TALK: with artist David Inshaw


Saturday 2 December, 11:00am

Messums Wiltshire is delighted to announce its new exhibition, A Wessex Scene, a celebration of the location that we are situated in, both immediately and further afield.  Join us in the Long Gallery for a preview and interview with artist David Inshaw to open the show.

David Inshaw is one of the exhibiting artists in A Wessex Scene and is most famous for the painting ‘The Badminton Game’ which is held by Tate Britain. Inshaw lives and works in Devizes and fell in love with the Wessex landscape through reading Thomas Hardy, ‘the way that Hardy used landscape as a metaphor for human emotion struck a deep chord.’ David Inshaw in conversation with Rachel Campbell-Johnston.

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TALK: ‘The Thoughtful Gardener’ with Jinny Blom


Jinny Blom Artist’s Talk — 1st November 2017

‘That night I had a vivid dream. I was in a crowded football stadium filled with screaming fans. Beside me a small child I didn’t know was trying to get my attention. He was insistent and inaudible. Eventually I bellowed out into the stadium: ‘Will you all please be quiet — the child wants to say something’. Silence. I bent down and he whispered: ‘Please may I be a gardener?’ It might sound daft but that was that’.

— Jinny Blom, ‘The Thoughtful Gardener’, 2017.

Jinny Blom began her career as a landscaper in 2002. She had previously worked as a Jungian psychologist for twenty years, a role centred around the care and treatment of mentally ill patients. The two professions of psychologist and designer, although seemingly disparate at first, arguably stem from the same source of conscientiousness: with the pastime of gardening concerned with deriving pleasure — and ultimately health — from our surrounding environment. Nature is, of course, the greatest nurturer.

Jinny’s first job started six months into her ‘overnight’ career change, with a commission for the Manor at Temple Guiting. Here the inspiration for her garden design came from a profound appreciation of history and geography. Jinny used plants, trees and flowers to filter and construct the land around the views her clients did and didn’t want to see, resulting in a remarkable manipulation of spaces. Combing ‘simple planning’ and an elegant colour scheme, Jinny was able to achieve a kind of botanical equilibrium, creating a garden which proves easy to maintain and almost looks after itself. Jinny’s adage ‘to develop or not to develop’ denotes the play between the natural world and her taming of it; pitting crumbling, ruinous outhouses against the kitsch topiary of box-plants, styled into pigs.

She went on to describe other exhibitions and commissions, all of which are elaborated on in her wonderful book ‘The Thoughtful Gardener’, available from our bookshop. A particularly humorous narrative was concerned with an exhibition in the Jardins des Tuileries, Paris. Used to the military precision and organisation demanded of the Chelsea Flower Show, Jinny was surprised at the relaxed atmosphere of the French, one that almost reached a level of nonchalance, as they were happy to sit around smoking and chatting, before commencing with the installation.

Another career-defining project was commissioned by the Spring restaurant at Somerset House. Reverse-casting huge gunnera leaves into liquified marble dust, Jinny’s finished ‘interior-garden’ was reminiscent of many of the plant exhibits at the Natural History Museum. ‘The tactile quality of the walls I made for Skye Gyngell’s restaurant was the product of my desire to make things with originality and Skye’s love of truthful ingredients. We won a prestigious landscaping award for the atrium’ she said of the project.

We were then treated to a ‘tour of Kenya’, with Jinny speaking about the vulnerable earth of Laikipia, the ground of a landscape unsuited to human vulnerability. This terribly fragile and eroded area is the location for a rhino conversation project, one which encourages landowners to join their estates into migration corridors, as well as developing lodge-schemes for the protection of this endangered animal. It is obvious Jinny is passionate about this cause: ‘If you get to a point where we’re cutting the tusks of rhinos and elephants to protect them you know we’ve gone wrong somewhere as a species…I’m not too fond of the human race’.

Jinny has participated in two Chelsea Flower Shows — experiences she says, slightly tongue-in-cheek, that she could have done without. Her second show at this prestigious occasion was in collaboration with Prince Harry in honour of the AIDs charity he supports. This project was given the green light three days before the deadline for submissions closed. Her high-tech evocation of the landscape of Lesotho, a country where the charity Sentebale works. Jinny described her awkward exchange with a rather bored Queen, an anecdote that everyone laughed at. With every new slide there came an ‘ooh’ or an ‘ahh’ from the audience, proving Johnathan Messum’s introductory analogy accurate: Jinny’s dream of a ‘stadium filled with screaming fans’ had materialised in the form of a sold-out talk, here in Messums’ Long Gallery.

