Demi Nandhra was recently awarded an Engine Micro Bursary.

Demi reflects here on the experiences of being a neurodivergent artist in a new piece of work described as a manifesto / rant / message / support / solidarity.

Click below to access Demi’s work.

In Defence of the Neurodivergent Artist

 

Demi Nandhra was recently awarded an Engine Micro Bursary. Demi reflects here on the experiences of being a neurodivergent artist in a new piece of work described as a manifesto / rant / message / support / solidarity.

Joanne Masding was recently awarded an Engine Micro Bursary.

She has used this to begin a new piece of writing to think about ways of knowing the material world when it can’t be met with a body.

Joanne Masding has used her Engine Micro Bursary to begin a new piece of writing to think about ways of knowing the material world when it can’t be met with a body.

Video Still from Extremely Valuable Person https://vimeo.com/427319157

Before the pandemic I was working on an idea with my mother. Part of the process was that we would both share and learn new skills by making a film together. I would learn how to make potato chapattis, to knit and to sew (she makes all her own clothes), and I would teach her how to send and receive photos and videos from her mobile phone. The film was intending to utilise two audio interviews with my mother, with a series of still images only. One interview would be subtitled and translated into English and the other a Punjabi voice-over narration. This is something we are still intending to do post lockdown.

 

Video Still from Extremely Valuable Person
https://vimeo.com/427319157

 

I was self-isolating in March; I felt I had to stay symptom free in case I was needed in an emergency to help support my mother who lives alone and is classed by the government as vulnerable. I’m always concerned she might fall again or become unwell again and my post- trauma fears of loss, especially during a pandemic were elevated. On Wednesday 8 April, I received a text notification from my GP which read, ‘…identified as someone at risk of severe illness if you catch coronavirus (COVID-19)’. So, I too am grouped as an ‘extremely vulnerable person’ and strongly advised to stay indoors for 12 weeks. Initially I found this extremely upsetting as I would be unable to see my mother until July 1 but over the last few weeks of lockdown my anxiety has been easing. Eventually, I will be able to give my mum a hug – I hope.

 

When applying to New Art West Midlands for this Micro Bursary I was looking to make dedicated time to focus and to tackle the pandemic anxieties that were building up for us both from a health and well-being approach. After several conversations with my mother I decided to apply with her consent. The main focus was to reduce our anxieties around isolation by having a re-focus on other activity that may benefit us by sharing skills and tasks remotely and documenting this activity by recorded interviews, photos, text and video calls.

 

Initially the project caused more communication frustration in relation to my spoken Punjabi and my mother’s lack of technical knowledge; even accessing photos on her phone was an issue, and this approach was not helping our well-being at all. So, after the first few days we decided to start off with daily pandemic-free conversations. There were many benefits and good things that came out of this time together, such as understanding each other more, but sharing of skills was limited to the weekly tasks we gave each other. I was tasked to appreciate the garden more. She would say ‘… talk to the flowers and plants you water and they will grow for you’ or ‘… climb the stairs five times a day but remember to hold the handrail and then check your blood sugars afterwards’ and ‘… I task you to send me two Bollywood Song videos a day’. This allowed me to step away from my computer and appreciate the privilege of being outdoors in the garden, to start exercising and to become a researcher for her Bollywood film choices. The tasks I gave her were to take a couple of photos every day, to spend more time in her garden, to recommend her favourite Bollywood films, to watch the news less and take photos of her knitting and dress making.

 

Over the next four weeks conversations became less about the pandemic and more about my mother’s childhood memories, her sense of identity, and the things we were looking forward to post-lockdown. It was good for us to both make discoveries about each other, about our family, about her childhood memories of her mother, and our love of Bollywood film songs. I asked my mother how she felt the collaboration went and she said, “I am really pleased I can now take a photo and view it. I certainly won’t forget now. It’s made me happy.” I asked her what she didn’t enjoy, and she said, “I don’t understand the art you are doing but if it makes you happy then carry on.”

 

Photo Credit: Harbhajan Kaur. Title: Me

 

I’m hoping all the documentation I have gathered over the last four weeks will help me think through my practice from a new perspective and potentially take it into places not previously considered. Certain topics and future possibilities are emerging: my identity in relation to the name I was given, conversations of experiences of our childhood and memories of when she first came to the UK. I am considering new ways of documenting these topics through audio, photography, handwriting and travelling research.

 

I have titled this project ‘Extremely Valuable Person’ because through all the hardships my mother has gone through, from arriving in this country from the Punjab in 1962 (she remembers how cold, bleak and hostile it felt but she made the UK her home), raising six children virtually on her own, maintaining a difficult factory job for many years and never being late or taking a day off sick – she is just inspiring. Ultimately, we are both discovering more about our relationship, the differences and similarities that are often not talked about, celebrated or accepted.

 

I asked my mother for her final thoughts. “Although I am happy in the UK, I am really missing India and hope I can visit again and perhaps we can go together for the first time.”

 

www.danauluk.com

Dan Auluk reflects on his recent Micro Bursary activity – a collaboration with his mother Harbhajan Kaur. He used the project to make dedicated time to focus and to tackle some of the anxieties of this pandemic period.

My 25 year old son Kallum is learning disabled and autistic. His support network, which has been in place for several years collapsed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and as a result he is in a near constant state of distress. The routines that structure Kallum’s week have disappeared. Familiar faces and places can no longer be seen. Unexpected behaviour from those around us such as clapping on doorsteps breaks the usual social rules and creates sensory overload.

I am therefore focussing my attention on helping Kallum process what is happening and to developing coping mechanisms to get through today, tomorrow and the months to come. We are doing this together through art, more specifically through dialogue, collage and assemblage.

Whilst we are all finding lockdown difficult, for people like Kallum who experience life differently it is proving to be a huge challenge which is adversely affecting his mental health, confidence, independence, and wellbeing and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Our artwork conveys, in some small way, the experience of lockdown for Kallum.

 

 

This work has been supported by an Engine Micro Bursary, designed to document artists’ experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic through new research and making.

 

 

 

A collaboration between Helen Garbett and her son Kallum who is learning disabled and autistic, exploring his experience of lockdown. Supported by an Engine Micro Bursary.

Ania Bas, Reasons, 2020, 2 digital posters, design by Rose Nordin. Commissioned and supported by Heart of Glass and New Art West Midlands.

In the midst of the pandemic I have been continuing to argue with myself: is having a child a selfish choice, the only way to bring hope, a distraction, a solution?

These prints are based on a longer piece of text written during the lockdown by Ania Bas.

 

Ania Bas, Reasons, 2020, 2 digital posters, design by Rose Nordin. Commissioned and supported by Heart of Glass and New Art West Midlands.

 

Ania Bas, Reasons, 2020, 2 digital posters, design by Rose Nordin. Commissioned and supported by Heart of Glass and New Art West Midlands.

Ania Bas presents Reasons, a series of digital posters designed by Rose Nordin. The works are taken from a longer text supported by an Engine Micro Bursary.

This work has been made by Emily Warner as part of a Micro Bursary she was recently awarded. The Bursaries are intended to share how artists are responding to the unprecedented circumstances of the current Covid-19 pandemic. 

Lockdown has provided ample time to mull over the reasons I want to / need to / oughta quit. Dis-location, mental health, professional pressure, impossible survival. How do you resign, when you’re a freelance artist, and you’ve had enough?

Click image below to access Emily’s response.

