The Art Insider: June '16

This Image: by Rana Begum

Cambridge is roaring in the summer, a magnet for visitors from all over the world apparently starved of picnics, punting, balls and barbecues (and don’t forget tennis) for the rest of the year. It’s impossible to avoid the buzzing crowds around the Corpus Clock at the Taylor Library on the corner of Bene’t Street – one of the city’s most famous additions to our collection of public art. It was a winner of one of Time’s 50 best inventions of 2008 and was created by ‘retired’ entrepreneur and Corpus Christi college graduate John C Taylor.

If you’ve ever wondered exactly why there’s a ‘terrifying’ grasshopper scurrying over the 24-carat gold clock face as part of the piece, it is intended to disturb. In fact, it is a beast Taylor calls a Chronophage or ‘time eater’! A comment on time, which as we all know stops for no one – ‘he’ll eat up every minute of your life, and as soon as one has gone he’s salivating for the next,’ Taylor commented. But this clock is only accurate every five minutes, with the hands lagging behind and racing ahead; an artistic reflection of life’s ‘irregularities’ (try using that one next time you’re late). Taylor is a fascinating man, a keen philanthropist and a testimony to the kindness and generosity that often seems innate to Cambridge’s culture of ideas and success. There’s a real Cambridge ‘magic’ to the place, tapped into in Cambridge novelist Menna Van Praag’s newest book, The Witches of Cambridge – snap it up in Waterstones or Heffers. More than Harry Potter-style colleges and cobbled streets, trilbies and Prosecco, perhaps the magic is captured in John Taylor’s personal motto – ‘think the unthinkable’.

In the midst of the heat, it’s the perfect time of year to slow down, quit the sun-flooded streets and parks and dip into the city’s galleries and exhibitions. Kettle’s Yard may be closed for a huge refurbishment, but it’s still curating art across the city in spaces that nudge us to ‘think the unthinkable’. Running until 2 July, Into boundless space I leap appears at the new centre for research in the physical sciences in Cambridge, the Maxwell Centre. The exhibition includes new commissions by Mark Titchner, Rana Begum, Laura Buckley, Wayne McGregor and Haroon Mirza. Other artists include political activist Gustav Metzger (who inspired Pete Townshend’s guitar-smashing performances with The Who).

“It was really exciting to commission brand-new artworks for this show,” says curator Guy Haywood. “Some of the artists took inspiration from the remarkable physicist James Clerk Maxwell; Mark Titchner’s large-scale graphic text work takes a phrase from Maxwell’s poetry, and Laura Buckley’s photographic prints were made by ‘scanning’ some of Maxwell’s glass instruments. While Kettle’s Yard is closed it is great to have the opportunity to show contemporary art in different spaces around Cambridge.” For details check the Kettle’s Yard website (www.kettlesyard.co.uk).

This Image: by Laura Buckley

A perfect show to cool down at, is Valour, by Regine Bartsch, an exhibition of paintings inspired by the David Parr House, a small terraced house once home to Victorian working-class painter, David Parr which has appeared in World of Interiors magazine and the New York Times Magazine. Running 4-11 June at St Peter’s Church, Valour is a reminder of how artful interiors can signal the desire “to do good, to live well and to experience the holy preciousness of simple beauty,” says art historian Dr Ayla Lepine.

“Regine’s paintings explore the concepts of home and domesticity with a tender regard and deep sensitivity to place, time and texture,” says Tamsin Wimhurst, chair of the David Parr House charity.

There’s no place like home. Lovers of ‘artful interiors’ will also love gallery Cambridge Contemporary Crafts – watch out for furniture from local design company, Cubed, down in their ‘snug’ (cubed.design). Why not adorn your kitchen with tea towels from illustrator Jo Clark, whose work goes from strength to strength each year? Check their gorgeous range of artists at www.cambridgecrafts.co.uk.

Finally, splash out at Art of Float, opening on 1 June. Teaming a floatation spa, with contemporary art curated by resident artists. Just off Chesterton Road, on Hawthorne Way, it’s another sign that this area is fast becoming a hotspot for the city. Over the road on Midsummer Common I’ll be getting some shade at the Eastern Bloco arts area at Strawberry Fair on 4 June, Cambridge’s annual free festival, a place for many of us in the city to ‘think the unthinkable’. Children can join dance company Creative Movements at the Strawberry Fair parade, for dance and frolicking. This year the theme is British Wildlife and home-made costumes are encouraged! For a full programme be sure to check strawberry-fair.org.uk. Have a fabulous June, all!

This Image: by Mark Titchner