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TALK: Artist & Printmaker Norman Ackroyd CBE RA


 

Wednesday 13 December, 6:30pm

Norman Ackroyd is one of Britain’s foremost landscape artists and is known primarily for his aquatint work which hangs in the Tate and New York’s MoMA. He is also passionate and extremely knowledgeable about the local landscape, having visited and created works of art inspired by the melancholic and laden pools of Fonthill Abbey, home to one of the greatest collectors of their day, William Beckford. A selection of these works hangs in the barn and we are delighted to welcome him to the barn for this informal discussion.

Norman Ackroyd studied at Leeds College of Art from 1956 to 1961, and subsequently at the Royal College of Art, London from 1961 to 1964. Ackroyd has had many solo exhibitions, both in Britain and internationally. Norman Ackroyd was elected a Royal Academician in 1991 and was made Senior Fellow, Royal College of Art in 2000. Ackroyd lives and works in London.

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Voices of Tisbury – Christmas Party


Friday 22 December 2017, 6:00pm, free event

You are warmly invited to our Christmas party celebrating musicians and singers in our local area.  Join us on Friday 22 December for Christmas carols sung by The Tisbury Community Choir followed by a performance by musician Sagat Guirey, who has played and recorded with artists including Nigel Kennedy, Roachford and Belinda Carlisle, on guitar, banjo and mandolin.  He will be joined by a handpicked group of guest musicians, all from our local area, for an eclectic fusion of jazz, rock and blues.

The bar will be open for mulled wine, drinks, mince pies, sausages, soup and rolls.

6.00pm Doors open

7.00pm Carols by Tisbury Community Choir

8.00pm  Sagat Guirey & friends

 

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Judy Pfaff – A Pioneer of Installation Art


Judy Pfaff’s ‘Roots Up’ installation opened at Messums Wiltshire on 23 September and continues for another month until 26 November. Pfaff was one of the first contemporary ‘installation’ artists – one of a stable of artists working in New York in 1970s who experimented with this medium and ‘Roots Up’ is a continuation of the anti-white wall, ‘maximalist’ narrative common to other artists of her generation, instigated perhaps by the French artist Marcel Duchamp with his Mile of String earlier in 1942. Pfaff’s conversation with material commenced in the 1970s, counter to conceptual and minimalist trends; being ‘one-of-a-kind, room-filling and immersive’. She commented that ‘many, many artists now do similar work. But when I began…not so much’. ‘Roots Up’ is her first solo exhibition in the United Kingdom.

After completing her Master of Fine Art at Yale in 1973, Pfaff created her first large-scale installation which showed at the nonprofit Artists’ Space. Installation artworks often exist as a unified, immersive experience, rather than being comprised of smaller, separate entities, often occupying an entire room or space. The eminent art-historian Linda Nochlin observed of Pfaff’s works that ‘I, the spectator, hardly spectated at all: I was drawn through, around, into the piece’. The installation genre emerged out of environmental art, which was prevalent throughout the late 1950s, and in the next decade asserted itself as the new major strand in international contemporary art.

Pfaff’s pioneering work synthesises sculpture, painting and architecture into dynamic ‘atmospheres’, into which the fabric of space itself seems to expand and collapse. Her work is a complex ordering of visual information, composed of steel, fibreglass and plaster, as well as natural elements such as tree roots; the central focus of Messums’ exhibition. Her wild prodigious creativity combines a delicate filigree of organic roots and steel branches with towering fantail pillars inspired by ecclesiastical architecture. Drops of glass spinning to the floor like gargantuan raindrops fall onto what looks like a neolithic earthworth. Pfaff’s work verge on the edge of chaos but is underpinned by a rigorous order of motifs made up of spheres, helixes and other geometrical shapes.

Perhaps it is obvious to state that Pfaff was one of the very first women artists to work in installation. She was written about in this context by Nochlin, a writer of course known for her revolutionary article ‘Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?’ and was characterised in 1971 as the ‘most articulate feminist art-historian’. In ‘Judy Pfaff, or the Persistence of Chaos’ (1989), Nochlin identifies a key discourse found in Pfaff’s work, that of ordered chaos; a subject arguably inherited from the Impressionists which was seen in its time as wild. Nochlin realised the relevance of chaos to Pfaff’s achievements and demonstrated how it has often been dismissed as a female trait. ‘The good art-work’, Nochlin wrote, ‘in other words, is cast in the image of masculinity — aggressive, wounding, hard-edged, well defended — as opposed to the “bad” or trivial one, which is feminine by definition — a hodge-podge of unelevated objects thrown helter-skelter, without defence, into a shapeless, feminine receptacle’.