 

 

This work has been made by Emily Warner as part of an Engine Micro Bursary she was recently awarded. The Bursaries are intended to share how artists are responding to the unprecedented circumstances of the current Covid-19 pandemic.

How to be a Hermit - A Guide for Surviving Lockdown from One Who Knows Hermit: a person living in seclusion; a recluse. hermitic, hermitical, hermitish, hermiticaly, hermit-like, hermitry, hermitship 1 “Some are born hermits, some achieve hermitship and some have hermitry thrust upon them.” (sorry, William) Illustrated with a drawing from a medieval manuscript of a man dressed in a brown shift blowing a musical pipe and banging a drum.Hello you. Welcome to the new normal, this socially distanced, isolated world of stay-at-homes. In recent times you’ve unexpectedly joined the ranks of the contemplatives, the solitaries, the enclosed orders, the hermits; some of you more willingly than others. For some of us, the natural born hermits, this current stay-at-home world of lockdown has been a blessing and a balm. Illustrated with a drawing of a woman’s head and shoulders. She has long hair and red cheeks and is drawn in the style of a medieval manuscript Natural born hermits come in a range of colours and flavours: Some of us are happiest completely alone. Others enjoy a tiny community of friends and family. Still others are quite sociable, but still need a lot of alone time in between the parties. Come with me into the world of the hermit, I hope you may at least be entertained and maybe find empathy for a different kind of mind. Illustrated with a black and white stylised drawing of a woman’s head and shoulders and a cartoon of an animal, possibly a dog. Both are drawn in the style of the middle ages.I want to take a moment to reflect on the awfulness of being alone against your will. For people who are forced into a life of seclusion because of physical illness or injury, poverty, old age and metal ill health, an enclosed, isolated life is not a joy but a torture. I urge you to seek out the involuntary loners, the unwilling recluses, the stay at home sick and give them some love; call them up, let them know you are thinking about them, offer help. Don’t leave anyone alone who needs companionship. Illustrated with a drawing from a medieval manuscript of three kings standing together, each holding a hawk. Two of the kings are holding hands. A Short History of the Hermit There have always been hermits. A Slightly Longer History of the Hermit Throughout history and across the world, people have wandered away from their villages, towns and cities to live alone as hermits. Many moved away to a place of loneliness and silence in order to hear what their God/s is/are saying to them. Others become hermits because they want to test themselves alone in the wilderness, or because they just cannot stand all that damn rackett of people and civilisation any longer! Illustrated with a drawing of a medieval castle and surrounding buildings on a hill. In the foreground a cloaked and hooded figure of an older man sits on the ground reading a book. His feet are bare. Most human beings really love to hang out in groups. It’s probably why we started with a couple of straw huts and now have mega cities. You can clearly see the human need to be with other people if you’ve ever parked in a totally empty car park and your return find one other car has arrived. It’s parked so close to you you can’t get your door open. (Yes this has happened to me. Yes I’m still annoyed about it.) While the hermit, or solitary, has always been looked at with some suspicion by the rest of humanity, like a magnet they have also drawn the crowds. To avoid society, hermits have been walled up in rooms, lived on top of towers, taken to caves in the mountains, but still the press of humanity has come, seeking the hermit’s wisdom,. Illustrated with an Orthordox Christian Icon painting taken from a medieval manuscript. A bearded mans’ head and shoulders can be seen coming out of a stylised tower in the middle of a lake. An white building can just be seen at the side of the lake. The area behind the man is painted gold. During the late 17th century, there arose a fashion amongst the decadent elite for  How to be a Hermit: The Rules (according to me) Number one: Be alone. If you can’t be alone, you’ll hate being a hermit. As a hermit, you must prefer to spend the majority of your time (say, 70%) without other human beings around. However, hermits are permitted (even expected) to keep unlimited company with gods, cats, dogs, chickens, imaginary space aliens, as they prefer. Illustrated with a drawing from a medieval manuscript of a hooded and robed hermit sitting outside his hut looking at a man-shaped beast with the head of a wolf and huge claws on its fingers and toes. The beast seems to be talking to the hermit. Number two: Be interested For many, the whole point of being a hermit is being able to spend as much time as possible pursuing one’s area of interest/s without being interrupted by pesky people. Harsh, but true. Illustrated with a brightly coloured painting from a medieval manuscript of monk scribe seated at his writing table. The background of the image is gold. Number three: Be idle The life of a hermit is a life of contemplation. For religious hermits fervent and continuous prayer is the ideal. For the secular hermit active idleness, contemplative pondering of one’s special interests, should form a significant part of one’s daily round. Idleness and interests go, oddly, hand in hand. Illustrated with a humorous drawing of a sleeping man dressed in medieval clothing. He has his chin in his hand and is wearing long pointed shoes that curl up at the toes. Number four: Be (somewhat) Organised There is a fine line between being a hermit and being completely out of your tree. The demarcation line is to be found in organisation. You cannot, as a hermit, let things go. Managing a diary for your infrequent social responsibilities, cleaning yourself and your hermitage relatively frequently, maintaining routines, these things will keep you on the right side of sanity. Illustrated with a humorous drawing of a half naked man wearing a loin cloth and holding a tree branch n one hand. His other hand rests on a vase which has been upturned and seems to be spilling water or wine. Number five: Be (a little bit) Social People need people. This fundamental rule of life cannot be avoided, even for hermits. No one is 100% self sufficient; the greatest challenge for the hermit is balancing the need to be alone with the necessity to interact with people, to care for family, make a living, navigate society. It’s probably the hardest thing for hermits to get right and society could help by making more home-working available. Hermits everywhere are watching the outcome of lockdown and increased homeworking with deep interest. Being able to earn a living and not leave the home/hermitage would be life changing. Illustrated with a drawing from a medieval manuscript. A woman in nun’s habit is visiting a hermit in his hut by a river. The hermit is dipping one toe into the water.4. Quiet: Hermits value silence. The ideal hermitage is on the mountain top or in the wooded valley. A beach hut in a lonely cove or an island croft. Not only are these places far from society, the intrusive and mechanical noises of modern life are replaced with the sigh of wind and song of birds. (There are hermits who enjoy loud noises and raucous music and the city din. They are rare and peculiar) 5. Noticing the small things: flowers, beetles, the smell of rain, the crusty pleasure of toast, etc. 6. Enjoying the big things: Trainspotting, star gazing, listening to the same song on repeat, talking to gods, sci fi box sets, online bookshops, MMU games etc.7. Simplicity: Shops and hermits don’t mix well, which is good because most hermits are poor. Happy hermits embrace frugality. 8. The uniform: you can wear whatever you like as a hermit, go naked if you prefer! Hang fashion (unless you love fashion) and sizeist judgmentalism; you wear that moth eaten but very soft Captain Picard t-shirt and dinosaur pyjama bottoms as much as you want (but pay attention to Rule Number Four, see above) 9. Being authentically yourself: You don’t have to pretend when you are a hermit. It’s just you (and whatever gods / pets / space aliens you chose to share your hermitage with) so you can sing, dance, flap, rock, warble, put on silly voices, sniff, fart and whistle to your heart's content. Illustrated with a simple decorative border in blue, black and gold taken from a medieval illuminated manuscript. Two greyhounds are chasing a stylised deer along the bottom of the border.7. Simplicity: Shops and hermits don’t mix well, which is good because most hermits are poor. Happy hermits embrace frugality. 8. The uniform: you can wear whatever you like as a hermit, go naked if you prefer! Hang fashion (unless you love fashion) and sizeist judgmentalism; you wear that moth eaten but very soft Captain Picard t-shirt and dinosaur pyjama bottoms as much as you want (but pay attention to Rule Number Four, see above) 9. Being authentically yourself: You don’t have to pretend when you are a hermit. It’s just you (and whatever gods / pets / space aliens you chose to share your hermitage with) so you can sing, dance, flap, rock, warble, put on silly voices, sniff, fart and whistle to your heart's content. Illustrated with a simple decorative border in blue, black and gold taken from a medieval illuminated manuscript. Two greyhounds are chasing a stylised deer along the bottom of the border.

Statement

…kruse is a neurodivergent, multidisciplinary artist and current BOM Fellow. …kruse works collaboratively with AuTCRONE, a semi-fictional digital/human cyborg from the year 2120.

Their practice explores the human and trans-human, informed by their divergent neurology, person-hood, gender expression, enhanced sensory input and communication difference.

Themes and interests include the climate crisis, identity, neurodivergence, ageing, disability, gender expression, isolation, communication, solitude and community.

 

End comment

For many neurodivergent and autistic people the need to stay at home during the Covid-19 crisis may have come as a welcome respite from ‘normal’ life. While we are missing beloved friends and family, we are at least not having to navigate the sometimes confusing and stressful world of work and social obligations that can make life extra difficult for us.

The things that most of my NT (neuro-typical) friends seem to be missing are things that I am greatly relieved to be relieved of; community activities, festivals, parties, shopping, crowds, social busyness. Even if autistic people do enjoy some of these things, they come with extra stressors, sensory and social, that NT people don’t have to deal with.

Conversely, the things that most people find difficult during this lockdown, solitude, isolation, only being able to meet others online, being confined to the home, hours or days spent not talking to another person, may actually make life less stressful for many neurodivergent people.

Personally, I’ve always secretly fancied being a  hermit, in the style of the 19th century garden hermits; wherein an artist, poet or philosopher would live in solitude in a rustic hermitage in the grounds of some aristocrat’s estate, writing in peace and solitude, occasionally visited by the gentry and consulted on matters artistic or philosophical. In recent years I have been working with people and organisations to make workplaces and galleries more inclusive and accessible to autistic people. I believe that there could be some positives coming out of this awful pandemic as organisations and employers see that working online is much more feasible than previously thought. Being able to work, socialise and access arts events online could do a lot to lessen the social stress that many autistic people have to cope with on a daily basis. Access to different working patterns, more flexible work times, homeworking and digital workplaces could all help to make access to work a reality for autistic people, who currently have one of the highest unemployment rates of any socially disabled group.

…kruse
May 2020

Image attribution for How To Be A Hermit by …kruse 2020

Pic 1: Bear and dancing horse from British Library Royal 20 D IV, f. 237v
Image taken from f. 237v of Lancelot du Lac.
Pic 2: Detail: Marginal drawing from British Library Arundel 413, f. 10
Marginal drawing of of a dog? and a human half-bust figure, in the Sermones de quadragesima. Image taken from f. 10 of Sermones de quadragesima.
Pic 3: Detail: Marginal drawing from British Library Arundel 413, f. 10
Marginal drawing of a human half-bust figure, in the Sermones de quadragesima. Image taken from f. 10 of Sermones de quadragesima.
Pic 3a: Three kings from British Library Royal 10 E IV, f. 258v
Detail of a bas-de-page scene of three kings standing together, each holding a hawk. Image taken from f. 258v of Decretals of Gregory IX with glossa ordinaria (the ‘Smithfield Decretals’)
Pic 5: Image from page 105 of “A short history of engraving [and] etching : for the use of collectors and students; with full bibliography, classified list and index of engravers” (1908) Year: 1908 (1900s) Authors: Hind, Arthur Mayger, 1880-1957 Publisher: London : A. Constable
Pic 7: Luke of the Stylites (Menologion of Basil II).jpg Wikimedia Commons
Pic 8: A Mountainous River Landscape with a Hermit and a Chapel ca. 1570–83
Matthijs Bril the Younger, Met Museum
Pic 10: Devil and hermit from British Library Royal 10 E IV, f. 113v
Detail of a bas-de-page scene of a devil and a hermit outside a hut. Image taken from f. 113v of Decretals of Gregory IX with glossa ordinaria (the ‘Smithfield Decretals’). Written in Latin.
Pic 11: Hermit from British Library Royal 14 E III, f. 6v
Detail of a miniature of the hermit writing at a desk. Image taken from f. 6v of Estoire del Saint Graal, La Queste del Saint Graal, Morte Artu.
Pic 12: Woman from British Library Sloane 748, f. 79v
Image taken from f. 79v of De caelo, De anima.
Pic 13: Image from British Library Harley 2506, f. 42v
Image taken from f. 42v of Phaenomena (also known as the Aratea).
Pic 14: Nun visiting hermit from British Library Royal 10 E IV, f. 130v
Detail of a bas-de-page scene of a nun visiting a hermit. Image taken from f. 130v of Decretals of Gregory IX with glossa ordinaria (the ‘Smithfield Decretals’).
Pic 16: Tournament from British Library Royal 20 D IV, f. 225v
Miniature of trumpeters and jousters at the tournament, with a bas-de-page scene of hounds chasing a stag. Image taken from f. 225v of Lancelot du Lac.

 

Multidisciplinary artist …kruse was recently awarded an Engine Micro Bursary. Their piece How to be a Hermit: A Guide to Surviving Lockdown from One Who Knows explores some of the pleasures that lockdown has afforded them as a neurodivergent person and aspiring hermit.

We recently redirected the focus of our next round of Engine Micro Bursaries (a go-and-see resource in previous years) towards evidence gathering around the impact on artists’ livelihoods caused by the Coronavirus outbreak and the unprecedented measures taken to slow the spread of the disease.


We invited artists and arts professionals living in the West Midlands to share experiences of the current situation – case studies and points of view around practice in these exceptional times. The 10 artists selected to receive a Micro Bursary of £250 are:

Dan Auluk

Ania Bas

Helen Garbett

Dion Kitson

… kruse

Taz Lovejoy

Joanne Masding

Demi Nandhra

Adam Neal

Emily Warner

Almost 60 applications were received and the panel were very impressed with the strength and quality of artists’ responses to and stories of the current crisis right across the region. We were by turns moved, saddened and uplifted by what we read and the decisions we had to make were very difficult.

We are grateful to our panel of selectors which included Melanie Pocock, Ikon Gallery; Hannah Taylor, Asylum Art Gallery; Adelaide Bannerman, International Curators Forum; Anne de Charmant, Meadow Arts; John Cussans, University of Worcester; Mike Layward, DASH and Glen Stoker, AirSpace Gallery.

Our website and social media accounts will be places to gather focus points including the impact on studio-based artists, on freelance curatorial activities, on practitioners based in rural contexts, on the student perspective, and on artists and curators who are commonly disadvantaged due to race, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion and disability.

Each of the 10 artists will be supported to make and research within this unprecedented context. We will be sharing results of their work – be it video, text, audio, drawings, photography or other responses – on our website and social media channels over the next few weeks.

We recently invited artists and arts professionals living in the West Midlands to share experiences of the current situation – case studies and points of view around practice in these exceptional times. We are pleased to announce the 10 artists receiving support via our Engine Micro Bursaries scheme to share their stories.

Work by Andy Sargent

Engine, the professional development programme run by New Art West Midlands and The New Art Gallery Walsall, partnered with Outside In earlier this year to offer artists living in the West Midlands the opportunity to apply for Micro Bursaries towards bespoke professional development activities.

 

Outside In is a national charity that supports artists who face significant barriers to the art world due to health, disability, social circumstance or isolation and the bursary was directed to its artists or those artists who meet its criteria.

 

We are delighted to announce that we have been able to offer three bursaries to artists Corinne, Finn and Andy Sargent, based in Worcestershire, Shropshire and Warwickshire respectively.

 

From a pool of strong applications, the panel, made up of staff from each of the three organisations, were particularly impressed with the clarity of these three proposals. The impact that the bursaries might make on the development of Corinne, Finn and Andy’s individual practices was evident. The Outside In Engine Micro Bursaries, launched back at the start of February, were aimed at covering the costs of, for example, research visits to exhibitions, festivals or sites of interest, attendance at seminars, workshops and conferences, travel and accommodation.

Corinne, A Bedtime Story #3, 2020

 

Corinne will use her bursary to attend Friday Morning Pottery and Hand Building Ceramics classes at Worcester Arts Workshop, equipping her with skills in hand building, ceramic and glazing techniques. She views the workshops as research into the use of clay, allowing her to gain skills and develop ideas so that she can build masks to use within her photographic self-portraiture. Find out more about her work on her website here.

 

Finn, TEXTILE (1)

 

Finn currently has an Unlimited R&D commission to research haptic art with Coventry University and is creating a life-size fish tank with interactive animated fish that can be felt using haptic sonic sound waves. The bursary will be used to research haptic technology mixed with organic materials.

 

Andy Sargent, The tale of the horse and the monster

 

Meanwhile, Andy will use his bursary towards travel to visit galleries, including paintings by Alberto Giacometti for personal research, and to help pay towards travel to meetings, functions and open evenings when they resume. The bursary will help him to meet curators and to promote his work. You can find out more about Andy’s work via his website.

 

While these activities are of course not possible at the moment, we look forward to speaking with Corinne, Finn and Andy in the months ahead. They will be reporting back on their research and bursary activities for these editorial pages and for the Outside In website.

 

Engine partnered with Outside In earlier this year to offer artists living in the West Midlands the opportunity to apply for Micro Bursaries towards bespoke professional development activities. We are delighted to announce that we have been able to offer three bursaries to artists Corinne, Finn and Andy Sargent.

For ten days in July, Nottingham Trent University’s Fine Art studios and workshops host The Summer Lodge. The Lodge started as a means for busy academic staff to reclaim the experience of experimenting with their own practices without constraints or distractions during the vacation. More than a decade later, it has evolved, providing a collective space for thirty invited artists to undertake experiments, pursue new ideas and allow unexpected leaps of imagination.

There is a strong emphasis on a relaxed social/community environment with regular potluck meals (in fact, the Lodge starts with a shared meal), activities and opportunities for new dialogues and critical exchange. There is also a significant emphasis on research. The first week concludes with a symposium addressing a different topic every year, comprising presentations from a range of invited speakers from international academics to undergraduate students, followed by a panel discussion and participation from the audience. The 2018 Lodge provocation was ‘Autotelic/Toward Play‘ exploring ideas around playfulness and experimentation within artistic practices. We explored parallels between the immersion and absorption young children experience in their play, combined with reflection on our motivations when making work and on achieving a balance between working towards resolution whilst simultaneously leaving things open.

My starting point for the residency was examining the influence science has on the cosmetic dream of youthful and transformed skin – I had planned to make some simple salves (incidentally, the university workshop staff couldn’t have been more helpful and encouraging about my experiments). It’s interesting that the freedom to simply play, with no expectation that you need to make or show anything can result in considerable creative results. Making fairly effective salves is remarkably easy – I had a whole range produced after a couple of days and this actually became secondary to curiosity about the application and transformative effects.

 

Conversations with other participants prompted me to explore the mythology and plant lore in greater detail – the idea that our faith in the modern science behind cosmetics might be influenced by much older cultural paradigms. I researched and collected wild herbs from the local graveyard and botanical gardens and explored how I might harness their (purported) powers into my range of salves. Lodge members were also surprisingly enthusiastic about trying out some of my concoctions, although we learnt (the hard way) that some of the active ingredients like turmeric aren’t that pleasant on skin … The realisation that I needed a stand-in for real skin led to other surfaces that could be palpated and transformed resulting in some training on a sewing machine, which I had never tried before (alarming!).

Aside from being really enjoyable, the residency had a lasting impact on my practice, both in terms of my willingness to play more within my processes of making and also the range of materials I engage with. Certainly my interest in utilising ‘real’ and living materials in my sculptural and installation work started during the Lodge experience and some of the pieces I made and ideas I entertained during that ten day period continue to morph and evolve today.

www.mattgale.co.uk

 

Matt Gale reports on his residency at Nottingham Trent University’s Summer Lodge last year.

Andrew McNiven: Untitled (Belgian Autoroute Services), 2018. HD video, multi-channel audio (work-in-progress)

My application to New Art West Midlands’s Engine Micro Bursary scheme was to support research within Northern Europe in which I visited a number of significant museums and galleries to make video and audio recordings and photographs, generating source material for a new project.

Provisionally entitled ‘Hum’, this new project uses video in which sound is the primary source, in this case the sonic environment of the museum. This work will be audio described in a new collaboration with Dr Louise Fryer of University College London, BBC Radio 3 and the National Theatre, in which we aim to experiment with and examine the potential of applied audio description in relation to visual culture, as both a way of increasing access, and to explore the experimental use of audio description forming part of the works’ content, as a creative contributory element itself. To Dr Fryer’s and my knowledge this has never been explored previously.

Andrew McNiven: Untitled (Belgian Autoroute Services), 2018. HD video, multi-channel audio (work-in-progress)

The Micro Bursary enabled me to extend an existing trip for pre-planned projects at Greylight Projects in Brussels and NP3 Artspace in Groningen and spend several days researching filming, photographing and sound recording in museums and galleries in Belgium, the Netherlands and France. These included the Mauritshuis, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen (Rotterdam), MHKA (Antwerp), Musee des Beaus Arts Lille, and others. Many of these were previously visited as part of my AHRC-funded practice-led PhD almost a decade ago, examining the conditions of display in the museum. I was able to generate a significant amount of research material with which to further develop my work.

In addition to the planned museum visits, there were also useful, and perhaps productive ‘collateral’ opportunities – filming and recording a Belgian motorway from the service area provided the source material for a potential work with a Ballardian sense of place; the seaway entry to Rotterdam’s Europoort offered a kind of ‘hum’ and scale hard to find anywhere else in the world.

Caravaggio: Boy Bitten by a Lizard, 1594-1596. Installation at MHKA (Antwerp) as part of exhibition Sanguine/Bloedred

 

Ed & Nancy Keinholz: Five Card Stud, 1969-1972. Installation at MHKA (Antwerp) as part of exhibition Sanguine/Bloedred (originally inc. in documenta 5 in 1972 before disappearing for nearly forty years).

I was also able to encounter previously unseen works: Ed & Nancy Keinholz’s rarely seen ‘Five Card Stud’ (1969-1972), originally part of documenta 5 in 1972 before disappearing for nearly forty years, and one of two versions of Caravaggio’s ‘Boy Bitten by a Lizard’ (1594-1596) from the Fondation Roberto Longhi in Florence – the other being in the National Gallery in London – both part of ‘Sanguine/Bloedred’, Luc Tuymans’ vivid exploration of the baroque at MHKA in Antwerp.

Being awarded the Engine Micro Bursary has also been useful in providing leverage for funding the wider ‘Hum’ project, and I have been successful in securing a significant award through the Kerr-Fry Bequest from the University of Edinburgh towards this.

That the bursary supported both the planned and the unplanned is significant. In allowing an artist time, opportunity, new experiences and encounters, the potential for new ideas is supported. The value of this is huge.

Andrew McNiven used his Engine Micro Bursary to visit a number of significant museums and galleries in Northern Europe to generate source material for a new project. He reports back.

In June 2018, I had the opportunity to experience the 10th Berlin Biennale We Don’t Need Another Hero for the energetic, coffee/kebab fuelled, gloriously sunny opening week.

 

This was my first experience of this renowned biennale and my second time in Berlin. I went to consider the themes posed by the curator Gabi Ngcobo, with a curatorial team made of Moses Serubiri, Nomaduma Rosa Masilela within the biennale’s context of Berlin. It was described in the press release as “explore[ing] the political potential of the act of self-preservation, refusing to be seduced by unyielding knowledge systems and historical narratives that contribute to the creation of toxic subjectivities”. The biennale title – a Tina Turner song – indicated to not finding answers. Rather, the curators invited “contradictions and complications” of “willful disregard for complex subjects”, typified by this funny, assertive and lyrical title.

 

Over the past couple of years, I have learnt that art fairs and festivals are a time for quiet contemplation and an opportunity to see a huge amount of art. I was profoundly moved by two works in the biennale, which I saw at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art. Firstly, Liz Johnson Artur’s video work “Real…Times” (2018) and secondly, the mixed-media exhibition “Untitled (Of Occult Instability) [Feeling]” (2016-18) by Dineo Seshee Bopape, that included works by Jabu Arnell, Lacell Workman and Robert Rhee. Dineo Seshee Bopape’s practice has been eloquently described by curator Osei Bonsu as “So complex are the fragile constellations … [they] evade the easy didacticism of a casual description.” Which I can only say from my experience, is true; this exhibition was an exceptional experience. The sounds of Nina Simone’s live 1976 performance of Feelings played around the amber-orange, industrial, dilapidated landscape as water droplets fell from the ceiling into buckets that were strewn across the floor. Each artist inhabited their own part of this environment, cumulatively creating an environment that invited exploration.

 

Dineo Sheshee Bopape, Untitled (Of Occult Instability) [Feelings] Other works on view include: Jabu Arnell, Discoball X (2018); Lachell Workman, Justice for___ (2014); Robert Rhee, EEEERRRRGGHHHH und and ZOUNDS. Photo: Timo Ohler

 

Liz Johnson Artur’s exhibition, showed work from her Black Balloon Archive that includes photographic representation of people of African descent. I watched her video work “Real…Times”, which lasts just over 15 minutes twice fully, and would have watched a third time if it were not for the queue that formed behind me. The work was filmed in London and showed a man preaching in the street and being arrested, women presenting on the radio, a young man – these are part of the visual components of this work that faded between each scene as a montage – moments in time that were overlapping one by one. The work felt so honest, hand-crafted and deeply personal – it is one of the best pieces of moving image I had ever seen and I look forward to watching it again to fully explore this work. Liz Johnson Artur has her first solo exhibition at South London Gallery opening in June 2019 which I am very excited to see! Also, Dineo Sheshee Bopape has an upcoming exhibition at Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne, opening in June this year which I am looking forward to if anyone would like to see these artists work in the UK.

 

Liz Johnson Artur, Real…Times video from Black Balloon Archive, 1991–ongoing, installation view. Image courtesy of Berlin Biennale. Photography by Timo Ohler.

 

In a biennale context, spending an unusually long period of time with an artist’s work and to not quite know why is a great feeling – usually emotional – as you start taking your questions and thoughts around the festival with you, gauging a deeper sense of the biennale themes. It felt as though these artworks were here for me as they offered some meaning or truth. Of course this is not the case but with an overwhelming amount of art to see, these moments are precious and long-lasting. Another work that consumed all my attention was Mario Pfeifer’s film “Again / Noch Enimal” at Akademie der Künste – a feature length 60-minute work. The luxury of having so much time to give to each exhibition was an absolute joy.

 

Whilst in Berlin I visited artist collective Lou Cantor and discussed their work with them, which was an academic, insightful and fun conversation. We discussed the internet, AI and lots of other topics, including their recent publication Intersubjectivity Vol II – Scripting the Human (2018). I had the delight of working with Lou Cantor on my Masters project in 2017 and it was great to finally meet them face-to-face. Serendipitously I became friends with Scottish artist Caitlin Hyne who was studying in Germany whilst I was in Berlin. Her work and company was/is most stimulating. It was useful to meet other curators and artists whilst in Berlin – a couple of whom I have kept in touch with. Another artist’s work that I had the pleasure of seeing was Sam Samiee’s exhibition at ZK/U, which is a “production site” for research and artist residencies. I found the forms in Samiee’s work inviting and curious, and on reflection I wish I had written about this work in-situ as I feel I would have gained a lot out of this process. I follow Samiee on Instagram and always look forward to seeing what he shares (@aarsaam). Following these artists on Instagram is a useful way to “follow” the many artists you come into contact with in fleeting moments – whether it’s productive is a concern for another day.

 

Sam Samiee, The Unfinished Copernican Revolution (2018). Mixed media. Exhibition view: We don’t need another hero, 10th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, ZK/U – Center for Art and Urbanistics, Berlin (9 June–9 September 2018). Courtesy the artist. Photo: Timo Ohler.

 

Biennale themes, titles, guest curators, branding, catalogues, the parties and even tote bags can be indicative of that year’s particular objective – one driving theme. Yet, as a visitor, when in the midst of a biennale, the expansive programme spread across many venues isn’t a succinct experience to take in during one week. Therefore the curator’s approach, drawing to the fore the complications and contraindications of socio-political issues worked well, as it wasn’t a didactic programme – it was expansive. I enjoyed that I didn’t leave with a singular opinion but left grateful to the organisers for sharing artists and exhibition possibilities that were previously unknown to me.

 

Thank you to New Art West Midlands for providing me with a Micro Bursary which was hugely helpful for this trip. I am grateful for non-tangible research outcomes. My current area of interest is thinking about festival models and curation, and having the opportunity to see the 10th Berlin Biennale was an enriching experience that feeds into my developing curatorial practice. I am delighted to say that I will be visiting the Venice Biennale (for the first time ((and my first time in Italy!)) and this trip has been supported by the Art Fund’s Jonathan Ruffer Curatorial Grants. Going to a festival for research is an incredibly exciting opportunity and valuable for developing curatorial methods, and specifically, developing ways to engage with visitors.

 

Laura O’Leary is Programme Assistant at QUAD, Derby and a freelance writer.

