Galleries - May 2010

Benjamin’s luminous yellow rug may dominate the group show, yet, ironically, it has a calming ef- fect. By contrast Barker’s colour- ful cacophony of ellipses, circles, halos appear to dance to the music which even we think we hear. June doesn’t disappoint either. The achingly-hip Maison Martin Marghiela opens the doors to its subversive, deconstructivist approach to fabrics at Somerset House from the 3rd. Mascall’s Gallery in Paddock Wood (Kent) is, in my experience, a unique project –a fully function- ing public exhibition gallery in a 11. GALLERIES MAY 10 A dressed Tracey Emin bed stands resplendent in the ‘Quilts’ show at the Victoria & Albert Museum , proving just how excit- ing today’s textile art can be. No longer simply pieced together with silks, velvets or cottons, quilts are now made out of Chinese bank- notes, plastic or paper, undulate when painted onto canvas or create 3D optical illusions like Grayson Perry’s rotating foetuses. Traditions have been overturned. Wire wool pads make up Michele Walker’s piece as she rejects the safe cotton or wool usually used. Moreover, needles, the tools of the trade, and the patchwork process have actually become the art- works. Also challenging conventions are the textile artists showing with galleries at this year’s ‘Collect’ , the international art fair for contemp- orary objects at the Saatchi Gallery (14 to 17 May). Tapestry panels are turned into a large- scale sculptural piece by Clare Barclay and materials that do not usually work together do, such as silks, linen and leather. Extraordi- nary details can be found in the in- tricate craftsmanship, including bleached bones from dead birds in one of Rozanne Hawksley’s sumptuous glove pieces. Surpris- ingly, the rich multi-coloured kilt by Jilli Blackwood, which hangs on the wall, can also be worn. For eye popping colour and head spinning designs, the tapes- tries by Stella Benjamin and Jo Barker at ContemporaryApplied Arts (from 7 May) will surely thrill . large state comprehensive school. A tiny number of private schools do something similar, notably the Atkinson Gallery in Somerset, but no-one else in the state sector that I am aware of has taken on the political, social and economic complexities that must necess- arily be involved in setting up a project of this weight and ambition. The vision of a remarkable woman, Vanessa Everett, the Headmistress of Mascall’s from 1999-2009, who had established it as a specialist school for the visual arts some years earlier, the purpose-built gallery building (approachable directly from the school car park) opened in 2006. The young professional curator appointed at the time, Nathaniel Hepburn, has been organising a continuous series of ambitious loan and contemporary exhibi- tions there ever since. The current show, ‘Cross Purp- oses: Shock and Contemplation in Images of Crucifixion’ (to 29 May), with its astonishing range of loans of major pieces by Chagall, Sutherland, Souza and others from Tate , Pallant House, Imperial War Museum et al is a good, but by no means isolated example – there was a substantial St Ives show in 2009, Henry Moore drawings and maquettes in 2008 and Andy Goldsworthy in 2007, among many others. Seen as an important resource both for the area and the school –that’s how they got it built and continue to obtain crucial funding for it from the Specialists Schools and Academies Trust –the gallery is also an important focus for a huge art department and a whole range of the school’s vital pastoral and educational activities. Let’s just have more like it. (Open daily except Sunday, exhibition details on MATERIAL GIRLS M elanie Abrams S CHOOL OF ART N icholas Usherwood S usan Stockwell ‘A Chinese Dream’ 2010 Victoria & Albert Museum In the gallery at Mascall School