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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Sussex Coast College Foundation Degree Show

What is the different between fine art and craft? The dividing line seemed virtually invisible at the Foundation Degree show in Fine Art Contemporary Practice and in Craft at Sussex Coast College. Traditionally craft has been applied to the creation of objects which may have utilitarian function or be decorative, which are hand produced and where the creation requires a learnt skill which adheres to certain standards, whilst the term art is applied to works which have a meaning, which express emotion and which communicates with viewers. There is supposed to be a difference in the way the objects are created; craft is more structured; art is more open-ended. As I looked round exhibition I found myself checking labels to see whether works were produced by Craft students or by Fine Artists.  There were some surprises: that is the way it should be. Here are a few of the works:

I particularly liked Gilles Buxton’s heads – somewhat eerily mounted on sticks as though severed from their bodies and acting as a warning to potential transgressors.

Robert Dennis’ work focuses upon the textures of the natural world, displayed through castings, rubbings and film. Both Dennis and Buxton were undertaking the FDA in craft.

The 100 lucky golden bears by Lyn Dale on the other hand were from the art side. I must admit to a partiality to the bears having found one.They were hidden about the college and the finders were invited to write in with their comments.

They are supposed to bring the holders luck and who knows perhaps they will. The 100th bear was splendidly presented gleaming under a glass box on a black plinth. The comments of the finders were displayed on a nearby screen and some can also be seen on the lucky bear website. My bear at least for the time being is sitting on the nose of the stuffed alligator on the mantlepiece. Here to prove it is a picture.

Two contrasting films caught my eye.  Deborah Ward’s Voices in Trauma shows a woman on two screens; in each case she appears gagged by something which we can’t quite identify – an insect perhaps; it juts out of her mouth; it is both fascinating and disturbing

Also exploring the idea of being trapped but in a very different way was Shammi Begum’s film about child brides. A figures moves inside what could be a bridal gown or perhaps a shroud and she cannot escape.

Film was part of Frith Lawson-Johnson ‘s A Marriage of Waves.  Wires have been stretched between two groynes; they mimic the pattern of her brain waves as revealed on an EEG scan. Lawson-Johnson suffers from epilepsy and the wires appear to oscillate alarmingly though how different they are from the brain waves of those who do not  have epileptic episodes I could not judge.  On the film we see the sea come in and engulf them. Lawson Johnson explains that in a world that has become so fast paced we have forgotten the forces around us that affect the way we think and act. By connecting her brain waves to the sea she is connecting with the power that nature has on us and is redressing the balance.


Wave meets wave

Out of touch with the Neanderthals

English: First reconstruction of Neanderthal m...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week there was a report that the earliest paintings may have been made not by human hands but by Neanderthals. Scientists are now thinking that cave paintings in Altemira were made between 37,000 and 41,000 years ago. I know nothing lasts forever but I have a feeling that if something has been going on for 41,000 years give or take a few months, 2012 is unlikely to be the year that it finally goes out of fashion.

So I was disappointed not to see any paintings at all at the Sussex Coast College Art and Design Degree Show held at the PrintWorks in Hastings. Not one – there were graphics,  installation, film, sculpture, a book, photographs, including an embroidered photograph, but nobody  had got out a paint brush, or emulating the Neanderthals, a painty hand or stick and daubed it over something. I suspect the third year students felt real mucky, oozy paint wasn’t contemporary enough. I think they are mistaken. The Constructionists back in 1920 also believed that easel painting was non revolutionary and had outlived its time.

Painting is  a bit like denim – fashion magazines say about every three years it’s finished and nobody takes any notice and continue to wear it. The desire to paint things and, equally, to live side by side with paintings is hardwired into the human brain. The challenge for us as artists is to find new and interesting ways to do it.

That being said there were still some interesting works there. I particularly liked David Sullivan’s film. At first sight it appears to be completely incomprehensible though visually intriguing. I caught up with Sullivan; he explained that it was inspired by the 2011 summer riots and the way that rioters communicated through Blackberries. He started looking at the language they used. The result was Babel Babes; moving lips that interpret the emoticons used in text messaging. The film, Sullivan told me, is a conversation in pictures about someone being angry and heartbroken and friends wanting to cheer her by going out for a beer and dance.

Sullivan made the film and edited it using After Effects, Premier Pro and Photoshop. For those people who are Neanderthals when it comes to using this kind of language,  >:O >:O>:O means angry, angry angry. Wikapedia very helpfully provides a full list which will help you interpret.


Another artist who has changed images digitally is Colin Hemingway. His work Fun and Games centres around a hard backed book apparently by the author SK Bebete. Hemingway’s work was inspired by Nobel prize winning author Julian Barnes in his acceptance speech thanking the book designers and emphasizing the need for physical objects. The art is an exploration of what is real. It also examines the way that these days anybody can publish anything no matter whether it is of value or not. Hemingway took the 1966 Ladybird book and digitally altered each page, so that they are unrecognisable. The words of the book are rearranged to make a different text. People can have their own signed version by ordering a book on line and adding a label which already bears Bebete’s signature.

Lydia Moon’s work commemorates deaths in Afghanistan. She has constructed a number of white paper bricks; each brick represents a single life lost; each pile the number of casualties lost during a month. There are hundreds of them and they are stacked down the stairs. I didn’t count them but they must only represent British lives, 419 as of yesterday:  if they included Afghani lives and American lives they would need more stairwells.

The Art and Design Degree Show (Sussex Coast College in conjunction with Brighton University) is open from 10.00 to 16.00 until June 22 at the Print Works, 14 Claremont TN34 1HA.