In Residence

My first couple of days working ‘in residence’ in the library provided a really focussed period of work on the project. I brought the starting points I had developed, along with sketches, photographs and notes to show any interested participants or members of the public. The ‘big book’ was brought down from the collection to sit on my worktable and provide an important proximity to my working process.

I continued to work on the book units, having now identified the exact dimensions to make. I wasn’t working any differently to how I would in my own studio, but being in the library itself provided a focus and impetus to my making and thinking. The library had been asked to collect together any papers or books that would have been otherwise discarded so that I could potentially incorporate them into my work. The range of these was slightly disappointing, but was enough to start exploring possibilities. The lovely library staff found me a tin of old library stamps and some inkpads, which I played with on the surface of some of my book units.

About a month later I had a second residency session, again working in the library in an intensive way and exploring further the use of withdrawn publications in my book units. This time in the library also allowed for participants in the project to visit and talk about what I was doing, as well as the development of their own work for the project. That sharing of process, thinking and development between the artists involved is a key part of this whole venture. Those discussions are so important for artists to have with their peers or mentors, partly as a means of over-coming problems (that you sometimes didn’t even realise were there), but also in a spirit of support and understanding. Even just describing what you are doing or trying to achieve to someone else can solidify things in your own mind and provide a way forward or even just a confirmation that the approach you are taking is right.

 

Project practicalities

I do feel it is important to consider the practicality of how and what one intends to make for a specific project. Whilst this shouldn’t limit the artistic vision, it has to be taken into account:

How am I going to deal with making something ‘in residence’ in the library (which is a couple of hours train ride from home) and then continue with that making in my own studio?

How will the piece be transported, exhibited, stored afterwards?

These may seem like boring practicalities but they are essential considerations. I have made large scale work in the past but have since worked on smaller and smaller scales. Making a number of units on an intimate scale that can then come together to make a whole that is more then the sum of their parts has benefits:

The work can be portable, so easily transferred from the studio to home (so I can carry on making whilst the supper cooks, for instance).

Progress is easily measured: if you complete one or two units in a day there is a sense of satisfaction and growth associated with that.

Storage is more straight-forward: I have all sorts of work from previous projects that was framed and then takes up the limited storage space I have in my home and studio (and my parents’ garage…).

Displaying the work can be more flexible with a number of possibilities for how pieces are arranged: whether they are wall mounted or displayed on plinths; whether they are shown in lines, grids or randomly. There is something I find really attractive and playful about this ‘open form’ sort of exhibition potential. Maybe the work could be moved about by the curator, or the viewer even.

Within the context of an exhibition in a functioning library there are a further set of considerations to be made. This is where the involvement of a curator in the project, along with understanding, supportive and imaginative library staff become necessary.

West Dean

Alice Fox 49 Beer Bottle Tops1

I will be teaching a workshop in March at West Dean College in West Sussex. As a new tutor to this renowned centre for the creative arts I have been invited to show some of my work in the College foyer in the run up to my course there. I have sent a variety of work to show in this exhibition, including: Spurn Cloth #1, the large art quilt piece I made during my 2012 residency at Spurn; 49 Beer Bottle Tops (shown above) and 76 Hair Grips (both incorporating found metal with hand stitch and natural staining); a selection of paper-based pieces incorporating rust prints, collagraph and stitch. The exhibition runs form 10th January to 10th March.

back to Spurn

Alice_Fox_Spurn_April2016 I’ve been back to Spurn for the first time since my residency ended 3 1/2 years ago. It felt so good walking the whole peninsula again, some parts very familiar and some bits significantly changed by the elements since my last visit. Some great wildlife encounters made the day really special too: a dolphin (sadly dead, but fascinating to see), a short-eared owl, a lizard, curlew, deer, butterflies…

The lighthouse is now spick and span in its newly re-furbished state, with a new coat of paint inside and out. It is now open to the public regularly and there is some sensitive interpretation inside to help the visitor understand the history of this wonderful heritage building and the unique location it overlooks.

Alice_Fox_Spurn_viewLuckily it was a beautiful day, although with a cold wind, so the views were long-ranging and at their very best. As ever there was all sorts of weird and wonderful (and not so wonderful) stuff washed up on the beach, including various balls of fishing line caught up into bundles with other debris attached, like un-natural tumble-weeds.

Alice_Fox_Spurn_bundleI took along some of the work I made during my residency and have donated a piece to The Wildlife Trust, who manage Spurn. This will go up either in the lighthouse or in one of the other visitor spaces. The other pieces I took with me are now on display in the Bluebell Cafe in Kilnsea. It’s lovely to have some of my work back there, where it came from and where it belongs.

Alice_Fox_Spurn_wood_sand_rope

Alice_Fox_Spurn_hole_view

erosion

Alice Fox Spurn Cloth #2 take down with assistant

I took down my installation at The Bowery last weekend (with the help of my small assistant).  It was potentially a rather sad day as the paper pieces that I’d collaged directly onto the wall were going to have to be scraped off.  I didn’t know whether they would come off in salvageable pieces or if the whole thing would break up.  I had resolved myself to this site specific piece (the paper extension to my linen Spurn Cloth #2) being an ephemeral work and likened it to the erosion and change that is happening constantly at Spurn, where the pieces were based on.

Someone suggested I should have filmed the process of putting the installation up, building up the collage on the wall – great idea, but I’d already put it up when they suggested it!  So I decided to record the taking down instead.  Here is the result, although the quality isn’t great it gives an idea of how the pieces surrounded you in the gallery (the first half is shots taken from the middle of the room looking round the walls and then it goes back the other way tracking the removal of the work and leaving an empty gallery again.

 

opening

Opening

Despite severe weather warnings (the likes of which I’m sure must amuse those readers in countries that regularly have properly severe weather!) my exhibition opened last weekend at The Ropewalk in Barton.  It is a very different prospect hanging this work in a gallery space after the spectacular but challenging building that it was originally conceived for.

Cloth #1

For the first time you can see the whole of Spurn Cloth #1 (all 4.7 metres of it) hung on a wall rather than in the curved format it had in the lamp room of Spurn Lighthouse. Conversely, Spurn Cloth #2, which hung (all 10 metres of it) in a very tall space half way up the lighthouse, hangs now as a two sided piece.

Spurn Cloth #2

The gallery put together a lovely little six-sided fold out brochure for the exhibition with a few images of my work and a bit of blurb.  I have some spare copies of this so if anyone would like one sending I’d be happy to post one to you.  Send me an email with your address or leave a comment.

Ropewalk brochure

 

 

ropewalk

invite

Textures of Spurn opens tomorrow at The Ropewalk gallery in Barton upon Humber.  I’m braving the snow we have forecast and hoping to be there tomorrow, even if no one else comes!  I delivered the work on Tuesday and had time with Richard, Exhibitions Officer, deciding how to hang the work.  It is such a different space from the lighthouse!  I found the space quite daunting at first and was concerned that the work wasn’t going to have the impact it had in the previous setting.  By the time I left (in the snow – North Lincolnshire was looking gorgeous) I was really pleased with how it was coming together and I’m excited about seeing it all complete tomorrow.

If you don’t have far to travel and the snow allows then do come along – it’ll be warm in the gallery!  The exhibition is on until 24th February.

Ropewalk setting up

light and line

I’ve admired the work of Polly Binns from a distance for quite some time.  I’ve read about her work and practice. In particular, when I was preparing for my Spurn residency, I read her 1997 PhD thesis: Vision and Process in Textile Art. A Personal Response to a Particular Landscape Expressed through Textile Art.  This was a very important text for me as Polly’s work is completely tied up with her experience of a coastal landscape where she used to live in north Norfolk.  The way Polly describes her interaction with the landscape (repeated walks, concentrating on specific elements within the landscape, observing certain qualities) rings true with my own experience.

I feel a bit silly sometimes concentrating on the coast when I live about as far from the sea as you can in the British Isles… but it is with me all the time.  I actually found during my residency that the periods of ‘immersion’ were so intense that removal from it was important too; a time to step back and reflect on what I’d seen and experienced.  We develop different ways of working depending on circumstance.  If I lived by the sea, and maybe I will again one day, I would work differently I’m sure.  I also feel a bit insecure about the subtlety I seek in my work, that it can come across as being simple, not enough to it.  I am often concentrating on a very detailed surface quality.

Last weekend I went to Barnsley to see the current exhibition Light and Line, work by Polly Binns and Anne Morrell.  I have never before been moved to tears in an exhibition but on Saturday I was.  I think it was actually such a relief to see this work of Polly’s, so different in real life from on the page of a book or a computer screen.  I felt so reassured that what I am pursuing in my practice is the right thing to do.  These cloths of Polly’s aren’t stretched; they don’t even have a batten – they are simply, almost brutally, pinned to the wall.  They appear very simple but there is layer upon layer of stitch and paint, built up slowly and purposefully.  The lines, textures, tones and three-dimensional elements are subtle, minimal in places and light plays an important part.

After the subtlety of Polly’s cloths I couldn’t quite deal with the intense colours in Anne Morrell’s work but her pieces that were without colour I liked very much.

I came away feeling inspired, reassured and humbled.  I dug out my notes on Polly’s thesis and was reminded of the passages that I found particularly relevant:

My artistic production during this period did not result in work which was a faithful record of a particular landscape on a particular day, but something created out of images stored in my memory – a response to the experience of landscape.

 Binns (1997), p43

Many speak of the process of making as central to the development of their work.  It becomes image as well as process, a starting point for ideas as well as chief pleasure.  This intimate relationship between eye, hand and material is what draws makers to the textile medium.

Duffey (1997) The Language of touch, 62 group catalogue, in Binns (1997), p12.

in stock

I’ve done some updating of the items on my online shop.  You can now find a series of collagraph prints on there, including some of my Spurn Marks prints.  These feature rust prints with collagraphs over-printed.  There are also a few concertina books, various cards and some framed pieces as well.  Because each item is unique things change on there quite frequently, so it’s worth keeping an eye on what is currently available.  The link to the shop is always on the right hand side of the blog and I’m happy to post to anywhere in the world.