Screwed over by the OCA

This will be my last post. I’m done. This is a warning post for anyone studying or thinking about studying with the OCA. If you stop reading now take away this point: READ THE SMALL PRINT

What happened?

Here’s what happened, the history. I shall try to make this a fair review of my time with the open college of the arts.

The Art of Photography

In 2012 I signed up to do the photography degree pathway, the art of photography module. I was in a bit of a photographic funk with my underwater work and thought doing a course would give me some new ideas to think about. It was a bit basic for my skill level at the time (I’d been persuaded in the Flickr forums not to APL (skip through) this introduction course/level because then I could lean the oca way of doing things, how they like the work submitted etc. All the bits you’re expected to know by level 2). I don’t know how, because it was clearly written in all the many pages of regulations, but I’d got it in my head it was 6 years for the first level (3 modules at 2yrs each). Despite being 6yrs in total they only allow you 4yrs to do it (makes no sense). More on this in a minute.

I was really excited for my first assignment, I thought I could really make a go at interpreting the simple course text in an imaginative way. Then my amazing tutor left. The next tutor I had was alright, nice enough, but whereas my previous tutor was from a fine art photography background this new one was from a commercial photography background, not interested at all in any creative interpretation, you needed to stick to the brief from the client (ie the assignment task text) plain and simple. This wasn’t what I personally needed at this point. I lost interest a bit I admit, especially after my assignment 2 feedback where he basically said not to do any more assignments using underwater photography. Around the same time I went on a few oca study days where I got chatting with the tutors and other students about the topics covered in the later photography courses (landscape or people, etc). According to the OCA tutors I spoke to nature photography is not artistic enough to be considered in the art world. Most of the people I dealt with in the OCA were very pleasant, I cannot say the same for one tutor I spoke with on a study day, he made me feel about this small (fingers very close together) in front of another group of students for liking to make nature photography. He proclaimed ‘it’s not “art”‘ (he’d obviuosly not heard of Duchump, anway he’s wrong of course as anyone who’d been to the Natural History Museums Wildlife Photographer of the year exhibition, or ever looked at anything done by David Doublet or Alex Mustard knows). Something along the lines of “if I want to see a picture of an eagle I’ll just google it, they all look the same….. perhaps the only way you could make it interesting is with taxidermy“. What a thing to say to someone who loves nature photography! Anyway, I’ve got off topic. Suffice it to say my productivity took a dive and I concentrated on my first passion, my underwater photography over the summer. I got the course finished and assessed but it had taken basically the full two years. Now I was running behind!

Digital Film Production / Having a Baby

I signed up for the film/video module thinking I might be able to do it concurrently with the digital rights one which they offered at the time. I’d enjoyed the small amount of video that I’d done and wanted to be better (I even filmed my own wedding) and the other photography modules did not look that appealing. Digital Film Production was quite interesting and the tutor was good but oh so time consuming, what a poor choice on my part. I tried to combine it with holidays and work to some effect. I did two assignments and got part the way through part 3 when I feel pregnant in 2015. A full time job, and sitting editing video was too much for me and the baby. I let the OCA know but they said you have 12 years, we can’t give you any extra time, most other distance learning institutions give 9. OK then. Thanks. By the time I came out from my post-natal funk and started checking emails again that course had expired unfinished. My bad I suppose.

Western History of Art / mismanaged expectations and officiousness

I phoned the office to see what my options were. I should have exited at this point! The lovely lady in the office explained that I could borrow a year from the level 2 time allowance to do my two extra courses in but there could be no more extensions after that for level 1 and I would need to leave the degree. She said that even if I didn’t manage two course I could at least do one and get the Higher education credits. It’s possible I could then use those to APL should I reapply to another degree. As it turns out she was misinformed. I really should have read the student regulations more closely. READ THE SMALL PRINT. I have just busted a gut and completed this course, on time, and submitted my request to have my work assessed in the march assessment (giving me until Jan 15th to do all the rework from feedback and tidying up) but then I got this email from the OCA

Dear Suzy

I am notifying you that you have been withdrawn from your degree a you have failed to complete Level 1 within the maximum 5 year timeframe. If you have obtained credits then you will receive a transcript from UCA. If you have obtained enough credits for an exit award then this will be requested for you and the paperwork forwarded from UCA. It is your responsibility to ensure you notify us of any address changes.

As you have been withdrawn from the degree then you are no longer eligible to have any additional units assessed as assessment is only available for student enrolled on a degree programme. I have therefore removed the assessment application date you had previously submitted for History of Art 1: Western Art

You will be contacted directly from Student Finance in the future regarding any outstanding loans – if applicable.


