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Episodes

Episode 78 – MIMA School of Art & Design with Laura Sillars

For this episode we welcome back Laura Sillars, Director of MIMA and Dean of MIMA School of Art & Design, to tell us a bit about the art school.

The MIMA School of Art & Design a part of Teeside University but has the distinct advantage of operating within one of the North’s most active and international galleries, We have a chat about the benefits of this for students, the wider impact the school wants to have on the community, and what studying there will look like for students come September.

You can listen to this episode on SpotifyiTunesGoogle, and Soundcloud!

You can find out more about the MIMA School of Art & Design here and on their Twitter here.

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Thought and Method by Xu Bing

Edit: After being in China for a year and a half, I came back to the North due to the pandemic. Even though consuming art and culture was a little more challenging, I was able to explore and find some places around China that were awesome. Maybe as a sort of reliving of the experiences or for sheer selfish glee, I thought I’d share some of these experiences with HAWG. Let me know what you guys think or if there’s any corrections needed! Get touch through our socials or by emailing heyartwhatsgood@gmail.com Ellie x

您好,欢迎您到北京来!

So it’s been a good few weeks since I left the beautiful toon and I’m now living in Chongqing (its one of the biggest cities in China you’ve never heard of). However, before I left for the spicy oven that is Chongqing (as a northerner there has already been many a time where I have been reduced to a puddle of sweat), I had some time in Beijing. After days of a hardcore teacher training bootcamp, I had an afternoon free to go and explore art district 798 in Beijing.

If you ever have the chance to visit Beijing, I would fully recommend this place. It is the former site of a huge military factory complex, which by the late 1980s had ceased production. In the early 2000s Chinese and foreign artists began moving into the abandoned factory spaces creating exhibition spaces, cafes, bars and studios. Most of the factory and brutalist aspects have been kept and the place oddly feels a little like Berlin with its industrial aesthetic. Now in 2018, the spaces are thriving. But it does feel a little less like an occupied and independant space and more like a space you come to sell your work and establish your career as an artist.

The industrial scenes of 789 are pretty vast, its heritage is not easily forgotten.

That being said I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition that was being held at the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art; Xu Bing’s Thought and Method. Xu Bing is an artist who is known for his meticulous and detailed pieces and this exhibit showed many of his most famous works. He has been part of the shifts and changes that have occured in China over the past 40 years and these experiences are very much present. In the 1990s he also moved to the US and worked at Wisconsin-Maddison University before moving back to China in the 2000s. His past and China’s past, adapting to living in America and the written language feature heavily in his works.

This exhibition showcased many different aspects of Xu bing’s career and his evolution as an artist. I cannot even begin to talk about all of the different aspects this exhibit covered. The exhibition felt like a true homage to him and was curated in a white factory space. The first piece of the exhibition was called Books from the Sky. This was definitely one of my favourites.

This piece was based on a book created by Xu, and it took 4 years to make. These scrolls contain reams and reams of Chinese characters that don’t make sense. Members of the public spent hours trying to read and make sense of it. The artist definitely perfectly showed mankind’s dependency on words and how much we assume the patterns we create from things are real. Or how we should apply something written down to reality. It was interesting seeing something so huge and official looking that was complete nonsense.

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Part of the books from the sky exhibit, the scrolls contain thousands of nonsensical characters (http://ucca.org.cn/en/exhibition/xu-bing-thought-and-method/)

Playing with language, especially Xu’s own experiences of Mandarin and learning English were fascinating. In Square Word Calligraphy he blended the English alphabet into a sequence of strokes similar to how you write characters in Mandarin. This was put into a model classroom where you could practice this made up alphabet with water and a calligraphy set. Lots of people were playing with this part of the exhibition and it was refreshing to see an informal interaction between people and the artist’s work in such an official space. The detailed approach to combining the language in an absurd and confusing manner might reflect his own encounters with language and culture in the USA and then assimilating back into China. Both languages are so different in the way they are written and expressed in language, blending them together is something I simply cannot imagine and putting it into a classroom adds to the feeling of not understanding but copying down anyway that acquiring a language or any knowledge can sometimes feel like.

