New Works / Trudie Moore Exhibition October 2020

New Works

/October 2020

An exhibition of painting and installation

Join me for my solo exhibition of new works created during my residency at Gray’s Wharf in September and October 2020, and of key works from the last 12 months.

On show at Gray’s Wharf Gallery from Tuesday 13th – Sunday 18th October 2020

My 2020 solo show is an exploration of my abstract painting into installation, an amplification of the experience of colours, layers and planes of the painting surface into three dimensionality and enhances the vibrance, brilliance and clarity of colour.

With the aim of using my residency at Gray’s Wharf to push the boundaries of my practice, I have used the space to stretch out and expand in size and concept. Through use of the light and airy space awarded by Gray’s to me, I have been given mental space, time, physical space and opportunity for reflection and deep focus.

Together with the team at Gray’s Wharf, we would like to invite you to visit, experience and be surrounded by new works produced during the residency, along with a few other key pieces from the last year which have been produced exploring the same key themes of luminosity, material, process, composition, technique and colour.

My new paintings explore a range of painting surfaces including natural canvas, acrylic and wood, at times creating three dimensional installation pieces which bring close focus to the material of the paint and the canvas as being ‘as one’.

Through the exploration of the properties and abilities of paints to their most clear and luminescent ability, by using fluorescents, pastels and clean, pure colours, I aim to feel uplifted by the paintings and to share that energising impact of colour with the viewer. The paintings seem to glow and emit light bringing the colour to its highest light emission, in parts casting light out and off the canvas, bringing the focus on colour both into the painting plane itself yet also to its’ surroundings, and also showing the ability of paint with material (particularly in relation to pieces made from acrylic) to itself create light.

The ‘canvas’ both interacts with the paint as a layer itself, and provides the physical layer on which the paint can sit and perform to a great degree. By seeing surface textures through sheer veils of paint or heavy elevations in the paint application, we are reminded of the process of painting and the physicality.

By bringing the paint layers out from the ‘canvas’ we are able to experience two dimensions in a three dimensional way, in opposition to enclosing the three dimensions into a two dimensional illusion. We feel and we experience the energy that has been given by the artist to the piece through the process of painting which brings the painting into reality and this is reflected back at us.

Details for the exhibition and private view:

13 – 18 OCT 2020
TUE – FRI / 10 AM – 6PM
SAT / 10 AM – 5 PM
SUN / 11 AM – 4 PM


Trudie Moore New Works ExhibitionTrudie Moore New Works Private View

Where to find the show

Grays Wharf
Commercial Road
TR10 8AE

About my paintings

My paintings use fields of colour, transparencies and opacities that act as both a visual and an actual layer over one another, and which are layers upon the surface layer of the canvas.

Sign up to emails to stay informed

Sign up to emails to be informed about new works and events

Update Gray's Wharf Residency 1st September - 12th October 2020

Latest plans for my Grey's Wharf Residency 1st September - 12th October 2020

This is an invitation to join me virtually in my art practise as I embark on a 6 week programme of scaling up and generating new paintings that break through the boundaries in my current work.

I’ll be occupying this beautiful studio at Grey’s Wharf on the river in Penryn undertaking an artists studio residency. I will be documenting the residency, my painting processes and development and creating a new, exhibitable body of paintings. I will be sharing my progress by streaming, blogging, taking video, and updating on my website and social media channels.

At the end of the event I will be creating an exhibition of the new work.

This is the first residency offered by Grey’s Wharf and I am very lucky to have been awarded this opportunity.

We aim to enable artists to develop their practice by providing a space to explore concepts, experiment with scale and materials, test ideas or take a new direction. We offer a supportive, professional creative community with 20 practitioners based in individual and shared studios as well as additional gallery and events spaces.

Through the residency I hope to:

  • Push the boundaries and take risks to advance my work.
  • Create a three dimensional experiential environment, amplifying the planes of colour (paintings as an installation to surround the viewer) with more 3 dimensional paintings that explore the use of different ‘canvas’ materials
  • Make work that literally pops out of the canvas, transitions out of the canvas and is on and off the walls, the canvas and other three dimensional pieces around the room.

The residency offers me space in which to both do some big paintings, and also to stand back to review, critique and judge them. As a part of the residency, I am lucky to be able to gain critical feedback from artist practitioner Naomi Frears who is not only a hugely successful professional visual artist, but also tutor at the St Ives School of Painting.

I have already been starting to work out what I need to order to achieve a project over the 6 week period. I’ve downloader an AR (Augmented Reality) app to help with planning for the space and to help me to visualise the end result I might achieve. This is a jump forwards in my process from simply jumping in to ‘doing’ from my head or from a quick sketch. I’m investigating the processes that interior designers use to show prospective designs to clients (and if you are an interior designer reading this, then please do get in touch with me if you are happy to share your tips!). I hope to be able to post visualisations prior to the finished work being created.

