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Friday, 11 August 2017

Michael Sandle's talk

Award winning sculptor Michael Sandle RA was suggested as someone who might come and talk to us about his sculptures by Robert Hiscox who knows him well, and has bought some of his work,
The RA says this about him:
'Michael Sandle studied at Douglas School of Art and Technology, Isle of Man from 1951 to 1954 and the Slade School of Fine Art, London from 1956 to 1959. In his early work he emphasised craftsmanship and the search for symbols, rejecting the formalism increasingly common in sculpture of the period. Throughout the 1960s and ’70s he worked on a small range of individual works in which he explored abstract and figurative idioms.
Following his appointment as professor of sculpture at Pforzheim, Germany in 1973, and at Karlsruhe, Germany in 1980, Sandle’s work became more monumental, partly in response to a series of significant commemorative commissions. His work voices criticisms of what Sandle describes as “the heroic decadence” of capitalism, in particular its appetite for global conflict. He has also attacked the media for packaging and sanitising the destructiveness of war. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors in 1994.
He has exhibited in numerous group exhibitions in Britain and internationally including the 5th Paris Biennale, 4th and 6th Documenta and Sao Paulo Biennale.'
If you scroll down his page on the RA's website, you'll see his just how wide his fame has spread. I was very much in awe of the man, and very pleased that Robert Hiscox was able to give him a suitable introduction. I haven't taken any decent photos, but the talk was excellent. He was entertaining and self deprecating, and we were so fortunate to have had him to talk to the Friends.
Below a bronze 'Woman for Heidelberg' photographed in Ludlow Castle in 2007
 Below 'A 20th Century Memorial' at the Duveen Gallery 201
 'St George and the Dragon Fountain'  on display at Dorset Rise in London
 Below, one of the installations Michael Sandle is proudest about, the WW2 Malta Siege Memorial, the 13.5 tonne bell being hoisted into the cupola in Valetta in 1991.
 I loved this detail of men in a boat in one of the sculptures.
Do have a look at 'Homage to Brunel' when you're next in the gallery at the museum, here's a portion of it:
Thank you once again Michael Sandle for taking the time to come and share some of your ideas with us, and of course for the wonderful images of your sculptures.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Paint Me This Way! an exhibition by Susan Carr

Susan Carr's exhibition in the downstairs rooms at the museum is fascinating and well worth a visit if you haven't seen it already. Susan has held several talks and family events since putting up her exhibition. This is a summary of what the project she has been engaged in for the last 9 years is about:
'This exhibition shows how portraiture can be used to help individuals rediscover and celebrate their identity, even when facing the greatest challenges. It comprises 29 painted portraits, 6 sculptures and 80 collages, all designed collaboratively with 7 patients living with severe illness.'
I took some photos at the lunchtime talk on 14 July, it was packed as you can see, and so hard to see the paintings:

  At the evening talk, Susan went into more detail of the psychology behind portrait therapy, and a bit about her background and how she began working in this field
 Susan talked about these early pieces, below 'Used Garment (Between the Psychological and the Aesthetic) 1999
 and I think you can see 'Agorophobic Dress'
There was a packed house that night:
Susan will be giving a free lunchtime talk on Friday 1 September 12.30-1pm, so please go along to find out more.

Friends' Trip to The Watts Gallery

Last month we went on our third trip of the season to the Watts Gallery set in beautiful countryside near the aptly named Hog's Back. There are special events at the gallery this year to celebrate the bicentenary of the artist's birth. Their website describes it like this:
'Watts Gallery - Artists' Village has plenty to enjoy for visitors of all ages. Engage with history and art at the newly opened Watts Studios, and discover our permanent collection of Victorian paintings and sculpture in Watts Gallery before visiting the De Morgan Collection, on long term loan to the Artists' Village.
Enjoy a quiet moment at Watts Chapel – a Grade I listed Arts & Crafts building – then explore the woodlands and grounds before treating yourself at the Tea Shop and browsing art for sale in Watts Contemporary Gallery, along with a wide selection of gifts in the Watts Shop.'
Arriving at 10.45am, we had a coffee in the tea room and then gathered together for the guided tour of Limnerslease where the Wattses lived with adjoining studio space.
 I have just added 41 photos to this blog and realise I must leave some out, quite a difficult decision, there were so many wonderful things to photograph
 Mary Watts created made this beautiful Pilgrims Way cross as a memorial to her husband, it's made from terracotta dug from the surrounding land, and was moulded at the Compton Pottery founded by Mary Watts
 Here's a photo of Limnerslease House as we approach it from below:
 Inside the house, there's a particularly beautiful rug in the living room, designed by Mary Watts for liberty's, this small section depicts a pelican feeding its young.
 I love this photo of Mary reading to her husband in the alcove of their living room.
 This jug, one of 3 pieces, made by Emma Bridgewater to celebrate the bicentenaary year of Watts' birth.
 These pieces below, with a strong Art Nouveau influence were made by Mary Watts at the Compton Pottery after she's finished work on the Chapel.
 This photo is taken in Watts' studio: 'In the G F Watts Studio, the smell of oils and varnish fills the air, and desks are strewn with letters in the artist's own hand. Around the room are unfinished canvases displayed on easels or suspended from the rafters in this vast cathedral-like space.'

 We're now gathered together outside the Watts gallery on our second guided tour
 Another view of the gallery with a splendid hollyhock growing in the gravel

 Above is a model of Physical Energy, 1884-1904, seen above in the gallery, and below with Watts seen in the right hand corner. Physical energy represented 'the restless physical impulse to seek the still unachieved'. He worked on it in sections and pieced them together. There are 3 casts in bronze made from the model, one in Kensington Gardens in London, another in the National Archives of Zimbabwe in Harare, and another at the Rhodes Memorial overlooking Cape Town in South Africa.
 This sculpture is also magnificent.
 From there we looked at the DeMorgan pottery on loan, and argued over which we liked best. I loved this piece and the tile

 Time for a tea break, and behind the cafe there's this lovely planted relief of Physical Energy
 Onto our third tour of the day, The Watts Chapel designed by Mary Watts
 This was most peoples favourite part of the day, the chapel is magnificent and could easily be missed after the splendours of the rest of the Watts Village. The door is beautiful with so many designs in the terracotta that I decided I needed to know more about them and so bought a book explaining their significance in the shop.On the right, Marion can be seen fiddling with her photos on her phone.
 I'll select a few of the many photos of the inside of the chapel to give you an idea of how magnificent it is.

Details of flowers:

 I'll finish with a quote from Penelope Keith and a summary from their website:

 'I had no idea that here in Surrey, there was a collection of such richness and a story of such depth. That one man with his devoted wife could leave so much — which makes Compton a unique artists' village and Watts one of the most important artists and philanthropists of the 19th century.' — Penelope Keith CBE DL

'Watts Gallery - Artists' Village is a unique Arts & Crafts gem nestled in the Surrey Hills. Discover stunning Victorian paintings and sculpture in the historic Watts Gallery before treating yourself to lunch or a cream tea in the Tea Shop. Wander to the nearby Grade I listed Watts Chapel, taking in the beautiful woodlands and grounds, or find out more about the lives of G F and Mary Watts at Watts Studios before taking a tour of the artists' home, Limnerslease. In the Pottery Building there is art for sale in the Watts Contemporary exhibition along with a wide selection of gifts, books and homewares in the Shop.'

Friday, 14 July 2017

Free Lunchtime Talks

These popular free sessions start at 12.30pm, and are often in the main gallery, although not always. They usually last half an hour, with the speaker talking for 20 minutes and allowing 10 minutes for questions.
The last one I went to was on the 23 June, given by Curator Sophie Cummings, she started by choosing a few paintings to comment on in the Bomford Gift exhibition in the smaller part of the gallery, and then went onto the London School exhibition where again she chose a few paintings to discuss.
The audience stands around as Sophie talks fascinatingly about the paintings:
 There are also seats available if needed.
Today's FLT is in the downstairs gallery at 12.30pm, Dr Susan Carr will be giving people an informal tour of her portrait exhibition ‘Paint me this way!’.
 Discover the connection between portraiture and therapy in this inspiring exhibition and the extraordinary and moving stories behind the images.
Other talks being held on a Friday lunchtime at 12.30pm include:
28 July- 'The Lie of the Land' - introduction to the new landscape exhibition
11 August- 'Contemporary Arts Society' - the role of the CAS in helping public collections grow
18 August- 'Family Tour'-Peter Burgess' - a family friendly hands on tour of the ceramics collection
 25 August- 'The Lie of the Land' - tour of the landscape exhibition
1 September- 'Paint me this way' - Dr Susan Carr gives a tour of her portrait exhibition
6 September- 'Cathy Lomax' - a Wednesday lunchtime talk about this new exhibition.
29 September- 'The Lie of the Land and the Contemporary Arts Society.
11 October- 'Peter Waldron'- tour of this brand new exhibition to discover more about this important abstract artist and ask any questions you have about the works on display. Note this is also a Wednesday talk