Pfaff found Nochlin’s difference between ‘male’ and ‘female’ chaos particularly insightful, commenting in 2007, ‘the same kind of impulse [chaos] could be recognised as being very powerful and also very flaky. I really liked that conversation. Because when I work, I think most people think it’s just fun. There is so little fun going on that it actually p***** me off. I’m really involved. To have things feel loose takes a sort of thoughtfulness. There’s a rigour in that’. Pfaff’s words live up to her bold and strident work, demanding that ‘Roots Up’, a piece that took two years in the making and two months to install, be placed in the context of chaos’s academic legacy and be used to further the term’s deconstruction. ‘Roots Up’ has arguably met Nochlin’s binary pairs of adjectives somewhere in the middle: it is an installation that is neither ‘aggressive’ or ‘wounding’ nor ‘defensive’ or ‘shapeless’, but is, instead, a balance between chaos’s manifold interpretations.
Pfaff’s work cannot be construed as feminist, radical or otherwise, but it is relevant to the international art world’s much needed catch-up with feminist artists from the 1970s and 1980s, with numerous exhibitions of their artwork showing and selling at Frieze London 2017 for example.

Pfaff has received many awards including the MacArthur Foundation Award; a Bessie; and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. She has had major exhibitions at Elvehjem Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin, Madison; Denver Art Museum; St. Louis Art Museum; and Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo. Pfaff represented the United States in the 1998 Bienal de São Paulo. She now lives and works in Tivoli.

Judy Pfaff’s ‘Roots Up’ is on show at Messums Wiltshire until Sunday 26 November.

Photo credit: Iain Kemp Photography

WORKSHOP: Christmas Card Printmaking with Finn Bush


Christmas Printmaking with Finn Bush

Saturday 18 & Sunday 19 November, 10-4pm, lunch included  Bookings

The sending of printed Christmas cards originated in London in 1843.  The printers back then then considered it a vogue soon to pass.

Nowadays taking the time to make something for somebody is perhaps one of the most special gifts one can give. Like a ritual, its all about coming up with a design, choosing a method and settling down to the artistry and the industry.
So this Christmas as part of our Makers market, join 8 others to learn about four of the most popular print methods, Wood cut, engraving, dry point and monotype. Then choose one and create your own Christmas design with guidance or freedom. Print for your own enjoyment and use, or if you feel like it join the makers market and offer your works for sale. You never know as well as being great fun it could be the start of a new industry!

A One Year Milestone


Long Gallery - Photo credit Iain Kemp

23 September 2017 — A One Year Milestone

The 23rd of September 2017 marked a historical milestone in Messums Wiltshire’s history, a year ago to the day we opened for the first time, welcoming over 2500 people over the weekend. This year our anniversary was marked with the opening of a large-scale exhibition by American installation artist Judy Pfaff and an audience who packed into our new space to hear her introductory talk.  The Long Gallery is perpendicular to the main tithe barn. This new permanent exhibition gallery focuses on two-dimensional works of art including paintings, drawings, etchings and photographs to complement programming in the Barn.  This gallery has a long panoramic sweep of a glass window, viewing straight onto the rolling hills of the Fonthill Estate, once owned by the greatest collector of the 19th century, William Beckford. Its enormous north-facing windows let in ample light for viewing works of art such as the current display of Judy Pfaff’s complementary two-dimensional and smaller installation pieces.

As well as The Long Gallery, a new reception space provides context to the wider sense of Place Farm and in the opening months displays smaller works of art by artists from our stable, and newer artists such as Ying Sheung Wong whose delicate porcelain plates fly up the right-hand wall. Ying graduated the MA Ceramics programme from Bath’s School of Art and Design this year and we are happy to welcome her to our growing collection of artists.

The white cube Pod in the main barn, continues to serve coffee in a remarkable location and offers an extensive collection of handmade and hand chosen artefacts by leading makers and designers from Fred Baier to Tracey Boyd, as well as Art materials and specialist art books.

