Tag Archives: contemporary art

South London Gallery and a Final Word

It’s fitting that having just passed the two year anniversary of starting this blog and project, I bring it to an end. I do so with good news and a final look at the project.

First the good news. As you may have seen from my recent social media postings, South London Gallery has agreed to stock the book, This ‘Me’ of Mine: Self, Time & Context in the Digital Age. I’m very pleased because South London Gallery is one of those important spaces which is highly visible on the international art stage. Their acclaimed exhibition programme includes established international artists as well as early and mid-career UK artists. It is an important fixture in South London for the best and brightest in the arts.

Watch for This ‘Me’ of Mine: Self, Time & Context in the Digital Age in their bookshop in the coming weeks.

And a final look at This ‘Me’ of Mine as a response to evaluations on the project.

I asked a small focus group to consider several aspects of This ‘Me’ of Mine. Here are the highlights of their findings:

“Research into the subject of self and identity was very much present throughout the exhibition, though sometimes breadth of research seemed to get in the way of depth of research. I think it’s a terrific methodology to combine seemingly disparate sources and reference materials (from Deleuze to Shakespeare to Grimm Brothers to Twitter), but in order to make such surprising combinations accessible, focus and thrust of argument (whether critical, political or aesthetic) needs to be even more clear than when traditional disciplinary boundaries are in place.”

This is a very interesting point, and one well taken. We live in a time where combinations like those mentioned above are the norm. The disparate and distanced sit side by side on our computers screens every day demanding we consider them equally. We are learning to follow threads of information in ways meaningful to us rather than in ways presented and we have myriad forms in receiving information to consider when following a thread. I think ultimately, this will affect they way we view art as well. The structure of this project was to present threads of associations, threads which changed with each venue. The exhibitions were also closely linked to an active blogsite which created an even more complex method for information assimilation.

“As I entered the large octagonal space on a bright morning, the pieces seem peripheral.

The interactive piece is not working. The adjoining exhibition rooms, with flickering screens and varied pieces, feel like you’re entering the shaded space of the mind. Like indistinct, but viscerally present sensations.

The Art School Gallery space is the dominant factor, which in itself raises questions about  the exertion of the public over the private self.

Within these constraints the space was used well, and there are some very interesting pieces in the show, which call for a felt and thoughtful response.”

The challenge of curating one exhibition spread amongst 8 gallery rooms at the Art School Gallery was huge. I felt certain there would be no way to keep a continuous thought as visitors moved from room to room, especially with so much varied work. I elected to present a different theme in each gallery, but one related to the overall show premise. I think at each venue, visitors felt the presence of each particular space on the show; a very interesting response to witness as curator.

Jane has put an enormous amount of work and time into coordinating an ambitious exhibition programme, which is obvious to viewers. I think that this commitment combined with a few more degrees of editing and focus could lead to even stronger curatorial work in the future.

Undoubtedly, the experience gained from This ‘Me’ of Mine will impact on future projects and I look forward to it!

My sincere thanks to the focus group participants for their insightful and thoughtful responses to the project.

With that, This ‘Me’ of Mine is now finished.

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When Context Takes the Game

Not wishing to be coy by attempting to interview myself, which seemed an impossibility to me, I asked my friend, colleague and art historian, Becky Huff Hunter, to interview me for This ‘Me’ of Mine. I have great respect for Becky’s insightful writing. She has made a career writing for art magazines like Art Papers, Sculpture and Artforum. She, in fact, is the person who encouraged me to write and so it comes back around.

Trans, (c)2011 Jane Boyer

Trans, (c)2011 Jane Boyer

BHH: What prompted you to explore questions of the self and context in your own work? Was it initially a practice-led or reading-led project, a response to personal circumstances, or something else?

JB: It was a mix of those things really.  Naturally, I am attracted to certain issues because of personal experience so the things I find interesting to read and which are meaningful for me are related to the things I’ve experienced and they are the things I feel compelled to explore.  When I first settled on the topic of self and context I had spent a significant amount of time studying late modernism but I was also grappling with post-modernist ideology and it just became evident to me there was a step missing between the two views of self – self which is interior and private and self which is exposed and public.  I thought the middle ground between those views would be a valuable thing to explore further, looking at the relationship between context and self and the dichotomy of our own inner and outer personas and how we manoeuver amongst those influences.

