Sunday, 16 January 2011

Take an alternative experience and Walk in the Mind of the Artist

The very interesting view from Gareth Devonald Smith's studio.

Places: what do they mean to us?

Recently I had an interesting conversation with poet and playwright Kevin Fegan. He mentioned that he studied Philosophy at degree level. I still don’t actually know what the 'Big Themes' in philosophy are but it was the kind of conversation that whetted my appetite for more conversations covering meaty issues. I’m interested in finding out more. I have an inquiring mind.

Something that is of huge importance to me and could be described as one of my own ‘Big Themes’ is our understanding of place, personal identity and what links there may be between these two.

For me a place is so much more than a set of GPS coordinates. There are sensory connections with a place. Being in a place or seeing an image of a place is a mnemonic and can transport me into a narrative or journey of my own making within my head.

Last May I visited Gareth Devonald Smith’s London studio. What a wonderful live-work space he has, but for me the most exciting thing was this view from his rooftop garden. (See photo above.)

How to read a view like this?

A very bizarre fairytale playground. Those little houses/ palaces made from colorful metal railings. The tree stump; whatever happened there? Ogres, giants and memories of the children’s book, 'The tree that sat down', by Beverley Nicholls’ comes into my mind. Of course the windmill must creak when the sails go round. I could now easily be transported into a scene from Hayao Miyazaki’s wonderful animated film ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’.

But of course you may have other ideas. I just know what if I was a 6 year old child then this would be my playground of choice.

Back in September I went to The Cornerstone Gallery at Liverpool Hope University to see Martin Greenland’s show ‘New Fiction’. My trek up there was definitely worth it.

Firstly the exhibition space is quite wonderful. (See photo below.) I loved the architecture. I’m not usually a fan of symmetry but here it is perfect. Martin Greenland won the prestigious John Moores painting prize back in 2006 and ‘New Fiction’ was the key exhibition within the Independents strand of the 2010 Liverpool Biennial.

The exhibition space at the Cornerstone Gallery

Not only do I find his paintings etherial and extremely intriguing, but one piece especially, has haunted me.

'Self Portrait' 2010

What inspired him to name it ‘Self Portrait’?

Titles of artworks can give an insight into an artist’s personality. Is this how Greenland sees himself? Has he painted a place which he feels symbolises his own essence? Is it a place that he feels he would be completely at home in? His architectural and natural second skin?

Does he feel that this painting tells us all we need to know about him? Does it matter that I find out? Sometimes not knowing is fine; being interested and intrigued is enough.

Well actually I’d say that the work itself has to be of a quality that you respect too. For me it isn’t all in the idea; the execution has to hold up too and in the case of Martin Greenland I definitely feel that it does.

Robert Clark’s opinion of Greenwood (as published in the Guardian, newspaper),

“An eccentric neo-surrealist good a surrealist as we have ever produced in Britain.”

Falling in love with a piece of art is a weird and wonderful process and, for me, the name can play a key part in that process.

A painting that appears to be a landscape but which is entitled, Self Portrait’ is a piece that I am very likely to fall in love with.

'Self Portrait' 2010 by Martin Greenland

Another show that I thoroughly enjoyed last year was ‘Exquisite Trove’ by The House of Fairy Tales at the New Art Gallery Walsall.

There was plenty of food for thought in that show; it really was a wonderful treasure chest of fun fantasy and magic.

So how does this piece, ‘Nowhere in Particular’, by Dmitri Galitzine relate to a place?

It suggests a futuristic sandcastle or a weird half-realised outcrop within the virtual reality of Secondlife.

Galitzine’s connection with the place must have been strong enough to inspire him to make this piece? And another detail which historically signifies importance is the polished wooden plinth... Or perhaps he is taking an anarchic and provocative relationship with us viewers?

Walking in my Mind was the summer show at the Hayward Gallery in 2009. It was right up my street .

Has Yayoi Kusama (one of the artists who exhibited in this show) actually become her own place?

Her art is a representation of the hallucinations that have plagued her life. They are hallucinations that only she can see but all of her art is about making physical this world that she experiences in her head.

I loved the juxtaposition of of her spotty blobs against the Brutalist architecture of London’s Souhbank but for me this ‘place’ is still only in Yayoi Kusama’s own mind.

Maybe it’s such an alien landscape with too much ambiguity that it fails to set me off on my own fantasy journey.

The playground by Gareth Devonald-Smith’s studio 'worked' for me. (See photo at the top of this post.)

Maybe it’s the combination of incongruous components; a tree stump, some brightly painted traditional style playground equipment and a 200 year old windmill.

This is 'Colin' one of my more recent Frillip Moolog beings. He combines a piece of vintage agricultural dairy equipment, feathers (of the type usually associated with pipeband regalia), grey flannel suiting fabric and pinstripes.

Here we have a coming together of the most bizarre range of visual and mnemonic influences.

I could explain more about the walk in my mind but is this really necessary...I don’t think so. It’s best to set you off on a walk in your own mind.

'Colin' 2010 by Kirsty E Smith

And finally some words from Martin Greenland

“My painting has always stemmed from memory and imagination.......

Painting is like a walk; it is an exploration, but if I’m ‘inspired’ by a landscape, I don’t paint the places or landscapes I encounter, I paint about them........”


Betty said...

a little test to check comments are working

Bruford Low said...

This blog opens up another small window onto the tantalising world of Frillip Moolog. The work of artist Kirsty E. Smith stands on its own merits and invites you to create your own parallel universe where Smith's "Beings" might live.
However the information revealed here is, as suggested in the title, a walk in the mind of the artist, shedding light on the thought processes that spawn a body of work. No artist can work in a vacuum, although some might claim "true" originality. Smith is comfortable being honest about influences and references and, as a result, her work is more genuine and individual.

Andrew Carey said...

This is a fab thing to have written. I am stricken by two things in particular:

1. " of my own ‘Big Themes’ is our understanding of place, personal identity and what links there may be between these two." I am just reading a book proposal that links Organisation, Identity and Location (OIL) into a grand theory of self/non-self; constellation/randomness; place/space. I think this is related to your big theme. I suspect it is "the theme" for a world on the edge of chaos.

2. "For me a place is so much more than a set of GPS coordinates. There are sensory connections with a place. Being in a place or seeing an image of a place is a mnemonic and can transport me into a narrative or journey of my own making within my head." This reminds of David Abram's Spell of the Sensuous, where he reminds us that, in oral cultures, the epic/sung tale always attaches stories very tightly to a particular location. This event happened here. The place then becomes a mnemonic for the event and vice versa. That's how memory works when nothing is writen down. I feel you're saying the same thing. Fascinating. Thank you.

frillip moolog: said...

Thanks for your feedback Andrew. 'Spell of the Sensuous' sounds fascinating and yes seems like David Abraham and I are saying the same thing.