Tomorrow I’m hanging, with most of the other artists involved, ‘If A Picture Paints A Thousand Words Then Why Can’t I Paint’ at The Works Gallery, Birmingham. It has been several months in the planning and these last few weeks have been a bit frantic and stressful trying to co-ordinate and pull all the different strands together, and I’m naturally a bit nervous about it all. There still seems a few questions hanging in the air even at this late stage, so I’m anticipating another busy week as we work towards a private view on Friday evening.
I’m looking forward to tomorrow though, and the chance to see all the work together and be involved in the creative process of selecting and presenting it all to hopefully it’s best effect. The bits I’m continually nervous about is a performance of a piece of music I’ve been working on with artist, Andrew Smith which still needs further rehearsal, and the usual necessary banalities of getting ready for the private view, and just hoping we get a few people along to see the work and enjoy it. It wouldn’t be so bad if you weren’t trying to juggle work and family life too, but that’s how things are for most artists I know.
It is also the first event by Indigo Octagon, a small core group of artists, Chris Cowdrill and Andrew Smith, that I’ve started working with and who are participating in the show too. The idea in it’s simplest terms is to raise the profile of our own work by working in collaboration, but also to get involved with a more diverse range of artists and activities from different backgrounds of practice, not just fine art, to share ideas, practices and stage different activities and events, not just exhibitions, but publications; writing; workshops: inviting different people whose work we like to get involved in at different times. For this exhibition, illustrator Chris Cowdrill has worked with the other artists to produce a small publication that brings different strands of the contributing artist’s practice together alongside a poem written by Andrew Smith. This will be printed as a limited run of 50 and available for a nominal cost at the exhibition (each with a badge no less!) but you can see it online here:
The hope is that it disseminates some of the ideas and work in the exhibition beyond the confines of the gallery and also the length of the show. Below is the press release, which hopefully will interest you to come along:
Indigo Octagon Presents
If A Picture Paints A Thousand Words Then Why Can’t I Paint
The Works Gallery, Birmingham
Tuesday 13th November to Friday 23rd November 2012
‘If A Picture Paints A Thousand Words Then Why Can’t I Paint’ is the inaugural exhibition by Indigo Octagon, a loose collective of Birmingham based artists, designers and makers. The exhibition is eclectic, bringing together a diverse range of work by 5 Midlands artists. The show has a sense of a ‘mix tape’ aesthetic, ideas and themes presented in the work of one artist being taken on in the work of another.
In Hugh Marwood’s mixed media paintings for example, inspiration is taken from the layers of graffiti and writing to be found on urban surfaces, the walls and boarded-up windows and doors that the artist passes on his many walks as he considers the psychogeography of the city of Leicester. While a form of writing is collected and re-presented in Marwood’s works, it is, by contrast, obscured in the abstract paintings of Harvey Smoke, which take as their starting point the artist’s autobiographical writing painted onto the bare canvas. Smoke then paints, pours and builds up over time, a complex series of marks, colours and shapes that, in revealing themselves, bury the originally, now secret, text.
Craig Underhill’s sculptural ceramics reflect his interest in evoking the feeling of landscapes that he has travelled through. He is influenced by the visual effects created in these landscapes by human action, in particular the often overlooked physical marks, structures or patterns that are the traces of everyday life, and which are revealing, in various ways, of our relationship with the natural world. The direction and development of Underhill’s work is strongly affected by his interest in exploring materials and techniques. Like many ceramicists he is fascinated by the aesthetics and characteristics of materials, the ways they are transformed by artistic, and other, processes.
A direct link with Craig Underhill’s slab-built vessels can be seen in the dark shapes of the cast concrete columns beneath the M5 motorway at night, as depicted in the atmospheric and psychologically-charged paintings of Shaun Morris. The sodium light that spills from the motorway above, cutting through the black void of night, reveals shards of the landscape below, and in so doing brings the English Romantic landscape hard up against the lessons of post Abstract painting. Images and the painting process battle it out, with the large areas of depthless black set against more representational elements that create a dynamic illusion of space. Illusion is further explored in Andy Smith’s painted photographs. Patched-up, neglected buildings, a carelessly daubed steel bollard, painstakingly painted over by the artist, seamlessly blending the printed and painted surface. There is a playfulness in the seemingly banal non-subjects, the neglected detritus carefully rendered in paint.
A similar sense of care for the forgotten and overlooked can be seen in the illustrations of Chris Cowdrill. Weeds, wild flowers and plants intertwined around an ugly wire fence are beautifully drawn. A blackbird perched on bare winter branches evokes the atmosphere and texture of winter with great precision and clarity. Cowdrill’s illustrations invite us in to look more deeply at the nature that insistently, quietly, asserts itself around us.
Join Indigo Octagon at the Private View on Friday 16th November from 6-9pm. Refreshments will be available, you can meet the artists, and there will also be a musical performance by artists Andy Smith and Shaun Morris composed in response to the exhibition, as well as live music by local up and coming band, Box Of Knives.
I hope you will come and join us...