Collaboration

'Flock in Flight' All Hallows Prep School group work

Each project brings with it new challenges. Sometimes several projects run alongside each other and the art of juggling can be a challenge in itself. Some of my roles overlap or interlink. This can be a good way to function, ‘killing 2 birds with 1 stone’ (though I hate killing), easing the problem of having too many things on the go, but isn’t so straightforward if you don’t want to compromise the work, and it can create a bottleneck time-wise, amongst other complications. I’ve enjoyed working alongside other artists/makers of all ages. I like collaboration – at its best, combined effort multiplies output and result, it’s more fun and creatively, one can learn so much from working with others.

The past month has been full-on. With a bit of time to reflect now, here’s a look at what went on in my little creative world (in the bigger world – all I can say in a nutshell is PLEASE CAN WE UNITE AND STOP KILLING).

Teaching, Workshops, Talks, Demonstrations

On 12 June I spent a day at the Hidden Garden Art Show (Maureen Michaelson Gallery, Hampstead), part of Chelsea Fringe Festival where my sculptures were on show with other selected artists, demonstrating my work process, running a drop-in workshop and giving a talk about my work to visitors.  Although it poured with rain all morning, the sun brought a magical shimmer and quite a crowd in the afternoon, including Tim Richardson – founder of Chelsea Fringe.

Drop-in workshop at Hidden Garden Art ShowWorkshop participant's beetleMe talking to Tim Richardson (leads Chelsea Fringe)

I teach 2 evenings a week at All Hallows Prep School and as I’ve been involved in the Secret Swans Art Trail (one of Black Swan Arts’ 30th anniversary events and part of Frome Festival), I devised a project to involve the children in the Trail.   We created a flock of flying swans in wire, which were installed on the exterior wall of Black Swan’s historic Round Tower.  Inspired by my recent trip to Sophie Ryder’s exhibition at Salisbury Cathedral, we used her ‘scribbly’ technique to add more black areas.  It was an effective solution given time constraints.  The final lessons getting the work completed was a mission as some children were absent due to end-of-term activities.  Thankfully others stood in (special mention: Ellie West and Nick Somerville!). The swans looked like faint drawings, quite lovely and ethereal, though visitors had to look hard to see them.

Student's work in progress - making the All Halllows swansStudent's work in progress - making the All Halllows swansMy contribution to 'Flock in Flight'Installation on Round Tower, Black Swan Arts Centre

Preparations for Priddy Festival included some ‘birdy notes’ as we called them.  A team of Mendip Creatives made them from wire and paper, for marquee decor.  A large willow hog was also made, led by Angela Morley.

I worked with a couple of schools recently (Bishops Wordsworth & North Town) making wire figures and mini creatures.  Bishops Wordsworth was a 2 day slog over to Salisbury in a hire car (my truck was broken) giving 4 x powerpoints/making sessions to 128 children in fairly swift succession. The short sessions of 2 hours per group had limitations, but it’s amazing what children can do when focused!

North Town Primary students making Giacometti-inspired figureNorth Town Primary student making Giacometti-inspired figureGiacometti-inspired figureGiacometti-inspired figureGiacometti-inspired figureWire Fish by Yr 7 pupil - Bishops Wordsworth School Wire Dragonfly by Yr 7 pupil - Bishops Wordsworth School Wire Seahorse by Yr 7 pupil - Bishops Wordsworth School Wire Crane by Yr 7 pupil - Bishops Wordsworth School Wire Woodlouse by Yr 13 helper - Bishops Wordsworth School

Volunteering Roles

Secret Swans badge (illustration by Belinda Brownlee)

