Monday, 24 October 2011

Wakefield or bust!

A Bit of Taxi Trouble...

We've all been up to Wakefield, to the opening of Clare Woods new exhibition at The Hepworth

It's the first time that the whole Meadow Arts team has gone on a proper trip together, so we were all quite excited to be heading off to The Hepworth Wakefield - a stunning building and fantastic gallery space, which is the winner of the British Design Awards 2011.

Mandy & Louisa outside The Hepworth

It is a long drive from Shropshire and Herefordshire, where we are all based, so we decided to do it 'road trip' style in one car (there are only four of us in total). We had a good drive up with a bit of Bob Dylan on the car stereo, but the traffic slowed us down a fair bit on the M1 towards the end. We managed to arrive at our hotel about twenty five minutes before the speeches, so we did a lightning fast change/glam-up and whizzed down to the lobby to get our taxi - only to find he'd been and gone already! Now we know that people are busy, but a three minute wait for your customers to arrive is surely not beyond the pale, is it? We had to recall him and finally arrived at the wonderful Hepworth gallery just as the speeches were finishing. C'est la vie I suppose, but it's a good job we didn't miss the paintings or there might have been some serious repercussions for our erstwhile taxi driver...

Clare Woods new paintings were well worth our long trip North. The use of colour and form is stunning and the scale of the works is huge - some of them are ten metres long, meaning that you need to stand at some distance from them in order to see the whole panorama. The work is based on rock formations in Yorkshire and the monumental scale of the paintings, suits their subject matter perfectly. Woods has been using some oil paints, as well as her usual enamel paints, during her making process, allowing parts of the work to have different textures and effects. I only hope that I get the chance to go back and see them again: it is well worth the trip. Clare Woods The Unquiet Head continues until 29th January 2012 at The Hepworth Wakefield. You can see Clare's painting The Bishops at Hereford Cathedral now, as part of Meadow Arts Public Commissions programme.

Clare Woods exhibition The Unquiet Head, The Hepworth Wakefield (photo: The Hepworth website)
After a delicious and very generous buffet at the gallery we all trundled into another taxi, which managed to take us to the wrong hotel - despite Meadow Arts clear instructions! We didn't really mind as it gave us the chance to see more of Wakefield and our driver kindly deposited us in the right place in the end. I don't know what our problem with taxis is though. Perhaps we all need some taxi training before we venture out again...

Day 2: Yorkshire Sculpture Park

 The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is just down the road from Wakefield, so that was the destination for three of us on Saturday (Anne had to go home as she had more pressing matters to attend to). After a pretty slow breakfast (bit upset that our hotel had run out of croissants - probably my favourite part of any hotel breakfast) we popped back to the Hepworth's shop before heading to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, which is set in some very beautiful countryside and hosts a permanent sculpture collection, as well as temporary exhibitions both outside and within its interior gallery spaces.

My favourite pieces of the day were: 

James Turrell's Deer Shelter Skyspace which is a curious and beautiful experience and is a piece of work that I've wanted to see for some time.

Rachel Goodyear's exhibition in the Bothy is exquisitely drawn and very macabre, Goodyear's work features in the current Meadow Arts exhibition House of Beasts at Attingham Park, near Shrewsbury too.

Jaume Plensa Alabaster Heads, 2008-10

Jaume Plensa 29 Palms

Juame Plensa's indoor works were very interesting too: I fell in love with his Alabaster Heads, 2008-10, a truly stunning sensation - walking into that room and being faced with these large carved heads which seemed to exude an inner glow. Sitting there watching them, it seemed as if they could open their eyes at any moment. I particularly enjoyed listening to the sharp intake of breath of each person as they first entered the room and were awed by the sight of these works. His Jerusalem gong piece was very moving too. The gongs are beautiful objects and the sound vibrating around you when you strike them is a quite emotional experience. There is also a very well sited curtain of words called 29 Palms, which runs the length of the glass fronted corridor of the 'Underground' gallery space. The layers of light, shadow and sound in this piece are delightful and playful.

Jaume Plensa
Aeneas Wilder Untitled #155

 Also well worth seeing is Aeneas Wilder's works at YSP's Longside Gallery. The extensive curved enclosure in the main part of this gallery is a little disorientating for the viewer: it makes people walking on the other side to you seem like they are part of a time-lapse film or an optical illusion. There is a video of the installation processes of Wilder on show there too, and you can see that these huge structures are only held together by balance and gravity. There are absolutely no fixings holding the pieces together. If you took away one piece of wood, the entire piece would collapse. You have to see the 'Kick-down' process to believe it!

Monday, 26 September 2011

The Art Picnic

On Sunday 11th September 
we had our Art Picnic...

After a previous postponement and a lot of yo-yo organisation (up and down, backwards and forwards: either we at Meadow Arts were busy, Philippa the artist was busy or the Forest was busy!) we finally managed to have the Art Picnic. The weather wasn't bad at all, so we all gathered at Mortimer Forest, which is in Herefordshire but very close to Ludlow in Shropshire too.

Preparing to make some art

Philippa was brilliant and had organised some great activities for everyone, which had obviously taken an enormous amount of care and planning on her part. A big Thank You to Philippa Lawrence and to everyone who came and took part, as well as those lovely Forestry Commission people for supporting us!

Hard at work

Busy as a bee
 What is always amazing (and brilliant) when we do an event like this is how imaginitive everyone is. We all start with the same materials, but everyone's design is unique.

Creativity knows no age-limits

An imaginative use of colour and form

 You can view some images of the finished work on our website.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Long time, no see...

Well, it really has been a long time between blogs, so I apologise for being so slack. Must try harder...

You may remember previous blogs about the Art Picnic event, which we had to postpone because of the awful weather at the time. The good news is that we have now rescheduled it and it will take place on Sunday 11th September at Mortimer Forest in Herefordshire.

Philippa Lawrence's artwork Barcode: FB814 looks stunning in the forest. It nestles within the trees: you can see it from the pathway, but you have to step off the path and weave through the trees to get close to it. You find yourself in a space infused with an almost magical air: something so familiar is rendered strange by the incongruity of its placement. We see barcodes every day of or lives, but rarely consider them and here they are, drawing our attention to the 'natural' environment of the forest, and the way that we use these resources commercially.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

House of Beasts Opening

House of Beasts Opens Saturday

Meadow Arts amazing new House of Beasts exhibition will open on Saturday 2nd July at National Trust's Attingham Park in Shropshire.

The exhibition explores the differing relationships between people and animals: from the bonds between us and our pets and prized livestock to the battlegrounds of pest control, and everything else in between.

Most of the Meadow Arts team have been busy installing the works at Attingham over the last couple of weeks. Here are some photos of the team in action, working with National Trust staff to get the artworks safely in place...

Installing Mat Collishaw's The Beast in Me
Susie MacMurray, in the lorry with Herd

Nina Saunder's Refuge, about to be installed

Kate MccGwire's Vex in the entrance hall

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Preparing for House of Beasts

Decisions, decisions...

We had a very long meeting at Attingham Park on Wednesday, to discuss the final arrangements for the House of Beasts exhibition. Working with a historic building has its own set of complications, which you would not necessarily encounter in a gallery exhibition.

Curatorially, places are chosen for each piece according to the artwork's relationship with the space, the history of the room and the artist's intentions for the work. It is not so straightforward to put the pieces where you would like to though. Some of the pieces, for example Matt Collishaw's Insecticide piece, are really heavy once they are framed, so firstly we have to establish whether the hanging point in the house is going to take the weight safely. This is a historic building, so you can't just go around banging extra fixings into walls!

Matt Collishaw, Insecticide 17
Attingham Park is open to the public every day too, so we all went round to finalise placings for the work and to discuss the fine-print of the installation, whilst trying to stay out of the way of the visitors to the building. Not always easy when you mustn't bump into the antiques or step on the special old carpets and rugs. 

Attingham is an amazing building, full of stories about its previous occupants, so it is really  important for the exhibited works to respond to the rich history of the place and to create a sort of dialogue between the contemporary and the historic. Curating the exhibition has been a case of responding to the place through the artworks, in a similar way to the responses that the commissioned artists make, when they are making new works to place at Attingham.

Next week we are going to start installing the artworks, so we are all very excited to see the works in-situ. They are going to look truly amazing in the very special spaces of Attingham Park.

The front of Attingham

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Art Picnic Postponed

Art Picnic Postponed Due To Bad Weather

We have had to postpone todays event because the weather is awful: I am sure that none of you wanted to be eating a picnic in the tipping rain today either!

The good news is that we plan to hold the event on a later (and sunnier) day, so look out for more news on the Art Picnic soon.

Philippa Lawrence, the artist who made the Public Commission artwork Barcode FB814 at Mortimer Forest, was at the woods yesterday to prepare the site for today's event. Barcode FB814 looks amazing there, and we really hope that you will be able to join us for the rescheduled Art Picnic when we have arranged a new date for it.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Art Picnic

Bring your picnic and come and join us in Mortimer Forest on Sunday 12th June

We are really looking forward to going down to the woods to have another look at Philippa Lawrence's specially commissioned artwork Barcode: FB814.

Philippa will be there on the 12th June to lead the arts activity session and we will all be bringing our picnic lunches too.

We hope to see lots of you there to join in the fun!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Making Art: House of Beasts

Susie MacMurray's Commission

One of the artists who has been commissioned to make a new piece of artwork for our upcoming House of Beasts exhibition at Attingham Park is Susie MacMurray. Susie works with places, materials and form to help the viewer of her art to make new connections and she has produced some amazing work. 

After her research and a couple of site visits to Attingham, Susie decided that she would like to make a sculptural piece of work using antlers. Attingham has its own herd of deer in its vast parkland and they shed their antlers each year, so Susie's idea was to collect the antlers and use them for her artwork.

The antlers will be cut up and rearranged to make the installation: Herd
Initial antler discussions were held between Meadow Arts and National Trust staff, notably Bob and Colin, followed by a national call for antlers from other Trust properties, to supplement the Attingham ones. Antlers were surprisingly hard to come by and, after many appeals and searches Susie decided that it would be most appropriate to use antlers just from Attingham's herd. 

Some of the antlers were naturally shed and picked up by the grounds staff and others were the result of a cull to manage the deer population at the property. Susie is making a sculpture that will burst out of a velvet covered door in the house at Attingham: bringing the outdoor animals of the property into the grand house itself.

 Susie MacMurray's sketch for new commission: Herd

Since Susie does not live in the area, the logistics of getting the panel cut that will sit snugly in the doorway was a little tricky. Old houses tend not to have perfect right-angles in their make-up so Meadow Arts' Louisa did some very careful measuring to make a full size paper template for it, before getting the appropriate size piece of wood cut. This way, Susie has an exact sized template to work from when she is making the piece of work.

Susie testing her idea at Attingham park

We are all really looking forward to seeing the work at Attingham. We want the installation to go as smoothly as possible and that is why it is so important to put the work in during the preparatory stages.

Susie MacMurray in the library at Attingham Park

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Planning Our Next Exhibition

House of Beasts

Things are very busy here at Meadow Arts as we are getting everything ready for our next exhibition; House of Beasts at the National Trust's Attingham Park in Shropshire. The exhibition will open in July, but we have been preparing for it since last Autumn.

There is an enormous amount of research that is done in the initial planning stages. Anne is the curator, so she is constantly visiting exhibitions so that she knows what is around and who is doing work that will be relevant to the exhibition. We often discuss artists and artworks in the office, so it is vital that we all see current exhibitions so that we are aware of works that could be potentially part of a future exhibition.

The work of an arts organisation is never done and a huge amount of time has been spent applying for funding since I joined Meadow Arts in September. The biggest funding application is the Arts Council one, but it is necessary to apply to other funders as well because Arts Council England will provide only part of the funding. They also need to see that we are supported by the Local Authorities that we are working with and that we work in partnership with other organisations.

There is no admission charge for the exhibitions and public commissions that Meadow Arts puts on, so all of the costs have to be raised through Arts Council England, other Trusts and Foundations, Local Authorities, Partners and Sponsorship. The benefits of this are that the public can see Contemporary Art in their local area for free and we also provide workshops so that schools and the public get an opportunity to make art for themselves and talk directly to artists about the exhibitions.

Art exhibitions also help the economy because the visitors they bring in spend money on other things in the local economy, like restaurants and hotels. Studies show that the arts generate more money for the economy (£3 for each £1 of investment they receive) and the arts employ 2 million people in the UK.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

National Portfolio Funding Success

Meadow Arts Gets 
Arts Council England Funding

Arts Council England has made its decisions on which organisations will become part of their National Portfolio Funding programme for three years from 2012-15 and they have chosen to fund Meadow Arts. 

Here is Meadow Arts statement on the news:

"Since its creation in 2001, Meadow Arts has relied on gaining separate funding for each individual exhibition and programme it has undertaken.  Arts Council England has now acknowledged the contribution Meadow Arts makes to Contemporary Art by placing Meadow Arts into its National Portfolio Funding Programme. The Arts Council grant to Meadow Arts for 2012-13 has been set at £160,000 with inflationary increases over the following two years.

Whilst this is good news for Meadow Arts, we deeply regret the loss of funding to so many other arts organisations across the country."

