“Traces” will feature work by me and the immensely talented Sharon James. Both of us explore the traces of things past and endeavour to create something more beautiful from subjects that are sometimes not so pretty. Sharon James’s latest works are concerned with what has gone before in her own history and in the world around her: investigating matters both deep and superficial. On the one hand, her autobiographical work explores her black identity and links to slavery through a series of drawings and paintings; on the other hand, she has developed a series of digital drawings/collages that deliberately aim to produce something quite different and beautiful, an antidote to what is often quite a dark subject. As most of you know, for some years I have been exploring the notion that nothing is ever completely eradicated. Usually my work is directly inspired by the patterns and processes in our landscape, but much of the work I have chosen for “Traces” focusses on human conflict and the sad fact that wars and discord will always flare up again and the causes can never be covered up or eradicated. I will be showing some of the pieces created for the “Artists On Conflict” show in Woodstock plus some other work where you can see the links to both my Black Squares work and the Erasure pieces. “Traces” continues until 11th May with the gallery being open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday 10am – 5.30pm.
I have been continuing working on my X Marks The Spot series which started at the end of the 50 Collages Before Christmas project I did last year. The last one I posted, X Marks The Spot Where We Buried The Hatchet took the work into the area of conflict, confusion and misdirection, so it is no surprise that I continued the theme when asked to exhibit at The Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum, Woodstock, in Art On Conflict to tie in with Jenny Holzer’s SOFTER installation at Blenheim Palace.
The three pieces here will accompany X Marks The Spot Where We Buried The Hatchet to Woodstock in what I am sure will be a fascinating and provoking exhibition.
I have been merrily working away at this project in a measured kind of way. It has been interesting to work with collage in a much bigger way than I have ever done before with some at A1 and one almost A0, though most are around the 50cm x 50cm mark. I have found that some have taken much more time than I ever could have imagined – just physically gluing and trimming takes proportionately longer to ensure everything is just right.
The reason I chose to do the project was to give me a focus. Having been out of the studio for a while I was stacked up with ideas and didn’t want to be flip-flopping about. Well that didn’t work: the project is spawning more ideas than ever and it’s difficult to focus on any of it.
However, I am happy with the direction things are going and I have quite a few pieces on the go and working well (plus a few that don’t want to go the way I hoped!) I have been blogging about the process on a-n so you can read more about it there. Below are some of the collages to date. I’ll create a page with all of them when the project is complete.
This piece, Abstract Drawings For Dummies I: The Tiny Section of My Soul marks the start of two series of work: Abstract Drawings For Dummies and 50 Collages Before Christmas. I had been adding small sections of collage into my erasure and redaction drawings and decided to include text – something I did quite a bit in drawings 45 years ago (including erasing the words and writing what I had done!) and occasionally more recently during my #Collage 365 and #Letter365 projects. I have always had a leaning towards the surreal and absurd with a bit of tongue-in-cheek conceptual thrown in. Influences from cartoons and illustrations, exploded diagrams and information boards, maps and instruction books and much, much more form a lattice of lunacy in my brain. Lay on to this the soft spot I have for Frank Zappa, Bonzo Dog, David Byrne, Laurie Anderson and other slightly odd (and some other decidedly, very odd) music it is not surprising this kind of thing will surface in my work from time to time. The series title Abstract Drawings For Dummies obviously refers to the hugely successful series of “how to” books. The books are, in my experience, well-written and of a high standard and the use of “for dummies” is in no way demeaning or patronising. By using “Dummies” the publishers are signalling to ordinary people they don’t need to feel threatened by experts and that everyone is quite capable of attaining a working knowledge of the subject of the book. Most abstract artists are continually asked to explain what their work is about and during my #Letter365 project where the artwork was sealed unseen into an envelope and sold “blind” I was particularly strongly questioned. At that time I devised a series of works that might help people find a way into art they were not readily comfortable with: works which have instructions, directions and explanations as part of the composition. This new series is planned towards the realisation of that idea. It also features some of the convoluted workings of my brain which had a small opportunity for expression, sometimes quite wittily, on the envelopes of #Letter365.
As I was clearly fired up to do all manner of work I chose the moment of completing this piece to commit to 50 Collages Before Christmas too.
The sixth offering in 50 Collages Before Christmas features more of my photographs of grids: some more from Bruce Nauman’s installation at the Hamberger Bahnhof, Berlin and some from boarded-up shopfronts in Bristol. Sometimes it is difficult to stick down collage elements in the precise positions so everything aligns exactly as I want but everything got measured, cut and positioned perfectly almost effortlessly. The photo has a little shine on the left which makes it difficult to see the small dotted marks on the photo which mimic the perforations in the cardboard – my favourite bit, except perhaps for the section centre left which delights my eye with its ever-so-slightly trompe l’oeil misleading.
