Visual art exhibitions and events with a platform for critical writing
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By: Franny Swann
A record of my footsteps as I negotiate the projects that come my way.
# 1 [15 September 2009]
Lists, lists lists……….am I the only one to have hot chocolate and loo rolls tangled up on my lists with the bubble wrap and gaffa tape I need to wrap my big triptych and send it on its way to its new home in Berlin?
What a learning curve that has been, organising, packing, shipping and insurance. It’s when I see clearly why a good agent might be handy.
I shall be glad to see it gone - it will clear a space in my studio big enough to put in the printing press I have talked about for so long.
But do I want the press? Will it just prove to be a distraction? Do I need a new creative opportunity at a moment when I feel my work needs to be lassoed and bought back under control…………
Today I saw ‘Julie and Julia’ at an afternoon screening; that always feels so decadent, like skiving off rather than going out……..I love it.
It made me think about blogging myself into submission.
An audience to be performed to.
A different viewer to disappoint.
A time waster.
Another form of bondage - the blog to be done……….Maybe.
# 2 [17 September 2009]
Ok. I’ve been reading Rob Turner's blog about Cosmo. Let me introduce Mischa my black ex gun dog Labrador. We walk for an hour and a half every day up hill and down dale both with and without friends but I can’t say that it has improved my perspicuity.
Driving long distances does it for me. I know that when I reach down to turn off the radio so that I can listen to my own thoughts that we are truly motoring.
Typical; concepts, ideas, thoughts, visuals, that frisson of excitement and no way can I record a thing……….
Well, I have had my first blog moment. No longer the virgin. An artist friend e-mailed to say he had no idea that I had a Jewish heritage and that his partner‘s father had come from Berlin on the Kindertransport in 1939.
My mother came over on the Kindertransport from Berlin in 1939. We wait to see if they knew each other 60 years ago.
I spy six degrees of separation……..
Today was spent progressing the last of three exhibitions that my studio group are involved in. The exhibitions have been in response to the regeneration of Dartford Park.The gallery is attached to the library and suffers from all the usual problems but I have worked with the skate boarders and manned a market stall to collect memories and met a lot of useful people so it has had its moments.
Not least when rival skate boarders totalled a skater sculpture of mine and I was phoned by the police offering me victim support………
So today was spent manufacturing the first of three ‘theatre boxes’ that will contain futuristic park scenarios. I need them to be a mix of Edwardian elegance in a dark CCTV filled world but today was a Magpie Day. They happen. Everything is translated in to bling. I have to stop myself from covering the world in diamante. I have no idea where this comes from, only that it goes as quickly as it comes and normal service is resumed.
Well, not normal normal. Just normal.
# 3 [21 September 2009]
To London to London to visit the Queen- well not quite. The Jerwood, Threadneedle and various galleries serendipitously en route………
As always I have returned from my wanderings fired up and no longer connected with daily life. My head is now constipated with images and feels in need of a good debriefing.
So - the Threadneedle Prize. The winner of this most lucrative art prize is a tiny, icy nude that looks incapable of gestation without Freud. It is a self portrait of the female artist and on the citation she decribes herself as a ‘small naked frightened creature.’ I wonder in a very un- PC way if I might have viewed it as a stronger work if it had been painted by a man.
Accompanied by an artist friend I meander on down South Bank in the sun, removing clothing layers as we go. It felt like summer, not least because of the fabulous deck chairs that have appeared this year- all in full occupation - and the street performers and the courting couples. Its enough to make you proud to be British.
A lovely time in the Jerwood. Light and airy, beautifully hung, but rubbish photos in the catalogue. Flat dead images like old fish eyes. Truly not worth producing a catalogue if all it does is dissapoint.
I did wonder when does a matchbox with a paper collage on became a drawing, but the collage may have been a drawing. Technical obsessional talent renders things so photographically real it becomes impossible to tell. Which is of course sometimes the point, but then again sometimes not. And its impossible to tell.
Drawing does seem to favour the obsessional, repetitive and meditative. Give me a multi – layered pampliset and I am a moth to a flame………….
Roy Eastland’s tiny worked and reworked figures do it for me as do his seascapes.
Sian Bowden’s strange work labelled ‘palladium on paper’ had me Googling this evening. I am still unsure of the process but it gives an otherworldly feeling of being at one remove. Behind glass. Which it is.
Returning we drop into Gabriel's Wharf and I spy a gallery with work faintly reminiscent of a friend's beautiful ceramics. Ever the warrior I dive in and after a brief preamble demand they look at her website which they do.They love it. My good deed for the day.
I am always doing this. If there was a job where I could introduce artists to eachother, and pass on opportunities
a] I would be happy and
b] I would be richer [instead of them].
So - now I feel like immersing myself in graphite - but I have too much to do.
The Artist’s Forum that I ran from our studios has outgrown its present home and we are moving to the local arts center.
More office stuff.
I am always going to reduce this side of things.
# 4 [21 September 2009]
Aha.........I owe a thank you to the charming Mr Stephen Palmer who has pointed out the error of my ways. I am now posting to my blog as opposed to starting yet another one! Left to my own devices a-n may have run out of web space....
Well I got to the studio today. I have to say I my studio appears to have arranged itself as an homage to Bacon's. But I did find the gesso, board, graphite pencil and sundries needed to slate the inferno of ideas that visiting the Jerwood has lit in me.
They sit there unused. Life intervenes, as does preparing a talk about Abstraction which will earn me a very handy £70, but as I personally don’t work this way I feel the need to research. I do have a history of art degree but actually that is a hindrance. Precis, précis, précis as my English teacher used to say...........
I have actually managed to finish two of the three boxes that I have been working on for the Dartford Park exhibition in October. At the moment I feel quite placid about them, but that will doubtless change. They do seem to have a life of their own- somewhere between a child’s theatre set and a Nativity scene.
The last of our studio group’s three exhibitions on the Park this one is focused on the future planned regeneration. Which is to be – boom boom - a return to an Edwardian park.
I am fascinated by this strange double take of regenerating the future by stepping back into the past.
Consequently the work has begun to mix Edwardian fancy footwork with my own preoccupation with loss of freedoms and has sprouted CCTV, listening devices and watchers all claustrophobically corralled in a small wooden box in a strangely coloured futuristic world.
Having flown through the making of the first two boxes as though they knew where they were going and I was just a facilitator I now feel nothing but weariness at the thought of beginning a third. Hard to know now if I am wedded to the idea of a third box just because repetition and odd numbers have become part of my practice or if it is material to the work as a whole. In a contrary fashion I feel I need the third box physically there in order to answer the question.
Alongside the boxes I plan to exhibit map pages- the sort of folded pocket map that was once popular. Each map is to relate to the box alongside. I have a sense of a map that morphs into a drawing and back again across the paper.
The thought of starting work on the maps really excites me but I feel I must finish all the boxes first so that they have a physical presence before I can begin ‘part two’. What is this about? Do others surreptitiously set controls for themselves when they are working?
# 5 [27 September 2009]
I have been thinking about this blog. Truly thinking.
As in most things in my life I fall into them almost by default; this blog being no exception. I begun it stung into irritation by the gloss [as I perceived it] of most artist’s blogs- twirls in font of imagined curators with just enough difficulties thrown in to leaven the mix into believability.
Where I wanted to know was my peer group- the artist working from their studio, networking to raise their profile, art managing and teaching to self fund their practice, exhibiting in the provinces, attending endless seminars to meet and greet and improve their knowledge of the art world and their chances of success………..?
Afraid I guessed – of the permanence of putting their virtual words on virtual paper telling the world how it was for them; because it’s not so virtual is it? It’s pretty permanent. Might come back to bite you this blog. Just when you get rich and famous – and look how silly you would feel then- huh?
Well, I would, wouldn't I?
So it is perhaps no surprise that my class on ‘Abstraction’ has resulted in three e-mails;
“It meant a lot to me to hear you say that actually there was no point trying to paint for anyone else but me. Seems obvious I know, but isn’t it the human condition to seek approval?” “How refreshing it was to talk about why we all feel we have to master ‘perfect rendition’ before we can set ourselves free to follow our own artistic identities.” “More recently I had felt myself trying to bend my style to meet people’s expectations…”
So I answer my own unspoken question.
Onward and upward. The blog goes on. I shall never be the next Tracy Emin, but I can tell it like it is for the lesser guys; and pass on the approval.
