Chelsea Fringe and GROW London

I’m looking forward to taking part in the Hidden Garden Art Show as part of Chelsea Fringe and GROW London – both with Maureen Michaelson Gallery in Hampstead this June.  Come along if you can!

Chelsea Finge

Sunny June

I’ve had a lovely month, which started with setting up and manning my exhibition at Contains Art, Watchet – almost a fortnight of hot sunny days by the harbour, chatting to visitors and resident artists (and quite a bit of driving to and fro), followed by making a large Nest for children’s litterbugs in Bristol via Litterarti, running adult and children’s workshops and going on art trips with my All Hallows students.  A highlight for me was seeing Tessa Farmer’s fairy/insect works at the Holburne Museum, Bath – such amazing attention to detail!  I also sold 2 sculptures in my London show via Maureen Michaelson.

Sculpture on gallery roof at Contains Art - with views to the marinaSculpture on gallery roof at Contains ArtSculptures on show at Contains Art Sculptures on show at Contains Art Sculptures on show at Contains ArtIMG_8898Sculptures on show at Contains Art   Indoor Gallery exhibition at Contains Art   Sea Life workshop at Contains Art

For the last few days I’ve been concentrating on installing my Lichen piece around a tree for Glastonbury Abbey’s Orchard Sculpture Trail starting in a few days.  A scary storm of lightening and thunder stalled the process – copper, steel and trees don’t bode too well when thunder and lightening is cracking down at an ever increasing rate, but thanks to friend Nick Weaver’s help it is almost done and the sun’s now returned (just as Glastonbury Festival ends.. as is the norm!)

Setting up at Glastonbury Abbey

Plans are well underway for a new project I’m organising for 2015 – an Art Quarry Trail in the Mendips.  I have the support and partnership of Somerset Art Works, Black Swan Arts and Somerset Earth Science Centre.  More will be posted of this as it develops – just hope we get the funding…

 

 

Of Form and Texture

A new exhibition starts this Saturday entitled ‘Of Form and Texture’ at Sidcot Arts Centre, in which some of my work will be on show as part of a selected group.  Diane Burnell, Sara Parsons, Debbie Lamb and Laura Howarth are also taking part.  My Lichen piece took nearly 2 days to install (thanks to the help of friend Nigel Evans), but is now up and ready for the Launch event on Saturday.  This piece, made from recycled materials, was originally created with more components as part of the Abundance commission last year – an Art/Garden Trail organised by Somerset Art Works and the National Garden Scheme.

3 of my sculptures have been on show outside the entrance of Sidcot Arts Centre since February, the first set of work for their new Outdoor Sculpture Programme.  Below are details of the exhibition – do try to come along!

Reflections on 2013

This year has been one of contrasts for me, including plenty of achievements, interesting new directions and records set.  With over 20 exhibitions, it’s been a busy one.  I plan to focus on fewer but bigger shows next year.

One of my more challenging projects was the SAW/NGS Abundance commission work, which engrossed me for months.  For my ‘Garden of Eden’ I created 3 new works including my largest to date – ‘Lichen’. Although the site-specific installations were only on exhibition to the public at Esotera for a fortnight, I moved some of the work on to my next show at Walcot Chapel Gallery, Bath for further airing.  A blog and catalogue about our Abundance work has been published to ensure some legacy for the project.

My involvement with Somerset Art Works has developed into a new role as Rep for East Mendip, which is leading to interesting new work relationships and projects with other artists.   Somerset has a lively creative community with some amazing talent and innovation going on.

A few other commissions, numerous workshops and teaching have also kept me hard at work.  I made a piece for an indoor architect-designed space, which was novel for me.  I was surprised at how comfortable my work sits in a more urban, glass-panelled interior setting.

Amongst other sales I sold my longstanding steel ‘Man’ piece this year.  He has been with me to many events, homes and shows over the years and nearly sold several times.   He now resides in a lovely NGS garden with a diversity of wildlife to keep him company.   Coincidentally, the real thing came along in my life around the same time.

Over the Christmas period I have a piece in one of Frome’s Loop de Loop spaces, by the Black Swan Art Centre, which you may like to visit.  They have an unusual history…

I’m looking forward to seeing family in Kenya for Christmas, where it will be deliciously hot!  Sketchbooks will be fully utilised.

Thanks for your interest and BEST WISHES FOR A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!


