Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Review: Per Kirkeby at Tate Modern & 'The Accessible Arctic' exhibition at Canada House, London

For me, there were two reasons to go to the Per Kirkeby retrospective at Tate Modern. One was a chance to see the work of one of Denmark's most important artists, including some of his watercolour sketches of Greenland, where I travelled myself exactly a year ago. The other, pedestrian, penny-pinching reason, was to make more use of my Tate membership. I wasn't prepared for the breadth of the work, from art school collages to pop art of his early career, to abstracts, sculptures, and a fascinating series of books he has published of both his own work, and monographs of artists who influenced him. The one of Michelangelo, in which his own work is juxtaposed with that of the master's, clearly shows the relationship between the two.

The Greenland sketches did not disappoint, either, coming as they did after my impromptu visit to 'The Accessible Arctic', Canada House's fine exhibit of Canadian Geographic photographs of the Canadian arctic, mostly in colour (and there's a great arctic film season coming up there in September/October!) Here I went through airport-style security (when trying to switch on my digital camera I had to confess to the attendant that my batteries had run down. After that he didn't look too concerned about me, correctly assuming that I was far to disorganised to be plotting some kind of a heist.) Even better was the display deep in the bowels of the ground floor, a magnificent room with columns and ornate furnishings and a full wall mirror (possibly two way, I mused, as two small girls pulled faces and showed off their dresses in front of it), which contained glorious colour enlargements of Robert VanWaarden's documentation of the the British Council's 2008 Cape Farewell project. This involved a group of high school students chosen from many countries, journeying by Soviet cruiser MV Academik Shokalskiy from Iceland to East Greenland, passing me in West Greenland when I was in Narsarssuaq / Nanortalik (could they have been the 'scientists' who were spending a couple of days up the fjord? according to Nils at the tourist office?) and on to Baffin Island in northeast Canada. Anyway it looked a tremendous experience, as the youth dashing bare chested into Baffin Bay seemed to symbolise. The photographs brought my own Greenland trip back to me, so my imagination was able to finish Per Kirkeby's wonderfully unfinished sketches, the wall of rock and water that move so far across the page and then stop, leaving a white void. The detail with which he renders mountains and morraines bely his early career as a geology PhD. He has been going to Greenland since the late 1950's when he was completing this postgraduate studies, and says that he doesn't feel right in himself if once a year he doesn't make a trip to Greenland, Iceland or the Faroe Islands. The north Atlantic / Arctic regions certainly have that pull. And the colours show up in his abstract or semi abstract work: the jewel blues and emerald greens that have a tawny, mossy quality; the swirl of grey-green like a fog descending on a fjord, the brilliant mustard yellows and hot pinks of the summer bloom. All these are in the wonderful abstracts with titles such as 'The Northernmost House', and even in one of the large abstracts which I must find the title of, which has obvious points of comparison in the palette and overall effect, if not the linear quality of the markmaking, to Monet's famous waterlilies at Giverny (which I had recently seen some of at the National Gallery).

Per Kirkeby has just closed at Tate Britain, London.

'The Accessible Arctic' exhibition continues at Canada House near Trafalgar Square until 30 October 2009, and the films continue there on Tuesdays until 20 October. A related exhibition, 'The Northwest Passage – an Arctic Obsession', runs at the National Maritime Museum until 3 January 2010. Read about the Cape Farewell project at http://www.capefarewellcanada.ca/.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Still on my mind

It's funny how I cannot recall what I had for lunch yesterday, but I can, with the tiniest prompting, expound at length, with staggering levels of detail, on my trip to Greenland last summer. About how people get by, with the high prices, by visiting amongst the often large extended family without ever paying for a hotel, but filling every spare inch of floor space with sleeping bags at Christmas. About people taking advantage of the lottery in Kangerlussuaq to hunt the quota of musk oxen, and sharing the carcass, storing it in their immense freezers (yes, freezers are ubiquitous in Greenland). How everyone lives by the coast, and knows someone with a boat, who goes fishing. How the magazines feature awards given to loyal workers at TelePost, for ten, fifteen or twenty years' service by quite young people, and how people tend to hang onto jobs, often for life (not surprising considering many of them come with accommodation). How a small supermarket bag of cheap pasta, tinned fish, yogurt, three 'Viking steaks', milk, a bit of fruit and something green will easily top £20 (US $35). How the banks don't take UK debit cards because of Danish banking regulations, but the people working there are very friendly and helpful, and outside the capital, all dressed very casually. How the fog comes down in Qaqortoq and erases the top half of the hill with its staircased streets of primary coloured houses. How the rain comes down and it is never really very cold in August and early September (except on the top deck of the ferry at 5am) and I am a fool to be carrying around thermal trousers (most of the time!). How the spines of the books in the public library where I shelter from the rain are all rebound in jewel colours, pink and yellow and lime green, paperbacks to be treasured forever. How the fish market is selling whale but I am too late to see it and instead photograph the remains of giant ribs, chest high, sticking out of the rubbish bin. How the tables are cold steel and spread with fish and seal sliced red, gold mother of pearl eyes unseeing as the camera lens. A man, grey haired with a flowerpot shaped hat and glasses, wanting to shake my hand, talk, tell me he is sixty today. A museum, in an old hotel that looks like a red school house from pioneer America, where I steam around, drying out and looking at amazing tupilak carvings in creamy bone by father and daughter Aaron and Cecile Kleist. Where upstairs I photograph the room where Charles Lindburgh and his wife stayed, photographs of them and the seaplane floating on its pods in the harbour. Where the national costume is displayed, yoked neckwear that looks like Shetland knitwear in photographs but up close is composed of intricate beadwork in reds, yellows, white, indigo, purple and blue. Where a series of medium format square photos are displayed of life in the early 1960's, faces that tell of childhood, festive dancing and proud truck ownership but also of locals sat round the table with colonial bureaucrats who built the new concrete housing blocks that today are so run down. A woman, smoking a pipe, toothy and wrinkled grin challenging me to understand.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Greenland and Wales - Margaret Sharrow's Erwood show - general views

