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Putting all the Dead Pigeon Gallery stuff on hold for a second, I’m also involved in another project.  At the Liverpool Artists’ Network meeting about 6 months ago, a musician called Barry Webb spoke about a project he wants to get going in Nepomuk Czech Republic.  Barry owns a property in a villiage called Klaster, near Nepomuk in the Czech Republic.  The building needs some work doing to it, but his vision is for it to become a residency space for artists, writers and musicians offering a place to be creative, for collaborations to happen and the opportunity for cross cultural integration.  Barry has already got a website for ‘Klaster Studios’ on the go, so you can read loads more about it here  http://www.klasterstudios.com but also here are some pictures

I actually met Jayne Lawless, who I’m working with on the Dead Pigeon Gallery project, at a meeting about Klaster Studios and now Jayne and I are going to visit Klaster with Barry and his husband, Joe, later in June.  Jayne and I are going to Prague for a couple of days first and then to Nepumuk, which is not far from Pilsen.

Here’s some more info about Klaster and Nepomuk which I have taken straight from the Klaster Studios website:

Klaster village was built up from the ruins of an old monastery building originally built by Cistercian Monks from the mother monastery in Ebrach in Germany in 1144. When the monastery was destroyed in 1420 by the Hussites, the stones were used to build the houses in the village. Land plots were claimed, and these have evolved over the years. Certain houses have features that have survived from the original monastery, including the basement of Klaster Studios.

The building in Klaster village Nepomuk was built in about 1860, on part of the foundations of the old Cistercian Monastery. Land Registry records show that there was a building on this site before 1789, and the building has been used in recent times as the village hall and school. The former President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Klaus visited the building when it was in use for dances. 

The most famous resident John of Nepomuk would have been influenced and educated by the monks of the most powerful and wealthy Cistercian monastery and almost certainly he would have sat at the lake side, where we can sit and fish today. In 1393 when John was martyred, Bohemia ( the present western part of the Czech Republic) and Bavaria (south Germany) were united in one of the most wealthy and powerful kingdoms of Europe, and St. John’s statue is found throughout the region, and indeed the world. Nepomuk and the Germanic Czech lands were at centre stage at the start of a Reformation of the Church and tensions between the Secular and Religious, some 140 years before the English Reformation.

Klaster village is situated to the north of Nepomuk overlooked by the imposing Zelena Hora (green mountain) and its historical castle. Klaster is in an area of National Parks, noted for their wildlife and cycling and walks. The area is similar to rural France.

It’s a bit of a suck it and see mission at the moment.  I’m sending some monoprinting materials ahead with Barry in the car and I’d like to do some while I’m out there.    I’ve emailed some artist led organisations in Prague to see if we can make any connections while we are over there.  Even if that doesn’t work out, there is a lot to see, including a Gerhard Richter retrospective at the Prague National Gallery.  I’m going to blog while I am there, about whatever happens and with pictures of anything that I make.   I’ve bought some nice Japanese paper from Jacksons’ (best art shop in Liverpool for anyone who doesn’t already know) in case I make some good monoprints that I want to last.  For the time being, here are a couple of trials I did the other day.  In the past I was using water based ink which has some merits but this oil based ink is better.


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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 HomeThe 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.

 

 

macNeil


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I’ve been thinking a lot about things I’d like to talk about on my blog and then not doing anything about it.  I think one of the issues is that I’ve not had any work to share.  I’ve been spending a lot of time planning, in my head for work for an exhibition in September.  I made the decision a while ago to not churn out paintings just for the sake of it, to think about what I really want to make and make fewer paintings that I am more happy with.  It’s something that has worked for me in the recent past and I want to keep going with it.  The problem is that if you do it this way, you spend a lot of time thinking with not much production and with my ‘busy’ issue discussed in a past post, it’s hard to feel ok about that .  But I’m trying.  And with all of this comes not as many pictures to share, which is sort of a shame for a blog about art.

 

I’ve just realised that I have made some work that you might like to see actually.  Before I went to Malaysia I was happily faffing about with some painting that I wasn’t sure would result it anything special but which I’d been wanting to have a go at for a while.  I’ve since had to put this project on hold because my mind has been on this exhibition for September, but this is where I got up to.  I have a friend called Andrew Taylor who is a poet.  I met him because he made a CD and book of poems called ‘The Liverpool Warehousing Co. Ltd.’ For which he interviewed me about being an artist with a studio in the Elevator Building  in Liverpool.  There’s more to read and you can buy a copy here.  https://zimzalla.co.uk/038-2/

I got along very well with Andrew and we chat on twitter and we decided to do something collaborative.  Andrew is making 140 poems each with a limit of 140 characters (as with twitter) and I have been sending him images of these little paintings I’ve been making, during the painting process and he’s been writing poems alongside.  The paintings themselves are of Gulangyu, which I’ve made work about before and you can read about that here http://www.josiejenkins.co.uk/JosieJenkinsArtist/Pages/Gallery%20Pages/Distorted%20View%20NEW.htm

So I made these little paintings, only one of which I think is finished, as one was destroyed in the making because it went wrong and was irretrievable (oh such a waste of time! No not of waste of time I learned something goddamit) and the other needs some fixing.  It’s quite an interesting exercise seeing photographs of them from after each session because I believe that there is an argument that they have been overworked, that the first ones have certain qualities that disappear when they are worked into too much and also I believe that those qualities are more in keeping with the theory behind the work.

