To the Light Exhibition was my Solo show at Bruce Castle Museum in Tottenham in 2014 that takes as its starting point, the powerful depictions of the destruction of the 2011. Riots which spread from London to Manchester and moves from this point of destuction to creation of a body of work exploring reparation,space&transformation.
The images above show the progression of 3 ideas that then became one in a happy accident of preparing for a talk I projected one of my images on top of another and was captivated by the possibilities there.
One of the most exciting ways my work has developed in the last year is that it has become something like a parasite- each piece breeding new ideas.
When I was painting buildings, the process was very literal, taking photos, playing with composition and materials, but using a photographic image which rendered my own imagination to go down particular pathways. A translation of idea into form that was representational.
As my work has moved into other worlds of abstraction, expressionism, minimalism, constructivism (all unconsciously I have to say) I have arrived at a space somehow in this work that in its abstraction allows for an opening up of possibility for creativity. Structures and paradoxical landscapes emerged out interventions on photographs, fascinating patterns revealed themselves to me. Rather fittingly in Caixa in Madrid was this quote I found after having photographed the chamber of mirrors and geometric shapes in the underneath of the building by Herzog De Mauron which then became paintings;
” Evoking the notion of space allows us to break free of the linearity of language and writing. In the idea of space thought finds an exploration of its plurality and dynamism. ” CAIXA
I did a talk at ZAP last year as these works emerged and talks about threads&materiality, screens, feminism,possibility&transformation &evolution of works. You can watch that here. And am going to post some images up as well showing the steps of evolution.
Every medium I use is as symbolic as it is relevant. Photographs capture a sense of reality, but a distanced reality. Paint and drawing portray disparity between the imagined and what is real. Embroidery reminds us of the human and emotional connection between environment and landscape and of course of reparation.
I also read this quote which resonated; ‘No-one (Freud) announced, lives in the real world. We occupy a space of our own creation- a collage compounded of bits and pieces of actuality arranged into a design determined by our internal perceptions, our hopes, our fears, our memories and our anticipations.’ W. Galin. Feelings 1979.
Having put the exhibition up and seeing my own journey, I reflect that I have progressed fast and far in my practice. There has been a slowing down of this frenzy of creativity now as always happens after you put on an exhibition (except that actually I am still very busy with show,zap etc) . I have instead been reading about this new art world of abstraction, constructivism etc that are part of a language that has emerged in my works as I have developed in my practice and a place. I have come to inhabit. Trying to find words to explain these abstracted landscapes to others as well as part of the exhibition. I have had to write press releases for the show, rewrite my artists statement, to unpick and rebuild, what I was and what I am now and why I went on the journey To the Light.
I found this by Jan Verwoert; “Abstraction is the emergence of an artistic language that seemed to free itself on subject matter to concentrate instead on content. Abstraction is an essential expression of an idea or feeling rather than a representation of an object from the real world. Instead of reflecting the world, one strives to add to it, to remake it.” The last sentence sums it up for me.
In the last year, I went from rebuilding spaces to reimagining spaces from architectural sources and in some ways that made so much logic as I discovered this; “Abstraction was at once a product of periods of profound unease and disquiet, in times when the political, intellectual and social situation called for it. It also held out the promise of redemption through remove and contemplation ” (Wilhelm Worringer)…very apt.
I was very pleased to have an article published by Blouin Art Info which remarked I had not, in this blog addressed the reasons for the riots yet. http://uk.blouinartinfo.com/news/story/946374/painting-exhibition-on-the-2011-riots-opens-in-tottenham#comment-480784
I have written before about the sensations of fragility that the riots sparked not just in me personally but across the country, if not the world. I have written from a personal standpoint about the riots about what I saw and how it personally touched me. However I have also read extensively and understand the frustrations as to why people were moved to find a voice, despite the violence of that voice and the subsequent acts of arson, looting, the destruction of buildings.
It has been often cited in subsequent research that some of the overarching reasons behind the riots was poverty, unemployment and mounting frustration particularly towards the government and police. Eventually ‘Civil unrest’ was triggered in Tottenham in August 2011 by the frustrations of the police shooting of Mark Duggan and the London riots unfolded. The backdrop of the riots was one of widespread corruption. What people saw over 2011 was something more deviant and corrupt than stealing trainers from foot locker; in the expenses scandal we read about politicians stealing from the state; not just trainers but property and much more.Alongside that we had tabloid journalists, bending ethical and moral rules to invade privacy. And then there are bankers too alongside flaws with policing and the justice system. We all watched as people illegally cheated the various systems that had been put in place to prevent these things from happening. Our society has become dictated a diet of consumerism and capitalism ; To have more than you can- no matter what; to do what you wish has been a process of immorality and illegal opportunism demonstrated to the rest of us by some of the most powerful sectors in the government. Our own government taught us to seize what we want no matter the consequences; it would seem that some of these factors are as responsible and contributed to the build up to the riots as much as those who were actively part of the riots.
Some of the most insightful resources I have found on the riots have been these http://hutnyk.wordpress.com/texts/
They say far more eloquently and insightfully than I ever could about a very complex situation. I have also read with great interest as to the aftermath and response to those involved in the riots well commentated on by John Hutnyk and Tom Henri ‘Contexts for Distraction’ Journal for Cultural Research 2012.
So, I have been trying in this exhibition to explain to others, how my works have moved from literal depictions of broken space from the riots, to more abstracted landscapes. There is a purpose in this as well as my own creative development as an artist to move the discourse further. Politicians etc have been stuck in literal responses to the riots. Yet we all know that there are a number of deeper underlying problems to the riots and essentially they are still not being necessarily addressed. In the creative process, I also didn’t want to limit myself to just the viscerality of the riots. The important question about the riots, for me in this exhibition is how we all go forward from destruction. How can we stop being trapped in spaces dictated by others or trapped in a space we do not wish to inhabit? The development of my work is to create other spaces; to approach broken spaces and realign them, for in that, for me, for others there is reparation that is outside of other people’s control. Art is a language, a discourse, it is a language that you can control,develop and nurture and that is empowering. As ever, more to come….
One my investigations of the To the Light show is to examine in a critical way how one can work and understand destructive acts creatively. In the sense of literally taking imagery of the riots and then to paint them was a way of resolving the irrationality of violence acts. As I cycled through Peckham during the time of the riots in 2011 and then was trapped where I lived between mass acts of chaos and violence as gangs met outside my house, I sensed palpable danger and felt incredibly vulnerable- I could not leave home for a few days- it was not safe. I watched precious buildings attacked and set alight, destroyed. For me buildings are always about humanity and the human experience, a portrayal of our civilisation and so it was heart rending to see. I, and society/psychologists/sociologists/ politicians/ police could not rationalise what I was seeing or hearing. It echoed with me very personally and intuitively about violence I had seen, felt and absorbed, none of which made any sense to me, to harm others, to destroy.
As one make works about a space, whatever it might be, one can through the act of making find a peace in situations, place value on something- in my context- buildings that have fallen into disuse or have been destroyed. I grew up in social housing with the accompanying poverty and dystopia and I have painted social housing for some years. In some ways now as I reflect back ( I hadn’t realised the autobiographical angle at the time ) to absorb my own experiences, to transform spaces as well as a wider consideration of why buildings were made, the ideals set against the reality of what they often became; barren and broken spaces. When I used to walk around all this social housing taking photos for my artwork I was haunted by my own memories as well as the many unknown experiences of others, but imagining all the conflict, strive and aspirations held in these spaces. Buildings, for me hum with life, with experience joy and pain.
No matter what, in all of these places, people led out their lives, these places must have been enlivened with love, celebrations as well as by the darker more painful sides of lives. I resonate with them.
The very act of making works means you place a value on something- in my case a space. To make these works, I repaired these building somehow, transformed them into something valuable and the end results were seen as Tom Jeffeys put ‘elegiac, quiet and commemorative. ’
I have always had a positive ideology about possibilities about reparation; through creativity one can find a way through difficulties. If it were not for my work I do not know what I might have become. Even back in school, when I picked up a paintbrush I could find a peace, an inner sanctum as well as observing the wider critical questions of my practice. So the work is personal but yet exists on its own without knowing any of the personal.
I do believe creativity is an important tool to oppose destruction; there is for me a bigger philosophical attitude in making works- that this exhibition To the Light is about the possible potentiality to transform our situations. To find somehow a place where we can happily exist, despite dislocation and disconnections, to accept all that you cannot change but to change what you can. One can turn a situation into a more empowered one, where you have a more positive position. You could make rocks instead of break rocks (a Peter Liversidge quote). You could put buildings back together. Sometimes the perspective that has to be taken about these situations is that perhaps they should be taken as a break through not just a break down and that with the breakthrough we can find constructive ways to move forward.
I have in my own way quietly and creatively worked through the unknowns and all I have cited above. I have played with possibilities of space and rejoiced in all the potentials that lie within it and within that conversation of possibilities of space, I and my work have grown, in unexpected joyous works…more to come.