Featuring more than 100 works – from 3000BC to the present day, the exhibition brings together artworks and artefacts that reflect a vast range of themes and ideas from roundness, rotation and visual perception to wonderment and cycles of time. The exhibition encompasses sculpture, film, painting, design, installation, performance and photography, with works by leading historical and contemporary artists including Leonardo da Vinci, Paul Nash, Barbara Hepworth, JMW Turner, Theaster Gates, Rebecca Horn, David Shrigley and Bridget Riley.
Also at the Gallery are two major works by Yinka Shonibare MBE. Co-commissioned by Turner Contemporary and 14-18 NOW, Shonibare’s newest sculptural work 'End of Empire' explores how alliances forged in the First World War changed British society forever, and continue to affect us today. The new work features two figures dressed in the artist’s signature bright and patterned fabrics; their globe-heads highlighting the countries involved in the First World War. Seated on a Victorian see-saw, the entire work slowly pivots in the gallery space, offering a metaphor for dialogue, balance and conflict, while symbolising the possibility of compromise and resolution between two opposing forces.
Presented alongside this new commission is Shonibare’s 'The British Library,' a colourful work, celebrating and questioning how immigration has contributed to the British culture that we live in today. Shelves of books covered in colourful wax fabric fill the Sunley Gallery, their spines bearing the names of first and second generation immigrants who have enriched British society. From T.S. Eliot and Hans Holbein to Zaha Hadid, The British Library reminds us that the displacement of communities by global war has consequences that inform our lives and attitudes today.
In Margate Old Town \I saw work by David Bunting, Abbott van Dada, Jose Inacio Fonseca, Gay Gower and Luda Ludmila. Gower, Bunting and Fonseca were at King Street Art Gallery & Studio in a group show entitled 'The Eclectics' which is part of Thanet Open Studios. Dada and Ludmila are at the Pie Factory with a mixed media exhibition consisting of quality sculptured jewellery worked in solid gold and silver part of the new Dada collection along with his bespoke oak furniture, plus textured acrylics by Ludmila
Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva is a site-specific installation artist working across the varied media of sculpture, installation, video and sound, photography and architectural interventions. Her materials range from the unusual to the ordinary, from the ephemeral to the precious; they include organic materials, foodstuffs and precious metals.
Making Beauty is a new body of work made in collaboration with academics in medical departments of the universities of Nottingham, East Anglia and London, introducing highly regarded medical research activity to a wider public. Her work has been informed by their work on nutrition, healthy diet, our gut, and the development of highly specialised - invisible to the eye - manufactured parts providing solutions to medical problems. The sculptures reveal the fragility of our bodies and reflect the delicate nature of these medical components. The work has been supported by a research grant from the Wellcome Trust.
For summer 2016, Fabrica is presenting a work by internationally-renowned Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto, a leading light of the Arte Povera movement of the 1960s. The work features a labyrinth constructed from cardboard which leads to a mirror with a symbol laid out in coins.
The symbol, the infinity sign altered to add a central loop represents The Third Paradise. According to Pistoletto’s manifesto written in 2003, The Third Paradise seeks to reconcile the conflict between the first and second paradises of nature and human artifice. This conflict is leading toward global destruction but the third paradise offers a solution, a resolution that will save the planet and humanity.
The Third Paradise is the new myth that leads everyone to take personal responsibility at this momentous juncture. The idea of the Third Paradise is to lead artifice—that is, science, technology, art, culture and political life—back to the Earth, while engaging in the reestablishment of common principles and ethical behaviour.
Great to see that The Hepworth Wakefield is holding a one-day conference, accompanying the exhibition Stanley Spencer: Of Angels and Dirt, that draws on recent research to demonstrate that many influential British modernists, working in a variety of mediums and styles, were motivated by spiritual ideals.
Scholarship on British Modernism has traditionally portrayed artists like Spencer and Eric Gill as religious eccentrics; stalwarts clinging to the fading spirituality of a pre-modern era. ‘Modern Gods: Religion and British Modernism’ will investigate the religious beliefs of a variety of British artists and critics who were active during Spencer’s lifetime in relation to their work.
Perhaps the greatest champion of British modern art, Herbert Read, reflected at the end of his career: ‘All my life I have found more sustenance in the work of those who bear witness to the reality of a living God than in the work of those who deny God’.
Increasingly we are beginning to discover that, in many ways, British Modernism represents the natural outgrowth of Victorian spiritual idealism, rather than a radical reaction against it. This one-day conference, at which Dr Sarah Turner (Deputy Director for Research at the Paul Mellon Centre) and Dr Sam Rose (Lecturer at the University of St Andrews) will give the keynote addresses, aims to complicate oppositions between ‘modern’ and ‘non- modern’ art by examining the common threads of religious belief that ran throughout twentieth century aesthetic discourse.
That exhibition was based on the Ahmanson collection "which begins with the Nazarene and Pre-Raphaelite styles of William Dobson and William Bell Scott, and continues, with Eric Gill as the bridge between Modernism and the earlier Arts and Crafts movement, through the inter-war period of the 1920s and 1930s, the Second World War, the post-war era, and the later 20th century, into the early 21st century. Its closest equivalent in the UK is the Methodist Art Collection, which, while broader in the range of artists collected, has less depth, particularly in the focus that the Ahmanson Collection has on the middle years of the 20th century, with its renewed interest in religious art."
I suggested then that "if the Ahmanson and Methodist collections were exhibited together with a judicious choice of contemporary work, this would offer a relatively comprehensive review of modern British religious art."
From his early Yorkshire-based black and white photographs of rural communities through to his more recent vivid explorations into consumerism, this exhibition includes rarely seen images from his series The Non-Conformists taken at the beginning of his career reflecting his experiences of living in Yorkshire, and The Last Resort, one of the most significant bodies of British photography, documenting leisure time in the seaside town of New Brighton, as well as a universal shift from monochrome to colour photography.
In addition to this Hepworth Wakefield touring exhibition, Parr has also, in 2016, exhibited at the Guildhall Art Gallery and curated an exhibition at the Barbican.
Unseen City: Photos by Martin Parr at the Guildhall Art Gallery celebrated Parr's tenure as the City of London’s photographer-in-residence, a position he took up in 2013. He has documented life in the City ever since – from private ceremonies, processions and banquets to high-profile public occasions. Granted unprecedented access to these events, he has been able to capture moments that would usually go 'unseen'; on display in the exhibition were behind-the-scenes shots of unguarded moments featuring Lord Mayors, dignitaries and even the Queen. His photographs provided a unique visual account of contemporary London.
For Strange and Familiar at the Barbican, Parr brought together over 250 compelling photographs and previously unseen bodies of work, in order to present a vibrant portrait of modern Britain. From social documentary and portraiture to street and architectural photography, the exhibition celebrated the work of leading photographers, including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Rineke Dijkstra, Robert Frank and Garry Winogrand, and considered how international photographers from the 1930s onwards captured the social, cultural and political identity of the UK.
Martin Parr has been described as 'arguably Britain’s greatest living photographer.' These exhibitions make that argument.