Visual art exhibitions and events with a platform for critical writing
Ideas? Technical issues?
» Feedback to a-n
By: Jack Hutchinson
Blog following my residency at the Nunnery Gallery, London. I will be responding to the work of Outsider artist Madge Gill and producing a new series of drawings for the exhibition 'Autography', opening 23 August 2012.
# 21 [17 September 2012]
Well it's been a busy couple of weeks. Following the opening of Autography last month I seem to have been zipping around left, right and centre across the UK. This includes giving a talk on my drawings and social media at Matt Roberts Arts as part of their ALAS residency scheme, along with a workshop at AIRTIME in Nottingham. I've also been doing a lot of writing and editing for AIR, including my new monthly column for self employed artists called Taking Charge.
It's been great to focus on these other activities after such an extensive period of drawing. I love the fact my career is dynamic and it is definitely beneficial to work on separate projects with different individuals and organisations. I never get it when artists are shy about their portfolio careers. Who can honestly say they work on their practice 24/7? And who would really want to? If I spent 100% of my time on my drawings I would probably a) go insane and b) go blind!
I've only just started a new series of drawings but I feel the short break of around two weeks has been beneficial. The drawings feel fresh and an evolution of what I was producing prior to the Nunnery Gallery residency. It has been nice to work without the pressure of a deadline, commission or upcoming exhibition. The last nine months have been pretty relentless in that sense.
One thing that has been bothering me is whether I should end this blog. Technically it is tied to the residency and exhibition, and I don't want to deviate too far from it's original purpose. I've basically decided to stop worrying so bloody much! I will just switch to a new blog when the time feels right. There's still quite a lot of Autography related activity anyway, including my artist talk this coming Wednesday at the gallery. It's sold out so there should be quite a large group, including several of my collectors. I'm sure they will have some pretty stimulating questions!
Check back later in the week for video highlights!
# 20 [26 August 2012]
The North One TV film I was recently interviewed for is now online. It's a nice little clip, featuring interviews with myself along with fellow Bow artists Bhajan Hunjan, Fiona Gall and the founder of Bow Marcel Baettig.
There are some brief shots of me making drawings for the 'Autography' exhibition, along with details of my fingerprint works. I explain the importance of Bow to artists with portfolio careers, as well as how sharing a studio with artists Lizzie Cannon and Elizabeth Murton has benefitted my practice. Check it out!
# 19 [25 August 2012]
Well I wasn't expecting that...!
Opened up today's Guardian to see 'Autography' has made their Top 5 exhibitions to see this week. I'm obviously very pleased, not just for myself but for Gill.
It would be really interesting to know what she would make of it. How would she feel about making the Guardian's 'Pick of the week'? She rarely exhibited during her lifetime. Would the thought of such publicity horrify her?
It's a very strange feeling to collaborate on a project with an artist without ever speaking to them. I guess it's indicative of the strength of Gill's work that I feel so close to her. Drawing is a different type of language and it has allowed me to connect with another artist 51 years after her death. I wonder whether someone will be doing a similar thing with my drawings after I am long gone...!
On another note, there was a lovely little article on the show written by Stephen Palmer for a-n News. There are a few quotes from myself and Rosamond, plus more info on the residency scheme as a whole. You can read the article here »
# 18 [24 August 2012]
Last night was the opening of 'Autography' at the Nunnery Gallery. I had a great evening and received some lovely feedback on my work. A number of people were also tweeting using the exhibition tag #MadgeGill. Highlights included:
@RosalindDavis: "A beautiful and terrifying show. Compelling in its intensity and extremity. An Escher-esque quality of a maze of thought and action."
@KipandFig: "Nice to meet you...loved all the work in the show."
@MichaelCubey: "Great PV at the Nunnery. Well done."
@AnnabelTilley: "Congratulations. Really great show."
I have to admit I was incredibly relieved it was so well received. The last six weeks have probably been the hardest I have ever worked on a show. The 40 drawings I produced in that time were created in quite isolated and intense surroundings, and it was scary seeing them exposed to the public and under close scrutiny. I find private views claustrophobic at the best of times, and I always have my professional hat on (i.e. network like mad and don't drink too much!) which makes it difficult to truly relax.
However, once I'd got over my initial fears I genuinely enjoyed the evening, particularly the number of interesting conversations with people I have great respect for. Historian Gary Haines, who has contributed research for the project, had some insightful things to say. Also, the Outsider art expert Roger Cardinal suggested I try drawing with my eye's closed. Not sure the mark making would be quite as precise, but it's worth a go!
Today it feels strange that the project is theoretically over. However, the urge to draw never really leaves and I am already thinking ahead to what I am working on next. I also have a show opening in a week in Terrington in North Yorkshire which I need to prepare for, along with lots of AIR and a-n admin to catch up on. Plus the 'Autography' talk with Annabel Tilley takes place on 19 September.
Lots to look forward to!
# 17 [22 August 2012]
Day three of the installation of 'Autography' and everything seems to be going to plan. The first two days were all about cleaning up and preparing the space - you know, all the tedious stuff like putting poly filler in drill holes. I also had a trip to B&Q, which actually excites the same feelings I had as when I was 10 years old and on my way to Toys R Us.
To top things off I realised I needed to do three more drawings. Funny how things change once you are actually in a space!
There have been moments over the last 48 hours where I have felt physically and mentally drained. I always get like this in the last few days before a show, and I'm sure I am a real pain to be around. All I can say is I have wonderful friends and family who put up with it!
Anyway, today comes the fun part. Newham Archives are delivering Madge Gill's work. There is the large scroll to be installed plus 14 framed drawings to hang. I will also be placing my 40 drawings on shelves around the large central space. The vinyl labels are (hopefully!) arriving tomorrow which is cutting it a bit fine but I'm confident we will be ready for the 6pm opening.
As Sir Alex Ferguson would say: "It's squeaky bum time."
# 16 [18 August 2012]
I've had a pretty inspiring couple of days. I was intrigued by a Twitter discussion started by AIR Council's Rosalind Davis asking: "What motivates you to keep working in the arts?" I responded: "Creation. Growth. Success. Failure. People. Drawing. Insight. Beauty. New horizons."
In many ways the list sounds like the synopsis for an awful Phil Collins comeback album (perhaps minus the drawing bit). However, I guess it really is what keeps me going. Particularly the bit about new horizons.
Moving forwards and advancing my knowledge and skills is incredibly important. However, I am learning that new horizons are often reached through looking back. Re-engaging with the past often sheds new light on future possibilities. If anything, this residency has made me think a hell of lot about not just who I am as an artist, but also as a person. I've confronted a lot of things that for a long time I was embarrassed about, but in fact have helped shape who I am today. And it all feeds into my drawings.
In the last couple of days I've shifted gears slightly and have speeded up my production pace. When I started the residency I was keen to push the 'all-over' action style inspired by Gill's approach. I don't know what happened earlier on this week, but the latest drawings have much more space and movement in them. I am making smaller marks, predominantly dots. Perhaps it is the result of repetitious exhaustion, spotting the finish line and loosening up a bit. Whatever the cause, the results are really pleasing.
I also had a cracking meeting with Annabel Tilley planning our talk. She is a real kindred spirit in terms of a passion for drawing and mark making. In fact, I think every drawer should book a tutorial with her! She's pretty damn inspirational.
# 15 [15 August 2012]
Yesterday, Rosamond and myself reached a decision on how to display my new set of drawings. After swaying back and forth between various possibilities, we have decided to present the 64 works on a shelf 1 inch in depth around the perimeter of the Nunnery's large exhibition space. One of Madge Gill's large scrolls will be positioned on a 6 meter long cabinet in the centre of the room.
I am really pleased with this conclusion. It will allow the viewer to experience the full materiality of my drawings as objects, rather than concealing them behind frames or perspex. There will also be a nice balance between the subtlety of my tiny works and Gill's more direct scroll.
Obviously conservation will be a worry as the drawings will be left exposed. When I made the announcement on Twitter, curator Lucy Day tweeted: "Look good but wouldn't survive a show or more than one. Speaking as curator with conservation in mind!"
I am pretty confident the drawings will be ok. The khadi paper is pretty robust and the space is incredibly self-contained, with an invigilator watching the work at all times and careful attention paid to environmental factors such as light and humidity.
We will have to see. There may well be a follow up blog titled "Dealing with having 64 drawings nicked." Hopefully not!
# 14 [12 August 2012]
I had an interesting day on Friday. I was interviewed by London Media Centre for a promotional video looking at the legacy of the Olympics and its effect on artists in the east end of London.