I continue to be very involved in the Black Swan Arts centre as a trustee, especially this year, with its 30th anniversary.  We have held several special exhibitions/events to mark the occasion, which have so far been a ‘resounding success’ (Christina Oswin), with great feedback, overwhelming support from the public, serious funds raised, heightened the BSA profile and engaged the community.
1000 Postcards attracted over 1000 postcard-sized artworks (including 2 of mine) for a massively popular exhibition with over £10,000 of sales so far and visitors galore.  Unsold postcards can still be bought online.  Preparations for the Secret Swans Art Trail, which followed straight after, grew more intensive.  30 artists in 30 venues around Frome.  I made a piece, ‘Resurrection’, (using reclaimed steel, copper wire, tar, rope and scrim) and sited it by the river.  It only recieved slight damage, easily rectified and many positive comments, so am grateful to most Frome residents for their respect!  In addition I worked on the All Hallows piece, helped Nick Weaver with the organisation and was largely involved in the PR for these events.  They are great examples of a huge team effort by Black Swan volunteers.

Sketches for my Secret Swans work'Resurrection' - ‘Black Swan’ is a metaphor for the impossible becoming possible. This piece is about hope, endeavour, yearning, striving for truth, purity (‘we will never know everything’), freedom from constraints, environmental pollution. Swans represent love, which ‘conquers all’, symbolised by the crucifix. 'Resurrection' - ‘Black Swan’ is a metaphor for the impossible becoming possible. This piece is about hope, endeavour, yearning, striving for truth, purity (‘we will never know everything’), freedom from constraints, environmental pollution. Swans represent love, which ‘conquers all’, symbolised by the crucifix. 'Resurrection' - ‘Black Swan’ is a metaphor for the impossible becoming possible. This piece is about hope, endeavour, yearning, striving for truth, purity (‘we will never know everything’), freedom from constraints, environmental pollution. Swans represent love, which ‘conquers all’, symbolised by the crucifix. 'Resurrection' detail 'Resurrection' detail Secret Swans piece (detail) by Edgar PhillipsSecret Swans piece by Tessa Farmer (detail) Secret Swans piece by Alicia Merret Secret Swans piece by Angela Morley - detail Secret Swans piece by Annie Fry

I’ve been involved in various Somerset Art Works meetings, a couple for an exciting new project that might come off next year with Anna Best, and for Somerset Open Studios ’16 (17 Sept – 2 Oct).  As Rep for East Mendip, I’m keen to make sure we do Somerset proud.  I’m part of a cluster group in my area called The Mendip Triangle; we have a specially designed map (by Michel Linthorst) to help direct SAW visitors to our lovely rural Studios in September.  Looking forward to seeing this year’s SAW guides being delivered next week!

SAW flyer 'The Mendip Triangle' by Michel LinthorstSAW flyer (back) 'The Mendip Triangle' by Michel Linthorst

New Work, Exhibitions

I made a new Nest and Mini Dung Beetle & Ball for the Maureen Michaelson Show, in addition to existing work.  ‘Resurrection’ will be sited at the Devon Recycled Sculpture Trail, Teignmouth seafront from 23 July – 4 Sept, and I am now curating our forthcoming step in stone exhibition touring to Salisbury Art Centre (18 Aug – 24 Sept), with Amanda Wallwork’s help. 2 of my main outdoor pieces will be on show.  If you missed any step in stone artscapes last year, try to visit!

Nest detail'Cirri' created for step in stone, installed at Westdown Quarry, found and reclaimed steel, copper, aluminium, twine, wool, netting, rope, plastic. Photo by Duncan Simey

The garden and studio get quite a battering after big projects, so it’s time to tidy up!   My good intention of simplifying life, with less to clutter the brain is still in the development stage – I hope it will happen one day.  In the meantime, the juggling continues!

It’s All Happening In Somerset

Somerset Open Studios ’14 is now in full swing, we had a great open evening doo to kick off and I’m happy to say our venue (140 – Cranmore BA4 4RH, shared with Nick Weaver) made several sales this weekend.  With over 52 pieces on show in the garden alone, it was a big job setting up (and clearing up my studio ready for the event).  I ran a brief workshop for several art students from Wells Cathedral Junior School and will be running similar taster workshops on the next 2 Sundays (11.30-12.30).  Please book if you’re interested: (01749) 880394.

Wire workshop with juniors from Wells Cathedral School Laundry Cottage on show SAW '14 - Nick's stools and my Nest SAW '14 SAW '14 - Found Now Missing on show

Last weekend I visited Hauser & Wirth’s new Gallery space in Bruton for their Private View of Piet Oudolf’s newly created garden.  Phyllida Barlow’s work inside provided a tactile (though you can’t touch), raw and quite spectacular use of the barn buildings.  Her work seemed to celebrate the space: multi gigantic pompoms suspended and massive colourful structures reaching into roof voids.  It was invigorating, while Oudolf’s garden was soothing.  Luckily we could touch his wonderful, feathery grasses – it would have been torture not to.  And it was a treat to see one of Louise Bourgeois’s Spiders (much smaller than the one I saw at the Tate Modern, but still great!)

Louise Bourgeois' Spider Piet Oudolf's garden Piet Oudolf's garden (detail)

Fundraising is not my forte but I’ve had to do it as part of a major project I’m organising entitled ‘step in stone’.  The film we’ve been making for a crowdfunding platform is now ready to launch on IdeasTap.  This will go live in the next day or so, and I hope we will have some success through it.  We have now made the final selection of featured artists, and it is all getting very exciting and absorbing!  More news of this project soon…

Blurred Edges – Exhibition at Walcot Chapel Gallery, Bath

My next exhibition, starting today, is entitled ‘Blurred Edges’.  A series of work by Kitty Hillier and myself at Walcot Chapel Gallery, Walcot Gate, off Walcot Street, Bath BA1 5UG – runs from 14th – 27th October, open 10.30 – 4.30 daily.  The chapel is set back from the top end of Walcot Street in Bath’s artisan quarter – a busy, creative hub in the Roman city centre:
“Blurred Edges exploits undefined boundaries between line and form, distinct contrasts and interesting crossovers between our work.  Our different use of media (my organic 3d forms in metal and found materials, Kitty’s abstract 2d paint and wood pieces) adds to the dynamic interaction.  Tactile and open-ended, threads weave through the work, making connections, suggesting conflicts, revealing hidden layers, textures and emerging forms.  Echoed shapes allude from one to the other, shared interests become apparent and both artists enjoy the playful concept of taking a line for a walk.”

All Wired Up

‘All Wired Up’ is a current exhibition at Walford Mill Crafts, Stone Lane, Wimborne, Dorset BH21 1NL, featuring a whole range of wirework in all its wonderful forms, by various artists and makers.  Some of my work is featured as part of the exhibition.  Running until 14th April, this link will hopefully tempt you to visit before it ends: Walford Mill flickr photostream

Africa, Wildlife and Art

I’m very proud to have roots in Africa.  David Attenborough’s recent BBC TV series has brought the continent to the fore and each film brings tears to my eyes – mingled emotions of sadness, nostalgia, amazement, joy, laughter, despair, pride, love…  Several people have commented to me on the memorable Dung Beetle and Ball episode, as I have an affinity with Dung Beetles.  I make sculptures of them, use one as my gravitas and even won David Shepherd’s 3-d Wildlife Artist of the Year Award (’09) with my Dung Beetle and Ball piece (see below).  Since my childhood, I’ve always been captivated by dung beetles.  Their attachment to dung, the backward ball-rolling, their striking appearance, strength and perseverance appeal to my interest in the extra-ordinary.  Worshipped by the Egyptians, they are also symbols of wealth and power.  My Dad used to (and still does!) enjoy picking up dried elephant dung on safaris (see also my brother’s Andrew Campbell safaris) or driving over it for fun, and I guess the dung thing has stuck.  Hopefully, more people now understand that the beetles roll balls with their back legs and why they love dung so much (nutrition, nest etc..).  In galleries I’ve had to reverse my beetles, after being placed the wrong way round!

This week I managed to catch the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at Bristol Museum before it ends (today).  Wildlife in all its guises – again raising all sorts of emotions with incredible images of nature – closeup, narrative, beauty and horror (mainly due to ‘sick people’ as my son succinctly put it).

My son and I then popped to the Arnolfini’s Worktable event as part of IBT13, passing IBT’s fake moon rising in College Green on our way to the harbourside.  Worktable is a drop-by interactive artwork by Kate McIntosh set in connected shipping containers with microphones to record the antics. We chose an item to use/smash up (rollerskate), which was great fun to do in a room on our own, then had to artfully re-assemble someone else’s trashed object (car) in a shared room with other creative participants, with very basic materials. Equally exciting was seeing the results of everyone else’s handiwork at the end.  Challenging work – good for lateral thinking with no pre-conceived ideas.  Project ends later today.

 

Current and Forthcoming Exhibitions

Below is a list of exhibitions featuring my work over the coming months.   I will be adding to the list when venues & dates are confirmed:

Black Swan Arts SMALL Exhibition, 2 Bridge St, Frome, Somerset BA11 1BB  1-24th Dec ’12

Christmas Open Exhibition, Bridgwater Arts Centre, 11/13 Castle Street, Bridgwater, Somerset TA6 3DD  28th Nov – 21st Dec

Ginger Fig Gallery’s 5th birthday themed exhibition ‘The birds and the bees’, 1b Bath Place, Taunton TA1 4ER  25th Jan – 9th Feb ’13

Scraptorzoic Era by the Scraptors, at The Magdalen Project, Magdalen Farm, Winsham, Chard, Somerset TA20 4PA   2013 onwards

Massive to miniscule

With Christmas coming up soon, I’ve been making a few smaller pieces on request – more suited to pockets and budgets for the pressie season.  Makes a change to the large, heavy duty work I was doing earlier in the year and it has given me a much needed break and thinking time.  Ideas are flowing for a new series of more challenging work, which will be posted when more concrete.

Black Swan Arts SMALL Exhibition

I’m very pleased that 3 of my small pieces have been selected for the forthcoming Black Swan Arts SMALL Exhibition, on from 1-24th December.  Each selected work in the exhibition fits into a 10cms square box – great for unusual Christmas presents!  Below is an invite to the show.

Organogenesis

Another artist recently said of my work:  “Rather fun organogenesis going on”.   I wish I’d coined that term myself – what a great new word.  Thanks ReTech for that (maker of inventive reclaimed sculptural lamps with a difference – have a look).

It suggests notions of taking things back to their basic elements, reconstructing primal life forms, vitalism, rebirth (an essential part of life’s cycle), idealism as a more primitive, spiritual concept.  The wonders of what’s going on amidst all our ‘sound and fury’.  Micro in tandem with macro.  A simple ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ message.  Let’s appreciate and care for the real things in life more (and do less blogging!)  Construct not destruct.  Mend the world and return to a new beginning – a Utopia.  That would be nice.

So many of us are caught and wrapped up in modern life’s pressures.  I’m happy to be doing what I feel is my calling, but I do wonder where time goes, how to balance a hectic workload with quality time enjoying life’s greats – and earn a good crust.  Fast and furious… I guess we are just ants keeping busy.

I’ve installed more exhibitions this year than ever before and it’s only half way through.  Last week I set up some of my work in Bishops Palace Gardens, Wells for their Summer Show.  (Exhibiting with Ian Marlow, Jo Jones and Cathy Judge).  The venue is one of my top favourites in Somerset.  Adjacent to Wells Cathedral you enter via a drawbridge.  Huge earthy red ruins are surrounded by a moat, waterfalls, stunning views from well pools to the Cathedral and a rose garden with scents from Eden.  My cocoons are now hanging from the ‘Tree of Heaven’.  Going back to Organogenesis – it seems appropriate.  The Exhibition runs from 1st July – mid September, open 10-5.  Normal admission charges apply.

Just need a little more sun for the summer please…