Number 5 of 50 Collages before Christmas is You Were Meant To Follow The Plan was nearly the first to be done but I could never stick to the plan!
I’ve gone and done it again! A few years back I did a collage a day for a year – #Collage365. Then I did another every-day-for-a-year project – #Letter365. Only this time I have been a bit less demanding of myself. I think there are 63 days left till Christmas and I started the project 4 or 5 days ago. I know I am going to be away and busy for some of the time so I didn’t want to give myself any pressure. I also wanted to be able to do larger, more considered work rather than the very focussed work that the previous projects demanded. The idea came from my frustration of not being able to get the studio time I have been wanting. Necessary work on my studio roof and other calls on my time have meant I have not been able to engage in the concentrated work I need to be doing. I have sort of promised myself a “residency-at-home” for six months, following the idea of a “staycation”, where I can have an immersive experience in my studio and home landscape (mostly) and this project is how I have decided to kick it off.
Collage has started to creep into my work again – in the “Rings” series and the “Abstract Drawings for Dummies”, the first two of which are also the first two of #Collage50. When I was starting to put my studio back together after the work, I got out one of my large boxes of collage materials and just started working on things. I’ll have to find a way to get my studio organised round the things I am doing! Currently the floor and some work surfaces are covered with newly painted and marked paper I am preparing for use in collages!
The piece above, From Under Your Nose is Number 4 in the series. The photographs are discarded prints by Bridport photographer Brendon Buesnel that he gifted me as collage materials a couple of years ago. The piece below is Number 3, In The Room With No Soul. It features a photograph I took inside Bruce Bruce Nauman’s Room with My Soul Left Out, Room That Does Not Care which I saw at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin. A small piece of one of these photos has already appeared in #Collage50 and I can see it could be a theme that develops. Well, it’s a grid isn’t it!
I will set up a separate page for the project in due course and try to get half-decent pictures of them all to make into a gallery slide show.
I had a moving couple of hours opening and recording the contributions to my collaborative piece “The Binding Grid of Creative Connection” which I will be working on during the first two weeks of my show “Black Squares, Black Lines & Black Magic” at Black Swan Arts, Frome. So far 55 artists have contributed a total of 117 pieces for me to work with. I am really touched that so many people – people, mostly, I have never met – have taken so much time and care to make something for me to do with as I choose. People have trusted me with their art and given it in good heart. Most people packed their little 4″ x 4″ work with meticulous care. Many included a short note or a card with good wishes and words of support. Sometimes there was a little story about the piece and for me the greatest joy was when someone said how much they enjoyed thinking about and doing their piece. Pure inspiration. Thank you everyone. I will still accept contributions for the next two weeks. Do come and visit me at the gallery to see th eprogress and unfolding.
I have had pieces from France, Norway, America and all over the UK. Artists of all ages, amateur and professional, experienced and emerging, have put themselves out to send a creative gift. Some people sent multiple contributions. Three was a frequent number but a few sent more than 10 pieces! As yet I am still to discover who sent a pack of sixteen wonderful, double-sided squares, carefully packed, but didn’t enclose even a clue to their maker. Please let me know who you are so I can credit you!
With so much care and generosity taken with these gifts I am really conscious that I want to do justice to them and make the contributors be proud they were a part of something. I start work on Saturday on it and at present have far too many ideas, but I’ll soon find my way through it. I say I start on Saturday but actually I have created a big black square and drawn a grid on it. I stuck my own first contribution on it:
I don’t think I have mentioned that I was asked to provide images of my artwork to illustrate Issue 7 of Bones – journal for contemporary haiku, published back in July. It was a great honour for me to be asked and the words and pictures complement each other superbly.
I am delighted to report that I sold 15 pieces during Bridport Open Studios and generated a lot of good feedback and met some wonderful people. My new works on canvas were particularly well received and i sold “An Index of Metals (Thank You Brian and Robert)” pictured above. I also sold “The Bit They Know About You” (pictured below) which is one of my favourite pieces, so I am particularly pleased that someone has seen its merits. I hope it gives the buyers much pleasure for many years.
I suppose I am now going to have to change my Twitter header as the artwork I was using, “Mystery Evolves” (below) has also gone to a new home. I am fortunate too that quite a few smaller studies and collages sold, as well as the larger pieces mentioned in previous posts.