Blogging about some of the things happening at Wysing, or influencing what happens at Wysing.

Archive: April 2013

Time Passing  26 April 2013

I went to Kettle’s Yard’s opening last night. It was a sombre occasion because only yesterday morning we learned that Michael Harrison, who was Director at Kettle’s Yard for 19 years, had passed away through the night. I was in two minds about going because I’ve been so busy but then, when I heard the news, I thought I would call in and see everyone. There couldn’t have been a better exhibition to be opening on such a sad occasion than Katie Paterson’s solo presentation of spare and restrained works that reflect on the passage of time, and our place in the history of the earth. The main purpose of the exhibition was to show her new work Fossil Necklace which she made whilst in-residence at  the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge. I’d heard a lot about this necklace and seen some images of its fossil beads, but I was genuinely surprised by its real-life presence. Mainly because of its scale – the beads, 150 in total, were absolutely tiny, and incredibly beautiful. Someone handed me a magnifying glass and it really was a magical experience seeing tiny shapes of ferns and dinosaur teeth, embedded into the beads, emerge. It's a quiet, serious, work and utterly without artifice, and had been installed in St Peter’s Church next to Kettle's Yard, simply strung from the ceiling. The oldest bead is apparently around 3.5 billion years old and the rest charted the history of life on earth, in chronological order. I’m sure that everyone who went to the opening, and saw that work, reflected on Michael and on all of the people we know, and how we and they will also be gone eventually. Goodbye to artist Ellen Cantor this week too. Time passing.

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Tree Keep  7 April 2013

Marshall Allen was very taken with our Tree Keep last night, especially as the skies were so clear and starry. It was built by outsider artist Ben Wilson in the early 1990s when this photo was taken. It's still just about standing though that sapling is now a huge tree.

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Derry  5 April 2013

I dragged my family all the way to Derry yesterday to experience the UK’s first City of Culture, an opportunity it won over other great cities – Birmingham, Sheffield and Norwich. I hasten to add that I didn’t drag them all the way from Cambridge where I now live but from another part of Northern Ireland where most of my family live. Except that other exile, my much adored only sister who now lives in the US. I chose yesterday – 4 April – in fact because she left us that morning to return westward and I thought it might distract us from that fact. And because the homepage of a gallery I wanted to visit said that its new exhibition was open from 4 April. It wasn’t, at least not until 6pm that evening when we would be gone again. In fact, nothing seemed to be open. Not even the city’s beautiful Guildhall which was not only shut, but totally behind fencing. There wasn’t a mention of the City of Culture in either the train or bus stations. The Tourist Information signage in the city centre didn’t mention it either. Or have any maps of cultural highlights - we had to Google from our phones to find addresses of places. There wasn’t even the shop HQ place they had two years ago when I last visited and when the city was bidding from City of Culture status. Maybe it had moved somewhere else and we just couldn’t find it. The only evidence of it all was one of those awful outdoor screens which seemed to be broadcasting the TV, and a few flags. What’s going on? Derry is one of the most important cities in Ireland. It encapsulates the whole of Irish history in one historic centre - a walled city that was established in the 6th century and has seen centuries of rebellion from the 17th century right up until the recent Troubles and the civil rights movement. It really has the most complex and important political and cultural history and identity. Maybe it’s all still waiting to happen - the Turner Prize and other home grown cultural events arrive and emerge later in the year. But there’s not much going on at the moment. Even though it's the school holidays. Maybe it' s supposed to be low key and quiet. Oh well. It's still the friendliest city I know and the train journey there is through some of the most stunning scenery you are ever likely to see. And the banks of the Lough Foyle estuary were literally teeming with wading birds of all kinds – avocets, oyster catchers, sandpipers, geese, whooper swans. Beautiful.

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