Sevenoaks Visual Arts Forum (SVAF) have submitted a successful bid to run the Sevenoaks Kaleidoscope Gallery as an artist-led space. This blog will chart the progress of its first year.

 


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‘Blurred Boundaries’ explores decisive moments when the traditional boundaries of fiction/non-fiction,truth and falsehood Blur’ This quotation from the blurb of Bill Nichols’ book ‘Blurred Boundaries; Questions of Meaning in contemporary Culture’(Indiana University Press 1995) sets the context for ‘An exhibition by Maidstone based Arts Cooperative ‘Making Art Work’, ‘Blurred Boundaries’ will consider and investigate how the blurring of boundaries can be viewed from a multi-dimensional position and how these considerations can be expressed through contemporary and critical visual art practise.’
Boundaries and borders, beginnings and endings, edges and limits. All are temporary, impermanent artefacts – now this and not that, this for the time being, self and other, inside and out, dualistc, yes and no, physical and psychological, geographical, metaphorical, descriptive, definitive, imbued with ambiguities.
The works in this show run the gamut of boundaries. Blurred? The blurred boundary is a matter of interest to different perspectives, an instrument of deceit as much as it might be a prerequisite for investigation, a grey area. And given the boundary as a social artefact, boundaries come with a point of view, take a stand. Matters of taste, value, judgement, and their consequent behavioural expressions, are reproduced over time through interlocking and overlapping boundaries of social class, race, gender, sexuality. Maintained explicitly through laws and rules and implicitly through relationships, such boundaries as lived are recognised and misrecognised as natural. They are insecure ideological things in need of constant attention lest they crumble or shatter. Like Martin Creed’s light switching on and off, boundaries are vulnerable at precisely the point where they are neither the one nor the other and become a tentative form through which new possibilities might flow; a hiatus in the boundary is home to the creative, opportunity to the viral, subject to the threat. Our notion of the boundary partakes of the ultimately doomed and misplaced hope that certainty is possible. Boundaries are much in the news at present.

Deborah Humm’s ‘You Look Great Today’ is a heartfelt piece speaking of mental anguish, depression. Layers of poetry printed on sheets of transparent acetate degenerate into a cacophony of words to be deciphered by the viewer. Nearby, Angela Stocker’s ‘Forgotten Corners’ sits a little forlorn on the floor in the corner, and draws our attention to places that are ‘…overlooked, underused….’, a metaphor for those spaces in our minds where we lean mental bits and pieces, offcuts of ideas and stuff that later remind the passing eye of what might have been and might still be.


Christina France’s ‘This Was Once Someone’s Life’ a multilayered copperplate etching hints at pathos, highlights the fading in what is now only half seen, just as the wallpaper peeling in Jenny Fairweather’s photograph, ’Bungalow’ appeals nostalgically to its own pinkness for a sign of hope.
There is nostalgia too, particularly for those of us of a certain age, In Elizabeth Dudley’s ‘Off The Wall’. Two girls stand smiling, innocent, outside their home perhaps somewhere in America. They stand for all that is right and wholesome, holding their dolls like the good mothers that they must become;
a nuclear brightness creates harsh contrasts in the scene and a frantically hand-drawn electrocardiograph trace alludes to…….
And does the the title of Asli Shehi’s ‘Me or You’ look sideways to ‘Me orYou?’ as its mirroring co-opts the viewer into a kind of identity crisis.

Judy Balchin’s ‘Le Chapeau Rouge’ is the polite title to a piece reflecting the expression, ‘Red hat,no drawers’, a term used to intimate a certain kind of female sexual proclivity.Now transgender, under the Chapeau, it is brought up to date. Its stark juxtaposition of sartorial omission and intimations of flesh shocks in the manner of a joke, with a frisson of tensioned excitement and its saucy red hat that is a fetishised proxy for desire. Anne Delacour (Untitled) ponders the ethical and moral issues of the slaughter of animals, and the so recent cruelties of the institutional repression of homosexuality. She argues for the individual. She argues for harmony.

In ‘Chimera’, ‘A hybrid of human, animal and fauna.’ Angela Wooi has created a sugary sharp irony in the embracing of Piercing by Pinkness, a kind of ‘pretty’ pain, a scraping reconciliation of opposites in an ongoing revolution of tastes.
Fleur Alston and Sarah Abercrombie Jones both use collage, Sarah with the physical remnants of previous pieces, Fleur digitally, their juxtaposition an indication of the flow in which language travels the borders of change, identifying and exploring common threads in technical evolution.
Shirley-Ann Galbraith’s pieces refer to Hypnogogic and Hypnopompic experiences in sleep, connecting and forming a continuum with Sue Vass’ work, ‘Trance State’ an automatic drawing produced in a kind of hypnotic state in which ‘…We become oblivious to our surroundings and outside stimuli.’
Sue Batt ’s piece ‘Hidden Barriers’ and Sharon van Diepen’s ‘Soft Sculpture’ point to different facets of the social in law and government and their physical manifestations in fences and signs.
Linda Simon documents in knitted form cycle rides taken over a year. Recorded on Strava, the information from 119 rides and 1225 miles travelled is reproduced in knitted form displayed as a spiral mounted in the rim of a wheel.
Margaret Barretts ‘Growth, 2017’ sits comfortably with itself. Made from reused rope and string collected over 20 years, it retains the gentle demeanour of something unhurried.
Ostensibly unfinished, but unequivocally complete, a length of loose blue rope tumbles lyrically, like birdsong, from its rim.

