Art, meet Science.  

Leaving the cinema after viewing Christopher Nolan’s latest offering, ‘Interstellar’, I found myself rendered uncharacteristically speechless by the spectacle I had witnessed. Regardless of the many opinions the film has evoked, most agree that it successfully engenders a sense of wonder and, at least in my case, ignites a desire to know more. More of what we are such an insignificant part of; the universe and all its mysteries, many that we have not yet even begun to consider. The difficulty arises as attempts to ‘wrap ones head around’ many of the theories surrounding the complexity of the universe, often leads to confusion and therefore, frustration. Whilst visiting NASA I saw a film, which presented Hubble Space Telescope’s (HST) images, intended to offer a glimpse into what travelling through the universe would physically look like. I was mesmerised; sitting there in complete and utter awe, desperate for the opportunity to actually experience these wonders with my own eyes and to understand what I had previously ignored due to its complexity. Thus began the investigation which inspired and informed my artistic practice; the question, “I wonder if space really looks like that?’ was simple; the answer; “No, it does not”, was more complex.

Black Hole Interstellar

We have come to define the contemporary astronomical image with highly saturated, bright colours, established by the HST, as reality, but this perception of the cosmos is flawed. Though driven by science and technology, the finished images are hugely influenced by aesthetics. The Hubble images depend heavily upon intervention and bias to produce a stylistic image; these images therefore provide a bridge to connect the relations between art and science. If you were to go into space, what you would mostly see is nothing; our perception is limited to what we call the ‘visible spectrum’, and much of the cosmos extends outside this. In order to see what else is out there, to gain an understanding, we must rely on multiwavelength observation; recording radiation from a broad spectrum of wavelengths. This understanding allows innumerable potential images of the cosmos, as in order to translate the invisible elements to the visible spectrum, our interference results in false colourisation; and whilst these colours function as scientific encryption, colours have also been selected artistically. This generates a falsified image of reality, which aligns aesthetics with scientific data to reach out to the wider public.

 

Only in the recent past has the cosmos specifically been aligned with art; Kessler[1] specifically discusses this in relation to the HST. Space imagery, delivered by the HST, permits a cosmological adventure, a frontier into the unknown that humans could never otherwise experience, hence our reliance and the importance placed upon images; they provide a window into the universe. It is often argued that we need visionaries able to combine scientific knowledge and understanding, with artistic intuition in order for space to be more widely accessible; this perfectly encapsulates the Hubble image. However, for most of us, particularly those involved in the arts, our perception of science is that it’s ‘too difficult’, something reserved for scientists to explore; why is this? Artists have always explored and actively represented the natural world; historically, art and science were not separate, however, the Renaissance gave birth to specialism, and in doing so, art and science’s distinctions[2]. Today that divergence is still being felt, but the opportunities to unite are opening up. CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) evidences that scientists are willing to collaborate with artists; however artists’ reaction has been described as slow due to science’s ‘arduous’ connotations[3].

Star birth in the extreme

Why should we let it daunt us? Space is so incredibly relevant that it would be imprudent for the arts to disregard it. Erickson[4] states ‘scientists and artists are the best examples we have of human-beings actively seeking and aiming to articulate the intangible’, a notion I would concur with. Nolan and Kip Thorne, the astrophysicist who co-wrote ‘Interstellar’, wanted to create a realistic black hole to include in the film, but where does one even begin when no one knows what one really looks like? Amazingly, rendering one for the film using simulations and calculations, they actually made the scientific discovery. Nolan got a beautiful piece of artistry, whilst Thorne produced new, accurate science according to the laws of mathematics and physics[5].

There is something about space that captures our imagination; it is the perfect canvas for thought, and for artists to explore. We may not understand much of it, but this should not deter us from venturing down that route in order to learn, and bring our own perspective. I implore you not to be daunted, do not turn away from the unknown; be inspired and let your imagination run. Embrace the exciting new learning experiences and concepts science offers, or face being left behind.

 

  1. Kessler, E., 2012. Picturing the Cosmos: Hubble Space Telescope Images and the Astronomical Sublime. Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press
  2. Wilson, S., 2002. Information Arts: Intersections of Art, Science, and Technology. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press
  3. Wilson, S., 2012. Art + Science Now: How Scientific Research and Technological Innovation Are Becoming Key to 21st Century Aesthetics. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd.
  4. Erickson, M., 2012. The Beautiful Universe: A Convergence of Art and Science. http://bigthink.com/think-tank/the-convergence-of-science-and-art
  5. Rogers, A., 2014. Wrinkles in Spacetime: The Warped Astrophysics of Interstellar. http://www.wired.com/2014/10/astrophysics-interstellar-black-hole/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conrad Shawcross – The ADA Project

The Vinyl Factory Space

Natasha Eves

Technological advancement manifests itself in unusual ways. You climb the stairs of the late 1920s Brewer Street Car Park, shades of off-white and duck egg blue blurring in your peripheral vision. At the top, you enter the temporary home of Conrad Shawcross’ dancing robot, The ADA Project. The robot is situated at the far end of the Magna(-science-adventure-centre)-eqse space, so your attention is first drawn to the wall texts and prints. By politely perusing these wall pieces, you reach the information desk, collect information sheets, turn around and finally lay eyes upon the robot. Like a caged lion, it has a coy majesty as it moves seamlessly through its programmed choreography.

Conrad Shawcross – The ADA Project 1

Retina burn is a small price to pay for viewing this piece, as the unmediated light on the robot’s tip invites and holds our gaze, whilst the music makes sense of its motions. When the music ends, it whirs through the silence, repeating its routine. It is tempting to think that the robot should stop when the music does, as we dance to music, we dance with it. But Shawcross’ robot commissioned these musical scores, its movements inspired by Ada Lovelace, the mathematician. Four renowned female musicians, Beatrice Dillon, Holly Herndon, Mira Calix and Tamara Barnett Harrin responded to these movements, creating four new and unique compositions. Dillon and Herndon created pieces that synced perfectly with the programmed dances, expressing the robot’s implied sentience.

 

One hundred years previously, motion studies were used by Frank and Lilian Gilbreth to increase worker efficiency rather than to create music. The Gilbreths attached a camera to a timing device and photographed workers performing various tasks. The motion paths were tracked by small lights attached to the worker’s hands or fingers. This was called a chronocyclegraph, used in the hope to reduce worker’s movements to the shortest sequence of gestures. Long exposure prints of The Ada Project and the Gilbreth’s chronocyclegraphs bear such a visual resemblance that it is curious how different their intentions are.

Conrad Shawcross – The ADA Project

Frank and Lilian Gilbreth’s intention was to robotise factory workers; it wasn’t about beauty, it was about efficiency. These movements were written on photographs and in models and retrospectively they have a certain utilitarian beauty. To view the Gilbreths’ work now is to think of the beauty of motion, they were writing movements in light. Their innovative use of the moving image earned them great respect in the field of time and motion studies. But this retroactive beauty shows how scientific technologies seep into the creative spheres, as we subsequently procure its aesthetic value.

 

You could say that Shawcross has ‘freed’ his robot from a life as a welder in a car factory. Its movements are documented in photographs and in music. It has been repurposed, anthropomorphised perhaps, into a performer. Once the robot is anthropomorphised however, it may generate assumptions of a possibly forced performance. It moves tirelessly through its motions, it doesn’t stop when the music stops and you hear it whir sadly until someone presses the next button and it performs the next dance. It is an exhibition of grace and beauty native to the uncanny valley. Shawcross’ robot has an eerie allure that echoes through the space, whilst celebrating the beauty of musical composition and it’s relation to choreography.

Conrad Shawcross – The ADA Project

The way in which Shawcross and the Gilbreths approach the subject of manufacturing is distinctive; the former liberates the machine from its traditional boundaries and commission’s music, whereas the Gilbreths examination attempted to mechanise human labour. Their interest in the mechanical enthrals the viewer with its promise of the future. However, upon this realisation the viewer can discover that the Gilbreths’ pre-empt the negation of human labour, shaping humanity into the innards of an eternal production line. Whilst one hundred years later, Shawcross’ robot dances out the last throes of its industrial life.

Timid Elk (Rebecca Hoy) – Featured Artist Novemeber 2014


 

Timid Elk FMG Arts

Courtesy Of Timid Elk

 

Timid Elk FMG Arts

Courtesy Of Timid Elk

 

Timid Elk FMG Arts

Courtesy Of Timid Elk

 

 

 

 

The Art of Getting Started. An Interview With Rebecca Hoy – Founder of Timid Elk.

Have you ever wanted to watch an artist work in a David Blaine styled Perspex box? Well, that opportunity might arise much sooner than you’d think, with The Flash Residency enabling viewers and spectators to do just that. One artist set to take part in this new pop-up opportunity is the founder of Timid Elk, Rebecca Hoy. Excited to be taking part, Hoy states that it’s an opportunity that is “quite unusual” giving her the chance to “demonstrate [her] art to a wider audience.” This is an opportunity perfectly suited to artists such as Rebecca Hoy, due to the fact that her work is so intricately mysterious in nature – it will certainly be a great occasion for the public to see how Timid Elk’s current collection, ‘Curious Commodities’, is created.

Rebecca Hoy Timid Elk

As the beautiful brainchild of Hoy, Timid Elk tapers a delicately fine line between the world of artists and that of designers. When asked whether she considers herself to inhabit one role more than the other Hoy replied, “I think I’m a little bit of both.” Before adding, “I think some of the pieces are more design, more functional like the lampshades. But then you do have that more arty side, with the map pieces.” It’s most definitely a refreshing difference to find someone so drawn to both sides of this creative war, creating not only beautifully intricate pieces of art, but also functional home furnishings and accessories.

 

Using materials such as used train tickets and maps, Hoy uses materials that she sees as “kind of discarded, or a bit obsolete now” as a way of making her work and the objects she creates completely inclusive to anyone and everyone. Having the train tickets donated to her helps create a sense of involvement with the viewers in the creation of her work, and by using maps, Hoy feels as though she is poetically including everyone from the world within certain pieces. “All of those people and their stories are now part of a lampshade or a latex vessel or something. I just think it’s a nice thought.” Hoy added when explaining that she sources much of her un-donated material from charity shops.

Rebecca Hoy Timid Elk

So, how did Hoy end up creating a brand that makes such unique and inclusive pieces? Well, after graduating from De Montfort University with a degree in Design Crafts – specialising, towards the end, in ceramics – Hoy eventually discovered that she was enjoying creating the paperwork prototypes and maquettes for her work more than the ceramic pieces themselves. Stating, “I struggled a bit with ceramics because I found that if something didn’t work in ceramics that was it, there was rarely a way around it so you had to change your ideas.” Hoy began to focus solely on the creation of her paper pieces. That’s how the ‘Curious Commodities’ collection came into existence for Timid Elk – focussing on repetition and this idea of inclusivity, Hoy put her multi-disciplined talents, that she had developed whilst at university, to work. Although, through hearing Hoy speak of her own work it is clear that this way of working is not the be all and end all for her. “I would like to revert back to ceramics at some point”, Hoy mentioned, adding that after all of her practice and development with paper she would be interested to see what she “can do with that now.” Hoy even revealed that she’d also be extremely interested in playing “with the scale” of her work, focussing on “a really large installation piece or something”, with the intention of that bringing “the ‘Curious Commodities’ collection to a good close”, proving that Hoy, and Timid Elk, still have much up their sleeves.

 

“You just need to go for it. Don’t be scared, just dive in. if it’s not for you it’s not for you, you know, you’re never going to know unless you try.”

 

It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Hoy and her vision for Timid Elk though. Admitting that the most difficult obstacle she’s had to overcome was the misleadingly simple sounding matter of “Getting started” Hoy mirrors the mentalities of so many artists alike. “I had this studio for about six months before I actually did anything with it.” Hoy goes on to explain. “We’ve had little projects based in West Gate and I signed up to use that and I did no work for it at all, until the last month when I was like, ‘You really need to do something, or that rooms going to be empty.’ And then it just took off from there, so once I got started I had that little bit of pressure on me at first that I needed, and then it’s all just gone from there really.” This tale of Hoy’s hesitant beginnings and need for pressure happens to align perfectly with the advice that she would like all graduating art and design students to keep in mind when it comes to working within the creative sector; “You just need to go for it. Don’t be scared, just dive in. if it’s not for you it’s not for you, you know, you’re never going to know unless you try.”

Neutrality vs. Tourism


An exploration into the differences between expected and contemporary behaviour inside the white cube.

 

The gallery, like many constructed institutions, has established a specific etiquette that people are expected to adhere to within its walls. These expectations are intrinsically linked to how the white cube presents itself. While it was conceived as a neutral space where art can be seen without any external interference, it is in fact, steeped with associations – including that of religion and purity, as well as neutrality itself. Its visual conventions act as cues to alert visitors to the way they must interact – walking meditatively around, contemplating each work for an allotted time. While artists have challenged this passive interaction, through the development of installation and relational practices, the gallery still perpetuates a calm, meditative image.

Neutrality vs. Tourism

By using various means of representation and documentation, the gallery constructs this image, enforcing the rules for behaviour and our expectations of fellow viewers. Brian O’Doherty, in Inside the White Cube, describes that “The installation shot is a metaphor for the gallery space” as provides the idealised viewing of art, without the intrusion of physical bodies. This is part of a more extensive propaganda that includes the representation of art through postcards, posters and monographs that show art in isolation from its physical surroundings. The reality for me, and the majority of viewers, is much more messy. While the attempted neutrality aims to separate art from life the presence of spectators and their ‘physical bodies’ bring this interference, and life, into the space.

 

One of the reasons public galleries gain funding is so that art can increase visitors in an area, providing income for the local economy. While for galleries in major cities this isn’t the only attraction, the idea of art being an element of tourism is pertinent to our experience within them. With renowned museums like the Tate, the Louvre and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) being part of the itinerary for most tourists, they attract a much more general public and conventions of tourism seep into the gallery. Just as you would photograph Big Ben, The Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty, it is important to capture the equivalent ‘celebrity’ artworks upon visiting these institutions. While the Mona Lisa is the undeniable champion, galvanising the most attention, with swarms of visitors partaking in the attempt to photograph her enigmatic smile – despite the excess of others attempting the same. Works like Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans and Van Gogh’s Starry Night generates a slightly less extreme, yet similar behaviour.

Neutrality vs. Tourism

While some galleries prevent the paparazzi flooding the white cube by not permitting photography, many leave the decision to the viewer resulting in an array of different interactions. From methodically capturing every work with an SLR, so you have your own version of the galleries documentation to show others what you failed to look at – apart from through a lens; to the new trend of taking selfies beside, or in front of, famous works. The integration of high quality cameras into smart phones allows almost everyone to thoroughly document their lives, including visits to galleries.

 

While this type of photography within exhibitions does a lot to contradict the empty, lifeless image of the gallery, other more simple aspects of human behaviour similarly disrupt the illusions of the space. From coughing and sneezing, creaky floors and phones ringing, to general conversations, life is never truly separated from the white cube as long as there are people within it. And while the institution does its best to keep it out, with today’s technology where everyone is connected to their smart phone and social media has become integrated into our daily lives, nothing can be kept separate from life, even the gallery.

Joe Mckenna – Featured Artist October 2014



Artist Statement

My work is loosely based on the industrial aesthetic in contrast with its natural surroundings, reflecting on the concern of early romantic era painters as well as the coincidental beauty of the modern and the man made in its invasive and alien presence. The images in this series are an investigation of not only two types of aesthetic but two types of mark making, ranging from erratic splatters to detailed technical style drawing, which gives room to a selection of organic ‘happy accidents’ on which to bring out and add detail. This contrast in texture and pattern produces a vivid and exciting set of abstract landscapes based on the idea of taking the more interesting extremes of these two visual elements. Based on the notion of opposites, I attempt to connote the equal harshness of both nature and man made structures by placing them side by side below a shroud of beautiful and foreboding cloudscapes. My fascination with this theme comes from my love of expressive landscape painting, such as the work of Turner and John Martin. This fascination of natural phenomena and often aggressive seeming architecture highlights my interest in buildings and machinery and its strangeness amongst the vast emptiness and mess of the universe. Rather than a glorification of might and supremacy of human progress I find it more fitting to highlight and contemplate our own fragility amongst our surroundings.

 

 

Joe Mckenna

 

Joe Mckenna

 

 

Celebrating Art From Around The World – Ewa Goral

 Ewa Goral

O R G A N I C: I am trying to go deeper into the amazing floral world of nature. I draw many fantastic inspirations from past, amongst which one can find classic works of philosopher, biologist and traveller Ernst Haeckel as well as more contemporary, psychedelic representations of wildlife (for example music video At Delphi of Californian group Sun Araw, directed by Cameron Stallone and Daniel Brantley). Floral series has been painted on the round canvas to underline periodicity typical for vegetation?s processes. I transform most of the painting objects; definitely you will not see amongst my pieces a classic still life with flowers in a vase. I am more fascinated by the secret, ?human? life of flora, which is why some of the elements have ears, eyes or teethes. I tend to create my own botanical world which comes out of my imagination and on canvas join with reality.

 

 

ewa goral

 

 

ewa goral

Volunteering in the Arts

I was once pulled kicking and screaming from my sleep into a telesales interview in which they verbally accosted me with the words “previous paid position?” It is true that the financial benefits are minimal, but this goes further than that. Since I started voluntary work, it has become a rewarding path I would recommend to anyone. I’ve had some fairly damning experiences that I’ll share, but in the semi-educational way where I hope you won’t encounter similar difficulties.

 

Cupola Contemporary Art in Hillsborough was my first experience of volunteering in a commercial gallery. Their encouragement helped me cope with the anxiety I felt, and I slowly grew more confident. I was once given the daunting responsibility of making phone calls to a list of forty artists, which I hid in the attic to make. One phone call started with me gushing “Hi! Is this [name]? I really love your work!” met by her bewildered “thank you!”. After a few months of personal development, liaising with artists and visitors became a highlight of my work at Cupola, as they shared creative tips and expanded my knowledge of the local art scene.

Offering whatever spare time you have will always be appreciated. A variety of roles exist within a gallery, and making it your job to tackle them all at least once is great for mining experience points. I’m personally wary of hosting opening nights – the last tram home with a head full of red wine and art speak makes navigating the underpass near the O2 Academy Sheffield anything but jaunty.

Laura Jayne Illustrations

Laura Jayne Illustrations

The biggest problem for me was my commuting costs, particularly as Cupola’s volunteers were usually local. After a simple discussion, half my costs were covered. Checking for offers to cover travel and lunch costs is super useful when unwaged – just remember to keep your receipts.

During my time at Cupola, the owner Karen Sherwood became a huge inspiration for me, cementing my aspirations of gallery ownership. She’s now got a blog documenting her journey karencupola.wordpress.com, which is an important insight into the practical necessity of dedicated volunteers.

Laura Jayne Illustrations

Laura Jayne Illustrations

 

At Bank Street Arts in Sheffield I learnt a pretty big lesson; you need to research how long the commitment is for, otherwise you could not get a lot out of it. BSA offers “stages” within their volunteering scheme, stage one for me was front of house duties, and it’s a shame that’s all I ever really saw of BSA before leaving. BSA is essentially a volunteer run organisation, so it gives the place an interesting dynamic. The only downside being that the fresh “stage one” front of house volunteers often have a slightly disorientated approach to visitor’s questions (and I still can’t remember where the toilets are).

In spite of this, I still made the most of it. Networking is one of the best reasons for volunteering, as you should have hopefully built a sound relationship with someone by the end of your time there. I kept in contact via LinkedIn/email with one of the exhibition organisers where all the paintings were reproductions. Six months later, I was writing a coincidentally inspired essay about reproduction art, and I contacted them for useful resources.

 

Invigilating events across London allowed me to scope out really unique and interesting venues – especially when doing short term volunteering. Artsjobs is a fantastic place to find voluntary roles, and it can give you a route into many organisations. Being available to help friends who already work in the arts is a bonus and makes you feel (a.) a good friend and (b.) an integral part of the event. But always remember that your input is valid and useful so don’t be nervous to offer your opinion.

 

A West London gallery that will remain unnamed was the first long-term voluntary role I took on in London. One of their opening gambits was Stella McCartney is just round the corner, and I absolutely loathe Stella McCartney. So that set the tone nicely. I appreciate the fact that many Sheffield galleries and London events can’t afford staff costs. However this was a sponsored West London gallery that just wanted some free desk monkeys to serve champagne and canapés on opening nights. They used volunteers to open the gallery on Saturdays, yet all we ever did was sit there and get maybe one or two visitors through the door. Boring and exploitative unpaid work. Definitely not what volunteering should be.

Laura Jayne Illustrations

Laura Jayne Illustrations

One of the final emails I received before quitting showed their desperation for volunteers, “we’ll cover your travel costs!” They said. Ah, the penny finally dropped. They finally realised that a gallery sponsored by a paint company giant could at least cover travel costs. Cue round of applause. I didn’t care by that point anyway. Breeding apathy in your volunteers through fruitless work doesn’t make a reliable staffing.

Your time is valuable. You should value it, and where you are working should value it. They shouldn’t just be valuing free labour. And you shouldn’t just value the fact that it’ll look good on a cv. What I found most disheartening about that place was how many graduates were there as something to do. There was nothing to do there, little to be gained unless you’re one of the artists… leave, call the gallery bitter names, move on and hope they get called out eventually for unpaid labour.

 

Ad hoc volunteering with Museums Sheffield means I can stay connected to a city I love whilst studying in London. Delivering art workshops to families is one of my favourite roles because I get to share skills and learn things from the children. It’s a good feeling letting children take home what you’ve made – and living in the knowledge that I’m helping fill their parent’s houses with that they would normally deem as “rubbish”. But where would their child be without their cardboard box rendering of Park Hill Flats?

But you can’t always please children whilst invigilating events and you can’t clear parents of blame either. I have witnessed nervous prods at sculptures followed by encouragement to their offspring to follow suit. Or father-daughter iPhone photo shoots of them wearing an exhibit. Don’t touch is a rule young-and-old have a flagrant disregard for and you have become the sharp-eyed and peremptory figure in this game of cat and mouse.

 

Ignite Imaginations in Sheffield is the most recent voluntary role I’ve taken on, again on an ad hoc basis like Museums Sheffield. I got this role from emailing Karen at Cupola Gallery, asking if she knew of any summer jobs. She suggested that Art in the Park were looking for volunteers to help with their rebranding as Ignite Imaginations. My oldest connection helped make my newest connection and many more in-between. Utilise your contacts – utilise everything you learn from volunteering, you never know when you’ll need it.

Victoria Lucas – Featured Artist September 2014

Victoria Lucas Art

‘After’ 2013, Victoria Lucas

Artist Statement

Victoria Lucas (b.1982) is an interdisciplinary artist based in the North of England. Working predominantly with photography, video and installation, she creates markers of time through the moments and objects that are captured. The work is concerned with flux, as she searches for evidence of the futile struggle against the effects of entropy. Buildings, living organisms, moments and the medium of video and sound are explored in conjunction with one another to create works that archive this constant shift from order to chaos and existence to extinction. These elements form an investigation into the everyday, capturing and bringing to light minutiae as a means to address underlying existential concerns.

Recent works include Untitled (Cranes) (2013), a four screen installation that sits somewhere between photography and video. Stationary landscapes are punctuated with a series of elegant movements, as the cranes pivot and hoist materials across various construction sites situated in Berlin. Caught in a state of transition, this video installation emphasizes a constantly shifting landscape as motion is captured and repeatedly looped. Similarly, the photographic series Remedy (2012) captures a number of empty billboards situated on either side of the European Route E94, as one travels between Athens International Airport and the capital city of Greece. Once clad in brash advertisements, these large sculptural objects denote economic austerity in Greece, whilst offering a solution in the face of late capitalism.

 

 

Victoria Lucas art 1

‘After’ 2013, Victoria Lucas

 

 

As It Transpired – An interview with Victoria Lucas

There is something undeniably fascinating about an artist who is able to work in different disciplines. It’s a fascination comparable to how you might feel on discovering your friend’s secret talent. UK based artist, Victoria Lucas, is one of these artists. Working between sculpture, film, and photography – with a little interactive work thrown in here and there for good measure – Lucas is most certainly not a one trick pony.

 

With a background in sculpture, Victoria Lucas has moved into the digital arts later on in her artistic career, and has now fully established herself as an exceptional digital artist. Although Lucas admits that she is still her own biggest critic, stating that she is still working towards the “feeling of calm and satisfaction” that all artists seem to chase after. Perhaps this revelation wouldn’t come as such a surprise if Lucas didn’t have so many successful artworks to her name already. So, how does the artist who has created pieces such as, ’12 Months of Neon Love’‘Interruptions’, and ‘After’ repeatedly create such intriguing and diverse work? When asked to describe her own work Lucas said that she always “starts with a place”, she “finds a hook” and creating work she hopes might “make people think about things in a different way.” “I kind of experience things and I’ll find poetic meanings in certain objects and places” Lucas says, explaining a little further how the “Non-places” she randomly encounters often become perfect starting points for her work to launch off from.

 

Victoria Lucas art

‘Market East, Philadelphia’ Victoria Lucas

 

Much of Lucas’s work over the past several years has been focused around these “Non-places” – places that many of us encounter and travel through or have past by on a daily basis without even batting an eyelid. This nondescript invisibility of these places to the everyday passer-by plays perfectly into Lucas’s work, as she turns the tables, photographing and videoing these usually crowded and unnoticed spaces in their unusually empty states. It is easy to understand when looking at pieces such as ‘After’ and ‘Interruptions’ how Lucas could use the word “Apocalyptic” in relation to much of her own work. Lucas takes spaces that otherwise would seem run-of-the-mill and mundane and displays them in a rather ominous and uneasy manner. The spaces themselves suddenly become void in their emptiness, and Lucas’s photographs and videos alike show much more than an idle set of stairs or an empty shopping centre – they display a lack of humanity and life, that otherwise would have gone unseen and unnoticed. “Everything will crumble and everyone will disappear.” Lucas stated, after addressing the way in which her own work helped her to “grapple with all the big questions”. Perhaps this is what makes so much of Lucas’s work, which is mostly void of any human presence, seem so human and emotive nonetheless.

 

Victoria Lucas had a lot of great advice for any wannabe practicing artists who might be struggling to find their footing. “Setting up your own things stops you getting really low from rejection.” Lucas advised, admitting herself that the most difficult obstacle she’d faced in her career had been the simple, yet all-important matter of, “Earning money.” Before honestly adding, “It’s a real struggle and it really affects your mental health I think. Being that close to the edge it can get quite desperate.” However, most importantly Lucas wanted aspiring artists to know that, “You have to make mistakes, you have to fail, you have to have those moments. You learn things from it and it doesn’t matter. It’s all part of striving to be an artist.” “Don’t give up and don’t be afraid to fail. Just keep pushing, even when you think it’s impossible.” If any more inspiration was needed on this point it’s very clear that Lucas herself has proved this advice to be true; using her art to work through hard times, and continuously pushing through uncertainty and financial struggle, Lucas is steadily making her way to exactly where she wants to be in life.

 

Victoria Lucas Art

‘Remedy’ Victoria Lucas

 

Finally, does Victoria Lucas believe artists can use art to change the World? “We can, in a very small way, change the world.” Lucas replied, adding, “I think artists have a lot of freedom, freedom that the media or other institutions don’t have, so we can tell things as they are. We have a really valuable responsibility to keep questioning our environment and the things that are happening.”

 

So, perhaps we should all start viewing art in the way Lucas does – as a platform to express our own thoughts while also forcing others to look at things from a different angle. Who knows what we could change?

 

Reviving Romford

Fact File

Name: Sarah Walters
Born: Upminster, Essex
Age: 27
Studied: Fine Art and Art History at Goldsmiths, London
Job Title: Director of Romford Contemporary Arts Programme (R-CAP)
Random: Holds a black belt in karate
I speak to Sarah Walters about life after graduation, being a visionary and never giving up…

Reviving Romford R-CAP

 

If there’s one thing I don’t doubt, it’s that Sarah Walters knows how to take on a challenge. Five years after graduating and two and a half years after the birth of R-CAP (Romford Contemporary Art Programme), Sarah never seems to have lost sight of her desire to see this side of East London culturally transformed.

The first time we met came after I’d heard whispers of artists rallying in Romford; if there was something creative – anything creative – happening here, I had to find out who was responsible. Positioned in the north-east London borough of Havering, Romford has – in recent years – begun to develop as a large centre for retail. However its provision of creative opportunities has yet to reflect its proximity to east London’s art scene or the number of art graduates in the area.

Over the last two years, R-CAP has inhabited some of the town’s seemingly unloved and vacant spaces, drawing on local artists, college students and undergraduates in order to utilise art as a regenerative tool. Live events and site specific projects have animated abandoned restaurants and empty shops in a bid to bring contemporary art to places where its presence may seem alien. With a particular soft spot for students, one of their public projects was even consolidated with a ‘graduation’, after the participants had completed their ‘studies’ in such subjects as confidence, collaboration and resilience.

‘I think that’s where it started for me,’ Sarah says, recounting her time at university. ‘We were pumped full of all these ideas about ethics; about what we should be doing and what the art market should be.’As she graduated from Goldsmiths in 2009, Ideastap was starting to emerge. ‘I was organising the degree show at the time and thought, ‘I like this!’ So I applied for a grant to curate another exhibition once I’d finished. We wanted it to talk about what it was to graduate into this recession and how we were supposed to negotiate that. We couldn’t afford to make work anymore; we couldn’t afford to show work because competition entries have to be paid for.’ It would later be these same hurdles that would fuel future projects.

From that initial post-graduation exhibition came an art collective but – after a year and a half of waitressing full time and seemingly getting nowhere with sourcing more space and funds – Sarah was exhausted and ready to walk away. ‘I’d applied for about 30 grants and decided to apply for one more, thinking that I would stop if I didn’t get it. I was so desperate – I was basically begging them.’

As fate would have it, she did get the grant and – with that money – Exchange Studios was birthed. ‘We created a model based around the idea that it doesn’t always take money for things to be exchanged. The question we asked was: what does a graduate have to offer?’ I smile and wait for her to answer her own question. ‘They have lots of time – presumably because they don’t have a job; they have loads of energy and passion and enthusiasm; and they have all this knowledge from the education they’ve just paid for. But what don’t they have?’ This was answered by providing artists with equipment, rent-free studio space and an exhibition as payment for their time.

 

Reviving Romford R-CAP

 

I comment that Sarah clearly has a mind for business, especially seen through her seeming ability to negotiate almost anything with the council. ‘I definitely used to be the least business minded person in the room,’ she laughs, ‘but it’s a skill that has become necessary. The council know that art equals regeneration, which equals profit. It’s like having a second language – if artists can speak business, then they can also start to demand that things are done more ethically.’

‘What do you really want to see happen in Romford?’ I ask.
‘I think Romford has the potential to be a really creative place. I don’t want it to be the new Shoreditch – I want to tap into what Romford is. New creative graduates look around their home towns and think, ‘What’s here apart from my rent-free parents?’’ I wince slightly at the truth in her words. ‘Nothing! But we want to do whatever we have to do to keep those people in the area. Putting art somewhere isn’t a miracle worker in itself but – when you build a culture of creativity – you can start to change not only individual lives but whole communities’, she says.

 

And that’s exactly what R-CAP are aiming for. With a just-signed contract for a year’s access to a block of empty retail units within Romford’s busy centre, setup is already underway to host artist residencies, creative startup businesses, a performance festival and a fashion design competition. Another facet of their plans is to set up a shop where local artists, designers and art students can test a market for their work. It is this want to provide a platform for ideas that Romford so desperately needs if it is to keep hold of its young artists.

 

What advice would she give to graduates wanting to transform their own community?

‘Never give up! Don’t lose sight of the end goal and just keep going.’

All That is Solid Melts Into Air, Jeremy Deller, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne

All That is Solid Melts Into Air, an exhibition curated by Jeremy Deller (Britain’s representative in the Venice Biennale last year) explores the impact of the Industrial Revolution on contemporary British society.  Deller combines contemporary music, archival film, historical artefacts and written text panels to forge connections between materials and finding new meanings in familiar objects.  This exhibition is a personal, intuitive journey which reveals how the trauma of urbanisation and modernisation has affected the culture of this country, from our music to our shopping habits.  However, the exhibition is an extensive survey of our cultural heritage and how every aspect of British life has been informed by the Industry of the country.  Because of the enormity of Deller’s project, I will only attempt to write about a small part of this remarkable exploration.

 

This exhibition opened in Manchester last October, and has travelled through Nottingham and Coventry before finally arriving in Newcastle upon Tyne.  This last stretch of the journey is being shown in the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle’s city centre, a gallery which features a notable historic permanent collection, including John Martin’s 1852 painting, The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, a biblical illustration of Gods destructive power; a glowing pit of fire as a whole city are punished for the sins of its people.  This incredible apocalyptic painting, familiar to Laing Gallery audiences, is the first that we see as we walk into Deller’s exhibition.

 

John Moore

‘The Destruction Of Sodom And Gomorrah’ John Martin . 1852

 

The red light and smoke of Martin’s historic painting is cleverly paired with imagery of the steel industry, exemplified in Steel, a British Council produced educational film made in 1945, which depicts men producing steel in a factory.  In this film, displayed on a large monitor in the space, bright orange molten metal bubbles in huge crucibles while showers of sparks fly over the heads of the workers who stare into the hell-like mouth of the intense, fiery heat.  Martin grew up in the rural Northumbrian countryside, but it is easy to see the influence of London in his painting; the smoggy urban landscape of the capital and the glow of industry are definitely in this painting of the burning city.  Bringing the imagery up to date is the jacket of Unleashed in the East, the 1979 Judas Priest album, where the band are shown standing in smoke, amber lights illuminating them and their instruments.

 

Deller draws comparisons not only between the imagery of the theatrical Victorian painting, the heavy metal album artwork and the post war steel industry, but he also uses Martin’s painting as the starting point for other associations.  In the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, the people of Gomorrah are punished for their vice and their desire.  Just as there were similar moralistic Victorian concerns about excess and sexual desire leading to sin and disease when Martin was painting, so we too, in contemporary society, worry about the physical and ethical effects of our consumerism.  This anxiety is reflected in Ben Roberts’s large photographic print Amazon Fulfilment Centre, Towers Business Park, Rugeley (2013).  This image shows the vast interior of an Amazon warehouse where unskilled workers appear tiny among the expansive shelving units, each one filled to the brim with stuff.  The text panel mounted underneath this image explains that most of these staff members are on zero hour contracts and work for minimum wage.  To the left of Roberts’s image is a poster, the rules of Church Street Mill in Preston from the nineteenth century.  The very first rule feels particularly poignant.  It reads that factory workers must ‘give one month’s notice, in writing, previous to leaving his or her employment …but the Masters have full power to discharge any person employed therein without any previous notice whatsoever.

 

Deller’s careful juxtaposition of materials draw worrying links between the rights of mid-Victorian factory workers and the current working conditions for low level employees.  All That is Solid Melts Into Air is a carefully curated exhibition which is full of incredible objects, ideas and artworks, effectively exploring British culture and the roots of capitalism in this country.  The works read like a  piece of research, a visual essay where you can draw your own associations and conclusions.  If you’re in the North East between now and October 26th, this is an opportunity not to be missed.

An Arts Guide to Amsterdam

A colloquial reason for many to travel to the Netherlands is to get a whiff of the green stuff,however if this and Madame Tussaud’s are not for you, there is a great art scene to take advantage of on your visit. Amsterdam is a museum lover’s destination as much as the gallery goers; with a mixture of historical and contemporary you could spend up to week absorbing the culture, but only as long as the bike lanes don’t get on your nerves.

 

‘TherIs No I’ at W139 Gallery

 ‘W139 explores the unknown; we value the freedom not to know.’

I first came acrossW139 on Warmoesstraat, close to the Red Light District and known as one of the oldest streets in the city.  W139 sets out create new dialogues in art by taking artists out of their comfort zones into an experimental space. Focusing on painting and employing ‘energy, difference, theory and monochrome’ as categories of departure, the emphasis lies within the process of painting as opposed to the result. By expanding ideas around the processes of painting we can hope to extend the boundaries contemporary art is conformed to today. Featuring 20 international artists numerous works measured a large 3x5m, a staircase wall mural amongst smaller pieces and a ‘painting installation’. Many of the canvases may have been collaborations between two artists alongside approaches with performance such as Raymond Cuijpers kicking a painted football onto a constructed canvas goal.

 An Arts Guide to Amsterdam

Museumplann

 The Stedelijk museum boasts some of the greats from the 20th Century to the present day, hosting contemporary art exhibitions alongside its permanent one all within an oversized bathtub architecture. Neighbouring Stedelijk is the Van Gogh Museum where during peak times you will find over four floors of tourists absorbing the Dutch masterpieces. For the price ticket of 15.00 euros you also witness a small display about methods of conservation and an insight into Van Gogh’s more successful contemporaries where he failed to make money attempting to fit in with commercial trends.

Not far from Museumplann is Vondelpark, a picturesque setting with complimentary sculpture from ArtZuid, an international sculpture exhibition hosted across this area of the city. These works by ArtZuid Junior were particularly playful and greatly enhanced my colour contrast bar and is a great encouragement for any young artists.

(We should do more of this in England).

 

Personal Codes of Conduct’at Torch Gallery, Jordaan

 

 Personal Codes of Conduct alludes to the theme of our lives becoming increasingly digitised amongst the role of surfacing subcultures; each artist exhibited here visualises their online identity with a partially negative premise. Suzan Holen’s embroidered code communicates a paradox between constructive functionality and irrational feelings we may encounter as females using social media. Artist duo Pinar & Viola looked to emulate ‘the streets of the internet’ consisting of Trompe l’oeil Human Barbie Dolls with fantasy overlays. ‘I’ll Make You Feel Real’ is provocative of the height of narcissism we now encounter either on Instagram or embedded in the underground of net fetishes, almost verging on idolatry self love.

 

Do your own Human Barbie Overlay here: http://www.overlayer.com/u/pinar_viola

 

South Africa Art Nowat No Man’s Art Gallery

 Towards the west of the city centre, slightly off the beaten path, I came across No Man’s Art Gallery who set out to represent scouted talent at their boundless pop-ups around the world. ‘South Africa Art Nowpresented a healthy variety of photography, installation, painting and prints representing a small body of young artists often confronting domestic subjects sensitive to display. Standing out from the exhibition is Hidokuhle Sobhekwz’s undiscovered photography documenting those he knew who have succumbed to addiction of Nyapope.Nicolene Van Der Walt’s deconstructed pig graves focuses on our role in consumerism and waste as well as challenging the animal’s stereotype using the medium of soap and site-specific soil to show the futility of the still-born piglet as a product.

Mia Chaplin’s minimal palette creates an expressive set of paintings with a sense of detachment. The voyeuristic nature of her work could be said to concentrate on the inner-self and our difficulty engaging with the outer world, visually communicating this through still lives and figurative portrayals.

 

Cobra Museum

Venturing outside the city to Amstelveen, the Cobra Museum is host to a large collection of contemporary art and more recently exhibiting a host of 1950’s masters from the Guggenhiem Museum. Wherever you visit in Amsterdam, you are bound to find yourself in a creative body depending on how far you scratch the surface. The majority of gems you may find in Jordaan, where the gallery art district is the most condensed in the city. Just remember to book tickets in advance for the largest museum attractions as we do not have the privilege of walking straight into them as we do here.

Didactic Display: The importance of personal experience

Information hungry, the way we live revolves around what we know, how quickly we can collect information and how much information we can retain; this is true of the way we consider education, the way we live socially and the way we encounter the world. This also very appropriately describes the way we view art. Encountering wall texts, audio-guides, guided tours, information booklets, catalogues, not to mention the usual amenities such as artist’s names, titles and mediums, upon entering the vast majority of art galleries we are faced with fixtures which in terms of knowledge and understanding leave few stones unturned. Although what could be considered the current standard curatorial method (a didactic approach to viewing art) allows a viewer an impressively comprehensive theoretical understanding of a particular work, it does not seem to invite more creative approaches to the process of mediation or understanding. Such a heavily didactic approach to information greatly reduces the probability of a viewer forming any sort of personal or emotional connection to a work. People don’t fall for a Rothko because they understand it.

 

In Wonderful uncertainty a text by Raqs Media Collective, they write: ‘people bring their own histories, memories, scars and desires to bear on any work they encounter’. Surely the more prescriptively one is fed a work of art, the less one is able to bring of one’s own and thus is supposedly far less connected. Colours, shapes, objects etc. all have there own cultural and social associations, layers of representation or ‘meaning’ which we bestow upon them.  However, often colours, shapes, objects, etc. are also inexplicably tied-up with personal association, representation and emotion. When one experiences a work of art, one undoubtedly experiences the work from one’s own individual viewpoint of the world.

 

Suzanne Lacy in her publication Mapping the terrain: new genre public art talks of engagement in terms of particular artworks, within the text is a diagram depicting what Lacy refers to as ‘rings of engagement’, which in concentric circles transform the notion of different audiences into a diagram representing different groups’ levels of interaction with a work of art, and their importance insofar as the works existence. Lacy states that the ‘innermost circle represents those without whom the work could not exist’, the outermost circle being ‘audience of myth and memory’. I suppose, the question this poses (at least to me) is whether one could consider the perspective of ‘the audience of myth and memory’ as either part of the inner circle or a different diagram completely, as although yes, the work could exist without their perspective, the work from their perspective could not exist without them. Without a specific viewer having gone through an individual process of mediating a particular piece of work, their ideas would have never been realised. It’s arguable that works of art exist as a multiplicity of individual interpretations and understandings (of which the artist is one), in which case, the individual experience is of extreme importance and the work couldn’t exist without each and every viewer (in whatever capacity that may be).

 

Additional information in which I am including titles, mediums, descriptive and/or explanatory wall-texts, etc. is just that – additional. The information, at least that which is crucial, is unspoken and present in the work itself. Looking for more, it’s easily forgotten that these often over-didactic methods employed by the gallery are not the only place to search. It’s important not only to understand what the work has to offer but what one has to offer to the work – experiences, memories, emotions which ultimately one has in common with the work are as, if not more important than any conceptual understanding on the part of the artist. When does information or understanding become counter-productive?

 

Do we really engage with a work we are told everything about? There are most certainly works that more effortlessly lend themselves to a more fluid, creative process of mediation. Just as there are works which it is much more difficult to engage with in this way, of which conceptual art proves particularly problematic. How can a work’s conceptual ideas be explained, whilst still allowing the space for a viewer’s personal thoughts and feelings to manifest? It is, I suppose, important that conceptual understanding, in terms of the artist’s understanding of their own work, is presented in some way and in that sense, a didactic attitude towards the work’s meaning is difficult to avoid – but do we really want to close off the possibility to the artwork’s full potential? Do different varieties of work require different levels of mediation and do some works in particular require there to be a more open, more fluid form of viewing?

 

Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ Untitled 1989-1990, a stack of endless sheets of printed paper, along with Dominique Gonzalez-Forester’s Tapis de Lecture (Reading Rug), a carpet on which an ‘L’ shaped stack of books sits waiting to be read, are both works which invite a participatory viewing.  Both works surround specific conceptual meaning with an aura of ambiguity and in this sense encourage the viewer to engage in a deeper, more intrinsic encounter with the work. Gonzalez-Torres’ paper-stacks, which are intended to be taken one by one, by the viewer and are constantly replenished by the gallery, are a heavily conceptual body of works and yet in their minimal forms, do not necessarily dictate the experience or understanding of the individual. Inviting the viewer to engage in an act seldom acceptable in an art gallery in both touching and removing the work, the viewer is offered another rare opportunity of experiencing an original work of contemporary art (or at least a piece of) in their home. Tapis de Lecture is entirely different in its methods of non-specificity. The foundation of its bibliography being Gonzales-Forester’s practice; the books are ones commonly referenced within her work. Despite the specific nature of the selection of material, what the viewer (or reader) chooses to read is completely up to the individual. A viewer could read the entirety of information present in Tapis de lecture and yet their thoughts, ideas and connections between documents would be completely unique to that of Gonzales-Forester’s. Whether viewers read at all is, I suppose, dictated by the situation they might find themselves in; participation is more likely to occur if some level of participation is already taking place. As I have already attempted to establish within this text, current methods of curating and viewing art often stand in the way of the potential for a more engaged, creative experience, and this is true also of physical participation.

 

At the 2014 Tate Summer School Jenny Dunseath gave a talk specifically focused towards making; she had her audience/participants occupying their hands molding plasticine and their mouths with the act of chewing gum. Dunseath who sculpts and has a particular interest in idiosyncrasies and processes of making, had her audience fiddling and chewing whilst following various instructions. As her audience/participants became increasingly involved with their own process of making she spoke about an array of works, ideas and theories by both herself and other practitioners.  She reeled off huge amounts of of information, including information about her work as an assistant to Antony Caro – making remained at all times the theme of her monologue. It was both my understanding and that of all other audience/participants that we experienced a point at which we had stopped listening to what Dunseath was saying. Discovering an inability to sculpt with the plasticine, follow instruction, chew gum and listen to/digest information, there came a point at which each audience/participant sort of ‘woke up’ in a panic that they had failed to take notice of what Dunseath had to say. Thankfully Dunseath reassured her listeners at the very end when she spoke about the importance of the talk/exercise being in the process and experience that each individual had had with their materials (plasticine and gum) and that learning was intentionally taking place through the physical process of doing and not listening.

Counterpoint

I find myself standing in the street outside the Talbot Rice Gallery, here to view Counterpoint’s showcase of eight contemporary artist’s work. I find myself here on the back of a recommendation from the festival’s art director, interviewed in last month’s FMG Monthly. My curiosity roused, I cross the threshold into the building. Many beautiful, intriguing and provocative pieces adorned the walls and floors. Of the eight artists, two in particular captured my imagination.

 

The first of these artists is Craig Mulholland. As you walk into the first room, placed right by the stairs for the second level, Mulholland’s installation – constructed from various materials and media, including sand paper, wood and visual projections – takes the shape of a bowling lane, a singular slice extracted from an alley which appears to be in some state of disrepair. I find myself searching for the background to this intriguing construction before me, and in this search my mind connects this sight with emotion, a longing for narrative, as if entering an abandoned, aged property, which oozes character. Upon the wall above the lane, the words “Potemkin Function” are projected in a font reminiscent of the fond neon squiggle used by many establishments to indicate whether they are open or closed. Thin wooden bricks have replaced the pins and these too are displayed in the projection which cycles through moving images of a bowling ball being cast down the lane towards these bricks. For me, Mulholland’s bowling alley offers an insight into how the picture painted can often differ from the actual function. The warping of an area usually utilised solely for recreational purposes into an area harrowed by black paint reminds me of how propaganda is utilised to portray whomever in disfavour in a negative and objectified light. As this feeling rested inside me, I made my way through to the next room of Counterpoint’s exhibition.

 

Counterpoint

Talbot Rice Gallery
Installation views
Part of Edinburgh Art
Festival and GENERATION
Photography by Chris Park
Courtesy Talbot Rice Gallery

Before me lies two full size street lamps, a neat stack of magazines cut zig-zag down their middle, and a large wall of corrugated iron graphitized with black spray paint – an eclectic mix provided by artist, Keith Farquhar. Farquhar’s intention is to “rework the inherited visual of the original appropriated work”. As I stand by these full size street lamps I begin to have some comprehension of Farquhar’s goal in these pieces. Removal of these commonplace functional installations from their usual surroundings and placed with intention on the floor by one another, they begin to feel personified, as if feeling emanates from them. I noticed that I no longer found this material object to be simply that, instead I began to form some type of human connection with them. From when I entered the room, I had presumed the writing on the steel wall to be written in spray paint but upon closer inspection, the paint is pixelated at it’s edges, and within the exhibition booklet, my curiosity is sated. Farquhar reveals his use of a large UV printer – which can print on any material – to create the text within the graffiti. Graffiti, created outwith artistic purpose, is often considered a thoughtless act of vandalism alluding to the carelessness of its creator. Farquhar however, appropriates graffiti, using the UV printer to create what appears to be spray paint. Through this exact act we reconsider this “graffiti”, knowing now it has been carefully and thoughtfully created.

 

Counterpoint

Talbot Rice Gallery
Installation views
Part of Edinburgh Art
Festival and GENERATION
Photography by Chris Park
Courtesy Talbot Rice Gallery

Leaving the Talbot Rice Gallery, I am left with a feeling of lightness and whimsy. All too often artwork and exhibitions are portrayed as being heavy events for the soul – Counterpoint’s Exhibition however, is not such an event. Despite no conscious thematic connection between the eight artist’s works, the quality of each piece creates a feeling of unity. Evident throughout all the work on display is a demonstration of each individual artist’s ability to play and experiment with mediums and media, ultimately creating work that is fascinating, stimulating and wholly intriguing.

 

Tor Simen Ulstein & Geir Stian Orsten Ulstein – Featured Artist August 2014

Tor Simen Ulstein & Geir Stian Orsten Ulstein collaborative series’ ‘Det Som Var: Er’. For this series Tor travelled with his brother around europe and photographed the remnants of concentration camps and Geir Stian Orsten Ulstein wrote poems to accompany the individual photographs.

 

FMG Art

Majdanek

Hinderet bak det største hinder.
*
Skjult av avstand, det uformidlede,
Det absurde i elendighetens nåtid.

FMG Art

Gross-Rosen

Reveljetårn i stillhet.
Ingen å vekke,
Ingen å terrorisere.
Ikke lenger en leir.
*
Stadig går mennesker til grunne
I urettferdighet.

FMG Art

Belzec

Bortenfor alt kjent,
i ugjennomtrengelig grått.
Natt. Tåke. Utslettelse.
*
Bortenfor deg og ditt, de utslettede.

 

FMG Art

 Soribor

I naturen eksisterer ikke tilgivelse.
Ufortrødent visker den ut våre ugjerninger
hvor mye vi enn skulle kjempe imot.
*
Menneskene bryter tausheten i naturen;
Kommandobrøl, redselsskrik…
Og vi, vi ser mot fortiden, 
Vi ser alle andre veier
Mens vi lytter til gode formaninger
Om det som var. Vi ser ikke vår egen tid.
Vi ser bare skogen.

The Art Magazine


FMG Arts MonthlyNow I needn’t ask if you’ve read an art magazine, because you’re clearly reading one right now, but are they becoming the compact, convenient alternative to art exhibitions? I know this sounds far-fetched (and it is a little bit) but there is reasoning behind it.

Firstly, an art magazine is a publication whose main topic is art. They exist in both print form, online or sometimes even both, and are often aimed at different audiences, including galleries, collectors, amateur or professional artists and the general public. As a reader myself for both leisure and research reasons, I am aware of the importance of these magazines within the art world as a whole. However, if we take a step back, are these journals providing such an insight to the visual, theoretical and creative content of exhibitions, that we no longer need to experience them first hand?

We are spoilt with glossy, high resolution images when reading these magazines. This is even more prominent since the transference into digital form, where HD screens allow photographs to mimic reality. It makes you wonder, since the fast development of technology in the past twenty years, how we can read about and see images of exhibitions on our mobile phones. We can access this on the train, in bed, and on the way to work – every reason to not see the real thing.

The reproduction of popular exhibitions within magazines adheres to the fast-paced (yet often lethargic) lifestyle we lead, where often it is hard to set aside time to experience art in all its glory; experience being the operative word here, for a magazine cannot capture this. Imagine reading about a Rothko exhibition, or a Tino Segal performance in one of these journals – you’d never be able to imagine how it feels to speculate the art first hand. Don’t get me wrong, different art is hated by some and loved by others but if you are reading a biased article then you’ll never get any personal feeling about the original work.

The publications themselves are branded in a similar way to how galleries are – they adhere to a particular audience and are formed of a certain kind of content. With branding in mind, both exhibitions and articles are chosen to represent a core set of ideas or concepts. Sadly, many journals are clogged up with advertisements (often about galleries or exhibitions), which dilutes the flow through article to article. I guess it’s obvious to state that if you view art physically, you would have no problem with pages and pages of unnecessary, similar adverts with the odd perfume campaign.

It seems that in contemporary society we may be running the risk of compacting experiences into digital or object forms. I’m not saying in anyway that it captures the essence of these experiences, nor do they pose a threat, but I know I’m not the only one guilty of skipping the latest box office movie in exchange for a review and a trailer or simply looking at the pictures of current popular exhibitions. Art has developed alongside art journals, magazines and monologues so these aren’t new additions to the workings of the art world, yet does convenience, lower cost (or buying something you can keep) and a commentary neglect an afternoon spent in the company of art itself? Probably not, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m not the only one reading this magazine and not viewing the art in its full glory.

Daily Rituals

Every artist will at some stage feel a block, and go seeking guidance. I myself am guilty of having spent far too many hours reading about creativity as opposed to actually creating stuff, so I know the risks involved when you go looking for advice (the risk being spending too much time chin-stroking and not enough time making). To those seeking guidance: I feel your pain, and I would like to spare you some time.
There is an overwhelming quantity of writing about how to find and sustain inspiration. Books on the subject can be found in almost every section from self-help to business, to biographies and psychology. From the viewpoint of their respective disciplines, the authors try to address the daunting questions that arise while maintaining a creative practice. How do you make meaningful work while also earning a living? Does hardship make us work better? Is the opposite true – that getting down to work actually necessitates a basic level of comfort? When time is tight – must you make sacrifices, and if so what – income, social life or a clean house? If it is possible to have it all, how do you organise your time so that you can pay the rent, keep in touch with friends, clean the house, and do what you love?

 

Developing a better understanding of the creative process is clearly a widespread (not to mention lucrative) concern. With such a huge amount of information available, it’s hard to know what to trust. Even the researchers, TED-talkers, ‘gurus’ and authors who are the supposed voices of authority in their fields would have to admit that the creative process is a highly subjective matter and “whatever works – works”. Unfortunately vague sentiments like this aren’t much use to those who are actually experiencing a block. Those who wake up one to discover that they don’t have a single idea worth writing down. Those who, try as they might, have never quite been able recover from a particularly brutal crit. Those who can’t remember the buzz they first experienced when they first picked up a camera and are secretly terrified that they won’t ever feel that way again.

 

In 2007, Mason Currey was sitting in the office of the architecture magazine he wrote for, suffering from a block. It was during a particularly restless afternoon of online procrastination that he started the Daily Routines blog, which was eventually reconfigured into the book ‘Daily Rituals’. The blog is simply a collection of the day-to-day routines of 150 great minds, including Ingmar Bergman, Sigmund Freud, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Frederico Fellini, Slyvia Plath, David Lynch, Marcel Proust, Twlya Thwarp and Marina Abromovic, etc.

Daily Rituals Mason Curry

Whenever writing about revered figures in any field, their successes can often overshadow the context of their private lives. The sheer randomness of events which lead them to create the masterpieces of which they are famed can be very easily overlooked. It’s an easier and more saleable to go for the age-old artist-genius story. What sets ‘Daily Rituals’ apart is that it isn’t about the masterpieces – it’s about the circumstances in which the work happens. Put the work itself to one side for a second, and it’s possible to glimpse at the artist as a creature of habit. By focusing on the mundane details of his subjects lives – Currey give us a novel angle on the creative process.

 

Marina Abromovic undergoes a militant routine to prepare for her performances but lives a loose and unstructured lifestyle when she isn’t working. Some work by day, others by night. Some desire solitude others can make progress by sharing their ideas. F.Scott Fitzgerald could only write in gin-fuelled bursts and insisted that alchohol was an essential part of the process. The book presents an expanded, and much more thoroughly researched versions of the blog, drawing from biographies, obituaries, interviews, letters and dairy entries of his subjects which make up a summary of each individuals routine (or lack there of).
For some, a vigorous routine is perfect. Edward Gibbon was a dedicated historian who persevered with his studies even when he was recruited for military action. He could often be found reading up on theological debate in his tent, recalling ancient history while on the march, always awake at the crack of dawn to get on with his research before the day’s maneuvers began. The adverse conditions didn’t faze him in the slightest. VS Pritchett said of Gibbon: “Sooner or later the great men turn out to be all alike. They never stop working. They never loose a minute. It is very depressing”. Yet, for every cheerfully industrious type like Gibbon, there exists the opposite. Franz Kafka was an extremely talented writer who produced astoundingly vivid and influential stories while living a civilian life. Working lengthy hours in claustrophobic conditions with a highly-strung home-life, he seemed to live most of his life in a state of perpetual horror at these surroundings. This undoubtedly contributed to his nightmarish tales, but his torturous blocks are well documented. As he waited for inspiration to strike, he suffered from agonizing anxiety and self-doubt.
If the case studies in ‘Daily Rituals’ are anything to go by then Gibbon and Kafka are some of the most extreme examples. It’s encouraging to note that most people in the book fall somewhere in the middle-ground between these two. Most of Currey’s subjects make time for their passions as often as they in spite of the obstacles in their way. Yet they are never 100% confident in their approach. Even during the good days, they are superstitiously looking for anything that might upset the delicate working conditions that they thrive in.
It just goes to show that whatever works, works. No-one can answer the question of how to work better in a way which is meaningful to everyone. As Currey puts it – this can only be resolved “on an individual level through shakey personal compromises”. Or, as Kafka puts it (speaking from his tiny office where he is scolded and terrorized by his colleagues and family) – “time is short, the office is a horror, the apartment is noisy, and if a pleasant straightforward life is not possible then one must try to wriggle through by subtle maneuvers”.

 

No one said a good working routine is easy to achieve, and if you are in a block and seeking guidance then this might all be getting a little depressing. My advice to you is this: if you go looking to the greats for advice, then bear in mind that they too are reliant on the circumstances of their day to day life in order get on with their work. Put their masterpieces to one side, and it’s possible to glimpse a person’s life’s work as the consequence of thousands of tiny day-to-day decisions. You too can choose to see your life’s work as the miraculous realisation of grand creative vision. Or, you can see it as the product of 89790 cups of coffee, 90015 cups of tea, 299930 early starts, 299981 glasses of water, 279 u-turns, 800 false starts, 400 tearful conversations, 399 hours of networking and 337 hours of online procrastination (approximate figures – do not hold me to these). Whatever helps you to ‘wriggle through.’

 

Fresh From Sheffield – S1 Artspace

 

FMG Art

Sheffield is a growing power in the UK’s art scene.

Hosting not only a contemporary art biennial festival but also the Sheffield Doc Fest.

Being home to S1 Artspace, Bloc projects, CAD, Yorkshire Artspace, Site Gallery and Sheffield Museums. Sheffield boasts a thriving street art scene, the most amount of studios in the UK outside of London and having one of the oldest established Art & Design institutions Sheffield’s Institute of Art.

We talk to Pippa Shaw, Geo Law & Joseph Cutts from S1 Artspace about the state of Sheffield’s art scene and their place in it. You can view there videos by clicking on the videos below.

A quick guide through Edinburgh Art Festival

The Royal Mile seems to have shrunk and Grassmarket has become denser, the whole town has a new tempo and the pulse beats its way up through the city skin. The festival month lies like a thick layer in the air, an atmosphere you almost can touch with the tip of your finger. August is an exciting month for Edinburgh with a compelling amount of theatre, music, dance and art.

FMG Arts took a closer look at the Edinburgh Art Festival, the UK’s largest annual celebration of visual art. With over 45 exhibitions during August, the festival can begin to feel a bit like being lost in the jungle. We at FMG Arts took the opportunity to interview the director Sorcha Carey to get a better insight into this year’s program.

FM: First of all, could you briefly explain what your role is, as Director of Edinburgh Art Festival and what it entails

SC: Our festival programme consists of major solo and group exhibitions developed by partner galleries; an associate programme selected from applications received each year; and a programme of new commissions with a particular emphasis on work developed for beyond the gallery. I lead on our commissions programme and the selection of projects confirmed through our open submissions process, as well as taking an overview of the festival programme as a whole, to ensure that there are meaningful routes through for our visitors. As director of a small organisation, my role involves everything from curating to fundraising, depending on what stage we are at in the festival cycle.

 

FMG Art

Tessa Lynch
Raising
2014
Courtesy of the artist and Jupiter Artland

FM: How did you become involved with Edinburgh Art Festival?

SC: I joined the festival in 2011. I’d previously worked for the British Council in Scotland, and before that I worked on three editions of Liverpool Biennial.

 

FM: This will be the 11th year for EAF. Can you tell us how the festival keeps developing each year to attract new audiences?

SC: We work very hard to ensure that each year we bring our audiences the very best in visual art, contemporary and historic, established and emerging talent. Our interest in programming beyond gallery spaces as well as special cross art-form events such as Detours, is one of the ways in which we try to bring our programme to new audiences, as well as to give returning audiences the opportunity to discover something new.

 

FM: Is there something that distinguishes this year’s festival from previous years that could be interesting for our readers to know about?

SC: This year for the first time we are leading on a major exhibition of international contemporary art. We are collaborating with 5 curators and over 20 artists from Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK to explore the ideas and ideals behind commonwealth and the commons.  The exhibition takes its title from a work by Shilpa Gupta,’Where do I end and you begin’ and will be presented on 4 floors of the City Art Centre as well as in several offsite locations, and many of the artists exhibiting are showing in the UK for the very first time.

FMG Art

Ross Birrell
Being and Time (a copy of Being and Time is thrown into the Abyss, Grand Canyon Arizona
2012

FM: What would you say are the main highlights of this year’s programme?

SC: Where to begin? Isa Genszken at Inverleith House is a must, and there’s an amazing opportunity to reflect on the past 25 years of contemporary art practise in Scotland with lots of solo and group presentations as part of GENERATION – highlights include solo presentations of Jim Lambie at Fruitmarket, Katie Paterson at Ingleby Gallery, Dalziel and Scullion at Dovecot, as well an extraordinary survey show at the Scottish National Galleries.

 

FM: FMG Arts ethos is to develop opportunities and support for emerging artists and creatives. Are there any early career artists that are in this year’s festival that you can recommend?

SC: Our festival features artists at all stages of their careers, and we are always keen to ensure there are opportunities for our audiences to discover emerging artists. This year we are delighted to be collaborating with The Skinny to realise their Showcase as an exhibition featuring a selected graduate from each of the major Scottish degree shows. We are also collaborating with Talbot Rice Gallery to commission 6 emerging artists to make new work or performances for the festival. Our Film Club invites emerging spaces to curate an evening of artist film during the festival, and this year we have asked 4 international artist run spaces to contribute.

 

 

FM: Do you have any wise words for early career artists hoping to exhibit in an Art Festival?

SC: Festivals can represent a really great opportunity for early career artists to exhibit their work – I’d recommend subscribing to the relevant festival websites. Those festivals that issue open calls will generally do this through their website and social media channels. If you decide to apply to exhibit in a festival, make sure your application is clear and the images are strong – the selector can only assess on what has been submitted to them, so it’s really important to communicate your ideas and/or project in the clearest possible way.

 

 

FMG ART

Katie Paterson
Earth–Moon–Earth (Moonlight Sonata Reflected from the Surface of the Moon)
2007
Disklavier grand piano
Installation view, Cornerhouse, Manchester 2011
Photo © We are Tape
Courtesy of the artist

 

FM: Do you have any wise words for young creatives who want to work within Art Festivals as an organiser or a curator? 

 SC: Like most of my colleagues, I started my career with an internship. It is such a valuable way not only to get hands on experience, but also to begin to understand where your strengths lie, and what particular aspect of exhibition making or curating interests you most.

 

FM: And finally, what value and impact do you think Edinburgh Art Festival has for the city of Edinburgh and its art scene?

SC: We’re very proud of the way in which some of our public art commissions and off-site projects have revitalised neglected areas of the city or allowed people to access buildings and spaces that are normally closed to them. The value of this is immeasurable – not only in genuinely improving the fabric of the city, but also in continuing to engage new audiences with contemporary art. Each year, more and more of our visitors tell us they are visiting Edinburgh in August specifically for the visual art programme we run – it’s enormously encouraging that we have been able to put visual arts centre stage, in the context of a festival city which has in the past been more usually associated with performing arts or comedy.

 

 

Edinburgh Art Festival is on from 1st August – 31st August.

Grey Up North

London is firmly established as the heart of the art world in this country: with over 1000 permanent art spaces and more artists per square mile than anywhere else in Europe, this huge, thriving, creative hub of a city seduces and fascinates us Northerners.

But the North of England is working hard to make a name for itself as a creative hotspot. Medium sized, post-industrial cities like Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield are rebranding themselves as centres for creativity. Big, publicly-funded galleries, as well as smaller, independent art spaces and studios are popping up all over the North, and from them a distinctly Northern style seems to be emerging.

Middlesbrough’s mima is currently showing ‘Chance Finds Us, a project initiated by Anne Viebeke Mou and Nick Kennedy in 2010.This exhibition showcases eight artists, including Viebeke Mou and Kennedy, based in the North East of England who share similar approaches to the art-making process. The exhibition, according to mima’s curator Alix Collingwood, is a “fantastic opportunity to highlight the wealth of talent and the calibre of artistic thinking that is present in the North East”.

The artists represented in this exhibition use routine and repetition, devising strategies or appropriating frameworks within which they can explore chance and serendipity. Drawn grids, mathematical instruments and imposed rules juxtapose intuitive mark making, random encounters and unpredictability.

James Hugonin art

Courtesy the artist and Ingleby Gallery

Inside the gallery space, the silver-grey light mimics the overcast, gloomy weather outside—a typical day in the North, and the perfect backdrop to the vivid colours of James Hugonin’s ‘Binary Rhythm’. Hugonin’s large paintings are composed of tiny rectangles of colour, picked out from the Northumbrian landscape, and their is a quietness to their vibrancy. Meditative and deliberate, this work systematises and slows the wild and constantly changing colours of the countryside.

Apart from Hugonin, most of the artists showing their work in this exhibition employ to a very minimal colour palette: Anne Viebeke Mou’s faint graphite drawings on paper seem to be particularly modest works. However, closer inspection reveals that her drawings have been made up of thousands of tiny marks. In 2011, she and Hugonin jointly won the ACE Award for Art in a Religious Context, where they were both commissioned to design stained glass windows for St John’s Church in Northumberland. In their works in this exhibition too, a spiritual devotion seems to be apparent in the ritualistic, devout mark-making, and in the light which seems to emanate from the pieces. These artists are influenced by Northumberland’s beautiful countryside, something that I don’t think the London art scene would understand. The English Landscape? Yuck! It’s a heavy topic, reserved for musty old art historians. But Northern artists aren’t let off the hook so easily, they are constantly confronted with the awe-inspiring sublimity of the land which surrounds them. This force has no concern for whether on not it is cliché: it simply persists. These artists have the challenge of addressing it, and speaking from where they stand.

The art scene in the North of England is definitely on the rise and with it is a distinctive voice and style. In fifteen years we will be able to define exactly what that is—but for now, you can just come and feel it forming for yourself.

Middlesbrough’s Institute of Modern Art is in the centre of the town; it’s family friendly, and wheelchair accessible.

‘Chance Finds Us’runs until 4th September.

An Interview With Tim Manthey – Don’t Quit Your Daydream

You can often understand a lot about an artists’ work just by the way the artist himself talks about it. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but perhaps the words are sometimes enough. Tim Manthey – an artist who is being referred to more and more as ‘Cloud Nectar,’ a name he originally paired with his work itself – is a contemporary collage artist creating dreamlike pieces that could easily be compared to the works of artists such as Salvador Dali, Andre Breton, or René Magritte with a modern day twist. Describing his own work as being “dipped in a surrealistic batter and deep-fried with love” it’s more than clear that Tim Manthey is connected to his work as an artist should be – he is in love with it, and he is in love with creating it, forming a passion that is readable through every collage he creates.

 

Penumbra

Courtesy of the artist Tim Manthey

So, how does an artist such as Tim Manthey – a previous self-confessed dabbler – create these works of art? Wondering whether it’s a matter of finding one image as a kind of launching off point for each piece and going from there, I was curious to find out exactly what Manthey’s own process for working was. To this question Mathey replied in a somewhat nonchalant manner, “You hit the nail on the head. Unless I’m embarking on a thematic piece, it starts with one image flying off the page.” He continued to explain that “Once [he] gets back to the studio the starter image will mingle with different backgrounds, foregrounds, and other random bits that are in a messy pile on [his] desk. It’s the primordial soup method.” Creating art in such a trial and error manner most definitely works well for Manthey, creating pieces that are constantly free and organic in feeling, even despite the combination of images and colours being far from natural itself. This laid back approach to the creation of his collages works extremely well with the images Manthey chooses to use – with most of them being extracted from “books, magazines, and ephemera that are 20 to 100 years old” everything about Manthey’s work and the retro feeling that it creates rings true to a time of empowerment, creativity, and adventure.

 

Having said that Manthey’s work hints at empowerment, creativity and adventure, it became clear throughout our interview that he himself is also very passionate about all three of these traits. Sounding like some kind of an Artistic Freedom Fighter, Manthey didn’t have a rehearsed or even slightly narcissistic or selfish response when I asked what he’d still like to achieve in his career. Instead, Manthey took the opportunity to make a point of what too many of us know all too well, stating that “So many artists are not able to devote the right amount of time to their work to really let it blossom, because to make art a sustainable livelihood is challenging right now to say the least.” However, Manthey wasn’t simply pointing this out – or worse, rubbing in the fact that he was one of the lucky few that this no longer applied to – instead, he continued to explain that he wants to “see this change soon”, before announcing that he himself “would love to help be a part of that shift.”Manthey also went on to mention that he would “seriously like to get more in touch with the audience”, creating a ripple effect in my mind that perhaps these two wishes for the near future were related. It’s far too true that artists of all kinds are struggling to create – with todays economic climate just proving the cherry on top of a long list of obstacles still to overcome – but with Manthey later describing collaborations as the “hidden treasures in this journey” perhaps working together is in fact the first step towards a better future for all artists. “It’s the wave of the future.” Manthey declared when referring to collaborations, before adding that we should all “Seek out some collaborators. You won’t regret it.”

 

Tim Manthey

Courtesy of the artist Tim Manthey

Unsurprisingly, due to this way of thinking about art, Manthey also had an impressive answer in line when I asked the eternally hopeful question of whether we could use art to change the world. “It’s interesting how currents move. I grew up in the eighties. Western culture and media in the eighties was highly influenced by what artists were doing in the sixties. There is a gestation period sometimes, but art always has lasting effects in the world. Now with streamlined forms of media gathering steam, that gap is narrowing. We are seeing the perspectives of artists shaping culture sooner and sooner. Art can put people in touch with their own original thoughts. Original thoughts when accepted as true, lead to action. Let’s watch this unfold and take part in it, and connect along the way.”

 

With that in mind, perhaps it is time to review the advice Tim Manthey would like all wannabe practicing artists to know. Here is a list of points he wishes he’d “heard from teachers, mentors and sages”;

 

1.)   Run. Physically go running, at night if you can. Visions will come.

2.)   Your unique way of seeing things is important, real, and something you’ve already been using. Be honest with yourself about what you truly desire and it will become art.

3.)   Make lots of mistakes and experiment with mediums until you find a process that you can get totally addicted to. The rewards will flow immediately, because the process is the reward. Everything else is icing.

4.)   Stay very, very curious and let go of cynicism.

5.)   Trust your intuition like gravity, it can’t fail you.

6.)   Doodle in traffic. Sing in the produce aisle. Make art constantly: good art, bad art, mediocre art, it all goes into the soup and leads to the next thing, so keep your hands moving.

7.)   Ask for help. Be specific. Help will emerge from the woodwork. A time will come when you will help others, too.

 

It’s all quite simple, but I doubt many artists can admit to ticking off each of these points as often as they actually should – so, what are you waiting for, take the advice of an artist like Tim Manthey and who knows what you’ll be able to achieve. It seems the simple fact is, you’ve just got to keep moving, in Manthey’s own words, “What will you create?”

Tor Simen Ulstein – Featured Artist August 2014

This months featured artist is Tor Simen Ulstein. We feature parts of his series ‘Przystanek’

FMG Art

FMG Art

FMG Art

FMG Art

 

 

Fresh From Sheffield – Geo Law

Geo Law sheffield

Geo Law on the Sheffield art scene. 

Currently the art scene has many facets to it. I concentrate mostly on graphic design, illustration scene and the street art scene.

We have a lot of art festivals here, mostly contemporary art and they are always interesting to go to because you see a lot of people crossing over into each others events, so you end up supporting a lot of the artists.

At S1 Artspace we all go to each others shows to support each other, but also because its intriguing as you have first hand knowledge of the artist and we know them as people as well as creatives.

Sheffields art scene is diverse and I do feel that certain practices cross over. I’ve not really worked alongside any of the artists that are here (S1 Artspace), but I do get interesting feedback from them because of differing opinions and likewise I give out my opinion on their work if is visually intrigues me, or makes me ask questions of it.

To see Geo’s full interview watch the video below

Fresh From Sheffield – Pippa Shaw S1 Artspace

S1 Artspace

Pippa Shaw on the Sheffield art scene. 

S1 has a very unique position in Sheffield, within the cultural horizon. In that it supports a level of artist that are very key to the cultural economy, not necessarily recent graduates but very much in the emerging field.

We work very closely with SHU, we do an educational programme with them and we co-host there degree show.

S1 is a very nurturing environment there is a real community, the studios are pretty much all open plan, which is very much unique within Sheffield. All the studios on the mezzanine level are committed to fine art practice, so there’s a real dialogue that goes on and that’s there everyday. I feel in terms of the studios there’s a real particular ethos that exists at S1.

The gallery programme itself again supports emerging artists largely and is commissioned focused so we really try to provide a pot of money for them to do whatever they want. That’s a really unique thing and it’s really important to S1.

To see Pippa’s full interview watch the video below

A whale o a whale o a time…

The McManus Galleries in Dundee offers a dreadfully cliché experience that promises a whale of a time with Nick Evans latest exhibition entitled The White Whale. Evans has created a sculptural installation in conjunction with the GENERATION PROJECT that celebrates 25 years of the development of Scottish Art. The project culminates in a generation of ideas, experiences and of prestigious art that the country has to offer. Nick Evans latest solo exhibition is inspired by the Gothic architecture and décor of the McManus building. The exhibition title ‘The White Whale” has deliberate mythical connotations. It relates to the Narwhal, which was hunted by Dundee whalers in the nineteenth century. The Narwhal’s long pointed ‘tusk ‘ was believed to belong to the magical unicorn.

 

Evans was influenced by “The Geometry of fears”- a group of sculptors that consisted of Lynn Chadwick, Eduardo Paolozzi and William Turnbull. They created twisted and spiked forms of the human figure post Second World War. Evans’ plastered humanoid forms lend to this distinctive style and are originally drawn from ethnographic sources. The sculptures appear as if floating in a fantasyland. They exist in their own distinctive environment scattered across the monochrome printed floor (that was replicated from a textile within the McManus’ collection). I am a very tactile person and I admire the artist’s limited use of material. The simplicity of the monochrome floor in conjunction with the white plaster sculptures and hints of wood throughout the gallery complement one another magically. It adds to this idea of being lost in a dream.

 

There are a few sculptures that stand out to me. “ Petrosphere” suggests a strange molecular structure whereas ‘Hunger’ that can be viewed from different angles insinuates two bodies bending over one another… highlighting the wanderings of a strange hallucinatory mind. My favourite sculpture is “Children of the sun’ where a light appears to sit on top of a human figure. The light was like a beacon calling out to the pursuers of the white whale. The story of Moby Dick represents a universe trapped by its protagonist’s subjectivities instead Evans’ exhibition is a refusal of the subjective. Evans argues that the development of each sculpture is a re-arrangement of form instead of focus on interpretative and symbolic value.

Nick Evans

Nick Evans: The White Whale © The Artist; Mary, Mary

 

Within the high ceiling gallery, the sculptures appear like creatures rising up from the abyss. If you listen closely the sounds of a whale reverberates throughout the hall thanks to the thumps of the little children’s feet. This exhibition is definitely worth taking your children along to visit. They provide the best humorous responses when asked about Nick’s strange parallel universe of sculptures. When sitting on the gallery floor drinking in this strange dream, I want to imagine a dark misty night with the possibility of finding Moby Dick in a strange sea of monochrome.

 

The White Whale was a fantastic exhibition that allows your imagination to run wild through a sculptural dreamland. I highly recommend this exhibition and Evans’ work will be available to see until 31st August.

Summer In The East End

In a lot of ways, I feel quite privileged to have studied fine art in Sheffield: my three years spent there demonstrated to me the importance of seeing beyond the capital for amazing artist communities. Yet now that that chapter has closed, I am once again living on the edge of East London and wandering what this new location will bring.

London can sometimes seem very big and menacing; saturated with artists and possibly intimidating to fresh graduates, who really require the support network of smaller gallery spaces. With the majority of the country’s big name galleries dotted around London’s centre, locating the slightly more hidden art spaces can seem a bit of a mammoth task. With that in mind (and with an abundance of free time), I set myself the task of doing the leg work and learning more about the art scene on my own doorstep. Besides, where would be better to start looking than in East London?

The East End has seemingly undergone a transformation in recent years with several galleries – like the White Cube – relocating to more central locations. There does appear to be a question mark about how areas like Shoreditch – previously the playground of the YBAs, when they were in fact young – will evolve, especially as property prices increase. However, there is still a strong alternative gallery presence and a multitude of spaces to discover. Heading to Cambridge Heath (just a couple of stops on an overground train from Liverpool Street station) would be a good place to start and puts you in walking distance of a host of galleries between Bethnal Green and Aldgate.

That’s exactly what I did when setting out on my gallery search and (just to warn you) sometimes you do have to search. On an impulse, I made my way straight to Supplement Gallery – a short walk from the station on Teesdale Street – which I soon realized was in the middle of a whole terraced street of small galleries and artist work spaces. Another thing to note about many of the spaces in this vicinity is that they are only open Thursday-Sunday, with some open on Wednesdays. It so happened that this particular day was a Tuesday, so it was advantageous that I’d emailed ahead about my visit. Supplement has strong links to the Sheffield artist community and represents a group of already well established artists – their July show Ends Again looked excellently considered (Cecile B. Evans’ video work especially caught my attention) and sat well within the domestic-sized space and beautiful wooden floors.

Vyner Street signFrom there (after being given an amazing list of galleries in the area by Supplement’s director Adam Thomas) I walked to Cell Project Space (Cambridge Heath Road). Set back from the main road and sandwiched between a snooker club and a dry cleaners, it would be easy to miss this gem. Their next viewable show opens on September 18th but they also have a passion for providing affordable studio space for artists working nearby. Furthermore, they also run a yearly internship program, aimed at new graduates and artists in further education.

My route then went as follows: I continued on to Minerva Street, where I found a rather silent matte black building front and an interesting solo show inside. I then carried on to Vyner Street which is lined with artist initiated galleries, Wilkinson Gallery and Vyner Street Gallery being examples. Next was The Approach Gallery – one of my favourite finds. The gallery space is actually the top floor of a pub, which makes an excellent resting point after a while of trundling around on an art adventure. Their current painterly exhibition runs until August 10th.

Supplement, by Cecile B. Evans

If you’d like to follow this same route and find yourself not fully satisfied at this point, you can make your way to Herald Street (nearer Bethnal Green station) where you will come across Herald Street Gallery, Laura Bartlett Gallery, Maureen Paley and Campoli Presti – all of which consistently boast fantastic shows. Mile End Road is home to Carlos Ishikawa – a space that plays host to young, experimental work. Another space that has become a personal favourite is Chisenhale Gallery, which you would find if you were to continue east from the Approach – I admire the way the gallery appears to completely transforms for each show it holds.

Back at Aldgate, there is of course the Whitechapel Gallery: my favourite thing about this well-established space is the Zilkha Auditorium, where they are currently showcasing artists’ film from around the world (their café is pretty delightful too). As you get closer to Shoreditch, you’ll also find smaller spaces like Raven Row, which is very near to Liverpool Street station. Their Yvonne Rainer retrospective is open until August 10th, with four dance performances happening daily.

Now, I would think that that’s quite enough gallery hunting for one day. Maybe we should go find some coffee.

