Thursday, 5 November 2015

Amazing materials - combined and destroyed

Although my link between art and textiles is rather tenuous this week, I felt after seeing the amazing Ai Weiwei exhibition this week I could not avoid giving it a mention.  In fact the strongest link was the chair that was set beneath the trees in the Royal Academy courtyard.  This chair was not of course made of a textile, not even leather - it was carved from marble.  A marble chair is not good - especially on a winter's day.  It is rather cold.  In fact in this photo I seem to have the expression of someone on a marble chair, while my friend Melinda looks much more comfortable.

This was not the only chair in the exhibition as Ai Weiwei son's stroller also made  an appearance - this too was made of marble and set surrounded by a marble lawn.  The creases in the "fabric" looked so real.  It reminded us of a piece of work made by fellow E.A.S.T member, Susan Canfield for our "Making a point!"

If there was a central theme surrounding the Ai Weiwei exhibition it was "materials".  Whether he was protesting about the tragedy of the Shanghai earthquake or "celebrating" the authorities decision to destroy his artists' community building, or even to explore Chinese culture through its craftsmen and women, the materials used were the key to interpretation.  He combined antique furniture with pieces of temple, he mixed rubble with furniture, he used straightened rebars, he compressed tea into a metre cube.

He also used destruction in a creative way - famously breaking a Ming vase or grinding neolithic pots to dust.  Or did he?

One of my favourite pieces was a material of a different kind - a crystal cube, a metre cube.  As people passed by it reflected and fractured, and although I realise there must be a scientific explanation for its properties, it felt as if it was a magic trick - cutting someone in half.

Of course there is much more to this exhibition than the use of materials and many more pieces on display.  It was thought provoking, sometimes challenging and moving.  I came away having a great respect for the bravery of the artist, and other artists who challenge the system.  There were also items that were just amazing in their construction like the bicycle chandelier.   

This is an exhibition I would thoroughly recommend - it is on until 13 December 2015 at the Royal Academy of Arts, London.

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