The Art Insider: July '18

Image: Mel Bochner

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

“Art is now part of the language of freedom and democracy”, say Bob and Roberta Smith in their open letter to Michael Gove, which you can see as part of the Heong Gallery’s new summer show, DO I HAVE TO DRAW YOU A PICTURE? This is an exhibition with a fantastic range of artists – including Louise Bourgoise and Grayson Perry – exploring communication and isolation, with works on loan from the likes of the British Museum. 

Bob and Roberta Smith’s uncompromising letter could be the thoughts of millions in the UK, as art is slowly removed from many school curriculums – a heartbreaking trend. Take art out of schools and “you shut the door on children’s development and emasculate British culture”, the Smiths point out. With a wide range of events as part of its programme, you can see DO I HAVE TO DRAW YOU A PICTURE until 7 October. 

This is the perfect month to put art at the heart of your free time, with all those glorious summer weekends – as Evelyn Waugh writes in Bridsehead Revisited, “If it could only be like this always – always summer”. Make the most of it with a trip to Cambridge Shakespeare Festival –  if you haven’t yet experienced the magic of this event, make this the summer you do so. Apart from anything else the setting alone, in college gardens all over the city, is enough to make the occasion a memorable experience. One of Shakespeare’s best-loved plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, will run at King’s College gardens from 9 July – why not add to the fairy tale magic by bringing your children dressed as fairies? 

Not always open to the public, the college gardens are some of Cambridge’s most famous attractions. But what of those hidden beauty spots and quirky places that hold a special place in people’s hearts that often go missed or overlooked? New Geographies have announced its artist selection for site-specific commissions all over East Anglia – with one commission taking place in an abandoned Tesco supermarket in Chatteris. 

What of those hidden beauty spots and 
quirky places that often go missed?

The East of England, already home to the likes of Wysing Arts Centre, is fast becoming an emerging hotspot for contemporary art. Check Wysing’s Open Studios on the 14th and 15th for the chance to see artists at work in their studios – and catch Making Everyday, their show running until 15 July. Watch out for studio artists Laurence Epps, whose Cambridge-based work is wry, political and humorous.  

Ely, a cultural jewel in the midst of the Fens, is a hive of activity, with Babylon Gallery showing Spanish sculptor and ceramicist Joan Miró this month. With its riverside walks, cathedral and market, the short train journey makes this bijou city worth the visit. Wicken Fen, one of the area’s most stunning nature reserves, was recently home to an Arts Council-supported secret gig with folk-electronica artist Kerry Devine, who fuses multimedia with her sometimes disruptive performances (utterly spellbinding). Her album Away From Mountains is full of references to the rich, magical history of the Fens. 

Meanwhile, hundreds of Cambridge’s artists open their doors to the public as part of Cambridge Open Studios this month – making the trip to visit such a broad variety of artists can turn into a rich pilgrimage, revealing surprising corners of the city, too. Watch out for founder of the Cambridge Art Book, collage artist Emma Bennett, whose colourful eye morphs iconic Cambridge landmarks into psychedelic marvels; or Heloise Toop, whose sumptuous figurative paintings can be seen on Newmarket Road, with the artist herself doing a spot of live painting throughout each weekend. 

Those wanting a tour of public art in the city this summer – with a twist – will love Gavin Turk’s cycle rides of major public art pieces, all on a fleet of colourful bikes, in association with Brookgate. “Ride a bike, become an artwork and take a tour of ‘hidden’ sculptures and points of special interest around Cambridge,” says Gavin. The map is drawn by Cambridge-born artist Adam Dant and the last of the three cycle rides – The Metaphysical Cyclist – is on 8 July. Bike lovers will also appreciate the Syd Barrett public art piece on show at the Cambridge Corn Exchange: CODA, designed by Clare Palmier and Spadge Hopkins, a shimmering spectacle of mirrored surfaces and bike parts. Have a fantastic summer, all.