A gallery and craft centre in a converted rail station, platform and carriages, this month featuring the work of Margaret Sharrow

My solo show, 'Greenland and Wales', has now opened at the Erwood Station Gallery and Craft Centre in Erwood, Powys, mid Wales, six miles south of Builth Wells. The exhibition is open seven days a week from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm, until 30 June. All the work is for sale, and many of the pieces feature local scenes from Erwood, the Elan Valley, Llandrindod Wells and even the Builth Wells bull. 

I will be giving informal demonstrations / talks / workshops on Saturday 13 June and Saturday 20 June, from 1-4 pm both days. Drop by and find out how I made the images on display, have a chat, or just enjoy coffee and a cake in a pleasant atmosphere. 

Monday, 13 April 2009

Margaret Sharrow - a solo exhibition of images of Greenland and Wales

Ilulissat Icebergs, copyright Margaret Sharrow 2009

Margaret Sharrow announces her forthcoming solo exhibition!

An exhibition of images of Greenland and Wales, using historic photographic processes

Where: Erwood Station Craft Centre, Erwood, Powys, Wales
When: 27 May - 30 June 2009
Open 7 days a week, 10am-5:30pm
Tel: 01982 560674

Directions: Between Brecon and Builth Wells, signposted just off the A470 on B4567 near Erwood, 10 minutes from Builth Wells

More information to follow shortly.

map with Erwood Station Craft Centre marked

Erwood Station Craft Centre details on Welsh tourism board website

Friday, 20 March 2009

Greenland - Travels in an Amazing Place: a lunchtime talk by Margaret Sharrow

View from the Greenland coastal ferry, heading north from Nuuk.
Copyright Margaret Sharrow, 2009.

Thursday 26 March, 1pm
School of Art, Aberystwyth University, room 206

What is Greenland like?
Isn't it awfully cold there?
What is it like to stand by a glacier?
Can you really tell if global warming is happening there?

These and many other questions will be answered in a talk illustrated with photos and anecdotes, by third year fine art student Margaret Sharrow.

Last summer Margaret spent over three weeks taking photographs and travelling up and down the west coast of Greenland, the world's largest island and one of its most remote cultures. Located between Iceland and Canada, straddling the cultures of native Greenlanders, its Danish colonial heritage, and the global media culture, Greenland is also the home of some of the world's most stunning scenery.

For more information about Greenland, click around this website.

For more information about Margaret Sharrow, visit her art blog, online portfolio, or public Facebook page, or e-mail her at sharrow-art@hotmail.co.uk

For a map showing the location of the School of Art, visit here.

27 March 2009

Many thanks to all those who attended my talk, and asked such good questions. And also thanks to the people who apologised for not being able to attend: your good wishes were much appreciated.I have enough material for many more talks about Greenland, so stay tuned to my blogs!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Sisimiut views

All images copyright Margaret Sharrow 2009

Monday, 16 March 2009

Alternative photographic processes portfolio

Nuuk 2, mixed media

Nanortalik 4, Van Dyke brown print

Nanortalik 5, mixed media on paper

Ilulissat 2, mixed media on paper

Nanortalik 6, mixed media

All images copyright Margaret Sharrow, 2008

Digital art photography portfolio

Ilulissat 1

Nanortalik 1

Nanortalik 2

Nanortalik 3

All images copyright Margaret Sharrow, 2008

Nuuk's colonial harbour

All photographs copyright Margaret Sharrow, 2008

Flying in to Kangerlussuaq

All photographs copyright Margaret Sharrow 2008

Nuuk apartment blocks

All photographs copyright Margaret Sharrow 2008

Nuuk cemeteries

All photographs copyright Margaret Sharrow, 2008