I am currently one of the selected artists exhibiting in the Suffolk Showcase at the BSE Art Gallery. The exhibition runs until 5th August 2006. Apparently, nearly 500 works were submitted from around 200 artists, around 50 of which are exhibiting in the final show. I only submitted one piece in the belief they would only show one if given a choice. The £1000 Artist Prize was awarded to an artist (name escapes me) whose most bizarre work was a video of an ant circumnavigating the rim of a large tub of peanut butter, a piece simply entitled Equator. I am not sure if I get the full message, since my interpretation of this piece is that it suggests the physical expanses of the world which we inhabit are offset by our perceptions of its boundaries – clearly an ant’s world is somewhat smaller than a human one, and its persistant circling is either a feat of ant endurance, boredom, or just plain delusion. I would like to have seen the ant disappear into the peanut butter, but perhaps the (not so) shrewd editing is designed to give us the impression that this ant has no interest in the peanut butter inside, but is enjoying the rollercoaster thrill of the outer ride – an ant with an insane lust for lving life on the edge! The crunchy, oil-laden goo, which incidentally cannot be seen in the video (an empty tub methinks and the brand of the tub is Meridian yet another clue?), will no doubt provide some nourishment for the ant but it will also lead to a very sticky demise. Ah, I get it, it’s about gluttony and temptation, the moral quandaries of life – but for me the bigger question looms over such conceptual work – it’s interesting to watch, is it art? It poses more questions than answers, so that any evidenced artiness is actually created by me (and the other viewers) of the work in the multiple meanings and interpretations – but such is the way of all art. I wonder what the selectors saw in this piece, and what were they honouring in awarding the artist an (conditional) artist award?
At the private view, I was able to have a brief but engaging conversation with one of the selectors for this show, the artist Roger Ackling. He asked if I was familiar with the work of Hamish Fulton a contemporary of his, who I initially confused with the other acclaimed artist who uses poetry in his work – Ian Hamilton-Finlay (sadly died earlier this year). It’s always difficult to talk about one’s own work, but I had to explain that in my work I wanted there to be a visual resonance, a time/space to aid contemplation, since their material substance can only offer glimpses of a (natural) source. I was somewhat irked that my piece of work had been bunched-up with the other so-called abstract works – there was only a 4-5 inch clearance around it. He agreed that the work needed a physical breathing space and also observed some emotional detachment in its construction, as if the work had no desire to acknowledge a physical prerequisite (hence my non-descriptive titles). I was minded to recall the words of Aldous Huxley in the The Doors of Perception, in which the author describes his acute fascination with the material folds of fabric in his clothing, rather than the wider surroundings of the room in which he conducted his mescaline experiments.
Ackling, in his opening speech to the gallery gathering, talked of all art registering whether or not it had been selected for this or any other show. I am intrigued by the idea of visual things merely registering at first, perhaps taking time to surface fully, needing to be revisited at a later date, their significance only coming to light after some quiet deliberation.
On the drive back from the private view at around 9.30 pm, with the sun behind me and an open view of a near clear and gently undulating road ahead, all the deserted laybys that I passed appeared very tranquil and beautiful places, drenched in the honeyed light of a descending sun, compact pockets of wilderness interlaced with the scattered remains of agricultural crops left to seed naturally and die back, microcosms of an adapted nature, each exerting themselves right up to an unforgiving and polluted highway. Only yesterday, whilst cycling near the river, I witnessed a large curl of abandoned carpet in a hedgerow, its hessian backing successfully blending into a backdrop of sun-dried hues of pale brown and beige of the faded flowerheads and wisps of long grasses. On both of these occasions, it was fated that I could do little more than observe and acknowledge – the battery of my small camera was flat, and so what resonates now is an everfading memory. Although it is conceivable I could return to these locations, I now rather like the softness of the experience – registering as thoughts and lingering as memories rather than needing to capture a full-blown, truthful and detailed image on film. Therefeore, I am listening with interest the programme The memory experience currently being aired on BBC Radio Four…
Edgescape #19 – mixed media on panel