ADVENTurous is an open submission exhibition exploring the christmas narrative, which we're staging in 3 UK venues during advent this year : at Engediin Colwyn Bay,Leftbank in Leeds and the Union Chapel in Islington, London.
On this blog we'll be posting regular updates about how plans for the Leftbank Leeds show are progressing, with information about the contributing artists, and possibly some previews of the work being created for the exhibition...
We asked James Feraciour to describe himself, and to tell us about five things that inspire him. Here's his reply... James Feraciour: hungry, happy, godless, wandering, soulful, undercover, electric, naive, optimistic, idealistic, misfit.
1) I love dancing, and have recently taken up swing dancing (lindy hop, charleston, etc) - I totally love it! :)
2) Knowledge is awesome, and the internet is super-awesome for finding out interesting stuff: Google, Wikipedia, Youtube, and of course, TED.
3) Happiness - as well as painting, and djing, I'm also an occasional well-being coach, and I can honestly say that putting this stuff into practice has transformed my life.
4) Tumblr - closely related to happiness. In a parallel universe, I could quite happily tumble all day.
5) Being - it's absolutely amazing to think you and I are here to share this moment right now; that due to billions of energy shifts, physical exchanges, biological interactions, and human choices spanning many millennia, and stretching back to way before the beginning of recorded history, here we are, now. That in itself is probably the most inspiring thing I'm aware of.
We're quite excited to have you onboard and exhibiting in the show - just for starters can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Elizabeth Loren: Firstly, I'd like to say thank you for including me in the show - I'm very excited to be a part of it. Where to begin? Well, I'm a Yorkshire-based figurative artist who's recently graduated from Leeds College of Art's Fine Art BA(Hons) course.
Art has always been present within my life - from a very young age it was apparent I was creative, I was encouraged to develop and when growing up it became a comfort. Now it's a passion that I have committed to.
I work figuratively because the human form fascinates me - it is a vehicle of expression that words cannot capture. It is very hard to make the body lie because there is always one part of it than cannot help but speak the truth. I make work that I can relate to otherwise it becomes soulless.
In the last 3-4 years I have moved away from painting and towards sculpture - for me I find I can communicate emotion with my audience through a more tactile medium. However, painting is still paramount in my practice in terms of development and in the construction of 3D works. I use familiar scenarios and everyday objects to ground the sculpture into domesticated reality.
LB: You have some work in a show that's currently running in Leftbank...
EL: Yes, I'm currently exhibiting my degree show sculpture "...IT'S LIKE EVEN WHEN WE'RE NOT TOGETHER, WE ARE" at Northern Young Artist's month-long 'Awakening' exhibition, which ends on 16th November.
LB: Your work is definitely figurative, but it feels that you're also pushing things towards abstraction at times - in the cropping of the heads, hands and feet in your form photographs or the piece '...It's Like, Even When We're Not Together, We Are', for example.
As a result, there's something beautifully elusive and intriguing about those works... I find myself imagining a narrative and a back story [no pun intended!] for those figures... and I'm wondering what sort of response you've had from other people to those pieces?
EL: You're right, the works are steeped in narrative and the figures take on personas - my own personal one that is suggested in the title and the ones that people make when viewing the work. I intend for the audience to relate to the conveyed emotion, and it can be like a trigger for some viewers.
I have been told the work is endearing, calming, saddening, menacing and creepy. A real mixed bag, but I do believe it is down to the mood and mentality of the individual, and all these responses are viable. As for the work being abstract - I have never personally viewed my work as abstracted, more obscure, although I can see how it can appear that way to an audience. I tend to strip back a figure to the key elements that are required to convey a specific emotion or feeling because, and this may sound ridiculous, I have always remembered my English teacher telling me only to include the important words when writing poetry and to use other words as anchors - and to me, the work is poetry, therefore I see limbs as anchors - often if I feel the work needs grounding I will include feet. Heads and hands are far too literal and are more deceiving than torsos and feet.
LB: One of the very positive things about the ADVENTurous shows is the way that we're showcasing the work of seasoned professionals alongside pieces created by younger up-and-coming talents like yourself.
You're in quite an interesting place just now, having just graduated from Art school and embarking on your career as an Artist - how are you finding that transition...?
EL: Oh my God. it's bizarre! One minute you're surrounded by like-minded people all bursting with enthusiasm and being shepherded for critiques, and the next you find yourself setting up a shared studio in a draughty redundant chicken house on a farm, dashing about & organising meetings, trying to grab 1 minute inputs from family and friends and generally feeling like a very small fish in a gigantic pond!
I think this transitional period is actually very interesting - it really makes you evaluate where you're at and what you're aiming for and through being involved with exhibitions such as ADVENTurous one gets to see what can be achieved with dedication because, in all fairness, there will be recently graduated artists who are experiencing self-doubt.
I am really happy with the dawning of my artistic career, however for the past couple of months I have found myself really stripping back and doing a lot more painting of late; until I have the studio all set up, bigger works are in planning. On the plus side, I will be a very busy bee when I get settled in my new studio, so much so that I won't feel the cold.