Fresh From Sheffield – Joseph Cutts


Joseph Cutts interview

Joseph Cutts on the Sheffield art scene. 

I think the Sheffield art scene is very cutting edge both S1 and Site Gallery have very different approaches to the way they put on shows.

Site Gallery is predominately media based, so it has a different method to the way it programs its year projects, especially with platform projects.

Where as S1, in the last year we have seen is relationship with Sheffield museums and the Henry Moore institute form.

There is a great relationship between how past artworks from archives can now inform future artists and commission so as a whole to explore different mediums of the way of putting on works. Its becoming more of an all round city.

To see Joseph’s full interview watch the video below.

Jonathan Vickers and Kerri Pratt

Surprisingly, the Jonathan Vickers Fine Art Award is only just beginning to be recognised as a significantly prestigious prize of national standing.  Surprising, because the Award, has now been running for sixteen years, with successful artists receiving a substantial bursary of £18,000, a nine-month residency in a rent-free studio, contribution to cost of materials, a solo exhibition at the Derby Museum and Art Gallery and input into teaching on Derby University’s Fine Art degree programme.  This makes it one of the biggest art prizes in the country, which not only gives the recipient the opportunity of being able to paint, uninterrupted, for a prolonged period in a dedicated space, but also creates the potential for the artist to be represented by an established gallery.   Major dealers are now paying attention to this biennial event, with London’s prestigious ‘The Fine Art Society – Contemporary’ now representing 2012/13 winner Bartholomew Beal, giving him a solo exhibition at their premiere venue this summer.

Established by the Derbyshire Community Foundation, with the aid of a legacy from the estate of the late Jonathan Vickers, the Award aims to bring ‘a rising artist to Derbyshire to produce work inspired by the county’s landscape, heritage and people’.  It has given painters Lewis Noble (2000/01), Kerry Hacker (2003/04), Helena Ben-Zenou (2005/06), Natalie Dowse (2007/08), Barley Beal (2012/13) a much needed boost to their careers, and by retaining one work from each artist is developing a collection of contemporary art of national importance that enriches the cultural life of Derbyshire.

Kerri Pratt

Kerri Pratt

Kerri Pratt

Kerri Pratt

Kerri Pratt is the latest painter to receive the award and will take up her residency in Derby’s Banks Mill Studios later in the year.  In 2011 she graduated from the University of Derby Fine Art BA programme with a 1st class honours degree, the Vice Chancellor’s Award and two University purchases to her name, having developed a working method that was painterly in its focus through restrained, yet adventurous, mark-making in the build up of semi-abstracted landscapes. Her large-scale paintings centre on personal responses to places, and in particular the built environment and urban setting, and it is here that the potential for a strong response to this year’s Award theme of ‘Our Treasure Houses’ can be realised. Her work hovers between pure abstraction and a defined concrete reality of architectural forms, with physical and illusory space in the image being flattened through a delicate layering, building and scraping back of paint surfaces, which still manages to present an apparently semi-readable view comprising of perspectival impressions.   It is this duality in the painting that allows for an open-endedness of interpretation where the viewer can delight in the restrained gesture and painterly qualities in themselves and, at the same time, become involved in attempting to read a more recognisable scene.  For a painter, such oscillation between the figurative and the non-figurative is no easy feat to achieve; yet Pratt succeeds in this time and again throughout her work.  She says about her practice “Taking inspiration from my surroundings, I have a curiosity for architectural spaces, drawn towards unusual forms, patterns and hidden layers. In particular I like to draw attention to subtleties of the apparently insignificant, things that are taken for granted, overlooked, mundane and banal. By deconstructing the landscape through a drawing process I am finding new ways of ‘seeing’ and responding to the built environment. This practical research then translates through experimental painting techniques, using a controlled approach, but with unpredictable outcomes.”

It is this dynamic between the ambiguous and the apparently readable that hints at the potential for developments to come, and interestingly she states her desire to underpin her practice throughout the residency with a rigorous approach to drawing.  It is this purposeful, focused and disciplined attitude that will ensure Pratt succeeds in producing assured paintings during her nine months on the Award.   Added to this, being born and raised in the local mining town of Heanor, makes her association to a prize that aims to take inspiration from the region’s heritage and add to the county’s culture genuinely valid.  It is the combination of a rigorous approach to practice, coupled with the authenticity of an artist linked to the region and local community, that will no doubt lead to the creation of work that is a genuinely personal response to the brief that nevertheless holds universal appeal.

During Pratt’s residency her work in progress will be available for viewing through Open Studio sessions at her Banks’ Mill Studios, with dates for these being advertised through her website and Twitter feed. Her solo exhibition of paintings from the residency will be held at the Derby Museum and Art Gallery in September 2015.

An Interview with Jacob Van Loon: The Transcripts

DC: As an artist what is one thing that you still have yet to achieve that you would like to achieve in the near future?

 

JVL: I’m leaving my day job behind to in part return to school as a Drawing student, but also to pursue a residency opportunity that may the doorway to a full time arts career. Those are two elements to my immediate, known future that I need to play by ear. I think a lot of artists operate with hyper-specific goals, but I’ve never picked up on that mode. Maybe it shows.

 

DC: For someone who might be viewing your work for the first time – how would you describe the processes and methods that go into creating each piece?

 

JVL: I work with a willingness to strike out what might be the strongest part of a composition in order to reconsider the entire piece. There are times where one area of the painting or drawing is set, and an instinctual timidity set in for the rest of the piece. The common reaction to that is “work the rest of the piece up to the same level of the area that is strongest”. Most the time, the section that is strongest first is lying. By intentionally disturbing the strongest areas, I’m replacing fear with an initiative. Not holding a part sacred over the whole has other implications, but that’s why my work consists of more than one layer. To be able to see the initiative.

 

DC: The combined processes that go into creating your work often seem extremely time consuming, how do you remain motivated to keep up with – and more importantly finish – each piece?
JVL: I’m not convinced I know how to finish a painting. I force myself to stop working on a piece, and sometimes it happens where I think it’s a finished piece but I look at it a few weeks later and start adding more. The level of detail I work within facilitates that, but also diffuses the endpoint. Most my work focuses on small details of an idea rather than an overarching concept, so anything other than the detail-intensive work I’ve fallen into seems like a disservice.

 

 DC: Colour seems to act as a very important presence, within your paintings in particular – is the addition of colour simply another step in the process of creating your work that comes somewhat instinctively, or are there more conceptually driven decisions behind the colours you choose to use?

 

JVL: My use of colour is unassigned, and I prefer the less-is-more approach when using colour. It’s easy to lay down everything thick and bright, and I think each residual drawn or painted work emphasizes more control over that impulse. There’s surface-level implications with using a desaturated palette – it points to weathering, sun-bleaching, lack of maintenance, and the like. Even those obvious considerations are minimal to me, texture and value has always been more interesting to me than colour. Kaskaskia was one of the first paintings with extensive green I’ve completed in the past three years. 

 

DC: You have a particularly impressive web presence, how important do you consider it, as an artist, to get yourself and your work out there on the Internet?

 

JVL: It’s been unequivocally important, in the way of opportunity and career experience. There’s a lot of falsehood to endure when relying heavily on web presence, but I don’t perceive that as being different from more conventional approaches to the same objective. I’ve done my share of spending time trying to gain connections and forging relationships with people on a local level. Every artist I know goes through that, and dealing with the non-commitment of others can really wear a person down especially when their livelihood is at stake.

There’s a pushback with a lot of artists about using the internet on the level that I and others do, and it has nothing to do with age or a generational gap. Some people disagree with using the internet as a platform for artwork. The reason for dismissal is always fear-based. “My work doesn’t look good on a computer screen,” “Someone will steal my work,” “I don’t trust XYZ intention of the people looking at my art on their computers” “I will be exploited,” “it’s not the same experience,” “It’s not personal enough,”. I don’t care how contentious this is to say: It’s almost guaranteed that you are in some way arrogant or stupid if you are a practicing artist who refuses to use the internet. It doesn’t matter what your reason is, babies cry for a lot of different reasons but it all sounds equally annoying to my ears.

Online platforms give you chance after chance to put your best foot forward, and it’s usually at no cost except for time. It’s still humbling to know my work is hanging in different places all over the world, because of the presence I’ve maintained online.

 

DC: Your aesthetic is “influenced by architecture, cartography, scientific illustration and graphic design” – how is it all of these different inspirations came together to help to create your work as it is today (is your work literally a representation of all of your creative interests in one space)?

 

JVL: I like to consider all the processes I was taught when making a piece, but it’s not necessarily a high-priority focus that a viewer recognize all the influence. My approach to visual art is similar to the problem-solving aspect foundational to design. What a 12th century illuminated manuscript has in common with the advertisement for Target on the subway is that they are both made to structure information to the viewer in a way they normally wouldn’t see. I’m happy to have a lot of opportunity to act on that impulse through my drawings and paintings.

 

DC: Are you ever tempted to recreate any of your paintings digitally?

 

JVL: I’m most interested in learning 3-D modelling at this point, for structures that would accompany or enhance my 2-D work. I hope to have an opportunity in the next year to test some ideas.

 

DC: Recently your paintings seem to have become much more three dimensional, almost suggesting a natural yet architectural growth. Was this change a conscious decision or just another natural progression of your work?

 

JVL: Up until the middle of last year, my work had architectural influence but intentionally lacked structure or conventional depth (tied to landscape or dimension). Stations / Colliders address space in a much more direct way, where what isn’t drawn into those spaces is of equal importance. They are also a more direct correlation between design and the act of drawing. They probably have more in common with the painted works than I think they do.

 

DC: Do you ever find it difficult to balance commission type work with your own creative projects?

 

JVL: I’ve been fortunate to have clients who give me space to continue my body of work, on commission. A lot of my work is commissioned with the understanding any new piece will be a sensible continuation of existing work.

JVL: I’ve been approached by a few different agencies/other entities for specific projects, but have been less inclined to take on a prompt birthed in a room full of marketing people/CDs who have never actually looked at my portfolio to know what I do best. I like being challenged by a prompt, not manipulated.

 

DC: How does the natural transition between ideas and pieces work specifically for you – is it all planned and sketched out before you start, or do you let it evolve and form into new work freely?
JVL: I don’t plan every piece. An old drawing teacher of mine basically said thumbnails and sketches are the devil, the notion of which I whole-heartedly reject. Some of my work needs to be fleshed out before the final piece starts, even considering that my painted work is full of live edits, and you can see that decision making in the final pieces. The figurative work I do is much more automatic, because it’s a destructive/deconstructive approach in comparison to my drawings and paintings.

 

DC: Have you ever worked collaboratively with another artist/Would you ever be interested in working collaboratively with another artist?

JVL: I love collaborations but it’s difficult to find proper time to do anything like that in great depth. I’ve done some back-and-forth with Gabrielle Rose, Ben Sears, Ryan Humphry, Michael Chase and a few other friends. I’d like to do some extensive piece with Michael Canich.
DC: Has your work ever taken any dramatic turns either conceptually or in the way that you use materials and processes?

 

JVL: My work is drama-free, and non-toxic. I combine a lot of things that aren’t totally unconventional but not necessarily made to be combined. The mixtures can generate some surprises down the road as whatever chemistry I’ve created on the surface is dynamic and prone to change over time. That’s rare though, and I tend not to mess around too much if the work is commissioned.

 

DC: Had you always wanted to become an artist?

 

JVL: No way.

 

DC: What has been the most difficult part of reaching the point you are at today with your work and career?

 

JVL: Keeping the self-doubt out of my work, completely.

 

DC: Any advice for any practicing artists?

JVL: Don’t stop working, and don’t let your work get ugly.

 

DC: And finally, do you think art can be used to change the World?

I’m not concerned with that.

 

With Thanks to Jacob Van Loon.

An Interview with Jacob Van Loon

I dont care how contentious this is to say: Its almost guaranteed that you are in some way arrogant or stupid if you are a practicing artist who refuses to use the Internet.

These strong and opinionated words are those of Chicago based artist Jacob Van Loon, and as a successful artist with an impressive web presence, perhaps they are words best taken on board. Attributing the humbling fact that hiswork is hanging in different places all over the world, because of the presence [hes] maintained online.Obviously Van Loon is doing something right online that so many others are still missing out on; and with the wise and somewhat modern opinion that Online platforms give you chance after chance to put your best foot forward, and its usually at no cost except for time surely all practicing (and wannabe practicing) artists should be following suit.

While Jacob Van Loons web presence might seem as if it takes up most of his time alone, his real passion lies in the artwork that he uses said web presence to advertise and reveal to the world. Working with a willingness to strike out what might be the strongest part of a composition in order to reconsider the entire piece Van Loon uses sharp lines, de-saturated colour, and a spectacularly steady hand to create impressively intricate yet bold drawings and paintings. With an aesthetic influenced by architecture, cartography, scientific illustration and graphic design, Van Loon is the first to admit that his approach to visual art is similar to the problem-solving aspect foundational to design, aiming to represent this information and his influences in a fresh and unique way.

With such intricate and detail orientated work I had to know how any artist could possess such admirable motivation and determination. However, with his reply beginning with the statement, Im not convinced I know how to finish a painting, it seems as though Van Loon may be more like other artists than I first assumed. With the widely believed opinion that artists are never truly finished with their work ringing true in my mind, Van Loon adds I force myself to stop working on a piece, and sometimes it happens where I think its a finished piece but I look at it a few weeks later and start adding more.

Jacob Van Loon

Jacob Van Loon – Homan Square

I was surprised, however, to find that colour didnt play such an intrinsic role within the creation of Van Loons work as I had always assumed it did. My use of colour is unassigned, he stated, adding that he always preferredthe less-is-more approach when using colour. Stating thattexture and value [had] always been more interesting to [him] than colour. Everything makes a little more sense, as while colour does clearly play a large role in the overall aesthetics of the work, the texturing and appearance of layering is most certainly more key to each pieces individual success. This act of layering and texturizing within Van Loons work is even noticeable within his most recent works  works which also seem to relate more closely to his constant inspirations of design and architecture of a more direct correlation forming between design and the act of drawing.

Having already taken part in nineteen exhibitions since 2009, and with a handful of commissioned projects under his belt, it is no surprise that Jacob Van Loon expects to have a busy few years ahead of him. When asked about his plans for the near future, Van Loon commented that A lot of artists operate with hyper-specific goals, but Ive never picked up on that mode - indicating that he prefers to set short term goals that can be taken on over a matter of years – or even months – rather than decades. With plans to leave his day job behind to in part return to school as a Drawing student, but also to pursue a residency opportunity that may be the doorway to a full time arts career - heres hoping that Van Loons career continues as successfully and impressively as it has started.

As an artist who is not concerned with whether or not art has or can change the World, I will leave you with Van Loons simple yet wise advice for any wannabe practicing artists;

Dont stop working, and dont let your work get ugly.

Jacob Van Loon

Jacob Van Loon

Learn To Be Happy

Its that time of year.  Degree shows are, for a BA Fine Art student, supposed to be the accumulation of everything you have worked for throughout your education; the beautiful and resolved results of your hard work which confidently asserts: I am An Artist.  I am ready for you, world!

Everyone in art school knows the legend of the Young British Artists (YBAs), who hosted the notorious Freeze exhibition which attracted the attention of Charles Saatchiall while many of them were still students studying at Goldsmiths. 

Oh, youll nominate me for the next Turner Prize? You flatterer!

I think many of us secretly believe that we will be snapped up at our degree show Private View and will be whisked off our feet by some Scandinavian gallery manager who wants to photograph our work for big coffee table books; or perhaps the editor of Frieze magazine; they might want to feature you in an article about the next generation of art graduates

Whats that? You want me to represent England in the next Venice Biennale? You charmer!

You may think Im exaggerating, but the little mounds of bespoke business cards bearing websites and contact details illustrate my point.  And of course, weve worked so hard and overcome so many obstacles,(and painted so many bloody boards white!) it feels only fair that we should be rewarded for it. 

