Education (eradication) of the masses

The Red Star over Russia: A Revolution in Visual Culture (1905-55) exhibition at Tate Modern is a fascinating collection of visual works collected by the graphic designer David King. Set mainly in the aftermath of the 1917 October Revolution of the Bolsheviks when the Russian Empire was reshaped by communism into the USSR, it documents the visual culture that emerged under the radically new way of life. There are some really positive things to take from this exhibition and the way it documents the hopes and ideals of a new industrial nation forged out of civil war and revolution from urban and rural fiefdoms with few shared values. The avant-garde used art and architecture as tools for social change capable of creating a new order for citizens. No longer was art – often iconic – restricted to the ruling elite and the wealthy. Instead prints, posters, journals and photobooks became accessible to all. This shared visual imagery dominated Soviet life and appeared in public places, factories and workers’ clubs. It used bold imagery and colours, and short, punchy text, as large swathes of the population (almost three quarters) were illiterate and only a quarter of children ever went to school.…

Trinity 3 – Blow

The final of the 3 women artists is Sandra Blow.  I was privileged to go on a tour of the studio she founded at Bullans Court in St Ives given by Jonathan Grimble and Denny Long (http://www.sandrablow.com/index.htm). Jonathan really brought Sandra back to life and gave us a peek into her extraordinary life. She sounded a blast! Before settling in Cornwall she travelled before teaching at the Royal College of Art. Jonathan told us a few anecdotes of her life and loves that were very amusing. A fly on the wall in the Chelsea Arts Club in the 60s would no doubt have a few tales to tell. She worked and lived at Bullans Court until her death in 2006. Not the prettiest of buildings but she saw beyond that to its potential to form a live/work space. And what a space! In the heart of St Ives where most things are much smaller scale than elsewhere, she created a fabulous studio for herself. To see where she lived and worked and the vast canvases in the studio was an inspiartion. It also made me wish for a space like that. It must be so liberating to be able to…

Trinity 2 – Hepworth

The second of the 3 women artists is Barbara Hepworth. Her exhibition Sculpture for a Modern World was at Tate Britain last year. The exhibition was not widely loved by the critics. As Jonathan Jones put it in the Guardian “Boxed Hepworth”. Admitedly I did find it rather sterile. But I just love her work so much that I shall put that aside and instead focus on why I admire her work so much. But I ask, what’s not to like about a woman who was born in Yorkshire and ended her life in Cornwall? What two better places could there be? For me, like many others, her sculpture works best outdoors – where most of it was inspired. It works not only in open landscape – like at Yorkshire Sculpture Park(http://www.ysp.co.uk/) amongst many other destinations – but also in an enclosed landscape. Not least in her own garden (http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-st-ives/barbara-hepworth-museum). The garden in St Ives where she worked and died is a constant source of inspiration and reflection for me. And what about an urban setting? There are far too many to mention so I will only mention the John Lewis Building on Oxford Street and Single Form outside the…

A Trinity of Women Artists

I love the number 3. There’s something about it. A symmetry with an edge. One in the middle. Two’s company, three’s a crowd type of thing. So it’s strange that in the space of a week recently I visited the exhibitions/studios of 3 women artists. And I visited them with my 2 daughters – so three women (well one woman and two girls) visiting three women. Except the third one – where I visited alone. I didn’t plan it this way. It just happened. But I believe in patterns. All three were a real inspiration and just made me want to pick up my brushes and tools. Let me talk about the first visit of the Trinity – Sonia Delaunay at Tate Modern. The exhibition finshed a day or so after we visited so you can’t view it now. Wish I’d gone before but glad I went anyway. I have loved her work for years. The colours. The juxtapostion of the colours. And the shapes. “Colour is the skin of the world” she said. It so is Sonia. Sonia was a multi-disciplinary abstract artist and a key figure in the Parisian avant-garde. Alongside her husband, Robert Delaunay, Sonia  pioneered the movement…