Art blog: I’ve joined the TwitterArty!

Extract from A Place Where My Father Once Worked by Amrik Varkalis
20 Feb 2014 @ 10.19 pm
| News
Extract from A Place Where My Father Once Worked by Amrik Varkalis
Detail from A Place Where My Father Once Worked by Amrik Varkalis

jayne-headshotLike talking about art? Then you’re in for a Tweet, writes Jayne Dwyer


I’ve joined the Twitterati. Shall we, for the purposes of artblogging, call it the TwitterArty?

I finally succumbed after being convinced that it wasn’t going to be all Justin Beiber and Rihanna. I was wary. I already spend far too much time on Facebook, indulging in nostalgia, gushing about Groupon deals and taking part in the narcissist hobby of uploading photographs of my good-side.

Once explained to me by the King of the Twitterati, the Railway Rev, I decided that I would join with the sole intention of “keeping it profesh”.

In the first week, I was followed by a magician and my news-feed (if that is what you call it) was privy to a picture, which for those of you with a delicate disposition, I will call “a lady’s flower”.

I am all fingers and thumbs and I blush easily. I was petrified I would send this pic (which I have to admit was beautifully lit) to all my new acquaintances.

I had to ask my open-minded daughter to make the lady’s flower disappear. Where was the magician when I needed him? Maybe I should have stuck with Bieber and RiRi.

Anyhow, I hope you are still following. My Twitter account is now a library of creative contacts and a hive of meaningful connections.

I am quite literally buzzing with enthusiasm. I am following artists, galleries, poets and the Railway Rev.

I am tweeting, retweeting and favouriting articles I want to go back to and read and exhibitions I want to see. I’m addicted, it has to be said.

‘Boring Postcards’ hero

The first and most exciting thing (after the flower) to reveal itself to me was the news that the photographer Martin Parr will be giving a talk at the Hepworth in March.

I don’t think I would have found this out, if it were not for Twitter. This is big news. Parr is not renowned for his conversation, so the event is intriguing for that fact alone.

Parr is not a Yorkshire man, though he was recognised originally for his black and white images of the north of England.

He is best known for his somewhat gaudy pictures, documenting ordinary lives in New Brighton, a seaside town on the Wirral. Think of seasides out of season, windswept hair and the colours of blancmange.

He has documented Englishness in photographing the mundane, and making it humorous.

Parr also published a quirky little book called Boring Postcards, which became very collectible in the Nineties and almost impossible to get hold of.

I imagine that he will appreciate the irony that it is now available on Amazon, a reflection of our changing culture.

The National Media Museum in Bradford will be showing some of his work, alongside that of Tony Ray Jones, in April. I am beside myself with excitement.

Great about Grayson

Perry and Padmin, together at last: artist Grayson Perry (photograph: BBC) and Padmin Bear
Perry and Padmin, together at last: artist Grayson Perry (photograph: BBC) and Padmin Bear

If you haven’t been keeping up with YorkMix (shame on you) and if you have been hibernating in a cave in a forest, you may possibly have missed the exciting news that there was a campaign to get Grayson Perry to York.

Twitter played a huge part in this and secured his visit here. The Turner Prize winning artist will now take part in a “night of teddy-bear hide and seek”.

It sounds like a potty idea but the campaign enthused the residents of York and beyond and nearly 5,500 votes were cast.

Heaven and shell

The sculpture workshop at the Yorkshire Museum
The sculpture workshop at the Yorkshire Museum

You may assume at this point that I have been glued to a computer screen for weeks, but I have ventured away occasionally.

My New Year’s resolution was “do more”. My first do-more of the month was to enrol onto one of York Open Studio’s prelim workshops, organised by Peter Donohue.

The choice of workshops this year was varied and enticing, and I wanted to do more than I could afford (though it has to be said, the workshops are great value for money).

I opted for Richard Mackness’ sculpture workshop and had a fantastic morning in the Yorkshire Museum.

Richard told us that he used to visit the museum as a child, and that exploring the relics and castings from ancient tombs, had been one of the things that had inspired him to become an artist.

During the morning, Richard taught us how to make a simple armature and mould self-drying clay onto it. All the materials were provided, and he suggested we take inspiration from the box of shells and other natural forms he had brought in, as well as the artefacts in the room.

I was quietly proud of my little offering, a representation of an angel shell.

I really appreciated the fact that Richard reiterated the point that our sculptures would take on their own life and become representations, rather than replicas of the real things. This was very reassuring.

He also provided me with a motto to live 2014 by: “You have nothing to lose and nothing to prove.” I will do my best to remember that when I am facing my next fear.

Anthony Gormley, you have no competition from me. However, there were some really lovely little pieces created on the day and I had a serious attack of envy when walking around the room at the end of the session.

One lady, whom I have made the assumption “she does this every day” had sculpted a beautiful bird, inspired by an old thing in a glass case on the museum wall.

Her representation had really brought the bird to life and I couldn’t stop her to talk to me as she was intent on trying to finish it off.

These workshops are never long enough, but it is amazing what can be achieved in two-hours. My shell-ish thing is drying out.

Whether I deem it worthy enough to paint it up and display it doesn’t really matter. I learnt a lot in those two hours and am craving more of the same.

Flying trip to the park

Birds seem to have dominated my little world this month, and the other birds I need to tell you about appeared at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Still trying to burn off the last of December’s indulgencies, we headed off to the sculpture park in January.

As I think I have probably said before, this place kills two metaphorical birds with one stone. You always get to see something wonderful and you can walk for miles.

Only, on this occasion we didn’t walk at all. We just killed the one bird and saw some haunting and beautiful art.

The walk would have to wait. The week before payday and on the bones of our bum, we couldn’t stay long.

We put our last pennies into the car park ticket machine and headed quickly to the Underground Gallery.

We thought that we would do a whistle stop tour of several of the exhibitions, but we spent our precious hour in this one gallery, absolutely mesmerised by the installations of Amar Kanwar.

We stood and watched birds fly, a projection onto a storybook and on a big screen depicting a horizon blighted by industry and a changing landscape in Odisha, India.

Kanwar’s Sovereign Forest is a political piece and it is an evolving piece of work. There is a version of Sovereign Forest, a permanent exhibition in India still collecting “evidence” from its visitors: land records, tax receipts, proofs of occupancy and maps of acquired villages.

The exhibition at YSP is haunting and poetic.

Where poetry meets art

Closer to home, poetry meets art at According To McGee this month. Once I have finished writing this blog, I am going to snuggle down with my copy of Dream Catcher 28, which this time has been complied by an all female team of guest editors: Helen Burke, Andrea Michael, Christina Thatcher and art advisor, Ails McGee.

The 28th edition features the paintings of Amrik Varkalis, an Indian-born artist whose main interests are “Yorkshire and Englishness”.

She depicts Yorkshire with such vibrancy that we might well long to love here! Her depictions of “community” are full of hope.

Varkalis is in good company, too: Freya Horsley, Rachael Burnett, Janine Baldwin and Francine Cross.

Curator Silvia Brigada explains that this all-woman exhibition has brought together artists whose work “fitted in with the poetry of Dream Catcher’s latest issue.

“We sourced work that impressed us with a vibe, a playfulness and a mood.”

If you feel that you already know Amrik’s work, it is still worth exploring the gallery again this month, as alongside her fellow artists, Amrik’s new body of mono-prints are captivating.

I particularly love A Place Where My Father Once Worked, part of a small series of a journey on the Settle to Carlisle line.

They are delicate and naive, and suggest an artist looking through the eyes of her inner child.

I feel that this little blog has travelled some miles this month: Wakefield, the Wirral, India… and I’m reminded of my favourite tweeter, the Barnsley poet Ian McMillan, whose life appears to be one lovely train journey and who paints some lovely pictures with words.

Will you join the TwitterArty?

Art worth Tweeting about

Dream Catcher, According to McGee, until March 10th

York Art Workshops, various day sessions: colour, wash, drawing etc. Contact Karen Winship on: 077892 77382

Life drawing, Rogues Atelier, Fossgate, every Thursday, 7-9pm Call 07960 329286. Also, Upholstery Drop-in every Tuesday 10-1pm and 6-8pm

In Memory Of Monica Ross, Imagination of Matter, School House Gallery until the 1st March

Only In England, Martin Parr and Tony Ray Jones, National Media Museum, Bradford, Friday 28th March-26th June

Martin Parr – A Photobiography, The Hepworth, Wakefield, Friday 7th April, £7 Booking essential: 01924 247360

Julian Opie, open air exhibition (get your walking shoes on for the Year of the Horse), Yorkshire Sculpture Park