Being kicked off the course was expected, what I’m particularly aggrieved by was not being able to get my work assessed. I rang up, and explained my history and the nice lady on the phone was sympathetic and also confused as to why I couldn’t be assessed if I’d completed the module in time. I had to ring again to speak to the Academic registrar. We had a very unpleasant conversation where she explained that it’s her job to make sure that people who didn’t complete the whole of level 1 within the 5 years were withdrawn from the degree programme. She sounded like she was reading from a well versed script. Apparently it’s not just the module they are marking but the progress to date (which I’m not sure I’m buying) there is no recourse and no way to be assessed if you’re not part of the degree. Other students have told me they have also had trouble with taking time off (for illness etc). Also interestingly, for me it was not two years per course in actuality, I started this in December, it says 400 hours. I worked out I could do 400 hours in two years but the course ended at the end of August! No wonder I was struggling for deadlines! Another student told me she did get March to March so I don’t know what went on there. My tutor for this course was lovely and patient when I didn’t manage her deadlines and in the end I got this module all done in time, crucially not the whole level 1.

Silver Linings

It sucks and I’m devastated but there are some silver linings. At least I don’t have three months of rework to do to prep for the assessment! I’m free to pursue my newly rediscovered enjoyment of art, drawing and painting (which I hadn’t done since school). If I had not done this art history course (or if I had quit when I realised it wasn’t going to be possible to do this one and another in time) then I would not have rediscovered that. Before this all kicked off I was hoping to come back in a few years when my daughter is a bit older and change to the creative arts pathway (which looks much more interesting than the photography) but they couldn’t pay me enough to reapply to the OCA again.

In Conclusion

  • The OCA isn’t a flexible option if you have many commitments in your life or your circumstances change. Thus might be true of all distance learning I don’t know.
  • If your passion is nature photography the photography pathway is NOT recommended
  • Read the fine print and note down the dates, don’t try and add up the course allowances.
  • You can start the course whenever you like but you may not get the full two years as it ends Aug 31st
  • They told me that the HD credits only last for 5 years from the point of exit (but this may be different at other institutions).

What’s next for me?

I’m going to start a new blog. I enjoyed the art history and as I mentioned rediscovered my love of drawing. After 20years absence I need to relearn my skills so a self-taught approach seems the most flexible for me. I’ve been posting my new work on Instagram @scuba_suzy. I also have an underwater photography backlog to go through. There’s always creative live and books from the library, I can start on all the things/ideas that I had to put off because I was spending my every spare family-free time doing this! I don’t think I’ll be wanting for things to do and I dont think I’ll miss it at all.

Find me here:


Parting Shot

To cheer myself up I went to Barbican to see the new Banksy (there are two under the tunnel by the cinema).



Visit a town or country house – Ightham Mote

Choose a town or country house to visit. The idea of this visit is to look for evidence of how art has been used as part of a way of life, whether aristocratic or bourgeois. Don’t choose an artist’s house (e.g. William Morris’s Red House),
A large town house will be impressive and is likely to have classical features. Reception rooms may be spacious, perhaps with murals, tapestries or sculpture. In a smaller house your interest is likely to focus on private rooms, with their more intimate detail and decoration – a drawing room or a study containing well-loved objects.

Write an illustrated account of your visit in your learning log.
If you can’t make this visit for any reason, write a report on your chosen building based on information from books and the internet. Choose a building that’s well documented, particularly online. If there’s a website dedicated to the building, you may be able to make a virtual tour of at least some of the rooms, for example. You may also be able to order audio-visual material as well as guidebooks, etc., through the website. (Course Notes p106)

originally i visited hylands house for this visit (see the comments in my Assignment 3 feedback) but that visit was more suited to the assigment 4 visit so i need to redo this one.

write up visit


Brutalism – A Visit to the Barbican Estate

The 500 words task for Assignment 5 reads as follows:

A 500-word analysis of a maximum of four works in any media other than painting or sculpture which demonstrate the influence of the political, social and economic changes that have taken place since 1945.  (course notes)

Does Architecture count as a media? The WHA has included it all along so I’m assuming yes. Also, the second visit task is as follows:

Look at some twentieth-century buildings If you live in a big city you’ll be spoilt for choice but most towns will have something of interest. Go for something different from your earlier visits. This could be a tube station, a block of flats or a shopping mall. Don’t just think about the way it looks or the materials and building methods used. Try to imagine how easy it might be to maintain and clean, how efficient it might be in terms of its use of energy, how secure it might feel for someone on their own at night, etc. Make notes in your learning log. (course notes)

I thought I’d try and combine the two but depending on time constraints this might not develop enough to cover the visit task, I primarily visited this area to discover for myself what the big deal with Brutalist architecture was so that I could develop my 500 words from more than just reading research.


As a post war evolution of Modernism, the lofty, utopian ideals of Brutalist architecture have been lost to the mists of time and what we are left with today are big, blocky public buildings (whose exterior concrete facades have not aged well), with various social problems such as graffiti and antisocial behaviour. Some people subscribe to the ‘so ugly it is beautiful’ school of thought and many existing Brutalist buildings, such as the Barbican Complex, are now Grade II listed. The style was popular in the postwar era many people needed rehousing after the blitz, the economy was in tatters so new developments needed to be cheap, with easily sourced building materials such as concrete. The name is actually a wry English twist on Le Corbusier’s French term béton brut (raw concrete) popularised by British architectural critic Reyner Banham.

Barbican Estate Visit

The Barbican Estate is huge. Its infamous amongst visitors to the barbican arts centre as being impossible to navigate, a fact to which I can attest having got lost trying to find my way out once I’d finished with my visit!


