Abbeydale residency – midterm report

End of the day

End of the day

I have been the resident artist at Sheffield’s Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet, which is an industrial museum, since April (and will be until Oct), working on site for 2-3 days a week, creating 14 paintings evoking understanding of what the site was like 120 years ago. These works will be exhibitied in Nov/Dec (date to be finalised). The residency is a voluntary one; I approached the museum with a proposal which they were able to faciliate. My motivation for taking this approach was to present myself with a challenge, both creativily and in terms of output/deadlines.

My main body of work has all been studio created. It occupies the uneasy area between representation and abstraction, wandering between the two as I believe the language of art is not as important as what I say with it. Deadlines for me have been having a sufficient body of relevant work to show in one of my themed exhibitions, and artistic development has been driven more by what I am trying to evoke than the landscape I am using to speak through. Whilst I have been working effectively in this manner, and the work has been well recieved, it has not really provided the sort of challenges I need to develop my creative approach.

The residency has effectively overturned both of these problems, I have a decent but ultimately limited time to produce 14 paintings, and these have a specific end which itself places limitations on how far I can drift from representation. The challenges have been in responding to just one site, understanding how it looked, felt and was used in it’s heyday, and how I can convey all that through works that are recognisably drawn from indivdual elements of the site. In responding, I have been going back to basics, drawing and paint sketching, and working outdoors in all weathers. I have conducted extensive research, both through records and reading peoples experiences of industrial work at the time. I’m 7 paintings into my goal, and have another 3 planned.

Painting outdoors is great fun, the ever changing light presents an interesting challenge, and of course I’m constantly in the public gaze. The reponse from visitors to the site has been encouraging, with many people watching, asking questions, and expressing interest in seeing the completed body of work. It is a fantastic experience, and I feel that my work and practice has developed as a result. I would recommend a residency as part of creative development, and would love to hear from others about their experiences.

‘End of the day’ is my latest piece from the site (70 x 62cm acrylic). Hope you enjoy it and thanks for reading🙂

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Fighting For Crumbs

flier 1

Another project I have been involved in is coming to fruition. Fighting For Crumbs (Art in the shadow of neo-liberal Britain) is a group exhibition featuring video, installation, 3D wall art, crafted art, paintings, photography, poetry and performance. The main exhibition is taking place in Sheffield, and ties in to an exhibition of John Ledgers work at the Redshed in Wakefield, as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations.

Inspired by the film ‘Invisible Britain’ (based on the work of the Sleaford Mods), the  Sheffield exhibition will include new works by all participants, produced in response to the political and economic climate in the UK, and reflecting the position of art, and artists, in a period dominated by austerity. As part of the exhibition we have produced a video, which will be shown in Sheffield on the 8th, and Wakefield on the 13th of August.

Corinne Deaks and John Ledger are both producing installation pieces. One of Johns installations will be in collaboration wth the poet Jonathan Butcher. Rebekah Whitlam’s contribution will include both craft art and installation, as she explores the conflicts between economic survival and artistic expression. Connor Matheson will showcase his social-realist photography, and Nick Kilby will be performing a new piece especially created for the show. In addition we will have a number of John Ledgers superb wall pieces.

I will be showing at least 10 paintings as part of this show, including several new works. I hope some of you can manage to come along, I am confident that it will be a strong and intriguing show. Thank you for reading🙂

 

 

 

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Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet

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Work in progress – untitled

 

As I mentioned in my last blog, I’m currently doing a residency project. This is at Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet in Sheffield, a working industrial museum that was donated to the city in 1935, and opened as a museum in 1970. I am there 2 to 3 times a week for most weeks until October 9th, and during my stay aim to produce 14 paintings. The works will mainly attempt to show the site as it was in its working heyday, engaging viewers with the working conditions prevelant at the height of the industrial revolution, though some will be drawn from the life of the Hamlet as a museum, and one or two will be my response to the various artefacts scattered around the place.

The plan is to hold an exhibition of the works during November/December 2016, subject to being able to mount the works securely without damaging the fabric of the buildings.

The site is a fascinating place to work, and I have been greatly enjoying working outdoors in the gaze of the visiting public. Capturing the place has been a challenge in many ways; I’ve been engrossed in historical research to establish missing architectural details and get a sense of the lives of the workers, and as an artist I’ve had to move away from my usual style and into the realms of realism – of which more in the next blog🙂 The response from the public has been gratifyingly positive, with many visitors taking an interest in what I’m doing, and admiring the result.