The Garden of Eden

The last fortnight has been a rather mad whirlwind leading to Somerset Art Weeks Festival opening, managing both my SAW venues between other day-to-day commitments, testing my sanity.  Miraculously, the Garden of Eden (SAW Abundance Garden Trail) came together on time.  With the support and help of good friends and a few late nights finishing off, I managed to complete my 3  installations at Esotera (Foddington, Somerset TA11 7EL), set up at Thornreed Studio, Godney (venue 94), get to the Abundance micro feast at East Lambrook, do a talk and workshop on the first Saturday and thoroughly enjoy chatting to visitors for the past week.  Thanks to Pauline Watson and team, the Harveys (owners at Esotera) and Hicks & Don (wine sponsors) for their hard work, food and drink contributions to the private view, it was a lovely event.

I asked a photographer (from 35mil) to take some pics of the work.  We re-scheduled 3 times due to poor weather and it was third time lucky when the sun finally broke through after a dull, cold day.  Dappled sunlight heightens the enchantment on the largest piece – lichen-inspired work set in a copse of silver birch trees.  What’s really needed now is more sunshine to do its magic over this last coming weekend to encourage a wider, more abundant audience.

I’ve received many appreciative, insightful comments about the Garden of Eden and yesterday was a particularly good day at Esotera, with a large range of visitors of all ages.   A friend even made a visit from above in a glider.  Grass is starting to grow through my main installation, and although I regularly collect some of the leaves/debri that fall onto the work (especially after high winds last week), they almost enhance it.   The work is settling into the site – perhaps it should remain a permanent feature!   Gengis the resident cat/leopard is enjoying the extra attention and Scruffy – one of the free-roaming chickens – has an odd habit of pecking at visitors’ feet/legs!   Ahh sweet!

I am feeling positive about the whole experience, apart from poor weather at times bringing less visitors (and a few recoiling when faced with the NGS entrance fee).   It has been hard work, challenging, great fun, addictive even – and I think, successful.

Please see my Abundance post for further details about this project

Summer events

The Abundance commission work has taken over recently as a daily activity.   I’m hooked and no matter what the day holds, I try to spend a few hours on making my lichen-inspired sculptural pieces towards a steadily growing mass of forms for my installation at Esotera during Somerset Art Weeks Festival. (See Abundance blog for further details).

Meanwhile, a succession of exhibitions, teaching and personal stuff is using up my remaining energy reserves.  Did the Sustainability Show yesterday in Taunton.  It poured with rain, but otherwise a great event!

Here’s an exhibition update on summer events I’m taking part in:

Bristol’s Big Green Week started at the weekend.  I’m showing some work in the Salvage exhibition at the Architecture Centre, next to the Arnolfini, Narrow Quay (15th – 23rd June).

My Artist on a Plinth exhibition at Black Swan Arts is up and running (until 4th July).

Frome Festival kicks off soon, along with Frome Artists Open Studios.  I will be showing in a group exhibition at ‘The Limes’, 45 Keyford, Frome BA11 1LB (venue 23 – private view invite below)

 

This photo of my work will feature in the Evolver Prize 2013 Exhibition, Thelma Hulbert Gallery, Honiton, Devon EX14 1LX (13th July – 31st August)

 

I’ll be taking part in the Devon Recycled Sculpture Trail (20th July – 1st Sept) around Teignmouth seafront area

Art in the Garden, Lanhydrock National Trust Estate, Bodmin PL39 5AD (1st March – 31st Oct)

And as we draw closer to midsummer in UK, bring on the sunshine..!






Journeys

Although the pressure started earlier for me this year, I’m beginning to feel it tightening its grip.  Determined not to let the season of summer madness get the better of me, I have declined a few possible festival workshops (usually done for love not money!) in order to keep focused on important commissions/exhibitions coming up later in the year.  However, there still seems to be a gathering list of exhibitions, and I’ve spent much of the past week either delivering/installing or collecting work!  The long journeys and physical exertion of lifting/carting work can be time-consuming, expensive and exhausting.  No matter how hard I try, I can’t say no and often, the good exhibitions are miles away.  The trick is to make the most of every journey.

Last Monday, with a bit of clever planning, I incorporated 3 appointments in one day, so that the travel to Devon was fully utilised.  With truck fully loaded, I went first to Greenway (Agatha Christie’s place – so beautiful) to discuss a possible solo exhibition there next year, which is exciting.  Agatha described it as “the loveliest place in the world”, and I can see her point.  Overlooking the river Dart and a boathouse, her georgian home is surrounded by lush planting, lichen and mossy woodland.  I was entranced!

