I’m not sure where to start with the Dead Pigeon Gallery. I want to put it into context and tell you all about how I came to meet Jayne Lawless and all the interesting stuff I learned about Homebaked, Coming Home, The Peaceful Warrior, Without These Walls and , how Jayne became an artist, how she met Ronnie Hughes (co-founder of Coming Home), how she and Ronnie met Jason Abbot (owner of the warehouse that houses the Dead Pigeon Gallery) and all the opinions about art and other things that we’ve shared. But I don’t feel like it’s really my story to tell. When Jayne doesn’t want to/is too busy/tired to tell me something, she tells me to look it up, so I’m going to make you do the same. I’ve linked up some of the words above.
What I will say is this: meeting Jayne and becoming involved with the Dead Pigeon Gallery all happened in quite a short period of time and I’m suddenly involved with all these new people and a project that has the potential to be very exciting. I always complain that there is a lack of big exhibition space for artists in Liverpool. We have a lot of sweet little exhibition spaces. It’s all that most independent art organisations can afford. Rent in the city centre isn’t cheap and there is no apparent help from the Council for artists to access empty shop units and other vacant spaces. I got this email from Jayne, addressed to me and a number of other people, most of whom I didn’t know, inviting us to be part of an exhibition, in a very special venue. We were all invited to meet on the corner if Kempton and Gildart Street in Liverpool to see the space.
The Dead Pigeon Gallery is just one floor of a huge warehouse owned by Jason Abbot. Jason’s Dad used run his printing company from the warehouse. Jason wants to house creative types in the building and he’s trying to get other businesses in the area to invest in the idea that it could become the next creative hub, referred to as the ‘Fabric District’. I’m not sure I should say more about it than that right now (another story that’s not mine to tell) but as it stands, Coming Home has been offered a huge space full of dead pigeons, in a really interesting part of Liverpool, to put on a show which I’m really excited to be part of.
The exhibition is in September, so plenty of time for Jason’s people to remove the pigeons, sand blast the walls, fix the stairs and the holes in the floor… though we’re all a little sad about the beautiful old building full of dust and pigeon poo being cleaned up, but it has to happen and Jayne keeps bending Jason’s ear about what he should do with the place, so I have a lot of faith that it will sympathetically renovated.
The exhibition is called ‘Onsite: The Plasterer’ and we’ve all be asked to make work responding to four photographs taken by Coming Home’s resident photographer, Jane MacNeil. Not that long ago I had the realisation that my reasons for painting landscapes had shifted. The setting of a landscape has come to act as a point of reference for the viewer and a basis for me to introduce other ideas. I use landscape because I have always done it, but the things that I’m interested in putting in paintings don’t have to be presented within landscapes at all. I feel like I was waiting for someone to give me the licence to not paint a landscape and now this project has done just that. And I also have the opportunity to exhibit big paintings, which makes me excited because I think that the large scale work that I’ve made previously has been my best work. So here I am with a fantastic opportunity, a lot of new ideas, a severe lack of funding (nothing unusual for an artist) and the wholly predictable fear of making rubbish paintings. But at least I have 4 months and this suits my new theory about how I’d like to work; that one great painting is worth a 100 ok ones and that if I need to spend most of my time researching and planning the paintings that I really want to make, then so be it.
These paintings I want to make take a lead from certain paintings that I’ve made in the past. They use the idea of ‘collage’, assembling a scene of images from different sources and they use order and disorder as a visual tool and pattern and other selected images as a metaphor for our need for control and security. I have more to say about all the images I am using and the reasons for that, but I feel like it’s all a bit too complicated for this blog post and there’s always that thing about not wanting to over explain. Among other images, I am using elements of the Willow Pattern design.
I have been making real collages (as opposed to the ones I’ve assembled using Photoshop in the past). They’re not meant to be finished things, they’re meant to be tools to help me make paintings. I’ve been in two minds about sharing them because of the fear that people might prefer the collages to the resultant paintings, because I am of the general opinion that collages are not as good as paintings (sorry collage artists!!! I’m a painter, what do you expect?) so if you see my collages and think they are better than the paintings that I finally make, then it would be one of those insults that I’d find really hard to take. But I think I need to be more relaxed about the potential criticism and I want to share them because actually I really like them and I showed them to some people who also really liked them (I bet they were thinking, they’re good, they’re better than your paintings.)
And these are paintings I did on paper, to experiment with ways of painting the collages.