Best Practice Seminar: with Alex Pearl

29th May 12.00PM-4.00PM @ AirSpace Gallery



no4 Broad Street





In this session we will be looking at the fundamentals of what it means to be an artist and will explore ways of moving an artistic practice forward. The main speaker will be Alex Pearl an artist whose practice we feel presents an example of best practice, through his development both of his work and relationships with galleries and curators. Alex has also gained recognition and experience through taking part in commissions, and residencies, both in this country and abroad.

UK artist Alex Pearl sets up situations, which illustrate our predicament. He makes mini-epic films, video installations, games, photographs, sculpture, blogs and books. Throughout his work there is a sense of an acceptance of failure or disappointment as important parts of the human condition. His new work for The Whitstable Biennale is based on a mistake. Last year, when he began to consider making work for the Biennale, a friend commented to him: “Whitstable? That’s where Dracula landed”. The mistake was soon rectified, but when he discovered Peter Cushing lived in Whitstable, he decided to write a sort of vampire novel entitled The Pearl Fisher. Based on Bram Stoker’s diary form, but without the benefit of plot or supernatural threat, his novel (in the form of a blog) soon became what the artist calls “an aimless ramble through forests of coincidence and disappointment.” The narrative of the blog is the only thing loosely connecting the films to be presented in Whitstable. Firstly, a set of three ghostly apparitions born of obsessive watching of Hammer horror films and an interest in Victorian theatrical magic. Next a series of informal blue films made at the beach and finally a film of a male bingo caller, calling to the ladies of Whitstable’s Oxford Bingo Club.


8-22 MAY

ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK:A conversation with no conclusion








One Step Forward, Two Steps Back is an exhibition that brings together a diverse mix of works by seven artists reflecting on the process of creating contemporary Fine Art. It is a discourse on making art at times informed by irrationality, absurdity; bringing together incongruous, incompatible elements to co-exist in space; the sublime and the ridiculous. The works show a concern with paradox: lightness and darkness, harmony and discord, order and chaos, construction and deconstruction–subjects that are irrevocably bound up with the temporal issues of past, present and future.

Stoke artist, Russell Willett’s ‘Paradox’ consists of five paintings that draw from his industrial background, precision and control vie against freedom of expression, Willett notes, “ it’s the process of building up an image and then doubting it”. Balances of abstract and realist elements are poised together in space and time. The idea of a point in time also runs through the work of Michelle Parr, who uses deconstruction to deal with an inner fear, referencing Edmund Burke, The Theory of the Sublime “In order to understand the origin of our ideas of the sublime and the beautiful, we must examine the experience of pain and pleasure”. Parr creates wire drawings of large constructions, such as buildings and bridges (which she fears) and then deconstructs them up to the point at which the illusion of a building transforms into matted wire confusion. Through her de-structuring, she questions the beauty assumed to be inherent in art. What becomes more important is the expression of human frailty in the face of the monumental power of industrialisation.

Several of the artists respond to the concept of the sublime in this exhibition; Jill Impey’s film work, takes a philosophical look at existence with reference to Turner, Darwin and Joseph Conrad in exploring relationships between human expression, evolution and the timeless power of the natural world to overcome boundaries. Questioning the representation of History is a thread running through Impey‘s work, her installation; Compare and Contrast creates a dialogue between locally crafted, antique ceramic artefacts and contemporary conceptual art. Chris Parkes tackles tentative subject matter in which the mundane challenges beauty and seeks to articulate the more capricious and absurdist aspects of the sublime. His film, sculpture and painting installations play with the human instinct to engage and respond, that which “seems inescapable in our description of how the world appears to us. We take the initial steps to process what is perceived to be real, with the understanding that our perception is true”.

This is an exhibition of contrasts and dialogues between opposing forces, an element seen in the work of both Lawri Slack and Andrew Flint. Slack takes us into a world of macabre beauty and violence, with her paintings that retain a feminine elegance while their creation through the medium of blood and the action of boxing forces us to be both attracted and repelled. Flint’s works reflects his disenchantment with the modern technological world, in this show his idealised vision of how the world should be is dispersed by the interruption of an anthropomorphised item of technology.

In Barrie Felton’s site-specific work A Spiral Staircase, A Work in Progress, the mind and thought processes of the artist are visualised as a three dimensional structure. Alluding to the sentiments of the show’s title, the work implies that the creation of art and the means of achieving critical recognition, are not easy or straightforward.

This exhibition stands as an unveiling and questioning of human progress and a response to the art of the last two centuries. It also considers future evolutions, the pause for reflection before a leap forward.


April 2010

As an introduction to conjunction 2010, stoke-on-trent’s contemporary art biennial, airspace will be hosting Carl Gent for a two week long residency. The plan for the residency is for the artist to explore through creative means the organisational structures and strategies, both within the Conjunction Biennial and the regional regeneration environment. The process of working should endeavour to examine the way in which the biennial is supportive, contrasting, or developing the regenerative strategies developed by regional regeneration bodies, and the local authority. The work produced should represent a creative interpretation of the processes and avenues which the biennial already engages with and the way in which it can develop new ways of thinking. It will therefore influence the organisational development of the biennial to encourage production and consumption of contemporary art in the North Staffordshire region.

“In my residency at AirSpace I will aim to manufacture an intellectual bond between the environs and people of AirSpace gallery and Stoke-on-Trent in general through something akin to a “town twinning”. Through isolating the age of the Westphalian coal deposits that are so linked with Stoke’s history I can identify two possible candidates for this cosmic town-twinning. The age of Stoke’s coal lies between 313 – 304 million years old. Using this information I have identified both the Coma galaxy cluster (at 310 million light years distant) and the barred galaxy NGC 7318B, a member of Stephan’s Quintet (at 304 million light years distant) as potential twinnings for Stoke. The goal of this twinning is to experience these galactic objects, and the entirety of Outer Space, in a more meaningful manner than just looking at them. The light that is currently being received from these galaxies left their hosts at the same time as the ground beneath Stoke was being formed. There is a connection here that simultaneously identifies Stoke as having a direct relationship with somewhere of an infinitely more exotic nature whilst highlighting the extremities of distance and time inherent within and beyond Earth’s structure.” – Carl Gent 2010