Monday, 26 October 2015

Robert Race Automatrist

This afternoon, I popped in as I so often do to see what was on at my local gallery - the excellent New Brewery Arts in Cirencester. What an intriguing and entertaining surprise I got!

The gallery was filled with wonderful automata and moving toys by maker Robert Race. He is an inveterate collector of  things that have been washed up by the tide and materials others have discarded and the pieces on show reflect this. All those shown included misshapen and smoothed driftwood and parts of reclaimed boats, small items of discarded furniture, pine cones, wire and bits of machinery. Each piece was colourful, beautifully textured and very tactile. There were handles and knobs to turn and pendulums to set ticking.

The most complex and the largest to be seen was The Seaside Machine, a quirky take on the idea of a portable ice cream stall, Victorian bathing machine or end of pier entertainment, or in fact perhaps, all of those rolled into one. It included drawers full of sand, shells and pebbles and there was even a tiny 'museum', which could be pulled out and enjoyed - and of course there was a 'what the butler saw' slot machine.


... the drawers and the slot machine ...


... and the tiny 'museum' ...


The Motley Crew also took my eye. I loved the colour and the peeling paint, though the rather busy background behind the photo doesn't really show it to best advantage.


There were two very similar pieces mounted side by side on one wall, of which I have included Over the Top 2. Winding the handle bottom centre moves all the little figures at once. 


My husband came in and joined me just as I was nearing the end of my viewing and was entranced by two small pieces (unfortunately both sold), and particularly as here Moon Priest, whose handle could be turned to make the largest creature row and the boat rock - enchantingly simple. 


Almost the most inspiring thing about the whole exhibition was the pleasure of the children I saw looking at the exhibition. This page from the visitors' book shows its obvious appeal. I especially enjoyed the simple entry by Kitty, aged 5. It summed up exactly how I felt.



Further examples of the work of Robert Race and a biography are to be found here ... and there is lots more to make you smile ...


12 comments:

  1. Great pics especially the first one!! Are you familiar with the work of James Christensen??? It reminds me a lot of his work. How lovely to have this close by!

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    1. The Seaside Machine was amazing. I spent a good 20 minutes looking at it and I'm sure I missed out some of the detail.
      James Christensen was new to me. I googled him and can see what you mean - especially his bronzes. Robert Race's work has less of the pure fantasy about it and is more quirky fun, perhaps, but there is great similarity.

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  2. fan de l'art brut..j'aimerai voir cette exposition..formidable..biz

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    1. L'art brut - nouveau vocabulaire pour moi. En anglais c'est l'art de l'étranger. Je pense que l'expression français représente cette exposition exactement - l'art en bois natural - bizarre et très drôle.

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  3. This looks like an absolutely splendid show. The delights appeal to even the most cynical of us!

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    1. I don't often go around an exhibition and laugh and smile as much as I did with this one. It is wonderfully quirky. I can well see why it appealed so much to the child visitors. It's a whole family art feast, and yet all beautifully made and very colourful. It's well worth a visit if you have the opportunity.

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  4. Lucky you having such a great gallery on your doorstep. This exhibition looks fantastic.

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    1. New Brewery Arts is a lovely little gallery - very well curated and displaying a wide range of art / craft work. I always make a note to go in if I can.

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  5. Wow - I love automata. There is something quite magical about them. The closest I can get to anything interactive are my books but one day I want to do something a bit more mechanical ( including stitch in some way of course!)

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    1. These automata were enchanting. On close inspection, each was full of tiny details but was also an art object in its colour and sculptural form. To beguile the 'eternal child' in us all, there was a wonderful array of knobs and handles and a delightful quirky humour was everywhere - truly a delight!

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  6. How absolutely thrilling! I just feel humbled by the imagination that can create this type of thing.

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    1. It was wonderful indeed and will live long in the memory. I agree with you about the imagination needed to create this sort of work ... combined also with the technical skill that actually makes the things work!

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