BLOG: Autumn - September, October, November
I've been developing an idea that I originally had when I was working as an architect where I would work with and involve artists on stained glass walls as a means of dividing space: In 1990 I was asked to work with Martin Donlin to incorporate on a large piece in hospital in Dorchester within an internal curtain wall system. In 1994 I commissioned and worked with Mark Angus on a curved wall glass wall in a Day hospital in Cirencester.
The technology available at that time was traditional stained glass with either lead cames, epoxy adhesives or acid wash/engraving. Once Art glass moulding became readily available and affordable I used this in multi faith prayer facilities in Amersham and Bromley focussing on texture and lighting.
In 2004 I was asked to work with the poet Alicia Stubbersfield to incorporate her words onto external sliding glass screens to a café in Blaise Castle estate so that a number of different readings were created depending on how the words overlapped.
Although the technology involved with glass was developing rapidly, incorporating coloured glass was limited to either glass by stained glass artists or by artists using coloured glass sheets: The largest commission of this type I worked on was on the facades comprising the Bristol Pathology laboratories with Kate Blee in 2017 where over 400 sheets of glass, 600w x 2700h, were used to reflect the orchards that originally occupied the site.
Technology improvements: I was aware that European glass companies were developing an enamelling technique for transcribing original art onto single sheets of glass and I had been using developments in flat bed printing to print very large images onto a number of different materials but it was when I saw a private house designed by the Architects Patel Taylor in 2019 that it became clear that printing technology and glass technology had developed to a point where original images could be flat bed printed to very large formats and that the laminating material used for laminated glass could become the medium for the Artwork.
Discussions are at an early stage with a few companies e.g. Saint Gobain and Hourglass but I'm hopeful that a means of making the laminating material UV resistant can be found so that my work can be incorporated into very large glass installations and that they will last.
Schnaps: I've been making schnaps, partly as a displacement activity until I work out where I want my art to go, but mostly because there has been a glut of cheap seasonal fruit about e.g. end of season peach, pear and plum.
Actually Schnaps with 1xp is a German fruit flavoured distilled grain alcohol similar to Vodka whereas schnapps with 2xp is an American version made by steeping grain alcohol (vodka) with fruit which is what I've been making.
Step 1: get fruit, step 2: get grain based vodka and filter, step 3: place fruit, vodka and aromatics (e.g. star anise, grapefruit zest, vanilla) into a large jar, adding a small amount of caramelised sugar syrup and leave for 7 days, step 4: remove fruit and aromats, strain and filter. Step 5:bottle and leave for a while to mellow.
September and October.
This has been a surprisingly intense period of producing work (3 new pieces) going to exhibitions and a long-planned holiday so this piece is more of a list of what I did and my conclusions
3/9: Richard Long .I went specifically to see River Avon Mud Circle by Richard long, 2011 in the MShed. I love his work and was looking for this piece after remembering the mud paintings in RWA where the works responded to and mastered the space they were in. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel that it worked here. I loved the marks but the space was cramped and messy and the work just felt irrelevant in its location.
5/9: went to a private view of Lucy Austin paintings at That Art Gallery.
7/9: Went to the Artist Network SW meeting in Caraboo projects Bedminster where we all brought a small painting or a print of a larger one. I was so tired that I fled after two or three chats with people that I hadn’t met before: This was so much harder than the corporate networking events I was used to where I would talk to two people I didn’t know and then spend the rest of my time talking to people that I knew and liked. The company of strangers can be very daunting.
8/9 – 15/9 Holiday in Austria : Vienna, Traunkirchen and Salzburg. We decided that September would be best to avoid the crowds and the heat, staying in some lovely hotels and while trying to find the best schnitzel also experienced some awful regional specialities (I will never want to eat Pierogi again!).
Having done Schloss Shonbrun and the other usual touristy things in Vienna (Weissbier, sacher torte mit kaffee, an einspanner, schnitzel mit pommes), we went to Schloss Belvedere to see both the Klimt exhibition and the Kiki Smith retrospective. The Kiki Smith show in the unterer belvedere, with new link corridors by Chipperfield, was not an immediately obvious blockbuster like the Klimt show but a slow-burner where the layers of her work build up to leave a deeper understanding of what drives her as an artist; life, death and everything between: a well curated show covering 30 years work, well worth taking time over.
Traunkirchen was stunning: we stayed at a hotel built direct onto a lake overlooking 1000m high mountains. I had bought my swimming trunks specifically because the room had direct access to a pontoon on the lake: I was only in for a minute before the depth and coldness of the lake imposed itself so much that I had to abandon the swim and had kaffee and kuchen instead.
Salzburg is just a pleasure to walk around with Baroque architecture and medieval lanes, galleries and the surrounding hills, bars and restaurants inhabiting even the smallest corner.
