Thursday, 16 February 2012

'A Portrait Of The Edgelands'

‘A Portrait Of The Edgelands’ is the title I gave to my recent successful grant application to the Arts Council. I thought I should discuss this a bit as this will be shaping the work over the next two years which I’d obviously like to share on the blog, and use the blog more like a digital sketchbook where I discuss and share some of my experiences, ideas and work as it develops…

For those who occasionally read the blog, in May last year I wrote about a book I was enjoying, ‘Edgelands’, by Paul Farley and Michael Symons Roberts. Briefly, the book was a collection of writings and prose about the areas of our native landscape that often get overlooked, the places found on the periphery of cities and larger towns; landscapes of wasteland, landfill sites, ruins, allotments and wild gardens, graffited road bridges, sewage plants, woodlands and unexpected paths: the so-called ‘edgelands’. I also blogged about many of the interesting artists signposted in the book, such as Edward Chell and Keith Arnatt. I found the book very inspiring at a time when I was looking for a more original route to direct my interest in painting the landscape than the work I had been making. I’ve occasionally painted aspects of the edgelands I know, particularly some of the motorways, but also wild flowers and weeds, but I felt it was about time I took the bull by the horns, and tried to tackle a more distinctive, and personal, aspect of the landscape with ‘Edgelands’ as my guidebook. So I poured these ideas into my proposal and this will be my focus for the next two years, the period I have been funded for.

It is important to state that this funding is for a period of research and development to help me get my painting practice on a different footing, but I am not expected to make work for an exhibition or have any clear outcomes in mind: it is allowing me to explore and experiment and hopefully also expand my practice into new areas, including writing, further printmaking work, a film, and an international residency in Scandinavia this coming August. It’s not all going to be landscape though: I intend to develop my portrait work and interest in still life too. It is all very exciting and I feel very fortunate…

I’m also going to be working with a small group of mentors too, who have agreed to regular visit the studio and critique the work, which is something I’ve been a bit desperate for and was keen to cost into my proposal. These include Andrew Tift, the renowned portrait painter, Marian Edwards, a former lecturing friend whose support and opinion I have always valued very highly, and Angela Swan, an Arts Consultant who will offer advice and support to help me seek out further opportunities throughout and beyond my project. I always hoped the blog would be a better forum for dialogue and debate about my work, but sadly this has proved not to be the case, so I’m really excited about this potential input, hoping it can only strengthen things.

I think that’s all I want to say at the moment, as I don’t like the blogs to be too long. There will be lots to talk about as things develop. In the meantime, I hope this will be a good introduction to my activities from here on in….

The pictures that accompany this post are of a few things I’ve been working on in the studio this week: another large nocturnal of the M5, and these two small still lives which are not finished yet. The bottom one depicts a screwed up paper bag is a bit of a mess, but there was something in it’s form that inspired me to attempt to try and do something with it. I think a drawing might work better…The colour is all wrong in the other still life’s background, but I have some other ideas of how to improve it.


Frank Hobbs said...

Congratulations on the grant, Shaun.

Your description of the book, "Edgelands,"could have been my own artist statement. I will have to hunt it down. "Edgelands" is a more poetic way to describe what I've often thought of as "margins," places no one thinks to look for an experience of beauty or meaning. Good luck with your projects.

shaun morris said...

Thanks, Frank. Yes, I think you would like 'Edgelands'. I've been showing my students your work lately. They all love it, and have learned alot from your approach.

spodnic said...

Hi Shaun
I found your blog through googling Keith Arnatt, having just finished the Edgelands book (a bit disappointed) but with a list of signposts, as you say, of new (to me) artists' work and ideas.

I'm a self taught artist/writer/composer and I'm starting myself an Edgelands Pinterest board but at some point will need to summon up the courage to complete my huge canvases of urban nothingness, if that makes sense. Sorry this was supposed to be a quick note, anyway, will read through your blog and thanks for more signposts. The Pinterest thing will be here: