Carlos Cruz-Diez RIP

Posted in News by chrisfremantle on August 11, 2019
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Nancy Holt 1938-2014

Posted in News by chrisfremantle on February 14, 2014
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Kevin Blackwell RIP

Posted in News by chrisfremantle on November 15, 2013
Of Boats and Buildings, Kevin Blackwell, 1997, Scottish Sculpture Open 9.  Photo: Eric Ellington

Of Boats & Buildings, Kevin Blackwell, 1997, Scottish Sculpture Open 9. Photo: Eric Ellington

Kevin was a gentle man who I got to know at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop.  He would periodically appear working on a project.  It was always a pleasure to talk to him and to see what he was working on.  I’m deeply sad to hear of his passing and sad for Diana who is without him.  Sadly Eric Ellington, who took the photographs for Scottish Sculpture Open 9 including the one above, also died a little while ago, leaving Elaine and Jamie without him.

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Fred Bushe, RSA OBE

Posted in CF Writing by chrisfremantle on May 18, 2009

Frederick Bushe.  Born 1931 died 17 May 2009.

One of the foremost of a generation of Scottish sculptors, Fred Bushe also founded the Scottish Sculpture Workshop.

Both his drawing and his sculpture were monumental in scale and concerned with the physical of the environment around him.  He was a modernist through and through, engaged with material and form and dismissive of the fads in sculpture that came and went.  His strong sense composition in three dimensions resulted in work drawing on the industrial as a primary source.  You would naturally connect his work with that of Anthony Caro.

In 1979 he had been teaching art teachers at Aberdeen College of Education, and was looking for a studio.  He found an old bakery in the village of Lumsden, with a flat above a shop front, and a range of buildings behind.  He took these on, establishing the Scottish Sculpture Workshop (SSW) initially under the auspices of WASPS (Workshop Artists Studio Provision Scotland), and later as a ‘client’ of the Scottish Arts Council.

Fred was part of the post-war sculpture symposium movement participating in symposia in eastern europe and in turn hosting a number of international symposia at SSW.  This movement was about cultural communication in the context of political division, and Fred played an important role.  In the Bothy at SSW there is a big kitchen table, and that probably epitomises his spirit.

Over the fifteen or sixteen years that he ran SSW, more than one generation of young artists found a place to explore their interests in a working studio.  At the same time artists from something like 40 countries came to work.  When it was good, SSW was a hothouse with artists working and talking, supporting and helping each other.  When it was bad, it was freezing cold and very isolated.

Fred also established the Scottish Sculpture Open at Kildrummy Castle.  For many years it provided an opportunity to see large scale work by established and emerging artists, again both Scottish and overseas.  It is difficult to image the importance of this biennial when there are now so many opportunities for large scale work (temporary and permanent), but at the time it was critical.

Fred had studied at Glasgow School of Art, 1949–53. In 1966–67 he attended the University of Birmingham School of Art, where he gained an Advanced Diploma in Art Education.  He was a long standing member of the Royal Scottish Academy and received his OBE in 1997 (I think).

He exhibited in group shows from the Camden Arts Centre in London to the Pier Arts Centre on Orkney, as well as many of the Sculpture Opens, and his works are to be found in various locations in Scotland as well as in odd corners of Eastern Europe.

Hopefully the RSA will put on a good retrospective of his work.

A characteristic large sculpture, “Grave Gate”, in Corten steel and wood, can be found in the Hunterian Sculpture Courtyard.

Obituary in Scotsman

Other links to images:

Chatham Street North Extension Relief

T-Fold, Highland Council

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Allan Kaprow 1927-2006

Posted in Texts by chrisfremantle on May 5, 2009
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Ian Hamilton Finlay 1925-2006

Posted in Texts by chrisfremantle on May 5, 2009
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Ettore Sottsass

Posted in Texts by chrisfremantle on February 5, 2008
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Sol LeWitt

Posted in Exhibitions, Texts, Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on April 20, 2007
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Paul Carter 4th March 1970 to 12 August 2006

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on August 25, 2006
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Jane Jacobs 1916-2006

Posted in CF Writing, On The Edge, Research, Texts by chrisfremantle on May 1, 2006

Obituaries: Toronto Star, Washington Post, The Guardian

Anne Douglas and I used Jane Jacobs The Nature of Economies as a means of interrogating the first phase of On The Edge Research in “Leaving the (social) ground of (artistic) intervention more fertile“, a paper presented at the Darwin Symposium, Shrewsbury; Waterfronts IV, Barcelona; and Sensuous Knowledge 2, KHiB, Bergen.

