Celebrating Modern Ruin

Following on from Tate Britain's Ruin Lust, I call this work a "Celebration of Modern ruin" . As in the Tate's recent exhibition I want to look at the positive aspects in the unravelling of our environment.

I was recently interviewed by Kerry Flint for The 405 who asked the question "Who do you see wearing your jewellery?" I said; "A person who stops to look at a tree with a perfectly round knot hole, or notices that in the partly demolished building on their street there's layers of '60s wallpaper exposed in the crumbling remains of a half wall." 

I walk past this old lamp post most days. I love the weird faded pink and I have no idea how the paint has puckered in this way, it always reminds me of a peeling silver birch tree. From the other perspective, the rock in the other picture looks like a brightly painted chunk of masonry but the colours are natural and this is a real mineral called Orpiment.

I hope that if we can look at our own modern surroundings with the same rose-tinted view we use for aged ruins and natural objects, appreciating the processes and textures for what they are we will be happier in our daily lives.

One of my latest pieces using workshop fragments

One of my latest pieces using workshop fragments

Using fragments of ruins to make something new

"The very materials which we build with retain the vulnerabilities of their natural state: In truth, all stone weathering is stone disease. No stone resists the action of atmospheric agencies indefinitely; otherwise we would have no sediments, no soil, no natural sculpture. Chemical change belongs to the beauty and liveliness of stone: it is the natural carving that records Time in immediate form within the pattern & colour of the surface."  Adrian Stokes, Stones of Rimini. 

The rock cycle doesn't end or begin but shows us how one material can form another through different processses and combinations that create the various substances in our environment.

As one breaks down into sediments it finds itself in one of these processes it eventually goes on to become whichever new type of rock that it leads to. My workshop practices mean that in making there are broken pieces and surplus material left over. I have been collecting these fragments and using them in new pieces, to emulate the sequence in nature.

Each one of my pieces I personally make by hand. Every one of these coloured flecks is the result of a piece of jewellery being created. They wouldn't exist without the previous work, each a record of the pieces before it. In the same way by using hand working processes rather than having my work manufactured by others or machines means that with each piece I gain experience. Each one a tiny fragment gained that can build into something more varied and interesting. So everything I have learned also goes into the next piece.

The Berlin Wall has been crumbling into ruin for 25 years this November. It's demolition and the end of the separation of East and West Germany is a massive celebration, a positive Modern Ruin after decades of oppression. The bright colours are the expressions of artists from over the years, and the flecks throughout are the bits of rock, minerals and detritus in the concrete. This chunk of rubble has become a treasured memento, sold as a souvenir and creating a business for entrepreneurs. (there's an interesting interview with one of the main "wall sellers" here).

I love this image of a party goer sharing a light through a hole in the wall.

For this bright yellow ring I've used granite for a rugged edge.

For this bright yellow ring I've used granite for a rugged edge.

A piece of the Berlin with a Thierry Noir painting.

A piece of the Berlin with a Thierry Noir painting.

Here's a quote from the artist Thierry Noir: "Painting on the Berlin Wall was an act of liberation. I had been living close to it for two years in April 1984, when after a while, I started feeling the need to rebel against its oppressive stature. I decided to physically react against the pressure and domination of daily life near the Berlin Wall. So I went to the back of my house at Mariannenplatz, five metres away from the wall and started painting. Living near this wall was very melancholic and after two years, I felt a little dizzy because nothing was happening in the morning, nothing was happening in the afternoon, nothing was happening in the evening or at night. So initially painting on the wall was a way for me to change my ideas and then it became a full time job!" Taken from his interview in Oyster Magazine, read it all here.

A collection of pieces made using workshop fragments, inspired by textures in our surroundings combining natural and urban. 

Here's a close up of some of the textures.

Here's a close up of some of the textures.

Here's a quote from the artist Thierry Noir who risked his life painting the Berlin wall before it fell:

"Between the LACMA (The Museum of Modern Art in L.A.) and the Variety Tower, there are ten pieces of the Berlin Wall on display. In the afternoon, during lunch break you can see people having their lunch in front of the pieces of the Berlin Wall. This shows the Californian people that not every wall stays up forever and I just loved being able to observe how the new generation was staring at the remains of past history."

