Art making is a deeply personal activity that often doesn’t feel like a choice, but a necessity. It is the desire for making, with the hands, the eyes, the voice and body, which allows for the individuality of the maker to manifest.
The format of an open crit allows for a diverse mix of artists to spend 2 hours sharing, learning, swapping, supporting and being with one another. All of the artists in November’s crit expressed a need to make, to leave trace, and to use the body, each within a different context. Discussion circulated around the influence that these contexts have on the outcome of the works, the way in which an audience will encounter the work and the imaginative freedom of leaving a work open to interpretation.
6 ½ year old Ethan’s work combines collage, paint, pastel, charcoal and pencil using a technique of layering cut out images. The work was free of constraint, technically experimental and expressive. The group was drawn to a work of a fictional beast with two heads, one of an Ox, one of a Wolf, with a snake as a tongue and the body of a duck. The work allowed for narrative ideas and the possibility for further imaginative scenarios. We were reminded of the conjured island in the work of Charles Avery, as well Jorge Luis Borges’ Book of Imaginary Beings.
Access to arts education from a young age has played a crucial role in allowing Ethan’s own ideas and thought process to come through in the work. Ethan showed us that maintaining a freedom during the making process allows works to change and creates surprise interpretations, where an image of a crouched figure can equally look like a still life or that a face can change expression when traced repeatedly.
The discussions surrounding making, technique and craft led us to the work of Agata Nowak whose textile images captured the character, expression and composure of historic portraits. Working with collage, embroidery and textiles, the materials are found, upcycled and specifically chosen. We noticed how the collection and selection of these materials transformed the portraits into characterisations, with dried garlic used as graphic noses and tight embroidery forming pursed lips. We considered the soft boundary between art making and craft, the necessity to make, and the role of art making as a therapeutic activity, which needs an outlet.
Using the body to reveal personal expression is present in the work of Ruben Green, whose performance work placed both the viewer and Ruben, as the performer, in a state of off-guard vulnerability. Responding to an open plan exhibition space, Ruben’s performance originally occurred without announcement and our experience of it was documentation of the traces of this. Using a loop peddle, microphone and PA system, Ruben presented an open wooden structure built around the dimensions of a body laying on the floor, with the audio equipment set up to loop the phrases and songs uttered by the performer. An unnerving repetition of “I’d be lying if I said’ builds and layers into a cappella singing, at once humorous and lonesome.
Our conversation revolved around the interjection of comedy into deeply personal work, to lighten the load, and let the viewer in. The specifics of how an audience encounters performance was pointed out as a method to mix the personal with the public.
Personal expression formed the foundation of the conversation for the crit, and the work of artist Robert Lovejoy sat firmly within this. Rob brought a selection of sketchbooks, each filled with expressive drawings, depicting a mixture of scenes from day to day life, science fiction, popular culture and imagined scenarios. Working in a sketchbook and using an array of colourful and glittery pens and pencils, the work maintains the energy of the moment it is produced, and is layered to form vibrant compositions. We discussed how it was possible to get to know Rob through his work, because the content was personal to him, featuring idiosyncratic images of the Red Arrows racing, David Cronenberg zoned out in a haze of pink swirls, Croydon shop fronts and even a vision of Turf Projects itself.
Thanks to Anna Reading for leading the crit and for this write-up! Our next free crit is Saturday 16th December, led by artist and filmmaker Seth Pimlott.