Thursday, 19 November 2015

Periodic Tales: The Art of the Elements - Exhibition Visit by Cherrie Mansfield

It was with a mixture of anticipation, curiosity and anxiety that I recently went to see Periodic Tales: The Art of the Elements exhibition at Compton Verney in Warwickshire.

Periodic Tales explores science and art through a collection of over 70 artworks relating to some of the elements from the periodic table.  The elements are all around us, from precious metals such as gold and silver, to those that are essential to human life like carbon and iron.  As the curator of the exhibition, Hugh Aldersey-Williams, says we don’t often get a chance to look at great chunks of them outside of a laboratory.  

Why my anxiety?  Well, I’m currently working on my own artistic interpretation of the periodic table.  I’m creating a series of 92 paintings, each inspired by one of the naturally occurring elements.  So when I heard about the exhibition I was intrigued, but also worried that my concept wasn’t original and that I’d been beaten to it.

After some introductory explanations, one of the first things you encounter is a wall taken up with Quattro Formaggi II.  Simon Patterson’s portrayal of the periodic table in white ceramic tiles playfully associates each chemical symbol with a famous person.  For instance, Kr is Stanley Kubrick, Lu is Lulu and Cu is John Thaw - you work out why.  We revisited this concept later on in the lab handling area where we made confectionery associations with the chemical symbols including: chocolate limes (Cl), crème eggs (Ce), fruit salad (Fr), parma violets (Pm), rhubarb and custard (Rb). 

Cornelia Parker has more than her fair share of the exhibits.  Her intriguing 30 pieces of silver consists of mechanically flatten silver plated tableware, hung from the ceiling they take on the appearance of shiny, suspended silver puddles.  I liked her Explosion drawing, a three-layered composition made from the ingredients of gunpowder (charcoal, sulphur and saltpetre).  However, I was decidedly unimpressed by Stolen thunder, which amounted to little more than a series of framed dirty handkerchiefs.

Chlorine by Cherrie Mansfield
Photo credit: Jade Edwards
My friend and I stopped to admire John Newling’s wall-mounted Value; Coin, Note and Eclipse.  This narrative series of 27 pieces made from well-preserved, pressed kale leaves and gold leaf, progresses from organic forms of kale through to more manipulated varieties and then manufactured notes and coins.  I know I’ll reflect on this work again when I come to create my own take on gold. 

I found Marc Quinn’s depiction of mercury in The Etymology of morphology was beguiling and disturbing, taking the form of beautiful, large silver droplets as though a human figure had been spilled onto the gallery floor.  This contrasted with Antony Gormley’s more angular Fuse, a multi-facetted cast iron figure prostrate on the wooden floor symbolising rust and decay.
Iodine by Cherrie Mansfield
Photo credit: Jade Edwards
My own artwork usually features strong colours, so it’s no surprise that I was attracted to some of the more vibrant works.  My eyes feasted on Roger Hirons’ Nunhead, a mass of vivid blue copper sulphate crystals encrusting an old engine.  I think my own interpretation of copper will be a little less flamboyant.  One of the oldest exhibits, a cobalt blue glass Roman model of a cargo boat dates back to AD1-50, when glass was traded as a valuable commodity.  Its more contemporary neighbour, Blue Moon, is a small lake of deep saturated blue glass in a rather ugly plaster cast.  
Things took a more sinister turn in a darkened room containing three models of nuclear power stations and an antique chandelier, both made with uranium glass.  Ostentatiously titled Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nuclear Nations, the latter was conceived by Ken + Julia Yonetani in response to the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011. Lit with ultra-violet light the glass beads glowed a fluorescent green, providing a haunting reminder of the destructive nature of some of the elements.
My favourite piece is more down to earth.  The name of Annie Cattrell’s carbon sculpture, 18%, is derived from the proportion of the human body that is composed of carbon.  It’s a perspex column filled with striking, undulating layers of black, grey, brown, ochre and white sand-like material.  I loved its abstract forms and discovering that it has been created from dust collected from Compon Verney’s grounds and the homes of some of its staff – including house dust, pencil shavings, burnt wood, coal ash and pet hair.

