Fiona Campbell

Cells, Prison, Protest by Fiona

Cells

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I’ve started my Cells residency ‘Offenders’ at Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge and loving it. I’m using the residency to make new site-responsive work around notions of incarceration, suffering, human exploitation and factory farming.  In contrast, it’s been great to have much needed space, time and freedom to explore ideas in solitude with no constrictions and I’m very grateful for this opportunity. The work culminates with an exhibition in May - Launch Thurs 9 May 6-7.30pm. Come along!

One of the pieces I’m making is based on a tongue form. I’ve been layering and stitching patches of donated fabric onto a large steel and wire structure. Sketches are informing the sculpture.

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Tongue in progress.JPG
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As I roam around the cells exploring dark corners, getting familiar with my new surroundings, I’ve felt the need to take imprints of decaying remnants.  I’ve made a large wall rubbing in graphite and have been capturing old black dusty spiderwebs on pasted fine handmade paper.  The tiny woven lines are mesmerising.

Rickety handmade ladders are forming part of the work. Ladders take us to places out of reach, symbols of our desire to escape; our ascension to Heaven. Is there such a thing as freedom? I’m feeling caught up in an endless cycle, an effort to strive, (in a sense escape the present), but disturbed by the mass of destruction and waste we leave around us, there’s an attempt to suture, mend. Thanks to Nick Weaver for his help and use of well equipped wood workshop. Along the lines of ‘Snakes and Ladders’, there will be weblike entrail forms dangling…

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Rickety ladder.JPG

B-Wing 

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Co-curating an arts in prison project ‘B-Wing’ with Luminara Star for September/October, we are currently fundraising and so grateful to those who have kindly pledged their support for B-Wing already: Hauser & Wirth Somerset & Chrisi and Simon Kennedy. Writing an ACE application has taken up a lot of energy and time, so really hope we are successful. Sponsors will be listed on our forthcoming website. Please get in touch if you’d like to know more or wish to offer support.

Shepton Mallet Prison, built in 1610, was the oldest working prison in the UK until its closure in 2013. 8 B-Wing artists will respond to this unique space by researching its architecture, historical narrative and related concepts: incarceration, crime, the ‘other’…

The prison is an ideal site to create art in unexpected places.  Sculptural installations, performance and collaborative mixed media works will transform the spaces, provoking debate and engaging the wider community in participatory activities and events.

The B-Wing team of 8 artists and writers had an inspiring day visiting the prison for an artist research trip.  We were given an official prison tour and an additional pot history from Ian Keys. While the prison is steeped in an oppressive history, the B-Wing space is extraordinary - vast, with incredible light and acoustics.

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B-Wing team 28.3.19. Photo by Geoff Dunlop.jpg
B-Wing with artist Lucy Large. Photo by Geoff Dunlop.jpg

Extinction Rebellion, London

Last week I took part in Extinction Rebellion, as I feel so strongly about the destruction of our natural world, death of species and arrival of the sixth mass extinction. There is no greater cause.  It was my first big protest.

I joined an XR Frome group and a few of us teamed up as artivists.  We made huge banners and I ran a headdress making session with the lovely artivists (using discarded & recycled materials).  On Day 1 of XR we went to London, and wore the headdresses at Waterloo Bridge.  It was great to see them in action.  My flamingo headdress strutted its stuff all day, worn by a couple of people and photographed many times.  Let’s hope the amazingly powerful and resilient rebellion, a massive effort and achievement by so many, turns governments’ heads to engage in positive negotiations and outcomes for the good of all. 

Other Exhibitions

I’ve visited London a couple of times to see exhibitions.  I really enjoyed navigating through Phyllida Barlow’s Cul de Sac exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts.  Her work completely inhabits the space and invites active engagement. Dynamic views through doorways, obstructions, sculptural objects sticking out from the wall, verticals & horizontals playfully interact, up through under over round beyond into out. Soft drapes contrast against hard straight structures. Grey with splashes of colour.