Having visited Grey’s Wharf Studios yesterday I now have canvases to order, suppliers to research, materials to test and decisions to make as to what the end result is going to be.

Get Involved!

Sign up to emails to be informed about open studios and my residency

If you would like to be invited to a private view, or receive notifications for the exhibition, regular updates by email from the blog, then please sign up to my email list here

Share my Facebook event

or follow on Instagram or my Facebook page

Naum Gabo at Tate St Ives 2020

Naum Gabo at Tate St Ives 2020

The Naum Gabo exhibit at Tate St Ives started in March this year and has been extended to run until this September. I went along in early March and here are my takeaway impressions and some photos of what you might expect if you have a chance to visit.

We are so lucky in Cornwall not just to have an amazing local wealth of creative and artistic talent locally, and an immense history of modern art in the area, but also to have facilities like Tate St Ives to visit ‘on a rainy day’, to stretch the mind, educate and inform us without even leaving the Duchy (County to you and me!).

When the Naum Gabo exhibition in St Ives started in early spring I went along with my (slightly short attention span and tantruming throughout the exhibit) son to take it in.

My visit was, as such, quite short and so will be the information in this blog as a result, but short turned out to be very sweet. I found this was an exhibition I could go to see, learn and enjoy immensely, because the work here is very fast to comprehend and enjoy. Even if you look at it in amazement for the sculptural skill, visual impact, mathematical precision and calculations, or, as I did, the complete surprise surrounding the manufacturing techniques available in the era, you can be impressed by the forethought and modernity of it that still makes it feel futuristic and timeless today.


His work combined geometric abstraction with a dynamic organization of form in small reliefs and constructions, monumental public sculpture and pioneering kinetic works that assimilated new materials such as nylon, wire, lucite and semi-transparent materials, glass and metal.

Two preoccupations, unique to Gabo, were his interest in representing negative space—”released from any closed volume” or mass—and time. He famously explored the former idea in his Linear Construction works (1942-1971)—used nylon filament to create voids or interior spaces as “concrete” as the elements of solid mass

Source: Tate/ Wikipedia

What I enjoyed about Naum Gabo: Constructions for Real Life.

The first extensive presentation of Naum Gabo’s sculptures, paintings, drawings and architectural designs to be held in the UK for over 30 years

Tate St Ives

I didn’t know that Naum Gabo had lived in Carbis Bay during WWII and been considered one of the St Ives Artists. This felt great to me as it drew a link for me between the location in which I now live. I have a pull towards the geometric visual style in my paintings, and the relationship of the three dimensionality in this sculptural work that resonates with the three dimensional direction I am currently taking in my own work. I could feel a connection with the sculptures and plans. I can feel the organic

I made a mental note to myself to look up: Hyperbolic parabaloid, tensegrity structure and history plastic manufacturing (although these days I’m researching more into plastics re-use)… and you might add to that Constructivism (and give that to your child to do as homework for the school holidays!).

I couldn’t believe how well some of the pieces have survived – the geometric acrylic sheet sculptures that have remained in immaculate condition are nearly 100 years old. You could be mistaken for thinking they were made in the 1970s, influenced by Star Wars or some other space odyssey, but in fact perhaps the reverse is true, perhaps films and architecture drew on the work of Naum Gabo as the innovator.

The precision of the hyperbolic paraboloids, the mathematical calculations that went into them and the precise execution of the pieces. The hyperbolic paraboloids make for beautiful sculptures which are perfectly hand tensioned, each string or wire having the same degree of tension.


For me this is a stunning exhibition, beautifully presented, amazingly well preserved and extremely educational and inspirational. If a 3 year old can lie on the floor having a tantrum because they don’t want to leave, that’s a good sign for taking older kids or the rest of your family along.

Trudie Moore abstract painting geometric 2018

Open Studios Cornwall 2020

Open Studios Cornwall is from 29th August to 6th September 2020.

Open Studios Cornwall is a coordinated Cornwall-wide event where artists from all over Cornwall open their studios at the same time, 

creating a county wide festival of art, design and craft.

More than 200 artists, designers and makers are taking part in the Open Studios, 30 of those are located at Krowji in Redruth and so if you plan to visit me in my studio there, you will be able to see an even bigger selection of the wealth of creative talent Cornwall has to offer all in one place.

I am aiming to create a gallery-level experience during this event, so whilst you might have been missing the pleasure of visiting exhibitions and galleries for contemporary art in the spring and summer this year, I will be bringing a feeling of this to you through my plans for an integration of in person, virtual (videos & documentation) and connecting with me live through a stream of me at work.

