Tag Archives: Shrewsbury

Poetic Encounters #3 Ursula Troche

29 Mar

My final “Encounter” was with writer/artist/performer/psychogeographer/life model Ursula Troche and our work began before Ted Eames launched the project.  I met Ursula briefly at the World Congress of Psychogeography at the University of Huddersfield last September, and started reading her blog shortly after.  I liked her wide-ranging perspective on experiences often derived from walking, and how she combined fresh instinctive responses with careful research to build interesting pieces on subjects ranging from mining and pit-closures to mapping to women’s rights to train journeys and so on.

We struck up a dialogue and began discussing a project on the theme of borders and boundaries.  Ursula grew up in Germany, and although she has lived in the UK for a long time, she is aware of an unseen “border” between herself and people she meets in this country, which perhaps allows her a slightly different, objective perspective on what she finds in the UK.  I was moved by her poem “Circular Ritual Insight” – simple ideas about migration/immigration and regretting a loss of humanity and kinship, but sincerely written with an insistent repetition that is hard to ignore.  This became a clear starting point for me to respond to once we began considering taking part in the Encounters project.

Meanwhile, Ursula was busy writing poems in response to some of the artwork she saw on my website.  This began with my Traces series from the In Parallel exhibition and she also responded to one of my mixed media collages from the In Parallel and Entwined book I made last year.  Circles and lines interest Ursula and she finds connections with these forms and subjects that she is investigating.  So for example, my works incorporating maps and landscape features of Shrewsbury, drew attention to the river loops around the town and adjacent Frankwell, and the line of flow of the River Severn.

“…

Sweet settlement behind the riverbank

Town in a circle, Frankwell in the other

River circles, flowing in a line

Town circles, lying side by side

…” (Extract from Severn Circles Traces © Ursula Troche 2017)

The poem Circle World takes a wider view considering what is needed for more harmonious global relationships.  There is a link back into Circle Ritual Insight too.

“Circle-World

Large point of ever-return

Held in its four corners, four

Directions, four hands, of

Time and continents

Hold it! Together!

Finger by finger, wind by earth

…” (Opening to Circle World © Ursula Troche 2018)

As my original collage was bound into a book, I produced a similar larger version for the exhibition:

Circumscribed, mixed media collage

I was running short of time before the exhibition, in order to produce another work in response to Circular Ritual Insight, but then by chance found a couple of images in a magazine of dancers from Gabon in Africa, and two mannequin hands touching.  They fitted the poem perfectly and were of just the right size, so they were destined for a collage.  I managed to obtain a suitable map of the globe and, with a bit of precise and intricate scalpel work, there was my collage:

Circular Ritual, paper collage

As a further reflection on the holding of hands, I recalled my series of works about the relations between successive family generations in my exhibition Imperfectly Natural.  This piece seemed to tie in with the poem, as it considers how despite strong parental bonds, we are all alone in the world and must forge new bonds and make friendships with our fellow humans.  Hands, of course, are how we begin to feel and explore the world from a young age.

Working with Ursula is very easy going, with lots of ideas flowing.  As with both Kate Innes and Paul Baines, it is great to find themes and beliefs in common that can feed into new art works.  I’m looking forward to continuing with our borders and boundaries work.

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Opening, closing, opening, closing

6 Jun

After the first Shrewsbury Open Studios weekend last week, this week is busier as I took down my exhibition at the Hive today, and then must change around my studio in readiness for the second weekend of the Open Studios on 10th/11th June, whilst also preparing for installing the Collage Now show in the VAN Street Gallery on Monday 12th June.

Collage Now exhibition, VAN Street Gallery, Shrewsbury

My co-curator, Peter Williams and I did an interview yesterday about the Collage exhibition on Red Shift radio with Mark Sheeky in his Artslab studio.  A thoroughly enjoyable experience, and it was a real revelation to discover another layer of arts activity going on in the back of a fine old building on a rainy day in Nantwich.

Here is a link to the full programme:

https://www.mixcloud.com/RedShiftRadio/artslab-ii-26-with-mark-sheeky-on-redshift-radio/

The interview is in about three five minute slots, starting about 20 mins into the programme.  We didn’t get much chance to prepare beforehand so the interview is quite spontaneous for all three of us, and there is some interesting insight into the background to the exhibition, and our individual artist practice.  But not as much as I’d liked to have said about the contemporary relevance of collage or about all of the other artists involved.   Nice to have a chance to promote the exhibition to a different audience though.

For now, I’ll point out that there will be a free workshop event during the day on 17th June, with a private view from 5.30pm that evening.  I’ll say a bit more about the exhibition in a later post.

Shrewsbury Open Studios

os header

Its six years since the last time I opened my studio to the public, and this year there are 34 artists taking part.  Its a lot of work to prepare – in theory its a great opportunity to sort the studio out, which I do to an extent, but then end up shifting stuff out of sight only for it all to return when the crowds have gone.

Crowds is a slight exaggeration, as visitor numbers were a bit down on previous occasions, but there are a few factors at play.  The large number of artists taking part in the town centre has a impact on visitors willing to make the effort to walk an extra 5-10 mins out of town to my studio.  Plus the Shrewsbury event also coincides with open studio events elsewhere at Shropshire Hills art week and Borderland Visual Arts.  I’m expecting a lot more friends/family visitors next week though for an event organised by my wife, Julie.

Its quality not quantity.  I’ve had some fascinating conversations about my work and a whole host of subjects including maps, geology, edgelands, walking, mathematics, patterns, architecture and much more.  I’ve already made enough sales to more than cover the costs of the event, so with another weekend to go, I’m feeling pretty positively about it.  Here are some images:

It is an anxious time, allowing potential strangers into your personal working space (and in my case, my family home).  The open studio experience is quite different to the pristine gallery exhibition experience.  My studio is overcrowded with art work, so some of it gets overlooked.  But it isn’t a gallery, it just offers a little insight into where and how I work. The engagement with audience is more informal, and people seem to be less inhibited about asking questions and giving feedback.  Its been invaluable to hear some of the reactions to my work.

Come along next weekend!  Open Saturday and Sunday 10th/11th June, 10am to 4pm.

5 Park Avenue, New Street,
Shrewsbury, SY3 8JG.

This year, my daughter Eliza, is also exhibiting some of her artwork including paintings, pastel and other drawings, pottery and the three books we have published.  These are on display in the “Little House” in the garden.  She has been thrilled to guide visitors round her show.

This still life is my favourite:

20170603_9999_22

In Parallel and Entwined

I received some great feedback on my show at the Hive from a variety of different people.  The venue attracts a good footfall for music/theatre events for all ages, and many different arts/performance/creative workshops, mostly for children/teens.  Here are a few pictures:

Exhibition at the Hive

20 Apr

Here’s another opportunity to see some of the paintings I exhibited in my In Parallel show at Participate Contemporary Artspace last year, plus new paintings and my In Parallel and Entwined book:

The Hive,
5 Belmont, Shrewsbury,
SY1 1TE

24th April to 27th May 2017
Tuesday – Friday from 9AM – 5PM

During the exhibition, I plan to run a Space Explorers workshop from the Hive involving walking and gathering inspiration for creative activity:

Tuesday 23rd May 2017

17:30 – 21:00h

£7 per person.  Places are limited so book early please.

Call the Hive on 01743 234970 or see website for further details.

Andrew Howe Space Explorers

Open to everyone with an interest in using walking to find inspiration and materials for creating art work.  No particular artistic ability is required.  The workshop will encourage different ways of looking and spontaneity in putting ideas together.

Meet in the Hive Gallery at 5.30pm before setting out on foot into the cosmos.

Some paper and art materials will be provided, but you are welcome to bring your own small sketchbooks, camera or drawing materials.

The walk will last 30-40 minutes, brisk paced over urban terrain, possibly including steps but no climbing.  There will be a short break for drinks and light refreshments after the walk and before the art making.  You are welcome to bring your own food.

 

The exhibition will feature some new works including my In Parallel and Entwined book, an oil painting triptych and a polyptych of 9 small mixed media panels.

The fire exit staircase appeared as a motif in the original exhibition.  I was struck by its sculptural form and yet its mundane functionality tends to make it “invisible” or easily overlooked.

IMG_0185

Rising, oil on canvas triptych, 3 x 300mm x 400mm

The other new work “Pieces” resulted from experiments with combining small scale panels mounted in grids.  I used different techniques of painting and collage, continuing the themes of the exhibition, to produce a large number of panels.  So far “Pieces” is the only finished work, but I expect to produce some more over time.  Putting individual paintings together in these arrays opens up more connections and narratives between paintings that would not work if I was to just combine images within one painting.  Next step may be to play around with the scale and formal/informal arrangement of the panels.

Andrew Howe, Pieces

Pieces, 150mm x 150mm x 9 mixed media panels

Pieces (detail)

 

 

In Parallel and Entwined

19 Jan

Another new book!

My preparatory studies for the In Parallel project included a number of black and white collages, drawings and mixed media works on brown/neutral paper.  I had had it in mind to continue these and develop them into an artist book.  The themes of everyday details and office work suggested the use of manila envelopes as the ground for the studies.  The variety of tones and hues of these envelopes and parcel paper is large and so the combination of studies is quite visually pleasing.