I then went on to Cornwood to install work for the Delamore Arts exhibition (runs throughout May) – a great venue, particularly for sculpture.  And finally, a trip to a small Gallery in Exmouth (LookArt).  My dog and I enjoyed several walks that day exploring each area, so it was quite an adventure.

Whilst in Bath last week collecting flyers for the Widcombe Trail (18/19th May) and delivering work, amongst other errands I visited Bath Abbey to see the Odyssey exhibition (about journeys), including work by Tessa Farmer and Damian Hirst.  I first saw Tessa’s work at the Saatchi Gallery, but this was even better.  Her ‘Voyager’ piece contains miniscule winged skeletons spearing beetles on the back of a real swan with strange growths… incredible!

Yesterday I drove north to Showborough House, Twyning, Glos to install there.  It took up most of the day, but another great venue for sculpture I can’t resist.

Now I have a week or two to get stuck into making (hopefully in the sunshine), before the next set of installing.  For a full list of forthcoming exhibitions please see here.

Abundance Commission

I am very happy to have been selected for the Abundance project, and excited to have a creative challenge to work towards in the coming months.

Part of Somerset Art Weeks Festival 2013 (21st September to 6th October), ‘Abundance’ is a programme of exhibitions, events and a series of site-specific contemporary art commissions, set in a wealth of cultivated garden landscapes in Somerset. The programme is organised by Somerset Art Works, in partnership with National Garden Scheme (NGS), supported by Friends of SAW and funded by Arts Council England Lottery Funding. It aims to connect the wider public with the creativity between the cultivation of gardens and art making in Somerset.

8 of us have been selected to create new work, using different materials and approaches in response to the theme of ‘Abundance’ in a wider context. We are encouraged to use locally sourced materials in response to the landscape, culture and knowledge from each of our allocated gardens.

March:

It was great to meet and catch up with fellow artists and SAW organisers last week at the Spring Soiree and Abundance launch.  I have been thinking about how to develop my initial ideas for the installation at my allocated garden at Esotera.  Having taken a few photos when I first visited the garden in February, I’ve since made some rough sketches which are gradually evolving.  I’d like to create an element of surprise, use found and recycled materials related to the garden and make something large and challenging.  Below are a few images of ideas:

A scraptor at heart, I am on the lookout for scrap items such as small wheels, springs, copper bits, clear lightbulbs (old style), glass baubles, nuts, bolts, washers, screws, nails, horseshoes, chicken wire, copper wire and pipes, twine, netting, old steel tools, balls.. for the project.  Please contact me if you are local and have any of the above available that I can collect: (01749) 880394

April:

An article in Country Living (May ’13) features Esotera – the garden I’ve been allotted, with a mention at the end about SAW’s Abundance project and my forthcoming work at Esotera.  Seeing it here in full bloom, with all the shape and colour at its peak, I am even more excited about the prospect of creating something special for the Abundance project.

My ideas have moved on to something a little more ambitious.  The work will be time-consuming but fun to make!  My thoughts have lingered on Genesis’ Garden of Eden – the most abundant garden where plants, creatures and humans grow and roam freely in complete harmony.  It is the first Utopian concept, explored by many including Plato, Thomas More etc… Utopian ideals encompass world peace, enlightenment, labour, arts and science, fulfillment, harmony between man and nature,  all needs supplied by the abundance of nature.
Esotera means ‘of the earth’.. esoteric means ‘mystical, unusual, rare.’  The garden symbolises a love for the land and relationship with the earth, the owners at Esotera work hard together to create from nothing an idyllic garden (Eden), make a huge contribution to society (Utopian), build things from found materials – including houses of various sorts, the garden is very harmonious with nature, rich in wildlife, creatures everywhere.   Nature has repossessed, like a return to Eden.  ’Eden’ is almost tangible at Esotera…
Next week I’m revisiting the garden to get more of a feel for it, discuss my ideas with Shirley and Andrew, see the garden blooming and arrange practicalities.

May:

Today was a perfect day to revisit Esotera.  My first visit with Zoe was on a grim winter’s day.  But today blazing sunshine had brought out new flowers from bulbs, ferns were unravelling, ducks, chickens, fish and a very sociable cat ‘Gengis’ were all glorifying our brilliant 1st of May.

As I wandered around, I could understand why Esotera gets so many visitors who stay for hours.  The owners and garden envelop you into their world – a place at peace with itself, whilst buzzing with the magic of life and I found it hard to leave!  Undecided about the exact location of my installation, with several possibilities, I took plenty of photos and absorbed the ambience.   It helped to confirm my ideas for the project, and 3 hours later I left, armed with a load of reclaimed materials for my work there, generously donated by the owners Shirley and Andrew.

I’ve been gathering scrap materials from pockets of Somerset to use in my work at Esotera.  Dragging rusty barrels from woodland walks, corrugated steel fences no longer required for guinea fowl and rummaging through skips and scrapyards to add to my collection of materials, in line with the ethos at Esotera of utilising found and recycled items.

June:

The aim is to create a mass of giant growing forms, inspired by lichen, linked to the Eden concept and utilising found objects.  It involves hours of weaving, wrapping and forming, using soft and hard materials together, which is relatively new for me and occasionally  I wonder if I’ll ever get it finished.  Anyway, it’s becoming a daily activity and no matter what else the day holds, I try to spend a few hours on the Abundance work.  I’m hooked on what I’m making, and what I would really like is to have no other interruptions but life isn’t that simple..

Earlier this week we went to Esotera again to measure the installation area and confirm a few details with Zoe.  A landscape designer friend, Jason, came along to help work out where the grass might be allowed to grow a little, in order to create more of an enclosure for the work.  Owners Andrew and Shirley have been very accommodating with this.

July:

Not there yet, but here are a few photos of my progress over the past few weeks.  I think the correct term is ‘hoarder’… my garden’s been taken over and going a bit wild, but the good news is I have enough scrap steel now!  I would still love to acquire some more copper – especially in sheet form.   Will soon be embarking on using my new plasma cutter, which should make the job much easier.  There’s still lots to do.  The real art will be to bring it all together successfully…

August:

I have struggled to keep up with my own self-inflicted deadlines for the making stages, especially during this school summer holiday, although there is progress.   With September nearly upon us, I’ll need to accelerate in order to get it all completed on time.

My large ‘fallen nest’ is coming along ok and I hope to complete it in the next week.  Other parts to the lichen-inspired installation have now been shaped and patinated using reclaimed copper and lead.  I have a couple more items to make, and will then set it all out again in my garden as a mock up.  It’s been great fun exploring techniques and finding new ways of working with materials.

September:

A very busy month has finally reaped the fruits of my labour – see Garden of Eden post.   For fuller information about the project, please visit SAW Abundance blog

My work has relied on the kindness of numerous local donors, who have given me recycled materials and/or their time.   A huge thank you to the following:  Sam Garland, John Shepherd Feeders, Ridgeway Garage, Station Road Garage, Pete Reakes, Fon Cosens, Somerset Earth Science Centre, Andrew and Shirley Harvey, Vicky Grinter, Georgia Grinter, Caroline James, Jason Nosworthy, Nigel Evans, Peter Osborne, Denise Campbell, Nick Weaver, Adrian Candy.

 See also press page

Liking Lichen

It’s always great when things tie up, strands of ideas link and what seems random fits into place.  Pondering on where to go next in my work and exploring ideas, I picked up a vividly coloured twig during a dog-walk and was captivated by the microcosmic yellow, orange and green world of lichen growing on it.  Strangely, I’d recently considered using lichen as a backdrop to my website pages.  The colours and textures seem so fitting.  But I hadn’t looked closely enough at the amazingly sculptural formations of their growth.  Researching lichen back at home, I discovered it is a prime example of a symbiotic union between fungi and algae.  I love the whole concept of symbiosis in the animal and plant kingdoms.  Equal collaboration.  Wish we humans could do it more successfully.

Lichen occurs in extreme environments and illustrates life’s cycle and persistence.  It is also useful in our assessment of environmental pollution (as with diatoms – another fascinating subject I’ve looked at recently).  Zooming in on lichen formations, it struck me how closely the bulbous ‘cushion xanthoria’ relate in shape to weavers’ nests, coral and other forms I gravitate towards.  Nitrate coloured dome-like heads on tentacles enclose a cavity of rich orange.  And I’ve just returned from Rome where domes are huge and plentiful and the walls burn orange.  New work on lichen begins…