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Bejewelled [Oct. 23rd, 2014|10:19 pm]
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On Saturday, we were planning a trip to Middlesbrough for a poetry book launch at mima (there is much to be written about Middlesbrough, and why an Institute of Modern Art is at once an incongruous thing to find there and not incongruous at all, but for tonight let's just take it as read). Not only has mima recently opened a new jewellery gallery, it is enticing visitors in with an exhibition of the work of Wendy Ramshaw, whose ingenious sets of rings I have coveted for decades.

I'll confess right up front that I spent so long looking at the Wendy Ramshaw exhibition that I ran out of time and energy for the permanent collection: and the jewellery gallery demands both time and energy. Only a minority of the pieces are on display, above ranks of drawers waiting to be pulled open and the treasures within inspected. And the photo gallery on mima's website reveals that there are indeed treasures within, though I would have appreciated the help of their model in explaining how some of what I saw was to be worn (in the case of this Susanna Heron 'Wearable', for example, the object itself made less sense, was a less real piece of jewellery, than the photograph). In some extreme cases, I won't believe it until I see it.

Seeing all this after the Wendy Ramshaw pieces made her work look almost conservative: jewellery as pretty shinies, beautiful things, which you could wear (though not always easily), made out of precious materials - though not always: one early set was of paper jewellery, to be folded and assembled, worn once and discarded. More recently, she seems to have moved to the opposite extreme, with architectural work (including a set of gates for Sunderland's Mowbray Park; I hadn't known she was born in Sunderland).

A side gallery was devoted to a single project, a Room of Dreams, an installation combining individual pieces (some, I think, pre-existing and some made specially) to evoke a world of fairy stories and dreams. I know this because I read the catalogue. Another clue is one of the first elements in the room, top and left in the picture above, the crow wearing a fine gold chain - because nothing says 'fairy tale' like a dead crow. This wasn't a good start, sounding (to my ear) a false note right at the opening of the installation, the start of the dream. Yet there were corners of it that I liked very much:

Two framed postcards, small and inconspicuously positioned at the bottom of the array, showed paintings by Henri Rousseau: on the left, The Sleeping Gypsy, on the right The Dream. Rising above and betwen them were the necklaces and earrings they inspired. The Dream Earrings would almost tempt me to have my ears pierced ears pierced.

Naturally, these do not feature on the Rooms of Dreams website, which examines some of the individual pieces in terms of the narrative that lies behind them. Nor do these particular Red Queen pieces:

The stands are as impressive as the rings themselves, perhaps, though the set with the bow-ring is exceptional. Like everything in the Room of Dreams it has a name, 'Her Second Knight', and it it right at the limit of what you could actually wear.

Finally, I spent a long time photographing an ensemble of chair and table. The chair (which seems to be called 'Chair') is tall, white, open, with a glass lens in its back, through which you could look at the long, white, honeycombed table, decorated with gold bees (I thought they were scarabs, but it says here they are bees). I liked the effect, too, when one of the other visitors to the gallery walked past:

The poetry launch was of Joanna Boulter's Blue Horse, a fine collection but likely to be Joanna's last: she wasn't able to be at the launch, and the poems were read by members of the Vane Women collective of which Joanna was a founder member, and who had worked with her to make sure it was published. So it wasn't exactly a celebratory event. Opening the book at random, I was snagged by these opening lines of a poem called Lichen:
I am the unassuming
licker of stone
I call myself double-tongued
slow voiced...
(Here's more about Joanna and a whole poem).

There must be places to lunch in Middlesbrough, but we've never found them. So we took the slow road home, and discovered the Vane Arms in Thorpe Thewles: very gastropub (it had a gin menu) but perfectly satisfactory.

[User Picture]From: sartorias
2014-10-24 01:41 am (UTC)
Interesting work!
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[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2014-10-24 10:41 am (UTC)
Isn't it?
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[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2014-10-24 11:35 am (UTC)
I don't mind themed exhibitions - though I thought 'dreams and fairy tales' was a bit obvious, especially when it's all about jewellery... What I do hate is the 'artist's statement', which always seems to be completely abstract and meaningless. The work is the artit's statement, surely?

Vane is one of the family names of the local aristocratic family - the Vane Women used to meet at the Art Centre in Vane Terrace (which no longer exists). Oddly enough, I hadn't made the Sayers connection until I was writing this last night, when I did wonder whether Harriet might be related to Lord Londonderry. Unlikely, I think...
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