I arrived in the Duveen Galleries at 1.30pm, eyes peeled for someone dressed as a vegetable. It was eerily empty and clinical, save for a small ceramic pumpkin on a shelf with a sign ‘Gone to lunch’. I suppose even a squash needs a break.
The entire floor of the Duveen has been covered in white tiles, which are also used to form plinths, platforms and what look like baths or plunge pools – the kind you might see footballers or rugby players sharing post-match. This is the pristine, almost laboratory-like setting for Hamilton’s performer to inhabit, wearing their choice of gourd-inspired costume for the day – apparently there are seven options, each one inspired by the patterning on a variety of squash or pumpkin.
When The Squash returned from lunch, it struck me how small he looked in the huge gallery – a diminutive, green-and-orange, pointy-nosed human-vegetable hybrid. Moving slowly, gracefully and deliberately, the character examined his surroundings, rambling vine-like over, in and around the various structures, much like a pumpkin growing in a veg patch. Here, though, The Squash is an alien, tentatively trying out his new environment, exploring what it means to be other-worldly. The Tate sculptures selected by Hamilton to co-inhabit the space appear dumbstruck amid the performance: a lumpen, static audience for the ever-moving Squash. However, Leighton’s The Sluggard and Laurens’ reclining Autumn set up a real dialogue with the artwork, their languorous poses reflecting the performer’s movements. It’s surprisingly mesmerising and rather beautiful.
Anyway, back to that sign. If it was up to me, it would have read ‘Gone for a pea’. (And that’s just one of the reasons why, unlike Anthea Hamilton, I’ll never be nominated for the Turner Prize.)
As I write, the sun is shining and the view from my window suggests that spring has finally arrived – the daffodils are dancing, the birds are busying and the trees are budding. The grass also needs cutting. Cue a sudden urgency to update my website.
The upturn in the weather has brought back memories of a sweltering summer day at the Shoreham Sculpture Trail in June last year. As well as being a gift for alliterative blog post headings, it was a visual feast.
This wasn’t your average village affair to raise funds for repairs to the local church, even though that was the ultimate aim. No, this was an ambitious art trail featuring 80 or so members of the London Group – a long-established group of artists whose founder members included the 19th-century painter and printmaker Samuel Palmer, a one-time resident of the pretty Kent village in the Darent Valley.
From interventions with the landscape, such as pearl-encrusted spiders’ webs, strings of ice-cream cones and coloured thread winding through and around trees, to incongruous creatures such as a group of shuttlecock-and-cable jellyfish and a patchwork figure apparently disembowelling itself on a neatly manicured lawn, the work was diverse, surprising and thought-provoking. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and an eye on the London Group website for any news of a repeat performance this year.
One of the perks of being a journalist/artist is that sometimes my roles happily converge. So when I’m commissioned to interview an artist I get to pick their brains about how they work, what inspires them and what materials they use and how. And then I get the satisfaction of seeing it all come together in a glossy magazine. Win-win.
Here’s my interview with textile artist Karen Wyeth, published in the October issue of Coast last year.