The studies are diverse but all referring back to motifs from the In Parallel project of maps, everyday details of the business park (air conditioning vents, manhole covers), elements of the landscape (disused railway bridge), and plant forms.  Methods include collage (using digital images, maps), drawings in a range of media, frottage and painting in gouache and acrylic.

I selected 25 of the studies to create a concertina-style artist book with a frieze on the reverse of the pages running the length of the book.  These are then bound into a clam-shell box with a cover that is itself a collage using strips of different brown envelopes/parcel paper, and applied acrylic medium as a smooth protective layer.

The original works are published as a single limited edition.

I self published a full colour paperback version on lulu.com, which retails at £12 + p&p.  Further details for purchasing here.

I’ll be launching the book during the exhibition at In Good Hands cafe in Shrewsbury.  See the news page on my website for more information.

The paperback version front cover:

print_cover

Here is a small selection of the finished studies:

Here is a selection from the frieze on the reverse pages:

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New Paintings and Decollage

10 Jan

Since completing my BA in April last year, I spent the Summer busy experimenting broadly along two research lines.  One line continued my interest in the edgelands, looking at outsider homes or hideaways – the dichotomy of feeling safe from the outside world versus the feeling of threat or menace of the unknown in edgelands.  More on this in a later post.  Another productive line of work, was a series of paintings and mixed media collages/décollages which hybridise maps, organic forms, and human-made forms.  The décollage work is unashamedly influenced or inspired by the the work of Mark Bradford.  Décollage being the sanding down, ripping off or cutting down into layers of collaged paper.

Working with a variety of found papers from magazines, newspapers, plain coloured papers and maps, and a combination of oil paint, acrylic, varnish and turps, I developed some of the motifs I adopted in the In Parallel project.  I delved further into my investigation of the relationships between organic and human-made forms.

These are a couple of early studies:

Two small designs on canvas, comprised “all over” collage, whereas for some larger studies on board I cut into the layers of paper to isolate the main shapes.  In all cases, I also applied thin acrylic colour washes to help reinforce/define the designs, enhance tonal contrasts and also to bring out the textures in the décollaged paper.

 

There are so many permutations of paint materials, layers, glues, varnishes, types of paper which all affect the final surface finish of the work, so I will continue to explore, particularly around how to bring out more contrast and vibrancy of colour in the work.  Although I also recognise that one of the attractions of these pieces is the subtleties in the variations of tone and hue.

Some of the works incorporate string, card or other materials (such as the cow parsley above) to create ripple effects with the overlying paper layers, although I found this has only limited effectiveness.

This mode of working offers huge flexibility.  I can mix in lots of different visual imagery and then the sanding down process followed by paint staining and further modifications, both degrades and homogenizes the contrasting imagery.  The visual effects are subtle, complex and give a sense of time, erosion, degrading memory and nostalgia.  The resulting palimpsest is hard to control, and some of the images/test in the upper surfaces are lost in the sanding process but there is usually enough remaining to discern some hint of meaning, whilst almost always there are new meanings and relationships revealed upon closer inspection.

A selection of these new paintings are on show in January through till the end of March 2017 at In Good Hands Café88/89 Frankwell, Shrewsbury, Shropshire,SY3 8JR.  Its a great venue combining tasty healthy food with music events, workshops and holistic therapies.

Andrew Howe, Biomorph III

Biomorph III, Mixed media on board, 61cm (w) x 67cm(h)

Andrew Howe, Biomorph II

Biomorph II, Mixed media on board, 30.5cm x 61cm

Andrew Howe, Biomorph I

Biomorph I, Mixed media on board, 30cm x 61cm

 

Against the Inevitable

8 Jun Entropy, Against the Inevitable, Andrew Howe

My Canon camera has become afflicted with the dreaded ERR099 fault, and I fear its final demise may be imminent.  Before this, and perhaps as some kind of forewarning or omen, I found myself taking shots of seemingly futile patch repairs and supports to bits of infrastructure facing the inevitable drift from order into ruin and chaos. Its hard to resist a morbid fascination in the relentless entropic process of disintegration and gradual takeover of vegetation and other organic growth.

These photographs were taken in and around Shrewsbury and Walsall towards the end of 2015 and early 2016.

In Parallel Exhibition

15 Feb

On the 29th February 2016, I will begin putting up my exhibition entitled “In Parallel” at Participate Contemporary Artspace CIC.  Its located on the Ground Floor of the Riverside Shopping Centre in Shrewsbury town centre.  There will be a private view on Friday 4th March 2016 (4pm – 6pm) and on Wednesday March 16th 2016, I will be giving a talk about the project from 6.30pm at the gallery.

