Student interventions at West Dean Arts & Craft Festival, 2-4 June

As part of the 2017 Art and Crafts Festival, full-time Visual Arts students at West Dean College were invited to submit proposals for artworks to be displayed in the Historic House. Five works were selected to be on display during the event, the only occasion when the House is open to the public. The works include sculptures inspired by Edward James’ patronage of Leonora Carrington; his long-term friendship with George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein  (co-directors of the New York City Ballet); a plaque commemorating James’ vision of creation in the Old Dining Room in the 1930’s; a floating paper sculpture inspired by the work of René Magritte; and a kinetic sound installation exploring complex relationships between rhythm and chaos. Continue reading

Staff and Alumni News: Visiting ‘Las Pozas’

screen-shot-2016-09-25-at-09-24-33   aavs-las-pozas-beton-machineVisual Arts programme leader, Dr. David Stent, was awarded a research grant to travel to Mexico and visit ‘Las Pozas’, the extraordinary garden built by West Dean College founder, Edward James, between 1947 until 1984. From its position high in the mountains of San Luís Potosí, Xilitla looms large in the context of James’ life and work. He worked on the former coffee plantation, consisting of some 80 acres of rain forest punctuated by a series of waterfalls and natural pools – in collaboration with Plutarco Gastélum, as well as a number of expert carpenters, masons and other local workers. Continue reading

‘Line & Form’ and Open House 2016

This coming weekend sees two public events involving full-time Visual Arts students at West Dean College. The first is the annual fundraising exhibition, Line & Form, in which students present a selection of their current work for sale, including prints, paintings, sculpture and ceramics. As well as current Graduate and Postgraduate students, other contributions come from West Dean alumni and staff members. All funds raised will go toward On-Site, this year’s Summer Show taking place in July. This event is free and open to the public. Continue reading

West Dean House & the chamber’d nautilus

This Shell is the first part of a trio of site-specific sculptures exploring the sensory experience of life in West Dean House. The sense of smell and taste are the subject of this piece, planned for the Dining Room, in a space that used to be the Kitchen. The mouth and nose are here modelled on the aquiline profile of Edward James and carved into the shape of a chambered nautilus. Continue reading

‘Edward James in Mexico’ Symposium

Edward James in Mexico: History, Context, Legacy
One-day Symposium – The Old Library, Saturday 24 October 2015, 9.30am-5pm.

This event will consider the impact of Mexico upon the life and work of West Dean College founder, Edward James, from his earliest visits to the country in 1944, until his death forty years later. Papers from a variety of guest speakers will address a range of subjects, including the creation and impact of ‘Las Pozas’, Xilitla, to James’s enduring friendships with other artists associated with Mexico, such as Leonora Carrington. The event will also consider activities preceding James’s presence in Mexico, proposing precursors and associations for his later work. A unique publication relating to the theme of the event will be launched after the symposium. Continue reading

George Charman – Artichoke House

George Charman, Artichoke House 2014
George Charman, Artichoke House 2014

George Charman, recent Artist-in-Residence at West Dean College, presents Artichoke House, an interpretation of a pavilion conceived by Edward James and drawn up by architect Christopher Nicholson circa 1936. Working from original drawings held in the Edward James Cultural Archive, as well as taking inspiration from the concrete forms James built at ‘Las Pozas’ (Xilitla, Mexico), Charman’s installation proposes a renewed engagement with an unrealised structure. As such, Artichoke House is concerned with reviewing a surreal proposition as a means of exploring the ontological relationship between image and object.

George Charman, Artichoke House
George Charman, Artichoke House

Working from James’s original design, whilst also drawing inspiration from the concrete forms in Las Pozas, Charman’s Artichoke House is concerned with reviewing and renewing a surreal proposition as a means of exploring the ontological relationship between image and object. For Charman, like Edward James, drawing marks the beginning of possibility. The act of drawing not only brings an idea or thought into being but can also be said to bring that idea to a type of completion. The shift from two- to three-dimensions is brought about by the existence of the drawing, but this also marks the beginning of a new set of ideas and propositions, independent from its origins. That James’s design never made the shift from 2D to 3D has allowed Charman the freedom to project his own sensibilities onto this revived proposal. Less grandiose in its appearances than James’s design, resting on its side like a faux ruin, Artichoke House appears to sink into the ground. Its structure and design suggests a geodesic dome that has grown additional protuberances. A lopsided profile suggests something of the ephemeral nature of all built things, destined to decay, much like James’s concrete follies in the Mexican jungle slowly being consumed by the environment that inspired them.

George Charman, Artichoke House, Camera Obscura
George Charman, Artichoke House (Camera Obscura)

Originally intended by James as a vessel in which to house images of the surreal, Charman’s pavilion, which also functions as a camera obscura, projects a different kind of surreal image: one that alludes to a past directly linked to its location, but always operating in a reversed present. Through this optical somersault, Artichoke House becomes an inhabitable eye through which the visual can be reinterpreted. This image projected within the object completes a loop from image to object and back again. Artichoke House explores how the idea, image and object of the ‘pavilion’ encourage us to see anew.