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Reflecting on ARTIST ROOMS Anselm Kiefer

kiefer posterWe are heading into the final weekend of our Anselm Kiefer exhibition, which has brought works one of the greatest European contemporary artist to Carlisle, thanks to the ARTIST ROOMS on tour programme, supported by The Artist Rooms Foundation, Tate and National Galleries Scotland. As we prepare for the end of our exhibition one of our Museum Assistants, Andy, has been reflecting on his experience welcoming visitors to the exhibition.

So it’s almost auf Wiedersehen Herr Kiefer; you’ve been a real experience.

This modern German art-monster has really got under people’s skin. Because of the initially black – literally and figuratively – nature of many of the works in the show it’s been interesting how so many visitors, completely unfamiliar with Anselm Kiefer, have felt the magic of the man.

They came in initially a bit bemused sometimes, wondering what they’d paid their £3 for – especially on first sight of the mighty Palette. But so many left, some after an hour or more on their feet walking from Norns to Hortus, from Oedipus to Aurora, from Untitled to Ohne Titel, with a quite obvious sense of enlightenment and even quiet excitement. Look at the visitors book: it’s busy, enthusiastic and very positive indeed. Oh, except for….

Yes, oh yes, some were puzzled, a few were just dismissive, a very tiny minority were filled with scorn. Notable among these one visitor who complained about Kiefer and all “the others” – Emin, Hirst and so on – being charlatans and cynical exploiters. But she really got her money’s-worth from the ensuing hot debate around the gallery about the nature of good art. There is of course no obligation to like an exhibition.

The BBC broadcast an “Imagine” film about Kiefer last year, and because of that many visitors have arrived clued up but at that point maybe not quite fans. Even if they hadn’t been fully prepared for exactly what they would be looking at and the amount of thinking Kiefer would be encouraging, they were at least steeled for something rather different and challenging. They’d done their homework and reaped the benefit.

And then there’s the Kiefer devotees, switched on and pre-tuned-in to the Fates in the starry heavens above broadcasting to their inner palettes: the ones who saw him at the Baltic five years ago; the ones who saw him at the Royal Academy last winter. The RA held a huge retrospective, but some of those who came to the Tullie’s Kiefer, have been adamant that our show was more of a revelation: two works finished for us, a good spread of his engrossing and disturbing manipulated photo collages, two characteristically huge canvasses and that strangely enchanting collection of golden human organs laid out on a so subtly-finished table cloth of lead.

That final work brought home to many that had it not been for the efforts of retired art dealer and collector Anthony d’Offay in whose home it was once displayed, The Artist Rooms Foundation, might not exist. Because of ARTIST ROOMS Kiefer came to Carlisle, McCullin went to Shetland, Warhol to Peterborough and Koons to Norwich. And it’s continuing: check out the busy calendar at https://www.nationalgalleries.org/collection/on-now-coming-soon-23445/ . But at the moment the Tullie exhibition looks like your last chance to see Kiefer in the UK this year…so it’s Tullie before Monday or Paris in December.

Thank you to Andy for his reflections on the exhibition, to make your own mind up about Anselm Kiefer you’ll have to be quick. The exhibition closes on Sunday 7 June at 5pm.

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Creative Responses to Kiefer Unveiled!

As our ARTIST ROOMS Anselm Kiefer exhibition enters its final weeks we are unveiling some brilliant creative responses from groups that we have been working with – you can see these in the flesh by visiting Tullie House.

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Starting in the reception area we have an impressive display of torsos created during workshops with NACRO and Carlisle Key – two local organisations working with young people.

The workshops explored identity a key theme in Kiefer’s works. The young people thought about what makes us who we are, and how much of that is linked to a ‘national identity’.

sideThe resulting decorated mannequins are a representation of themelves; their inspirations, their aspirations, and the things that influence the direction they have taken and who they have become.

They range from being a celebration of the music they enjoy, the colours that make them smile, or a tribute to lost loved ones.

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The Tullie Toddlers were even inspired by the work of of our young people and created their own mannequin!

As well as the mannequins our Community Room is playing host to a large scale mixed media piece created by visitors to our Kiefer inspired Museums at Night event. The Mob Masterpiece uses some of Anselm Kiefer methods and media, and was created over the evening.

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Many hands make art work!

The work our family visitors created during February Half Term inspired by the exhibition is also still on display in the Community Room.

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As well as art works some of the young people we work with have also developed an innovative new gallery trail. Kiefer2Music explores the use of music and song lyrics as a way to express their thoughts and feelings about Kiefer’s work. You can check out the blog here https://kiefertomusic.wordpress.com/ or use your phone or tablet in the exhibition to experience the music and art works together!

That isn’t all – we have one more exciting response project to come. Local school James Rennie have been working with Prism Arts to develop an exhibition of creative responses to the Kiefer exhibition which will be on display in our garden from the 27 May!

Anselm Kiefer Young Peoples’ Project

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Tullie House has teamed up with Nacro and Carlisle Key to work with local young people on a project inspired by the work of Anselm Kiefer, whose works feature in our current ARTIST ROOMS Anselm Kiefer exhibition. Catherine our Young People Coordinator gives us an update of what they’ve been up to.

In the workshops the young people have been using mixed media on canvas to explore their own identities; what is it that makes us who we are, and how much of it is linked to a ‘national identity’?

collageThe young people have noticed that Kiefer uses a lot of different materials, and also includes text in some of his work, so during the workshops we have tried to achieve a similar effect by using collage, paint, stencils, and newsprint altogether on one piece.

