Exhibition Review: Alexander Calder

Performing Sculpture


Alexander Calder

 At the Tate Modern

I had not heard much about Alexander Calder (b. 1898) before visiting the Tate. I like the element of surprise and the impact of first impressions. Calder was a modernist Artist who’s work not only invented the concept of the ` Mobile` a phrase coined by Duchamp (Tate,s.d) but also in his wire sculptures, toys and motorised assemblages. The intention of the exhibition has been to focus on Calder’s pioneering approach to sculpture, in the way he questioned traditional idea’s about the medium he worked with (Interpretation Team, 2015).

I was fascinated by the multi-dimensional concepts that Calder explored in his life time.

I was first presented with Hercules and Lion (1928) a wire sculpture suspended from the ceiling. Here Calder created a work that was more about line rather than mass, unlike his contemporaries in the Modernist era who used more solid materials of paint to depict similar subject matter. This was like a drawing in the air, I was fascinated by the 3 dimensional qualities of this piece.

Calder demonstrated his concepts around staged random sounds with Small Sphere and Heavy Sphere (1932-3), objects, chosen for their resonance were strategically placed to be struck by two suspended spheres moved by a participant. Here Calder incorporates performance, musical instruments and sculpture, influencing artists such as John Cage (Interpretation Team, 2015)

Over all I can see how work Calder created was really pioneering for its time, and his works have been a catalyst for many artists. Using different materials in innovative ways Calder touches on a plethora of subject matter and multi-sensory experimentation.


Calder foundation (s.d) Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture. At: http://www.calder.org/news/blog (Accessed 17/11/15)

Interpretation Team (2015) Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture. London: Tate

Yale University Press (2015) Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture. At: https://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300219159 (Accessed 17/11/15)

Tate (s.d) Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture. At: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/alexander-calder-performing-sculpture (Accessed 17/11/15)



I have been working with colour this week, by painting large strips onto A0 paper. I found my self doing this in a desperate attempt to connect with materials. I am still struggling to find a concept behind my work, but moving back into colour is a familiar place for me….

Final image cropped

First Painted strips..

I then decided to cut these out and then arrange them across the wall..

Cropped Cut strips

I wasn’t very satisfied with the fact that you could see the white paper from underneath the strips and also the tape I was using to stick the strips to the wall kept coming away.

I then decided to paint the other sides of the strips and use velcro to attach the strips to the wall, which worked much better..

Cropped final image

The downside of this work I think is that the colour isn’t as solid as I would have liked, particularly the green. This is household water based gloss, which actually dries brighter when applied. Unlike acrylic paint which dulls after application.

The next idea I wanted to work with was with some Vacuum Form plastic. I love the shiny surface of this material, it’s elasticity and the bright colours you can get.

I  devised a system of using dark to light colours and repeating the process until I came to the end of the lengths. Then using clear tape to secure the lengths together..

Cropped Final Outcome

Inspirations from artists are:

Gehard Richter  4900 ColoursGerhard Richter 4900 Colours image

Here Richter uses the denomination of chance with a computer program to determine which colours go together in each panel. Using Enamel paint. Mixing the colours himself.


Serpentine Gallery, (2008) Gerhard Richter's 4900 Colours: Version II At: http://www.serpentinegalleries.org/exhibitions-events/gerhard-richters-4900-colours-version-ii (Accessed 17/11/15)

Jim Lambie Zobop Colour 1999

Jim Lambie, Zobop (1999) Lambie uses coloured tape working from the outside in of a space which, in turn creates a rippling design on the Scottish National Gallery.

Generation Scotland (s.d) Generation At: http://generationartscotland.org/artists/jim-lambie/ (Accessed 17/11/15)







Exhibition No: 2. Anj Smith at The Hauser and Wirth….

Phosphor on the Palms By Anj Smith

At Hauser and Wirth

I had not really heard much about this artist or the Exhibition before entering, but was blown away by the quality of the workmanship and the novel use of materials. Smith talks about this exhibition exploring shifting boundaries and disintegration, encompassing death and desire, sexuality and language (Hauser and Wirth, 2015).

Letters of the Unconscious image

Fig. 1.

When entering the space, I felt drawn towards the unframed paintings, like they were windows into a lost land. Smith invites you into this dark and formidable world with exquisite detail and intense vibrancy of colour. This is juxtaposed with the clean, white space of the gallery.

When encountering the first work, Letters of the Unconscious (2015) (See Fig.1) I was drawn in by each individual hair painted and the level of detail in the applied oils. As I absorbed the image, I found myself confronted with the depiction of a monkey`s bottom; Smith had successfully drawn me into her bleak and mysterious world. Not only was it possible to see every line of hair Smith articulated through her brush strokes, but also in the three dimensional quality of the pieces. Smith explores shifting boundaries in the way her work seems to mutate into something different, like Uncurtaining the Night (2014). The paint appears to drip off the canvas, morphing into a new entity; the glossy finish enhances the vivid colours applied underneath. They border on the idea of assemblage in the types of objects portrayed in these works.

Uncurtaining The Night 2014

Fig. 2.

This Exhibition was packed with layers symbolism and animal imagery, many of which could easily be missed by the viewer, in their delicate intricacy and positioning. With huge hints to surrealism, Smith successfully identifies with concepts of death and sexuality in this sombre series of paintings. With the Beauty of articulation coupled with death and a warped sense of deep seated, dark, unconscious impulses.


Keh, Pei-Ru (2013) ‘The Flowering of Phantoms’ by Anj Smith at Hauser & Wirth, New York At: http://www.wallpaper.com/art/the-flowering-of-phantoms-by-anj-smith-at-hauser-wirth-new-york (Accessed 10/11/15)

Hauser & Wirth, (2015). Anj Smith: Phosphor on the Palms. [Paper copy]

Stevens, Wallace (b.1879) Fabliau of Florida. At: : https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/fabliau-florida (Accessed 10/11/15

Timeout, (2015) Anj Smith.At: http://www.timeout.com/london/art/anj-smith-phosphor-on-the-palms (Accessed 11/11/15)

Tate (s.d) Romanticism. At: http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/r/romanticism (Accessed 13/11/15)


Figure 1. Letters of the Unconscious (2015) [Oil paint on Linen] At: http://www.hauserwirth.com/exhibitions/2565/anj-smith-phosphor-on-the-palms/list-of-works/1/ (Accessed 13/11/15)

Figure 2. Uncurtaining the Night. (2014) At: http://www.hauserwirth.com/exhibitions/list-of-works/view?exhibition_id=2565&p=16 (Accessed 13/11/15)

Work Update…

After completing `Contours` a fellow student thought my work reminded her of Barbara Hepworth so I looked her up

I thought these looked really interesting pieces that seemed to be similar to my work.

Barbara Hepworth Orpheus 1956 9


Make Me a Dress by Barbara-Hepworth-006

Make Me a Dress

Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World | Tate Britain 24 June - 25 October 2015 to promote exhibition only ...  Barbara Hepworth Oval Form (Trezion) 1961-63 Bronze 940 x 1440 x 870 mm Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums Collections ©Bowness, Hepworth Estate


Oval form (Trezion)

Her works are from the Modernist Era. I also got this feedback from other tutors that my work reminded them of this time period of making art.

After taking Contours apart, I decided to paint the wooden contours I made from plywood white, placing the wooden structure in the background and bring the space created by the angles and layers to the foreground. Investigating the negative space within the layers.


I have been inspired by negative spaces created by the likes of Rachel Whiteread http://thegreatexposition.com/?p=1859 ( Accessed 29/10/15) Ghost 1, This I find interesting particularly in the use of materials to express a feeling.

Cornelia Parker, made dust ear plugs from the dust in St Pauls Cathederal. At: http://ridiculouslyinteresting.com/2011/07/24/from-the-dusty-corners-of-the-museum-part-two-cornelia-parker/ Accessed (10/11/15)

I thought that her interest in the intangible whispers of the ` whispering Gallery` of St Pauls Catherderal. Was really well articulated in this work. Making something intangible, Tangible. Why would you want to articulate that?

I think this is a really interesting way of articulating a space because it’s not something that you would immediately think of.