Samarium by Cherrie Mansfield
The Periodic Tales exhibition is accessible, engaging and educational, without being overwhelming.  There’s a diverse variety of work well laid out in several galleries allowing viewers space to contemplate each piece before moving onto the next.  I think it does achieve its aim of bringing the elements out of the classroom or chemistry lab and showing how they are part of all of our lives.  

As for my anxiety, it is gone.  There are only a handful of paintings in the exhibition and less than 20 elements featured.  There were no attempts to tackle the less well-known elements, like dysprosium, hafnium or promethium, so I guess that’s down to me.  I came away with a few ideas and a renewed motivation to crack on with The 92.

The exhibition runs until 13 December.  You can find further details and watch a short film about it here.

Written by Cherrie Mansfield, Origin Arts Artist


Friday, 30 October 2015

Week 3 of YouTube

This week we saw more from Tutorial Tuesday. We introduced you to Waffle Wednesday and, due to it being so funny filming Waffle Wednesday, we gave you some bloopers! Enjoy.


Thursday, 29 October 2015

Meet the Artist - Ruth Brown

Name: Ruth Brown

Nickname: Struth, Ruthie and Dorey (due to my lack of memory!)

Occupation: Artist

About you: 
I am a very proud Mum of my 3 wonderful grown up children. I have a fabulous husband called Dave and the most ugly cute dog called Sweep.
I am a true enthusiast for V.W beetles and camper vans, as you will see in some of my work. This was triggered after watching the film Herbie. I like to think that my Beetle has a mind of his own.
I absolutely love painting and have begun to spend a lot of my time advancing with my art work. I also like to keep fit and enjoy precious time spent with family and friends.
I am a Christian and since I began my art classes I have really looked at Gods amazing creation. To attempt to capture any part of it in a painting is both a privilege and daunting. 
I love walking my dog and Dave and I often take him on longer walks at weekends, when we can. Sweep is my most constant companion and very precious as I am often at home alone now that the children have grown up and Dave works away from home a lot. You may see sweep in some of my paintings.
My favourite times are when all the family are together and we play crazy games, chat, watch films and there's usually a few tricks played on people!

I am a fun loving, far too open, caring love bug and enjoy a party. I also love the sun and regularly get my batteries charged by going to our beloved North Cyprus, with friends and/or family. The sun and bright skies renew my energy and I do love a tan.

Funniest Moment:
My life is full of funny things, often involving my children who are now all grown up and married.
I have a problem remembering things as I have M.S. It is frustrating but sometimes useful. I am going to tell you my most recent ridiculous performance. I was on holiday with my husband, which is very relaxing, each night we were lucky enough to go out for a meal. On one particular night, as I walked to our first floor apartment, I noticed that the lady who lives beneath us had changed the things she had by her door. Then as I passed her balcony, I saw a lot of people were gathered there. This was strange as she doesn't really have people gather at hers. I started to go up the stairs, when I realised the steps were yellow and ours are blue… I then realised that my lovely husband had parked in a different place to usual without me realising. When I got into our apartment I asked Dave why he didn't say anything, he just said "I wanted to know how far you'd go before you realised”.

Scariest Moment:
One of my scariest moments was when the children were young and we were holidaying in North Wales. On one day we decided we would go to visit a castle. There was lots of excitement as we climbed up one of the towers. Luke, aged 4, was leading the way as we twisted round the spiral staircase. Suddenly light appeared and Dave, fortunately, grabbed Luke as he almost walked straight off the top of the tower! In those good old days, health and safety wasn't what it is today. We have been since, and there are safety barriers everywhere.

Favourite Artist:
I have always liked Monet and wanted to be learn how to water colour paint, so that I could attempt something similar to his work. I soon discovered that I am far too much of a control freak for water colour.
I also like some of Van Gogh and Picasso's work.
I was inspired by Susan Entwistle after seeing some of her work displayed in a garden centre. Her work is all done in pointillism, which is a style I have used in some of my work. I found this was an easier way of finding what works for me and gave me the confidence to then attempt more complex work such as animals and figures. For some reason, I found it easier to paint in dots, than painting brush stokes. Mind you, this is when the tremor that comes with M.S. helps!

