Saturday 11 July 2009

Jerwood Contemporary Makers, 2009

JCM, version 2.0

Enter: Lamp Kebab, Phat Knitting, Furry Flock Floor tiles, climbing up the wall like a strange virus culminating a in a pattern vaguely resembling a map of the London Underground, a spikey light hanging from the ceiling, a sort of woven maze, and some bits and pieces dredged up from the bottom of the sea with carefully made ceramic bits added.

This year’s Jerwood show was satisfyingly different from last year’s. Next year will be the last in the run of this version of the Jerwood prize for the applied arts and, by then, an overview of sorts will have been achieved. Last year the theme of ‘touch’ was explored by the selected makers, which was a ghastly idea but produced some tremendous work (and some not) and, arguably, deployed one of craft’s more potentially problematic fixations, namely that of the skilfully hand-made. This year it’s gone social, plural, industrial-in-conversation-with-studio, collaborative – possibly. and altogether less fetishistically hand-made. It is certainly more socio-politcally positioned / aware / questioning, in terms of the actual approach to making and for that reason alone, makes for a healthy addition, building on last year’s selection.

I recall last year that I announced, rashly, that I’d lost interest in textiles, or something similar. I certainly recall that I found last year’s textile work a crashing bore. This year’s fared much better, perhaps being more responsive to the pluralistic, social approach. The giant woven textile maze – which wasn’t a maze, that ‘s just how I experienced it – was impressive, if inexplicably so. I didn’t like the feeling of being trapped, suffocated in this giant, very tightly woven wall with things scrawled on it, so I got out and didn’t go back. Linda Florence’s flock tiles were appealing initially as her work always is, (click on Linda Florence label in right hand column for a review of her work at the V&A), and the idea was beautiful but somehow didn’t quite work in that annoying way that beautiful complex ideas often don’t. Her written statement works better. That’s just the way these things go sometimes. The social knitting was, I thought, and absolute triumph and prompted me to remember that I have a particular love for knitting – fond memories of a crafts council show in the 80s about the knitting of Gansey jumpers – a sort of social history of fishing in wool. Anyway, this kitting escapade was by Rachel Matthews and involved people sending her bits of unfinished kitting which she rescued and remade or completed, or rearranged. Each had its own story. There was some heroic look-what-I-can-do-with-wool type knitting which was excessively fanciful in a WI, village flower show sort of way, which I enjoyed very much and cheered the Jerwood Space up no end – eg floral knitted spectacles frame, and an exemplary jumper that was like a woolly wall with roses growing up it.

And there was the Lamp Kebab: a pink lampshade supported by various household objects, including a pink boxing glove that might have been an oven glove, threaded up the pole like a kebab. Then all the other rejected objects were arranged on a table next to it. This was by ‘Committee.’ I wont say their names, because anonymity in an industrial mass-production sense is presumably part of the point. Here, is a selection of four of the works. One of the dominant impressions of this year’s show was of things that were appealing, public spirited and good natured. The spikey lamp especially so, all very very environmentally well thought out. It wasn’t the kind of art that moves you especially, (although there were some very sweet and moving moments in the knitting stories and in Florence’s written commentary), nor was it the kind of Craft that makes you gasp at its virtuosity, but it did make me laugh – even when it didn’t quite work. Full marks for that. A girl needs a laugh in these days of voluminous atrocity. Will someone make me a Lamp Kebab please?