And I shall shut my eyes to the fact that Google is storing this in its big memento box in its virtual sky. To unwrap later.
# 6 [28 September 2009]
Four prints accepted into the Pushing Print at the Pie Factory in Margate- thrilled. I would love to make a relationship with Margate- I like its face- it suits me.
‘Accident and Emergence’ run by two of the London artists I exhibited with in the summer have invited me to join them in exhibiting at their One Night Stand exhibition in Shoreditch. Already I feel the old ‘what shall I take/ make’ debate excitement rise.
Exhibition of the week has to be my trip to Mascalls Gallery in Paddock Wood with a printer friend. We stood in the gallery space adjoining the school and just devoured Richard Long’s stone circle. Laid out on the wood floor at our feet it had a magical, brooding presence that seemed to speak of mountains and trees and centuries and seas.
We studied the lines on the green/ blue slate, the glitter of the mica at the edges and the lines left by the cutting machinery. With no one else there it seemed to belong to us.
And then my seismic shock of the week- a funding evening in Sevenoaks led by Lorna Dallas Conte.
I went to the evening as much to meet up with people and spread the word about our new Artists Forum as to hear the words of wisdom.
What an inspirational speaker- five children and a successful art practice – true respect!
I have wondered vaguely about mentoring and whether it was applicable to my situation in the past but I think I have found the moment, and the person. Lorna and I are planning to meet up for some sessions.
I have to say that the thought makes me feel very vulnerable. It’s plainly not worth the doing unless total honesty is forthcoming from me…………but it does feel rather like being asked to take ones clothes off.
But then it may turn out that the Emperor has no clothes in any case………..
But before that work to do- sort my images, re-read my CV, review the statement, do the task already set for me- a series of self- set questions and answers………..
The pressure mounts to redo my group website and put up my planned solo one so reviewing my work together will be easier and I will look altogether more professional and as if I am sorted.
Which I am not; which is why I need Lorna.
But I think we have been here before not so long ago.
The wish to twirl……….the pole dancing Emperor with no clothes………………..
# 7 [30 September 2009]
‘Spinning plates is a skill in itself, but if you find you are constantly doing this then you need to take a step back from your practice’…………. this months a-n quote homes in on me like an exocet missile.
My 'park boxes' sit looking balefully at me as I sidle past them, painfully aware that there are only two where there should be three ………..and stuff just keeps piling up.
Pushing Print - the mirror plates are on, the frames checked, the details written and the packaging done. They sit in the hall awaiting delivery to the friend who will run them down to Margate if I will run hers back again.
The collaborative book – I am not running it - but we can’t find a replacement poet…….nothing I like better than solving every one else's problems. It anesthetises you to the fact you should be attending to your own I find. So I think and e-mail and my own practice waits like a dog by the door for me to take it for a walk..........
I am just so good at this; running things, empowering people, enjoying the doing of it and ignoring the big brown eyes of my waiting practice.....
Last night was the the first night that the Artist's Forum I organise met in it's new home. Twenty four artists all happily chatting and networking and the still dark dog of my own art practice waits patiently by the door...........
My elderly disabled mother makes a sudden impassioned plea to fly with me to Germany to see 'Kaddish' installed in the prayer room of the building that gave her refuge as a Jewish child. It feels like a late tackle but the dutiful daughter is now embroiled in passports and carers and wheelchair access and the dark dog has given up on me and has slid away .............
# 8 [9 October 2009]
To London to London – again.
Printmaker friend and I and our respective spouses. Neither spouse is an artist but they have been so dutifully exposed to it all that their critical facilities have been honed beyond what they once would have thought possible- or desirable- or they would own up to in the pub.
Anish Kapoor at the R.A. Didn’t let me down. The perfect show to take the male date to.
Sex and fun – always a great combination and doesn’t fail here. In the courtyard huge piles of mirrored balls suspended in the sky reflect you, your mates, the R. A. , the sky, the universe……makes you want to giggle.
Inside the amazing colours of his early pigment sculptures sing to me of India, Turkey Tibet and Morroco- of souks and spice powders and sari colours and silks……….sadly age is beginning to weary them and the cardboard pro- formas are beginning to show through and the magic trick dies.
