Forest & Valleys Open Studios – Commodity, a selected exhibition

ARE THE NATURAL RESOURCES OF THE AREA MERELY A COMMODITY?

PRIVATE VIEW & LAUNCH OF OPEN STUDIOS: 6-9PM ON FRIDAY 8TH JULY AT THE GARDEN CAFE, (Facebook), LOWER LYDBROOK, FOREST OF DEAN, GLOUCESTERSHIRE.

Keep up to speed on FandVos Facebook page

Congratulations to all the artists selected for this years special exhibition. Each artist will be awarded a sum of £100 to thank them for their participation.

This year is the first time FandVOS has hosted a special exhibition curated by a guest curatorial team, led by myself and supported by Keith Baugh, Adam Cairn and Carina Greenwood. Developing the Commodity exhibition with the artists has been an absolute pleasure. A great thing about forests and valley landscapes is they offer wonderful hidey-holes for creative people to live and work in. Artists and writers have celebrated this place for centuries through their creativity and have gained quite a reputation for doing so.

It is fitting to exhibit these ‘Commodity’ artworks in the Garden Café. What is now a tranquil homestead, tucked into a hill near the River Wye, was once a thriving industrial area. With wire factories across the road and a viaduct that actually ran over the house! If you want to know more chat to Paul Hayes, the owner of the Garden Café – he has many stories to tell and is a fantastic host.

The works have been selected to provide an entry point into an enquiry about the Forest and Wye Valleys specifically in terms of ‘Commodity’. They are not commissions – FandVos does not yet have the financial means to commission new work, but they hope in the future that will change. Some of the artists have, however, created new works for this show, motivated by the opportunity to stretch their practice, which is fantastic.

I mention the hidey-holes above, because as someone who moved to this area ten years ago, I am constantly amazed by the number of new artists I encounter who are working the area. And it’s great to see young artists moving here too, adding to the mix.

Living here is very special. Some local artists work in far-flung places, while others choose to work primarily in this area. It’s a privilege to see the range of work made here and exciting to install it in such a beautiful building and garden.

Thank you

Carolyn Black

Novvy Allan

Novvy is showing three prints, unframed, that respond to three natural materials found in the area – water, wood and wool. She is also showing some associated materials, including a piece of knitting made with wool dyed with local natural resources, which was used to create the Wool print. The print of the putchers is concerned with the traditional method of salmon fishing used in the River Severn but now in sad decline. The wood represents the wrangling and landownership battles that have gone on forever in the Forest of Dean, and continue to this day.

Lizzie Godden

Lizzie’s work is made with textiles dyed from local materials and stitched tenderly by hand. Each thread has its own colour nuances that when overlaid across the other pieces of fabric create a sense of rhythm through the work. Lizzie walks the forest and the riversides constantly, meditating on the land, praying for its safekeeping. Fracking threatens to fracture this landscape beyond redemption. This work is a meditation on that fear.

Tom Cousins

Tom is a political activist and a muralist and the work shown here is a very clever way of marketing both of those things. It raises our awareness, through wit and humour, about the concerns communities have about fracking. The twist is, of course, that Tom can earn his living from these political issues, at the same time as making sure that his own concerns by others, who amplify their worries by shouting them out loud on their house walls. He does this work exceedingly well and his film plays on the irony of that. Do take a leaflet if you want to be heard.

Rob Olins

Rob is a sculptor renowned for public art work, which he has been delivering widely for many years. The acoustic mirrors and their associated narratives have been a focus for him for some five years. Big, bold and colourful, they draw the viewer towards them so the more subtle nuances can be enjoyed. Only when close up can you hear the sounds emanating from them and listen to the soundscape. They create a place within a space, bright and calling with a reward at the end – like being drawn towards a rose and bending down to smell it.

Kathy Priddis

Kathy’s 3 Hunting Pots were especially inspired by ‘Commodity’ and represent different animals traditionally hunted in the Forest, always a source of food for foresters. Commoners’ rights for grazing were often high on the local agenda, and hunting with dogs represents both nature and the rural culture of Foresters’ resistance to the power of an overlord. The pots are richly glazed with local clay slips and iron ochres from Clearwell Caves; wax resist between the slip and the glaze reveals the original clay, which spontaneously interacts with the glaze to give both earthy and vivid colours. Her usual pots are more functional, made to be used.

