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.
# 108 [30 September 2012]
Having met up with Clare Smith and posted a photo of her on my blog she has returned the compliment..hmm...bit like being tagged on Facebook - there you suddenly are looking parboiled and eerily grown up for some reason....
It was rather special to meet after following Clare's blog for years. Not something that has a parallel elsewhere in life really. Now it feels quite different when I read her blog. Connected of course. If we had been able to adjourn to the pub I think we would have talked all night.
Clare also introduced me to her DAD partner Joanna whose beautiful tempera abstracts were on the gallery wall. We too could have talked all night finding common interests in the first few seconds and only being silenced by the final bell.
Maybe we should organise a Christmas meet up in a London pub for all the a-n bloggers who fancy meeting their pen pals? Lunch time maybe so people had time to get there/ do other things/ meet other people....carnations in the button hole...
Perhaps others could do it in Liverpool/ Bristol....etc?
Elena's comment has made me think about the photos again....I find it hard to get past the Richter/Boltanski treatments which resonate with me.
I think its their respect and the subtlety.
Another barrier to buying vintage photos and seeing what comes is the fact that painting seems to be my instinctive reaction to the images....not sure why.
I haven't painted seriously for a long time. Also have exchanged my big studio for a small one so making a huge mess is now harder. Feels constrained before I have started.
Or me just making excuses. I know once I start a new road it becomes all consuming.
Bit like being on the diving board looking down.
Easier to keep wandering round the PV's for a while......
Then again I inherited a few tiny black and white negatives - most very damaged - of Berlin during the Nazi era.....hmm.....
# 107 [29 September 2012]
My posts seems-to be morphing into a diary of time off art making, of wandering around its edges, of PV's, outings.....
I am certainly in a fallow, sit back and ponder phase. It all feels very autumnal. My Protestant work ethic little voice in the head keeps squeaking that I am not working, not producing, not progressing my career.
I am telling it to shut up.
Ideas swim in and out and things catch my attention - old photos seem to be high on the list - I have an inherited album of a post war European tour. Gerhard Richter swamps my field of vision here though and I don't seem to be able to get past him.
Nevertheless I do keep finding small sets of vintage photos in antique shops - obviously wrenched from old leather albums - and showing one family. They intrigue me these unknowns. Its the story telling aspect I think. Not sure how to tackle them and if I buy them I feel its a statement to mysef that I am not yet ready to fulfill.
So I wander on.....
Yesterday I went to the Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden near Dorking. Two hours of peace and beauty. Great at this time of year; we had the place to ourselves and the duckweed had made some of the many ponds into extraordinary green silent otherworlds.
They will live in my memory longer than the work I think.
We met Hannah Peshar in the reception building - charming and chatty she has been building the huge 'wild' garden for 30 years. I do so envy people who have been able to dedicate their life to something like this....
So - green and dripping woods, magical ponds and other peoples black and white images.....
It all feels like overload and no straight line to a new body of work at present. But that's ok for now.
# 106 [27 September 2012]
On Tuesday evening Ros Barker and I attended a West Kent Reception for the great and the good. All dressed up and being very grown up we soon found we were the only arts related invitees and we were definitely short of a chain of office or an OBE. Still, we met some interesting people who seemed relieved to have the chance of a different type of conversation.
Tonight was the PV of 'The Meeting Room: A Space for Minds to Meet' - the new show in the Kaliedoscope Gallery in Sevenoaks.
'The Meeting Room explores the meeting point between the physical and the metaphysical....'
In amongst some really lovely work were three drawings on Chinese paper: small but holding the wall they were hung on. A red line grid held endless downward black strokes within its squares. It had a stillness and a fascination ..each handmade stroke quivering with the life of different widths and darkness.
All the work of Clare Smith - who made the long trip from Dover to be there. Although feeling I had known her for ages through the a-n blog, we actually met for the first time tonight.
Lots to talk about. Good old a-n....
# 105 [25 September 2012]
I am just putting my head back over the parapet having struggled to get to the stage when I could get to my blog.
Huge family party has taken all my energy and focus away from everything else. Finally getting to the stage when I have returned house/garden/ my psyche back to a semblance of normaility and have time to look back at the Telling Stories Private View - which happened in the middle of the madness...
A lovely evening [before the rains set in] which we needed as the evening was started by the arrival of the Urban Bikes which rode up from Hastings town to open the show for us.They continued to arrive during the evening - decked out with lights and soundscapes.It all felt inclusive and great fun. A great scene setter.
The event was massively well attended - at some points you could hardly move. So much so that I feel the need to go back and see the show again, in peace.
It was the first show where I hadn't been involved in the hang in any way. Strange to come in and find your familiar work in an unfamiliar enviroment. Cathryn Kemp the TS curator and Sue the museum curator had hung the exhibition and it looked considered and classy. A show to be proud of.
Halfway through the evening Youmeni who is a Japenese performance artist danced for us in the darkness of the fabulous Dunbar Room. She told the story of the family kimono she was wearing, her exquisite movements speaking of searing emotion and pain. She must have been physically and emotionally exhausted.
Various speeches ensued but the Art Council England speech was amazing - he really got us a group and made a big point of saying he regarded TS as a standard of excellence. Can't ask for more really.
So - show hung and PV done.
One of the TS artists has asked if I would like to join a new group of women artists considering world wide womens issues from a feminist viewpoint.
A great set of artists I would like to know better and maybe work with...another new door opens. Brilliant.
# 104 [20 September 2012]
Have just got back from London having been on a evening tour of the College of Arms - at the opposite end of the Millenium Bridge from Tate Modern.
My head is now full of vellum and quill ink, strange heraldic animals, medieval colours, 15th century leather bound books and the smell of old archives......
Maybe I could live in there?
Maybe they need a resident artist?
# 103 [18 September 2012]
My previous blog seems to have sparked some discussion on gender difference. It followed a crit that I took part in during which the work offered was criticised for being 'too emotional'.
Intrigued, I have mentioned it at discussions with various artist groups. Each time it seemed to ellicit an immediate response and has sparked some discussion in my comment box here too.
So - following David Minton pointing out he was short of information - here it is.
An image of the work in question is attached.
It is a broken vintage display box with a glass front containing a shoe sole and parts of shoe soles. These were beachcombed and are heavily textured with barnacles, salt crystals and age.
The work is monochrome. It is domestic in size and nature.
It was offered to the crit group with a title - 'I Let Go your Hand.'
...and yes- the instigator of the original 'too emotional' crit discussion WAS a male artist but in my subsequent chats I hadn't mentioned that; it was always just asssumed - which is interesting.
Listening to some in the crit group I got the feeling that clean, clear concepts and work were felt to be 'correct' and anything entering the realms of the poetic or dealing with the personal emotional [unless political or dark] was somehow suspect.
Relating this story has lead to other artists linking this to a patriarchcal overview they blamed on a currently male dominated art scene.
Personally I think the title may have something to do with it. Without the 'emotional' title attached maybe the feedback would have been different?
My work is always linked to memory and memorial and often to a family history of loss in the Holocaust. I tend to work in museological formats; curating archivings of loss.
Titles are always a minefield.
In this case I felt very strongly that it had to be titled - although I wouldn't go as far as revealing what drove me to make the work. I believe an audience needs the space to project on to a work. Probably my title has already stolen some of that space.....
So - that's the work.
Can a work be too emotional? I guess eventually it becomes a form of Kitsch.
Maybe it just means that the viewer has had an emotional response to it and dislikes the fact - maybe even feeling tricked into it in some way?
Are we as artists being set up to feel that 'emotion' in work will in some way fail at the last hurdle of greatness and should therefore be avoided? That it is a weakness and not a strength in a contemporary piece of art.
If so - is this coming through the curators, funders, arts officers?
I doubt it comes through the gallerists. Emotion always sells.
# 102 [17 September 2012]
All the way down to Hastings again today....to take the work to the Hastings Museum and Gallery.
