My next exhibition, and my first solo show since May 2014, goes up on the 24th October. Featuring 14 paintings done on site over my 50 day residency at Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet in Sheffield, the show is the culmination of what has been one of the most interesting periods of my artistic career.
The aim of the residency was to create a series of works that evoked a sense of what it was like to work at the site during it’s time as a water powered scythe and steel works. Grist to the mill for an industrial artist, you might think, but this was far removed from my experience as a studio based artist, working on my own away from the elements and ever changing light of outdoor practice, and away from the gaze of other visitors to the site. All of these factors presented a challenge, but none so great as the stylistic approach I was to adopt.
My usual approach tends to the semi-abstract. I like to focus on light, energy and mood – representation has never been that important to me, and I have tended to avoid anything more than the suggestion of figure. However, in responding to the site, I was drawn to the solidity of its architecture and the textures of the materials it was built from. To me these demanded a more representational approach, and my aim was to add the atmosphere of industry, and of course the people.
It soon became apparent that I would not achieve my goal without careful inclusion of figurative elements, and in keeping with the style I adopted for portaying the site, these would also have to be more than mere suggestion. I was fortunate in that the Hamlet still has an industrial use, with both Blacksmiths and a Grinder using the space. Observing Peter grinding swords for the Royal Navy was incredibly useful in enabling me to create the figurative elements of the works I have produced.
I am very happy with the works I have completed through the residency, and grateful for the support that staff and volunteers working for Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust have given me during this period. I am also incredibly grateful to the many members of the public who engaged with me during my time on site, for the interest they expressed in the work, and the encouragement they provided. It is nerve-racking to be engaged in the creative process under the gaze of the public, and my task was made so much easier by the positive responses I recieved.
I hope you can make it to the exhibition, which should be up for a good few months. For those who can’t, I’ll put up photos of the work on my facebook artists page. I’ll be moving on to my next project once the works are hung, but I will miss my time at the Hamlet, and would urge any artist to try a similar approach, you’ll learn a lot and have a lot of fun doing so 🙂
Thanks. John W