The road we walked before

The road we walked before

The road we walked before

The world I grew up in was very different. Pre Reagan and Thatcher, shocked by the extremities of the 1939-45 conflict, and still remembering prewar economic depression, it seemed there was a consensus about the social duty of the State. Working, health and housing conditions were on the rise, as was disposable income. It was a time of great struggles, for race, sexuality and gender equality, and it seemed that there were great victories. Facsism had not been defeated but its greatest influence was on young football hooligans looking for a fight. Overseas travel had become much more affordable, and the world seemed to be opening out.

Fast forward to now, and all that I believed was happening seemed a falsehood. How short our memories, that we have allowed ourselves to turn against each other,  that we have allowed our democracies to be highjacked by naked self-interest, and that once more we see the return to the idealogy of the bully. How thin the facade of our humanity that to be Black, Gay, Lesbian, Trans, Disabled or simply a woman places us under threat once more, that to be from a different country invites suspicion and hostility. Do we really walk blindly through the world once more ignoring that which does not directly affect us, condoning hate by our lack of censure, content to benefit from the discomfort of others, indeed to celebrate that discomfort? Were we pretending all along?

At a recent party, I suggested that we could learn a lot about now by looking at our past. The notion was scathingly dismissed, after all history is manipulated by the victorious and hence unreliable. True, but while memories may be short, our understanding of the rise of totalitarianism in the 1920s and 30s has yet to be overwritten.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

( Martin Niemoller 1946)

 

John Wilkinson – July 2018

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KurbArt done, looking ahead.

Well, it took longer to hang than we expected, but the Little Kelham Urban Art Gallery is now hung. 13 murals, 12 painted and one made of hand crafted tiles, 7 of them mine. It was certainly an interesting journey completing this one, and stretched me massively as both an artist and project manager.  I’m very happy with the result, and feedback suggests that the local residents are as well. You can find out more by visiting kurbart.com

After such an intense period working on a single project I’m now looking at what to do next. Our hold on the gallery remains tenuous, so I’m looking elsewhere for an exhibition. For Those In Peril.. has returned from it’s sojourn in the Industrial Museum, where it went very well, so I’ll be looking at Liverpool and Glasgow for possible venues. I’ll also be continuing to develop the Pathways series, as the basis for my new show. Meanwhile, I’ve continued to play around with colour, and a very limited palette. My latest work is in 3 blues, one yellow and titanium white, and I’m rather pleased with the result. Hope you like it.

Blue remembered hills (after Houseman)

Blue remembered hills (after Houseman)

KurbArt

As I mentioned in my last blog, I am working on a major new project, and I’m glad to now be able to announce it. The project has the working title (and hashtag) KurbArt, and brings street art and gallery art together by presenting public art pieces in a gallery style, separately hung to a common top line, with title/artist plaques next to each. The end result will be 13 murals running along a 400 metre wall, with work by 5 different artists.

I am producing 7 of the works, and the pictures above are work in progress images of a series I am calling Figurescapes. Broadly referencing the elements – though I have chosen Space rather than Air – these figures will be cut out and mounted to the wall. Two of my other 3 murals will be normal landscape ratio, and the final one an abstract pattern arrived at by cutting a large landscape into slices. To give a sense of scale, the figures shown are 3 metres tall.

The project is being sponsored by an imaginative developer, Citu, as part of their Little Kelham project. The brief they gave us was very loose, simply requiring that the murals paid heed to their brand values of sustainability, innovation and technology, and a commitment to tackling climate change through reduced carbon emissions. We have all approached this in different ways; the Figurescapes, and one of my landscape murals, will also highlight the importance of people to place. I aim to do this using people shaped empty spaces as well as the figurescapes to invite the viewer to place themselves in the environment.

This is a very exciting project, which will be unveiled on the weekend of the 28th/29th April 2018. I’ll post more teaser images as work progresses, next up is Water, and when that’s done I have 3m x 5m and a 3m x 7m murals to complete, which will reflect the change in the area from a decayed brownfield site to a living environment. Watch this space 🙂

 

Good start to a new year

 

Invite Kelham Island final

It’s been a busy couple of months for me, but they’ve been good ones. I have a major project coming up, of which more in the next blog. First though I have the news that the Arctic Convoys exhibition ‘For Those In Peril..’ will be showing at Sheffield’s Kelham Island Industrial Museum from March 2nd.

