Speak Me Many Times

The Pillow, (c)2012 Hayley Harrison

The Pillow, (c)2012 Hayley Harrison, oil on panel

Hayley’s work whispers. But it is not the moist whisper of seduction, more the parched whisper of trauma; a trauma long past and healed but with a residue perpetually imprinted on time. Her biographical description is right, it’s “the bits that are not said” which give impact to Hayley’s paintings. The beauty of this is the mingled turning away from and facing truth full on. The equal measure she affords these two qualities brings the unspeakable to life in her work.

Jane Boyer: Your artist biography says an interesting thing, “Hayley is a lover of objects and stories, not necessarily in the historical sense but the bits that are not said. She is drawn to the enchantment of ‘place’, and the often cold reality of that enchantment.” What lies behind the shroud of the unsaid and what is the cold reality of enchantment?

Bathroom, (c)2011 Hayley Harrison

Bathroom, (c)2011 Hayley Harrison, oil on panel

Hayley Harrison: I guess loss of some kind, be it things or people around us, or parts of ourselves. There’s probably a bit of taboo and the banal mixed in there as well. I think alongside, or instead of the unsaid there is the intolerable too, in the sense that the unspeakable belongs to the storyteller and the intolerable to the listener; the burden and the unburdening.

JB: Your artist statement also says, “She is interested in how we recognise ourselves in the quiet moments that surround objects and place.” Do you feel it is the quietness in ourselves which allows this recognition or do you feel it is entering the stillness of a place that causes a reflection in which we then recognize ourselves? In other words, do the quiet moments come from the internal or the external?

Chair, (c)2010 Hayley Harrison

Chair, (c)2010 Hayley Harrison, oil on panel

HH: I think we have to be in the ‘right’ place both internally and externally and that’s when a conversation occurs. For me self-recognition through the external is experienced in its ‘purest’ form when we are here, now, rather than through our pasts or futures.  We can be taken off guard by something, something perhaps poetic that throws us into the present. Whatever that something is, we just have to come into relationship with it. When we experience one of these rare conversations between the internal and external I believe we come back to ourselves, much like Jacques Lacan’s famous discourse with the sardine can. Ultimately within these moments we are looking into a mirror.

JB: Tell us about your painting, Her. Artist and writer, Paul O’Kane, commented on the breathless quality of the painting when the expectation is one of joy, exuberance and a carefree breeziness. What were you exploring in the subject?

Her (c)2011 Hayley Harrison

Her (c)2011 Hayley Harrison, oil on canvas

HH: Her is a representation of a younger self. I was giving voice to her experiences. A windmill’s movement is dependent on the environment around it. I am interested in sub-personalities or even parts of ourselves we have split off from. Our acknowledgement and our changing relationship to them, how they grow or are suffocated by other sub-personalities or other people.

JB: There is a general stillness in your paintings which feels sometimes like holding your breathe. Are you looking for and exploring this quality of tension in the spaces and objects you choose to paint or is it a result of something else going on in your work?

HH: I like your reference to the holding of breathe. Holding our breath is a way of escaping the present moment. I am drawn to the moments that allude to the appearance of calm and stillness, when in actual fact disaster or trauma may have just occurred and this stillness may be a surrendering of some kind. Within the stillness I hope to imply things are not as they should be or as they seem.

Familiar, (c)2012 Hayley Harrison

Familiar, (c)2012 Hayley Harrison, oil on panel

JB: It’s interesting you mention ‘the unspeakable’, I’ve been doing my own explorations into the unspeakable, something that Jacques Ranciere discusses in The Future of the Image as expressible in writing as a string of perceptions which connect the storyteller to reality moment by moment. He suggests this stripped bare and raw expression is a way to get at or around what is so horrific it can’t be spoken. Do your paintings function in a similar way, meaning a focus on what is perceived in the moments of a situation? Is this a way into a larger story for you?

HH: Perhaps all these moments are the same moment. In the sense that the moment I choose to illustrate is a cross-section of a general experience. There is also a continuous balancing act of the needs of the work, the viewer and me. The unspoken tends to have an insatiable hunger to it. For this reason I think there is a need for the unspoken to be spoken many times.

We have developed a fantastic library of Suggested Reading by the artists in This ‘Me’ of Mine. Follow the links here or visit the BOOKSHOP to see all the books suggested so far. We hope you will see something inspiring for your own interests. If a book is unavailable, try the link to Abe Books.

Hayley’s suggested reading:

What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl by Grayson Perry and Wendy Jones
Totem and Taboo (Animism, Magic and the Omnipotence of Thoughts) by Sigmund Freud
Life: A Users Manual by George Perec

Jane’s additions:

The Future of the Image by Jacques Ranciere
The Address Book by Sophie Calle

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Vandalism in the Time of Austerity

I wish this was the title of a novel, but unfortunately Sevenoaks Kaleidoscope Gallery and Museum was vandalised last week. Cathy Lomax’s Glass Menagerie was singled out in the gallery, but several exhibits in the museum were damaged. Thankfully, only a few glass animals were broken in Cathy’s piece so the damage was not great, but the description in the local headline news of a ‘smashed art display’ was very unsettling.