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Her blocks on stilts resonate with my ideas involving precarious ladders, related to slums and our world on tipping point.  Also visited Bill Viola/Michelangelo: life, death, rebirth.  I found Viola’s videos profound and totally absorbing, even cried a little watching Nantes Triptych. And such beautiful drawings of the human spirit & endeavour by Michelangelo.

More recently, I was inspired by Franz West at Tate Modern for his playful irreverence, participatory sculptures, scale & use of everyday found materials. 

‘Material: Textile’ is also definitely worth a visit at Messums, Wiltshire. The tithe barn is filled with a fabulous installation The Onion Farm, made from carwash brushes, balls, stretchy fabric and lights, by fashion designer/artist Henrik Vibskov.  

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Workshops 

Recent workshops have included one for primary school teachers: Creativity Counts, The Brewhouse, Taunton via Somerset Art Works InspirED programme fusing art and maths. Participants made colourful decorative diatoms linked to Ernst Haeckel using recycled and found materials.

I also ran a twilight sculpture session for teachers, a sculpture workshop for Bruton Art Society and a 3d wire workshop at Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge.  The courtroom was packed with participants aged 6+!  I’ve never run a workshop in a courtroom before.

Coming soon:

I'll be running a Jack in the Green cloak-making workshop (free) at Evercreech Village Hall, Sat 4 May, organised by The Old Stores Studio. In the workshop we'll be creating a rag cloak for Evercreech Jack in the Green.  Come along to the Village Hall between 9.30 - 11.30am to get creative. At 11.30 the head and cloak will join the body at The Old Stores Studio for a big procession at midday.

All ages are welcome to join in, so please share this with anyone you think may be interested in having a bit of Spring fun!

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Juggling by Fiona

It’s a common phenomenon for artists to be adept jugglers, managing multiple balls in the air to survive. A book I’m reading ‘The Artist as Cultural Producer’ by Sharon Louden highlights 40 artists who do it very well. It’s been a dizzy time juggling different strands of my practice and feeling excited by opportunities that have come my way.

Carymoor - newt sculpture

I installed my Great Crested Newt sculpture in his new home at Carymoor Environmental Trust. Made from recycled and found materials, he sits on a grassy tussock by an old bomb incineration tank (now pond - home to great crested newts). Here he can oversee his live newt friends who hide underneath the sheet of corrugated steel.

The sculpture was commissioned as a memorial to the founder of the environmental centre Hamish Craig. He loved great crested newts and it was finding these on the old landfill site that sparked the beginnings of Carymoor - now a wonderful wildlife and education centre built over a site full of waste.

Great Crested Newt 168x90x46cms, recycled materials, Carymoor Environmental Trust.jpg

MA graduation ceremony

Earlier this month I officially graduated with an MA in Fine Art at a grand ceremony in the awesome Assembly Rooms, Bath, celebrating with fellow graduates. It was a treat to meet our chancellor Jeremy Irons and I was honoured to be invited to give the valediction speech on behalf of our cohort. I managed to do this without tripping up. It was a lovely sunny day for photos - happy memories!

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Gilbert Bayes Award sessions

Since winning a Gilbert Bayes award from the Royal Society of Sculptors, I’ve been going to London for monthly development sessions. The last with Shelley James focused on writing about our work. The year ends with a group exhibition in London, which tours to Grizedale Arts afterwards - exciting! I try to maximise on my London day trips by visiting exhibitions or museums. I saw Anni Albers at Tate Modern and more recently strolled through the V&A materials and techniques sections, which is mid-blowing.

Outdoor Arts

I have spent 2 weekends on an Outdoor Arts Development Course in Weymouth (delivered by Activate, b-side & Bournemouth Arts by the Sea Festival). It’s been fun and informative discussing potential art projects, learning tricks of the trade and thinking up new ideas. I’m now working on a pitch for a potential project which will involve collaboration, to present soon for the forthcoming event Dorset Moon this summer (Luke Jerram's international touring project Museum of the Moon). I’ve made a mini rickety ladder as a maquette. If I don’t get selected I will at least have a cute little ladder for posterity. I quite like making small objects despite normally making huge pieces. A bit finickety but addictive!

