Sarah Lucas and Francis Upritchard

Seeing the range of Sarah Lucas’ work together for the first time (at the Henry Moore Institute Leeds) has helped me to appreciate its warmth, and character. It is rude and ridiculous and these qualities are sometimes misunderstood and underated.  Yet despite my sympathy, I felt unsatisfied by the show. Nothing has really stayed with me.

Continue reading

Leslie Greene – A World of Paint

When looking into the paintings of Leslie Greene, one is introduced to a new landscape. The physical world of distance, closeness, movement, weight and matter are the surface narrative of the material that made it. The artist is exploring alternative possibilities. Layers of colour are washed or built up with textures and interwoven lines telling a story in meshes, gaps, veils and densities. Something is happening with these shapes that are not quite recognisable. An illusion of perspective is implied as the watercolour is sharp here, fuzzy there, as if the paint were in or out of focus. Shapes seem cut out and stuck on, maybe they are, but then the shadows they cast might be painted. Some elements are familiar, that pattern might be tartan or a tablecloth, but these points of reference soon become thwarted as aesthetic reverie engages one to unravel the order of painterly events, leading you through a visual fantasy.


Plaid-Empyreal,2010 ,acrylic, 61cm x 50cm

Leslie Greene’s website.

Can You Hear Me Now? Stephen Carley and Anna Mawby Curated by Andrea Hadley-Johnson. Derby Museums and Art Gallery

This newly commissioned installation takes as its starting point the contributions of hundreds of people. Their words, emotional, confessional and confrontational, form the basis of a museum, a material collection realised by Stephen Carley and Anna Mawby. The first piece of work to greet the visitor is a large sign made from blackboard with ‘When people politely lie’ written on in chalk. The title, sadness, indicates an element of confrontation and hints towards the interactive element that implicates us as a viewer. The names of the artists are written on the wall as well as ‘and you’, engaging us as a collaborator and reminds us that you only get back what you put in.

The public submitted a range of responses to a set of words; sadness, fear, guilt, delight, anger and disgust each becoming a theme or point of departure. While the themes are not restricted to each room, there is a feeling of being at a fairground; the work leads you on through each emotion.  For Carley guilt involves dirty sheets or shopping at John Lewis and of course desire is just out of reach. Mawby expresses anger, with sunken paper boats, the word repression just visible between its folds. Her pierced bottles, showing loss, have water flowing out from tiny piercings that spell out statements of sadness. A hidden mechanism keeps the bottled topped up suggesting no end to the tears.

On a notice board in the first room visitors are invited to deposit their unwanted emotions (like baggage at the door, as it were), setting the tone for a confessional journey. This kind of engagement invites an exploration of the personal experience. It is the visitor who takes on the role of confessor. While we are used to public confession, internal and private lives being exposed to us every-day, the intention here seems to be to provoke or antagonise us daring us to respond, or question our own relationship to the range of emotive issues explored.

There are points of recognition to be found as one moves along, however most of the work is open ended, so we are left hovering between material, text and signifiers. Disembodied statements, like snippets from a diary, are drawn, carved or sewn onto everyday objects, reflecting our urge to project onto things, or give things material form. The pairing together of text and object has implications, a mattress, a record player or cracked mirror can be read in a variety of ways. Thoughts, feelings and ideas are displayed, bottled, or left as traces in salt. The pleasure is gained from translating these messages.

The element of collaboration is clearly evident, and while each artist has a distinct voice, not just in the use of separate fonts, all the work suggests something alchemical has gone on. Carley’s take is somewhat edgy; life on a roll of toilet-paper, seems to be a waste of life, yet the text is written in gold. Mawby’s pieces are fairly primal, using light, salt and flowing water, the movement of materials transfers the meanings of the text. For both artists, words are incantations; materials are connected to memory, sometimes even nostalgia. Through juxtaposition and contradiction they create magic.

The best pieces offer up alternate readings, being ambiguous enough to allow the viewer’s imagination to read between the lines or enable a number of different interpretations. It might be argued that we are offered too much information, however, the feeling of overload easily fits in with frustrations and difficulty of the subject matter, i.e. emotional expression. In this regard the show is asking ‘can you hear me NOW?’, and the answer has to be ‘yes’.

On until June 10th 2012, for more info click

Red Death

I was in a gallery looking for some work I had group show. I must not have been particularly excited about what I’d put in there because I can’t  really remember what it was except that it was vague and black  and up on a wall. In the middle of the gallery placed around on the floor were about 3 or 4 red sculptures, they were red laminated geometric pieces like  furniture, nursery tables turned on their sides or very short office partitions. I spoke to the artist and part way through the conversation 3 or 4  girls aged around 10 years old came running through the gallery, they were wearing red dresses and had red ribbons in their hair. They ran around the sculptures, stopping, starting, positioning themselves in a fluctuating relation to the static forms. While watching the work play out the artist tells me the name of the piece, its  called The Red Death.

Hinged Painting

There is a piece of work in an old art school studio, propped against a pile of stuff, its a hinged painting, in the style of an alter piece. The tutor  said that the female undergraduate who made it lacked imagination but made up for it with precision but when I  looked closely I could see that the hinge wasn’t that good, when the picture closed there was a gap. Later I saw it hung up on the wall, quite high up. It had a gilt frame, it was displayed open, flat on the wall. I don’t recall the image, something like wallpaper, or no image at all, just bare board.


DH: Yeah, its really important that I wear my, that the influences are worn on the surface of the work. They don’t shy away from the influences. Influences are vital. And I think if theres enough influences, even if they are quite tight or a specific area, something new can come from that. It can move beyond its influences.

LG: Its like this conversation we were having about you going to see Martin Creed and me going to see Gabriel Orozco.

DH:  He, he he yeah!

LG: And us both thinking ‘oh no!’, what do we do? I saw a few pieces that looked a bit like what I was doing, you know and at first your initial reaction is ‘oh no’, a million things pass through your mind and one of them is ‘now I cant do that any more’, which is, you know, silly. ‘People are going to think Ive ripped him off!’, but mainly my fear, the reason I said ‘oh no’ is because I really liked what I saw so much and I was scared that I’d have to copy this now, I cant ignore it, and one reaction ive had to that is to get it out of my system and just get some paints out and do it. Not copy it but do the thing I was afraid of having seen that work.

Taken from a conversation between myself and Dale Holmes. For more please go to the Bloc Projects website.. and follow the links to Discourse.