“365” – the final piece in my #BlackSquares365 project
Today is the last day of #BlackSquares365, my every-day-for-a-year serial art project. A couple of days ago Paul Newman, the brilliant graphite artist, suggested I finish with an envelope. I woke up early this morning and thought (quoting Roy Harper), “He’s right! He’s right: I’ve not done that one for ages! Little bugger.” Paul was alluding to two previous projects of mine: #Letter365 and The Binding Grid of Creative Connection.#Letter365 was my second year-long art project in which I created an artwork from scratch each day, sealed it in an envelope and sent it to the gallery. The envelopes were displayed as an installation and only opened if and after they were sold. The Binding Grid of Creative Connection was created whilst I was in residence at my solo show at Black Swan Arts, Black Squares, Black Lines & Black Magic. It was a celebration of the connections I had made on Twitter with other artists round the world. 72 artists contributed a total of more than 150 4” square artworks, their takes on the theme of the show. Paul contributed a drawing to The Binding Grid, in response to which I made an envelope along with a statement of possible contents. To this day Paul does not know if his drawing is/was in that envelope; he doesn’t know if I erased it.
So, today, I have reprised that work. Paul cleverly connected my previous black squares work with a previous serial art project. I can add in additional connections to previous work and long-standing inspirations and influences. In particular there is a reference to the last chapter of Richard Brautigan’s “Trout Fishing In America”, about which I made a small sculpture (involving Letraset, which I have started to use again in #BlackSquares365) when I was at art school, probably in 1973! The sealing wax was a feature of #Letter365 and I have reintroduced it here: it should have said “bee” (I’m a beekeeper) but I panicked when the wax started smoking (we have lots of new very sensitive smoke alarms at the studios now!) So, I have cleverly connected this piece to the work Paul was talking of and have rekindled in him, I hope, that terrible angst of not knowing the whereabouts or condition of his work. I thank Paul for giving me this opportunity and for all his support and help over many years.
So my final piece ends the series with some unknowns and who knows if it even meets the criteria I set out at the beginning, but I like it a lot and it’s a fitting end to a decent project in which I made some pretty good work, stretched myself but didn’t fret and found the discipline the easiest of all the time-based projects I have done.
“338 expressions on the journey of Hylaeus brevicornis” Ink on handmade Indian rag paper mounted on archival cotton paper with printed text 70cm x 38cm
Although I had been invited to participate in the first of Lydia Needle’s “50 Bees: the interconnectedness of all things”, I was too busy to be able to accept. So it was wonderful to have a second chance this year. Lydia has chosen 50 British bee species and allocated one to each of the artists involved. Each artist has created their own original work in response, which will be paired with Lydia’s amazing needlefelt representations of the bees encased in antique containers. A really diverse and talented group of artists and makers have made some phenomenal work, so the exhibition at the Richard Jeffries Museum in Swindon is worth a visit if you are that way.
My bee is Hylaeus brevicornis, the Yellow-face Short-horned Bee. Lydia apologised that there was not enough space to have a full artist profile for everyone but asked for a 100-word statement describing the process of making the work. This is mine:
“I make abstract work, often minimalist and repetitive, that explores the patterns and processes of Nature, especially the interplay between chaos and control. To be asked to create work about this tiny bee was outside my typical process. To do the task justice involved much research, scribbling, play, thinking, interconnecting with everything, planning, discarding and then being somewhat more reasonable. It became clear that I could never explain the process of arriving at the work in my allotted 100 words, so I made some the words part of the artwork. I will only explain more to whoever buys the piece.”
Those of you who share my joy in complying with rules will note there are exactly 100 words in the statement. That might give you an idea on how you might access the work
Industry (detail) Collage – paper and photographic elements 381mm x 559mm
Having spent the afternoon working with our bees I didn’t get to start any artwork until the early evening. I did my #Letter365 piece before dinner then went back to the studio for a while and created a collage on Somerset paper from some prints of a photo I took of some of our bees. I’m quite liking this grid of repetitive forms and textures done with glossy photo paper sanded and scratched back. It echoes my obsession with the repetitive patterns in nature, particularly wave-sculpted sand ripples.