography meet in a single or series of images. The exhibits individually are head-turning; in their entirety they form a fascinating collection of artistry covering the last 5 decades.

From Circus Master Series 1997 © Ajamu

Musical creativity also plays an integral part in the exhibition, with an exclusive soundtrack mixed by producer DJ Jillionaire streaming inside the gallery, a display of instruments and objects selected by musicians and live percussive performances on scheduled dates. And fashion is high on the agenda too, with a varied selection of sculptural exhibits including an Afro-futuristic cowboy from luminary designer Mowalola Ogunlesi.

Holding onto Daddy © Benji Reid 2016

All in all, Get Up, Stand Up Now offers an immersive experience covering all aspects of the arts. Given the obvious display of talent, it raises the question beautifully of why there isn’t more diversity on show at mainstream exhibitions across the country.

For anyone able to visit this coming weekend (22nd – 23rd June), there are some additional special celebrations taking place to mark National Windrush Day with Generation Get Up!

A host of free interactive events will encompass exclusive film screenings and talks (including a Q&A with actor, director and writer Kwame Kwei-Armah) and pop up studio Backgrounds offering the option to have a free professional portrait taken and share stories of identity and heritage, creating a new collective portrait of Britain today. There will also be an enticing selection of African and Caribbean street food stalls to tempt you before or after your visit.

Top left: Ishmahol Blagrove’s Free Speech Now
Top right: Yinka Shonibare’s Self Portrait (after Warhol)
Bottom: Yinka Shonibare’s Revolution Kid (Calf) and Sanford Biggers’ Woke
All 3 installation shots © Peter Macdiarmid

Get Up, Stand Up Now runs from 12th June – 15th September 2019

Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA
Opening times: Mon – Tues and Sat – Sun 10 – 6, Wed – Fri 11 – 8 – please check the website for variable admission prices and further details of this and other exhibitions before visiting

All images and exhibition details are reproduced with permission from Somerset House and are copyrighted as credited

Words (excluding press release extract) by Siobhan

19th June 2019

 

 

 

Exhibition – Joy for Ever (The Whitworth)

Exhibition – The Whitworth, Manchester, 29th March – 9th June 2019
Joy for Ever: how to use art to change the world and its price in the market

A new exhibition opening its doors on Friday takes a look at the life, work and impact of artist and social reformer John Ruskin. The parallels between his quest for equality in the 1800s and current concerns around discrimination and accessibility in today’s society can’t fail to strike a chord. The content includes a huge variety of subject matter and artistic technique, all set in The Whitworth’s beautiful building and surroundings.

John Ruskin and Manchester – a synopsis:

Born into a prosperous home in 1819, John Ruskin travelled extensively around Europe with his parents, developing a keen interest in art and architecture. Over time, he became troubled by the comparison between some of the beautiful places he visited and what he considered to be a grimy capitalist environment on his return. In adulthood he became a famed art critic then began to speak out as a lecturer, berating property developers for prioritising profit over the wellbeing of their communities, industrialists for not treating their workers properly and the Victorian bourgeoisie as a whole for neglecting the welfare of the poor. In 1857 Ruskin voiced a particularly scathing attack on the city of Manchester in response to The Great Art Treasures exhibition, a huge collection of artworks amassed from wealthy private owners, epitomising everything he found unjust and unbalanced. His views were not appreciated by the conservative magazine and publisher he wrote for and led to his essays being pulled from publication; he proceeded to publish them instead in his seminal book Unto This Last. He went on to set up The Guild of St George (originally St George’s Company and still a charity today) to pursue his vision of a better society where communities would live more happily working within a network of rural, sustainable farms and be given access to education and museums. Quite what he would make of today’s society where the vulnerable have their benefits withdrawn and food banks are a growing trend is something to ponder. There is no little irony in the fact that the exhibition opens on the day that was due to see the dawning of Brexit but instead finds us amidst a political meltdown of enormous proportions. 

Facade of The Doge’s Palace, Venice – The Vine Angle, 1907.5, John Ruskin © Manchester Art Gallery / Bridgeman Images

Exhibition details:

‘In the 200th anniversary of his birth, The Whitworth responds to the artist, art critic, teacher and social reformer John Ruskin – in a year when his words seem as relevant now as they did then, in a climate of perceived ecological, political and social catastrophe. Ruskin was complex, difficult and flawed, as well as profound. He also hated Manchester, and therefore it seems fitting that the city responds with equal complexity and irreverence.

Joy for Ever combines The Whitworth’s renowned collection of art and design with archival documents, contemporary installations, a cast of the wall of Westminster Hall, a road building, textiles, politics, pictures, a protest on the EBacc by local school children and commissions from Manchester based design studio Standard Practice and Grizedale Arts from the Lake District.

