Henry Moore and Open Air Sculpture at Kettle’s Yard

A fascinating talk at Kettle’s Yard last night ‘Henry Moore and Open Air Sculpture’ by Dr Jennifer Powell the senior curator at Kettle’s Yard. Dr Powell is fresh from curating the newly opened Moore Galleries at Tate Britain and gave us a fascinating insight into the idea that Moore heading up a British school of sculpture. She focused primarily on the exhibitions held in Battersea Park in the post-war era, arguing that Moore’s primacy in these exhibitions was due not least to his own efforts. Moore was on the panel deciding which works should be displayed and where they should be situated. Keen to attract visitors to the exhibitions the organisers highlighted Moore who was by then an international figure and whose sculpture had a prominent place in the art world. His war time sketches of people sheltering in the underground had fostered both his and the public’s interest in the figure, particularly his sculptures of family groups. This choice of subject and his fame lead to him becoming a convenient figurehead for modern sculpture in post-war Britain. Not only did he have work on display at prominent art galleries such as MoMa and The Tate he was championed by critics such as Herbert Read and the film maker John Read.

Dr Powell pointed us towards the first ever film made of Moore’s work which is on the BBC archives website in which you see Moore’s work set in the landscape of his home. This film was shown prior to the Festival of Britain in 1951 and Moore hoped it would show the sculptures in a setting for which they were both made and inspired by. Moore felt very much that his sculptures showed organic forms inspired by organic life in countryside, rock formations and cliff faces and were not in fact as abstract as they might appear. By the 1960s he felt that sculpture should be both made in the environment that it was to be set in and so moved his studio outside in order to facilitate this.

You can of course see Moore’s sculptures at his home in Perry Green but for those of us in Cambridge there is one closer to home in the gardens at Clare College.

Concrete poetry at Kettle’s Yard and the Ruskin Gallery

I’ve just had a busy few days immersing myself in concrete poetry starting with a talk given by Professor Stephen Bann at Kettle’s Yard on Tuesday all about Ian Hamilton Finlay, his combination of art and poetry and his connection to Cambridge. For those of you who have been to Kettle’s Yard you will have seen the large pebble inscriped with the words ‘Kettle’s Yard/Cambridge/England is the/Louvre of the/pebble’ and probably wanted to know more! Now you can. The pebble is on display in Kettle’s Yard’s latest exhibition is entitled ‘Beauty & Revolution: The Poetry and Art of Ian Hamilton Finlay’. It’s next to a book with a whole list of sentences on pebbles that the poet-artist wrote, some of which are really thought provoking.

Professor Bann, who knew Ian Hamilton Finlay and had spent time at his his house Stonypath spoke of the artist’s love of pebbles saying that almost every pebble in Stonypath has an inscription. Finlay’s feeling was that pebbles only really counted for culture when inscribed. This point of view was really quite the opposite of Jim Ede who filled Kettle’s Yard with pebbles but none of them were inscribed. (Not until the 1995 Open House exhibition at Kettle’s Yard when Finlay’s sentence about pebbles was inscribed on one.) Bann remembered Finlay’s interest in the Henry Moore sculpture (Head) in Kettle’s Yard of which he said ‘this time Goliath throws the pebble’ (the head being sculpted from a large pebble).

The exhibition is running until March 1st so there is time to catch it if you want to. If concrete poetry is your bag then you should also pop along to the Ruskin Gallery at Anglia Ruskin University to the exhibition ‘Graphic Constellations: Visual Poetry and the Properties of Space’ which is on until 21st February. You’ll find work by Ian Hamilton Finlay there as well as Liliane Lijn, Hansjorg Mayer, Ann Noel, Edward Wright and Frank J. Malina.

Open Cambridge 2014

Open Cambridge was hugely popular this year.The city was absolutely thronged with people. I got a chance to visit the Real Tennis court in Cambridge, have a tour of the Senate House, miraculously get entrance into Queen’s College Old Library and on the way home free entry into the Folk Museum. Am looking forward to Open Cambridge 2015!

Thesis review

Online video sharing my experience of being a PhD student at Leicester – only for student at the University of Leicester I’m afraid.

Norfolk and Norwich Festival 2014

I was in Norwich today for the Norfolk and Norwich Festival and it was wonderful. Of course the lovely warm sunshine helped the day go with a swing but the entertainment really was superb. As we were only there for the day we didn’t have time to do most of the things. The Festival is running between Friday 9th May and Sunday 25th May and there are numerous activities to take part in. Today we had a super time at ‘The Garden Party’ in Chapelfield Gardens and outside the Forum. It was nice to be back in Norwich and really lovely to bump into Adam and Jo and their little family in Chapelfield. In between picnics and trips into the centre to listen to Swervy World busking and to partake of a nice cup of tea we saw acrobatics, bands and amusing shows. Andres and Ellie enjoyed a ride in the ‘The Astronauts’ Caravan’ – quite literally a caravan that turned around tricking its occupants into thinking they were moving too. We all really enjoyed watching the stunning La Ballade de Bergerac, a show by the Lost in Translation Circus and their amazing acrobatics. We danced (somewhat badly and embarrassingly) to the Orkestra Del Sol and admired the Anchors Aweigh carousel – a people powered carousel ride for children. We marvelled at the Haywood Hix show ‘Works’ – their silent organisation of the crowd and elaborate setting up of a whole chain of interactions presumably in homage to Newton’s Third Law. We ended the day by watching Acrojou’s show Frantic a comment on our obsession with busyness. We went home tired, a little sunburnt but very happy.

Craxton at the Fitz

It’s been a wonderful few months at the Fitzwilliam while the John Craxton exhibition has been on. His post 1945 work was particularly stunning, especially the large pictures of sailors and goat-herders all depicted in bright displays of light and colour. Judging by the photographs that were in the exhibition he certainly knew how to jazz up the Greek isle of Crete into something tantamount to a feast of Cubist travel brochure tourism delight.

Martin Rees – Our Universe and others

I’ve just got back from a lecture by Martin Rees (of Astronomer Royal fame) at the Centre for Mathematical Sciences. What an interesting speaker he is! Some thought provoking questions were raised such as – could there be numerous Big Bangs and multiple universes? He talked of the horizon of what we could see and how much bigger the universe might actually be. I was throughly convinced of the multiverse I have to say. He reminded us how far cosmology had come in just a couple of hundred years, the cosmological constants that are now established and the divide between the quantum and gravity fields of science. Of course there was a mention of the Harvard announcement today that they’d found gravitational waves thereby proving Einstein’s last unproved theory. Evidence of an expanding universe – tick! In an exceedingly humble ending Professor Rees said Physics had a long way to go. Learning the rules of the universe was he surmised like deducing the rules of chess and it’s a long way from doing that to becoming a Grand Master. All in all a fascinating talk.

Agenda – Online Broadsheet

Fantastic to see two of my poems in Agenda‘s latest online broadsheet. You can read ‘First Communion’ and ‘What you brought with you here here.

Suzi Shimwell on KUSP’s poetry show

Exciting times as 2013 ends – I hit the radio in Santa Cruz last week. You can hear the interview and my poems online. Many thanks to Gwynne Harris for interviewing me and Dennis Morton for having me on the show.

Richard III – Free Online Course

Leicester University have launched a free online course all about Richard III so proud is it of the King they found in a car park. It’s fantastic to see universities opening their doors to the public and offering free education. The Leicester course is in collaboration with Futurelearn an organisation that has the sole aim of bring free online course from major university to people who want them.