Inspiration is a very personal thing. My inspirations are nearly all urban. I love industrial landscapes although it is getting harder to distinguish between pale grey corrugated metal retail parks and pale grey corrugated metal factories. Some would say that both are factories.
But occasionally there is a flash of colour, a wonderful shape or an interesting interplay of lines breaking up the sky. The Pilkington Glass site on Canal Street, St Helens is fabulous. It has the usual grey boxes, pipes and conveyors running between buildings. It also has towers and shapes that are quite unique and, hopefully, still recognisable as I try to use them in an abstract form in the work I’m creating for my joint exhibition with Helen Conway in St Helens next year.
Does this work? 1
Knowing that I have two major exhibitions with Helen Conway in 2018 is amazing. Although I’ve worked in series for the last few years this will be the first time that I get to create a cohesive body of work knowing the pieces will be hung together. And knowing the spaces where they will hang. Yes Helen and I need to make sure that our work will work together in each space but otherwise the sky is the limit!
And we have well over a year to prepare. We will have about 15m each of wall at World of Glass and a massive 30m each at Stockport Wall Memorial Art Gallery. And we only have just over a year to prepare!! Thank goodness Stockport will be in the autumn.
My hope is to create two completely separate bodies of work albeit both stemming from three parallel series inspired by the urban and industrial landscape in and around both venues. But I have to also be realistic. I had an amazingly productive year in 2016 but my output still fell short of what I need to achieve in the next year or so. I blame my very loud and bossy ‘voice’. It wants to work big. It insists on piecing lots of small pieces of fabric. And then it absolutely throws a tantrum if I don’t complete the work with hundreds and hundreds of parallel lines of stitch. And, much to Helen’s amusement, it even demands that I sew in all my ends.
Something has to change. I have to find a way to make smaller (and more affordable) works that I, but more importantly, my ‘voice’ can be happy with. So I have set aside the month of April to try new things. Can I make art that can be framed? Can I print onto paper? What happens if I print onto rough linen? Can I fuse my brick walls? Time will tell.
It is with very great pleasure that I announce my second exhibition with Helen Conway. It will take place in early summer 2018 in the fanatastic Gallery One at The World of Glass in St Helens.
Helen has written a great blog with photos of the gallery and insight into her inspirations and intent for the exhibition. Helen was brought up in St Helens; her family has lived there for several generation. It has provided the backdrop to her development as an artist. In her work she will trace her families lives and tell their stories. She will also explore her own history and the development of her creative process.
My art will continue to explore the urban and industrial landscape. St Helens has a strong industrial heritage. From the glass works which still exist today to the coal mines that now only exist in the towns collective memory. I want to build a collection of works that, whilst abstract, contain traces of man-made structures that the people of St Helens will recognise. Drawing them into the work, triggering memories.
Helen and I have set an ambitious schedule. Gallery One is a big space. As is the gallery at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery where we will exhibit in autumn 2018. We are committed to creating work specifically for each venue. We are also determined to create exhibitions that are cohesive; where there are links between each others art. It is both terrifying and exciting. I hope you’ll enjoy the journey!
New 24 piece colour family
After multiple attempts I am now happy with my new colour family. I am calling it ‘traces’ as I’m hoping to use it to create a new body of work based on iconic industrial buildings that no longer exist. I spent my childhood summers staying with my grandparents in a small village north of Nottingham. The area was criss-crossed with coal seams and every journey took us past pit heads. These buildings don’t exist anymore but I bet most people my age who spent time in the north of England know exactly what I am thinking off.
I used magenta dye as one of the starting colours as an ironic reference to the way we tend to look at the past through ‘rose tinted glasses’. Although many people mourned the loss of community when the coal industry declined I don’t think anybody could remember working conditions in the pits or the polution in the surrounding areas through rose tinted glasses hence I have blended the magenta with black to the point where the colour just tips over from pink to purple. I particularly like the paler colours in the family.
Now that the colour family is fixed I’ve started work on creating the palette of fabrics. This could take several months as my ideas tend to evolve gradually as I work at the bench. However the way I used breakdown printing in my Still / Storm series gave results that were similar to what I have in mind for this new series. So this is where I’m starting.
Fragile lines created by breakdown printing