Kaleidoscope has suffered budget cuts like so many other venues recently. This incident is indicative of a failure in the vigilance system due to a lack of personnel. While the vandals were captured on CCTV video, no one witnessed this happening and the teenagers were not apprehended. The police are investigating and Cathy’s piece has been temporarily removed from the exhibition.

On a happier note, we received a very thoughtful review on a-n Interface from Trevor Smith last week. He and I exchanged a few tweets on the event of its publication on Interface, it was lovely to receive this reply from Trevor:

trevorhsmith@trevors_myth 11 Jun

@ThisMeofMine It was a pleasure to write, got me thinking for sure, and so pleased to have your blessing!

We also received a mention from Becky Huff Hunter earlier this month on her contributions to This ‘Me’ of Mine: Self, Time & Context in the Digital Age. Becky has written a wonderful critical essay on This ‘Me’ of Mine as ‘distributed practice’, you will definitely want to read this. She has also interviewed me for This ‘Me’ of Mine, our interview will be coming up later in the summer.

Also, I just saw Susan Eyre’s post ‘Time and e-motion’ back from April when she and I had a very uneasy discussion on what the future holds, it was as she said, “one of those conversations where you end up in a silence of contemplation”. Despite the uneasy subject of our conversation, it was a delight to meet Susan.

See these and other reviews and mentions on our PRESS page

Videos, Photos and Books

This 'Me' of Mine: Self, Time & Context in the Digital Age book cover, (c)2013 Jane Boyer

This ‘Me’ of Mine: Self, Time & Context in the Digital Age book cover, (c)2013 Jane Boyer

My return home to France has seen almost non-stop activity. I’ve been working on finalising the manuscript for This ‘Me’ of Mine: Self, Time & Context in the Digital Age, and trying to control a very errant and unruly index. Luckily, it’s all coming together and I hope to be finished soon. Xlibris will be publishing and promoting the book. Watch for more information coming soon on the book and details on ordering copies as well as booksellers where the book will be available. Here is a short excerpt from THE SCENE OF THE SELF by Paul O’Kane:

We are lost in a labyrinth of disputed realities, like Chuang Tzu the legendary Chinese philosopher who awoke dreaming he was a butterfly only to reflect that it was equally likely that he was a butterfly dreaming he was a man.

We might argue that, rather than losing us in a labyrinth of deceits, images rescue us from the folly of maintaining an established notion of reality. Once we relativise images of various kinds (those drawn from without, those drawn from within) we can live more vigilant, critical lives, monitoring and measuring our particular, shifting relationship between our particular, shifting images.

Nevertheless, a certain type of pumped-up, hyped and mendacious image, serving a particular purpose, today dominates our environment, and, by its very dominance unbalances any wise relativism. What is this kind of image and precisely what is its purpose? (Let’s return to the labyrinth).

Video still from This 'Me' of Mine: 'Artists in Conversation' at Strange Cargo

Video still from This ‘Me’ of Mine: ‘Artists in Conversation’ at Strange Cargo

Video still from This 'Me' of Mine: 'Artists in Conversation' at Strange Cargo

Video still from This ‘Me’ of Mine: ‘Artists in Conversation’ at Strange Cargo

Video still from This 'Me' of Mine: 'Artists in Conversation' at Strange Cargo

Video still from This ‘Me’ of Mine: ‘Artists in Conversation’ at Strange Cargo

We have our first Artists in Conversation video! I’m so pleased to have Henrietta Thomas filming the talks and creating the videos, she is doing a great job.Henrietta is a freelance Filmmaker with a background in Art and Design and a 1st Class BA Hons degree in Broadcast Production. Her films often take a sideways look at the world, twisting and reinventing reality in unexpected ways. Most recently her short film, ‘Day Off’, was selected & screened by the ‘Bang! Film Festival 2012’ as part of ‘Crash Bang Wallop’. Another, ‘WIN WIN’, was screened at ‘The Raindance Film Festival 2011′.View Henrietta’s work at: http://vimeo.com/user2022197http://bit.ly/M7KLScYou can see This ‘Me’ of Mine: ‘Artists in Conversation’ at Strange Cargo, Folkestone on the Strange Cargo page under VENUES in the navigation menu  or by clicking the link above. By the way, you can see the Left-Handed Bricklayer in the video as he made his way into the gallery and became part of the fabric of This ‘Me’ of Mine.
This 'Me of Mine at Strange Cargo, installation view 5. Photo Credit: A. Borgerth

This ‘Me of Mine at Strange Cargo, installation view 5. Photo Credit: A. Borgerth

Arnold Borgerth has been photographing This ‘Me’ of Mine in all the venues and providing us with beautiful archive images. He also photographed all the work for the book, no easy task as he had to do it in situe in Folkestone at Georges House Gallery. You can see his work and the growing archive of This ‘Me’ of Mine images on the APT Gallery and Strange Cargo pages under VENUES on the navigation menu or click the links above.  www.arnoldborgerth.com


This ‘Me’ of Mine is open in Sevenoaks

This post was written Friday, May 17th the day after our opening in Sevenoaks, but due to preparing for my imminent return home to France, its publication was delayed.