Also, my personal experience has been one of having to cope with or manoeuvre through circumstances and situations, often circumstances and situations that were imposed on me by others; my childhood was a constant coping with painful impositions.  As an adult, I have not always been able to pursue things as I would like because of limitations in my circumstances. I have had to find alternative ways to make things happen in order to achieve the things I wanted to achieve for myself.  I’ve also had to continually measure my own understanding of who I am as an individual with how others see me or against what was expected of me.  So the topic of self in relation to context is also a very personal one for me.

Enigma Texture 1, (c)2013 Jane Boyer

Enigma Texture 1, (c)2013 Jane Boyer

BHH: Could you give a little more detail on one or two of the artists or writers that exemplify these two poles of thought around the interior and exterior self?

JB: Well the first one that pops to mind is Gilles Deleuze and his book The Fold.  This work is the philosophical basis for the project.  In The Fold, Deleuze describes the world as filled with elements. He says individuals are a ‘concrescence’ of elements; something other than a connection or a conjunction, a ‘prehension’. He defines this ‘prehension’ as individual unity. He explains that everything carries what came before and what comes after, and so by degrees unites the world. The ‘vector’ (his word) of unification moves from the world to the perceiving subject (us) and so there is an oscillation between the public and the private; a constant unification of public and private which means we participate in our own becoming, to paraphrase Deleuze.[1]

Samuel Beckett’s Malloy, the protagonist, Jacques Moran, falls into madness through a change in context; the thin veil of socialization falls away when he leaves his normal surroundings and lives without structure, social contact, rules, social formalities. Moran is presented as an individual with specific idiosyncrasies, e.g. belligerent personality, bullying behaviour, a compulsive orderliness etc. These idiosyncrasies turn to madness with the loss of a social order and structure. He loses himself in time, he loses his sense of right and wrong, he loses personal restraint, and he feels the loss of his sense of self with the change of his context.  With this change of context, Moran loses his public self, the self which knows and adheres to the rules of proper conduct and falling into madness his inner self, a self of paranoia, surfaces. There is also the possibility that Moran is Malloy, his pre and post self as one unified whole which carries the residue of two or possibly many. This is related to Deluze’s concept of ‘prehension’ above.

We're no longer seeing, but reading, (c)2011 Jane Boyer

We’re no longer seeing, but reading, (c)2011 Jane Boyer

Frank Stella’s Die Fahne Hoch! (Flags on High!) – this painting inverts perception of what is ground and what is foreground. The unprimed canvas stripes which are actually the ground, appear to be in the foreground, as if they sit on top of a black ground. Likewise, the painted black stripes seem to be the ground when in fact they sit on top of the unprimed canvas. The title was also the official marching song of the Nazis which when considered in the context of This ‘Me’ of Mine, brings a sociological/psychological question of personal identity and group identity. Does the self define the group or the group define the self? I discovered recently there is a visual connection in one of the works in This ‘Me’ of Mine which is directly related to Nazis indoctrination and to this question, something I wasn’t aware of when I chose the work.

Avatar 3, (c)2013 Jane Boyer

Avatar 3, (c)2013 Jane Boyer

BHH: You’ve written that Aly Helyer’s work Strange Fruit was the starting point for conceptualizing This ‘Me’ of Mine. Did you see links between her practice and your own? How did your thoughts on the exhibition spread outwards from her piece?

JB: Initially, I was attracted aesthetically to her pieces.  I was smitten by the beauty of their abstraction, the simplicity of their form, the starkness of black and white, the complexity of the tension they presented – I wished I had made them. And as Aly continued with her presentation for the exhibition Extra-ordinary, where I originally saw these works, speaking about the personal difficulties she experienced when she made these works, there just was a profound yet vulnerable attachment to the images, which I saw as Aly’s presence in the work. This is something I personally relate to, yes. My work comes from my life experience, there’s no way for me to stop that, it’s not something I control, so I think I felt a connection to Aly’s work because of that. I think her pieces became a sort of anchor-point in that I wanted to bring in other work which shared that sense of vulnerability but in more tangible realistic terms. I wanted to balance the utter abstractness of her work with work which could be easily identifiable. I think without realizing it at the time, Aly’s work represented the unspeakable emotion, that deep seeded stuff none of us want to express, of the show premise and I instinctively felt I needed to counterbalance that. David Riley’s piece Bar EP Blues is another piece which I see as an expression of raw emotion but it is the kind of visible emotion we experience; if you like, it’s the emotion we can see pass over people’s faces. So while his piece is also abstract, it is easily readable as a more visible emotion. Right there is a contrast between emotion as an inner experience and as an outer presence.

Poof! (c)2010 Jane Boyer

Poof!, (c)2010 Jane Boyer

BHH: The title of your own work included in This Me of Mine is Poof! Its title and form allude to fleeting experience, a magician’s disappearing act. But the graphite clings defiantly to the gesso, as if it’s frozen in the act of disappearing. Its dark, scaly surface looks petrified or fossilized, but it also reminds me of the way a photograph indexically preserves long-gone experience. In your description of ‘Situated Self’, your online portfolio series which contains Poof!, you observe that “we each of us exist in time and perceive of our existence in the world.” Do you identify with my impression of Poof!? What, for you, is Poof’s relationship to time?

JB: Yes, I do identify with your impression, in so far as I realize it is the way most viewers see the work, and in many ways that is fine with me, I’m delighted people are amused by its humour.  However, there is a deeper meaning to Poof! which deals with existence, life and death, witness and the residue left in the aftermath.  The notions you mention of petrification and fossilization are applicable to things beyond natural science, this happens with emotions too.  This is at the heart of the meaning of Poof! The suggested dimensionality of space, the space evacuated by something once there, as in the magician’s act, also acts as a reference to dimensionality of meaning in two vantage points; there is the thing/person disappeared and the thing/person left behind to witness the disappearance.  The thing/person disappeared is gone in an instant, time and existence is extinguished. The thing/person which witnessed the disappearance is left with a residue of shock, a moment seared and scorched in memory and the rest of time is measured by this split second of disappearance; as you suggest an “indexical preservation of long-gone experience”. Time is the ultimate context. For me, the relationship to time in Poof! quite simply is the expression of the fragility of existence; it could end at any moment.  It is the moment when context takes the game.

[1] Deleuze, Gilles, The Fold, Athlone Press 1993, reprinted by Continuum Publishing 2001-10, p.88, “Everything prehends it antecedents and concomitants, and by degrees, prehends the world…[t]he vector of prehension moves from the world to the subject, from the prehended datum to the prehending one…thus the data of a prehension are public elements, while the subject [the prehending one] is the intimate or private element that expresses immediacy, individuality and novelty…[e]ach new prehension…is at once public and private, potential and real, participating in the becoming of another event and the subject of its own becoming.”

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.

Jane’s suggested reading:

The Death and Return of the Author by Sean Burke

The Fold by Giles Deleuze

Art Since 1900 by Hal Foster,Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, & David Joselit

Perpetual Inventory by Rosalind Krauss

Painting edited by Terry Myers

The Art of Richard Diebenkorn by Jane Livingston

Cy Twombly Cycles & Seasons edited by Nicholas Serota

September: Gerhard Richter by Robert Storr

Culture in the Age of Three Worlds by Michael Denning

Tractatus Locico Philosophicus by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Difference and Repetition by Gilles Deleuze

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare by William Shakespeare

Three Novels by Samuel Beckett

The Wasteland, Prufrock & Other Poems by T.S. Eliot

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Invitation to This ‘Me’ of Mine at Ipswich Art School Gallery

Join us 21st September for the opening of This ‘Me’ of Mine at Ipswich Art School, a venue of Colchester+Ipswich Museum. The exhibition has been expanded for the Art School Gallery  and presents 60+ works by 25 artists. You can find out more about the artists who are joining the show on the GUEST ARTISTS page. All of the original This ‘Me’ of Mine artists are adding new work to the show too and it will be a wonderful opportunity to see more of their work in one presentation. Read more about the upcoming talks on the SYMPOSIUM DATES AND OTHER INTRIGUING TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION post, and you can find ticket information on the TICKETS page.

