Unsuitable Girl

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  1. Our niece, artist Krysia Kordecki, has her first solo exhibition, in The Art Village, Shawlands Shopping Centre, south of the river. Being in a shopping venue, tucked away off the main spread of venues for the Glasgow International Art Festival, seems not to have affected the footfall of folk popping in, not being intimidated by a grand museum-like space normally associate with ‘Art’.

    In ‘Yesterday’s Noise is Tomorrow’s Silence’, Krysia explores the connections we make and lose across time, between artefacts and the sounds they emanate as part of our everyday consciousness, and even to stimulate us to recalibrate our own relationship with sound, material, noise, and aural landscape, call it what you will.

    We all accept the presence and authority of the disembodied voices, from anonymous speakers, wall mounted, instructing us. One of her pieces is a pair of such speakers, reminiscent of Orwell’s big brother world of 1984 perhaps, or Soviet Russia. It hangs innocently up in a corner of her exhibition, emitting the sounds of the dial-up sequence we used to be familiar with, the clacking of a computer keyboard, typing up political speeches perhaps, and eventually we hear strings of Morse code tapping itself back into our collective memory, of black and white films from the fifties, bringing up scenes from the sinking of the Titanic, when the radio operator sat calling for help that fateful night. The insistent stuttering of a geiger counter staccatos its way into our heads, its sinister implication connecting to our own images of Chernobyl, or the first atom bomb and its deadly aftermath.

    Another striking piece for me was her depiction, by means of black chains, suspended from the ceiling in a line of curves, holding microphones, emitting noise, illustrating how tinnitus can chain a life, by obscuring all else, simply by noise.

    In the middle of the floor was a long, tempting piece of giant bubble wrap, taped down and inviting visitors to walk. The strange thing is that the noises are explosive in the quiet of the room, and the adult walker feels compelled to stop. Children have a different response!

    Amidst this exploration of sound, Krysia has two tall tombstone like pieces of high density polyurethane foam. Soft aqua in colour, the foam sucks away all sound effect, and standing between them, one feels gentle peace and warmth. The shape is a reference to Krysia’s mother who passed away recently, after a brief illness. The silence and comfort seem a fitting response to the memory of a loved and loving mother, pulling one back into the warmth of love, security and peace.

    Two other pieces, cast in plaster and concrete, in the shape of cabinet speakers, which are transducers, to be touched, allowing one to feel the sound transmitting from within. The tactile effect through the hands from these sculptures reminds one that sound, though invisible, has a physical impact on all of us, and both the complete lack of sound, utter silence, and its opposite, a deafening, unceasing cacophony of loud noise, are each unhealthy for human beings.

    In the far corner at the back of her space, lies a huge mountain of acoustic tiles which have been mutilated, by the artist and her assisting sister! The anthracite colour and broken crystalline shapes, brought to mind a coal bing…a landscape feature long gone, thankfully healed over by nature, and probably never witnessed by the artist! The crashing machinery and inherent danger for miners working down in the noisy darkness of coal pits; that yesterday’s noise, in our tomorrow, is now totally silent. The need for acoustic tiling to cut out the ambient noise of twenty-first century living is itself evidence that noise has become too prevalent and the individualisation of our listening habits by means of earphones straight from our iPhones, is our way to escape the random noise in our urban lives, but cutting out the natural uplifting sounds of our planet.

    This is a very engaging exhibition, thoughtfully curated, intelligently provocative and throwing the viewer into thoughts of where it all began…with the Big Bang, still audible on electronic telescopes. We are all made of that star dust, and our universe started with a gigantic explosion which ironically for this exhibition was silent in space.

     

  2. Getting over the South East!

    We moved away from our family home in Abbots Langley, Hertfordshire, on 2nd September, and after three weeks of discombobulation of varying degrees, the dust is beginning to settle and the wide skies and landscapes of Staffordshire are gradually  soothing our ruffled feathers.

    One huge difference is the friendliness on all sides of whomever happens to cross our path, when out for walks. The eyes looking at the ground habit doesn’t exist here! Most folk will engage and chat and it feels so warm. Sometimes, in the evening, Jean, down the road, will be out pruning her shrubs. We stop and chat for at least twenty minutes, and end up laughing. And she’s offering some teasels as a house warming present when we eventually have a home again!

    Small families out walking in nearby Shugborough Estate smile and see us, as opposed to our invisibility down south. 

    And who knew that Staffordshire was stuffed to the gunnels with interesting places, wild life sanctuaries, intriguing industrial histories, and has kept its character, holding on to its architectural identity from way back, and even now the next annual Staffordshire Cycling Festival, the fourth, is being planned! See www.ridestaffs.co.uk and their FB page Ridestaffs.

    We visited the new Wedgwood Museum, opened six weeks ago, where we did the factory tour and saw artisans throwing pots, painting gold lines on edges of spoons and plates, marveled at the ingenuity of the technology of a tunnel furnace, presses, moulds, learned potteries words like fettling, sponging, biscuit firing,  took delicate tea from bone china cups in the Tea Emporium, along with warm scones,  and on another visit, went into the Josiah Wedgwood story all meticulously curated. 

    The man was a remarkable human being. He was a visionary entrepreneur. The youngest of twelve siblings, he was born into a potter’s family. He did his apprenticeship in the potteries. He saw the potential for bettering bone china, and set about improving everything. Faced with the problem of deeply muddy roads, impassable in winter and probably not much better in a wet summer, he turned to developing a canal system to distribute his wares. Meanwhile he experimented, meticulously noting each color, each batch he tried, developing the now world famous Jasper ware. His china products were taken up by the Royals. Fashion and the rising middle classes did the rest. 

    His fortitude in the face of difficulties was immense. His knee gave him much pain, due to having had smallpox as a youngster. He decided in later life to have his leg amputated, without anaesthetic and at great risk of death from infection. He survived and even went on to have a wooden leg made for him. 

    Perhaps the most telling aspect of Josiah’s character was his vociferous campaigning against slavery. He had medallions struck showing African people in chains, and he published pamphlets arguing that Africans were people like us and that slavery was utterly wrong. It seems like an eighteenth century change.org campaign, with the badges becoming a fashionable item to wear and thus spreading the message among the chattering classes. 

    All this story is set out among a beautifully curated collection of the wares of Wedgwood from the eighteenth century to the present day. History interwoven with artisanship, art, entrepreneurial vision and the social changes for the workers lucky enough to work in Wedgewood’s factories.

    I do urge anyone passing through Staffordshire to stop off at Barlaston. As the website says, it is an exceptional day out. Go to www.wedgewoodmuseum.org.uk to get directions. The food is very good too! The staff are lovely, chatty, helpful and all possessed of that Staffordshire quiet humour. 

    And don’t miss the  Tea Emporium, where you can taste delicate teas, then have an elegant sit down, to sip from bone china cups, eat wickedly pretty cake, and contemplate the wondrous story of Josiah Wedgwood. 

     

 


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