Should you wish to know, the best schnitzel of the holiday was at our hotel on Goldgasse in Salzburg where the delightful owner Ulrike bumped us up to a suite. Goldgasse is known from the Tom Cruise and Cameron Dias Film ‘Knight and Day’ where he runs and jumps across a lane in the medieval part of town before being shot and falling into the river Salzach. Despite being busy the street side restaurant was intimate and served not only the best schnitzle of the holiday but some fabulous deserts with a locally made pear schnaps. I must try to make some!
24/9: Saw ‘Alchemy’ at Centre space showing work by 17 ceramic artists from MAZE studio. I love ceramics and this was a good show to satisfy anyone with a similar interest,
27/9: Spike Island. Went to the preview of the new show at Spike Island by Meriç Algün called ‘Day craving night’. Unfortunately, the stencilled wall pieces signified nothing to me and the bookshelf piece was belittled by the misunderstood symbolism of the ship painted on the wall behind it, even without that, cutting a set of bookshelves to sizes equating to the relative size of continents and “where seemingly disparate collections of objects are placed together to reveal an array of connections that bind personal experiences with hard facts. In Finding the Edge (2017), she (Meric Algun) draws parallels between the separation of the continents and the origins of human desire” seemed to be a pointless and banal exercise.
The pieces that did ring as authentic were the carbon objects in museum quality glass display cases and the Calvin Klein magazine adverts for Eternity.
I returned to spend more time with the entire show and was unable to progress beyond my first impressions:
I’m not sure where Spike is going with exhibitions like this.
29/9: RWA. I went to the RWA annual open exhibition. I had decided not to submit for this year’s exhibition having been selected by the Art committee for the last three shows only to not get through the hanging committee: selected not hung! b@stards!
The trouble is that the Art committee have to select more than they need because they don’t know how many Academicians (who get their work automatically selected irrespective of merit) are submitting. In any event although much of the academician’s work is past its best there was some lovely work on show. I must try to get shown next year.
3/10: Went to the Private view at Hidden gallery Clifton Arcade of new paintings inspired by Turner by Sally Coulsden, followed by an Artist discussion of work by Martyn Cross at The Garage. I really like Sally’s work which looked great in the gallery beside lithographs by Picasso and Mattise but the talk by Martyn reminded me how much I disliked the muppets and the mawkish sentimentality of their humour despite reference to liminal space! A reminder that what might be interesting to you can be perceived very differently by others and that ‘meaning’ can work in many ways depending on the experience and memory of the viewer.
5/10: Art Trail. It was the Art on the Hill, Windmill hill art trail. I went primarily to see the camera obscura set up by my friend Carlton and then tried a few other venues before remembering why I dislike Art trails and rushing off for lunch at Bocabar in Paintworks which is a great place serving brilliant pizza and salads. I recommend the FORTALEZA : Tomato sauce, mozzarella, chilli flakes, spicy Italian pepperoni, gorgonzola, basil and freshly ground black pepper.
8/10 : Lunch talk by Natasha McEvoy : Groping in the dark held in the associate space in Spike Island. A lovely talk, well attended and held together by an engaging set of images and related dialogue “I'm repeating myself” sticks to mind as does the explanation of the body moulded climbing/tongues in the adjoining exhibition space.
16/10: Martin Par Foundation.I went to a private view at the Martin Parr Foundation exhibition of ‘The English’ as seen by Tony Ray-Jones. This was a well-attended event making it difficult to see the work, so I went back to reconfirm my first impressions. Getting past tilted horizons was difficult at times but my lasting impression was of the lack of empathy that the photographer seemed to have for any of his subjects: his view point seemed to be that of an anthropologist recording the peculiar antics of a tribe that he doesn’t understand or care too much about because he can leave. Although supposedly photographing what he saw as a disappearing way of life in a humorous yet melancholy manner I only saw photos mocking people whose way of life was real and valid to them. I wanted to like them but left sad and unimpressed.
17/10: Rosalind Robinson. I went to the preview of ‘Face to Face’ an exhibition of exquisite portraits in that Art gallery by Rosalind Robinson. She has said that an Artist often feels isolated and that the Art world can feel cold and cruel but through these I could feel the warmth and empathy she has for her subjects all painted in astonishingly delicate brush strokes: A beautiful show.
The bottom line of all this is that I now feel that I may be trying too hard in my Art and that I still need to adapt my need to explain everything. However, although most people in Art still hold onto the aphorism that “If you say you are an artist, then what you produce will be art” I can’t believe that just giving yourself up to the process and just doing what you like is enough. The Art scene in Bristol seems very fragile with no one really calling out the truth that most of what is produced, if scrutinised to the extent that architecture is, would fail to pass its own self-set parameters.
I will explore further the notion that what might be interesting to an artist can be perceived very differently by others and that ‘meaning’ can work in many ways depending on the experiences and memory of the viewer:
Narrative is perfected by retelling to develop new layers of understanding.
Memory works this way-it is only what you choose it to be.
It is a truth wraped up in layers of emotion and self-deception.
This is where my art lies