Dean Clough Galleries, HalifaxAUTUMN EXHIBITIONSPrivate View: Saturday, 18th October 2014 from 12 noon to 3.00pm(Main shows continue until Jan 3rd 2015)Photography GalleryErik Knudsen: Cuba in WaitingOctober 18th 2014 to January 3rd 2015Film maker, photographer and University of Salford professor, Erik Knudsen was invited to see Cuba ‘before Fidel Castro died’. That was in 1998 and Castro (albeit ghosted by his brother Raul) is still, very much, alive. Knudsen’s thoughtfully constructed, colour-bleached photographs have been amassed over the last four years and depict a string of poised yet static incidents in bars, paddocks and arenas across Havana Province. While acknowledging the genuine reverence that Castro commands, Knudsen also lays bare the poverty and repression that hold a renownedly educated and energetic people in check. “Everyone”he says, “is waiting for change”.Crossley GalleryJo Brown: Open PathwaysOctober 18th 2014 to January 3rd 2015The last element to fall into place in this substantial show of abstract paintings and drawings was the title. Most conceptual artists know exactly where they’ll end up before they open their studio door; but when Jo Brown (b. 1945 and a ‘Dean Clough artist’ for some two decades) starts a painting, she doesn’t know what it will be. “This ‘not knowing’ is very important to me,” she says “because of the improvisatory, intuitive way in which I work, which depends on being sensitive to what is happening as a painting unfolds. The natural world is always there somewhere in the background as I explore the feeling of landscape through colour. So, my use of colour is much more about feelings than figuration”. The fact that Jo is widely collected (by municipal galleries as much as private collectors) and pays homage to Turner, Matisse, Heron, John Hoyland, Gary Wragg and Paul Tonkin offers a reassuring set of imprimaturs to those made nervous by abstract work. However, all they really need to do is access the paintings in the same disembarrassed spirit that Jo creates them. Here is pleasure, excitement and joy. So it was heartless of us to laugh when she dialled the title through. It reminded us of the remark by ‘Yogi’ Berra the baseball player – ‘When you come to a fork in the road, take it’. “Oh I like that,” said Jo. “Can we get it into the invitation?” Almost certainly not, we responded.Upstairs GalleriesChris Cullen: The Ingenious GentlemanOctober 18th 2014 to January 3rd 2015Todmorden-based artist Chris Cullen (b. Chorley 1948) has been carrying around Cervante’s satire on chivalric conventions – ‘El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha’ – since 1982. He’d even convinced himself that he’d read it… until in 2010 someone presented him with the full text (the remarkable 2nd volume of which was printed exactly 400 years ago). Since then Chris has been compulsively generating scenes from the book in both paint and ceramics. Given that even Picasso and Dali couldn’t dislodge the hegemony of Gustave Doré’s 19th C. illustrations, you might wonder what Chris was hoping to achieve. He’s the first to admit that his oil paintings owe everything to Doré’s imagery and reveals that he found a forgotten copy of Dali’sQuixote in his teenage sketchbooks. And while it is evident that (unlike the many sentimental, theatrical adaptations) Chris has grasped Cervante’s uncannily post-modern epistomology; there is no intrusive literary exegesis in this extensive show. “I just had the book in my head. I wanted to elaborate it, to see it in full colour, to get the full tilt of Quixote, to get that roundness… what I really wanted was a pop-up book!”. It’s an unapologetic celebration, then; and an exhibition as much BY an ‘ingenioso hidalgo’ as it is ABOUT one.Illustration GalleryDavid Roberts: Tales of TerrorOctober 18th 2014 to January 3rd 2015David Roberts (b. Liverpool, 1970) studied fashion design at Manchester Metropolitan University and recalls working (hyphen-etically) as a hat-maker, shelf-stacker, egg-fryer, hair-washer, film-extra and coffee-maker before illustrating his first book (‘Frankie Stein’s Robot’ by Roy Apps) in 1998. Equally at home with colour as he is with black-and-white, David has gone on to visualise the scribblings of many leading children’s authors. Collaborators include previous children’s laureates, Jaqueline Wilson and Julia Donaldson, among many others. Roberts cites influences from Heath Robinson, Edward Gorey and Gustave Doré. In this beautifully mounted show (curated by Chris Mould) he displays an impressive aptitude for the monochrome image as he brings Chris Priestley’s chilling ‘Tales of Terror’ to life with a mesmerising array of minutely detailed drawings.Seminar GalleryStephen Weir: And While We Play TennisOctober 18th 2014 to January 3rd 2015Stephen Weir (b. Ripon 1954) has spent a lot of time in the South of France where he paints abstracts under the Languedoc sun. This exhibition, however, centres on his mixed-media, boxed collages. “My collages are about living in a frenzied, media-dominated 21st Century in the UK where we are constantly bombarded by news through virulent electronic media,” he says.