The aim of this sprint is to critically evaluate and learn from the exhibition presentation of my work at two events 1. Cornwall Open Studios, 28/5 – 5/6/22; and 2. A group show at Morvah Schoolhouse Gallery, 11/06/22 – 24/06/22. Particular areas that I’ll pay attention to are: curation and presentation, audience responses, and the ‘framing’ effect of sitting looking at my work on the wall.
In terms of curation, as well as the practical element, I’ll be thinking about Obrist’s observation that the act of curation ‘which at its most basic is simply about connecting cultures, bringing their elements into proximity with each other – the task of curating is to make junctions, to allow different elements to touch’ (Ways of Curating, 2014: 1). I like the sense of movement that is referred to here, glossing on the quote: cultural flows and exchange, psychological flows and exchanges, textual and intertextual flows. Fluidity has been much on my mind of late.
The theme of the Morvah exhibition – a group of 4 artists who have worked together before, is Breath and Earth. As older artists, we are aware of the finitude of our own breath, particularly acute for me due to the recent death of a good friend. We are also concerned with the way the earth breathes, literally and allegorically. This brings me back to flows and fluid dynamics again as a universal modality. The body of the earth, the cosmos, and our own bodies, all part of the same complex system. We are concerned about the earth and its ability to breathe in such a way as to continue to support sentient life. While others in the group have different investments in the title, my specific focus is what I regard as a dire need to see the earth once more as ‘being’, alive and in need of intensive human care, the earth to be regarded as having vitality in the Bergsonian sense – animism, therefore, entails a critically balanced system of movement, fluidity. I used this over-determined idea to design the poster for the show.
Open Studios reflection: we hung less work this time around, only showcasing new work. The studio was open for 10 days – a lot! We took it in turns to sit the show. We averaged around 45 people a day, more on weekends than during the week. There were some interesting comments from visitors and the work was largely well-received. There were a few paintings that attracted more attention than others – the rapture painting and the ‘bendy woods’ paintings in particular.
I did notice that people engaged more with the work when there was only one artist in the space (I share the space with two others – which reduces the cost and provides a trusted community). The woods theme seemed to go down well, particularly with older visitors; one visitor wrote me an email and had visited this blog; they seemed to understand what I am aiming for so that was an interesting interchange about the nature of the work. They seemed to be interested in the 360 approach to painting and perspective in relation to strange-making. I did feel that what I presented was a coherent body of work that is marked by an exploratory approach. No one bought anything however but maybe this is the wrong context for my work to sell. I did enjoy the engagement opportunity that an open studio affords.
On Saturday we hang our Breath and Earth show at Morvah Schoolhouse gallery. This is a more conventional gallery context, a bit out of the way, near Zennor and located in an ancient landscape. We don’t have to sit that show, so I am wondering if I need to provide some kind of leaflet about the work. Left that a bit late though! Ok prosaic learning here – get more organised in terms of my own work (if this was paid work I would attend to that with greater alacrity)!
Once that is done and dusted I’ll start the next sprint which is focused on capitalising on the learning from the last set of 360s. I’m also keen to make some kind of hand-made book at some stage, allowing words and images to come together. I’m still struggling with where I want to be on the realism/abstraction continuum, but perhaps that dilemma is based in the allure of abstract landscapes which often seem to appeal more to a broader audience. Could I find a way to do that AND keep the folk horror agenda in play? Maybe that is the focus of the next sprint (or have I been around this too many times?).
Somewhat belatedly, I realised that I could have posted my artist statement for the Morvah show on Instagram and Facebook ; only after a friend posted a picture of it on my page, did I twig that it might have been a good idea to have done this earlier! Getting the balance between sensible self-promotion and not being an overinflated puffa fish is quite tough!
02/10/22 Preparations for Newlyn Society of Artists show ‘The map is not the territory’, and ‘Sticks and Bones’ at The Crypt gallery in St Ives are underway! For the former just 3 submissions, and a rush job to find a framer for the Rapture painting – pick up on delivery day; a bit tight but shows me the need to get stuff framed professionally sooner.
Prep for our group show at The Crypt is more about planning at this stage. How to get stuff in and out given limited access and make it into something more than just a few paintings on the wall. I’m planning three more installation-type things. A video/animation of life drawings done by the four of us, that I’ll project onto a muslin cloth, free hanging from the ceiling (if that’s possible), and a desk that plays sounds when the lid is open (filled with sticks and sounds of crows flying out). I’m getting some help with the Arduino and the sensor from the robotics tech at work – he’s keen to make the desk vibrate which sounds fun. I’ll also show my large collages as well as recent more conventional paintings. The list of things to do for it is growing but I’m enjoying the sense of activity and agency. I’ve now got a test animation now for the life drawing using photoshop (annoying limitations with transitions and altering clip lengths though – AE next time around!). I’m going to use this approach for putting my life drawing on social media as well as it’s a bit more interesting than static images.
All this planning and the sense that art-making is opening up to all kinds of new things has prompted me to think about my painting. I’ll blog separately about that as a separate thread.