London Calling pt3
I haven't visited the Museum of London since a small child. What a mistake! it is an absolute gem, although trying to find how to get in was hugely irritating. Fortunately, I was told they are moving to Smithfield Market soon which looks to be a far more appropriate location for a collection about the history of London, than the concrete 20th c. Brutalist architecture of the Barbican.
The first gallery featured a collection of work by London craftspeople for London Craft Week 2021. The one piece that stood out for me was this ceramic wall works by Loraine Rutt based on the maps made by Charles Booth describing the rich areas of Peckham (in gold) and the very poor houses (in dark blue) published in 1889. I used to live near Peckham in the 1980s when I was at art school and many of those streets are familiar to me. She reinterpreted this by researching recent statistics for the wealthy and poor areas in London and carved a three-dimensional map of the whole area using appropriate gold and blue to highlight the rich housing and child poverty - still shocking one hundred and thirty years later.
One of the last exhibits in the museum is Heatherwick's 2012 Olympic Torches. How magnificent to see them up close. Each torch is uniquely formed from copper using one-off wooden moulds. Copper was chosen not only because it is a gorgeous colour and malleable but also as a contrast to the gold silver bronze of the champions - a metal for all people. After all the negativity by the press in the run up to the event, I remember thinking how marvellous to see journalists proved categorically wrong; the opening ceremony was magnificent introducing a real celebration of a wonderful country. It was a magical moment in time. I was very lucky to get a ticket for the second day when the swimming competitions took place, and soaked up for myself the positive, friendly atmosphere which permeated the whole city that summer.
Next on my list was the Whitechapel Gallery not far away to see Theaster Gates: A Clay Sermon. This multi-talented artist and instigator of projects which help the unloved is fundamentally a potter. His wood fired reduction stoneware pots littered the first two floors of the large gallery space along with handmade plinths of found wood and cast concrete, installation pieces inspired by his African heritage and a vitrine of books, collected items and ceramic pieces.
In addition there was a wonderful film featuring the rural desolate location of his pottery studio, performance in a worn out wooden factory, music with friends using African masks in his studio, and Gates climbing out of his huge outdoor kiln to investigate the success of the latest firing. An informative peaceful interlude which the two gallery spaces bracketed neatly.
My last stop of the day before catching the train from Waterloo was the recently renovated Crafts Council gallery. The ‘Maker’s Eye’ was an overview of the large collection of craft objects collected by the UK’s Crafts Council over the past fifty years, selected by fourteen craft makers and curators. The display had the feel of a 'Wunderkammer' or Cabinet of Curiosities, with a considerable array of disciplines and techniques. Looking at one hundred and fifty closely displayed objects, compelled me to concentrate more on the objects which caught my maker's eye, such as, Jacqui Poncelet, Colin Pearson, and the always fabulous Gillian Lowndes' mixed media which has been an inspiration over the years. The Crafts Council invites a personal reflection on what craft means to us; for me, I felt the connection between objects was lost through sheer overload; with so much to choose from, how much do you choose? It's an eternal issue when curating a show, so I look forward to seeing how this is resolved in future exhibitions.
What I hadn't known previously was that there is a large collection of books on craft to browse in the study area. Useful, but also alarming at how many I already have!