Discovered that the museum curator had chosen part of one of my images for a huge poster at the gate. Brilliant.
Wonder what they do with them afterwards? Mind you I think it could be wrapped twice around my studio, so no idea where I would put it....
and someone had to point it out to me...so big I missed it.
# 101 [15 September 2012]
Another great day out....down to Hastings to join the QR code walk around the town. Neil and Dan from Zeroh lead the walk - they having been responsible for implementing the project on behalf of Telling Stories.
The QR codes were creative and beautiful - some featuring fabulous videos paralleling the work to be exhibited in TS.
Walking through the town we came upon a past Zeroh project. The Moth Project took stencils and rainwater and created 'reverse graffiti' on grimy walls. The results were hauntingly lovely and are still good even two years later.
Ambling along the seafront with the sea and the sun and chatting art stuff with other artists was a joy.
Reporting on a crit I took part in I was saying that I was concerned by the feedback that the work I showed was 'too emotional.' This produced some discussion as to why this seems to be the case at the moment. We are not talking sweet or even figurative here - in fact the work in question is monochrome found objects in a vintage box.
It was shown to the crit with an 'emotional' title attached....maybe the feedback would have been different without it. Today there was some discussion around the patriarchcal overview of a male dominated art scene. The feeling being that clean, clear concepts and work was felt to be correct and anything entering the realms of the poetic or dealing with the personal emotional [unless political or dark] was somehow suspect.
Is this so? Are the majority of arts officers, curators, Arts Council.... male appointments?
# 100 [14 September 2012]
Lots of PVs around at the moment...... or Opening Nights as the more PC version now seems to be.
Yesterday I drove to Battle and the Pure Art Fair PV because Ros Barker - my Farningham Hobby Horse partner- was showing new work. She had won the best drawing prize; so much hugging and congratulating.
Lots of artists I knew and some to catch up with from several years ago....a long drive but an easy, chatty evening. Art Fairs are not really on my radar at the moment so I felt a rather detached observer.
Working the way I do - wanting all my works to have a dialogue with eachother within one space - it does seem very odd to jump from one work to another and have them butted up against one another with the inevitable problems. That is not to say that the hang wasn't good - it was. Just that it's an impossible job to give work its own space unless you have a huge space.
This evening couldn't have been more different. I was in Dartford Park for the launch of the Ecology of Colour by Studio Weave. It is an Artlands Project. I love their projects and this didn't disappoint.
Built on Ecology Island within Dartford Central Park a sustainable building has arisen - its use will be open ended but will begin with workshops and performance.
Lovely to be outside in the wood, by a stream and with the light fading. Brilliant food - amazing - and with the chance to make plaster casts and natural dye prints. We all had to have a go of course and the results were spectacular. Nicolette Goff who was leading the workshop managed to get us to produce the most beautiful embossed prints with just blueberry juice, found vegetation and her book press. Magic.
I have done three projects in Dartford Central Park in the past, so its close to my heart.
Tempted to come up with a proposal ...
# 99 [10 September 2012]
It seems to be a time of endings at the moment.
Ros and I took the Farningham Hobby Horse Project out for the last time on Saturday. Beautiful weather and the usual lovely crowd. We should have been returning the horses to their makers but we had to negotiate with them to hold on to their horses until November as we have now been asked by a curator if we would be willing to exhibit them at an Olympic art event.
All done; so we wait to see how many will be required.
The Q codes that are presently up around Hastings will be going to the Harbour Arm Gallery, Margate at the beginning of October to form the nucleus of a new show that will run alongside 'Telling Stories:Hastings.'
Now to decide what supporting work to show alongside it.
I am tempted to send my wasps in the test tubes that I bought in Margate. How to show them? After a long hunt I finally tracked down some tiny tool clips thinking I would attach them to board; but I am not sure. Have been Googling test tube holders...not quite right either. I need to work this out and get on with it. Maybe I should just drive around a lot - I think well in the car.
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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.