Category: Events (page 1 of 4)

Forty-Part Motet – Janet Cardiff


Like many of the visitors to this amazing sound installation, my first visit was so emotive that I had to share it with others. Located in an acoustically perfect crumbling old chapel in Penzance, the Groundworks Janet Cardiff installation Forty Part Motet proved as expected, to be equally as mind-blowing for my nearest and dearest. And even on my second visit, the hairs on my arms rose with anticipation.

Arranged in a circle the forty speakers, set in eight groups of five, the installation enables listeners to move around amongst a choir of forty individual voices. The sound moves from one speaker to another giving the listener an all-immersive feeling that the performance is happening in real time.

The engaging intro of fascinating chatter by the choristers of Salisbury Cathedral Choir perfectly prepares the listener for what is to come. As the atmosphere builds beautifully the listener’s senses are heightened to provide a feeling of full inclusion in the event. The briefest hush of an interlude before the chorister’s voices build, rising and fall in their separate choir sections is perfectly timed.

This all immersive work, which even if you are not a classical music lover will evoke an emotional reaction, is reminiscent of a well-composed film score and deserves your attention for at least three full cycles of the recording.

Janet Cardiff is celebrated for a body of work that comprises audio walks, film, photography and sound installations. Born in Canada and now splitting her time between British Colombia and Berlin, she often works with her partner Georges Bures Miller, as she did on the Forty Part Motet. Her work often enables audiences to experience sound in particular locations or acoustic experiences.

Order and Progress – Laureana Toledo


Laureana Toledo’s,  Order and Progress (2013-2018), is a sensitive film which highlights the destruction of an environment and cultural change brought about oil profiteering. Its linear structure discloses the hell which has erupted from the industry that has overshadowed the once beautiful environment of the Oaxaca valley, Mexico, where Laureana spent much of her childhood.

I was lucky enough to experience this film on an evening when Laureana and cellist Natalia Perez Turner gave an exhilarating live performance of the accompanying score, followed by an enlightening talk and discussion with the audience.

Sometimes more dramatic sometimes more jazzy, the live score changes with each performance as the musicians respond to the film’s content and narrative. Cellist Natalia Perez Turner and Laureana Toledo provided the unpredictable score using percussion instruments compiled from bottles, glasses, rocks and a filing cabinet,

There was a certain fragility to the live performance on the night due to the unpredictive nature of the percussion objects. Inevitably objects break or fall over which add to the uniqueness of each event.

The sounds from the everyday percussion objects work perfectly with the silences within the film. And the human voice in Zapotec at the end brings a slightly joyous feeling to the film’s final moments of the film.

Laureana confesses that during a live performance it is difficult not to give away the building emotion of the film as it plays. The recorded score is very different from the live performance and Laureana feels it is too optimistic.

A renowned Mexican artist, Laureana Toledo’ expresses her creativity through photography and works with film, music, performance and text. She pays particular attention to imperceptible or transient moments of everyday experience.


To whom it was given – Bickford Smith Institute


Like most visitors to Porthleven, Cornwall, I presumed the dominant granite building that was iconically photographed in the first of the 2014 storms, was a church. It certainly survived the pounding destruction of the biblically proportioned waves as they engulfed its mighty clock tower again and again as if it were defended by a deity.

Well, it’s not. It is, in fact, a snooker club. The Bickford Smith Institute was originally founded as a library in 1884 but changed status in 1911 when two snooker tables were installed.

Excitingly it is now open to the general public for a three week period as the site of a Groundwork Art installation by Chris Fite-Wassilak and Sophie Mallett.

These two London based artists have introduced various sculptural and narrative elements to the decaying building, that is desperately in need of renovation. Chris Fite-Wassilak is a writer and critic based in London. Sophie Mallett is a London-based artist. Her practice is concerned with forms of belonging and exclusion and through installation, she pursues a practice concentrating on the connections between history and place.

The decay of the windows caused by the corrosive sea salt has provided the inspiration for two interesting screen-printed textile cloths which now adorn the snooker tables. While the perishing wall surfaces are littered with fascinating early century photographs and stories. They are timely reminders that if this building does not receive funding for its restoration soon it’s history will be lost.