How did you get into art?:
I enjoyed art at school but hadn’t really done anything since then, other than with children through my family and work.
I became unwell 10 years ago and had to stop working. I began to rekindle my love of sewing and knitting.
Becky Newell (artist and director of Origin Arts) is a very dear friend and talked to me frequently about the benefits of painting. I eventually gave in and, with her positive encouragement, sometimes blunt in a way that only friends can, I began to love it!

It is beneficial to me to spend some time being still, which is something I am not at all good at. When I sit down with my paints and go into my imagination time just disappears.
I often embellish my art, partly because I think it adds a different dimension to my work, but also because I often have tremors in my hands which makes painting details difficult. The embellishments are a way of adding detail without quite as much precision required.
I have a lovely studio in our garden built by Dave, which even has electricity and a wine fridge! It's a lovely, peaceful place to be and hours slip away when I'm in there.


Monday, 26 October 2015

10 Things that Make You an Artist

Many artists do things different ways but we believe that this list of 10 things are quite common amongst many artists we've met. Please comment if you have any other suggestions.

  • 1. You often look at household objects with far too much interest as you can see a creative use for it. For example, whilst cleaning your teeth you seriously consider whether you could get away with using it to paint and then put it back into the bathroom to use again (or maybe steal a partners/house mate's toothbrush).

  • 2. You only know when dinner is ready because you smell something burning and the fire alarm goes off whilst you're creating a master piece.

  • 3. It always seems impossible to find a pen when you need one so often important notes or documents are signed in extravagantly coloured pastels, or whatever else is to hand.

  • 4. You have a stash of jam jars just-in-case. God forbid using your favourite mug. Ever. Again.

  • 5. Just about every item of your clothing has some sort of unexplained paint mark on it. Which also brings us to an extra point...

  • 5.5. You try to keep 'art' clothes and 'nice' clothes separate but you still manage to get paint on your best clothes. Often because you just need to touch up a painting as you're leaving the house...

  • 6. You love what you do and think you're so lucky to be able to do what you love but people never believe you because all they see is the trauma during the creation of your artwork.

  • 7. You think that people who say they 'appreciate' your work should realise how rude their comment is and be forced to apologise at least once. Whilst on their knees. And beg for forgiveness.

  •  8. You believe all rules in art should be broken, except the ones you make. Of course.

  •  9. Your partner often leaves for work with bits of paint or whatever else on them. Oh well, at least they won't forget you whilst they're gone.

  • 10. Finally, you try your best but you will always find it really hard to be bothered to wash your paint brushes and you have been known to sacrifice a brush to the bin just to save yourself from washing it.

We hope you like this different type of post!


We do not own all of the images shown above and do not claim to own them, they were found on Google Images as they were appropriate for the blog post.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Meet the Artist - Cherrie Mansfield

Name: Cherrie Mansfield

Nickname: Ches, Chesonator, Chief.  At school it was Plum and Prune.

Occupation: Strategy and Performance Manager at Wychavon District Council and artist.  I’ve not got the balance right between the two yet. 

What makes you laugh?
The antics of our two cats, Sid (short for Obsidian) and Sweet Pea.  They’re adorable and mischievous - nibbling at the parmesan as soon as our backs are turned, trying to liberate crisps from their hiding place, climbing into kitchen cupboards and the washing machine, swiping my husband on the head when he’s loading the dishwasher and sitting on anything we’re trying to give more attention to than them.

Sid and Sweet Pea
Scariest situation you’ve been in:
It was September 1996, in Chiapas state, Southern Mexico.  I was travelling with four friends.   Two of them were due to fly home that day, the rest of us were staying on for another week.  Having set off early and driven for several hours in our hired car along winding roads, up through steep jungle-covered slopes, we decided to take a break to stretch our legs and change driver.  

The ideal spot was a lay-by just off the main highway at a place called La Silva Negra (the black jungle) overlooking the valley below.  Whilst we took photos of the view, one of the guys went off for a pee.  The next thing we saw was him walking gingerly backwards up the path facing two masked men.  Dressed in camouflage clothing and black balaclavas, they were carrying three guns: two rifles and a revolver.