Onward to the fairground hall of mirrors and the line police who move meaningfully forward should you look as if you might breathe out in your excitement and your breath touch the surface……
To no avail. The proletariat are at play in here……..fattening, slimming, and rippling into oblivion.
A room resembling nothing more than a builder’s yard with grey piles of extruded cement leaves me cold and kills the moment.
A colossal iron megalith flowers internally into the softest vulval opening, and then a trade- mark, fibreglass, car- shop- red paint job shouts Sex from on high and suddenly we are in deep.
The cannon – great performance art; macho sex, red wax, heavy, pounding, violent art. Maleness leaving a shocking red wax mess all over the R.A.’s pristine walls……….and then a train of red wax, slow and ponderous leaves the tiniest tingling gap of light as it passes through the arch……..
..and I spy David Hockney, just as he always is- white hat, stick, hearing aids, watching the same gap as me………. and totally unremarked- how does he do that?
A walking Warhol style icon and no one sees him- the truly invisible man of the people.
# 9 [14 October 2009]
Pack up the suitcase - off by SquEasy Jet to Glasgow to visit the daughter………..a great excuse for gallery visiting. My other half says my tail goes up and my nose goes down. He calls it my ‘truffling mode’ as yet again I become insanely happy and overcome with the need to dive into every gallery and exhibition space and emerge triumphant with an armful of flyers and yet another couple of ‘must sees’ that I didn’t know I had to see until then….
This weekend’s out of body experience was a visit to the Glasgow Gallery to look at the Peter Howson’s. The man is a legend in my book but this was a lesson in how even the strongest work in the world just cannot survive a fairground hang of row upon row of works. His strong line and strident colour became something quite other here- a sea of colour and movement; as though a single new surreal work had taken over the gallery space. Which in a way I suppose it had.
Next- a trip to 103 Trongate, the new home of the Glasgow Print Studio. What a space- every print maker’s fantasy football team. The ultimate Lottery own goal - which it is- huge amounts of dosh and a printer’s palace on three floors to show for it. All housed in Glasgow’s brand new Centre for Creativity. Surely the last dying breath of a pre-recession lottery funded era now moribund and gasping in the corner somewhere out of sight.
Into the car with the daughter and back to Edinburgh. We head straight to the friendly face of The Fruit Market Gallery. Always great shows and a fabulous place to take friends not much versed in all of this. No pretensions - just explanations, and books to sit and read and videos of the artist to listen to and watch.
Eva Hesse; Studiowork. ‘ Rather than being simply technical explorations these objects radically put into question conventional notions of what sculpture is.’ So says the catalogue.
No they don’t. Her finished pieces do.
‘Materials testing’ is what we called it at college and as such they are interesting in that one feels somewhat voyeuristic. I am sure Eva would have been horrified to see bits and pieces found in her studio after her death given huge white gallery space. They seem to flop like little dabs out of water in the spotlights and float away into the great white haze………sad to have been unable to meet our expectations.
# 10 [23 October 2009]
Well it’s been a while since I have posted here and now I seem to have been seduced into a Forum conversation as well….. calling it a ‘virtual coffee house’ was a pretty stealthy marketing ploy I thought!
Last week -a trip to Margate to attend a print demo and talk day attached to the Pushing Print exhibition. A long way for me but I felt that as I had work in the show I should use the opportunity to met the selectors and other artists and generally show my face. A really pleasant relaxed day and new connections made.
And my painting has arrived in Germany…hooray……….can’t wait to get out there and check it is ok. As it’s not gone to a gallery but to a German Trust I feel it is still my baby, my responsibility until it’s hung and presented at the beginning of November.
This week- a great evening at the Fleapit in Shoreditch. Last summer I was invited to exhibit with Accident and Emergence [a group of London based artists] and the collaboration goes on…………this time an evening of crits. Hang the work, listen to everyone else talk about it and then add what you wish. The best bit of the old college days and so useful- 26 of us made for a late evening, but worth the effort and the London and Kentish artists are beginning to mix naturally which is nice.
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My practice has evolved into interdisciplinary project work and I now call myself a multi-media project artist.
My work tends to be underpinned and referenced by memory and memorial; a citation to family members lost in the Holocaust.
It is important to me that within each project I solicit the freedom to be able to choose whichever media will best offer the viewer a multi layered narrative.