“…This is the opposite of life in Southern France”. Weir (who was tutored by Terry Frost at Reading in the Seventies) admits to being drawn to 24hr news coverage but “watches in bewilderment the absurd events that are revealed“. Instead of generating a sense of global inclusion, he argues, the ‘media blare’ creates a sense of isolation and alienation. “These works are secret documents exhibited for you, the viewer, to decode and unravel”.Link GalleryBoffinworldOctober 18th 2014 to January 3rd 2015From the dawn of the steam-powered engine to the potentially vivid sunset of the nuclear power station, Britain is justly proud of its scientific achievements. Be it the transistor or the World Wide Web, the nation’s historic contribution to the global supermarket of ideas stands as proudly as any loss-leader should. Today though, as the chill wind of austerity threatens to numb the digits that gave the world its first programmable computer, the cry goes up: “Can we yet use this wind to fan the embers of our inspiration and restore the white heat of technology?”And for that we need Boffinworld.Experimental yet economical, Boffinworld is a heady blend of research and recreation. In a holiday camp atmosphere Britons can relax among the rocketry and LEARN from LEISURE. From the Manhattan project to the Bikini Atoll, extraordinary endeavours have always needed luxurious locations and so it is that ‘from the Big Bang to the tequila slammer’ Boffinworld aims to put the fun back into physics. Realised here is the first Boffinworld project; a response to the L.G.M. question. Its S.E.T.I. project (Send Extraterrestrials Tea Immediately) uses cold war technology to deliver a hot beverage. The ‘Brown Streak’ projectile will deliver a payload of warm, soothing tea to our neighbours in this universe or beyond.PLUS…Missing Link GalleryIan C. Taylor: IncomingOngoingNow and for the foreseeable furore, we’re pleased to announce that the Bradford-based artist Ian C. Taylor (b. Derby 1945) has volunteered to stud the cubic terminus of the Link Gallery with his unique brand of found and occasionally profound art. Ian began working at Bradford School of Art in 1969, was once “a freelance sculptor for TV”, claims inspiration from both Gaudier-Brzeska and Fred Astaire and is collected by the likes of Sir Terrance Conran, Andy Goldsworthy, Stephen Frears and Albert Hunt. A geyser-ish celebration of the imagination’s fecundity.Mur d’entréePeople, Places and Things (Monterblanc and Sowerby Bridge)October 18th 2014 to January 3rd 2015A mutual interest in ‘The Stereophonics’ led to a long-lasting friendship between Sowerby Bridge resident, Irene Murphy, and Monterblanc resident, Gaëlle Favennec. Gaëlle recently became deputy mayor of the Brittany town – which precipitated an exchange of digital photographs between the two locales. “We have a new media library,” Gaëlle writes in brave English. “So I thought of my friend, Irene Murphy who paint, and I asked her if she will be interested to exhibit here. She answered me ‘why not’ and all started at this time. She presented me this project of pictures of Sowerby Bridge and Monterblanc and I found it was a really good idea!”. The project is also a welcome chance to celebrate Sowerby Bridge in Halifax; and to reflect on the cultural understanding displayed by Gaëlle who – fortunately – realised that “why not?” is a northern indication of enthusiasm.FAQ’s about Dean Clough Gallery Private Views…1. How do I get to Dean Clough?See www.deanclough.com for a downloadable pdf map or ring reception on 01422 2502502. Can I bring someone else to the Private View?Yes. Everyone is welcome. The Private Views are a major social event in the regional arts calendar which are typically attended by over 200 people – including children!3. Are the exhibitions open during weekdays?Yes. The Dean Clough Galleries are open seven days a week from 9.00am to 5.00pm. Entry is free.4. Do I have to pay for parking?You do not have to pay for parking on weekends (so the Private View is ‘free’) but you do have to pay for parking on weekdays.5. Why do FAQ’s never answer the question I really want to know?Ha! You’re very welcome to email Vic Allen on firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a specific problem.Dean Clough Galleries, Halifax HX3 5AX • Tel: 01422 250250 • www.deanclough.com
Over the past few months I have been working with fellow artists, Richard Mulhearn, Eleanor Mulhearn, Sarah Eyre, Laura Davies, Adrian Davies, Alex Jako and Anna Taylor, to create an exhibition in the beautiful deconsecrated Unitarian Church in Todmorden, United Kingdom. We called the project The Fielden Project because the church was build by the sons of John Fielden, the main industrialist in Todmorden who is most famous for bringing in the act of parliament that curbed the exploitation of children as workers in the factories of the industrial revolution. The religious, the cultural, the political and the ethical evocations brought about by this broad theme inspired us – all ‘blow ins’ to Todmorden – to respond to the church, its history, its former patrons and the general community of Todmorden.