Ai Weiwei Exhibition at the Royal Academy Review…

Ai Weiwei Exhibition at the Royal Academy

On entering the Exhibition, it felt like China had come to the Royal Academy. Despite the volume of people at the venue, and considering that a large amount of curation took place out of the country, the exhibits worked in harmony with the grandeur of each room. The general theme I felt throughout the exhibition was the use of traditional Chinese craftsmanship methods, and the materials sourced that added to the narrative of the works. What Ai wanted to address within this body of work is comment on creative freedom, censorship and human rights (Royal Academy of Arts, 2015).

Straight (2008-12) is a prime example of materials being used to add to the narrative of the work. Being made of the rebar from the collapsed buildings hit by the Sichuan earthquake in 2008. Each length was hammered up to 200 times each, reforming them into their original state. Hudson talks about this work as initially being an `abstract physical object` (Hudson, 2015) until you realise the connection between the material and the names on the wall in the same room. I thought this added a whole new significance to the work. The lives being lost for ever, but the rebar could be brought back to its original state.

In Fragments (2005) beams and pillars from demolished Qing Dynasty temples have been reassembled into a map of China’s borders. Aviva talks about Ai exploring the marriage between ancient discarded objects and modern aesthetics being a vessel for exploring the cultural and spatial transformations of modern China. In the use of this material, this again adds huge gravitas to the narrative of this work, the history and authenticity being reinforced.


BBC News (2013) Sichuan 2008: A disaster on an immense scale. At: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22398684 (Accessed 4/11/15)

Hudson, Mark (2015) Ai Weiwei, Royal Academy, review: ‘immensely impressive’ At: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/art/what-to-see/ai-weiwei-royal-academy-review/ (Accessed 29/10/15)

Locke, Adrian. (2015) Ai Weiwei. London: Royal Academy of Arts

Royal Academy of Art.(2015) Major artist and cultural phenomenon Ai Weiwei takes over our main galleries At: https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibition/ai-weiwei?gclid=CPzB1cf758gCFQUOwwodvQgDiw (Accessed 29/10/15)

Royal Academy of Arts. (2015) Put Your Questions to Ai Weiwei. At: https://storify.com/RoyalAcademy/askaiweiwei-at-the-ra (Accessed 29/10/15)

Shen, Aviva. (2012) Past and Present Clash in Ai WeiWei’s “Fragments” At: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/past-and-present-clash-in-ai-weiweis-fragments-96502760/#cSg5SrroKXl1qJw6.99 (Accessed 5/11/15)

Sooke, Alastair. (2015). Ai Weiwei interview: “I would not separate my art from my so-called activism” At: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/art/artists/inside-ai-weiweis-berlin-bunker/ (Accessed 2/11/15)

Yeung, Peter. (2015) Ai Weiwei: a tumultuous timeline. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/11522659/Ai-Weiwei-a-tumultuous-timeline.html (Accessed 2/11/15)

Studio Practice Update…

27th October 2015

I have been working on the idea of contours and maps for the last crit Exhibition. I was given the artist Giuseppe

Penone Tree of 12 Metres (1967) to go and visit.


                                                                            Tree of 12 Metres (1980-82) Giuseppe Penone

Penone`s work was intended to focus on the relationship between nature and industry, and how through a sensitive approach to materials it would still be possible to work with nature in an industrialised world.


I was fascinated by the cracks in the timber he had worked on, how there was a negative space inside the work that was not planned, it was like time in suspension. That after he had finished the work, the wood was still moving, changing and evolving. I wanted to push something into those gaps and find out what shape they were on the inside. I began by making negative spaces with a material that was the opposite of natural wood, Polystyrene. I decided to use this material because it felt to me the antithesis of the more natural material of the timber.

Polystyrene Slithers

Moving it on I decided to make a shape with layers of MDF, screwing them together. MDF still felt like the antithesis of the timber used by Penone because it is made out of sawdust and a toxic resin. This then got me into thinking more about layers.


I then moved this on by cutting out layers of shapes and adding steel rods to make a more 3D effect of layers and contours.

DSC_0497                             DSC_0500

This became `contours` my first Crit Exhibition piece.

I have been inspired by negative spaces created by the likes of Rachel Whiteread http://thegreatexposition.com/?p=1859 ( Accessed 29/10/15) Ghost 1, This I find interesting particularly in the use of materials to express a feeling.