I had the amazing opportunity to attend Frieze Art Fair on October 16th, thanks to the Artist Development programme (run by Turning Point West Midlands in partnership with the New Art Gallery Walsall)! My travel costs and ticket to the fair were all paid for, which was even more amazing, and although it has been a few weeks since attending the fair, I wanted to mull over the experience before posting about it. There was so much to see, each gallery had their displayed works set up like a mini exhibition, so it was akin to visiting over 160 small exhibitions in the space of several hours. It was a brilliant but exhausting experience, and it became clear very quickly that if you spent a lot of time looking at each artwork, you would never see it all. I found that I had to quickly look at the artworks before moving on, similar to how you skim-read a text; not to look at it in too much detail, but enough to get the general idea of what it’s doing.

Once popular trend I noticed quite quickly is ceramics. There was a lot of ceramic based artwork in many of the galleries, small to large. With the British Cermaics Biennial also taking place this year, and a lot of talk about ceramics in general, it seems to be ‘in vogue’ now (although I could not say if it ever fell out of popularity).

There was a lot of art there that I liked, and a lot more that I particularly didn’t like. The feeling many people have now of contemporary art being inaccessible I felt was embodied in some of the work there. Although there was also a lot of work there that I feel was very accessible, fun, and very interesting!

Here are some of the highlights from the fair (I took a lot of photographs!)


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With the Assemblage exhibition coming to an end at AirSpace Gallery, the studio artists group discussed it, and several of us decided it would be a brilliant opportunity to move the Exhibition to the Original Spode factory site, Stoke-on-Trent, alongside the British Ceramics Biennial. I thought this would be a perfect fit for my sculptures, with them being made from clay! While not situated i the main building, we have been granted access to one of the other buildings on the site, Meadow Building. I was given floor space and window space, which I think has worked well in setting up my sculptures at different heights.

I also like how well they fit within the building, as although it is quite run down it is a listed building, so no alterations were allowed to be made. The raw methods of their creation fits in well with the atmosphere and aesthetics of the building. Luckily I did not have to worry about this with my work being sculptural, but any hanging etc had to be done in already existing holes. Sadly I did not have time to explore the building thoroughly, and only had time to quickly install the sculptures before I had to leave. I am hoping that I can return to the building and see the exhibition fully installed, and explore the Spode factory site in full!


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So it has been Over a month since I first started the residency at AirSpace Gallery, and I’ve really enjoyed the experience so far! This first month has not been as productive in terms of actual art making than I would have first thought, however a lot of research and idea gathering has been going on, and I now have some solid ideas that I can progress with in month two! I need to stop thinking productivity only means art making, my thought process is just as important to my working process. Another realisation is that I cannot seem to get into the studio as much as I first hoped… life seems to have a habit of stopping me (that, and insomnia). However a lot of what I have been doing has been done at home or outside of the studio. This is the month where I can be really productive and start bringing my ideas into physical artworks.

After having my monthly meeting with Glen, and discussing what I have been doing and the ideas I have, everything seems a lot clearer to me. Now there are two clear paths that I want to follow during the residency, the first being exploring my drawings and ideas of botanical hybrids, and the other is more sculptural.

I have repeated the idea of a hybrid many times within my blog posts, but now I have started to think about what I mean by this. Alien species doesn’t necessarily man otherworldly, it is often used to refer to a foreign species that already exists, but has been introduced into a new habitat on another part of the world. Himalayan Balsam is a plant that I automatically think of, having seen it myself taking over a lot of the countryside where I live. While I have started by creating drawings of imagined specimens, maybe this is something to consider? The size of the drawings are something else I would like to explore, as I have in the past created large scale, wall sized drawings as well as the A4 sized drawings in my sketchbooks, and this is something I would enjoy doing again. Glen asked me how long it would take me to complete a 12 foot drawing, so maybe will start one and find out! I also want to be more experimental in my definition of drawing, so I want to start using wire to create drawings in space, I have chosen quite a thin wire to explore this. I have also considered creating my own drawing tools from natural materials and exploring how I can use them to create drawings. I am also going to start exploring ideas of creating my own book, bookbinding is something I have a basic knowledge of so it would be exciting to create my own book of specimen drawings. How I could get these printed and other problems are something I need to think about and solve.

Looking at artists like Regine Ramseier (in a previous blog post) and other artists that use natural materials within their work, it has given me ideas of how I can also use sculptural works to explore notions of botanical hybrids, by possibly creating my own specimens from natural materials. How would I present them? A Cabinet of Curiosities? In jars? In display boxes? These will all be things I need to consider, in addition to the materials I use and their size. I also want to continue to explore my clay sculptures, which I have began to talk about more in depth in a previous blog post, and I will continue to explore them in future blog posts as well.

During my first month I have also contacted a few people, one being Don Steward from the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, who is the head of the Natural History collections. I set up a meeting with him and he showed me around their stores as well as the gallery. It was really interesting to learn that almost all of the specimens they they hold are from the Staffordshire area, something I was not aware of! The Museum has to follow rules since it was founded that all natural history exhibits display specimens from the area. I was also surprised by the number of specimens they hold, around 100,000! I will need to contact Don again and let him know what specimens I would be interested in looking at. I will also get some photographs of the stores themselves, as they are really fascinating as well.

I have also booked a space on the Behind the Scenes Zoology Spirit Collection Tour at the Natural History Museum, so I can see all of their specimens stored in jars which are submerged in alcohol. Some of Charles Darwin’s collection is housed here. I will also be going to see the Mat Collishaw exhibition at New Art Gallery Walsall, and I have also booked a place on his talk where he will be present to talk about his work and the exhibition, it was in very high demand so I am now glad I booked a place early!

All in all it has been a very enjoyable and exciting first month, I hope the next month will be a highly productive one! Tomorrow I am going to Frieze Art Fair thank to Turning Point West Midlands and New Art Gallery Walsall, and afterwards I will be going to see the Jerwood Drawing Prize Exhibition at Jerwood Space, so another busy day ahead of me.


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To help better understand my work, I have decided to look at these clay sculptures from when I first started to make them, and why they have stayed with me and I continue to make them three years on. I often leave ideas behind once I feel that I have gained all I can from them at that moment in time (I also revisit ideas often after gaining new inspiration etc for them). This particular interest, the clay sculptures, are a concept that I have continued to examine and develop over three years, from the beginning of my degree to now, and I still feel like I have a lot of mileage to go in regards to them. I am still unsure as to what they are to me, what they mean, why I make them or the reasons for doing so. Usually I have an idea of what my artwork means to me, or the ideas and messages behind it, but with these sculptures it is not the case; maybe this is why I find them so intriguing?

I first started making these sculptures as a method of dealing with my own self doubt as an artist, something I have an abundance of. They were imperfect, I only used my hands to sculpt them, no sculpting tools to try and refine them. This helped me a lot because I couldn’t make them “perfect”, what would a perfect sculpture even look like? They just were. Taking only a few minutes to create each one, they were a quick and playful way for me to create something. Even now while I create them, I run through a whole range of emotions, from loathing them, to enjoying the feeling of the clay as I press it and mould it with my fingers. The process of making them can be conflicting, because it’s both rewarding and quite hard work mentally.

Now I continue to create these sculptures, I feel that they have moved beyond their initial purpose of creating them to get over my art ‘gremlins’. They hold something more in them, but I am still uncertain as to what that could be. One thing that holds a clue for me, is that I keep¬†instinctively wanting to call them figures instead of sculptures. They aren’t figurative as they have no representation of the human form within them, they are imagined forms. However, wanting to call them figures may hint at implications of how I view them as an artist. Maybe I view them as some sort of creature, or organism, as they have certain qualities of animation about them (many people refer to Jan Svankmajer and his animations, particularly the socks in Alice, which share similar aspects with the caterpillar pictured below).

I will continue to examine the clay sculptures in another post, once I have had time to articulate more of my thoughts about them.

 

 


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I often use Pinterest as a source for inspiration, whether it’s images of natural forms to inspire new hybrids for my work, or artists work that I like or ideas I think are worth examining. I came across Regine Ramseier’s work on there, and I particularly like her works that use natural materials and the way she’s used them. One of her particular projects (OBJEKT: K√ĄFER) is especially interesting, as it seems to share a lot of ideas I had in a previous work, although hers are much more sophisticated and developed. Maybe this is a way for me to reexamine that previous work of my own, and the ideas I had for it at the time?


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