Francis Alÿs – The Silence of Ani

ART BLOG – GROUNDWORK – An evening talk

The beginning of June saw the end of the Steve McQueen screening by the Groundwork programme at CAST. Thankfully it also marked the opening of an equally emotive film by Belgium born former architect Francis Alÿs.

Another triumph in sound, The Silence of Ani, was commissioned for the Istanbul Biennial in 2015. Thankfully this masterpiece of black & white filmmaking has finally made its way to Cornwall for its first UK presentation. The mesmerising orchestral effect of the bird calls coupled with the graceful choreography of the children and the stunning cinematography is astounding. The rich tapestry which was technically woven by Alÿs and his team blends these creative elements to deliver a visual and auditory feast which compels you to watch the thirteen-minute film again and again.

The silence of Ani, was shot on location amongst the ruins of an ancient Armenian city, Ani, near the border of Turkey. Long since declined from its 13th-century majesty, not much much remains of its legendary 101 churches. In the film, we see the city brought back to life by bird calls, created by Duduks – ancient double-reed woodwind flutes (also on show with the film). These bird calling devices once used for hunting, play a particular relevance to the film’s metaphor of hope to readdress the more recent Armenian genocide in the area.

Alÿs worked with a composer to create a musical score for the bird calls which went through 3 different iterations. The final version was rewritten once the children were onsite and the choreographic and locational restrictions were taken into account.

Until recently Ani was used as s military site. Alÿs and his team had permission to shoot for a mere five days amongst the ruins. Unfortunately, they were hampered by bad weather during the first two days on location, so shooting time was cut down dramatically to just a few days.

Although the film was originally planned to have documentary overtones, collaboration with a composer and choreographer has given the film structure a more fictitious narrative than most of Alÿs’ other work. The sense of fantasy, despite its political overtones, was born out of a necessity to choreograph the bird calls with the abstract nature of the children movements. This unexpected evolution was something Alys did not predict but which he believes has brought its own reward.

It was Alÿs’ political statements in both When Faith Moves Mountains, shot in Lima, Peru, 2002, along with The Green Line, Jerusalem 2004,  which caught the attention of the 2015 Istanbul Biennial commissioners. Similarly, as a consequence, his work in Ani opened the doors of possibility to allow him to work on his latest project with the Kurdish refugee camps in Iraq, Colour Matching, Mosul, Iraq 2016 and Children’s Games 16 / Hopscotch, Sharia Refugee Camp, Iraq 2016.

Sacha Craddock – Turner prize talk


Whilst scouting for young talent in the southwest, Sacha Craddock, independent art critic, writer and curator, took time out to talk to a select few at Newlyn School of Art. Her focus was to share her experience of curating the 2017 Turner Prize Exhibition, at the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull, as part of the UK City of Culture 2017 programme.

Sacha studied painting at Central Saint Martins and then Chelsea School of Art. She taught for a while at the Royal College of Art and was lucky enough to witness the early work of Turner Prize nominee Hurvin Anderson and winner Lubaina Himid. It is perhaps this connection which earned her the role of Curator for the Tate organised exhibition.

Sacha has judged many art prizes during her career including the Turner Prize in 1999 and the John Moores Painting Prize in 2008. She has written widely on Contemporary art including reviewing exhibitions of many up and coming Young British Artists. She was the only journalist to review the pre-YBA exhibition: Frieze, which featured early work by artists such as Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas and Mat Collishaw. In 1996 Craddock became chair of Bloomberg New Contemporaries, a role which she continues to hold. It was with this hat on that she reviewing the Cornish summer shows along with friend and portrait artist Jesse Leroy Smith.

George Vasey, curatorial fellow at Newcastle University and writer worked alongside Sacha to choose existing work from the artists’ collections for the exhibition. They also added existing pieces from the Ferens Gallery own collection, to contribute to the Turner Prize exhibition experience. Slight alterations were made to the building for the exhibition These included the construction of two temporary cinemas within the gallery space to screen Rosalind Nashashibi’s broken but well-edited films.

Sacha played a key role in choosing Ferens Gallery. The space for the exhibition within the walls helped her determine which pieces were included in the final show. Sacha is more than aware that the many restrictions put on a curator should not influence what is shown but it is difficult to put these restrictions aside.