We are absolutely delighted to know that we can plan for the next three years of exhibitions and have a stable and secure future for that time.  We have got lots of exciting work in store and are currently really busy getting ready for the July opening of our House of Beasts exhibition at Attingham Park, a National Trust property in Shropshire.

Since Wednesday, when we heard about the funding decision, we have all been torn between celebrating our own success and feeling sympathy for all of the organisations who didn't make it into the portfolio. It is going to be a real struggle for many of them. There is still another funding strand from Arts Council England, called Grants For The Arts, which some of them will be able to apply to (this is how we have gained a lot of our funding up until now). The private funding that the government is telling people to go for seems to be quite elusive at the moment, so we will have to wait and see whether there will be any incentives for philanthropy that will help the arts.

Arts Council England said that many good organisations would not get the funding and we can see some that do brilliant work around us who didn't get funding. It feels like getting really good exam results and then finding out that your best friend failed them...

Friday, 18 March 2011

The Installation of Barcode: FB184

Philippa Lawrence installs Barcode: FB814

We have some great photos here of the installation of Philippa Lawrence's new artwork at High Vinnalls. As you can see, the weather was good and the installation went according to plan.

Philippa Lawrence, the artist

Wrapping one of the trees

Measuring each band of the barcode

Philippa Carefully wrapped each tree: the fabric causes no damage to the trees or the creatures who live in them.

Jakey the dog, overseeing the work

Philippa (centre) with her friend Marcus and Louisa from Meadow Arts

Almost finished

Philippa Lawrence, Barcode: FB814

Click on the link on the right hand side of this page to read Philippa's proposal for this piece of work.

Coming soon: we'll have some news about an upcoming event, so that you can see the work for yourself. Stay tuned for more details...

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Philippa Lawrence Creates New Artwork

Artist Philippa Lawrence is making a new artwork, as part of Meadow Arts Public Commissions Programme. Here is Philippa’s proposal for the new work…

We abuse land because we regard it as commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.
Aldo Leopold

‘Barcode: FB814’ © Philippa Lawrence
A temporary site-responsive piece at High Vinnalls, Mortimer Forest, from March 2011, for Meadow Arts Public Commissions Programme, funded by Arts Council England and the Elmley Foundation. Special thanks to Georgina Sharp and Ian Hickman of the Forestry Commission. 

This piece of work can be viewed for the next few months at Mary Knoll Valley, High Vinnalls, Mortimer Forest, Herefordshire (from the High Vinnalls car park, take the Forest Road and turn left).

My relationship with trees is one built upon a close and easy physical proximity.  In childhood one of the ways I spent my days was climbing trees, local trees accepted my slight young limbs and that of my friends as we scaled and climbed, testing our dexterity and being flushed with delight at our exertions and in being abroad in another place within the arms of the tree. I tested my physical capabilities in climbing their branches and subsequently in my adult years once more embraced their form, tightly wrapping their dead limbs with swathes of cloth for  ‘Bound’.

I have an abiding respect for trees and I am aware of their deep place in our human psyche. Human kind has a deep and profound connection with trees. Our relationship with trees is deep and unequivocal. We are totally dependent on them as the lungs of the earth. Through them we breathe, by them we are sheltered - they heat us, feed us, enchant us – but it is vital we do not romanticize our relationship with trees but instead choose to acknowledge and respect their vital importance to us and to protect them.

Until recently I would have considered that as a nation we have and do value the ancient woodlands that still exist, but recent governmental decisions which outraged so many was to sell off and privatise these vast swathes of land that remain rooted to and from the earth. Will we be happy only when we have manicured and ring fenced and controlled all of our land – where then do we have a land that can represent the psyche – the wild and dark and uncanny within ourselves if we don’t have spaces that can also make us feel the otherness of things and of place? Trees have in fact made us the nation we are, as a nation we set sail in wooden vessels to seek new lands. Without a land surrounded by sea and deep in trees we would not have been able to ‘conquer’ the world’.

I am also increasingly and acutely aware of the fragility of the infrastructures upon which we depend and that trees underpin our existence. ‘Barcode: FB814’ will be a work that is both aesthetic and cerebrally stimulating, which has the potential to open a door into issues of commodity, of the place of ‘trees’ in our lives. And naturally the value we place on our woodland.

Wood is a material we seldom talk about as being irreplaceable, we continue to live in a paper hungry world where the real value of the source material or the efforts required to obtain the raw material is not especially considered or valued. Wood is used more and in even more ways than most of us consider, from a pencil to a house, from furniture to electricity, from a napkin, book or newspaper to the inside of a luxury car.