So first, the one that got painted and destroyed:

 

And this is the poem that Andrew wrote:

First painting is dead witness to its final moments reuse dependent on primer and scrubbing mechanics of construction words are malleable.

In fact I think the poem was equally inspired by the conversations we were having as I sent him the images.

 

Here are the other paintings and another poem by Andrew:

 

 

 

Age the eggs 7-10 days let the paint mix stand add blue to the staircase railing Buddha-like figures wait for adornment balustrade shadow

 

And finally one painting that I only had one session on, but I think it illustrates the point I was making about there being a certain quality to the beginnings of the paintings that is then lost.  Actually this is what I feel I am always looking for, a way to make a painting that holds that freshness but feels complete.  One of the hardest things for a painter I think.

 


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I have been putting off doing another post, partly because after we left the Cameron Highlands we went to Penang and I didn’t have that much to say about it. I didnt do any drawing either. I’ve been spending a lot of time reading, maybe you would call it researching, but it’s a funny old thing this artist’s research business, because, as with other areas of art, it has blurred boundaries. I am never really sure if I am researching or just doing normal stuff that people do. If you are an artist and you are interested in something and you read about it, then you are doing artist’s research. If you are a normal type and you read about something you are interested in then you are just doing a general life activity. If, as an artist, I read about something that I find very interesting but it is not related to my practice, is this research or is it general life activity? What if every time I read anything there is the prospect of me finding something out that might inform my practice, then maybe everything I do is artistic research? And we have not even begun to talk about other activities that don’t involve reading.

The answer is probably that artists are in a constant state of arting about. The problem is that this is why we get on the nerves of the non artist types a bit, because we do anything we like and call it artistic research. But my thinking is that everyone should be an artist and then everyone would just be doing artistic research all the time. I would like to think that we’re not arting around saying we are different and special, we’re saying, come join us, it’s different on this side, it’s better. I’m not suggesting you don’t need bank managers and bin men. I am a support worker, but I am also an artist. It’s not one or the other.

I find it much easier to read when I am away from home because I often find it hard to concentrate when I am at home, in the pattern of normal life. This has a lot to do with my busy workaholic problem. I associate being at home with needing to be productive. I have found it much easier to read here. I have finished a book called ‘The Opium Wars: Drugs Dreams and the making of China’ by Julia Lovell which is firstly an account of what happened in the Opium Wars between Britain and China and secondly, how this made an impact on China since. The British Empire behaved appallingly when they forced the trade of Opium on China and since then, the wars and events that surrounded it have been used by the Nationalist and Communist Parties to encourage the Chinese people to follow and support the parties’ political agendas. I wonder if anyone even contemplated, when we were blasting our way into Canton, that one day the worm would turn.

It is not mentioned in the book, but it also got me thinking about how we learn very little about the terrible behaviour of the British Empire in school. When I was little, my general impression of the British Empire was that we went galavanting around conquering and the like and it was very naughty of us but we don’t do that kind of stuff anymore, as we now know it is wrong and we gave all the foreign territories back because the British are all very decent and all that. I don’t remember hearing much about the legacy of the actions of the British Empire, the wealth that still remains, built on the exploitation of other people and the damage that still remains in its countless forms.

I am now reading a book called ‘Chinese Whispers: Why Everything You’ve Heard About China is Wrong’ by Ben Chu. It’s a good read so far. The main misconceptions always seem to stem back to the Chinese Communist Party wanting the rest of the world to see China in a certain way, or wanting the Chinese people to maintain certain beliefs about China to ensure the Party stays in power. I do a lot of reading on this subject but I have so far been careful about what I say online, because I would like to be let back into the country. I am probably over cautious but I am still unclear as to how far you can go in openly criticising the CCP. As an artist I want to be free to tackle any subject In any way I like, but if the consequences are that I can’t actually go to the place that I want to make work about, then there has to be some compromise.

