One of the amazing things about living in London is the availability of just about any exhibition you can imagine. And because London is so rammed full of people, there are many exhibitions that are on for extended periods of time. I tend to think to myself, “oh, there’s plenty of time to go to that. I won’t go right at the start when there’s a rush”, and of course, I then forget until the last day and never actually make it.
There have been two exhibitions recently that I have actually managed to see, so here’s a little review.
Open for a month was The Cornershop, a traditional corner shop in East London full to the brim with all the usual stuff (newspapers, chocolates, tinned food), with the difference being that all the items were handmade in felt.
I remember making a conscious decision to not go on the opening weekend, but in the blink of an eye I realised the month had gone past and it was the last day to see it. I headed over to Bethnal Green on a Sunday afternoon, and found the shop appropriately located just round the corner from Quilter St.
What I unfortunately hadn’t realised though, was that the shop was also one street away from the Columbia Road flower market, (a Sunday institution in London) and was therefore absolutely swamped with people. I hadn’t been expecting such a queue outside!
The Cornershop was put together by artist Lucy Sparrow, who had spent untold hours/weeks/months sewing together all the usual shop goods rendered in woolly felt (and kindly brought out sweets for those of us queuing!)
Eventually I made it in. All the daily necessities were in stock:
The downside to this exhibition though was despite it being billed as “the fluffy shopping experience”, there were signs instructing people to not touch the items. It’s completely understandable (I hate to think what sort of state the work would be in after being fondled for a month) but a large part of the charm of nice woolly felt is in its tactile quality. It was quite bizarre being part of a trail of people snaking through the shop just taking photos, moving along slowly in turn as if on a conveyer belt.
At the conclusion of the exhibition there was the opportunity to purchase various felt items, although I talked myself out of some smiley produce.
All good fun.
The other exhibition I went to was considerably different: “Making Colour” at the National Gallery. This was an exploration of the many different ways in which colour has been made throughout the centuries, and how this has affected the art that has been produced.
Each room focused on the creation and use of a particular colour, exploring its source and meaning. I loved finding out about the different ways that colour has been extracted from various materials over the years. Some of these I was familiar with (cochineal insects for carmine red, for instance) but some I hadn’t known about, such as images of men carrying massive pieces of bright blue lapis lazuli on their backs, dug from mines in Afghanistan.
The emphasis of the exhibition was really on how colour was used in paintings, and pieces from the gallery were used to good effect. I have very limited knowledge of art however, and while the exhibition also included some samples of yarn and other textiles (cochineal again), I couldn’t help but think how much I’d really love to see something similar focusing specifically on yarn.
Being held in the gallery, there were no photos allowed, and I’m aware that an absence of photos makes it difficult to write a blog post about colour! I also felt that I needed some sort of souvenir to take away, so I got this print; a mid 1700s colour wheel by Moses Harris. It should go quite nicely on my wall for inspiration:
The theme of colour and colour wheels is also very much reflected in this month’s issue of the very wonderful Uppercase magazine, which I picked up last week. It’s gorgeous and endlessly inspiring. You can take a peek at Issue 22 here:
If only I could find the time to get creative and make a yarn colour wheel. How amazing would that be?