LB: You also had some work in the recent 'Free Range' show down in London. How did that come about, and how did it go?
EL: Yes I did! The Free Range show is an annual degree graduate exhibition, held in the old Truman brewery on Brick Lane. It houses five or six shows over the period of about six weeks and it's an intense week of logistics, curating and exhibiting but 100% worth it. Leeds College of Art's Fine Art course has been attending for the past few years and each third year student can select whether they wish to exhibit or not.
This year was a brilliant show with a real diverse mix of work, from ceramics to metal work, and I found it eye-opening with regards to how other courses presented themselves. For myself, I exhibited "...IT'S LIKE, EVEN WHEN WE'RE NOT TOGETHER, WE ARE." along with a photograph from the "HOW IT FEELS" series - this is where i received most of my audience response and got the opportunity to meet some very quirky characters.
LB: Finally I wonder if there are any of your peers whose work you think we should be looking out for?
EL: Well, as I said, there was a real blend of art being created by my peers but I really connected with Annie Driver's ceramic floor sculpture in which she addresses pregnancy in a beautifully delicate yet alarming way - Cristina Ciccone's bleached pattern canvases that represent the artist's home life, and Chris Freitag's interactive cast iron sculptures that allow the viewer to realise the importance of materiality.
In the foreseeable future, there will be a collaborative work between Chris Freitag and myself combining figurative elements with a presidence in materiality.
Left Bank: so, first of all Sonja, welcome to ADVENTurous - we're really excited to have you onboard for the Leeds exhibition. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your work?
Sonja Benskin-Mesher: What to say?
I live here in Wales, now having moved from the South about 20 years ago. Family moved here too, and we enjoy the landscape and people, our tribe.
Here, I found the confidence to work with art, and have continued to do so, full time for 15 years.
My work changes with life patterns, and issues, and I utilise whatever comes to hand to convey ideas.
Work practice involves writing, painting, drawing, light based media, installations etc.
I make of things what I will, and show work regularly in this country and abroad.
LB: I'm interested that you used the word 'tribe' - I'm wondering if that sense of belonging is something that Engedi might provide? [I think sense of community is something that gav is keen to nurture...]
SBM: Yes, I see I use those words, tribes and families, This slipped out intuitively while writing. Reflecting, this does apply to my experience with Engedi . I have found friendship, support and like minded people.
LB: You exhibited in the Engedi Easter show in Colwyn Bay... i'm wondering how you came to be involved with that project?
SBM: Initially Alan* contacted me requesting names of artists I thought may be interested, then after listing colleagues names, I added mine. I like a brief that creates debate and dialogue within an art practice, whatever the belief. It stretches thought and the content of the work.
LB: I'm also interested to talk to you about the work that you're showing in the leftbank ADVENTurous show... it's a really intriguing effect that you get with the scanning of the dolls - i'm wondering how you came to make those pieces...?
SBM: My dolls.The fascination started years ago, and fired up when I saw the two in the antiques market. Besotted, I bought them, played with, and photographed them.
The images here, were made for the exhibition, Modern Madonnas, at St George’s Church in Esher.
I place dolls in human situations, and let the onlooker make of it what they will. I have interesting responses. It is time consuming, and thought provoking. I like scanning, but when asked by a curator for higher resolution I found that
:: high resolution ::
can spoil the picture,
some times things
are best left alone.
yesterday, i saw a man who
i saw a plane fly over.
http://www.sonja-benskin-mesher.com/ (*Alan Whitfield, one of the first members of the Engedi tribe)
Can you tell us a bit about your job, because it sounds fantastic...
Ric Stott: Thank you, yes I guess it is fantastic, if a little ambiguous and frustrating at times (although I do enjoy the ambiguity). I work for the Methodist Church in Sheffield exploring new ways of being Church centred around the visual arts. This means exploring spirituality and community through inclusive art projects as well as working with artists to produce work that explores themes of life, meaning and spirit.
We've just finished a major creative project called 'Soul of Sheffield' that drew in a rich variety of participants from across Sheffield that celebrated the stories and communities that make the city a vibrant and complicated living thing. We're hoping to build on the momentum from that project in a space we'vebeen given in the heart of the city centre.
I'm excited by what happens when creative people from all kinds backgrounds and with a variety of world views and beilefs get together to seek to make the world a better place. I hope that some kind of bright, unpredictable and creative prophetic community might emerge from all this - but nothing is guaranteed in this role, I just take one step at a time and am often surpirsed at where I end up!
LB: I like that idea of being 'prophetic' - in the broadest sense i think that's what artists are, or can be.
So that leads me to wondering what you think the role of an artist is; what is art for, and how that relates to your context in Sheffield? [is that too huge a question??!]
RS: It is a huge question but for me it gets right to the heart of what I'm trying to do here in Sheffield. I agree that all art at its best is prophetic - but that word needs unpacking a bit. The ancient prophets (in the Old Testament for example) were imagining new worlds - better ways of being and living and inviting people to participate in that. Not only were they challenging injustice but also provoking transformation in the deepest parts of communities and individuals (I would call this 'spirituality' but other words might be more helpful for some people).
