“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.
“The Transformed Land” show I was part of at The Brewhouse, Taunton, and Circle Hospital in Bath last year is reappearing in a refreshed version at ACEarts, Somerton, Somerset from 26 May 2018 to 16 June 2018. Curated by Paul Newman and featuring a stellar group of artists including Linn O’Carroll, Deborah Westmancoat, Howard Phipps, David Daniels, Andrew Lansley and Jennifer Newbury amongst others.
This is a piece that I started maybe a year ago! I finally made time to finish it off. I suppose it fits in my colour field drawings but it has a closer connection to my Tidelines work
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.
In my next show, at the Sugar Cube Gallery, Hambridge, I continue my explorations on the notion that nothing is ever completely eradicated: barely perceptible traces of every action remain like DNA signatures, capable of being read by those with the knowledge, sensitivity and technology. These traces affect what follows, whether we know it or not. Referencing crop marks, stone circles and mapmaking, a new suite of minimalist drawings using erasure and redaction will be on show along with selected work from two strands of my Black Squares series – asemic writing and “colourful black squares” plus anything else I can fit in to “the smallest gallery in Somerset”. All the pieces are small to medium in size and as such are affordably priced and would make great Christmas gifts for friends, family or a treat for yourself!
The show runs 7 November – 21 December at Sugar Cube Gallery, The Courtyard, Bowdens Farm, Hambridge, Somerset TA10 0BP Monday – Friday 9am – 4pm. There’s a preview evening on Friday 4th November 5pm – 7pm and it would be great to see everyone for a glass of fizz and a chat.
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 have decided on “The Binding Grid of Creative Connection” as the working title for the collaborative piece I will make during my “Black Squares, Black Lines & Black Magic” show at Black Swan Arts, Frome, next month. I have a feeling that the title may get added to with something in brackets, but we will see! So what does that mean? Well, it is a celebration of the incredibly positive and affirming nature of my experience with Twitter and the connections I have made with other creative people. The piece will be an attempt to anchor physically (bind) the goodwill and connected creativity of those people and to show my gratitude for their support. I have called it “Grid” because I often work with grids but also because of the idea of the National Grid: lines of power which spread energy across the land. I love the idea that groups of creative people are coming together through Twitter to create “ecologies of talent”, what Brian Eno refers to as “scenius”, the talent of a community (genius being the talent of an individual) where all sorts of people with a range of skills, abilities and facilities combine and contribute to enable great art and ideas to emerge. As Eno says in this clip from the John Peel Lecture the other day, it takes a lot of help from all sorts of people, including people sometimes refered to as hangers-on, for a creative scene to flourish. I think Twitter has the ability to support such “sceniuses” and “The Binding Grid of Creative Connection” is my way of giving it recognition. I have no idea how the piece will progress but I now have an idea how I will start the process, but you’ll have to wait for that.
One thing I have thought about is including some of the envelopes too – in fact at one point I thought of not opening the envelopes but displaying the work unseen! Those who know my work will recognise my fascination for the unseen, obscured, veiled and redacted from other work not least of which #Letter365. But I have said to everyone that I will give them a public credit for their contribution and mostly wont know who things are from if I don’t open the envelopes!
There seems to be a good response from people, but as I am not able to just pop in to Black Swan Arts I have no real idea exactly how many there might be so far. Thank you to all the kind and generous folk who have already sent contributions. More will always be welcome so get yours to me as soon as you can. So if you are an artist in any discipline please send your contribution to me c/o Black Squares, The Round Tower, Black Swan Arts, 2 Bridge Street, Frome, Somerset BA11 1BB. Please do it NOW! I will be creating the piece during the show which runs from 6 November – 29 November 2015 so if you wanted you could bring me your piece (I will accept submissions up to 21 November) but you know you’ll forget – so do it NOW! Don’t forget, when you send or deliver a piece you pass all physical and intellectual property rights to it as an object or idea over to me to use in any way that I see fit.
NB can you please make sure you put the correct postage on your package!
Also please note: I need to have your physical contribution. So if you make a digital piece please produce hard copy for me to use. If you are a musician or a poet or dancer or whatever you can still take part as long as you make your contribution into some kind of hard-copy 4″ x 4″ submission.
Footnote: thanks to Austin Kleon for reminding me in “Show Your Work” about Brian Eno’s concept of scenius
Riding on the success of Bridport Open Studios I am launching myself headlong into preparations for my next show. It’s going to be in the Round Tower at Black Swan Arts in Frome starting 6 November 2015 under the working title, “Black squares, black lines & black magic”. It is a really brilliant space and I am determined to create a show that takes the building into consideration rather than just arranging my pictures nicely round the walls (round being the operative word!) I am also determined that it will not be just a static display: I want the show to evolve over the three weeks it is open. I haven’t the luxury of a proper residency, but I will be there each day the show is open and I hope to develop site specific work during that time. Of course the more people who come through and engage with me the less work will I be able to do, so I have planned two participatory pieces that will help ensure something new gets finished during the show – “with a little help from my friends”!
The first of these pieces will involve the help of other artists. After my meeting at the Black Swan tomorrow I will post an open call to artists to submit their take on the theme “Black squares, black lines & black magic”. I will be looking for submissions in any materials or media but they must be exactly 4″ by 4″. If you send something in it may be used in any way I choose, so you mustn’t expect to necessarily recognise your piece in the finished work, though I will publicly credit each artist. More details to follow very soon but in the meantime get your thinking caps on and get those creative juices flowing!
The other participatory piece will be an homage to Bob Law. As a painter of black paintings Bob Law has to feature somewhere in the process of making this show. I will be asking the help of all visitors in the creation of this piece and though I have got it pretty much planned out I will wait till the exhibition opens to introduce it.
Oh, and don’t think that just because “black” appears 3 times in the working title that everything is going to be dark and sombre. Those of you who follow my work will know that my black squares are often neither black nor square! But there again, people who know me know I can become a little “overfocussed” – dare I say “obsessional”? – which could mean it all does end up pretty monochrome! You’ll have to wait and see.
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.