My exhibition in Le Mans, France opened this weekend, hosted by the town of Le Mans and facilitated by Atelier de Genevieve. I’m incredibly grateful to Genevieve for organising and curating the exhibition. The layered, peeling paint and crumbling textures on the walls of the Pavilion Monod make a wonderful backdrop to the neutral tones of my work. The exhibition is on until 29th October.
On a recent walk on a beach in Northumberland I found a surprising range of fabrics. Some were tiny snippets, some larger pieces and some were fabric structures in various states of decay. These worn and eroded surfaces have given me all sorts of thoughts and ideas…
I’ve been working quietly away at my exhibition for Saltaire Arts Trail. This time next week the event will be in full swing and the ‘village’ of Saltaire will be buzzing with people of all ages, inspired energy and a plethora of different art experiences for visitors to sample. One of these will be my exhibition Gifts from the Pavement, in one of two pop-up galleries on Victoria Road.
I posted a while ago about finding my ‘gifts’, the result of a kind of ‘beach-combing’ or pavement combing. Farley & Roberts (see post on Edgelands) refer to this kind of collecting of objects: “This is not beachcombing, but edgecombing” (p154). Saltaire, a World Heritage Site, can’t really be classed as an edgeland; it’s far too loved and looked after. However, the discarded or ignored details that I’ve explored here are generally over-looked, so there is an edgelands quality to them.
My collection of ‘combed’ textures, marks and shapes found on the streets of Saltaire has been transformed into a series of long prints or sections of a path, which will form the main part of the exhibition. As with other recent print-based work these are built up from various layers of different print techniques and texture: There are rust prints from found metal objects; collagraph prints, some made with found items and some from paper but inspired by the textures and patterns found on the street (drain covers, worked stone etc.); mono-prints using some of the natural items I found (leaves and seed heads); screen prints featuring scraps of found text; hand stitch adding a further layer of texture to the surface and finally a layer of subtle texture, almost like a rubbing, that makes the surface even more pavement-like. There are areas of intense activity as well as quieter sections. This reflects the ‘activity’ on the streets: some stretches were rich in points of interest, others much ‘cleaner’.
In the run-up to the Arts Trail the Saltaire Tourist Information Centre has some ‘Pavement Pieces’ prints (like little fragments of the main ones) and cards. I still don’t know exactly how the long prints will actually come together in the exhibition space until I get in there later in the week. This is slightly nerve-racking but exciting too. The book I’ve published to go with the exhibition is due for delivery on Monday and until I see it in print I won’t know if it really has worked how I hoped. Although the work is all made there are unknowns and challenges for the week ahead.
Last week I collected my Beach Ghosts prints from Artlink in Hull and took a little time on my way back to say hello to the Humber Estuary. I walked briefly on the foreshore almost under the north end of the Humber Bridge. It isn’t the most glamorous foreshore in the world but there is something about that point where land meets water that is captivating whatever the situation.
I took a brisk walk in the sharp wind, making a few quick scribbly sketches before the biting cold took hold of my fingers.
The bank here has the most intriguing erosion control. It has a fluid smooth form and was obviously created using a textile basis filled with concrete that was then hardened. These bulging shapes still have vestiges of their textile origins but are now solid concrete, complete with zips and woven surface texture. It reminded me of the innovative stuff some textile designers and artists have done integrating concrete in their work, for example here, here and here.
Here is a glimpse of the un-wrapped bundles that I showed earlier in the week. I pinned them up in my studio and have been getting to know them a little. The marks can be so surprising and sometimes so very subtle, while other times really strong. I love the creases and folds that remain from how the bundle has been bound and from what it has been bound round. They are like the ridges and dips left in wet sand twice a day when the tide recedes. These three-dimensional elements have dictated what I do next: some are left exactly as they are, some are stitched to a backing to preserve the creases, some are ironed because the marks are more important than the creases. The decision making is quite organic: I can have a plan of what I’m aiming for but really the piece is dictated by what happens along the way.
This group (with one other piece) are called Sand Marks. They will hang as a group but will be staggered so that they sit together as one, balancing each other. I’m looking forward to seeing them completed.