It’s been an incredible twelve months: from Turner prize winning ceramic artists to modern dance and classic cars, our programme has been varied and diverse. Highlights of last year’s exhibitions include Material: Earth with Grayson Perry and Edmund de Waal and Art in Motion: Design & Inspiration including a McLaren F1 and a P1. This ‘series of firsts’ culminates a spectacular programme of events and we look forward to hosting many more this year and the years to come. Thank you all for your continuing support and enthusiasm. If you hve not already done so, please sign up for our to our mailing list at: http://messumswiltshire.com/sign-up/

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TALK: ‘The Thoughtful Gardener’ with Landscape Designer Jinny Blom


Jinny_Blom_The_Thoughtful_Gardener

Wednesday 1 November, 6:30pm  Bookings

Jinny’s genius is to marry a beautiful vision to an extraordinary empathy with the landscape into which that vision will fit, resulting in a pastoral harmony second to none” – Victoria, Lady Getty

A prolific designer, Jinny Blom embraces a wide variety of styles, from formal walled gardens to contemporary installations. What defines Jinny’s work is her skill with plants and her ability to create a garden that responds to the history of the site and the wider landscape. On the 1st November Jinny will share her insight into the creative process she has developed while designing more than 250 gardens around the world.

The gardens Jinny creates are as different as their owners and their locations. Small gardens are very intimate and have to work efficiently in order to be pleasing. An Oxfordshire garden of rooms is constructed from nothing, creating a new garden with an old soul and there are modern takes on traditional forms.

But all these gardens share a commitment to beautiful craftsmanship and considered planting. Structure and detail are important, and receive close attention. The styles vary considerably – logical, calm, beautiful, romantic, naturalistic, formal, sometimes spare – but the principles remain firm. Jinny designs for the long term, with consideration for the environment; these gardens are built to last. Find out some of the core principles behind her thinking in what promises to be a fascinating talk.

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Talk by Judy Pfaff on Her Installation ‘Roots Up’


 Judy_Pfaff_Roots_Up Photo credit iain Kemp

Judy Pfaff is an American artist known primarily for her immersive and expressive installation art, who currently teaches at the Bard College of Art, New York State. In 2015, she and Johnny Messum were introduced at a gallery in New York, an occurrence that somewhat incidentally led to an invitation to create a large-scale installation in the Messums magnificent 13th century tithe barn.

Judy introduced the opening of her first solo show in the United Kingdom with an artist’s talk. One of her most insightful remarks on ‘Roots Up’ revealed that she must choose where she travels to very carefully, as her location and surroundings always appear in her work. Her art, she admits, is entirely responsive to the events which happen to herself as well as others, citing 9/11, recent devastating flooding in the United States and familial deaths as examples.

Her being so attuned to the environment is perfectly evidenced in Messums Wiltshire’s latest exhibition, a literal reflection and reconsideration of the surrounding ancient landscape. When first visiting this corner of the country, Judy was shown around Old Wardour Castle, Salisbury Cathedral and Stonehenge. She was particularly interested in the architecture of the central vault in the Cathedral’s Chapter House, an element which can be found (now abstracted in form) in the finished show. ‘Roots Up’ is an exhibit which incites wonder, awe and the desire to explore our exceptional surroundings. Her 140ft installation piece combines the psychedelia of the local summer solstices, the magic of dark winter nights and the folklore of times gone by. Judy’s two-dimensional and smaller sculptural works displayed on her specially crafted ‘photowalls’ can be viewed in The Long Gallery next door.

Her fantastical, gravity-defying show is evocative of the buildings designed by her favourite architect, the Spaniard Antoni Gaudí. Architectural flourishes of his are echoed in Judy’s colourful floral bowls, fluted medieval vaulting and overflowing trees; oozing their sparkling multicoloured sap. Judy is resolutely interested in colour, not necessarily concerned with its technical features but instead its artistic, atmospheric qualities — a Kandinsky-like appreciation perhaps. Such excess, ostentation and vivacity is reflected in her approach to two-dimensional work. She describes how creating one image will end with ‘a hundred’ being produced.

DSC_2911 (web)Judy’s talk prioritised her processes and highlighted the scale of preparation which goes into such a monumental work of art. She demonstrated just how many people played an intrinsic role and humanised the entire operation by naming those involved. ‘Roots Up’ was a huge undertaking, one typified by the large sycamore ‘root bowl’ framing an elevation of the installation. This tree’s previous owners had done everything they could to get rid of it: attempting to cut it down and even burning it, to no avail. ‘Please take it!’ was the reply when Judy expressed an interest in using the tree for the show. She is able to notice the magic in objects that others are desperate to part with and amazingly, through her unique artistic production, she is able to allow everyone a window into the way she experiences the world.

