Thursday, 9 June 2016

Childhood, Consciousness, Collage and Collectives

Yesterday was a real mix of a day - nostalgia, creativity, and plenty to think about.  It started with a visit to the V&A Museum of Childhood.  On entering the museum I came across an exhibition on Indian Warli painting in The Tales We Tell - Warli Painting.  An ancient technique, traditionally applied to walls (usually by women), the exhibition showed work by contemporary artists, who are keeping the tradition alive. Additionally a project with local school children introducing them to the technique was also on show.  From a distance these works (on paper and canvas) had a lace like quality, and warranted careful viewing as they are full of details about everyday life (see below).

(Below) - part of the collaborative project by local school children.

Also at the museum at the moment is a small exhibition that was really an excuse for nostalgia, Clangers, Bagpuss & Co.  All the clangers are there with the soup dragon and the iron chickens, Bagpuss and friends and the Pogles. Some original art work for Ivor the Engine and Noggin the Nog is on display too.

The last exhibition I visited at this museum was very different.  It told the story of children sent abroad in the 18th-20th centuries usually to Canada or Australia, and something I had a personal interest in through my family history - On Their Own: Britain's Child Migrants, was a sad but important story.

From Bethnal Green, I travelled to Euston Square, to see an exhibition at the Wellcome Collection - States of Mind: Tracing the Edges of Consciousness. Although not a textile related exhibition, it does relate to creativity.  The exhibition combines scientific and cultural explorations on what consciousness is, how it has been understood in the past and how some of our understanding can be explored artistically.  I was particularly interested in the section on synaesthesia and discovered that letter-colour training can be learnt.  Part way through my visit an announcement came across of a free collage workshop in the Reading Room, and I decided that would be the next thing I would explore.

I had never visited the Reading Room of the Wellcome Collection before and that in itself was a worthwhile discovery - a cross between a library, a gallery, a place to relax and to learn.  The tutor for the workshop (Elaine Duigenan) gave us a brief introduction to some simple collage techniques, provided all the materials and then let us play.  I could have stayed longer if I did not have an appointment to meet a friend elsewhere.

(Below and at top of page - my work from the drop in session.)

My last port of call was the Foundling Museum.  My friend and I had a whirlwind trip around Found, but our real reason for visiting was an evening event.  United We Stand: Artists and Collective Action was a discussion on why artists collaborate, who they might collaborate with and what collective working can achieve.  The panel consisted of Iwona Blazwich, Director of the Whitechapel Gallery, Dr Tanya Harrod, an independent design historian, Louise Jury from the Creative Industries Federation and artist Bob and Roberta Smith.  All spoke very eloquently on the importance of art, not just as something that enhances life, but as an essential that is good for society in general. The importance of craft skills and manual dexterity was highlighted - not just for craftsmen and women, but for surgeons and dentists.  I was reminded of the exhibition at the Wellcome exploring the connections between body and mind.  I was also interested to learn of the dental surgeon who sends her students to drawing classes - to teach them to look.  

Collaboration has in the past been used by artists to explore the possibility of Utopian societies or change art in radical ways.  Nowadays it is more often about challenging government and society in general about the importance of art and creativity, not least of which for improved health and economy.  It is something we should all think about.

On Their Own: Britain's Child Migrants continues until 12 June 2016
Clangers, Bagpuss & Co continues until 9 October 2016
The Tales We Tell: Indian Warli Painting continues until 6 November 2016

All the above, at the V&A Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green are free.

States of Mind: Tracing the Edges of Consciousness continues until 16 October 2016

The Wellcome Collection is also free - there are two permenant galleries, and another temporary exhibition that are also free.  Drop in sessions in the Reading Room are not always advertised in advance, but the room itself is free to visit when the galleries are open.

Found at the Foundling Museum continues until 4 September 2016 - admission charge applies; see website for details.

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