Archive for the ‘architecture’ Category
Piet Mondrian suggested that humanity seeks rest within motion, or “repose through movement” and he found an example of it in dance, referring possibly to the foxtrot, he said “each movement is immediately neutralized by a countermovement which signifies the search for equilibrium”.
Taking part in the ISTD dance medallist competition (ballroom, latin and sequence) at Castleford Civic Centre on 11 March, I thought that my own foxtrot seemed to have too much repose and not enough movement! Maybe I was feeling too relaxed after looking at the Henry Moore reclining figure on the way into the centre.
The reclining figure figures a lot in Henry Moore’s oeuvre, and he donated this one in 1980 to Castleford, the town where he was born, the Civic Centre having been officially opened a decade earlier on 24 March 1970.
The Civic Centre, a fine example of modernist architecture, designed by Derek Goad, is an optimistic looking building if ever I saw one, even now when it seems to reflect an optimism about the future that is a situated in the modernist period, when perhaps we believed more honestly in “a steady advance from the poor environment of the past to the more pleasant and brighter surroundings of the future”. One of the features of the building is its facing in precast concrete panels manufactured from a limestone aggregate chosen for its weathering properties: “it has been found to get naturally lighter in colour with exposure to the atmosphere so counteracting the darkening process caused by the atmosphere itself”. Apart from the darkening beneath the windows this hope, this countermovement does seem to have been realised.
I find it a hopeful place also by association, because of the activity (medallist competition dancing) for which I have been here a few times now. I go in filled with hope anyway! Sometimes I come out feeling even better than when I went in, other times less so. I first started to become interested in the building when I looked across the dancefloor/theatre and saw the wall sculpture, comissioned for the opening in 1970, silent, static, yet visually rhythmic (movement through repose perhaps). The dynamic rhythms of the dancefloor seem to be echoed in the sculptural forms.
The artist is Diana Dean, who was working with abstract geometric form in both painting and sculpture at the time, and the work, made in stainless steel, is entitled Symmetry in Opposition. I could wonder to what extent the title also echoes that idea of equilibrium found in the Mondrian quote above. Dean explained to me that at first the two projected squares were facing inwards with two corners touching, and then this changed to the outward projection which is why she called it Symmetry in Opposition.
Here are some photo’s of what it looked like in 1970.
I wonder if I also find Mondrian’s notion of the neutralisation of opposites in the contrast between the stasis of the final form Vs the activity of its making.
Dean moved to Canada in 1975, where she focused on painting and moved away from abstraction, the geometry hidden, as it were, within the structure, supporting the figuration. When I contacted her recently she replied saying “I felt it was quite synchronistic to receive your email this week as I had just begun a portrait painting with geometric patterning appearing in the carpet and all perspective lines in the room going to the left eye of the sitter. Maybe I am moving towards a new form of geometric abstraction again”.
A psychological reading might suggest that we are witnessing a “return of the repressed”.
(Thanks to Diana Dean and Derek Goad for supplying information and pictures for this blog post)
 Piet Mondrian. ‘Natural Reality and Abstract Reality: an essay in Trialogue Form’ (1919-1920) in Mondrian:
Natural Reality and Abstract Reality edited by Martin James (1995) p.27 quoted in Dancing with Mondrian by Annette Chauncy, in The International Journal of the Arts in Society vol 5, no.3
 Piet Mondrian. ‘The New Plastic in Painting’ (1917) in The New Life the New Art – Collected writings of Piet
Mondrian edited by Harry Holtzman & Martin James (1987). P.43, quoted in Dancing with Mondrian by Annette Chauncy, in The International Journal of the Arts in Society vol 5, no.3
 Opening ceremony brochure
 Opening ceremony brochure
 Personal email from the artist
The University of Warwick has an excellent public art collection of over 800 art works. They are often on show right where studying is being done, and you can phone and make an appointment to view specific pieces.
I had learned long ago that there were Jack Bush paintings here but only recently taken the time to go and see them. The only time I had seen any of his paintings in the flesh previously was in a one person show at the Serpentine Gallery in 1980.
Even more outrageously colourful than I had expected, breathtaking to view, they are hung as a pair, and high up so that perspex cases are not necessary. Climbing the stairs, I got a really good look at them both, Josephs Coat from Bush’s Fringe series, on the left, slightly larger than Charcoal Band, one of his Sash paintings, on the right. They look like oil rather than acrylic colours.
We have the modernist architect Eugene Rosenberg to thank for the selection of these and other colour field paintings in this collection:
I am committed to the belief that the artist has an important contribution to make to architecture. The bond between contemporary art and architecture is not easy to define, but I believe they are complementary – that architecture is enriched by art and that art has something to gain from its architectural setting. If asked why we need art, I could give answers based on philosophy, aesthetics, prestige, but the one I put high on the list is that art should be part of the enjoyment of everyday life.
Another brilliant post from Ross Wolfe and a continuation of the guest blog post at my site a week or so ago. Here he emphasises the link between modernism and industrialisation, and especially the influence of the machine and the techniques of Taylorism.
…much of which seems to confirm the Ellulian stance I blogged about a short while ago: according to Jacques Ellul, modernist art is either an imitation of technology or a compensation for technology.
Whilst Kandinsky’s treatise Concerning the Spiritual in Art could be seen as a compensation for technology (along with the appreciation of the Theosophy of both Kandinsky and Mondrian), the paintings often turn out to be an imitation of technology.
Ellul suggested that Kandinsky painted like a computer. I think that was unfair, but it is also a point that is difficult to argue against! I think that the same criticism (it was meant as a criticism) could be levelled at a lot of the painters I admire, and the practice I have adopted.
When I mentioned to the museum attendant how good I thought it was she seemed pleased that I liked it (we all like to get a ‘like’ every now and again). She said that most people who comment say that it’s rubbish.
What? Most of this work is ‘old’, the exhibition is a reminder of a tradition. Surely, the fact of abstraction has lost its ability to shock, surprise and elicit “a child could have done that” by now. Especially this work, most of it is quite complex and I would have thought difficult to dismiss. Well, I have been wrong before!
In my continuing quest to see abstract art outside of London, I had a good day in Leeds. At the Constructivism exhibition I was particularly interested in the work by Jeffrey Steele. Later, I noticed that at the seminar I missed, about the influence of the British Constructivist and Systems groups, Jeffrey Steele had been speaking and I wished I had been there.
In the permanent collection of contemporary art (post 1880 I think was their definition) I saw a Robyn Denny that I haven’t seen for ages. When I saw it, I remembered hat I had seen it before, at Leeds many years ago. I also imagined that, back then I saw a big John Hoyland painting, but if I did it wasn’t there today. (Just checking the catalogue I downloaded from the gallery website, there is a Hoyland in their collection. I would have liked to see that)
There were some interesting paintings in the other collections, I particularly enjoyed looking at an Ivon Hitchens landscape.
Then, visiting the cafe was an art experience itself, not the food necessarily (which was good and reasonably priced), but the environment of the Tiled Hall
On the way out I did wonder whether you could see too much Henry Moore (!)
We did go into the Henry Moore Institute attached to the Gallery (nice building) and looked at interesting photographs and sculptural pieces by Jean-Marc Bustamante, but in a hurry, because it was very nearly 5pm and they were getting ready to close.