Sevenoaks Kaleidoscope until 11th November
Open Mon-Wed 9-6, Thur 9-8 Fri 9-6 Sat 9-5
Kaleidoscope Gallery Buckhurst Lane Sevenoaks TN13 1LQ

Nucleus Art Gallery Chatham 17- 28 November
Mon-Fri 9-5 Sat 10-5 Sun11-4
Nucleus Arts Centre
272 High Street
Chatham’
Kent ME4 4BP


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‘During October 2017 artist Nicole Mollett will be in residence in the Kaleidoscope Gallery, using the space as her studio during the week. Situated above a library, the gallery is well suited for the artist who regularly uses books and encyclopaedias as a starting point for her ideas. Nicole will explore the idea of drawing as a language, using visual images to tell stories and make connections.’
Nicole’s posting on a-n of details of the residency (https://www.a-n.co.uk/events/drawing-is-a-language.)
provides a comprehensive overview of her work and interests to date The residency has on the other hand offered an opportunity to, as she puts it, ‘.. get away from my own stereotypes… by locking myself in a white cube and seeing what happens…’
There is a political underpinning to Nicole’s socially engaged, deceptively playful and considered work. Her piece, ‘The A to Z of partnership .’ from her collaboration with writer Sarah Butler on ‘Creative People and
Places’

( www.creativepeopleplaces.org.uk) points to the manner of its drawing which she explains ‘….takes the style of a 1930s- 40’s instruction manual, or educational poster. Using the reassuring structure of an A-Z guide to give instructions on how to form successful partnerships……The illustrations within the text refer to specific instructions…’ Hers is an educative, discursive, unassumingly democratic art, her residency subverting those connotations of the White Cube to do with hierarchy, commodity, and the establishment. See her piece, ‘Why you should go and see Rachel Maclean’s Spite Your Face instead of seeing Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable by Damien Hirst’
https://www.axisweb.org/article/venice-2017-nicole-mollett/.
I have found the idea of drawing as a language perversely opaque. The idea of exploring the ‘idea’ of drawing as a language, using visual images to tell stories and make connections’ is immense in itself. Is it the case that to use visual images to tell stories and make connects assumes already, or is evidence that drawing is a language? Or do we use drawing AS THOUGH it were a language to suspend disbelief (that it isn’t) and enable an act of faith, (a drawing.) Is drawing less a language than an allusive, referential, thing, a pointing thing – look here, look there.

Alternately, is this the IDEA of drawing as a language or the idea of DRAWING as a language? The shift of emphasis from IDEA to DRAWING is a shift from exploring the possibility of drawing as a language to an exploration of drawing as language in action. How might either be explored? Is ’Drawing is a language’ simply a figure of speech that gets us out of a categorical hole? Is ‘Drawing is a language’ a category mistake? If it is, in which category is Drawing to be found? Is a taxonomy of drawing languages possible? The business of ‘reading’ a drawing involves approaching it through a verbal enquiry, describing and ‘interpreting’, whatever strikes the eye? Is this a separation from the experience of the work in itself or a means of accessing it? It operates between the known and the emerging, the suspected, facilitates the emergence of particular meanings, firms up meaning, connotes our experience?
But in the end, if it looks like a Duck, quacks like a Duck, then surely it is….. but what if it isn’t…….?’ How can we be sure of its Duckness? Well it’s common sense isn’t it? If it looks like a Duck, quacks like a Duck………, maybe it’s a Stereotypical Duck, or a Metaphor Duck.
In her talk to SVAF Nicole expressed her intention in this residency to ‘….get away fro my own stereotypes… by locking myself in a White Cube and seeing what happens…’ Is the notion that ‘Drawing is a language’ itself a stereotype? What might an artist’s stereotype look like? How do stereotypical behaviours and stereotypical ideas come together in work; the stereotype is a self-replicating organism, with, at its heart, the mutated DNA of a grain of truth.
This piece below to do with male vulnerability reflects the current tide of thinking about gender issues. Dualistic definitions of gender are beginning to dissolve into each other. A realisation is forming that male/female, mind/body distinctions can no longer be sustained in their traditional (and conservative) forms.


All this is not of course quite what was meant by the original proposal, yet my misreading, misinterpretation, misdirection might have some meaning. Not all engagements are considered, rational events, but often are an uncomfortable tripping over the unexpected. My understandings of Nicole’s work if understandings they are, have come slowly, have dawned on me. For others the meanings of her work will have been clear from the outset. And I take some reassurance from the thought that this is what these things are about, an education, a nudging and cajoling, an encouragement , a reminder of value, principle, an encouragement to keep an eye on ourselves, examine our stereotypes and our languages, to look at things afresh. Nicole’s work has a conversational feel, something to be trusted, drawn somehow in the manner of speech, with a turn of softness and compositional manner reminiscent of a spoken dialect. Drawing and word embrace, reflect and echo back and forth in each other as the work develops.
On Wednesday 25th, a change as small children came to the gallery to enjoy a practical session.
‘Make your own magic lantern slide with the help of artists Nicole Mollett and Frog Morris. See and be inspired by original 18th century slides of beasts and monsters painted by Sevenoaks artist William Knight.’

Nicole and Frog Morris ran a session titled ‘Drawn to the Light,’ engaging children with the Magic Lantern. They were introduced to the working of the magic lantern, viewed some slides and then made their own by painting on glass. The little academic matter of drawing as a language wasn’t a problem. They just got on with it, followed their own thoughts.
They loved it.
This writing is a wrong -end -of -the -stick thing, but is a lesson to me and my struggles have a curious fit with the subject. It is 27th October now. I have written reams of stuff, over hours and days . My stereotypes have taken a bit of a hammering. The residency ends tomorrow.


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My show ‘Hard lines’ has finished.Twelve days passed in a blink. How to write about it?
I’m very uneasy using some terms – spiritual is one; I cannot claim it, but it pokes at me. The irony of ‘Hard lines’ is more at one with my thinking. Exhibition and title engage in a standoff; the work is anything but hard, is it? Surface is as far as I could make it, unblemished, rich, spatial. Edges are clean. Graphite powder, artists pigment, rubbed onto paper, the rubbing and fixing working their way into the thing. It is not intellectual stuff. But its genesis was in some kind of intelligence? There is no brief, no statement , no sentence, and a cacophony of words.There are thoughts, shifts of balance, nerve endings thinking. Of course there is a history. It’s flat. It’s ‘minimal’. I don’t feel like a minimalist, or an abstract expressionist. Barnett Newman is mentioned. He is not there. Some stuff is quiet, still. There is movement too. Optical movement, spatial movement. ‘White Cube’ predominantly in greys and blacks, is lifted from a doorway in the White Cube Gallery in Bermondsey.
I am a ‘glass half empty’ man. The task is to at least equal that which has gone, to equal it wordlessly, to not top-up with a head of froth.
Well, ‘….hard lines….’


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Still Life with Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber, c1602, Sanchez Cotan An enigmatic painting, portraying the manner in which such vegetables and fruits were stored, through a spatial movement from the depths of the black background to the tip of a cucumber poking its trompe-loeil self through the picture plane. Demonstrating the manner in which vegetables were stored, its composition and space has a cosmic elegance. Indeterminate spatial blackness was for Sue a defining aspect and experience of the work, the most resonant element of the painting. Recurrent in Sanchez-Cotan’s work is this blackness of his backgrounds, an indeterminacy that must simultaneously be looked at and looked into, and that resonates further into her work at West Dean. A notion of the domestic runs through the talk.

The Sunday lunch is presented in genteel Heraldic terms , ‘Sunday Lunch’ is a wry smile of a piece, a quiet subterfuge.
‘In the dexter cannon is the OXO. Notable amongst the ordinaries is the central plate with bull stantant sable and a medallion of horseradish gules, argent and or, all proper. This is guarded on each side by plates with knife and fork in saltire mounted by a gravy boat coronet with peas and beans rampant.’
A meal designed around heraldic terms, those terms somehow amusingly inappropriate to the status of the lunch, serve to ironically undermine its own heraldic pomp. In a similar manner, her placing of the American flag alongside its beach towel version, evokes insecurities and brittleness dormant in the pristine cleanliness of the Flag ceremony at Arlington Cemetery. Sue witnessed the ceremony and was struck buy the immaculate nature of it. White uniforms, white gloves, all spotless. No hint of the remotely casual, a pure ritual without stain. The flag is material and the flag is symbol. She has a beach towel woven in the pattern of the flag; towel-flag is kitsch-flag, its symbol a disempowered, feminised, and domesticated simulacrum whose familiarity threatens the underlying assumptions and values of identity and ritual. Quietly subversive Sue’s work ask questions of gender status, gender and status, and the status that context bestows upon objects.