Visit Trudie Moore’s artist studio in August and September

Because we have had a little longer to prepare for the new dates of this event, I have come up with more of an experiential format for the event incorporating exhibition, private views and appointments, online (virtual) videos, a documentation experience streamed from my live residency and, of course, the usual drop-in format.

On show at my studio at Krowji, Redruth –

Gallery style exhibition, private appointments, drop-ins at the main event and a live stream to my residency.

Open studios are a brilliant way for you to see my work, my art is meant to be enjoyed by the natural eye for the greatest benefit of the colour, scale, textures, lines, edges, transparencies, surfaces. You can’t get a good enough impression of my paintings from an online image as it’s very hard to convey the experience (one of the reasons I have started doing talk-through videos on IGTV – Instagram TV, so show and describe the work). So coming to see me in person in the studio where you can come simply to chat and find out more will offer so much more.

I will be showing a selection of recent and older work, and I will have pieces for sale to take away with you.

Come and have a chat with me about my work, how I work, what my work is about, buy a painting or even give me critical analysis! I have loads to talk about, The Christmas Open Studios at Krowji delivered some really deep and insightful conversations that were enjoyed immensely on both sides.

A virtual window into the creation of my newest work – streaming from my residency 1st-4th September

I will be working from a residency in Penryn on the weekdays of Open Studios and so I am working to create an online journal/ diary of me at work on my new project. The residency commences on 1st September and runs until 12th October and so you will see me via a stream, blog, video and IGTV in the studio there between 1st to 4th September and be able to chat to me on 5th and 6th about it, and my ambitions for the future in person at Krowji (Studio 108c!).

This will be an additional experience to visiting me in Krowji as my space in Krowji is small it doesn’t allow room both for showing work in progress as well as visitors and exhibition/ viewing and so by making my big residency project available by documenting it online, not only will you be able to share in the experience of this online documentation (and I will be collecting the documentation by way of a critical aspect of my work) but you will also be able to get an insight into the future of my work, it’s direction and the ambition and scale I have for it. I will be aiming to set up a screen in my studio to show me at work at the times I’m not present at Krowji.

If you are still in Cornwall, or back in Cornwall in mid October 2020 I am hoping to hold a Private View of the new work. To be invited to this please request to sign up to my email list here.


Collect website orders from me in person

If there is a piece you would like to buy in advance of the event, you can buy it through the website and collect it at Open Studios either when I am there, or by appointment. The website has a PayPal payment gateway and takes all mainstream card payments. If there is something you wish to reserve and pay by bank transfer or cash, please get in touch with me.

Seen something you like that’s not in the shop?

If there is a piece of my work you have seen online either through my website, social media or through my old blog or old website, I can bring it to Open Studios for viewing. My back catalogue is in storage and not everything has been photographed, so if there is something you like and want to know if I have more of, I can email through images.

Like something but it’s the wrong size, colour or you have an idea for a variation or a specific place?

Likewise if you would like to discuss a commission or a project, I can compile examples for discussion and meet you to show you more!  Here is some further information on Commissions and projects and an outline on what you can achieve by commissioning an artist.


Visiting Open Studios Cornwall 2020


How I will be opening my studio to visitors for Open Studios Cornwall

Because the dates for Open Studios moved back from May to August, the dates now run at the same time as my residency at Grey’s Wharf in Penryn.  Here is how I will be opening up my studio:

  • I will be opening physically over the two weekends of Open Studios Cornwall in my studio at Krowji and so I will be present to welcome visitors into my space.
  • My space will be open when there are other artists present in my space as a gallery exhibit. I am hoping to be able to show the video/ my blog on some manner within my space and there will be contact cards to make an appointment to see me and there will be pieces hanging in the hallway to look at.
  • I will be opening virtually in two ways:
    • By updating my blog from my residency to show the progress I am making on the residency and by posting on Facebook and Instagram
    • By creating a video tour that will be uploaded to You Tube
  • By taking bookings to meet you at Krowji for an appointment

Drop in and Visit me at Krowji on 29th & 30th August 2020

Opening hours for weekend visits: 11am – 5pm Saturday and Sunday

I will be in the studio for the normal opening on the weekend days for chats, sales and information.

Make an appointment with me for a studio visit during Open Studios 2020 on weekdays

Available Hours: 9am – 8pm Monday to Friday

I will be taking bookings to show you my studio in person during the week. If you can’t visit me on the weekends, if you are an architect or an interior designer looking to source artwork or discussion during working hours, or if you are worried that the studios will be too busy, I can offer you a quieter visit to see my work when the doors to my studio space are closed.

I will be uploading a booking system to my website soon, in the meantime, Make an appointment with me by using my website contact form here.

Protocol for visiting my studio and Krowji

My space is small and I am hoping to rent a bigger room for the duration to allow for social distancing. But whatever the space available, there will be measures in place that visitors will need to adhere to to allow for a relaxed and safe environment.