They backed us up to the wall and gestured to us to put our hands up.  They were clearly young and nervous which did nothing to ease the tension we all felt.  I was envisaging newspaper headlines at home: “Five murdered in Mexican jungle”.  At least they could only shoot three of us at once!

As armed robbers go, they were relatively polite, returning our passports and leaving us with some money.  They dragged my boyfriend’s backpack out of the car first.   They were about to turn back for another when they realised it would take both of them to lift the first one. They dragged it off to the forest leaving my boyfriend wondering what he was going to wear for the rest of the trip.  A quick hand movement was all the encouragement we needed to get back into the car and onto the road.

Just as we were leaving the small town about 15 minutes down the road, the brakes on the car failed.  We limped back to the garage we had just filled up at and explained we had problem with ‘los frenos’.  It didn’t take long to figure out that we didn’t have any brake pads.

Two near death experiences in half an hour were quite enough for us all, so we abandoned our hired vehicle in favour of two taxis.  None of us wanted to hang around so close to the scene of the incident, besides there was a plane to catch and some of us had to go in search of pants for my boyfriend!

Snakes.  Not just the nasty poisonous real live ones.  My phobia extends to pretty much every form of snake you can think of – stuffed, toy, photographs, on TV and in films.  I can just about cope with cartoon snakes in kids’ books if they’re not too life-like.  And the weird thing is that if there’s even a hint of a snake in a shop window, magazine or on the TV I’ll be the first to see it.  

Favourite Artist:
In my Studio
There are quite a few.  I’m particularly excited by some of the artists who were part of the ‘St Ives School’ in the 1950s, among them Sir Terry Frost, Patrick Heron and Wilhelmina Barns-Graham.  Barns-Graham’s silk screen prints are magnificent.  Frost was prolific, producing such exuberant and joyful paintings, collages and prints.  If he was still alive I’d do my level best to meet him.  I recently met his grandson Luke who led a course I took at Newlyn School of Art.  

Then there’s John Hoyland.  Author Andrew Lambirth describes his work far better than I can: “pictures which inspire the spirit, which liberate and fire the imagination. He describes imaginary worlds ... and encourages us by the beauty and effervescence of his colours to respond to them and contemplate their meaning.”

Henri Matisse must get a mention too.  I like his paper cut-outs the most.  He developed the technique further, using it to design the unique Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence, in response to the gratitude he felt towards his nurse Monique Bourgeois in the final years of his life. It is a profound space, combining the artistic and the spiritual.

Ooh, and I nearly forgot Jackson Pollock.  In terms of living artists, then it’d be Neil Canning, Barbara Rae, Tom Hughes, Antony Gormley and sculptor Edward Baldwin, who I shared an exhibition space with a couple of years ago.  

About you:
Partly Cloudy 20x20cm, acrylic on canvas board.
Photo credit: Jade Edwards
I grew up in Horsham in West Sussex, where my parents still live.  On my first day at primary school I expressed my creativity by scribbling on another child’s piece of paper!  There was also a sweet stealing incident, but we won’t say any more about that except that I am still a sweet lover and get very excited by old-fashioned sweet shops.

I studied geology and environmental biogeochemistry at universities in the north east of England.  When my first job after university proved to be uninspiring, I threw myself into campaigning with my local Friends of the Earth group and then left to go travelling in South America.  I’ve been back there since because my brother, Paul, now lives in Chile.  I’ve also travelled in Europe, Central America, Nambia and Vietnam.  In 1998 I was awarded a Millennium Fellowship to participate in an Earthwatch project in Sri Lanka, studying the social behaviour of toque macaque monkeys.

I live in Worcester with my husband, Peter and the aforementioned cats.  Peter’s an excellent cook so I am very spoilt.  He’s also an occasional collaborator in my artwork – cutting, sticking and framing, otherwise everything would be crooked!  He also claims he’s my agent, but let’s just say he’s not really doing much to earn any fees.  

I volunteer for St Paul’s Hostel in Worcester and I’m passionate about social justice issues like climate change, fair-trade, homelessness and human trafficking.

