Thursday, 5 August 2010

Frillip Moolog beings take up residence in the Erasmus Darwin House

How often do you get asked if you would like to exhibit in your home town?

Inventions of the Mind is just that; an exhibition of my work in my hometown of Lichfield. But even better, it is in the unique 18th Century setting of the Erasmus Darwin House.

This is a museum that I have long had an affinity for. Infact back in 2005 (as a fantasy project) I planned an exhibition in this venue. The works included were ‘Beast’ an early piece by Laura Ford, my all time favourite chair piece by Jurgen Bey and one of Dorothy Cross’s ‘Udder’ pieces.

"Inventions of the Mind is an exhibition which attempts to form a bridge between the ideas of contemporary artist Kirsty E. Smith, and the life and work of one of Britain's most important historical thinkers, Erasmus Darwin, linchpin of The Lunar Society."

Anneka French

I have always been interested in history and definitely in manufacturing. Living close to Birmingham, a city that was once at the heart of British manufacturing industry, it is no surprise that I am a fan of the Lunar Men and have read Jenny Uglow’s excellent, book The Lunar Men from cover to cover. I love their sense of adventure and the way that these men wanted to discover so much, about the world around them and also to invent machines that would change our lives ... completely.

The Erasmus Darwin House is within the Cathedral Close in Lichfield. The house has a Georgian front but in actual fact parts of the house date back to the 13th Century.

So how to select which of my Frillip Moolog beings to include in the show and also which ones would look best within these rooms decorated with 18th century artefacts and furnishings?

I started by doing some Photoshopped images to visialise how pieces might look. I also took advice from curator and writer Anneka French. And of course I had to work within the constraints of the museum. It is a busy venue with museum business, business meetings, weddings and private functions.

Here Ziggy looks like he might have just slithered out of the chimney.
I like the idea of suggested movement in my work.

However shown on this plinth there is a more obvious link to the anatomy of the plaster arm on the wall. Erasmus Darwin did autopsies (which were open to the public) in the cellar of the house.

In 2007 I went down into the cellars of the house.
Some Frillip Moolog ‘beings’ exhibited down there? … that would be quite an atmosphere.
I think there are still some blood stains on these brick benches. Remnants from a previous use.
Ziggy has been very popular with the children who have visited the house especially.
Is it the sparkly peach dance fabric that he’s made from or simply his tactile tentacles that they are attracted to?

Madeleine is so stately and welcoming at the end of the hall. The lady of the house.

Although I made Stan to be suspended, by good fortune, he is also able to balance upright.
I was happy with the way that his angles seemed to echo the lines and angles of the model of Erasmus’ Horizontal Windmill.
So I was absolutely delighted when I saw this drawing projected onto the wall. It makes some perfect visual connections.

Walking up the oak staircase you get all round views of Russell. The light in the stairwell is especially lovely. The Georgians knew how to use colours to maximise the light in their homes.
I have run up and down these ancient oak stairs quite a few times recently as I have been facilitating outreach workshops with several community groups (and the room we have been working in is upstairs).

One of my favourite sessions has been the sculpture sessions for children.

I understand just how Ben is feeling here. That look of excitement as the thought pops into your head, “What have I made?”

During the making process I have moments like this.

Sometimes you go into the studio and the piece you're working on is a surprise... even to yourself!

I made Colin especially for Inventions of the Mind.

I knew that I wanted to use the library in the museum. There are restrictions when you are exhibiting your work in a museum where there are lots of visitors; visitors who have come primarily to find out more about Erasmus Darwin so you cannot hinder their experience.

My intention is to enhance their experience.

Anneka French’s exhibition text clarifies the similarities that I have drawn between Erasmus Darwin’s approach to his inventions and the way that I take artistic inspiration from almost any area of life. For example in the18th Century there was no strict division between the natural sciences and engineering.

Colin is an interesting mixture of materials. These include a piece of from an old milking machine. I love that zinc plated finish, and I also love the juxtaposition of cheap plastic drain pipe (inside his body) with the luxury feathers of the Glengarry Hackles from Jaffe et Fils.

BUT the moment was made perfect as I was placing Colin on top of the book case.
In the same room there is an educational video with presenter Adam Hart-Davis.
I suddenly noticed that he was demonstrating Erasmus Darwin’s design for a speaking machine. The model that they had made to illustrate how it worked was made from the very same type of plastic drain pipe!

Coincidence, synchronicity? Or as Andrew Carey suggested possibly a more interesting take on this is to see it in terms of one of James Gibson’s affordances.

James J. Gibson (1904– 1979) was an American psychologist who is considered one of the most important 20th century psychologists in the field of visual perception
He coined the term '
affordance', which refers to the opportunities for action provided by a particular object or environment. This concept has been extremely influential in the field of design and ergonomics.

Or in Anneka French's words
"Her sculptures are vessels which hold and suggest many ideas simultaneously. They are saturated with history and with narrative, in both a personal and more general sense."

Inventions of the Mind
- Erasmus Darwin House, Beacon Street, Lichfield, WS13 7AD
- 31st July - 23rd Aug 2010
- Tuesday to Sunday: 11 to 5pm last admission 4.15pm

- Admission: £3.00 adult, £2.00 ConcessionsChildren £1.00, Family £6.00

The work produced in the outreach sessions will be part of the 52 Weeks of Art community exhibition at The Erasmus Darwin House on 21st August 2010.

The exhibition and workshops have been made possible thanks to funding from Tesco PLC.


Barbs said...

they "be" very at home in this space.....

Chantal Powell said...

I think the beings look fantastic in this context! Favs in terms of how they interact with their space are Madeliene waiting at the end of the hall and Stan with the projected drawing and the historical figures ignoring the fact that a futuristic being has landed among them!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

They all look so RIGHT in those contexts. :)

(Still, not sure I like Ziggy.)

Jane said...

what a terrific venue! I love Colin, the milking machine bit is perfect with the stripy sleeve and red feathers.

frillip moolog: said...

Thanks everyone. It's always good to get feedback. And I really don't mind if you still aren't sure about 'Ziggy', TravelHopefully. They are each individuals and so some will 'speak to you' more than others.
I've now written about the outreach sessions that I ran alongside 'Inventions of the Mind'. That work was exhibited in the community exhibition, 'Life the Universe and Darwin'.