I’ve had fun over the last few days starting to make the piece! I’ve been foraging for wood on the camp site’s scrap yard, roping in help from Park Foot’s lovely customers- who have fantastic garden sheds by the way. Basically just trying to get the ideas from out of my head and make them into the real deal. It started off a bit hopeless, but with a bit of help and patience I’m finally getting somewhere. Originally I found a square fencing post but I couldn’t rest till I found circular one so had another forage today- with success. I picked up some supplies from Penrith’s answer to Wilkos- The Yorkshire Trading Company and started painting- now just the slow process of waiting for gloss paint to dry!
The only way to really know what I wanted to make was to visit the church itself, see the space, and get an image of Greystoke. It turned out to be a really quaint village, with a fantastic old pub. The church itself stood tall at the end of a narrow lane. It was a lovely church and a fantastic space to exhibit in. After seeing the signposts in the village and thinking about those significant dates in time I began thinking about making my own signpost, the same design as the old Cumbrian road sign but with mine and and my great-grandparents significant dates. The date they met, married and moved and the same again for me. Our places in time.
So since then I’ve been toying around with some ideas. Considering the swings and roundabouts of life, the places we choose to live our life, ‘Our corner of the world’- my favourite saying from philosopher Gaston Bachelard. I’ve been thinking of ‘Our corner of the world’ in response to place, which is a bit different for me, as normally I solely consider the private space of our homes. But instead I’m looking at the bigger picture of the area we call home. In particular the area I currently call my home- Cumbria. It transpires that my Grandma (my other grandma, on my mum’s side, not the Glaswegian one with all the figurines) was born here in Penrith and spent her early year’s just two villages away in Yanwath. My great grandparents met here in the Lake District and married just a year later. They moved to my hometown of Darwen, Lancashire five years later with my grandma and her two brothers in tow.
So I’m back to thinking about the layering of lives and the repetition of memorable moments- The repetition of memorable moments throughout the generations. As it just so happens that excitingly I’m recently engaged and we plan to marry here in The Lakes. I think the date and times of these events are going to be essential to the work. I asked my grandma to bring up some old photographs of the family and their wedding for inspiration. But I knew then that having the photographs on display in the church would be too literal, there would be no mystery to the piece. So I’ll keep thinking!
As well as that exciting news from Rheged I also had a rather exciting meeting with a lady called Christine Hurford that opened up yet another opportunity for me. Whilst volunteering with Jo at C-Art, I was told there was an exhibition on downstairs in the Old Fire Station. (The office space for Eden Arts is located in the Old Fire Station- Penrith.) I went along and was really surprised to find the exhibition displayed eerie photographs of a previous obsession of mine- abandoned buildings. I began talking to one of the Artists- Christine about how she gets into these buildings- from previous experience I know the difficulties you can be faced with. It’s well worth it though. The photographs were fantastic- cleverly mounted onto fencing well recognised as a symbol to keep out. The images Christine Hurford and Jane Peet exhibited in ‘Dereliction’ complimented one another’s investigation into the unknown brilliantly.
As the conversation went on, Christine became interested in my own art practice and later revealed she’s soon to have another exhibition at Greystoke Church- which she wondered if I’d be interested in showing some work. I was, of course, honoured to be asked- having something to work for gives any artist the drive to start making again. So as I set off up the stairs with a spring in my step, I became even more excited when I then remembered something that’s been playing on my mind for a while now. A family member of mine had posted something on Instagram about my Great-grandparents (her grandparents.) It was a newspaper clipping commemorating their 50th Wedding anniversary- and what church where they married in? – None other than Greystoke Church, Penrith. What are the chances? I’m not from Cumbria; I move here for work each summer and it’s only recently that I’ve found out that my ancestors lived here in this area. I’ve been considering making some art about this happy coincidence- and well now I have no excuse.
In a previous blog post, I mentioned motivating myself and getting back out there and into the art world, well I had another thing up my sleeve whilst writing that. I’d applied for a job at nearby visitor centre- Rheged. They’d advertised a position for a Gallery Assistant doing 3-4 days. I knew I’d never be able to squeeze that in as well as my job here at the camp site, but I couldn’t stand back and let it pass me by, so I emailed the director explaining I could do a maximum of two days there and I’d hope he could give me a chance. I got an interview which I was really excited about. It was probably one of the most challenging interviews I’ve had, (although I haven’t had many). When they asked why I went for the job I answered honestly- “it would be amazing to finally get paid for something arty!” I watched as they made notes, as I spoke about my experience with kids and other art establishments. But they didn’t give anything away! I waited 3 long days to find out if I got it. WHICH I DID!
So since then it’s been all systems go. There’s 5 new gallery assistants so I’ve been making new friends, de-installing the Cumbrian Artist of the Year exhibition and installing the new exhibition MAKE IT with Minecraft. There’s been a lot of painting involved and scrubbing floors, it was like being back at degree show again, but I got paid! There was a few bits of training to do then yesterday it was my first proper day on the floor. Playing with the kids, making Lego dragons, gluing and sticking and drawing with the parents. Turns out I know nothing about the Minecraft theme of the exhibition- but the kids are teaching me!
I was asked by Eden Arts to write a review about their latest show so here it is!
Cumbrian Artist of the Year
25th April 2015 to 28th June 2015
Walking into the space on the top floor of Rheged’s award winning visitor centre, I immediately began to look for a theme surrounding the artist’s work. However, be it that the nature of the exhibition is searching for Cumbria’s Artist of the Year, it doesn’t allow for a running theme between artists. The work varies. Its Cumbria’s crisp of the crème. The exhibition shows its visitors that contrary to popular belief not every artist in Cumbria is painting their neighbouring landscape.
This notion is no more present than in the winning artist- Sarah Tew. She may not be subscribing to the traditional landscape painting, but her work is never far away from her roots in Cumbria and its remarkable backdrop. Tew was selected by an expert panel, one of which (Rory Stewart MP) observed this of her work- ‘the winner offered a fresh and engaging take on how we interact with landscape, and I am sure will create a strong reaction from local people.” Tew’s two pieces ‘Blade Printing’ and ‘Stone Mould Series’ on first inspection could easily be dismissed. Being the only floor work, they both demand the space, yet I imagine, often get overlooked by the general public. ‘Blade Printing’ especially, as I watched people walk by dismissing it as a small patch of lawn. Many it seemed thought Tew’s work ostentatious and unworthy of the prize. Ultimately though it was her concepts and wider contemporary practice that made her stand out. Mark Devereux, another of the selection panel, confirming- ‘Sarah Tew is an upcoming artist, her work both within this exhibition and also within her wider practice, displays a deep routed interest in interrogating the rural landscape. Encapsulating both an aesthetic but also a conceptual framework to her practice, we feel she is not only a worthy winner of the Cumbrian Artist of the Year Award but hope this will enable Sarah and her ongoing practice to flourish.’
Not everyone though seemed to agree with this statement. The general public didn’t buy into Tew’s patch of grass becoming a work of art, they desired the skillful and atmospheric work of Alan Stones. Echoing this in feedback- “Alan Stones work is magical and looks at landscape in an insightful way. He should have won the prize. I found Sarah Tew’s work pretentious nonsense.” With an outstanding number of votes- Stones was the People’s Choice winner. He blew the public away with large canvas paintings, displaying incredible talent and just enough narrative to entice his viewer. The painting’s compare with former Turner Prize nominee George Shaw. Particularly his piece ‘Clearing’, in this work he captures an eerie setting, a peopleless painting of a deserted forest. This piece is timeless, without a figure it’s freed from any time or any place. Whereas in his adjacent painting; ‘At Low Tide’, he twists this concept- a figure is present at the forefront of the painting, carrying with him a narrative and something for the viewer to ponder. It’s these large scale paintings that captivate Alan Stones’ audience. His smaller portrait in the exhibition ‘Father and Son’ is dwarfed by these paintings, so much so I would have thought to leave it out in order to focus on the two prominent landscapes.
So who was my Cumbrian Artist of the Year? I noted earlier that this exhibition diverged away from the common place belief that not every artist in Cumbria is painting their neighbouring landscape, and yet still, I’ve predominately wrote about two artists who are very much influenced by Cumbria’s unforgettable location. My shortlist of artists however have resisted the urge to divulge in this subject matter and confronted other subjects close to my heart- time, place and people. On the wall opposite Alan Stones paintings was my favourite space in the exhibition. To the left was a huge acrylic painting by Alison Critchlow. I was drawn to the painting to inspect the brushstrokes and the remarkable textures of paint. Critchlow’s subject matter being wholly different from the Cumbrian landscape the title explaining this- ‘Drifting Iceberg’. To the right were three small oil paintings, framed by white wood, they narrated scenes of a typical British home, the title informing the viewer that this place was ‘Sandringham Road’. Sandringham Road allowed it’s viewer a brief glimpse into what I suspect is the artist’s home. A real tribute to the notions questioning private v public. My Cumbrian artist of the year however is awarded to Beatrice Hasell-McCosh. I nearly missed McCosh’s extraordinary piece, an unusual fabric piece, the floral fabric is mounted onto canvas and worked into with oils. Drips of paint and a subtle painting of what appears to be a steeple is unassumingly painted onto fabric. The work creates a time and place of its own, it evokes the memories of the Artist and allows the viewer to input their own- be that in Cumbria or elsewhere.