Utilising Clearwell Caves ochres as pastels, Cinderford Stream uses a similar palette, harmonising with her pots, and revealing her love of complementary colours as found in Nature.

Claire Robinson

Claire is a landscape painter and has shown work in several exhibitions that explore themes of environment and conservation, exhibiting with organisations such as the World Wildlife Fund and Raleigh International, at venues as diverse as car show rooms, London Zoo, ecology centres and hospitals. For this show she has chosen to further explore her methods of making work that can be shown outside, in the place that inspires it. Using robust materials means that she has to make very clear marks, as opposed to the subtler ones she can achieve in watercolours. These works have a very physical existence and straddle the worlds of painting and sculpture.

Sally Stafford

Sally makes very beautiful paintings that often celebrate flowers and landscapes in a dreamlike way. At first sight, you may consider these works to be doing just that, but they were informed not so much by a celebration of place but as a sadness that an area of land near Cinderford, called the Northern Quarter is to be developed – putting all of the plants and wildlife at risk.

In the Northern Quarter of The Forest of Dean the land is to be scraped off and reused. This work is a fleeting record of a brief moment in its long history.  Made when it was a liminal place recovering from industrialisation; the haunt of dog walkers and anglers. A place in the process of rewilding. Once again the land is being pressed into service of man. This is my fragile record of an alternative.

Sally collected leaves, water and found iron from the site, eco printed the leaves onto paper and coated the results in beeswax.

Frances Warren

Frances comes from a history of working in the social housing sector and now creates art (which she finds hard to name as such) from found materials and upcycled waste. She paints, nails and ties these things together to create fascinating structures which welcome insects and other creatures to dwell in them. She paints them with colours which attract insects and the frames are not dissimilar to those Mondrian created in his later works. They provide miniature ecosystems that have been created from the rubbish that ruins our landscape we claim to love.

 

 

Call for host venues for The Story of Objects – the next phase – workshops

 

SOO yellow bar logo longJust a quick note to get you thinking over the weekend – I’m looking for hosts for the next phase of the Story of Objects – maybe it’s you?

The Story of Objects to date has very much been about ‘show and tell’ sessions, for research purposes.  The overarching vision – to create a social media network for things – is still underpinning all activity. However, the encounters have been rich and rewarding for many people.

One set of themes that came up again and again were inherited objects from family members that  relate to making or creating something. All sorts of tools and materials, artefacts and childhood memories.

I’ve been exploring how to work with the stories you’ve shared with me – there are the 30second shorts on Youtube; the Flash Fiction pieces on Medium and even a Story of Cake! The Facebook page shares news about the projects and also about other interesting object-stories from around the world – all food for thought.

The next phase will involve workshops – and I invite you to contact me if you’d like to discuss this for your organisation. I’m shaping the programme now and have some great ideas developing from the conversations so far. Each partner/collaborator is welcome to get in touch now to explore how the framework can work for you and your audiences. It is currently flexible and adaptable, which is another of features and benefits of the programme structure.

If appropriate, where a making activity is not right for the object theme, there will be an option to book a talk/presentation by a practitioner or specialist for the subject area.

I’d love to hear from arts organisations, museums, heritage organisations, material culture people, ethnographers, archaeologists and historians. Also, studios for woodworking, metal working, potteries, forges, printmaking studios, musical instrument workshops, anyone who makes – oo, and I may need a chef too!

Get in touch by email (carolyn@fkowprojects.org.uk), phone or message me via the Facebook page.

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new project thanks to ACE G4A funding – connecting people, objects, memories, data

I am delighted to share with you the good news – I have been awarded an Arts council England Grant for the Arts to enable me to immerse myself for a while in deep research and development of an exciting new project. It’s a bit different to what I usually do – but it draws together my personal passion for objects, art, people and technology.

You can read  more about it here (apologies if you see a few ads – it’s a temporary site and a temporary name)

It is early days and I’ll be consulting with people from various sectors over the coming months – watch out for updates and please subscribe to my website if you don’t already – I’ll be letting you know how you can become involved in the near future.

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The Story of Objects – new research, partners needed, contact me to discuss

For the last year or so I have been developing a framework for a very special project, The Story of Objects.

It’s about orphaned objects, curating and an online repository. It’s social and cultural geography, art and genealogy.

Do you work in any of these fields? I’m seeking partners to make this happen…….

Would you like to have a confidential conversation about joining me on this?

If so, get in touch – there is a funding deadline looming…..

carolyn@flowprojects.org.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

Article about The Promise and PARADISE in new edition of CCQ

CCQ is an arts journal published in Wales. My first article is in this edition, available from all good gallery bookstores. It’s a quality publication and a great read.

My piece is a preview of Arnolfini show The Promise and Trust New Art show at Tyntesfield, called PARADISE.

More next month too.

See http://ccqmagazine.com/

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b-side at the seaside

b-side runs until 14th September, do go to Portland and see it, it’s the best year ever.

Going to the b-side Festival in Portland, Dorset, was a real treat. It was launched by the peal of the bells in the lovely old St. George Church next to Tout Quarry, followed by a soundwork by Duncan Whitley. As the soundwork crescendoes from quiet birdsong to the loud hammering sounds of rock being shaped, the audience became grounded as to why they had come – b-side Festival is all about Portland and the people that live there.

A brief stroll down to the local community hall and there was a real sense of gathering. The artists, the curatorial team, local people, volunteers and those who had travelled especially all enjoyed what was on offer. There was Talkaoki (film clip) for those who wished to voice their thoughts loudly on art – which went down very well – and an Arts Confessional for those that had more intimate words to share. As the sun went down, families began to gather outside to have themselves and their bikes dressed with LED lights and soundboxes. As they moved off together as a group, led by Luke Jerram and his team, Lullaby (film clip) floated out into the street and up to children’s bedroom windows. People waved, watched and even cried – a simple idea turns into a moving experience when it is shared. I caught a little movie on my iPhone as they returned, one of those unexpected events that was more magical because it was a surprise.

Alex Hartley @ b-side
Portland Erratic by Alex Hartley

Saturday morning I went on a tour with other b-side supporters to view some of the works. There simply wasn’t time to see them all, so when you go, do make sure you plan things well. We began with Alex Hartley’s work Portland Erratic near Portland Castle. Sited on the harbourside looking out to sea, the work emerged from a sea-mist and seemed to be part of the place already. With it’s window frames painted as white as the fog and the stones it displayed seemingly the material of Portland, it was a surprise to hear that these objects were alien to Portland – had arrived as ballast, or were dumped during industrial works. In the distance, on the headland behind the sculpture, my eye kept travelling to view the dome at the Verne Prison. Another place that will be soon be processing unwanted arrivals on the shores of the UK, when it becomes a holding centre for asylum seekers, following the closure of the prison. The domestic scale and the use of up-cycled window frames made the experience of viewing the works through the windows, and beyond to the sea, a melancholic experience. A longing for a lost home.

A drive up to the Verne followed, where we were welcomed by Simon Ryder and shown his various works, which make up Passage, within the prison walls. Simon weaves stories with objects and histories and creates previously unconsidered links between seemingly disparate behaviours. Struck by a Pathe film he saw online of prisoners wearing masks to conceal their identity while they talked about keeping birds in the prison, Simons mind saw a relationship between the hoods that birds of prey wear and those donned by the men in the film. Another parallel discovery was that the game of squash was invented in prisons and was once a lowly game made by men locked-up and surrounded by high walls. It is now a game played by people with higher social status and is no longer allowed within the prison. The film Simon made, using infrared cameras, re-enacts men inside the prison playing squash, with resounding echoes of the balls as they thrashed against the walls. Confinement and freedom, leisure and echoes of history are all captured by a series of works installed within the rocks of the island.

Later the same day I witnessed an underground movie collaged from a historical collection of films that have featured rabbits. One must not mention the word rabbit on the Isle of Portland, because of its implications. Artist Alistair Gentry has been wandering around dressed as one – this snippet of a serious discussion observed by the underground dweller shows him infiltrating the Talkaoke. The films, powered by bicyclists behind the seasons due to the lack of electricity, revealed spoke peculiarities about rabbits in films – especially that they attack people, wear bow ties and are rather fond of white glove and time.

Talking was a key feature in two other works. Ellie Harrison shared a beautiful and moving set of personal stories from The Grief Series. Presented in a local home these works allow the viewer/listener to empathise with the storytellers as they responded to a number of questions written on cue cards. They got to choose which questions they would answer and the outcome was very emotional for as visitors sat in a chair opposite a photo of the speakers and listened carefully and privately on headphones.

