June 2018 – Update
A month in residence at Queen’s House, Hull 16.5.2018 – 15.6.2018.
Queen’s House showcase exhibition gave me the opportunity to both curate and invigilate while being a sort of ‘artist in residence’. My working title, ‘Sites Unseen’, an exhibition of 39 paintings and framed and unframed drawings is inspired by Hull’s tenfoots – alleyways that run in between and behind the suburban housing of the city, some being laid out as early as the 1860s, but most during Hull’s 1930s expansion westward. These mostly unseen and unvisited urban routes allow access for the refuse collection wagons, and also as a site for residents to now dump their white goods, unfashionable furniture and building waste from the household. My paintings and drawings for ‘Sites Unseen’ can be viewed at my website. They are uniform in size and medium as I hope you will see, and reflect a fairly forensic examination of the subject matter in oil paint on wood boards.
The Queen’s House opportunity had to be more than just paintings on walls though as I was given the space to showcase my artwork and practise whilst the artist was present. This came about as part my business mentoring by CreativeENRG and my mentor, Gill Hobson PhD, this during Hull’s first year as UK City of Culture. Gill encouraged and then advised me to apply for funding. As well as providing much needed funds to develop new work, for public engagement for better access and understanding to my work, and promoting the activity, Arts Council England and Hull City Council logos are important on promotional material as it validates exhibitions and associated events. So achieving a successful ACE and Hull City Council funding application is crucial at this stage of my career.
I decided to engage visitors to Queen’s House by not talking initially about my artwork but rather to the common ground we all share in Hull, that of Hull’s Tenfoots. As I welcomed visitors into the gallery I would indicate to a wall hung map of Hull with its collage of images and photographs (of Hull’s Tenfoots). To provide another aspect of the tenfoots I commissioned a local Hull musician, Graham Graham Beck, to create ‘The Sound of the Tenfoots’. This sound piece was influenced and took inspiration from both my artwork and the tenfoot soundscape, this accompanied my film of single photographed images merged on a TV monitor. Graham Graham Beck’s CD’s were available on the Queen’s House front desk, these alongside copies of my ‘The Journey’ a handout which abridged my walking experiences in Hull’s tenfoots with anecdotal memes and quotes about walking and art.
Public engagement plays an important part of current funding criteria (probably an understatement), and was successfully included in my ACE application as well as to the Hull City Council Grants to the Art fund. With this in mind I programmed set talks every Wednesdays at Queen’s House. Visitors mainly ignored the set times and arrived as and when. I quickly found my talks quickly were end to end. I also designed The Tenfoot knitting project, this to involve potentially sixty five participants. This was the public engagement element funded by Hull City Council. I visited six Hull knitting groups to gain outworkers and invited them to Queen’s House. The aim of the project was to knit strips which would then make up a maze like design, a nod to the corridor like structure of the tenfoots. I choose a colour palette that both reflected my artwork and the colours found in the tenfoots. To be inclusive of all creative abilities I provided both card templates and an overall full sized template. The wall-hanging creation became a social focus for many knitters, especially as tea, coffee and biscuits were always available with a warm welcome.
Talking about your work on a daily basis becomes onerous and tiring but at least it sharpens how you talk about the work to a variety of audiences and visitors. Queen’s House also provided the opportunity to both curate and consider my exhibition space. It meant I was responsible for promoting the event in local media – radio and local news, as well as posting on social media platforms. This gave me control, as far as was possible, of how my work and ideas were disseminated and the content. It was a steep learning curve, but worth it as I now have good media links. There is a reciprocal respect once the reporter/interviewer knows you give a good interview with local human interest.
The success of an Arts Council England Grants for the Arts application last year meant that I could approach Newcastle based artist Narbi Price for artistic mentoring. The CreativeENRG mentoring is more business orientated rather than artistic, so for me to progress and develop I had included in the ACE application funds for artistic mentoring fees. I was aware of Narbi’s paintings having seen his work in the 2012 John Moore Painting Prize exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery. After further research and watching Narbi’s YouTube interviews I felt that we had some common ground in subject matter and that he would understand my work and perhaps my aims. Narbi visited my exhibition at Queen’s House and then my studio to critique and assess ‘where I am at this point in time’. Also, to start our dialogue for my future plans. I see the mentoring process as a healthy and important evaluation of current work, challenging and thought provoking, and for me a way forward in my practice as this expands the dialogue beyond my home city. Presently I am faced with questions put to me by Narbi following his initial visit. These are invaluable and insightful and have got me really having to question my practice, of what I am doing and how, and what materials are best suited. To further help our dialogue I visited Narbi’s current exhibition Narbi Price: The Ashington Painters at the Woodhorn Museum. The viewing of work first hand is obviously invaluable and essential for any understanding of an artist’s work, from whichever side of the dialogue one is coming from.
As an aside, at the start of the year, and ahead of the Queen’s House ‘residency’ the Studio Eleven Gallery offered me a joint exhibition. This is an independent arts space in Hull located in the newly regenerated part of the city known as the Fruitmarket. From this opportunity came sales and an introduction to the local radio interviewer who I was able to contact again for the Queen’s House project. It also meant that I could experiment with hanging arrangements. Very important.
So where next for exhibiting my current artwork? Well, my next exhibition is a group show opening at the end of August called The Politics of Beauty at the Corke Art Gallery in Liverpool, and is part of the Independents Biennial 2018. I will be showing with artists Josie Jenkins, Paul Collinson and John Elcock.
This blog will become more a means of reminder and prompt for future evaluation, and aide memoir, and history rather than of something that may be of interest to the passing internet reader. Although I hope it is of interest of course in content and style.