Tag Archives: Penny Ryan

Simon Armitage’s Flit

Simon Armitage, Flit (Yorkshire Sculpture Park 2018)

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This handsomely produced book of poems and photographs (mainly taken by the poet) was published to coincide with a small exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park featuring a selection of the photos and a video of Simon Armitage reading some of the poems.

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is brilliant: Henry Moore sculptures and sheep happily coexist in the fields, in wooded areas you stumble on Andy Goldsworthy’s extraordinary land art, an Ai Wei Wei Iron Tree stands outside a chapel, and there are any number of special exhibitions, including, when we visited in early May, the Simon Armitage room and Chihara Shiota’s Beyond Time, which fills a small building with floating memories of its past identity as a chapel.

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Part of Andy Goldsworthy’s Hanging Trees. Photo by Penny Ryan

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Henry Moore, Two Large Forms and sheep. Photo by Penny Ryan

Back to the book. The YSP website describes it like this:

The fully illustrated publication comprises 40 poems by Armitage, who was poet in residence at YSP throughout 2017, its 40th anniversary year. […] Rather than writing a direct commentary on the Park, he has redefined it as its own country, the little known Ysp (pronounced eesp). Letting his imagination run wild, Armitage has mapped an elaborate, alternative reality that melds fact and fiction, creating a fanciful existence for both YSP and the poet himself.

The key word of that is ‘fanciful’. At least for this reader, the book hardly relates at all to the experience of the Park. Less than a quarter of its photos show any of the sculpture – most are of the park’s buildings old and new or of its woods and water, some with odd images collaged into them: a Vietnamese fisherman sitting on the roof of a shed; a paddle-steamer on one of the streams. The photographs are beautiful, and so are the poems, but for me the conceit falls flat – my main response to the Ysp poems (a queue that lasts for months, the legend of a great drought …) is impatience. I guess what I wanted, to use the words of the website, was ‘direct commentary on the Park’.

All the same the individual poems are a good read. I’ve heard Simon Armitage read on the radio, and am glad to have got to read some of his work on the page.

Here’s a spread that includes ‘direct commentary’ on a sculpture (an ekphrastic poem, to use the technical term):

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On the left is a photograph of David Nash’s ‘Seventy-One Steps’, with the image of an odd temple-like building fancifully, and to my mind awkwardly, inserted. In real life you encounter this sculpture as you walk through the woods, and if you weren’t on the alert you might just walk on the steps without realising they were a work of art, though you would probably register that they are a lovely piece of work.* What you can’t see in the photo is that the dark, hefty oak steps rest on 30 tonnes of coal which will gradually erode. (The work was originally called The Black Steps, but it has already changed enough that it has been renamed.)

On the right is ‘The Dark Stairs’, presented as a translation of a poem by Armitage’s invention, ‘Ysp’s most famous poet, HK’. It’s a 14 line response to the sculpture, the short lines themselves a bit like steps.

[Inserted later: I realised that the text is hard to read in that image, so here’s the poem in full:

The Dark Stairs

Each blind step
a railway sleeper
quarried from coal,
fossilised treads
marinated in tar,
charred planks
dug out of a fire.
To me they’re saying
heaven or hell
it’s all the same,
a minor scale
of sharps and flats,
black keys only
this way or that.

The more I look at this poem, the stronger it feels. Where Seamus Heaney’s poem ‘Polish Sleepers’ spells out the dark associations of railway sleepers by invoking the Holocaust, Armitage (ventriloquising HK) invokes elemental forces of fire and fossilisation, and perhaps the spectre of global warming, and does exactly the thing that I had hoped for from the book as a whole, finding words that help name the feelings evoked by the work.


*One of the joys of the Park is that this is true of a number of the sculptures: you could easily miss the Andy Goldsworthy piece above if you didn’t happen to look over a low stone wall, and there’s a brass sculpture that looks for all the world like the exposed roots of trees.

Open Hearts in Chippendale

The winner of the fourth annual Chippendale New World Art Prize will be announced tomorrow night at the opening of the exhibition of the 41 finalists (thumbnails here). And I’m telling you this because the Emerging Artist is one of the finalists.

Her work, Open Hearts, is the first big day out for her Confined Hearts project (see Squarespace or facebook), in which she is working with a wide variety of people – from Rohingya asylum seekers to a retired children’s magazine editor – to make 1468 ceramic models of the human heart, one for each person in detention on Manus Island or Nauru. As she says, it’s an open question whether the hearts represent the detainees or us.

A small selection of the hearts was part of the recent Life Lines exhibition in the Chrissie Cotter Gallery in Camperdown, looking much better than in these snaps:

wreath  cchearts

 

In the Chippendale outing, hundreds of the hearts lie in a hollow circle on the floor in front of a cyclone fence, wrapped in little muslin shrouds. Visitors are invited to step into the circle, unwrap a heart and place it in the centre of the circle, then place the white cloth in the fence. Writing a message on the cloth is optional – some of the hearts have been inscribed by their makers.

It was installed this morning. Here’s a sneak preview.

openhearts

The exhibition is on until early July in Kensington Street, Chippendale.

November Rhyme #13

OK, this is a fridge door poem I made earlier, but since the object it describes is once again being exhibited I’m passing it off as done today

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As for Living III, by Penny Ryan. Photo by Kate Scott

Rhyme # 13: Piece in an exhibition
A broken ribcage from some broken
evolutionary line?
But these  aren’t bones – too glibly spoken!
That’s no knotted ridge of spine.
This work displayed in art school stairway
is not by some apprentice Yahweh,
nor did the wondrous Burgess Shale
a woven life like this unveil.
And yet it speaks of some great sorrow,
something beautiful that’s lost,
A world bereft, left with a ghost.
Perhaps a warning for tomorrow
unless we act, lives we hold dear
will be as if they never were.

Sonnet 5: An exhibition

The opening on Wednesday night was fun, and the exhibition will be open for business at 51 Darling Street Balmain until 24 November, 11 to 6 Thursday to Sunday.

For those who came in late, the exhibition features work by three emerging older women artists: a narrative series by Penny Ryan about her mother and ASIO; exuberant work – mainly prints – by Janet Kossy that makes me think of Weimar art, only joyful; and delicate drawings by Charlie Aarons that reference Morandi‘s still lifes and traditional Kiribati designs.

Some men grow alarmingly sleazy moustaches in November. I do rhyme:

Sonnet 5: An exhibition
John Berger said, ‘Original paintings
are still and silent in a sense
that information [to explain things]
never is.’ Here’s my five cents:
that’s also true of prints and drawings,
whose lines are movement lashed to moorings.
Now frozen, mute, hung on the wall
of Darling Street’s Oddfellows Hall
are rage, desire, despair, compassion,
a mother’s joy, a daughter’s pain,
a moment freed from rat-race strain,
three days to hang, lifetimes to fashion.
We stroll around, we come, we go:
it’s just a little pop-up show.

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Photo by Penny Ryan

Come one, come all!

The Art Student has an event this Wednesday evening and you are warmly invited. I know, it’s not smart to invite the Internet to anything, but I keep a close watch on my stats, and in this case the part of the Internet living within visiting distance who will read this amounts to maybe 25 people. So come one, come all!

It’s a small exhibition of recent work by three friends. The Art Student is presenting a sequence of 14 small pieces inspired by her mother’s ASIO files. The opening is this Wednesday 13 November 6–8 pm at the Oddfellows Hall, 51 Darling Street, Balmain.

invite ARK

 

The Art Student rallies the troops

Here’s the Art Student speaking to a meeting at NSW Teachers Federation Conference Centre last week about the imminent cutting of all funding to fine art education in TAFE.

Ain’t she something?

Hungry for Art indeed

In case you haven’t heard, the New South Wales government is in the process of a vigorous attack on education in this state. Judith Ridge has posted passionately and lucidly on the subject at Misrule (full disclosure: she says some nice things about me at the link, in the middle of much else). If you haven’t been noticing the headlines, you can catch up here.

Amid the carnage:

On September 11 the NSW government announced that it would stop funding art education in TAFE, leaving 4000 students without access to finishing their courses in 2013. TAFE Art courses are the main provider of art education in NSW, with many prominent artists getting their first ‘hands on’ training in TAFE. The withdrawal of funding will mean that only the wealthy will be able to afford private art education and NSW will suddenly find it no longer has emerging artists with skills coming through.

That’s right, art education in TAFE will no longer be funded as of 1 January next year. No transition – just a short sharp shock. It’s anyone’s guess what that will mean for people who started a year or two ago confident that the NSW government would honour its implied contract, let alone the hundreds of artists who survive thanks to part time or casual teaching. TAFE is of course the poor relation in art education: when the National Art School boasts of its many illustrious alumni, for example, it rarely mentions that most of them attended when the NAS was actually East Sydney Tech, part of the TAFE system. So art is vulnerable because of course the contribution that artists make to society is routinely rendered invisible, and art teaching at TAFE is double vulnerable because it doesn’t have prestige at the big end of town.

There’s an online petition at CommunityRun, which is the source of the quote above. Do have a look and, if you agree with its gist, sign it. Students at a number of TAFEs are organising, including St George, Nepean, Goulburn, Moss Vale, Meadowbank and Wollongong so far.

