Leah Higgins and I are pleased to announce that we have added another duo exhibition, Traces to our exhibiting schedule.
When I was a child living in St.Helens, the small glass museum at the headquarters of Pilkingtons Glass was a place to be taken for weekend entertainment. I confess that the attraction as children was not so much the cabinets containing the glassmaking history of the town but the drinks machine. In the early 1970’s and when you are four or five, the fact that you could put a coin in a machine and get a warm, sugary drink in a squishy plastic cup was a big deal. So, when I heard year later that the museum had moved to a location in the town centre I didn’t really pay any attention, having long grown up and discovered how to make real hot chocolate at home.
So, it was with both great surprise and shame that I eventually discovered that, just three or four miles from my home, the old museum had been reinvented as a cracking art venue called The World of Glass. It is contained in a modern conversion of old industrial buildings close to the shops and train station. As well as a glass blowing studio, the local history museum, cafe and extensive gift and craft shop, there are three art spaces. One is a small wall for emerging artists or school groups. The mezzanine level is a perfect space for solo shows with three big alcoves, and then there is the huge open white-walled Gallery One downstairs with movable white walls and display cabinets. In keeping with the glass theme, the gallery incorporates the quirky features of huge artefacts in a couple of the corners. This gallery is used for group themed shows or the local Open Art Competitions.
It is, therefore with great pride and excitement that I am able to announce that my exhibiting parter Leah Higgins and I will be having a show entitled Traces in Gallery One in the early summer of 2018 (exact dates to be announced when finalised with the gallery.) The photos illustrating this post are just part of the gallery taken at two different shows I attended there sometime ago and you can see that we will have a huge space, great light and a very flexible layout to work with. The glass walls you see in the first picture are the walls of our gallery. We are thrilled!
As if the space was not enough of a challenge we wrote a proposal to get the space which we now have to live up to ! St.Helens is a town based on (now almost entirely defunct) glass making industry and coal mines and we will both be working in different ways to make beautiful modern art inspired by the traces of that industrial heritage.
Leah is inspired by the way man-made structures, and especially those associated with industry, shape the urban landscape. Always there but rarely acknowledged. For this exhibition she is considering exploring three areas. Contemporary, working structures that divide the landscape into crisp lines and shapes. Abandoned older structures that, through a process of decay, are slowly reclaimed by nature. And those iconic structures which now only exist in our memory. Her current plan is to making textile wall art and artists books and to reference Pilkington buildings, both present and past, as well as lost structures from local Sutton collieries.
My plan is to tackle the theme Traces in two different ways. First I am working on art inspired by my family who lived worked and went to war from St.Helens. I am tracing their lives and telling the stories of their experiences. The Painting the Town Red piece I posted earlier was a first example of this. Then I am adding in my own connections with St.Helens and the way in which I relate to its history. Tracing my own life backwards to find the formative moments and places that make me the artist I am now. Leah keeps rolling her eyes when I mention it, but I am pretty determined that my new-found love of Grange Park Golf Club will feature somewhere in the exhibition! I intend to work with local maps and photographs and also to look at the pigments to be found in nature in the area and see if I can succeed in incorporating those into my textile and mixed media art.
However, I also want to give my part of the exhibition a special twist. I want viewers to be able to trace my creative process through the exhibition. I will probably exhibit some design books, but I am aiming to go further and make actual finished art pieces that both tell the St.Helens story but also operate as Traces of my thought processes and the way in which works and ideas develop and overlap. The aim is to allow viewers both through words and visual pieces to understand how I get from inspiration to abstract art. I want them to see how abstract art is not random but is a non-representational interpretation of very concrete memories and places. For me as an artist this is the hardest part to figure out how to do but actually the bit that excites me the most.
It will be an ambitious exhibition both in scale and concept but we are pretty confident we can pull it off. We are certainly going to give it our best shot! We hope that you will read along as we both blog about how we are approaching it and what challenges we meet along the way. It’s a much longer run in than I had for Urban Scrawl so it will be interesting to see what develops over time. For those who are local ( or willing to travel – we are a short journey from Liverpool and Manchester so ideally placed for a long weekend) we hope that you will come to the opening party when we announce it – we promise to give you something better than machine-made faux hot chocolate to drink!