Curator Laura O’Leary used her Engine Micro Bursary to visit the Berlin Biennale back in June 2018. Read more about her research here.

sdr

Back in July 2018 I got the opportunity to visit Berlin for the Berlin Biennale. Despite previously visiting Berlin on multiple occasions, this year sparked my first visit to the Berlin Biennale. Being in its 10th year as an arts festival across Berlin this felt like an important year to visit as they take the time to reflect on how they have developed and look forward to their future as an arts festival in this ever growing and vibrant city. We don’t need another hero is the title for this year’s Biennale and it had the art scene standing at a cross roads for both contemplation of historical moments and the possibility for new and future political action. As an anniversary for the Biennale it was interesting to see how the organiser’s used this milestone to their advantage or disadvantage and hopefully set the tone for the next few years of the festival.

As a visitor I was approaching the Biennale wearing two hats, my about-to-start-final-year CSM-Fine-Art-student hat and my just-worked-as-production-manager-at-the-new-Coventry-Biennial hat. With these two perspectives in mind I had a very interesting and quite critical experience. I found it very valuable to be in this position, looking both for inspiration and references for my practice and dissertation research as well as also viewing the exhibitions and overall experience from an arts professional viewpoint.

I gave myself a healthy four days to visit Berlin as this gave me enough time to enjoy each of the four venues that the Biennale had to offer. As soon as I arrived I headed off to the first venue which was the Akademie der Künste, the Fine Art Academy in Berlin. For me this space, exhibition and overall feel was not to my liking and somehow I felt like this might have set the tone for the rest of my visit. Having shows in university buildings are always a challenge, fighting against the institution’s architecture and trying to separate itself from any feeling of being a degree show. I also couldn’t help but notice that it had a similar wooden block floor to ‘the street’ in CSM that has been breaking apart for years. However, when taking in the works there were a couple that really stood out for me. One video piece that immediately caught my eye was all voices are mine (2010) by Basir Mahood. Having not much budget and only one day to shoot, the video created comprised of poses and actions alongside other actors. Mahood sees this work as a collaboration between himself and his fellow actors which I feel sits perfectly with the overall concept of the Biennale and also sits well with my own collaborative practice. In contrast to that approach I was also very interested in the work of Sondra Perry and her video in the Biennale, IT’S IN THE GAME ‘17, looks at the forces that control space and analyses its sometimes problematic ways of classification and reading.

As the main venue for the Biennale, the KW Institute for Contemporary Art did not disappoint. Spanning the whole of the gallery, KW managed to engulf me into its many spaces and house me for a few hours. Showing artists that have helped define what this institution is was a powerful way to set the tone for the show and created a rich selection of artists for the Biennale. Personal highlights were Fabiana Faleiros’ Mastur Bar – a travelling bar that offers an extended programme beyond the walls of the Biennale. From celebrating female masturbation through music and a social space to performances looking at the use of our fingers and gestures, the multi sided project within the mini basement area of KW acted as a curious oasis within the show.

The venue that has stuck with me since my visit has been the Volksbühne Pavilion; an interesting glass construction situated next to the Volksbühne Theatre. Having a rich history of housing previous artists’ projects and performances, this space housed Las Nietas De Nonó’s interactive installation for the duration of the Biennale, opening up the space for performances and participation. As an installation in itself it felt very intriguing for such a small space and almost acted as a little utopia. It gave off similar feelings to Post Modern Plant Life, a 1 week artist residency I took part in housed in an artificial hot house in Leamington Spa; especially with its use of portable technologies, plants and cooking tools. Despite visiting the space when no event was happening, I felt that this space acted as the centre of many discussions within the Biennale and that by being located in this space that the future was ready for us and we were ready for it with camping stoves and selfie sticks.

 

My final day saw me getting the tube over to ZKW-Center for Art and Urbanistics to catch the last show of the Biennale. Using the 10th Biennale as a moment to re-establish connections with collectives that previously used the space felt very potent and this could clearly be felt in the works exhibited. Even though initially I felt as though I’d entered a political underground Berlin club in the middle of the day when absorbing work, when it came to seeing Heba Y. Amin’s project rightly named Anti-Control Room I was left blown away. Unnervingly blurring the lines between history, present day and the potential futures, Amin created an incredibly in-depth project that explores utopian visions and alternative political worries. The multi-channel video left me both in awe and in turmoil being faced with an alternative reality that in many ways we are already playing out in our own parallel universe.

 

Coming away from Berlin and my first Biennale visit I was left with an interesting mix of opinions and feelings. As a visitor coming at a quiet time in their public programme I peacefully made my way around the venues alone taking in the shows and exploring Berlin, which made my visit very subdued and flat. However, what came from uncovering the subtle decisions in selection and curation of the different shows built up a much more lasting effect on my Biennale experience that I would not have previously expected. Building on previous relationships, expanding programmes and addressing political issues collectively with new and exciting artists, the Biennale, despite feeling quite tame on first meeting, tackled some very important issues and have set themselves up as an arts festival for an exciting few years ahead. We definitely don’t need another hero, we just need a lot more cooperation.

Engine Micro Bursary awardee Emily Roderick visited the Berlin Biennale back in July 2018. She reflects on the trip here.

Artist Katie Hodson used the Engine Micro Bursary she was awarded this summer to attend a casting workshop at London Sculpture Workshop. She reflects on her production experiences and learning processes below.

The two day intensive concrete and plaster casting workshop was based at the London Sculpture Workshop, an amazing space regularly running an array of sculpture based workshops alongside an open access programme. The aim of the course was to give an overview of accessible materials and processes that could be applied to a variety of projects. For me, the course was a chance to learn more complex mould making techniques – within my practice I had been used to constructing simple moulds with straight pieces of timber and I was interested in creating more fluid forms.

What initially surprised me was the variety of people that had enrolled on the two day course. We did a quick round of intros (name and any experience of casting) and naively I had expected to be amongst a group of artists – but most people had no prior experience of any sort of casting process. We split into smaller groups of four and settled around a workshop table – I was working alongside an antique restorer, a stay at home mum and a retired craftsman.

The session was led by Lauren Wilson (a graduate from The Slade) who began by introducing us to making moulds using a combination of shaped metal pieces. She showed us how to cut, bend and shape pieces of steel using a guillotine, a series of rollers and hand bending techniques. I had never had the opportunity to use equipment like this before but the processes were very quick and simple, and I was amazed at what could be achieved in such a short space of time. I really enjoyed the hands on approach, and the fact that we could easily do all of the processes ourselves.

After experimenting with these processes, we began to combine the metal pieces to form enclosed moulds. I thought the process would be really complicated – potentially welding or something similar, but we simply used gaffa tape along the edges of the metal and then filled in any gaps around the sides or base with clay.

We were then introduced to plaster as a material. Having worked regularly with plaster I was familiar with the process and relevant health and safety but we were also shown how to colour the mix with liquid pigments that I had not used before; the colours were a lot more vibrant than mixes I had done with powder pigments. We were encouraged to be experimental with both our moulds and the plaster. It was refreshing to play around with materials and shapes without having to have a concept or pre-existing idea, simply learning through processes.

The first mould I made was a simple shape with a curved edge – after successfully casting this, I then created an insert for the next mould to cast a hole in the centre, an idea I had been wanting to try for a while. Lauren showed me how to use a thin flexible plastic to create a cylinder for the centre of the mould, which we then filled with clay to hold it in place. We discussed the flexible plastic as an alternative to the metal as a mould making material if there was no immediate access to a metal workshop or the tools needed.

After a day focussing on plaster, the second day of the course introduced two varieties of concrete. We discussed the increased issue of health and safety with this material, and Lauren demonstrated the mixing and casting processes. We continued to make moulds in the same way as the first day of the course.

