In the Autumn of 2018, Jo Slater, who owns The Sun pub in Carshalton, approached me after I donated an art work to a charity raffle in the pub, and kindly offered some space for us to make art. Art In The Sun duly began in January of this year. A weekly gathering of curious adventurers, an experiment in experimental art.
Each session features an idea, maybe a theme, an offer of new tools, materials, techniques – just enough structure, and no more. People get to work, talking, sharing ideas, experimenting. I’m on hand if needed, but the process is largely about discovery.
Some weeks a hush falls over the group as the concentration levels rise, some weeks there’s loads of chat and laughter. We’ve been fortunate to have ELTEL perform with us a few times, and we’ve tried numerous techniques out since we started. Mark making, printing, stencil cutting, masking and layering, brushless work, tile painting, collaborative and solo works. The group takes it all on – confident in the emerging process. Plenty of our work ends up in the bin, and that’s OK.
A while back I suggested the idea of an exhibition – a chance to show our work to a wider audience. I recall the idea being received a little hesitantly, so we left it to percolate. Time passes, experiments continue, the idea is remembered again, and here we are, it’s exhibition day.
I’m off to The Sun. My role today is that of curator, and general setter upper. I’m proud of this lovely group of people and everything they have achieved so far, and I hope that today, I do their work justice for them. I have much to do, so I’ll wish you well and leave you with a hint of what is yet to come.
What happens when you surround yourself with talented people working in an encouraging environment?
Something like this:
A few weeks ago I wrote a post titled Identity – an exercise in patience, about my work for a forthcoming exhibition. I continued the theme of identity as I worked, and as you can see, the art is now finished and it has been handed in to the curators.
I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of working alongside a group of talented people. Seeing other people produce really good work has motivated me to push myself and be more adventurous, and the fact that people in the group have been so encouraging has been really helpful.
My adventures with stencils and spray paint began a little over a year ago, when I made a few designs to celebrate Record Store Day.
These initial works are pretty naive, made using very simple cuts, and erratic spray work. Even so – I like them, they represent the beginning of what has become my vinyl junkie project, something I enjoy very much. Although I still consider myself a novice when it comes to stencil art, it’s good to be able to look back over a period of time and see how my practice is developing. Cataloguing and showing your work is a very important part of working practice for me.
I can’t wait to see all the work under one roof, it’ll be quite a show. I’ll share more information on that once arrangements are finalised. For now though, I simply want to acknowledge the power of working in a talented group where encouragement and cooperation is high, competition is not emphasised, and when requested, advice is freely offered.
In my consulting experience – organisations frequently express a desire to collaborate across teams and departments, yet the way things are structured – reward, appraisals, hierarchy etc – often mitigates against this. I realise this group of artists I’m currently with are only loosely connected, but I wonder what the world of learning and development can learn from us, and how we work with each other?
My trip to the exhibition in Minden last week was great fun. Even though unplanned changes to my travel arrangements there and back did their best to derail me, I resolved not to let any delays get me down – after all, what can I do about it anyway?
After rerouting into London from home to avoid a fallen tree on a line, a 100 minute delay departing London, and a 30 minute hold up in Rotterdam meant I missed my connection to Minden from Amsterdam Central. Arriving at Amsterdam I visited the international ticket desk, where a very helpful person allocated me a new reservation on a later train. The same person wrote me a note to show the guard, explaining the reasons for delay were beyond my control, so would they please honour my now expired ticket. He stickered and stamped the note and with a smile, assured me everything would be OK. He was right – the guard on the train happily accepted my unofficial travel documentation and on we went. The kindness of strangers.
I disembarked at Minden, feeling a little tired and disoriented having passed through England, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands prior to my arrival in Germany. I was greeted on the platform by Ulrich – someone who I had met briefly last November when the idea of this adventure was first suggested. I’d no idea Ulrich was going to be there, and a huge smile and a warm welcome were just what I needed. An invitation to the house to meet Irene was gratefully accepted and soon we were enjoying a late dinner, a glass of wine, and an excellent conversation. Ulrich dropped me back at my hotel later that evening. The kindness of strangers.
I met many friendly people while orming* about town, all of whom were helpful and tolerant of my lousy German, but hey, at least I tried…ich spreche nur ein bischen Deutsch. The friendly atmosphere at the exhibition was outstanding. A genuine appreciation of the work by all of the artists, reciprocated to the organisers who had worked hard to set everything up. Lots of guests milling about, enjoying our time together. I was introduced to Josephine, who had found a piece of free art I made. The art had been sent on ahead, and news of it was in the local paper. Josephine gave me a lovely framed photograph and we spent time talking and laughing.
Before we parted company, Josephine asked about my plans to travel home. I described the route, 08:15 departure from Minden to Dormund, Dortmund to Dusseldorf, Dusselfdorf to London, London to home. ‘I don’t think you can get from Minden to Dortmund tomorrow…one of the stations on that line is closed this weekend’. Sure enough, Josephine was correct, one of the stations on the line was closed for engineering works. The train was still running but it was taking a two hour detour, just enough delay for me to miss my flight out of Dusseldorf. Fortunately – there was an earlier train leaving at 05:15, so I got up at 04:30 and six hours later, boarded the flight. If it hadn’t been for that conversation I might still be abroad somewhere. The kindness of strangers.
The flight was duly delayed a while after we boarded, and when I eventually got to London Victoria, I discovered my local train station was shut for engineering works – you couldn’t make it up! I travelled to Croydon instead, and Carole kindly came to pick me up from the station.
I (just about) succeeded in keeping a smile on my face through the delays, and more importantly – I benefitted from the kindness of people I did not know, which all helped turn a good trip in to an excellent one.
*”orming” – wandering without intent, meandering, walking with pleasurable aimlessness (English regional, esp. Lincolnshire; supposedly derived from the Norse word for “worm”). With thanks to Robert Macfarlane for the definition.