For me it was an opportunity to explore exhibiting a project I was already working on around the theme of Doubt. I explored the location in terms of how my photographs could be part of a narrative created by the photographs. My creative statement goes something like this:
‘If I could not doubt, I should not believe’. (Henry David Thoreau)
Doubt is an evolving photographic essay exploring faith through feelings of doubt in the context of a society that on the surface seems increasingly secular and certainly more materialistic. The Unitarian Church in Todmorden was built at a time when British society more openly expressed faith through religious practice, as well as organised communities, and exercised power through these practices, and its deconsecration is one of many indicators of a subsequent decline in, certainly Christian, religious engagement in Britain. Questioning whether faith, or the need for faith, has actually diminished, I’m seeking to explore, through candid photography of people in public spaces, the possible void created by the retreating public expressions of faith. The shift in the status of the Unitarian Church, prompted me to explore the notion of bringing contemporary people caught in moments expressing doubt back into the church with a view to trying to evoke an engagement with the ideas of the role of constructed place as inspiration and refuge for those seeking meaning, purpose and understanding. Using the 12 pillars that support the structure of the church, photographs of contemporary people, supported by quotes, emerge from these pillars to tell experiential stories of faith, separation and doubt in a building that once was built for this purpose.
I wanted my photographs to work collectively along the pillars, across the pillars as well as individual narratives. Behind each of the photographs, semi hidden by the curvature of the pillars, there was a quote related to the theme of doubt accompanying every photograph, as if inner murmuring from the characters in the photographs. I suppose this is the filmmaker in me.
We worked with Sofka Smales to develop the show, both individually and as a group, and one of the challenges was the fact that the building is a Grade 1 listed building.
One of the amazing things about working on this project was how our very different work came to compliment and interact with each other’s work. This was a revelation and was not necessarily the product of a overtly conscious process; rather an osmosis that occurred as a consequence of numerous discussions, site visits and research. Our themes interweaved, echoed and reverberated and in the end I think we have created a well balanced and evocative show.
So far, response to the show has been very positive. Nearly 200 people turned up for the opening and since then there has been a steady stream of people visiting the show. I hope that if you are in the area, you may be able to visit it before it closes on the 18 May 2014. Opening times: Thursday and Friday 5pm – 8pm and Saturday and Sunday 1pm – 6pm. Enjoy.
In collaboration with a number of artists based in the Calder Valley, in particular Todmorden in West Yorkshire, including photographer Richard Mulhearn, who did the stills photography for The Raven On The Jetty, I am embarking on the preparation for a photographic exhibition. The exhibition is taking place at the Unitarian Church in Todmorden in May 2014 and will involve the works of 8 or so artists, ranging from photography to sculpture. It’s an impromptu project for which we have sought no funding: we want to be free to do whatever we want without having to justify anything to anyone. Almost.
I’m particularly interested in experimenting with different ways of exhibiting photographs and have decided to work with photographs from my ongoing photographic project Doubt. I feel the themes of this project tie in very nicely with the setting of a deconsecrated church. The large scale photographs will be mounted on the marble pillars and will be printed in such a way where they are part of the marble pillars’ texture. I’m also working on some text that will accompany each photograph on the pillars. The twelve pillars will enable me to create an overall narrative as someone walks into the church; a narrative that I hope will immediately evoke feelings around the themes I hope will permeate the work.
This narrative can then be explored in more detail as the spectator walks into the church, where they’ll also have a chance to engage with some of the text, which reveal themselves as they move through the space. There will be other works of art in the space, of course, not least people inspired sculptures that will be created by Laura Davies and Eleanor Mulhearn. Hopefully, all the works will interact with each other to create an overall experience that belongs to this space, its history and the people in it, contemporaneously. Early days yet. More to come on this.
Erik Knudsen’s new book, Cuba in Waiting: A Photographic Essay, has just been published and is available in a number of online outlets, such as Amazon. This photographic essay is the result of endless wanderings around Havana province in Cuba between 2009 and 2013.
‘I was first invited to Cuba by a well known British film producer who thought I should experience Cuba before Fidel Castro died. This invitation was extended to me in 1998. Some 15 years later, Fidel Castro is very much still alive, even if he has passed power to his slightly younger brother, Raul, and Cuba remains almost as it was when I first went. After my first few visits, I started to feel a sadness. A sadness for a repressed people; a sadness for a people whose creativity and ingenuity was being denied expression; a sadness for a people who have so many natural and human resources yet are shockingly poor, despite being one of the most highly educated people in the world. Everyone is waiting for change. Though there is genuine reverence for the king-like figure of Fidel Castro and his revolutionary achievements, everyone is nevertheless waiting…
‘This collection of photographs is part of a series of photographs which has emerged from my looking at this ‘Cuba In Waiting’ over the past 3 or 4 years. Taken mainly in Havana Province, I have waited for moments and fragments of stories to present themselves to me and have tried to capture these moments as a reflection of my feelings about Cuba.’
A selection of prints from Erik Knudsen’s photographic essay, Cuba In Waiting, will be exhibited at the group show Conexiones: New Photography from Spain and Latin America to be held at the Cervantes Institute in Manchester, UK. The exhibition runs from 23 March 2013 to the 15 May 2013. This show has been curated by the Cervantes Institute, Manchester, and the Redeye Photographic Network.