  • Face masks will be a requirement to studio entry, I will be wearing a mask and I will ask that you do too
  • Hand sanitisers will be provided on entry to the building, and on entry to my studio room
  • As my space is small, I’ll only be able to welcome one person/ one ‘family unit’ / couple at a time
  • There will be a marked trail and marked waiting areas on the floor to create a comfortable flow and good spacing
  • The studios will have increased cleaning during the event and I will clean the space between visitors

Where to find my studio

I am usually in studio 108c but for the duration of Open Studios, to exhibit my work and allow for social distancing, you’ll find me in studio 220 on the 2nd floor of the Percy Williams building, just upstairs from my usual space.

Address Studio 108c, Percy Williams Building, Krowji, West Park

Town Redruth

Postcode TR15 3AJ


From A30 take main Redruth exit and follow A3047 towards Pool/Camborne.æ Pass Redruth School on left, after about 200m, turn left into West Park just before the large roundabout.æ Limited parking available on site.

Facilities:   Disabled access, toilets, disabled toilets, cafe

Open Studios artist listing for Trudie Moore

Trudie Moore’s contemporary abstract paintings explore control and restraint in the painting process. These paintings have luminous fields of colour, transparencies and opacities that act as both a visual and an actual layer over one another, and which are layers upon the surface layer of the canvas. Paintings are priced from £45–2,000.

Sign up to emails to stay informed

Sign up to emails to be informed about open studios and my residency

Book an appointment for Open Studios Cornwall 2020

Please use the form below to request a private appointment between 30th August to 6th September.

    Your Name (required)

    Your Email (required)

    Your Message

    Inspirations from Tate Modern

    Inspirations from the Tate Modern, November 2015

    On my day out to see Ai Weiwei’s exhibition I took the opportunity to do some further research and to look for painting inspirations in the Tate Modern. Limiting myself to the free exhibits I was interested in narrowing it down to just the Energy and Process and Making Traces rooms. I was a bit disappointed in the painting selection, but there were a few key items that took me, and one completely unexpected body of work encompassing drawing, sculpture and performance by Rebecca Horn that was a real surprise.

    First of all, the paintings.


    Giorgio Griffa, Segni Orizzontali, Acrylic paint on canvas, 1975

    This piece was of interest to me initially because the painting isn’t attached to a canvas stretcher, it’s simply painted straight onto canvas and pinned to the wall. There is a relationship between Griffa’s use of the canvas material as a raw object to how I apply gloss paint in the more process-led paintings where it wraps around the surface sides of the painting to amplify the three dimensionality of the painting’s surface.

    Giorgio Griffa, Segni Orizzontali, 1975 at the Tate Modern, November 2015

    Griffa is recording the process of painting which I feel is making a statement just about process. He uses a harmonious sequence of colours developing from one line to the next but after four lines of marks the brushstrokes taper off into nothing leaving the remainder of the canvas bare.
    To me this is initially interesting but it feels incomplete, as though he’s given up on the painting and lost interest once he’s proved his point.
    There is always a question raised when you do a painting of when to stop and how to know it’s finished. Perhaps he’d planned to stop at the moment he felt the point was made and that would be the end of the painting. Perhaps a second half of making that half finished painting into a statement about art is in the practice of folding the canvas up when in storage to retain the creases that will be prominent in its next display.
    My initial interest was fulfilled quickly but I didn’t want to stand and stare at it or to come back for another look, the idea was quickly digested and I moved on in search of more.

    Cy Twombly Untitled (Bacchus), 2008


    I was particularly looking forward to re-acquainting myself with the work of Cy Twombly; massive, expressive canvasses with giant gestural marks of free flowing paint. Immersively large scale and full of impact.

    I’ve always enjoyed doing large canvases, they are expensive to make and quite a big gamble to undertake given the cost involved to do one but when I do it pays off, the bigger paintings always lend themselves to space and freedom well for me and I feel able to stretch out and explore the space. I never like to waste resources or money so I know if I don’t get it right I won’t be a happy bunny.


    Cy must have either been a wealthy man or he had big confidence that these would work, which is lucky as we can happily assume they have worked given they were made late on in his career. These three giant ‘blood splatterings’ of paintings are on display in their own room. They were painted using a brush attached to a long stick to achieve the huge swooping lines almost resembling handwriting.

    Cy Twombly, Untitled (Bacchus), 2008 at the Tate Modern, November 2015
    Detail from up close of Cy Twombly, Untitled (Bacchus), 2008 at the Tate Modern, November 2015

    Cy said that he did paintings when he had an idea for them and so they came naturally. He let the painting idea and needs dictate the size of the canvas, which is also a concept I agree with. Some paintings can’t be contained into a limited space, it doesn’t work and the composition and scale don’t work – and why work at a small scale when really you intended to paint at a large scale as that was the essence of the painting?


