From arriving home from Portugal to hanging my exhibit at Lakeside there doesn’t seem to have been time to breathe! Or to reflect….and cogitation is a much undervalued commodity in modern life it seems. It was often something I complained about whilst working in Higher Education where a deal more cogitation would have often saved us from numerous cock ups and contra temps. Anyway today is an opportunity to sit back a little and savour what we saw on our all too brief trip and to contemplate a little now that Epidemic!/Black North is on the walls in the Angear space at Lakeside. I need to pay tribute to Neil and his staff who were highly professional, smoothly efficient and helpful in a way that a lot of other bigger art spaces in our region could learn from (and further afield for that matter). In particular Freddy & Luke got the pieces up quick smart.
I’m happy with the way it looks and relieved it worked out pretty much as I had intended. I just hope to get some positive feedback on a project that, one way and another, has dominated the past twelve months and more. If you don’t know already it runs from now until 2nd February 2014 and there’s a viewing evening on Friday 22nd November from 7pm.
I have been to the Porto area of Portugal six or seven times now and it is always a pleasure. Fresh insights occur every time and this time around was no exception. I made a project several years back on the extraordinary (to me at least) space between the beach on the Atlantic and the lagoon. The photo here shows the toilet block (!) near the beach at just about the narrowest strip (less than a couple hundred yards) of it at Costa Nova. I am always fascinated by the way in which the salt air affects everything on the one side and the lagoon seems to protect everything on the other. Another trip took us up into the mountains around Arouca…I’d been up there further north before but this time the terrain was more rugged and exposed (reminding me a little of Dartmoor in Devon).
On the way up we saw some lovely landscape and on top it was glorious until the mists and rain came in…just in time to prevent me from photographing the largest waterfall in the country…I got these shots, one of which shows the information board…!
Up we go, into the high hills that precede the mountainous region on the south side of the Douro, past Arouca. Having first paid a brief homage to the seemingly endless beaches and the glorious lagoon that stretches from Ovar down to and beyond Costa Nova. Only three days away but a fantastic sampler of what the area around Porto has to offer. Suzana & Anibal, as ever, wonderful hosts. I shall write more on the subject in the next day or two once I have delivered my work to the Lakeside Arts Centre in Nottingham.
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!
Having mentioned it in the last post here it seems wrong to be doing so again but this time there was a purpose to it. Some six years back I had the opportunity of exhibiting in Portugal with a solo show that started in San Joao de Madeira before going onto two other locations in the north of the country around Porto. For all sorts of reasons it has been sitting there in storage ever since. Every year I’ve been telling myself to get organised and collect it…this Xmas I will finally have the satisfaction of knowing I’ve done it.
The trip out was a joy – bright blue sunshine across France and Spain. To live a life in the arts is a privilege – one doesn’t need massive success (though that might have been nice!) to have opportunities denied to most. Travelling to places and making friends that last a lifetime…that’s sufficient reward.