It seems to me that art does the same thing. When we experience art we enter into a space that opens us up to new possibilities: new ways of seeing and experiencing the world. In that space there is huge potential for us to be transformed in our inner life, but also I think there is the potential for communities to be transformed by such experience.
This is a risky business both for the artist who is exposing the deepest aspects of themsleves for people to engage with and for the viewer, as personal transformation is almost always accompanied by the acknowledgement of painful and uncomfortable truths. I think that's why prophets were pretty much universally unpopular in their time, and were certainly outsiders - speaking from the margins into power rather than the other way round. I have a feeling that artists often occupy that same place in the 21st century.
LB: Can i pick up what you said about enjoying ambiguity? Working for the church whilst embracing ambiguity might seem a bit contradictory - religion often seems to be all about certainty and conviction, so i'm wondering how that sits with you?
RS: Religion at its worst is all about certainty and conviction. What religion at its best is doing is pointing to something beyond the frameworks of perception and experience that we take for granted. For me that religion is Christianity because I find Jesus such a compelling figure so I don't have much right to speak for other religions. But the contemplative Christian tradition that I'm finding myself more and more engaged with opens up a world beyond dry dogma and oppressive rules. It's a place of depth and ambiguity that can't be nailed down in words which is why I find visual art such a powerful way of exploring the experience. But it also takes me again to that risky place of transformation, to allow yourself to engage with the world in this way will inevitably lead to living in a different way.
LB: The strapline for this show is 'old stories new works' and we're hoping that our contributing artists will really grapple with the story of advent and [to quote the show's blurb] "bring a fresh perspective to the traditional and familiar narrative"...
RS: When you go back to the real story that's accumulated so much kitsch over the centuries it really is startling. It's a bloody, dirty and difficult tale that touches on universal themes of human experience. I think that the culture of Christmas, and the church to a certain extent, has done its best to sanitise and domesticate a story that has a certain wildness and vividness to it. For me there is, once again, a beautiful ambiguity in the various narratives in the Bible that invite us to enter into and be transformed by the story.
LB: Can you tell us a little bit about your own art-making, what are you working on at the moment?
RS: I'm very fortunate at the moment as I've been given a 3 month sabbatical. I'm spedning most of this time in the studio painting, using the creative process as meditation and contemplation. The themes I'm exploring are emerging from my experience as a gay Christian. I'm so tired of all the negative things that we hear about in the media regarding the church's attitude to glbt people. Whilst its certainly true that the church has often treated us abominably and many people bear the scars from that (as do I) I'm conscious that that is far from the whole story.
My understanding of my sexual identity came from a deepening of my faith rather than a rejection of it and so I'm making a series of works that engage with my experience of Christ from my persepctive as a gay man. As with the best creative adventures I'm not quite sure where it will all lead, but I'm finding the journey to be an exciting and surprising one at the moment.
LB: Lastly, want to plug anything that you've got coming up?
RS: The next steps for me are in my work in Sheffield involve beginning to have conversations about what a prophetic, creative community might look like. So if anyone is interested in engaging with that process and they live in the area then do get in touch. And if you're interested in the work I'm exploring for my sabbatical then drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org or keep your eye on my blog www.iaskforwonder.com as I will be posting some images and reflections on the experience from December.
Handmade Portraits: The Beerhorst Family from Etsy on Vimeo. We are an artist family of eight living in downtown Grand Rapids MI USA with backyard chickens and no car. We would love our Etsy shops to be your way through our front door. We support our selves making art and that means every purchase helps our family continue on its mysterious adventure and have the money to replace the bicycle tires when they wear out.
We use salvaged materials for not only shipping but also for art material when ever possible.
Much of the imagery springs out of our life together. A love for color and texture as well as a strong interest in the past guides my selection of images. I have always felt that a piece of art work can become a portal into the spiritual world like the idea of thin places in Celtic theology. All artistic creation can become a flight towards God. Then lets surround ours selves with truth and beauty and live lives accordingly. http://www.studiobeerhorst.com/
Here's the moment you've all been waiting for folks; we've unveiled the contributors for our ADVENTurous shows on the website now. Everyone is pretty much there apart from one or two stragglers who are currently being reprimanded :/ Click here for a full list of the lineup.
We've been absolutely stunned with the response to the brief for our second exhibition due to be held throughout December. The successful contributors will be divided across three venues, Engedi Colwyn Bay, Leftbank Leeds and ADVENTurous at Union Chapel London.
Some of the 3D pieces will be doing a tour of all three venues, starting at London on the 1st of Dec, Leeds on the 2nd and ending up at the Engedi opening on 7th Dec in Colwyn Bay.
We're getting completely giddy at the prospect of combining such and adventurous exhibition across the three like-minded UK venues. We wanted to help all of our artists to build on their networks through all of our resources and we particularly wanted to try and support and emphasis some of the fantastic work our partnering organisations are pioneering. In the often lonely world of the arts Engedi strives to create a resource hub and incubation centre for artists looking to journey together to build a creative and intentional community.
Be sure to visit our website over the coming weeks as we begin to unfold our program and dates for your diary. We look forward meeting many of you in the build up to these events...