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Square word calligraphy classroom, a traditional classroom setting in which to practice a made up language (http://ucca.org.cn/en/exhibition/xu-bing-thought-and-method/)

As Xu was primarily trained as a printmaker, prints were a prominent aspect of his work. Another huge piece of work showcased called Ghosts pounding the wall was a rubbing he did of the great wall. This was filmed and the rubbing of the wall was hung in a huge room from the ceiling. Freya, who I visited the exhibition with, found its presentation and actual undertaking of the project very impressive. It is a piece of Chinese history and a tourism point that is heavily associated with China. The wall was meant to keep people out in the past and preserve the emperor’s kingdom but what does it represent in the national identity now after so many years and changes? Xu seemed to want to highlight this question and bring it into the public consciousness.

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Ghosts pounding the wall, the 3-D structure transformed onto paper.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to see all of the art in the exhibit and we ran out of time to properly look at it. But another quick exhibit I would like to mention was the Forest Project which in the words of Xu Bing ‘connects the written word, calligraphy and art into one process.’ Basically, this project aims to help transfer funds from developed countries into education and planting trees in Kenya by creating a link between art lovers and local communities. The way this is done is by doing workshops primarily with school children in different parts of Kenya ,in which trees are created from the language and characters used to define what a tree is. These pieces are then sold and the proceeds go to helping to plant trees in Kenya. In the exhibit, there was a huge tunnel that spiralled around a live tree and some of the works were showcased here. Although not the most technical area of the whole exhibit, it was nice to see a project that was trying to combine so many areas together and it was an effective way for Xu Bing to try and use his platform to benefit people.

Xu Bing art exhibition, Beijing, China - 24 Jul 2018

It’s a shame we had to ‘leave’ after this exhibit.
(https://www.shutterstock.com/editorial/news/xu-bing-art-exhibition%2C-beijing-2018-07-24)

Overall, it was great to get out and see some art in Beijing, 789 is a huge complex and is a definite hub for art in northern China. Although I am far away from the ladies and the northern powerhouse that is ‘Hey Art What’s Good’, I feel so close to them whenever I enter an exhibition space. I can almost hear their laughter as I walk around the rooms, thinking of the patterns we could discuss and what we all think each piece is trying to say about itself and the world.

Some nice photos out and about 789, the bingsu (ice flake dessert) was super super nice and cold. Maybe a little too cold!
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Episodes

Episode 66 – Under the Eaves by Ellen Ranson

For this week’s episode we went down to Hartlepool Art Gallery to check out Ellen Ranson’s (of Conny Art Festival fame) solo show, Under the Eaves. This mint display of abstract expressionism really was our cup of tea and we had such a fab time checking it out!

Abstract expressionism is emblematic of these issues, whereby female artists of the era were marginalised and disregarded, whilst male artists rose to prominence. This blueprint can be applicable to contemporary patriarchal power structures. The artists’ work aims to perform the arrogance and ego associated with the Abstract Expressionist male archetype.

Don’t forget you can have a listen to this episode and all of our other ones on Spotify, iTunes, Google, and Soundcloud!

Exhibitiom runs until 14th March 2020

Location: Hartlepool Art Gallery

More information: here.

Cats Pyjama’s
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Episodes

Minisode 8 – Equanipolis by Aniara Omann at Humber Street Gallery

We had such a blast checking out Humber Street Gallery for the first time we just had to make another episode about it! When we went there was a fab exhibition by Danish artist Aniara Omann called ‘Equanipolis‘, which looks at what the future of humanity just might be like. There was a whole range of stuff to have a look at, from wall-based pieces, somewhat sinister wooden mannekins, to a giant animatronic head!

Don’t forget you can have a listen to this episode and all of our other ones on Spotify, iTunes, Google, and Soundcloud!

Location: Humber Street Gallery

More information: here.

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Episodes

Field Trip 5 – Probiscidea Rappings by Ollie Dook at Humber Street Gallery

For this week’s episode we have our first Field Trip of 2020 (well technically we went in 2019 but, you know). Back in December we went on down to Hull, somewhere neither of us had ever been before, to check out the amazing Humber Street Gallery, and a preview they had on for a new show, Proboscidea Rappings. This exhibition was super interesting and v surreal, about the life and times of circus elephant Jumbo, who’s name we can attribute to being synonymous with ‘large’.

