Tag Archives: urban details

Your Perfect High Street

15 Sep

As part of last weekend’s Heritage Open Day events, I was delighted to be invited to run a workshop at the Unitarian Church on Shrewsbury’s High Street.  According to the inscription on its frontage,  the Unitarian Church was built in 1662 and was where Charles Darwin came to worship.  And I had a beautiful old room with stained glass windows above the street to work in.

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The suggested theme was designing a perfect High Street.  Arguably, Shrewsbury already has one, and so in preparation for the event I began to explore by taking a series of photos of details along the street.  Details that may go unnoticed unless you really slow down and look.

Participants helped create a collage of my photos as a grid during the workshop, and then people added their own thoughts, ideas and memories on sticky notes within the grid:

 

 

 

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My preparations also included a pen drawing of the elevations of both sides of the street, which became quite addictive.  I completed it in about three days, although certainly can’t vouch for its accuracy of detail.  It was interesting to see the differences in scale of the buildings and see them without the dominating colours and branding of the retailers. The Unitarian Church, which can seem quite an impressively large facade from street level, actually appears to be one of the smallest buildings along the whole street.

 

The workshop was aimed primarily at families with children aged 8 and over, but many adults dropped in and got involved too.  There were around 35 participants over the course of 3 hours.  Besides the photo collage, the activities began with thinking about the kind of activities that might take place in the High Street and which are more important.

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I made a few initial suggestions, and quickly realised just how many different activities already go on in our High Street.  Participants then added their own ideas, moved activities between “important” and “not important” and voted with red dots for the ideas they agreed with.  I deliberately missed out quite a few activities like shopping and gambling to see if there was any reaction, and surprisingly only one person added “ice cream shop”… and this was in the “not important” zone.  Someone else added “independent businesses” as important.  Hear hear!

The activities ranked in the highest zone of importance/votes were (approximately):

  • Homes for living,
  • green space,
  • learning,
  • seating,
  • street art,
  • a litter free environment,
  • having a strong community,
  • independent businesses,
  • walking/strolling/wandering,
  • healthcare,
  • theatre/street performance,
  • exercising democratic rights local political issues and public debates.

I think we can guess at the kind of social-demographic I was dealing with.  Other suggestions I really liked included:

  • Temporary closure of streets to create play/community areas,
  • interacting and co-operating,
  • installations and performance platform for local artists (obviously).

Most of the workshop activity revolved around building a scale model of a High Street using card boxes and hand drawn frontages.  Participants could use my pen drawings and a montage of architectural design considerations as inspiration.  There were some really lovely buildings.

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Finally, as an activity to take away, I produced a sheet of some of the architectural details to go and find somewhere in the High Street.  You can download a copy and have a go yourself by clicking this link:  Look Closely

look closely

 

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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.

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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:

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Here is a small selection of the finished studies:

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

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The View on the Street

15 Jul

Further to my earlier announcement about the Loitering with Intent exhibition at the People’s History Museum, in Manchester, featuring a special edition of STEPZ zine, here is my article as published:

The View on the Street

The full text is reproduced below:

On considering the whereabouts of the People’s History Museum, I did what anyone these days would do, I checked Google Maps. I soon found myself roaming around Salford on Street View, looking through the “eyes of the Pegman”.
In the silent, frozen time of Street View, my mind created its own soundscape. Seeing the railway arches of the viaduct into Salford, I was transported back to Attercliffe, Sheffield, 1983. I am walking to British Rail’s permanent way maintenance depot. Beyond the viaduct on Furnival Road, there are glimpses through huge metal doors into the steelworks. Molten steel glows orange. I feel the subterranean boom and clangs of machinery. There is a sulphurous smell of coal.

I click on the white chevron…

Since it appeared in 2007, Google Street View has gone beyond mere novelty, and established itself as a near essential tool to many practitioners in urban design, environmental study and other site-related professions. With Street View it is possible to do preliminary reconnaissance or even avoid site visits altogether.
Street View has created the opportunity to explore more locations across the world than any individual could physically reach in a lifetime. On the face of it, this can be done safely, free from intimidation, and it is open equally to all. Or at least it is if you have internet access.

It would be nonsense to suggest that, in its current guise, it can in any way replace the experience of walking. However, as technological developments continue to advance, the virtual reality foreseen by William Gibson appears ever closer.

With Trekker busy tramping around national parks and pedestrian areas, Street View allows the user to veer off road. There are Street View-based web-tours in which users trigger recorded sounds. Google Cardboard and Photosphere can provide virtual 360o 3D experiences. People already insert their own images into Google Map. It is not a huge leap to incorporate video, sounds, physical sensations or real-time CCTV.

As Google makes more frequent updates, it offers the ability in some places to go back and review previous views and witness how the landscape has changed. This is akin to time travel. Street View becomes ever more synchronous with the present, and if viewing into the past becomes more universally available, then our disconnection from time and space will be complete.

Rebecca Solnit proclaimed that “walking is how the body measures itself against the world.”1 Rhythms of walking, ambient sounds, chance human encounters, and relating time and distance are integral to the pedestrian experience, which cannot be easily replicated. By contrast, Street View is like sensory deprivation, and any urge to meander off down an alleyway or over a fence is curtailed.

How will people approach the real world as Street View becomes a more pervasive everyday experience? Some people may become more sensitized to the visceral chaos of the city, while others navigate purely by series of images, headphones on, oblivious to the feel of the air on skin.

There are more sinister implications to Street View and its impact on public/private space. Many people find Street View an invasion of privacy. If Street View makes some places more easily accessible, could it also be used to make other places disappear? Perhaps so for those with sufficient power to maintain their privacy from Google’s cameras. What will become of public spaces if people retreat from them into a virtual world?

Businesses advertise and promote information on Google Maps. Street View facilitates further commercialisation of space, virtually, and by extension, in the real world. Google has appropriated editorial control, and all our movements within Street View can be tracked. People appear to have lost the battle for virtual space without realising it was there to be won.

Continuing my virtual dérive, I found this poem within the images of Street View:

Welcome you are now in Salford
Rome
No Stopping except taxis at any time
Controlled zone
We’re demolishing this structure to create an opportunity for a modern gateway building
Spin factory
Sounds from the other city
The Fall
The courage of one will change the world
Road Closed
Diversion
£3 real deal
Earn it
For timetables and bookings download the app
We lead others follow
Ahead only
Road ahead closed
A fresh perspective
Warning CCTV cameras in operation on these premises 24 hour surveillance
Luxury city centre apartments for sale and to rent
Garden Lane
Danger
Keep out
“My four-year-old could’ve done that”
Zone ends

1 Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust. A History of Walking, 2001.

A couple of montages that accompanied my original draft are here (all images courtesy of Google):

Here are all the images from Google Street View as seen on my virtual derive through Salford.

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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.

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:

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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:

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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?

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…