St James Arts, Crafts and Hobbies exhibition

St James Church,
Preston Road,
Yeovil
Saturday 24th February 2018
10am – 4pm

The church I attend decided at the end of 2017 to hold an exhibition of the arts, crafts and hobbies that members of the congregation take part in. Since David, the vicar is well aware that I do photography and has seen some of my work, there was no point in me not getting involved.

The question was what I should exhibit.

The obvious things were the photographs I developed as part of the darkroom evening class I undertook at the beginning of 2017. As part of the course we had to take and develop a set of photographs based on a theme. My theme was churches and so picking up a 4 foot by 3-foot display board from Hobbycraft I attached the selection of photographs I’d produced to the board along with a description of what each was and a short description of how “The Church Project” had come about.

The second set of photographs I put together were of St James church itself. I used eight photographs which I had printed at 7 by 5 size and then put in two four aperture 40cm by 40cm frames. One set of images made use of some photos I took of the church when it had been snowing (both front and back of church) with a couple of photos of some of the stained-glass windows. The other set again included images of the front and back of the church, taken more recently, but also a close up of the lectern and one of the organ loft and its window.

The final set of material I was exhibiting were two photo books that I’d made as a result of attending an OCA South West student workshop on bookbinding. One of the books included the material I produced for the Square Mile assignment, the other is a project I’m working on called “The Final Journey”.

At the last minute I managed to put together a brief description of some of the churches that I’d photographed as well as a description of the two photobooks, along with a description of the technique used to bind them.


The exhibition was held in the main part of the church, with some extra hanging space in the church room alongside.

The building was full of examples of the labours of almost 30 exhibitors, with ages ranging from pre-teens to the retired.

Painting, sketches, photographs, textiles, cross-stitch, knitwear, sugar craft, models, woodwork, metalwork and much more were on display. It seems that St James church has a very talented and creative congregation.

The exhibition had seen a steady stream of people since it had opened at 10am, with a busy period during the morning, and another busy period during the last hour, when the exhibitors started arriving to take down their displays so that the church could be made ready for the Sunday morning service.

I didn’t get time to see everything but what I did see I was very impressed with.

What I particularly liked about the exhibition was that many of the exhibitors were there and it was possible to talk to them as you wandered around. Discussing what they’d produced and why was a useful insight into different creative processes. Finding out a bit more about people I’ve known for a while, and things they do in their spare time was another benefit of the day.

One person I was talking to about photography had done the same college evening class that I’d completed two years ago, they’d also been to the same ploughing championships that I photographed for People and Activity exercise in Part 2 of the course.

Another person I talked to explained about the model of the church building that had been used during the re-ordering work that was completed last year. The original model had been made by him and his grandson. When the church decided to remodel the building, they updated it so that people could see what the end result would be. Something that helped a lot when it came to selling St James’ vision to everybody concerned.

I also got to talk to a friend about the work her daughters were showing, one piece having won a prize in a competition.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to take photos of the exhibits but I did manage to take a photo of my display on my phone, the same thing as somebody was doing with their work.

The feedback I had from various people was very satisfactory. It was nice to explain the background to some of the work, and a few people said they were moved by one of the books I’d produced.

I suggested to Alan, who had organised it, that perhaps they should do it again next year. The decision isn’t his but if he had his way then he said he’d rather do it during the summer holidays and have it open for a week, rather than just a day.

My Display 4
Some of my work on display at St James Church

The Land We Live In – The Land We Left Behind

Pots and PansHauser & Wirth in Bruton, Somerset have an exhibition running until May 7th 2018. What they describe as a survey exhibition looks at the “contradictory nature of society’s relationship to the rural”.

The exhibition contains the work from 1500 to the present day, using a variety of mediums including sculpture, paintings, photographs as well as a lot of others.

The exhibition has been curated by Adam Sutherland who is the Director of Grizedale Arts. He has brought together the work of people from Beatrix Potter to Grayson Perry, Edward Calvert to Mark Twain.

Interspersed amongst the artworks are farm implements, cheese making equipment pottery dating back to 1500, books, medals, tapestries, quilts and even a white plastic garden chair.

The exhibition is mainly inside the building but there are a few works outside. For instance in the Cloister is an interesting piece by Marcus Coates called Uniform for Apple Service Provider. This piece represents a padded jacket with a hood and is made up completely of different types of apples. As this piece is outside and apples having a tendency to rot over time it would be interesting to return in a few months to see whether rotten fruit has been replaced or whether everything has been left as it is.

Uniform for Apple Service Provider
Uniform for Apple Service Provider

The exhibition is fascinating with so much to see. Living just over half an hour away I’m sure that I’ll be popping back to have another look before it closes in May.

The one negative about the day was that it was difficult to going through the exhibition because although each of the items was numbered and a description was included in the List of Works, there were very few descriptions with the actual items. There was also a lack of labelling for the rooms. The Threshing Barn had a nice label above the entrance so you could easily work out what each of the items were in the room. After that it became a lot more difficult to figure out where items were in the catalogue, especially as in each room the numbering of the items in the room restarted from 1.

There were far too many works to cover everything so I’m going to cover a few of those that stood out for me.

As you enter the Workshop part of the gallery you find Grayson Perry’s Map of an Englishman [Reference 1]. This etching is very interesting. Areas that correspond with counties are named Fears, Cliche, Myth, Dreams. Areas that correspond with towns and villages have names like G-Spot, Fear-Of Failure and Calm. The level of detail is incredible. Unfortunately the etching is positioned above the door as you enter the room, which makes it difficult to get a good look at it.

Map of an Englishman
Map of an Englishman

As you continue to walk through the Workshop you come to the oldest item in the exhibition. A stoneware “Dragon Jar” that dates back to between 1500 – 1600. The description alongside the jar indicates that it was in use for about 300 years. For something of that age, which had been used for so long, it was in amazing condition.

Throughout the exhibition space there were a number of vitrines (glass display cases). Within the Workshop there were two. In one of the cases there was cast bronze pieces in the shape of animal droppings (fox, badger, rabbit, deer and several others). Why? What is the thought process that makes you look at animal feces and think “I know, I’ll make some bronze casts of these and put them on display”. One of the artists behind this work is Marcus Coates, who among his other pieces being exhibited is a piece called “Crucifixes for Various Amphibians”. This item is one that does have a description, and it is not for the squeamish because it describes how Coates when he was young would capture toads, attach them to crucifixes made of lollipop sticks and then force their mouths open before pouring a poisonous mixture in. If the toads weren’t already dead by this point then they would be not long after.

British Mammal Shits
British Mammal Shits

Moving onto the Piggery there were several items that drew my attention.

One of my favourite pieces in the exhibition was a wood plaque poster entitled “Lord of the Rings Gandalf with Hobbits” by Jimmy Cauty. I am Science Fiction and Fantasy fan so this work immediately ticked a lot of boxes for me, just because of the link to something I enjoy. Beyond that though I found the fact that it was on a wooden plaque fascinating and made it really stand out. The wood highly polished and varnished made it something that would far outlast the paper based versions of the poster that were sold by Athena.

Lord of the Rings Gandalf with Hobbits
Lord of the Rings Gandalf with Hobbits

Another interesting item, which links to the exercise Smash! that we did early in the course was four black and white photographs by Paul McCarthy. These were produced in 1972, before digital cameras. The images show dirt being thrown in the air using a shovel. Having done the exercise with the eggs I know how difficult it is to capture something at just the right moment. To do that with film must have been even harder because you would never know exactly what you’d photographed until you had developed the film and then developed prints. Digital with its instant feedback to the photographer makes life so much easier when attempting a project like this.

A few short steps away from McCarthy’s photographs hung a Welsh quilt, made at the end of the 19th century. The quilt was beautifully made, with a mixture of white cotton and satinteen. The pattern was simple but elegant. I was enjoying it and then the picky part of my brain kicked in and I found myself wondering why the pattern seemed to have been cut off at the edges of the main section, and not evenly cut off. Like wallpaper where the pattern hasn’t been matched up properly. Was this deliberate or completely accidental. I don’t know but it niggled me seeing it.

Welsh Quilt
Welsh Quilt

Further along there was a item that had been produced to celebrate 150 years of Disney. It was of Bambi but wasn’t a cartoon drawing or anything along those lines. In fact it was an oil painting. The level of detail was a joy because the more you looked at it the more things you spotted.

The next item that was a surprise was a pencil, pen and ink wash by Beatrix Potter. Not of Peter Rabbit or any of the characters she’s famed for creating. Instead this was a very detailed picture of absidia fungal spores. Although better known for her stories, Potter was a respected scientist, particulary in the study of fungii.

One of the last items in the Piggery that drew my attention was a platinum print entitled “Broken Tree, near Bruton” by Don McCullin. The black and white print is very brooding with dark skies and clouds. I’ve read quite a lot about McCullin and have seen a lot of his work in books. Being able to see some of his work in the flesh was a delight for me and I could have happily stood and looked at the print for ages.

Broken Tree, near Bruton
Broken Tree, near Bruton

The last item that proved to be a bit of a talking point was “Becoming a Landscape” by Roni Horn. The pair of prints are intriguing because they show a part of the landscape with what appears to be a pool of water. However, because there is nothing that allows the viewer to easily get a sense of scale the pool could be tiny or huge. Horn could have been stood over the pool taking the photograph or flying in an aircraft thousands of feet in the air. Removing anything that gives a sense of scale makes the image challenging for the viewer.

Moving on to the Rhodes gallery there were a number of interesting works.

On the wall as you entered was a rather vivid and colourful panel entitled “A Still Life of a laid Table, with Plates of Meat and Fish and a Basket of Fruit and Vegetables” by Jacob van Hulsdonck from around 1615. With the low light level in the room the colours and the subject matter really stood out.

In the centre of the room was a very long table, or in fact four tables. Each table has a different theme with the ones at each end being set up as if for a group of people to sit down and eat a meal.

As I looked at the table nearest to the entrance to the room I noticed a number of what appeared to be wraparound sunglasses, or dark glasses anyway. Looking at the table I noticed that there were 6 place settings but only 5 sets of glasses. One of the table settings was missing¬† a pair of glasses. With the careful positioning of items this couldn’t have been an oversight. Perhaps the glasses signify how we are blind when it come to the way our food reaches us, with the missing pair inviting us to take of our blinkers and really look at what we put into our bodies. Either end of this table were two vases in the shape of male genitalia, their presence maybe signifying how mankind rapes the planet we live on in order to provide for itself without thinking about the consequences.

Table 1

The last item I want to highlight was on one of the two middle tables and was a large structure, uniformly pale in colour with one exception. A large wasp-like figure that was positioned to one side. It was very easy to miss this but once you did notice it, then you were left wondering why it was there. What was it’s purpose?¬† Perhaps no more than to make the viewer think.

Middle Table

Middle Table with Wasp

Visiting the exhibition was fun. The weather wasn’t great, it was raining a lot so wandering around outside wasn’t going to happen and the grounds weren’t at their best. A visit later in the year is most definitely called for, just to explore some of the outside features.

References

  1. Perry, G. Map of an Englishman. Available at: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=1514388&partId=1 (Accessed: 21st January 2018)