We hope to see you there!

Invitation_ThisMeofMine_Ipswich_lo res

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Joining A Conversation Well Underway

Untitled 2008, (c) Darren Nixon

Untitled 2008, (c)2008 Darren Nixon

Darren’s work fascinates me. The unresolved quality in the narrative of his work presents the powerful reality of not knowing. The individuals in Darren’s paintings often seem to not know where they are, which naturally makes us ask, ‘what’s going on?’ There is enough information for us to make sense of the scene, but not enough to give us an understanding of the narrative. We have recognition but not understanding and this in turn nullifies the recognition. I’ve rarely come across this kind of sensation when looking at art. Darren told me a tale about one of his paintings of two figures engulfed at midriff in a stream of flowing golden blob. When one viewer became insistent on knowing what the figures were doing, Darren’s reply was, “they’re not really there.” He told me it was a comment borne out of a bit of frustration at someone who just refused to accept the fact that the painting wouldn’t tell him everything he wanted to know about it.

Brilliant, and exactly the point.

Jane Boyer: In your artist statement you say, “I paint despite (or perhaps because of) my conviction that it doesn’t make sense to paint.’” That’s a compelling statement; can you explain what you mean?

Yellow Coat, (c)2013 Darren Nixon

Yellow Coat, (c)2013 Darren Nixon

Darren Nixon: Although painting is currently enjoying a small renaissance, you still feel, as painter the need to defend your decision to paint. When I think about why I paint, it strikes me that many of the reasons why don’t seem to make sense in the world of contemporary art; they are the very reasons why I love doing so. The weight of history which comes attached to painting – the fact that each painting has to come to terms with just being a painting following all the other paintings which have come before – just adds to its richness for me. As someone who is interested in the layers of meaning which come attached to any image, I love the fact that any time I start a painting it feels like joining a conversation which is already well under way.

JB: “The faces which have recently found their way into my work are generally background figures in newspaper images, people who seem somehow disconnected and remote from the events unfolding in the photograph as a whole. I love the idea that they are looking at or thinking about something wholly unconnected from the scene which has caused their appearance in today’s paper.” This statement from your recent artist statement suggests an even further disconnected engagement with the ‘conversation’; in that you’re interested in figures that are disengaged from their context. As voyeur/painter for these scenes, what is in that off-kilter placement of attention that intrigues you?

Untitled 1001, (c)2013 Darren Nixon

Untitled 1001, (c)2013 Darren Nixon

DN: There are several reasons, I think, that these faces interest me: Firstly I just like imagining what is going through that person’s head. When I was younger I remember it completely blowing my mind when I first realised that every person I walked past in the street every day was as much of a person as me, with at least as many thoughts in their heads as I had. I suppose this is just an extension of that kind of thinking – I love the thought that each person in every photo in every newspaper has just as much interesting stuff going on in their lives as the individual who is the focus of the story. The impossibility of knowing what is going on in that person’s head at that moment also reminds me of the difficulty of meaningfully conveying any complex idea using any kind of imagery.

JB: These notions of diverted attention also suggest we’re only outwardly engaged, but underneath it all we are being impelled by a sense of fascination. Do you think this leads to isolation or an enriched reality?

Young Prince, (c)2013 Darren Nixon

Young Prince, (c)2013 Darren Nixon

DN: One of the reasons I source mainly from newspaper, television and internet imagery is because the way we interact with these media shapes so many of our opinions about the world around us. Most of what I know about the world has been drawn in a fairly disjointed and fragmentary fashion from this huge, seemingly ever present sea of information. The sheer amount of available knowledge is so overwhelming that I end up feeling always frustrated that I know nothing about anything. Not knowing what I should be spending my time getting to know, I end up with a constant sense of only ever partially understanding even the most important current and historical events. I am impelled by a great fascination but end up mostly confused about which direction to allow my fascination to lead me in the time I have.

Although partial understanding can be frustrating and isolating, it does carry its own qualities. As events become jumbled and confused in our minds a kind of magical haze is thrown over everything. We start to create our own narratives, filling in the gaps between what we pick up from various sources with any number of unreliable memories and opinions. In a sense this is what I invite the viewer to do when they look at my paintings. The background figures I mentioned earlier, who seem disconnected from the scene of the photo in which they appear are a reminder of that ever present sense that there is always something just as interesting and ready to steal your attention just off camera from what you are focusing on. My work sometimes becomes a celebration of the joy of not knowing and the possibilities not knowing can offer you.

Untitled 30511, (c)2011 Darren Nixon

Untitled 30511, (c)2011 Darren Nixon

JB: Tell us about your painting, Untitled – 300511. The removal of the children from their class surroundings highlights their insecurities, nervousness and vulnerability. There seems to be no comfort by being part of the group.

DN: Untitled – 300511 originally came from my love of Marlene Dumas’ painting The Teacher (sub a) and my own curiosity to see if I could pull off a painting of a large group in the same manner. Like most of the paintings I am happiest with, much of what makes this piece work comes from trying to react to a combination of happy accidents and frustrating obstacles. The ghostly figures were originally intended to be the first layer in a much deeper more vibrant final composition, closer to the Dumas piece, but I found something I didn’t want to lose in the first layer by adding further layers.

Newspaper D, (c)2013 Darren Nixon

Newspaper D, (c)2013 Darren Nixon

JB: Do you think the fragmentary and disjointed nature of our information sources is having an effect on our identity and how we perceive ourselves in relation to it?

DN: I don’t really feel like I have any definitive answers to a lot of the questions I think about whilst painting. Whilst these are questions which obviously intrigue me, I am more interested in the idea that people who look at my paintings think about some of these questions in their own terms. In a way I am more interested in my work staying at the questions stage and looking at the possibilities which are opened when you start to ask questions. The idea of finding answers and reaching conclusions isn’t one which interests me so much.

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.

Darren’s suggested reading:

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
The Castle by franz kafka
The Garden Party and Other Stories by Kathryn Mansfield
Labyrinths and the short story Blue Tigers by Jorge Luis Borges
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Cathedral by Raymond Carver
The Collected Stories by Ernest Hemingway
Photography a Critical Introduction edited by Liz Wells
Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Frank Sinatra Has a Cold: and Other Essays by Gay Talese

Jane’s suggestions:

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
Ulysses by James Joyce

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Visualplanet & ENIGMA

Visualplanet touchfoil logo

I’m so pleased to announce a new sponsorship agreement with Cambridge business, Visualplanet™ for the supply of their touchfoil™ integrated into a mirror screen display for the creation of a special work of art called Enigma for This ‘Me’ of Mine at Ipswich Art School Gallery. The visualplanet touchfoil™ is a micron thin film touch sensor that can sense a touch or multiple touches through glass. Primarily used in interactive information kiosks, like at the National Theatre in London, Visualplanet™ is joining with us to explore the possibilities for the application of the touchfoil™ in a work of art.

Read the full press release.


Enigma Demo 5, (c)2013 Sandra Crisp

Early Design Sketch, (c)2013 Sandra Crisp

Enigma will be a collaborative adventure between This ‘Me’ of Mine exhibiting artist, Sandra Crisp, creative programmer, Luis Marques, and myself. It will be a fully interactive artwork where visitors can draw gestures on the touchfoil™ screen to create a personal avatar.

Here is a snippet from communications between Sandra and me during the conceptualisation of Enigma:

——– Original Message ——–
From: Sandra
Date: Wed, July 10, 2013 1:12 pm
To: Jane
Other option- is to allow the program to generate painted/ graphic marks/ avatars- not use our imagery as such but use them instead as a basis to design various gestures, shapes to construct the program

I know there are ways of using pre-existing images because that’s how I did climate collager but it maybe more interesting if the marks are generated by the program- what do you think? Like an automated/generative drawing program
—– Original Message —–
From: Jane
To: Sandra
Sent: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 12:19 PM
Yes, that could be quite interesting. It sounds like that could be heavy programming, do you think?
——– Original Message ——–
From: Sandra
Date: Wed, July 10, 2013 1:53 pm
To: Jane

My thinking with putting the avatars on a kind of network structure or grid etc is that people can see their individual avatar as part of a group identity. It also nicely gets around the fact they can’t print them (I don’t think that needs to happen anyway for the piece to be interesting or relevant btw)
—– Original Message —–
From: Jane
To: Sandra
Sent: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 1:46 PM
Yes, think my previous email answered this too. There doesn’t have to be a paper element, just something to think about.
Yes, definitely like collecting all the avatars into a larger group identity. I have a suspicion we might find it ends up looking like a giant QR code, especially in the print form.
——– Original Message ——–
From: Sandra
Date: Wed, July 10, 2013 3:07 pm
To: Jane

Giant QR code could be coool. Partic if it is a 3D object/ cube that you can rotate in space and examine
all the avatars that make it up.
—– Original Message —–
From: Jane
To: Sandra
Sent: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 2:16 PM
Way coool. I hadn’t thought of a 3D object of avatars. It might be cool to do 3D printing, but I think that would have to be entirely outside TMoM and at a later date.
I really love the idea that a work for TMoM might spark a whole other work/exhibition – ‘distributed practice’ indeed.

—– Original Message —–
I agree, on both counts :))

Luis Marques

Luis Marques photoProgramming whiz, Luis Marques, is going to make all this happen. I was completely amazed by everything Luis was suggesting in our first meeting about the project. He has developed his work in recent years for various fields, such as software for real time performances, generative composition in music, graphical environments for electronic music performance, interactive installations, and sound design for video.

Luis is currently developing a project for Contemporary Music. At the same time, he develops its software in audio, which aims to address the manipulation and creation of sounds in real time. He also develops software for creating rhythmic patterns which is based on generative algorithms and induction of their behaviour by its user. Find out more about Luis’ work here.

Thanks so much to Visualplanet™ for making all this possible and thanks to Sandra and Luis for what promises to be a fascinating collaboration!

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Ipswich Dates

CIMs Logo I’m so pleased to announce our dates for the final venue of the This ‘Me’ of Mine tour – Ipswich Art School Gallery at Colchester and Ipswich Museum Services. The guest artists have been invited, works have been selected, curatorial plans are sent and preparations are under-way! On behalf of all the artists and Colchester+Ipswich Museum, we hope you will join us for the expanded This ‘Me’ of Mine exhibition and a broadened exploration of identity in relation to the context of our digital age.

Experience, (c)2013 Shireen QureshiExhibition Dates:
21st September 2013 to 5th January 2014

Saturday 21st September, 2 to 5pm

Artists in Conversation:
2 to 3pm the afternoon of the opening

Guest Artists:
Molly Behagg
Edward Chell
Kate Elliott
Suzanne de Emmony
Andrew Litten
Gary Mansfield
Helen Scalway
Lisa Snook
Jacqueline Utley
Kai-Oi Jay Yung

page for more info.

Anthony Boswell
Jane Boyer
Sandra Crisp
Annabel Dover
Hayley Harrison
Aly Helyer
Sarah Hervey
Cathy Lomax
David Minton
Kate Murdoch
Darren Nixon
Edd Pearman
Shireen Qureshi
David Riley
Melanie Titmuss


The Study of Peter Pan, Untitled 8, (c)2013 Kate Elliott

The Way He Liked Me to Look, (C)2011-2013 Cathy Lomax

The Way He Liked Me to Look, (C)2011-2013 Cathy Lomax

Oh that’s lovely news, I’d be delighted to exhibit in This ‘Me’ Of Mine.  I thought the show at APT was extremely poignant, Cathy Lomax’s piece still twinkles in my memory. The show is going from strength to strength, it’s brilliant!

Lisa Snook

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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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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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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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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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