_ Tactile treasures
A millionaire couple buying and supporting the work of contemporary British artists — it sounds too good to be true. Ann Donald meets the generous Summers behind an impressive collection.
Art collectors are a strange species.
Hem lines rise and fall but textiles and fabrics shape the fashion zeitgeist. Just ask lssey Miyake. Jane llarris’s first solo show features a range of hand-pleated, stitched, dyed, folded and cut textiles which follow in Miyake’s serene and well-crafted footsteps. Mounted on canvas, these fabrics are throws of kaleidoscope colour, manipulated into spikes and concertinas. In the piece lied Station, scarlet bleeds into rust and chestnut fades into purple, and like an otherworldy landscape, the texture resembles reptillean skin or the surface of Mars.
Elsewhere, pieces such as Sea Drift are less abrasive with drifts of colour inspired by a sunset’s fading glow or seaweed on a beach. Yet although these pieces are beautifully constructed, they don’t quite work. The colours are overbright recalling the craft movement of the 70s where everyone was making multi-coloured candles and tie-dyed T-shirts. The
' pieces look like flattened animal
skins rather than sumptuous diaphanous creations. Because as the work of Miyake and Fortuny proves, pleated silk comes into its own when it’s able to move, preferably on the human body.
In this show the four jackets at each corner of the gallery space are most successful. In fabrics such as silver and blue synthetic and orange organza, these garments fan and told with the grace and kinetic possibility of wearable dragonflies. Visually seductive and wonderfully tactile, it is , here Harris’s ideas and technique are i strongest.
1 Harris is clearly a talented and
j inspired designer and her work is
potentially appealing. She should
: perhaps concentrate on putting
: together a collection of clothes and
taking applied arts out of the gallery : and into the street rather than exhibiting two-dimensional pieces on a wall. (Beatrice Colin)
Jane Harris is at the Art Gallery and
, Museum, Kelvingrove until 3 Jan 1995. L
There's the ‘tax write-off" breed. for
whom the act of buying a Frank
I' Auerbach piece is more about the
‘ Inland Revenue than an appreciation.
Then there's the ‘art investor" breed.
- swayed by value more than visuals and ‘ finally. an endangered breed buying art for the sheer hell of it. They see it. they love it. they buy it. No advisors. no dealers. no middlemen —just pure gut reaction and ofcourse. the prerequisite of a healthy bank balance.
Falling into the third category are Susan Kasner Summer and her husband Robert D. Summer. head of Sony Music Division. This millionaire couple's genuine enthusiasm for art ' stretches further than their outstanding collection of contemporary British art -- they actively (for which read financially) support young artists.
Exhibited at Glasgow‘s McLellan Galleries are 100 works from the K; sen-Summer collection, which comprises major leaguers like John Bellany. Steven Campbell. Paula Rego. David Hockney. Alison Watt. Ken Currie and Jenny Saville. As Robert explains. he and Susan decided to concentrate on British as opposed to American art: ‘I think American artists are driven by a different set of tastes and pulled by commercial demand. When your passion is collecting and . you discover something. I think it‘s
better to create a focus rather than scatter your acquisitions. Through that focus. we‘re able to put together a collection that‘s meaningful in its context.‘
The couple‘s interest in Scottish art was sparked off by a chance visit to the Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow's Kelvingrove. where artistic liedglings Peter Howsou. Adrian Wiszniewski and Steven Campbell were exhibiting for the first time. This in turn led to the couple scouring the artists‘ studios. visiting degree shows at Edinburgh College of Art and Glasgow School of Art and developing a deepening interest in the history of Scottish art. ‘l"or us. it‘s not business or investment.‘ says Susan. ‘lt'sjust a total pleasure and beyond the pleasure. it affords some added values. It opened the way to some self-searching and gratifying relationships over the last ten ycars.‘
Certainly the Summers appear to be held in high esteem in Glaswegian artistic circles. admired for their direct. straight-from-tlie-heart approach to art. Alison Watt. who met the couple after they bought one of her paintings from her first Cork Street exhibition. was
bowled over by their largcsse. ‘II was l incredible.‘ she enthuses. ‘l was
planning to visit New York anyway when I wrote to them. but they arranged everything for rue: accornrnodation. a chauffeur. appointments with all the galleries. And they do that with everyone.‘
The Summers not only put up budding artists in their New York abode but have gone as far as to build a house cum art gallery cum artists‘ studio in Connecticut. geared around their own collection. Jenny Saville and Paul Mel’hail are currently living and working there as part of a six-month scholarship. set up by the Summers specifically for British post-graduate art students. A surefire case of putting your money where your mouth is.
The Summers's commitment to art is
still alive and kicking after ten years of collecting. as they explain: ‘liach time you acquire a picture. there‘s an investment of intellect and passion. What’s fortunate is that very few. if any. have dropped out or” ceased to give us a kick.’ All American Passion: The [vascu- .S'unrmcr Collection n] ('mrlcmpmm‘y [frills/1 I’uinlrng is (ll I/It’ .llr'lx'llmr (fol/cries. (i/usgmi; until 5 Marc/1
ls— Test : departmt
; Climb the elegant staircase to the first floor. Behind a heavy door is a
l darkened room. Once inside, your tentative steps trigger a clockwork film-fantasy, a ‘Ballet Mechanique’, Louise Crawford and Stéphan Guéneau’s installation, is reminiscent of the work of Jan Svankmeyer, the Czech master of alchemic animation. An electrical fuse rattles into life, hissing its way to a powder-keg conclusion. Out of the ether, three 16- mm films - black and white and colour - flicker into being, simultaneously projected onto three screens. The magnified ticking of an alarm clock or stopwatch heralds the rhythm that propels this image-train into motion. 0n the left hand screen, solid letters making up the word TEST appear. This letter-body is dragged and marched across a swathe of grass in a manner reminiscent of the playful Vision On. The central screen shows a young woman rotating like the hands of a clock on a wall. (In the third screen a teddy is similarly mechanised, activated as if by remote-control. This choreographed synchronicity, this suburban Nutcracker is shaken from
its dream by a fourth sequence showing dramatic footage of the recent demolition of the Queen Elizabeth flats in Glasgow’s Gorbals. They were an architect’s attempt at harmony that ended in disenchantment and destruction.
TEST conjures up the mechanical paradise promised by technology, overwound and exploded into oblivion. It suggests that the dreams of a machine-age have fallen victim to alienation and loss of control - its cog-driven heart is out of commission.
Using film as a sculptural material, to create an experience that is both tactile and thought-provoking, this installation contradicts the atmosphere of cool alienation surrounding so much contemporary video work. TEST yourself . . . plug in . . . crackle, and enjoy! (Bobin Baillie)
TEST a film installation by Louise Crawford and Stéphan Guéneau is at the Institut Francais D’Ecosse until 20 Dec.
72 The List lo December l‘)94--l2 January I995