According to David McLeavy, an ex-Hallam Fine Art student, the truth of the matter is that the sudden rise to artistic infamy doesnt really happen, at least not very often in regional cities like Sheffield.  The YBAs are an exception.  But that doesnt mean that there cant still be success for us, the recently graduated.  I first met David McLeavy when we both worked at Lush Cosmetics: I had just started my first year in Sheffield and he had just finished his degree and was working in order to fund his studio at S1 Artspace which he had won through a bursary scheme.  That year, Dave learned how to juggle working at Lush with his artistic practice, alongside setting up a new exhibition space in Sheffield, Snig Hill Gallery.  Since then, Dave has curated shows, facilitated new collaborations between artists, and founded Young Artists in Conversation (YAC), a project where interviews with up-and-coming artists are recorded and archived online.  Dave, with several exciting projects already under his belt, typifies successful graduate

When we leave the relatively comfortable safety net of university life (cheap bus fares, 10% student discount at Topshop), it can be hard to adjust to life outside the bubble.  We have to get jobs, pay council tax, be grownups.  Nationwide, there are schemes through university or galleries which can help graduates to bridge the transition from art school into the real world, and for those who have secured schemes like this, you may already have contacts and even an upcoming show.  But sometimes art practices can be forgotten while we get our lives sorted out; sometimes we fall in love or start a career in a totally different sector; perhaps we cant afford to rent a studio and dads garage just isn’t hitting the spot.  But there are different kinds of success, there are different races to be won. 

I felt more satisfaction hosting the Degree Show Private View, handing out cocktails and icing fairy cakes, than I did actually making and installing the artwork in the show.  Success should come hand in hand with happiness, so for me, success will not be as an artistit doesn’t make me happy.  Out of all my peer group, I think only a small handful intend to make art in the future: many are going on to teach, some have got jobs lined up already and one is starting a family.  But in different ways, we have all succeeded; we have all found out what art means to us and we are all closer to finding out what brings us happiness.  Its the time for existential thinking, but also the time for end-of-degree partiesmaybe you cant have the former without a healthy dose of the latter.

Edafu Colli – Threading Loss

Natalie Kate Lloyd presents a live performance that directs the viewer through a sculptural and photographic cartography, exploring the experiential memory of natural landscapes‘.

Edafu Colli is an installation performance created by Natalie Kate Lloyd as part of her degree at the University of Brighton. The installation both echoes and references her experience with the natural landscape and the memories of it through the manipulation of the space and the presentation of reflective imagery, object and movement.

The term ‘Edafu Colli’ is a Welsh term that can be translated as ‘threading loss’. The title is referencing the physical connective threading between the images and objects placed within the space, Lloyds choreographed activity, and the strict directive movements performed.

Edafu Colli

Natalie Kate Lloyd

Objectively, the installation contains images of local or visited landscapes that Lloyd has sentimental connections with. Certain visual works contain layered visual representations of the threading, but are overpowered slightly by the scale of the supporting installation. Supporting this is a large wooden frame constructed to interrupt the white space in which the installation is placed; behind the bars of wood is an upturned tree root, twined with the surrounding frame. This acted as a subtle visual reference to a found object of similar quality as seen in a previous documentation of the work - the object being driftwood.

On earlier inspection, I was able to investigate the space pre-performance in order to familiarise myself with the images and to embrace the installation as an artwork. This privilege is shared with any viewing member of the public as the installation is open as a space both pre and post performance. From this, I was able to inspect the smaller supporting images pertinent to the subject; the images are documentary representations of the visited landscapes, positioned in a way that the smaller images are threaded with larger more prominent memories. Small details such as the composition and the placement of the images could have been revisited in a way so there is a subtle refining, in order to preserve the installations objective qualities and its visual coherence. Exploring a darkened space as opposed to a naturally illuminated room would be a potentially beneficial inquisition.

The most immediate stimulus is the collection of slate fragments on the floor adjacent to the door; signs of human interaction are evident in the marks left from previous interactions.

As the performance is prepared, the usher greets the audience into the room. The viewer is immediately confronted by Lloyd, who is leaning with support from a black loop of thick material, which is attached to the wall out of direct eyesight, her weight supported in faith by this cord.

Her orientation is relatively imposing, in relation to the expanse of the room, forcing the viewer to make a decision – whether to stand near her from the front, or to traverse beyond her and view her movement from a different standpoint. This decision can alter not just the visual perspective but the experiential perspective the viewer is presented. The slow directional movement from left to right conveys a narrative that visually leads the viewer, and also draws attention to the strategically placed images, echoing the subject matter and becoming an extension of the work through the tension of the cord and the chronological movement through the room.

On first viewing I felt compelled to view her from a distance, as she interacted with the loose slate, to allow for the flow to describe the narrative she intended and to also broaden my view of the peripheral content.

Her gradual movements of interaction with the slate bare connotations that demonstrate a revisiting of physicality of the memory, whilst literally battling with the tension of the cord and the precariousness forced by the fragmented slate.

The transitions from one movement to another are executed pristinely; a lack of fluidity would drain the viewers’ focus from the objects to the performers fallibility. Lloyd’s transitions are subtle, but all are appropriate when drawing the focus of the viewer to the supporting stimulus. The performance encapsulates Lloyd’s intentions very clearly, to draw attention to the memories that are displayed as photographs, and to draw the viewer through the installation through her clockwise movement.

On second viewing, there was a more substantial audience, which proved to offer a different perspective for my viewing and also the viewing audience. The attendees impulsively crouched underneath Lloyd’s taut cord and immediately viewed the work from a reverse perspective, this as stated before would provoke a contrasting perspective on the performance, which isn’t necessarily inhibited by the presence of the performer. I personally found that following the chronology presented in the installation allowed for the narrative to build, as Lloyd intended.

The climatic stage of the performance includes Lloyd drawing herself near the proximal point of her cord, controlling every movement with strict attention, and detaching from the support. Then she takes a hammer and begins attaching a pre set image of the previous take of the performance to the wall with attentive precision. The solidification of the final images’ symbolism resonates through the entire performance, offering a progression towards a conclusive ending.

Lloyd’s personal development is focused on refining her attention to detail, both the objective details and impactful qualities of her motions. This is naturally achieved through her involvement in the performance.

The subtleties of her work accumulatively substantiate the installation, where her interaction with the space finalises the entire work.

Fresh from NUA

Every summer the studio spaces within the historic St. Georges Building of Norwich University of the Arts, which houses the creative activities of its resident fine art students, is cleared. The messy, productive and often quite chaotic spaces find themselves stripped bare and revamped in order to house work (of the graduating students) in a much more purposeful manner.

Shared working environments, such as shared or artist-run studios (the kind one accepts rather expectantly as a student) provides a fascinating environment in which to work; immersive and diverse, these working environments are the ideal breeding ground for creativity. To see such unrefined creative activity translated into such an eloquent display of emerging talent is utterly refreshing and in this sense NUAs 2014 Fine Art Degree Show does not disappoint; an absolute assortment of artistic practice, work throughout this show spans the traditional to the Avant-garde, challenging notions of artistic practice, ways in which work can be made and ways in which making itself can be thought.

Shared studios are the catalyst for creative discourse and dialogue; shared conversations, common interests and communal discussion are echoed through the display of work. The show is not themed per say, although making ones way round one is aware, in a rather poetic sense, of conversations that have taken place between practitioners and dialogue that is taking place between work.

One such conversation may implicate craft or craftsmanship, work across the breadth of the show appears to be heavily involved with its own making and visually demonstrating such processual activity. Davide Lakshmanasamys Untitled, standing authoritatively on the upper landing, is a stunning example of craftsman-like methodologies of making. Positioned domineeringly, the immensely strong and exceptionally certain characteristics of  Lakshmanasamys work sits in tentative contrast aside the ever-in-flux curatorial compositions of Michaela DAgati. DAgatis installation, which is not titled collectively, but lists each work individually, calls into questions contemporary drawing practice. Through processes of hand, mind and eye, elements of her work gracefully and purposefully negotiate the space in which they reside. Through the interaction between the objects and their space, the physical presence of the space itself is brought to one’s attention, one becomes immediately aware of certain characteristics and nuances of the space shared by oneself and the work. In dialogue with the spatial occupancy of DAgatis work, Francesca Cants Moving Hinged Screens, which invite participatory activity, cleverly ensue the negotiation of space by means of a viewers interaction. The four hinged wooden structures, which frame semi-transparent windows, are intended to be moved; the work either finds itself repositioned in which case the mover defines the space they are in, or remains in its current position, where the structure defines the space and how one might negotiate it.

Davide Lakshmanasamy

Davide Lakshmanasamy

Michaela

When I Remember, a work by Emma Jones, sees photographs from her childhood reduced into single colours, papers are printed in these autumnal shades and are then folded to create a constellation of origami-like objects which weighted to a single point seem to float upward like a procession of ascending lanterns. Like in Jones work where meaning is subverted behind a fairly minimal faced, Helen Pifferos, a work comprised of two large canvases, becomes an almost political stance against knowing in terms of viewing work. Behind a really rather physical making, involving as much the removal of paint as well as its application, a very visual façade invites contemplation and reflection.

Emma Jones

Emma Jones

Giles Basons Pari Passu, which quite plainly has involved a meditative and tranquil process of making, invokes the same in its viewer. Its utterly subtle, elegant appearance boasts meticulously and lovingly carved ash wood. The works concrete bases are imprinted with wood-like grain and each one, beautifully sculpted by hand, takes on a life of its own as an individual. Staged in front of a large glass window, Basons work coexists with nature and stunning natural light. Although logic tells us, that these sculptural forms have been whittled down to their current physical presences, they appear very much to have manifested naturally from seedlings, even their concrete bases taking on an organic quality with the subtle wood-like textures engrained in their surfaces.

Giles Bason

Giles Bason

In the work of Adam T. Burton, whose digitally made film Those Personal Machines of Transcendence is intentionally disrupted to give this difficult-to-view media a certain amount of tangibility, the materiality of what Burton creates is very much at the forefront of his practice; HD footage is paired with animated light bleeds and virtual camera faults and gives the impression that Burton is working with a media much more physical than is actually the case. The footage sees Burton returning to his hometown, a place he left at the age of 19, where he shoots an array of eerie scenes in which images of the 70s housing estate in which he grew up, seem not to move at all. The film is not made nostalgically, lovingly or emotionally, instead Burton seems to demonstrate a disconnect between himself, his camera and his subject. In the gallery, Burtons work is viewed initially through the semi-transparent views of Alana Webbs Oculi, Formulation I, in which the traditionally city-scape is completely transformed; windows photographed by Webb whilst exploring the city at night induce our most voyeuristic and inquisitive nature. Unlike with Burtons work, Marcia Xs The Gonzo Museum of Ethnology presents: Diasporic X, also introduces the viewer into new surroundings. Traveling back to Puerto Rico, a place that X hadnt visited in fourteen years, she has retuned with her memories. Whilst immersed in Xs work, one does not find oneself in a recreation of Puerto Rico itself, but an installation in which she curates an identity for herself; one which draws on cultural and social idioms, one which stands against the notion of having an identity created for her. Invited to play dominoes with X, she invites the viewer (and people from other parts of the world) to connect with her, in the same way that friends and family connect in Puerto Rico, through the playing of dominoes.

Alana Webb

Alana Webb

Elyn Middleton in her work Look Up Look Down Look all Around, removes a section of the gallery wall to allow one to peer through, not only to the stunning view through the window behind but to the original and paint spattered wall of this historic building. A glimpse which is mirrored and balanced with subtle material gestures; steel rods balance precariously in the space between the original wall and the much newer gallery wall, small rectangular pieces of painted wood are positioned matter-of-factly on the floor and a box-stool which becomes part of this rather curatorial arrangement has the much more practical role of allowing one to see.

The NUA fine art degree show is also quite heavily involved with more theoretical discussion; the catalogue brings aspects of contemporary art practice into question boasting the work of artist Cornelia Parker who demonstrates her playful methods of making and a conversation with artist John Wallbank focused on the subject of process. The theme of accessibility is discussed through a text comprised of the ideas of artist Jo Addison, writer Victoria Mitchell and curator Marcus Dickey-Horley, whilst Mark Wilsher through his text Dont Stop, talks of continuing practice after art school. Conversations and dialogues are formed and cemented with the presence of research and resource material from each student artist and a well-informed resource area attempts to expand on dialogue with its audience around potential of art practice today.

The Degree Shows at Norwich University of the Arts open on 1st July and runs until July 8th; they boast many more incredible works and talented practitioners.

Photos by Joseph Doubtfire.

The Uncomfortable Truth Behind Your Creativity

A few years before I moved to the UK and still lived in my hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden. I was dating a guy who I met through my friend’s brother. He was everything I wished for as a 19-year-old girl. He played in a band, had long hair, tight jeans and a room wallpapered with posters of one of Sweden’s top pop bands; Kent. After a few weeks of modest dating, he asked me if I wanted to come and listen to the their upcoming gig that would take place the following weekend. I enthusiastically accepted the invitation and ended up in the front row of the intimate crowd among the friends and family who were there to listen. The bright lights of the stage went down and converted into a dim headlight of blue and red colour, as the bass and keyboard’s melodies spread across the cramped venue.

I recognised it so well. The squeaky synth and the angst filled lyrics describing empty cities, concrete buildings and black painted hearts.

After the show, halfhearted applause and a light kiss on the forehead, he asked what I thought. With blushing cheeks I nodded and said I liked it, avoiding the uncomfortable truth that it all was a total rip off, a stolen sound from the big idols he so delicately taped to his bedroom walls.

When you engage in the creative sector, whether it is art, music, writing or any other creative profession, there is a basic knowledge that the fact of surrounding yourself with the work of others will help your own creative process. It will help you to develop your artistic skills and techniques, give inspiration to ideas and help you on your way to discovering your own creative identity.

Although this may be rewarding and supply basic tools for one’s creative development, it is something that my friends and I are often resistant to. The conversation about being one with your ideas and finding confidence in the fact that they are yours from the very start often winds its way into our discussions. For we all have them, our sources of inspiration. The role models, exhibitions and significant works of others that so easily trigger our creative initiative that fuels our own art. We study them, imitate them, become inspired by them and surround ourselves with them on a daily basis because we are told to, because it’s supposed to help us.

During my high school years in Sweden, I took a creative writing course to improve my writing skills. At this time I had a friend whose sister was a spectacular character. She always ended up in all sorts of absurd situations and we could spend hours on my friend’s living room couch talking about her latest antics and conquests. I’d write down these stories in my bedside writing book before I went to sleep, and gradually those small random notes evolved into a short novel that my teacher marked to the highest grade. But instead of being proud of my improvement, my entire body was filled with guilt. The character was not my own, the events taking place in the story were told to me by someone else. How could I call this story a creation of my own? Did it belong to me or someone else?

I have a consistent fear within my creative mind, of the day when I suddenly end up there in the dim blurred spotlight with everyone pointing out the bits and pieces that belong to the others before me, the ones that I have surrounded myself with for so long and passionately. Facing the fear that, of all those pieces, not one belongs to myself.

My influences feel annoyingly transparent and all I want to say already feels said. For many years, my idols, role models and sources of inspiration have felt more like a burden than a strength. A flock of demons that sit on the top of my shoulder gently reminding me that my originality only exists in my imagination.

For me, originality and success go hand in hand. In order to be successful in the artistic sector I must contribute with something new, something innovative. Whether this is true or not is irrelevant but what is important to recognise is the ambitious stress this sort of mindset creates. It will slow your creative process down to zero.

Over the years I have discovered that the projects I start in my own intimate and personal space for my own enjoyment, away from the perceived eye of the public, is the projects I get the most out of. They are not there to be revealed or tracked down. It does not matter anymore if my source of inspiration shines through and reveals traces of creativity that once belonged to someone else. That stress is no longer there and at last I have succeeded.

How do I learn to manage the unbearable thought that nothing I create is coming straight from my bare mind? By recognising that all my ideas are intrinsically connected to my inspiration, that the two are inseparable and that it would in fact, be a great injustice to remove one from the other.

David Bowie once said, “The only art I’ll ever study is stuff that I can steal from”.

Reading this eased my mind to such an extent that I realised that once I accept that my work is no different from anyone elses; A sack of stolen goods from everything I see and hear everyday mixed with my own initiative, my creative work process not only becomes more enjoyable but also more rewarding, and allows new ideas to take more accommodation than what I normally would allow for in the hotel of my mind.