If you want to check this exhibition out it’s on until the 2nd February (and also a new one just opened which looks sick).

Don’t forget you can have a listen to this episode and all of our other ones on Spotify, iTunes, Google, and Soundcloud!

Exhibition runs until 2nd February 2020.

Location: Humber Street Gallery

More information: here.

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Episodes

Episode 65 – Animalesque at BALTIC

Happy New Year guys! Welcome to 2020! 🎉

For our first episode back we thought we’d pop along to BALTIC and check out the fantastic group exhibition ‘Animalesque / Art Aross Species and Beings‘, a show that “invite[‘s] visitors to rethink the human position in the world, its relationship to all other life forms and to the various complex ecologies that bond beings together.”

We had a blast checking it out and we’re sure you will too! It’s on until the 19th April so you’ve got ages!

Don’t forget you can have a listen to this episode and all of our other ones on SpotifyiTunesGoogle, and Soundcloud!

Exhibition runs until 19th April 2020.

Location: BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art

More information: here.

Here’s the things we recommended / talked about in this ep:

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Episodes

Episode 64 – Middlesbrough Collection, Why Are We Here? with Black Artists and Modernism

For this week’s episode we headed back down to the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art to have a look at the ‘Middlesbrough Collection, Why Are We Here? with Black Artists and Modernism‘ exhibition. For this one we’re joined by the wonderful Olivia Heron, an Assistant Curator at mima, who told us some more about the exhibition and shared some pretty cool stories when it came to getting the pieces together!

Don’t forget you can have a listen to this episode and all of our other ones on SpotifyiTunesGoogle, and Soundcloud!

“Through a collaboration with research group Black Artists & Modernism, the collection is audited for all contributions by artists of African, Asian and Middle East and North Africa Region descent in the UK in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.”

” The display is structured around questions that are key for any collection, explored through the perspective of the artwork: Where am I? Why am I here? Who am I? What am I doing? What’s next?. The results of this research are unveiled as they are uncovered, making new material available to the institution and its publics. “

Exhibition runs until 29th March 2020.

Location: Middlesbrough Institute for Modern Art

More information: here.

Here’s the link to the database Olivia mentioned towards the beginning of the episode.

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Episodes

Episode 63 – Observe. Experiment. Archive. at Sunderland Museum and Winter Garden

For this week’s episode the girls have a chat about when they went to go see the fab photography exhibition ‘Observe. Experiment. Archive.’ at Sunderland Museum and Winter Garden.

This is a group exhibition that explores paralells between the science, history and photography, and is curated by the North East Photography Network (NEPN). There’s such a wide range of subjects explored, and some pretty amazing things to be seen – you’ve got until the 5th January to go check it out!

Don’t forget you can have a listen to this episode and all of our other ones on SpotifyiTunesGoogle, and Soundcloud!

Exhibition runs until 5th January 2020.

Location: Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens (Special Exhibitions Gallery).

More information: here.

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Episodes

Episode 62 – Conny Art Festival Debrief with Ellen Ranson and Elaine Robertson

For this week’s episode we had a sit down and a chat with the wonderful Ellen Ranson and Elaine Robertson from Conny Art Festival to discuss the most recent edition of the festival. Conny is a two week long arts festival which takes place all over the town of Consett, in County Durham. There was workshops, exhibitions, live events and all sorts, and now it’s all over for this year we wanted to hear all about it from the festival’s two founders.

Don’t forget you can have a listen to this episode and all of our other ones on SpotifyiTunesGoogle, and Soundcloud!

You can find out more about the festival on their website.

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Episodes

Episode 61 – The Enchanted Interior at The Laing

In this week’s episode the girls got invited back to The Laing to check out their newest exhibition The Enchanted Interior (spoiler: it was mint). This is a massive and amazingly curated exhibition that looks at the problematic and popular theme in art of the interior as a ‘gilded cage’ for women, which inhabit the space as ornaments.

You can listen to this episode on SpotifyiTunesGoogle, and Soundcloud!

You can find out more information about this exhibition on The Laing’s website

Location: The Laing Art Gallery

Exhibition runs until 22nd February 2020 (admission costs apply)

Until the 28th November Facebook has a 20% discount you can use! Redeemable on Wednesday’s and Thursday’s : here.

Things we recommended in this episode: