I'm definitely over-excited to have been invited to exhibit in Nexus, at Little Buckland Gallery in Gloucestershire. The gallery is in a large and delightful old barn (with immense beams upstairs - I know, not important, but think of it as background colour) - a fantastic space to play with. The gallery owner, Arabella Kiszely, has the work of some wonderful abstract artists, as well as ceramics, sculpture, jewellery and more besides.
Luckily, appointments don't have to be made to view the exhibition - it's open 11am-4pm daily. Lovely gallery, lovely spot.
It's beginning to look as if the world is in this viral event for the long haul - not exactly the news that we want to hear, but what can you do? Events are still being cancelled for this year, or sometimes delayed (in a spirit of hopefulness) until later in the year, and while surely no one can really believe that this will be the new normal - pockets of people existing in bubbles and anxious (reasonably or unreasonably) about all the other pockets of people - this is how things are for the forseeable future. Ok, so spaces are filling up again (I really miss the empty roads) but there's something faintly manic about it, as if we're all feverishly dancing at the end of time. Perhaps I'm edgy because I feel at risk - though with the exception of age, about which I don't think I can do anything, all factors are down to me.
Hot Bed Press is now open, and I'm just about getting the hang of printing again - hooray! The Old Lock Up Gallery is running its Secret Postcard show once more, so I produced a bunch of prints for that, and I've been and gone and editioned one of them, so that feels like some proper progress. Now I need to raise my game and (this has been the call for the longest time) accrue some stock. We'll see.
Or, I suppose more accurately, an exhibition, a fair, but still the weather.
I made time on one of my journeys to stop off at Rabley Drawing Centre, near Marlborough, for an exhibition of work by Emma Stibbon - large prints of various sorts, all of place. Urban, chill, fire all featured but I was mostly left with an impression of ice and darkness - I think that might have been largely down to her colour palette, but perhaps also my favourite works were of northern ice and, well, it's that dark time of year, isn't it. Her mark making is incredible - I found myself homing in on smaller and smaller patches. Rabley Drawing Centre feels as if it's in the middle of nowhere, up a narrow road and then down a track to the gentlest of chalk settings in the midst of fields. Its main disadvantage (if we forget about trying to find our way out in an impossible direction) is having to pass through Marlborough on the way there - charming, but regularly grid-locked. The only plus is the sense of achievement in reaching your destination at all! However, it's always been worth it, and no doubt I'll go on braving the crawling traffic to get there.
This last Sunday was the Hot Bed Press Christmas print and artists book Fair, held in the large but chilly downstairs of the building. It's taken me a long while to realise that I really enjoy selling at fairs - the chatting to people about the work, the weather, the traffic, the cold - whatever, really. I think of myself as someone who would rather shut myself away on my own, and, yes, sometimes that's true, but it would appear that inbetween such times I like to talk. It's never too late for a bit of insight, I guess. The music I'd hoped for didn't materialise, but there was a lovely christmas tree to compensate, and outside a stylish new board for the workshop, painted by Raul Gutierrez.
As for the weather, well for the last umpteen days it's been frosty with gin-clear skies. Stunning.
Every time I write in here, I say the same things - my, hasn't it been a long time since I last posted; I'm still driving up and down the country on a far too regular basis; I've missed a few more exhibitions. Alas, I say the same things because, broadly, everything is the same. I'm driving up and down the country even more frequently, but things are different only in a matter of degree. So please bear with me, because I expect I'll be saying the same thing in the next, no doubt distant, post.
However, I've managed a few things within that general framework. I had a piece in the annual Bath Society of Artists open exhibition, and one in Ormskirk's Chapel Gallery Lancashire Open,
and this last weekend I've had a table at the Hebden Bridge Print Fair, which was very enjoyable (they have an exhibition at the town hall too, on for another fortnight).
I also put some postcards into the Old Lock Up Gallery's annual fundraiser, which always feels worthwhile - and means there's been some printmaking in the mix, I'm relieved to say - and have made a few more patchwork landscape collagraph books, which please me ridiculously. And for now, that's it. I don't know what else might be just beyond the horizon - I'll see how life unfolds.
Logically I suppose there can't be infinite exhibitions to visit, though it can seem like it. I miss so many that I'd like to see, but I manage enough to scratch the itch. Mostly visits rely on propinquity, though I'll make the trek for something I consider that important, if it can be made to fit into life's schedule. I've managed a handful of shows quite recently, so here's one of them. I'd like to think I'll manage some more, but well, y'know, stuff and thing. We'll see.
Four Hot Bed Press members put on an exhibition at Astley Hall, Chorley - this trip was literally during the last two hours of the show, and onlt turned out not to have been within the very final hour because luckily I'd got the closing times wrong. Oliver Flude, Martin Kochany, Mitch Robinson and Gwilym Hughes were the artists, responding to the building during its winter closure. Four very different artists - though all with a relatively muted pallette - took four very different approaches to the brief, including watercolours of outdoor activity, digitally manipulated etchings based on historical portraits and reactions to the 'insignificant' within the building. This house more or less counts as on my doorstep yet I hadn't been aware of it. I wandered round it (see? plenty of time!), saw its amazing wonky windows, its four-poster beds, discreet staircases and the like, and found myself formulating how I might have responded to the hall. Differently again, no doubt. An interesting trip on all sorts of fronts - the exhibition, the house, the gardens.
Trowbridge's Drawing Projects UK hosts some great content - exhibitions, poetry meetings, classes, talks, and the cafe (Miranda's coffee shop) looks damn fine too - much of which I'm in no position to access for one reason or another, but when exhibitions are open on a thursday and I'm in the area, I go like a shot.
That meant that a couple of weeks ago I could visit the 2018 Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize show. It feels like a gift to have it available quite so locally, in a relatively small town, but Anita Taylor is helping to put Trowbridge on the artistic map and that's pretty amazing.
The exhibition is scattered through the ground floor of the building and, as always, helps to extend my definition of the idea of drawing. I find it difficult to take good photos there - huge works aren't easy in the space available, and glass reflects everything in such a light venue (some were impossible) - but I do my best, and only resorted to the catalogue in order to include the first prize winner. Here's a selection (click on photo, or hover over for info).
The first and second prize-winning pieces were both very large, amazing in different ways. I was stunned when I noticed that Moonlit Delphi had been made using biro, felt pen and poster paints - they seem (they are!) such everyday items - while Eden inevitably comes freighted with an unknown story. Boko Haram Kidnapping is all story, with the whole image formed from words - a passionate piece. While the Wind Drawing was one of many I have seen fairly recently (something of a fashion at the moment?), it's hard not to be fascinated by the delicate lines and their cumulative effect. My personal favourite (this keeps happening - I must stop thinking I haven't got time for them) was a video - someone slowly sweeping white shards into a line, from a blue bowl to the viewer. It was calm and mesmerising and I think I could have watched it all day on a loop.
I lost my instagram account earlier this month - pinched by a russian bot, I assume, since the linked email address suddenly became dot ru instead of mine. I accidentally (please don't ask, it makes me feel silly) set up another one the same day, and that was stolen next morning. I wasn't happy without one, so I gave it a few days before going for a third one, and that has survived so far, though you lose faith in the system. I disconnected it from here because I've long since forgotten how the code works and couldn't face finding out again in order to update it - I only mention the whole saga at all for the headline :-).
The Flourish part is, of course, the open exhibition at West Yorkshire Print Workshop. Yesterday was - again, of course - the last day, so off I drove, across the rather miserable Pennines. Flourish always presents an enormously varied offering, both in technique and style, this year ranging from Kate Desforges' gorgeously textural lithograph and Sara Lee's delicate and muted japanese woodcuts, through many other pieces of work, to Theresa Taylor's large copper sulphate etchings. Even in one discipline the different outcomes are fascinating - Maxine Foster combined her screenprints with other techniques (including bandsaw!), Hazel Roberts - who won first prize - produced colourful graphic screenprints, and Nicole Polonsky's work concerning her brother's suicide was enormously poignant.
Many of the pictures above are details from the original works. This was in most cases because where there was a lack of glass the detail and texture could really be appreciated, and I really did appreciate them - it's a shame that glass, useful and even necessary though it might be as a rule, must provide a barrier to the immediacy of the work.
One last arty thing to mention. I was waiting for a friend outside Leeds Art Gallery, so went in to see what I could find not far from the entrance. What I found was Mark Wallinger's 'Threshold to the Kingdom' (2000) - a slow motion video of travellers coming through automatic double doors at International Arrivals, to the strains of Allegri's glorious 'Miserere mei, Deus'. "The music adds an aura of spiritual mystery to the work and makes the unfolding action appear to be perfectly choreographed" the accompanying board tells you, and says everything that needs to be said. It was amazing.
There have been exhibition opportunities too - I had a piece in the Atkinson Gallery's summer exhibition, which I'm pleased to say sold on the opening night (I'm always pleased if something sells - on the opening night is definitely the cherry on the cake), and a piece in Chapel Gallery's open exhibition, and that sold too, again on the opening night, so what's a step up from pleased? Let's go with excited. I had three pieces in the Hebden Bridge exhibition set up to go with the fair, and two of those sold as well, so I reckon I can call that delighted. Seriously, it's all been a bit of a boost and rather good, and it goes without saying that I won't be mentioning the many other exhibitions I failed to get into, because the cherries would taste a little less sweet if I did that. I expect it's partly a case of try try try again (instead of bearing any kind of pointless and ridiculous grudge and feeling all petulant) but mostly learning my level with a degree of humility and realism. It might take me a while. It's not that I have an inflated idea of my abilities (well, I don't think I do), just that I'm not fond of rejection. Who is?
