Last month I went to see an exhibition of artwork on display at my local library. It was work created by art students studying for the UAL Foundation Diploma in Art & Design at Suffolk New College in Ipswich.
The brief for the students was to creatively tackle the issue of sustainability and their explorations were displayed around the Ipswich County Library.
This interesting exhibition was a collaboration between Suffolk Libraries and Suffolk New College with BLOC hosting the event. What or who are BLOC you’re thinking. Actually BLOC is an acronym that stands for Building Libraries on Creativity. It is Suffolk Libraries’ creative youth arts programme which has the aim to use creativity as a catalyst to improve young people’s resilience and wellbeing, and to change perceptions of libraries and how they serve the community, with a focus on young people. It was certainly great to see the thoughtful and compelling work created by the students. However, it was a little chilling that there was a definite grim edge to their assessment of where they think we currently are with the issue of sustainability.
I think any endeavour to get youngsters into libraries is welcome and holding exhibitions and other events helps to highlight the presence of libraries and also broaden their appeal for the wider community.
It is always a pleasure to visit a thoughtfully curated exhibition.
And, this was particularly so when I went to see ‘Art Forms in Nature’ at the Ipswich Art Gallery. The exhibition was comprised of four collections of images showcasing nature. The main area had a display of 40 photogravures by Karl Blossfeldt, the main upper gallery showed botanical drawings by Guy William Eves, and two smaller side rooms were devoted to specialist classification imagery.
The photogravures of natural forms by Karl Blossfeldt are fascinating. They are a Hayward Gallery Touring exhibition. Each image is beautifully and elegantly framed and mounted, and with discrete labelling (white on black), the main wall of 16 had both a classic and contemporary appeal. It invited closer inspection of each single photogravure.
It is hard to believe these enlarged close-ups capturing such detail are nearly 90 years old.
I was new to Blossfeldt’s work and am now a fan not least as I know I will be returning to his images for pattern and motif inspiration.
Whilst the downstairs gallery featured a German photographer’s work the upstairs space was filled with work by the local artist and botanical illustrator, Guy William Eves.
Now here is why I think this is a thoughtfully curated show – you walk up a staircase having just examined how the lens captures plant detail to come to a collection of detailed drawings showing how the eye and hand creates a record of botanical forms.
Botanical illustrations are about accurately recording the form of a plant, and yet at the same time a visual artist, such as Eves, offers us both the required accuracy and a personal interpretation. A myriad of choices are made as Eves develops each representation. His skilfully drawn studies suggest the presence of living material all created through line and shading.
I think you can see (even in these photos) there is something added by a fine artist when you compare Eves work with the purely accurately rendered scientific drawings and watercolours such as these of flies and fungi.
And, furthermore, if we compare Eve’s drawings with Blossfeldt’s dramatic, intense photogravures, you might agree that the drawings certainly differ having a more vital and radiant quality.
One final point, of course, you are currently looking at all these natural forms several times removed. The artists/photographer have created these works, I have then photographed them (with varying amounts of light and reflections issues, I apologise for the less than optimal quality) and uploaded them to a computer and you are now viewing these images on a screen. Somehow this has deadened their presence. If you don’t get the opportunity to visit this exhibition, I hope you might spare a moment to take a much, much closer look at the next gift from Mother Nature as it crosses your path.
Last year, on the 9th November, this large version of a Noah’s Ark arrived in Ipswich, with the aid of a tug, and docked at the Orwell Quay down on the Waterfront.
It is big, it is very dark and it is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a beautiful boat. The idea for this project came from the Dutch TV producer, Sir Aad Peters, and his boat, originally from the Netherlands, has visited Denmark, Norway and Germany, with this visit to Ipswich marking its first time in the UK.
It is a 70 metre wooden version of Noah’s Ark and also houses a floating exhibition of Bible stories. According to the local press, the boat features a 12ft tall Tree of Life that ‘grows’ up through the four floors of the vessel.
I haven’t been to see the exhibition as it isn’t my kind of thing being neither art nor a collection of historical, cultural artefacts. Plus, it is £16.50 for adults and £9.50 for children (4-13 years old) whereas Norwich Cathedral is free to visit despite its running costs of about £4,000 a day. And, even Canterbury Cathedral (running costs of approximately £18,000 a day) with its wealth of medieval culture of national and international significance, is only £12.50 for adults.
The online promotional information claims the vessel is a half-sized replica of Noah’s original vessel as described in the Book of Genesis.
14. Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.
15. And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits.
16. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second and third stories shalt thou make it.
17. And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth . . . .
Genesis, Chapter 6, Verses 14-17. The Bible, Authorised King James Version.
That’s clear then, its 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high. Although, I do wonder quite how this is a ‘replica’ when there is no description in the text of the boat’s shape neither of its overall appearance.
Interestingly, twenty years ago the scientist and marine explorer Dr Robert Ballard found evidence of a great flood that occurred in the Black Sea area around 5,000 BC. There is also evidence of human occupation of that area and of a world subsequently drowned by a great flood. However, so far, no ark or ark remains, or ark preserved impressions have been found.
Noah, Gilgamesh and other flood myths are most likely explanations of actual geological episodes that occurred in times before evidence-based, scientific accounts became available. If you have a look around the Web, it appears that finding a real, original Noah’s Ark is of considerable importance to some folks. However, in the meantime people can visit ark interpretations such as the one on the Waterfront or watch Darren Aronofsky’s film, ‘Noah’, with its Biblical accurately-sized Ark that has a very different appearance and doesn’t really look like a boat at all. I suppose if you think about it, the Ark only had to float as it wasn’t built for sailing.
Just to finish, here’s a photograph of a fine, stylish craft also anchored in the Ipswich harbour which was decorated very attractively for the recent Festive season.