On The Edge Research is a practice-led research project based at Gray’s School of Art, Aberdeen. OTE has, since it was launched in 2001 with a major award from the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, focused on developing new articulations of the value of the visual arts. In 2005 Anne Douglas, the principle researcher, and I wrote a paper which started out with the question – what is sustainability in the visual arts? This is a particularly tricky question especially in the UK because of public subsidy. Any discussion about sustainability will normally veer off into a discussion of the Arts Councils. Jane Jacobs book the Nature of Economies seeks to set out the fundamental rules of development looking at developmental processes in natural systems. She argued that the same rules that govern the development of ecosystems also apply to economies, and we explored the application of this thinking to ‘arts development’.

  • What is really important is to recognise that development occurs at multiple levels simultaneously (ie fractally),
  • that all development requires co-development (ie nothing happens in isolation),
  • that all development requires various forms of governors (ie feedback loops, bifurcations and emergency adaptions).
  • Development occurs qualitatively and quantitatively.
  • Development occurs in a cycle of differentiation from generality.

I am very sad that such an important thinker, who I only recently learnt so much from, has died.

Originally posted 1 May 2006

Gallery Visits in London – New Year 05/06

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on January 23, 2006

Chapter 1

Paul McCarthy at the Whitechapel. What can I say – the guy can draw – he uses paper, pencil, red marker and cut out pornography to great effect. Like Emin, he explores the human experience of sexuality, of bodily functions – shit and penises. But somehow I am not quite sure what the point is.

The show includes older pieces documenting performance work, but the main gallery is focused around new work on the theme of pirates. According to the blurb, McCarthy and his son developed the work in response to Pirates of the Caribbean – the film and the theme park ride. I didn’t get to see the offsite project, but the pirates in the lower gallery included busts and vignettes, as well as the drawings. The ship was also a recurrent shape. The sculptural forms are crude and vivid.

There is one piece which was very striking – an animatronic female pig. She lies sleeping on top of the equipment that makes her breathe. The pig is made out of latex, but the equipment is intentionally dominating – its clearly more than what is required for the animation. Lots of wires and grey steel boxes form a plinth – not an iron lung. It is the industry under the illusion. The metal and wires hum and click quietly and the pig breathes in her sleep. You need to pay attention to the machinery.

The pig is a recurring icon, but in the other cases the pirates are fucking it. There is a model of a desert island – the whole is cast in bronze, but finished to look like plastic. The island is covered in pirates and pigs – as you look closely you begin to realise that there is an orgy going on. In the drawings cut up pornography is collaged in with pencil and pen – the pirate is having his penis cut off – also his leg – of course all pirates have a peg leg. Pirates, pigs, penises, assholes, knives and saws are the central subjects.

Upstairs there is a more mixed group of work, some of it much older and relating to performances. Again there is interesting sculptural work – in the far corner of the room a man lies on a beach recliner – it is so real it catches you by surprise – he’s old and a bit flabby – his dick hangs out below his shirt, his only clothing. It catches you by surprise – its like the artist, dressed in character, is having a nap in the corner after the installation.

Hollywood, pirates, sexual depravity – I suppose its all real, but I came away feeling a bit like it was gratuitous and simply perverse. I didn’t know enough to understand any specific satire of Pirates of the Caribbean or its makers. Is the man with the penis nose the Director? Sometimes the work you least understand deserves the most attention and thought. I am still worrying at this one.

Chapter 2

On the 4th we went to see the new Richard Long show at the Haunch of Venison. It could not be more different. I have seen a number of Richard Long exhibitions: they are always very beautiful. Long presents an approach to landscape which re-engages the aesthetic – sometimes sublime, sometimes pastoral, always empty and often exotic – places we can perhaps only imagine visiting. Long subscribes to the dictum ‘leave only footprints and take only photographs’ (more or less).

I think I prefer Hamish Fulton’s work. I am not sure about Long’s interventions in the landscape: circles of various sorts, although conceptually I do like the ones he goes back to later and disperses.

On the ground floor is a text piece that focuses on the songs he sings to himself as he walks. As far as I am aware this is a new angle. I liked the humanity of that moment – it is an acknowledgement that he is not perhaps as pure as the majority of the work suggests. I know Fulton has talked meditation and about the transition into a walk – it takes a couple of days to shake off the normality of everyday life and to enter into a different state. But this piece of Long’s acknowledges that for him it’s not constant. Walking along singing songs that stick in your head is normal. It’s not an iPod moment – just walking and singing.

Of course the point is to share only the things that can actually be shared – the functional descriptions of paces, of mile, of days. In Long’s case there are also some personal observations. There are poems made from observations, experiences and thoughts accumulated during walks. One is marked and patterned by cups of tea and wrong forks. On the top floor are two mud marked walls. The gesture and the formality of the mud wall works is fantastic. If you look closely you can see the red crayon Long uses to mark out the pattern – I have noticed this before. The line is equal to the gap and fills the wall dividing the space equally. The mud smeared onto the wall to form the line is applied by hand with swift and easy movements that belie the even-ness and equality of the repetition. The swirls made by the hand movements are elegant and are complimented by the splatter of the wet mud coming off the hand.

The larger work is meant to have a semi circle of Portuguese cork tree bark in front of it – that’s been removed for ‘conservation’. Jake found a small piece of cork tree bark on the pavement outside the gallery – its quite nice – a piece of Richard Long’s work.

So what is the relationship between Long and Fulton’s work and our understanding of the landscape? The landscape that they present us with is characterised by emptiness, wilderness, wildlife, geology, mountains and rivers. It involves camping, and this is explicit in this exhibition – we see the tent and the canoe that transport Long down the a river in a far off place.

We know that we cannot share in their experience. Whilst they have walked together (and Fulton has led group projects in Italy, Long as collaborated in India), the work they present is essentially the indvidual and isolated experience. They make a virtue of this.

They present the experiences through which they walk as ‘natural’. We know that in all their walks, and in particular in the ones that they do in the UK, they must spend a considerable time on roads, with traffic and amongst houses. Yet all the photographs are of an empty landscape devoid of modern human intervention. They even manage to exclude electricity pylons, telephone lines and aeroplanes. Their work values emptiness. Although if you go back to the poem in the Long show punctuated by cups of tea in garages and cafes, we begin to see the human habitation.

Is the distance that the artists create between the experience and the work in the gallery a modernist device? It is like the experience that the modernist creates to separate the object from the consumerist inhabited, busy, world. The experience of the artist is pure and sacrosanct – removed from everyday life. The audience is excluded. With Long and Fulton the audience is not even a spectator – in fact that is one of the ways that they are not modernists.

On the other hand there is some way in which their work suggests a correct way to take a walk, attending carefully to the natural world around you, engaging with it closely, personally, exclusively, and recording that experience.

Jonathan Jones, in his review in the Guardian last week, linked Long’s work with prehistoric sites in the landscape. Of course ‘land artists’ (and many of the rest of us) are attracted to ancient sites in the landscape. They intrigue us – we wonder why they exist. The expand time for us – they are so old that they give us a sense of human continuity, and yet they are so ‘other’. We don’t really imagine what their makers were like – did they wear hides and hunt woolly mammoths? Fulton and Long’s work is also durational and refers to time beyond our normal span “NO TALKING FOR SEVEN DAYS WALKING FOR SEVEN DAYS IN A WOOD FEBRUARY FULL MOON CAIRNGORMS SCOTLAND 1988” Can any of us imagine walking in the Cairngorms for seven days, let alone not talking for seven days?

Of course these walks are art in the form of performances, rather than of object. The object is the record, the summary, the moment, the statement. As performances they are perhaps not the modernist strategy exactly, because we could also do them – they do not take any particular skill or talent. Neither Long nor Fulton would claim any specific expertise in photography or mountaineering or survival. Nor do they particularly walk in the places that present the greatest challenges to human endurance.

Chapter 3

We went by the Economist Plaza to see Robert Orchardson’s piece. Its a sort of relief on the floor, an almost complete star, a star pattern like that which sometimes surrounds very ornate mirrors but open to the middle. Jake enjoyed getting into the aperture in the middle. Its also like a drawing of a compass in an old map – though this work does not prioritise any particular orientation. The work is made out of iodised steel or something like it with a sort of oily surface – the colour is great in the grey stone of Economist Plaza.

Chapter 4

Sadly today I saw in the Independent that John Latham died on Sunday. I never met him. I wish I had. I have a huge admiration for his work. I am not sure that the obituaries do him justice, although Simon Tait’s in the Independent was very good. None really highlighted the importance of the conceptual in his work – for instance designating the shale bings in Lothian as tourist attractions. Nor do they highlight how the Artists Placement Group, established with Barbara Stevini, is an early example of the artist as curator, the idea of the engaged artist, the social dimension, the collective looking outwards as opposed to the colony looking inwards. The impact of Lathan and Stevini’s work is still hardly understood. Equally the relevance of Latham’s work to immediate pressing issues such as terrorism and multiculturalism is ignored. The Tate withdrew God is Great, a key piece of work, from their retrospective for fear of inciting violence. The work took the Talmud, the Koran and the Bible and sliced through them a sheet of glass – a continuity of clarity. Just as Latham’s statement “The mysterious being known as God is an atemporal score with a probable time base in the region of 10 to the power of 19 seconds” challenges our understanding of God, so this work challenged our understanding of God, implying that he was continuous, transparent, and beyond being captured in our knowledge, in our books.

Obituary – The Guardian

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