Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Bimonthlies 2 at Alford Manor House. Nov 2010

The Beacon Bimonthlies 2 was held Wednesday 3 Nov 2010 at Alford Manor House Lincolnshire.
Sara Blair Manning
Director of the Alford Manor House, Sara Blair Manning began the evening with a few minutes of introduction to Alford Manor House, which from 2002-2006 underwent a £1.4 million renovation. The visitor numbers are up and the ambition doesn’t stop there with an aim to have a 250-seat arthouse cinema built in the grounds by the end of 2012. Meanwhile the ethos of the Manor House is to host a wide range of events, from the Wolds Words Literary Festival; a Classic Jazz Festival; Antiques Road Show; weddings and they’re doing brisk business in funerals too these days.

Before we began our event, we were invited to look around the house. It is FANTASTIC!  They kindly opened the bar up for us too.

 Gillian Dyson 
Was the first guest artist. Her commissioned artwork, Still Life launched the Beacon Bimonthlies at The Louth Mansion House in July. Gillian talked about the process of building the artwork and creating the event and how it linked in with her art practice. She is interested in performance, site and action. Sometimes her work exists in an art gallery and sometimes in other sites, unexpected or extraordinary, such as a swimming pool in Finland. Gillian illustrated her talk with a powerpoint and simultaneously had the rough cut of the film she made of Still Life running below.
Gillian Dyson with the Skegness newspaper photographer

Her work is temporal and geographically defined. She uses text and sometimes works with video. She is interested in framing everyday activities such as people washing horses. She uses body related tensions to question what is ‘normal’ and what is not.

With Still Life Gillian's aim was to create a visual intervention into a building to bring the building to life. It was a one night only art event and she built a time based display of objects which people could explore. Some of the items found in the museum became part of the Still Life. The Audience, artist and object became interchangeable, as did what is real and what is fake. The difference between the real flowers and the fake ones only became discernible through touching them. The game birds and vegetables reflected the rural economy of Lincolnshire. Some of the animals were stuffed, frozen moments in time.

Images from Gillian Dyson's presentation

The audience was offered drawing boards on arrival and some drew, or wrote poems constructing a performance element to the artwork. The Still Life was measured through time and through the shadows falling. As the shadows got longer some of the audience moved away from the Still Life, making shadow pictures on the walls.

What is the legacy of Still Life? The friends of The Louth Mansion are keen to re open it as an arts centre. Gillian has been working with filmmaker, Connor O’Grady to develop the film and show it at other venues.

After Gillian’s presentation, Lincolnshire poet, Maureen Sutton read the poem she wrote at  in response to Still Life.
Poet Maureen Sutton reads Chasing the Light

 Chasing the Light

                   A July evening in Louth and local 
                   Artists meet to draw still-life.
                   Trestles covered by purple cloth exhibit
                   County memorabilia, seasonal produce,
                   Garden flowers and antiques.

                   Glass eyes of the stuffed owl glare
                   At a brace of pigeons; rabbits with
                   Shocked expressions lay beside lemons. 
                   Cameras and lap-tops click,
                   Digital images mirror reality,

                  Copies of artifacts are skillfully 
                  Transferred from eye to pad, lines
                  Take shape from a simple pencil.  
                  Light dims, shadows on walls draw
                 Their own out-lines.

                 Wines and ice have thinned,
                 Cameras chase shadows on walls.
                 Ghosts in the gallery observe.

Maureen Sutton.
02 07 10.

Roy Pearce

Roy Pearce in front of Inukshuk

was the next guest artist. Roy graduated from the MA in Fine Art at The University of Lincoln this year. His final body of work was called Inukshuk. This is a reference to structures made by Inuit from available objects in their environment. They were traditionally used as landmarks within the landscape. Roy took this concept and applied it to using available objects around him. This started with the detritus in his garage. He began making his structure with cane and wood, initially working with mathematical structures. During this time he had become artist in residence at X-Church in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire run by Marcus and Hilary Hammond, who also run Bend in the River Gallery. Over a number of months, Roy worked in X-Church to create Inukshuk, a structure that became 40 metres long, 20 metres wide and 20 metres high. There was as shortage of bamboo in Lincolnshire!

Inukshuk at X-Church in Gainsborough

He showed us a video moving around the piece that gave a much clearer idea of how it worked with the space than a still image.

Later in the year, Roy decided to recreate Inukshuk for his final MA degree show in the University building. However he soon found restrictions. The space was much smaller and he didn’t enjoy the reduced scale so much. He also had to work within the limits of health and safety controls. He decided to adapt the idea by introducing items into the structure. Inspired by the fire extinguisher, he collected red items. He used items that meant something to him, but no one else, for example, a tool he got for decorating 38 years ago when he was first married. His influences are Baudrillard and George Perec and although he’d always fought shy of the personal in his work it now seems to be playing an important part. He is planning to continue the Inukshuk work and is currently identifying sites in which to work.

