Earlier this autumn I put on another show at Deda in Derby. My contributions are shown above. I donated Cape Poem to the organisation as part of a fundraiser and contributed a short video piece that can be viewed here. I’ve a great fondness for Deda and been a long time supporter as well as putting on shows there. I’d appreciate any support that others might give them!
I don’t often ‘cross the streams’ in this blog…some time back I decided it would only focus on painting rather than veer into other topics. But although this isn’t especially about my painting it is about painting more generally. Occasionally I dip my toes into the wider art world and – curation. Actually I’m not entirely convinced that’s what I’m up to. Curation for me is a far more nuanced and complex activity. What I do, and what mostly happens in the art world generally nowadays, is selection. We (and that includes virtually everyone out there) select a group of artists (that admittedly we have given some thought to their suitability to be shown together) and put on an exhibition. And so it was here.
This group included artists from as far afield as London & the North East, Leicester, Lincoln & Nottingham. The show I titled ‘A Riotous Assembly’ and it took place in Derby at the excellent Dance based Arts Centre Deda. The brief intro says:
Letting go, running riot, it has to be admitted, is very liberating – and often a lot of fun. Then of course comes a reckoning, a sense of order being re-established if not completely restored. A lot of abstract painting practice runs on such principles. When you confront the blank sheet of paper or canvas it can be the best way of getting going…don’t agonise but dive in. Put a bit of stick (brush, roller etc.) about and just see how it goes for a bit. Luxuriate in the gloopy, resinous or wishy washy qualities of the paint, gorge yourself on the intensity of the hues, and delight in the chance elements of the collision of colour, form and facture that result. Yes, it may be a tad messy but trusting your instincts is an exhilarating ride and what comes through often surprises you with a fresh take on what you thought you might want to achieve. A new direction or approach to image making and, if you’re lucky something new in your work.
In this riotous assembly though (and whisper it in terms of whats just been said) there may be far more considered initial moves than might be supposed from a first casual look. For some of those present here neither want, nor one supposes could, let go with such abandon. Their first marks are deliberated, even agonised over. And those manoeuvres that follow are equally premeditated. Its simply part of their artifice that to the viewer comes an initial sensation of liberation, an easy, relaxed and reckless pleasure in the pure act of painting. And colour too can seem in some pictures to be be jostling and jockeying for position in random fashion when in truth there is a deal of experience at play, much of it hard-won over years of trial and error, with carefully controlled and thoughtful weighing up of what will ‘work’ with what to achieve a satisfactory and often thrilling outcome.
Here then is a show of seven artists who run the gamut of what’s possible for painting now. They span several generations and cover a fair bit of the country from the North East to London by way of parts of the East Midlands. They share no common agenda and have only been connected here through an invitation from myself. But there are connections and reflections aplenty if you look hard enough. Enjoy!
The show is now sadly over but as always its been hard work but really enjoyable. My thanks go to all the artists for their participation and to Deda, and especially their departing Director (off to a new challenge) and Technical Manager Geoff Harcula as well as the rest of the staff team for their assistance.
Over the past four days I’ve been travelling again – this time to Nuremberg to collect the work of Kevin Coyne for the Happy Little Fat Man exhibition we are planning for Deda and Derby Art School from November to next February. I love travelling but this trip was rather testing…some 1500 plus miles over effectively two days with an all too brief stopover in Nuremberg in the middle. It was fortunate that my pal came along as it really wasn’t a wise trip to do solo.
Sometimes its possible to really savour the places you visit but sadly this wasn’t that kind of trip – there was a job to be done and the timeframe was tight. Not that there weren’t moments that were a real pleasure. The city is delightful and given the unseasonable weather…it was more hot midsummer rather than autumn…it looked a treat.
In the wonderful and spectacular Neues Museum the Amish Quilts and James Turrell show was a stunner. I’d really no idea of the stark simplicity of the quilts and quite how modern they look. And it was good to see the early Turrell works. Now begins the hard work of cataloguing the material collected, getting photographs done and sorting out the press material and merchandising…here’s a first – I think rather amusing – image from the stuff collected…
Its not that often that I’m really rushing about in the day nowadays…I try to organise my time around a single substantive activity in the working day…the studio or teaching or occasionally a trip out with my pal usually. But today activities were a little more rushed but most interesting. It started at Deda, our Dance centre in Derby where I had been asked by the Morph Creatives, a group of mainly Derby based artists and makers to help curate their group exhibition that opens tomorrow. Diverse groups of this kind can sometimes make for ragbag shows but on this occasion there were several serendipitous connections across and through the work and it pretty much sorted itself out and everybody had (whether by accident or careful consideration) brought just enough pieces to fill the exhibition space available. I thought everybody had made some pretty solid work and it seems a wee bit invidious to pick stuff out of the bunch but as simply an example of what you might see if you can make it along (and I’d certainly say it would be worth it) this striking and rather clever collage by Del Coombs looked great hanging in the stairwell.
Then it was back to the Tarpey Gallery to see how the hang was going for my wife’s upcoming show (see the picture above – and this will be a bit of a departure for those who haven’t seen her work for while so be sure to go along and see what one of the Midlands best painters has been up to recently) and to take in a piece for the mixed selection that Luke keeps in the back space that wasn’t at all like the work of mine that had just come down. Not too difficult as those who’ve seen the twists and turns in my practice can testify! On this occasion I pulled out a large work on paper that came back from the show I had touring in Portugal back in 2005/6. One of a group of three titled Tuscan Garden. Only issue – that when we unwrapped it somehow a speck or two of something (paper, timber, varnish?) had come away and was sitting over one of the washes of colour. It really couldn’t go up in a commercial space as it was.
I decamped to home (the wife’s work was sorted and already half displayed) for a spot of lunch. I normally refrain from comment on wider issues at large in the world in this space, and certainly steer away from politics but… on our so called ‘serious’ national lunchtime radio news programme (Radio 4’s The World At One) I could barely believe my ears with the appallingly dire level of debate emanating from the three spokesperson’s of our leading parties nor the asinine line of questioning from the presenter on the Syrian topic. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation (and goodness knows it is seriously complicated) it deserves to be better served than by this low level of squabbling. As an aside it is interesting to note that three of the four of them were products of our public school system and all four had degree level education in politics or the dreaded PPE and naturally have never worked outside of the broad political/journalistic domain. This trend now so dominant in UK politics coupled with the seeming impossibility of anyone over 55 having anything worthwhile to offer to frontline party service (I know Ken Clarke is hanging in there but…) actually means that this disgracefully poor level of debate and decision making is with this for far into the future. Its just as well that (in this issue at least) UK plc’s opinions and actions (or inactions) mean diddly squat to the rest of the world (though the USA seems equally afflicted sadly…). Anyway rant over – ‘normal’ service resumed!
So after lunch back to the studio to retrieve the other Tuscan Garden (one is still in Portugal in a collection now) that mercifully wasn’t afflicted with any rogue dust. Back to the gallery and onto Deda (again) for a lively Finance meeting (we are wrestling with cutbacks in funding…again!). On the way to which I caught a part of one of Radio 4’s better programme offerings – the excellent Thinking Allowed with Lawrie Taylor. In the last of three programmes on leading thinkers Lawrie and his guests reexamined the work of Erving Goffman. To my shame I didn’t know of his work (I suspect because he was a sociologist rather than, as in the case of the two previous episodes, a philosopher- Foucault and Benjamin since you ask) but I’m going to follow it up now. The meeting lasted a fair while – we had quite a lot to mull over and I arrived home quite late…for me nowadays at least! Blimey I thought as I pulled up at the house and dragged the speck ridden picture into the house…that was a bit too much like working for a living!