Last chance to look.
Time to take down the exhibition.
The exhibition has come to an end.
Last chance to look.
Time to take down the exhibition.
The exhibition has come to an end.
I must admit to being more than a little apprehensive about the ‘meet the artist’ event and how my work might be received, part of this being down to the fact that much of the work came out of a very difficult time following my sons death, added to the uncertainty in the sorts of things people may ask. I probably needn’t have worried as it all seemed to be received really well, and several sales have been made in the first week. I tried to encourage people to make comments in my visitor’s book, which I will take a look at later, but I wanted just to record some of my recollections of conversations that I had.
There was a general interest in the work, how it evolved and the processes involved – someone said to me ‘as an engineer I’m interested in the process of how you made the charcoal’. Another visitor said to me that as a biologist having the willow trees included helped to make sense of the cyclic nature of work and its connections to the natural world. I was pleased by his observation as it went some way to re-affirm how I view my work and how the willow trees play an integral part of that. We went on to talk about some of my earlier experimentations with trying to extract pigmentation on fabric and making vegetable inks – he said that the leaves will have all sorts of colours in them and perhaps I should have a look at experimenting with chromatography – something to follow up.
Another conversation that stuck a cord was a conversation about the hanging of the grid of paintings, the gap and the painting on the end wall – ‘it looks very intentional’ was a comment by a visiting artist. The conversation didn’t delve too deeply into why this was, but it was intentional by me, and I was just glad that someone had actually noticed.
It was interesting to gauge people’s response- one of the works that has sold is a modest framed photographic documentation of one of the sand and charcoal floor works that I never for one moment thought would be sold, but I found that through the event a significant number of people selected this piece as one they quite liked too. Later we speculated on the power of the red dot – does a work that someone else has already selected as desirable have an effect on other peoples response to that work?
The ethereal nature of the Trace Drawings created a lot of interest in how they were made and there was a lot of speculation on what you could see in them – as with looking at clouds or into flames.
Thinking about the number of visitors – I didn’t count, but in the region of 20 -25, I would guess. A modest number, but it is a modest gallery and in the time I had it meant that I was pretty much able to have at least a brief conversation with most of the visitors. And included a number of OCA students.
Despite my apprehensions, I was very pleased with how it went and the positive response the work seemed to evoke. It was great too, to get a good mix of people- artists and scientists etc.
My intention was to write up about installing the exhibition straight away, when I came home. I started to do this but realised my brain was just a bit ‘frazzled’, so I just loaded the photos. It was a realization that it has been quite an intense process, in particular the previous 24-48 hrs with packing things up and checking I had everything, trying to think about what else I might need, considering contingencies, packing the car, then checking again.
We got there for 10am as arranged. The previous artist was taking down their exhibition, which gave us space for unloading everything from the car. From the time we started to actually hang work to finishing took 3 ½ hours. I have never previously hung an exhibition so it was a steep learning curve and was certainly made easier with the help of Donna, the gallery owner. The hanging system was simple and straight forward to use. We were glad we remembered to take tape measures and spirit levels – they were invaluable. It was also useful that, Jackie – the previous artist, had mentioned, when we visited her ‘event’, that it was helpful to have ‘D’ rings on the frames, as the system hooks would go easily into these making hanging the work and getting it level more straight forward. I made sure all my framed pieces had ‘D’ ring and it did make a huge difference.
It became apparent how useful my previous planning and the model making, to consider curation, had been. Going into the space I was able to say straight away, this goes there, that goes there and they go over there! So everything pretty much went to plan, though I learnt that the thing I hadn’t considered was the length of the hanging system wires. So the piece, ‘That’s just how it is’, which consists of 11 paintings and that I intended to hang as grid (a grid with a space – a broken grid- a reference to an order broken) became an issue. In my planning I knew the paintings would physically fit, but I hadn’t factored in the hanging wire not reaching low enough to hook on the ‘D’ ring of the bottom work. There was a lot of nudging and tweeking to try and make it work, but it became apparent that it would require a re-think. I thought back to my intentions in planning stages of the work. In a blog post about this in May last year I wrote-
‘ In my current thinking I would if possible hang them in a grid of 3 x 4, with one obvious gap. Each painting would be a fragment of the overall shadow from each willow. My intention would be that they do not match or ‘properly’ fit together, and perhaps that they could be hung in a different configuration each time. The grid as a reference to order has been broken.’
From this I have drawn from the words ‘could be hung in a different configuration each time’, and decided on a different configuration. So we hung them 2 deep by 6 in length with the space in the bottom row. And I have to say it seemed to work really well in that space. I also started to think about how the location of the space in the group felt more ‘right’ and gave the piece a greater coherence.