Learning to embrace my influences instead of hiding from them has helped me to be more confident in my creative process, I now realise the beauty in being able to find ideas in someone else’s work and to strive for the goal that someone, someday might do the same in my own.

This may not be a truth covered in shiny gold but it is a truth you can relate to.

TH4Y

TH4Y – They Had Four Years

TH4Y is an annual exhibition held by GENERATOR that invites graduating artists around Scotland to submit proposals towards the production of new work. The newly commissioned work of 2014 belongs to the Brownlee Brothers, Flo Gordon, Jonny Lyons, Ailsa Mackenzie and Mary-Beth Quigley. The common bond that exists between the artists is that their practise resides in the idea of the conflicting desires of escapism from the expectations of day-to-day life. Alongside these themes there is the obvious shared use of humour and reflections on childhood that throws the viewer into a world of colour.  The colourful works excite the viewer and entice them into an edible world of art.

The Brownlee Brothers are drawn to macabre folklore and urban legends in contrast to the initial colourful playground that belongs to Flo Gordon and Ailsa Mackenzie. The Brownlee Brothers have created a sinister atmosphere that radiates throughout the dim gallery through the use of their suspended bronze sculpture. They attempt to imitate an object such as a censer, associated with Free Masonry and Catholic ceremonies. The sculpture is filled with incense and burned each day. This performance in itself is ritualistic and challenges the dark and unsettling nature of secret societies and religion. The atmosphere that surrounds the object is overwhelming and is uncomfortable for the viewer. For the masses that are unaware of secret societies, they are able to consider the role they play in relation to our daily life.

 

To compliment this dark theme is the work of Jonny Lyons. Lyons work was inspired by St. Minias, the first Christian martyr of Florence. According to legend, Miniato was an Armenian king who became a hermit in a cave on the hill of Mons Fiorentinus. In 250AD he was denounced and persecuted for being a Christian as he refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods. Miniato had undergone various torments, most of which he emerged unscathed and eventually he was beheaded. Lyons creates a film that considers the beliefs of Miniato in conjunction with the ideas of lost boys putting their outlandish ideas into practise. Alongside the screening of the film, Lyons has created a functioning sculpture of a wooden gun that is displayed on the gallery floor. I fail to see how Miniato relates at all to Lyons’ film. The wooden gun is pointed at a man’s head continuously. It appears more suicidal than any kind of respect to Miniato although it could be viewed very loosely as a statement to the saint’s martyrdom.  I appreciate the craftsmanship of Lyons’ work however the tribute to St. Minias appears to be a cock and bull story to complement the gun.

Generator Projects

Courtesy of Generator Projects.

This leads onto the colourful work of Flo Gordon. Gordon is interested in colour combinations and the irregularity of shapes. Sensory perception is a key aspect in the artist’s work with what looks like a giant cake portrait of Frodo from Lord of the Rings. Alongside this, placed on the floor are duvet fried eggs that resemble giant Haribo. Flo is considering the concept of edible colours and contains a humorous approach. I was lingering in the gallery with the hope to reach for a giant Haribo. The garish colours clash with the darker themes of The Brownlee Brother’s and Lyons’ work yet it provides a lighter atmosphere leaving the audience to reminisce of childhood dreams.

The GENERATOR is a great venue in Dundee for emerging artists. It is unfortunate that the city offers a lack of gallery space for upcoming artists and I admire the strength of the GENERATOR projects to aid artists from Duncan of Jordanstone and also from other art schools across the country. As a recent graduating artist myself I understand the difficulties that they all face.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Flo Gordon on life after art school and quizzed her on the very issue as well as her art work and more;

DF: Your work is very playful. What was the initial inspiration behind these works and have you always been interested in these ideas?

FG: I have one rule that I make work by and that is: do what you want. I make a lot of my art without question until it’s finished and then I’ll figure out what compelled me to make it – there’s always a reason. I have lots of different interests but the most prominent in my work to date would be my belief in instinctive humour, the psychological effects of colour, abstract ideas of faith and the way in which modern science threatens our sense of reality in benign ways.

DF: Was Mr Blobby a personal favourite of yours or does he have a deep cryptic meaning?

FG: I actually hardly ever watched Mr Blobby when I was young because he freaked me out. Though every time I saw him, then (and now), I would think of cake. I love ‘edible’ colours and how they speak directly to your sub-conscious urges.

 DF: Life after art school was always going to be hard. How did you find entering reality?

 FG: I had a few great opportunities given to me which have kept me busy for most of the year so I’ve been extremely lucky in that sense. However, the change in working environment was quite hard to adapt to. After University I moved home because it made sense financially. At University they tell you about the problems with money and juggling jobs with your practice but they never tell you about how lonely it can get working on your own. Some people work well in solitude but I was surprised to find that I benefited from a lively environment. I now live away from home and have gotten myself a communal studio space. I half-jokingly explain to people that I am paying for my mental health.

DF: Do you have any advice for the current emerging graduates?

 FG: Apply to everything. There are a lot of opportunities that are for recent graduates only, so lap them up while you can. Even if you don’t think you’re quite right for the application or vice versa, have a pop at it because a lot of these things are pretty flexible.

Brush off the rejection e-mails. With lots of applications, come lots of rejections. If you compiled a list of all your favourite artists and had to choose just one… it’s really hard! Just because you didn’t get it doesn’t mean your crap. Keep the faith and keep working.

Do what you want. Don’t feel confined to the art you made at University. I’ve met ‘established’ artists whose art totally contradicts their personality and I can’t help but wonder if they’ve been pigeon-holed into a type of work for which they are admired but they don’t necessarily like themselves. To me that seems sad like sleeping through your holiday.

Don’t be a pushover but don’t be a dick. This comes from personal experience and interactions with galleries; If you have a vision, don’t feel embarrassed to re-iterate instructions that are important to you. However, be considerate, respectful and generally an all-round lovely person because that helps with everything.

DF: Do you think it is important to encourage emerging artists and do you think that they have a place in society today?

 FG: Absolutely. We are definitely outcast a little and that’s mostly because people are fearful of those they don’t understand but all you have to do is talk about your work in layman’s terms once in a while.

DF: Do you have any plans for the future?

FG: I’ve just come to the end of quite a busy period so I’m just starting to make some new work and properly enjoy my new studio http://thenumbershop.org which coincidently will have a few shows on this summer.

TH4Y

Courtesy of Generator Projects.

Meetin Marina; 512 Hours at the Serpentine Gallery

I remember the first time I heard the name Marina Abramović. It was during a lecture in my first year of university – I’d opted for a term of performance art workshops, with the intention of throwing myself as far out of my comfort zone as possible (I knew I’d chosen correctly when our tutor’s first instruction to the group was to walk through the university’s campus barefoot and in single file).

As that particular week’s session was coming to a close, our tutor handed us all some additional reading material – a stapled booklet of photocopied excerpts from several articles about the work of Marina Abramović. Later, as I began to skim through the text in the silence of my bedroom, I quickly became engrossed in the story of someone who not only created art work but seemingly lived it out.

Now pegged as a matriarch within the realm of performance art, Marina Abramović has fostered a career spanning the last 40 years. In that time, she has repeatedly challenged her audience as well as her own body, carving out an area within art that requires both physical and mental endurance. Some of her most famous works required Abramović to push her body to its limits, sometimes until she lost consciousness and was unable to continue. A piece, part of her ‘Rhythm Series’ literally left her life in the hands of her viewers: providing a table of objects and implements (which included thorns, a blade and a gun with a single bullet) she resolved to stay passive for 6 hours, while the audience could use what they pleased on her. Despite what might sound confrontational to some, I don’t believe her work revolves around the danger or even the risk but would say that it is rather concerned with the very nature of being alive; of being conscious and present and with the point where you can no longer maintain this state.

It was the 2002 work A House with the Ocean View that I was first reading about – for this piece, Abramović spent 12 days in the Sean Kelly Gallery, consuming nothing but water. Her dwelling place consisted of three raised ‘rooms’ that acted as bedroom, bathroom and living space, each of them open to the public’s gaze. When talking about her desire for the exhibition, Abramović has said that by cleansing her own body through fasting and ritual, she was opening up a space in which anyone who entered would be free of time and purely in the present. By dedicating the gallery in this way, she even hoped to affect the space on an atomic level. I’d never before heard of an artist who confronted their audience so powerfully (and literally) while remaining so vulnerable.

In the hour that I stood awaiting my entrance to the Serpentine Gallery – on the opening day of Abramović’s new exhibition 512 Hours – I could feel the anticipation of the event building. Being in the present; what does that really mean? The question swirled in my mind as I stood with the friend who’d accompanied me, both of us speculating as to what we might be about to experience. I wondered if it would be similar to her 2010 MoMA performance The Artist is Present; a one on one encounter, sat facing the artist herself. I’d heard that that particular work had evoked tears in many of the people who came to sit with her; I wondered if I would cry, if that was what was to happen.

Marina Abramovic

Image courtesy of Serpentine Gallery, Laura Ferrari, Rahi Rezvani and Marina Abramovic.

A gallery staff member was moving down the queue, informing all those waiting, of the exhibition guidelines: we were to remain silent and to leave all bags/watches/technological items behind before entering. We edged closer to the front of the queue, excitement sparking as if we were about to be let on to a rollercoaster. When it was our turn to go inside, I felt my heart leap in my chest as we briskly moved through to a locker room. Already the air was different; the assistants gestured in silence, their faces warm and calm. Feeling already naked without the objects I’d come with, my friend and I exchanged an inquisitive glance and quietly crossed into the main gallery space.

People; just people. My eyes darted around the room, searching the space for an understanding of the layout. Standing facing the walls, sat on chairs, drifting in the open – I could not fathom the reasons for the different stances people had assumed. Then, like a sweeping breeze, a hand took hold of my own. I immediately felt safe; open. Leading me gently, this woman and I were gliding through the space, past other linked pairs, past poised figures staring ahead pensively. Another figure began to come into focus – an unmistakable face. Marina Abramović’s long, dark hair swayed in a straight plait as she too guided someone by the hand. Based on my track record of star struck gawking even when in the presence of fairly minor celebrities, I was surprised when I was able to take her in as if with no prior introductions. But her presence was strong and my eyes remained fixed to her until I was led into an adjoining room. How long would this hand be in mine? We come to a thick, white blind hanging across a section of the gallery’s large windows with our faces just centimetres away from its surface. I feel the presence of other people swell and fade away into the distance. A pause and then a whisper: ‘You may keep your eyes open or closed, but stay here for as long as you can. Just breathe.’ She let go of my hand and pressed her palm to my back for only a moment before leaving me there; I felt my breathing slow as the feel of her touch evaporated. I stayed in that spot, my gaze roaming the white light of the linen barrier before me. Just breathe, I thought.

I did eventually move, although I couldn’t say after how long. It was probably about the time I realised I’d not come alone and I’d left my friend in a relatively alien situation. My hand was taken on a second occasion as well, this time the interaction coming to a close when I was seated in one of the wooden chairs dotted throughout the gallery. This second woman placed her I did eventually move, although I couldn’t say after how long. It was probably about the time I realised I’d not come alone and I’d left my friend in a relatively alien situation. My hand was taken on a second occasion as well, this time the interaction coming to a close when I was seated in one of the wooden chairs dotted throughout the gallery. This second woman placed her hands on my shoulders, their weight softening my posture. Now in the main space once again, I was watching the movement of people on a square, raised platform in the room’s centre. For a while, Marina Abramović was leading several people, one by one, onto this slightly elevated stand. I failed to decipher what she whispered to them but many closed their eyes and stood for some time. She moved like a river, gently meandering between people and moving some as she went. It seemed as though energy was being transferred from body to body, like electricity that soothed and quieted those it touched.

We left not knowing how long we’d spent in that space. As the Hyde Park sun filtered across our faces, we both remarked on the state of calm we felt even then. ‘Not like a religious experience,’ my friend commented, ‘but still an energy.’ I wanted to let the encounter sink in; to ponder what this very different gallery experience had been. ‘They are my living material; I am their living material’; Marina Abramović’s words prior to the exhibition’s opening. In that space, I had been the same material as I was now. Maybe I was more aware of myself in that space; someone had given me permission to breathe, to be stood where I was stood. Someone had given me the opportunity to leave my belongings somewhere else; someone had let me be without distraction. Someone had asked me to be present.

Brighton Degree Show – Art Fare

The degree show is a very awkward tradition set in place by the institution as self-branding for themselves and upcoming graduates. This conventional expectation takes place every year, whereby every student is expected to muster up a penultimate creation to sum up their entire art school education. Its safe to say that this is a doomed prospect from the outset. This almost unquestioned element of art education is what I wish to explore in this article – do we make work that plays to a high traffic public, rather than question what it means to present a defining artwork vital to our exposure as an artist?

My feelings towards the degree show, admittedly, stem from the nature of my course. Fine Art: Critical Practice at the University of Brighton which places theory and practice as equally important, where you develop a practice which tests itself against discussion and analysis, considering the mode of authorship, the context of the work and how it engages with an audience and society. As part of a group of fourteen students, we all agreed that it has always been a flawed process whereby each year the studio is transformed into aquasi-gallery space, purely to accommodate the degree show. I just want to clarify that we were all aware the necessity of a degree show (for logistical reasons) and the platform it gave us to expose our previous post-studio show, Art Fare.

Art Fare was a two-week exhibition attempting to remove contemporary art from inside of the gallery, and took place across the in-service Brighton and Hove buses. By engaging with a wider audience in a public and accessible space, the exhibition explored the value of art in the everyday. Many works were advertised, whereas others deliberately slipped under the radar, allowing an element of uncertainty on some journeys. Due to the unique transit, post-studio nature of this exhibition, the works were difficult to capture in its entirety. This exhibition captured the ideas we wanted to challenge; so to then create a degree show two weeks later would always exist in the shadow of Art Fare.

Being aware of the exposure the degree show presents allowed us to collectively produce a documentation show of the exhibition. We did, however, actively refuse the conventional form of a documentary gallery exhibition and instead we continued the trajectory of show through Art Fare: The Shop. For those who saw the bus-show, the items in Art Fare: The Shop functioned as souvenirs, and for those who didn’t see the show, they were compensation for the missed opportunity. The work in the show took the understated forms of postcards, key-rings, cushions, posters, and other merchandise – each documenting the essence of the context-specific works.

The exhibition was inside a purpose built white cube, set inside the studio and leaving the majority of the space empty to place emphasis on the structure. Often there is no acknowledgement of its role for the previous three years as a functional, cluttered studio – it was this exact issue that we firstly wanted to avoid, and then came to directly address in our show. Aspiring to this, the white cube structure played on the false pretence given during the degree show; that the work is in a legitimate gallery environment, when in fact it has just been remodelled to appear so.

It often seems that London art schools set the precedent for expectations for work within a degree show – most likely instigated by the YBA’s. Through their use of shock tactics, throwaway materials, and wild living, they achieved considerable media coverage and dominated British art during the 1990s. Famously, many of the artists were supported and collected by Saatchi. For many people, the degree show acts as a platform to uncover their identity as an artist to collectors, potential employers and the press. Now don’t get me wrong, this works very favourably to a lot of people, I just think it leaves a strong reputation for expected spectacular works of art like Damien Hirst’s The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, a shark preserved in formaldehyde in a vitrine, and Tracey Emin’s My Bed, a disheveled double bed surrounded by detritus.

Brighton Art Fare

 

 

Ciaran Jones – Featured Artist July 2014

To tie in with our degree show special our featured artist section will be be split between three talented graduates of this year,  here we are celebrating University Of Derby graduate Ciaran Jones.

 

Ciaran Jones art

 

Artist Statement

‘The images are created by placing negatives inside a pair of shoes and going for a walk. The shoes have holes in the toes and sides. This combination of light leakage and the friction caused by the repetitive physical action of walking has the double effect of both exposing and wearing away at the emulsion at the same time’.

 

Ciaran Jones art

 

 

 

Amy Collins – Featured Artist July 2014

To tie in with our degree show special our featured artist section will be be split between three talented graduates of this year,  here we are celebrating Fine Art SHU graduate Amy Collins.

Amy Collins Art

 

Amy Collins Art

 

Amy Collins Artist

 

Amy Collins Artist