Inside the cinema performance artist Tom Marshman presented a heartwarming set of stories in Everbody’s Auditiorium. Tom enacted charming conversations with local residents that told stories of their lives, with minimal props and subtle lighting and sound Tom warmed the cockles of anyone visiting this seaside cinema. Not to be missed.

I also heard and experienced the sound installation, Variable 4, by Jones and Bulley on Portland Bill, lovely resonance and mixing of pre-recorded and responsive sounds, melding in the mist with the deep tone of the fog-horn. Enchanting.

There is more, much more, to talk about. But I want you to read this NOW and go and see it SOON. There’s not long and you really do need to go and see for yourself. The support and engagement of the local community s absolutely fantastic – what every socially engaged organisation aims for. B-side Festival is not In Portland – it IS Portland.

Canal & River Trust, waterways, people, passion and museums

I attended the Canal & River Trust AGM on Friday in Birmingham’s beautiful new library. The Trust is only two years old, so very early days for them. Whilst their key business is about public engagement they have had a huge number of maintenance works to do as well. It is remarkable what they have achieved in this short time and there was a very positive feeling in the room. I’m very pleased I went because being surrounded by people with a passion for something makes life worthwhile.

Laurence Newman, Chair of the Museums & Attractions Partnership said: “Think about the outside of the museums, not just the inside”.

This was the first sentence that really took my attention – probably because whilst I work with Museums, I am very drawn by working beyond them too. That social history and landscape use is not only archive material but continues to be out there, in the streets, the architecture, in the fields and waterways.

Museums are not only about conservation, preservation and collection, but also about the future. Professor John Hume, giving his retiring address, commented that “we need to find a better term than heritage, it’s awful”. He also voiced disdain for the term ‘attractions’, declaring them to be rubbish. I couldn’t agree more, I thought John Hume was an inspiration. He was vociferous about the need to generate history, not just look back at the heritage.  “We’ve been living in the past…too romantic”. Everyone spoke passionately about his or her roles within in the Trust. John more than anyone was keen to keep the focus on the social history. The image below is of one of John’s slides, showing the protests about the possible closure of sections of the Grand Union Canal in 1960’s. I think this image is very reflective of the tensions in the room about how to move forward:

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The image of the 1960’s protesters floats above the orderly speakers table. Earlier this year there was another protest about the Grand Union Canal in Milton Keynes – which just shows how much people care about access these waterways. The view out to the city of Birmingham beyond is framed by the distinctive circular motifs of the New Library.

In the room we discussed the function of the canal and waterway network – past, present and future. Indeed Birmingham is built around the canal system – yet there is no Waterway Museum there. The Gloucester Waterways Museum is much loved, but is being crowded out by the Peel Development at Gloucester Quays. Someone mentioned it should relocate – but without the canal network it would be dislocated and stripped of meaning.

Time does not – cannot – stand still. The whole canal system is a museum – but it must also record and document current things, or it will have a huge legacy gap and be frozen in time. I love the way that the waterways are like arteries in the landscape – they carry things and people, connecting places together across time. Art projects could be used to join places up, by commissioning artists to explore each place and share their findings in other places.

Occasionally there were terms used that I questioned. There was talk about the Trust being ‘the experts’ and that visitors and the public are ‘customers’. So archiving knowledge is about sharing ‘their’ knowledge. But surely we should be thinking about collaborating with our membership, learning from them just as much as they learn from us? Living the Wikipedia principle both online and off. We are all the public. Defining people as experts and membership as ‘the public’ or ‘customers’ it sets up a mindset of there being a trading transaction, rather than sharing a genuine passion for the rivers and waterways.

Whilst the concept of the expert is, of course important, I’m not sure whether it is a useful way to bring people on board to support the Trust. Knowledge exchange, sharing learning and engendering generosity will help to feed the economic machine. I suspect that we are becoming immune to the hard-sell approach. Better to engage with enthusiasts and feed their passion as collaborators, rather than take a service provider role.

And that applies to the digitisation of the archives. The archives conserve everyday things that were made by, and belonged to, ordinary people. And living ordinary people can add to the knowledge about those things through storytelling. There was talk about educating and informing people – knowledge belongs to everyone, because everyone has a story to tell.

Artists can help in that process. And I hope that I can too. I thrive on these discussions and spend hours of my life considering new ways of thinking about them. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the flush of delight when someone I mentor is awarded a grant warms the cockles!

I have to share this news, but confidentiality won’t allow me to say who it is – but well done you!

It’s an absolute privilege to mentor the people I do – they are committed and serious about their practice and work really hard to survive, despite all odds these days…..

I know how it feels to be an artist and face endless applications, constant rejections and still try to keep positive, keep going, believe in what you do. Anyone who thinks artists have it easy has evidently not tried it.

I often wonder why I do what I do, but the truth is, it’s because I care. Simple.

WHAT’S THE FUTURE OF ARTS AND CULTURE IN THE UK?

Now the local elections are over, we have to plan for the general next year.

Flow Contemporary Arts, together with many arts and cultural organisations across the UK, are seeking to champion the role of culture in our society. We need your support to make sure our future government understands why the arts are important for everyone.

We are keen to engage the public in an informed and open discussion about the place of arts and culture in all our lives, all the more as we move from local onwards and upwards to a general election.

We believe the arts and culture enhance every aspect of our lives in ways that are often unexpected and unacknowledged; the vibrancy of our cities, the identity of our rural communities, the future prospects of our children, the quality of our democracy, the sustainability of our environment, the employability of our workforce, the ability to make sense of our experiences and place in the world, and to empathise with others. 

Ask your local councilor/MP what they are doing for arts and culture in your local area and make it clear to them that you care about the arts. We want reassurance that it will be on their agenda when they deliver their campaign for general election.

Follow Flow Contemporary Arts on Twitter, on Facebook and other platforms on advocacy for the arts. Please re-Tweet messages by those who are working hard to support the arts, because we truly believe that art matters to everyone.

how things happen: I’ve got an installation to installate

By accident, I have just read a 2009 article: “Demolish a wall? No problem”, by Jonathan Jones in the Guardian. I have no idea why when I opened the Guardian online on my computer today it opened on that page. I’ve certainly not read it before because I would remember it. I think it is the only article I’ve ever read about how a show is installed and the complexity that involves.

For over 15 years I have been installing work, checking out equipment and sourcing strange things from Screwfix, the Internet and elsewhere. It includes finding a whole set of cinema seats on Ebay; a specialist joiner who knows how to get around the restrictions that a listed building presents; visiting industrial manufacturers; negotiating with sheet steel suppliers; seeking a solution to preventing deer from nibbling through hundreds of metres of audio cable in a forest (we failed, it needed checking every day and taping where required); how to stop keen visitors from touching a wire deer by Sophie Ryder on a sculpture trail, which was damaging it (simple, keep moving it, don’t map it and make it fun to find). The list goes on.

I love the Simpson’s quote Jones refers to: “I’ve got an installation to installate”. It reminds me of a song rewritten by artist Louise Short and other ex-students of John Gingell to the tune of Johnny Be Good – to celebrate John’s 60th. It included and “my how he can installate.” (John was the much loved course leader of my, and many others, MA course in Cardiff.) Hum it to yourself and you’ll get it.

The other thing that caught my eye in Jones’s article was near the end:

Art is a world, and I don’t mean in the nebulous, ugly sense of the “art world”. I mean a real social process, in which people come together in complex ways to make things. It is relational, as Bourriaud and his theoretical followers would say. No one is an island, to put it another way: we’re all part of the archipelago.

Yes, yes and yes – a real social process it is. The visitors that see the shows have no idea about what goes on behind the scenes. Just like the theatre, they don’t want or need to know, it’s part of the magic. Talk about the art economy and most people think about rich artists like Hirst, or wealthy dealers and gallerists, auction houses etc.  But there is another economy behind the front stage – there’s all the people that make things happen, the jobs created by this, the industries that are involved, the cogs that turn the system. Publishers, graphic designers, foundries, researchers, industrial makers, hand stitchers, paper makers, picture framers, electricians, plasterers, builders and yet again, the list is endless.

As I imply in my article in Arts Professional – the artworld is a system and it is part of the whole-world system. And that system comprises of people and things. And together they are able to create new things that have never been seen before and experiences unknown and unexpected.

Economy is important to the survival of the system, but is not the only reason for its existence. Emotions matter too. The art sector is a holistic system − organisations, artists and audiences are all part of it. You can’t have a holistic body without organs, there would be no pulse.