Four artists in our current Open Exhibition give us insights as to how their works were produced…
If you are looking for exhibitions to visit in Birmingham make sure you visit the RBSA Gallery to see contemporary art at its best, across a range of media.
‘I was having a cigarette when he fell’
The title of this print is a quote directly taken from a witness statement to a tragic scene at the depicted tower block in Birmingham. A young man fell from the 9th floor. My work treads the fine line between the dark nature of the event and the casual act of ‘having a cigarette’, depending on how you read and phrase the quote.
I draw on influences from the Russian Suprematist art movement, using bold shapes and colour to make visually interesting compositions. The red square is heavily influenced by Malevich; however, I am using it to aid narrative within the work.
Largely blocking out the centre tower block, the square raises questions of censorship and the notion of ‘hiding’. Little information on the fatal event has ever been given. The use of the colour red enables a bold statement to be made and has connotations with many aspects of the portrayed scene: stop, anger, blood.
Crabtree House is a tower block situated in the Stechford area of Birmingham. Built in 1967, I wanted to invoke a sense of nostalgia within the print so researched into events that occurred in Birmingham during that year. After discovering the Mini Cooper MK II was rolled out for the first time in Birmingham that year I worked on a colour palette reminiscent of that car, and that time period.
As previously mentioned, the overlaid shape is influenced by Suprematism. Given its relationship to the tower block it gives the feel of a rising sun. This ‘new dawn’ impression is fitting with the time period the print goes back to. A time of extensive regeneration in Birmingham, that can still be seen today.
‘Houses in Headingley’
My subject is the built landscape of Leeds: the houses, flats, and commercial and industrial architecture of the city, and the suburbs to the North West: Hyde Park, Kirkstall, Headingley and Meanwood.
I made this painting towards the end of a series showing semi-detached houses from the 1920s and 30s in Headingley and Meanwood. I wanted to marry a simplified depiction with a more abstract picture surface. I used a restricted colour palette – different in each painting – and paid attention to contrasts between related colours and to the differences between opaque and transparent pigments.
I focus on the permanent and characteristic forms and atmosphere of the buildings. I do not include people and vehicles and avoid indications of specific times of day. In parallel with realism, I place importance on the abstract qualities of line, shape, pattern, texture, and above all colour; and on the emotional atmosphere of the painting.
I paint in oil on canvas or board, in my studio at home. I work from drawings, notes and photographs of the subject. Typically, I work on a series of paintings over a few weeks, developing the colour and compositional relationships, and I revisit the subject many times to think through problems in the paintings.
Ordered Chaos (detail)
I use line to create precise, absorbing drawings. In addition, I’m concerned with time, fault and perfection. I use technical drawing pens to create a continuous line. Though I strive for the achievement of perfection, lines become broken disrupting the pattern and creating cellular shapes resulting in a repetitive pattern using simple lines.
The drawing becomes an action. I draw using small, freehand lines to create accumulating, flowing patterns. Repeated action becomes a means of producing repeating pattern. I generally combine large surfaces and small marks. Therefore, there is a sense of mass and a larger image.
My work explores the potential of faults and errors in the hand-made. My intention is to reinforce a sense of human production and identity, and subtly to question what we understand by ‘perfection’.
I am currently enjoying experimenting with a variety of etching techniques.
I used a non-toxic etching method – with a copper sulphate mordant used by gardeners – for this sheep portrait and an aluminium plate, ideal for a low volume of prints. Aluminium develops a very interesting natural aquatint effect, unlike copper or zinc plates.
Once etched, the plate was further aquatinted using a non-toxic acrylic spray and then re-etched to get the very dark background. The plate was then carefully inked and wiped before each of the 10 prints. I used my printing press built by my husband and dampened, Somerset archival paper for the edition.
I find inspiration in my surroundings, particularly the Derbyshire countryside and the small village which I live in, near Ashby-de-la-Zouch. I enjoy photography and find that the discipline of composing and taking photos helps my drawing, painting and printmaking endeavours. I love going from an initial ideas and sketches, to compose a picture and then moving on to paint or print it. It is very satisfying to see an idea come to fruition in a frame!
The Open All Media is on until 13 April. It is one of the RBSA’s most popular annual exhibitions and attracts entries from across the UK. It displays a brilliant variety of artworks including jewellery, ceramics, sculpture, textiles, drawings, paintings and prints.
Don’t miss a free event during the exhibition: artist Terry Lord ARBSA demonstrates how he paints cityscapes and landscapes – 13 April, 11am-1pm and 2-4pm. No booking required!