I loved this fantastic short film about the barbican from 1969:

References: (2017). Introduction to Brutalism. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Aug. 2017].

City Of London. (2017) Barbican Estate history At:
(Accessed on 15 Aug 17)

Clement, A. (2011) Brutalism: Post-war British Architecture. The Crowood Press

Financial Times (2013). Brutalist architecture: a concept made concrete. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Aug. 2017].

Hyett, P. (1999) ‘Trellick Tower – a giant among high rises ‘In: The Architects’ Journal 1999, May 6, p.20. [online] At:
(Accessed on 15 Aug 17)

Painting Review: Georges Braque – Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece 1911

Following on from my Cubism Research, and in preparation for assignment 5 annotations I have decided to research Georges Braque’s Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece 1911. The obvious choice of Cubist painting to annotate would be a Picasso which is precisely why I choose one by Braque. Picasso is the household name of Cubism but it seems from my research that they participated fairly evenly in the collaboration, even at times so closely as to be indistinguishable. This was the period known as ‘Analytical Cubism’. Additionally, I could go and see this one in person which always helps me!

I tried to keep in mind Terry Smith’s four ways of looking as per assignment 3 feedback. I went to the Tate Modern to see it (apolgies for the wonky picture, there was a rope around an adjacent exhibit so I couldnt start square on to get the photo).

Georges Braque –
Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece (Clarinette et bouteille de rhum sur une cheminée),
1911, Oil paint on canvas, Support: 810 x 600 mm
frame: 935 x 723 x 74 mm, Tate, Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

Again, I’ve tried again to apply the techniques I learned in reading about the OU study diamond to this painting review. The grid format wasn’t that great for the blog so I’ve split into more of a questions and answers format.

Effects & techniques:

  1. What initially catches your eye? Where do you go next? And after that? The section in the middle triangle with the bottle, the clarinet & scrolls of paper (?), then the writing Valse, then the glass.
  2. Where do you end up? Do your eyes stray away from the work altogether? Your eyes rove around the painting from plane to plane trying to make sense of what you’re looking at from one recognisable bit to the next to try and piece together what is there.
  3. Is there anything that you didn’t notice at first but saw later in your reading? I looked at it all but I still don’t understand many elements.
  4. Did your eyes keep coming back to a particular part of the art work? The little round bit under the clarinet because I know it should be recognise it but I’m still not sure what it is.
  5. Is there anything that you didn’t look at or thought wasn’t important? no.


  1. Has a wide or narrow palette of colours been used? A very narrow colour palate typical of Analytical Cubism has been used to concentrate the viewer on the forms.
  2. Have contrasting colours been placed next to each other? Not really
  3. Are there more warm colours than cool colours or vice versa? slightly warm colours
  4. Would you describe the colours as being bright or dull? Are there more bright colours than dull colours (or vice versa)? The colours are muted and earthy to concentrate on the forms
  5. In what way is dark and light colour used? dark and light colour is used to separate the planes

I. How wide is the range of colour values featuring in the art work? Very wide from light to black

II. Are contrasting colour values present in the art work? Use of contrasting colour values pick out the various planes of the work. The light is not coming from any clear direction.

III. Are contrasting colour values used to model three-dimensional forms? Contrasting colour values are in places used to model three-dimensional forms, for example the clarinet mouthpiece and holes, which in this part of the painting is lit from above.

IV. In what way are the colour values distributed throughout the art work? In contrast to tradition paintins where the distribution of the colour values helps pull your eye around the composition, light here is used almost randomly to separate the various planes and sections.


  1. Does the medium impose any limitations on the way the artist works, or allow any particular effects? The oil paint has been applied in various ways across the surface of the painting. Thinly in places, for example at the edges where you can see the the texture of the canvas. The black lines and white space opaque smooth:
    [Detail 1] Georges Braque – Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece,
    1911, Tate, Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye
    and some parts are rather more thickly applied it little dabbing brushstrokes for texture:
    [Detail 2] Georges Braque – Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece,
    1911, Tate, Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye
  2. Is the medium used unconventionally or is the medium itself unconventional and, if so, does this contribute to the expressive effect of the art work? It doesn’t seem very conventional, but nothing about Cubism is!
  3. Does the medium used suggest a particular mood? the planes sort of shimmer above the canvas. its an odd effect.
  4. Does the medium used prompt the spectator to read the work in a particular way? yes, the different paint textures mean you associate different sections with different elements


Representation of depth Technique: Effect:
(a) overlapping Y The scene feels 3 dimentional because of the many overlapping layers, but they dont overlap in a traditional sense. Its a bit confusing what object is what.
(b) diminishing scale N As far as I can tell there is no diminishing scale.
(c) atmospheric perspective N The space behind is a limited space of the mantelpiece so even if this was painted traditionally this would not have atmospheric perspective.
(d) vertical placement Y Yes, you can read the canvas from the bottom up to the bottle at the top.
(e) linear perspective N


One of the tenants of Cubism is the abolishment of single point perspective to explore forms ‘plastically’

Looking at this a bit longer I’ve changed my mind here, there is linear perspective on one or two of the view points which are not immediately obvious.