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Incendiary

The wonderful multi-site exhibition ‘Incendiary’, featuring my work, came and went in full fiery mode. 25 artists responded to the firing up of industrial incinerators - a thought provoking exhibition curated by Patricia Brian. Lou Baker and I held an event ‘Join in the Conversation’ as part of it - we were delighted that we had a room packed with engaged people at Stroud Valleys Artspace, discussing our work in context with waste.

Glut at Incendiary. Photo by Mike Garlick

Glut at Incendiary. Photo by Mike Garlick

Cells residency

For my cells residency ‘Offenders’ at Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge (April/May) I’ve made initial sketches, a collage and have started sourcing scrap steel for the skeletal form of a proposed huge Tongue sculpture. Working in the garden on sunny February days has been great. Confrontation with uncomfortable topics related to environmental exploitation will be a characteristic of this residency and exhibition. 

My work often involves sourcing, sorting and stripping wire. I’ve happily received donations of unwanted materials: pink clothes, towels, wire and fruit nets. Still looking for recycled wax, lead and copper wire. Please get in touch if you have any spare.

Forthcoming exhibitions

Other events coming up include a big group show ‘Re-formation’ at the Bishops Palace, Wells, Somerset for Summer 2019, organised by Heritage Courtyard Gallery. I have been developing ideas for this.

Fundraising for Prison Project - B-Wing

I’m currently writing an ACE application for a forthcoming project ‘B-Wing’, an arts event being held in the unique spaces of Shepton Mallet prison. Delivered alongside co-curator Luminara Star and several selected artists, we are making progress. B-Wing will involve 5 artists and 1 writer making site-responsive works leading to an exhibition and performances in the B-Wing section of Shepton Mallet Prison during Somerset Art Weeks Festival ’19. The project promises to be quite special and will be a nice follow on from my Cells residency work. We are looking for funds to engage the local Shepton community, schools and various other groups in the area and from afar. More news to follow.

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Copper bowls

I have made a series of little copper bowls for Fosse Beads and Friends, Black Swan Arts, Frome. Each one is annealed and hand beaten.

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Workshops

I had fun with tinies (Yrs 1 & 2) at Trinity First School, Frome the other day. Around 120 children made sea creatures in a day using recycled plastic and other found/discarded materials.

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I am running a few workshops over the next few months with places available. The next is a 3d wire workshop, Tues 9 April, 10am-1pm, ages 6+; £15 per adult+child; additional children £8 each; includes materials & drink. Town Hall Arts, Market Street, Trowbridge BA14 8EQ. Book: www.townhallarts.co.uk

If you’re interested in more, please visit this link.

Ready Steady Go by Fiona

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Welcome to my new website - it’s had a major makeover, thanks to Dave Meehan!

After an amazing Christmas holiday in Kenya visiting family and canoodling with baby orphaned elephants, I feel refreshed. This January has, naturally, been a month of beginnings. Having pulled together my reserves I’ve begun to take on the wealth of opportunities that have come my way.  I managed to sell a few pieces of work and almost finished a sculpture commission for Carymoor Environmental Trust. It represents a great crested newt using recycled components - deadline end of the month.

In between, I’ve attended the first inspiring weekend session of an Outdoor Arts Development Course, delivered by Arts by the Sea, Activate Performing Arts, B-side and Outdoor Arts UK. It was great to meet other art practitioners working in different disciplines. Most exciting is the fact that I was selected for a Gilbert Bayes Award by the Royal Society of Sculptors, and have been to the first session in London to meet the other selected artists and learn about photographing sculpture from Anne Purkiss. I am so impressed by the strength of work in the group and look forward to exhibiting with them at the end of the year.

In February I am taking part in a multi-site, multi-disciplinary group exhibition ‘Incendiary’, curated by Patricia Brien.   It spans one week, and is packed with all sorts of exciting happenings.   My work ‘Glut’, concerning waste, will feature in the show at Stroud Valley Artspace (SVA), Stroud, 6th - 10th Feb.  Lou Baker and I will be inviting the public to ‘Join in the Conversation’ at SVA - a performative discussion about our work on Saturday 9 February, 11-12.  Come and join in! 


In my new role as part of the education team at the Holburne Museum, I ran a workshop with a mixed age group of schoolchildren. They created Double Portrait drawings linked to Hockney’s Mr & Mrs Clark and Percy, on show at the time. I’m scheduled to run some masterclasses at the Holburne later this year.

Next big project to focus on is a Cells Residency and forthcoming Solo at Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge (April/May). I have some ideas to explore more fully in the studio, inspired by Berlinde de Bruyckere’s recent exhibitions at Hauser & Wirth Somerset and Palermo. I’m collecting various recycled materials; if you have any copper wire, wax or red wool, they would be much appreciated! This work will hopefully lead on to a collaborative art project I’m organising with Luminara Star in Shepton Prison later this year. We are about to start funding applications…

Things come in waves and I think I’m on a big one… Ready Steady… Go!

Tentacular by Fiona

At the start of this month, I went to a Somerset Art Weeks Symposium in Taunton ‘Prospecting: new directions and territories for artists’ practice’.  It was an invigorating day, albeit condensed, making connections and thinking laterally.  I particularly enjoyed catching up with SAW artists and meeting new practitioners. One of our tasks to bring to the event was a ‘This is Me’ profile for a group wall display.  Mine (below) reflects on the tentacular nature of my practice:

The talks highlighted inspiring examples of socially engaged practice and collaboration.  In workshops with Kerry Harker and Lydia Catterall we discussed the imperative for resilience, forging artist-led initiatives, and finding interesting spaces to show our work.  With this in mind, I’ve been planning a few interesting ventures for next year.  Two happen to involve prison cells.

I’m excited to be mulling over ideas for a residency culminating in a solo exhibition in the basement cells at Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge, in the Spring.  Alongside the show, I'll be delivering some related workshops with the young and elderly.  I am also in early stages of organising a joint art project and exhibition with Luminara Star and the Rubbish Art Project in Shepton Prison (the oldest UK working prison - now vacant until it gets developed into residential homes).  The cells are still in tact.  Both sites are unique, intriguing spaces for site-specific work, full of dark, sad histories, appropriate for creative responses to current society and environmental issues.  On a sunny day, light through the windows, steel bars and grids casts dramatic linear shadows. The prison, now silent, has great acoustics - one can only imagine the sounds of its past. We hope to include other artists, possibly sound, film, performance and installation and will engage the community in the making process.

A recent tweet about a bull elephant being shot because it broke out of its fenced enclosure in South Africa made me fume.  Almost as bad as poaching and trophy hunting.  It turns out they did not maintain the fences adequately, and all he was doing was naturally pushing boundaries, exploring, roaming beyond barriers – human imposed after all.  Why shoot him? Because he wasn’t towing the line we impose for our own humancentric logic.

Inky the Octopus, a hero in 2016, broke out of his aquarium tank in New Zealand National Aquarium, slid/crawled across the floor and down a drainpipe to the ocean.  Amazing intelligence and agility, but as this article points out, for many reasons beyond our own intelligence. Octopuses are so very different to us – ‘aliens’ apparently.  What’s fascinating is that ‘octopus literature is full of such flights to freedom’. The escape and how he did it remains a mystery. I was in awe watching an octopus in David Attenborough’s Blue Planet (Green Seas episode) trick a shark and escape by very cunningly and swiftly covering itself with a coat of shells. Picasso and his contemporaries were intrigued by ‘The Octopus’, 1928, a film by Jean Painleve, which led to Picasso's octopus-like women.  Octopuses also remind me of the interconnectedness of life:

The tentacular are... fingery beings like humans... squid, jellyfish, neural extravaganzas, fibrous entities, flagellated beings... swelling roots... The tentacular are also nets and networks... Tentacularity is about life lived along lines... a series of interlaced trails’ (Donna Haraway, 2016)

So, this creature – a symbol of our great and mysterious oceans- inspired my design for a giant octopus lantern to lead 2018 Shepton Lantern Parade (see top).  I am making the chicken-wire structure, then working on it with the community and the Rubbish art project in workshops at the Art Bank,Shepton Mallet, using recycled materials, especially plastic.  Workshop dates: Sat 24 Nov 11am-1pm, Mon 26 11-1, Mon 3 Dec 7-9pm, Thur 6 Dec 4-6pm + more... To take part in a workshop email lucy@therubbishartproject.co.uk   The Octopus will be lit by led lights and paraded on 22 December with the Shepton Lantern Parade. Please come along!

Creature and environmental concerns continue to engage me, as does the blurring of boundaries.  My thoughts are currently meandering around concepts of confinement, caged animals/humans, factory farming, obstruction, barriers, walls within walls.. and I'm sure there will be an element of the tentacular.

Other news:

I received the official results of my Masters in Fine Art this week and delighted to have passed with distinction!

In between tidying up my studio so it's fit for purpose, I've started working on a 1 metre Great Crested Newt as a commission for Carymoor Environmental Centre in memory of Hamish Craig, whose amazing contribution to Carymoor was instigated by great crested newts found there.

Last week I ran my first workshop as part of the Holburne Museum education team.  It was an A'Level life-drawing session linked to 'Rodin: rethinking the fragment'. It encouraged me to do some of my own life-drawing beforehand and prep on Rodin's link with the Pantheon sculptures, which all helped.

The class did some fabulous drawings:

Forthcoming exhibitions include: Residency and Solo Exhibiiton (title TBC), The Cells, Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge, April - May; Incendiary, Landsdown Gallery and SVA, Stroud, 4-10 February 2019; Marks Hall Sculpture, Essex, 20 July - 1 September 2019; Reformation, Bishops Palace, Wells, July - October 2019.  More info to follow.

 

If you'd like to receive updates please follow me here or on instagram, where I add regular updates: https://www.instagram.com/fionacampbellartist/   

My website is undergoing a complete rehaul and a much needed paring down.  Watch this space!

 

Time To Move On by Fiona

My intense 2-year MFA course at Bath Spa Uni has now come to a successful end.  I threw myself into it mind and body, so the past few weeks have been a strange time of re-adjustment and reorganising, sadness, but also hope for exciting work ahead.  Time to move on.  Below are some images of the 3 works I presented for the final module and MA Show - thanks to John Taylor for some of these photographs. Through the MA, my practice has undergone a series of shifts; it has developed more integrity, an expansiveness, but also a paring down in approach.  I was happy with the results and delighted with my grade.

Some info about the pieces:

Inspired by reading ‘Planet of Slums’ (Mike Davis) - rich/poor divide, precarious lives, cruelty to humans/animals; watching ‘Our Daily Bread’ (Nikolaus Geyrhalter) – factory farming; ‘A Plastic Ocean’, and grief over the death of my dog, my response is a form of suturing.

Concerned with waste, ‘Glut’ is a set of wrapped, woven and stitched tentacular entrails, viscous hybrids transformed, suturing trash into treasure, both seductive and disgusting. The materials (especially personal items) speak of past lives, loss, textiles, craft. In contrast, the organic forms symbolise death, violence, but also vulnerability and renewal - the duality of horror and tenderness. ‘Accretion’ is an accumulation of many parts. Its evolution, the labour-intensive process of its making is an important element in the work. It is an abject object.  It has connotations of the intestine, a metaphor for waste, excess and recycling, and other tentacular forms.  Like pulling hair out of a plug, it is repulsive, ambiguous.

We are all of the earth; the earth is flesh and bone. ‘Of Bones’ demonstrates a relational play of human-made and organic materials. The juxtaposition of fragile, translucent parched ‘bones’ against metal and wood sets up dynamic tensions. Cast branches as limb-like forms are playful abstractions. It references Picasso’s Crucifixion series inspired by Matthias Grunewald. Christ’s tortured hand is interpreted from the cast of a found piece of gnarled wood. The work also references Goya’s ‘Disasters of War’ series and Mark Dion’s trees. Regarding humanity, Christ’s words from the cross: ‘they know not what they do’ resonate.

Since re-entering the outside world I have been catching up on loose ends, establishing new connections, working on a commission, running workshops and other bits and bobs.  In a one-day workshop at Beckington First School (via SAW) working with tinies aged 4-9 years old, we made a whale, fish & other sea creatures. Every child in the school took part in making the sculptural artworks using recycled materials, especially plastic as an environmental project highlighting waste.  It was linked to the story of Jonah and the Whale to tie in with the school’s current theme Retell, Reused, Recycled.  After I fixed all the components together, the sculptures were installed in the school grounds for permanent display.

One morning I taught acrylic painting to a group of 17 U3A adults.  They all produced lovely still life paintings - a few illustrated below.

I was commissioned to make a set of copper bird feeders for Horatio’s Garden, Stoke Mandeville. Some commissions are more interesting than others. This one has increased my understanding of copper and the process of annealing.  I love watching the colours change through application of heat. Copper expands when hammered into a sunken mould. For moulds I used found steel objects and carved a couple in wood, thanks to Nick Weaver. Quite a long process but a fascinating transformation.

I am using these copper processes for a range of shop Christmas decorations (Fosse Beads and Friends, Frome).   Next commission is to make a 1 metre Great Crested Newt for Carymoor Environmental Centre using recycled materials.  It has a lovely backstory, which I will relate in another blog soon.

Yesterday I sold a large sculpture made a few years ago to a lovely couple, who I know will give him a great home. ‘Man Models Himself On Earth, Earth On Heaven’ (my longest title to date) will be added to as a site-specific residency, returning to my original plans for him to be more densely woven.

I occasionally invigilate at Hauser & Wirth Somerset.  I am elated that Berlinde de Bruyckere is now showing there with her Stages & Tales exhibition.   During my MA I researched her work, which became a key influence to my practice.  Her new body of work is more abstract: in her powerful series Courtyard Tales, she uses layers of decomposed, torn blankets as a metaphor for bodies, intimacy, decay, shelter, vulnerability, lust and war.  There is a duality of love and suffering.  I burnt my thumb badly with a glue gun the other day, and the scarred fleshy wound reminds me of details in her work.  It was fantastic to have the opportunity to speak to Berlinde at the opening.

There are crossovers between Berlinde de Bruyckere’s work and Takesada Matsutani’s adjoining exhibition ‘A Drop in Time’. It has been mesmerising to watch the stages of transformation since Matsutani performed the piercing of the bag of ink suspended over a wooden ball.  Over time, single droplets fell repeatedly onto the ball causing remarkable splatters of ink, making an eclipse, flowing to the edges in its own way.  The piece has developed over time. I find his work very beautiful.  I love the simple gesture, the aspect of time and timelessness, the gestural hand-made labour-intensive process with graphite pencil marks on paper, canvas and wood.  Like de Bruyckere, the work refers to the ‘endless cycle of life and death’.

I am pleased to now be a small part of the education team at the Holburne Museum, Bath. Next month I will be running a Life Drawing session for A’ Level students linked to the ‘Rodin: re-thinking the fragment’ exhibition.  It may well re-ignite my own life drawing passion from years ago.

I am allowing myself some head space before properly starting new artwork.  Meanwhile this website is being changed (watch this space).

Next exhibition coming soon ‘Line and point’, will be at Centrespace Gallery, Bristol (25 Oct-1 Nov). If you didn’t get to the MA Show, this exhibition features work by a group of MA alumni and final year postgraduate fine artists, including me.  Contemporary practices across installation, drawing, painting, sculpture, mixed media, objects and digital work is tiered with connections relating to the theme ‘line and point’.  My piece ‘Glut’ will be on show: Line and Point, Centrespace Gallery, 6 Leonard Lane, Bristol BS1 1EA.  It runs from Saturday 27th October - Wednesday 31st October, open daily 11am - 6pm.  Preview, Friday 26th October, 6pm - 9pm – all welcome!  http://www.centrespacegallery.com

Hope you can come along!