    Another practice of Twombly’s I agree with is that he paints three or four paintings at the same time as a group which is another natural thing about painting. If I am to do one painting I inevitably have three or four other variations of the same piece in my head at the same time and they don’t all belong in one painting. Each need to be expressed while the thought for it is there as they are separate entities and variations on the same theme. An example of this is in Abstract paintings numbered 1,2,3 and 4 (the first four paintings in my portfolio on my website). These were all painted at the same time, they are similar but they express different paces, compositions and colour balances and they enable me to be able to document the full range of the painting. The four paintings together in a way are of one painting, or one thought for a painting, yet they are separate and individual pieces where one thought leads to another and then another after that. It’s like a contained sequence of thought similar to the artist’s whole body of work where in order to do a painting, another painting before that has informed it and then that painting leads on to more. A creative gateway has opened within a painting that generates broader thought and a proliferation of variations.
    I’ve seen graphic designers work in this way too, they have an idea but there are various ways of executing it, then they can drill down on the one that works the best and progress that idea forwards to create one final piece, yet any of those ideas could have been a feasible outcome. And it’s similar in creating a body of work with painting, it’s possible to create endless outcomes in abstract painting but a direction will work the best and that’s what needs to be continued.


    I feel there is a relationship between my working practices and those of Cy Twombly, from a purely abstract painting perspective, I like scale and multiples of paintings, I love his large scale gestures and I love the intuitive and un-forced approach to letting a painting happen and creating the painting that there is an idea sitting there for.

    Tomma Abts, Zebe, 2010


    I next spotted a small painting by Tomma Abts, Zebe (2010). My contemporaries in Two Queens had recommended that I take a look at her work due to my current predisposition to using geometrics and tight control in my latest work (currently in progress and no spoiler alerts here!).


    Tomma Abts, Zebe (2010) on show at the Tate Modern, November 2015

    This was a very small painting with an undercoat of acrylic painted over in oils, neatly and flatly painted only 48 x 38cm. A slight contrast to the paintings by Twombly!


    Abts doesn’t need the 3-4 metre space to execute this neat and controlled painting and she methodically applies the paint out of which the forms and shapes emerge, readjusting until the composition is arrived at. So here she seems to use a combination of method and intuition then makes a decision at the point at which she thinks the painting has evolved to a stage that it’s done.


    Here there also is an element, as there has been in my work, of the painting helping to determine itself. It seems to me that this is a process by which she works with the painting, again with a degree of intuition and some control over it. As I find, there is a point at which the painting can’t be controlled (despite a controlled style of painting) because that would incur precise planning and knowledge of the exact outcome (which would be detrimental to learning from the painting) and at this point does it then become a design? The end result of this painting due to the flatness of the paint does seem to look something of a design to me.

    Making Traces exhibit


    Mark Rothko (late 1950s)


    I had run out of time when I reached the Rothko room, and only had time for a very quick photo and glimpse which was disappointing. I wanted to have time to sit and think about the work but we were being ushered out.

    Mark Rothko paintings as part of the Making Traces exhibit at the Tate Modern, November 2015

    There were nine paintings in this room, very very dimly lit and hung against a mid tone grey wall. All of them were deep red with varying compositions. The paintings had originally been commissioned for a restaurant and I felt that explained the lighting as they would have been seen at this light level. Which is an interesting layer to add to the thought behind the paintings.


    I felt as they were intended, claustrophobic, closed in and almost as though I were in a soundproof room, but visually soundproof. The light, painting colour and scale made everything feel muted and almost depressing due to the weight of the red, grey walls and the shapes within the paintings. A very heavy experience.


    The board outside quoted Rothko to say of Michaelangelo, his influencer that he ‘achieved just the kind of feeling I’m after – he makes the viewers feel that they are trapped in a room where all the doors and windows are bricked up, so that all they can do is butt their heads forever against the wall’. I couldn’t agree more and it wasn’t what I had expected to see.

    Rebecca Horn


    I mentioned earlier the surprise of the work by Rebecca Horn, an artist I was really not familiar with and whose work was not particularly directly related to mine, I didn’t think, also the work was quite a mix of video, performance, sculpture and drawing, so not an obvious choice but I did think it was rather exciting and interesting, probably because it freaked me out rather a lot.


    Some of this was from the 1970s and other pieces were more recent work from 2005. It was the more recent body sized drawing-paintings that were the initial interest. Without reading the plaque the body sized marks and (almost bloody) fingerprints give an impression of the body and connect the marks on the canvas in a strong visual way. It’s incredibly clear to see and to feel the way in which the artist has applied the mediums to the paper, almost as clearly as though she had done it there and then in front of you. The marks left behind are raw and very exposed and I’ve not felt something communicate the action of the user in such an explicit way before. There seemed to be no barrier at all between the application and the viewing of the piece, which to me is really quite a freaky experience to feel given the theme of the work being meditation and energy, I really felt it myself and now I am starting to wonder if that’s got something to do with my own meditative experiences.