The work
The piece will be based upon existing barcode(s) from wood products, scaled up and translated into black and white striations of cloth wound around the trunks of living trees.

To enlarge barcodes associated with wood products, cut appropriate proportions in black and white cloth to wrap and bind on the trunks and limbs of relevant trees.

A landscape is the land transformed, whether through the physical act of inhabitation or enclosure, clearance or cultivation or through human perception

‘Place’ by Tacita Dean & Jeremy Millar

Books such as ‘Place’ by Tacita Dean and Jeremy Millar invite the reader to question and engage in an understanding and a definition of place, space, of site, environment and of habitat (through the realm of art).

We may not have an immediately clear definition of these states, and what they mean to us individually, but collectively they are of vital importance and we should know where our and their boundaries lay. Man attempts to maintain swathe and power over nature and this control is the basis for many conflicts. It is apt that there has been outrage from the public at the proposed sale of our forests, our last accessible and ‘free’ native spaces. Forestland is a small fraction of the European landscape in the twenty-first century. (Britain is the second least forested nation in Europe, the sixth largest importer of timber, but in the early Middle Ages, much of Europe’s land mass was forested quite densely, with Britain being covered by 98%.)

FB814 came to be through invitation and conversation with Meadow Arts and out of a necessity to place a version of ‘Bound’, the work made for Croft Castle, into an environment where it could be easily accessed by the public and a wider rural population.

My practice is broader than ‘tree wrapping’ and I hoped to make a new work that connected me to place. The ‘Bound’ series is striking and effective, which works on many levels - and has the potential to draw communities together.  For the Rural Commissioning Programme it was more important for me to find the right context and place and make a new work born from time and research.

Hereford is known for its special relationship to trees, with many ancient woodlands and a long history of cider orchards. I initially wanted to make a work in an orchard and worked up other proposals that examined the close relationship between man and the fruit trees that I yet hope to make. I learnt a great deal, visiting special places, meeting many types of tree and people in the course of this research and developing poignant and powerful connections with place.

At the initial stages of the project I visited Morton Arboretum, Lisle, Illinois, USA – for a site-visit. An exhibition opens in April 2011 in which I am making a Bound work, but what I wanted to make was a piece that raised issues of the commodification of the land through the use of a barcode on tall pines – the raw materials for much of the pioneers' colonization of the land.

I was reading Brush Cat by Jack McEnay and through his work and writing on the logging industry in America and issues behind wood economy as well as a questioning of how the people approached and used the space and the landscape of the arboretum.

As ever in making a work like FB814 or Bound I am struck by the potential, energy and privilege in working so closely with and amongst trees. To work in the ‘natural’ environment in an honest way – spending time – the act of binding is as much a binding of the trees as it is a metaphor also for a connection to place.

Six trees will be wrapped at High Vinnals and the relationship between them unites them whilst also recognizing their individuality. The trees in this area are harvested for crop not in one swathe but taken out individually – to make hardwood dowelling and for the building trade.

I hope the work is striking and aesthetic whilst also celebrating the work of the Forestry Commission in managing a sustainable relationship with trees, and may help people reconsider our relationship to these places and the centrality of wood in all of our lives.

‘Barcode: FB814’ is a piece that draws attention to the nature of these managed woodlands. The forest at Mortimer is especially interesting in its mix of ancient woodland and new planting. There are areas here that are widely accessible and other places that have a sense of timelessness, offering the wanderer a perspective of the liminal and the potential for transformation – these deeply wooded areas have a profound impact upon our psyche. Our folklore and fairytales abound with descriptions and metaphor related to the forest. 

The area chosen to work with is an enclosure of young oak trees approximately 80 years old that will be individually felled to provide wood for the building industries. The barcode on these trees is the same – it is taken from hardwood dowelling and in its uniformity draws our attention to the contradiction between the individual nature of each individual tree and the way that mass consumerism demands the rendering of it into a single homogenized unit.

 Philippa Lawrence, March 2011
Written References and related source material:

Place – Tacita Dean and Jeremy Millar
The Tree – John Fowles
The Greening of Science – Rupert Sheldrake
Wildwood – Roger Deakin
The Uses of Enchantment – Bruno Betthelheim
Fairytales - The Brothers Grimm

Tuesday, 8 March 2011


Welcome to Meadow Arts brand new blog. We're getting things prepared for our next exhibition and we'll be keeping you up to date with our progress. There is a lot to organise before an exhibition can be up and running and there has already been months of behind the scenes work going on, before we can get anywhere near the artwork.

Keep checking in with us for a blow by blow account of the whole process.......