Session 4, Away with clay at Sweet Arts, 6 May 2015

We met at Sweet Arts, starting earlier at 10am. There had been quite a lot of thought about how to try and have a good experience of being in the whole VWM group without it becoming like school, so we are going to have a series of sessions, till the summer break, where people meet together in the whole group, then break into two regular smaller groups before all getting together at the end of the session.

Sketchbooks were brought out to refer to – they are filling up with drawings, scraps, photos. Some of the objects chosen in our last Sainsbury Centre session resonate powerfully between and during sessions. The cycladic figures, the Degas ballerine, the Giacommetti tree drawing, the McWilliam sculpture, a Henry Moore maquette, the Giacommetti golden brooch, the Aztec conch shell, the shell Hornbill, a small Buddha, the McWilliam two faces drawing, a new object – an Asante Pendant Mask: UEA218
Pendant mask, 19th century Africa : AkanUEA Goldh 7 x w 6.2 x d 2.5 cm 1973 UEA 218

This small pendant in the form of a mask is made from twenty-two carat gold. It is almost certainly a relic of the conflict that took place between the British Empire and the Ashanti (or Asante) in 1896. The hairstyle, in small skein twists, and the facial scars show that the head is not that of an Asante. By 1900, goldsmiths of the subjugated Asante and other Akan-speaking peoples had turned their attention to the making of copies and trinkets for expatriates. It was probably acquired by the Pitt Rivers Museum in Farnham, Dorset before 1899.

It’s good to be at Sweet Arts making, sometimes the mood is quiet and focussed, then the noise level rises and there’s quite a lot of banter and laughs, with moments of private conversation and sometimes shared intimacies.

Nell flagged up Ryan Gander’s work with the Degas ballerina – she’s come off her plinth. gander

I don’t blame you, or, When we made love you used to cry and I love you like the stars above and I’ll love you ’til I die, 2008
Bronze and WoodBurger Collection, Hong Kong © the artist. Courtesy Lisson Gallery, London 

Ryan Gander sometimes uses events in art history as starting points for works. Since 2008, he has produced a series of bronze sculptures based on Degas’ Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, which started life in Paris around 1881. Gander first took his subject off her plinth for a cigarette break, and then created further episodes in her rebellious afterlife, which takes place in a gallery setting. As the sequence progresses, the ballerina demonstrates increasing independence and a lack of respect for the institution of art. As Gander points out, this is not about replicating Degas’ sculpture, ‘it’s about reproducing the character of the ballerina who posed for him.’

A couple of other things:
Emma, one of our Sainsbury Centre volunteers, has curated a fascinating exhibition at Great Yarmouth Library on the theme of immigration, as part of the Norfolk Museums Service Norfolk 2000 project. I

It connects to VWM’s home and away theme.

A VWM member is involved in The Well, and they are having an exhibition at St Margarets Church on St Benedicts from 18th to 23rd May.

Rhoda Gray, now who was she? Well, she gave things to the Sainsbury Centre, and she’s the subject of an exhibition there which we will be visiting on our next Sainsbury Centre session on 20th May.

Sweet Arts is going mad for Mad Hatters, and there’s a lot else on, it’s the busy season!

Our next session is at the Sainsbury Centre, 10 for 10.30am on Wednesday 20th May. We will pick up on some of the ideas which seemed to emerge in the making session, about family, health, holiday, nature and other things besides.

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