Cadmium is Bad Stuff 23.5x17.5cm,
acrylic on board. Photo credit: Jade Edwards
How did you get into art?
Looking back, I think the roots lie in my childhood, which was both creative and colour-filled.  Despite growing up in the ‘70s I don’t remember much brown, beige or avocado in our home.  But I do still clearly recall many of the colours from my early years: 
  • At aged two and a bit, the bright yellow peeler my Mum was using to peel an orange not long after my brother was born.
  • The little red painted wooden wheelbarrow I helped my Dad to transport manure from our front drive up the path to the back garden. 
  • A pair of purple flared trousers I often wore to Sunday School
  • The emerald green pedal racing car my brother and I played with. 

I showed an early flair for drawing.  One of my first pictures that attracted praise was a heron drawn in felt tip pen on shiny paper that Dad had brought home from work.  We didn’t have a TV when we were growing up so had to find other ways to entertain ourselves.   Whether it was colouring, copying Sad Sam pictures, painting by numbers with those ridiculously small pots of oil paint, making candles or performing home-grown plays with my friends in our front room, I usually had some sort of creative project on the go.

I studied art at school and created several unusual pieces.  There was ‘Pollution’, a painting and collage featuring computers, bits of litter and cigarette butts I’d picked up from the street.  ‘Metamorphosis’ was a somewhat lurid construction made out of an old sock and ‘Rise and fall’ was a snakes(!) and ladders board created with paint and PVA glue mixes.  Alas, I received little encouragement from my art teacher and after leaving school didn’t pursue art any further.

After university, frequent holidays to Cornwall reawakened my interest and inspired me to start painting so I went to evening classes at the local college.  It grew from there really.  I’ve continue to do short courses at the St Ives School of Painting and Newlyn School of Art.

My paintings are typically characterised by rich colours and strong textures, sometimes I find composition a little more challenging!  I enjoy the freedom that comes with painting and the exciting possibilities that a blank canvas or board presents when I embark on a new painting.  Sometimes I begin a new piece with a clear idea in mind, at other times colour is the starting point, and everything else flows from there. There are strong references to geology and the natural environment in some of my work.
I'm currently working on an ambitious project to create a series of 92 paintings, each one inspired by one of the naturally occurring elements in the periodic table. From hydrogen to uranium, that's a lot of elements to get to grips with, especially as my knowledge of chemistry is quite limited.   So I've invited friends and family to contribute to the project by choosing an element and telling me what it means to them to give me some inspiration. So far I’ve completed the five halogens and made a start on the lanthanides, so there’s still a long way to go!

Any art secrets or wisdom to share?
Turquoise and Feldspar 50x50cm,
mixed media on canvas board
I think creating art is as much about having the confidence to just give it a go than necessarily having all the technical skills or a formal art education.  People often tell me they could never paint and that I’m really clever to be able to create what I do.  I disagree and challenge them to give it a try.  What’s the worst that can happen?  They don’t like what they paint, throw it away and never pick up a paint brush again.  On the other hand, they may feel the excitement that I felt as a child when opening a new tin of beautiful crayons or a bumper pack of felt tip pens in every colour, and end up becoming an accomplished artist.

When I first started painting I expected to create work I was pleased with every time and was disheartened when I didn’t.  I soon realised that it’s as much about the creative process, or perhaps more, than it is about the end result.  For every painting I’m happy to frame and put on the wall or share with others, there are several in the discard pile.  

I’ve also learnt that knowing when to stop is vital.  In many respects I’m a bit of a perfectionist, but that doesn’t sit comfortably with my style of artwork. It’s so very easy to overwork a painting and I often do.  Frequent cups of tea are essential, providing a moment to take a breath, step away from the canvas and reassess.  

Finally, I try to apply the principle that something is usually better than nothing.  I often tell myself this when I don’t feel like going to the gym to motivate myself to go and do a short session.  It is particularly important when time is limited and I don’t have the luxury of several hours or more to paint and it’s a principle I need to apply even more than I currently do.

Anything else:
My work has been exhibited at venues in Bromsgrove, Evesham, Pershore and Worcester and has been promoted by Arthouse galleries, Surbiton. In 2013, one of my paintings was short-listed for the prestigious Cork Street Open and some of my work is due to appear in the 101 Abstract Artworks Art Has No Borders iArtBook.  

In 2015, I helped organise the successful inaugural Worcestershire Open Studios, which saw the work of 70 artists displayed at 27 venues over three days.  

Keep in touch with my work by subscribing to magenta and malachite, my monthly newsletter here.


Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Kurt Jackson Exhibition by Becky Newell

I've seen the prints of Kurt Jackson's Glastonbury festival paintings several times and loved them. I guess that's not surprising as I am an unashamed Kurt Jackson fan and have been for many years.

I first saw a Kurt Jackson exhibition 16 years ago and it truly resonated with my own work at the time. The way that Jackson manages to use light to such dramatic effect. His work is often filled with complicated textures, managing to sometimes make them so dark but without ever making them heavy, it seemed like alchemy. I was drawn in immediately.

The second exhibition was on my doorstep in Worcester. I dragged my, then, four year old daughter along with me. Awesome(!) - one entire wall filled with one immense seascape. I didn't need a postcard to remember that one, its grey-blue hues and shimmering lights and scrawled lettering will forever stay with me.

Jackson really didn't have far to go to impress me as I walked up the steps into the lobby of his latest exhibition 'Place' in Bath's Victoria Art Gallery. The Glastonbury festival paintings where the first to be seen after I had shelled out my £3.50 entry fee. They where good however, if I'm honest, not as wonderful as they had looked in print(!). I feel terrible even writing that, however, that is the truth of how I felt. The larger canvases where full of his extraordinary colour and you did get the feel of vastness - there where even some great little figures to be seen. However the brush strokes were weaker, the paint was weaker in the foreground and there seemed a greater sense of having to get it right. This was not the case in his smaller Glastonbury pieces, there are some gorgeous atmospheric pieces from behind stage and done in the evenings (of Glastonbury). Less famous, perhaps less commercial, however far more Jackson for me.

'Place' is a collaboration of work between Jackson and various writers from around the country. Each writer was invited to create a piece for Jackson about their favourite place. Jackson then took their writing and went to the place to create.
Interestingly the work stretches over a number of years and it is particularly interesting, because of the long time scale, to see how Jackson plays with style. There are several pieces that harp back to days of country scenes with beautiful lights streaming through trees. However, equally you will find vast seascapes, bronzes and almost cartoon like acrylics. They all come together perfectly in the 'Place' configuration.

Many artists have tried to follow in Jacksons footsteps since. However, seeing a Jackson original up close reminds you why he can demand the price tag. There is such a versatile mixture of work matching the right strength of medium, colour, light and texture to each written piece. The artwork 'Through Brandon Woods' shows a dark melancholy, fearful remembrance 'loss and longing' as the writer, Catherine Layshon, says. Jackson's dark umber, greens and reds conjure the scene so well with layer upon layer of fine textured brambles.

Not in the exhibition, however in the accompanying book, are further studies to go with Catherine Leyshon's writing. They consist of a beautiful, delicate, almost lifelike, bronze bramble and an intricate light handed acrylic study of blackberries. Jackson shows off his versatility in every way possible in this exhibition - he has metaphorically run in every direction and succeeded.

By comparison to the dark melancholy of 'Through Brandon Woods' is the vast seascape of 'Broomway - the most dangerous footpath in Britain'. It's just one of several of Jackson's famous seascapes featured in the exhibition, but it's the one I fell in love with. I got up close and personal with this one, nose to canvas to see exactly how each and every brush stroke moved. By observing the works you admire, you learn so much and I envy the way Jackson captures the light so precisely every time on his paintings. It does make me wonder if he has a stack at home that went wrong!?

There are so many others I could rave about - a beautiful bronze flower in a Coke can, some colourful harbour scenes, even a car chase! It's a less frenetic Jackson we see in this exhibition than I saw in the last. Perhaps an older and wiser Jackson.

One thing that has not changed is his wonderful exuberant immediacy, Jackson's creativity moves to reflect when he feels moved and that is the magic of the man. With it appears total freedom and he expresses his responses on canvas as if it were a language of colour and light. 

I could, of course, be biased due to my love for him. If you wish to judge for yourself then visit the Kurt Jackson 'Place' exhibition in Bath. Follow the link HERE to find out more.

Written by Becky Newell