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..
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!)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