I found the first variety of concrete quite difficult to work with, it was a fast setting mixture and went off before I had a chance to pour it. The second variety of concrete was a lot easier, and we were shown how to mix large quantities of it using a mixer attachment and a drill – I wish I’d known this in the run up to my degree show, it definitely would have saved a lot of arm ache from mixing by hand!

Over the two days we all produced around 6 or 7 individual cast pieces. It was amazing to see the variety that was produced from the same set of instructions and materials – it was so great to be submerged in such an experimental environment for a weekend. The staff and facilities at the London Sculpture Workshop were amazing, and we definitely need something like this in the West Midlands. This course was a great support for my practice, and has given me lots of ideas to push my practice forward but also ways to work around limited equipment after leaving the workshops of University.

Artist Katie Hodson used the Engine Micro Bursary she was awarded this summer to attend a casting workshop at London Sculpture Workshop. She reflects on her production experiences and learning processes below.

Vivian Suter, Nisyros (Vivians bed), oil, pigment and fish glue on canvas and paper, volcanic, earth, botanical matter, microorganisms and wood.

Artist and educator Laura Onions was the recipient of an Engine Micro Bursary earlier this year. Below she reflects on her experiences of documenta 14, Kassel.

Vivian Suter, Nisyros (Vivians bed), oil, pigment and fish glue on canvas and paper, volcanic, earth, botanical matter, microorganisms and wood.

What shifts? What drifts? What remains? three questions underpinning the documenta 14 learning programme this year. Seemingly simple, yet these hold resonance particularly for education. How do we learn from experiences, what are the traces that take us forwards? How does art produce encounters for learning? As an artist and educator, these are important questions for both teaching practice and artistic practice. I utilised the Engine Micro Bursary to fund a trip to Kassel in July and the following are some reflections on works that left a lasting impression on me.

First day: Overwhelmed by the scale of the project I resolved to enter the larger curated shows first. In the vastness of Documenta Halle, a presentation of archives from Anna Halprin’s multiracial dance company breathed openly. Scoring the stories and development of dance deck – an architectural device Halprin crafted with her husband Lawrence.

Influenced by the Bauhaus, the construction of the deck (1954) reconsidered how acts of learning through the body occur based on observation and awareness, how conversations between self and place form together. “I began to simply shed all of my old patterns, and I had to start anew with new ideas of what is the nature and my nature interface. That’s where I began to develop a new approach to movement.”

I am reminded of videos of Josef Albers, how he used his whole body in his teaching to encourage students to reach a wider range of movement, to experience shape from different perspectives. These are powerful tools of pedagogy that are shared through choreography “as performers become more confident and skilled they all become freer in using the whole body, the wholeness of the trail.” Tracing the emotional, political and performative engagements of the community groups who used dance deck, this archive recalls the importance of co-creating inclusive spaces towards making and innovating.

Vivian Suter, Nisyros (Vivians bed), oil, pigment and fish glue on canvas and paper, volcanic, earth, botanical matter, microorganisms and wood.

Second day: Rumbling along the tram lines, I reach the outer edges of the city where the glass pavilions sit on Kurt-Schumacher strasse. A boundary between the hub of the city and the regions where many migrant communities reside. The so-called pavilions are abandoned commercial outlets, now containing art works and installations that may or may not be entered, playing with the possibilities of transparency, transition and in-between-ness. It’s a quiet morning, I have them all to myself. Vivian Suters, Nisyros (Vivian’s Bed) is most alluring. Paintings on un-stretched canvas hung in layers, interrupting and obscuring one another as they folded back into the room towards a bed made of wood at its centre. The paintings are trusted, there is a need to follow them in; inviting in their floods of colour, boldness and sculptural presence, but also an intimate space made public.

The Missing Link. Decolonisation Education by Mrs Smiling Stone, School desks, photographs, glassine paper sheets, drawings with coloured pencil, microphone stand, earth and lipstick on paper.

Third day: Weaving through the historical Neue Gallerie, an ambitiously curated show that speaks along the lines of politics, economy, global relationships, lasting debts. The upper floors explore cultural theft and systems of colonisation and exploitation. In a sun-drenched atrium, this is where I find The Missing Link. Decolonisation Education by Mrs Smiling Stone by Pelagie Gbaguidi. Scrolls drape from floor to ceiling, their surface mapping part formed figures and scrawls that echo handwriting. Among the delicate drawings are school desks, upon these are fragments of ceramics, toys and veiled photographs of figures caught within the violence of apartheid. Lift the veil and confront the atrocities of dehumanisation.

Conceived from a research project based in South Africa, Gbaguidi places the transmission of knowledge at the centre of this work. What and whose knowledge is passed on, rearticulated or canonised? Education here is troubled as both a preserver and a solution to legacies of oppression. Gbaguidi leaves a stanza on the wall to synthesise her thoughts on the work:

How might education contribute to
purge from consciousness that there exist no
under-beings but that the birth of a
life is a value in itself.
That every human has a right to a
cradle

 

I could not leave Kassel without visiting the Kunsthochschule, Kassel’s art school which was designed in the 1960s by Paul Friedrich Poseneske, situated in the Auepark, Kassel.

 

The works that stood out to me personally were those that infiltrated public space, that whispered across the city, distorting and obstructing views above ground or hunkered in spaces below ground. Raising awareness of the presence and movement of self through the city, repetition of movement; bodies, space, lines, traces of past and present. While I write these reflections, teaching is about to resume, focus is about to become stretched. The trip to Kassel functioned as a timely reminder, that we must account for the spaces that we construct with others.

Artist and educator Laura Onions was the recipient of an Engine Micro Bursary earlier this year. Below she reflects on her experiences of documenta 14, Kassel.

Robert Rauschenberg, Untitled (Spread), 1983. Solvent transfer and acrylic on wood panel, with umbrellas, 188.6 x 245.7 x 88.9 cm. © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, New York

Kurt Hickson was awarded a Micro Bursary to undertake two research trips to London, visiting several exhibitions including Painters’ Painters at Saatchi Gallery, which ran from 30 November 2016 – 22 March 2017 and Robert Rauschenberg at Tate Modern, which ran from 1 December 2016 – 2 April 2017.

 

Dexter Dalwood, Kurt Cobain’s Greenhouse, 2000, Painters’ Painters, Saatchi Gallery. Dexter Dalwood/Saatchi Gallery, London

 

Tuesday 28 February 2017

To his credit Charles Saatchi has continued to advocate painting despite its steady decline over recent years. Painters’ Painters at Saatchi Gallery was an exhibition that continued to challenge modern conceptions about the oldest form of image making. The show featured nine international artists of varying ages and stages in their careers. Each with their own gallery space, there were nine distinct approaches to the medium.

The high point of the exhibition for me was the collage-like paintings of David Salle; The Neo-Expressionist being an old college favourite of mine with several good examples of his work on show here. Other highlights included Dexter Dalwood’s painting Kurt Cobain’s Greenhouse (2000), the quirky mix of works by Richard Aldrich and the humorous paintings of Ansel Krut and Martin Maloney.

It could be argued that Painters’ Painters didn’t really live up to the title of the show and neither did it form a complete picture of painting at present (there were no female artists, no pure abstract works and some paintings were nearly thirty years old). The picture the exhibition did paint, however, was a fun one. It was an exhibition that managed to emphasise painting’s basic fundamental elements without taking itself too seriously. It celebrated painting without the need to declare that ‘painting’s back’. Painters’ Painters at Saatchi Gallery was an amusing and entertaining show, that succeeded in emphasising the inherent pleasure of putting paint to canvas; something that I imagine has inspired thousands of art students who visited to do just that.

