Today I had the delightful opportunity to meet Beverley Thornley in person for the first time. I love it when a social media contact becomes a real world one, and Beverley with her fascination with chalk and concrete and traceability makes beautiful work which comes straight out of the earth .
We had lovely conversations around traceability, memory, and also about our shared interest in pigments, and her very site specific work, and how my work even when site specific is only in as much as it related to the global history of trade.
She has some projects she is thinking setting up so watch this space....
And sweetly she is the second artist to visit my very small studio space and say “I am impressed you manage to produce what you do from here...."
In addition I am delighted to announce that I am to be represented by Luminaire Arts.
And delighted that Why Not Art are at the Ideal Home show this week with a catalogue of artists including me.
Spring really is in the air with all these potential new beginings.
Yellow Ochre Light, 2018, 60x60cm, hand mixed oil on canvas
Some times when you walk into the studio there is a tingle in your fingers right from the start, sometimes it comes after a few hours of working and is accompanied by a smile, and other times it doesn’t come, so what to do?
Well I find it helpful to have a tidy (nearly always necessary) and sometimes in the process of tidying something delightful happens
You may for example find an indigo eye looking back at you from the bottom of a pot you are cleaning, that makes you smile, and then you think about the studio jobs which need to be done, that don’t require special flow or inspiration and you get on with those.
The Boating Pond At Alexandra Palace Park
There is nothing quite like snow and ice for pushing vision into stark contrasts, or perhaps its got something to do with my current state of mind. The work I have been preparing for Roy’s People Art Fair over the last few weeks has had this as a back ground. Playing with the fact that along the Southbank there are a series of buildings which were once the power stations of the city due to their proximity to the river and the ease of shipping coal there, they are now arts venues, providing a different kind of energy and light.
Light collection, wet paint, in the process of being built....
So I picked up the work from Trace Elements after being frustrated by the snow. I had been going to hire a self drive van, however I really didn’t fancy driving an unfamiliar vehicle in the snowy weather so I had to book a last minute art van, I booked through Gallery Services, and they were great. The driver saved me from having to return on public transport by giving me a lift with the work. Great service!
At the show I had had a conversation with Alex McIntyre which put me on a mission once I got the work back, the four pieces I had there have now been coppered down the edge, which happily looks like rivitted copper bottoms. These pieces will be with Why Not Art as a collection from next week.
Then this week I had the delight to be invited to the Curious Duke Gallery for Chris King’s show No Opportunity For Regret, so as it was on a single bus ride I braved the snow and was so glad I did. This is the first time I have been to the Curious Duke, I have been wanting to for a while but never quite made it there. I met Eleni Duke, and chatted but flaked out of introducing myself, that will have to wait for another time...The show is quite soulful, urban images empty of people, they reminded me of Hopper, and then some of them had an intensly graphic sensibility. Really worth going to have a look.
And in reposnse to the clarity I was feeling because of the snow, I decided to follow up on a few opportunities I was still waiting to hear from. So before the snow melted I had heard back from the No Format Gallery crisply and clearly that I will have a Solo show in November. Another opportunity I was hoping to hear from by the end of the month has given me a more snow melty blurry you have been added to the waiting list response, and the third people I contacted simply have not answered my email.
So while the landscape emerges out of its blanket of snow ice and fog I am still hoping for a little more clarity in my plans.
This Saturday 24th February at 7pm we will be in conversation with Rosalind Davis at the Trace Elements show, downstairs at Deptford Does Art’s new gallery 28 Deptford High Street SE8. Just before the show opened we were lucky enough to have the chance to meet her and discuss what we would be talking about, so I have had plenty to think about. I find perparing for this kind of event really useful as it helps me to really clarify what I am doing. The format is to be friendly and inclusive, so please come along, and if you have a question you’d like to ask Matt, Paul or I or all of us please bring it along and you should get your chance. For more details please go to this link:
So the show is still up and open Weds to Sundays 12-11 except Sundays when it closes at 7. Closes Next week.
So January and February have felt a little dominated by solo administration , but recently I have had the pleasure of starting of on mutual support sessions with one artist friend and been invited to join an online artist professional support group by another, and a local artist I have been in contact with online is popping round for coffee next week to discuss pigments, so exciting.
I have started work on my collection for Roy’s People Art Fair which you can keep track of on my instagram at @sarahneedham1965
In addition I have a collection of work available through Why Not Art, where you can rent or buy art direct online, or if you like you can visit their stall at The Ideal Homes Exhibition London this spring where they will have a catalogue and screen display of all the artists they represent.
Be in touch soon!
Trace Elements will be on show from 8.2.18-28.2.18 at Deptford Does Art 28 Deptford High Street, Deptford
This is a three person show with Paul Anderson Morrow and Matthew Gould
For tickets to the private view on the 8th Feb or the In Conversation with the Artists hosted by Rosalind davis on the 24th click on the link below
At one level my paintings in Trace Elements are simply abstract works playing with techniques for developing a sense of space, a space you as the viewer might fall into, get a little lost and think your own thoughts. This is a level I respect and value, and at some level it makes me reluctant to overload that experience with all the thinking going on in my head which allows me to reach this particular space. Because actually providing a space to be, is central to this work.
However the other side of this coin is that there is a starting point to this work, a process I go through, which is about developing my sense of understanding in the world. I am interested in the way in which people are affected by trade, the duality of that effect, both the development of wealth and of exploitation or in fact unexpected consequences, and in who gets listened to in these circumstances. The starting point of my work in Trace Elements, which at the time did not even have a title, was a bit of research about the history of trade in Deptford, so what is Deptford known for? The death of Marlowe, Pepys extramarital affairs, Pepys business affairs with the Navy, the victualising offices, King Henry the VIII and ship building, with the end of wooden ship building the development of an international cattle market...(Steve Burden’s Pepys Estate works are really interesting in this respect, I came across his work the first time when I was showing with him in a group show at St Katharine docks). Charles II is said to have passed through Deptford on his way back from France to reclaim the throne. This is a place with a long history of trade and close associations with power, and its impact on ordinary people. The scale is vast and the potential enormous, but I wanted something that linked into the history of trade, and pigments, and its impact on people and place, and the thing that kept coming back into my view and taking my attention after a few blind alleys was the copper bottoming of boats. In some ways this linked with my St Katharine Docks indigo works and this may well be part of the appeal: How technological developments that may appear morally neutral can be the spark behind the fire of world events which impact on the lives of people in dramatic ways. So the story goes like this; historically there was a problem with the growth of limpets etc on the bottom of boats which increased their drag and reduced the longevity of the wood they were made of. Initially this was dealt with by treating or sheathing the wood with additional layers of wood and a kind of lining of treated hair, with the advent of longer distant shipping these methods were insufficient against the warmer water nevalis worm. The Spanish developed lead sheaths, effective against the worms but made the boats significantly heavier. Charles II viewed The Phoenix at Deptford and approved sheathing of English ships with lead fixed with copper nails despite the problems acssociated with corrosion caused by copper, steel and lead in a salt bath of the sea together-galvanic corrosion- a process not understood at the time. Over the years the process was developed and refined so that the sheath was copper and the fixings were made from copper alloys. By 1784 there was full scale copper bottoming of the navy which lead to a massive expansion in copper mining in Britain. However because of the cost, merchant ships, that is trading ships, were much less likely to be treated in this way. In fact the 3% which were, were employed in the slave trade, these ships went into nevalis worm infested waters, and the slave trade triangle routes were so profitable that the ship owners could pay for the expense. 80% of slave trade ships were copper bottomed.
The secondary impact of this was the massive expansion in copper mining in Britain.
SO how does any of this relate to the work I have made? Well cobalt is a toxic by product of Copper mining. Before the copper bottoming of ships most copper mining in Britain was done as surface mining, and the presence of cobalt was hazardous but with deaper mines it became more so. Cobalt presents in copper mine a solid minerals which are toxic and as gas with arsenic which is deadly. The turquoise pigment in all these works is a cobalt derivative Cobalt Turquoise.
to bring it up to the present day cobalt is also used in our mobile phones and electric cars in rechargeable batteries which happily for the mining companies often also require copper. The main seems of the mines are now in the African copper belt, where the Guardian reports the use of child labour and high mortality rates amongst the workforce.
So in the use of cobalt pigments, the instability of cobalt, its tendency to easily form compounds with other metals is in part at the heart of its toxicity, and also the heart of why it makes such vibrant amazing pigments from blues to reds to yellows.
The work I have produced for this exhibition works at two levels, in the making I have research and remembered the impact of the developments in Deptford on the history of trade and its impact on people through the development of the naval base by Henry VIII and later the Stuarts, the way in which technologies developed here fed into the most profitable parts of the transatlantic sea trade- slave trade. The trade whose profits funded the developments that fed into the industrial revolution in Britain.
In “Disturbing the Bed” I am playing with the imagery of a disturbed river bed in the process of dock building, the disturbed beds of the wives of Henry VIII , the disturbed beds of the associated trades around docks, the disturbed beds of Pepys and his coiterie, the disturbed beds of the copper mines in Cornwall and other copper seems across the country, the beds that are distubed still in the mining of copper and cobalt for contemporary uses.
In King Kibold I am playing with the counter point of the beauty available from cobalt as a pigment and its toxicity and fatality in mining.
In these works I also use earth pigments, ochres my universal pigment. Ochres have been used across the world, by all peoples and cultures. They are culturally transnational, and at the same time traceable to their geographic origins. They have been spread widely through trade and sourced locally since prehistory. For me they are the link between people and the first traceable expressions of culture and imagination. They are the people in my abstract works.
In the ICI series of works I use pthalo green, a pigment developed and owned by ICI, the ImperialChemical Company, a current Transnational Corporation with its routes firmly in the products of Empire. Pthalo green is a permanent pigment, solving some of the problems associated historically with green pigments, a technological solution, following the history of the development from alchemist to local chemist to global industrial pharmacological companies.
In “Deptford Traces” and From “Deptford to Shooters Hill” I play with this notion of instability within the cobalt, with the processes that were happening in the development of Britain as a sea fairing nation, and the instability of consequence. In as much as I think that it is important to both understand the history of a place and how we got here, and also to understand that while that history could have been other, and our understanding of exactly what went on is hampered by hearing only certain voices, we have agency in acknowledging the processes which brought us all here, that agency allows us more possibility for action in facing what comes next.
The second level is to produce works where you can fall in, and have your own contradictory thoughts.....