Tuesday, 22 October 2013

'By The Way'....

-->I enjoyed the opening night last Thursday of ‘By The Way’ at The Bohunk Institute in Nottingham, which featured four of my paintings in what was largely a photography exhibition based on the ‘edgelands’, or wastelands, or margins and the ex-mining communities surrounding Nottingham and Mansfield. There were also text pieces displayed on the gallery walls complementing or created in collaboration with some of the photography, most noticeably a very striking and evocative poem by my artist/writer friend, Andrew Smith. 
 David Severn
My paintings were hung by the gallery in a surprising and dynamic way: four closely together, almost looking like one large wall piece (see image above). I was really pleased, particularly with a new one exhibited for the first time. Of the photography, I was most impressed by David Severn’s documentary photographs of the former colliery community and landscape around Mansfield, which were laid to waste in the 80’s. An image of young men in the back of a van really struck me, reflecting on the potential of their lives, but seemingly trapped by the circumstances of their birthplace, if this doesn’t sound too condescending. It’s just that in current times, the idea of any form of social mobility in this country seems an increasingly dim and distant dream.  Helen Saunders’ ‘constructed’ photographs of the overlooked edgelands landscape were also pretty interesting, particularly one of Birmingham. I’m never very sure about anything photoshopped, however, especially in this context, but they seemed to be successful more in the commercial context of being used on the original book jacket of the popular ‘Edgelands’ book. 
 David Severn
David Severn 
                                                                                          Helen Saunders
-->It’s nice at this late stage of my current Arts Council funding to feature in a group exhibition based on this theme, which seems to be very much in favour since the publication of the ‘Edgelands’ book by Paul Farley and Michael Simmonds-Roberts in 2011, and since I made my grant application. The book, which I enjoyed a great deal, despite the criticisms made that much of the material is explored better in the writings of someone like Richard Mabey, and his ‘Unofficial Countryside’, and others, certainly opened up a door for me to help me shape my own responses to the landscape with more originality and coherence.  I think it’s success is more about capturing some sort of zeitgeist in the air at the time and currently, although the phrase ‘edgelands’ is something Sian, the curator of ‘By The Way’, was keen to disassociate herself with as it is something that seems so overused now.  I agree, but it is a phrase I’m using unashameably as a ‘hook’ to describe my own current work, when discussing it or approaching galleries etc, as I think these things can be useful when trying to boil things down for these purposes. That’s all. I don’t think it gets in the way, quite the opposite. There is the world of making the work, and then the world of trying to market it to audiences.  It seems important to be realistic about these things if you want people to seriously engage with it.  Anyway, the show is on until the 30th November. Below is Andy's poem: 

By The Way

Crossing the rosehips    

Between treasuries

Feeling the sagging vervain

Brief swellings under the felly

Beneath forgotten cornices

Lying in the gully

The concrete stadium’s purring

Shovels on the foothills fizzling

thorns and winds

The sleep of dope


After the Pierrot of the broken glazing

The packages of spoon-fed florets

There is the padlocked mother

Standing hard and level on the surge   

Smelling colonial  

Tinged with mould and milfoil

Recounting many short shrifts

With large predatory gulls circling  


After estrangement

Approaching the round table

Passing the junk food to the right

The private detective

The bulges

The areas for parley

Coming upon the view

A sex and shopping blockbuster

Marshmallows underneath


Striking out from the civic centre

Under the vast yardang

Passions expertly shored with broken crayons

Laden with pangs stuck on with chewing gum

Armoured with brass

Lined with dried grating     old lint   

Seeking soft underground lactations

Covered by great standardized neuroses
   'Weird Nightmare', oil on canvas, 120 x 90cms, 2011


Thursday, 10 October 2013

Some October Morning

I had an unexpected window of opportunity to go out painting yesterday morning. So, I took my pachode painting box down to the site under the M5 just outside Smethwick where I have based my recent paintings. These paintings have been largely developed from photographs taken there at night with my photographer friend, Laura Gale, but I have been keen for some time to return in the day and try and make some ‘plein air’ paintings on the spot, possibly for inclusion in my forthcoming show at Nuneaton Museum and Art Gallery. I recently bought some nice wooden painting panels for this purpose.

Dropping off the main road and down onto the canal, it was interesting seeing the view again with fresh eyes as I emerged from a low, dank tunnel. I have been working for several months now on these recent paintings, and have felt very immersed in the location. So it was strange, yet pleasingly familiar, to see the large green factory staring unblinkingly at me as it has in two recent paintings, and begin to make out the shapes and forms that have appeared as mere silhouettes. 
I worked for nearly two hours on this small painting, which I’m not sure I actually like, but it hopefully may get the ball rolling to do some more. Eventually, the cold started to bite, and I could barely move my hands. Funnily enough, this is actually when the painting started to get interesting. When my wife picked me up in the car, I couldn’t talk through my frozen lips. She didn’t seem to mind though…