I've been to the usual scattering of exhibitions too. I was very pleased that Drawing Projects, Trowbridge, was open on a Thursday, so that I was able to catch the last ever Jerwood Drawing Prize (the next one being Trinity Buoy Wharf instead). It was, naturally, full of all sorts of goodies - here's a small selection.
I went to the exhibitions I had work in (although as usual I didn't make the private views - one day, I like to believe, things will be different). There are so many excellent artists out there and sometimes that can make you wonder what the point is, but of course art really doesn't have to be - really shouldn't be - about being as good as other people. I make prints because my brain spends all its time playing about with arty notions, and printing them helps to shift them on, get them out of my head. I have a love/hate relationship with the whole thing, and presumably after all this time I always will, but in spite of frequently playing with the idea of giving up for good on the whole damn thing, I'm not sure what I'd do without printmaking as an outlet. Hmm, seem to have allowed myself to stray from the subject of exhibitions.
Town Hall Arts in Trowbridge (what is it with Trowbridge at the moment??) currently has the Derwent Art Prize on show - perhaps not as show stopping as last year (I think - memory, eh, what's it good for?) but still good. Another selection.
I have the usual long, long list of exhibitions I want to see soon (ie before they finish), and almost certainly I shan't get around to at least half of them, but every visit is better than a miss, and that will have to do.
So keen am I not to miss everything going that I have been to three events this week (the first two of them on the same day and in opposite directions, which was a bit over the top), all of which coincidentally touched on or totally embraced anxieties about the environment. The third was a brief talk by Susie Turner about her work with solar plates and the second was Richard Dawson and Jacqui Symons' Oldham exhibition Natural: History (a fable of progress, or 'Oh no, we've killed the last unicorn' which was amazing but I want to come back to it after I've made a second, longer visit. So for now I'll talk about the first.
I've realised that I need to sign up for emails to keep up with what's happening to a greater extent - if I read them, of course, which is partly why I previously haven't bothered very much. I get impatient and delete them in droves, unopened, though I'm trying to train myself not to do that. With increased connection in my mind I resubscribed to Warrington Museum and Art Gallery's one and the first thing that came up was a talk by Tracy Hill, connected to her exhibition there, Haecceity (the word described on google as being "that property or quality of a thing by virtue of which it is unique or describable as ‘this (one)’" - its thisness). As I drove west on the first sunny and warm day of the year - and I mean wall to wall sunshine and positively summery - I knew I should really be mowing (suddenly the grass is loooong!) or starting on the destruction of the rotting shed, but I am so glad I didn't give in to garden duties. I went because the pictures of work at the exhibition were like her prints that I had seen at WYPW at the end of last year, and I was keen to see more - and know more. The talk the artist gave rooted the work in her practice and gave it so much more depth than I could possibly have culled from the noticeboard. Her work could loosely be described as landscape art, but that on its own would tell you nothing about it - it derives from landscape (in this case Mosses, of the local geographical kind) and depicts landscape, but to recognise it immediately as landscape would take considerably more imagination than I have.
Gathering information from the board at the exhibition, her talk and her website I discovered that, more specifically, her practice is concerned with the historical legacy of post-industrial landscapes and ideas around place. She uses digital mapping technology to scan her chosen area of landscape, then manipulates the visual results. For Haecceity the results of this process were projected on to the black-painted walls and she produced her drawings (in limestone) starting from those projections. She is passionate about the Mosses, their slow destruction by drainage and their lack of consideration because they are - on initial glance - unattractive edgelands with little to recommend them. The works produced from this process - and her commitment to the landscapes behind them - are beautifully textural and airy, and inevitably I see them completely differently now that I know the back story. My only contact with this type of landscape has been a couple of brief visits to Red Moss near Bolton, as part of a son's geography project, and as we felt like borderline trespassers both times I didn't pay much attention except to a great flock of fieldfares and redwings making their way across the land, but now I'd like to find out more about this kind of terrain.
The artist has other works on show too - black on white instead of white on black, screenprinted, similar in style but made using conductive or capacitive ink. This means - in this case - that the viewer can press on the black areas of the print and trigger a recording from the Mosses. Four prints, four recordings, capable of being played individually or together if you wander round pressing them all in turn. I was a little sceptical at first - a gimmicky thing, I assumed - but it added a real sense of place, grounded the whole thing, and I was a total convert. I was particularly hooked by the noise of a plane passing overhead, which more than anything else put me right in the middle of this flat, bleak, soggy place and... just left me there. Fascinating talk, great exhibition, worth a couple of hours of anybody's time. Brilliant.
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.