Her talk frequently returned to the difficulty of joint responsibility that curators face. A responsibility to both the public and the artist. The pressure of representing the work of such high profile artists in the best possible way and honouring those intentions, whilst appealing to an audience. It was a role that although she admits to enjoying she is also not in a hurry to repeat.

St Buryan – a field trip


Another great event organised as part of this year’s Groundwork programme of art, the field trip to St Buryan held us entranced by the landscape and our guides for almost six hours.

We started our walk in the mizzle at the church that is both commonly associated with the area since the release of the psychological thriller Straw Dogs in 1971.

Previously described as the ‘wickedest parish’ of Cornwall, St Buryan hasn’t earned its reputation from the film but from its eight-year excommunication from the church in 1328 following a dispute over control of the religious matters in the parish.

It’s more fascinating history was explained byRobin Dowell and James Fergusson as we made our way across the atmospheric landscape to a renowned site littered with evidence of human activity from Neolithic times. We scoured the furrows for flint but found little with our untrained eyes as we progressed towards a number of stone crosses within the parish. The best examples of which were cited in the churchyard and on the outskirts of the village as we made our way towards the coast. The roughly circular remains of the celtic crosses which featured carved figures on the faces were pagan in origin and marked ancient crossing points.

We eventually the paths flanked by the high hedgerows bursting with the last intense hues of the bluebells and pinks of the wild campion and plunged into some spectacular waterside glades. As we a weaved our way under canopies of rare Elm the weather improved enough to make a lunch stop amongst the giant rounded rocks of ‘boulder storm beach’, St Loy. Worn smooth by the action of the sea after they had fallen from the cliff face, sometime before the last Ice Age, they made perfect pitches for a picnic. The fascinating archaeological history displayed on the beach as well as the exposed cliffs turned most of us into explorers once our sandwiches had been consumed and we poked and prodded quite happily amongst the fascinating landscape until recalled to make our return.

Within the day we spent with Robin and James, I gained a comprehensive insight into the geological, environmental, archaeological and cultural importance of the parish. The experience left me inspired by the landscape and I will definitely return at some point to explore the previously unknown coastline between Lamorna and Porthcurno. In the meantime, I will be watching the  CAST website closely for any future field trips.

Peter Doig in conversation with Matthew Higgs


One of the highlights of being part of the Groundworks Team is having a schedule of events at my fingertips. So whilst consulting the literature for some visitors I noticed that an evening of conversation was planned with the renowned artist Peter Doig and immediately booked myself a seat.

The evening did not disappoint despite the sudden monsoon type drenching I received on my way down to the Woodlane campus. The easy conversation between curator Matthew Higgs, (director of the influential alternative art space White Columns in New York) and former colleague Peter flowed effortlessly and provided a unique insight into Peter’s career.

The two former RCA colleagues have made a special visit to Cornwall’s shores to curate an exhibition in St Just at the Jackson Foundation Gallery featuring the Afro Caribbean artist Denzel Forrester. The evening led us through Peters last thirty years as an artist and being in London at the time of the YBA movement in the 1990’s. Noted for their shock tactics, use of throwaway materials and oppositional and entrepreneurial attitude the YBA group of visual artists received an abundance of media coverage.

As an artist practising at the same time Peter’s own work was quickly recognised and he was nominated for the Turner prize in 1994 after some early exhibitions at The Whitechapel Art Gallery. His time at the played an influential factor in bringing his work into the public eye

Peter lived in London for 30 years and moved to Trinidad in 2002 after which the Tate Britain held a retrospective of his work in 2008. Born in Scotland but a resident of Canada and Trinidad for most of his childhood both have had an influential effect on his work.

In 2007, White Canoe set a record for the highest price for a piece sold by a living European artist. This 11 million price tag was surpassed by Doig’s enchanting piece Swamped,  which went to a new owner for 26 million, then again last year when  “Rosedale,” of a Toronto snowfall, went to auction and was sold to a telephone bidder for 28 million.

Peter’s visit to Cornwall is noteworthy not only to celebrate his artistic achievements but also for his involvement in the curation and promotion of Denzel Forrester’s work in St Just. From Trench Town to Porthtowan will be on show from May 26 – June 23rd, 2018.

The exhibition presents a career-spanning collection of Denzel’s large-scale paintings which explore a diverse range of themes from sewing bags with his mother to the world of London’s dub reggae clubs.