    Rebecca Horn, House of Pain, 2005, on show at Tate Modern November 2015
    Rebecca Horn, House of Pain, 2005, on show at Tate Modern November 2015

    This is what the plaque says about House of Pain and Waiting for Absence, both 2005 (having read this after seeing the pieces):

    ‘to look inside bodies and meditate one’s own way into them… you approach a hidden centre, maybe the solar plexus, and follow the circular motion or energy threads of breathing’.

    Rebecca Horn, Waiting for Absence, 2005, on show at Tate Modern November 2015

    There were some other items in the exhibit that were quite scary and intimate. A video of Rebecca in the 70s making a drawing wearing a cage of pencils on her face, a Cockatoo headpiece that had ‘wings’ to envelope/embrace a partner into a kiss (this was really voyeuristic and a bit shocking) and then also, the piece that to me was the most raw and shocking item, a sculpture called Overflowing Blood Machine, 1970. This was bloody and to me, almost torturous looking, perhaps this was what gave such an impact of all the items that perhaps the mechanics had been inspired by medieval creations and inventions.

    Overflowing Blood Machine was a plinth with transparent tubes that encased a wearer. I thought this looked less like a therapeutic hospital device than one of dystopia and torture or perhaps even unnatural genetic engineering or some other sinister device. The wearer (a performance artist) is ‘tied down on top of a glass container, tubes are wrapped around his body. Blood is slowly pumped from the glass container through the plastic tubes. This garment of veins encases his body, wrapping him in a pulsating skin.’ I think this is the stuff of horror movies, see what you think from the photos!

    I’m now looking forward to my next gallery visit, but first some more painting of my own!


    This blog post was first published by myself 23rd Nov 2015 at

    Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy of Arts, London 2015

    Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy of Arts, London 2015

    I picked up my camera and headed off to the Big Smoke for a day of treating myself to art gallery mooching.


    I didn’t know an awful lot about Ai Weiwei before I spotted his exhibition was on at the Royal Academy of Arts, but I did know that it would be good with well executed work that would make me think harder and deeper not only about the work, but about its context.

    He's the Beijing Andy Warhol... he wants to shock you

    Never Sorry

    Never go unprepared


    Not wanting to go unprepared I did some homework in advance. My method of research is to ‘just Google it’ and put out a bit of lead-up content reporting my findings. So I started by finding the trailer for a video from Ai Weiwei entitled Never Sorry outlining Ai as “he’s the Beijing Andy Warhol…he wants to shock you…I love the culture but I want something new”. Not bad as a one-liner, in fact it could sum up Ai Weiwei within the 140 character limit. Which is handy, given that Ai Weiwei utilises the platform which is banned in China to expand his message globally.


    So I continued my research. Having posted my excitement on Twitter, The Royal Academy responded by helping me along with a link to their bite-sized videos. I would recommend these to anyone about to visit the exhibition, there is an audio guide to support the tour but taking the time to understand the context first will help a lot, especially if you plan to visit as I did, carrying a bag, a camera, phone and the audio guide, the RA was very busy and taking the time to listen, look, photograph and think means you need to allow a few hours with the information provided, let alone really think about it as you look at it.


    What my research revealed knocked me back and I can only say I was truly shocked. I watched this TED film with Ai talking about his work and restrictions. There were things in the back of my mind that I already knew but had never known the true impact of such as there being reported an earthquake in the Sichuan Province in 2008 which had killed thousands of people and that schools had fallen flat to the ground as a result. I knew that there were countless untold human rights abuses in China, that Tibet should be freed, that China has one of the world’s worst records for protecting its people. I recall watching a programme that reported prior to the Beijing Olympics in 2008, thousands of people were being displaced from their homes (read that as ‘being made homeless’) to make way for the shiny new stadium (you can read more about Beijing jailing and torturing protestors against this and Olympic city ‘cleansing’). Incidentally, now that the public land has been sold off for commercial gain, the Beijing Olympic stadium is now proving to be something of a White Elephant.


    All this provides the vital context to Ai Weiwei’s work and, if you have a bit of time (and perhaps enough data) you should watch this documentary by the BBC Without Fear or Favour next because this is what will make you pay attention to the work, not just within the context of what’s on show in the exhibition, but because there is a much deeper level of understanding to be had of why Ai is so extreme in his approach and commitment to a life of making globally important art – so much so that I believe he is saying he would die for it; because art defines who he is and freedom of speech enables him to carry out his art.

    The show opens with the first big piece, Bed, 2004 which is a piece recycled from Qing Dynasty timber, like much of Ai’s work, reclaimed salvage.