(f) modelling Y there is a slight modelling on some aspects for example the curl of something in detail 1 picture above.

I found it hard to see just by looking and making a sketch helped me here:

The different view points overlay so its a bit confusing so here I’ve tried to break down what i see i my head as separate views. I started with the bottle, on which the scheme seems to rest on. it has serveral view on it. the most obvious being the frontal view, where you can also see the glass and the nail. I’ve left the clarinet out of this picture because i dont think it was placed behind the bottle on the mantelpiece.

Here is one view that i think sets out the main pieces in their places on the mantelpiece. I see the clarinet, the rum, a glass, a scroll of paper (probably sheet music given the words written on it) it looks to me like he has pages under the objects which jut out and overlap the edge of the mantelpiece.

Perspective view from the edge of the mantelpiece

Its possible that this view in blue below is the same scene from the other end of the mantelpiece.

this is my suspected bits of mantelpiece views, from all different directions including underneith to see the corbel.




here i thought these were scrolls of music sheet

Use of lines:

Directional lines (horizontal, vertical, and diagonal): There are plenty of diagonal lines radiating out and upwards from the bottom like a fan and a slight overall pyramidal feeling to the composition. The main elements are in an internal triangle section. Internally to that there are bisecting vertical planes and pieces (eg the Clarinet is horizontal and the bottle is vertical) and various little triangles made of overlapping planes of various textures and detail

Contour lines – can also be used to outline forms; such contour lines can be described in terms of their thickness and sharpness. There are thick contour lines all around the painting but many are for the contours of the plane not actual for an object as such.

Meaning – initial thoughts from the observed ‘evidence’/ Context & Meaning:

I’ve blocked these two together because without understanding the concepts Cubism it’s really hard to read the painting and understand any of its ‘evidence’ or even what you’re looking at.

In Harrison & Woods Art in theory 1900-2000 anthology there were quite a few articles which helped me understand this painting (and Cubism in general).


mostly I put my research straight into the annotations, the other painting review here and the main research notes page here.


Berger, J. (2001) Selected Essays. New York: Vintage

Clark, K. (1960) Looking at Pictures. Holt Rinehart and Winston, New York

Cooper, D. (1972) Braque: The Great Years. The Art Institute of Chicago
Harrison, C. & Wood, P. (2003). Art in theory 1900-2000: an anthology of changing ideas. (New ed). Blackwell Publishers.

Honour, H & Fleming, J. (2009) A World History of Art. (7th Ed), London, Laurence King Publishing


Exhibition: Hokusai beyond the Great Wave

I really enjoyed the Hokusai exhibition at the British Museam on friday. In recent research I learnt that many Western artists (especially Van Gogh) were influenced by Japanese art so I thought I’d go a long to see what the fuss was about. I didn’t realise that the Japanese were equally influenced the other way too from pigments used to different perspective.

For conservation reasons there was a rotation of about half the artworks halfway through the exhibition run because some works can only be displayed for a limited period of time due to their light sensitivity.

Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) is widely regarded as one of Japan’s most famous and influential artists, this was a 30 year retrospective. He started off as a wood block print cutter but mostly he made print ready drawings and other people cut and printed them for him, he had close working relationships with his publishers.

His most famous picture is the Great Wave, reproduced on pretty much everything by now. The original Great wave was printed 8000 times, using four seasoned cherry wood blocks carved on both sides.

Under the wave off Kanagawa (The Great Wave) from Thirty-six views of Mt Fuji. Colour woodblock, 1831. Acquired with Art Fund support. On display 25 May – 13 August.

Some notes I made as I went around:

  • He used many different names throughout his career, sometimes passing them on to pupils.
  • Red stamp is painters seal, different for each new name.
  • His daughter helped him in old age complete his work. He thought he be a true artist at 100 but only live to 90. She tried to pass off her work as his because it brought in more household income.
  • He designed hair comb and illustrated books with woodblock prints.
  • 36 views of mt fuji
  • He didn’t cut the wood himself except in his teens
  • Loved his ghost stories. His sketchbooks of ducks and frogs and insects. The last room his dragon
  • Experiment with European paper & perspective and shading & Imported Prussian blue pigment.


Weeping cherry and bullfinch. Colour woodblock, c. 1834. On display 7 July – 13 August.
Umezawa Manor in Sagami Province from Thirty-six Views of Mt Fuji. Colour woodblock, 1831. On display 7 July – 13 August.
Clear day with a southern breeze (Red Fuji) from Thirty-Six Views of Mt Fuji. Colour woodblock, 1831. On display 25 May – 13 August.
Amida waterfall, deep beyond the Kiso highway. Colour woodblock, 1833. The Tōyō Bunko, Tokyo. On display 7 July – 13 August.
Eagle and cherry. Hanging scroll, ink and colour on silk, 1843. Ujiie Ukiyo-e Collection, Kamakura. On display 7 July – 13 August.
Snowy morning, Koishikawa from Thirty-six views of Mt Fuji. Colour woodblock, 1832. On display 7 July – 13 August.

British Museam. (2017) Hokusai: beyond the Great Wave At:
(Accessed on 17 Jul 17)

British Museam Blog. (2017) Hokusai: old master At:
(Accessed on 17 Jul 17)

Visit: Sculpture in the City 2017

Sculpture in the City map 2017

SPOILER ALERT: this post contains pictures of the work so if you want to save your first impressions then dont read any further!

A giant green and yellow sculpture appeared outside my station (18). Then I saw Lava blobs (16) outside the walkie talkie building. I wondered to myself if I was hallucinating from reading too much WHA on the train, but no, it’s Sculpture in the city time again! Here is the map of all 18 locations around the square mile where the sculptures have been placed. Initially I thought I wouldn’t get to all of them but it was addictive, and like Pokemon I just had to see them all. I tried the smartify app on a couple, dont waste your time, it doesnt seem to work (on android anyway).

1. ‘Ajar’ | Gavin Turk | 2011

Gavin Turk – Ajar, 2011, Painted bronze 229 x 103 x 66 cm, Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

As a reference to the painting ‘La Victoire’ by Rene Magritte, ‘Ajar’ is a surreal gateway: a spiritual journey through the imagination, an interactive sculpture that children will enjoy as much as adults. It is a key to the imagination: unlocking ideas of the infinite as mused on by Aldous Huxley quoting Blake, “If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”

It simultaneously references both Duchamp’s work ’11 Rue Larrey’, a corner door that is always open and shut and a Bugs Bunny sketch, where a door in a frame freely stands on a cliff in a landscape. ‘Ajar’ is placed without walls and is permanently half open encouraging the choice to go around, or go through. (City Of London, 2017)

Rene Magritte – La victoire (The victory),1939, Oil on Canvas, 53.5 x 72.5 cm © Rene Magritte
Marcel Duchamp – Door 11 rue Larrey, Paris 1927, Wooden door made by a carpenter following Duchamp’s specifications (220 x 62.7 cm.).

As I walked up to this one I got a lovely sense of wonder that you sometimes get with Surrealist work. That’s what I like about the sculpture in the city website – no pictures, so you still get that first impression of the work in person. Without even reading the blurb on the plaque I knew this must reference Magritte but I love that he also mentioned bugs bunny in the list of inspirations. It’s interesting that Duchamp did one similar, since this is not a readymade, just made to look like one from bronze, tradition sculptural material. Having said that, Duchamp’s one wasn’t a real ready-made either if he had a carpenter specially make it to specifications rather than nabbing a mass produced door. Subverting the subversive.


2. ‘The Black Horse’ | Mark Wallinger | 2015

Mark Wallinger – The Black Horse, 2015, Bronze, resin, stainless steel 196 x 273 x 67 cm. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

The sculpture was made with the help of advanced technology, scanning a racehorse, part owned by the artist, named Rivera Red.

The horse is a subject with deep emotional and historical meaning. As the artist notes, ‘people still have an atavistic love of horses.’ Though bent to our will the thoroughbred represents unfathomable instincts.

The thoroughbred could perhaps stand as an exemplar of this country’s identity and our relationship with the natural world. It was first developed at the beginning of the 18th century in England, when native mares were crossbred with imported Arabian stallions. Every racehorse in the world is descended from these animals. (City Of London, 2017)

This was one of the handful of the sculptures which had a homeless person taken up residence nearby. In this case, I thought the big issuer seller and his dog were an interesting subversion of the context of the work. Owning/keeping a thoroughbred is the province of the very rich, situated in the centre of the financial district, side by side is a man who is penniless keeping a dog for protection while he lives on the streets. It reminded me a little of the recent saga of the Bull in New York and the subversion of that work by Fearless Girl, then the resubversion of that by Pissing Pug.

3. ‘Work No. 2814’ | Martin Creed | 2017

Martin Creed – Work No. 2814, 2017, Plastic bags, Dimensions Variable. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

Merging art and life, Martin Creed uses ordinary materials and everyday situations to create multimedia works that have confounded and delighted viewers and critics for nearly 30 years.

In Work No. 2814 a tree ‘blossoms’ with plastic bags caught amongst the branches. This accentuates what some might see as a common ‘everyday’ occurrence, until it becomes something more absurd, yet humorous and strangely beautiful at the same time.

Creed approaches art making with humour, anxiety, and experimentation, and with the sensibility of a musician and composer, underpinning everything he does with his open ambiguity about what art is. (City Of London, 2017)

To be honest, I dont think one person noticed this while I was standing watching, until I raised my phone to take a picture. I think if he wanted to make it more absured than the everyday he would need lots more bags here!

4. ‘Never has there been such urgency, or The eloquent and the Gaga’ | Ryan Gander | 2014

(Detail) Ryan Gander – Never has there been such urgency, or The Eloquent and the Gaga – (Alchemy Box # 45), 2014, Conical parachute, polythene barrels, nylon webbing, aluminium fixings, items from the artist’s collection, stainless steel etched plaque, Dimensions Variable. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye
Ryan Gander – Never has there been such urgency, or The Eloquent and the Gaga – (Alchemy Box # 45), 2014, Conical parachute, polythene barrels, nylon webbing, aluminium fixings, items from the artist’s collection, stainless steel etched plaque, Dimensions Variable. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

An air-dropped aid parcel suspended from a tree by it’s parachute.

The parcel contains items relating to the subject of the ‘disparity between research based practices and production based practices; the polarity between the conceptual significance of the object as carrier; and the gulf between learning to speak with great articulation and eloquence and the incoherency of stuttering and stammering a chain of unrelated words at great volume’.

The contents of the aid parcel are listed on an etched, metal plaque placed nearby. (City Of London, 2017)

(Detail – plaque) Ryan Gander – Never has there been such urgency, or The Eloquent and the Gaga – (Alchemy Box # 45), 2014, Conical parachute, polythene barrels, nylon webbing, aluminium fixings, items from the artist’s collection, stainless steel etched plaque, Dimensions Variable. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

This one is just damn strange. The metal plate lists all the contents and says things like “An A1 sized offset print of an image of the fictional artist Aston Ernest standing on Sizewell beach, Suffolk, UK, dressed in a fisherman’s yellow waterproof Oilskin, whilst engaged in his performative artwork entitled Speak Easy, 1989, in which the artist attempts to hook the horizon, where the sea meets the sky, with a wooden walking stick, whilst shouting the poem ‘Speak Easy’ at the sea.” and “Two flesh coloured European size 38 ladies thongs and two pairs of ladies flesh coloured mesh briefs, also European sized 38, purchased by an assistant of the artist from the retailer Topshop.

I had to go back to the one after walking past it on two occassions and not seeing it, mainly because Paul McCarthy’s sculpture (below) is just past the tree that this in so that is the first thing that catches your eye in this clearing.

5. ‘Apple Tree Boy Apple Tree Girl’ | Paul McCarthy | 2010

Paul McCarthy – Apple Tree Boy Apple Tree Girl, 2010, Aluminium, (Boy) 525 x 208.3 x 189.2 cm, (Girl) 546.1 x 290.8 x 213.4 cm. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

Paul McCarthy’s ‘Apple Tree Boy Apple Tree Girl’ (2010) belongs to the artist’s Hummel series, executed on a monumental scale. The kitsch mid-century German figurines depict rosy-cheeked children in idyllic repose. In McCarthy’s world, this Aryan naïveté becomes a target for parody, and ultimately, defilement and disfigurement. The figures deformed innocence suggests the conditioning of children, from Hitler youths to contemporary, TV-addled teen consumers. The miniature Adam and Eve find themselves reborn as 18 foot Überkinder; they remain only a suggestion of their former selves, sweetly deformed to the point of abstraction. The implicit naïveté of the Hummel motif is materially deconstructed, portraying a sophisticated fall from grace for these darling figures, in simultaneously literal and metaphorical terms. (City Of London, 2017)

This one was creepy. The texture was very interesting though.

6. Black Shed Expanded’ | Nathaniel Rackowe | 2014/2016

Nathaniel Rackowe – Black Shed Expanded, 2014/2016, Timber shed, fluorescent lights and fittings, bitumen, paint, steel, 240 x 220 x 220 cm. Edition 2 of 2 (2016 edition). Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

Nathaniel Rackowe’s large-scale urban shed structure is installed, seemingly mid-explosion, upside-down, its contours wrenched apart, exposing its illuminated interior. The wooden shed, painted with black bitumen, emanates an eerie acid-yellow glow from the white strip-lighting inside it reflecting off the painted walls of its interior. The structure appears to be exploding, split apart by the force of the light within. Rackowe says, ‘I thought it interesting to take the humble shed and elevate it so it can rise up and challenge architecture, deconstructing it to the point where you are forced to re-read it.’ Referring to garden sheds throughout the suburbs of London, the work has an equally universal impact in its depiction of such a familiar, domestic structure. (City Of London, 2017)

I loved this! It taps into the cultish standing recently of the humble shed. I wonder if he is a follower of shed porn or fifty sheds of grey of twitter?

7. ‘4 Colours at 3 Metres High Situated Work’ | Daniel Buren | 2011

Daniel Buren – 4 Colours at 3 metres high situated work, Clear acrylic sheets, coloured self-adhesive filters, wood, screws, white and black paint, 2011,300 x 300 x 300 cm. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

4 Colours at 3 metres high situated work is a variation on the theme of the pergola or ‘attrape soleil’, which Daniel Buren has explored in several public works, which play with outdoor light, the movement of the sun, architecture and coloured shadows. All of Buren’s interventions are created ‘in situ’, appropriating and colouring the spaces in which they are presented. They are critical tools addressing questions of how we look and perceive, and the way space can be used, appropriated, and revealed in its social and physical nature. In his work life finds its way into art, while autonomous art is able to reconnect with life. (City Of London, 2017)

(looking up through) Daniel Buren – 4 Colours at 3 metres high situated work, Clear acrylic sheets, coloured self-adhesive filters, wood, screws, white and black paint, 2011,300 x 300 x 300 cm. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

I think I visited this one at the wrong time of the day. I saw a picture on the internet where the colours were reflected onto the pavement, so presumably they move around the structure with the sun. Probably mid-day would be best. When I went after work the sun was so low it was behind all the buildings but I could still go into it and look up through the colours which was fun.