One of the exhibits is the Jessops Tilt Hammer, which was donated to the site in 1939. This behemoth sits at the entrance to the Hamlet, and is a complex mix of curves, lines and shapes formed in iron and wood, and painted black. The work in progress is the result of 3 days of sketching in pencil, charcoal and paint as I grappled with trying to capture the essence of the hammer. This is the first attempt I have had at depicting it on canvas, and I have chosen the colours of rust and the chaos of steam to express the shapes and vitality of this truly impressive relic of Victorian industrial technology. I hope you like the results so far🙂

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A whole lot going on

Development Opportunity

Development Opportunity

Wow, it’s been a busy 7 weeks since I last posted. Started or completed a group of new paintings – Development Opportunity is the first in a series I’ll be doing exploring the loss of social housing in the UK. I’ve introduced a couple of new techniques into this one, and am rather happy with it – so much so that I have another painting based on it on the go with a different subject.

I’ve opened an Artfinder shop which you can find here – My artfinder to which I’ll be adding more work over the next few months.

I’ve been busy at the studios in a different way as well. As the spring bank holiday approaches, so does our annual Open Studios event, and to prepare for it I and a couple of other members have repainted all the floors and had a huge clear out. We’ve also had the lighting upgraded, and the whole place almost looks respectable😉

Having a lot of work in stock means that I can respond quickly when the need arises, and I now have 7 paintings in an exhibition at The Gardeners Rest Pub on Neepsend Lane in Sheffield. A real pop-up this, got the call at 11.30am on Friday and had the work over there and installed by 12.30pm same day. The show will be up for a couple of months, so do pop in if you’re in the area🙂

Finally, I have negotiated and begun a residency at a Sheffield Industrial site, which I will write about in detail in my next blog. In the meantime, I can tell you that I will be producing 14 works from this, to be exhibited in November-December, including one feature work that we will record and share progress on over the period. It’s a good experience, and I have spent the past week working on drawings to capture the site, and help me decide what I will be doing for the feature painting from the residency.

Thanks for reading and I’ll be back soon🙂

 

John

 

 

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Progress

 

Progress

Progress

I’ve had quite a busy time of it through February, but most of it hasn’t involved being in the studio. I’ve been concentrating on future plans, which include one group show in August, Fighting for crumbs – looking at the situation facing artists in austerity Britain, set in context to wider society; a solo show later in the year, which will feature entirely new work, and putting together a proposal for a residency. I’ve also got my work for sale through Artfinder . On top of this I’ve been fleshing out the details for two new batches of themed work, the first based around the North Atlantic and Arctic convoys, the second on the untold histories of industrial workers. Hopefully both of these will come to fruition during 2016. For now I give you my latest painting, Progress, another small piece at 44 x 29cm, and once again painted with a minimal palette – Raw Umber, Indigo, Yellow Ochre and Burnt Sienna, with Cadmium Red highlights and a Titanium White base. I hope you enjoy it🙂

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Torn

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Torn

2016 has started out fairly well for me, with two paintings being sold, and some interesting possibilities for joint shows and collaborations emerging. I hope to be able to take my practice into a more public environment through residency, and plan to experiment with plein air painting (when the weather improves🙂 ) In the meantime I am dividing my efforts between research, writing grant applications, admin work for the studio, and painting.

Torn is my second completed work of the year, and is a reflection  of a society increasingly divided, whose members face difficult choices in deciding where their interests lie. It was an interesting and complex piece to create, both in terms of colour and detail planning but also because it has a more figurative element than the bulk of my work. I hope that it works for you🙂

 

 

 

 

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A poem and a painting

Elements of place the end of all things

The End Of All Things/Elements of Place

Last year I had a joint show with a friend, Paul Dearden. The exhibition, Elements of Place, featured an evening of music performance and poetry, and the poet involved, Liz Ferrets, recently sent me this piece in response to the exhibition. The poem is typical of Liz’s work – simple, powerful, and beautifully crafted – to me it summed up my work, and the exhibition so well that I thought I’d overlay it on an image of one of my industrial paintings. I’m rather pleased with the result, hope you enjoy, and for those of you viewing on a smaller screen I have included the whole poem below.

Elements of Place

Things change
Change happens
Nothing changes
Everything stays the same

Stone bone iron clay
Change the horizon
Seize the day
The wheel of time
The cycles spin
Here we go
Round again
A lost horizon
A landscape uncovered

A day
A week
A month
There goes a year
What a fantastic decade

Spring summer autumn winter
Splinter
But everything stays the same

Stone bone iron clay
Lightning storm
Another day
Wheel of fortune
Cycles spin
Here we go
Round again

Stone bone iron clay
Paper scissors rock

I win you lose
You win I lose
They win they win

Stone bone iron clay
Dawn breaks it’s
Another day
Change the vista
Change the view

Run – breathe
Climb – breathe
Swim – breathe
Walk – breathe
Soak up the sky

All eyes are on the monster
coming over the hill
so
no one sees
The monster that
we left behind
Who haunts us
has left its mark
It taunts us
With the scars
and bars
We learn nothing
and so
Nothing changes

Liz Ferrets.

 

 

 

 

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