Steve McQueen – Gravesend


Gravesend (2007), a mesmerising film by Steve McQueen, was the second exhibition I recently had the opportunity to be involved with as part of the Groundwork summer programme.

Screened in a specially adapted room within the nearly renovated CAST building in Helston, this film by the acclaimed Steve McQueen is an all-immersive experience. The giant high-quality screen dominates the end of the room and showcases Gravesend perfectly. Reinforced by the booming surround sound, the twenty-five-minute experience demands your full attention as it makes the viewer shudder with the acoustic vibration.

An acclaimed director of feature films such as 12 Years a Slave, Hunger and Shame, Steve McQueen is also a renowned British artist who specialises in the moving image. Steve McQueen’s Turner Prize-winning talent certainly shines through on screen. The editing, pace, colour and sound engage your senses and play with your emotions.

The mining and refining process of Coltan, a black mineral used in vital components of electronics including mobile phones and laptops, is the focus of  Gravesend.  Whilst McQueen’s minute-long second piece in the exhibition, Unexploded (2007) is his celluloid reaction to a crater left by an unexploded bomb in Basra, filmed during his time as a war artist in Iraq.

Both films are FREE to experience until the 3rd June at the CAST building in Helston, Cornwall.

Christina Mackie – Judges II

ARTBLOG – Groundwork

This week marked the opening of Christina Mackie’s intriguing contemporary sculptural installation to the visitors of Godolphin House, Helston

Housed in the magnificent Kings room, the installation has the luxury of commanding the complete space, which has been specially adapted for the exhibition. Part of the Groundwork Art programme for the summer, visitors to Godolphin have the opportunity to absorb Christina’s complex collection of work at their leisure even when the house is not open to the public.

Fired at the same temperatures that rock is transformed into magma, Christina’s sculptural ceramic pieces which dominate the installation are a response to an extinct volcano in New South Wales, Australia. Also combined with the installation both on top and underneath the carefully planned trestle tables are various other elements which invite visitors to explore Christina’s theme. Piles of mineral sand are funnelled and poured between objects and minerals are incorporated into paintings as pigments and as glazes on the ceramic pieces.

Two video works also play out silently underneath the tables.
Fall force, a 3D wireframe animation deals with the theme of time and grinding down and flowing away of human endeavour.

Planet, considers the theme of landscape, earth’s characteristics and forces being as visible in a lump of mineral as in the whole landscape considers the theme of landscape, earth’s characteristics and forces being as visible in a lump of mineral as in the whole landscape, the mechanism of crystals being present in both scales and the beauty of the earth.

Christina Mackie is an internationally celebrated artist, best known for her composite sculptural installations, which unite disparate elements in a state of temporary synthesis. Born in England in the mid-1950’s, she was raised in Canada but resettled back in London in the 1980s.

Her amazing body of work Judges II, has been lent by the Arts Council and brought to Cornish shores by the Groundworks programme with the support of CAST,  Kestle Barton, Tate St Ives and Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange.  The unique setting for this a rarely viewed installation has been kindly provided by The National Trust.

Christina’s piece will be on show in the Kings Room, Goldophin House, Helston, Cornwall until the 24th June.

John Dyer – painting the colours of the world


The John Dyer retrospective exhibition at Falmouth Art Gallery was the second of the day for me, as I found myself rushing from one side of the county to the other.

The exhibition lovingly curated and exhibited, complete with new coat of flamingo pink on the walls, was a celebration of John’s 50th birthday and a chance to showcase his huge body of work.

On what had been a glorious sunny day, one of John’s pieces was particularly appropriate. A wave of summer Colour, Gyllingvase,  truly reflected the change in vibrancy the recent sunshine had brought to the town. The gallery was awash with colour from other studies by John from Australia, Peru, the Philippines and the almost local Eden project.

Cornish artist John runs a predominantly an online gallery with his colourist painter wife Joanne Short. They work from a spacious Edwardian property in Falmouth. Together with post-impressionist father Ted Dyer, the threesome makes up one of Cornwall’s well-known families of contemporary figurative painters. All their artistic styles are quite diverse, all three members cite this as a benefit as they continue to learn from each other.

The exhibition coincides with the launch of a new book by John, which boasts a  foreword by Alan Titchmarsh and hundreds of his beautiful paintings from all over the world faithfully reproduced on paper.