They have been encouraged to use pictures, words, and phrases which bear some significance to their lives, and that represent them in some way. The groups have also been re-visiting, adding to, and reusing pieces that they have started in earlier sessions, which is also something that Kiefer does with his own work.

The groups have been working with local musician Steven Pearson to explore the use of music and song lyrics as a way of expressing their thoughts and feelings about Kiefer’s work. It can sometimes be hard to communicate personal responses to art work, and using another reference can make it easier. Steven has done some sessions which involve layering sounds, and mixing music in a similar way that Kiefer layers materials and mixes different artistic mediums.

The young people will be sharing a ‘musical tour’ with museum visitors, which through the use of QR codes will direct people in the gallery to songs on their ‘kiefer2music’ blog (coming soon), where the young people have chosen music they feel links to pieces of Kiefer’s artwork.

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The groups are working towards a larger-scale creative response to the exhibition, which will go on display in the museum reception in time for our Museums at Night event of Thursday 14 May, where the young people will be able to share the work they have been doing.

The project is supported by funding from ARTIST ROOMS who aim to engage ‘new’ young audiences (13 to 25 years old) across the UK with the ARTIST ROOMS collection and artists, in a meaningful and enjoyable way.

Your Art Space – Half Term Family Fun

Print, splodge, spray, kneed, shape, stick, paint, fold and fun time comes to Tullie House this half term. Our Family Learning Officer Geoff lets us know what our family visitors have been taking part in this week.

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Just over a week ago our ARTIST ROOMS Anselm Kiefer exhibition opened in the Art Gallery. We’ve got lots of exciting events linked to the exhibition, including some family friendly activities over the half term holidays.

‘Your Art Space’ is our weeklong series of art and craft based family workshops running every afternoon this week until Sunday. I write this as we hit the half way mark of the event, which has been hugely popular with visiting families.

Producing family friendly activities linking to Kiefer’s often controversial work was initially a little tricky, but the problem was solved by local artist Helen Walsh, who came up with the idea of basing the workshops on Kiefer’s mixed media approach and materials rather than the subject matter of his work.

Each workshop is based upon a different artist technique. We kicked off on Monday and Tuesday with clay, which as anyone who has worked with children in any clay based event will tell you, is immensely popular. The two days did not buck this trend with over 200 people through the door making tiles, pots and a whole host of animals as well.

Art6On Wednesday we replaced clay with recycled materials, with families creating printing blocks using a range of materials and then to use them to print. As I type my trusty team of staff and volunteers are working away on the last of recycled sessions.

Starting today we finish the week off with a weekend of painting and drawing workshops.

Kiefer uses many materials in his work, including real plant material so Helen decided to use this to try to tie all seven workshops together. So far this has had mixed results; many families inevitably will do there own thing and others will push the envelope in directions we couldn’t even hope to imagine. This approach is never to be discouraged as family fun and creativity is something we encourage in all our visitors.

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Linking to the Artist Room aspect of the exhibition, we’ve been displaying the work of our families as they finish it, both print works and the clay creations from earlier in the week. Not only will the display help us to record what our visitors have done here, but more than that, families will hopefully see their work on display, take pride in their achievements and take a little ownership of their museum too.

If you want to get involved our drop-in Paint and Draw sessions are on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 1pm-4pm. Come by anytime and drop-in for FREE.

Guest Post – ‘Dazzle’ When Painting Went to War

Mark Gibbs our Secondary Learning Officer gives us an update on one of his projects with local Secondary schools.

“This week one of the things I’ve been getting ready for is an Arts Award workshop for 15 year 7s from William Howard School. I’m really looking forward to it, particularly as it coincides with some of my own artistic interests. The workshop combines a number of subjects that are particularly current; the First World War commemorations, our visiting War Games exhibition from the V&A Museum of Childhood, and the upcoming ARTIST ROOMS: Anselm Kiefer exhibition [7th February- 7th June].

On Friday 5 December I lead an art workshop called ‘Dazzle – When painting went to war.’ It is a workshop which seeks to mix art and military history, followed by a visit to War Games.

With U-Boats around, how do you camouflage a huge ship, especially when the pesky sky keeps changing colour? One minute its grey then a bit of blue- you could splash a bit of everything on and hope for the best, or choose an average. Thing is, even if you are lucky with your colour choice, First World War ships were powered by coal, so there’s a huge smoke plume acting as a signpost for every periscope around.

Artist Norman Wilkinson, inspired by bird plumage came up with Dazzle camouflage- you don’t try and hide the ship, you try and to make it difficult to tell how far away it is, and even, which direction it’s steaming in. So this is why ships appeared in zebra-like, migraine inducing stripes as so;

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USS West Mahomet 1918 in dazzle camouflage Photo #: 19-N-1733, Naval History and Heritage Command website

In fact if you look closely it’s difficult to see where the ship ends. As an artist I’ve become a bit obsessed with these patterns and a have made a series of sculptures inspired by them and by the historic photographs of the ships. As so;

Dazzle- image embedded in resin on raku ceramic Mark Gibbs 2014 Detail

dazzleSo inspired by Wilkinson and his team of artists our students camouflaged some ship cut outs- learning about colour mixing, contrast and pattern, as they went. Then we held a competition, comparing designs against a selected sky colour [the carpet colour actually!] Only the most confusing survived, and here were our winners.

The Winning DesignsThis workshop was followed up by a full day outreach workshop lead by myself and artist Celia Burbush, focussing on Kiefer’s work. For day 2 we  made our own version of one of Kiefer’s monumental; ‘ploughed fields of history- splash it on an inch thick’ paintings…. That’s an official art historical term.

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Many thanks to Celia and the students from William Howard School.

Mark

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