Archive | September, 2015

A Voyage of Enterprise

10 Sep

Some months ago, the Shropshire Visual Art Network was appointed by Kate Gittins of the Market Hall, Shrewsbury to curate an exhibition to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Market Hall building.    After a huge amount of work, the exhibition launches this week:

MH flier front

I have taken a lead on this for VAN, working with fellow members/trustees Carola Fielden and Pat Jones and various other colleagues.  The exhibition features archive material, the original design drawings, work by artists inspired by the market, and photographs and stories of the many traders and people associated with the existing market building and its predecessor.  We have collaborated with Sarah Hart Media, historian David Trumper, and architect Paul Harries, partner of Baart Harries Newall.

Often likened by the public to a “starship”, “cruise ship” or “battleship”, the Market Hall was hailed “the most modern building in Shropshire” when it officially opened in 1965.  It remains an important commercial building, housing Shrewsbury’s 240ft clock tower, its thriving indoor market, a ground-floor shopping centre and now the town’s first university hall of residence.

A special celebration will be staged in the market from 11.30am to 3pm on Wednesday September 16th – the day of the official anniversary, followed by a private view at Participate from 4pm – 6pm.

The building is now owned by Shropshire Council, while the central stalls of the market are the responsibility of Shrewsbury Town Council.  So we have received support from both Councils and from Shropshire Archives.  It is planned to incorporate a digital screen as part of the exhibition above the main market floor, which will be installed by the excellent Microvideo – who, amongst other things, manage the video installation for the Shrewsbury Folk Festival.  The digital display will feature historical photos, photos of traders past and present, and art work by Pat Jones and myself.

Pat Jones, an artist based in the Market, commenced a 12 month journal of photography and sketches earlier this year due to finish in 2016.  Some of her photographs will also be shown at Participate Contemporary Art Space.

I had not originally planned to produce work for the exhibition myself, but was then inspired to take a series of photographs of fragments of the building fabric.  I will include more of the work, entitled Quotidian (everyday), in a later blog post.  Here’s one for now:

quotidian01

It is the people that bring the market alive, and in looking at photographs of Shrewsbury’s markets going back almost 150 years, I was fascinated by how certain details barely changed through the ages, despite the more obvious changes to buildings and clothing.  The social activities of meeting, buying and selling in the market are timeless.  I produced a photographic frieze illustrating this – here’s a small section of it:

composite2a

Art work in the VAN Gallery includes:

  • special edition prints by illustrator Linda Edwards;
  • a collage produced in a collaboration between Peter Williams and Pat Jones;
  • two paintings by Bethan Laura Wood, who won the People’s price at the Shropshire Open Art Exhibition with one of these paintings in 2002, and has since gone on to become one of the UK’s top young designers;
  • portraits of traders by Ian Collett (18 from a total of 30 paintings commissioned a few years ago by VAN)

In parallel, VAN has co-ordinated with Participate Contemporary Artspace who will be running an exhibition, entitled “Outside In”, concurrently with VAN. This also features contemporary artists’ interpretations of the Market Hall. Keith Ashford and Liz Turner have both produced work for the exhibition and have collaborated on a sculpture comprising a life size replica of the 37ft finial from atop the clocktower.

I’m a great believer in the market as a place where new enterprises and ideas can venture into business alongside long established family businesses.  The market can act as an incubator for new businesses willing to take risks in a supportive environment

Through the history of markets in Shrewsbury and across the UK there has been an ebb and flow between public and private control, and competition between the Market Hall and other street trading.  Nowadays, competition includes vast superstores, indoor malls, out of town shopping centres and the world wide web.  Global corporations control most of the goods available.

Yet the Market Hall flourishes today with full occupancy and a diverse range of stalls and services.  Many of which could not have been foreseen when the first indoor market hall opened in 1869.

Independence, local, high quality produce, and unique crafts are just some of the Market’s attributes, which global brands struggle to compete with.  The Market Hall arguably has the ideal blend of entrepreneurism, municipal support and community resilience needed for a time when sustainability and equality are key to long term prosperity.

In 2015, both the market and the town of Shrewsbury enter a new phase, re-shaping their identity, as a University is opened and the long empty section of Mardol House is converted into student accommodation.  A new age of enlightenment?

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Melting into Air

6 Sep

Its been a while … most of my time and energy in the last year or so has been devoted to my family and my ongoing BA in Creative Art, which has its own learning log.  I’m putting together my degree show which will be a reflection on life of work in the Shrewsbury Business Park alongside the rural urban fringe of Springfield and my walk to work along the cycle track that was the Shrewsbury to Bridgnorth Railway… and maybe some deeper stuff.

In the meantime, I have left employment as environmental consultant with a global business.  Rather than a major change for me, I see it more of a continuation of following my beliefs.  The company I once knew, whilst still doing good work in promoting sustainability, had, as a result of a series of takeovers, changed into something I no longer truly believed in.  So now I am focusing on my art practice and more community based art and environmental work.  The ripple effect can sometimes work wonders from grass roots…

During the latter years of my work at the business park, the 50 minute walk to and from work became something I clung to as a means of remaining grounded in time and space.  The office environment of email, teleconferences, travel and virtual space tends to dislocate people from their surroundings and from real time.  The walk also became a form of activism or protest against the tyranny of the car and out of town development (and trendy cycling is not much better, although I do ride my bike occasionally) .  Well discussed in the essays “Edge City” by Paul Barker and “Carmageddon” by John Adams in the collection edited by Anthony Barnett and Roger Scruton entitled “Town and Country”.  As the number of people expanded in our office, we had to rent additional parking space at the local cricket ground about five minutes walk away, so the journey to work by car could become something of a frustration.

Having realised some years ago now, that my interest in walking the edgelands was driven by a fascination with psychogeography, I went further into its origins with Debord and the Situationists and earlier roots going back through the Surrealists to Baudelaire, Blake, de Quincey, and Defoe as described by Melvin Coverley in his book “Psychogeography”.  More recently, shortly after it was published in July 2015, I read the excellent book “Walking Inside Out” by Tina Richardson (who writes a great blog too at http://particulations.blogspot.co.uk/).

In her commentary and compilation of essays from a variety of sources, Dr Richardson takes a comprehensive state-of-the-art view of what contemporary psychogeography is and how practitioners operate. Psychogeography has splintered into numerous walking “practices” each with its own title/terminology, and so its definition necessarily has blurred boundaries.  I haven’t been consciously “doing” psychogeography but my practice does seem to fall within these blurred boundaries.

During my walks (usually about twice per week), I documented the seasonal changes, and ever more subtle details of urban fabric with photographs and sometimes writing.  My photographs captured something of how I responded to the environment I saw changing over time.  My route varied depending on whether I fancied a more uptempo urban stride through the town or more peaceful walk alongside the River Severn, or through the Rea Brook valley.  So not strictly a derive since I definitely had to get from A to B, but I could meander via many permutations of routes.

It was a walk to and from work, not a photography expedition – so not technically great photos.  I quite like the spontaneity of some of the images though.  Some of these photographs inform the paintings I am producing for my forthcoming exhibition, and they will feature more directly in a book which will accompany the exhibition.

Here is a small selection, roughly chronological:

Since finishing at the Business Park, and with no particular routine other than the days when I take Eliza to school, I’ve missed the walk.  So I have introduced an occasional detour in the morning back from school around a route past Charles Darwin’s house when he was a boy, his family garden and around the River through Frankwell and back home.  Hoping to take inspiration perhaps from Darwin’s own well trodden paths.  More on this later…