    More photos of Bed

    Headphones on


    The show opens with the first big piece, Bed, 2004 which is a piece recycled from Qing Dynasty timber, like much of Ai’s work, reclaimed salvage. It is a map of China’s borders (I read this as restrictions and boundaries) rolled out flat that sits luxuriously on the floor creating a landscape of ripples that are aesthetically pleasing to the eye. The quality of the timber is rich and satisfying, a beautiful object in itself, a very attractive sculpture.

    Detail from Kippe, 2006, on show at the RA, November 2015

    More photos of Kippe


    A couple of bigger reclaimed pieces follow, Table and pillar, 2002 and Kippe, 2006 the former considered important due to the technical challenges and insight into the country’s past. The next few pieces are quite simple and illustrative of Ai Weiwei’s approach to making art. My impression was that the majority of these served the same purpose; to demonstrate Ai’s desire to destroy the sentiment of the past by using iconic and deeply valued objects and to show their perceived value as intangible. By turning functional pieces such as valuable stools and tables into unusable objects, this would render them practically pointless, however by utilising the methods of traditional craftmanship (the assigned factor that gives them their worth) to alter the objects, Ai manages to highlight the unnecessary value that they hold. Perhaps you could ask a question here that if the model for these items means them then becoming art will it add further value to the item’s antiquity for the future due to the application of the work of the artist to the object.

    In these pieces Ai Weiwei’s interest in Dadaism and influence by the work of Marcel Duchamp is easily recognised, that of items grounded in the everyday that are taken apart and put back together with meticulous refinement. It is really very clear to see and the reference to Western art history contextualises globally.

    For me, the standout piece of this exhibition is linked to the shock of the background behind the piece Straight made between 2008 and 2012. My research defined the exhibition for me and this piece truly brings to life the reality of government oppression and human suffering. China has historically been a secretive nation, maintaining power through secrecy and control of information.

    The deadly earthquake suffered in 2008 measured 8.0 on the Moment Magnitude Scale (MMS – formerly known as the Richter scale). The scale defines this as “Major damage to buildings, structures likely to be destroyed. Will cause moderate to heavy damage to sturdy or earthquake-resistant buildings. Damaging in large areas. Felt in extremely large regions”. Given this definition and the population density, all buildings in the area should have been constructed to be earthquake resistant, however 7 years later 69,195 people are currently known to be dead as a result, with 18,392 still missing. The point of this for Ai Weiwei was that of all the buildings that were destroyed, these schools were completely flattened. The earthquake hit at a time when children were in school yet school buildings shouldn’t have fallen and the Government wasn’t telling people who had disappeared and what the reason was, giving rise to a feeling that the Government hadn’t ensured the schools were properly constructed. Parents didn’t know if their children had perished in the earthquake.

    Straight, 2008-2012 at the Royal Academy, November 2015

    For Ai Weiwei he felt that he couldn’t understand the event and the devastation of it and the Government’s response without going to see it for himself and so he travelled to the area with a team and they started to collect names of those children who perished which were collated and read out by followers of his blog. The blog was later shut down by the Government for revealing “state secrets”. This resulted in Ai Weiwei being beaten by police and denied the ability to give evidence in support of one his assistants, he was then hospitalised for bleeding on the brain.

    Later, Ai and the studio team volunteers were able to return and collate the names and details of those children and the printouts featuring the details are exhibited alongside Straight with accompanying photographs showing the catastrophic devastation caused by the earthquake. In  the photographs barely a building remains upright and search teams are seen recovering few bodies.


    Straight itself is constructed from bars of rebar that Ai Weiwei anonymously collected from the clear up operation. The metal rods that were supposed to support and reinforce the concrete and protect the buildings from falling in many cases were very thin and inadequate. Straight is made up of around 90 tonnes of the 200 tonnes of rebar collected and straightened out as thought new by the team in which time Ai Weiwei was imprisoned and intimidated by the government for 81 days. This act of dedication to represent the individuals who died in the earthquake, and the effort to memorialise and remember them brings an emotional and human level into the work that isn’t seen in the previous items in the exhibition, and I think this brings the piece up a level that makes it connect more deeply with the audience.


    There is also an element here that the bars are so well straightened you would never know that they were once bent from the earthquake, and it is like they in themselves are covering up the event, but straightened with a desire to put things back to how they were before, to treasure and remember the lives before the earthquake. This video shows the Making of Straight.