The exhibition will effectively be my degree show for the BA(hons) in Creative Arts that I have been studying by distance learning with the Open College of Arts.  I began almost 12 years ago in 2004, originally intending that the course would provide some formal structure to my art practice (not having had much in the way of formal academic education in visual art previously).  As I became engrossed in the academic studies and practical development in painting and photography, I became more determined to take all 7 modules up to degree level.

The work in the exhibition represents the outcome of 2 years of research for the last module in painting. The paintings will not be assessed during the exhibition but later at the college in July.

In some ways, I was amused by the idea of having an MA in Engineering Science and BA in Creative Art.  Some might see these as opposing ends of a spectrum, but having worked through both, I can see that there are so many similarities in how engineers and artists take observations of the world, develop creative ideas and then use judgement to make a statement of some kind.  In the case of engineering this is normally a physical construction with some defined purpose, while art works may be real or virtual, useful or not, profound or banal or basically anything.

The project

I adopted a working title of “Parallel Universes” because I set out to investigate the relationship between the adjacent “universes” of the office where I used to work on the Shrewsbury Business Park and the surrounding area.  The area encompasses edgeland landscapes of a cycle track (formerly the Bridgnorth to Shrewsbury railway), suburban estates, the River Severn, agricultural land and post-glacial meres, one of which is below Thieves Lane and another lies in public open space next to the Mereside Community Centre.

I was interested in how a highly controlled environment co-exists in close proximity to a very different landscape with elements of wilderness.

A particular event helped define the project for me.  Whilst sitting at my desk looking out of the office window, I witnessed a crow attacking, murdering and then eating a juvenile blackbird, while its parents looked on helplessly crying out.  It was a truly horrific scene, which highlighted a stark difference between the office world, and the world “out there”, separated only by a pane of glass.  Life, death and the everyday.

The paintings touch on issues of land ownership, opportunistic or tactical uses of space, and the experience of time and place.  I explore the tensions between control and liberty, geometric order and chaos, the organic and the human-made.  I consider whether these must always be viewed as polar opposites, or whether hybrid or composite situations are, perhaps, a more realistic interpretation.

During the project I researched space and place, the everyday. psychogeography, walking as art practice, ruins and entropy, paths/boundaries and various other aspects of site specific art.  Key writers included Miwon Kwon, Lucy Lippard, Yi Fu Tuan, Doreen Massey, Michel de Certeau, Guy Debord, Henri Lefebvre, Ben Highmore, Walter Benjamin, Michel Foucault, Jean Baudrillard, Felix Guattari, Hal Foster, Simon Schama, Edward Soja, Tina Richardson, Phil Smith, Nick Papadimitriou, Iain Sinclair, Richard Mabey, Rebecca Solnit and Merlin Coverley .

A selection of the artists I studied includes George Shaw, Laura Oldfield Ford, Mark Bradford, Ingrid Calame, Clare Wood, Toby Paterson, Julie Mehretu, Stephen Willats and numerous cartographic artists, such as Matthew Picton and Val Britton.

The Work

The art works featuring in the exhibition will include paintings and a book.  The exhibition is a curated eclectic experience of the “parallel universes” and the work is quite diverse.  The paintings may be broadly categorised into:

  • representational or collage-style paintings, mainly in oils on mdf or plywood board;
  • reverse paintings in acrylic on clear perspex and acetate sheets;
  • mixed media painted reliefs constructed in layers of lasercut plywood or acrylic sheet.

Layering is a connecting theme or approach which runs through each of these categories.  Layers, whether by physical layers of lasercut materials, by layers of paint, or layers of imagery, offer a means of combining or juxtaposing different concepts.  Palimpsest, obscuring and revealing, play a role in these works.

There will also be a book, entitled “The Minutes” comprising photographs of the business park/office and edgelands, coupled with text describing my perceived experience, or phenomenology, of these environments.  I’ll write a separate post about the book.

The paintings incorporate everyday motifs, like air conditioning units, fluorescent light fittings, blinds, and manhole covers, drawing attention to the aesthetic qualities of these rarely noticed objects.

Stair cases and transitional spaces below bridges also feature in a number of the paintings, as do renegade spaces such as dens and trees appropriated for rope swings.  These are heterotopia where different people might attribute different meanings or values to each place.  The edgelands (referred to by Stephen Willats as “the lurky place”) offer a place of refuge or subversion, whether it be for walking the dog, building a den to hide and create a personal space, or for just hanging out.

A few examples of my paintings are shown below: