Monday, 23 April 2018

Journeys with ' the Waste Land' in Margate

What better place to go on the hottest day of the year so far than to the seaside! Last Thursday I headed off to Margate to see the well reviewed exhibition ' Journey with the Waste Land' at Turner Contemporary. I wore my   trousers with zip-off legs and took paddling sandals and towel but alas the  tide was out when I arrived. 
It was a lot busier on the beach when I left to go home , with lots of people already going pink exposing winter flesh for the first time. 
 The exhibition had an interesting approach to curation  being the culmination of a 3 year project of local residents  who chose all the artworks, designed the layout  and wrote the exhibition texts, exploring the significance of TS Eliot's  poem' The Waste Land' through the visual arts . Rather than a catalogue, the gallery guide had quotes from members about why they had chosen particular pieces and at listening points in the exhibition there were recordings of the discussions.   
There was a  wide variety of work on show, often thought provoking, some  uncomfortable  and disturbing.   
There were  2  contrasting pieces by Paul Nash: 'Wire '  and 'The Shore' ( above).  It was wonderful to be re-aquainted  with one of my favourite paintings , having visited it several times in it's home gallery in Leeds and then seeing it again in the  Tate Nash exhibition. It was chosen here for  the parallels between Nash and Eliot visiting Kent  at times of personal crisis.. 

 'Goodwin Sands' by William Lionel Wyllie ( above and detail below), just off the coast near Margate  was chosen in relation to the section of the poem ' Death by Water' . The ancient shipwreck depicted , ancient and rotting, reminded me of  disintegrating  structures of breakwaters.
The sculpture ' Heavy Insect' by William Turnbull also reminded me of breakwaters and  interestingly the quote in the notes was  how it looked like ancient images of boats  and the resemblance to the decaying shipwreck in Wylies painting !

I loved  this photo by Lee Miller 'Portrait of Space, Al Bulwayeb, Nr Siwa, Egypt , 1941 and the discussions  at the listening post about significance of the rectangle ( was it a mirror or not?) added another dimension. 

It was fascination to see some of the collages by John Stezaker in the flesh having seen so many photos of his work in  recent collage class.  In the gallery notes I liked his quotes about collage , that it 'redeems fragments'  and is 'a relationship with the wasteland of everyday experience'. 
One of the gallery spaces was devoted to the actual  text of the poem, including the annotated copies of the research group . One wall was taken  up with 36 collages by Vibeke Tandberg , taking a copy of the Waste Land, cutting out each word individually  and organising them so you could see how many times each word appears, intentionally breaking it down  so that the meaning is lost. I  particularly like the one above which is  composed of sentences from the notes pages of the book.    

 My strategy in exhibitions is  to  go fairly quickly through to the finish then work backwards  more slowly . While I stop and look  in progress , it's often on the return journey that things leap out at me that I hadn't noticed. That was the case with the woodcuts of Christine Baumgartner ( above). The image is clearer from a distance, close- to its' a series of  subtly changing lines. From the notes: " There's an interesting question about the moment at which something takes on a recognisable form, the moment at which nothing becomes something" 

Elsewhere at the Turner  was this large scale installation ' Digestive Cavity' by Yin Xiuzhen made from clothes ( you could climb inside!) 
Outside in the sunshine ' Dutch/Light (for Agneta Block)' by Jyll Bradley  was casting wonderful colourful shadows. Commissioned  by Turner Contemporary and Chatham Historic Dockyards ( where appropriately I'm going sketching tomorrow), it commemorates the 1667 Dutch raid on the Medway which brought to an end the second Anglo-Dutch war. Referencing glasshouse structures, it uses  old timber from former  naval buildings with contemporary 'edge-lit' Plexiglas: orange to symbolise The Netherlands;green for Kent, the 'garden of England'.

More glorious colour on the way home , with the trees on Faversham 'rec' in full blossom and young leaves spouting

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