ADVENTurous is an open submission exhibition exploring the christmas narrative, which we're staging in 3 UK venues during advent this year : at Engedi in Colwyn Bay, Leftbank in Leeds and the Union Chapel in Islington, London.

The work exhibited at Union Chapel will also be part of the one-day ‘ADVENTurous' conference, hosted by Greenbelt Festival and partners.

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...

Monday, December 3, 2012

Introducing Sally Owens

LB: Hi Sally. We're really looking forward to seeing your work for the Adventurous exhibition! Could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your work?

Sally: What interests me are the universal things - almost mathematical - and things which may be hidden from view  but  that you  know/hope  may  be there.  I make art that is quite geometric in form, and is mainly abstract.  I live by the coast of beautiful North Wales. Its rugged rock formations and undulating shore are great to be around.   I was inspired to make work for Adventurous because one of my works was part of the Engedi Easter exhibition earlier this year, and because the brief was quite challenging!

LB: I'm interested in your inspiration from those things that you know/hope may there even though they aren't visible. Has this interest influenced you when working on projects with themes such as Easter and Advent, which could have a transcendental aspect?

S: I'm interested in the fact that we live as layers: we have different faces/attitudes depending on our situation and who we’re talking to.  I don't mean that we're two-faced, simply that we react differently depending on circumstances. It is the layering that draws me as we can't see all the layers at once. I have been making works that cannot be seen as a whole - the viewer can only see part of it at any one time.  That leads into the hidden aspects of life - things we don't know that others do or things that are known about but not revealed yet. When I was thinking about the Elizabeth piece   "Surprise!” her pregnancy was hidden from Elizabeth but revealed to Zachariah; the fact of it was in the cards ready for her to see but she remained in the dark for a while. The  work at Colwyn Bay using  the word "Gold"  has  hidden aspects in that it can't all be seen at once, and  only  some of the work  is real gold - the rest is untrue, not gold, but  gold-seeming.

The work I did for the Engedi Easter project was based on the "hidden" side of the story of the blind beggar - a nice tale of a miracle on the face of it, but underneath and ahead it is a    different story - both Jesus and the beggar are reviled for this miracle. Because of it, the beggar will be repudiated by his   community, and furthermore can no longer be a beggar, and Jesus is soon to be crucified, partly for doing this on the Sabbath.

LB:  That's a concept that I'm sure a lot of people can apply to many areas of their lives and seems to sum up events such as Christmas and Easter which have many dimensions to them in our society.  What does this time of year mean to you?

S: I have always loved Christmas time, with its traditions and seeing family and celebrating life. Like most people, I  imagine, I think  It  starts too early and we've lost the spirit  of Christmas to the  orgy  of consumerism. I usually get exhausted trying to make everything work on time and to plan.  When the children were small, we used to end up wrapping until 2am on Christmas day so they wouldn't find presents before then.  I do feel the irony of celebrating the birth of a child while knowing that in just a few months he will inescapably die a horrible death at Easter. Since I was a small child I have always felt guilty about it.

LB: I suppose that knowledge of Easter and Jesus' impending death provides yet another layer to this time of year and makes the hidden aspects of your work even more relevant. Did you find you connected with the story of Elizabeth while working on your piece?

S: Yes I did. I imagined the dread and joy she must have felt at being an old mother. How would I have coped physically? One imagines both Gabriel and Zachariah being happy at the news, but it was Elizabeth who would have to do the hard work! And she was another mother destined to have her son die young.

LB: You seem to have really put yourself in her shoes. You must have been very busy with two submissions for Adventurous. How did this more personal approach compare to working on the more abstract theme of “gold"?

S: Well I view them both as personal, but portrayed via different implementations. Elizabeth is a play on dramatic irony - we know but she doesn't - and so I had a very different take on what the artwork should be. The "Gold" work was based around the Greek for economy - oikos+nomia which originated as household management and spread in meaning so that today it works as a definition of world economy.  There is a lot about economic policies that is hidden from normal folk who don't play the stock exchange - hence the use of black. But we do understand cash in hand, so I wanted to mix the two up, and to think what Joseph's reaction to the gold might have been. The title is a quote from Tennyson, reflecting that we are bound by golden chains at the feet of God.

Sally is currently working on a piece for an exhibition at the Welsh Assembly in North Wales coinciding with International Women's Day in March.

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