A weekend at the Tetley in Leeds was, I have to admit, not something I was looking forward to this time round. I should probably say straight away that I have nothing against either the Tetley or Leeds, and the artist's book fair there is one of my favourites. But this year I just haven't been in the zone. I realise that having the exhibition to think about at the same time didn't help, but I have no proper excuse - when faced with (by my standards) ample time to prepare in the previous week, I found myself slumped in front of the television watching good and bad (in a good way) films, serials, anything really.
To have an artists' book fair and an exhibition preview (with much attendant prep) in the space of six days is not ideal, but hey, if that's the way the cards fall, what are you going to do? In the event, both went well and were great fun, so maybe it is the way to do it. Still a little stiff from the unaccustomed exercise of painting walls, though.
A part of my brain, the part that wasn't zoned out, wondered if I was deliberately sabotaging myself. And if so, why? The sluggish part said 'shh, watching something'. Eventually I did get going on a project, but it was genuinely too late and I didn't make it to the end - this is something that has been worrying me for years, that one day I just wouldn't beat the deadline. Well now it's happened, and I'm not too impressed at myself, though I had enough stock so it wasn't the end of the world. I think I knew that, and I ask again - did I sabotage myself? Probably unanswerable, so I'll, um, put off thinking about it till it's almost too late for something or other. Meanwhile, I did produce a lot of useful prep towards the book, and next time it'll be fine. I expect.
I reached the fair last Saturday morning (dramatically snowy over the Pennines) in a much better state of mind and (of course) enjoyed myself as much as usual. I had a very erratic look round the rest of the fair, having long chats with some folks and failing to see some tables except to know I should have paid more attention, but it's hard to be behind a table as well as see everything else. For me at least. I think it's a part of the fading ability to multitask from which I've been suffering in recent years. I popped into the room holding vast numbers of David Barton's books on show (the picture below left was only a fraction of them!) and into the one holding Craig Atherton's Cafe Royal books (very smart, below right), and was very impressed with a gigantic book on display - the Bathymetric Atlas of the English Lake District. This enormous and pristine tome - it takes two be-gloved people to turn the pages, at set times during the week - shows the basins of the lakes, intricately cut away from vast, glued, double sheets of paper, like a negative version of building up mountains contour by contour. I only caught a section of the page-turning ceremony, but I think someone said that the depths of Lake Windermere appeared (or, I suppose, disappeared) first. It was surprisingly compelling to watch.
The preview for our Group Thirteen exhibition was on the Thursday evening, and there was a lot to do for it which (of course) I hadn't been able to concentrate on before the book fair. So, having found a room to myself within the allocated space at Hot Bed Press, I painted the walls in an agonised shade of blue - agonised in that it took me much agonising to reach a decision on exactly which shade. Really? For a fortnight's exhibition? Yes, but it was important to me. I managed the blue all in one day, and woke up in the middle of the night deciding that it was far too bright, but luckily by morning I'd decided that it wasn't (and that if it was, I'd just have to live with it). That, white paint on other bits and all the actual hanging left me unbelievably achy - unfitness doesn't mean you can't do these things, just that you suffer for them after. Still, probably good for me, and it was worth it - I might not have been ready till 20 minutes before opening, but I got there and I was happy with the results.
The exhibition is in an enormous space, giving us each the opportunity to organise our chosen patch exactly as we like, and resulting in what is really a number of mini-galleries. Work covers the inevitable trees, landscape, floral, birds, but also abstract, flotsam, ceramics, skulls, taxidermy, upholstery and insects. And more. I'm biased, of course, but I'd say definitely worth a visit (last day 23rd March, not open Sundays). In an effort to tempt would-be visitors, here's a selection of what's on show.
Two exhibitions this week - I know, I spoil myself. But hey, someone's got to do it.
Actually, I'd already seen the Neo:artists show Dada Now, but I went without a camera last time, and talking about an exhibition does need illustration, don't you think? This exhibition is fun. I didn't know quite what to expect - I'd heard of Dada of course, but my knowledge went no further than that, and that it's maybe a made-up word. I didn't even know that Duchamp's urinal was supposed to be a part of it, but if I had it wouldn't have encouraged me. Turns out it's a sort of anti-art, an art of the absurd, a reaction against what had gone before. It still didn't really grab me - every group of angry young artists ever rebels against what's established. What caught my attention more was that, broadly speaking, just about everything wayward that now comes under the broad umbrella of art has been built on the back of the rule-breaking established by the Dada artists.
Anyway, this exhibition isn't an attempt to emulate Dada but to work in an innovative fashion, a sort of echo of Dada perhaps, and as I said, it's fun. I liked Denis Whiteside's pieces (he mostly deals with words. I like words), perhaps particularly the work based on Waiting for Godot, and Georgina Parker's deconstructed map, where (as you can see below) she cut out quite a lot of the map but left all of the grid behind - definitely an 'I wish I'd thought of that' sort of a work, for me, I thought it was a brilliant idea. There were sets of typewriter art too (by Laura Hopkinson), which (words again) were fascinating - I assumed some kind of concrete poetry, but they were based on the oddities that predictive text throws up. Now I look at the pictures I've chosen, I realise that all of them areat least partly to do with words except the pink one (which I don't actually like as a whole piece, but included because I love the black and white patterned paint). It being a centenary year, there's probably plenty about Dada out there at the moment - here's one recent link.
That was the northern exhibition, in Bolton. The southern one was in Bath (surprise!) at Bath Contemporary Art gallery, and featured work by printmaker Sumi Perera. It was only on for a fortnight, so I did well to catch it. Her work is precise, much of it with an architectural flavour, and full of lines and colour that frequently makes my stomach clench with delight. I know that some of that is to do with the fiery, light-filled colour that she uses, and some with the utter mastery of her work, but I can't pin down just like that the intensity of my pleasure. I first came across her some years ago at a Bristol Artists' Book Event (BABE), where she was showing a book full of laser-cut architectural imagery that - in exactly the same way - ensnared me. I must have gone back half a dozen times over the weekend to gaze, jaw dropped, brain on hold, at the imagery. Anyway, the gallery said no, I couldn't take photos, but that I could use the ones from their website, which strikes me as a total win - they're infinitely better than anything I would have taken. I'm very pleased I managed to catch the show, and for once I don't feel too guilty that I'm reporting it late because it really wasn't on long. Hopefully she'll have a more extended exhibition next time round.
A member of staff at the gallery said that they had taken photos, and that Perera had been fascinated by the shadows cast by one of her pieces, looking forward to developing more work from them. I get that - shadows can add unexpected dimensions to a piece. This mask-like sculpture (by Rick Kirby) was on show at the same gallery, and I couldn't resist a photo as much for the shadows as anything else.
I make prints and book arts, though nowhere near as often as I'd like - no good reason, just an inability to get on with things. I occasionally go on about landscape (with which I am mildly obsessed) and various of its elements, and I like to pass comment on exhibitions I visit.