    Moving on from Straight, we move into a room that talks about Ai’s struggles with the Government, his oppression as an artist and the Government’s attempts to constrain his work by bulldozing his studio. Ai had criticised the Beijing Olympics internationally, fought for those who suffered as a result of the earthquake and for over 300,000 children who had been harmed by infant formula. He utilised this as an event to commemorate the studio and hold a feast of river crabs. Of the items in this exhibit, He Xie, 2011 is a pile of 3,000 crabs clambering over one another, I think is the most interesting part. The translation for river crab ‘He Xie’ means harmonious, which is a concept of the Communist party’s slogan ‘The realisation of a harmonious society’ and this is taken to denote censorship within Chinese society. The feasting on river crabs, to which he was then, due to the Government, unable to attend becoming a piece of performance art and defiance by those attendees. The crabs shown were anatomically correct and made of hand painted porcelain, a mischievous edge I believe is shown in the escape of one of the crabs up the wall. I later felt like one of the clambering crabs on the tube in the midst of the madness.


    More references to surveillance, challenging traditional values and oppression follow, the use of craftsmanship carefully executed in the work, Ai’s art business giving work to skilled individuals using high value materials, marble, tea, crystal, Han urns and the highly crafted Treasure Box, 2014. All traditional Chinese items.

    The exhibition becomes renewed when we get to one of the last galleries featuring the S.A.C.R.E.D. 2012 diorama depicting torturous aspects from Ai’s incarceration such as interrogations and being watched using the loo. These could be viewed from the side, but if you were tall enough (I barely was and I am average height) you could peer in from the top by standing on a step and experience the pieces in an ‘out of body experience’ kind of a way as though you were either Ai witnessing his own life, or a video camera surveilling the situation. This room was decorated in a blingy, gold-coloured wallpaper of handcuffs and Twitter logos with Ai’s face as the bird. I feel it is demonstrating that he can overcome the authorities and this treatment by still getting his message out through Twitter. The image of this was quite sinister, Ai playing the Government at its own game and by putting his face on the wallpaper as the bird, he’s become the more powerful force. The fact that the paper is only printed gold and not actually made from gold shows that the luxury material itself is unnecessary, but also refers to mass production techniques and mass distribution through social media.

    More photos of Bicycle Chandelier


    Finally the mass production is addressed again through the giant Bicycle Chandelier, 2015 commissioned to be re-fashioned with crystals for the Royal Academy, made from Forever Bicycles historically ridden all over China but ridden less in recent times due to increasing modernisation while riding a bike in China has become a luxury and not a utility. This piece suits the elegance and luxury gold leaf of its position under the atrium roof, the commissioning of the piece by the RA feeling like an act of extravagance by the gallery itself, possibly funded by sales of merchandise in the gift shop as you exit. I wondered whether Ai Weiwei embraces corporate souvenir sales to help fund his mission (given that some of the books themselves are his work) and the partnerships with galleries seeing it as a necessary way to enable art, or whether the monetisation of art, art galleries and the link to consumerism is seen as an additional issue, perhaps one not to be addressed given the number of problems he is already tackling.

    I’ve since read some art reviews on Ai’s exhibition in the press. Although to a great degree the critics are understanding the work, they credit Ai for his celebrity and politics but criticise the value of the work as art. I think they are missing the point. There is a marketing aspect to creating art of asking ‘who is your audience?’ swiftly followed by ‘what do you want your audience to feel, think and do as a result of seeing your work?’. For this element Ai is strong, he’s embraced marketing to deliver his work to the masses in addition to the gallery circuit and achieved this within the West’s commercial and capitalist structure. He’s managed to reach outside of China. Despite the content of the exhibition, The critics fail to contextualise that China has a very different culture and the Ai has worked outside of this, he’s embraced a broader global perspective and has overcome huge restrictions. He manages to speak to a broader population and not just the niche of the art world, a clique that many of the masses struggle to connect with.


    As an artist you have to adapt to the fast changing environment in which you are working. Ai combines his work with current communication methods such as Instagram and Twitter in order to not only target his audience, but to create a lasting digital footprint about his work that can’t be restricted by the government and this work has influence within a contemporary, global context. In China Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google are all restricted, Ai cannot be searched for using Google as his output is censored. Freedom of speech is not allowed.


    For this I see him as a better communicator, I agree with his stance on producing work that is clear and straightforward to understand, that’s not tied up in the impenetrable jargon of the art world, that art should be available to the broadest possible audience, that it shouldn’t take a degree, a masters and years of training to be able to decipher the language of the pieces.


    Ai’s work is current and relevant to the global population, if the West are to continue to increase trade with China, Human Rights abuses need to be addressed by politicians, the voting public need to be aware of the issues and to influence from the bottom up. The Human Rights Act needs to be kept strong and not watered down so that the democratic principles to protect people help to ensure that trade is ethical and that consumers are not unwittingly buying in to harming those who work for Chinese companies.


    I left the exhibition feeling it was a job well done. I took quite a few photos of the exhibition that I’ve posted to my Flickr Gallery in addition to those in this article. Please feel free to post your thoughts below.

    I first published this blog on Thursday, 12 November 2015 at