On 17th November 2017, I was, like a moth, instantly attracted to the bright lights of the Bruce Nauman exhibition (Tate Modern). His work demanded the viewer to (literally) take a step back and consider the purpose and context of his work. Nauman's extensive and imaginative use of media transmits a multitude of different ideas simultaneously. It is clear that his previous studies in Mathematics and Physics informed his practice and are a domineering influence on his work. One piece which caught my attention was 'Violins, Violence, Silence' (1981).
Violins, Violence, Silence
The artwork itself was made of coloured neon tubing with a clear glass suspension frame. As the letters overlap, it is hard to initially distinguish what the piece is actually conveying, proving rather disorientating. Additionally, the buzzing noise which accompanies the piece (originating from the neon tubing) is somewhat distracting. However, it is ironic that while reading 'violins' evokes a pure and unpolluted noise, in reality you are faced with a low, droning buzz. I enjoy the irony of Nauman's work and the complex ideas which lie behind the lights. There is much more to this piece than is initially apparent and I hope that other visitors to the gallery take the time to consider its complexity.
Another piece in the exhibition which caught my attention was 'Raw Material Washing Hands'(1996). The video, which documents one individual washing their hands constantly for 55 minutes is difficult viewing. It is reminiscent of a person suffering from obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) in which the individual is performing a routine repeatedly, as though it were a ritual. The video becomes painful to watch as we see the individuals skin being overworked by the soap and water and I must admit that although the video runs for just under an hour, I watched it for no longer than 10 minutes.
Raw Material Washing Hands,
After seeing Nauman's work, it is clear that he questions and stretches the boundaries of what it is to make art. He has purposefully left behind traditional notions of 'fine art' and has distanced himself from paint as a medium.
IN SEARCH OF MEDIEVAL INSPIRATION: PART 2(ii)
Another aspect of medieval church architecture I like to look out for is putlog holes. These holes were formed when a beam or pole of wood was laid across an existing stone structure during a building’s construction, with at least one beam end protruding beyond the exterior wall, or both ends if it was a tower. Then, large pieces of stone – chalk in the case above (Figs. 23-25) – were mortared in on either side and across the top so the beam did not move. The beams acted as scaffolding, both internally and externally, and would be laid in fours in the case above, one pair of beams laying north to south, the other, east to west. The number of putlog holes increased at regular intervals as the stone structure gained height, as the scaffolding rose. It is therefore possible to sometimes see them laid at regular intervals all the way up the side of a tower as in Ringstead Church (Fig. 59). Once the church was built, the beams were removed and this left holes which were filled with another stone, sometimes of the same material, sometimes different (Fig. 24 with a carstone filling), or sometimes left open (for updraft ventilation?) (Fig. 25). Note that Figure 23 is interesting, for not only does one see put-log holes travelling up the late 13th century tower with Early English belfry windows, but a Victorian north aisle, built in 1864, and a repaired tower which was struck by lightning and repaired.
Burnham Norton Church has a superb hexagonal wine glass pulpit (Fig. 26), which was given by John and Katherine Goldale (I like to mention medieval names as it keeps the memory of those people alive), in 1450. It surely ranks as one of the finest, if not the finest, in England. Details of the six sides are provided in Figures 27-32.
Fig. 27 Fig. 28 Fig. 29
Fig. 30 Fig. 31 Fig. 32
The Goldalles are both depicted on the pulpit, with one panel apiece (Figs. 27 and 32), whilst the other panels show the four Latin Doctors (theologians responsible for setting out Christian doctrine).
Fig. 33 Fig. 34 Fig. 35
Some of the detail is in excellent condition (Figs. 33 & 34) as is the colour (Fig. 35). Overall, a fantastic resource and a source of inspiration for future work.
Another 15th century wine glass pulpit I discovered was at Salle Church (Fig. 36), which retains much of its original colour. Unlike at Burnham Norton, one is able to stand in the Salle pulpit – and I did – and rather special it felt too. The reading desk and clerk’s seat date from 1611.
Figure 37 shows a beautifully carved, unpainted, 15th century pulpit from Cawston Church. I stood in this too.
Figure 38 shows the pulpit of Fulbourn Church, Cambridgeshire. It is notable for two reasons: firstly, the carved woodwork of the early to mid 14th century is believed to be the earliest oak pulpit in England; secondly, the two 15th century painted panels, maybe part of a former rood screen, hung in the library at Trinity College, Cambridge.
Fig. 39 Fig. 40
Figures 39 and 40 are examples of medieval internal roofing beams and panels that come from Wiggenhall St. Mary Church, Magdalene (near Watlington, King’s Lynn). The nave roof (Fig. 39) is 15th Century, whilst, according to the church’s booklet, the south aisle roof (Fig. 40) may be even earlier.
Fig. 41 Fig. 42
Figure 41 shows the fine 15th century hammer beam nave roof at North Creake Church, whilst Figure 42 is a detail.
The Chapel of St. Nicholas, King’s Lynn, has some remarkable early 15th century winged angels looking down from the roof of the same date. They are particularly striking and Figures 44-47 provide more examples.
Fig. 44 Fig. 45
Fig. 46 Fig. 47
Fig. 48 Fig. 49
Fig. 50 Fig. 51
Figure 48 shows what looks like chancel roof bosses but are actually early 15th century carved wooden blocks hung from the roof by hooks, and Figure 49 shows original early 15th century decoration on the nave hammer beam roof, both from Salle Church. In truth, they are so high that one needs binoculars to see them properly. The same distance problem is apparent in nave roof at Cawston Church (Figs. 50 & 51), showing open winged cherubs along the cornices. These roofs are amongst the finest in Norfolk.