Tag Archives: Visual Art Network

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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Poetic Encounters #2 Paul Baines

25 Mar

For the second of my Encounters, I was delighted to be paired up with Paul Baines, since I had enjoyed seeing his exhibition of paintings and artist books at Shrewsbury’s Gateway Gallery 3 a year or so ago, and I had been looking for an opportunity to make contact to discuss his work further.

Paul’s early work was inspired by Pop Art and work from the 1950s/60s, but in recent years he has turned to a fully abstract painting style.  He has developed a form of visual communication that is founded on ten Projects that express his own ideology and political beliefs.  His books combine poems with graphic designs, sketches and drawings.

“Empathy with society’s disadvantaged” is a primary driver behind his work.  I was intrigued by how such passionately held beliefs could be expressed using pure abstract forms.  Paul quickly explained how he has developed a visual language that is inspired by whichever of the ten projects he is focusing on, and after some closer looking at the work, I began to be able to read some of the “vocabulary”.

I reflected on how abstract concepts are defined, often with very precise definitions that society takes on as a consensus.  So for example, the dictionary defines “empathy” as:

“the power of imaginatively entering into and understanding another person’s feelings”

Everyone has their own experience, memories and thoughts about what this means to them.  We also have an understanding of what terms are by what they are not.  These references are in constant flux as experiences change and things redefine themselves, which I guess is a post-structuralist way of looking at things.  So I saw Paul’s paintings as a way of taking definitions back to that moment when inchoate thoughts emerge in response to perceptions from the world, and when, thereafter, terms become defined within our mind.

The poem I wrote first was in direct response to Paul’s Project 1 “to promote empathy and compassion” which he was able to translate into a painting.

Detail

Detail

My poem was inspired by a train journey back from a day out in Birmingham just before Christmas last December 2017:

Evening Train

Stuffed together on the evening train

Feverish with festive banter

Bodies lurch at each juddering halt

And others gently check the sway

In silent kindness

 

In the cold clammy air along the station platform

Legs crumple in slow collapse

Anxious faces offer help

As a young daughter looks on bewildered, mute

A calm lady relays questions from

The ambulance approaching

Her assurance brings relief

To all, as we wait

© Andrew Howe, January 2018

The second poem proved more difficult.  Although, both Paul and I had existing work to respond to, all of our work for the exhibition was created afresh in collaboration.  We met just once but maintained a conversation by various messages.  I saw digital images of the paintings not quite realising just how textural they were.  My attempts to write something in response to one of the other Projects that Paul has defined did not flow well, and so instead I drafted something which described observations from an urban walk, and which tried to capture a spirit of being in tune with the Projects.

Its about acceptance; acceptance of the passing of time and experiences.  Nothing matters and everything matters. And before we, as individuals and as societies, attribute values to things influenced by memory and abstractions, there is a beginning.  The beginning is the moment. In that moment, she, he, this or they merit the same attention and respect as her, him, that or them.  It is up to us, then, to defer, delay, suspend or change the process of valuation to allow for alternative meanings and interpretation.

All and Nothing

Step on

Swish of tyres, glistening wet tarmac

Bass thump, door slam

Dachsund shivering

Two women laugh

As one holds the other’s arm

I’m not the fairy, I’m not

Step on

Ahead of the flow

Sweeping through

Erasing, smoothing

Double yellow slinking by the kerbside

Becoming silver ribbons catching low sunlight

Step ahead

Hooded man hunched over phone

No mate, there’s only one pack left

We sent all the others back last night

Plastic fragment quivers on hawthorn branch

Bent signpost, and a scattering of cable ties

Step on

Its all here, these are the facts

Streaming onwards in all directions

Leaves and sweet wrappers spiral in the breeze

Cardboard boxes trampled into mulch

Pigeons clap flapping

Coos echo in dank empty building

Windows blinded by OSB and ply

Webs of shattered glass, and a half peeled sticker

Electric drill screams, and a second starts up

Pulsing, phasing around one note

Step on

Dirt-blue sleeping bag rucked into door way

Upturned beer cans, and two copper coins

Step ahead

The flow washes over

Golden reflections shimmering on cracked paving

Long shadows flicker across railings

Black man in parka coat

Grinning and laughing

At me or with me?

I wave in salute

We’re alright

Step on

© Andrew Howe March 2018

Paul was able to create a painting in response.  These are the finished works in the gallery:

The paintings are powerful and work extremely well in this gallery setting.  It was a delight to meet Paul and I hope to maintain our conversations in the future.

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: