Barrels of Art
In an unusual commission, the Glenfiddich distillery in Scotland approached design studio johnson banks to create a series of artworks illustrating the length of time it takes for their single malt whiskies to mature in the barrel. Following on from a similar initiative last year (where five different designers were each given a barrel to work with), johnson banks looked to the function of each part of the barrel to make a series of sculptures based on the five differently aged Glenfiddich whiskies. The results are on show this week in Glasgow.
The above piece recreates a cross-section of a tree with a dozen rings, suggesting the way the whisky’s flavour matures over time. The sculpture is made from six separate barrels and weighs a quarter of a ton.
For the 15 year-old whisky, johnson banks used the insides of the 32 wooden staves that, when carefully crafted, shaped and bound together, form a whisky barrel. The type was sand-blasted out of the charred wood.
This "impossible barrel" is made from a series of the metal hoops that bind and enclose the staves of the barrels together.
The volume of liquid in each barrel decreases over the years of the whisky's maturation (nearly half of the contents evaporates). This missing whisky is often referred to as the "angel's share". Here, the phrase "For 21 years we take a share" is chopped out of the top of the barrel (shown above and below).
For the piece based on the oldest Glenfiddich, the 30 year old, johnson banks created an image of day and night on the inside of a lid.
The Glenfiddich Barrel Art Exhibition is on until November 27 at the Studio Warehouse, 100 Eastvale Place, Glasgow G3 8QG (12 – 5pm daily; 7pm on the 27th). Admission is free. See swg3.tv for more details.
Creative director: Michael Johnson
Design and art direction: Michael Johnson, Pali Palavathanan, Owen Evans
Customised typography: The Foundry
Modelmaking: Wesley West
Photography: Kevin Summers
An interesting project, but the outcome feels somewhat stifled and very conservative. As 'good' as they are, I have to say it saddens me somewhat to see that the likes of Johnson Banks were commissioned for this... 'art project'... A missed opportunity perhaps..
It is an unusual commission — this kind of thing is more often briefed to an experiential agency, arts collective, brand transformation consultancy or such like. This time a design agency got the chance (remember them?).
The response is by no means expected, certainly not stifled or conservative. Granted, it clearly has the agency's signature stamped all over it, but a lovely signature it is.
Which in my mind adds up to a very clever bit of commissioning too. It's great that the likes of Johnson Banks were invited to respond to such an interesting project, but then I would say that, I'm not part of an arts collective or an experiential agency.
Here's hoping the exhibition comes to London.
Oh come on. It's a VERY conservative conclusion..
Action man, sweetie, none of use can engage in debate with you if you just hide behind anonymity. Come out from your plastic mask and show us the real you. Let yourself go a little. You know you want to. (Or, keep quiet and let people with real names have real opinions.) Kiss kiss. B
Hey Babs, who let you out of your box?!
Darling, my anonymity really has NOTHING to do with being able to engage in creative debates. I'm not regressing into any mindless or irrational 'slagging' off here, merely stating my opinion. Plastic or not, it is something I do believe I am entitled to. My name is just a name, it is my comment and only my comment that has any relevance here.
I don't want to be confronted with pretty pictures, with a 1000 'that's so cool' comments. There's over a million other blogs where you can go for that kind of input. The CR Blog has super potential for public debate. Accessible to all, at every level of the industry. It is an opportunity that should be seized upon and nurtured.
I'm afraid I have to uphold my anonymity for a variety of reasons. Two of which being: Hate mail from sensitive people using the internet, that can't deal with any level of criticism. And of course, unwanted spamming campaigns.
Back to the Barrels of art please!
i dont care about these..barrells or whatever.. at all, but that CIA ad on this site with the women with a target on her arse is crude and offfensive. im assuming someone from CR will see this messgae and rethink its position and remove it. graphic design is sexist enough without desperate tat such as that.
I'm a frustrated artist who happens to be a winemaker by trade. I, maybe daily, contemplate how to use old barrels for expression. Barrels are a tough medium. I'm impressed by this project. I hope to see more though hopefully less commercial.
Found Mr Johnson's Flickr account: http://www.flickr.com/photos/barrelart. Some interesting imagery in there from past barrel artists. I agree that this medium is a tough one to crack as the previous poster said and some of the new work doesn't look that ambitious for my liking. Perhaps Michael focused too much on keeping the the familiar geometry of the barrel? Digging about there is loads more on the Glenfiddich and Michael's blog.
I think this is a really good solution to a brief.
With the whisky category, theres a certain amount of 'respect' you have to pay your target consumer and client.
I think this project does that and is nicely high brow / creative at the same time.
I question if this is really art in any generally accepted sense rather than just a commercial for a product. And anyhow it's all a bit twee.
That's very true Paul.
It's twee, but can we call it 'Art'? - It's very plainly commercial isn't it.
Even to the extent in which it is being displayed..
- That 'Studio Warehouse' website could do with being redrawn too... almost poked my eyes out..
I went along to see it. The studio is very, very well hidden and not even sign posted, quite annoying and threatened to put me off the exhibition as I was so frustrated!
It is a grand commission, all the pieces have been well made and that 'Impossible Barrel' is very original.
I have to admit that anything to do with good whiskey has got my vote
Why would they ask a design firm for art unless they wanted it to have a commercial edge to it? If they wanted it to be more subjective they would have commissioned an artist. Their answer makes sense to me, and I appreciate that it pays homage to the traditional form of the barrel (especially seeing as it is about maturation and tradition).
That's interesting Andrew. Why did they feel it was necessary to have this commercial edge to it? Wouldn't it be interesting to see just how Glenfiddich ended up commissioning Johnson Banks? Could be an interesting theme for CR to look into more. To shed some light on the art buying/design commissioning/accounts type people out there that make a lot of the big decisions. Look at the process some more from the clients view point. I mean, Glenfiddich didn't open the Yellow pages did they...
Could be very educational for youngsters and oldies alike.. Or?
I like the look of the whole thing, but it occurs to me that Johnson Banks, while trying to explore the physicality of the barrels (and with the possible exception of the 'angel's share' piece), have taken quite a 2-dimensional approach to the whole thing: producing poster-like images which to me seem to make the actual sculptural nature of them almost redundant.
While the use of the physical barrel as part of their image-making gives the project depth, there still seems to me to be a bit of a missed opportunity somewhere in the piece(s) as a physical thing which pictures couldn't capture so easily.
Overall I like it though!
Apologies to whoever posted the last comment on this thread - I inadvertently deleted it while removing some spam. Could you please re-post? Thanks
In my opinion i believe this is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen ....
it is what it is, an interesting intersection...certainly open to interpretation...
It reminds me some old movies and especially in perfume movie. But still i haven't seen this stuff in real life or even in movies. Who ever made this stuff, we must all appreciate him.
Nice antique collection.
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