First shown at Sheffield’s gage gallery in June 2017 (to mark the 75th anniversary of the sailing of PQ17), it was the strong and positive response to the show from the 216 visitors to gage that encouraged me to look at taking it away from a gallery setting. Visitor feedback highlighted how many of us have or had family members involved in the convoys. Bringing the show to the industrial museum fits in well with my belief that art can help bring a sense of life to heritage sites, and that art needs to move out of the gallery to encourage people who might not normally engage with it to see it’s relevance to them. I’m currently exploring the future of the exhibition, which I’m hoping to take to Liverpool, Loch Ewe, and ultimately Archangelsk, the destination of PQ17 and many other of the arctic convoys.

Working the show out has also been interesting. One element of the show is that it’s designed as a sequential narrative, but the Brearley room is not as large a space as gage, the gallery I usually exhibit in. Ensuring that the narrative element remains, and is coherent, has been a fascinating challenge, one that I feel has sharpened my curatorial skills as well. Good times 🙂

The exhibition will run from March 4th to May 14th, and is open 10am – 4pm Monday to Thursday, and 11am – 4.30pm Sundays.

 

 

 

 

Playing with colour

Mythago Wood (absorbing) 36pc

Mythago Wood (absorbing)

I have always been entranced by myth, and take great delight in wandering through the remnants of the vast woodlands that used to blanket the British Isles. I am also an avid reader, and occasionally am inspired to respond to works that I find particularly powerful. So last week I decided to tackle a subject that has long engaged me, and play with a colour balance that I use less often. I also thought I’d work on a different surface, having become interested in the challenge of using palette knives on an unyielding base when painting the steel utility cabinets in July and November.

Mythago Wood is a novel by Robert Holdstock, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys dark fantasy. In it, the woodland is timeless, measureless and jealous of its boundaries. Here I have shown it in it’s full power, fighting back against human encroachment, and ultimately absorbing our endeveaours – as indeed is inevitable, surely whilst we are capable of inflicting grievous damage, we will destroy the conditions of our own sustainability well before we destroy all life?

Lest we forget

For Those In Peril

For Those In Peril..

829 Merchant Seamen from 104 ships, and 1,944 Royal Navy personnel from 18 ships lost their lives on Arctic Convoy duty. In protecting the convoys, the RN sank 5 surface ships, 31 submarines and many, many aircraft. Countless more were pulled from the water, from their ships, and from boats and islands, by the RN and the Convoy Rescue Ship Service. Rescuing sailors meant stopping the ship, leaving it wide open to u-boat or air attack.  Referencing the scrambling nets that went over a ships side, and with details of the 18 ships lost, this is my homage to the RN and Convoy Rescue Ships Service.

The sculpture is one of 25 works in a series of artworks both commemorating and offering homage to the work of the men and women of the mercantile marine during the arctic convoys of 1941-45. The works were exhibited as an audio-visual sequential narrative between June 23rd and July 12th 2017 at Gage Gallery in Sheffield. I am currently in talks to restage the exhibition at a different venue in the New Year.

Central to the exhibition were a series of paintings and sculptures, presented as a journey through the eyes of an ordinary merchant seaman engaged in the Arctic Convoy runs of 1941-45. The audience were invited to take the part of the sailor, and immerse themselves in the journey through the artworks and the ambient audio soundscape that accompanied them.

Read more about the exhibition here

 

 

For Those In Peril.. Book now available

 

They’ve arrived 🙂 Very happy to say that the first print run of the book of my last exhibition has now arrived. A5, 200gsm silk finish paper, hardcover, casebound, 60 pages with 27 pictures. I’m really happy with the result, they look and feel like the quality production I hoped they’d be.

The book includes images of all paintings and sculptures in the show, a gallery shot, and all the text that accompanied the artworks at the show (short ‘excerpts from letters home’ that serve as explanation) plus a short history of convoy PQ17 and the overall background to the arctic convoys operations.

The first 50 will be signed and numbered, and they are available direct from me, at £15.00 plus £2.50 postage and packing (UK only first class untracked). For international orders please contact me for a quote.

You can order copies by email. I accept paypal payments and will email you back a link to follow for payment.

(jlpaw@blueyonder.co.uk)