8. ‘Reminiscence’ | Fernando Casasempere | 2017

front, side, back view of :
Fernando Casasempere – Reminiscence, 2017, Porcelain, 135 x 135 x 115 cm. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

Fernando Casasempere (born 1958) is a sculptor working with ceramics, the traditional material of pottery, and his work explores ideas relating to landscape and the environment. Conceptually his use of earth/clay and his concern with nature and ecological issues connects him to artists associated with the Land or Earth Art movement, but Casasempere works out of a very different cultural tradition, being profoundly inspired by the Pre-Columbian art and architecture of Latin America. Reminiscence (2017) evokes not only geology but the remains of a once-grand ruined structure or even a construction site. Placed in the heart of the City of London it is a powerful statement about the relationship between nature and culture. (City Of London, 2017)

The texture of this was lovely but it didnt look like porcelain. One of the few of them I was compelled to touch.

9. ‘Tipping Point’ | Kevin Killen | 2016

Video here :

'Tipping point' by Kevin Killen, 2016. #sculpture #sculptureinthecity

A post shared by Suzy Walker-Toye (@suzywalkertoye) on

Kevin Killen – Tipping Point, 2016, Neon, 240 x 120 x 30cm. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

In this series of work, my role has been to observe and photo-document, studying the outlines created by city lights. Walking the city photographing and recording, the non-stop nature of the city is documented through endless small events and incidents. Long-exposure photographs capture objects and people as black marks obstructing the lights of the city. I later “translate” these images into three-dimensional neon installations, with the city sounds correlated to match the sequence of the neon as it turns on and off. (City Of London, 2017)

This one was quite easy to spot on the wall nearby the information plaque. It was interesting to watch the neons flashing and imagine what bits of city each was correspoding to. I took a small video of this one.

10. 12. & 13. ‘Support for a Cloud’ | Mhairi Vari | 2017

Mhairi Vari – Support for a Cloud, 2016, Outdoor television aerial, wire coat-hangers, greenhouse/ poly-tunnel repair tape, 150 x 75 x 65 cm. Photos by Suzy Walker-Toye

Support for a Cloud plays across ideas of macro and micro – referencing concepts rooted in the natural sciences from cosmological formation to that of the insect cocoon. The artwork which is hung in three different locations is intended to inhabit the urban environment with its alien, nest-like structures that play on synthetic/organic forms. The visibly complex surface of these cocoon-like structures is generated by loops of agglomerated tape. The surface is alluring, even seductive and gently catches both daylight and artificial light, which animate the work further. These works are like small pieces of architecture inhabiting the manmade environment like nests or protective cocoons. (City Of London, 2017)

I went to the plaque at #10, looked around. Nothing obvious. Then looked up. I still wasnt sure. It’s so cleverly integrated with the archicture it looks ‘natural’ but also alien, kind of like a creepy cocoon. It reminded me of the Alien films, where’s Signory Weaver when you need her? I had to go back to see 12 and 13 since apparently I walked right past them without spotting them. It’s also grown on me with repeated viewing.

11. ‘Dreamy Bathroom’ | Gary Webb | 2014

Gary Webb – Dreamy Bathroom, 2014, Aluminium, bronze, automotive grade paint and lacquer, Dimensions Variable (depends on site location), Approx. 350 x 150 cm. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

Gary Webb’s whimsical, texturised tower of joyful abstraction is composed of a number of individually crafted components. The use of bronze, which lends Dreamy Bathroom a sense of sculptural gravitas, is pitched against the colourful, aesthetic playfulness of the shapes. The reflective, brightly coloured surfaces allude to, or parody, the kitsch appropriations of Pop Art, whilst the forms themselves are a nod to the post-industrial rigours of Modernism. Webb’s practice focuses on the formal interplay between contrasting shapes, lines, materials, fabrication techniques and points of art-historical reference. Rendered in a combination of industrial, organic and classical materials, Webb combines traditional craft methodologies with modern technologies, in order to create work that evades categorization, and tends towards the inscrutable. (City Of London, 2017)

14. ‘Falling into virtual reality’ | Recycle Group | 2016

Recycle Group – Falling into Virtual Reality, 2016, Plastic Mesh, 400 x 100 cm. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye
Recycle Group – Falling into Virtual Reality, 2016, Plastic Mesh, 400 x 100 cm. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

Recycle Group reflects on what our time will leave behind for future generations, what artefacts archaeologists will find after we are gone, and whether these artefacts will find their place in the cultural layer. As their name suggests, the duo is concerned about the rising level of material waste as a byproduct of widespread consumerism, creating work through the use of recycled materials. Their works also “recycles ideas”, drawing upon classical Western traditions such as narrative relief carving and Christian iconography to compare contemporary times with other histories – social media with religion, corporate leaders with kings, and online existence with mausoleums. The artists’ latest installation created for Sculpture in the City features a scene of a person falling into the virtual world executed in traditional saint-like image in mesh bas-relief. The mobile gadgets act as an emphasis that technology has on the modern world and questions yet again the idea of virtual archeology. The work draws inspiration by the futurist novel, Simulacron 3 (1964). (City Of London, 2017)

