It was great meeting up with fellow student Catherine Banks on this wet January day in London. After a catch-up coffee, we went inside the Business Design Centre to see the countless exhibits vying for our credit cards.

The first exhibit grabbed me immediately because of its presentation and content, and possibly because it reminded me of my own blobs resulting from my dye paintings, but these drawings were exquisite.

Freia Gabie: Thin air: ongoing drawings of military explosions taken from Google image search. 2015 ongoing.

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The next to attract me, again because of my own interest in organic materials, minerals and their visual effects on us, were works by recent graduate Catherine Pickop. Catherine was there to talk to us about her work, how she feels that images and processes need to stimulate all our senses rather than just the visual. She works with coffee grounds, mineral materials and textured paper or cloth. Her work comprises stills and film of the process. Paper is punched with holes and Catherine then rubs the organic or mineral material over it & the results catch your curiosity.

South West photographer, Susan Derges was very well represented and her new work is intriguing. She had several pieces in the show in which she uses chine collée. I had no idea that you could use this material in photographs as I have only seen it used, sparingly, in the work of Totnes print maker Val Jones.

A complete surprise in her work was this ‘Fruitbody No. 28’ which, because of the very reflective glass, was very difficult to photograph.

The work of Emily Allchurch ‘Ghost Towers (after Piranesi), a montage transparency on a bespoke LED lightbox, was a delight in the detail and the connections viewers can make between all the elements. It had to be 116 x 170cm for you to see all the different elements in it.

Finally, a series of mixed media drawings of silver Birch by a Swedish artist whose name I did not get but whose work reminded me of the architecture of Alvar Aalto, and the work of a Japanese artist who uses trees in his drawings of trees, held me transfixed by their simplicity:

Alvar Aalto’s Viipuri Library :

Mixed media silver birch by an artist unknown to me:

Possibly the most memorable items in the exhibition for me:

Kwansoo Kim: The White birch (47cm x 103cm)

What I took away with me about the art fair:

There is a huge variety of expression, some recycled from previous years, some derivative, some refreshingly new. The expression of an idea varies from the highly complex to the insanely simple. The work the artists go through in order to get to the point of showing their work lies behind the surface of the canvas, glass or paper, and we the viewers can’t guess at how much frustration, rejection, experimentation, inspiration from other sources, and analytical thinking has gone on.

What I took away with me about my work:

I can experiment to my heart’s content! As long as I let myself trust my instincts to go one way rather than another, I will be ok. The simplicity of expression of Kwansoo Kim or the complexity of Susan Derges’ work are at opposite ends of the image spectrum for me yet they are both valued by viewers and buyers. As individual pieces in an exhibition such as this, they are at the mercy of the curators as to where they are put and with which other artists vying for attention next to them. I can imagine what a tranquil effect several pieces by Kwansoo will have in an exhibition of his/her own. An exhibition of just Derges’ work will have a totally different effect. I can never see just one human sense in my work, perhaps it’s because I know more about my work than that of any other artist. Do I need to have such a complex exhibition involving sound, photography, poetry and film? Just as recent graduate Catherine Pickop uses sound, film, photography and print work to give insights into how she feels about her work process and outcome, perhaps I too have that right? Perhaps, rather than multi-disciplinary, my work too is multi-sensory?

3 thoughts on “London Art Fair 2019

  1. I love that one of your take-home thoughts about this visit was to keep experimenting! It’s probably my favourite part of the photographic process. Your dye paintings are a great example of what can happen when you are playing around with things. I look forward to seeing what you might come up with next…

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    1. Thanks, Liz. I think my tutor would rather I didn’t do any more experimenting! I see all these wonderful exhibitions in which there are no limits to expression, yet when I try to do the same, I am encouraged to keep it simple! My question is always Why?? With the current project, being in prison is a complex experience involving the physical and the psychological, the affective and the submissive, the sense of loss and the sense of gaining. How complex is that?

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  2. there was a lot there I was inspired by to I must get my blog posts written as well.
    Had a thought about your prison project – prison is about containment so maybe your own experience is mirroring that. How to encapsulate the complex – something like a visual haiku maybe.

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