It was rather strange being on the other side of the interview process. Usually I am the one asking the questions and I got pretty nervous beforehand. However, I loosened up as the interview went on, managing to avoid too many sarcastic/politically incorrect answers.
From a personal perspective I think the Olympics has been really positive. Initially when London won the games I was quite dubious about how it would impact on artists in the east of the city. Some of my friends who had live/work studio spaces in warehouses close to the Olympic Park were worried about losing their homes and communities. Also the issue of public funds being redirected away from the arts to sports has been a cause for concern for a number of years now, with the full impact probably still not fully felt.
However, I have found it incredibly inspirational watching athletes give their all, pushing themselves mentally and physically in search of a goal. One moment that sticks in my mind is Katherine Grainger winning gold in the rowing double sculls. Despite massive disappointments in the past, she just kept going and going. On a certain level, I can definitely relate. The last month has been pretty gruelling as I have attempted to reach my target of 64 new drawings for the Autography exhibition. I would liken it to when I do a 10km run. There are points where you just think "is it really worth it", but in the end the sense of achievement is incredible.
With less than two weeks until the exhibition opens I'm now entering the home straight. Maybe I will buy some gold refills for my Staedtler Mars Micro pencil once I have finished...!
# 13 [8 August 2012]
The last couple of days have literally been a case of getting my head down and making some work. I'm really excited by the drawings I'm currently producing and the language of the marks I am making is quickly evolving, no doubt in part due to the amount of drawing I am doing.
I have always felt that the most interesting results happen when I let go and become lost in the act of making. I wouldn't call these occurrences 'accidents' as such, but they are definitely split-second moments where the unexpected occurs. There is always a certain level of control and I think (consciously or subconsciously) about every mark I make. However, 'mistakes' happen and usually these acts of unintentionality are the most exciting.
On the train back to London today I was reading MoMa's 'Jackson Pollock: New Approaches'. I've probably not read this book for about 10 years but it is a fascinating read. As with most books on Pollock the reproduction images don't do the actual work justice, but the small black and white photos of grand pieces like Number 1A, 1948 sparked a few thoughts.
Pollock always claimed he could control the paint, famously declaring "NO CHAOS DAMN IT" in response to a Time magazine article on his work. There are hints of his all-over style in my drawing, but it is the exploration of the intentional and unintentional, particularly in relation to the final composition, that I find most interesting.
On another note, I also spotted an image of Carl Andre's Lever at the back of the book. It is a collection of 137 firebricks laid out on the floor of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. When I got back to my studio this afternoon I experimented with perspex frames, with a view to displaying my 64 drawings in a similar way Andre's piece on the floor. There was something quite analytical and inviting about this approach that I liked...
I'll sleep on it!
# 12 [4 August 2012]
I've had a really successful couple of days drawing. Following a great chat with Rosamond, I have relaxed a little and am just allowing the marks to come. I'm no longer 'forcing the issue' at it were and I am excited by the results.
I'm not ashamed to say I am a confidence person and often I just need a little bit of reassurance that I am heading in the right direction. It's strange because I'd consider myself an excellent networker, but when it comes to my drawings I am incredibly sensitive. Just a few words of encouragement tend to go a long way!
After a funny old week, I got all the encouragement I need last night when I attended the Ludlow Open 2012 opening. I met some wonderful artists making incredible work, including Lisa Snook, Justine Cook and Debbie Locke. I also had a great chat with the show's curator Jo King who has done a superb job of pulling the show together. I'm looking forward to seeing what she does next.
Topping off a lovely evening, I also sold one of my pieces to a collector. As I mentioned in a previous post, it is a strange feeling letting go of my drawings. However, the £250 will definitely help with my studio rent/National Insurance payments/materials costs this month!
Jack Hutchinson is an artist, writer and educator. A specialist on the role of digital technology within the visual arts, he is Communications Officer for AIR: Artists Interaction and Representation through a-n The Artists Information Company. His writing has featured in a diverse range of publications, including Dazed and Confused, Garageland, Guardian Culture Professionals, Twin Magazine, a-n Magazine and Schweizer Kunst. Based in London at Bow Arts Trust, he is an active campaigner for artistic, legislative and economic measures that enhance artists' working lives and professional status. His multi-disciplinary visual practice has featured in solo and group exhibitions across the UK.