‘Banner’ playfully follows the progress of bedsheets as they progress from washing machine to clothesline to the ironed article. There was no explicit feminist track to the talk, the issues tumbled out of the drier with the sheets, so to speak.

‘Gradual Loss of Focus’ is the title of her piece from the end of year show. Made from grids of black string, each shifted slightly as they are piled one on the other, it is not possible to see right through the work. Sue’s MA dissertation will address the effects and changes on our perceptions the coming of night and darkness produces. (She is currently beginning a year off from her MFA course) What’s in a perception? Physics? A rage against the dying of the light?
Sue is a craftsperson?
Language stumps me. A drawing , pencil drawing, a chalk drawing, an embroidery drawing. A drawn drawing, a pencilled drawing, a chalked drawing, an embroidered drawing? The decorative connotations of the term ’embroider’? I’m tying myself in silk knots.
The concepts of drawing, of craft, of art prove difficult to prise away from the claims to ownership of objects that they generate and the status assigned to them by social groupings and their hierarchies.
This piece has been immensely difficult to write. My brain has twisted inside-out trying to write simple things. Any inconsistencies, contradictions, misunderstandings, plain mistakes and the unresolved in the above are unintended, unavoidable, work in progress, part of the picture and also to the point; looking at things has consequences..…..


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Thursday 21 July SVAF Meeting Sevenoaks Kaleidoscope Gallery.

A meeting and pop-up show and a new venture for SVAF – Sabrina Shah follow-up to Engine Chat-Chat.


A response?

I have recently been watching television in hospital waiting rooms – a fraught experience of distractions, noises off; a voice recognition system creates subtitling, my attention drifts.
It is immensely difficult to follow television in such circumstances. To concentrate and read fast flowing, sometimes inaccurate, puzzling subtitles, simultaneously to engage with an image , take in visual information, ignore external distractions, feel the anxiety of a time lapse between speech and text, is to experience feelings of tenuous control.
I catch some of it and in a satisfying, fleeting moment of recognition I miss the next point and must engage in mental catch-up. My experience is both whole and partial – the serial partiality of it is its particular kind of frustrating wholeness. So it is for me in group discussions, and that is in itself instructive.
Thoughts air from one corner of the room whilst others form in my mind; what was that about truth? I’ve missed it. The conversation moves on.
We were asked to choose and label the three best works (our three favourites?) prior to discussion, and to re-examine and choose again afterwards.

What was said?

Below, my list ?
My impression ?
My memory ?
Of
Questions that arose?
Insecurities addressed?

What is drawing?
What is it to draw?
What is the mark of good drawing?
All painting is drawn.

What is truth?
What is truthfulness?
What does it mean to be true?
What is it to be true to something?

What is integrity?
What is a technique?
What is innocence?
What is naivety?

What is media handling?
What constitutes a mistake?
Are mistakes errors of judgement?
Are mistakes mishandled materials?

What is the value of a mistake?
What is the function of titles?
Can artworks be trusted?
When is a work resolved?

How do we assess things?
What kinds of judgements are assessments?
Why do we judge?
What are assessments for?
Who are assessments for?
What is the ‘real’ world?
Are there different kinds of ‘real’ world’?

What is common to animals and children?
What does it mean to act intuitively?
What is a ‘gut reaction’?
Should ‘gut reactions’ be trusted?
Is innocence precious?
The notion of a ‘real’ world is political and coercive?
Picasso said that it took him a lifetime to paint like a child.

The gut reaction may express truth.
The gut reaction should not be trusted.
Intuition is the vehicle of prejudice.
Innocence is a sentimental concept.
Drawing is thinking.
Painting thinks in colour.
Thinking is untidy.
Thinking is a joy.
Thinking is tortuous.
We can only be honest.
To be honest is to be truthful.
Truthfulness does not guarantee truth.
To paint like a child innocence must be lost.
The ‘real world’ is the child of hard knuckles.
Spare the rod and spoil the brat.

Sabrina’s paintings are witty.
Her colour is sharp.
Her drawing is drawing.
Her work is unsettling.
Her work is playful.
Her work is confrontational.
Her characters are wistful, vulnerable.
Her characters accuse us.
We are all guilty.

Her characters are unfinished business.
Her titles play with their words.
Her paint is persuasive, held in her drawing.
What would children make of the work?
Why should children make of the work?

Conversation is predicated upon an assumption of shared meaning.
Conversation is political.
Conversation attempts to reconcile common incomprehensions.
We use terms as though those we talk with understand our meaning.
To an extent it is true (true??) that we share meanings and understand.
Conversations begin with conclusions and end at the beginning.

I am mistaken?
I am wrong?
I am a little correct?
Something may be true. (true???)
I try to be accurate.
I try to describe.
Am I honest?
Fingers crossed.
The show has come down.


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