Peter Hodgson and Laure Prouvost, Tile Panel, 2016, Photo by Adam Sutherland

In the first gallery, the displays respond to Ruskin’s question: how can an art collection be used for wider social advantage? Here some of the Whitworth’s collections are curated by the gallery’s Handmade group, who meet regularly as part of a city-wide campaign to develop Manchester as an age-friendly city, alongside Year 9 pupils from Hyndburn Academy in Blackburn in protest against the introduction of the EBacc that devalues arts education in schools.

The next gallery focuses on the relationship between art, architecture and ideas of good governance, speaking of how Gothic style was appropriated in the 19th century and became the architecture of state and commercial power. Ruskin admired the city of Venice as a model society, in which its Gothic buildings were created by the mutual cooperation of architect and craftsman, forming much of his thinking on the relationship between labour and happiness. Depictions of Gothic architecture by Ruskin’s favourite artists JMW Turner and Samuel Prout from The Whitworth’s collection will be displayed.

Jorge Otero-Pailos’ Ethics of Dust, a large-scale latex cast directly from the wall surface of Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the Houses of Parliament, will be displayed alongside wallpaper designs by Augustus Pugin and Alfred Waterhouse’s designs of Manchester’s neo-Gothic Town Hall.

Both images above: Jorge Otero-Pailos – The Ethics of Dust, Westminster Hall, London, 2016. Commissioned and produced by Artangel, Photos by Marcus J Leith

A new moving image work by Greek artist, Aikaterini Gegisian is included. This draws from the archives of the US Library of Congress and explores the breakdown of the European Union manifested in both the Greek debt crisis and Brexit.

Picture above & header picture: Third Person (Plural): Episode 1: Centrifuge, 2018-19 film stills courtesy of Aikaterini Gegisian

The final gallery explores art’s role in education and social design. Ruskin believed that drawing from nature helps shape our understanding of citizenship. He had a huge teaching collection, often making and commissioning copies of paintings and drawings of natural specimens as tools for instruction. Here a selection of drawings from Manchester’s collections alongside an original lecture diagram, plaster casts of leaves and models of feathers borrowed from The Ruskin Museum are presented. Manchester design studio Standard Practice has been commissioned to make a series of drawing lecterns for visitors to make drawings inspired by the collections on display.

Grizedale Arts marks its 10 year anniversary of projects in Coniston, the town where Ruskin lived for the last 28 years of his life and where he implemented many of his social experiments on craft, farming, water supply, dairy producing etc. This exhibition will present a mini survey of around 100 projects they’ve created to date, such as the Honest Shop, mini library and exhibitions of local crafts with a series of connected making workshops and talks.’

Joy for Ever: how to use art to change the world and its price in the market runs from 29th March – 9th June 2019 – free entry

The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M15 6ER
Opening times: Monday – Wednesday 9-5, Thursday 9-9, Friday – Saturday 9-5, Sunday 10-5 – please check the website for further details of this and other exhibitions before visiting

All images and exhibition details are reproduced with permission from The Whitworth and are copyrighted/owned as credited

Words for introduction and synopsis by Siobhan

27th March 2019

Introducing – V&A Dundee

The Victoria and Albert in London is one of the largest design museums in the world as well as being one of the longest established, founded way back in 1852.

Its new family member, V&A Dundee, is a baby in comparison, a project almost 10 years in the making, opened to the public in September 2018. Designed by award-winning Japanese architect Kengo Kuma (also charged with designing the Olympic Stadium for Tokyo 2020), the striking building in made up of curved concrete walls supporting 2,500 rough stone panels, set to replicate a Scottish cliff-face and resembling the shape of a ship. Sitting on the waterfront with the River Tay as its backdrop, it somehow manages to blend in and stand out all at once.

V&A Dundee houses examples of Scottish design from fashion to furniture; music fans will appreciate the inclusion of record sleeves designed by Glasgow’s David Band for Aztec Camera and Altered Images. For fans of another famous Glaswegian, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the Oak Room has been painstakingly reconstructed as it would have been seen originally in Miss Cranston’s Ingram Street Tearooms in the early 1900s.

Additionally, temporary exhibitions, events and activities will run throughout the year and there is a cafe, restauarant and a range of suitably aesthetically pleasing items available in the gift shop all on site. It will be interesting to see how the museum develops and hopefully brings new business and tourism alike to the area and its community.

V&A Dundee, Riverside Esplanade DD1 4EZ

Free entry, some exhibitions have an entrance fee

Opening times: Monday – Sunday 10-5 – please check the website for further details and prices of current exhibitions before visiting

Words and photos by Siobhan

4th January 2019