During the day I managed to take in several other shows including Luiz Zerbini at Stephen Friedman Gallery – the Brazilian painter being someone I’ve admired for a while but this being the first time I’d seen multiple works of his together; Gavin Turk’s Who What When Where How & Why at Newport Street Gallery, which goes without saying had a good old school Brit Art vibe about it; and Monochrome at Ordovas Gallery, a show that looked at the purity and clarity of the use of a single colour – white featuring a single work by five artists including Richard Serra and Barbara Hepworth. I also made it to the Maria Lassnig: A Painting Survey PV at Hauser & Wirth on the evening for a few beers and a look at the Austrian artist’s evolution from experimental abstract painter to figurative painter.

Robert Rauschenberg, Untitled (Spread), 1983. Solvent transfer and acrylic on wood panel, with umbrellas, 188.6 x 245.7 x 88.9 cm. © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, New York

Saturday 1 April 2017

The second part of my Micro Bursary was used to visit the major Robert Rauschenberg retrospective at Tate Modern. As an artist with a strong interest in process and materiality myself, it was great to see the physical quality of Rauschenberg’s use of non-traditional materials and ‘found objects’ up close. From his pop art silkscreen paintings, to his glossy black monochromes; his ‘combines’ through to the formation of Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.); Rauschenberg for me was the ultimate painter-maker.

The show was made up of eleven rooms in a loose chronological order, each presenting a particular shift in direction or technique during the artists six-decade long career. Through a remarkable range of media including painting, digital printing, sculpture, performance, electronics and photography his endless curiosity into all forms of art-making and his constant quest for innovation was plain to see. Several key works were on display, including the stuffed Angora goat, the silkscreen prints of Kennedy and the infamous Erased de Kooning Drawing (1953).

It was the last weekend of the show when I visited and so it was annoyingly busy.  The security guards and gallery assistants were on high alert and on a serious crack-down against touchers and secret copy-right infringing snappers. I was embarrassingly caught several times in the later case. Interestingly whilst looking at Bed (1955), a work I’d seen at MoMA a few years earlier, I noticed a small moth crawling around on the inside of its protective Perspex case.  I informed a guard that was walking by, telling them that they might want to notify someone and have it removed as moths eat quilts and bed sheets.  However, I was told that “It was probably meant to be there … that it was just part of the artwork … and that it would probably die soon”. Clever guy this Rauschenberg.

Before the day was out I managed to head over to FOLD Gallery to check out the Valérie Kolakis show Done With Objects Because Things Take Place, an interesting and somewhat inspiring exhibition of mainly sculptural works that were either made up of or hint at everyday objects.  The use of materials and objects found here in Kolakis’ work echoing Rauschenberg’s own exploration into art production.

Valérie Kolakis, DONE WITH OBJECTS BECAUSE THINGS TAKE PLACE, installation view at FOLD Gallery.


Conclusion

The first half of the bursary was used to engage with several pure painting shows, something that is a rarity within the West Midlands. With multiple exhibitions showcasing a broad range of strong contemporary work, I took away a feeling that despite the odds, painting is still very much alive and kicking in the capital. The second part of the bursary gave me the opportunity to rediscover an artist that constantly broke with conventions. An artist that reminds us all of the joy of working with what’s readily available, questioning, but also reinforcing the possibilities of art-making today.

Kurt Hickson was awarded a Micro Bursary to undertake two research trips to London, visiting several exhibitions including Painters’ Painters at Saatchi Gallery and Tate Modern’s Robert Rauschenberg retrospective.

Jessica Warboys, Sea Painting, Dunwich, 2014. For AV Festival at Laing Gallery, Newcastle. Copyright the artist, 2015. Courtesy the artist and Gaudel de Stampa, Paris.

Mark Essen reports on the recently reopened Tate St.Ives. A recipient of an Engine micro-bursary, Mark wished to visit to visit galleries in the Cornwall area for professional development and attend a group show in which he was exhibiting.

Closed for extended refurbishment since October 2015, the opening of Tate St. Ives has been much anticipated. The gallery opens with two exhibitions which explore the history of artists working in the area. An exhibition of work by Jessica Warboys, an artist who uses nature in a raw, unprocessed state has produced a new series of sea paintings. These works are made by the transference of minerals from the sea at Zennor directly onto the canvas.

That Continuous Thing: Artists and the Ceramics Studio, 1920 – Today traces the changing shape of the ceramics over the last 100 years. The show brings to attention the early considerations of British Studio Pottery into the realm of fine art. The exhibition’s introduction gathers together works by Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada who were based in St. Ives in the 1920s. Leach was pioneer in British Ceramics, bringing eastern philosophy and aesthetics to his St.Ives Studio.


The exhibition continues with contemporary ceramicist Jesse Wine, curating a room by placing his own work alongside American artists such as Peter Voulkos, Ken Price and Ron Nagle. Similarly Aaron Angell has curated a room in which he explores studio pottery with his own Troy Town studio based in London. It is in this part of the show that I was invited to show work I had made at Troy Town in 2016. Angell delves deeper into the history of ceramics, placing works from the 400-200 BC Italy and 12th century England next to contemporary works. The placement of these objects encourages an endless curiosity; it manages to deconstructed the progression of time to our fascination with objects. It is an example of how our relationship with handmade clay objects can relate to those that lived before us. There’s little difference between the historical works and some of the contemporary works. It’s an expansive range of works from around 30 artists with over 60 works placed on handmade arts and crafts style tables in the gallery.

The cycle of the artist studio is prevalent in the practice of any creative output. Reciprocating between the input of people turned by ideas of a material and distinguished by the output of the phenomenon. It can also be a reflection of historical economics of a vernacular which flows into a philosophy and aesthetic. The very bold and bright works in the room curated by Wine reflects 1960’s America. A contrast with the 12th centenary head. Throughout the whole show each work functions as interlocutor. This exhibition explores the speciality of a relationship between artist and a material, clay is nothing but it can be everything.

That Continuous Thing: Artists and the Ceramics Studio, 1920 – Today features the work of Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada, Peter Voulkos, Ken Price, Rudy Autio, Ron Nagle and Jesse Wine.

Artists showing part of Troy Town: Aaron Angell, Alex Frost, Allison Katz, Andrew Munks, Anthea Hamilton, Colin Self, Denise Wren, Emily McCartan, Gillian Lowndes, Hannah Regel, Hubert Dalwood, Ian Law, Isabel Mallet, Jess Flood-Paddock, Jill Crowley, Mark Essen, Matthew Peers, Matthew Smith,Mo Jupp, Nicolas Deshayes, Richard Slee, Rose De Borman, Samuelle Nicole, Sophie Von Hellermann, Tom Salt, Town Gas Group (Toyin Olubamiwo, Cynthia Waithaka, Christina Marshall), Unknown maker 12th century, Nottingham, Unknown maker 400-200 BCE, Veii (near Rome), Viola Relle & Raphael Weilguni, Will Robinson.

Mark Essen reports on the recently reopened Tate St.Ives. A recipient of an Engine micro-bursary, Mark wished to visit to visit galleries and studios in the Cornwall area for professional development and attend a group show in which he was exhibiting.