This 'Me' of Mine opening at Kaleidoscope Gallery

This ‘Me’ of Mine is open in Sevenoaks! We had an enthusiastic group and a lively discussion of ‘space’ for the ‘Artists in Conversation’ at Kaleidoscope Gallery. Melanie Titmuss and David Minton discussed how space functioned in their work, but more importantly how they perceived their own space and how their responses to that space manifested in their work. For example, Melanie felt the most significant relationship to space in her painting, Woman with Cardigan, was in the actual anonymous encounter she experienced with the woman in the painting; the experience of occupying space and proximity with this individual.

Installation 2_lo resSeveral questions regarding space and curating were raised by our guests, questioning my decisions for placement of the works in the gallery space. These questions were particularly welcome because it gave me a chance to discuss some of the reasons and influences behind my decisions. I was very pleased to explain why I had chosen to place Shireen Qureshi’s Untitled Nude flush against the edge of a blacked-out window in the gallery.

David Minton denied any attempt to convey meaning in his work but many friends and fellow artists at the opening expressed feelings of contemplative spirituality when looking at his Peripherial Vision. I agreed and confirmed my decision to hang David’s piece high in a position suggestive of spiritual meditation for those very reasons. You’ll get to see some of these discussions soon. Henrietta Thomas is videotaping the ‘Artists in Conversation’ discussions and producing 20 to 30 minute clips.

This 'Me' of Mine installation at Kaleidoscope GalleryFor me, the challenge of re-curating and re-configuring the exhibition for each venue space has been immensely rewarding. I’ve had an opportunity to delve deep into these works and into the project premise exploring and developing many of the significant themes underpinning the project. Each venue has presented particular opportunities:

APT allowed for the visualisation and physical manifestation of ‘context’ in the project premise – ‘self in relation to context’ through the space given to the works.

The space at Strange Cargo brought the works into personal proximity, meaning visitors were eye to eye with the pieces and experienced them within their own personal space.

Kaleidoscope has given me a chance to make groupings and tell stories; stories of memory, loss and longing | age and nostalgia | social strictures and the demands of a global reality | psychology, physicality and the pervasiveness of the influence of time.

What awaits? The Art School Gallery at Colchester Ipswich Museum with 10 galleries on two floors surrounding a hexagonal atrium. This ‘Me’ of Mine in all that space!

Coming September 21st, 2013 to January 5th, 2014.

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We’re off to Sevenoaks!

What a trip it has been in Folkestone!

This 'Me' of Mine Installation at Georges House Gallery Photo: J. Boyer

This ‘Me’ of Mine Installation at Georges House Gallery Photo: J. Boyer

Folkestone has to be one of the coolest, funkiest towns in the UK. It has real soul and even though it has seen more prosperous times, it is clear the people who live here love their community and do their best to keep it alive and kicking – kick it does!

It has been such a pleasure inhabiting Georges House Gallery for the past month, Brigitte, Lucy and  Rachel of Strange Cargo, the film guys upstairs, Ewan & Peter, and belle Katie have been supportive, helpful and thoughtful – in short wonderful! Their efforts to bring in volunteer invigilators so I could have a few days break from the gallery was very gratefully received. Thanks so much to Simeon, Lauren and John who came in and tended shop for me. And Thank you to everyone who came to see This ‘Me’ of Mine. It was evident from the way visitors were asking questions, they were delighted and surprised to have an exhibition of this calibre come to Folkestone. Their kind and open reception to This ‘Me’ of Mine has made my stay here a very welcome one.

I hope very much to come back to Folkestone and work with Strange Cargo again.

We’re off to Sevenoaks!

This 'Me' of Mine invitaion to Kaleidoscope Gallery

Andrew Litten inspired to share work on This ‘Me’ of Mine

The existential question ‘why am I here?’ is one a search into identity never strays far from. International artist Andrew Litten, who has lived in Cornwall since 2003, has made a career based around this question.

Future Adult? by Andrew Litten

Future Adult? by Andrew Litten

“For me, as a figurative painter – the manipulation of materials and the manipulation of identity are intrinsically linked. Perhaps subversive, tender, malevolent, compassionate – pure expression, which is not political or demographic or defined by taste, is at the heart of it all. Creativity is empowering and empathy is powerful – and the need to see raw human existence drives it all forwards.”

See the INSPIRATION page to find out more.

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Sandra Crisp wins Print International Prize, David Minton exhibits in ko-ax drawing at Mascalls Gallery & Aly Helyer is selected by Paul Noble for Creekside Open 2013

Paul Nobel installing Creekside Open at APT GalleryIn fact, This ‘Me’ of Mine was installed at APT Gallery when Paul and Ceri were selecting for the CREEKSIDE OPEN. It was all very mysterious and sequestered and by all accounts a marathon effort to whittle down the entries to make their selections. But select they did; both shows are sure to be fantastic and well worth a visit to APT Gallery. Congratulations to Aly Helyer for being among the selected artists!