Monday, 10 July 2017

New Talks and Trips Flyer

Great news, we now have our talks and trips flyer for the second half of 2017.
If you're a member of the Friends, I've already emailed it to you, but for those who haven't yet joined, here it is, we've got another fantastic set of talks:

I appreciate it's not easy to read them, hard copies will be available from the museum tomorrow.
The first evening talk, not on the flyer, is by Susan Carr entitled 'An Introduction to Portrait Therapy' on Thursday 20 July at 7.30pm, doors open at 7pm. Susan's exhibition of the same name opens this Wednesday in the downstairs front rooms at the museum. Susan will also be giving a free lunchtime talk this Friday 14 July at 12.30-1pm.

There are lots of lunchtime talks and activities at the museum over the summer, please visit their website for more details.
There's also a talk on Thursday 27 July by Michael Sandle RA:
Tickets available for the evening talks from our website or from the museum.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

'Order from Chaos' by Stef Vincent

For the last 3 years, Stef Vincent has been the Museums Collections Project Manager, taking on a variety of HLF funded projects with the aim of discovering, documenting and interpreting the objects stored by SM&AG. Last Thursday evening, Stef gave a hugely entertaining and enlightening talk about some of the challenges she's faced over the last 3 years, demonstrating the fact that we're extremely lucky to have her in charge of ordering the chaos.
 There were some interesting things from the stores that Stef had laid out to give us an idea of the nature of some of the artefacts.
 I was interested in this piece which is ornamentation from a harness, it still has some of the enamelling on it. I'll ask Stef about the age.
 You may have seen in yesterday's Swindon Advertiser, an article about the fact there are now 2 human Egyptian mummified hands, seen below. The article is written by Tom Seaward, who not only showed a great interest in the talk, but also joined the Friends that night.
 They are apparently both left hands.
 Here's Stef talking to a large audience.
 Stef said that there's always a question about how many objects there are in the 5 large storerooms, the answer is there are probably 100000, and this number will double in the next 5-7 years as archaeological finds are made when the eastern villages are built.
It's not just a matter of straightening boxes and cataloguing what's in them, Stef has to understand, centralise, care for and let us all know what's in the stored collections. Charles Gore, a significant collector of minerals and fossils, has the amazing accolade of having the museum founded to hold his collection; he's also had 2 ammonites named after him.
There can be a problem with chemicals such as mercury, arsenic and silver used to preserve materials in the herbarium.
I was intruiged by the 38 wall paintings from Burderop House which can't be displayed until they are in a more stable condition and have been conserved, this would cost approximately £120000.
 Sometimes things are wrongly labelled, such as The Black Sea Coast painted by Roger Fry
seen below:
It in fact depicts Studland Bay!!
A member of the audience asked about handling things, and some things can be handled, this will be built into exhibitions at some stage.
There are 35 people who have contributed to this work by volunteering, 5 of those have gone onto paid employment as a result of their experience in Swindon.
Stef mentioned the Kate Tryon paintings which spent many years at the Richard Jefferies Museum, Stef gave a lunchtime talk on these a few months ago, and we were able to see them being conserved.
 I'm pleased that our organisation, the Friends of SM&AG have been able to contribute to both HLF funded projects Stef has been involved in.
The talk ended with questions form the floor, but not before Stef recommended this You Tube video about the conservation of the Carleton Atwood bust of Alfred Williams. It's well worth watching, please click here: