Coastal Currents: Open Studio; Seen and Unseen

If you are in Hastings this weekend or next, we are holding an open studio as part of Coastal Currents arts festival.  Showing are works by Naomi Holdbrook, Celeste Barker and myself  around the theme of Seen and Unseen. Studio is a bit of a misnomer in this instance;  while I often work at home  the so called studio doubles as a laundry room. I have found through bitter experience that oil paints and clean washing are not a good combination. The room is certainly not large enough to show works from three of us so we have spent the last two days turning the ground floor into a kind of gallery by removing  all clutter such as the television and cushions with the result that it looks unnaturally tidy and feels somewhat uncomfortable.

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Here are few of the pieces you can see if you come:

We Gather: Naomi Holdbrook: oil on canvas
Orifice 1: Sue McDougall, Mixed media
Seen and unseen: Naomi Holdbrook
Seen and unseen: Naomi Holdbrook Mixed media
Sophia Writing in Striped Socks: Sue McDougall, acrylic on canvas work in progress
Untitled:Celeste Barker mixed media
Untitled:Celeste Barker, mixed media

Open Studio September 21, 22, September 28,29 11am to 6pm

Still time to see the Degree and Diploma Exhibition at Sussex Coast College

The Degree and Diploma Exhibition at Sussex Coast College finishes tomorrow. Come along. I will be invigilating between 4.00 and 6.00 today; it would be nice to meet you. We are on the 4th and 5th floor.  Sadly it is unlikely that you will be able to see Julia Mitchell’s  ice sculpture. It was doing fine on Friday, the night of the private view, but even though it must be one of the coldest June on record, not cold enough to keep it from melting.

Julia Mitchell: ice sculpture
Julia Mitchell: ice sculpture

This work was extraordinary because of the way it changed before your eyes. Opaque to begin with, as the melting process started you could see further and further into the ice cubes and see the memorial that she had set inside. I have written about performance art; this was an artwork that did its own performing.

But there is plenty more to see. I particularly like Adam Gibrelli’s drawings.

Adam Gibrelli: drawings
Adam Gibrelli: drawings

We have been blessed with two Adams on the course. I also liked the work by the other Adam,  Adam Fairbrother, a self-portrait.

Adam Fairbrother: self portrait
Adam Fairbrother: self-portrait

Katy Oxborrow’s painting on perspex is interesting in the way that it projects light on to the surrounding walls.

Katy Oxborrow: painting on perspex
Katy Oxborrow: painting on perspex

I really liked Alex Mills’ take on Grimm’s fairy tales; it would be nice to see more of them.

Alex Mills: Little Red Riding Hood
Alex Mills: Little Red Riding Hood

Among the craft students, I was impressed by Phillippa Haines’ strange manikins.

Phillips Haines:7 figures
Phillips Haines: 7 figures

and the glass sculptures by Isabelle Moriaty.

Isabelle Moriarty: glass sculptures
Isabelle Moriarty: glass sculptures

You might also have a look at my work,  shown here is the inside of Orifice 3; there is more about that in the last post.

Sue McDougall: Orifice 3 detail
Sue McDougall: Orifice 3 detail

The Degree and Diploma Exhibition is open to the public between 10.00 and 6.00  on Monday 24 and Tuesday 25 June at Station Plaza Hastings

Growing to like performance art

I have never been absolutely sure about performance art. Until recently I rather felt that performances worked best in the domain of the theatre and the Turner Prize offering by Spartacus Chetwynd did little to change my mind. I am beginning to feel differently thanks to the work of Izabela Brudkeiwicz who has just completed the Brighton University FDA in Fine Art (Contemporary Practice) at Sussex Coast College and is pictured below.

Izabela’s performances are hard to watch because she drives herself to the absolute limit of endurance in what almost seems like a self-imposed punishment.  Although the pictures give some kind of impression, watching her live is very different. A year ago she painstakingly glued rice to the wall grain by grain for a whole week until she could hardly stand and the rows of rice, which had started in neat parallels dipped towards the floor. In her current performance she utters a cry or wail in a code of her own devising. Izabela is Polish and the work is about the problems of communication.

izzy standing compressed

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Izabela has performed this ritual around a dozen times over the last few months. Dressed in a simple white shift  and with bare feet , or on occasions, white socks – a kind of sacrificial garb – she maintains the performance for two or more hours until she sinks with exhaustion.  It is simple but it is also extremely powerful.

Izabela will be performing at the Sussex Coast College Degree Show Private view on June 21 at Station Plaza Hastings.

Chapman Brother (singular) at Sussex Coast College

“Run for the Hills the Chapman Brothers are coming,” the slightly annoying poster at Sussex Coast college said, annoying because it meant the opposite, just in the way that businesses calling themselves the Secret Toy-shop or referring to themselves as the best kept secret don’t actually want you to stay away. At the due time – 12.00 on Friday – some seventy or more students congregated in one of the classrooms and we waited. The report went round that Dinos was not coming, and we waited some more. Then we heard that Jake was parking and would soon arrive and we waited a bit longer.  Then we heard there were problems on the motorway.  He was not exactly up to the Justin Bieber standard of keeping  people waiting but when you are trying to get work finished  before your final exhibition, you can think of better ways to spend time.

Students at Sussex Coast College getting ready for the Gap,am Brothers
Students at Sussex Coast College getting ready for the Chapman Brothers

At 1.00 some people started wondering whether this was performance art and just about everybody disappeared for a bit to find something to eat. Finally at about 1.20 when most of them had come back, Jake arrived accompanied by some bloke who sat up at the front and didn’t introduce himself. I guess he was a PR. Jake seemed very affable and rather bored and the PR kept talking which was irritating, as we were there to hear Jake.

Jake Chapman and unintroduced bloke talking to art students at Sussex Coast College
Jake Chapman and presumed PR bloke talking to art students at Sussex Coast College

Damien Hirst had been on Desert Island Discs that morning and Jake told us he was a good chap and implied he didn’t much like Tracey Emin because of her attitude to tax and because she was a Conservative supporter, which seemed fair enough. He explained about making a replica of her tent, All the people I have every slept with,” the one which got burnt in the fire at the Momart Warehouse. “We called it  ‘The same only better’ “and went on to say that they had been thinking about making a number of replica tents, which people could sleep in at a music festival. So that sounded quite fun.

A few of us asked questions – I asked about the relationship the brothers had with each other, which he had clearly been asked a million times and then about whether they had ever rejected any idea on grounds of taste and Jake said they didn’t set out to shock – which you might believe, or again you might not;  but it was all quite friendly and jokey.

Zygotic Acceleration, Biogenetic, De-Sublimated Libidinal
Zygotic Acceleration, Biogenetic, De-Sublimated Libidinal : Chapman Brothers

Then one student asked why his work featured pre-pubescent girls, which seemed a fair question but brought a slightly odd reaction. Now anybody who knows anything about the Chapman brothers, must be aware of the fibreglass mannequins which have penises instead of noses. Not everybody will know the name of the work, which is quite a mouthful  – Zygotic Acceleration, Biogenetic, De-Sublimated Libidinal. Instead of answering the question, Jake started prevaricating about which work she was referring to, and then the PR stepped in and said they weren’t human, and Jake said they weren’t pre-pubescent and it was easy to misunderstand, or something like that. Then his mobile went and we didn’t get a full answer and he went off to talk to someone more important. We had had all of 20 minutes.

I reckon if you are a celebrity artist you ought to be able to manage to talk to a bunch of art students without a PR to support you. If you have one,  you really ought to have a ready answer to questions like that. One possible answer might be that he depicts pre-pubescent girls to satirise the way that the media sexualises them. That they are ‘not human’ really won’t do,  particularly when the dehumanisation of women and girls is part of what drives rape culture.

That evening Jake was holding a session at the Jerwood Gallery. I had the offer of a ticket, but I decided I had had enough. Those that went said it was quite good fun. He had people playing Exquisite Corpse, you might have played the game at school. You  fold up paper and then different people draw  heads, bodies and feet and you unfold the paper and – bingo – you have a result.  It sounds as if a reasonably good time was had by all. A group of Sussex College Students almost won the competition for the best drawing. They were down to the final two.   The first prize was a visit to the Chapman Brothers studio. The second prize – you’ve guessed it  – was two visits to the Chapman Brothers studio – actually it wasn’t – I made that bit up.

Installation at the Printworks

A week may be a long time in politics but it is precious little time to build an art installation. I know: it was an exercise I did last year on the Fine Art Contemporary Practice course at Sussex Coast College and though it was fun, it was also pretty stressful knowing that the Private View would happen at the end of the week whether or not you were ready. Yesterday, I was the visitor to the Private View put on by the first year students. They may have been stressed beforehand, but  I was enormously impressed. It was held at the Printworks in Claremont Street, Hastings which is  a wonderful building – atmospheric, great beams, exposed brickwork –  that kind of place. Many of the installations reflected its history.   Here are few of the works I liked the best.

To Print I and To Print II: Bev Thornley

To Print II is a  text installation  by Bev Thornley which projected quotations about people who might have worked in the building. The words appeared letter by letter making you aware  not only of what was written but also the interior of the building by the way that beams, plaster and missing plaster were brought to life by the light of projector. It was accompanied by To Print I which was a sound installation of the noise of printing machines.

Printed words appear in the corner of the exhibition space in the Printworks
To Print: Bev Thornley

The Metamorphosis in Space : Claire Henley

Made out of wire,  Hastings Observer newspaper clipping and coloured paper, these butterflies were designed as a symbolic representation of the changing passage of time.  They looked  striking at the top of the spiral staircase, the colours glowed against the dark background .

Rainbow coloured butterflies are suspended above the spiral staircase at the Printworks
Metamorphosis in space: Claire Henley

Stairecase Song: Barbara Mullen

Barbara Mullen also used the staircase; unfortunately her piece which was a sound sculpture cannot be shown: for that you had to be there. It was  created by recording the sound created when the  staircase was played like a xylophone. It was an imaginative use of the space, and as you walked up and down the stairs the sound of your own footsteps added to the effect.

Untitled: Carolina Lawson

This simple installation by Carolina Lawson appeared to be breeze-blocks improbably suspended by ribbon but in fact it was an illusion, created by the lighting and the wrapping; they were in fact made of cardboard. They certainly looked heavy and that made you think about the way the Printworks had been built.

Breezeblocks are apparently suspended by ribbon at the Printworks in Hastings
Untitled: Carolina Lawson

Strike Off: Aimee Whatford

Aimee Whatford was drawn to the close connection between telecommunications and  early newspaper printing and so created this installation out of galvanised wire. Suspended from the ceiling, it had a ghostly presence, reflecting past communications within the building while  the twin pillars which are somewhat convoluted, possibly suggest understandings and misunderstandings.

Galvanised wire forms are hung from the ceiling at the Printworks in Hastings
Strike Off: Aimee Whatford

Safe Journey Beautiful Boy: Jaz Schalicke

This strange video was most intriguing; two stills are shown below; among the tense stripes, words would fleetingly appear and disappear. They were gone before you could truly read them but I made out tears, loss and as you can see in the still on the right despair.

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Peep Holes into the Past: Janee Waters

Scattered throughout the building were these small circular prints. Janee Waters explained that she had discovered old newspapers and magazines in the toilets of the building, as well as old wallpaper and had reflected that they might have been printed on the premises. She therefore created the peep holes which took selected text from advertisements in magazines aimed at women as home-makers.

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Art School in the Room

Readers of this blog will know that I have little patience with the “is this or is this not art” debate. I am quite happy to accept if an artist says, ‘it is art’ then that is what it it is – next question.  The real issue is whether it is good. Even so, when before Christmas, artist Annie Davey called for volunteers at Sussex Coast College  to help undertake a project about art schools, which would involve collecting  photographs of the old Hastings art college, I found, despite myself, that I was having the subversive thought,”this isn’t really art at all.” After going to a couple of meetings I dropped out. The results of the project are now on display in the Room Gallery outside the college. I went along to see the results.

The idea was t0 examine the way that 20th century art schools have been historicised and  romanticised through photographic images and stories. The team, who comprised Celeste Barker, Marie Ford, Barbara Mullen and Dan Dowling,  became interested in the move of the Hastings Art School from the old Victorian building to the current site in Station Plaza. They also looked at the way contemporary art schools combine freedom and experimentation with rules and bureaucracy.

Displayed on the wall were a series of found photographs from the old art school.

A series of photographs of the old Hasting Art College pinned to the wall
Found Photographs of the old Hastings Art School

They were not posed or artistically taken shots but included the mundane detritus that is left when a building is closed.

chairs are piled on desks at the old hastins Art College
Found Photograph of the old Hastings Art School
A filing cabinet in the old Hastings College
A filing cabinet in the old Hastings College

A slide projector showed images of the new building which had been made deliberately blurry to  distance the viewer from the present time.

A blurry photograph showing a bench with sink at Sussex Coast College
Slide Projection of studio space at Sussex Coast College – it has been deliberately blurred

On the walls, were a selection of the instructions that we receive, whilst on a loop, course leader Patrick Jone’s voice intoned the aims of the modules as set out in the student handbook.

A photograph of a sheet of paper with instructions to students at Sussex Coast College
Student instructions Sussex Coast College

Matching the modern instructions were actual notices from the old building.

A sign saying drive in thie bay only do not reverse at the old Hastins Art School
Signs from the old Hastings Art School

Strangely, and despite my misgivings, it all actually worked. I accepted it was even art. The photographs collectively were more interesting than you might have thought and pointing a spotlight on the mundane, particularly that which is separated by time has the effect of making it look special. Also, the instructions, which must be similar to those posted on many student notice boards,  looked unique and worthy of attention. The aim of the show was to “present a series of small gestures that cross wires and destabilise our perception of the past, whilst implicitly asking questions about what might be ideal for an art school now.”  Even so, I suspect that it would be of most interest to those people who experienced, which I did not, the old art college in Hastings.

Art School is on display in the Blue Room Gallery outside Sussex Coast College today 25 January 2013

Hastings Christmas sea …. and seagulls

The  Hastings fishing boats were all on the beach because it is Christmas Day, but the sea didn’t care; it was busy doing its stuff.

Two fishing boats are on the beach at Hastings; the sea can be seen in the background
Hastings fishing boats on the beach on Christmas Day 2012
Seagulls flying above the sea at Hastings
The seagulls were enjoying it
A seagull shelters from the wind on the beach at Hastings
Except this one that didn’t want to play because it was cold
Dark seas at Hastings UK
He was right; it was cold
Sea on Christmas Day in Hastings 2012
But sometimes the sun came out
Sea breaking on a breakwater at Hastings UK Christmas Day 2012
For a few moments


Happy Christmas everybody.