Ruin Lust: Tate Britain

Ruin Lust "An ideal of beauty that is alluring exactly because of it's flaws & failures."

One of my granite and resin Hewn rings, inspired by the crumbling textures of ageing and weathering in our surroundings.

One of my granite and resin Hewn rings, inspired by the crumbling textures of ageing and weathering in our surroundings.

Ruin Lust (from the German concept of appreciating ruins - Ruinelust) is the exhibition at Tate Britain which finished this time last week. Now that it is over (as anything must end to become a good ruin) I will collect the fragments which I left with and assemble them here on my blog.

 

I was very excited to visit this exhibition as this idea of discovering partial remains of a bigger thing and capturing the textures of erosion have long been a big part of my work. But knowing me, I am a curious beast and the look of something has never been enough. I always want to find out the why and how, and these not only form the concepts behind my work but also my experimental processes. I was not disappointed by Ruin Lust, there was a great variety and depth on this cultural phenomenon to explore.

The main idea I'd like to take away from the exhibition is that Ruins can be seen as a positive thing.

 

Ruins as a Memorial

"Sublime warnings of the past" Ruin Lust, 2014

"We were intrigued by the World War II bunkers that were being drawn back into the water," Jane says. "It was like something from an ancient civilization, but darker."

"We were intrigued by the World War II bunkers that were being drawn back into the water," Jane says. "It was like something from an ancient civilization, but darker."

 

Louise and Jane WIlson's work had a big impact on me. At first glance these angular forms could be contemporary sculptures, but they are the remains of Nazi bunkers in Normandy. These clean and crisp images with no discernible date let the stark forms stand out without complication. They could be from any time or place but in learning their origin presents them as symbol of the end of a devastating chapter in History with many things to learn from. "The ruin may remind us of a glorious past now lying in pieces or point to the future collapse of our present culture." Ruin Lust, 2014

 

 

 

Reinventing the Ruin

"Find new uses for ruins and new dreams among the rubble" from Ruin Lust, Tate Britain 2014

David B McFall, Bull Calf 1942

David B McFall, Bull Calf 1942

I was charmed by this sculpture by David B McFall. Following the Wilson's ruined bunkers this is a remnant from Great Britain's experience of the Second World War.The Portland stone used for this piece was once a part of a London Bank, one of the buildings destroyed in the bombing of Southwark. You can see the original carvings of the 19th Century swags and flowers from its architectural past. This wonderful re-use of debris and the subject of a young Bull Calf is a symbol of new hope and seeing the potential to grow strong and rebuild.

You can see why it was chosen for the Royal Academy Summer exhibition in 1942, even when McFall was still a student.

 

 

Engraved by J Greig, from a sketch by L Francia, for Excursions through Norfolk

Engraved by J Greig, from a sketch by L Francia, for Excursions through Norfolk

"The ruin traffics with more than one time frame: it arrives from the past, but incomplete; it may well survive us."  Ruin Lust 2014

Another example of a ruin reused which not part of the exhibition is this unusual sight of St. Benet's Abbey. The ruined abbey is situated on the River Bure within The Broads in Norfolk England. Demolished from the dissolution the gatehouse remained, which is now a grade I listed building. In the second half of the eighteenth century, a farmer built a windmill inside the abbey ruins, (adapted even further to make a wind pump later on),  The windmill is now itself a grade II listed building, creating a ruin within a ruin.


Ruins to Incite 

I enjoy the fact that a ruin leaves space for your imagination. The journey it has gone through to get to that point had affected it and it is up to us to use our minds to investigate, elaborate and furnish the remaining bones. This is what engages us with it and makes our experience a personal discovery rather than being presented with a perfect, pristine place or object, which could literally be a brick wall to creative ideas.

Paul Nash, Steps in a field  near Swanage 1935

Paul Nash, Steps in a field  near Swanage 1935

These concrete steps look out of place in this surreal image by Paul Nash. Without trying to envisage the lost structure of the demolished building they can be enjoyed as a curious sight in their own right. Like an Escher drawing these impossible stairs let us create an invisible doorway wondering where or when it might lead to, a portal to another time or dimension.

 

In my next blog post I will be presenting my response to this exhibition and some of my latest work, looking at these ideas and a few more...