The Hungry for Art Festival has hardly finished attracting hundreds of people to  The Gallery School at Meadowbank than the government announces it’s in effect closing the school down. (Because where will they find alternative funding in three months, and will the school still be public, affordable and accessible if they do?) The facebook page of FAIM (Fine Arts Inc Meadowbank) is humming.

As you might guess, the Art Student is in the thick of the campaign against the cuts. Among many other initiatives, it is the subject of the final printmaking project in her Advanced Diploma.

The project is inspired by the petition sent to the Pope by the House of Lords in 1530 pleading for the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. That petition was displayed in Lux in Arcana, the exhibition of material from the Vatican Archives that we were lucky enough to see in July. As well as signatures, the petition boasted the seals of about a hundred lords and bishops hanging on leather thongs. The effect is impressive, but also beautiful.

The Art Student hopes to attract a similar number of artists to sign a petition (wording similar to the one at CommunityRun) and carve a small soapstone block with a symbol representing themselves that can be printed in sealing wax and hung from the petition.  The art student will supply the soapstone, and the artists are welcome to keep the carving once the imprint has been made..

If you know any artists who might be interested, send them this way. My email is jonathan at shawryan dot id dot au.

The indefatigable Art Student

The Art Student has been busy since we arrived home from splendidly warm northern places. Currently at the Balmain Watch House there’s an exhibition of prints, nominally by the graduating third year printmaking students from The Gallery School, Meadowbank, but actually including work by a large number of professional artists. You can catch it this Saturday and Sunday between 10 and 4. (Information at the Balmain Association web page: click on the link and scroll down to ‘Printeresting’.)

The Art Student is one of the third year students. We’ve been living with her big piece – ‘The details’ – for months, but it only came together last week, with help from our clever industrial designer son. In case you can’t tell from the photo, it’s like a giant version of one of those sliding puzzles, inspired in large part by Heather Goodall’s Invasion to Embassy: Land in Aboriginal Politics in New South Wales, 1770-1992, which lays out in some detail the way Aboriginal people in this state have been dispossessed, driven off their land repeatedly. You may be able to read some of the small text if you click through. And no, the pieces of the puzzle don’t move. Even if they did, there’s no obvious solution. [Added after the AS saw this post: The blue in some of the internal borders isn’t there in the actual work – it’s the black acrylic backing reflecting the flash.]

Not satisfied with making art, the AS has been busy with FAIM (Fine Arts Incorporated Meadowbank), an organisation started by students and alumnae of The Gallery School with the aim, among other things, of raising the profile of the school’s See Street Gallery. Coming up is their first fabulous major initiative, the Hungry for Art Festival, which is going to be bigger than Ben Hur, with exhibitions, competitions, an Art Trail through the Ryde Municipality, you name it. From the web site:

  • DrawFest & Open Day, 18 August – The Sydney Gallery School … present a full day’s program of art exhibitions, talks, workshops, drawing and sculpture activities, art market, performance, music, food and more.
  • Art Trail, 19 August – The suburbs come alive with the first ever Art Trail. Local artists open their doors, providing a rare opportunity to see inside their studios. Galleries and visual art businesses will participate revealing a region rich in creative activity.

There’s a Mobile Phone Photo Competition that closes this Friday, open to anyone who lives, works or plays in Ryde Municipality – and who has never played in Ryde? Go on, how often do you get a chance to have one of your photos hung in a white-wall gallery?

We almost missed it …

.. but the Art Student made an appearance in the print version of the Sydney Morning Herald today. ’24 Hours’, the arts diary has a para on the ‘Rabbit Proof’ exhibition at the Hardware Gallery. I couldn’t find it online, so here’s a little phone photo:

Rew Hanks’s stunning print featuring Kim Jong-Il scrapes in with an ‘even’ but the Art Student appears in bold and has her image reproduced!

She’s given me permission to upload a clearer, though still small, version of the image:

Oh the fame, oh the recognition!

Two!

Last night the Hardware Gallery in Marrickville opened its fifth annual collaboration with The Sydney Gallery School. (The Gallery School is aka Meadowbank TAFE – threatened as are all TAFEs by a recent not much publicised COAG discussion paper. But this is post about good things in the present, not the whittling away of the public good in the near future.)

The collaboration is an exhibition entitled Rabbit Proof, featuring work by second and third year printmaking students at TGS and artists affiliated with the Gallery. It’s a charming exhibition, with more rabbits than anyone would care to poke a stick at, with Hopping Hare Alexis those who wanted alcohol. One of the prints is by her who is known here as The Art Student. At the end of the launch, only two works had sold two prints, and hers was one of them! Soon I really will have to drop the Student part of her nom de blog.

If you go to the Gallery website, you can see photos of some of the prints, including hers, ‘The Landing’, which plays around with one of the famous paintings of Cook’s landing at Botany Bay. You’ll recognise it when you see it.