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 3(i)
Figures 1-3 show a very curious piece of work that attracted me, as it seemed relevant to my current practice. Apparently, this stone effigy, now housed on the floor of the north aisle of Wood Dalling Church, was a priest and it was later re-carved as a woman! As D.P. Mortlock and C.V. Roberts wrote in their, The Popular Guide to Norfolk Churches: No. 1 (Acorn Editions: 1981), ‘the head, neck and hair have been re-cut’ (p. 109).
Figure 4 shows the defaced effigy of a civilian carrying a horn or roll, dated about 1300 A.D., in the S.E. corner of the sanctuary at Warham All Saints.
Fig. 5 Fig. 6
The earliest dated graffiti I have come across is shown in Figures 91 and 92, which post-date the medieval period of course, but they date from the English Civil War (1644 – the Battle of Marston Moor), the Protectorate (1656 – under Thomas Cromwell) and the reign of Charles II (1669) and are included here for interest. They come from the porch of Sustead Church and interior west wall at Sedgeford Church, respectively. But there is another form of more menacing
Fig. 7 Fig. 8
graffiti shown in Figures 7 and 8. The panels are from a rood screen in Burnham Norton Church, which was given by William and Johnanne Groom in 1458. These panels were defaced at the time of the Reformation (1535-39) and covered with ‘improving texts’, traces of which are still visible.
The base of the medieval rood screen at Thornham Church, shows wonderful 15th century colouration. Figure 9 shows the north side of the screen looking east, whilst Figure 10 shows the south side, looking east. The screen was provided by merchant, John Miller, who died in 1488, and his wife, Clarice.
Fig. 11 Fig. 12 Fig. 13
Fig. 14 Fig. 15 Fig.16
The screen shows twelve Old Testament Prophets rather than the twelve Apostles. Figures 11-16 show the best preserved and are, left to right, top to bottom, Isaiah, Amos, Ezekiel, Micah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, respectively.
Not all rood screens contain images and some are simple but highly effective patterning, such as the 15th century rood screen from Trumpington Church, Cambridgeshire (Fig. 17).
Fig. 18 Fig. 19
The rood screen base at Salle Church is interesting because it not only carries original paint but primer on the blank panels (Figs. 18 & 19). The church guide notes that, ‘We suppose they may remain uncoloured because they were hidden by altars placed in front of them’. The paintings depict the Apostles, from left to right: Thomas, James, Philip and Bartholomew.
Fig. 20 Fig. 21
The original doors remain and show the four Latin Doctors: Gregory and Jerome (Fig. 20) and Augustine and Ambrose (Fig. 21). I thought this rood screen base was tremendous and the plain
Fig. 22 Fig. 23
panelling just added something to it. Some of the painting, especially the green and pink were lovely, as was the simple, alternate black and white diagonal design (Figs. 22-23).
Fig. 24 Fig. 25
Remnants of medieval painting on stone in churches is not that unusual yet always pleasing to find. Figure 24 depicts a chevron, a design repeated on, and up a pillar (and only that pillar), situated between the north aisle and nave, at St. Mary’s Church, Old Hunstanton. Red paint seems to survive the longest, but why this is so, exactly, I do not know.
Figure 25 shows the remnants of medieval artwork on the west wall of the nave at Westley Waterless Church, Cambridgeshire.
Fig. 26 Fig. 27
Figures 26 and 27 represent corbels from the nave of Cley Church. Whereas Figure 26 has the faded red paint, Figure 27 still shows traces of the more elusive blue paint.
Figure 28 shows a late 14th/early15th century wall painting of the Virgin Mary with priests in attendance, on the east wall of the south transept of Cawston Church. This painting was only discovered after a later painting was being removed. Red, blue and green paint has survived.
Fig. 29 Fig. 30
Figure 29 is a Norman font from Warham All Saints, whilst Figure 30 shows another of the font’s designs. These thousand-year-old works of craftsmanship produce a particular feeling in me. It is such a different feeling to the later medieval. I love their simplicity.