The Art Insider: January '18

All images: Larger Than Life exhibition of works by Dame Elizabeth Frink, at Heong Gallery

Ruthie Collins gives you the lowdown on arty happenings around Cambridge in January 

January arrives: a month to embrace the new year, and a time of promise. “Here’s the world for one day silver, lit by love,” says Clare Crossman in Gifts from Winter, found in her newly published collection, The Blue Hour (Shoestring Press). The title, The Blue Hour, describes twilight, a phrase from the early days of filmmaking.

Reading the collection, curled up with a hot chocolate, as twilight approaches, is the perfect antidote to the austerity of this time of year. It’s full of glittering beauty, darkness, loss and warmth – peppered with regional and city references, which lovers of Cambridge will adore. “I think we live in a time now where everything is changing shape and shifting, much as happens in the early evening when outlines blur and merge some things becoming starker some things melting away…” explains Clare, whose work has also been published by leading independent publisher, SALT Publishing.

Yet despite the shape-shifting, haunting loss, she captures simple beauty, brilliantly, with some humble, heart-stopping lines: “In case we never return/I am taking a jar of rain,” (The Leaving). “The past remains, we live now, the future is fluid. I hope anyone who buys this book will find poems that resonate with them in some way,” she says. Check clarecrossman.info.


“It's full of glittering beauty, darkness, loss and warmth"


This month, also catch mesmerising sculpture at the Heong Gallery. Larger than Life brings together the acclaimed works of ‘non-conservative’ (Arie Hartog) figurative sculptor, Dame Elisabeth Frink. Warning – if you’ve come here post the Fitzwilliam Museum’s blockbuster show Degas: A Passion for Perfection – there are no semi-naked Parisians here, scandalous, about to leap onto stage in a tutu. Instead of sensual froth, Frink’s world burns with shamanic energy: it’s primeval and mythical. Expect scorching portrayals of aggressive male archetype, too – her most famous Google Head series was inspired by 1960s Algerian politician General Oufkiv.

“I feel my sculptures are what a human being or animal feels like, not what they necessarily look like. I use anatomy to create the essence of human and animal forms and their freedom of spirit,” said Frink in 1979. Described as a ‘one-off’ by Frink herself, her world-acclaimed Walking Madonna, normally found in Salisbury, is lithe with a sinewy movement of her own (fully clothed). She rises, in the gallery, to greet you – but don’t be offended if she’s unsmiling. An everyday woman, she’s just getting on with it. Whatever ‘it’ is, Frink’s large-scale bronze, pays unprettified tribute.

In the artworld we’re not used to seeing unglamourised women with their clothes on, respected for invisible work. Frink’s Walking Madonna first went public in 1980. She appears a world apart from the 1980s Madonna of Like a Prayer pop fame – but, like Degas’ Ballerina, she’s also a trailblazing, shimmering cry from the static women of devotional iconography. Unpinned from her pedestal, void of milky smile, she’s walking, briskly – a symbol of “dignity and creativity over militarism and totalitarianism disregard of human dignity and rights” (Dean of Salisbury). She’s no Iron Lady, but there’s inspiration in her wiry strength.   

Watch out for an exhibition tour on January 10th at 6pm, plus the Elisabeth Frink Symposium on January 20th, with a fantastic range of speakers – both bookable on Eventbrite.com. Check dow.cam.ac.uk/cultural-life.

However, if January starts to get too much, then sod it all – have a cocktail. Watch out for Alan Hudlestone’s show at d’Arrys on King Street this month, with several of his works on show in this favourite cocktail haunt. Alan is one of Cambridge’s long-standing popular artists whose joie de vivre attitude spills out into his work, which is influenced by Impressionism and Pop Art. So head over and enjoy this range of 14 pictures in pastel, pencil, watercolour and oil. Check alanhudleston.co.uk for information.   

Finally, if still in need of that pick me up, head over for the last few days of Cambridge Art Salon and Care Network’s Pearls of Wisdom Postcards exhibition at Stir, funded by Cambridge  City Council and Cambridgeshire Community Foundation. Last summer, I interviewed elderly residents for their pearls of wisdom, which over 50 children from The Grove Primary School turned into artworks, eight of which were selected to be sold in packs of postcards. The children all won the High Sheriff’s Award, as supported by the Cambridgeshire Community Foundation, for their work – so massive congratulations to all of them!

The colourful works were created with help from artists Sa’adiah Khan, Cathy Dunbar, Daisy Tempest and Sukey Sleeper. We’ve been running a #pearlschallenge asking people to send the postcards (available for £2 a pack, from Stir), to loved ones and family, posting their messages to social media – so please take part. January is a fabulous time to really think about what you’d like to achieve in the year. If you could choose, what wisdom would you like to leave behind? Have a fabulous new year, all.