(Detail) Recycle Group – Falling into Virtual Reality, 2016, Plastic Mesh, 400 x 100 cm. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

View the introduction video of Falling into virtual reality here:

15. ‘Temple’ | Damien Hirst | 2008

Damien Hirst – Temple, 2008, Lacquered paint on bronze, 657.9 x 327.7 cm. Photo by Suzy Walker.Toye

‘Temple’ is a 21-foot painted bronze sculpture that weighs over three tonnes. Made in 2008, it presents a male torso whose partial exposure reveals the underlying musculature and organs. The artwork illustrates Hirst’s long-standing interest in anatomical models, which were initially featured alongside pharmaceutical packaging and specimen jars in his early ‘Medicine Cabinet’ series. ‘Temple’ succeeds other monumental anatomical models made by Hirst, including ‘Hymn’ (1999-2005), which was inspired by a model belonging to Hirst’s son, Connor. The artist explains: “I loved it that it was [like] a toy […] similar to a medical thing, but much happier, friendlier, more colourful and bright.” Damien Hirst cited in Damien Hirst and Gordon Burn, ‘On the Way to Work’ (Faber and Faber, 2001), 147. (City Of London, 2017)

I wouldn’t have guessed this was bronze, it looks like a giant version of one of those plastic models you see where the pieces come out like a organ puzzle. It’s much more impressive than 16-17, I wondered if they put it in this out of the way space because people would travel further to see work by a familiar name?

16. ‘Untitled x3’ | Bosco Sodi | 2012-15

Bosco Sodi – Untitled x 3, 2015, Ceramic glaze over volcanic rock, 120 x 80 x 100 cm ; 120 x 70 x 72 cm; 105 x 75 x 45 cm, Photo by Suzy Walker.Toye

Sodi’s rocks are, for all intents and purposes, excerpts from the natural world transformed through a highly physical process. Extracting dried volcanic magma from the Ceboruco volcano in Mexico, and selecting each rock for its formal qualities, he glazes the brittle surface before firing the sculpture at extremely high temperatures for three days. Each stone, having been subjected to variable elements, such as atmospheric pressure, humidity and temperature, reacts in unique, sometimes destructive ways. By altering the surface texture and the context in which these rocks exist – in this case the streets of London – he reflects on our perception of value and antiquity. The artist creates an incongruity between the setting and the course, and the exterior and core, of each piece. (City Of London, 2017)

A.K.A. Lava blobs. That’s what he should have called it if he was stuck for a title. Initially I saw these after seeing the plastic-fantastic looking one at #18 (below) and assumed it was from the same artist. I walked passed them both times in a bit of a hurry and must admit to being a bit disparaging about the look of them. When I took the time to read the blub (far enough to the side not to be immediately obvious if you go sailing past) I was amazed to see that they are actually real lava, glazed over.

17. ‘Envelope of Pulsation (For Leo)’ | Peter Randall-Page RA | 2017

Peter Randall-Page RA – Envelope of Pulsation (For Leo), 2017, Dartmoor granite, 160 x 140 x 110 cm. Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

Peter Randall-Page (RA) was born in the UK in 1954 and studied sculpture at Bath Academy of Art from 1973-77. During the past 30 years he has gained an international reputation through his sculpture, drawings and prints. Shown for the first time in its Fenwick Street location for Sculpture in the City, Randall-Page’s most recent sculpture, Envelope of Pulsation (For Leo) 2017, is carved from a rare block of granite from Blackenstone quarry on Dartmoor. This new sculpture is the latest in a series of works exploring the way in which subtle modulations of the stone’s surface can evoke a sense of internal structure in the imagination of the viewer. ‘Envelope of Pulsation’ is a tantric aphorism describing form. The dedication is for Peter’s late friend, Leo, who owned the quarry.(City Of London, 2017)

Another one where the homeless man is getting more attention that the work, well he was there first! Its also another one which is easy to overlook, when coming from the other direction you see the giant and green and yellow of the one below pulling you eyes first. The texture of the one can really only be appreciated from certain angles, its one you have to work to be interested in.

18. ‘Synapsid’ | Karen Tang | 2014

Karen Tang – Synapsid, 2014, Epoxy, fibreglass, paint, Styrofoam, timber, steel 3.3 x 4.0 x 3.1 m. Photos by Suzy Walker-Toye


‘Synapsid’ (2014) is a large, vividly coloured sculpture which seems to morph between abstract, alien and animal forms. With its radioactive hues and blobby segments, ‘Synapsid’ evokes sci-fi invasion scenarios where monsters rampage through the built environment. The sculpture takes its title from the scientific name for proto-mammals which evolved to have skulls distinct from those of reptiles; the structure of ‘Synapsid’ hints at a cranial enclosure and eye-sockets. Viewers are drawn into Synapsid’s apertures and interior spaces, which are designed to be immersive, interactive and playful. (City Of London, 2017)

I have to say, I still dont like this one. I thought it would grow on me, and perhaps it has a little, but its still meh.


City Of London. (2017) About the artworks At:
(Accessed on 30 June 17)