On seeing, doing, making, thinking, living

'SHELF LIFE: The Ornaments Are Talking To Me' by Mark Clarke is at The Bowes Museum
I’m terribly guilty of being a bit lazy when it comes to travelling out of London, but I feel I should remedy that with a couple of promising out-of-town exhibitions.

At my book launch, Iain R Webb told me about the exhibition SHELF LIFE: The Ornaments Are Talking To Me (above), that has just opened at the Bowes Museum in County Durham. Assemblage artist Mark Clarke presents his modern day memento mori as a bittersweet response to his mother’s battle with dementia. I love any form of assemblage, collage or mixed media, possibly a reflection of my own hoarding collecting tendencies. These kitsch constructions have a serious message, questioning the themes of dementia, obsession, good and bad taste, fine art versus outsider art, displacement behaviour and celebrity culture. It’s ticking all my areas of interest, I just have to work out where the hell County Durham is…

Meanwhile, photographer Garry Fabian Miller has curated an exhibition, Garry Fabian Miller: Making, Thinking, Living at the Crafts Study Centre in Farnham. It deep dives into his love of modern and contemporary craft with a personal selection from the collections of the Crafts Study Centre (including woven textiles by Elizabeth Peacock and Ethel Mairet, and tableware by Lucie Rie) displayed with pieces from his own collection.

Miller is an interesting character, whose own photography is produced by a unique and fascinating process. From his Dartmoor studio, he crafts blissful abstract artworks from his painstaking form of photography that exposes light to Cibachrome paper for differing lengths of time. Last year, the paper ceased production, meaning Fabian Miller is having to evolve his practice in different ways. For him, the process is all part of the art. The time and thought taken to create ‘good colour’ have parallels to the vegetable dyes cooked up by Ethel Mairet or the coaxing of clay into vases and pots by ceramicist Richard Batterham. There aren’t many pictures out there of the exhibition, but I have the catalogue and that’s enough to persuade me that it’s worth a visit…

SHELF LIFE: The Ornaments Are Talking To Me by Mark Clarke is at The Bowes Museum until 12th February 2017

Garry Fabian Miller: Making, Thinking, Living is at the Crafts Study Centre, Farnham until 10th December 2016.

WORDS: Disneyrollergirl/Navaz Batliwalla
MAIN IMAGE: Kayleigh Lindstedt/I Dream of Coco
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