So we got there in the end. I was very pleased with the out come and the signage Donna had done for me on the wall gave a professional touch. It was strange to then have to come away and leave the work, in particular my willow sculptures, but time for them to have a different life.
I only heard about this exhibition, onlandscape#3, on Friday and went along on Saturday- its first day. It caught my attention because of the title and subject matter, but also because it is a contemporary arts venue close to where I live that I wasn’t previously aware of- and I’ve lived around here for a long time. When I explored the details online it sounded even more intriguing. It is on a working organic farm, Lower Heywood Farm, which includes space for art residencies and exhibition space (plus 40 odd acres of land), it houses a project called The Survival Library, which aims to highlight the links between creative practice and agroecology- the collection is extensive and can be visited as a resource by appointment.
It took some finding down the back lanes of Somerset but we eventually found it. The 3 main artists showed photographic work in the exhibition space, plus a number of installations in the garden, the shed and the stable. For me, as someone who has been very focused on organising my own exhibition recently, I found myself viewing the space and its exhibiting potential, as much as the work. It was also refreshing to see work installed in the garden that was effectively lent against some apple trees- very simple- it was a reminder that sometimes the most simple of ideas can be most appropriate.
Part of the exhibition was the inclusion of work by a selected group of book artists. I really enjoyed looking at these. It was interesting to see such a large group brought together and be able to look through them. In my head for some time now I have thought that an artist book many be a way for me to bring together a lot of the work I have done with willow and have looked at different ways of bookmaking and various online means of printing booklets or newspapers. So, it was good to be able to see at close hand such a variety, which did also include some that appeared to be made by hand.
The Farm and venue did have an atmosphere and sense of community with values that I could very much relate to. All the artist were there to talk with, and I was able to leave them with a flyer for my exhibition. I shall certainly keep this place in mind as I go forwards as a resource but also as a potential venue.
Following on from my report and the few simple adjustments I have decided to make, I have added these on to my ‘list of works’ document that I have made. I have decided to go with numbering the works as I think it will have less of a distracting impact from the visual aesthetics of the works, and have a ‘list of works’ for viewers to refer for information of the details relating to each work. I will have a copy of this on a section of wall next to the stairs (as I saw in both the previous exhibition in the space), and I will have loose copies that can be handled. I will make possibly up to 10 copies in case people take them. I have included thumbnail images on this list to help with identifying each work, as I have seen on Hauser and Wirth’s list of works.
As I have previously mentioned I have been leaving the decision re- which trace drawings and small willow sculptures as I wanted to select an interesting combination. So I spent a morning with my collection, currently 9 works, looking at various combinations to see how they worked together. I was simultaneously going outside to look at the corresponding willow sculptures and considering both their form and the nature and colouration of the leaves and stems. My final selections are the Trace drawing s from-
Salix Candida, Salix Sachalinensis (Sekka) and Salix Purpurea (Dicky Meadows)
In addition to this I have collected together all the works, taped and strung the trace drawings, made sure they are all labelled, wrapped and protected in bubble wrap. Now I’m thinking what haven’t I done- I’m sure over the weekend this is the thought that will be going around in my head- having said that I know all the work is ready, gathered together, along with paperwork, signage etc. I will phone Donna this morning just to confirm our plans for Tuesday (Hanging day).
The impression I get from D’s feedback is that generally I am working in the right direction. She has looked at the selection of work I intend to present in my exhibition and commented ‘the whole set of paintings are a good collection which work well together without one dominating the other’. This is reassuring, but she has also added prompts with regard to some of the pieces which has made me stand back and reconsider the plans I have made. This has been useful in making me just look again to reaffirm what my thoughts are about the overall scheme.
D has questioned with regard to the photo collages- looks quite busy, do you need two and will they communicate the process? I think these works are pieces that I have looked at and previously wondered about whether using both was appropriate- ‘the time of presence’ piece introduces colour to an otherwise monochromatic collection of work, and I can see may introduce an element of confusion about where it fits in, in relation to the other work. The other piece however is much more directly related to the process of charcoal making- so I have decided that I will only include the one, monochromatic collage and hope this will add to the overall coherence in the group of works.
In relation to the set of paintings- ‘That’s just how it is…’ D. has questioned the number of paintings and if I intend to include all of them. ‘There seem to be quite a lot’ and ‘is the space right for the curation of the work?’ There are 11 paintings and they were made to be part of a group with the intention of being hung as a grid that is at the same time incomplete- as I mentioned previously a reference to an order that has been broken. The work I made for Major project came about in tandem with my own personal negotiating of a path through the bereavement of my son- this is what I wrote in my major project blog post ‘planning towards a series of works’
In thinking about how to take my work forward in line with thinking about the idea of ‘absence’ I was sat looking at a previous work that I had done, and actually feeling quite despondent. Its like my journey through much of this course has been filled with uncertainties of one sort or another, which I think it is just reflective of what it is to live in the aftermath of a tragic loss, but still I keep making and doing. So as I looked at this work, I thought there’s something wrong, I thought about my plan to make a piece about each of the willow sculptures- initial ideas about bringing different elements into each work hadn’t really worked, I thought about the collage of photos I had made- shadows, traces, absences, my mind turned to all the photos of shadows of the 8 willows- an idea started forming.
I jotted in my sketchbook and wrote the words-
There was something about this that made me think I need to embrace the ‘wrongness’. How can you make something seem right, when nothing feels right?
So whilst I can see the validity in D’s questioning, this work as it is has an emotional investment that makes me want to see it hung in its complete-ness. I have already thought that if I can hang it at least once I would be happy then for all the pieces to go their individual ways.
I have considered their size in relation to the architecture and as you can see in the photo of my model (which was made to scale) it will pretty much fill the height of the wall, but there will be a big space either side.
So I will continue to include the whole group. There is scope to keep tweeking and changing, but I do see that in having this exhibition it is also an opportunity to try things out- I am quite interested to see what the reaction will be to this work and how it is hung.
The other thing I picked up from D’s comments- ‘with or without plants’ and ‘consider plants, which may be too much and invoke a confused concept to the viewer’, is that perhaps she has uncertainties about including the living willow sculptures. I do see them as integral to how my practice has developed and so they do relate to the work I will be showing and, also, as I wrote in my assignment-
‘Through my time of working with willow I have noticed how the idea of absence and presence can have an ambiguous nature, and alter according with ones focus or perceptive point of view. I have noticed that as the willow sculpture go into their growing phase, which you might consider a ‘presence’ through their sheer vitality, the sculpted form that has been achieved starts to disappear, and so equally there is an absence. This disappearance of form has started to happen to the willows I intend to show.’
And as with the other work I am keen to gauge the response from viewers. Living willow sculptures are referred to in my artist statement which I think will enable people to locate them in my practice. I also think they are an element that some people will notice as connected to the work, whilst others will only see a ‘potted plant’. I am intrigued to see the response they get.
Something else I have picked up from D’s response is the potential for confusion about how the work sits in the light of how I have labelled or referred to work- like ‘the group of eight’ with the 3 older willow sculptures. I think many of these titles have come about in the evolution of the work, but I can see, particularly in the light of having a new group of works relating to ‘Plantation’ and 18 varieties of willow, I perhaps need to think more carefully about how I label and refer to work as I go forward.
D has acknowledged that my contextual research is much more evident now and relevant, going beyond simple commentary by linking it to my own work, which is good. I shall continue with this, including the suggested viewing. D. has added a reminder about making sure I document the exhibition well and collecting feedback from various sources- this will be my focus over the coming weeks.
It seems like a long time ago I submitted material to help publicise the exhibition, but some has now started to appear in these magazines-
The Leveller, which is a local free newspaper for Langport and the surrounding area.
The Evolver, which is a free magazine that covers the visual and performing arts across Wessex, and includes a number of major centres that include Bristol, Bath, Bournemouth Salisbury and Exeter.
O’Doherty’s piece seems to chart a period in arts history where there was a malaise felt through the way art often seemed to be smothered by an institution and where the visitor was often forced to contemplate not the art but the gallery itself- it had in some respects become a motif in itself, and on occasions the empty galley was the exhibit. Artist, Daniel Burren, who was sensitive to the politics of the gallery space and had some understanding of the impacts of the, then, current socialization, asked- ‘How can the artist contest society? When his art, all art, belongs objectively to that society?’
Indeed it seems that much of this time was dominated by how an artist could find another audience, or context in which his or her work could be viewed for itself, without external societal factors coming to dominate. The answer came in the form of- site-specific, temporary, non-purchasable, outside the museum, directed towards a non-art audience, retreating from object to idea.
The various ‘gestures’ charted were ways to emphasize ideas and emotions that could be perceived in many ways. O’Doherty suggests that to have effect the ‘gesture’ short term impact must ‘snare attention’, as often has only been over time that the full content would be perceived, and that it must relate to an existing body of accepted ideas, whilst placing itself outside of them.
It almost seems to me that O’Doherty is describing how artists through this period were trying to negotiate the fine line between insider and outsider, trying to find the place where their work could maintain its integrity. I can see also how this might have impacted on artists desire to have more control over where, and how and for whom their work would be shown, eschewing the powers that be of major institutions/museums, and in part explaining the rise of the artist/curator.
O’Doherty, B (2000) Inside the White Cube: the Ideology of the Gallery space, Berkley/ Los Angeles: University of California Press, Chapter 5: the Gallery as Gesture.
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