I have this idea that I would like to do a sort of book, or pamphlet, a publication anyway, with short interviews about the idea of collectivism as opposed to individualism, which I would illustrate. I find this subject intriguing and it was a big revelation to me when I went to China. I remember going for a meal with my friend Tim, who is Chinese but studied in Holland, his wife Ling and two of their friends who didn’t speak any English. They asked me what I drink in the UK and Tim translated the question. I said I like a glass of wine or a gin and tonic. Tim carefully explained that the question in their minds was about what drink I would order for the table, not what I would personally be drinking at a meal out, because that is what happens in China, the host chooses food and drink and everyone shares everything, the waiter doesn’t go round asking individuals what they would like to drink.

It was a bit of a lightbulb moment for me. I was quite surprised that no one had mentioned it before, but I am not sure how much it is considered in Chinese society. Do they talk much about their collective way of life? I can’t say that in the West we talk about our individualist way of life, we probably don’t even realise there is another possibility out there. That’s one of the reasons I want to make the publication, because I want people to think about alternatives. Is it ok to go to China and produce a book that questions the behaviours that come from collective thinking, when it is something that is pretty vital to the success and power of the Communist Party? I read this article today that helps explain what I mean about the two ways of thinking. Interestingly, it is co-authored by a professor from Xiamen University. I wonder if he would speak to me.

http://www.globalethicsnetwork.org/m/blogpost?id=6428686%3ABlogPost%3A22613

There are officially around 5000 Chinese people living in Liverpool and unofficially up to 35,000. Liverpool’s Chinatown is home to the oldest Chinese community in Europe. Yet I don’t personally know any Chinese people in Liverpool, other than my friend Eric and other students I have met, I don’t think my friends know many, if any Chinese people and I certainly don’t know any Chinese artists based in Liverpool. The problem with any Chinese related art that goes on in Liverpool is that it often has something to do with the Confucius Institute or an other organisation that has ties to the Chinese government and it will always be influenced by that to some extent. I would like people in the Western world to have an insight into the real China, without overwhelming them with too much information, so starting with this important difference in social outlook.

The idea of a publication begins to answer my dissatisfaction with the way the art world operates. I mentioned in a previous post that I have been feeling dissatisfied. I am sad that non art types, as a general rule don’t go and see much contemporary art and I believe that the art world as a whole, starting with the artists and arts organisations who want to benefit from public funding, needs to take responsibility in recognising and trying to solve that problem. If I put on an art exhibition, generally the people who come are already part of the artistic community. There are plenty of cases where that is perfectly reasonable; not all art is appropriate for the masses, as with any other subject, if you want to really refine what you are doing or trying to say, it is not logical to expect people who have no training in that subject to fully understand it. But generally speaking, I would like to see a world where the public can feel confident going to an exhibition of contemporary art because they know what to expect from that particular exhibition, because they have had good experiences of seeing contemporary art before and because they feel comfortable and welcomed; even if the artist does not want to provide contextual information about their work, the audience should at least feel welcomed.

This is not something that will happen overnight and until it happens, my theory is that, if you can’t get the people into the galleries, then you need to get the art out to the people. This is more or less easy depending on the discipline that you work in. For artists like me who generally work in two dimensions and make things that don’t withstand the weather, it can be a problem. A publication is one way of responding. It also helps to answer the problem with buying art. Many people are not willing or able to by my artwork. Most people who buy a painting do it so they can put it on the wall. What if an artist makes paintings that don’t suite the living room situation? And people only have so much wall space anyway. There are lots of people who say they are interested in my work, but who have and never will buy a piece of work, but they love it when I give them a postcard and many ask if I do prints (which I don’t very often) and when I do, people do buy them. So maybe they would buy a publication that contains my artwork.

A publication also offers a platform for art to be presented alongside contextual information and can question the boundaries between illustration and fine art; a subject which I love and brings us all the way back round to my dissatisfaction with the art world and its elitist idea that fine art is at the top of the artistic hierarchy. I don’t mind defining something as, illustration, or applied art or fine art or whatever, but It’s a shame that the current situation pushes artists to define their work as fine art to gain the respect of the art world. So maybe the work that I put in my publication will be illustrations and if serious artists don’t do illustration then maybe I’m not very serious. But I think that’s something you know about me already.

 


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We are in the Cameron Highlands. It is sold as Malaysia’s answer to the Lake District but it is more like Matlock Bath, with a lot of mock tudor.  The climate is cooler and they grow strawberries and tea and you can have cream tea in the cafes, but it is sort of a funny version.  I love the tea plantations and the patterns they make on the hills.  They perfectly represent the order and disorder themes that I am interested in.

 

 

The guy who runs our guesthouse is very funny. He is pretty young but knows everything about British and American polotics and current affairs and lots of sort of interesting facts.  He says funny old English phrases, for example he says ‘as you were’ when he leaves us to it after a conversation.  He has caught me drawing a few times and says they are pretty good but his favourite artist is George W Bush. I didn’t realise Bush had become a painter but it is true, he paints strange pictures of famous political types from images that he gets off Google.

 


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