Valerie Beck

Valerie Beck in front of image of  A quiet word

The next guest, artist Valerie Beck, is a fellow graduate from the MA Fine Art course at The University of Lincoln. Valerie began her presentation with a warning that her work is very dark. The drive and inspiration behind her artwork is the human condition, the inevitability of death and war. She began by showing us some of her early work. Inspired by artefacts she saw and from skin harvested from the remnants of the gas chambers she made her own piece from tattooed pig skin. Valerie is often inspired by one single event, such as Natasha who escaped her captor after eight years in a cellar. She finds herself inspired by people’s strength and positions in such situations. Whilst reflecting on states of imprisonment, she reflected on our self-imposed imprisonments, such as those that exist around disfigurement. She researched the charity ‘Save’ and found their poster wasn’t hard hitting enough, so she made her own. Then she asked a make-up artist to paint a port wine stain on her face to see the response from people if she walked down the crowded High Street…..no-one noticed.

She made a piece of work called “A quiet word” which was a sentence, “ If you think too much about your own death, it will kill you” it was in 7point font on an A0 size paper.

Most recently she has been making work more directly about war. She exhibited a mock up of an army body bag at Mablethorpe as part of the Bathing Beauties Festival in September. She filled the bag with 335 rocks which represented the number of British soldiers killed in the Afghan war. She also exhibited a box with wristbands of all the soldiers killed. She wanted to make a statement about the futility of war. It was understood by the audience in Mablethorpe as help for heroes.

A lighter piece she made was Kite Fighters, a film referring to the sport popular in Afghanistan where you cut each others kites out of the sky. The kite is a metaphor for war. She told us about the making of the film. It is the piece she showed in her MA show and is hoping to show it elsewhere and develop it further.

Kite Fighters
Danica Maier
Danica Maier

was the next guest. She is an American born artist living and working in Lincolnshire. Danica began her presentation with a description of her traditional American background as a way of explaining her first influences. Her early life was family embedded and the family included strong matriarchal characters. The church was prominent and the values were conservative. Early loves were Doris Day 1950s films where women’s roles were clear. She loved the design and the style of the 1950s. Danica grew up with willow wear plates, which were always slightly mismatching. She remembers Martha Stewart and 'women’s work'.

Danica studied for her undergraduate and Master's degree in painting and came to the UK to study for the Masters in textiles at Goldsmiths. It was at this point she really began to experiment. Influences from her artschool training include Baudrillard, with his theories on the real and the unreal, Umberto Echo and Simone de Beavoir. She likes works by artists such as Gaudon and Laura Owens and has been influenced by texts such as “The Subversive Stitch”.

At the Courtauld Institute in the East Wing Collection viii in 2008 Danica exhibited works which addressed the intimate relationship  the viewer has with her art and how the viewer moves with the work and with the space. Thus the artwork changes from different viewpoints. It is possible to see it on two levels, it plays with material and line, with seeing and not seeing. At first the viewer may only see lace and pins. They then may or may not see the drawing taken from pornographic imagery. Danica enjoys the dichotomy between comfort and discomfort, the idea that on the surface something can appear ‘beautiful’ but has perhaps another reading that is not so ‘nice’.  She refers to the stereotypical ideal of the family that was strong in her upbringing and the irony of sex, without which the family cannot exist, being held as a taboo subject.

Danica showed us images of work she exhibited in Midlands and Tooraloorals exhibited in Germany in 2009 which was a celebration of the lace archive at Nottingham Trent University. In 2008 she co-curated the British Pavillion for the Kaunas Art Bienale: Unpicked & Dismantled with artist Gerard Williams. For her most recent exhibition in Nottingham, Closely Held Secrets at The Bonington Gallery at Nottingham Trent University, Danica transferred her usual practice to a digital process. She made drawings on mila mounted onto aluminium. What appear to be stitches are, on closer examination drawn lines, which on closer examination are swearwords used for the female genetalia.

In 2005, Danica took part in the Braziers international artist workshop for which she showed us the 'dirty cakes' she baked as part of her performative piece, Serving Cakehole sumptuous cup cakes with euphamisms for vagina iced onto them.

Our final presentation for the evening was from Lincolnshire based artist, 

Laura Mahony
Laura Mahony

Laura is in her final year of her BA course in Fine Art at The University of Lincoln. She has been developing some performative pieces and was interested in using this platform to test a Lecture called....

I introduced Laura as a research student. Laura had requested I didn't introduce her as a performance artist.
She began her lecture with a question to the audience "what is Contemporary Art". She then explained that in our "madernismness" we look for the answers in everything we do. She spoke quickly inserting a tumbling of words including "amandonic", "nongoland". Here below is a short excerpt from the end of the lecture, when Laura disclosed to the audience that this was a performance and talks about her motivation.....

It was an inspiring piece at the end of an inspiring evening of ideas and works. It was cold and dark outside as we left the Manor House to make our ways home, reinvigorated. Thanks to all the guest presenters who participated in tonight's event.

Photos: Tom Cretney

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