5 uses for a coat hanger:
- Hang up a garment!
- Untwist and poke down a blocked drain/hoover
- Use two to make a mobile.
- Use the hook to fish for something that has fallen down the side of the fridge.
- Wrap a coat hanger around a plant pot, secure it and then use the hook to hang it up.
You may have heard of or tried any or all of these ideas but one of the things you might not have thought of, is to make a sculpture out of wire coat hangers. See? That’s original isn’t it? And it was that creative thought which meant that on Friday afternoon I was looking at a sculpture of a deer’s head, antlers and all, made out of coat hangers. I was at the Summer Exhibition in the Royal Academy and the variety of pictures and sculptures was amazing. I met up with my husband at the end of the day and we set out to see the exhibits created by famous and unknown artists alike and chosen for exhibition by a panel of experts each year. From the thousands of entries, only about 1,200 are picked and it is a great boost to anyone who has their work chosen. They gain a much greater audience and most of the artworks are for sale.
We started up the stairs, looking forward to our visit and fresh with enthusiasm. The first room has only 8 or 10 larger pieces, including a fossilised fuel pump and the word, ‘forever’ up in bright lights on the wall. We stopped and considered, took a few photos and looked around carefully. The next gallery included a bar and many gallery-goers were glass in hand as they progressed around the exhibition. This created a relaxed atmosphere combined with the buzz of the viewers calling each other to, ‘come and see’ or ‘look at this’. That blend came from arty types who knew what and importantly, which artists to look for, and also from the regular art lovers, who like us, were there to see the tremendous variety and were trying to work what to make of it all. It soon became obvious that with gallery after gallery of paintings and exhibits, you either had to spend 5 hours there or be a bit pickier about which things to stop and look at. My feet were already killing me and we had only been there about 45 minutes, so we changed our strategy and walked confidently past many pieces, stopping only at anything which was too interesting to ignore and believe me, that was still lots and lots.
There is a theme of collaboration which runs through this year’s Summer Exhibition and there were several famous pieces by artists who manage to work together, (full marks to them, that can’t be easy) for example Gilbert and George and Pierre et Gilles. One of the memorable exhibits was a low table with a whole heap of charred bones, I’m not sure if they were real or not but as a Momento Mori it was full of the agony and anguish of death.
The deer’s head made of coat hangers was remarkable. Created by David Mach, it uses an everyday object to create the familiar form of a wall-mounted hunting trophy but then you look more closely and realise that the deer looks tormented and distressed. Why has it been killed? For ‘sport’? The metal in the coat hangers looks raw and reminded me of the hooks and barbs used in fishing, as well as the suffering of an animal killed as a prize.
Another of the arresting pieces was a cabinet of colourful vases, labelled as ‘All the fish in the sea’. The smooth shapes were set in a cabinet with a mirror behind them, giving an impression of twice the colour and the number of the amphora-like forms. Once I had seen the label, I could understand that the shapes were fish-like and although not intended to look like real fish, the variety of colours and patterns did reflect the many species and types of fish in the oceans of the world. Is the cabinet intended to suggest that we are only happy to consider fish if they conform to how we see them? The colours are very bright and artificial, is this the only way we are prepared to look at fish, like in a Disney film? Maybe these are the total number of fish in the sea and once they’re gone, they’re gone? It also reminded me of what people say to when a relationship ends, ‘There’s plenty more fish in the sea’, what an annoying and useless phrase that is and in ecological terms may be less and less true.
I had no idea at the time but it turns out that the fish work is by the same artist, David Mach. Considering that my aching feet restricted the number of pieces we looked at, quite a high hit rate for his works. It took some time afterwards to process what we had seen as I found the exhibition quite overwhelming, with so many different artists and styles to appreciate. A few days later and I’m more sure about which works made an impact on me and those I shall remember for some time to come. My top recommendation if you go to see the exhibition: Have a good long sit down before you go