Selected by Paul Noble
A.P.T Gallery
2 – 26 May 2013
Gallery open  |  Thursday to Sunday from 12noon to 5pm  |  Free entry
Opening Reception and Prize Giving  |  Saturday 4 May 2013  3 to 6pm  |  Paul Noble will award three prizes of £500 each
Cos Ahmet  │  Andrea Artz  │  Helen Ashton  │  ATOI – Amy Thomas and Oliver Irvine  │  Marta Bakst  │  Aglaé Bassens  │  Dominic Beattie  │  Jessica Blackwood  │  Allan Boston  │  Shane Bradford  │  Denise Bryan  │  Lindsey Bull  │  Richard J Butler  │  John Butterworth  │  Laura Bygrave  │  Emmanuelle Camus  │  Jane Cattlin  │  Christopher Clack  │  Paul Cole  │  Stephen Cooper  │  Gemma Cossey  │  Emma Cousin  │  Daniel Crews-Chubb  │  Alex Crocker  │  Blue Curry  │  Nicholas Dedics  │  Aidan Doherty  │  Claire Dorsett  │  Richard Ducker  │  Andrew Ekins  │  James Epps  │  Luci Eyers  │  Hayley Field  │  Craig Fisher  │  Gordon Flemons  │  Grant Foster  │  Mariano Gana  │  Natsue Golden  │  Stewart Gough  │  Helen Grant  │  Luey Graves  │  Kate Groobey  │  Neil Haas  │  Julia Hamilton  │  Aly Helyer  │  Lesley Hilling  │  Nicky Hirst  │  Andrew Hladky  │  Luke Humphries  │  Bruce Ingram  │  Benjamin Jenner  │  Frank Jennings  │  Andrew Kerr  │  Caroline King  │  Amanda Knight  │  Alec Kronacker  │  Tamiko Kusuhara  │  Simon Leahy-Clark  │  Caterina Lewis  │  Lana Locke  │  David Lucas  │  Lorrain Mailer  │  E J Major  │  Enzo Marra  │  Maslen & Mehra  │  Jan May  │  Oliver McConnie  │  Andrew Miller  │  Stuart Moller  │  Ebrel Moore  │  Eleanor Moreton  │  Ange Mukeza  │  Amy Owen  │  Nicholas Owens  │  Matthew Pagett  │  Jitka Palmer  │  Kyu Eun Park  │  James Parkinson  │  David Pike  │  Ruth Piper  │  Justin Piperger  │  Tom Pitt  │  Emily Platzer  │  Nick Powell  │  Jasmine Pradissitto  │  Katherine Reekie  │  Reka Ritt  │  Dai Roberts  │  Tania Robertson  │  Carole Romaya  │  Sam Rountree Williams  │  Michal Rubin  │  Melanie Russell  │  Anna Salamon  │  Lizi Sanchez  │  Margot Sanders  │  Ed Saye  │  Andrew Seto  │  Fay Shin  │  Claire Smith  │  Sophia Starling  │  Christy Symington  │  Shubba Taparia  │  Mia Taylor  │  Ernesto Torres Alarcon  │  Rebecca Townrow  │  Stella Tripp  │  Vanesa van Vlerken  │  Pepe Vives  │  Robin von Einsiedel  │  David R Watson  │  Gethin Wavel  │  Ashley West  │  Paul Westcombe  │  Tisna Westerhof  │  Caleb Whitefield  │  Lucy Whitford  │  Sarah Kate Wilson  │  Damian Wojcik  │  Diana Wolzak  │  Robert Worley  │  Eric Wright  │  William Wright  │  Yi Xin Yan  │  Guimi You
Selected by Ceri Hand
A.P.T Gallery
6 – 30 June 2013
Gallery open  |  Thursday to Sunday from 12noon to 5pm  |  Free entry
Opening Reception and Prize Giving  |  Saturday 8 June 2013  3 to 6pm  |  Ceri Hand will award three prizes of £500 each
Eve Ackroyd │ Tony Antrobus │ Miriam Austin │ Juan Bolivar │ Allan Boston │ John Brennan │ Agnes Calf │ Melanie Carvalho │ Cordelia Cembrowicz │ George Charman │ Martyn Cross │ Mark Davey │ Rose Davey │ Anita Delaney │ Adam Dix │ Geoff Dunlop │ Dexter Dymoke │ Andrew Ekins │ Annabel Elgar │ Rita Evans │ Gordon Flemons │ Grant Foster │ Cadi Froehlich │ Sofie Grevelius │ Hannah Hewetson │ Vicky Hodgson │ Emilia Izquierdo │ Paul R Jones │ Robin Kirsten │ Maria Konstanse Bruun │ Alex Lawler │ Bethan Lloyd Worthington │ Alex March │ Enzo Marra │ Nigel Massey │ Georgina McNamara │ Clare Mitten │ Gorka Mohamed │ Doireann Ni Ghrioghair │ Alejandro Ospina │ Justin Piperger │ Alicja Rogalska │ Melanie Russell │ Rachel Russell │ Miho Sato │ Lisa Selby │ Elizabeth Shuck │ David Brian Smith │ Christine Stark │ Callum Sutch │ David Theobald │ Abbi Torrance │ Ashley West │ Jack West │ Hannah Wooll │ Isabel Yellin │ Fantich and Young
A.P.T Gallery
Harold Wharf
6 Creekside
London SE8 4SA
Art in Perpetuity Trust
Registered Charity No. 1045363

ko-ax drawing invitation

David Minton is selected for ko-ax drawing at Mascalls Gallery in Paddock Wood. With descriptions like, ‘A landscape cut into a discarded envelope; dress-making pins tracing the line of a child’s ball; a baby’s first waking gestures caught with a fleeting pencil line,’ it promises to be an interesting look at contemporary drawing in Kent.

5Ways Filmstrip 4 and The Bigger Picture in Print International 2013And Congratulations! to Sandra Crisp for winning the 2013 Print International Prize at Oriel Wrecsam Gallery, North Wales. Her three pieces, [Imprint] Soft_Terrain (inverted), 5Ways Filmstrip 4 and The Bigger Picture, which is of course part of This ‘Me’ of Mine, were chosen from amongst the 40 other international printmakers in the show. Well Done!

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A Perfect Wrapper

Transition Gallery LogoCathy Lomax runs Transition Gallery, a Hackney Gallery 10+ years in establishment, and she is the publisher of Garageland and Arty magazines in addition to being a full time artist. She is fully immersed in the contemporary art world in London. These many strands are as much a part of her practice as painting and indeed, much of her personal and artistic sensibility is visible in each of these endeavours. This shift to multiple practices is common in contemporary culture now, but the source and intensity of personal experience, observation and perception is no closer to exposure.

Sixteen Most Beautiful Men (8 left profiles), 2012 Cathy Lomax

Sixteen Most Beautiful Men (8 left profiles), (c)2012 Cathy Lomax

Jane Boyer: Your work often deals with pop idols (Sixteen Most Beautiful Men, Dead Filmstars) and iconic film imagery (Film Diary, The Count of Monte Cristo). Curiously though, it’s not pop culture which is your subject, but the fascination, escapism, hero-worship and fan-love we’ve all experienced. What fascinates you about our psychological propensity to fascination and ‘longing for something unobtainable’?

Elizabeth, (c)2011 Cathy Lomax

Elizabeth, (c)2011 Cathy Lomax

Cathy Lomax: I think that pop culture in general is just a wrapper for supplying the things that the market demands – i.e. what we want. These things do not change much; they are excitement, desire, escapism etc. So with this in mind I let my self lead the direction of my work by following what it is that I am drawn to. I do not like to think that I am in any kind of elevated position in my commentary on my subjects; I am in and amongst the subject matter. Looking deeper into what it is I am interested and fascinated by, it is apparent it is something that I do not actually want but rather that it is something I can think about and live out in my head – probably because this is the safest way to do it. This is what led me to the Film Diary as film for most people is the most intense way to experience other lives and worlds.

JB: Tell us more about your piece, Glass Menagerie. Tennessee William’s play, The Glass Menagerie, which is the inspiration for your piece, looks at many of these issues of longing, fragility and nostalgia, but also issues of control, desire and a fervent denial of reality. What were you exploring in your work?

Glass Menagerie, (c)2011 Cathy Lomax

Glass Menagerie, (c)2011 Cathy Lomax

CL: It is quite a hard piece to talk about as it has a very fragmentary meaning. I am a big fan of Tennessee Williams’ work generally and always take the chance to see his plays when they are being performed. Val Xavier in Tennessee William’s ‘Orpheus Descending’ says ‘No body ever gets to know no body! We’re all of us sentenced to solitary confinement inside our own skins for life!’ – which just seems to contain so much truth. My Glass Menagerie piece is full of personal references and connections which mean nothing to anyone else but hopefully make the work into something that has a certain poignancy. It is formed from a collection of glass animals which I sourced from eBay. These animals are doppelgängers of a set one of my relatives had and I remember admiring them as a child but not being able to touch them.

JB: In your interview with Ayla Lepine, curator for Past in Present at the Courtauld Institute last year, you and she discuss the problem with nostalgia as ‘an alienation from the present’. You say,“I prefer the idea of sensucht, a German term that is more associated with a unique feeling you might get about people, places or events that can be almost impossible to communicate to anyone else – like how a favourite song makes you feel.”  Is it the uniqueness of the feeling or the fact that it is incommunicable which appeals to you?

the Way He Liked Me to Look, (C)2011 Cathy Lomax

the Way He Liked Me to Look, (C)2011 Cathy Lomax

CL: It is the feeling of Sensucht itself that I am attracted to (as everyone probably is). It is about finding something or someone that you feel something special for – it could be described as a-butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling. Often if you communicate this the specialness disappears, this makes trying to produce art about it very difficult as it is such a personal, delicate concept. So I make work about things that I feel something for and don’t enforce my feelings about them or pin things down too precisely. I am hoping to leave an openness – I do not want to force my feelings or interpretation about the imagery. I aim to imbibe the work with a contemplative quality.

JB: In your Arty 21 article, Dark, there is a quote by C.S. Lewis from his essay, The Weight of Glory, “I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you – the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence… the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something which has never actually appeared in our experience”. Do you think this Sensucht feeling is under siege by the phenomenon of social media communications with the public sharing aspect of it? It seems to me the secret feeling of Senucht is related to another time and to discrete ways of communication – a time when we still whispered. Might it become extinct with new ways of communicating?

Muslin, (c)2008 Cathy Lomax

Muslin, (c)2008 Cathy Lomax

CL: I think it is the case that social media challenges the specialness of Sensucht if only by speeding up the time it takes to find out every bit of info and every little nuance about a person, song, film , event etc. However it does also enhance the specialness in some ways by creating communities of like-minded people who run blogs or write fan fiction. I realise that this changes the Sensucht connection a little as the special connection becomes a shared secret but it can still be a secret from the outside world.

We have developed a fantastic library of Suggested Reading by the artists in This ‘Me’ of Mine. Follow the links here or visit the Bookshop to see all the books suggested so far. We hope you will see something inspiring for your own interests. If a book is unavailable, try the link to Abe Books.

Cathy’s suggested reading:

England is Mine by Michael Bracewell
Stars by Richard Dyer
Blonde by Carol Joyce Oates
Mystery Train by Greil Marcus
From the Beast to the Blonde by Marina Warner
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Austerlitz by WG Sebald
Cries Unheard by Gitta Sereny
Last Train to Memphis by Peter Guralinick
The Women we Wanted to Look Like by Brigid Keenan
The Drawings of Holbein in the Collection of His Majesty the King at Windsor Castle by KT Parker, Phaidon Press, 1945
The Andy Warhol Diaries edited by Pat Hackett
Visual and Other Pleasures by Laura Mulvey

Cathy also has a suggested film list:

Letter From an Unknown Woman (Max Ophuls, 1948)
The Pirate (Vincente Minnelli, 1948)
The Misfits (John Huston, 1961)
Twilight (Catherine Hardwicke, 2008)
The Fugitive Kind (Sidney Lumet, 1960)
King Creole (Michael Curtiz, 1958)
Witchfinder General (Michael Reeves, 1968)
American Gigolo (Paul Schrader, 1980)
Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (Todd Haynes, 1988)
A Royal Affair (Nikolaj Arcel, 2012)
Fishtank (Andrea Arnold, 2009)
Gone to Earth (Powell & Pressburger, 1950)
L’Atalante (Jean Vigo, 1934)
Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011)
Stromboli (Roberto Rossellini, 1950)

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Do We Miss the Mark by Expecting too Much from Art?

A few weeks ago, right after we opened at APT Gallery, I met art historian and curator Ben Street at the conclusion of Three Fields, a show he curated at No Format Gallery of works by Emma Cousin, Matthew Luck Galpin, & Charles Olgilvie. We had a lovely discussion about curation, abstraction, and whether there was any truth behind the idea of a ‘centre of art’ in the art world, which Ben discussed with art history PhD candidate Nicole – another American. Ben asked me how This ‘Me’ of Mine was going. I said I was very pleased with the turnout for the opening at APT and I was hopeful for some reviews of the show. Ben commented on how difficult it was to get reviews and as curator it’s really good to have that after doing all that work. I agreed and replied, “it’s not about the attention though, I kind of hope someone says ‘this is crap’ so I can respond and engage the debate. After all this work, I want to discuss it.” My response pleased Ben, which pleased me.

I’ve been granted my wish, not from an art critic, but from a member of ‘the audience’, Jeremy. I use that term because he referred to himself as ‘the audience’, I’ve always felt slightly uncomfortable with that phrase because it is very grand and seems it should be followed by an acknowledgment of the orchestra in the pit. Jeremy and I had a stimulating discussion about the role of the audience in art presentation and how often it is disregarded and dismissed. This topic is significant for me as a curator and new organisational director because it is the very issue I want to address in this work. As an artist, I’ve been concerned with this issue for a long time.

Jeremy wrote this statement in response to seeing This ‘Me’ of Mine in Folkestone:

“These thoughts are in no way a criticism of the artists, their works or the curator. All creativity is an inspired blessing and as such any thoughts here are purely ideas and observations and wandering impressions.

What initially struck me was the scale and scope of the curator’s objectives summarising this ‘Me of Mine’. A fascinating exploration, philosophical bordering on the metaphysical and indeed a subject demanding debate in the round? Indeed, the excitement and challenge generated prompted the immediate question – ‘How far was such a debate explored and extended by the exhibits?’ In short the answer was ‘Not very deeply and not very far’ but this was primarily the fault of the exhibits, but this is a fundamental challenge to art at any level. As an example take Iris’ Stocking. To what extent was perception and interpretation informed by having the delightful back story explained? The answer has to be ‘hugely so’ and this therefore begs the question of the impacts of the piece in its own rights – without the context of the back story. This question of context being a theme of the curator the juxtaposition of ideas here is beautifully complex! And yet the question of how well the works perform in their own right is troubling. I won’t waste time with banal considerations of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ here but a central function of any arts piece should be provocation. Indeed, at an intellectual or aesthetic level the audience should be challenged, enraged, amused, amazed, blown away or any other emotion you would care to mention or intellectualise and yet most pieces failed to achieve this. ‘Why?’ or ‘What’s the point?’are stunningly good questions if the audience  are provoked to explore such simple yet complex questions rather than use them as articles of fleeting criticism.

Related to the question of provocation as function is the question of dexterity of form. If the piece operates on an intellectual level when the audience is provoked to what extent might they enjoy the piece on an emotional level either due to provocation of idea or the form of the piece in its own right. Such a question is difficult but the issue of dexterity must come to the fore. Perhaps the Glass Menagerie is a useful example. Ostensibly a collection of everyday animal trinkets arranged with a minimum of dexterity on an everyday table, how can the audience be expected [to engage] on an emotional level? Sadly this challenge also applied to several other pieces. Such opening up of the artistic process to those not naturally ‘gifted’ is to be thoroughly recommended at an individual level but when placed in front of an audience different criteria are at work. If it looks mundane, sounds, mundane and feels mundane then it probably is mundane!?

And yet I finish by being confounded by my own arguments. Having been prompted to spend an enjoyable hour thinking, reflecting, arguing with myself and ultimately to articulate vague, half formed ideas I have to thank the curator and all the artists involved for a wonderful experience.”

Jeremy Wilson

My first response to Jeremy’s criticism to provocation by the artworks and their failure to do so is – this expectation is a limitation, unrealistic and a function of the ‘society of the spectacle’ as discussed in Guy Debord’s book by the same name, the postmodern world in other words. That is not to suggest however, that artworks should not strive to achieve this, but the desire for artworks to ‘provoke’, I suggest, is the result of a consumerist society. What happens if this expectation is removed and the artworks are viewed on face value – ‘what you see is what you get’, which is related to J.G. Ballard’s quote, ‘you find what you’re looking for’. If this were the expectation rather than provocation Jeremy would feel justified to like or dislike a work and not feel troubled that somehow the work was lacking because it didn’t provoke or that his own intellect was lacking because he ‘didn’t get it’. If this expectation to provoke was removed, artists would also feel less pressure to be shocking or provocative. How much art is made to this aim? And how numb have we become to this measure? I can answer that and I’m sure you can too. Without the expectation to provoke perhaps art would be made to communicate instead, which I suggest is as provocative a stroke as any contrivance to provocation.

An area of art which I find sorely lacking is the reading of art, not only by viewers but by artists as well. The notion that the art work should ‘speak for itself’ is an out-dated modernist approach to viewing art. It was an aim of Abstract Expressionism for viewers to feel a response directly as a result of the artists’ interactions with paint and canvas, a desire to elicit emotion from the viewer. The reading of art must be in tune with the times just as the production of art is tuned into its time. We no longer live in a post-war world. We live in a world of information and hyper-connectivity with media overload as a constant in our lives. I suggest because of this and as a result of this a contextual communication with art is appropriate, necessary and beneficial. However, this is not without risk. There is a fine line between too much information and not enough. Nor is this meant to suggest it is no longer possible or appropriate to have an aesthetic experience with art. I’m suggesting an openness to both the aesthetic experience and the contextual information. Art made to provoke ideas is not going to be in your face, and expectations of grandeur may not be appropriate for all works of art. A flexible approach to viewing art requires a flexible approach to expectation, or in other words, match the expectation to the art. Some of the most stunning works I have ever seen have also been the most quiet and unassuming (Vija Celmins comes to mind). Jeremy’s claim that art works should challenge the audience, enrage them amuse, amaze or blow them away is a hefty demand. I don’t disagree with this, but it is important I think to realise the depth of this expectation. He later mentions a ‘provocation to ideas’ by an artwork. Now that is a more realistic expectation and one which I agree every artist should attain in their work.

He goes on to suggest dexterity in the production of an artwork must ‘come to the fore’, to use his phrase. While I agree fine craftsmanship is important in the production of art, I question the notion that this has to be exhibited through the display of exceptional manual skills, which seems to be what Jeremy is seeking. His criticism of the ordinariness of the table and minimally dexterous arrangement of the animals in Cathy Lomax’s Glass Menagerie, I suggest is part of the sensibility of the work and it’s in this sensibility where the ‘dexterity’ lies. In a post-conceptual world (if that is indeed where we are) sensibilities, observations, linkages, appropriations, constructions and symbolisms all carry weight in being exceptional, not just in the dexterity of manual skill, which could also be called mastery. A mastery of linking observations can be a subtle thing, but its subtlety does not mean it is not masterful. Careful observation of the mundane is likely to produce a work which appears mundane. A failure to recognize the subject of the piece as the mundane, for example, will almost certainly miss the mastery in the observation of the subject. Presumably, when Jeremy uses the word ‘mundane’ he also suggests ‘mediocre’? If this is the case, where in fact does the mediocrity lie? I ask that not in criticism of Jeremy’s intellect which I found to be well above average; his willingness to bother to engage as deeply as he did also indicates a stance well beyond the mean. But the fact remains that perception remains a barrier.  Is the work and/or the presentation a mediocrity if it is perceived as such? Is it a mediocrity and possibly a failure if the depth and layers of meaning have not been recognised? Can this barrier be breached without the risk of being dictatorial? How much information is too much and when is too little a detriment? We can never know because we can never know the mind of another. Do we give up then?

I would defend Cathy’s work by suggesting she displays a mastery of form through the repetitive visual motifs in the film aspect of Glass Menagerie which she overlays onto similar shapes and forms in her table of glass animals. Also the appropriation of the themes in Tennessee Williams play have bearing on the meaning of the piece, adding a conceptual layering which mirrors the layering of light and shadow in her piece. Jeremy and I had an interesting discussion comparing Cathy’s work with Kate Murdoch’s, It’s The Little Things as both pieces use the placement of objects. Jeremy responded positively to Kate’s work appreciating and acknowledging the ‘dexterity’ involved in Kate’s careful arrangement of objects. However, the randomness of Cathy’s objects was a barrier for him. Once I pointed out the repetition of forms i.e. the swan in the film (which he had not recognized as a swan) and the swan figurines, and explained some of the concepts in Williams’ play, which Jeremy wasn’t familiar with; he felt he should consider the piece further – a gain for communication.

I was in Asda and overheard this brief exchange between Jason and his mum:

Mum: “Jason will you stop following me around everywhere.”

Jason: “I have to.”

This remarkable response from a child who implicitly understood the dynamic of his position in relationship to his mum I think holds the key to communication through art as something like this:

In a multiplicity of subjectivity (much like being in Asda or any other mega superstore chain):

From those who don’t question: “Will you stop explaining and demanding.”

Response from those who question: “I have to.”

Jeremy is not wrong to find a lack and he is not lacking because he perceived a lack. The artwork is not mundane because Jeremy found it so, nor is it exalted because its meaning was not perceived; it is what it is and Jeremy is who he is. Hopefully a willingness to question will help us to come together to breach the barriers. I think Jeremy presents the answer to his own questions by writing: “Having been prompted to spend an enjoyable hour thinking, reflecting, arguing with myself and ultimately to articulate vague half formed ideas I have to thank the curator and all the artists involved for a wonderful experience.” That’s all we wanted we wanted to provoke, so I think we succeeded.

Thank you Jeremy, for presenting the views of ‘the audience’, and a round of applause for the orchestra in the pit.

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An Important Thing Happened Last Night or the Left-handed Bricklayer

This 'Me' of Mine at Strange Cargo Photo JBoyer

This ‘Me’ of Mine at Strange cargo Photo: J. Boyer

One of the worst things that can happen during an exhibition opening is for someone drunk to walk through the door and start being disorderly. We had our version of that last night. However, while we were all slightly on edge not knowing what might happen, it turned out to be a very important exchange and I’m glad the left-handed bricklayer walked in.

Our opening – and I use that Americanism on purpose, because these viewing events are not private, the public is invited along with special friends, they are ‘open’ – was very successful with about twenty people there for the Artists in Conversation discussion and about 60 over all. Our guests were interested and engaged with the works and the exhibition as a whole. One lady said, ‘I wish all the artists were here to talk about their work!’ Interestingly, a suggestion for an exhibition which included the artists positioned next to their works, came the next day from a visitor named Jeremy; we had a fascinating discussion on the importance of including the audience in the discourse and presentation of art, but back to the left-handed bricklayer…

When he entered the gallery, he came in with a fluster of apologies for making a racket, interrupting the end of our Artists in Conversation. He then proceeded to interject as he walk noisily around the gallery, at one point actually standing behind Henri who was video-taping and saying ‘Cheese. Cheese. Cheese. Cheese.’ Brigitte Orasinski very politely said we were taping an artists’ conversation and we would be done very soon. We were all on edge.

Our left-handed bricklayer stayed for quite awhile looking at the works and talking to people. He showed me some photographs he’d taken with his mobile phone telling me he was an artist too. He used to do artwork but hadn’t done any in a long time because he’d had troubles but he would like to do some work again because he liked art. I could feel all of us wishing he would go.

In the Pub after we closed for the evening, the first thing we talked about was, ‘did you see that guy!’ I started to release my tension at his being there, but then I checked myself. I realised his being there was important, even if we did feel uncomfortable. He needed the companionship from us and the stimulation from the works. He needed some of the pleasure we all need from art. Hayley found herself liking him but wanting to get away from him in case he would say something to contradict his stories of his own life causing her not to like him any more. I really appreciated Hayley’s honest and human response.

He wrote this in our guest book:
I think the things this town is doing is superb. The friendliness and hospitality of the events and stories of all concern is wonderful I have come through a difficult time and hopefully have come through it and find these art exhibitions humble and very proud to be English in these difficult times of poverty and other situations I hope to succeed at some of the art areas as I have always love Art and always wanted to win at most things I have done hopefully one day people will appreciate my talents and I will go down in folklore in Sunny Folkestone. Yours faithfully and sincerly (name with held by me) Left-handed Bricklayer Born 5/11/61 —

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