Now that I am back from a summer of travelling, it is time to get on with my next solo exhibition which turns out to be something rather unexpected. Here’s how it happened:
On the 9th September I took a day off work to to Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery to go and help set up the Etcetera group show, Transitions, which includes some of my graffiti pieces from the Urban Scrawl show. The gallery asked us to do some sessions on Saturdays, providing activities with which the public can join in. I decided to go the extra mile and do what I am calling an ‘Interactive Graffiti Project’.
The idea is that visitors will be able to use a range of media to graffiti and mark on my painted fabrics. They can then take their fabrics and combine them with other fabrics which previous visitors have made, adding more graffiti if they wish, to make their own small collages, using the same basic idea from my Paving Stones series which are on display. However, there is a twist!
The collages will be photographed and added to the Interactive Graffiti Project here on my site, attributed to the maker and then I am accepting the challenge of combining them all into one finished piece. Or maybe a series of panels depending how many collages I end up with. I had then offered the finished piece back to the gallery to auction or raffle for charity.
When I was at set-up, I had the opportunity to ask Kathryn Rosati, the gallery co-ordinator what she envisaged doing with the finished art. She asked if it was possible for me to make something themed around Remembrance Day as the gallery houses the local cenotaph and there will be special events on around November 11th. The first instinctive thought was, “What the heck does graffiti have to do with Remembrance Day?” but then I immediately realised that my plan all along had been to not give the visitors any red paint so that I could use the red paint across the collages in the finished piece to give it cohesion, red being the unifying colour in many of the Urban Scrawl pieces. And red of course is the colour of poppies. Which was enough of a foundation for the words , “Yes of course.” to pop out of my mouth. Followed, much to the co-ordinators confusion, by the words. “Oooh. Bootprints!”
Fortunately my fellow artist Leah Higgins was right there, knew exactly what I was talking about and was able to reassure her I was not quite mad. A couple of years ago, I went with my parents on a sort of pilgrimage to Italy to find the place where my grandfather was badly injured in World War Two. On my return I started a series of five canvases which depicted the dramatic story of his war experience. I used his bootprints as a common motif in them all. Three are and finished, with two left lurking not quite done. They clearly weren’t going fit in with the Urban Scrawl show and they were so personal I couldn’t imagine them selling anyway. So I chalked them up to ‘necessary personal creative catharsis’ and left them in a corner. I now wondered whether that same stencil might come in handy on the Interactive Graffiti Project piece.
However, when we explained to Kathryn what we were talking about and told her the story, she offered to display not just the Interactive piece but all the pieces in my Grandad’s series. Having thought some more (whilst driving home and singing very loudly and gleefully to the radio) I now have some idea how to use the collages in the Interactive piece to tie in with the war series – although there will still be a lot of improvisational decision making as I don’t, of course know what the collages will look like. Or even if anyone will turn up to make any! It’s a bit scary but I am pretty confident I can pull it off! ( Which really means, I am pretending not to notice how big the challenge is to make some thing auction worthy and how short the time scale is!). The graffiti piece will now be used to raise money for the British Legion and we are hoping some of their members and supporters will want to come and be involved in the making of the collages.
In a future post I’ll show you the war series and tell you the incredible story behind them. I will also be doing a short diary of the whole project over on my Facebook page as I did for Urban Scrawl. For now, let me just say that I am beyond proud that my Grandfather will be honoured in this way at such an appropriate place and time. The war now is many years ago and the art has been in progress for a long time. It is, however, in my view, never too late to remember the sacrifices made in those years and never too late to find art the home it was meant to have,