And her world, as the art critic Dennis Kardon observed in Art in America, ‘has never been cowed by refined minimalist sensibilities’ instead is ‘wild’, ‘prodigious’ and ‘creative’. When she first started working in New York during the 1970s, she chose to ignore the climate of conceptual art as it simply ‘was never my thing’. This, she claims, provides a reason for her rather ‘funny’ or ‘interesting’ reputation. As she gained artistic prominence, she describes being including in a West Kunst exhibition and furiously discovering that the historical section included no women, an unfortunate phenomenon not unlike the treatment of contemporary female artists. The passionate and explosive character of Judy’s stories seem almost at odds listening to her measured slide-show presentation. Her commentary on her work and life was brief and light, allowing the photos and artwork to speak for themselves. Judy manages to be humble without becoming falsely modest and wryly quoted a previous agent’s opinion on her installations: ‘If I could sell this s***  then I would be a great dealer’.

‘Roots Up’ is a work which arguably exceeds comprehension: we don’t need to understand it even, we can just be amazed. Judy succeeds in taking us beyond the everyday and into the realm of the fantastical, childlike ‘opposite land’, an adventurous place where up is down and down is up and anything seems possible.

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‘Nature is Imagination Itself’ — A Talk by Jane Hall


 Jane_Hall_Talk
Not long into her talk, Jane Hall quoted the famous William Morris saying — ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful’. The breathtaking beauty of her work is perhaps obvious to any viewer. The time, dedication and sheer patience that it takes to produce her life-like insects is remarkable. Morris’ reference to utility, though not perhaps immediate apparent, will soon become clear.
 
Jane trained in embroidery at Loughborough and her work, which has expanded, grown and developed since then, is now concerned with the minute replication in stitch of butterflies, flowers and fairies. On average it takes 8-10 weeks to create only one of her precious butterflies, time, she says, spent listening to radio plays and imagining in her wonderful garden studio at her home in Dorset. This studio is filled with everything Jane needs, an abundant amount of cotton-reels, needles and trays of real butterflies which met their deaths naturally.
 
The talk was commenced by demystifying the materials she works with, namely silk, chiffon and organza. These were then passed around for the audience to appreciate. She demonstrated that the Japanese needles she uses are specially designed with flat heads and round eyes; so they do not damage the ever-so delicate fabrics. Jane referred to her work as ‘studies’, ‘still-lives’ or ‘portraits’, using anthropomorphic language which transforms these butterflies into beings as human as you or I — and thus deserving of these artistic terms.
 
Just as inspiriting is her profound knowledge about the creatures she has dedicated her life observing. Jane was full of stories about the lives, biology and history of her marvellous animals. She demonstrated how the Peacock butterfly has markings, which upside-down look like owl’s ears, in order — miraculously — to catch predators off-guard. This was made clear by a skilful 180° rotation of the projector, a feat which everyone enjoyed. There was another tale about the belief that butterflies soured milk, one generated by superstitious farmers concerned with the lore of fairy kind.
 
And so, we return to William Morris, and having ‘nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful’. Jane admits to becoming more and more invested in nature conservation, the environment, extinction and reintroduction. In the United Kingdom, it is clear that the butterfly is very tangibly in peril. According to charity Butterfly Conservation’s 2015 study, ‘70% of the species are declining in occurrence…and 57% declining in abundance since 1976’. Jane’s artistry is another way of engendering interest and maintaining the butterfly’s position in the front of the mind. Her passion in conservation was typified by the symbiotic relationship between the Large Blue and the humble ant — a fascinating and surprising story. 
 
It was apparent that Jane’s love of these fairy-creatures does not stop at drawing, painting and sewing. Instead it is a passion which has been honed from childhood: from the days of sending letters to the birds, by way of the hedge on the way to school; inviting them to tea. The excavation of a field— removing 350 tons of top-soil — was in order to design a butterfly garden and magical fairy-house. Over a decade ago Jane made a shimmering golden wedding dress over 8 months, which is now deservedly resting in Mompesson House, Salisbury. Her latest undertaking is a work that will span years — a butterfly cabinet and ‘her piece of Heaven’: an homage to the cabinets of curiosity or kunstkammers of the 16th century. The eventual dream will be layers upon layers of butterflies: pressing up to the glass in a complimentary wooden frame made by Rupert Brown. 
 
If you are interested in Jane Hall’s work please see http://clothofnature.com/ and for butterfly conservation http://butterfly-conservation.org/.

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