This week the university masters students had the opportunity to visit beautiful Oxford and visit 3 museums, and take in an exhibition by our masters leader, reknowned ceramicist, Sebastian Blackie. The three museums were The Ashmolean, the Pitt River Museum and the Museum of Modern Art.
The Ashmolean has an international reputation, and so it should. A beautiful place with an interesting juxtaposition of old and new, with exhibits that make connections between topics, displaying two or more linked topic areas together to make you think and reflect in a more pro-active way than simply displaying artefacts by age or grouping. With only an hour, I focused on the textiles areas, but getting absorbed by the link with scripts and communication which was adjacent and connected to the textiles. I then went up to Music and Tapestry where there were 3 large tapestries, one depicting musicians, in association with a wonderful display of largely stringed instruments through the ages, beautifully decorated and inlaid with precious woods and other materials (ie mother of pearl). Exquisite! Then up to the top floor to the modern art exhibit where I was taken with two pieces, one a textured piece created by sand and glue by Andre Masson, and then an oil painting by Brigitte Simon. Finally, via an amazing exhibit of gathered pots in a display case on the back stairs, to the Japanese gallery where I saw exquisite landscape paintings as large hangings and also as delicate fan templates.
Then it was on to the Pitt Rivers museum situated through the Museum of Natural History. I have to confess being caught up in the natural history bit, especially the rocks and the architecture of the building, with soaring columns and tracery supporting the spectacular glass roof. Victorian architecture at its very best!
The Pitt Rivers was a total revelation! Forget about the minimalist ethic of ‘less is more’. Pitt Rivers is the antithesis of that – more is most definitely more!! The artefacts are crammed into the display cases – rows on rows, collections on collections! And how eclectic! Anything from a puffer fish skin helmet to scarification tools, shrunken heads and bejewelled skulls (Damien Hurst obviously paid a visit before his diamond skull encrusted piece For the Love of God!), jewellery through to weapons. At times bizarre, never boring, this museum is an experience!
Then, eating on the hoof, off to the Musuem of Modern Art. I have to say this was a disappointment for me, and also for the others as well… Hey ho. Two out of three ain’t bad!
On the way back, we stopped off at Wolfson College in Oxford to see Sebastian’s exhibition. Beautifully made, striking ‘carpets’ of ceramic with personal connections to the places he was illustrating, Sebastian deserves to be more widely known outside the ceramics world than he is. His attention to detail is painstaking and his work is both beautifully executed and thoughtful in content. The settings of the college grounds were lovely, but the exhibition was slightly spoiled by being surrounded by functional chairs laid out round the walls (mind you it is a coffee lounge!) However, once we had moved them around to free the space around his work, it became a gallery setting (just a shame about the carpet!! lol)
Food for the soul and food for thought! Now onto planning and weaving pieces for an upcoming exhibition… That’s this week’s work sorted!!